**spoiler alert** I chose to read The Jane Austen Book Club for two reasons - I liked the movie, and my friend Jessica had a copy I could easily borro...more**spoiler alert** I chose to read The Jane Austen Book Club for two reasons - I liked the movie, and my friend Jessica had a copy I could easily borrow. Plus, I needed something light after my last book. The novel tells the story of a group of women, and one man, who are on a quest to read all 6 Jane Austen novels over a period of 6 months. The movie in fact kind of inspired me to get my own book club up and running. I'm actually kind of glad that I saw the movie first on this one ...
The scoring ...
** This book was almost obnoxious to read if you're not an Austenite. I have never read a single sentence of a Jane Austen book, so I'm definitely not it's target audience. - Minus 3
** I might be a youngin' but I found it hard to relate to the characters. Most were in my mother's age bracket and older. The two that were closer to my own age, one was a bitter lesbian, and the other an uptight teacher, neither of which I particularly related to. - Minus 2
** Speaking of the bitter lesbian ... why did she have to be a slutty angsty stereotype?? Think outside the box, there are lesbians in the world that don't sleep with each and every other lesbian they meet, or are angry about life. - Minus 4
** One of the few things that I did love about the novel was that it had cross generational friendships. - Plus 3
** One of my very best friends in the entire world lives just outside of Sacramento, where the book takes place. He works at an Air Force Officer's Club called The Delta Breeze ... which I always thought was kind of a weird name for an officer's club, and thought it belonged on something more flamboyant. But reading this book taught me that the delta breeze is an actual weather pattern in northern California. And I feel so much better for knowing that. - Plus 5
** The chapters were really quite long, but except for Prudie's chapter, most had good stopping points. - Neutral
** I liked the layout of the movie a lot better. I know that I shouldn't really compare the book and the movie and determine if I like it or not, but it's hard not to do so. Anyway, the movie was much more laid out as a coherent story rather than the novel which was snippets of each character's life with limited interaction beyond the actual book club meetings. - Minus 2
** I really want to know who the narrator of this book was. It was definitely a third person narrative, but at the same time, the narrator felt more like a character without a name or a backstory. I didn't like it. - Minus 3
** There's a quote about librarians that I particularly liked ... "When librarians read for pleasure, they often pick a good mystery. They tend to be cat people as well, for reasons more obscure." - Plus 3
** Again with the movie comparisons, but I liked the portrayal of Prudie's mother a lot more in the book than in the movie. In the movie, she was insufferable. In the book, she seemed much more of a genuine free spirit. - Plus 2
** I also preferred the portrayal of Prudie's attempt at an affair with a student in the novel. - Plus 2
** The movie made me want to read a Jane Austen novel. The book makes me want to sell the three paperback copies I have of her books immediately. - Minus 2
** The book was marketed as chick lit. But it didn't seem too much like chick lit to me as I read it. At least not in my definition of chick lit, aka the neuvo romance novel without the shame and the half naked people on the covers. - Minus 2
** I don't get the disharmony between Prudie and her husband. She doesn't think that she's pretty enough to deserve him, so she hates him for loving her?? It makes no sense to me. - Minus 3
** I really liked Bernadette. She was a feisty old lady without a care in the world & totally true to herself. I hope one day to be just like her. - Plus 3
** What was the point of Mo Bellington?? Was it to show how simple mystery writers are today compared to how complex Jane Austen is?? Seemed rather snobby! - Minus 4
Final score ... Minus 9. Needless to say, I was not a fan. I probably should have left well enough alone, and liked the movie without having ever read the book. Ugh. I hate it when a book disappoints me this much. (less)
**spoiler alert** The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields is number 13 in my race to 30 books read in 2008. It tells the life story of a completely ordinar...more**spoiler alert** The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields is number 13 in my race to 30 books read in 2008. It tells the life story of a completely ordinary Canadian American woman through the 20th century. Daisy Goodwill Flett is born in Manitoba in 1905. She moves to Winnipeg as an infant, and then to Bloomington, Indiana as a young girl. She later marries and moves to Ottawa, and finally retires in Florida. The entire story spans her life in memorable eras: Birth, Childhood, Marriage, Motherhood, Illness, and Death. The book won the Pulitzer Prize the year it was released, and far be it from me to disagree. And to be upfront and honest, I flat out loved this book. So coming up with even slight negatives was a struggle. I apologize in advance for lame negatives.
