This is my first Hornby experience and I have to say: eh. Maybe I picked the wrong book or maybe his style just isn't for me. But this book - a storyThis is my first Hornby experience and I have to say: eh. Maybe I picked the wrong book or maybe his style just isn't for me. But this book - a story of a marriage on the verge of divorce, followed by the husband's spiritual conversion, with which the wife must come to terms (or not) - just didn't do it for me.
I liked the plot. I liked most of the quirky characters. I did not like the wife's character, which was unfortunate, as she was the first person narrator. She spends a lot of time thinking about her marriage, the idea of goodness, and what is happening to her family. Frankly, it gets kind of repetitive and I guess this was my main gripe - too much thinking/describing/saying, not enough action. The parts where things did actually happen - such as the party the husband hosts, during which he attempts to convince his unsuspecting neighbors to each adopt a homeless teenager - were awesome. There just weren't enough of them.
So - three stars, as I was engaged enough to finish the book, and it was a fast, light read, despite its imperfections. I'm still willing to give Nick Hornby a try, so if anyone knows of a better book of his to read, I'm open! ...more
This book tells the story of two sisters in a series of short stories, spanning from the ages of 6 or so until their late 70's. Idella and Avis have nThis book tells the story of two sisters in a series of short stories, spanning from the ages of 6 or so until their late 70's. Idella and Avis have not had easy lives, having grown up poor and uneducated on the coast of New Brunswick with an alcoholic father. Their lives are not exceptional - they fight, they love, they move away from home, then back again, and then away. There are families and children, divorce and affairs, jail time and death, but through it all there are two sisters, Idella and Avis. The love these sisters have for one another is complicated but pure, and serves as the true center of their lives.
Things that I loved about this book: the sisters are great characters. Imperfect, alive, and ready to leap off the page. I also loved the narration. Told mostly in third person from Idella's perspective, with a few short stories in various first person narratives, the language has a hard edge full of bad grammar and bad English, which is what makes the sisters so raw and real. I also loved the movement through time, the slow march of life and the honesty with which life is addressed. There are no rose colored glasses here, but even in life's bleakness Idella and Avis manage to find some beauty and have a pretty good time.
Things that I did not so much like: some of the stories were a little repetitive, as different events were seen and explained through different sets of eyes. I also got a little confused in places where time jumped around. But these were really small things, things I hardly noticed. In the end, this book grabbed me and didn't let me go. Very much recommended! ...more
A professor friend lent me this book when I was applying to the MFA program at Madison, and now that I have finally read it (in record time!) I am extA professor friend lent me this book when I was applying to the MFA program at Madison, and now that I have finally read it (in record time!) I am extra depressed about getting rejected.
The Alice Stories is one of the most perfect books I've ever read. In a series of interlinked stories, it tells the tale of Alice, an English professor living in Wisconsin, who marries a man named Anders, has a daughter named Maude, and experiences, in a short span of time, the most extreme experiences of love, joy and loss that life has to offer. I had a hard time getting through the last story because I kept crying and hoping no one would see me, and when I was done with the book, I felt like my heart was both broken and whole; that I had seen some part of life in a new light, and that I am a better person because of it.
As for the actual prose, Kercheval writes my favorite kind - simple, direct and honest. Alice tells her own story in first person narrative, and the reader feels a closeness, a kinship with her, after so many pages of blunt confessions and artfully clear descriptions of her family, of Wisconsin, of death and friendship and love. I feel like I've made a friend, and I look forward to rereading this book at some point in the future. ...more
Before this novel, I'd only read Aimee Bender's short stories. I loved all of them, so I had high hopes for this novel. And because I *do* love AimeeBefore this novel, I'd only read Aimee Bender's short stories. I loved all of them, so I had high hopes for this novel. And because I *do* love Aimee Bender, it hurts me to say that this book was... disappointing. Just as a gold medal sprinter probably won't do well in a marathon, Bender does better at short stories than she does novels.
That is not to say I didn't like Lemon Cake. It was not bad, it has an interesting premise and a good magical realistic twist towards the end. But I also felt like it was a bit repetitive - Rose reflects on her strange skill of feeling people's emotions through the foods they cook and bake often, but rarely takes action based on the things she learns. I guess that's what most bothered me about this book - the lack of action, of actual things happening. While it can be hard to write action for characters paralyzed by their own circumstances, it's also hard to read a book where not much happens until the last 50 or so pages.
