Friday, December 14, 2012

The Round House by Louise Erdrich ***

I finished this book a couple weeks ago, but have simply been too lazy to review it.  But the news coming out of Connecticut today has somehow spurred me into getting this done.  I suppose it has to do with the violence.  How can someone do this to a group of children?  These were probably kindergartners.  I cannot fathom the hatred this young man must have felt for his mother to kill not only her but her students. 
This book opens with a violent act, & as it progresses you see how violence begets violence, fear & hatred.  Joe is 13 years old & lives on an Indian Reservation in North Dakota.  The year is 1988, a year I remember well.  It starts with a boy who is a typical teenager with typical worries & joys.  And it shows how one act of violence changes him, takes away that innocence that President Obama referred to today in his speech.  He will never be the same.
Joe & his father, a tribal judge, are doing yard work on a weekend when they realize that Joe's mom, Geraldine, has been gone a long time for just picking something up at the office.  They get in the car to look for her & pass her coming back home.  But something is wrong.  When they pull up at home she won't get out of the car.  When the men try to get her out, the awful truth starts to sink in.  She's been raped.  A violent & horrible act.  As his father drives them to the hospital, Joe sits in the back seat with his mother's head on his lap.  And his world is forever changed.  He will not be the same.
The Round House is about how we deal with our rage.  What's the correct way?  I certainly don't know.  I know if I were one of the parent's of the children who were murdered today in Connecticut, I'd want to hurt someone.  But what do you do when the one who did the killing is dead already?  There's no one left to hate.  How do you continue to live? 
I will be thinking of those families.  I hope they find peace someday.  I have no idea how they will, though.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Storm of Swords & A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin ***

Sometimes there's nothing more painful than to get heavily invested in some characters in a book.  When you've been experiencing their lives for awhile, it seems as though they should listen to you, the reader, and do what you feel would make sense for them to do.  You know them, after all, you've been through a lot with them and you know what's best for them.  But do they listen?  Never.
That's been my experience with the latest books I've read of The Song of Ice and Fire.  If these people would just listen to me, it would all be just fine.  Take the other direction.  Or hey, that's not who you think it is!  It's whats-his-name!  Or why the heck can't you figure out what's going on?  I have!  Just hole up in some forest in Westeros and wait for the grand entrance of You-Know-Who.  Cause it seems as though every direction these characters take leads to more trouble.  I'm getting exhausted for their sakes!
And that brings me to my other frustration--the pace became incredibly slow over these past two books also.  Scenarios that could have just been summed up later were laboriously acted out in detail.  It got to where I almost wanted to just skim ahead and see if anything developed.  I didn't, but especially in A Feast for Crows it wouldn't have mattered--nothing really did develop.
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I do still like these books very much.  I am heavily invested in the characters as I said before, and I'd just love for them to be ok.  Might not happen ever, but I'd sure like that.  Obviously it's well written in that I sometimes have to remind myself that these folks don't really exist!  In fact their whole world doesn't.
I'm going to take a break from the last book in the series and give myself and the characters a much needed rest.  Maybe when I resume I won't be so anxious for them!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Game of Thrones & A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin *****

So I'd heard about this series via Facebook friends who were either watching the show on HBO or reading the books.  Since I don't have HBO & I needed a good book to suck me in, I started reading A Game of Thrones. 
As you can probably figure out, I liked it.  I liked it so much that instead of reviewing it on here, I got the next book from the library & started in on that one.  As it stands now, I just picked up the third one, so I figured if I'm gonna ever get these boys talked about I better get crackin'!
Westeros is a large island nation that has been ruled by Robert Baratheon for the past 10 years.  He gained the right to the Iron Throne when he killed the heir in hand-to-hand combat with a war hammer.  If that sounds brutal, then you better not read these books.  Based loosely on medieval England, but with a lot of cool stuff like dragons, direwolves, & zombie folks that live in the cold wastes of the north, I've loved ever minute I've spent with my nose in these books.  The main characters are of the family Stark, lords of Winterfell & past Kings of the North.  Lord Eddard Stark has 5 children that Martin delights in messing with as he unfolds his tale.  Every time I think one of them will finally get a break, BAM! he throws some god-awful obstacle up against them again. 
These books are graphic in their depiction of violence & honest in how people lived in medieval times.  Most lives were ugly, brutish, & short.  But the drama & historic sweep of the novels are wonderful.
That's enough writing about it.  I've gotta start book 3!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka ****

