Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Cross Country by James Patterson
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
This is one of the final books for 2008, and how I wish I'd waited for 2009. It is rare that I don't like a book, but this one was like Real Housewives of London, and I just don't have any patience for that kind of thing.
The book follows various women who live in a suburb of London, Arlington Park, through a day. Some work and some are stay at home moms. The one thread that ties them together is that none of them is satisfied with their life. They all feel that life has passed them by, that everything is just too, too hard and that their husbands just aren't pulling their weight in the marriages. They all have children, and treat them as an afterthought, little people that just add more work to their existence.
ARGH!! This is exactly the kind of person I avoid like the plague in my life. I have an optimistic outlook on life, and little patience for the poor little me attitude. If you don't like your life, change it? Or, as I often say, if everyone in your life is causing you problems, it's not them. You need to change yourself. I hate to end the year with a book I can't recommend, but this one was not for me at all.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Barcelona by Robert Hughes
Wow, I can't believe I've finished reading this book. I started it several months ago and put it down due to its denseness and the push to read more accessible texts. I was determined, however, to finish it, and Christmas break gave me the chance to do so.
Robert Hughes has created a masterpiece about this Spanish city. Fact upon fact tumble from the pages. History, food, music, art, science, inventions, political parties and philosophies, famous citizens, politicians, architecture, banking, world fairs; all are covered in intense detail. Hughes must have spent years researching this book. I've learned a ton about Barcelona, but would need to read the book at least once more to retain many of the details.
This book is recommended for those interested in how a great city came into being and how its citizens define themselves. The only disappointment I had was with the ending. The entire last chapter, devoted to the great Spanish architect, Gaudi, ends somewhat abruptly in the 1920's. It seems that if one devoted the time and energy to write such a massive tome, that the years since would have been written about as well. I'm very glad to have read this book and learned so much from it.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton
As the book progresses, Edgerton fills in Henry's prior life. His father was killed when Henry was a baby, and his mother left him and his sister with relatives. He grew up surrounded with family, Aunt Dorie, Uncle Jack, Uncle Samuel, his cousin Carson and sister Catherine. Family and religion shaped his life. As he moves around the South, Henry meets new people. Marleen is his first serious love, and the Finley sisters welcome him into their home.
But, all is not well. In his new life with Clearwater, Henry starts to realise all is not quite right. There are strange men who seem unlikely to work for the government, night trips that can't be mentioned, and soon the work progresses from taking cars to taking safes from houses. Along the way, Henry keeps his sweetness but starts to question and put hints together. The book builds to a revelation of murder and resolution.
Edgerton is a master at portraying Southern life. This book illustrates life in the South in the time period from the 1930's to the late 1950's, that last generation before television, electricity and cars became commonplace. Family and religion made up a large part of most people's lives. People lived close to the land, growing gardens, hunting and fishing. Moral codes were rigorous and enforcement was a community affair, where your neighbor was as likely to correct a child as the parents.
The other strength of the book is character development. If the reader is from the South, they immediately recognise the characters, as they grew up with people who were just like the ones Edgerton describes. The description of food, entertainment, religious beliefs and attitudes towards life are familiar, and the book feels like coming home and slipping on comfortable clothes. This book is recommended for those looking for reading entertainment and a fond look back to another time.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
As the story opens, Eva has gone missing and Towner returns home, drawn by this family crisis. Towner seems to be the catalyst that causes old relationships and secrets to reemerge. Cal Boynton is back in town where he has reinvented himself as a religious leader of a cultlike following. A young girl, Angela Rickey, who is pregnant with Cal's child, also disappears. Towner's old love, Jack, is still in town and anxious to resume their relationship. In addition, a town policeman, Rafferty, also falls in love with Towner. Towner starts to untangle the mysteries that have haunted her life. Why did her twin commit suicide in front of her and Jack? What is the fixation that Cal has with the Whitney women? Towner slowly reveals the truth, sometimes reading lace to find patterns. The book rises to a page-turning climax where the truth that has formed this family is finally revealed.
The Lace Reader is a compelling and satisfying read. It explores the issues of sexual and physical abuse. The mindset of those who enter cults is investigated. Suicide and mental illness are other themes, along with lost love and the yearning to hide in the past. While it covers depressing material, the book is not a depressing one overall. Rather, it leaves the reader with a message of hope and the realization that the truth must be faced in order to lose its power to skew lives. Not easily forgotten, this book is recommended for all fiction readers.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Don't Know Much About Anything Else by Kenneth Davis
Covering subjects as diverse as Labor Day, the state of Ohio, Katherine Hepburn, pro hockey and a myriad of other topics, the book is divided into sections. These include famous people, exceptional places, historic happenings and civics, holidays and traditions, everyday objects and remarkable inventions, space and the natural world, sports, entertainment and a miscellaneous section. Within each section, each subject is formatted the same way. The subject starts with a few fact-filled paragraphs about the subject. Following that are a series of questions, most of which you know you should know but can't really answer. That's not a problem, as the answers to the questions are on the back of the page.
For example, in the Labor Day subject, the reader learns who was the driving force behind the holiday, and the date on which it was signed into law. The date that holiday falls on annually is given. Then, the questions are items such as what was the first minimum wage, what percentage of workers belong to a union, what union was thrown out of the AFL-CIO for corruption and why is Frances Perkins famous? All of these are answered on the following page.
I found this book to be a delight. It is a great way to pass some time, and to learn facts. I can imagine families playing trivia with this book as the foundation, or parents using it as a fun method of educating their children. This book is highly recommended for all readers. Everyone can learn something new from the book, and will have an interesting time doing so.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
King of Nod by Scott Fad
WOW! If you're a fantasy fan, this book will amaze you. It is a rollercoaster ride that grabs the reader immediately and refuses to let go until the end reveals all secrets.
Boo Taylor has been away from his home, Sweetpatch Island, for twenty years. He left behind old secrets, family intrigues and an epic romance gone bad. Things were happening on the island that were more than he could bear. Fires, murders, racial tensions, curses, hints of old intrigues and tangled family relationships. It finally became more than Boo could handle, and he went away to try to build a life elsewhere.
But the island constantly tugs at his heart and spirit. When his father dies, Boo returns. He plans to only come for the funeral but quickly gets pulled into the old intrigues and mysteries. And he finds his lost love, Gussie again. Who are really his ancestors? Who has committed the murders and set the fires? What secrets hide in the old ruined mansion from which the island was ruled in days of slavery?
This book is highly recommended. It is easily one of the most memorable books I've read this year. The language is amazing, twisting and turning the tension, pulling the reader further and further into the secrets that make up Boo Taylor's life and which, if undiscovered, will kill him. Scott Fad has pulled off a masterpiece.