Friday, April 30, 2010

Book 26- Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera by Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a long and tedious read. Very tedious- with tiny print, extremely detailed details, and Spanish words thrown in with no translations. This was a long story. But I made it to the end. I wanted to like this book because of the rave reviews but I wasn't a fan.

I'd like to be able to say that basic premise was... and fill in the blank but it's not that simple. We have Fermina Daza who discovers forbidden first love with Florentino Ariza but she comes to the sudden realization that they are young and innocent and silly, naive, in their love, and she rejects him. Then she later marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino, when she is merely 21 years old. She was raised by a stern father, of questionable back ground, and a spinster aunt- until her father is angry at the aunt and banishes her, leaving Fermina Daza to basically fend for herself. She marries Urbino because he will take care of her; he is symbolic of security and is very practical.

His role in the novel is to provide a counterpart to the hopelessly romantic Florentino. We also learn that Urbino, a medical doctor who wants to eradicate cholera, wasn't the best husband; about halfway into the novel he confesses an affair to his wife and she leaves him to go home with her cousins and it makes him miserable; however, the event that is the catalyst of the story is another affair Fermina Daza discovers upon the death of her husband.

Florentino is tragically scarred when he is rejected by Fermina Daza, when they are mere teenagers. He decides she is his true love and he will never marry unless he can marry "her." While he never lets himself marry, he does have approximately 622 affairs. Some of them are simply pleasures of the body that he learns to appreciate and becomes an expert at. Some women he falls in love with, and others are just romantic and/or sexual trysts, mere liaisons. He lives his entire life waiting for Fermina Daza. Though they spend most of their relationship within the book through correspondence, it seems to be a blooming love after Urbino dies. Florentino and Fermina don't even have face to face conversations until the end of the novel, about the last 20-30 pages of the book.

The novel is set somewhere in the Caribbean, in a poor port town, around 1880s through the 1930s (maybe 1940s).

This is basically a story about unrequited love. A man loves a woman and she marries someone else until she learns she could love someone.

Fermina is a very unlikable character. I didn't enjoy her story and I didn't really enjoy her character. I do have to say, once I got through the tedious reading of the early courtship of batted eye lashes and throbbing heartbeats, I liked how the story played out, but I never LIKED Fermina.

The huge amount of details made this a long and rough read. For example, I feel like we had page after page after page about how Fermina got up in the morning and the routine she had with Urbino. I didn't need to know all that. Say it once, one way, and be done with it. This happened many, many times throughout different scenes in the book.

So while I didn't really enjoy this book, I am glad I read it. I did get involved in the stories of the characters and it was great to see it to the end. I also have to say this took me three weeks to read. This book me took longer to read than any book in my life. And it was only 348 pages.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book 25: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett reads like a work of fiction, like a sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair, only it's so much better because it's all real.

Journalist Bartlett follows John Gilkey, a man obsessed with rare books and became a successful book thief, and the man who became his pursuer, one who is also obsessed with rare books, Ken Sanders. Sanders is a life long lover of rare books, a bibliophile, who turned into an amateur detective to stop the man who is pillaging the things he loves most: those rare books.

As Bartlett reports on Gilkey's thieving ways, first making contact with him while he was in prison, there for the first time after a successful sting operation set up by Sanders, she becomes enmeshed in the world of books herself. Her interaction with Sanders,Gilkey , other books sellers, and the literary world of rare books weaves her into her own story, letting her see her own personal relationships with books and the written.

Not only do we see Bartlett's personal history with books, but we are treated to Sander's views as a rare books expert, and his self appointed title as "bibliodick"- a man who wants to catch book thieves, any book thieves, but especially Gilkey.

We also hear first hand accounts of Gilkey's thieving ways. He shares with Bartlett how he did it; from the bad checks to the phone deceptions to the credit card fraud. His mindset isn't that of a man who wants to steal this rare classics for the money, but for the prestige, the romance of book owning, the validation of having something so exquisite , just to steal for the pure joy of owning an autographed first edition of a book. He wanted these to build his own private library, not for any reason other than he just loved books. But Gilkey is a con man; has he conned himself into being a book lover or is there something else?

Bartlett paints an interesting portrait of a man who will resort to almost anything for books. I love the all over view she gives us ofGilkey-- I left this book feeling like he was slimy but I envied that he had, even if by illegal means, he touched and "owns" these wonderful classics. I learned an amazing amount about the world of book collecting; and it just reinforced my own personal feelings that books are to be treated like friends.

