Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Awards Challenge III

I finished the challenge Friday but I'm always behind with the posting. I have a pile of 5 books awaiting their turn now.

My List

Possession was my least favorite. Actually, I didn't much care for it. I liked A Lesson Before Dying and The Book of Ruth. Flowers for Algernon was a reread so I new I would like it. The biggest surprise was The Bridge on the Drina. Loved it. I've had it for a year. I wanted to read it because my book club had and I want to read everything they have. If I had of known how much I'd like it I would have read it last year. I'll definitely reread it one day.

Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algeron by Daniel Keyes

1960 Hugo Award for best short story
1966 Nebula Award for best novel

Charley is a 32 year old man with an IQ of 68. He has a job and his own place. And he is desperate to learn to read. He's taking a course at a college for the retarded. His teacher is so impressed with his enthusiasm she submits him as a candidate for a experiment. He has brain surgery that increases his IQ tremendously. But once his IQ eclipses that of the scientists trying to cure retardation, he realizes the boost in brain power is only temporary.

This is a wonderful book. It began life as a short story and was so popular, it was rewritten as a novel. It's written as a journal the doctors ask Charley to keep so they can monitor his progress. In the beginning he writes like a 6 year old. But as his IQ goes up, so do his abilities. But then everything begins to regress. It's a sad story. It actually brought tears to my eyes at the end.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Possession by A. S. Byatt

"Possession" is about a literary mystery. Roland Michell is researching a Victorian poet named Randolph Henry Ash when he discovers old letters that suggests a romance with another poet, Christabel LaMotte. His search leads him to a LaMotte scholar named Maud Bailey. Roland and Maud search through old letters and diaries trying to find the truth.

I found it hard to get into this book. Along with the third person narrative, it's told through diary entries, letters and poems. It's full of references of people I've never heard of and am not sure if they really exist or not. You have to read this book with a dictionary and thesaurus. The only other book I've read like that was "Humbolt's Gift."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

Philip Carey is orphaned at the age of 9. He goes to live with his aunt and uncle. His uncle is a village vicar. For a while Philip goes through a deeply religious stage, even thinking he'll go into the clergy himself. But instead, after many unhappy years at a boarding school, he goes to study in Germany. He eventually spends time in Paris studying to be an artist.

After realizing he'll never be a great artist, he returns to London to study to be a doctor. He also meets Mildred and becomes obsessed with her. But Mildred is looking for the good life.

"Of Human Bondage" is a character study of a man who is not perfect.Philip is complicated. At times you understand what he's feeling and at other times you want to knock him in the head. He's one of the most fascinating characters I've come across in a long time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Body of Lies

Body of Lies by Iris Johansen

"Body of Lies" is about a forensic sculpture named Eve who goes to Louisiana to work on a skull found in a swamp. It may be a missing senatorial candidate. But, naturally someone doesn't want the skull identified. So amidst all the danger she's provided with a bodyguard named Sean.

Eve has left her boyfriend, Joe, and adopted daughter back home but the people who are stalking her now use her family to try to control her.

I read this book a month or so ago. It didn't stick in my head too well. There were too many characters who seemed to blend into one another. I was constantly looking back to see if Sean or Joe were the boyfriend. I could never remember which was which. Johansen has written some good mysteries. This isn't one of them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bridge on the Drina

The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric

The building of the bridge on the Drina River was finished in 1571. It was destroyed at the beginning of World War I. "The Bridge on the Drina" tells the stories of people who live in the towns around the bridge. Turks, Serbs, Muslims, Christians, Jews.....Many different peoples.

There is an area in the center of the bridge where people meet to socialize. They have their coffee, drinks or cigarettes and pass the time. Life is slow. All the people live in a state of cooperation. But as time goes on and centuries pass the world gets smaller. And eventually the affairs of the rest of the world begin seeping into the small villages that surround the vally.

This is an amazing book. It's like a series of short stories all tied to the bridge. I would recommend this book with 4 stars.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Odyssey

The Odyssey of Homer by T. E. Lawrence

"The Odyssey" is the story of the return of Odysseus from the Trojan War. It has all the stories we've known all our lives- Cyclops, the Sirens, Calypso, a visit to Hades....But this is the first time I've read the book. I didn't realize there was much more to the story.

