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I enjoy reading fiction a lot, so here are some books I've read and what I thought about them.


  gromit reads, do you?

A must-read! Get it now!
Pretty good! Not jaw-dropping, but a solid choice.
Mediocre. Not great, not bad, just tolerable.
Well, if you REALLY want to support the author. Or if you're really, really bored.

Eek! Reading this is like stabbing your eyeballs with dirty toothpicks. Repeatedly. While standing on hot coals.

BOOK TITLES (arranged alphabetically by author)

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood

This fictional novel is based on a real person, Grace Marks, who was convicted in the early 1800s for murder. In the story, an up-and-coming expert in the field of psychology named Dr. Jordan is commissioned to help Grace regain her memory since she claims to have no memory of the day of the murders. Is she innocent or guilty? The story is told from various narrative voices and from various perspectives (that of Grace, Dr. Jordan, etc.), which seems to pave the way for how another of Atwood's novels, The Blind Assassin, is written. Although I was able to guess the ending less than halfway through the book, I still found the characters and story surprisingly engaging.

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The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

A tragic event begins this novel about Iris Griffen and her sister, Laura Chase. Mystery surrounds this event, and the story unravels in a unique way. We learn about these events through news clippings, Iris's narration, and a novel-within-a-novel. The book was definitely hard to put down.

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Tara Road, by Maeve Binchy

The main character of this book, Ria Lynch, is a loving, naive woman who seems to float through the life, seemingly blessed with a handsome, charming husband, a large home on Tara Road (a quickly developing neighborhood), and a large group of friends. However, things are not always what they seem. The book tells the story of Ria and her family and friends, who all live on Tara Road. All of them display a veneer of contentment and prosperity which conceals the secrets of abuse, lies, and betrayal that lie underneath. This is one of Maeve Binchy's best-selling novels, but I don't think I have to tell you that sales have nothing to do with quality. Her books are far from intellectually challenging or thought-provoking, and they usually revolve around love and heartbreak (you know, the old "I love him but he betrayed me" schtick). Don't get me wrong, the book is not bad, but it's not terribly engrossing. It's fine for a nice predictable read when you're in the mood for a love story but aren't about to demean yourself to the point of reading "romance novels," but don't look here for a mind-blowing literary experience.

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The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

Conspiracy theory lovers will enjoy this thriller about two strangers, a Harvard symbologist and a French cryptologist, who are thrust into a murder mystery involving the Vatican, a mysterious Catholic sect, and a secret society called the Priory of Sion. Without giving away too much of the book, I can tell you that the story is about a secret society which is sworn to protect something of enormous power. Among those who have been in this secret society are Isaac Newton, Botticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. One of the members is found murdered and through bizarre circumstances, Robert Langdon, a professor at Harvard, is forced to become part of the investigation. Using his knowledge of symbols, he deciphers riddles and studies paintings to figure out the dead man's last message and find out why he was murdered. In the process, Langdon unwittingly becomes the killer's next target. The author weaves historical facts with fiction to create an interesting detective story filled with lots of puzzles. This book was good in the sense that it is a page-turner. However, I think it loses gas towards the end. It's a good murder mystery, but nothing more, so don't expect anything deep or moving. I will provide one warning before reading the book, though. The author puts forth a theory in this book that can be disturbing, offensive, or controversial to devout Christians, especially Catholics, so it's important to remember that this is a work of FICTION.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

This is a fictional account of (yep, you guessed it) the girl with a pearl earring in one of Vermeer's paintings. Griet, the girl with a pearl earring, is the narrator and tells about how she came to be a housemaid in the Vermeer household and to develop a special relationship with the painter. It's interesting to see how Griet, a young but pragmatic girl, deals with the emotion and desires that arise as she matures, and how she manages the many relationship with the different personalities in her household. Although I found it a quick read, this book was not a page-turner by any means. It's definitely mellow reading, and most of the accolades on the book cover have more to do with the author's ability to capture the essence of 17th-century Delft than the story itself. I'm guessing most guys would NOT be into this book.

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She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

This is coming-of-age novel about Dolores Price, a smartass kid who grows up in dysfunctional household and endures a traumatic experience when she is 13. She comforts herself with food and television, reaching 257 pounds by the time she is ready for college. Dolores is smart and funny but headed for self-destruction, and the novel takes you through her journey from young woman angry at everyone, including herself, to someone who learns to appreciate and love herself and others. I recommend this book; it's entertaining but not fluffy, and it makes you think about appreciating what people have to offer and accepting the fact that we are all human.

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Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham

Considered a classic, this is a bildungsroman about Philip Carey. A lot of attention is paid to Philip Carey's thoughts and development (as opposed to a completely action- and plot-driven story) as he figures out what he's going to do with his life and how he's going to deal with his obsession with Mildred, a woman who does not love him back. In some ways, Philip is very immature, so at the beginning of the novel, I was constantly irritated by his stupidity and immaturity. Sometimes I just wanted yell at Philip, "Get a clue, stupid!" Philip did grow on me after a while, and during the latter half of the book, I started to care about what happened to him. This is one of those books you may have to read in high school, so if you're like me and occasionally get a hankering for something "classic," you can try it. Be forewarned, though, this is more like James Joyce than Jane Austen, so know what you're getting into.

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Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott

The story begins at title character's funeral reception. As his family and friends reminisce about Billy's life, we learn more and more about Billy, the events that changed his life, and how his life changed the lives of those around him. In the process, we also get a taste of Irish-American culture. While I liked this book, I did find McDermott's writing style to be unusual, and it took me a while to get used to it. She picks up little details that help you to understand more about a character and change the way you perceive a person's speech. Although I liked the book, I think that the way McDermott writes may not be for everybody, so it's hard for me to give it 4 or 5 stars.

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