This must have been sitting around on Kent Haruf's desk, as it was published after his (recent) death. It's the realistic story of two older people, mThis must have been sitting around on Kent Haruf's desk, as it was published after his (recent) death. It's the realistic story of two older people, modern times, broken marriages, finding comfort in each other, and how some of us must compromise as we age. The story runs the full gamut of emotion. I read it entirely in a couple hours, and it left me missing this author more than ever. BTW, there's a funny little section where he has the characters referring to his own work. I wish Kent Haruf could keep writing forever. He was just so good....more
Very much enjoyed this story. It was inspiring, educational, and really funny - I laughed out loud a bunch of times, and loved the author's voice. I lVery much enjoyed this story. It was inspiring, educational, and really funny - I laughed out loud a bunch of times, and loved the author's voice. I learned a lot about the geologic and geographic history of the eastern part of the country, and enjoyed the relationship between the two men. Now I'm eager to see the movie. I heartily recommend the book....more
After enjoying "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, I was excited to try another of his novels. "About Grace" was a huge disappointment. IAfter enjoying "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, I was excited to try another of his novels. "About Grace" was a huge disappointment. I almost gave up at 1/3 through, but then something happened that gave me hope that there was actually a story here. Finally, at 2/3 through, I surrendered, accepting that for the main character, David Winkler, there would be no forward movement. The descriptions are lavish--that is Doerr's strongest suit. But that alone can't make a story, and this book is tedious. With regret, two stars....more
This novel is about a 27-year-old artist who breaks through and is on the verge of making it big-time only to get a diagnosis that should kill her carThis novel is about a 27-year-old artist who breaks through and is on the verge of making it big-time only to get a diagnosis that should kill her career. In addition, it’s a sweet love story. I enjoyed it very much; in spite of a few typos, it’s very well written and edited. It’s well-paced, pulled me in, and had me looking forward to my evenings with it.
A couple of problems, though. Without explaining where their wealth come from, the two main characters live such comfortable lives. For example, Aubrey doesn’t just live in Venice, California (a VERY expensive beachside town), she lives in Venice within walking distance and view of the ocean. And when she and Jeff take a “last look” world tour, they stay in what must be 4-star hotels. And they go on private tours and do things that cost big bucks. That was a little hard to understand. Did the author think this is just how regular people live?
I appreciated the description of what it’s like to have Retinitis Pigmentosa. That was interesting and educational. However, in this, as in some other aspects of this story (the love affair), I found the depth of emotion somewhat superficial. It should have been more intense. For example, when RP begins to encroach on Aubrey’s vision, while she’s in a foreign country, she doesn’t have much reaction to it. She actually sees it as an interesting way of framing things. That defied logic, to me. The scene where she is finally a crumpled wreck over the impending loss of her vision comes way late in the book. Where is the wide-eyed, train-coming-straight-at-me scene early on?
A missed opportunity, yet the story is balanced out by other good things. The descriptions of the travel, for example. And the art! This is probably what resonated the most for me: Jamie Hoang is either an artist or she did some incredible research and really paid attention to the answers. I feel as if I need to run to the nearest gallery to see what I’ve been missing. To be immersed in the perspective of Aubrey, the painter, is to add to your enjoyment of the richness of life. I recommend this book. ...more
UPDATE: Lazy ghostwriter alert! I am disgusted to tell you that both Weight Loss Boss “by” David Kirchoff, CEO of Weight Watchers, and I Got This “by”UPDATE: Lazy ghostwriter alert! I am disgusted to tell you that both Weight Loss Boss “by” David Kirchoff, CEO of Weight Watchers, and I Got This “by” Jennifer Hudson, contain identical statements about their personal dietary strategies. I understand that WW might promote certain meals for health’s sake, but to put those choices in the mouths of their spokespeople in quotes is dishonest. I am changing my rating now to one star, for fakery. Here are David and Jennifer’s exact “quotes.” I do not know if there are other instances of this. Both “said”:
“If I want orange sherbet, I’ll reach for an orange instead of the ice cream. It’s the flavor I’m going for, so why not eat something that has fiber and nutrients over something that is full of chemicals and artificial flavors?”
“While I don’t have a set weekly menu, I do have some favorites that have helped me get to my goal A typical breafast for me became one of three meals: grilled chicken breast fajitas with brown rice, an egg-white omelet with smoked salmon, or a chicken and vegetable omelet.”