My version was translated by Lawrence of Arabia. It was surprisingly easy to read as opposed to The Iliad. I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to it, but I wound up enjoying it more than I expected.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Black Lightning

Black Lightning by John Saul

"Black Lightning" is a supernatural story about a serial killer. Anne Jeffers has been writing about Richard Kraven's bloody path. And now he's due to be executed. But in his final message to her he tells her the killing won't stop with his death. And it doesn't.

The murders begin again. And they're closing in on Anne, getting closer and closer.

I enjoyed this book. I like a good spooker.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J Gaines

Jefferson goes to the local liquor store with two friends. One of the guys tries to get the store keeper to give him a bottle on credit. An argument erupts and the friend pulls out a gun. The store keeper has one too. So after a gunfight, the only one standing is Jefferson. He is convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.

It's the late 1940;s in Louisiana. Jefferson has never had the breaks Grant had. Grant managed to get to college. He has returned to teach in the black school. His aunt is a friend of Miss Emma, who is Jefferson's godmother. Together the two old ladies pressure Grant to teach Jefferson to be a man before his execution. But Grant has not earned the respect of the white community with his accomplishments and has grown detached from everyone.

But while he teaches Jefferson the value of life, he learns it himself.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Don't let the cover fool you. This isn't the translation I read. I found a copy in my local library honor room for a dollar. It was translated by a Russian princess in the 1930's. Something aroused my curiosity over halfway through the book. Where was all the philosophy, ethics and morals the book was supposed to go into? After a little research I realized my book was about 240 pages shorter than the next shortest version sold at B&N. So all the deep ideas in the book were gone. Basically, the little princess turned a Russian classic into a murder mystery. A lame one at that.

I was supposed to be reading this with TheClassicClub on Yahoo. I kept in the discussion, but I don't really feel I've read the book.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is set in the beginning of the 20th century. It tells the story of Francie who lives with her parents and brother in a poor tenement in Brooklyn. Her dad Johnny is an alcoholic singing waiter. He's a poor provider so mother Kate struggles to make ends meet.

Francie is a dreamy child. She also wants to learn. She gets her father to help her fake an address so she can get into a better school. And she loves to write.

The book is a simple story about growing up. It follows the family from Francie's childhood until adulthood. There's a hopeful thread through the hardships Francie lives through. It's all about surviving with dignity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow Flower and Lily are laotongs-"the same." They were united by a matchmaker when they were both seven years old. They are bound to be best friends for life. They live in different villages and communicate on a fan by writing nu shy. Nu shu is the secret Chinese writing that women use to communicate with each other without men knowing.

The story is set in the 19th century. Women were just property. They were raised to be given away. Sons were much desired and the woman who couldn't produce them was replaced by concubines.

Snow Flower and Lily share their dreams and hopes through the fan from their foot-binding through the births of their children. But naturally as they grow up they learn. And this brings changes in personalities that lead to misunderstanding.

This is a very good book. It describes the era just through the lives the girls are led through without turning into a history book. The description of the foot-binding is one of the most horrific things I've ever read. My feet hurt just thinking about it. I can't imagine a culture that would do that.

My sister insisted I read this. And I'm going to insist my sister-in-law reads it next.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

1989 Pen Hemingway Foundation Award

Ruth lives in a rural area in Illinois. They're a poor family. Dad Elmer left when Ruth was a child. He took off to Texas. Mom lost her first husband in WWII. She's been bitter and disappointed since. Brother Matt is a mathematical genius. He doesn't want to belong in the family.

And Ruth is a very submissive person. She was the butt of the jokes in school and has grown up not to expect much. She marries the first guy she can, Reuben. Reuben, or Ruby as he's known, was the son of a military man. Ruby couldn't ever please his father but his mother adored him. He grows up to be a drinker and drugger. He doesn't want to work. So Ruth and Ruby live with her mother after their married.And Ruth gets caught between bitter Mom and slacker Ruby.

