22 November 2016

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein



     I did not like this book. I said I would start writing reviews even if it was just to say “I liked it” or “I did not like it.” Well, I did not like this book. The weird thing is I remembered reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by the same author and loved it. It was a book written from the perspective of a dog, and I self avowed dog-hater liked that book. So, I was pretty excited to find this one.

     A Sudden Light was the story of a boy and his father who return to their family home to help out his aunt who has been taking care of his aging grandfather. The boy’s father and aunt wanted to put the grandfather into a facility that could take care of him better and sell the house. But as soon as the boy moves in he realizes that the house is haunted, or the grandfather is haunted, or maybe the boy himself is haunted by a homosexual ghost who is some distant relative and doesn’t want the land to be developed but rather wants it returned to nature because….because he loves nature. Also as it turns out the aunt actually has been creating dementia like symptoms in the grandfather because she’s actually crazy.

     I think it’s biggest flaw was that it felt incomplete, like the author hadn't decided what his book was going to be about. I couldn’t tell if this was a book about man’s destruction of nature, or a book about bringing justice to the homosexual community, or a book about a boy bringing redemption to his family. I think it was the latter. I say I think because it felt super scattered and in the end I felt like he lost his family. Nearly literally. I’m not going that deep into it because I actually don’t really think it’s worth a read. I hated the end. No, let me revise that. I HATED  the end. 

   At the beginning of the book I got a clue there was a line that said something like “The gravel crunched under the car like dried bones.” Really? I realize you are setting up an atmosphere, but don’t beat me over the head with it. I didn’t heed the warning and I wasted some time reading this. Don’t do it. I'd have to read it again to be sure, but I think I can say The Art of Racing in the Rain was really good. So, I'm not ready to write off this author entirely.

17 November 2016

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

     Ok, I've just got to do this. I keep telling myself I want to get back into blogging, but I think because I'm rusty I keep just not doing it. So, I'm going to restart and even if my blog posts consist of:
I like this book.
This was a good book.
Read it.
.....then so be it.

     What has been helpful is that this year, after saying so often, "I really want to do that," I am finally doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you write a 50,000 word novel in a month. If you are attempting to do the math that is almost 1700 words a day. It doesn't have to be a good novel. You just have to take one of your ideas and turn it into 50,000 words. The goal is to get a draft out basically. I actually have loved the experience so much I plan on doing it in December through February to write out my three other ideas which were runners up for my novel. So, anyway, the point is, I'm writing again. I'm creating again, and I feel like now would be a good time to plunge back into the blog. And now that I said that I'll feel very ashamed if I don't blog more regularly, so for sheer fear of man, I must do it now.

     Ok, the main event. I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes because I saw it everywhere. You know when you just kind of become aware of a book and everyone is lauding it and you just...gotta? Well, that was Me Before You and since it was followed by a book called After You, of course I had to read that too.
     To be honest, I finished it maybe two weeks ago and I'm still wrestling with whether or not I actually liked it. It's a story about a young British woman named Louisa whose family is pretty much barely scraping by and is mainly relying on her income to keep them going. When she loses her job and realizes she has pretty much no interest in life beyond living day to day she begins to look for work pretty much anywhere. She finally finds employment being the companion of a wheelchair bound man named Will, paralyzed from the neck down in a tragic traffic accident. He is extremely embittered by life and has actually attempted suicide before, but when Lousia comes into his life things begin to change for him, and they develop feelings for each other. Unfortunately Lousia learns that she has been employed to look after him for the six months he has promised his mother before he plans on ending his life via a Death With Dignity type institution in, I believe, Switzerland. Louisa sets out to change his mind.
     Ok, in the interest of anyone who wants to read this book, I won't say anything more. Though, to be honest you may glean the outcome from what I say anyway, so maybe just SPOILER ALERT! So, I liked the story. I think it was interesting how in ways both Louisa and Will are somewhat bound. Will is physically bound to life as a quadruplegic, and Louisa is bound by her apathy and general passionless existence (Might I add, big sympathy with Louisa from this reader who somewhat still doesn't know what she wants when she grows up). But when they are brought together they sort of teach each other how to really live.
     The downside is pretty obvious if you know me, obviously euthanasia is right out as, in my opinion, it's suicide. I mean, let's get that out in the open right now. However, you can say something is sinful and at the same time be like, Well, yeah, I mean, wouldn't you want to? I can quite honestly say if I was paralyzed from the neck down, I would handle it any better than him. My brain would say I couldn't play God in this way, but my emotions would definitely be rioting against my brain's rule. So, my sympathies are definitely there, but I don't like media that sort of plays with your ethical standards. Does that make sense? Something that sort of sets out to question whether you are right in the way you think. Sort of a, "Did God really say?" situation.
     Also, one of the things that was really not explained at all, was this idea that Louisa was the whole family's punching bag. She had this sister who did not contribute to the family at all and was pregnant and unmarried and somehow that sister was praised by everyone while Louisa was made fun of for her weight and general laziness, when she was the one who seemed to take care of everyone. I just did not understand that at all and it was honestly a little upsetting.
     I know I have lingered over the downsides of the book, but I actually liked it overall. I think it was really different, and I would probably recommend it to people. The second book was a more satisfying one, but had a really bratty teenager in it. Like, reeeally bratty. So bratty in fact that even after you understood what was causing the issue it was almost too late for you to turn around in your feelings for her.

