Dec 28, 2014

2014 Year in Review...Books

Read 33 Books
Read 57 Short Stories
Abandoned 5 books

This year I finished my Fitzgerald reading project.  I would like to do dome analysis on them, but not sure when that is going to happen.

I have branched off and started reading some more current fiction, and still trying to narrow down what exactly I like in a book, so I am better able to make selections.  I really did enjoy "Never Let Me Go" and "After Dachau".  Those 2 books would be the ones I would recommend to others.

As for the future of my reading?  I do not plan on making any lists on what I will read, but I am sure that when all the challenges start popping up, I will want to join in.  So we will see.  I am just hoping to get more books read in 2015.

Book 53: The Unconsoled by Kazou Ishiguro

So where to start on a review of this book... I decided to continue reading some of Kazuo Ishiguro's works, and this was the next book I decided to read.  And to be perfectly frank, I do not feel I am up to the task of criticizing it.  This book almost ended up in my abandoned book pile, but it was only saved because of the author.  I want to see if Ishiguro can be listed as a favorite author or if he is merely the author of one of my favorite books.

I did not enjoy reading this book, nor did I understand it, but I won't say it was a bad book.  It is written in a surreal manner and filled with metaphor and analogies.  I really was not up to figuring out what the author was really talking about.  Even with all of that, I was pulled to keep reading about the characters.  I think I wanted to know what happened between Mr. Ryder and his son August.

I may revisit this book... or not, only time will tell.

Abandoned Book 5: J by Howard Jacobsen

 I had very high hopes for this book.  The snippet had me hooked and seemed to be right in my reading sweet spot.  Check out the blurb...

Set in the future - a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited - J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.

Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn't know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting w...
The reality was I really did not care about the love story or the characters, and the story of the history that is not talked about did not seem like it would be revealed.  I got about 75% of this book read and finally gave up because I was not having fun. 

Nov 16, 2014

Book 52: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is one of those books that popped up as a suggestion after reading some YA.  I was interested, but cautious, not really sure how a book about teenage suicide that blames fellow students would read.  But I finally got around to reading it.

I tore through this book.  It was very compelling and I wanted to get to the end.  At first I was concerned that the book may embolden someone on the verge of suicide themselves, but quickly you see how misguided she is in her assumptions.

In a quick nutshell. Thirteen Reasons Why starts out with a box of cassette tapes letting the recipient know that if they received this box they were part of the reason why she took her life.

The 13 events the tapes cover make life very difficult for Hannah, the events on their own would not seem too big, but it is the accumulation of the events and their after effects that add up.  This part of the book I am sure many High-schoolers will identify with.  I certainly did and HS has been many years ago (funny how this happens).  People make assumptions that are misguided or fabricated and no one ever seems to want to know the truth. 

And then there is the flip side, the side Hannah can not see.  That there are people who see through the crap and care.  That is the real tragedy of the story. 

Simply I would recommend this book, it is compelling and thought provoking. 

Nov 9, 2014

Abandoned Book 4: History of the Rain by Niall Williams

I reluctantly gave up on this book.  I got about a quarter of the way through and realized I just needed to give it up.  Up to that point I found I was either falling asleep or catching myself with wandering thoughts.  Both not helpful when trying to get into a book.  But it seemed like it was a book that I would definitely like....A girl who is bed-bound by an illness, looks to find her poet father in the books he left behind.  Should have been a slam dunk, but sadly no.  And what makes me even sadder is seeing how many people love this book.

I can't even say I will give it another try later.

Book 51: We are All Completly Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

It is exactly this type of book that gives me nightmares on explaining.  How am I to recommend a book with out spoiling it when it is the that very item that makes it interesting?  Do you get me?  If you are willing to go on blind faith read this story of a girl who loses both her sister and brother, and just let the story reveal itself with out further knowledge.  It is how I would have liked to have read it, but alas I was hooked into the story by knowing what it was about first.

I enjoyed reading this tale, and know there is much to be gained by reading it a second time.  It had me thinking of who I was and what makes me tick.  However, this may not be true for everyone, for me Rosemary has a certain predilection that I share with her and struggle with. But beyond that, the real focus of the story and what it wants you to think about is on point, but I did not find it in a "in your face" manner. 

Give it a try.

Book 50: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

The story of a man whose online identity is hijacked.  By interacting with his online hijacker he id forced to confront himself.

I was interested in this story from the get go.  I was never sure where the story was going or what I was to believe, but I think that is what I liked.  It is also what might make it a hard sell as a recommendation.  That and the discussions around atheism, Judaism and a long lost tribe.  For me it was only until I got to the end did I realize I was to question everything and ask myself who is trustworthy.  Some may find the ending unsatisfying, but for me it was just the beginning of the conversation.

Book 49: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I forget where I heard of this book.  I know it was in reference to a follow up coming out. 

The gist of this book... A man with Aspergers decides it is time to find a wife.  He goes about it in the only way he knows how.  He creates a questionnaire to weed out women who would not be compatible him.  Or at least women he thinks he would not be compatible.  In the course of his search he comes in contact with Rosie, a woman who is looking for her father.  In the end the woman he thinks is completely wrong is the woman he falls in love with.

I was interested in this because of the voice of the lead character, Don, who has Aspergers.  I did find it interesting.  I won't say this is an amazing book, but it was good and I am interested in reading the follow up book.

Book 48: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I have to admit that originally I had no interest in this book for the sole purpose that everyone was reading it.  I didn't even know what it was about.  Sorry, that is a ugly fact about myself.

And when the movie was being released I had even less interest.  That was until I heard someone talking about what the story was.  And specifically that the book was narrated by 2 unreliable narrators.  That is what hooked me.