I've never heard the radio play by Dylan Thomas called Under Milkwood performed, though I always wanted to after I read it.  I got interested in Thomas when I read some of his short stories back when I was in college.  Sometimes they annoyed me & I couldn't finish them, but other times they were so right that they are singed into my memory.  One short story in particular I will remember forever, but I haven't been able to find it again.  I don't know where I read it but it's one of those quests that will define my life--where is that story?
The Buddha in the Attic reminds me of Under Milkwood because of the way it is written.  You get to hear the inner voices of a group of people, a community, what they're thinking & how they're living.  Thomas wrote of a Welsh fishing village, but Otsuka writes of the community of Japanese picture brides that came to the US after the turn of the century.  I know it sounds very different, but for some reason it was rather similar to me.
I can't imagine how brave & scared those women had to be, coming to a totally foreign land to marry men they'd never met, men that they only had pictures of & letters full of promises.  When they got to our shores many found that not only were their new husbands not the men in the pictures, but they were desperately poor.  These women who hoped for a better life across the ocean found themselves in just as much hardship as what they'd left.  And through this book their voices speak again, about the women that started laundry businesses with their husbands, or started farming rented land.  Or worked as maids for the rich ladies of San Francisco, or became prostitutes.  You hear them talk of how they learned to love their husbands, or never stopped hating them.  Of how they were worked almost to death, & had to claw their way up the ladder of success.  You hear them mourn the loss of children & grow weary at the birth of yet another. 
You get to become part of their community for a short while, just as you became part of the fabric of Milkwood for a short while too.  But unlike Dylan Thomas' fictional village, the story of the women of Japan who came to America is real.  And it comes to a screeching halt when their homes, stores, businesses & farms are suddenly empty & abandoned.  It ends in 1942. 
A very good book.  It left me haunted by voices.

Friday, September 14, 2012

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy ***

I've always loved horses.  Watching them run in a horse race is one of my favorite things to do, though I've never seen a race live--just on TV.  I took a riding class in college for one of my PE credits & learned to ride English.
But I have to admit that I still sometimes get scared of how big they are.  I had a lot of trouble when I was younger being assertive with them, letting them know I was boss.  I haven't ridden one now for 20 years, so I don't know how I'd handle it.  I've changed a lot in the past 20 years, I might be more confident about being in charge.  Or I might be less.
John Grady Cole is the hero of All the Pretty Horses, and he has a great love of the animals.  He seems to be able to sense things about them that others can't, and he values them almost as much as he values people.  He's a very loyal young man with a firm sense of who he is.  And he's only 16 years old when he and his pal Lacy Rawlins decide to head south into Mexico to seek their fortunes.  John Grady has nothing to lose--the ranch he grew up on was owned by his maternal grandfather.  When his grandpa dies the ownership went to his mother, who is a want-to-be actress who hates living on the ranch.  His parents are estranged, especially after his father was presumed dead during WWII while a POW in the South Pacific.  And so the ranch will be sold.  And everything that's important for John Grady will be gone.
This story of the boys' misadventures in Mexico has some humorous moments, especially whenever Rawlins is involved.  You can just hear these boys talking to each other in their Texas drawls, Rawlins wearing his new boots, breaking some horses.
But mostly the story is about the brutality of our southern neighbor.  The absolute and irrevocable justice of life, the common story of wrongful death.  I wish I could say Mexico has changed a lot since the 1950's, the setting for this book.  But as many of us know, the violence of Mexico lives on, and tries to spread over the border into the US constantly and successfully.
Quite a few years ago this book was the choice for the Reader's Review on the Diahn Rehm Show on NPR.  I hadn't read it yet, but I remember one of the readers mentioning that the profound reasoning and deep introspection of John Grady Cole just didn't fit with any 16 year old boy he'd ever met.  I have to agree.  I don't understand why the two main heroes weren't portrayed just a few years older, but Cormac McCarthy may have his reasoning.  I know this is the first of three books about this part of the country at this time, called collectively The Border Trilogy.
Overall I thought some of the imagery of the book both beautiful and haunting.  It was an upsetting book in it's violence, but not in it's presence.  It's hard for me to explain, but maybe it's because of it's unfairness.  I think as I get older I've become less of a realist and more shallow in some ways--I just want to read something where everyone is OK in the end.
This was a beautifully written book, but I don't see myself reading the other two books in the trilogy.  I just wasn't able to take the reins of this book and control it--in the end it controlled me and got me down.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward ****

This summer we went down to the Gulf for vacation.  Our first stop was Biloxi, Mississippi.  We went directly to the tourism center, which is housed in a beautiful antebellum mansion right on the beach.  It was a gorgeous house & Puppy was especially impressed with the porches on both the first & second floors that had some nice ceiling fans.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that this building had only just opened last year.  The original house, which had stood there for many years, was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Biloxi had painstakingly rebuilt it to look exactly like it had before.

