My Book Reviews

My Book Reviews

The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First off, “freshperson.” Freshperson? Freshperson! Really?

Okay. The word “freshperson” set the tone for the entire book for me.

1. It’s beyond pretentious.
2. It’s a silly word.
3. It’s a prime example of Political Correctness, run amok. Bleh.
4. All the characters said it, like it was the most normal word in the world.

So right off the bat (pun intended, haha) I thought Harbach was a politically correct, pretentious snob. It didn’t help that the book took place at a private college that picked its mascot based on its distant connection to Herman Melville or that a character spent his time in the dugout, reading, and had the nickname “Buddha.” Throw in some Proust and wash it down with the scotch all the characters love so much, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious heartburn.

BUT…

I liked the book anyway. The story was nice and I cared about the characters, even if they weren’t all that complex (aside from their sophisticated tastes, no matter what their upbringing.) I enjoyed the baseball angle and I thought the ending was nice and neatly wrapped.

I honestly don’t understand the hype. It’s a good book. The writing is solid and I suspect there’s some references I didn’t quite get. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m not sophisticated to understand it. All I know is the whole time I was reading, something was niggling at my brain. Who does this remind me of? It wasn’t until I got to the passage about Henry wanting to save his urine and feces that it dawned on me.

Jonathan Franzen.

Harbach is Franzen-lite. Upper middle/upper class, bed-hopping, fickle characters who may or may not have a fascination with their own waste. Fortunately, Harbach’s characters are infinitely more likable.

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Eat, Pray, LoveEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Maybe it wasn’t fair going into this book with the movie’s trailer in my mind. Because I hated the trailer. It annoyed me and not even Julia Roberts could help that. So I went into this book expecting to be annoyed. And I was. Immensely annoyed.

This is some of the most self-involved, self-indulgent nonsense I’ve ever read. And I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Gilbert knew it, or she wouldn’t have spent the entire book apologizing for herself or explaining that she really isn’t as selfish as she sounds. I’m not going to address the fallacy of her theological arguments because it’s not important, despite the enormous amount of time she spent on the subject. “Cherry-picking” from all religions to build a religion that suits you is very…convenient. I’ll just leave it at that.

I will say I learned some interesting things about Italy, India, and Indonesia and this book does make me want to visit these places. Beyond that, what a waste of time.

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Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and RunTuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run by Lucy Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People are strange. In the South, we call these strange people eccentrics. They’re totally crazy, but it’s our kind of crazy. Their quirks make for excellent stories. Lucy Adams, who happens to be a fantastic storyteller, brings these stories to life in Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. The best part? She’s a little crazy herself–answering misdirected emails, eavesdropping on private dinner conversations, and, of course, strutting around with her skirt tucked into her panties.

The book is divided into short, hilarious chapters that cover everything from southern rules of etiquette to chocolate body paint. It’s a great read when you need a good laugh and when you’ve just done something embarrassing. We’ve all been there and the only thing to do is laugh. And look over your shoulder. Lucy Adams may be watching…

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A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I was confused for the first few chapters because it was so familiar but I knew I hadn’t read it before. I was told it was made into the movie “Simon Birch” and was, quite frankly, more confused. It had a few of the same events and characters but it was completely different. Then I read that Irving hated “Simon Birch” and I can completely understand why. I can’t imagine how it felt to have his book, his baby, warped and twisted into that unrecognizable mess. Well, I digress.

I really liked this book. I adored Owen Meany, almost as much as I was freaked out by him. He is definitely the most unique character I’ve seen in a long time. I was also pleasantly surprised by Irving’s handling of religion. It’s refreshing to read a book that criticizes specific beliefs or believers, but not an entire belief system. I was waiting for the conclusion, “God is dead” or “We are God,” but it never happened. In fact, I was impressed by Irving’s examination of faith, particularly the ways in which people come to their particular beliefs. It’s not a “religious” book, but religion was extremely important to the plot.

