Monday, December 31, 2007
Everyone has chosen their five books that represent them and is now busily reading away on the books they've chosen to read! I'm looking forward to all the discussions about books that have been chosen. I'm also working on a PDF file that you can print out that includes all the books on the sidebar so that you can continue reading after the challenge is over -- I know you want to read more of these books than you can fit in in the next 5 months!
Personal Rating: 3/5
From the back cover:
In early 2002, Sara Nelson-editor, reporter, reviewer, mother, daughter, wife, and compulsive reader-set out to chronicle a year's worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the real world. She had a system all set up: fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books . . . and it all fell apart the first week. That's when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for: In reading, as in life, even if you know what you're doing, you really kind of don't.
I have to admit I did not think I would enjoy this book at all. Reading about someone else reading? It sounded boring to me. I also thought it started slowly and I almost put it down (Nelson actually talks about knowing you’re a grown up when you can put down a book unfinished because you don’t like it). Nelson really doesn’t summarize the plots of the books. She talks more about how they impacted her life or the impression they made or what they reminded her of. It was also interesting to hear her views about other people as readers.
What I Liked: Nelson reminded me of the memories books trigger in you. Where you were, a certain person, what you were doing at that point in your life. Some books you keep going back to like an old friend. She wasn’t afraid to be honest about the good and bad aspects of her life. There is an appendix that lists the books she was planning to read and the books she did actually read. I added several books to my to be read pile
What I Did Not Like: Nelson is a book snob. She seems like she wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere reading a Stephen King novel. She actually picked her books to take on a vacation based on how she thought she would look to the other women on the trip. She wanted to impress them. She considered (or did) ending friendships over bad book recommendations because of what they said about the person who recommended them.
I found this book on three lists: Sally, Vasilly and a.book.in.the.life. If I were to generalize and be kinda corny I would say they all have wayyyy more books to read than they have time for (well...who doesn't?). I would also guess they enjoy challenging themselves in various ways, not just those related to books. I also wondered if they had a hard times choosing their books like Nelson did. She was so picky!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Genre: Non-Fiction, Comedy, Pop Culture
Personal Rating: 5/5
From the back cover:
WARNING: This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine decent, honest American spices. Learn to heed the advice of stern, fictional nutritionists. If you see any of these dishes, please alert the authorities.
Now, the good news: laboratory tests prove that The Gallery of Regrettable Food AMUSES as well as informs. Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its GENEROUS PORTIONS OF HILARITY and ghastly pictures from RETRO COOKBOOKS. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food.
I thought this book was absolutely fantastic based mainly upon it's uniqueness. Basically Lileks makes fun of recipes he has found dating from the 50's to the 70's. It had incredible photos of the dishes, retro fonts and colors, and a cool layout. I laughed out loud several times. He shows pictures of each dish and then "talks" about that dish. Most of the dishes are just plain disgusting. There were two chapters near the end that dragged a little but besides that it was a very fast read. I plan on keeping it on my coffee table so people can grab it for a good laugh.
MY FAVORITE QUOTES:
Ladies, serve toast--and well-groomed twins in tuxedos will want to have sex with you!
Perhaps that circle is not a cross section of a spine, but a blowhole (ahem) of sorts--of a false eye to confuse predators. Put it on the floor and watch it frighten the dog.
This looks very much like a magnified cluster of warts. Although warts don't usually come with parsely.
I don't know, and I don't want to know. I just don't. It's a cucumber fun house, perhaps: notice how they seem to be pressing against the sides of the mold as if demanding our attention. Help! We're being felt up by smelly salmon in here --let us out
James Lileks has a website "The Official Institute of Good Cheer" on which the Gallery of Regrettable Food is based.
I picked this books from Tiny Librian's list and I would have to say she has a great, quirkcy sense of humor!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
From the back cover:
On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman--who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister--is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition. In The Echo Maker, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our boldest and most entertaining novelists.