Here is my original review: The first part of the book is JH's rise to fame, in which everything works out the way it's supposed to and she never suffers any doubt or lack of confidence. Then she decides to lose weight so she can be a better mother, and does that, too. Hudson describes herself as basically confident and self-satisfied in every way from birth onward, glossing over any negatives. Even the horrible family tragedy she experienced is never mentioned (except with something like, "In spite of challenges and tragedies, I kept to my goals." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.) Several of her family members contributed their essays about losing weight on WW, and those weren't sanitized as much, especially the sister who lost and regained forty pounds and is unrepentant about not getting back on program. Those essays were more authentic. As to motivation, the book was mildly motivating, but I thought Weight Loss Boss was more helpful and real. Also more fun to read....more
I'm thrilled to have discovered Erica Bauermeister. My friend Nanci recommended this series - 2 books, of which this is the 2nd; the first is The SchoI'm thrilled to have discovered Erica Bauermeister. My friend Nanci recommended this series - 2 books, of which this is the 2nd; the first is The School of Essential Ingredients. Both books feature multiple characters, and Bauermeister does a great job of telling the story of each, and weaving the individual stories together. The setting is contemporary, the stories all involve personal growth and people learning to lean on, and trust, each other. The author has a gift for description, and for feeling deeply the range of human emotion. Her writing is among the most beautiful I've read, and I'll happily go see what else she has written. ...more
I have enjoyed all of the Prey books. The writing is smooth, characters and situations believable but not bland, pace is perfect. John Sandford's writI have enjoyed all of the Prey books. The writing is smooth, characters and situations believable but not bland, pace is perfect. John Sandford's writing can serve as a model for those who are trying to learn how to write, in that he can move his characters from one place to another without belaboring it (i.e. none of that "her hand reached for the key, inserted it into the lock, grasped the cold metal, and turned the knob..." crap.) Sandford MOVES the action along so perfectly. His dialogue, too. You hear REAL people speaking, and then you get the thrill of hearing something unexpected. He doesn't repeat or belabor conversation. There's introspection, enough to make the characters deep-ish without getting too existential. And always, there's humor. The way Sandford sees the world, through his characters, makes you wish Lucas and all the rest of the gang were real people. Another great story. I read 300 pages the first day....more
The School of Essential Ingredients is a novel, but it's really a collection of short stories focusing on each of the students of the cooking class, aThe School of Essential Ingredients is a novel, but it's really a collection of short stories focusing on each of the students of the cooking class, and their teacher. I loved it. The author is a skillful writer, and she must be a very good chef, because her knowledge of and love for food and the entire preparation/serving process is remarkable. Very rich. She does add a pinch too much simile, plus repetitive use of people running fingers over this surface or that, but I'll forgive her because her descriptions are just wonderful. I think that may be her strongest suit. Here are examples:
"...Margaret's mother raised the cup of milk away from the pot, and Lillian looked at the sauce, an untouched snowfield, its smell the feeling of quiet at the end of an illness, when the world is starting to feel gentle and welcoming again...", and
"The beef bourguignon was bubbling in the oven, the smells of meat and red wine, onions and bay leaf and thyme murmuring like travelers on a late-night train."
There is a theme running through this novel, that of women offering themselves up for family - a noble and rewarding pursuit, but one which leaves them feeling a bit hollowed out (remember the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?) But another theme, that of slowing down and treasuring, savoring, indulging in, the simple things, works to help heal these people. In fact, after I finished the book, I found that the act of closing up my home for the night seemed a richer experience. I walked through the rooms thinking, "This is my beloved home. I love this room. I love these windows." etc.
The characters are well-developed and relatable, and there is a gratifying warmth between them as they struggle with the normal difficulties of life. There are several places in the book where one character reminds/asks/encourages another to answer the question, "what did you do today that made you happy?" Wouldn't we be better off for asking ourselves this question?
Highly recommended, and thanks to my friend Nanci for telling me about it....more
This is the kind of book I MOST like to read: a novel about learning how to live differently in the second half of life. I highlighted so many passageThis is the kind of book I MOST like to read: a novel about learning how to live differently in the second half of life. I highlighted so many passages that I ended up also buying the paperback to keep on my bookshelf. (There will be a list of those truths or observations on my blog post of April 24, 2015. After that date, click here to see them.) I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it, especially for people over fifty who are trying to figure out how to live now.
