Saturday, December 27, 2008
I have to say up front that I have no desire to go to Mississippi--it just sounds hot, humid, poor, racist, & just plain foul. I know that's not what the state really is (I know there are probably even more people out there that have an even worse view of Missouri, maybe deservedly), but I've got to say that this book doesn't help. Alright, it takes place in 1946, so it's not like things were very progressive back then. But I think the reason that this book makes me feel that way about Mississippi is because the main character, Laura, feels that way. She's from Memphis & when her husband, Henry, uproots her from her large extended family & plops her down on a muddy Mississippi farm she's understandably upset. The change in her scenery makes her act in ways she never thought herself capable of, both positive & negative.
The character of Ronsel is wonderful too, you just want him to get the hell out of there & go somewhere he can grow & expand & fill up the space made by his potential. Jamie is the imperfect person that always is there, reminding us of our failings & weaknesses. And of course there's Pappy--you gotta hate him.
I suggest you give this one a try.
It has a great premise, the giving away of an infant because she has Down's & how that haunts the rest of her family all of their lives. But I just got tired of it all. It's one of those books where you think you should have a real emotional epiphany at the end of it, but all you feel is glad that it's over. I've read some of the other reviews on Amazon & I have to agree with a lot of the 1 & 2 star ones in that it's just a bunch of slow, repetitive cliches. By the end you just don't care very much about any of them, & the reveal is so late in coming that it's very anticlimactic also.
Not recommended by me.
The first, of course, is Huck Finn. It starts out very promising, but I have to say that once the Prince & the Duke join them I lost a lot of my interest. It seemed like it got way off track, & major characters (like Jim) were suddenly ignored. Once Tom Sawyer was in the book again that did it for me--I had to skim the rest of the book just to get through it. Tom's character annoyed me in the first book, I certainly didn't want to see him again in Huck's book.
I have to admit that this book isn't fresh on my mind (I read it about a month ago), but my overall impression is that Mark Twain didn't know what he himself thought about slavery in America. He built Jim up into a very real person, someone we could all find something to identify with, then discarded him when that became too uncomfortable for him. I can't help but look at the book from my own time period & perspective, & maybe that's why I judge Mark Twain too harshly. I suppose most of it has to do with the building up of Mark Twain himself--especially with living in Missouri I've heard about how great he was all my life. It's probably just natural that he couldn't live up to his own legend. I think sometimes we do a disservice to authors by putting them on a pedestal.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Beside the fact the man was born in my state & he's known as one of the greatest American authors of all time, the reason I settled on him was because he's goddamn hilarious too. I wish I could have the humor of Samuel Clemons! What a gift!
That said, you may wonder why I gave this illustrious book just 4 stars out of 5. The reason is I've already started reading "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" & I'm saving my 5 stars for that. I was greatly amused by Tom Sawyer, but Huck has him beat. I actually laughed out loud while reading Huck, & this while I'm trying to suppress it 'cause Puppy was going to sleep. But I digress--
Back to Tom Sawyer. I can't help but be amused by Tom, but I already liked Huck more. Tom seems to symbolize who we all are. Huck is who we wished we were. Tom, though he gets into trouble, follows the rules of society, & the rules of society are foul. For example: don't talk to those beneath you (in this instance, slaves), it's OK to cheat to get the prize, using other people to make someone you care about jealous is alright, & money is everything. We've all done these things, you've got to admit it. But it sure feels like crap when you do. Meanwhile Huck has been brought up outside of accepted society, & therefore doesn't follow the nasty rules we use against each other. It's all cut & dry for Huck, & you love him for it.
I recommend "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", but mostly because of Huck.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Gilead is good, but very very slow. It takes most of the book to get to the meat of it, & by then you're almost too frustrated to care. The story is about a man in his 70's who's going to die soon--he has a heart condition. It's the 1950's in Iowa, he's a preacher (though I never really figured out of what religion), & he has a young son that he never thought he would have. The whole book is a journal that the man is writing for his son, so he'll have some idea what his father was like when he's grown. It's a very nice book, well written. I'm just not used to the extremely slow pace, I think. One of the characters, Jack Boughton, is memorable in that he's flawed. Everyone else seems to be so very well behaved, though we really don't get to know about John Ames' wife. Jack's character was the best part of the book for me. I, like most of us, like my story heroes flawed. And Jack is flawed. But of course, tries his damnedest.