As much as I liked “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” it had its problems. First, it was entirely too long. Irving is the master of character development, but I don’t think it was necessary to know Owen’s every thought about every little thing. Of course there was a great deal of foreshadowing involved, but even some of that was a little much. I was also a little put off by the political stuff. It wasn’t heavy-handed or anything, but it still got on my nerves. I think it’s because readers have no choice but to swallow the pill. That’s a strictly personal opinion, though.

Overall, I thought the book was great and I can’t wait to read more John Irving.
The Elegance of the HedgehogThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this, I was torn between two distinct impressions. I either loved it, or I hated it. So, I did what I try never to do. I went and read some other people’s reviews. I discovered The Elegance of the Hedgehog is one of those polarizing books. Those who hate it do so with a fierceness and those who love it, with a sigh. After reading both types of reviews, I came to the conclusion that I lean more toward the “love it” opinion.

Those who hate it have valid arguments. The inner dialogue of these characters is extremely unrealistic. Their tendency to make every conversation a (sometimes inspiring, sometimes insipid) philosophical one is irksome. Who could bear to partake in such conversations ALL THE TIME? The characters, who were supposed to be sympathetic, were elitist snobs, despite their youth, occupation, etc. The ending was contrived. The philosophy, unremarkable.

So why the four stars? All of the above. Unrealistic and contrived, but having merit all the same. The point of this book was to explore the possibility that people are not what they seem. It didn’t promise we’d like them, it just promised we’d be surprised. Are the readers supposed to sympathize? Of course. And I did, despite the fact that intellectual elitism is as bad as the financial variety. Everyone feels superior about something, whether we admit it or not. The something is what’s surprising here.

There were several people (usually philosophy graduates) attacking the philosophy, calling it “dime-store.” Maybe it was. Who cares? It’s far more interesting to see people review a book about elitism with elitist attitudes, proving Barbery’s point better than she did. It’s much easier to remain silent and anonymous than to tell the world what you think, opening yourself up to criticism, pain, and rejection.

I’m no philosophy major. I found some of Barbery’s observations beautiful and inspiring, putting into words thoughts I had myself. Other times, I thought she was an idiot. The good outweighed the bad by a long shot. So, I guess that makes me one of the uneducated masses, who swallows and lauds dime-store philosophy simply because it’s peppered with names like Sartre, Kant, and the like. I’m okay with that.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog gets a solid four stars from me.

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P.G. Wodehouse : Five Complete Novels (The Return of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster Sees It Through, Spring Fever, The Butler Did It, The Old Reliable)P.G. Wodehouse : Five Complete Novels by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. Formulaic? Yes. Predictable? Yes Hilarious? You betcher. Love the humor, the language, the characters, and the ridiculous predicaments. Good, quick, and enjoyable read.

A Moveable FeastA Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this book. The story is fascinating. Paris in the 1920’s was teeming with the great writers and artists of the time and Hemingway wrote about them all. His characterizations are sometimes scathing, sometimes amusing, at times heartbreaking, but always honest. His reflections on Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald were especially poignant. It was kind of like reading a juicy tell-all but one that was skillfully written and about people one might have a modicum of respect for.

I didn’t just love the story but also how it’s written. Hemingway talks about writing “one true sentence” and his dedication to “mot juste.” These are the keys to Hemingway’s best writing and A Moveable Feast is quintessential Hemingway. The writing is sharp. I could smell, taste, and see Paris when reading this book. I could feel the thrill of the races. I could feel the intense love he had for his friends and his wife. I experienced the regret when everything began to change and he knew nothing would ever be the same again.

Undoubtedly, Hemingway portrays himself in a more advantageous light than those who knew him would ever dream of doing. It’s the nature of “autobiographies” to do so, and I prefer to believe that’s how he wished he had been. Maybe I just have an unhealthy love of Hemingway, but I don’t care. I’ve read nearly everything he’s written and this is my favorite.

C’est magnifique.

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I learned a lot from this book.