11 July 2016

Princess by Jean Sasson

     Princess by Jean Sasson is the first story in a trilogy of tales of Princess Sultana, a real royal member of the Saudi royal family. It's a story of a woman frustrated by a society that keeps the women in a constant state of subservience to men. Told from the perspective of a brave young woman who risks possible death to tell her tale in order to fight for the advancement of Saudi women....or is it?
     I have to say it is a very interesting read. I finished it pretty quickly because it was exciting, but as I read my first thoughts were, "How on earth did the Saudis not figure out who this was?" The details were vivid and while they were purportedly changed it seemed impossible to not figure out who Sultana was. I mean, this wasn't just like, average Saudi woman. This was a member of the royal family. That has to be pretty easy to narrow down.
     Also, as I read it it seemed more and more like the book an American would write for other Americans. "Hah! I knew those middle easterners were up to no good!" It started when Princess Sultana made the claim that women weren't allowed in the mosques in Saudi Arabia. Now, I knew that couldn't be right since usually there are special "woman places" in mosques so women don't like....I don't know, distract men. I looked it up and there are apparently a few places where women aren't allowed in mosques, Saudi Arabia is not one of them.
     Also, I realize there have been injustices to women in Saudi Arabia (heck, there are some in this country). I personally have some issues with veiling and the direction they take modesty (an otherwise good trait, by the way), and I am trying to be careful because I know there are women who actually consider veiling in the same way I would consider my own modesty. I think not allowing women to drive is pretty outrageous, but the instances of injustice in this book are almost too crazy. I know there are cruel people in this world, but it's hard to get me to believe every Saudi man is the worst possible kind of sadist imaginable. Everything cruel that could be done, they did in this book.
     Apparently there is some controversy over this book and over whether Princess Sultana actually exists. So, my instincts were maybe justified. I did enjoy reading the book and since I happen to have the second book I kind of want to go ahead and read it, and it is a trilogy so no harm in reading the third I suppose. I am not....sure I would recommend it necessarily. It's not like the writing was blow-me-out-of-the-water good. It did hold my attention, though I found the Princess herself to be a bit troublesome. The book is about her personal struggle for advancement of women in a culture bent on opposing her, but it just seemed like she protested everything. One of my least favorite main characters is "the hot head," and maybe this is unfair but that goes double if it's a woman. The female protagonist who shrilly declares, "My way or no way!" is just very annoying.  There are times to stand up to oppression but you should pick your battles a little more carefully in my opinion.
     If the author Princess owned up to writing a novel I might tell others I found it pretty interesting, just because it does make for an engaging read. Though in our current political climate it might do more harm than good. I want to finish the series, but you should take it with a grain of salt. 