As we drove along the main drag we noticed several blank spaces in between other homes & businesses.  It was then that the destruction that Katrina had unleashed on the gulf coast really hit home for me.  Being from the middle of the US & not having much experience of being around the ocean I never really could wrap my head around the images I saw of the post-Katrina apocalypse.  Being there made it much more real.

Salvage the Bones is about the days leading up to Katrina & it's immediate aftermath.  It's the story of Esch, a 14 year old girl living in poverty in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi.  Her mother died 6 years ago giving birth to her little brother.  She lives with her drunken father & her 3 brothers:  Randall, the oldest who takes care of everyone; Skeetah, who loves his pit bull China more than most people; & Junior, who's lived his life not knowing his mother & being raised by Esch & Randall.

The family lives in extreme poverty on a patch of land called The Pit just outside of town.  Never is there any reference in the book to there being a female that Esch calls friend.  It's just her & her brothers & their friends--that's the whole circle of her world.  She's in love with Randall's best friend, Manny, who uses her for her body & then never acknowledges her otherwise.  She discovers that she's pregnant just as Skeetah's dog China gives birth to her first litter of puppies, & from that moment on her story, China's story, & the story of Medea (she is reading Bulfinch's Mythology for school) all become intertwined as the book unfolds.

I'd never heard about this book before, even though it won the National Book Award a few years back.  I wonder if maybe it's because of the references to & descriptions of dog fighting, which has come more into the spotlight since Michael Vick was arrested for it.  It's such a horrible sport, but the way Ward describes the bizarre way in which these boys love their dogs, yet fight them so brutally, is mesmerizing.
Love & death.  The two eternal mysteries, told in a compelling & touching way by Jesmyn Ward.  Katrina the destroyer--it's the stuff of mythology.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Swimming in Mud

Over 3 months.  I can't say I haven't read anything, but what I've read has been rather light.  It's been hard.  I don't know why exactly, other than maybe I've been depressed. 
Funny how writing about what I've been reading & how I've been feeling go hand in hand.  Maybe because you have to be in a mental place, a good place, to read & analyze what you think of a book.  I haven't been clear of head to make the effort to figure out what I think of anything I read. 
Trying to figure out why I feel this way seemed complicated.  But once I started thinking about it, it was rather simple.  There has a been a firing spree at my job & it frightens & disturbs me.  I've worked at the same place for 15 years & in that time I've formed relationships with my fellow workers that transcended the normal acquaintanceship.  It has to do with Puppy's traumatic birth & first 5 months of life.  He was born at the hospital I work at & in that time period he was hospitalized there 11 more times.  During those stressful months when Dog & I didn't know if Puppy would live or die, the people I work with acted as a huge support to us.  They bought us dinner & brought it by our apartment.  They collected money on Christmas Eve & one of my coworkers blushingly brought a card by Puppy's hospital room with the unknown-to-us cash inside & just said, "Merry Christmas".  Over $100.00 spontaneously gathered in a matter of a couple hours.  When my ETO ran out, they donated their own to me.  It was a large check, one that helped us buy a house.  In short, they were another family to me.  A bizarre, dysfunctional family filled with some very odd people, but then again don't all families fit that description?
And now some of them are effectively dead to me.  I've never been one to have a lot of interaction outside of work with my co-workers.  There are always a couple that are closer to me, but most are just people that I truly enjoy talking to while doing my job.  So when I come to work after being off a day & find out that someone I've worked with the whole time I've been at this hospital has been summarily fired, even though they may have worked there for more than 30 years, it's like they're gone.  I didn't communicate with them outside of work, so it would be odd to contact them now.  But I so miss them.
And so I've been grieving.  And I've been scared.  There hasn't been a firing since May, but that might not mean anything.  I try not to take it personally or get too worked up about it, & I've been doing a pretty good job of that lately.  But a part of me has been hurt badly. 
So just in the past 2 weeks I've felt like the swimming has gotten easier.  I've started a book I have to think about deeply in order to grasp, so we shall see what happens.  If anybody is still out there, thanks for hanging on. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry ****

