I don't usually blast the classics, but I have to make an exception for this one. I had NO idea The Three Muskateers was a rendition of Disney charactI don't usually blast the classics, but I have to make an exception for this one. I had NO idea The Three Muskateers was a rendition of Disney characters meeting The Three Stooges, with a little Adam Sandler thrown in for heart. Forget all about basic writing procedures like character or basic logical plot development. Those things do not exist here. Dumas never uses one or two words when 347 will do instead, so there's heavy doses of nonsense interspersed with lots and lots of behavior that makes absolutely no sense. Even taking into consideration that times were different when this was published, and the novel takes place in another country, there's no accounting for the outright stupidity of the people and their behavior. Besides all this, why does no one ever point out that Dumas simply couldn't count to four? There were not Three Muskateers by the end of the book; there were four. Further, the book itself was more about that fourth guy than it was about the other threesome. (This is not a spoiler, by the way. It is revealed at the beginning of the novel that we're going to be dealing with four dimwitted men, not three.)
I thought maybe there was a benefit to reading this novel just for the historical significance. Wrong again. Absolutely nothing redeems this book. What's worse is that it's part of a trilogy, and guess who bought the whole set! Yep, that would be me. I can't wait to see what happens 20 years after the first one ends.... NOT!!! :) ...more
The first review I read about this book gave me the impression that the Americans taken hostage from the Iranian embassy under the regime of the AyatoThe first review I read about this book gave me the impression that the Americans taken hostage from the Iranian embassy under the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini played some part in the substance of this story. Only insofar as a time reference does the hostage crisis have any bearing on any part of the story that takes place in Crossing California. That misunderstanding coupled with the misleading title of this book made it somewhat disappointing for me from the beginning. Crossing California is very much like a Seinfeld television episode; it's really all about nothing.
Which is not to say that the book isn't entertaining, because for the most part it is. It's just that in spite of its humor and attempts at delving into the psyches of 3 different families, this is a story about the small episodes that make up the details of life as young people struggle and blunder on their trek through the terrible teens.
There's a lot of material about what it's like growing up Jewish during the early 80's in Chicago. There's also a lot of terms that most likely are very familiar to Jewish readers, but Gentiles like me never heard of the majority of it. The author, however, has provided plenty of context, so it's not really important to be familiar with principles of the Jewish religion and culture to understand the book. There are times these references are hilarious; there are also times when they're nothing but tedious.
It might be interesting to read another book by Adam Langer because I did appreciate the way he writes. I just wasn't very impressed with his story this time around....more
I've never been able to "get" Martha Grimes. It's not that I outright don't like her books; it's more that I just don't know what she's trying to getI've never been able to "get" Martha Grimes. It's not that I outright don't like her books; it's more that I just don't know what she's trying to get her characters to convey. The End Of The Pier is the perfect example of this. I'm not sure if the characters in this book are deep (as in profound thinkers), crazy, or maybe just flat out stupid.
There's a serial killer loose in Elton County, a small town-America rustic area, only no one seems to have put together the clues indicating that the murders of women which have taken place over time are connected. What law enforcement exists in the area is lazy at best and clueless at worst. Except for the local sheriff, Sam DeGheyn, who believes the wrong man has been tried and convicted for the murders. However, Sam's got a screwed up personal life, so his full attention is not quite concentrated on the murders. Besides that, Sam isn't getting a lot of cooperation from his fellow county law enforcement officers. One of the main characters through whom this story is revealed is Maud Chadwick. Maud's thought process is all over the place which, to me, made her annoying and ornery rather than helpful in figuring out what is going on around her. I wanted to like Maud, I really did, but just about the time I thought she'd offered some genuine insight, she'd go and spoil it all by uttering stream of consciousness drivel.
