Friday, June 5, 2009

In Good Taste

After posting about books I disliked, I've decided I need to redeem my bookish self by posting some good reviews. I've read some awesome books lately... Enjoy!

Prayers for Sale - Sandra Dallas

A few months ago I posted a review of Sandra Dallas's Tallgrass. She was a new author to me, but since we share an agent I thought I should check her out. Turns out, she's one of my new favorite authors. I love her voice. I love her perspective. I love her work. And I adored her newest offering, Prayers for Sale. It's sweet and soft and slow moving--in a wonderfully poetic way. It reminded me of listening to my grandma tell stories about her childhood and youth. Barnes & Noble recently chose it as one of their recommended picks, and Prayers for Sale deserves the distinction. I hope it sells by the trainload.

From the back cover:

Hennie Comfort is eighty-six and has lived in the mountains of Middle Swan, Colorado since before it was Colorado. Nit Spindle is just seventeen and newly married. She and her husband have just moved to the high country in search of work. It's 1936 and the depression has ravaged the country and Nit and her husband have suffered greatly. Hennie notices the young woman loitering near the old sign outside of her house that promises "Prayers For Sale". Hennie doesn't sell prayers, never has, but there's something about the young woman that she's drawn to. The harsh conditions of life that each have endured create an instant bond and an unlikely friendship is formed, one in which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed. Sandra Dallas has created an unforgettable tale of a friendship between two women, one with surprising twists and turns, and one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.

The Painter from Shanghai

I picked up this book on a whim because I'm crazy about books that are set in the East. (The Good Earth, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Memoirs of a Geisha...) I wasn't disappointed. Pan Yuliang's story is at once sad, gripping, and triumphant. I devoured this book so quickly, I was so eager to see how her story turned out, that I'm sure I missed some of Jennifer Cody Epstien's beautiful prose. It's worth a re-read.

From the back cover:

Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River and into the seedy backrooms of "The Hall of Eternal Splendor," through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China ripped apart by civil war and teetering on the brink of revolution: this novel tells the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.Jennifer Cody Epstein's epic brings to life the woman behind the lush, Cezannesque nude self-portraits, capturing with lavish detail her life in the brothel and then as a concubine to a Republican official who would ultimately help her find her way as an artist. Moving with the tide of historical events, The Painter from Shanghai celebrates a singularly daring painting style—one that led to fame, notoriety, and, ultimately, a devastating choice: between Pan's art and the one great love of her life.

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