I enjoyed this book. But it's very depressing. Hamilton makes occasional hints about bad things to come but it's not told until late in the story. And even then you get the feeling Ruth is on another path she's not equipped to deal with.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eden's Outcasts

Eden's Outcasts by John Matteson

2008 Pulitzer for Biography

Eden's Outcasts is the story of the lives of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson Alcott. Bronson was a teacher and writer. He was a philosopher and abolitionist. He tried to run schools and utopias. But he wasn't very good at supporting his family. Of course, after Louisa started writing things got better for the family. But Louisa had no choice in becoming an intellectual. Bronson ran with the likes of Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau.

Eden's Outcasts was a good book. I learned a lot about someone whose books I've always loved. And I learned about a fascinating man I'd never heard of. One who deserves to be remembered.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking through Thursday-Best Reads

Booking Through Thursday-Recent Best

I have to say it's The Stories of John Cheever. I haven't read many short stories and the wonderful tales in the book have opened up a whole new genre for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Short Stories of John Cheever

The Stories of John Cheever

1979 Pulitzer

This was my first foray into short stories (except for Stephen King) and I loved them. There are 61 stories in the order he wrote them. The earliest are set around WWI and the later stories are in the 70's. It was interesting to watch the changes in society as they occurred.

Most of the stories are filled with sadness and disappointment. Some are full of anger, crime, adultery, and all kinds of dubious behavior. Others deal with the randomness of fate.

I've become a fan of short stories with this one book. I'll never overlook the genre again.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eleanor and Franklin

Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph Lash

1972 Pulitzer for Biography

I read this with Pulitzer_literature on Yahoo. Or tried to. Only a couple of us went past the point of pain and no one was able to finish it. Joseph Lash was a friend of Eleanor's. He was a reporter she met through a youth organization. So the book is 90% hero worship of Eleanor. And since it was written by a reporter it reads like a newspaper article...a looong article. It's full of names, dates and places but there isn't much personality.

About halfway through the book I skipped about a chapter and a half by accident and didn't even know it. So about 3/4's of the way in I realized it when someone asked Eleanor about Franklin's polio. I didn't know he had it yet. I'd read a quarter of the book and Lash mentioned crutches once but I thought he was talking figuratively.
You'd assume polio would have a greater influence on their lives than Lash indicated.

This book was a waste of time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Strangers by Dean Koontz

All over the country are suffering from fear. Bone-chilling terror strikes them. And they don't know where the fear came from. Some of them suffer in their dreams, some while awake. Some are triggered by harmless objects, and some become obsessed with the moon. But slowly, hidden memories are beginning to leak through and lead them all to the Arizona desert. But finding the truth doesn't bring peace.

Sci fi disguised with suspense. Really cool. It's a big book, but the suspense keeps the pages turning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Born to be Wild

Born to be Wild by Catherine Coulter

Born to be Wild is a very lightweight mystery. Mary Lisa Beverly is a soap opera star who someone is trying to kill. She is almost run over by a car and goes to her Oregon hometown. With no interesting men in L.A. she is pleased to find two at home. The town's D.A. and Chief of Police both get involved in the L.A. crime while they are also investigating a local murder.

Mary Lisa also has drama with her family. And scenes from her soap opera are played out. All-in-all, this story is all over the place. Nice time-killer, but no deduction skills are needed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

"Cloudsplitter" is the story of abolitionist John Brown as told from his son Owen's point of view. Owen is writing a letter to a reporter who had tried to interview him about his father. Feeling remorse for being rude, Owen decides to cooperate with a written statement. He follows his life with John Brown through childhood through the raid on Harper's Ferry.

The book is very long-winded. Owen repeatedly spends pages writing about his fathers philosophy and influence on other people. He comes across as a little awestruck by John.

Banks straight-out tells you it's a work of fiction. He changes facts, adds events and changes the sequence of events to fit his literary needs. Personally, I felt there was too much fiction. I think you should be able to learn a little something with books. But with "Cloudsplitter" you need to read the book with an encyclopedia nearby to separate fact from fiction. I've read too many fictionalized stories to think you have to rewrite someones life so completely. Either use the life as a basis for a fictional book or write a fictitious original character. Don't try to mix the two.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Awards Reading Challenge III

Book Awards Challenge III

5 Award winners in 5 months.
I'm in.

1961 Nobel Prize in Literature
Ivo Andric The Bridge on the Drina

1993 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Ernest J Gaines A Lesson Before Dying

1989 Pen Hemingway Foundation Award
Jane Hamilton The Book of Ruth

1990 Booker Award
A S Byatt Possession: A Romance

1966 Nebula Award
1960 Hugo Award for Short Story
Daniel Keyes Flowers for Algernon

I like the rules of this challenge. Just 5 books from any award program. I just went looking through books I already have. There's so many books on my TBR. I love a reason to knock them off.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

1989 Pulitzer Prize

Ira and Maggie Moran have been married 28 years. They have a son and daughter. Their son, Jesse, has a daughter of his own but his marriage didn't work out. Their daughter Daisy is set for college.