I then had the choice of reading the book first or watching the movie first.  I knew there was going to be a big reveal and I knew once I knew what it was I would loose the reveal in one or the other mediums.  I did decide to read the book first, and I then saw the movie with in days of completing the novel.  I am glad I made that choice.

I am finding I am not a plot driven reader, but this plot had me hooked and I just went along.  I was blown away by the story and how duplicitous Amy was and the ending.  Whoa.

Comparing the movie and the book.  The movie was done great, and was close enough to the book.  The changes made were smart changes.  But with reading the book there was more detail and I was able to get into the minds of the characters.  So in the end this book did give me the character development that I like and showed me that plot is not always a bad thing.

Good book
Good movie

Book 47: The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg

Not that this blog is being written for anyone besides myself and my records, but sometimes I get back logged on getting my entries in.  The Disenchanted is one of those books causing a lull.  I knew that for me it was going to be a difficult review to write, so I thought I would just push ahead to the next book, but now 5 1/2 books later I figured I need to just write what I can and realize that it may not make any sense or be complete, and that is OK.

I was interested in this book because of the author, Budd Schulberg and the subject matter, a  young screen-writer who works along side his literary hero and is witness to his demise.

In real life, a young Budd Schulberg was hired by the studios to work out a script with F Scott Fitzgerald.  Schulberg had been a fan of FSF in college, but thought the author had died, but was thrilled to have the opportunity to work so closely with such a great writer.  They are asked to work on a script that takes place at a winter carnival on an East Coast campus, and are sent there to "capture the flavor".    During this point in his life Fitzgerald was with Sheila Graham and working on his sobriety, trying to put his life back together and move forward. This trip to Dartmouth would prove to be a disaster.

Knowing that the book was rooted in reality, I was fascinated as I read, and always looking for Fitzgerald in the character Halliday.  It was not to hard to find him, and the events of that infamous weekend.  I found much of it familiar and kept thinking there was a short storywritten on the event, but I was unable to find it.  I think most of the info I gathered  were from Bruccoli and Graham herself.

I do wonder if I would have found the book as good if the Fitzgerald connection was not there?  I found the pacing a tad slow.  But that could be because I knew where it was going.  If I did not, I think the pacing could have been OK and actually works for the story as it is a slow decline of a man and by taking such a methodical approach would make sense.  This story of the dissapation of a hero is a Fitzgerald theme and is another reason it interest me.

Would I recommend it as a read?  Yes, but it would not be a book I recommend to everyone, only people who have an interest in Fitzgerald or the Old Hollywood movie scene.  It is a shame, because it really is a moving story, but I am afraid many people are not satisfied with such a depressing ending to a book.

Sep 28, 2014

Short story 110: Last of the Belles by F Scott Fitzgerald

Yay! with this story I have completed my quest to read all I can by my favorite author.  As with all my Fitzgerald reading you can get more at the blog- Fitzgerald Musings.  Over there you will see what I thought of Last of the Belles.

Sep 19, 2014

Abandoned Book 3: Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

This one kills me that I have to add it to my abandoned book list.  I had high hopes for it, but found that when I got to the parts of "the book within a book" parts I dreaded reading on.

I have heard that I need to just stick with it.  But if I dread it, should I keep going?

This may be one of the books I do revisit. 

I am such a fan of "The Handmaids Tale"  that I want to love everything by her.  Back in the day after reading HMT I tried to read Cat's Eye by here and struggled with that one as well.   Maybe I only like that one book by her.

If that is true, it would be such a shame.

Abandoned Book 2: Writings by Zelda Fitzgerald

  • The Millionaires Girl
  • Poor Working Girl
  • Miss Ella
  • The Continental Angle 
  • A Couple of Nuts 
I tried.  I really did. I tried to read Zelda's works and include them in my Fitzgerald project.  I just do not care for her writing style.  I find her stories to be rambling and in-cohesive.

Just not my cup of tea.

Book 44-46: Gathering Blue, Messanger, & Son

 I am going to talk about these 3 books all at once.  They are the companion books to the Giver, which I had read earlier.

From what I gathered, from some very basic research, is The Giver was written as a stand alone book originally, and then years later Lois Lowry created these 3 companion books.

When deciding to write additional works to The Giver, Lowry could have gone in a couple of directions.  Focus on the Society once Jonas left, or focus on where Jonas went to.  Lowry decided on the later as the tack she would take.  I think I would have gone a different way.

When I started to read Gathering Blue, I was confused on how this fit with The Giver.  I found the story interesting, but not really connected, and the connection between the 2 books is not revealed until the very end.

Once you get to Messenger you see more of that connection, but even here the connection with Jonas is limited.  He has become a secondary character.  Out of the 3 books I found Messenger the least interesting.

In Son the connection between the Society and the Village is stronger and we get to see how Gabe becomes a man.  It is really his story.

I would have like to learn more of how Jonas felt and got on when he came to the new village. And I would have likes to learn more on how the Society fared after he left.

In general these 3 did not have to be tied to The Giver.  They felt like a trilogy all on there own. 

The books were good, and the stories were interesting.  Lowry is able to write a story that is readable and hooks you quickly, but I was dissapointed that it was so loosely tied to the parent book.

Book 43: Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

I am so in love with this book, as you may have figured out since I have read it twice in 2 weeks (and a 3rd book in-between).

I really wish I had a way of recommending this book with out giving it away and still impart the scope of what the story is trying to convey.  And I wish I was able to express the wonders of Ishiguro's prose.