If you can get through the first 100 pages of this book it is well worth reading. This is one of the more intricate novels I’ve read in awhile. There is a lot going on that is cleverly intertwined…neurology, biology, ecology, relationships…there are four or five main characters whose lives layer over each other in an amazing and sometimes sad way.
At times it was confusing. Not because it was poorly written, I just had a hard time following on occasions. For the most part I just kept reading to see what the human mind was capable of.
I selected this book from 3M's list (Michelle). When I finished reading the book and read why she picked it I was shocked to learn that she HAD Capgras and Cotards Syndrome in college! I tried to imagine her (even though I don't know her) in situations similar to those in the book. It must have been a difficult and strange time to say the least. I assume/hope that she is no longer suffering from those conditions as it seems so painful for everyone involved.
I found the book very interesting because I have degrees in psychology and biology and they overlap perfectly here. Great recommendation if you have the right mindset.
I enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but didn't love it. I am curious enough to read the rest of the series although not immediately. So thanks to Lisa and everyone and see you in 2008!
So, I added it to my Baby Steps Challenge list. Still, I procrastinated.
Finally, I picked it up, unwilling to greet the new year without having completed it.
It was wonderful.
I knew Anne's story well enough to know it was NOT a happy ending kind of book, but I knew little enough about the details to not feel like I had read the last page first. I found the diary so real and honest. It reminded me of my OWN diary from that age. When I would find myself thinking Anne was sounding like a spoiled brat, I realized I had too at that age. The point of a diary is you CAN sound like a brat, b/c no one else will ever read it. In Anne's case, the world has seen her good and bad side.
The story is universal as far as teen girls go.
Up in heaven Susie gets to watch her family and friends deal with her death and continue with their lives, although she is not able to influence her. She watches her father suspect their neighbour with no one believing him, her mother begin an affair and disengage from her family, her sister get her first boyfriend and her younger brother lock his feelings away. One final chance is left to Susie on earth in the form of Ruth, a girl who was in her class in school.
I mostly really enjoyed this novel. The idea of heaven was interesting and I liked that it was forever changing as the soul changed and learnt new things about themselves, earth and the people still living there. It was also good to see how the different people dealt with Susie's death, it was very realistic writing. The only part I didn't like so much was near the end in a scene involving Ruth, Ray and Susie which spoilt the realistic illusion for me a little. That it didn't particularly have a happy ending to Susie's case again made it more real somehow and the fact that her death still remained somewhat of a mystery.
Friday, December 28, 2007
If you didn't finish and you want to play by the rules, you can let me know and I'll leave you out of the drawing, but I won't tell if you don't!! I'm not, by nature, a rule player. :)
Hope you all had fun doing this challenge. I'll leave this blog up if you want to reference it, and see you here next year for Something About Me 2008!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Pride and Prejudice was my final selection for this challenge. My review can be found on HERE on my blog. Because the story is so well-known I don't discuss the plot so much as a few of my feelings. While I really enjoyed the story, I'm a sucker for the new movie-version with Kiera Knightly. Yes, some parts were butchered out, but certain scenes I think are portrayed so beautifully to show the tension between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy.
If you haven't read this one, I would recommend it as the quintessential romance novel. Enjoy!
Here's another enthusiastic review for this challenge. I can't believe that so many of the best reads of the year for me come from here. First "Weetzie Bat", then "The Giver" and now "A gathering light"(or "A Northern Light") by Jennifer Donnelly.
Read why on my blog.
I'm still reading the last book on my list, so I don't think I'll manage to finish the challenge. Unless I can swap this one with another book that I read (The Giver) which wasn't on my original list. Would that count?:P
Anyway, it doesn't matter, I hope I'll manage to post another review before the end of december!
Guy Montag is a fireman. This job involves setting fire to books as opposed to putting out fires. The title of the book, "Fahrenheit 451", is the temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns. People are being made alike and to achieve this books are being taken away to stop people who read from knowing more than others. In place of books the television has taken over with broadcasts being 24 hours a day on large walls in every home. Secretly however, Montag has been rescuing the odd book from places he has torched and hiding them in his house without giving it much thought.
