Quick Takes - Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende // Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

6/12/2012 12:15:00 PM

Welcome to a new feature that I'll introduce on Tuesdays.  I read a LOT of books, not just review books.  With all of the review books, how do I find time and room to review from my personal reading pile?  My solution:  Quick Takes - A quick look at a book with the Goodreads description and a quickie paragraph or two.

This week, we have two TOTALLY different types of books for review:  "Portrait in Sepia" by Isabel Allende and "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

I won a copy of this title from Amy at The House of the Seven Tails

Goodreads description:

Internationally celebrated novelist Isabel Allende has written a magnificent historical novel set at the end of the nineteenth century in Chile, a marvelous family saga that takes up and continues the story begun in her highly acclaimed Daughter of Fortune

Recounted in the voice of a young woman in search of her roots, Portrait in Sepia is a novel about memory and family secrets. Aurora del Valle suffers a brutal trauma that shapes her character and erases from her mind all recollection of the first five years of her life. Raised by her ambitious grandmother, the regal and commanding Paulina del Valle, she grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by horrible nightmares. When she is forced to recognize her betrayal at the hands of the man she loves, and to cope with the resulting solitude, she decides to explore the mystery of her past. 

Portrait in Sepia is an extraordinary achievement: richly detailed, epic in scope, intimate in its probing of human character, and thrilling in the way it illuminates the complexity of family ties.

Quick Take:  I read "Daughter of Fortune", somehow skipped the middle novel, "The House of the Spirits", and read the third-in-series.  (I didn't know it was a series until I started reading this one and realized that I had read of this family before).  Great historical, multigenerational, character-driven fiction with enough drama to keep you reading as much as possible.  Allende is a truly gifted writer, and this is a marvelous book.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

2012 Books Won Reading Challenge
One of my listed titles for the 2012 Books Won Reading Challenge

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This was a book chosen for an online book club discussion.

Goodreads description:

Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history.

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

Quick Take:   I can't even say I wasn't warned.  If this hadn't been a discussion book, I likely would not have finished it.  It's "smart", I guess - maybe too smart for me.  I kept backtracking and reading super slowly, thinking maybe it was just me (and that could possibly be the case).  It was very gimmicky:  the formatting was odd, the writing itself was confusing, and I just couldn't get my head around ANY of the characters.   I closed this book thinking, "Oh, my gosh!  All of that time wasted when I could have read something I would have enjoyed."  I'm in the minority here, and that's OK.  This one just wasn't my cup of tea.

Rating2 out of 5 stars

That's all for this week's Quick Takes; let me know what you think!

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed either of these books? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.  


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  1. I only kept reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close because I thought well maybe I hadn't gotten to the part that made people give it 5 stars, but I never found it. I would go as far as saying the formating was horrendous and makes it just about unreadable in places. We shall be in the minority together.


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