I want my friends to have the same experience with this book that I did.  It is always a risk to recommend a book that had a profound effect on you and hope they have the same reaction.

The truth of it is, I just need to give them a copy, let them read it and see what comes of it.

I did also see the movie that was made of the novel.  It was a good movie, but I didn't feel the intimate connection with Kathy I got from reading it.  I think it would be hard to convey, but with that I would recommend the movie.  I would definitely  recommend reading the book before seeing the movie on this one.

Book 42 The Remains of the Day by Kazau Ishiguro

I was so moved after reading Never Let Me Go I needed to either reread it or see if there was another one of his books that I could read.

I was surprised to see that he was the author of The Remains of the Day.  Honestly, I thought that book had been written decades before.  I remembered watching the movie and really liking it, so I went ahead and downloaded it to my kindle.

I was happy to see the rambling narrative style of Never Let Me Go was present in The Remains of the Day.   I really enjoy the intimate aura it creates.  I have found that I need to have longer reading blocks for this type of book, or else I would lose all the subtly that builds.

I feel bad that I am forced to review this book in the shadow of his other book, because it is a wonderful book and I should have been able to enjoy it for what is is.  However, I did find that my mind was still occupied with Kathy, Ruth and Tommy.  Which by the way I am rereading at this time.

I have discovered that I am terrible on writing reviews and expressing my excitement for a book in giving recommendations.  I don't want to give away anything and want to them to have a pure experience of the book, and I am not sure how to do that.  I think I am better on a book like this one, where I am able to describe the book as a book where the main character, an English Butler, is retrospective on his life and career.  At this point in his life he is having to revisit the near past and come to reckoning with his part in it.

Aug 17, 2014

Book 41: Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I just got done reading Never Let Me go and I still have all the feeling the book has stirred coursing through me.

This is a very quietly written book about a girl who is an organ donation clone.  However, this is not a book about organ donation, but instead about her experience of growing up.  It is not a sensational book, there is no big reveal, instead the reveal is disturbing in a introspective way.  It is not a book to question the legitimacy of cloning, although you could use this book to argue that. 

It is a book that is so much more than science fiction, it is a book of coming to terms with your purpose in life, navigating the world, and understanding that we are all just living and getting by.  There is much that this book delves into, and as I sit here what I want to do is cry and embrace the cocktail of feelings and emotions Kazuo Ishiguro has created in me.  It is a beautiful book.

Aug 16, 2014

Book 40: Eleanor by Jason Gurley

I truly enjoyed reading this strange little book.  I was a little scared at first, as I got it off of the Kindle lending library and I have not had the best luck with books from that source.

I am not even sure where to start on this one.  I immediately was drawn into the story and the characters, but I had no idea where the book was going and what it was about or where it was going, I just went along with it all. 

Let me see if I can describe  this....It is a story about a teenage girl named Eleanor, but we first start the story back with her Grandmother and namesake.  She has a young daughter and one day goes out for a swim and disappears.  Then we cut to the young daughter who is now a mother of her own, a mother of twins.  Then one day there is an accident and one of the twins is killed, Eleanor's sister.  From here there is another jump to when she is 13 and her family is in the aftermath of the death of her sister.  The whole treatment of a broken and dysfunctional family told from her point of view is heartbreaking and raw.

Then we get to the strange part.  The part that is nebulous, the part you just have to go along with.  There are other dimensions and connections and dreams.  And in the end there is redemption.  I am not able to express how engaging this part of the book was with out giving too much away. 

Random thoughts:
Eleanor:  How was she to explain what was happening to her?  Other people could see the effects, but how to explain the unexplainable?

Mea: I was completely there on all of it.  Living in the river of time, speaking with the darkness and pressing up against the membrane. 

The Keeper: This was where I was most confused, but by the end found it the most interesting.  All the anger and self-hatred.

All of the characters were well thought out, their actions and reactions felt real and that they came from a real place. 

I ate this book up.  I hope I am able to get others to read this one.  I have not been the best at expressing what is so awesome about this type of book where it is the unfolding of the story and the surprising places it takes you.  I want to see what their reactions to the process is.  I guess I will need to develop some better way to gush about this type of book.

Aug 13, 2014

Book 39: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

With all the YA dystopian books out there I realized that in my reading I do like this genre, but with out all the teenage angst.  I have always wanted to re-read Brave New World and thought this was the time to do so.

I read this book in my junior year in High School, but I had remembered it as a different book.  I still am not sure what book I am confusing it with.  I know we had a section with Utopia/Distopia and I must have blended books together.  I am not even sure I have not mixed in a Twilight Zone episode as well.  It took me about half way through to recognize that I had indeed read this one before.

Back to BNW- First I did not realize that this book was published in 1932.  That was earlier than I thought.  As I started reading I was struck by the use of mass production and how Huxley makes Henry Ford the the basis of this new society.  There is no family, as babies are all born and manipulated in test tubes and cloning.  The thought of family is obscene.  But there is a lot of sex in the book.  Even though sex for procreation is gone, the need for sex is still there and is thought of as a function of your everyday life, like housework.  Huxley also focuses on a consumer nation, where purchasing is a way of life.  Also there is no privacy in Huxley's world, but the drug soma is used when a break from life is needed. 

I enjoyed Brave New World.  It really is the type of book I like, one that I am able to chew on.  Is it a perfect book?  No of course not.  With any speculative fiction there are going to be holes and paradoxes, but a perfection is not the point.  For a book written 80 years ago, we are still able to see how this type of future could evolve and what it would mean.  We are still a nation that focuses on material goods and consumerism.  We are more and more living a social lives where we feel the need to share everything and always be connected.  We use drugs to make our everyday better.  I could go on and on.  There is much that is still relevant that is why this book is still a classic and one I hope is still being read.