One day he meets 17 year old Clarisse McClellan who helps show him how to begin questioning things again and then he attends a fire that changes him forever. He saves The Bible (possibly the last copy in existence) from the house and shows his wife his collection which they begin to read. He also tracks down a man he met in a park once who becomes involved in Montag's life for the better for both of them. The system is on to Montag though and has been silently and secretly monitoring for who knows how long. Will he manage to keep his secrets hidden and retain his books...
I really loved this book. The characters were really well written especially Montag and the Captain at the Firestation, they have a wonderful battle of words about half way through about how books can both assist an arguement and then in the same novel turn around and give the exact opposite opinion. A bunch pf professors being exiled and forced into hiding, memorising whole novels to keep the words alive is a great idea for a story. The afterward was particularly interesting about looking at how television is already conquering our lives and encouraging you to go out and get others to read more which I am sure will appeal to many out there reading this post. It compliments 1984 by George Orwell nicely and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Interweaving the story of Raskolnikov is the story of his sister Dunya. She was a governess in a household where the gentleman of the house fell in love with her. His wife arranged for her to be married to clerk Luzhim, Peter Petrovich much to her brothers disgust. Both force her to choose between them and in the meantime her former boss Svidrigaylov, Arkady Ivanovich turns up to cause further trouble for Dunya.
What is really interesting is Raskolinkov's reasons, or lack of, for the murder. He doesn't really appear to have any and he certainly expresses little or no remorse during the course of the book. He refers to Alena as an "old witch" and barely mentions Lizaveta who was such a gentle soul. He gets involved with a prostitute (Sofya Semenovna) and her family who end up being his salvation ultimately.
There are some great cat and mouse games and converations between Raskolinkov and Porfiry Petrovich (the examining magistrate) as the net around Raskolinkov tightens. Do the police know the truth or are they just playing games with him? The book isn't so much about the crime (although it is frequently mentioned) or the punishment of it by law, it's more about suffering. Raskolinkov seems to make things worse for himself by randomly confessing to people and then pretending he was joking to further increase his suffering (perhaps because of his lack of guilt and motive?). It also discusses the nature of crime and his particular belief that some people who are geniuses are above the law (like Napoleon). It also parallels Dostoevsky's own experiences with crime and just escaping being put to death at the last moment to be exiled to Siberia.
It took me a little to get into this novel as it is pretty complicated, luckily my copy had a really handy guide to the Russian names at the back as they kept using different names for the same person. Once I did get stuck in, I fell in love with it. The climax is gripping the edge of your seat to see how it all plays out and I found it nearly impossible to put down. I highly recommend it if you haven't yet found the time for it.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I wasn't going to let my daughter read these until I'd read them, mainly because of the swirl of controversy surrounding them. But to my surprise, I really enjoyed them, and I couldn't put them down. In fact, I had to check them out of the library 2 and 3 at a time, because I wanted to start the next one right after finishing the previous one!
This morning, shortly after midnight, I finished the seventh and final installment. They were really, really good books. Controversy? Well, those who want to find it can surely find it if they look (after all, anyone looking for something to complain about, will find it!).
Because it's looking doubtful that I'll finish my Something About Me list, I wish to submit the seven HP books as substitutes for the ones I didn't get to.
An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance
Summary (from Booklist): Mrs. Lucy Carelton, who comes from one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in 1880s New York City, has been completely undone by her nerves. Her ambitious husband, a nouveau riche stockbroker, drags her from one doctor to another in search of a cure that will allow her to fulfill her many social obligations without giving in to hysteria. They think they have found the solution in charismatic neurologist Victor Seth, a champion of a relatively new procedure called hypnotism. Seth sets about freeing Lucy from the social constraints that have made her so unhappy, encouraging her to pursue her artistic talents and explore her sexuality. Seth convinces himself that his techniques, including his handy way with an electrotherapy wand, are all in the name of science, but even he is unprepared for the new Lucy who emerges - a passionate, calculating, amoral creature of large appetites.