1. Reviewers should never, ever compare books to Orwells’s 1984.

2. Reviewers should also never ask if there really is such a thing as a “woman’s novel.”

3. It’s possible to enjoy READING a book, but still dislike that same book.

I like Margaret Atwood’s work and I really wanted to like this. All the elements were there: intriguing characters, sinister plots, cryptic clues, and horrific realizations. The problem was that I didn’t buy it. The big reveal and the events that led up to it were simply unbelievable.

It was a huge (and very quick) jump from civil unrest and declining population to what was Gilead. Honestly, I don’t think it mattered if or how such a thing could happen. This book is typical “feminist” literature designed to bemoan the feminine “experience” but frankly only serves to solidify gender stereotypes. The depiction of the patriarchal society was cliche. For example, all forms of entertainment are banned except football games. The categorization of women into housekeepers, teachers, wives, breeders, and whores is standard feminist fare and I frankly get tired of hearing and reading about it.

There are elements of the story that work. The brainwashing techniques used in The Republic of Gilead are authentic–indoctrination, torture, distortion of religious texts, and no access to education. There was also a genuine terror in how “normal” everyone and everything appeared. I still felt like I was reading a “women’s novel” trying to be 1984.

Why did I give it 3 stars? The writing. Few authors can turn a phrase like Margaret Atwood. She takes the familiar and transforms it into something else entirely. Offred’s narrative is haunting, clever, and heartbreaking. It was almost enough.

Rooftops of TehranRooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was really good. I loved the characters and cared what happened to them. The Rooftops of Tehran is a familiar coming of age story exploring the overwhelming feelings of first love, rebellion, and trying to find a place in the world. What makes it unfamiliar is the setting. Seraji does a wonderful job of describing the atmosphere and the people of Iran at a time of revolution. The violence and uncertainty of the times add an interesting dynamic to an already confusing time in the characters’ lives. The story is heartbreaking but at the same time hopeful. I learned some things about the Persian culture and the tendency of all people to make judgements on cultures they know very little about. This was an enjoyable read and I will definitely be looking for more from Mahbod Seraji.

The Unbearable Lightness of BeingThe Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Never trust a blurb to tell you what a book is about. “In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight…This magnificent novel encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, and embraces, it seems, all aspects of human existence.” Uh, yeah right. This novel was about one aspect of human existence. This novel was about sex.

All the characters were generally deplorable people whose varying degrees of dysfunction were displayed in their sexual practices and attitudes. What made it worse, is that Kundera tried to make it seem like a “deep” or “philosophical” approach in defining his characters. The constant intrusions of the author to validate this tripe was annoying, particularly his liberal use of Nietzsche and Beethoven.

The characters weren’t likeable. In fact, they were annoying. The only two characters with any redeeming qualities were Franz and Karenin. Both have tragic and depressing ends and one of them was a dog.

The book had its moments, which is why I read the whole thing, but they were few and far between. Chapter 23 of Part 6 was kind of an ah-ha moment. Overall, I found it self-indulgent. The title? Can you get any more pretentious than “The Unbearable Lightness of Being?”

I heard somewhere that there were really only two opinions of this book–you love it or you hate it. I choose the latter.

The Capture (Guardians of Ga'hoole)The Capture by Kathryn Lasky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book to screen it for my son. It’s kind of like a Lord of the Rings for kids, but with owls– Good vs. Evil, misfit companions, mysterious legends, sinister plots, and even a little poetry. The story is interesting and the characters are likeable. I also learned a lot about owls. There are something like 16 books in the series which will keep my son busy. I’m interested to see if the story can support such a large number of books.

Object LessonsObject Lessons by Anna Quindlen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was okay, but the flashbacks drove me crazy! Sometimes there was a flashback within a flashback. There’s nothing profound about this book. It’s your typical coming of age story but there are a few nice moments. It would be a good beach or doctor’s office read.