Book 38: Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent Triology)

What can be said about this series.  Lets start with the facts.  It is a young Adult fiction that is recommended to readers who liked Hunger Games or any YA dystopian fiction.  Book one (and I would assume the whole series) has made into the motion picture world as well.

I probably would not have picked this series as something I would want to read, but as I am trying really hard to be more mainstream and read books that others are reading so I can join in on the discussion I decided that I should go ahead and read it.

I promise I will get to my thoughts on Allegiant, but first I feel I need to put out my thoughts on the series first, and some general thoughts on YA dystopian first.

I realize that YA books have a purpose.  They are written for young women to show that they have more power than they think they have.  They are the inner fantasy world and help put into words the crazieness that growing up is.  The transition from being a child to being an adult can be terrifying and having books like these help give voice and build confidence.  I get it, but I am also not 16, in fact I have not been 16 for a few decades, so I do not need this.  This is why I struggle with YA.  I am not trying to say that it is a bad thing for young girls to read, I am not saying that adults who read YA should not.  I am just saying that I find the tropes a bit unrelatable to me.  Now what I do find a bit harmful in YA is the love stories.  This is not restricted to YA, it happens in TV and movies as well.  I have trouble with the heightened expectation of true love at 16.  That the guy you like is your soulmate and that he only needs to know you to get it.  And once he gets it you will be happy for life.  It can be harmful, it is unrealistic and sets up girls for a whole lot of trouble.  I think the love triangle/true love trope in YA is just as dangerous as the super skinny and Photoshopped images are to our young girls self esteem and sets them up for failure.

Oh and then there are the names.  They bug me.  I am a bit of a name geek, and I just think some of them are silly.  In the Divergent series I get what she was going for.  I love the name Beatrice, but I hated the name Tris, just thought it was forced.  Also I didn't mind the nickname Four, but did not think the name Tobias fit the character at all.  Yes the name Tobias fit the Abnegation faction where he came from, but not the character.  Again just my opinion.

So getting to the thoughts on Allegiant itself.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I did not see where she was taking the series and liked that there was this whole other society that was basically playing around with them.  Watching and manipulating.  I wish she has gone further with this and foreshadowed more in the first 2 books.  And did I mention that Veronica kills off the main character?  That was a pleasant surprise.  I am sure to most readers it was shocking and not how they wanted the book to end, Tris and Four should ride off together, but for me it was a relief.  If she did not die and would have liked the book less.

For the series, I think book two could have been eliminated and absorbed into book 1&3, but then it would have broken the YA Trilogy mold and we couldn't have that.  Here comes grumpy old woman rant...
16 year olds do not take down the whole society by themselves.  They are not strong enough, savvy enough and it just does not happen.  Also can we stop with all the touching and kissing.  You are in mortal danger and you are taking down the fricking government and the whole structure of the world as you know it.  When you are done you will have time to make puppy dog eyes and kiss and all of that when you have accomplished your mission.  Or you will be dead and the other has something to pine over and struggle with for life.  To me that is infinitely  more interesting.
OK rant over.  So you can see I come a this type of book with a boat-load of baggage, so I need to rate the book with the screens through which I read it.  It is not a series I am banging the drum for and recommending, but if you are into this sort of story then I will recommend that you work your way through book 2 to get to book 3 which is better and takes the story into an interesting place.

Aug 1, 2014

Book 37: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I finished this book about a week ago, and I have been having a hard time writing about it, because I have a hard time explaining the book and why I enjoyed this one even if it is similar to other books I would bash.

First, it is a romp.  By that I mean it is not a serious book, I liken it to Dr Who.  It wears it corniness on its sleeve and hides nothing.  You take it on face value and run with it rubber monsters and all.  How can you not?  It has characters like Thursday Next, Jack Schitt and Acheron Hades and his brother Styx.  The plot of the story is far-fetched by having the ability to travel not just back in time but back into a book.  So you really can't get hung up on the feasibility and contradictions. 

I think I was able to get into this book, because I did not get hung up on the names and the writing style was OK.  I have definitely come across writing that I just find distracting and cannot move forward with it.

Jasper Fforde has a whole series with Thursday Next and this alternate world he has created.  I don't think I will be plowing through this series right away, but I do think I will keep it in mind for when I am looking for a lighter book and maybe for times when I am taking life just a bit too serious.

Jul 18, 2014

Book 36: Mauve: How one man invented a color that changed teh world by Simon Garfield

Interesting topic, but for me there was a bit too much science and I got lost.  I wanted more pictures and more information on color itself.

I do find the color mauve fascinating.  I never knew it was the first coal-tar color and what an impact it had on society.  And maybe I was skewed by the color by growing up in the 80's and having everything labeled "mauve"

I thought I knew exactly what mauve looked like, I thought it was just another word for "Dusty Rose" and looked like this...
But in the book the color was more purple-y than what I would have labeled mauve. The picture below is from the book and is a dress dyed in the original Perkin's mauve.
Now I can see that the 80's mauve is a lighter version and that there is a whole hue range that will be produced by a dye, but I never associated this version of mauve as mauve.

I maybe should explain why this color and the color name is so intriguing for me.  Back in the mid 80's and continuing on for 10 years I sold window coverings and right at the time that mauve was at its hey-day (OK besides the Victorian age, but then again the 80's had a Victorian bend to it in decorating at least).  But I am know coming to realize the 80's mauve is a lighter, more pink version.  Her are some other images that show the color mauve and I remembered it.

