Another "reread for teaching" book. I think I read this in my late high school career and possibly for a class in college, but I remember being really...moreAnother "reread for teaching" book. I think I read this in my late high school career and possibly for a class in college, but I remember being really challenged and confused by its narrative structure. What was real? What was fantasy? What was the point?
This time around, I loved it--the various layers of the story were fascinating and absorbing, presenting different realities: some of them familiar to me from my own experience, from stories friends told me, from other stories of assimilation, struggle, and identity; some strange and unsettling. I am really looking forward to using this novel with my AP class this year! I look forward to reading critical essays about it and Kingston's work in general as well.
This has been the summer of "the Dog Whisperer," and I was interested to see what Cesar's book would be like. It filled in some of the details of how...moreThis has been the summer of "the Dog Whisperer," and I was interested to see what Cesar's book would be like. It filled in some of the details of how he got started, etc, and also explained (and defended) some of his points about how pack animals like dogs live in the wild, connecting those facts to Cesar's training approach. While there were the vignettes that we all love in these fixer-upper books, the explanations were what made the book most valuable for me. One of his most striking points was the statement that the healthiest and most balanced dogs he sees in LA are those belonging to homeless people, because they migrate with their "pack leaders" miles every day, they have few distractions or separations from their "pack," and they have a clearly defined job and role. He certainly didn't romanticize the situation, but his points certainly altered the general image I had of that situation--and made sense.
The basic idea that dogs are animals, not people, and need to be treated as such is certainly born out by many of the obnoxious dogs/dog situations that I've encountered. The book was informative and interesting support to the tv show!(less)
No Jeeves or Wooster here, but a fun read anyway. Nice to see Wodehouse using a different style than Bertie's dingy sentence fragments--what a writer...moreNo Jeeves or Wooster here, but a fun read anyway. Nice to see Wodehouse using a different style than Bertie's dingy sentence fragments--what a writer the man is! Plot bits and sub-plots and people without pants and class war. . . it's a great book for pleasant distractions. (less)
I like Marian Keyes, and I remembered Rachel's Holiday as being both funny and intense, chronicling Rachel Walsh's realization of her addiction and he...moreI like Marian Keyes, and I remembered Rachel's Holiday as being both funny and intense, chronicling Rachel Walsh's realization of her addiction and her steps to cure it. However, as an audiobook it was only okay: the reader seemed over-earnest and lacked the ability to offer any accent besides her own basic Irish; the long flashbacks and retelling of various unhealthy decisions, made unskippable by the audio format, became boring or unbearable. Luckily, it was abridged, you might be thinking: but the abridgement was truly a hatchet job, leaving several noticeable gaps in the story that an alert editor should have sorted out. Chris's car was stolen? What? Jackie's husband wore a wig? What? Lastly, I was flabbergasted by the note in the conclusion thanking all the "brave men and women" who took cocaine for the purposes of research and reported to the author how it felt so she could use it in her book. What the heck was that? Again, maybe an attempt to be funny, but where was her editor? All in all, a weak "okay" at best. (less)
I slogged through Updike's Gertrude and Claudius and noted a reference to "Hamlet's Perfection" in the author's closing comments. I decided to dig up...moreI slogged through Updike's Gertrude and Claudius and noted a reference to "Hamlet's Perfection" in the author's closing comments. I decided to dig up a copy, and I am delighted that I did: I don't think I have ever read a work of criticism with as much interest and involvement as I just finished Kerrigan's 150 page discussion of Hamlet and his transformation from Act I to Act V of the play. A huge part of my enjoyment is Kerrigan's voice: he's sassy, disrespectful, and, at times, crude (his use of pejorative slang for female genitalia crossed the line of good taste, I felt, regardless of what Hamlet was saying to Ophelia). He peppers his discussion with allusions to numerous critics, poets, and even jazz numbers. . . . but the base of the book is sharp, fascinating analysis of Hamlet, both text and character. In the meantime, Kerrigan runs roughshod over various critics whom he feels have muddied the waters of Hamlet discussion over the years--I dug around for reviews and found one academic reviewer sounding a bit sniffy, but I declined to pay to read the rest of it. However, even as I felt that a few of his arguments moved a bit fast, presupposing some points as shaky as those he criticizes other experts for holding, I found his diction and overall points enlightening, illuminating, and wonderfully readable.
I will at least share my response to this book with my students this fall, but I have the feeling they'll end up reading chunks of it as well (I think it's available on google books). I am still amazed by the force of Kerrigan's insights and by his ability to marshal his arguments so effectively.