Final verdict: I liked the descriptions of food, the first person narrative, and the easy way the story unfolded. I did not like the lack of character depth or the pacing (first half, too slow - second half, too rushed). Basically, this is a perfect summer book - light and airy without being pure fluff, easy to read and enjoyable while still giving you something to think about at the end of the day. Also, I'm totally baking a lemon chocolate cake, stat. ...more
The first thing you should know about Sharp Teeth is that it is written entirely in verse. I don't come across much epic poetry these days and I admitThe first thing you should know about Sharp Teeth is that it is written entirely in verse. I don't come across much epic poetry these days and I admit - I groaned when I realized this book was one big poem (a non-rhyming poem, but still). I decided to keep reading and after a while I got used to the structure and began to appreciate the stylistic choice that the author, Toby Barlow, had made. Sharp Teeth is a book about werewolves that roam Los Angeles and the drama, betrayal, love and loss that occurs among and between different packs. It's also a love story about one werewolf - an unnamed woman - who falls in love with Anthony, a dogcatcher who is in the dark about his love's true self. Mostly though, it's a story about identity, community and the things we do in order to feel like we belong somewhere, with someone. It's about all the things every book is about, but it looks at these common themes from a fresh perspective - a wolf's perspective.
What worked in this book: I ended up liking the prose poetry style more than I thought I would. Because the story itself was so fantastic, the poetry suited it. It was sort of like reading The Odyssey - the line breaks gave the book a feeling of ancient importance, even though it was set in modern day LA. I also liked the way the sparse prose left much to the imagination - Barlow shies away from giving the reader too many details. We are offered a glimpse of this world, a few lines that show how much Anthony and the girl are in love, for example, or a short verse about the process of changing into a werewolf, or even a page recounting the act of a wolf eating a human bone by bone. Barlow tends to linger on the more gruesome scenes, which made the short and sweet moments hold even more importance. It took me about 50 pages to get into this book, but once I was in I was hooked. It was also a faster read than I expected - all that white space makes for a lot of page turning! And of course I liked the romance story line. Of course I did.
What didn't work: As I said, Barlow shies away from details. Sometimes this works for him, sometimes it works against him. This book is very "in the moment" - we don't learn a lot about the characters' pasts and some of their motives are murky. There is clearly some kind of plan that is being set in motion by the werewolves, but we're never told exactly what that plan is. And while this adds to the air of mystery, it's also a little annoying. I wanted to KNOW more. I wanted to know the history of werewolves - where did they come from? Is there some kind of leader? How long do they live? Are they governed by any rules? While these questions are addressed, we are given only hints of the answers. I also felt some of the characters were on the one-dimensional side. There are many werewolves in the different packs. We get a lot of names of different wolves but it was hard to remember who was who - they had few differentiating characteristics.
Overall: I'm glad I read this book. It wasn't my Favorite Book Ever but it was a great way to step outside my literary comfort zone, in regard to both plot and the structure. Plus, it was a really fun book to read on the beach. Three out of five stars! ...more
My second experience with Alice Munro. I am beginning to think this woman can do no wrong!
Runaways is a collection of short stories centered around mMy second experience with Alice Munro. I am beginning to think this woman can do no wrong!
Runaways is a collection of short stories centered around my all time favorite theme - women who are on the run, from or toward something or someone. This collection of stories is basically what I was shooting for when I wrote my undergraduate senior project, and seeing how Munro handles the subject makes me realize, even more, what a naive 21 year old I was!
I am not going to summarize each story, I'm just going to tell you to do yourself a favor and get some Munro in your life, stat. I will say that reading her short stories has got me thinking about plot and structure in a new way. Her stories are layered, dealing with twelve different issues, ideas and emotions at once, but never losing the reader. This is partly because her stories are longer than the average short, but mostly because she is damn talented and knows exactly how to create a world and reel you in so you never want to leave. ...more
First book of OH TEN! Also, first time reading Alice Munro, and oh how I wish I'd started sooner! Munro is a short story writer through and through, aFirst book of OH TEN! Also, first time reading Alice Munro, and oh how I wish I'd started sooner! Munro is a short story writer through and through, and she is a master of the form. Her writing is so clean, so strong, so clear, and completely free of artifice and gimmicks. You want LIFE, real, true LIFE? Alice Munro has got it for you. I can't wait to read more of her work....more
As a writer and a long distance runner, I really enjoyed Murakami's musings on his experiences as both, and how these pursuits are connected. His writAs a writer and a long distance runner, I really enjoyed Murakami's musings on his experiences as both, and how these pursuits are connected. His writing is very simple and accessible, and reading this collection of essays made me want to throw the book aside, run a marathon and then immediately write a novel. But as I am currently visiting my parents in frigid New York, I just kept reading.
Highlights of this book include: Murakami's moment when he decided to be a writer; the time he ran a 62 mile race; the descriptions of what he thinks about while running (nothing, mostly); and the way he humanizes long runs - you realize, while reading, that feeling like your body might fall apart before you get to the finish line is completely normal. For someone like me, this is good to know. ...more
I had the pleasure of taking Daryl Farmer's creative nonfiction class at SFASU in 2009, so I felt compelled to read his book and see if he could walkI had the pleasure of taking Daryl Farmer's creative nonfiction class at SFASU in 2009, so I felt compelled to read his book and see if he could walk the walk. Guess what? He can!