Did you know that the color of the year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid?  To me it looks more mauve than 80's mauve.  What do you think?

Oh, and I much prefer the original mauve and the Radiant Orchid and the original Perkin's mauve to the 80's version. 

Jul 17, 2014

Book 35: How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles by Carol Davidson Cragoe

How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles

I picked this book up on our trip to Williamsburg.  There is not too much to really say about it except it is a good, quick reference book.  This past semester I had a class on the history of Interior design, and in the class we went over much of what is in here, and more. So having this book will be a good place to jog my memory.  I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in old buildings.

Book 34: The Giver by Lois Lowry

What a relief to find a book that does not have a love triangle and does not tie every thing up with a big bright happy bow.  In fact the ending of this book is open to interpretation.  I sped through this one, really reading the last 75% of it yesterday.

Yes, it is a kids book and yes it may not be the most in depth book, but it was thought provoking and enjoyable.  I am looking forward to having my daughter read this one.  I really want to see how she responds to it.

I don't think I would blindly recommend this book, as there are some pretty tough issues that are brought up and I would want to be prepared for questions they may have.

Originally it was written to stand alone, but later she wrote 3 follow up books.  I will be reading them, but I will give it a little time.

Looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation.

Jul 15, 2014

Books 32 & 33: Crossed and Reached by Ally Condie

I finally finished book 2 and 3 of the Matched trilogy.  I guess finally isn't really the right word, since I did finish them both within a months time (which can be quick for me).  Maybe I am using the term 'finally" because it was not as enjoyable as I would have liked.

If you read my original post on Matched, you will see I was sort of into the series and happy with what was there.  I felt there was some meat to the YA story, some interesting ideas.  Sadly, however, once I started reading Crossed (book 2) I quickly saw that all I found interesting was gone and replaced by a romance story (which I get is the point because it is YA).  I felt like most of book 2 was unnecessary and that really if she felt she needed to go from book 1 that Crossed and Reached could have been combined, but then we would be breaking the YA mold and how can it be YA if it is not a trilogy. (sigh)

Once I got to Reached I thought it got a little better, but only marginally, and then it got into the dreaded trope where it needed to have all the ends tied up.  Have I mentioned I hate that.

Also, I found Book 2 confusing by moving from Cassia's point of view to switching chapters POV's between both Cassia and Ky.  Then taking it even further by adding Xander's POV on Reached.

I won't be upset if my daughter wants to read it, and I would recommend it to someone who is younger and looking for something to read, but I would not rave about it and  would probably point out that there are better series or books out there.

One good thing that came out of it for me is I realized I do enjoy Utopian books.  I would like to read more of them.  I did a quick good reads search to get suggestions, and of course I am seeing a lot of YA Dystopian series out there.  But I will find something.

Right now I am reading The Giver in preparation for the movie.

Jul 1, 2014

Book 31: A Perfect Red, by Amy Butler Greenfield

I was super excited when I saw this book and thought it would be a perfect type of book for me and I did enjoy parts of it, but other parts we a bit of a slog-fest.

I loved the topic of how the color red was used, viewed and regarded in a historical context.  Those parts were facinating and I wished there was more of that. 

I did not like the process of creating the dye, the economic or the espionage parts of the book.  I found it tedious and dry reading.  I ended up skimming most of those sections.

It is as plain and simple as that.

Book 30: Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, by Judy Blume

Yes I am much too old to be reading this book, however, this was the replacement book for Matched for the Mother-daughter book club.  We thought it would be a more appropriate selection and since it had to deal with becoming a woman and first periods we thought it would a good choice.

I have to say, I am more comfortable with the Matched book over this one for the book club.  In this book there is more talk about sexuality and uncomfortable topics than in Matched.  Don't get me wrong, I think there is a place for "Are you There God..." and I think it is a book I would like my daughter to read, but I am not sure it is a book that she and her friends would like to discuss in a round table fashion with their moms. 

I also think that in my daughters case, 10 is a bit young to know about "Playboy" and going behind A&P with boys.  If those items were not involved, I would be more comfortable with the topics of anxiety of puberty, the noticing of boys and the struggle with the relationship with God.

As a young girl I remember loving Judy Blume books, and recommend them for my daughter.  I think we have decided to try "Blubber" as our actual first book club book.  (Fingers crossed that this club will get under way.)

Book 29: Matched by Ally Condie

My daughter who is 10 loves to read and she is a pretty advanced reader for her age.  And since I love to read I thought it would be nice to start a Mother-Daughter book club so we could share the love of books.  Initially I was only going to have it be the two of us, but I thought I could open it up to a few close friends.

I initially picked Matched as a our first book before I invited others to join in.  They had a concern on the book I selected.  the concern was how a love triangle would be dealt with and if our 10 year olds should be dealing with dating and that sort of thing.  I agreed and decided we would move on to another book.  However, I had already started the book and my daughter was still interested so I went ahead and finished it.  At this time my daughter has not finished so I can't speak to her views, I am hoping that will come later.

For me, considering this is a young adult novel, I enjoyed it very much.  First of all I found the love triangle to be handled very well and in a very PG manner.  Between the two love interests it is very clear that one is more romantic than the other.  I also liked that the courting of the characters presented itself in the act of learning to write cursive and the sharing of banned poetry.

Even with  the story being rooted in the "matching" of young adults, the dating and the relationship factor played in the background of this first novel of the trilogy.  More interesting was the "Society" and how Cassia starts to have her eyes opened to what is happening around her. 