Maggie's best friend's husband has died and Ira and Maggie set out for the funeral. They have a fight on the way and Maggie demands to be let out of the car. She walks to a gas station/cafe but Ira soon comes back to get her. The trip home after the funeral is even more eventful. Maggie is determined to repair her sons marriage 6 years after the split. Ira is a calm and patient man, but Maggie is emotional and a bit scattered.

"Breathng Lessons" is a simple story about what it takes to live with someone. It's a lovely story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

1949 Nobel

The Compton family are the descendents of a once noble family with a Civil War general and a governor in their family tree. But they are self-destructing. Father is content to rest on the laurels earned before him and Mother is self-absorbed and can't connect with her children. They are basically being raised by Dilsey, the black housekeeper.

The Sound and the Fury is written in four sections. The first section is through Benjy's eyes on his 33rd birthday. Benjy is severly retarded and cannot talk. While roaming around outside with one of Dilseys boys, Benjy's mind keeps jumping around as things provoke his memory. But Benjy has no concept of time so his memories could have happened yesterday as far as he knows. The second section narrated on the last day of Quenton's life. Quenton is unable to handle the loss of honor his sister has caused the family. The third section is narrated by Jason, the mean-spirited middle son. The final section is written in the third person.

It's an incredible book. The different sections are written in different voices and no two are alike. Benjy jumps all over time. Quenton gets more and more disjointed as his day goes one. And Jason just reeks of hate and greed. You have to pay attention with this book but it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dr. Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

1958 Nobel Prize

Zhivago is a doctor and a port. He is married to his cousin Tonia. But occasionally he sees a woman named Laura. During the war he finally meets her and the two have an affair. She is working as a nurse while looking for her missing husband.

I can't say I much enjoyed this book. Unlike the movie, the book is mainly about the war and Zhivago's reaction to it and his disillusionment with people. And not being much up on Russian history (or geography) much of the story needed researching. Sometimes I like researching--but not this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clark

1974 Hugo Award
1973 Nebula Award

In the year 2131 a huge object is discovered near Jupiter. It is traveling unbelievably fast and is headed in Earth's direction. Survey photos determine it is not a natural spacecraft, but a manufactured vessel from outside our galaxy.Man has populated planets and moons around the solar system and manned spacecraft are always in flight. The logical choice to investigate the new arrival is a solar survey vessel named Endeavor.

I don't read much science fiction but I plan on reading the rest of this series. It was meant as a stand alone book but it also left questions about the mysterious Ramans. Maybe the next book will give some answers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Beowulf by Seamus Heanly

Costa/Whitbread winner 1999

Heaney has adapted the ancient tale of monsters and heroes for a new audience. It's the tale of a hero who comes to the aid of a king when a fierce monster begins killing King Hroŏgars warriors. Beowulf crosses the sea to help kill Grendel.

Beowulf is a story of battles loyalty and honor. This new translation is a much easier read than the tale I had to read in high school. Heaney has used more modern language than any version I've seen.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp by John Irvng

T. S. Garp is the son of Jenny Fields. Jenny decided she wanted a child without a husband so she got herself pregnant by a brain damaged war veteran. So with this bizarre birth begins the bizarre life of T. S. Garp. That's his name Jenny never knew the fathers first name so she gave him the initial of his rank- Technical Sergeant. So T. S. was named, but everyone called him Garp.

The book follows Garp throughout his life. First at a school where his mother was nurse. Then at graduation the two take of to live in Europe, where Jenny writes her autobiography which everyone takes to be a feminine statement. Garp wants to be a writer too, but he can't quite capture the attention his mother gets.