Bicycling Beyond the Divide tells the story of two bicycle trips he took through the West - the first when he was 20 years old, the second when he was 40. I have to admit - it took me a while to get into this book. I was expected a plot, action, characters, but what I got was a slow, meditative journey on time, youth, aging, America, and an overall sense of optimism for the human race. Once I accepted this book for what it was, I was able to settle in and thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Farmer does an admirable job of painting the West, singling out individuals he meets along the way and using their stories to demonstrate the complexity and commonality of our fellow humans. I have not traveled through the West, but now I feel like Montana and Nevada are places I have glimpsed. I've also got a new dream, and it involves a multi-state bicycle journey of my own, not to mention a better appreciation for creative nonfiction, the shapes that it can take and the stories that it can share. I will add this book to the list of those that I recommend to others.
There is one word for this book and that word is: awesome.
Exciting, informative, full of crazy characters and unending inspiration for both the beginThere is one word for this book and that word is: awesome.
Exciting, informative, full of crazy characters and unending inspiration for both the beginner and the seasoned athlete, Born to Run tells the TOTALLY TRUE story of the stories of the Tarahumara, a tribe of Mexican Indians who are probably the greatest runners in the world. Like, they can run 400 miles at once and hunt deer by outrunning them. While the author, Christopher McDougall, explores the history and culture of the Tarahumara, he also explores his own relationship with running, debates the idea of barefoot running (verdict: a good idea!), paints the careers and personalities of today's ultra-running celebrities, and finally examines the mental, physical and emotional roles that running has played in the survival of the human race.
This is a lot to cover in one book, but McDougall manages to give each topic just the right amount of attention without losing the thread of the story or the interest of the reader. In fact, his prose is so easy to swallow and the stories of individual races, in particular, so riveting, that I was literally racing through the pages to find out what would happen next. Also, I am totally going to start running barefoot, eating chia seeds, and smiling while training for marathons.
I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially those who run. ...more
I was assigned to read this book for my creative nonfiction class, and I am so glad to have been introduced to the work of Michael Perry. In PopulatioI was assigned to read this book for my creative nonfiction class, and I am so glad to have been introduced to the work of Michael Perry. In Population 485, he writes about his home in rural Wisconsin through a series of short essays, each of which deftly covers the eccentricities of small town life, his experiences as a member of the local volunteer fire department, and his ruminations on life, love, death and the places we call home.
As I read this book, I felt a lot of things. Sadness, happiness, interest, and most of all, jealousy. Perry's prose is pitch-perfect, and he writes with a depth that gives his characters - his friends - the respect they deserve without sugar coating any of their very human faults. His talent as a writer lies in being able to take two or three events that seem at first to be unrelated and bringing them together in one essay under the umbrella of personal reflection, imbuing each with more meaning than they had alone. He is equally comfortable with writing in the short, sparse sentences that his rural upbringing and experiences demand, and the gorgeous, flowing, lyric prose that makes a reader pause, place her hand over her heart, and whisper, "Damn." Plus, he's funny. Like, really funny.
This is the first book I've read by Perry, but I am quite sure that it won't be my last. ...more
Most of my friends read and raved about this book, so when I was given a copy as a gift I was excited. "Drink the Kool-Aid," they said, and drink I diMost of my friends read and raved about this book, so when I was given a copy as a gift I was excited. "Drink the Kool-Aid," they said, and drink I did. I read this book in about three days, which is amazing considering I kept taking breaks to clear out drawers and purge myself of all the unused, unloved objects clouding my chi and bringing my karma down.
Which is the basic premise of this book. The stuff you hoard is more than junk - it becomes an obstacle, blocking you from the life you are meant to lead. And it makes sense - we hold on to things because we might need them one day, or because they once meant something to us. But keeping things "in case" shows a distrust in the universe, and in your ability to accomplish what you want to, when you need to. Keeping an object that once had meaning is like taking a beloved pet to the taxidermist (Karen Kingston didn't put it quite like that, but I know she meant to). There's even a whole chapter about clearing your internal clutter through gentle colon cleansing! (Tangent - I do not recommend reading this particular chapter while you are eating lunch, which is a mistake that I unfortunately made.)
Despite all the good things about this book - it's motivating, it makes sense, and it's inspiring - it's also more than a little hokey at times. Kingston writes in a very simple and straightforward manner - no clutter in these sentences! - but some of her conclusions are a little too neat and tidy. "A woman in the UK cleared the clutter from the financial corner of her home and that night, for the first time ever, her husband gave her a $1500 check, with which to do whatever she wished!" Okay, maybe that happened, but the way it's written makes me think of email forwards that give you seven stories of terrible things that happened to people who failed to forward the message, and which will happen to you if you don't ransack your address book and hit send in the next five minutes.
Overall, I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It's a quick and easy read, which leaves time for more important things, such as clearing your clutter and freeing your mind. Kool-Aid never tasted so good! ...more