** I lost my grandmother in late March. Reading this novel, I thought about her a lot since Daisy’s life experiences were very similarly timed to my grandmother’s life. I couldn’t help but picture Betty White throughout the years as the main character. – Plus 3
** Daisy’s life is so perfectly ordinary. She’s the everywoman. All that was missing was being den mother to her son’s Boy Scout troop. She could be your elderly neighbor, and she is so incredibly approachable. She was the type of woman who I'd actually want to play bridge with, despite the fact that I haven't the first clue how to play bridge. – Plus 2
** I love how the book is organized. Each chapter is a glimpse into Daisy’s life at certain points. Her story is by no means complete, but you get flashes of her life. In that way it’s very much like an old woman’s memories. Exact details are overlooked, but the general idea of how her life has happened is described. – Plus 4
** Chapter length … my standard score. Good decent long chapters, but frequent breaks. And the differing writing styles make even the long chapters fly by. One chapter in particular is all correspondence between multiple people to Daisy. Others are full sections of her family and friends' opinions on Daisy and her decisions. It made it easy to not get bored reading the book. – Plus 3
** I wish there was more with Daisy’s wedding to Barker and his eventual death. Both major events were glossed over in just a couple pages. Now I could read into it and assume that Barker meant not all that much to her, but I like to think differently. – Minus 3
** Daisy takes in her single knocked up niece during the mid 1950s. That couldn’t have been easy. Especially when her niece decided to keep her child. Back to those strong female characters that I like so much. – Plus 3
** At the very end of the book, there’s a paragraph of all of the things that Daisy never did in her life. The reader is left to wonder if Daisy made this list in her head once she knew she was going to die. It’s something that I imagine that I’ll do when my day comes. And I’m sure a list that a lot of people make internally as things to accomplish in life. – Plus 2
** Mid way through the novel is a section of family pictures. Daisy’s mother is described as hugely obese during the few pages, when she is present. But the photo of her is nowhere near what I’d call obese, unless she gained 200 pounds in the two years from her wedding to Daisy's birth. To believe that this woman had no idea she was pregnant because of her tremendous girth and irregular menstrual cycle … I totally don’t buy it. – Minus 4
** Flowers are everywhere in this book. From the character’s names to a constantly tended garden. I wish I had time for a garden … and that I wouldn’t kill my plants unintentionally. – Plus 2
** Who gets a P.hD in paleobotany ??? – Minus 3
** Clarentine Flett leaves her husband because he won’t give her money to go to the dentist after spending 11 dollars plus shipping on an ice box. And his kids never forgive him. It’s great how the straw breaks the camel’s back sometimes. – Plus 3
** Still, I couldn’t figure out what was so awful about Magnus Flett. Maybe Clarentine should have talked to her husband instead of just walking out with an infant in tow. – Minus 4
** Daisy's dad is so in love with is deceased wife that he builds a tower in her memory of carved limestone. It becomes a roadside attraction with people coming and viewing the memorial. He doesn't remarry for 30 years, and even then only thinks of Mercy as his wife. It's precious. - Plus 2
Final score ... Plus 10. I had a terrible time coming up with true negatives about this book, so it doesn't surprise me that the final score is kind of high. I'd even go so far as to say it's the top book so far this 30 book year, even though I'm pretty sure something recent has outscored it.
**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker....more**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker. Her trade is cosmetology and she wasn't sure what she could offer to the people of Afghanistan but she knew she wanted to help. During her first trip, she felt mostly useless but fell in love with the country and people of Afghanistan, and knew she would return. Over the next year, Ms. Rodriguez took the lead and became involved with a project to begin a beauty school in the city of Kabul to help train the women of Afghanistan in a trade. She gets sponsors, donations, and returns to the country to change women's lives. She slowly adapts to the culture, marries an Afghani man, and ends up staying in Kabul to keep the school running.
Kabul Beauty School is my first nonfiction book of the journey to 30. As I was reading this book, I realized that my usual method of scoring a book is not going to work very well for non-fiction. It's not like I can judge a decision of a character when in reality it's a decision of this woman's life. So ... bare with the kinks of having to review a non-fiction memoir rather than a novel.
