Monday, December 31, 2007
Tony Randall and Jack Klugman are best known as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison respectively, a role they played on Broadway, but more famously on television for five seasons in the early 1970's.
Growing up, I would drive my dad crazy as we watched The Odd Couple together and I would say the dialogue of the whole show just before the characters. It took years, but they are finally releasing the seasons on DVD and I've jumped on them. Even as a kid, I sensed that there was something special about this show.
Completing the book in a single sitting isn't all that tough, it's141 pages in total, many with pictures. The text however is far more than the story of two actors who shared a very special friendship, which was interesting to me as a fan. I took with me a lesson in genuine friendship, one that truly saw no boundaries, one of true devotion. What really drove it home was to see this lesson through the eyes of two people who have achieved the level of fame that these men have.
It's so rare to take a positive message from the celebrity world. This book offers one and I am glad I read it today of all days as it is a beautiful and necessary message to take into a new year.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I must've passed by this book everytime I visited my bookstore a hundred or so times. And everytime I passed it, I would stop, pick it up, and put it back down. For some reason, I picked it up yesterday and decided I'd get it. My only regret is that I didn't buy the other two books that followed it as well.
This story is about vampires who live among humans. The concept of vampires has always fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I particularly am drawn to stories of vampires who have human characteristics about them. The ones who are able to quell their desires to drink human blood. The ones who fall in love and have relationships. Vampires are always perceived to be monsters, so when I read the back cover of this book, I knew that this was more than just vampires who sucked blood. I'm just a sucker for a love story I suppose.
This story is about a 17 year old vampire, (although he's more like 108 years old), Edward, who falls in love with a girl named Isabella (Bella for short). She is new to the town of Forks, Washington and has moved to live with her dad while her mom can travel freely with her new husband (who is looking to be signed to a minor league baseball team and isn't exactly stationed in one particular town). At first Edward tries to avoid her because he genuinely fears for her safety (he is afraid that he will give into temptation and drink her), but he takes precautions so that he can be with her. And she is utterly and completely intoxicated with him and, her learning what he is makes her feelings for him grow even stronger. His family is accepting of his love for her and go to great lengths to save her from a possible savage death by another vampire who tries to kill her. By the end of the book, Bella wishes to be transformed into a vampire so that she can spend eternity with Edward but he refuses to subject her to that. But, there are two other books that follow so who knows what will happen.
This is the author's (Stephenie Meyer) first book and I have to say that she did a really good job in getting the reader involved in the lives of these characters right off the bat. I couldn't put the book down. The love story she created was so forbidden, yet so beautiful and sacred at the same time. She created Edward to have such amazing human qualities that it was no wonder Bella could fall for him so easily ... I could not blame her one bit.
Well you can bet that I will be buying book two and three of this series. It was that captivating.
(Eclipse - the third book - was reviewed by Pam.)
Thursday, December 27, 2007
In reading this book, I felt an attachment not to the legendary and brilliant musician, but to the human being that is Eric Clapton. I fell like I was confided in by someone who has reached a point where honesty and connections to the people take precedence over the fame.
So yes, we hear the stories about drugs, we hear the stories about womanizing, we hear the stories about alcohol and suicidal tendencies. What made this book different for me was the connection that he so clearly wishes, and succeeds to make with the reader and quite frankly, the sheer beauty of his recovery into sobriety and a beautiful family life. Somehow, I sense that when I go back to listen to his glorious body of work, this time, I'll be ready to hear it for the first time.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
While I have enjoyed the comedy of many of the performers who contributed, it was really fun, and of course funny (mostly) to read about their life on the road.
I think to most, especially those who've not tried to achieve any measure of success as an entertainer, the perception of life as an entertainer is mostly positive. It's hard for a layperson to see beyond the "success" of a performer. This book does a great job of humanizing the struggle of a performer and taking the reader on a journey as the passenger as they tell of their travels. If you like to laugh and you like stand-up comedy, there's a great chance you'll know many of the more than 2o0 contributors and that you will enjoy this book immensely.
Friday, December 21, 2007
When it comes to 'chick-lit' I'm picky. I'm not a fan of the Shopaholic series, nor did I find Bridget Jones life changing. But I have always enjoyed the writing of Jennifer Weiner. "Goodnight Nobody", "In her Shoes", "Good In Bed", and "Little Earthquakes" are all books I loved and have read more than once. So it was with a bit of excitement that I picked up "The Guy Not Taken" a collection of short stories by the author as a nice holiday treat to myself.
I should have bought myself a fruitcake.
It's not as though Jennifer's writing takes a completely different tone in this collection, she still is able to write a sentence I am envious of, but it's everything else that falls by the way side- the stories, the mood, and most importantly- the characters.