I really enjoyed how this book kept changing - at first it seemed like it was going to be an exploration of women's submissive role in 19th century society, then it got into Seth and his ambitious quest for recognition by the medical community and it looked like he'd be a Svengali, then Lucy became her own person, so it looked like it would be about her new life, and then there was a major plot twist!
At first I was concerned that it was just going to be about Lucy and her hysteria, a fairly simple historical fiction, and I wasn't sure if I'd like it. But, as you can see above, it kept me very interested. It was well-researched, with lots of interesting details about New York society and early medicine (apparently what I'd heard about vibrators being used to treat hysteria is indeed true!). Often the way Lucy's husband and father, and even Seth, treated her made me very angry, so I was glad when she emerged from their suppression as her own woman. The discussion of the power of the unconscious mind was also interesting, especially since it's something that's still being explored today.
I couldn't find LibraryLady's reasons for picking this one and her blog seems to have gone kaput, but I thank her very much for the recommendation, as I don't think it's one I would have stumbled across on my own and I'm very glad to have read it.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sure, everyone loves The Great Gatsby, but Fitzgerald's first novel is more raw and sad and charming. I read it in high school and probably re-read it at least once a year.
I agree with her assessment of the book's rawness, sadness, and it's charm. This novel had some fun prose and interesting writing. Not the most riveting, but not the most boring thing I've read in awhile either. The novel started with that particular romanticism that captured the pre-World War I era, and while the war itself is not elaborated on, the book does a good job of exploring the effects of people post-war. The novel is in some ways less refined tha TGG, but it really outlines the themes and the raw writing potential of Fitzgerald.
Monday, December 17, 2007
After reading Markus Zusak's The Book Thief earlier this year (read my review here), I rushed right out and bought I Am The Messenger. It has taken me 11 months to actually sit down and read it...and although I can't rate it at the level of The Book Thief, I wasn't disappointed.
Ed Kennedy is a young taxi driver, a do-nothing sort of guy who hangs around with his friends playing cards and drinking coffee with his geriatric, smelly dog, The Doorman. Then one day he intervenes in a bank robbery...and his life changes. He begins receiving playing cards - aces - with messages he must figure out. The novel creates tension in that the reader (and Ed) are kept in the dark as to who the deliverer of the messages is...until the very last page.
Written in simple prose, but with Zusak's signature brilliant language, I Am The Messenger delivers powerful and profound messages of faith, the underlying goodness of humanity, and the admonition that one must risk and stretch to achieve their purpose in life.
But I guess that means you need life in your life. - From I Am The Messenger, page 278 -
I love that Zusak is still a young man with, I hope, lots more stories inside of him. He is a writer of immense talent, and I Am the Messenger is just another example of this.
Recommended; rated 4/5.
I read this book on the recommendation of Jill who says:
I love this story because it shows that we are all capable of doing wonderful things. The main character receives cryptic playing cards with clues written on them, and he's charged to do good deeds to designated strangers - the catch is that he doesn't know exactly what he's supposed to do. So he must observe and be creative. And figure it out, or else...Thanks for the recommendation, Jill - great book!
1. The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett (Completed August 26, 2007; read a review here)
2. The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers (Completed September 6, 2007; read a review here)
3. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck (Completed October 12, 2007; read a review here)
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Completed December 8, 2007; read a review here)
5. I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak (Completed December 17, 2007; read a review here)
My favorites were East of Eden AND A Thousand Splendid Suns - both of which I rated 5/5. There was not a "dud" in the bunch!
I still want to read many of the books on my original posting for this challenge...and will continue 'checking them off' and posting reviews as we move into 2008.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I made pretty good progress with the "Something About Me" reading challenge- finishing all of my main selections plus most of my alternates. I don't think I can squeak in I, Elizabeth before the year's end, so I will officially declare this challenge completed! Please check out my blog if you're interested in reading any of my reviews on these books.