This is a very funny book. The characters are completely off the wall. I thoroughly loved it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

During the French Revolution a anonymous Englishman was helping the French aristocrats escape. Chauvelinis the French envoy to England. He is determined to catch The Scarlet Pimpernel. He threatens Marguerite Blakeney, the beautiful wife of Sir Percy Blakeney. If she doesn't help him catch the Pimpernel, he will arrest her brother for aiding him.

This was a fun book. It is very predictable though. I found it very enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Middle Passage

Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

1990 National Book Award

Rutherford Calhoun is a newly freed slave. He has a brother who took to the Christian life of their owner. Rutherford did not. He was a thief, liar, cheat...you name it. He gets involved with a woman named Isadora. She wants marriage and gets the local crime boss to help her trap him. Instead of marriage, Randolph chooses to jump the first ship leaving harbor.

It turns out the ship is a slaver going to pick up cargo. And the captain has alot in common with Captain Blgh. But before the crew can mutiny, the slaves gain the ship.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Iliad

The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad is the original war story. It's set in the 9th year of the Trojan War. It begins with an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon over a woman. Agamemnon wins the argument and the woman. So Achilles goes off to pout, leaving the war for the others to fight. The gods and goddesses have all chosen sides and often help their chosen army.

The story was already hundreds of years old when Homer finally wrote it down. It was an epic poem that had been passed down through the century's. I watched a program on History International the other night and the subject of how could so long a poem be accurate centuries later. Well turns out early in the first half of the 20th century some researcher wondered the same thing. So he went out and studied the songs The Serbian story-tellers sang about a war that occurred about 400 years before. And he found the songs were very accurate. I found that extremely interesting. It lends a little credence to the legend of the Trojan War, but I still don't believe Aphrodite spirited Paris off the battlefield.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Amir and Hassan are two Afghanistan boys who are growing up together. But Amit is rich and Hassan is the servant's son. They are the best of friends. But another neighborhood boy looks down on Hassan because he is Hazara. One day while Hassan is running down a kite, Assef and his thug friends catch Hassan and rape him. Amir sees this but hides instead of helping. Overwhelmed by guilt, he then frames Hassan for a theft. Hassan and his father leave the house. But the guilt is now doubled and Amir has to live with it.

This was an incredible book. Amir does some terrible things but he's only 12 years old. You're left feelng sorry for him in spite of his actions.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Killer Angels

Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

1975 Pulitzer

"The Killer Angels" is a fictionalized account of the Battle of Gettysburg. The story switches back and forth between different people from both sides and helps explain the reasons both had for fighting.

I liked this book much more than I thought I would. The story was well written and turned something I thought I knew into something new. For a well-known historical event, the book brought a little page turning wonder to it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Black Lightning

Black Lightning by John Saul

Journalist Anne Jeffers has been working for five years to see that a serial killer is kept off the street. On the day of his execution he tells her the murders won't end with her death. And they don't.

I enjoyed this book. I'm a fan of the supernatural and murder genres. So when you combine the two it's fun. And this one was truly creepy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Keepers of the House

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau

1965 Pulitzer

The Howland family have lived on the old homestead since the early 1800's. In 1965 the current occupant is Abigail. Her grandfather, William, had brought home a young black woman named Margaret to help take care of Abigail. But Margaret also became his mistress and had children by him.

Abigail's husband is a budding politician. So William and Margaret's secret is a devastating blow to his campaign. And to the community at large.

"The Keepers of the House" is a powerful book about race relations and hyprococy in the south. It asks the question "Do you say what you mean or say what you think people want to hear." It's pertinant in todays PC dominated world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Stranger

The Stranger by Albert Camus

1957 Nobel

Meursault is a young man living in Algiers. Learning of his mother's death he travels to her funeral where his behavior is less than grief-stricken. He decides not to view his mother. And he naps during the vigil.

Upon returning home afterwards, he befriends his neighbor, Raymond. Raymond asks Meursault to write a letter to his girlfriend asking her to come back to him. Once she does, Raymond beats the crap out of her. So her brother is out to get Raymond. On a trip to the beach Meursault, his girlfriend Marie and Raymond are followed by the brother and an Arab friend. On a walk on the beach Meursault runs across the Arab and winds up killing him.