The History of LoveThe History of Love by Nicole Krauss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could read this for the first time over and over again. It’s not very often that I feel I’ve discovered something. I loved everything about this book. The characters were real and lovely and tragic. The story was meticulous and intriguing and touching. The writing was superb and funny and beautiful. I really don’t know what else to say.

I’m anxious and a little afraid to read more from Nicole Krauss. Anxious and afraid because this book was perfection and I find it hard to believe she could possibly live up to the ridiculous standard I’ve set for her in my mind. We shall see.

BlessingsBlessings by Anna Quindlen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, Anna Quindlen loves flashbacks. Object Lessons was infected with them. It’s distracting and the whole time I’m reading all I can think of is a scene from the 1980’s Chevy Chase movie, “Funny Farm.” His wife is reading his “masterpiece” novel and bursts out crying. She says something like,
There’s all these flashbacks. I’m not sure when any of this is taking place. There are flashforwards, flashbacks, and even a flashsideways.

That being said, Blessings is not as awkward as Object Lessons, and it’s much better.

It’s a good quick read and I actually cried at the end of it. Of course, that may have been my mom gene exposing itself. The subject was heart-rending and I could empathize with Skip. The story line with the brother was predictable and kind of cliche–a snappy dresser; full lips and a weak chin? Really? If you read it you’ll see what I mean. No great literary feat, but enjoyable. Good airplane, doctor’s office, or DMV read. I think I’ve said that about another Anna Quindlen book. Oh well, lucky for her, a lot of people spend a lot of time in airplanes, doctor’s offices, and the DMV.

The Heart Is a Lonely HunterThe Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not sure I understood this book but I am sure that it is depressing. It seems to be about the basic human need to be heard and understood. The main characters thought they found the person who “knew” what they were saying and understood everything. Everyone who came into contact with the man felt this and he became a folk legend in the town, knowing everything about oppression, longing, foreign cultures, Marxism, whatever they wanted him to understand. Unfortunately, the person they chose was a deaf mute (Mr. Sanger) who could read lips, but was simply bewildered by what they said. He would simply smile politely, answer direct questions and was quick to offer refreshments. In reality, he was just like them. While he didn’t speak, he could sign. He had a friend who was also a deaf mute and he spent his time “talking” to him, despite the fact that the friend didn’t sign back, would only smile or frown, depending on the amount of food and drink that was offered to him. When this friend was confined to a mental institution, Mr. Sanger existed for the brief visits he was allowed. On these visits, he signed himself into a frenzy while his friend simply looked at him with expressions varying from vacancy to indulgence. On his final visit to the mental hospital he learns that his friend is dead, goes home, and kills himself. Then the miserable lives of the people in the town continue.

I know there is a lot more to this story. The writing is good. The characters are excellently drawn and their lives are interesting and heartbreaking. There is a lesson to be learned but really when I finished I just felt too depressed to think about it. Perhaps I should read it again when I’m in a more analytical mood.

Under the NetUnder the Net by Iris Murdoch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inexplicably, this is the first Iris Murdoch book I’ve ever read. I enjoyed it very much. It’s a story of self-actualization without the usual melancholy ruminations. There was a perfect blend of comedy and solemnity. It was also nice to read a “nice” book–no unnecessary dirty words or situations.

Great read.

E.M. Forster: Three Complete Novels: Howards End, A Room With a View, Where Angels Fear to TreadE.M. Forster: Three Complete Novels: Howards End, A Room With a View, Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These were all great but I think too much Jane Austen has conditioned me to expect happy endings. I was incredibly frustrated when the characters didn’t make the obviously “correct’ decisions. As I read, I was always shouting “No! Don’t do it!” in my head. Of course, that’s what makes E.M. Forster great and these novels so compelling. Real life is messy and full of selfish or confused people who won’t or can’t do the right thing–for other people or even for themselves.

Reading E.M. Forster is kind of like reading Thomas hardy-Lite. While the characters are members of the upper middle class, they are still striving for happiness and high ideals and are thwarted by Fate. The results are simply less dramatic (for the most part) and less depressing (hardly anyone dies).