The first few stories center around a family who has been abandoned by their father. The narrator is funny and dry, but her domineering sister takes over the tale and is perhaps- the most annoying character to ever been created. She's greedy and thoughtless and it's never made clear why the narrator (or anyone else really) ever REALLY sticks up to her. It's only after she's ruined the inside of her grandmothers car (by leaving in food that gets infested by maggots) that you see anyone get upset with her. I found myself skimming the book early on just to save myself the trouble of reading about her.
And when you are skimming pages early on, it's never a good sign.
The stories do improve as the book goes on, but I couldn't help but think I would have preferred to re-read one of her old works than invest time and money in this one. Even her best stories in the collection ("Dora on the Beach", "Buyers Market") aren't enough to pull the book out of the mediocrity that she falls back into with this piece of work.
Monday, December 3, 2007
This story follows Jacob Jankowski as he recounts his days in the circus during the Depression. We are first introduced to Jacob as he is in his nineties and living in a nursing home facility. As word of a circus being set up near the nursing home spreads, the residents begin watching the set-up and Jacob is transported back to the 1930s where he was in college studying veterinary medicine. Through an unfortunate string of events, Jacob joins up with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth where he meets owner Uncle Al, animal trainer August, August's wife Marlena, and many of the circus crew. A page-turner and full of delightful imagery, I simply could not put this book down. I especially enjoyed the interview with the author at the end of the book where she recounts how she began writing the book along with her detailed research. I highly recommend adding this one to your wish list this holiday.
Sometime last year "My Sisters Keeper" by Jodi Picoult was THE book to read. I joined the masses, read it it- and loved it. I've read a few more of her books that ranked high for me but none which came close to the love I felt for "My Sisters Keeper"- until now.
Ninteen Minutes is the story of a school shooting. In keeping in traditional Picoult fashion, the story jumps narrators and time. In many books I find this a distracting quality, but in this one, it makes sense and leads the reader to the conclusion necessary to end the book satisfied.
Picoult expertly tells the tale of a teenager named Peter- who within the first pages of the book goes on a shooting rampage in his school killing students and a teacher. You naturally despise him, but as the story continues- you learn his history, the constant bullying straight from kindergarten until highschool and the you begin to wonder if endless years of bullying and torment can ever justify a murder, and if they can't- what can they justify?
Though Peters story could be it's own book, the author also weaves in the story of Josie- Peter's first and only friend in kindergarten who grows up to join the 'popular crowd'. How she deals with popularity, with Peter, with the pressures of watching someone get bullied and doing nothing is as interesting as Peters own tale. Also present are Josie's mother- who is a judge assigned to the case, and Peter's mother- a woman dealing with the realization her son has done something that she cannot help him undo.
I enjoyed this book on many levels. I appreciate a writer who is able to combine a controversial issue in a way that lets the reader see ALL sides of an argument without feeling like they are getting a one-sided account. As a teacher I adored it, I think any book that can raise awareness about school bullying is important and the way that it's done in this book- without apologizes or restraint makes me thankful that I was never in a position that Peter faced. Also, as a former student it appealed to me. The choices that Josie has to make- to preserve herself in a environment ripe for bullying, while still never succumbing to the bullying that others around her participate in- is one that I never really thought about. How guilty is someone who watches and does nothing?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
The book was written by a Christian minister and professor of evangelism. Ultimately, it's goal revolves around religion and Christianity but along the way, Leonard Sweet offers through his passion for coffee and Starbucks insight into the corporate culture and philosophy of the company.
It was almost disturbing how much Starbucks was mentioned in the first four chapters, almost to the point of disturbing and leading me to a pet name for the author, "The Reverend Shill". Oddly, as chapter 5 really toned down the Starbucks mentions I began getting upset that there were so few references to the leader of lattes.
In the end, the book did provide some great points for a book discussion at church and I really enjoyed learning about Starbuck's philosophies. However, this is really something of a "self-help" book using Starbucks and their philosophies as a model for living our spiritual life.
This book quite franky is not for everyone. While it has its moments, I'd rather read a book specifically about Starbucks than one that uses that as a framework for a different purpose. While I did enjoy the book, I think what threw me most is that I kept wanting to separate the coffee talk from the rest and just read about the coffee talk in greater detail.
Added Saturday during a more coherent moment that when originally authored:
While I don't have a problem with books on spirituality or on books that like to use metaphorical references to pop-culture, in this particular case I did. I must admit there were several points that really were exceptional at geting one to stop and think. I don't want to give off the impression that there is nothing to be gained by reading this book because there can be. I do think it is important to be up front about who the author is and the context in which this book was written.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I thought that I'd kick start this site back up again. It's been a long time since a post has been put up here and even longer since I've put up a post for it. I believe the last post I had didn't do too well in the comments section so I am determined to write a post for a book (or books) that I actually adore.