As for the mystery of who is killing the women of Elton County: by the time I reached the end of the book I really couldn't have cared less. I was just glad I'd reached the last page so I could pack this book up to donate to Good Will. ...more
After stumbling upon and reading hidden messages from one group member to another, John Creevey believes he has uncovered an espionage ring or possiblAfter stumbling upon and reading hidden messages from one group member to another, John Creevey believes he has uncovered an espionage ring or possibly an underground mafia group planning crimes and even murder. What he's really found is a harmless game played by school boys in which coded messages are hidden in what the boys believe is a "safe drop" away from the prying eyes of adults. Creevey's interference in the harmless pranks and plots of these boys forms the basis for Rendell's story.
What I like most about Ruth Rendellbooks is the psychology she includes with her characters. The reader comes to know what motivates the people in her stories; what makes them do what they do, and how they've arrived at the thought process with behavior that moves the story forward.
All of the men in Talking To Strange Men could be classified as "strange" in some way. Some will go to great lengths just to get attention. Others are lonely and because they have no lives to speak of, everything that happens to them becomes magnified beyond its real importance. Even the schoolboys involved in their competitive games with complicated codes and clever tricks each participate in this activity for their own specific reasons outside of the obvious inducement of having fun.
I'd recommend this book or any book by Ruth Rendell to anyone who enjoys reading about characters who have depth and will often surprise the reader by what they do next. ...more
Sometimes I think the people who judge the prestigious book awards and choose the winner, deliberately go out of their way to award some book that's nSometimes I think the people who judge the prestigious book awards and choose the winner, deliberately go out of their way to award some book that's nearly unreadable. Books that fall into this category generally have little to no plot that's discernible to the reader's naked eye, and at best the book is written as a half-baked stream of consciousness muddle. In my opinion, it is those who make it through reading these kinds of books who deserve the awards; NOT the authors who scribble them on the backs of envelopes or on matchbook covers.
That said, The English Patient does have some redeeming qualities about it. It is, after all, written from the perspective of a man who is badly injured, heavily sedated, and is working his way though amnesia to remember the details of his life. In my opinion the best written passages in this book involve those that take place in the wartime situations. Michael Ondaatje has written serveral riveting passages, one in particular involving dismantling a bomb, that kept me on the edge of my seat, not even realizing I was holding my breath until the outcome was revealed.
And then we get back to the real crux of the story, Ondaatje goes meandering all over the page while my mind wanders toward what I could be reading instead of this.
From a historical point of view, The English Patient was well done. Strictly from the point of view of the characters who fleshed out Ondaatje's story, most of them were not likable, sympathetic people no matter what situation landed them in the story. Worst of all was the English Patient himself who, for me at least, remained at the end of the book as he was in the beginning, just a sedated man who spent day after day in a bed being cared for by a dedicated, but hard to understand, nurse. I would only recommend this book to people who like their reading material to be dry and dull.
Joseph P Kennedy, father of brothers Joseph, John, Robert, and Edward believed: "It's not what you are that counts, but only what people think you are
Joseph P Kennedy, father of brothers Joseph, John, Robert, and Edward believed: "It's not what you are that counts, but only what people think you are."
That sums up what the myths surrounding the Kennedy family are all about. Created by the Kennedys and furthered by an adoring media, Americans came to elevate the Kennedys to the status of royalty for over 3 decades. It is from this point of view that Joe McGinniss has written The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy. McGinniss states in his Author's Note at the end of his book that he wanted to write an account that took into consideration what it felt like to be Edward Kennedy; or to have some understanding and empathy for what it was like to deal with the pressure of being the fat little brother who wasn't up to competing with his older, more accomplished siblings. For the most part, I think McGinniss did what he set out to do in that regard; but, there were times when McGinniss came dangerously close to suggesting we have sympathy for Edward Kennedy.
McGinniss begins his book with the assassination of President John F Kennedy. He illustrates from this grim example how little Teddy Kennedy knew of his family's plans for the future and what exactly those plans entailed. The father of the Kennedy clan, Joseph P Kennedy, was the mastermind behind a plan to bring the Kennedy name to power in the US as a dynasty unto themselves. Through his fortune he was able to manipulate or outright buy any outcome he wanted in any given situation. Joseph Jr, Jack, and Bobby each understood and were primed for their specific roles in the plan. Having come along almost as an afterthought to the family, Teddy was given no specific outline of his role, and from childhood on he more or less flew by the seat of his pants. When his brother Jack was assassinated, he had no idea what to do, where to be, nor any idea how to perform. He was unprepared to serve his family in any capacity at all much less become an example to his country of how royalty behaves under fire.
