Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#16: Masked Innocence (Alessandra Torre)

Let me begin by stating clearly that this post should not be confused with my recommendation that anyone read the novel. It is explicit and only appropriate for an adult audience. Read the book at your own risk.

Reading Masked Innocence was what I had feared most when beginning the Library Shelf project. I was afraid I would find a book that I was uncomfortable reading. When I began reading this work by Alessandra Torre, I was blushing in the privacy of my bedroom as I read of orgies and sexual escapades. This is not a genre of literature that I naturally pick up. I felt as though I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey! For those who might be interested in reading the book, I did learn that it is the second volume of the Innocence Trilogy (what an ironic title). You can learn more about the author and the series at http://www.AlessandraTorre.com.

If it’s possible to separate the sex from the storyline, the premise of the book was quite interesting. Julie is a young college student who has fallen for Brad, a partner in the law firm where she is interning. While working late, Julie overhears her boss having a tense conversation that seems to suggest he is involved in business with the mob. After the man is found dead on the floor of his office the next morning, Julie shares her suspicions with the police. Things become dangerous when Julie learns that the mob bosses are aware of her reports to the police and have ordered her death as well. The only one who can possibly save her is Brad…..but is Brad really who he appears to be? Julie’s world is turned upside down as the masks are ripped off and truths are revealed.

I was riveted by the twists and turns once the story began to unfold. (I’m not a total prude, folks!) I’m just not sure that I would have continued through the opening chapters if this book wasn’t included on the library shelf I selected to read through on October 31, 2014! Here’s to hoping that my next reading adventure is a bit more tame….I need to recover from the time I spent with Masked Innocence.

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#15: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It’s official…..I’m addicted to the adventures of Harry Potter! I intentionally grabbed a rather large stack of novels on my last trip to the library to ensure that I stretched out my experience with these books a little longer.

I loved the humor found in this second installment of the series. From flying cars to the adventures in Hagrid’s hut while hiding under the invisibility cloak, Harry and Ron certainly had a lot of fun in this book. I also enjoyed meeting Almost Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle. I was quite upset to discover who had actually opened the Chamber of Secrets and how she had been manipulated by Voldemort.

What I think I most appreciated about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the clarity of theme that Rowling wove throughout the book. I especially enjoyed the exchange between Dumbledore and Harry at the book’s conclusion as Harry was wrestling with the fear that he should have been in Slytherin hall. Reflect on the power of this statement for all of us as we face uncertainty:

‘Listen to me, Harry. You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students. His own very rare gift, Parseltongue — resourcefulness — determination — a certain disregard for rules. . .Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor. You know why that was. Think.’

‘It only put me in Gryffindor. . .because I asked not to go in Slytherin. . .’

‘Exactly. . .Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’ (Chamber of Secrets, 333)

Our successes or failures are not determined by happenstance, fate, or magic. We have the right to choose….and those choices determine our character and the path of our life. That’s a lesson that I want to remember on a daily basis. (Who would have guessed that a simply story about a boy wizard could make such a profound statement to this 43-year-old man?) I’m already looking forward to The Prisoner of Azkaban, but have to do a little more reading on my other projects first.

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#14: Brooklyn (Colm Toibin)

Completing this book marks the 1/3 mark in my Library Shelf project (book #7) and is the second of four novels by Colm Toibin on my shelf. I have a huge classic novel looming in the background that is calling my name since I had planned to read one of the Tolstoy novels during the first half of this project. (Can you tell that I am intimidated by War and Peace and Anna Karenna?)

I was first introduced to Colm Toibin’s writing when I began the Library Shelf project and read The Heathers Blazing. The current novel, Brooklyn, is another novel that pleasantly surprised me on this journey. The story follows a young Irish girl from her provincial home to the excitement of Brooklyn, New York in the mid-twentieth century. While in Brooklyn, Eilis becomes a strong, independent woman. She gains confidence as she trains to be a bookkeeper. Eilis learns much about modern society and the rights of women as she explores American fashion and converses with her fellow residents in Mrs. Kehoe’s boarding house. A trip to a Saturday night dance sponsored by the church begins her education about men, race relations, sexuality, and love.