There's not much I can say about the Harry Potter series except to read it. Not a very good book review is it? Allow me to elaborate then as best I can (and HP fanatics, please feel free to add to this review). The series is 7 books (I am currently working my way through the 7th and final book). There are three main characters: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They are students of the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizadry, which incidently, is a 7 year program. These three characters forge a very special friendship as they grow and learn about magic and potions and spells. They also learn of their impending fate, which is to abolish Lord Voldermort, who's main focus is to destroy Harry.
Harry becomes an orphan when his parents are killed at the hand of Voldermort. Harry is able to escape, unscathed except for his distinct thunderbolt mark on his forehead. This escape has brought awe to the wizarding community because not only does Harry escape (being only 1 year old) but he essentially destroys Voldermort as well. As the series develops, the readers (and Harry) learn that Voldermort may not exist "in the flesh", but still exists in spirit. Before his mission to destroy the Potter's, Voldermort divided his spirit into 7 ... 1 remaining in his body, while the other 6 are scattered in unknown places, being held inside Horcruxes. The locating and destroying of these Horcruxes is key to Harry's demolishing Voldermort for good (which he learns in book 6). At first Voldermort is merely a spirit who feeds off of the blood of unicorns to sustain himself. Eventually, he returns to his full power (and his own body) with the help of one of his followers ... the person who betrayed the Potter's and led Voldermort to them when Harry was just a child. Voldermort is slowly gaining power as he casts Imperius spells on members of the wizarding community as well as the Ministry of Magic so that they can help him in his reign.
Until the age of 10, Harry has been living with his inattentive and emotionally abusive aunt (who is the sister of his mother), uncle and cousin. His extended family are not a part of the wizarding community and lead Harry to believe that his parents perished in a car accident, fully intending to keep the truth from him. Unfortunately for them, Harry is summoned by Hagrid (who has a fondness of dangerous creatures and works at Hogwart's) that he is of age to attend Hogwart's. This is much to the surprise of Harry as at this point, he still did not know that his mother was a witch and father a wizard. He readily accepted his fate and ventured on his journey into the world of magic. He meets some characters at Hogwarts that eventually play an important role in his life. As usual, there are the enemies: Severus Snape (a professor at Hogwart's) and Draco Malfoy (a fellow student) to name a few.
As you delve into the series, there is no question that the books become darker. There are attempted murders ... and some that are successful. Betrayal. Love. Denial. Acceptance. Bravery. It is no wonder that these books are loved by people of all ages. It is no wonder that the series is wildly successful. The imagination that seeps through these pages just blows my mind. I was skeptical at first when it came to Harry Potter. I thought it was "just for kids." Boy was I wrong. I absolutely loved the story and plan on re-reading them ... and I usually don't plan to re-read books before I'm actually through reading them!
So if you haven't read these books or have been living under a rock and don't know of the series. Go. Buy. Them.
You won't regret it.
Friday, October 5, 2007
These are the questions that Alan Weisman tackles in his book, "The World Without Us". He doesn't go into the why all humans would disappear, but picks up on the moment after- what would happen next, and it's fascinating.
Two portions of the book are dedicated to New York City and to Africa, and those were the two most engaging parts of the book for me. In the New York Chapters, he clearly details how the New York subway system would be a major contributer to the collapse of the city. What buildings in New York would surive the years, which would be the first to collapse (I was left surprised by the predictions). In the Africian section, he talks extensively about which animals would survive, and why big game animals that once covered North America are extinct, but have lived on in Africa. The answers may surprise you.
There's an excellent chapter on pollution, what the world would be like without humans continuing to clutter the planet with our love of plastics and paper. It doesn't get preachy, but it clearly confirms the idea that our careless treatment of the environment has caused horrible results. While outlining what we've done, it also gives hope to the idea that we can still make a change and alter the course we are on, in regards to hurting the animals, oceans and forests. (how's that for preachy?!)
I was worried that fascination felt for this book would be bogged down by scientific talk, and in some ways it was. There's an entire chapter dedicated to polymers that caused my eyes to glaze, and the chapter on farming was a bit of a struggle. Over all though, the book is engaging and one that I would recommend, especially if you are a reader who can skim read over a chapter on polymers and not lose sleep.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection by Gordon Ramsay
Overall, I thought that parts of the book were really great. However, Alda would go off on these tangents of talking way too much about acting methodology, etc. I found myself rolling my eyes quite a few times and generally wanting to skip portions of the book in order to get to the story. I was let down when reading this book because I think I had a different impression in my head of what it was going to be. It's not that I thought it was all going to be about M*A*S*H, it's just that I wish it flowed better and I didn't have to read about every single thought regarding acting methodology that passed through his mind, which I felt I was doing. It drove me crazy and I thankful when I finally read the ending.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Blood Doctor.