I found this a good introduction to the Utopian genre.  Condie seems to have put some thought into her Society and it functions and how it progressed to get to its present state.  I am very interested in how my daughter will interpret how this society functions and what she thinks of their choices.  I do think there is a lot that could be discussed, and I am sort of sad that it got nixed as our first book.

Book 28: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I hate when it takes me too long to write on a book after I finish it.  Especially when it is a book that I neither love or hate.  That is what is happening with Insurgent, by Veronica Roth.

I think there is an ambivalence I have with this series.  I can't say it is a bad series, but it is a series I probably would be Ok with abandoning, but I do plan on finishing it before I make a final judgement.  The truth is I am most likely staying with it because of the movies and my daughter will most likely be reading them, so I feel I would like to be able to share this with her.

I wish I could be more articulate on my thoughts, but it leaves me neutral.  I can't rant on what bothers me but there is not anything that I can rave about either.

So that I what I have on Insurgent, I wonder if I would have more to say if I did write about it right after I finished the book when it was fresher in my mind.

Short Stories 97- 109: A Whole bunch of Short Stories by FSF and a play

I am trying really hard to finish my Fitzgerald project before my birthday.  I am so close to being done, with only around a dozen stories and essays left, and one play.

So this post is going to be a bunch of short stories that I am pounding out.
97. Ten Years in Advertising
98. 100 False Starts
99. Author's House *
100. On Schedule
101. Family in the Wind
102. In the Darkest Hour
103. The Rough Crossing
104. Magnetism
105. The Bowl
106. What a Handsome Pair
107. Majesty
108. The Swimmers
109. Crazy Sunday

I still have one short story and his play yet to read.  I should have been able to pound them out, but I think I am waiting until I can sit and savor them, especially the last story.  I promise I will have them done soon.

May 18, 2014

Short Stories 93-96- Scott & Zelda

The Dance
The Southern Girl
The Girl The Prince Liked
The Girl with Talent

The Dance is by Scott but the rest of the stories are Zelda's.  I have to admit I do not like her writing. Sorry.  She is too wordy and her images are just odd and I drift off while I read her words.  In the end her writing is just not for me.   I am not convinced she was an excellent writer and that she would have made it as an author if it wasn't for Scott keeping her down. 

I did decide to not read the rest of her works.  The Millionaires Girl, Miss Ella, A couple of Nuts, The Continental Angle & Poor Working Girl.

Abandoned Book 1: Lizzies War, by Tim Farrington

If I am chronicling all my reading I think I need to also talke about the books I start but abandon for whatever reason.

The first book is Lizzies War- By Tim Farrington

It was a book recommended to me off Amazon, I am not sure why or if it was one I found highly rated on an Amazon Deal.  I did downloaded it and gave it a try.

I got about half way through the story and finally gave up.  I won't say it is a horrible book, but in the end I just did not care about the characters or what was going to happen.  Or maybe I saw where the book is going and just didn't care.

There was some parts that felt like they were added for effect but had no bearing to the story like the drive through Detroit during the riots and the kids almost being blown up at the gas station.  Is there a reason why the kids needed to be put in peril?  It did not seem to come back around, and felt too dramatic for the story of an everyday military wife dealing with her husband in Vietnam.

I did not realize that this story was written by a man, I guess when I was reading it I assumed it was written by a woman.  That may have something to do with it.  Not that I don't believe men can write believable women  because there are some great examples out there, but I think it is hard for any writer to really get inside the mind of another gender and do it well.

Oh well.  I decided to give up on this one and I moved on to The Fault in Our Stars.

Book 27: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Here is another YA book that has been floating around my periphery and I finally decided to read it.  I guess I also finally read it because the movie is coming out and I watched a segment on the legion of fans that this book had and I was curious.

Lets see...I liked the book, but I was hoping for a bit more, but I can see how this book is important to younger readers.  I have been listening to a podcast called What are you reading?  Where the host often asks about the book that turned your head as a young reader, and I see that this could be one of those books.

In a nutshell it is a book about Cancer kids who fall in love and die.  It feels like it shines a unflinching eye on the subject and speaks on a topic that most kids have little connection to. 

After reading this book, I was given the typical suggestions of what to read next.  And of course they were all YA novels and now ones on kids who die.  I have mixed feelings on this.  In the world that lives produces recommendation only off of current purchases or reads, I am afraid of being typed cast as a YA reader.  I don't have a problem reading YA if it is done well, and I have a daughter who is a reader and starting to pick up some of these books.  But I want to be able to read other types of books.  Ones that are written for adults and have some meat on them.  It seems like I get the Classics, which is fine, but it seems like the only digging down that occurs is that they are classics and nothing else or now I am getting YA book recommendation.  Can it combine the and see what else comes up?

I find this similar to Pandoras recommendation to me on music.  I like a certain 1 Hit wonder from the 80's, who had gone on and produced many wonderful albums and styles.  I would like a recommendation of songs from one of his later albums to see what else is out there and I all I get recommended is 80's New Wave music, which I like but is not like his jazzier, moodier later stuff so I am left frustrated and type cast.  I have always had an eclectic taste in music, as with most things in life.  Give a good sampling of a whole bunch of stuff.

Ah anyways. that is a tangent that is not really well thought out, just some frustrations.

Back to the book.  Yes it is a book I will be OK if my daughter reads, I would just like her to be a tad bit older as there is a bit of sex involved.

May 17, 2014

Short Stories 75- Outside the Cabinet Maker

75. Outside the Cabinet-makers:  I love this short little short story.  Just a quick read on creating magic for your children and yet not being able to fully participate in that creation.