Thanks to Lisa for hosting this challenge and to all of the participants who offered up so many great books to read!
MAIN SELECTIONS COMPLETED
1) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Alyson, Lucca) - I plan on reading Geraldine Brook's March for the Book Awards Challenge, but I wanted to brush up on the girls before I do. Completed September 16, 2007
2) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (Lucca) - A great excuse to finally read Capote! Completed September 3, 2007
3) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (SheReads) - This book is burning a hole on my bookshelf. I must get to it soon! Completed September 30, 2007
4) The Red Tent by Anita Diamante (Sarah Miller) - I always wanted to read this book - I am beginning to enjoy Biblical Fiction. Completed August 25, 2007
5) Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Chasida, Margo) - I loved Five Quarters of an Orange, and I loved this movie, and I love chocolate! I can't believe I haven't read this book. Completed August 18, 2007
6) Blindness by Jose Saramago (Vasilly) - I share a lot of reading tastes with Vasilly, and she lists this one as one of her favorites - plus I can use it for the Book Awards Challenge. Completed August 12, 2007
1) The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (Alyson) - This sounds like an intriguing story though I will wait for more reader reviews before I commit to reading. Completed July 23, 2007
2) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella (Margo) - Kinsella's books are perfect after reading deep, complicated fiction - perfect for the poolside! Completed October 12 2007
1) I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles (Soleil) - I enjoyed reading some of Philippa Gregory's Tudor stories and thought this would be a nice addition.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Can you keep a secret (Kathrin)
Of Human Bondage (Athena)
The Robber Bride (Ellen)
Anne of the Windy Poplars (raidergirl)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (Lucca)
The Red Tent (Sarah Miller)
The Writing Life (Megan)
Anne Frank (Pattie)
I can't see me completing the challenge at this time, but I want to continue reading all my books. Since we're nearing the end, what happens next? Will this blog continue for us slowpokes? Or is that it? Just wondering what everyone's thoughts were on this.
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Oh gosh, this is one I should be careful with, because I know it's a beloved classic. But honestly, the title really summed it up for me - quite often I felt like it was literally never going to end and I really wanted it to.
I'm just not a fantasy girl, that was the main problem. I did enjoy some of the descriptions of the places in Fantastica - the many-coloured desert and the silver city, for example. And, rather like Inhkheart, I liked the idea of it - who hasn't wanted to be transported into a favourite book, especially when life isn't treating you very well? But it just kept going on and on with another place and weird character and another and another. Telling the whole story up until Bastian entered it and then starting over again was bizarre to me - I'm sure there was lots of deep meaning I didn't get, but the "Fantastica has always existed/nothing existed until you wished it" thing didn't really make sense to me. And I found Bastian very irritating, although I was happy that he got a good ending (and not just because it was the end :-) ).
It's funny, because I adore The Phantom Tollbooth, which I've just realized is quite similar - rather annoying boy enters a story and meets all kinds of weird characters and goes on a quest. I don't know, I guess it has a lot more humour (I found very little in this one) and it's shorter. Part of my problem with The Neverending Story could also be because it's translated - I seem to sometimes have trouble with translated works (I didn't really like The Little Prince, either, as you may recall).
Oh well, I'm still glad I read it, I've been meaning to for years, to add to my children's librarian repertoire. So thanks to Holly for recommending it!
And it's the first book in the Cliff Janeway Mystery series.
Denver police officer, Cliff Janeway, is a bit of an enigma. He's a good, hard-working cop that used to be a boxer. AND he's a collector of rare books. Strange combination, that's for sure. He's known all along Denver's "Book Row", and is always willing to stop and look for a great find. When he gets a call late one evening to investigate a homicide, his book expertise actually helps him out. The victim, Bobby Westfall, is one of Denver's Bookscouts. Bobby spent all his days searching for 1st editions and trying to find the "Big Score".