25 January 2016

Persuasion by Jane Austen



               Oh, what to say about Persuasion? What to say about any classic really other than, “I loved it!” Even the fourth time around I love it. I’ll love it when I read it again a fifth time too. I read it along with a good friend of mine from Oregon. We have been reading a couple of books simultaneously in order to send each other good quotes over text. Also, we have found it has deepened our friendship because we definitely learn things about ourselves and each other by talking about these books.
                Persuasion, for the person who hasn’t experienced its delights, is the best last of Jane Austen’s books, and it reads like a mature book. The main character, Anne Elliot is 27, so you know, pretty much an old maid (haw haw) and it’s even set in the Fall so it just sounds…more mature. That’s really the only way to describe it. Also, it’s one of the only Austen novels that really allows you to see as clearly into the mind of the main character. In my opinion you get a clearer understanding of how Anne Elliot thinks than you get with say, Emma Woodhouse or Catherine Moreland
                It is the story of Anne Elliot, who turned down Frederick Wentworth eight years before the novel started due to the advice given her by family friend and surrogate mother Lady Russell. When the story opens the Elliot family is losing money and is forced to let their family home and take a smaller apartment elsewhere. Fate has it that the Frederick Wentworth’s sister and her husband are the new tenants throwing Anne and Frederick together again.
                I am always struck when reading this at the “goodness” of Anne Elliot. Austen herself said that Anne Elliot was “almost too good” for her in a letter to a friend. Anne respectfully listened to well-intentioned advice from Lady Russell, and even though it perhaps robbed her of eight years of happiness she never regretted it or turned on this woman who was just doing her best to raise her in place of Anne’s late mother. Also, she comports herself well. She is bold with Wentworth when she needs to be but doesn’t do anything outrageous for a lady in this era (unlike the movie would have you believe, which has her running down the street after him). She is just cool and collected and strong and wise. Shall I go on? Can you tell that I think she is awesome?
                Something I didn't necessarily foresee was (even though I have read this more than once before), this book is so funny. In places it was laugh out loud funny. I forget that I also love Austen because of her great absurd characters.
                Personal note, when Husband and I first met…about eight years before we started dating (ahem), I learned that his favorite Austen novel was Persuasion. It really was meant to be. 
                Personal note Number 2: I have this weird feeling that I have said most of this before, but I seriously went through my whole blog to see if I have already blogged about this book, and I couldn't find anything. So, who knows. I'm sure if I go about re-reading good books I'll mention them more than once, and it would be nice to see how my opinions change anyway.

31 October 2015

Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle



This month the Reading to Know bookclub’s choice was The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was picked by Sky. I was glad to read along because I remember really disliking Sherlock Holmes when I was younger and I haven’t picked up a book about him in years. I was interested to find out what adult me thought about teenaged me’s opinions.

Reading to Know - Book Club

     As it turns out teenaged me was 100% correct. Sherlock Holmes is terrible. His poor friend Watson seems to exist merely for Holmes to project how incredibly smart he is compared to Watson. He just seemed annoyingly impressed with himself, and even though he is supposed to be very observant and intelligent I didn’t feel like it was an excuse to act like that. I was wrong however, in the story itself. I was actually pulled in right from the start and despite my aversion to the main character I found the plot interesting and even though I had a general idea (thanks Wishbone!) of how it ended, I was very engaged the entire way through.
     After the mysterious and possibly supernatural death of Sir Charles Baskerville, Sherlock Holmes is asked to look into the matter before the arrival of Sir Charles’s nephew. There is an old family legend that a supernatural Hound of Hell haunts the family because of a wicked ancestor and it is believed that the hound was the reason Sir Charles died. Holmes sends the ever ready Watson with Sir Charles’s nephew and asks him to report everything that happens. There are mysterious love interests, a bog that swallows unwitting travelers and an escaped convict. It’s all very thrilling and a quick and entertaining read.
     I am very glad I returned to it, but I don’t think Holmes will ever go down as my favorite literary character or anything. I will however, read more of the Holmes stories. As an interesting aside, I have found a series of books featuring Sherlock Holmes. The first book is set in WWI and Holmes has partnered with a fifteen year old girl to help solve crimes. I just started it so I’m not sure if it’s a terrible idea or a great one. 

(Update) After reading the other posts on this book I realize that everyone has already discovered the later Holmes stories beginning with The Beekeeper's Apprentice. And apparently they are really good. So, I'm glad I was able to start the first one.