The material presented as fact in McGinniss' book is a matter of public reacord, and the bibliography McGinniss lists at the end of the book is extensive. He did his research. What gets somewhat murky is assuming McGinniss knows what Ted Kennedy thought which motivated him to behave as he did through the many crises in his life. And it is within some of those passages that it seemed to me there was occasionally too much of a plea for sympathy to Kennedy. Empathy I may be able to grasp, but sympathy? Not in any lifetime.
The picture that emerges of Teddy Kennedy as viewed through the facts, in my opinion, remains one of an irresponsible, cowardly, indecisive, dissipated, philandering boy/man who came far too close to becoming President of the United States based on the myth surrounding his family name rather than the facts of his life. For that reason, I'd recommend reading this book just to see the process by which something like this can happen. One would hope the lesson learned would be to never allow a man like Ted Kennedy or a family like his to so invade the national interests of our country again because there are no messiahs in the political spectrum or any other spectrum for that matter. Unfortunately, it appears that lesson was not learned and it continues to happen all over again....more
For 10 years Richard E Burke served as an aide to Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Burke's duties included literally running the Senator's lifFor 10 years Richard E Burke served as an aide to Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Burke's duties included literally running the Senator's life for him both professionally and personally. That makes this book a highly subjective biography of Kennedy since Burke reports that among other things he and The Senator shared were drug use and some of the same women. Given the level of drug use to which both men subjected themselves, there is often good reason to question the accuracy of what Burke reports. The chapter on the Kennedy visit to Russia in 1978 is a good example of this; it reads more like an episode from Get Smart than it does like a Senator's state visit to a foreign country. However, much of what Burke writes about is a matter of public record; all he's done is flesh out more details.
Burke reports that one of Kennedy's female acquaintances defines the Senator as a pig. After applying the standards for defining a pig (if it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, and exhibits frequent piggish behavior, you've got yourself a pig), there is no reason to find fault with this evaluation of Kennedy's behavior with this particular acquaintance. Given the fact that his behavior with other women was similar to this one experience, it is only logical to accept this definition of his private behavior as accurate.
Given the recent death of Ted Kennedy, there is so much material being aired in the media to suggest he was some larger than life character who exhibited nothing but bravery, intelligence, and respect for his country, his family, and his constituents. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Senator, My Ten Years With Ted Kennedy is one place to get a more realistic picture of this controversial figure in American history....more
The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 forms the backdrop for this very well written thriller/mystery. In Minnesota in 1999, Rick Beanblossom'sThe kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 forms the backdrop for this very well written thriller/mystery. In Minnesota in 1999, Rick Beanblossom's baby boy is kidnapped from his nursery crib just as the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped 67 years previously. Beanblossom's wife, Andrea Labore is a television media star, while Rick is a well-known print media reporter. They both are celebrities, and they both, by virtue of what they do for a living, have numerous contacts thanks to work associations both currently and from previous jobs. However, when their son is kidnapped they are just as much at the mercy of those who took their son as anyone else in their position might be.
By shifting the action back and forth between 1932 and the present, we follow the parallels between the two different kidnappings. There are many similarities between the two cases. In 1932 the Lindbergh case was closed when Bruno Hauptmann was found guilty and executed for the crime. However, because of the uniformity of the current crime to the former one, serious doubt is placed upon the assumption that Bruno Hauptmann committed the kidnapping of Baby Lindbergh alone. Beanblossom begins to suspect Hauptmann had an accomplice and that this accomplice is now working out of Minnesota on a similar plan to extort money from wealthy parents.