Meursault is arrested and put on trial. But the trial soon veers away from the murder and focuses on Meursault's attitude. The court decides his attitude is a threat to society.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

2007 ALA/Alex award

Jacob Jankowski is 90 or 93. He's not sure which. He's recovering from a broken hip in a nursing home where his busy family have put him. Right down the street a circus is putting up tent. Jacob is suddenly transported to memory-land.

Just days before Jacob was due to graduate from veterinary school, his parents are killed in a traffic accident. While settling their affairs, Jacob learns they had remortgaged the house for his schooling. So a despondent Jacob jumps a train and finds himself among circus folk. With his veterinary schooling he soon finds himself a welcome addition.

Among the people he meets with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth is the cruel animal trainer August, and his beautiful equestrian wife, Marlene. And there's also the elephant, Rosie.

I loved this book. I'm going to make my sister read it. I have to buy my own copy though. I checked it out of the library not kowing how much I would like it. I only chose it for the BookAwards ChallengeII because it had won one.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Always Time to Die

Always Time To Die by Elizabeth Lowell

Carly May is a genealogist who is invited to New Mexico to chart a family tree for the Quantrell family. The Quantrell family has intermingled with the Castillo family for centuries. But now the powerful Senator has died and Miss Winnifred Quantrell wants a record of the family. But there have been some nasty people in the family and someone wants the skeletons left in the closet.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

"Brave New World" is set in the future in London. Most of the world is united in The World State and years are measured in "the year of our Ford." People are no longer born but raised in jars. They're chemically treated to control their traits and are classified onto 5 classes, from brains at the top to mindless laborors at the bottom of the scale. People are trained to consume goods. They're controlled with a drug called soma.

Bernard and Lenina take a trip to New Mexico to the Savage Reservation. While there they meet a woman who had belonged to the New World but got separated from her group and forced to remain on the reservation once she got pregnant naturally. Laura has an 18 year old son, John. Laura ans John are brought back to London. John's culture shock causes a storm in the new society that understands him no better than he understands them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Age of Innocence

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

1921 Pulitzer

Set in New York's High Society, Age of Innocence is The story of a young man trying to follow the rules of society against his vague discomfort with them. Newland Archer is a young lawyer engaged to the proper young lady, May Welland. Everything is on tract until May's cousin returns to New York.

Countess Ellen Olenska has left her husband amid scandal and returned to her family. But in the late 19th century divorce is a scandal. So Newland is drawn into the family's efforts to persuade Ellen to return to her husband. And Newland finds himself attracted to her and begins to question the path he is taking.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A Summons to Memphis Ж Peter Taylor
Mrs. Dalloway Ж Virginia Woolf
Ironweed Ж William Kennedy
Dreamcatchers Ж Stephen King
The Painted Veil Ж W Somerset Maugham

The Invisible Man Ж H. G. Wells
The Handmaid's Tale Ж Margaret Atwood
Tree of Smoke Ж Denis Johnson
American Pastoral Ж Philip Roth
Age of Innocence Ж Edith Wharton

Brave New World Ж Aldous Huxley
Always Time to Die Ж Elizabeth Lowell
Water for Elephants Ж Sara Gruen
The Stranger Ж Albert Camus
The Keepers of the House Ж Shirley Ann Grau
Black Lightening Ж John Saul

The Killer Angels Ж Michael Shaara
The Kite Runner Ж Khaled Hosseini
The Illiad Ж Homer
Middle Passage Ж Charles Johnson
The Scarlet Pimpernel Ж Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The World According to Garp Ж John Irvng
Beowulf Ж Seamus Heanly
Rendezvous with Rama Ж Arthur C. Clark
Doctor Zhivago Ж Boris Pasternak
The Sound and the Fury Ж William Faulkner
Breathing Lessons Ж Anne Tyler


Cloudsplitter Ж Russell Banks
Born to be Wild Ж Catherine Coulter
Strangers Ж Dean Koontz

Eleanor and Franklin Ж Joseph Lash
The Stories of John Cheever Ж John Cheever
Eden's Outcasts Ж John Matteson
The Book of Ruth Ж Jane Hamilton

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Ж Lisa See
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Ж Betty Smith
The Brothers Karamazov Ж Fyodor Dostoevsky