This was an amazing book with an even more amazing story. I appreciate that Bartlett's style spun a tale in the style of fiction but is still very real. Worthy of more than just one read!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Book 24- The Castaways

In Elin Hilderbrand's book The Castaways readers meet a close-knit group of four successful Nantucket couples; Greg and Tess MacAvoy had what everybody wanted: the looks, enough money, a happy marriage, a seemingly loving relationship, and 2 adorable twins. Or so it seemed to their friends:

  • Delilah Drake, the voluptuous free bird married to sturdy and steady farmer Jeffrey.
  • The wealthy and affluent Addison and his drug addled wife Phoebe Wheeler
  • Andrea, cousin- stand in mom- big sister and best friend to Tess and her solid and stoic husband Chief of Police Ed
Tragedy and mystery abound when Greg and Tess sail to Maratha's Vineyard to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary and mysteriously drown. Their deaths reveal tons of secrets among the 8 friends who had dubbed themselves the Castaways.

Author Elin Hilderbrand looks deeply into the hearts and minds of each of the six surviving friends, revealing old flames and new affairs, and secrets of the two dead. Was Greg involved with high school student April Peck? Was Tess going to leave Greg for Addison? Who would get custody of the kids?

Set on the beautiful island of Nantucket, with wind and surf and money and vacations and flashbacks, this fictional novel will reveal the answers to all questions and tie up all the secrets, regardless of who may or may not get hurt.

Interesting story, an easy read, a little mystery but certainly a look at the hearts of minds of f couple friends and their inner workings.

I liked this beach read!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cornelia Read's newest out now!

Author Cornelia Read has a new book about, her third about Madeline Dare. I LOVE this woman's books! Insightful, so very, very smart, the character is likable, dry wit, good mystery... I'm thrilled it's finally out now! I've waited forever for Invisible Boy. I love her writing style- she is a smart lady and I love how she doesn't pander to readers but she gives them words to chew on and a story to think about.

Her first two Madeline Dare novels are A Field of Darkness and Crazy School.

Thank you, Ms. Read, for delivering a new novel! Can't wait to get my hands on it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book 23- That Was Then, This is Now

That was Then, This is Now is a young adult novel written by SE Hinton.

Bryon and Mark have been friends forever, and are closer than brothers. When Mark is left 'parentless' he goes to live with Bryon and his mother. They are poor kids, living in a city ghetto, during the beginning of Hippies and the Vietnam Draft, and the end of the Greasers.

These boys date girls, smoke lots of fags, cruise, skip school, get in fights, and hustle pool games. Then things start to change. Bryon meets Cathy. He's always been a good student in school and he stays focused academically and even gets a job. Mark, on the other hand, doesn't change and can't understand Bryon. Mark just lives in the moment, for the action.

Then something happens- Bryon makes a discovery about Mark and his choices will affect both boys for the rest of their lives.

I've read 2 other books by Hinton, RumbleFish and The Outsiders. All three novels have the same theme, same characters, same story line concepts. But she does appeal to the young adult reader, and this novel specifically, is at the 7th grade reading level and are classroom teachable, which was my whole purpose for reading it.

Hinton fans will continue to be fans.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Book 22- Caught

Caught is an easy to read thriller by Harlan Coben.

Haley, age 17, goes missing. She just vanishes, without a trace. She's a good girl, an athlete, a nice kid, well liked, and there's no reason for her to run away. She just disappears, and for three months her community, her family, her friends, everyone, assumes the worst.

Wendy Tynes is an expose tv reporter whose specialty is revealing sex offenders that she catches through cyberspace. While working on a sting with the local police she targets Dan Mercer, a social worker and man who is known as a friend to kids in need. However, Dan isn't what he seems and Wendy's investigation becomes more complicated than what she could have imagined.

As she gets further and further into the case, she discovers she lots of things are not as they seem. She starts questioning her own motives as well as those entwined in her story.

Great thriller, easy to read, a nice "beach" read.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book 21- Bite Me: A Love Story [#3]

I don't think the vampire genre speaks to me. I adore Christopher Moore- I have a literary love love love relationship with this author (I think his novel Fool is one of the best books EVER written) but I just finished the third in the "love story" vampire series, Bite Me: A Love Story.... and well, I think suffice it to say, it's not my favorite Christopher Moore novel.

We have the cast of characters from the previous two books (Bloodsucking Fiends, and You Suck) back in this newest adventure. Let me see if I can remotely summarize this... Chet the giant cat gets turned into a vampire kitty and reeks havoc on the city of San Francisco. So minion emo girl Abby Normal and her boyfriend Foo Dog (aka Steve) [aka the love monkey], the scientist are trying to save the city. Then Abby's gay goth BFF Jared accidentally ruptures the bronze tomb in which vampyres Jody and Tommy have been enshrouded and they come free to try and help save the city from the vampy kittys and other evil stuff. Cops Rivera and the gay Cavuto as well as the Animals, the Emperor and his men, and a few new badasses join forces to stop vampire rats, vampire kitties, and other dark evil stuff from happening.