If you can handle the slow pace, I highly recommend this one.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I read this book because Dog heard on NPR a listing of 4 American authors that deserve to win the Nobel prize for literature, but probably won't. Other than Joyce Carol Oates, there was John Updike, Philip Roth, & Cormac McCarthy. I've read Philip Roth recently (The Plot Against America), but had never read the others.
The story on NPR was right--none of them won. It was French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. I'd like to read some of his work in the future. But for right now, Joyce Carol Oates wins on Suelle's Soapbox!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Newton has been put forth as the most intelligent human ever, since all later physics is based upon the firm foundation that Newton built. The main mystery of the book is the solving of a seemingly unsolvable code. The code has been found on the bodies of several dead guys discovered murdered in the Tower of London. And since the Mint was housed in the Tower, & since Newton was head of the Mint, he set out to figure out what was going on. There's a lot of great action to break up the intellectual stuff & some romance with Ellis thrown in for good measure.
I'm glad the book is written in Ellis's voice, since otherwise we'd be reading a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo with a little bit of plot thrown in. As Ellis himself finds out when he tries to read some of Newton's much-lauded publications, he can't get through them awake. But that doesn't stop him from respecting & admiring the amazing brain that was Newton.
Monday, September 22, 2008
When reading this book 2 things become painfully obvious: 1) Ms. Alcott's publisher really wanted her to write this book to wrap things up with this series, even though Louisa didn't really have anything more she wanted to write about these characters, & 2) Louisa May Alcott never married or had kids of her own. It's so damn easy to sit there & think how you'd do it better when you've never had to do it yourself, & that's pretty much what she does in this book. You can just see her poor nieces & nephews cringing as she gets up on her soapbox yet again on how young people should be raised & trained & so forth.
I think this should be a lesson to all of us: don't write about something you have absolutely no idea about. It's either going to come across as very unreal, or very lame. This unfortunate book came across as both.
One last note: the big reason I read this book was to find out what happened to all the kids when they grew up. It was really depressing, since the "good" kids ended happily married with lucrative jobs while the "bad" kids all died or had miserable lives. And of course Dick & Billy from the previous book are conveniently disposed of. "Poor little Dick was dead, so was Billy; & no one could mourn for them, since life would never be happy, afflicted as they were in mind & body."
Louisa May, I think they died from reading this book.
Allow me to give them both better roles in this lovely tome:
Perfect little Daisy fell in love with Dick, & vise versa. Since even obedient Nat wasn't good enough for her mother Meg, Daisy & Dick ran off together in the dark of night, got married & moved out west. Starting from the ground up they established a berry farm in one of those lovely fertile areas of California & became very successful. Dick's last name was Smucker.
Billy left Plumfield (the prison Mrs. Jo ran with her weird German husband) after being treated so poorly. He ran off to Boston & got a job as a janitor at Harvard. He worked nights cleaning the chalkboards in the lecture halls, but occasionally solved one of the incredibly difficult math problems left on the boards. No one ever figured out it was him, & he was happy to be left alone. He never married, but had a nice little apartment & took care of himself & was a valuable member of the community.
Since we've left Nat without a denouement since Daisy ran off with Dick, we'll say Nat stayed in Europe & became a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra. He came out of the closet when he met Oscar Wilde & lived a flamboyant & enjoyable life amid the London artsy set. Every Christmas he wrote to Plumfield, telling them that he was goddamn grateful they'd helped him out when he was younger, & that he'd drink a toast to them with hard liqueur while he was playing roulette in Monte Carlo on New Year's Eve.
I think that should pretty much set the old gal to rolling in her grave, don't you?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
What I will do is say that it still is a great book. It's amazing to me how easy it is to read. Also, I hadn't read the book in a long time & had only seen the movies about it in between. Reading the book helped me clear up in my mind a lot of the relationships that evolve during the time period described, mostly the Jo/Laurie aspect. Reading this book at my age now I have a much better understanding of those little intricacies of relationships, & I also appreciate that Amy isn't just a spoiled brat of a girl who always gets her way. She's a much better character when you actually read the book!
The only complaint I have about it is it is a little nicey-nicey, even for the 1800's. But I have to remind myself that Louisa May was from New England, & if there's anywhere in the country that's traditionally prudish it has to be there. I'm sure the "sordid" stories that Jo was writing for money would make me hoot out loud at their innocence, but in that time & place I'm sure there were quite a few folks who couldn't take that kind of excitement!