I think pretty much everyone who speaks English knows the saying, "Better late than never!"  I feel that lately it's become the best description of everything I do.  Not sure why I've gotten into this mode, but I can't seem to get anything much done in a reasonable amount of time.  I hope the above saying is true, because I'm awfully late in reviewing this book!
I think that same old adage could be used in conjunction with this book.  Is it better to find something important out eventually?  Better to know it in the end than to have never known it at all?
Roseanne McNulty is an ancient woman living in a mental health institution in County Sligo, Ireland.  No one is quite sure when she became a patient there, but the head psychiatrist is in charge of determining which patients are able to go back into society as the old building is being torn down.  Roseanne, unbeknownst to anyone else, is quietly writing down her memories & hiding them under the floorboards of her room.  Meanwhile, the psychiatrist is finding out her "official" history.  Those two differing accounts of an abused life intersect & diverge & we're left with a truth that is frightening & noble. 
One of the main themes of the book is the way that the Catholic church was able to rewrite peoples' lives at will, to either raise them up or cast them down.  Being cast down due to nothing more than being beautiful, being raised up despite committing injustices against others.
I liked Roseanne's character for a selfish reason--in many ways, she did nothing remarkable in her life.  She simply loved & survived.  I find this very refreshing because I think most of us are living rather unremarkable lives ourselves.  And in this book Sebastian Barry makes that a beautiful poetry.  She didn't single-handedly defeat the Catholic church.  She didn't do anything extraordinary.  But then again, she did.  She didn't give up.
Roseanne's story is unearthed very late, but you could definitely argue that it was better then never.  As the psychiatrist follows a very old trail, you begin to realize that those bread crumbs left behind to guide us back to where we came from are still worth following.  They might not form a straight line, but enough may still be there to find the way.
A beautiful & lyrical book.  I highly recommend this to others.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur ****

Imagine, if you will, that you're 11 years old.  Not too hard, most of us have been there!  But now imagine that almost all your stability has been taken from you.  And also that you feel you're somehow to blame.
Love, Aubrey is about that situation.  Aubrey's family took a mini-vacation for a weekend & on the drive home though pouring rain a car wreck killed half the family--Dad & little sister Savannah.  Mom & Aubrey try to continue living without them, but Aubrey's mother can't stand living in the same home without them & seeing Aubrey & not the others.  She abandons her.  And Aubrey is on her own.
This is a heart-wrenching book that really delves into the horrible mess that remains after a family tragedy.  From leaving her home & moving many miles away to live with her grandma, to starting over at a new school & trying to make new friends, all while having to deal with the gaping hole of loss in her life, the story of Aubrey's first year without her family is filled with much sorrow but also hope.
I especially liked the way the relationship with her mother is explored.  How do you forgive & trust someone again after they leave you?  How can a mother do that to her child?  How do they have a relationship again?  Also the relationship between Aubrey's mother & grandmother is addressed.  Her grandmother's anger & frustration at her own daughter for abandoning her granddaughter in her hour of need.
A sad book overall, Love, Aubrey is written so kids can grasp some of what it's like to live with tragic loss.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins ***

I'm always game for an after-the-apocalypse book about the future.  Two of my favorites for adults are by Margaret Atwood (Oryx & Crake and The Handmaid's Tale), & then there seems to be a plethora of books for kids about the ominous future (The Missing series & The Shadow Children, both by Margaret Peterson Haddix for example).  So I was pretty excited about reading The Hunger Games anyway, but add to that a friend at work loaning me her copy & the movie coming out soon & I was ready to jump in!
My first impressions of the book were good.  The background of the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is very full & helps the reader feel like they've really gotten to know her.  And the whole concept of taking children as tribute reminds me a great deal of Greek mythology, the legend of Theseus to be exact.  It was going in a great direction, as far as I was concerned!
But then the games began.  And man, I gotta say it's very frightening & gory!  Yes, I've read scary books before, but I've never read one this graphic that was meant for kids between the ages of 12-17.  The terror that the characters are in is horrible, plus the fact that these kids are killing each other!  These characters are between the ages of 12-18 & they're in some cases slaughtering each other with abandon!  Wow!  It was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies when I went for a run today at the park--there was no one else there & the wind was blowing & I kept expecting some starving deranged teen to come running out of the woods with a spear or just a big rock & do me in!
I think Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of invoking the terror, horror, & overall desperation that a kid would feel in those circumstances.  Obviously it worked on me!  But I just knew that everything would be wrapped up in the end & there would be some kind of answer to all this...
But there wasn't.  It just left me hanging.  And I know this is a series of books & she wants to leave me hanging so I'll read the next one, but I was annoyed.  Because this was more like a first part of a novel rather than book one of a trilogy to me.
Between the graphic violence & the sudden ending, I gave this book just 3 stars. 
But that's not gonna stop me from reading the next one.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret ****