Based upon the title, my immediate thought was that this was about a vampire or something to do with a hospital. If I hadn't enjoyed the previous Vine book, I am not sure that I would have started reading this one. But I did.
Martin Nanther, Vine's main character, finds himself in the midst of a mystery involving his great grandfather in Victorian England. Nanther is a biographer. He has chosen, for his current subject, his great grandfather, Henry Nanther, who served as a doctor in the court of Queen Victoria and was a specialist in the field of Hemophilia. Henry appears to be an upstanding citizen in his time. Queen Victoria thought so highly of him that she gave him (and his family) a seat in the House of Lords.
As Martin performs his research - combing through letters and interviewing relatives, he discovers that there is information missing. The pieces of the puzzle that is Henry do not fit together as nicely as they should. A missing notebook, a murder, interaction with a family and marriage into that family from below his station, children dying, and his desire to learn all he can about Hemophilia - each fact leaves Martin searching for answers that may be lost in the passage of time.
While Martin attempts to uncover the truth about Henry, his position as a Lord is in doubt as the House of Lords evolves and his wife battles with infertility. Martin must come to terms with his past, his present and in future as represented in the three storylines.
This book was neither fast paced nor a page turner. The characters were well developed as was the primary storyline - the mystery surrounding the life of Henry Nanther. I enjoyed the plots, but also the descriptions of the House of Lords and Victorian England.
The Blood Doctor is a book worth checking out!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Well written, this book asks the reader to suspend belief in reality, just a tad. It is escapism, pure and simple.
Tom Broadbent is riding his horse through the Canyons of New Mexico when he hears a gunshot. Fifteen minutes later he finds the dying prospector, is given a secret notebook filled with specific columns of numbers, and promises to give it to the man's daughter.
Nothing is ever as easy as it seems it should be.
The prospector is not one who searches for gold or gems, or even archeological artifacts. This man searches for dinosaur bones.
The book evolves into a race against time. Tom must find the daughter while the sheriff attempts to solve a murder. A paleontologist in New York needs the dinosaur and has hired someone to find it at all costs. Finally, the US Government sends a classified unit into New Mexico to ensure that nothing is located.
Despite an abundance of characters and locations, the book is well written. It moves fairly quickly, and I didn't skip too many pages!
However, if you are looking for a serious read or a "that could happen," this is not your book.
*Note - an actual tyrannosaurus bone, with soft tissue, was actually discovered.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Set in the South, this book is about three generations of "crazy" women spanning from 1932 to 1972. The story begins with Miss Gussie as a murder is committed and she works hard to conceal the truth. As the story continues, we hear from Miss Gussie's maid, Queenie, her daughters and eventually her daughter's daughters. Their lives intertwine lots of craziness ensues with tons of highs and lows, and the story wraps up with a conclusion to the murder concealment at the beginning of the book.
Since each chapter is told from a different woman's view, I wondered how well the author would be able to set each tone apart. Surprisingly, I thought the author did a remarkable job. While reading her biography online, I discovered that she hold a nursing a degree from my alma mater. Apparently, according to the alumni website, her parents didn't think English was an acceptable major. Therefore, she practiced nursing and wrote on her stories on the side. This was the first book I've read by this author and I will certainly check out some of her other books.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I met Levitt recently in Boston at a conference after a keynote speech and was instantly intrigued by his work. I knew after hearing him speak I'd need to read the book and was pleased, though not surprised at the four word endorsement on the cover "Prepare to be dazzled." The endorsement was written by one of my favorite non-fiction authors I've read in the last few years, Malcolm Gladwell; who interestingly enough was the keynote speaker at the same conference the previous year.
While the subject of economics for me has both interesting and boring aspects, this book isn't a traditional view of economics but rather uses economic theory to explore socio-economic phenomena. Would you ever have considered that the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion could be linked to crime rate? How about the link between popularity of names and socio-economic status? These and a number of other extremely unique studies had me constantly using the phrase, "Holy Crap!"
I'm a nut for statistics and the fact that Levitt and Dubner have the ability to not only make them interesting, but captivating make this book a hit in my eyes. If you are interested in a preview, click the picture of the book. Incidentally, I mentioned Malcolm Gladwell earlier, he's authored two fascinating books entitled, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink" both of which are amazing reads.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I have always been an avid reader. I recently shared the Ruth Chew books with my daughter. She didn't love them as I once did, but she did enjoy them. Unlike my childhood self, she doesn't truly have a favorite book, except for Because of Winn-Dixie.