Yeah, okay... that all sounds about right.

I adore Moore's penchant for the absurd, the outrageous, the crude, the bawdy, the snarky, the left field-ness of it all. But for me.... this book crossed the line. I didn't enjoy it all. I hated that the narration voice changed to Abby- written in totally OMFG Goth, emo whiny teen girl slang, you be-yotches! I work with kids like this, so reading it was.... work. And then it was a pure 'delight' (note Maggie being snarky) to read through the perspective of Marvin the corpse sniffing canine or Chet the vampyre kitty.

And there wasn't enough Jody and Tommy. And when Abby got her brief stint as Nosferatu I wanted to hurl the book across the room-- only it was new library book so I had to respect the pages.

When I read Moore, I know I'm in for a ride to the places of far-out-ness but this was too much. I hope he decides this is a trilogy and it's over. Dear goddess of darkness, please let it be over.

By the way, I'm not using this as my "Food for Thought" book... all food within these chapters was laced with blood... uh, yeah.

But hey Mr. Moore, if you read this, I still love your work, your mind, and think you're one of the most brilliant writers ever... and I would, like, totally be your love slave minion, OMFG, I so totally, like, would!

Book 20- The Wives of Henry Oades

The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran is an interesting tale, and could even be considered by some to be a modern day morality tale. Should Mr. Oades have two wives, because of the odd circumstances?

The beginning of the book find a young Henry Oades and his young family, leaving their London home to set sail for New Zealand so he may take a fancy post in this foreign land, as an accountant for Her Majesty The Queen. Without asking his wife, as it was during the latter part of the 1800s, the endured a terrible sailing vessel to bring them to their new life. Their new home and its land was harder on Margaret (Meg), Henry's wife. It didn't live up to the privileged standards she had grown accustom whilst living in London.

After settling in, having twins, now bringing their count of children up to four, they lived in a quaint cottage. Margaret and the children finally found some peace and Henry was doing quite well for himself in his accounting position. Until one day he came home and found his house burned to the ground, a charred body, and his children gone; the cannibals had come and made off with his family.

For three years he hunted and searched the wilds of New Zealand, many thinking him mad. He left the country, alone, thinking he was a widower, one who lost not only his beloved wife, but their four children. He boarded passage to California, coming to work as a hired hand on a dairy farm in Berkley.

Through unusual circumstances, he came a proper and well respected dairyman and in time, took a young wife, Nancy, who herself was a very young widow with a baby.

Then, six years after their disappearance, his first wife and children show up, alive, having escaped captivity.

The story then unfolds as to what happens with two wives and Henry and the children. Their story was publicized by an angry and scathing newspaper account, bringing them into the eyes of the law. Then they suffer through countless legal situations and trials, on the charges of bigamy.

This story weaves the lives of the women, of the man they both love, defining what if family and what is marriage, all at the turn of the century America.

I liked this story very much. The characters of Meg and Nancy are the heart of this tale, with Henry only being peripheral, believe it or not. It's really a story of two women and their endurance. What an interesting idea and a great book.

What I enjoyed most is the strength of Margaret. While I didn't always find her to be likable, I like that the author made her strong. There was not dwelling on the captivity they endured, no yammering about and crying about what happened, to whining about all that was lost, not tantrums, no post-traumatic stress disorder, no manipulation. It was just a fabulous story of a strong woman dealing the cards she was dealt and figuring out how to get on with her life, for the sake of her children, more than anything else.

I give high praise for this novel.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Too Many Books?

I have a pile of books and nothing is appealing. What's up with that?

Actually, I might know what's up with that. These are all books I've wanted to read but they weren't available when I WANTED to read them, so not having the money to buy them, I put them on reserve at the library. Now the books are starting to arrive and... I think I'm out of the mood. I can't decide if I should just hang on to them until they're due back and see if the mood strikes me to read them, or if I should just return them and add them back to my "to read" list and see if I can get through them another day.

I wish I could just afford to buy them as I want to read them rather than put them on reserve and then wait, the mood passes but now I feel obligated. Drat!