I think it has to be hard for authors writing books for kids in the 4-6th grade, especially if they want to make them realistic.  Let's face it, it's hard to be real without being scary.  All you have to do is turn on the news in the evening, or better yet watch one of the at least 25 crime dramas on tv to see how frightening the world can be. 
I think Peg Kehret has done a good job in this book of being real without going overboard.  I haven't read any of her other books, but she seems to be a specialist in this.  Scary stuff that won't keep kids from being able to sleep at night.
Sunny Skyland is an orphan who's been bumped around from foster family to foster family ever since she was 3 & her mom & grandma died in a car wreck.  It's 10 years later & when she finds a bag of money in the woods near her current foster home in Nebraska she decides to do what she's dreamed of all her life--find her twin sister, Starr.  With just her brains, the money, & a stray dog she finds on the way, Sunny makes her way to Washington state, to the town she lived in before her life changed forever.  Will she find Starr?  And what happens if she does?
This book is well written & it also has a realistic ending.  Some of the adventures she encounters are a little far fetched, but the way Peg Kehret describes them makes you more than willing to believe.  Coming face-to-face with a tornado in the middle of nowhere with no shelter doesn't sound like a good recipe for survival, but the descriptions are wonderful & the matter-of-fact way the author uses them makes you really think this is what a 13 year old girl like Sunny would say.
The media is full of so many stories of separated twins who found each other when they were older & happened to have lived similar lives.  But when two paths diverge you never know where they'll end up.  I don't want to give anything away, but I found the need for acceptance of life the way that it is at the end of the book refreshing.  It has a happy ending, the kind that will stick with you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Airplane Boys Among the Clouds by John Luther Langworthy ****

So I was browsing through the other night & while looking at the listings of kids series books this one caught my eye.  More accurately, this one caught my husband's eye.  He likes planes & he likes history, & seeing a book written for kids back in 1912 about planes pretty much was a melding of the two.  He begged me to read this one next & review it on here, so now here we go! 
First off, this was fun to read.  It starts with the full title: The Airplane Boys Among the Clouds; or, Young Aviators in a Wreck.  I think I know what might happen to our two intrepid heroes, Frank & Andy Bird!  But wait!  They don't just fly their new-fangled fancy biplane up to the top of Old Thunder Top & give the eagles that nest there a nasty scare--they also deal with two mysterious men who've come to town.  Oh yeah, & there's an escaped convict too who takes pot-shots at them while they fly above him.  One of my favorite lines is when the police chief tells Frank Bird (remember, Frank's only about 17):
"He might try to steal your new biplane I've heard them talking about; or even burn down your whole outfit.  Better get a gun, & keep watch.  He's fair game, you know, if so be you catch him prowling around after dark.  An escaped convict hasn't any rights in the eye of the law."
Alrighty then, Chief!  I'll just shoot to kill then!  Wow!  Those were the good ol' days!  Lucky for the convict, Jules Garrone, that Frank decided to spring a trap on him instead.  And the Bird boys (including their friends Larry, Elephant, & I'm sorry to say Stuttering Nat) were quite upstanding lads to boot.  After they caught the dastardly devil this is what ensued:
"Frank had meanwhile tied his ankles as well, & helped drag him further into the shop.  When the man started to using language that was offensive, he warned him plainly that if he kept that up any longer they would find some means of gagging him."
Take that, you rotten scoundrel! 
Even with my limited knowledge of aviation it amused me to hear the references to guy wires & the smart little Kincaid engine that the boys had put on the biplane they'd built.  Also the fact they needed a good push sometimes to take off.  The wheels were referred to as bicycle wheels, & the Wright Brothers were referenced also--as contemporaries! 
So all in all, I'm glad Dog suggested this book.  If you'd like to download it yourself for free just click this link.  I don't think it's read too much anymore, but I can sense the amazed love that many a young boy 100 years ago would have had for this body of work.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell ****