Many people saw and loved the movie. At the time of its publication, many read the book. For all those who have not read it, it is worth a read. For all who have read it, it is worth reading again.
Winn-Dixie is a dog - an unattractive dog of unknown age and breed. He befriends Opal shortly after she and her father arrive in their new town. Opal can identify with Winn-Dixie, they are both motherless, friendless, and seemingly alone.
Because of Winn-Dixie, all of this changes. Winn-Dixie helps Opal learn about her family, herself, and the town. Together they open their hearts to the various characters of the book - each with a story to tell.
The book is about friendship, love, discovery, laughter, tears, and the idea that people are multidimensional. Opal learns that love is more than a list of things. It is much bigger and is about the entirety of a being, the good and the bad.
For my daughter, this is a text form of comfort food. She took it to first grade when she was asked to bring in her favorite book; she reads it on airplanes; and she has parts of it memorized. I too have read it numerous times. It has yet to lose its charm.
Because of Winn-Dixie is a book that can be red and loved by readers (and non-readers) of all ages. If my daughter were to have kids, I know that she would want to share this book with them. I know that she would want to share it with you.
And if you don't want to read it based on that review, how can you resist Winn-Dixie himself!
The movie is good, but the book is wonderful.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
When I woke early Saturday morning I finished one book and reach to the stack to find the next entry on my "must read" list. It was the Minotaur. I don't remember getting this book. I didn't remember anything about the book. Based upon the book cover, I honestly wasn't sure why I picked the book as I am a bit leery of mysteries set in the English countryside. (There are some great books based in England, but there are some that I don't like as well). I will usually give each book in my stack a chance. I am very glad I did.
The Minotaur caught me off guard. I read the entire book on Saturday. I simply had to find out what happened. The twists and tangles of this book are subtle with more attention being given to the psyche of the characters than on violence (of which there is extremely little for a thriller/mystery)
Kerstin Krist travels to England to spend a year working for John Cosway at his family home, Lydstep Old Hall in rural Essex. John was diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. IN order to "control" him, the family doctor and his mother have him kept under heavy sedation. Kerstin is brought in to the house to accompany John on his walks. She quickly finds herself in the midst of a house of cards, fragile and ready to collapse.
The story is told through Kerstin's eyes - flashing between the 1990's (now) and the 1960's, when the incidents occurred. Through Kerstin's eyes, the reader explores the varying relationships, power plays, personalities, and the shadows that play throughout the plot. As family secrets are revealed, the plot twists, and the wind blows shifting the ground upon which the house is built.
Is John truly suffering from schizophrenia? Does he commit the acts of which he is so quickly accused? What motives drive the actions of each character? Will there be a happy ending? Can there be a happy ending?
Vine did a wonderful job with this book - just enough to tell the story while leaving some out for the reader to envision. The story is well told, characters are well developed, and the plot offers enough to hold ones attention.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Lisey Landon is a widow of a celebrated author. Two years after his death, she has finally decided to take on the daunting task of going through her late husband’s papers and books. But it turns into more than just going through mementos…she also has to delve deep into memories she has buried deep into the recesses of her mind. Memories of her husband’s horrifying childhood and the secret place he would go to escape and to recover. These memories are only accessed by finding clues left by her deceased husband and are important for they are the only things that can help save her sister…and, more importantly, herself.
Lisey’s Story is more than King’s typical horror book. Even though there were some pretty freaky parts where I was sitting with my feet curled under my body, biting the inside of my lip and chewing on my fingernails, there was more to it than that. It is a beautifully written story, with clever play on words and plots circling around marriage and sisterhood and the importance of these two relationships. It's a love story as much as it is a nail-biter and the strength of the main character is one that makes you want to cheer her on and hug her at the same time. Whether you are a King fan or not, I highly recommend this book.
Friday, August 24, 2007
At just under 300 pages, Susan Juby has managed to cram at least one laugh on every page. Alice, I think is the story of a teen aged girl named Alice who is painfully awkward but keenly observant on society. On her first day of grade 1 her hippie parents let her go to school dressed as a hobbit, and she never recovered. She grows up home schooled and unpopular, but with a comforting confidence in herself that makes you wonder what she will do next. Along with trying to discover her personal style, she works on completing her 'life goals list' (#2 Increase contact with people outside immediate family. Not friends necessarily, but least superficial interaction of 'hi, how are you variety'...).
The majority of the book centers around Alice when she's 16 years old. Through her story you witness her mother get in a hilarious fist-fight with Alice's (grown up now) enemy from grade 1, a fish show, some serious fashion disasters and a stunning comparison to an ex-boyfriend I dated. (Hint- Aubrey).