In the final section of the novel, Eilis feels the pull of her Irish home because of the loss of her beloved sister. As she cares for her mother, Eilis finds herself enjoying the familiarity of Ireland and the respect she is given because of her American experience. Our vibrant heroine now finds herself torn between her past and the new life she has forged for herself in America. Toibin does not settle for a simple solution to bring the novel to its conclusion; the reader feels Eilis’ uncertainty as she carefully weighs her decision.

Brooklyn was especially moving for me. The text is lyrical. The emotions parallel my own as I prepare for my own future in light of the responsibilities and duties associated with home. I’m looking forward to reading Toibin’s remaining novels in this project — The Empty Family and The Master — to see if I will enjoy them just as much as the ones I’ve read so far.

 

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#13: White Teeth (Zadie Smith)

National bestseller White Teeth was the first novel by author Zadie Smith. First published in 2000, the book is a mixture of humor, wit, and in-depth examination of the human condition. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and plan to re-read it again in the future.

White Teeth opens with a gripping scene in which Samad is attempting to commit suicide when his plans are foiled by a well-meaning shop keeper. Samad is a practicing Hindu who lives in England along with his best friend, Archie. The two had served together in World War II (although they had seen little fighting). Their common experiences linked them for life. Now living in London, Samad finds himself struggling to pass on the traditions of his Indian heritage to his children. The father fears that his sons have been negatively influenced by the Western way of life and have become too English. In order to halt the effect of modern society on his children in his personal struggle against modern progress, Samad makes a decision that will forever impact the lives of his entire family. The novel traces the effects of that single decision upon the family and all they encounter.

White Teeth beautifully explores the inevitability of change in modern society. Advancements are made in science while fanatical religious groups seek to halt the progress. Younger generations find fault with the ideologies of their parents. The old desperately struggle to maintain the familiarity and tradition of the past. In each of these struggles, everyone thinks their ideals are correct and should not be opposed. Conflict arises, events are set in motion that cannot be halted, and the generational and ideological chasms deepen. Smith forces the 21st century reader to face his own biases and consider the impact they are having on their family and society as a whole. White Teeth is a tremendous read that I think will quickly become a modern classic.

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#12: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)

When Harry Potter made his way to American bookshelves in 1998, I was a graduate student who had just started working with the children’s ministry of a local church. In that position, I felt the need to read the controversial book in order to have an opinion to share with children and their parents. As I read, I was looking for problems…..and found some things that I thought parents should know before making their own decision about the book. In my search for information, however, I missed the story and excitement of Rowling’s characters. Almost 17 years have passed since the novel made its American debut and I have found myself wondering what all the hype was about, so I decided to read the series this summer. What I found was a charming book filled with moral dilemmas, images of pure love, and the challenges of finding your own identify during childhood. Additionally, I only found a few scenes that I found questionable for pre-teen readers (the target audience of the book). Instead, what I discovered is that I was enthralled by the story and simply could not put the book down. I have actually had to forbid myself from returning to the library to pick up the next installment before I finish a couple of other books that are on deck.

I realize that I am just beginning my journey with Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the cast at Hogwarts, but I am definitely excited to see how the story continues. I’m just glad I don’t have to wait as long as the original readers did to find out what happens in the next year of school.

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#11: The Good Thief (Hannah Tinti)

I am loving having a little down time to dive back into My Library Shelf project! I returned by reading The Good Thief. Since I was unfamiliar with Hannah Tinti’s writing, I didn’t really know what to expect. I found myself immersed in a great story and a fan of the author’s writing style.

The Good Thief is the story of Ren. Ren is living in a Catholic-run orphanage in New England and is constantly getting in trouble. His hopes of being adopted are constantly dashed because potential parents view his missing hand as an insurmountable obstacle. Just as Ren begins to accept a future that will include being sold into the army when he reaches age 18, his fortune unexpectedly changes. A young man of questionable intentions arrives at St. Anthony’s to select a son. Ren is adopted in spite of his handicap and it seems his luck has changed…..or has it?

The Good Thief follows Ren and his mentor, Benjamin, as they struggle to stay alive while avoiding trouble with those who want to hurt them. The plot twists and turns unexpectedly and will keep the reader coming back for more. This book was one of my favorites of the year so far and I’m definitely looking forward to reading Tinti’s other novel, Animal Crackers, in the future.

For now, I have another book on the horizon. June’s selection of the Reading with Jacqs project is White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I’ll start this national bestseller later today.

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