So, I guess I’m saying that E.M. Forster is that unique combination of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. Since I love both authors, that is high praise indeed.

Man Walks Into a RoomMan Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am conflicted about this book. I really wanted to give it three and a half stars. On one hand, the writing is excellent and the characters engaging. There are some interesting philisophical discussions and endearing comedic interludes. On the other hand, the story has some weak points and I found myself thinkig, “Who cares? Get on with the story!”

While the premise is interesting and the phrasing is very good, there is a sense of aimlessness in the execution. The action starts quickly but starts to drag. It takes a long time to get to the turning point in the story and when it occurs, it’s kind of a letdown. From the beginning, I was waiting for a big revelation or ah-ha moment, but it never quite happens.

There are interesting characters in the story but their presence is brief and left me wanting to see more of them and less of the main character. While I wouldn’t call Samson unlikeable, he is sometimes exasperating. He is drawn to fascinating people but is unable to develop these relationships because he never says the things he wants to say. Samson shows moments of spontaneity but ruins them by holding back at key moments.

The ideas in this book are thought-provoking. What would you do if you woke up and couldn’t remember anything beyond the first 12 years of your life? Would you try to do everything you could to remember? Samson is never really drawn to remember what he has forgotten. He thinks he wanted to forget. He thinks he can build a new life and become a new person. Because the reader doesn’t know what Samson was before the memory loss and we depend on the recollections of the people who knew him, we assume that he is an entirely different person. However, the epilogue shows this to be untrue. His wife remembers him as distant and “autumnal.” While his taste in clothes may have changed, his basic traits are the same. Whatever the cause for his memory loss, we are left with the impression that his life won’t end up very different than it was before–fond memories of childhood and the countdown to the nuclear explosion that obliterates everything.

I am a big fan of Nicole Krauss. She manages to put into words the confusing and complex emotions involved in personal relationships. She makes heartbreaking situations a joy to behold. Man Walks Into A Room shows the beginnings of this gift. Nicole Krauss’s second novel, History of Love, is the culmination of it. Unfortunately, I read History of Love first.

Great HouseGreat House by Nicole Krauss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic. I took the time to write down all the characters and how they connect to one another. It is fascinating and very well done. Love, love, love it.

Hindsight Review: I’ve had time to reconsider and I think it’s just okay.  The connections weren’t all that great and the fact that I had to write them down proves it.  Some characters were really well-developed, others, not so much.  I look forward to Krauss’s next book and hope, hope, hope it can even begin to live up to The History of Love.

Home to Holly SpringsHome to Holly Springs by Jan Karon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Typical Jan Karon. Nothing profound but a nice uplifting book about charming colorful characters. Unlike a lot of Christian fiction, the “religious talk” is not so heavyhanded so the dialogue is actually believable. Everything works out [too]perfectly but that is sometimes just what I need.

I will say that the epilogue was a little lazy.  Jan Karon’s first books about Father Tim were much better.

The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like reading an Agatha Christie every now and then. They’re easy, amusing, usually offensive in some way, and always written to form. There’s a certain comfort in knowing beforehand what the general outline of a story will be. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, however, broke from the traditional Agatha Christie formula and the effect was quite pleasing.

I don’t read mysteries often and when I do, I’m not really interested in trying to figure out who did it before the big reveal at the end. If I figure it out, what’s the use in reading the confounded thing? It’s the mark of a really bad mystery if I figure it out early and I immediately stop reading if that happens.

I can safely say I didn’t see where this was going, but I managed to figure it out approximately five pages before the end. It was a nice payoff, even when Agatha Christie resorted to explaining her cleverness through the manuscipt of Dr. Sheppard.

It gets four stars for pure ingenuity (for an Agatha Christie novel).

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not going to review this book. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better by somebody else. I only regret that it took my nearly 33 years to read it.