Overall, a highly recommended book for girls (& guys) of all ages.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
When you look at a map of the territory conquered by Alexander it can truly blow your mind. Add to that the fact that he never lost a battle-never-& you realize why he was worshiped as a god after his death.
Mary Renault is also the author of another book I highly recommend & have written about on this blog before: The King Must Die. She had a great talent & an obvious fascination & knowledge base of ancient Greece.
The only thing that may offend or upset some readers is her descriptions of homosexuality. I think it is amazing & so very accurate how she describes the relationships between the men in her books, & it also makes you realize that homosexuality is such a part of being human also. I'd venture to guess it's been around almost as long as human heterosexuality. It's interesting also how our current ways of thinking have colored how we view that kind of lifestyle.
I highly recommend this book!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Bottom line, it wasn't a horrible read. It just didn't have a whole lotta depth or angst to it, other than the poor bastard with the binoculars.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
You see, Dog got me this book after hearing about it on NPR one day & thought it sounded like something I'd like. And the premise is great--it's about Bonn in the '60's. I thought it would be informative & exciting, in a spy & espionage kind of way.
But instead, it was incredibly boring. So boring, in fact, that I couldn't finish it. So boring, I couldn't finish Chapter 2. So goddamn boring that even though my beloved Dog bought this for me as a gift, I couldn't painstakingly claw my way through it.
When I mentioned this to some of my reading pals at work, they informed me that John LeCarre (sorry Mr. LeCarre, I don't know how to put that little accent above the "e" in your last name) sucks. He's one of those guys that likes to get all technical on you, meanwhile he didn't notice you aren't reading his god-forsaken book anymore.
In his defence, this is the first John LeCarre book I've ever attempted to read. It was originally written in the '60's, which might explain a lot of the "WTF is he talking about?!?" factor.
Or, he could just suck.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Like I said, sounds like a neat idea, especially when it's written in the first person as a memoir of...Philip Roth! Roth grew up in New Jersey during WWII in a predominantly Jewish town with his parents & older brother. So he just flips everything on it's head when he acts as though he's writing his autobiography from the early war years. Except in his book, we don't go to war with the Axis in December of 1941, since there is no Pearl Harbor. This is because Lindbergh had signed a treaty with Japan earlier in that year.
But what starts out great & hard to put down becomes mired, for me, in symbolism. Had it been a little more straightforward, I might have enjoyed this book more. But by the end I was just glad it was over. I'd have to say it was very disappointing that way: started with a bang & ended with a groan of relief.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
- it's small & I was able to keep it in my purse
- it's about people with disabilities & I'm stuck on that topic right now,
- it's good.
It's about 3 people who meet in the hospital & decide to move in together when they leave since they don't have anywhere else to go. Warren is a paraplegic--he was shot in the back by his friend. Arthur has a progressive neurological disorder & used to live in a state home. And Junie Moon has been horribly disfigured by a man who beat her senseless & poured acid on her face & hands.
I tell you what, if that doesn't draw you in nothing will. There are flaws in the book, but you can't help to look past them & enjoy the unfolding of these peoples' lives. Some people treat them like crap. Others can see them as what they are: people. Just like the rest of us, only having to have their challenges displayed for all to see.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Basically it's one of those fantastic, goofy plots that could either be great or lame. I'm voting on lame. I honestly don't have it in me to explain what it's about, let's just say it includes these things: a pro-Nazi German-American that looks like Himmler, a gal that is very liberated for the times (1945), some dude from Oklahoma that's supposed to be great (?), & an escaped German POW.
I know, I know, this review has to be much lamer than the book I'm critiquing, & it is. Let's just say I wasn't very inspired!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
That said, I'm going to go over to her website after I'm done with this & see if she has any more books planned for this series. If she could write from a young girl's point of view again, it'd be great!
Friday, July 11, 2008
It's about the almost total destruction of the city of Hamburg during the course of 1 week in late July/early August 1943. Four night bombing raids by RAF bombers & two by American day bombers pretty much finished off the city. You may have heard of the fire storm the RAF started on their second raid of July 27--it was of almost unspeakable power & horror. The descriptions of what some of the people of Hamburg went through & saw are chilling. I will always remember a particular scene: fleeing their bomb shelter because they realized they would be roasted alive or die of smoke inhalation if they stayed, a young family reached the street & saw the road burning, the trees burning, & horses from a local business running by, burning. Everything was on fire. Everything. Even bricks were incinerated in the high heat, & winds that could pick you up & carry you into the fire were created by the hideously high heat & lack of humidity.