Reread (or watch) Hamlet, then read Hamlet's Perfection. Wow. (less)
Total fluff, but just what I needed to help me make the transition back to school time. Less detailed sex than her early ones often feature (spares my...moreTotal fluff, but just what I needed to help me make the transition back to school time. Less detailed sex than her early ones often feature (spares my blushes), but Crusie's usual good-hearted, likable, cheerful story in the same pell-mell descriptive style. A nice, quick read!(less)
Thanks to Graeme Malcolm, the reader, for getting me through this novel, which allowed me to appreciate its entire scope and mastery. I have been read...moreThanks to Graeme Malcolm, the reader, for getting me through this novel, which allowed me to appreciate its entire scope and mastery. I have been reading several English WWII novels/pieces of nonfiction lately--not sure why--so my sense of change, societal and personal loss, and general doom and gloom has been high, and several times I wondered why I was listening to this meticulous tale of a man at the end of his life. . . but, ultimately, the book served to 1. wow me with Gardam's writing skill, and 2. remind me of the value and wonder of every individual's experience, encouraging me to simply pay attention to other people and their lives.
One of the reasons I stuck with Old Filth in the darker parts at the start was that Jeanne Ray, author of Calling Invisible Women and, more notably, mother of Ann Patchett, listed it as one of her favorite books just as I was about to start listening to it, and that serendipitous mention (along with Cornflowerbooks Blog's rave opinions about Gardam in general) kept me going. And I'm glad I kept going. The novel is rewarding, beautifully written, and full of images and experiences that make it rich and wonderful. Not an easy read by any means (and probably not one to take on during a dark time of your life, in fact), but well worth the investment. (less)
This classic, quirky biographer for young readers is a period piece that unashamedly promotes the idea of great books and The Literary Canon. May Lamb...moreThis classic, quirky biographer for young readers is a period piece that unashamedly promotes the idea of great books and The Literary Canon. May Lamberton Becker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Lamb...) has a definite voice and a definite world view, and, luckily, Jane Austen aligned neatly with both. The book is interesting in both its content and its freedom in embroidering historical fact with personal opinion: Becker twice remarks that since Austen children never heard nor spoke bad grammar or slang, it was natural that Austen was such a great writer, for example. Interestingly enough, when I dug into who exactly MLB was, I found that the glowing blurb on the back of my vintage 1952 (Goodreads says "first published" in 2006--ha!) was written by Beatrice Warde, who happened to be Becker's daughter. Curiouser and curiouser! Still, the book is interesting, if only as an historical example of the inherited cultural canon and its promotion. I wonder if it has been brought up to date at all in its "new" edition. (less)
Okay, so this book is not "amazing" in the high tomes of literature aspect. . . But it is amazing in that it is a Thumping Good Read, as the Common Re...moreOkay, so this book is not "amazing" in the high tomes of literature aspect. . . But it is amazing in that it is a Thumping Good Read, as the Common Reader used to say. It's huge, absorbing, and full of historical info that recreates a time period that fascinates me. Even though it's 728 pages (!!!), when I finished it (this is a reread; I've also watched the BBC movie), I thought, "I wish there was a sequel!"--that's saying something! Pilcher is at her best here as she creates characters that we care about and also creates a landscape that feels real. Her description of the Carey-Lowells, their easy elegance, charm, and class, is pitch-perfect, recreating the feeling I've had on certain visits to families who seem enchanted. Yes, there's a lot of unexpected luck and Pollyanna-like belief in the power of a good cuppa, a pretty dress, and a bracing walk on the cliffs, but Pilcher also observes human nature quite shrewdly and perceptively.
All it all, Coming Home presented just what I wanted after reading a good number of edgy, challenging books! It's a great book to keep on hand for a vacation read, or when you're recovering from a cold. Rich, absorbing, and comfortable. (less)
Really enjoyed this novel (listened to on audiobook--great reader!). I had slogged through an earlier one of this series, set in Palestine, and sworn...moreReally enjoyed this novel (listened to on audiobook--great reader!). I had slogged through an earlier one of this series, set in Palestine, and sworn off her for a bit, but this was fascinating and informative and exciting. Am now rereading Kipling's Kim as a result. Ending was a little bit of a let-down, but that's partly due to listening timing: I was nearly done on Friday and then didn't finish listening till Monday. So: highly recommended, ESP. as a read aloud! (less)
About fifteen years ago, I fell in love with Jo-Ann Mapson's writing. Blue Rodeo and Hank and Chloe were both excellent novels. Since then, most of he...moreAbout fifteen years ago, I fell in love with Jo-Ann Mapson's writing. Blue Rodeo and Hank and Chloe were both excellent novels. Since then, most of her books have been part of the Bad Girl Creek series, and while they are largely enjoyable, they haven't met the high standard of her two earliest. Along Came Mary continues the theme of interchanging story tellers all dealing with their various tragedies and all healed by the great energy of female togetherness. While I like the novels, it sometimes feels like Mapson is stringing one fortune-cookie epigram after another into a novel, and that gets old. Perhaps choosing and sticking to one narrative voice and one point of view would make her books deeper and less of an avalanche of details, issues, epiphanies, and advice on how to live. Anyway: Along Came Mary provided good reading for Thanksgiving night and Black Friday/PJ Friday morning; I'm reading a second one of hers next, so we'll see how that one strikes me. (less)