O Pioneers! (Bantam Classic)O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An ok story but I don’t think it should’ve been included on Radcliffe’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. It’s kind of depressing, as are most books on the list. I wish I could read something more upbeat. Alas, the next book is The Color Purple.

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book from start to finish in one sitting–a four and a half hour sitting. I didn’t know what to expect but I certainly didn’t expect to get so caught up in it. There are so many things I love about this book but I think they’re all related to the same thing. That would be the characters. Every character Walker introduces manages to get a full story–beginning, middle, and end. Even more amazingly, these characterizations don’t feel lazy or contrived. Some people got what they deserved and some didn’t, but I was satisfied.

I think this was an excellent novel, but it may not be for everyone. I’ll just say, “Some material may be inappropriate for some readers” and leave it at that.

The Anchor Book of New Irish WritingThe Anchor Book of New Irish Writing by John Daly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this one. Some of the stories were really good and a couple were really bad. Most fell somewhere in between. I wouldn’t base your decision to read it on my review. I have never compeltely understood the art of the shorty story. I can usually tell when it’s a good one. However, if I don’t like it, I’m always afraid I just missed something.

The story of the German Parachutist, which I liked, kind of sums up my expectations of a short story. Unfortunately, I think the author was being ironic. Oh well, I admit I’m out of my depth.

“…But this is not a novel. In a novel, one has more time. Anything might happen…But in a short story, rush is undesirable…”

The JungleThe Jungle by Upton Sinclair

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an excellent book. The main character is Jurgis, an immigrant in the early 1900s. He comes to United States to find the American Dream. What he finds instead is the meat packing industry and government corruption of Chicago.

The things described in this book are horrible. The lack of sanitation. The exploitation of immigrant workers. The corruption of unions and government. The hell that Jurgis goes through is heart-breaking and mind-numbing.

I liked how Upton Sinclair addressed the issue from all angles. While it was primarily about the injustice done to the workers, he does argue the side of the management and owners when it is appropriate, which was not often. He also describes the widespread corruption, from the lower levels of management to the higher-ups, the government, and the unions. It was fairly balanced. In fact, I was wondering how the book would end as there didn’t seem to be any answers.

Silly me. I should’ve known better. Sinclair devotes the last few chapters to the movement that necessarily sprang from such horrendous conditions. Socialism.

Jurgis gets involved in the Socialist movement that claims everyone would be able to do the work they were capable of doing for a fair share of food, money, and leisure. A society where everyone is equal and there are no bosses. Standard utopian ideal–lovely to think of, but impossible to achieve.

The book ended with a group of people discussing the merits of socialism. It’s a nice debate between two people who have very different ideas of what socialism actually entails. Then Sinclair takes it a step further. He uses one character to describe what I guess is Sinclair’s ideal. Socialism is a start, but still has inherent flaws. This is also done well in that it addresses the pitfalls in the Socialist ideal. Unfortunately, his version is even harder to carry out, as long as man is what he is.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am not a fan of Socialism. My frustration with the idea is magnified by the fact that nearly every book I’ve read in the last three or four months have all focused on Socialism. It’s beginning to annoy me. I’m working on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th century, and it seems like Socialism is a pre-requisite for making the list.

I gave THE JUNGLE four stars. The story is interesting and the writing is excellent. I am simply sick of the Socialism angle. It’s a great book and probably merits five stars, but it’s my review, and I don’t have to be objective.

The Call of the Wild (Apple Classics)The Call of the Wild by Jack London

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish I would have read this book when I was younger. It may have helped if I was a boy, as well. It was very violent and kind of depressing. I wouldn’t recommend it to an avid dog lover.
An epic tale of the struggles between domestication and instinct, love and hate, and desire and duty. My favorite part? No socialism. Anywhere. Purely survival of the fittest. It was refreshing.

The last few chapters are heartbreaking and made the book worthwhile. I would’ve liked it better when I was younger, but I am glad that I read it.