I almost didn't want to write a review for this book because I knew I wouldn't be able to capture just how funny it is. I understand now why it's a national best-seller, with every age group enjoying it. It's short and lighthearted but with a main character who you care about. I think the only way to illustrate the book is with this: Alice's mother, has a best friend named Geradline. Alice doesn't like her but says "the only cool thing about Geraldine is that she looks like James Woods.".
How can you not love a book that says that?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
I'd say this book is probably more geared towards women. Not than men wouldn't enjoy it, and it's not a "chick lit" type thing either. I think it would be like if I wrote about my friendship with my roommate. How we met in college, that night we drank a bottle of gin and then hid in a coat room at a cocktail party. How I go to family bbq's at her house, how she borrowed my black camisole when we went out for martinis on Wednesday night, and how we stay up for hours talking about men with good heads of hair. Sure, some men might like to read bits of it, but I'd suspect that it's just generally a more woman type thing. But frankly, what do I know? The book just struck me more as something a woman would enjoy. That's all I'm sayin.
Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. So much so, that I then sought out a book by Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face, which she wrote about her struggle with cancer. I havent started that one yet, but I'll be back to report in on that at a later date!
If you're looking for a quick, equally funny and bittersweet read this is a good go to.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Bad Behavior is a period piece set in Louisiana in 1920. Prohibition was at its height, women had just been given the right to vote, and the Klu Klux Klan was starting to take hold of not only the South, but also the entire country. In the middle of all this is born-before-her-time Belle Cantrell. A recent widow and new part owner of the largest farm in Gentry, Louisiana, Belle is a huge advocate of the woman suffrage cause and is not afraid to speak her mind on most topics; much to the dismay of the Southern Genteel folk.
While the book is fun and sassy and, at times, down right sexy, it also reminds you of how intolerance was widely accepted in our country and that speaking out against said intolerance caused people to fear for their lives to the point to where many just kept quiet. “It’s not our fight,” was just one of the responses Belle received while trying to help stop an attack on her friend. With some of the same intolerances seeping into our society today, this book struck quite a chord with me. And all while reading it, my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quote replayed in the back of my mind. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Sometimes people fall into a monotonous pattern in their life. This is something that could work perfectly for some, but in time can prove to be trying for others. You grow up with the same people around you. The same friends. The same hang outs. You date your highschool sweetheart, go to college with your highschool sweetheart, and become engaged to your highschool sweetheart because it just seems like the logical step to take. You haven't set foot out of your home town because everything you have or would ever want is right there, so why leave? Why explore? For some, this life could be the most comforting in the world. But for others, and for the main character of the story, Carrie Bell, this could prove to be a life that you can't get away from fast enough.
This story is about Carrie's journey to self-realization. It is a story about taking responsibility not because you HAVE to but because you WANT to. Eventually, Carrie's past catches up with her and she is forced to make a decision of what is best for her and for the situation at hand. Is she able to forget the past and start a new life? Or are her roots too deeply embedded?Here is an excerpt of the book:
When something terrible happens to someone else, people often use the word "unbearable." Living through a child's death, a spouse's, enduring some other kind of permanent loss–it's unbearable, it's too awful to be borne, and the person or people to whom it's happened take on a kind of horrible glow in your mind, because they are in fact bearing it, or trying to: doing the thing that it's impossible to do. The glow can be blinding at first–it can be all you see–and although it diminishes as years pass it never goes out entirely, so that late some night when you are wandering the back pathways of your mind you may stop at the sudden sight of someone up ahead, signaling even now with a faint but terrible light.
Mike's accident happened to Mike, not to me, but for a long time afterward I felt some of that glow, felt I was giving it off, so that even doing the most innocuous errand, filling my car with gas or buying toothpaste, I thought everyone around me must see I was in the middle of a crisis.
Yet I didn't cry. The first days at the hospital were full of crying–Mike's parents crying, his brother and sister, and Rooster, maybe Rooster most of all–but I was dry-eyed. My mother and Jamie told me it was because I was numb, and I guess that was part of it, numb and terrified: when I looked at him it was as if years had unwound, and I'd just met him, and I couldn't stand not knowing what was going to happen. But there was something else, too: everyone was treating me so carefully and solicitously that I felt breakable, and yet I wasn't broken. Mike was broken, and I wasn't broken. He was separate from me, and that was shocking.
A national bestseller, Ann Packer was definitely able to write this story in such a way that can make you want to both root Carrie on in her attempts to find herself during such a tumultuous period and want to simultaneously hit her upside the head.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia - Elizabeth Gilbert
I have never truly "reviewed" books before, but I thought it might be fun to give it a try. Airam was kind enough to allow me to experiment on this site. Thus, without further ado... well, maybe a bit more ado...