Short Stories 76-92

A nice big list of Short Stories. 
Here they are...
The Rough Crossing
The Mystery of the Raymond Mortage
Reade, Substitute Right Half
A Debt of Honor
The Room With the Green Blinds
A Luckless Santa Claus
The Trail of the Duke
Pain and the Scientist
Shadow Laurels
The Ordeal
The Debutante
The Spire and the Gargoyle
Sentiment and the Use of Rouge
The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw
Our Own Movie Queen
A Penny Spent
The Original Follies Girl

As with all the Short stories, click on the link to get more info.

I will call out the following stories:
The Ordeal, The Debutante
The Spire and the Gargoyle, Senitment and the Use of Rouge
and The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw

Book 26: The Thoughtbook of F Scott Fitzgerald

I was able to read this as I was reading some of his apprentice fiction.  It was a good time to read it. I would also suggest it if someone was reading Basil stories.

Book 25: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Powell

I loved this book.  I don't think I have made it a secret that I am frustrated with what I am finding out in the book world lately.  I am sure there are many good books, I am just not stumbling upon them.  I am glad I was able to come across this one.

It is refreshing and honest and a great book that feels real when dealing with relationships in the 80's.  Heck, I am sure the relationship part still rings true today.  Which it is why I am going to give this to my daughter when she is a few years older. 

Loved, Loved, Loved this one

Apr 4, 2014

The trouble with rating media

You may have noticed that I don't really include ratings on book. I tend to shy away from the practice as I often ffind it hard to know how to rate things like movies, books and TV shows.  You know things that will be compiled and make recommendations for future suggestions.  I find it hard to know where the break points should be.  First I should say I am very stingy on giving out 5 stars, as I think that only perfection deserves 5 stars.  Gatsby and Breaking Bad fit this category, but perfection is hard to reach. 

From there you go to 4 stars.  This is where I tend to put things I really like and enjoyed and that are well done.  But even a 4 star rating can be hard for me to give out, because it has to be near perfection.

1 and 2 stars are a bit easier, actually, I wish there was a zero star for things I just hated.  But these are things I really don't like and it is easy for me to know when it just isn't for me.

And that leaves the 3 star ratings.  These are the hardest for me because there are 2 types of books, movies and TV shows that I partake in.  And a 3 star classic novel would be vastly different than a 3 star YA book.  Not to mention how do I reckon a bad story by Fitzgerald or Asten to a good fluff book.  When I rate Fitzgerald or Austen it is usually to their other work, but just because I liked it less than something else they have written dosen't mean it should resided in the realm of Divergent.  Divergent is a good YA novel.  I didn't hate it, so I wouldn't give it a 1 or 2, it is a 3 star book for me.  But when I place it next to A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway, it just seems wrong that they should even be rated the same.

I need  2 prong rating system. One for more serious works and one for fluff.  Does anyone else have this problem?  How do you deal with this?

Apr 2, 2014

Book 24: After Dachau- Daniel Quinn

Can I just start out by saying how much I enjoyed this book.  I picked it up for my Reader and knew it was an alternate history type story where Germany won WWII and that was all.

And wow- it is so much more than that.  There is a whole thing about reincarnation that sucked me in right at the beginning, and then I was hit by the twist.

I have been so frustrated with books that are being recommended for me.  It seems like the only books that are suggested are YA books, and ones that are poorly written.  And I really want something more hearty, and well how can I put this....well written.  This book satisfied that.

My one criticism of the book is, that after it is revealed that they are 2000 years in the future, the story hits a slump.  Well, I shouldn't even say slump, because I think I was pushing through my fatigue to keep reading and glanced over some important info. So in hindsight that is my fault, not the authors.

Ok I have one other criticism, and it really isn't about the book, but what the author wrote postscript.  He needed to make sure that the readers knew he was Christian and did not believe in the whole idea of reincarnation.  Its not that he doesn't believe in the premise of the book, I just found it odd that he needed to include this, in the book.  Yes, in interviews make it clear your views, but it seemed to take away something from the story, like some of the magic was tarnished.  I hate to say it, but because of his insistence to include that blurb, I am very leery to read any of his other books, as I am afraid they will come off preachy, especially when it is titled The Holy.

But with all that said- I really loved this book and highly recommend it.

Update:  Ok So I decided to do a bit of research on Daniel Quinn to see if his books would come off preachy and very Christian.  It looks like I may be wrong about my reaction to his postscript.  But you know what that happens.  I made a knee jerk reaction.  In fact from my cursory search into the man, I am finding that the opposite may be true. I am amending my statement of being leery on his other works.  I think I would like to add Ishmael to my list of books to read.

Update:  After sitting with book for about a month, I have to say how much it has effected me.  I keep thinking about it and really want other to read it so I can talk to them about it.

Mar 29, 2014

Reading frustrations

Recently my hubby purchased a new Kindle reader for me, and I took advantage of the Amazon lending library to check out a free book.  I really wasn't familiar with any of the books available, so I just chose on that was on time travel.

I read on chapter and I am giving up.  I really wanted to give up on it after the first paragraph because I found the writing terrible.  I even tried to edit it to make it work.

Here is my edited version....
"Behind me the footsteps halted for an instant before I ducked into the next corridor.  Had I been in my usual shorts and t-shirt, I would have been able to get out of this hotel long ago, and a good solid kick to the head would have rendered the good doctor unconscious and my neck would not be in agony."

That would have been an opening paragraph that I could have rolled with, instead the story opens with....
"The heel of my white kidskin boot ripped a six inch gash in the hem of my skirt as I whipped around the corner.  Behind me, the footsteps halted for just an instant, and then continued, faster than before.  I ducked into the corridor, silently cursing the gods of 1890's fashion.  had I been in my usual shorts and t-shirt, I would have been our of this retched hotel long ago.  A solid kick to the head would have rendered the good doctor unconscious and the side of my neck wouldn't be screaming in agony."