Once I began reading Silent Snow, I found it difficult to put the book down. Steve Thayer maintained a level of tension throughout the book that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could read them. Apparently Thayer had one book before this one, The Weatherman, in which the characters who appear in Silent Snow make their debut. Based upon this book, I'd be willing to read anything more Thayer has written. He's created some interesting characters, and it would be interesting to see where he takes them from here....more
Flying In Place won The Crawford Award for Susan Palwick in 1993. The Crawford Award is presented to books falling into the fantasy genre. While it'sFlying In Place won The Crawford Award for Susan Palwick in 1993. The Crawford Award is presented to books falling into the fantasy genre. While it's true that there are aspects of this book that qualify it for the fantasy category, I wouldn't necessarily have categorized it that way. Flying In Place is the story of Emma and her family: her surgeon father, her school teacher mother, and her sister who died before Emma was born. From all indications Emma lives in a normal family situation, but in fact, nothing about Emma's home life is "normal". Emma receives pre-dawn visits in her bedroom from her father. To spare herself the trauma of these visits, Emma projects her mind out of her body up to the ceiling of her bedroom where she can fly and avoid dealing with the assaults on her body by her father. I didn't read this situation so much as fantasy as I did the matter of mental self preservation. While the writing is descriptive about the abuse Emma suffers, it never becomes graphic so that this book is suitable reading for adolescent girls. The subject matter of Flying In Place is certainly distasteful, but the message it conveys is so well written that once started, the book is almost impossible to put down. Highly recommended particularly to young girls whether or not they've experienced this kind of abuse. It never hurts to be informed, particularly on subjects such as this one....more
I am very pleased with this book and will use it often. I enjoy making shawls and wraps; this book comes with 24 patterns, and I immediately wanted toI am very pleased with this book and will use it often. I enjoy making shawls and wraps; this book comes with 24 patterns, and I immediately wanted to try out about half of them. The instructions are clear, and there are plenty of helpful images to refer to while working on all the projects included. For me, one of the best chapters included in this book is the knit from the top down capelets. I haven't tried any of those before, but the ones included are all very functional and stylish....more
Gregory Jaynes, successful journalist, is having a mid-life crisis. He turned 47 years of age in 1995 and decided he didn't like what he saw when he rGregory Jaynes, successful journalist, is having a mid-life crisis. He turned 47 years of age in 1995 and decided he didn't like what he saw when he reflected on where he'd been and what he'd done in those years. So he decided to go off on a cargo ship for a few months so he could get some change in his life. He didn't expect to be struck with serenity or growth, or so he said. He just wanted to take a load off for a while and come back all the better for the trip. None of his family protested his decision to go on this trip, but as he admits, he didn't ask anyone to agree this is what he should do. He just did it. It cost him a little less than $11,000, and the departure date kept changing so that his bon voyage wishes were starting to overlap. But finally he took off to sail on a Russian ship that had once been an ice breaking vessel in the Arctic but had been transformed into a ship set to sail the South Pacific by the British (with a Russian crew) after the Russians ran into some serious financial problems and had to sell off part of their fleet. Jaynes took with him his copy of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy vowing once and for all he'd finally read the book Jimmy Carter said he read at the age of 12. While on his voyage, Jaynes kept a diary of his experiences. This diary became Come Hell On High Water. I enjoyed reading about Jaynes' voyage. It wasn't exactly an adventure nor was it particularly exciting. In fact, he spent most of his time with senior citizens becoming drawn into their petty grievances and various issues. But Jaynes has a wonderful sense of humor. At times I didn't get it, but for the most part I did, and he really was very funny. What I enjoyed most about this book was what I learned about getting through another of life's stages. I think Jaynes did come out on the other side being far more aware of what was important to him. I hope he recognized that too. ...more
I am neither a big fan of James Patterson nor science fiction, but in this case, I think Patterson has found his niche. The premise to this story -- tI am neither a big fan of James Patterson nor science fiction, but in this case, I think Patterson has found his niche. The premise to this story -- that people can be genetically altered to fly -- seems preposterous, but Patterson has a way of making it work with this plot....more