** I learned a lot about the Taliban's reign in Afghanistan and the ramifications. I knew they were the bad guys, but it some of the restrictions - like outlawing all beauty salons - I had no idea about. - Plus 3
** I really didn't need the life story of the maid. Call me elitist ... but I didn't really care. - Minus 2
** I've said it a TON ... girl power rules and the fact that this woman left her abusive husband, went to Afghanistan and started making a difference is super duper girl power! - Plus 10
** Long chapters ... I've said my full on this, but it took me about 4 days to read this book from start to finish, so it couldn't have bothered me too much ;) - Neutral
** I loved all the side stories of the women in the school, but they got distracting keeping up with them all. And they were all depressing. - Minus 3
** Total curveball that she became arranged to be married. And then actually got married. (I'm not giving anything away if you read the book cover) - Plus 2
** I love memoirs. They're pretty much the only non-fiction book that I'll regularly read voluntarily. - Plus 3
** I learned something. Learning is good and knowledge is power. - Plus 2
And I'm tapped out. It's a lot more difficult to come up with scoring when you're critiquing someone's life rather than someone's literary decisions.
Final Tally ... 9. I'm sure that's high because I couldn't find the heart to say that I didn't buy that she screamed and yelled and tried to get a guy arrested for grabbing her ass in the market. Cause I'm sure she did do that, and she has my respect for it. I'm pretty sure I would have ignored it and just shot evil eyes. (less)
**spoiler alert** I've been a fan of Anne Shirley for longer than I can remember. I think it began with Megan Follows and PBS. It continued with a har...more**spoiler alert** I've been a fan of Anne Shirley for longer than I can remember. I think it began with Megan Follows and PBS. It continued with a hardback illustrated copy that my grandmother gave me for Christmas. I read all 8 books of the series finally about a year ago. So when I heard that a prequel was out (granted by another author) I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson is that prequel. It tells the story of Anne's life before Marilla, Matthew, and Gilbert Blythe. The story begins with Walter & Bertha Shirley and their brief married life in Nova Scotia. Anne is born, and shortly thereafter both Walter & Bertha die of a fever. Mrs Thomas, a housekeeper for the Shirleys, takes Anne to be her own, thinking she is done having her children. Of course, what follows is four baby boys in four years, and Anne suddenly becomes housekeeper, babysitter, and pseudo slave to the Thomas family. Anne stays with the Thomases for 8 years, but unfortunately tragedy strikes, and Anne leaves the Thomas family for the Hammonds. More years of pseudo slavery and babies and 3 sets of twins follow. Of course, as readers, we all know how the story ends ...
My scoring analysis ---
** The story is completely true to Anne's tone and voice in the original series of books. She's chipper despite her circumstances and finds solace in her imagination. - Plus 4
** I truly wanted to believe that Anne was a wonder kid. Really I did, but I have a hard time buying that a 5 year old was responsible for the cooking, the washing, the dishes, and taking care of babies. - Minus 3
** It was nice to see where Katie became in Anne's life. From the inception to the emergence in the window. - Plus 2
** It was equally nice to see the origins of bosom friends and the depths of despair. - Plus 2
** Anne's hardships in her home life were difficult to read as a life long friend of hers, but it was nice to see so many people outside of her homes were so nice and caring towards her. - Plus 3
** The Anne with an E comment was overdone. Walter & Bertha discuss it just after she's born, followed by Anne's insistence with every single person she meets in the story. It gets tiring and forced. The simple mentioning like bosom friends is enough for true Anne fans. - Minus 2
** Despite his drunken fits of rage and violence, I really liked Mr. Thomas and appreciated his nervous affection for Anne. - Plus 2
** The time spent with Walter & Bertha is very very quick and large segments of time are glossed over or skipped. Part of my curiosity in the beginnings of Anne's life were the relationships between her parents. I've found a lot recently that books that I've read deserved to have 50 more pages and a bit more storytelling in parts. Walter & Bertha deserved more pages. - Minus 3
** Speaking of being true to Anne's character, there is a school bully that Anne refuses to fight back because she hopes that one day he will share his dictionary with her. - Plus 3
** About two thirds of the way through the book, Anne discovers Prince Edward's Island. The author throws in a random comment about Anne's life long love affair with PEI began that day. It was a little much. - Minus 3
** Two cats named Gilbert and Sullivan. Couldn't we have been more creative on this?? - Minus 2
** I only wish that Anne daydreamed about being named Cordelia at some point in the early years. And where were the kindred spirits?? - Minus 1
** Before Green Gables lives up to the title. The book ends with Anne departing from the train at Bright River to wait for Matthew. I appreciated the consistency. - Plus 3
** I went back and re-read the first 25 pages or so of Anne of Green Gables and it lined up. All of the details matched. I appreciated that, it really made it feel like the prequel fed right up into the series. - Plus 2
Final Tally ... Plus 7. It was light and fun to read. And I recommend it to any Anne fan.(less)
**spoiler alert** The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a novel about a choice. I went from reading a book about a lie in a moment (Atonement...more**spoiler alert** The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a novel about a choice. I went from reading a book about a lie in a moment (Atonement), to a book about a choice made in a moment. It was a good transition. Thanks to some late spring snow (just like Seattle got last night) Dr David Henry is forced to deliver his wife's twins with only the help of his nurse Caroline. The baby boy, Paul, is born 100% healthy and alert, but the baby girl, Phoebe, is born with Downs Syndrome, and David makes the decision to give his daughter to Caroline to take to an institution, rather than raise the child in his family. He tells his wife, Norah, that the child was stillborn, and tries to live his life with just his son. Caroline, however, cannot leave the child at the institution, and makes the decision to raise the child herself in another town. The novel goes back and forth between the lives of Paul and Phoebe, and the ramifications of David's decision.