At first, the murder looks like a random killing, although in the back of Janeway's mind, he suspects it's related to books. His first suspect is Jackie Newton, his arch enemy. Jackie is a thug with lots of money and power. Janeway has been trying to put him away for the murder of several homeless people ever since he moved to Denver, but has never been able to get a conviction.
When Jackie steps over the line by tormenting a woman that might testify against him, Janeway takes the law into his own hands. He literally beats the pulp out of Jackie. With an investigation and a lawsuit pending, Janeway turns in his badge and decides to become what he's always known his future would hold: A Bookman. Bobby's murder gets written off as a random killing.....until murder strikes Book Row once again.
What's not to love about this book? It involves two of my favorite things: mystery and books! Cliff Janeway is a great character. He's smart, tough, and knows his 1st Editions! There are enough twists to keep the pages turning. All the way to the final sentence in the book. And there's tons of information about rare books, enough to keep my interest piqued. You can tell that Dunning is a collector himself, and it radiates through the entire book. Booked to Die is a great mystery, and one I would highly recommend to anyone! I can definitely see that I will be continuing this series!!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I liked picking my books.
I liked reading what books everyone else said represented them.
I liked making a list of books to read.
And I loved reading all these great books.
the books I read before it actually started include:
A Man Without a Country (kookiejar) - see review
So Many Books, So Little Time (sally, a.book.in.the.life,vasilly,) - see review
The Echo Maker (3M) - see review
Uglies (faith) - dystopian challenge see review
The books I read for the challenge:
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (Kathrin)
I Am the Messenger - Markus Zasuk (jill mrsteme)
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card (Becky, karlene)
Inkheart - Cornelia Funkle (becky shereads)
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry (booklogged)
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver (dewey)
The Thirteenth Tale - Dianne Setterfield (kristin)
Tale of Despereaux - Kate diCamillo (booklogged)
Lolita - Vladimir Nobokov (heather)
Thanks to Lisa for organizing it and everyone for their books and reasons. I'm keeping my list and I plan to read many more next year as well.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
Being a book-lover, I confess I feel guilty for not liking this book any more than I did. But while the town of Hay sounds like a book-lover's dream vacation destination and Collins has a pretty good sense of humour, the point of this book was rather lost on me. Collins and his wife decide they can't afford to live in San Francisco any more and are craving a rural setting so they move not to a small town in the US, but across the Atlantic to Wales (with their baby son and hundreds upon hundreds of their own books). They'd visited Hay on vacation and liked it, so they try their hand at living there. But the town is a bit too weird and they can't find an affordable, non-deathtrap house, so they come back (apparently to live in a small town in Oregon or Vermont, which would have made sense in the first place). They don't even live in the titular Sixpence House, they just try to buy it before realizing it's a deathtrap. Collins peppers the book with passages from obscure books that he finds in Hay and there are some interesting characters in the townsfolk (particularly Richard Booth, the "King of Hay," who turned it into a bibliophile's mecca), but overall, I didn't find it particularly gripping. I'd certainly be happy to visit Hay one day, though!
I think the most interesting thing about this book was a serendipity moment - Nick Hornby was staying in Hay when he wrote the first column for the Believer that was included in The Polysyllabic Spree. I remember thinking, "I'm going to be reading a book about that town!"
Saturday, December 8, 2007
-from a poem by Saeb-e-Tabrizi-
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a sweeping generational novel set in Afghanistan over the last thirty years from the Soviet invasion through the tortuous reign of the Taliban and the post-Taliban rebuilding years. Hosseini follows the lives of two women: Mariam and Laila. Mariam is a harami - an illegitimate child whose wealthy father casts her and her mother out of his home. When she is sold to the cruel Rasheed, a man who is easily 40 years her senior, Mariam's life becomes one of pain, disappointment, abuse and endurance...just as her mother had predicted.