I don't generally like non-fiction, I find it dry & boring. This was nothing of the sort, & it isn't because of the events that the author was describing--it was because of his ability as an author. This was Keith Lowe's first non-fiction book after writing two successful novels, & his talent is a wonderful thing to behold. He somehow is able to describe both sides of this conflict, interviewing survivors of the bombing & the men who did the bombing, with a knack for getting you to see how each person was part of an inevitable cog in history. You can blame each side for what happened, but you're left just feeling the burden of being human. Why are we this way? I don't know, & Keith Lowe doesn't either, but I'm left with the words NEVER AGAIN stamped in my mind.
Are we doing enough in the here & now to keep this from happening again? Or is it already happening as we speak?
Friday, July 4, 2008
I recommended this author to a woman I work with who has a young teen daughter looking for some good books for her to read that don't deal with ridiculous amounts of sex & peer pressure crap. These books are great for that age group since they have so much to say about being who you are despite the displeasure & disappointment of others.
I'm hoping to start the third book, River Secrets, as soon as I can get to the library. I can't wait!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Though it doesn't mention the epidemic in St. Louis really at all, it really blows your mind as to how pervasive & horrible this sickness was. It reached an ability to kill that could knock somebody out in 24 short hours. Imagine--getting the flu & being dead the next day.
Much of the book deals with the advances in American medical science in the time period leading up to the Spanish flu. I had a hard time wading through these parts of the book, but I understood why it was focused on--the US went from practising medieval bleeding & purging to modern med science in just a few short years. It's insane how ignorant the typical American doctor was before this time! I totally understand why someone back in the late 1800's would rather just keel over dead that call the doctor--3 pints of blood & some violent laxatives later, you'd be dead anyway!
All in all, a good read.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I think this book is a must read to understand from an insiders view what the Islamic faith is about. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a very inflammatory person in that she condemns all the violence that has erupted since 9/11 to be due to Islam--her argument is that it is a very violent religion, intolerant of any other belief systems. Whatever you may think, this book will make you think about it in a different way.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
The books discussed on Chewing the Fat will always have characters with disabilities in them, but it's truly amazing to me how many many books that encompasses. A Thread of Grace is one of those books that you don't ever realize has any disabled characters in it at all until you're done & you get to take a breath & reflect on it. There is one pivotal scene that deals with it head on, but for the rest of the novel it is there, yet hidden. And you realize that it's because we're all disabled. You see that clearly, & you understand that just because no one can see your weaknesses & challenges, you still have them. And just because you can see others' obvious ones, it doesn't mean that behind that they are perhaps stronger in areas that you have a deficit in .
The book takes place in Italy near the end of WWII, when Jewish refugees crawled over the mountains to get to what they hoped would be the safe haven of Italy only to find that the German army had come in right behind them & taken over. I honestly can't recommend this book enough--it's going to be one of those ones that I will reference in my mind for a long time, & the characters will be there too with a smirk, making me think WWRD? (What Would Renzo Do?)
Give it a read--you won't regret it.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Another author that does a great job retelling a classic story is Mary Renault. She's done a trilogy of books based on the myth of Theseus, & they are magnificent! It is amazing how she made something like the Minotaur, a monster that's half-man & half-bull, into someone who could actually have existed. In fact, it's hard not to come away from her books with the idea that she has somehow figured out how myth is made--where reality is turned into something unreal simply by the unique coincidences that occur once in a lifetime.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Anyway, it was better than Turning Angel, but not by a whole lot. I guess I'm a sucker for a flawed hero, & the main heroine just didn't do it for me. Yes, she'd made mistakes in the past. But she kept getting out of impossible jams, & it got old.
The suspense was good, which of course means I finished it in a timely manner. But over all, it was just OK. I gave it 3 stars since I'd given Turning Angel 2, but now I'm thinking I should have given TA 1. Ha! Second guessing myself even in my own rating system!
Friday, April 25, 2008
As you can tell by the title of this post, I didn't think much of this one. The plot line pretty much has to do with sex-starved teenage girls seducing older men. It's pretty obvious this may be Mr. Iles' fantasy, along with every other heterosexual man on the planet. But it sure as hell doesn't mean I'm going to want to read about it.
The only reason I've given this book 2 stars instead of 1 is for the simple fact I finished it. I didn't want to, but I felt the need to see if it got any better. It didn't.