** The David, Norah, Paul storyline takes place in Lexington. I love Lexington, and I don't think I've ever read a book that takes place there. - Plus 2
** I really liked David's character despite his decision. The author makes his struggle and pain over his decision up front, and he never seems malicious in his decision. It's clear that he truly made it to try to save his wife from further pain. - Plus 3
** Norah on the other hand, I really didn't care much for her. Especially in the middle part of the book. She was kind of a witch. - Minus 2
** Just following the "death" of Phoebe, I really sympathized with Norah's struggle with depression, postpartum issues, and alcoholism. The way it was treated in the novel seemed to echo what I have heard from my parents about how these issues were hidden from view in that time period, and I really appreciated how it was shown and yet not dealt with, much in how it would have happened during that time period. - Plus 3
** Where I appreciated how Norah's issues were presented, I felt like Caroline's struggles with raising a child with Downs Syndrome were glossed over. One meeting with the school board, one mention of the struggles to find other mom's in similar situations. While it would have added about 100 pages to the book, I would have liked to see more with that storyline and more details on how society reacted to children with Downs Syndrome during the 1960s and 1970s. - Minus 4
** I don't know that I really buy that an at home photographer with a dark room above his garage would get to the point that he's giving lectures. Especially since he spent the majority of his time being a doctor. - Minus 2
** While the book deals with moderately controversial topic, it was definitely something that you wouldn't have trouble recommending to anyone from your aunt, to your co-worker, to your bus buddy. It's relatively unoffensive, and is a novel that I think a lot of people would read and enjoy. Well, one that a lot of women would enjoy, I'm not so sure it's a man's man kind of book ;) - Plus 2
** This is the second book (the other being The Namesake) I've read recently that deals with detached fathers and the resulting relationship with their sons. The story lines were different, but the same type of struggle to have a relationship existed. Both books were written by women. And both made me wonder if the men only have issues with the relationships because they're being viewed and written about through a woman's perspective. It makes me want to seek out a novel about fathers and sons written by a man. - Neutral
** I wanted more with Al. - Minus 2
** Despite not being a total Norah fan, this book had some great strong female characters. Caroline, who makes a decision to raise a child with Downs Syndrome that is not even her own flesh and blood. Norah, who goes from being a house wife to a successful business woman. Doro, a successful physics professor at a time when most women didn't work, let alone were leading academics. And Bree, who has a strong sense of self throughout the novel, and really sets a good example for Norah to be strong. - Plus 3
** I didn't like why it was titled The Memory Keeper's Daughter. For a while there, I was hoping that Caroline lived out her dream and traveled to a far away country with Phoebe. To a place where people worshiped those who were different, and Phoebe became a powerful shaman in an indigenous tribe. - Minus 2
** From the television channel that brought us, The Fantasia Barrino Story ... Lifetime is making the made for TV movie. It airs on April 12th. It stars Dermot Mulroney. I admit to having a slight weakness when it comes to Lifetime's made for TV movies and a pretty big weakness when it comes to Mr. Mulroney. I'll probably watch it. I might be a little excited. - Plus 2
** So, what about Rosemary?? - Minus 2
Final score ... 1
I didn't love it or hate it. There were some flaws, but some outstanding points as well. The final tally seems about right. (less)