-From A Thousand Splendid Suns, page 17-
Laila is born in Kabul, only doors away from where Mariam and Rasheed live. When war arrives in the city, Laila finds her world turned upside down and a twist of fate brings her and Mariam together.
Hosseini's novel reveals the horrible effects of war, and the abuse and mistreatment of women under the Taliban. Heartbreaking in its scope, the novel touched my heart and had me choking back tears. As a woman born in the United States, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around the outrages done against women in other parts of the world. To imagine a life where one is not allowed outside without being accompanied by a man; cannot show her face in public; may be stoned to death for a perceived attraction to someone other than one's husband; may not read, paint or even laugh without the fear of punishment; may be repeatedly beaten by one's husband and have no recourse in the law...is almost beyond the scope of my imagination. And yet it has happened; is happening.
Hossein's novel is a must read - if only to remind us of the suffering of women in other countries, and the outrages of war. Beautifully written, fiercely powerful, and with a message about the redeeming quality of love and hope, A Thousand Splendid Suns is highly recommended; rated 5/5.
Because the Afghanistan and Pakistan have fascinated me recently. I have read a couple fiction books recently and went to the movie A Mighty Heart. This week I am also looking forward to hearing Kahled Hosseini speak. I have developed a hobby of catching some of my favorite authors at bookstores. I think it gives a reader a special window into why they wrote a book and it always amazing to hear an author read from his or her book.Thanks for the recommendation, Becky. This was a fantastic book!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
I've always meant to read this one, so thanks to Stephanie and Christina for suggesting it! I recall seeing a PBS miniseries about it when I was a kid, but don't recall much beyond Mrs. Danvers being really creepy. I don't think it told the back story of how Maxim met the narrator, so I was glad to find that out.
While I didn't race through it (it was my bus-reading book), I enjoyed it and the plot twist of Rebecca's death came as a surprise and then I found it really picked up. I liked all the descriptions of Manderley and wanted to live there. I can see why the narrator dreamt she went there again.
I spent a lot of time being annoyed with both Maxim and the narrator, too - he had no business marrying such a young, unsophisticated girl and dumping her at Manderley with all its baggage. He does nothing to help her settle in, just leaves her at the mercy of Mrs. Danvers and expects her to know how to run a huge house. And it really did seem as if any young girl he'd picked up in Monte Carlo would've done as the second Mrs. De Winter - for all the protestations of love in the novel, I didn't buy it. She loved him in a puppy-dog way, he loved her because he needed a new wife. After the circumstances of Rebecca's death came to light, they did seem to develop an actual relationship, but it was still sketchy to me.
Still, it's an excellent example of gothic suspense and I'm glad I finally read it.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
This isn't my favorite, by far, of Jodi's novels. However, I suffered severe postpartum depression, and the mother in this story experiences her own version of that illness. It is a pretty realistic portrayal of what PPD can do to a person and her marriage/life.
I experienced postpartum depression with my first child, so I can relate both to Heather - which gives me some insight into her life - and to the character Paige. This novel is more than just a PPD experience, though; it explores the parent-child relationship in many ways - and I think that's something to which we can all relate.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Wow, the Sedaris family is sure...interesting! I read his sister Amy's I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence earlier this year and it was one of the most bizarre books I've ever read (funny, but gosh-darn weird). And apparently it runs in the family! I enjoyed the first essay on being forced into speech therapy in elementary school for his lisp (where, he says, there should have been a Future Homosexuals of America sign on the door of the speech lab, since none of the popular jock boys had lisps). Sedaris Sr. sounds like quite the dad, from his desperate desire for his children to form a band, despite their lack of musical talent and interest all the way to the final chapter, which discusses his hoarding of rotten food. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about trying to explain Easter in French to a Moroccan woman, as well as the other French class ones. I don't think Sedaris will top my favourite humourist ever, Dave Barry, but I enjoyed the essays and laughed out loud a few times.
Thanks to Kelly for choosing this book - I had heard Sedaris was funny but hadn't gotten around to him, so I appreciated the chance to check him out.