Part of me hates pointing out what I find as poor writing (as I am not even to write a single paragraph for a story).  But, to me this seems like the sort of stuff written in an intro to creative writing class in college and is distracting and painful to read. 

I blame my lack of tolerance for this writing style on Mr Fitzgerald and his elegance of prose.  I was talking to my hubby on how I would take any one of his poorly written stories and ridiculous plot twists over a more modern interesting plot and terrible writing....any day.

Mar 24, 2014

Book 23: Sometimes Madness is Widsom by Kendall Taylor

I have often said I am not a fan of Zelda.  This is mostly due to the fact that most biographers feel they need to blame one of them for destroying the other.  There has been a surge of love for Zelda (which is not undeserved) but at the expense of Scott, and I have a hard time when I read that.

In this book, Kendall Taylor seems to do a good job of presenting a balanced view of the pair.  Neither one is solely responsible for the others misfortunes.  I liked the balanced reporting I found in this narrative.  I found Zelda interesting and tragic.

The only criticism I have is that in the final chapter, it seems like Ms. Taylor undid all the balanced reporting and heaped a bunch onto Scott (which seems so easy to do).  I am willing to overlook this and move on. 

I have read too many biographies on Zelda that sensationalize and place blame, and seem to have an agenda that I am unable to recommend those books, but this one I feel comfortable recommending.

Mar 21, 2014

Short Stories 53-74: Various FSF short stories

Wow- it has taken me a long time to update my reading list.  School has kicked back in and I just have not had the time to get everything noted.  I was hoping that this wouldn't happen but instead of beating myself up about it I will just get it all out here and hopefully be better about it in the future.  As always, I will have more details on the Fitzgerald short stories on my Fitzgerald Musing site, just follow the links.

Read in January:
The Fiend
Night in Chancellorsville
Zone of Accident
The Intimate Strangers
The Passionate Eskimo
Shaggy's Morning

Read in March:
One Interne
The Pusher-in-the-Face
The Third Casket
The End of Hate
Six of One-
New Type
Her Last Case
No Flowers
I Got Shoes
The Family Bus
The Rubber Check
One of my Oldest Friends
Not in the Guidebook
John Jackson's Arcady
The Unspeakable Egg
Diamond Dick and the First Law of Woman

Feb 20, 2014

Books 20, 21 & 22: Divergent, My Name is Memory & Fool For Love

Well we are quite a way into 2014 and I have been very neglectful on logging my reading progress.  I have been reading, I am just finding it hard to find time to get it typed out.  I even have short stories I finished in December that need attention- Guess I will be re-reading those stories.


There are 3 books I will be talking about today.  I know two of them I finished in January and the third was either January or the beginning of Feb.

First I read Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  I was not so sure I wanted to read this one, but it looks like it is required reading for anyone who is looking for a book after reading "The Hunger Games".  And of course there is a movie coming out.  I don't want to go into too much plot detail, but lets just note that it takes place in a dystopian future and has a girl who needs to find her strength as the main character. 

I did not hate the book, nor did I love the book.  I did feel like the the author needed to sit with the book a bit longer and really flesh out this new world.  There are 2 more books to the trilogy, but at this time I have no interest in reading them.  But I will probably go see the movie.

Next I read My Name is Memory, by Ann Brasheres.  This is a book I had been really wanting to read.  The subject matter is right in my sweet spot, a man who remembers all of his past lives.  Oh I had high hopes.  Well maybe I had too high of hopes.  I was really let down by this one.  It is the first "adult" novel by the author, who is known for "The Traveling pants" books, and the writing felt like it was a YA book. At the start of the book I was Ok with it, but as it progressed the story and the dialogue just became painful.

In the book I was hoping for more introspection and reflection on being out of time, or the burden and conflicts of remembering all the lives.  But instead it was a sappy "soul mate" search through time, and even that love seemed forced and not real.  Instead of being in my sweet spot, it hit all of the tropes that make we cringe, which is too bad, because I really wanted to like it.

After that, I decided to read a palette cleanser type book.  So, I picked up a book that has literally been sitting on my night stand for at least a year "Fool for Love, F Scott Fitzgerald" by Scott Donaldson.  Yes, a biography on Fitzgerald.  I can't say I learned a whole lot.  Most of what was there I had already read in other biographies.  However, there was some interesting facts about his time in North Carolina, that I had not really known about.  That time and the women he was involved with always seem a bit sketchy in most biographies of his life.  It was some of the time where he was at his lowest, and getting involved with women.  It was just the type of book I needed at that time.

Well I am on to another Fitzgerald biographies, this one focusing more on the couple.  Hopefully It won't take me months to log that one.

Jan 2, 2014

Book 19: Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

I did finish this in 2013, just right at the end, and I have not gotten a chance to do a write up.

As I was reading this I was thinking how much of a geek I am.  I am not what one could consider a full fledged geek.  I don't do what most people consider geeky, but I understand geek culture to a higher degree than the average person.  This may be due to the fact that I am married to a geek, but I think I was leaning that way even before I meet him.  But back to my level of geekness.  Even if I am not up on computer games, cos-play or conventions I have my own things I geek out over that most people just don't understand- Have you seen my blog devoted to F Scott Fitzgerald?

However, I don't think you need to be a geek to appreciate this book.  It is more a book about coming to terms with ones-self.  I didn't realize how old the book was when I downloaded it (it was written in 2004).  I just wish it was a bit more current.