The Secret of Zoom is another Mark Twain Award nominee, and though it's pretty fantastical in nature, I liked it! 
Christina lost her mother in an explosion back when she was just a baby, so she lives with her scientist father in an eccentric mansion that she's never allowed to leave.  She watches the kids from the nearby orphanage pick up garbage and live what looks like a miserable existance until she finally meets one, a boy named Taft, who asks her if she's found the secret tunnel.  This sends Christina on a search of the house, the eventual finding of the tunnel, and an amazing adventure.  Her whole life becomes questions:  what is Zoom?  Where do they take the orphans?  Why does the evil head of Loompski Industries value children with perfect pitch?  And is her mother really gone forever?
I couldn't put this book down and I can truely say the action never stopped.  But if you've read my blog before this then you know my schtick is I'm ultra-aware of characters that have developemental disabilities.  Before my son was born I never would notice this, but it seems like every book I read has at least some mention about the differently abled, if not a major character.  The Secret of Zoom is no exception.
I can say that I think Lynne Jonell wrote the character of Danny with accuracy and grace.  I know some would say he's been steriotyped, but I can see my own son reacting in the same ways to extreme stress and abuse.  And I'm thankful Ms. Jonell had her other characters treat him with compassion and care.  At one point Christina has to try to rescue Danny from out of the inside of a garbage truck, but at the same time she may be sacrificing the rest of the orphans she's trying to save.  What worth is Danny's life?
What if she did save ninety-nine orphans while leaving Danny in the garbage?  Could she really pretend to be a hero?  Could she even look Taft in the eye, knowing she had done that?
Christina bowed her head.  Ninety-nine wasn't going to be good enough.  It had to be one hundred.  And it had to be now.
Having read only two of the MTA nominees so far I can say that this book is my favorite.  We shall see if that changes or not!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje ***

How many times have you seen a movie of a novel before you read it?  I couldn't tell you the number I personally have seen, but The English Patient is one of those.  I first saw it when it was released in theatres back in the spring of 1997.  My husband and I saw it at the Battlefield Mall Cinema in Springfield, Missouri.  I loved the movie almost instantly--the romantic story line, the amazingly beautiful cinematography, and of course Ralph Fiennes.  I like Ralph.  A lot.
So here is the series of events that caused me to read the book 14 years after seeing the movie:  my husband finds the book laying in the hall of the high school he teaches at two years ago; he keeps it in his room and asks around to see who lost it but no one claims it; he puts it in the closet in his classroom and forgets it; about 10 days ago I'm talking with our foreign exchange student about movies we love and I mention it; Dog remembers he has the book at school and says he'll bring it home; he brings it home a couple days later after we both forget about it; I read it.  Not so dramatic, but there are so many turn along the way that might have led me to never reading it.
So, now that I've read it the question is what do I think of it.  And I'd have to say I liked the movie more.  Don't get me wrong, Michael Ondaatje's writing is beautiful and poetic.  He is a poet as well as a novelist, so this makes a great deal of sense.  A poet can convey emotion very succinctly--just a few seemingly unrelated words can be strung together and make a portrait of feeling that you can feel to your core.  But I guess I'm just a very pragmatic, practical person.  For me, there has to be a good reason for the emotion.  Why would someone shoot themselves?  To me you'd need a pretty darn good reason.  Why would someone turn their back on love when both of them desperately need it?  Again, I crave a solid reason.  And in the book, but not in the movie, for me the reasons just didn't seem real. 
Dog and I watched the movie again after I finished the book and it just confirmed my feelings about it.  I love the movie, and I think the characters from the book are carried over very well into the movie.  But I feel more comfortable with the motivations of the movie characters.
If you've neither seen the movie or read the book, I suggest reading the book first.  Then watch the movie and tell me what you think.

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore ***

Overall, this book can be summed up with one word:  stupid.
But this is Christopher Moore, so I knew going into it that it would be stupid.  This man is a genius of stupidity, if that makes any sense.  He takes some really odd characters and basically makes their lives even more insane than they already were.  I was pleased to see some of the characters from two of his previous books I've read, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove & Lamb, were included in this book. 
The setting is in Pine Cove, California, one of those trendy, artsy towns that you end up visiting and thinking it would be neat to live there.  And then you leave.  Basically there is a murder, a confused angel, and zombies.  Yeah, it's pretty stupid.
My only beef with the book is when the R-word comes up in reference to the angel.  In many ways I think Christopher Moore did a fairly decent job dealing with the word, but I just hate hearing or reading it at all.  I know it's out there, I know it's used by a lot of people, but I hate it and I don't see the need for it. 
Other than that, I overall recommend this book if you want to read something really stupid and silly.  If you want to read something that's silly but profound, I recommend Lamb.