The reasons I didn't give this five stars: 1. some story threads are left hanging, and not in a literary way. As if they were forgotten. 2. Also, a huge missed opportunity: in the beginning, Betta realizes she became too insular within her marriage, which led me to think this topic of "giving up your identity within marriage" would be addressed. It wasn't, except in passing.
But overall, I loved this book and was excited to return to it each night. If anyone knows of good reads about people learning how to navigate the second half of life, I'd appreciate hearing about them....more
Angle of Repose is the recording of the ebb and flow of life in one family, over generations. The book has an interesting, and at times challenging, sAngle of Repose is the recording of the ebb and flow of life in one family, over generations. The book has an interesting, and at times challenging, structure: A modern-day historian, Lyman Ward, is looking back, doing painstaking research of his family, and his findings become a story on one level - the story of those people. Yet there's an overarching story; his own. Ward must grow and change, and Angle of Repose is ultimately about him. The shifts from past to present are done very well, so the structure worked.
Wallace Stegner is a fantastic writer, and I agree the book deserved a Pulitzer. However, to really appreciate it, you have to bring all of your energy, and that's a lot to ask for 630 pages. I read closely for the first 300 pages or so, and then I just gave up and enjoyed the story. This is unfortunate, but I can't go back and reread it two or three times, as others have done, just to do it justice. Angle of Repose deserves its own semester course.
At times the story is tedious, and at times, it's breathtaking, as with the scene where the hard-charging stagecoach almost shoves Oliver and Susan over a cliff. I valued the descriptions of the towns in which Oliver and Susan lived in the late 19th century. You get a real sense of how America developed and what it took to create such a place! The humans were both heroic and deficient. Although Oliver was almost superhuman, this strong, silent archetype exacted a price from himself and everyone around him for his rigidity. Also, I despaired at Susan's weakness of character, and the way she didn't value her husband or her son. Yet most of the time she was just trying to do the right thing. Everyone was!
In fact, one of the themes of this book was "perseverance in the face of continued and utter failure." My God, the negativity. There is so much deprivation, hardship, and loss. I was dying for something good to happen to these poor people. Yet I couldn't stop reading, which is a plus for the dramatic pull of the story.
The whole novel is ultimately about Ward's need to grow and change. I wasn't in love with the way this book wraps up. I felt it was the weakest part of the story! Ward finally comes to an understanding about himself, but it's wrought by a too-long dream sequence (a dream? please.) and a too abrupt conclusion when he awakens. Would I recommend this book? Yes, for students of American history. For writers, who want to learn how to craft a scene or adopt a compelling voice (Ward's). For the pleasure of giving oneself over to a gifted artist. But don't expect to hurry....more
When I read a memoir, I hope to be at least one of the following: inspired, motivated, entertained, enlightened, educated, or moved. There might be otWhen I read a memoir, I hope to be at least one of the following: inspired, motivated, entertained, enlightened, educated, or moved. There might be other qualities, but you get the idea. There has to be a takeaway.
In What Comes Next, written by a woman in her 70s, I didn't get much of anything, aside from a few entertaining chapters (all very short), and a few pithy phrases. Her life theme, in retrospect, seemed to be, "You can't control anything so don't try. Just live however you want, with as little effort as possible." So the main value of this book for me was to see/feel one old person's experience. Like a series of snapshots of a life. It wasn't even moving enough to be depressing.
The book consists of stream-of-consciousness vignettes. The author's viewpoint can be summed up in this advice she is tempted to give people in their 20s: "Forget career, forget the future, forget existential worries, just get yourselves a couple of dogs, and everything will be all right."
According to other reviewers, her earlier books are much better, so I wonder if this is representative of her general decline. If so, I hope she gets help. In essence, What Comes Next is a sad depiction of one person's experience of aging. ...more
I'm probably the last person of my generation to read Siddhartha. Although published in 1922, it was very popular with my hippie friends in the 60s anI'm probably the last person of my generation to read Siddhartha. Although published in 1922, it was very popular with my hippie friends in the 60s and 70s. I guess I was too busy working to notice. But then at 60 I was doing some psychological upgrades, and my therapist/teacher suggested this book. To help with existential angst and all that.