The Magnificent AmbersonsThe Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one is on The Modern Library’s List of Top 100 Novels of the 20th century. It was okay. I don’t know that it qualifies as the best of anything. I suppose it made the list because it deals with a time when society was changing. An old family name was losing its power, being replaced by captains of industry and fathers of invention. It was a time when small respectable towns began to expand and it was no longer “the thing” to live in the center of town. Suburbia was on the horizon.

The Magnificent Ambersons tells the stroy of an old family facing the quickly changing world and a reluctance or inability to adjust to that new world. The story of young George Amberson is a sad one. His arrogance and conceit spells ruin for his doting mother and her true love. He makes bad decisions until he faces the loss of his family and his money. He then begins to understand the need to make an honest living and the pain he inflicted on the ones he loved most.

The story is contrived and a bit too neat. George’s “come-uppance” is too unbelievable, but loaded with poetic justice. Ultimately, it works out for the lad, but I honestly wasn’t satisfied. He deserved worse.

Unfortunately, George isn’t the only one concerned. The character of Lucy is a cheap shot on Tarkington’s part. In giving us the near perfect woman who loves the wrong man, we are forced to wish the best for old George.

The Magnificent Ambersons is an easy read and would be suitable for almost anybody. Be prepared to be frustrated, though. George is a git.

FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Franzen is a tricky little beast. He began this book really well. The characters and the story were really interesting and the writing was pretty good. And then he lowered the pompous, pathetic boom. The characters are actually loathsome and insufferable people and I wanted them all to die. The writing was nothing more than a long, boring, disgusting political diatribe. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this I was already too invested and had to finish. Then the genius of Franzen nearly brought me to my knees. The ending was perfection. Suddenly, I liked the characters again and was happy for them. The frame of the story was brilliant–reminding me how much I liked the beginning, too. Maybe I did like this book? Nice try, Franzen.

I truly hated it. I hate politically charged novels, whether I agree with the arguments or not. I can get the same crap from “news” channels or politically retarded talk show hosts. I also hate “message” media. I am not going to watch a movie or read a book to be preached at about political or environmental responsibility. There were some great moments. I mean, who hasn’t had an epiphany while doing something completely gross with excrement? There really should be more bodily function metaphors in literature.

My favorite eye-rolling and bleh moment came from the chapter entitled, “Enough Already.” Richard is reading an autobiography of another character and mused the following:
“…her writing skills were impressive, but he could hold his own in the self-expression department.”

And the award for the most pompous line ever written in a novel goes to Jonathan Franzen!

There’s a lot more I hated about Freedom, but I don’t feel like reliving it. I only read it to see what the big deal is about Franzen, and I just don’t get it. I guess I’m not hip or angry enough to appreciate it. So it’s one star for Freedom, 1/2 for the beginning and 1/2 for the ending.

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty heavy for a juvenile fiction selection. It’s frightening to see the similarities between Lowry’s community and today’s world, particularly the disregard for human life. It’s a cautionary tale that I would recommend everyone read.

To see a comprehensive list of my books and other book related things, check out:

my read shelf:
Erin Quinney's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

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16 thoughts on “My Book Reviews

  1. Yr book reviews are V good. I would read something on yr recommendation. NB: I read Unbearable Lightness of Being when I was 17 – too young and intellectually pretentious to realise its tripe. But my mum read it (she was 42) and she said it was banality dressed up with sex. I was embarassed for her ‘cos I thot she didn’t understand the novel. Now at 38, I’m blushing for myself. Agree completely with the review. Have you read The Time Traveller’s Wife? Would luve to see yr review.

  2. You’ve just inspire me to add a book review section to my blog. There I said it. It must be done! Thanks for the entertaining read!

    • Don’t you hate saying something then having to do it? It’s especially dangerous when you have kids.

      Thanks for reading. I’ll visit you and see the promised book review section soon.

  3. Pingback: My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time « momfog

  4. Wow, a lot of these books sound like things I’d like to read. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews! Although, it’s horrible that you’ve added more to my already extensive reading list.

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