A Lesson Before Dying Ж Ernest J Gaines
Black Lightning Ж John Saul
The Odyssey Ж Homer
The Bridge on the Drina Ж Ivo Andric
Body of Lies Ж Iris Johansen

Of Human Bondage Ж Somerset Maugham
Possession Ж A. S. Byatt

Flowers For Algernon Ж Daniel Keyes

Friday, February 20, 2009

American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

1998 Pulitzer

Swede Levov is trying to live the American dream. He marries a beauty queen and buys a house he's loved since his youth. But during the 60's his daughter becomes a war militant. Merry plants a bomb that kills a man and then goes into hiding. Levov's life sowly begins to unravel.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tree of Smoke

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

"Tree of Smoke" is a story about the people who fought in the Viet Nam was. Skip is an undercover CIA agent engaged in psychological warfare. His only contact is his maybe crazy colonel uncle. The book is full of the twists and turns that go with was. It's a big book, but it's fast reading. And it covers all the pertinent elements of war- spies, friends, enemies, battles, family. All of it. It's an incredible novel with so many threads that are easy to keep tract it. A must read for all war story fans.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

"The Handmaid's Tale" is set in a future in which religion is used to rule the population. After a series of disasters, the United States had been replaced by Gilead. Women are now expected to be housewives, concubines or nuns. Most women are now sterile and handmaids are fertile women who are used as surrogates. "The Handmaid's Tale" follows a woman named Offred who is a surrogate. She has been separated from her husband and child and placed in the home of an official. Her fate depends on her ability to conceive.

I found this book very disturbing. The premise seems plausible. It would be Utopia for men. But I've never read about any Utopia I would want to live in.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man by H G Wells

Griffin is a scientist who learns to control light refraction with the human body...sort of. He has learned to make himself invisible, but now he can't undo the experiment. So he heads off to a small English village where he gets a room to try to figure out how to reverse the procedure. And while he begins terrorizing the village, the villagers begin to figure out his secret.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. It's one of those where you think you know the story because it's rooted so deep in popular culture. Like Frankenstein, it's been retooled and played with so much during the last century you're never sure what is authentic. I would suggest everyone read it. It's not very big in size but it's huge in creepiness.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

Kitty Fane has married Walter so she can be married before her younger sister. But she doesn't love him. Walter is a bacteriologist who is vacationing from his work in Hong Kong. After their arrival, Kitty meets and falls in love with a diplomat. But Walter finds out about their affair and insists she accompany him to China where he is going to try to help with a cholera outbreak.

Kitty doesn't start out as a very sympathetic character. But as the book goes on you learn what motivates her. Very slowly she grows on you. "The Painted Veil" is a very easy book to read...flowing language and believable characters. I'd recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Four lifelong friends are taking their annual hunting trip when a disoriented man stumble upon them. The stranger is in pretty poor condition, so he's taken to the cabn where strange thngs begin to happen. Stephen King strange.

This was a good book. 850 pages I read in 3 days (I had to go to work). King jumped from character to character, which would irk me but then I got involved in the current narrative. So within a couple of pages I was into that section so it was OK until he changed characters. It was a vicious circle.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Ironweed by William Kennedy
1984 Pulitzer Prize

Francis Phelan has blood on his hands. He killed a scab during a strike. Then he accidentally dropped his infant son and killed him. Then while living the hoboes life, he kills another bum in self-defense. Now he has returned to Albany with his girl-friend Helen, who is an alcholic as is he. He's trying to come to terms with his past. Helen is trying to self-destruct.

Ironweed is set in the back alleys and two bit dives that most people never see. It's about the way life can conquer some people before they even get started.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

This book is one woman's inspection of her life. It's set in one day as Mrs. Dalloway prepares for a party. As she goes about her arrangements she ponders on the past and the future. It's a calm little book and well worth reading.