This version had some translation errors, but I got it free from public domain so can't complain, and anyway they didn't interfere with my understanding it.
I couldn't wait to read it each evening. It's an interesting story, but the insights are the meat and potatoes. I made so many notes and highlights I'm going to spring for an actual physical book and transfer them to it, to keep forever. A great introduction to Buddhism, which has sparked my interest and curiosity for more.
When I began this book, I felt as if I could sink into the story, in the hands of a master storyteller, and I did enjoy it, right up until the end, whWhen I began this book, I felt as if I could sink into the story, in the hands of a master storyteller, and I did enjoy it, right up until the end, when I felt annoyed; tricked, even. But I'll get to that (and I'll be sufficiently discreet to avoid spoiling it for you.)
First, the good. The protag is engaging, and so are all of the other characters. Picoult knows how to entertain, and when she has the failed celebrity psychic and the loser detective team up to help Jenna, it's a winner right there. Alice, the mother, is compelling, as is Thomas and the rest of the team at the sanctuary. The world of elephants is very interesting to learn about, and moving. The descriptions of Africa were so beautiful I read them aloud to my husband.
The writing is intelligent, even LOL funny in places. Big themes are addressed. In fact, in the beginning I was enthralled by the idea that we'd be looking at questions like these: Is there an afterlife? What benefit is there in defaulting to the negative if we'll never know the truth? How do you answer the scientifically unanswerable questions? Even the questions posed about elephant culture are intriguing. These are all marks of quality in a novel.
But the ending, for all the nicely paced denouement and gratifying tears I shed, was not my cup of tea. It diminished the joy I had originally felt in reading. I even went back and read the last 15% of the book again, because I wanted to see if I could reconcile my new understanding of the truth with the scenes that now had to be viewed in a new light. Could I read them again and say, "Oh, aha, Picoult never actually SAID blah blah blah. That was my inference. How skillful of her!"
No. In a second reading I just got more aggravated. The scenes and the story only make sense until you read the ending. And they don't. It's not like the rereading opens your mind to a new, broader way of looking at the world. There are whole pages of scenes that now seem more like a creative writing exercise than part of the story.
So why did I give it four stars? Because the writing deserves it, regardless of my view that the ending corrupts the story in retrospect....more
Although the Kiss River Trilogy is a bit soap-opera-ish, each of the three books was a fast and fun read.
In Her Mother's Shadow, as with the first twAlthough the Kiss River Trilogy is a bit soap-opera-ish, each of the three books was a fast and fun read.
In Her Mother's Shadow, as with the first two, there are some delightful plot twists and satisfying resolutions to issues, but I think I am done with the "guess who your daddy really is" device. But like I said, it's a soap opera.
As with the first two books, this story is more plot-driven than character-driven, but as a beach read, it fills the bill. I enjoyed following the original cast into a new stage, and the resolution of the mystery of Annie O'Neill and her daughter, Lacey.
I have to say the trilogy doesn't live up to the high standard Diane Chamberlain set with the first book I read of hers, Necessary Lies. But that was recent, and a full 8 years after Her Mother's Shadow, so I assume she really hit her stride. I will continue to seek out her newer works (her latest one is Silent Sister, published in 2014). Perhaps she has found a new gear and will continue to get better and better. What a treat that will be....more
I discovered Diane Chamberlain when I stumbled across Necessary Lies, which was a fabulous novel. Although the Kiss River Trilogy is more soap-opera-iI discovered Diane Chamberlain when I stumbled across Necessary Lies, which was a fabulous novel. Although the Kiss River Trilogy is more soap-opera-ish, it was a fast and fun update on the characters to whom I was introduced in the first book.
However, two knocks on this book: one, having become familiar with the cast of the first book, it was jarring to get into the point of view of the brand new main character, Gina Higgins. Two, I'm personally not enamored with the "diary letter" device, and half this book is the story of an earlier person who exists in a time period before even the first book occurred. Frankly, I skimmed a lot of the letters, and in that I may have undermined my view of this book.
As with the first book, this story is more plot-driven than character-driven, but as a beach read, it fills the bill. I enjoyed following the original cast into a new stage, and the continuing mystery of Annie O'Neill and her daughter, Lacey. Also, I was interested enough to buy the final book in the trilogy.
I'll review that one, Her Mother's Shadow, next....more