When I am bored at work (and that does happen more often than I would like) I browse through the online bookstores in search of fun, light, interesting, entertaining books to read. I am a voracious reader, and feeding this habit can be quite challenging.
This spring a book popped onto my radar screen "Eat, Pray, and Love. " The title alone caught my attention.
Thus, I had to read it. And you have to read it too!
I am not sure what I was expecting when I first started the book. Despite reading the reviews, I had no preconceived notions as to what lay between the covers. Thus, I am not going to give you much information here, I don't want to spoil the experience for you.
Gilbert writes of a year long journey that she took in her early thirties. Having suffered through a very bitter divorce and embarked on a journey of self knowledge, she leaves her home in New York and her career to... experience, discover, and grow; to Eat, Pray, and Love.
The book is written with a realistic tone - a mix of comedy and self discovery. I found myself craving such an experience.
First, Gilbert travels to Italy in search of pleasure, then to India to explore prayer and ascetic rigor, and finally to Bali where she attempts to balance her life, past and present; new and old. Along the way she is introduced to various characters that become friends, challenges, teachers, etc. Challenges abound as she attempts to quiet her mind and find answers to her questions - to become content, and forgive. There is something for everyone in this book.
This book takes the reader on a journey that is worth the price of the ticket!
What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and go forth!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Below is the "official" review that I submitted to TCM. It should be published on their site either tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I got it to them in time. So if I didn't, it will be next Friday.
Anne Mahroum is a talented artist, a wonderful wife, and a new mother to a child with a physical deformity. Between attending a support group to help her cope with her son’s problem, working at her studio “Anne of Green Tables”, spending time with her eccentric husband, or flirting with the handsome father also attending the support group, there is the secret of Harmony. Anne doesn’t remember much about her childhood before her mother whisked them away from Harmony to Toronto. She doesn’t know her father and her mother never wants to speak of the town from which they fled and the life that they once lived. Now that she’s a mother herself, Anne is desperate to learn the secret that has been guarded for so long. But once she learns it, will it change her outlook on life forever?
Harmony is an excellent story of a woman struggling to find herself as she accepts her new responsibilities as mother and begins to understand her existing responsibilities as wife, daughter, and herself. I could relate to Anne’s character. I often found myself wondering if Joanna Goodman had found a way into my own personal thoughts for Anne seemed to say and think things that I have personally thought and said. Joanna Goodman brings us a wonderful story with great insight into relationships between family trying to find harmony with one another.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
This is a marvelous book about an amazing woman who pulls no punches. Hillary Rodham Clinton is who she is by her own design. The story told is one of a woman who is constantly rediscovering herself and redefining the concept of a progressive woman.The book is exhaustive in taking the reader through her upbringing, young life as the daughter of a staunch republican, and herself a republican until her Wellesley college days where she switched parties, her time as a lawyer, a political activist (when she met Bill), into and through her marriage to Bill and her perspective of his political career, and of course, her years in the White House.I left the book enamored with Hillary Rodham Clinton and in awe of her intelligence, her integrity, and her attitude. From where I write this, the 2004 presidential election is history and right at this time, I can see no better suited individual to become the president of the United States in 2008 than the author and subject of this wonderful memoir. (written 11/10/2004)
Friday, August 10, 2007
The story starts out with the main character, you don't find out who he is until the end, trying to catch a bus at a very crowded bus station. From there, you journey with him on a bus flight. . . . yes, this bus flies. Again, you don't really know where you are going until you get there, but then again, neither does the main character. He is as lost as you are, he just knows he is supposed to get on the bus.
Once the bus arrives in a place seemingly more real than anywhere else, each member of the tour group (as I call them) are met by someone especially suited to guide them on the next step of their journey. Apparently, all these people have been living in hell. Not a figurative hell, but the real thing. . . . depending on your choice though, it could have been purgatory and eventually heaven itself. Confused yet? Well, the story guides you from person to person and their interaction with their guides and the questions raised just confuse you as much as the main character. Fairly quickly though, all the questions are answered as the secondary characters choose to journey to heaven or back to hell.
I have to say, this book really brings to light some of the illusions we (living people) use to delude ourselves and divorce from the reality of God's love. Which is where I imagine the title came from. We allow pride, selfishness, a sense of entitlement and fear, among other things, to divorce from the truth and ultimately to cause us to choose hell over heaven. Whether you consider yourself a religious person or not, this book is a good read. At 100 or so pages, it doesn't require days of drudging though scripture or dogmatic propaganda. In fact, there is none to drudge through. What it does is to make you think a little about your own life and possibly wakes you up both figuratively and, like C.S. Lewis in the story, literally.
Next review, either Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King or one of the two books by R.A. Salvatore that I'm reading now. Whichever I finish first.