A lucid review at Time which named it one of the All Time 100 Novels.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Bleak House Ж Charles Dickins
Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe & Alexander Selkirk Ж Stu and Stevey Bruce
From the Corner of His Eye Ж Dean Koontz

Never on These Shores Ж Stephen R Pastore
Lonesome Dove Ж Larry McMurtry
The Magnificent Ambersons Ж Booth Tarkington
The Pilgrim's Progress Ж John Bunyan
Gulliver's Travels Ж Johnathan Swift
Playing for Pizza Ж John Grisham
Frankenstein Ж Mary Shelley

The Scarlet Letter Ж Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde Ж Robert Louis Stevenson
The Search Ж Iris Johansen
Tess of the d'Urbervilles Ж Thomas Hardy
Notes on a Scandal Ж Zoë Heller
Killer Bodies Ж Michael Fleeman
Queen of the Slayers Ж Nancy Holder

Oliver Twist Ж Clarles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice Ж Jane Austin
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Ж Muriel Spark
So Big Ж Edna Ferber
The Ugly Duckling Ж Iris Johansen
Les Misérables Ж Victor Hugo
Angle of Repose Ж Wallace Stegner
Cold Mountain Ж Charles Frazier

Beloved Ж Toni Morrison
Hawaii Ж James A Michner
Jane Eyre Ж Charlotte Brontë
Uncle Tom's Cabin Ж Harriet Beecher Stowe

Madame Bovary Ж Gustave Flaubert
The Grapes of Wrath Ж John Steinbeck
Fahrenheit 451 Ж Ray Bradbury
Humboldt's Gift Ж Saul Bellow
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao Ж Junot Díaz
The Life of Pi Ж Yann Martel
Arrowsmith Ж Sinclair Lewis
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler Ж E L Konigsberg
Up a Road Slowly Ж Irene Hunt
Gone With the Wind Ж Margaret Mitchell

The Poisonwood Bible Ж Barbara Kingsolver
East of Eden Ж John Steinbeck
The Power and the Glory Ж Graham Greene
Justine Ж Marquis de Sade
The Prince Ж Niccolò Machiavelli
Anna Karenina Ж Leo Tolstoy

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold Ж John le Carré
The Optimist's Daughter Ж Eudora Welty
Cell Ж Stephen King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Ж Victor Hugo
Paradise Lost Ж John Milton
A Cold Day in Hell Ж Stella Cameron

Lord of the Flies Ж Willian Golding
Heart of Darkness Ж Joseph Conrad
The Regulators Ж Richard Bachman
Tree of Smoke Ж Denis Johnson

Mrs Dalloway Ж Virginia Wolfe
Ironweed Ж William Kennedy
Dreamcatcher Ж Stephen King

The Paintd Veil Ж W Somerset Maugham
The Handmaid's Tale Ж Margaret Atwood
A Summons to Memphis Ж Peter Taylor

The Invisible Man Ж H G Wells
American Pastoral Ж Philip Roth

A Summons to Memphis

A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

1987 Pulitzer Prize

A Summons to Memphis tells the story of the Carver family. Dear old dad is about to get married again and his spinster sisters summon Philip home to help dissuade him from an action that could see all the family's old money being redistributed. Seems it was a common occurrence that the sisters were determined to avoid in their family. Memphis takes Philip down memory lane and leads him to reevaluate the past and the events that sprang out of it.

"A Summons to Memphis" is about Southern customs and traditions. It reminded me of Eudora Welty's "The Optimist's Daughter." I liked Daughter but I've found that as time goes on I remember it more and more fondly. I expect the same thing to happen with Memphis.

The B&N lucid review.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Prime New Years Resolution

A #1 this year: Spend No Money. I'm amazed at how much money I can go through. I spent hundreds of dollars on books alone last year. I just went to add more to LibraryThing and I was amazed to see just how many I haven't even read yet. I have more than enough to last me a year or two (or three) and I was checking through them thinking "I want to read that one next" several times. So the only ones I will buy this year will be for my book clubs or out of the library's honor room. At 50¢ or $1 apiece maybe it'll pacify my hunger for new books.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year


OK. It's a new year and I've made my resolutions. One of them is to begin this blog again. Things have been rough this year. Well, since the hurricane. It turned my job into a major headache. I work at a landfill and the amounts of debris brought in have been astounding. Three and a half months later the cleanup goes on. But it is easing up.

Then at the end of October my brother committed suicide. A delayed Gulf Storm casuality. I lost interest in everything for a while there. It's very traumatic for everyone who loved him. Confusion is reigning in my brain and there's something missing in my life that will never return. It's been two months now, but I still can't get a grip on it.