I have 2 books home about Sally Hemmings, the woman who was supposed to be the love of Thomas Jefferson's live. Oh, but she was his black slave... one is fictional and it reads like some little old lady who thought Gone was the Wind was the ideal model to follow when writing a book but she wrote it back in the 70's when she wanted to clamp down on the sexual revolution and tell women is was okay to be enslaved. The other one is a biography of Jefferson, focusing on his relationship with Hemmings and it's... cumbersome to say the least. I became interested in Hemmings because a few weeks ago, my 8th graders in social studies were learning about the Jefferson era.

I also have home a fictional novel about vanGogh as told by his favorite prostitute call Sunflowers. I just can't get into it right now. This is the second time I've had it home from the library and I was loving it the first time but I didn't get it finished and there was a looooooong waiting list so I returned it. And am now struggling. (But I do so love fictional novels based in reality, like Teddy Roosevelt and his lover Lucy Mercer, depicted in the novel Lucy! Excellent book!)

I have Chris Moore's brand new book, Bite Me. He is one of my favorite all time authors. ALL TIME! And I am struggling. Now it could be because it's the third in the Tommy Flood loves Jody and gets turned into a vampire so they can be together for all eternity but things go terribly wrong series, and they are my least favorite books. His last book FOOL was one of the best books I've ever read in my life and now my least favorite characters are his follow up so that could be the issue. And he writes in teen girl speak quite a bit- I'm on spring break and didn't have to hear teen girl speak for a week but now I'm reading it so.... I'm just bummed that I'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I would, and I was so excited to get it over spring break...

I have Of Mist and Bees, what the blurb describes as a modern day ghost story, Love in the Time of Chlora, which I need to read before the end of the month for book club about a man who is madly in love with a woman but manages to have 622 affairs since he can't have her, something about Mr Oade's Women... and several others I can't seem to remember, which certainly doesn't bode well for me even reading them.

To top it off, I have a book home I REALLY want to read, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much but I have to get through Bite Me and Cholra first. And I've been struggling along with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for a month. I LIKE "Zombies" but I've been trying to only read it at school for our required daily reading time, which is only 15 minutes. I think I need to sit down and just chomp through this to get it done- yes, the pun was intended. I think it merits more than 15 minutes at a time to read; it needs more.

Maybe I just have too many books home right now. I think today I'm going to weed the stack down and return a bunch to the library. I used to always keep a huge amount of books on hand so if I didn't like something I would have something else on hand. But that's when I was averaging about 10 books a month. I'm not anywhere near that number this year so maybe I don't need to keep 15 books at home all the time... maybe I could keep 7.

I always have a back up pile of books I own but haven't gotten around to reading yet so I could lean on those if I read through my library books.

I have no idea. I'm just doing other things than reading these days and my head is full of distractions, work, finding new work, quilting, writing, sewing, film....

The time I spend writing this I could've been reading...


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book 19- On Mystic Lake

Stupid romance novel. Kristin Hannah suckered me again with On Mystic Lake. One minute I think it's a story of redemption and the next minute it's a crappy old love story. and not even a very creative one, or well written.

Annie's husband Blake leaves her after a 20 year marriage. She thought she was the perfect housewife, wife and mother. She goes back to her hometown of Mystic, Washington. There she reunited with her old friend from high school, Nick. Nick had married Kathy, who was Annie's best friend. But Kathy had died, leaving Nick and their six year old daughter Izzy alone. So Annie tried to help Nick stop drinking and to help Izzy speak again.

Of course she falls in love with Nick and then stuff happens and she has to make a choice between Blake and Nick.

Bunch of crap if you ask me.

Not a fan; can ya tell?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book 18- In the Woods

This was an amazing mystery thriller, a first novel by Tana French, an Irish author who penned In the Woods.

Detectives Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan are partners and best friends. Never has theirs been a romantic relationship but they are so close, the fellow cops in the Dublin Murder squad thought they were a couple as well.

They get called to a case: a dead 12 year old girl in a wood. Now they have to find her killer.

The twist of it all is, 20 years ago in the same woods, Rob and his 2 best friends were playing and his friends went missing and he went home. They were never heard or seen again. Rob had changed his identify and getting the case of a new dead child was a fluke. It also re-opens all his old wounds and some new memories about his friends.

This is an interesting book because of all the different story lines. Maddox and Ryan are trying to solve the dead girl case, trying to see if it ties into the old case of Ryan's friends. There's the dance between them, that relationship. There's a nice deep look into Ryan and his psyche. These are wonderfully developed characters, with rich narration told first person through Ryan, with vivid detail, but not so much the reader feels incessantly bogged down.

I was impressed all the way around and will be hunting for the next book by French. It's a smart read, and it takes place in Dublin so not only was my intellect challenged and stimulated, I was reading about my "happy place."