As the front of the cover states, Belladonna is a story of revenge. It is told from the view of Tomasino and he tells the story of the 20-something year journey that leads a simple girl from the Midwest to become the famed Belladonna of New York's high society.
I first read this book about six years ago. I saw it at Barnes & Noble and the front of the cover intrigued me (I am one of those that picks books by covers...yes) and it was on sale, so I bought it. And I read it within two days. And have continued to read it every summer since.
Belladonna is an intriguing story and very risque. I once explained to my friend that it was like watching a Lifetime movie except you actually get the dirty details that are so often left out of those made for TV movies. Throughout the book, there are moments where you will laugh, cry, be scared, bite your nails, and get turned-on. Which, in my opinion, makes for an excellent summertime beach/pool read.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
So, I had been on a bit of a chick-lit run lately and wanted something completely different. I picked up Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich from the library, scanned the reviews and decided to throw it in the mix. I'm glad I did.
The story is set during the last days of the French Revolution. Ethan Gage is a young man who worked closely for Benjamin Franklin and is a bit of a cad. He likes whores and gambling, and it's during a card game he wins an Egyptian medallion. He doesn't know what it's worth, what it stands for or what the strange symbols on it means, but keeps it and trouble follows.
Soon he's travelling with Napoleon to Egypt, on a mission to learn more about the pyramids, and how his medallion fits into it all. Suddenly, there are people after him, who are willing to kill him for the medallion he's won. Even Napoleon asks of it and Ethan has to learn to trust a few unusual people to help keep it safe until he can figure out how to turn his medallion into a key to unlock a mystery he's sure involves the pyramids. There's huge battle scenes, a surprising love story and enough suspense to keep a reader interested. There are mathematical challenges, surprising revelations about the structure of the pyramids (all which are true), real quotes taken from Napoleon and insightful tie ins to the the Bible.
It's a bit like The Da Vinci code, and a lot like National Treasure (the movie starring Nicholas Cage). There are many people in the novel who actually lived, and Dietrich does his best to remain accurate to their life. Some parts drag, and some parts seem over the top, but it was a light, (albeit educational) read and a book I suspect has already been sold to be turned into a movie. If you love it, you will want to read his other works, move to Egypt and tour the pyramids for yourself. If you hate it, you will at least look at the Pyramids in a new (and admiring!) way.
Monday, August 6, 2007
There were way too many storylines and at times it was hard for me to follow. Not only this, I felt as though there were characters in the story that she kind of threw in there for good measure but didn't really follow through with what happened to them. Or she would throw a character in there but it just added to the confusion because there was yet another storyline (even though it may have been brief) to follow.
The story is this: There is a group of friends from highschool that were very tight but they had lost touch for 20 years or so. There was one member of the group however, Tom, who had kept in touch with all of them individually. The group is reunited under horrible circumstances when they find out that Tom has been killed in a terrorist attack in NY. Tom's death propels them into evaluating their lives and a lot of them go through major life changes. They are reunited and help eachother through such a hard period and manage to stay close throughout the book. Each of these friends seem to go through some pretty tough ordeals after Tom's death (a divorce, an unwanted pregnancy, celebrity tabloid issues ... yes, one of the friends just so happens to be a famous actress).
I think that what made this book a little difficult to follow is that you are presented with such a huge blow (the death of Tom) and then are presented with huge blows after that (with all of Tom's friends) and it's just too much. She could have easily written 2 or 3 different stories from this one book.
I wasn't too keen on this book but I do recommend Jane Green as an author. If you pick up any of her books then start with either "Jemima J." or "Mr. Maybe". Those were the books that made me love her as a writer.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
What I liked about this book is that it's based in Ontario and more specifically in Hamilton and Toronto (it goes back and forth between the two cities and makes mention of the cities in between). Another thing I liked about this book is that it has many storylines to follow. Now this may seem confusing but it's actually quite brilliant. This would be a good story to read if you are a nosy type of person.
Basically the gist of the book is that it gives you snippets of people's lives, in the moment kind of thing. And it's cool in the sense that it moves randomly from person to person (i.e. it'll focus on my life but then go onto the life of the person I may have passed on the street). So it peaks your interest enough to see what's going on in one's life but then leaves you questioning what's going to happen next. And the beauty of it is that the author will somehow get back to the person that we were eavesdropping on earlier so that we may know how a situation was resolved.
Anyways, I recommend this book.
I love to read so much that I am in a book club ... and have about 5 books on the go.
Whenever someone asks me to recommend a book to them I excitedly share my suggestion with them but have a hard time describing why I like the book so much other than to say, "It's so good!"
That's where this blog comes in. With every book I read, I will write down my thoughts on it ... why I liked it ... or didn't like it.
This is where the book critic in me comes out.