Nancy Balbirer had a rough time trying to make it as an actress both in New York City and Hollywood. That didn't keep her from trying even when she faNancy Balbirer had a rough time trying to make it as an actress both in New York City and Hollywood. That didn't keep her from trying even when she faced disappointment after disappointment. And it didn't stop her from supporting the friends she made along the way as they also tried to realize their dreams. I wondered as I read this if telling the story was in some way cathartic for Balbirer. There were passages which seemed as though they were written with the idea that getting through the reliving would take a weight off once and for all. I've read books similar to this one, but Take Your Shirt Off And Cry does stand out as an original because it's so honest, and I think it's so clear that Balbirer really is too nice to sustain that lifestyle for very long. Thank goodness she kept her mind and her humor intact....more
More Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss is the story of Josh and Dori Goldin, their son Zack, and Dr Darlene Stokes. When Zack Goldin becomes ill, heMore Than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss is the story of Josh and Dori Goldin, their son Zack, and Dr Darlene Stokes. When Zack Goldin becomes ill, he is taken to the hospital by his mother, and he is treated there by Dr Stokes. Until Zack was born, Dori Goldin worked as a phlebotomist in a hospital, so she was familiar with various procedures and tests and knew exactly what questions to ask the doctors with respect to Zack's treatment. By the time Josh reached the hospital to find out what had happened to Zack, Dori had already had a confrontation with Dr Weiss, the resident on the case as well as Dr Stokes, head of pediatrics.
Dr Stokes became suspicious of Dori's behavior in the emergency room, and after a second ER visit with Zack exhibiting the same symptoms, Dr Stokes narrowed her suspicions down to Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy. This was a controversial accusation to make since this syndrome is rare, and because there had been a string of cases where parents had been accused of harming their child when in fact they had not. Relying on her conviction that Dori Goldin was harming her child, Dr Stokes set in motion the steps needed to protect Zack from further harm.
What I liked most about More Than It Hurts You is the way Strauss takes the reader inside the thoughts of the principals involved. It is Josh who is the least knowledgeable about the events taking place concerning Zack and his condition. He relies heavily on his wife to explain to him what the doctors are talking about. His opinions are all formed based upon his wife's word, and for a long time it never occurs to him to question that.
While I do think there were times the story slowed considerably because of too much explanation of the various thoughts and feelings of the characters, it was fascinating to me to read the various thought processes and see what influenced them. I thought Strauss also did a good job of showing what a mess bureaucrats make of sensitive case like this one, and how what begins as concern for the safety of a child soon becomes lost in matters having nothing whatsoever to do with that main issue. I thought Strauss did a very good job of illustrating how easily we become distracted by matters irrelevant to the main concern, particularly when lawyers, hospital administrators, and the media become involved.
I enjoy books that deal with what motivates people to do what they do, and how they can rationalize almost anything to satisfy their own objectives. I recommend this books to anyone who also enjoys this type of story....more
In his Acknowledgments at the end of Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon recognizes many authors who have influenced his work. He mentions that these writersIn his Acknowledgments at the end of Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon recognizes many authors who have influenced his work. He mentions that these writers are "better writers who inspired me." In my opinion, Chaon deserves a place right in the middle of those authors, and they would certainly be proud to include him in their number. While I was reading Await Your Reply, I had this nagging feeling that parts of it reminded me of something, but I couldn't put my finger on what. Then I read the Acknowledgments and that blub lit up in my head... THAT'S IT!!! This part reminds me of this author; that part reminds me of that author. And THIS part reminds me of one of my all time favorite authors. Not a copy, mind you, because Chaon is unique. But I could see that influence, and it made this book special to me.
From the beginning of Await Your Reply there was, for me, a sense of dread that kept building and building until the end of the book when, thanks to a very satisfying finish, it all becomes clear. Unline Chaon's You Remind Me Of Me, I didn't find these characters so sympathetic. Fascinating, yes, and that's what kept me reading. First I wanted to know what connected these seemingly unrelated individuals; then I wanted to know what on earth happened to them all. By the time I got into the second half of the book, I could not put it down.