I don't like Pullman's Golden Compass series: Ann gave us the first one at the same time she gave us this first book no one had heard of, "Harry Potte...moreI don't like Pullman's Golden Compass series: Ann gave us the first one at the same time she gave us this first book no one had heard of, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Pullman was too dark for us/Lyle at that time, and of course HP won the day! Tin Princess is just what it says on the cover, "a swashbuckling Victorian thriller". Must've been fun to write, and it's like reading a penny dreadful or a comic book--every chapter is a cliffhanger, and it seems, judging by the summaries of the other stories in the series, that nothing is ever truly resolved. Still, a pleasant read, one found in N's room as we cleaned before painting. Would be a great read aloud for kids 8 - 12, girls or boys. (less)
This is Cornflower Bookclub's book for January, I believe, and I decided to read it--and I am delighted that I did! The subject fits in weirdly well w...moreThis is Cornflower Bookclub's book for January, I believe, and I decided to read it--and I am delighted that I did! The subject fits in weirdly well with my recent Edwardian/early 20th century British reading jag, but is by far the most developed and detailed of any of the books I've been reading lately, and so quenches that thirst to a high degree. That said, it's also different from other stories of family life, social striving, social changes, and maturation: West's almost stream of consciousness style and her consistent use of the comma splice as art form took some getting used to! Before long, however, I was hooked, and I gobbled down the 300 plus pages with enjoyment. I've marked a lot of pages featuring sharp observations of family life, effective figurative language, and even a quote about Tuesdays that supports my theory that it's the worst day of the week. If you liked Dodie Smith's stand-alone novel "I Capture the Castle" and wanted more, this IS more, even without the other two volumes, which I'm considering hoovering up next. At the same time, I enjoyed Fountain so much that I'm afraid I'll ruin the effect by over-indulgence. Perhaps I should change time periods and come back later!
Overall, Fountain Overflows is an interesting, well-developed, unusual, and somewhat challenging take on a fairly familiar topic. I loved it!(less)
Listened to this odd little number just to see what it was like, as Yarnstorm lady had read and enjoyed all the Maigret novels in order. This one remi...moreListened to this odd little number just to see what it was like, as Yarnstorm lady had read and enjoyed all the Maigret novels in order. This one reminded me a lot of The Thirty Nine Steps in its woodness and its clear identity as A Police Novel From A Certain Time. A dash of anti-Semitism, a few unique characters, a wife who hardly appears. . . all in all, this first Maigret novel, while perfectly fine as a type, didn't leave me ordering up all the rest! (less)
This book was a suggestion from a list of "Best Biographies" guest-written for "The Womens Room," a blog about all kinds of things written by two wome...moreThis book was a suggestion from a list of "Best Biographies" guest-written for "The Womens Room," a blog about all kinds of things written by two women in London. They're funny and literate, and I thought a show biz bio might be just the thing for the weekend of our family reunion. AND our library happened to have this one on the shelf.
Well. First off, Clara Bow had a devastatingly sad life. Poverty, abuse, scorn, loss, death, bad luck. . . first her mom and then she had it all. There's some line about "plucking defeat out of the jaws of victory"--that could be the subtitle for this book. Not too much fun to read about, especially as I kept waiting for that big break, but each big break was just a precursor to another chapter of naive young woman, looking for love and support; studio bosses taking advantage; bad decisions, terrible movies, stress, etc.
Secondly, the book is written oddly. Here's an example: "I'd try to pay, but Clara wouldn't let me," says Jacobson. "She'd say, 'Maxine, you pay for it. Artie don't got that kinda money.'" Since Alton's cash, like her car, came from Clara anyway, she made no objection." (38) A patient reader can figure out which "she" refers to which woman after a minute, but a good editor could have cleared that sentence up ahead of time. A more damning example concerns Gary Cooper: "Since few of his silent films survive and those that do are rarely shown, modern audiences are unfamiliar with a time when, before his face was punctuated by the middle-aged crags that made it a cinematic Mount Rushmore, Gary Cooper was a man for whom the word "handsome" seemed an outrageous understatement." (90) Whew. That sentence (and others like it) cries out for an editor! A final line I questioned claimed that of Amelia Earhart, Gertrude Ederle, Miriam Ferguson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Isadora Duncan, Margaret Mead, Aimee Semple McPherson and Margaret Sanger, "none made as indelible an imprint as Clara." (87). Hyperbole, anyone?
So. I'd give it a C-/D+. Clara Bow was certainly a significant figure, but I certainly hope there are better-written biographies of her out there!(less)
Another reread for possible "Slant" AP reading, Dawn was more uneven than I had remembered. Its message is hard to follow in places, with apparent non...moreAnother reread for possible "Slant" AP reading, Dawn was more uneven than I had remembered. Its message is hard to follow in places, with apparent non-sequiturs that remind me of the Victor Frankl quote about an abnormal response to an abnormal situation being normal. I am thinking I will still pair this with Night as a slant on the issue of justice/injustice/heroism/terrorism, probably after we've read Hamlet. It's a quick read, and its tumbling, confusing, sometimes contradictory style fits the scenario well, as Elisha waits for dawn and the news if he will have to kill the hostage or not. Not as artistically strong as Night, Dawn still raises powerful and important questions. I'm interested in what my students will say. (less)