As in You Remind Me Of Me, Chaon's characters are, at least on the surface upon first meeting them, ordinary people with problems just like everyone else. But as the pages go by, it becomes clear that these people may be the sort who live right next door to you, but they are not ordinary. That's what I like most about Chaon's writing. He knows that while the overall picture may give the appearance of the mundane, everyone's-got-a-cross-to-bear, for each person the circumstances of life are not commonplace at all. In fact, those life experiences are often extraordinary. I really enjoyed the way in which Chaon wrote about how that works. And I want to read more of him....more
When I found out that I'd won a copy of the new book Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon I also discovered that I had a copy of his previous book, You ReminWhen I found out that I'd won a copy of the new book Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon I also discovered that I had a copy of his previous book, You Remind Me of Me on my TBR shelf. So, before I received my First-Read selection, I read his earlier work which had some how or other managed to slip between the cracks of my TBR pile.
I enjoy books that tell a story from the different characters' perspectives. That's what Chaon does in You Remind Me Of Me. He's given the reader 3 distinctive main characters who tell most of the story, and there's 2 lesser characters that help to fill in the spaces. But over all of that there is another presence as well. A mother who has left her child and made no effort whatsoever to stay in touch with him. The child, Loomis, becomes the focal point for 2 brothers and a grandmother who love him and all say they want only the best for him, but who each have either no clue how to best take care of Loomis or are so convinced their way is the only way that it becomes clear Loomis is never going to benefit from this approach at all.
What Chaon does so well throughout You Mind Me Of Me is create a mood that pulled me into the lives of ordinary people. Except as more and more of the story is revealed, it becomes clear that there's nothing ordinary about the lives any of the people in this book. Society expects a certain conformity among people, but what happens when individuals have been given no tools from birth to help them figure out out to deal with the everyday business of living or the common sense to deal with more tragic events they encounter? I thought Chaon handled some intricate situations very well for his characters, and he made each of them, no matter what we may think of their behavior, sympathetic....more
Now THIS is what storytelling is all about! I'd previously read an earlier River Jordan book, The Messenger Of Magnolia Street, and loved her writingNow THIS is what storytelling is all about! I'd previously read an earlier River Jordan book, The Messenger Of Magnolia Street, and loved her writing style. She has a way with describing people and places that brings them to life and allows the reader to clearly "see" them in the mind's eye. Her events are so well written it's as though the characters pulled up a chair for the reader and invited her to sit right down and live through the experience with them.
Velma True had a long and mainly fulfilling marriage to Joe True. When he died, part of Velma died with him. After experiencing a frightening incident in her front yard shortly after Joe's death, Velma was afraid to leave her front porch without the security of a thread tied to the porch and extending to wherever she wanted to go. There was more than one thread attached to the porch documenting Velma's trips from safety into a world that now scared her.
When Velma receives a visit from a man, a stranger to her, and he gives her what appears to be simply a flat, smooth rock, she doesn't quite know what to make of it. But she soon finds out that the rock can give her back some of what she thought was lost: time with Joe through memories that seem very present and real. The stranger who left the rock with Velma also gave her a warning that what she now possessed would come with a price because there were those who wanted what Velma had, and she would not be safe in the presence of those visitors.
There are other characters with whom Velma interacts. People who love her and believe getting out of her house and off that porch without the security of her threads would be good for her. River Jordan gives each of those characters traits and individuality that sets aside each one in the story to his or her own personality. As they all develop we see how they fit into the overall story, and we find each person's motivation believable.
Saints In Limbo is a story about hope and growing awareness about who we are and how we got to be that way. What I liked most about it was Jordan's grasp of growing older and how that unstoppable force of nature changes a person at what appears to be the end of her or his life. Hope can slip away without one's even being aware of it, but it can be recaptured and enjoyed for whatever life is left to live.
I look forward with great anticipation to whatever story River Jordan shares with her readers next. ...more