Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
1992 National Book Award

John Grady Cole is a 16 year old cowboy. He was raised n his grandfathers ranch, but after the old mans death his mother decides to sell and move the boy to town. John Grady convinces his best friend Lacey to go to Mexico with him. On the trip down, the pair meet a kid claiming to be Jimmy Blevins. One night during a storm, Blevins freaks out. He lists a dozen or so relatives who have been struck by lightning. He strips down to get away from the metal in his clothes. During the storm his horse runs away and a flash flood carries off all his belongings.

A little later the three ride into a town where they spot the horse. Blevins steals it and hauls ass. John Grady and Lacey escape to and travel further south and eventually find work. He also finds the ranch owners daughter. And the posse finds them.

I liked this book more than I expected to. Although I LOVED Lonesome Dove I'm not much into westerns. I think I bought this soon after I read The Road a couple of years ago and wanted to read something else by McCarthy. I'm very glad I did.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Little Dorrit was born in the poorhouse in London. Her father, brother and sister all live there. She does sewing to help the family get by. Authur Clennam is a rich gentleman who befriends her. As the Dorrit family's fortunes rise Authur's fortunes fall.

This is a typical Dickens novel, full of shady banking and corrupt government. But this is the first time I could attach the word "typical" to Dickens. The characters were too caricatured to suit me. There was nothing in this story to make it stand out from his other books. Kinda felt like a repeat to me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

White Noise

White Noise by Don Delillo
1985 National Book Award

Jack Gladney is a Hitler professor. He's on his fifth marriage. He's got kids and stepkids, some at home and some with other parents. He has a set of friends who like to sit around discussing deep thoughts.

Both Jack and his wife Babette are obsessed with death. They are both terrified of it. So when a toxic chemical cloud is released near town and Jack is exposed he has something to focus his fears on. But his wife has fallen into the influence of a scientist who convinces her he has a pill that will help her overcome her fear.

White Noise is about the chaos that is modern life. TV, traffic, other people, consumerism, our own personal demons. The list goes on and on. I liked the book. It was a quick read and a realistic view of modern life. Except it was written before the tide of cell phones hit society.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Michael Henchard is a poor workman dragging his family across country trying to find work. At a county fair they come across, Michael gets drunk and begins to brood on his family. He feels the responsibility and thinks his wife and baby will drag him down. So he sells them to a sailor who is also just passing through the area. The next day he wakes up and realizes what he has done. But they are no where to be found. He makes a vow to not drink for a period equal to how long he has already been alive.

So after years of hard work he has become a successful businessman and the mayor of Casterbridge. But after the sailor disappears at sea his wife, Susan comes to town with her daughter. Henchard now has on opportunity to make up for the sins of his past.

And there's a new man in town named Donald Farfrae. Farfrae's star is rising. But Henchard's nature won't let him take a backseat to anyone.

This was a wonderful book. It's about second chances and self-destruction. It's my favorite Hardy so far. Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lisey's Story

Lisey's Story by Stephen King
2006 Bram Stoker Award

Two years ago, Lisey lost her husband after 25 years of marriage. Now it's time to clean out his studio. She has gotten on with her life but going through his papers is stirring up memories. Scott was a Pulitzer winning author and since his death vultures are swarming trying to get Lisey to release all of his notes and unpublished works. And one professor has aimed a madman at her.

But being a King novel, there is a secret world that Scott shared with Lisey. And in this world is where Lisey will find the means to fight the killer stalking her.

It had a slow start but after King had it set up it moved along rather quickly. I liked the book. But. It wasn't quite as scary as most of his books. And there wasn't much humor in it. I expect the smart ass conversational tone of his books. This one seemed a little more remote.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family by James Agee
1958 Pulitzer

"A Death in the Family" explores the emotions of the people left behind immediately after an sudden, accidental death. Jay Follet has been called out in the middle of the night by his alcoholic brother, Ralph. Ralph tells Jay their father has had a heart attack and asks Jay to come as soon as he can. Jay immediately leaves Knoxville for his fathers farm. And as he had suspected, the heart attack had been exaggerated. So he heads for home. On the way he loses control of the steering, crashes the car and is killed.

His wife May is overwhelmed by grief. His small children don't completely understand. His brother feels guilty for calling him out. His in-laws are more detached, but still sorrowful.

Mary turns to religion. And some of the family feel Jay's presence. some cling to the hope his spirit is still with them.

This is a book with a characters and emotions everyone can relate to.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas is the best short order cook in Pico Mundo. He also sees dead people. And bodachs. Bodachs are shadowy creatures that show up when something bad is about to happen. And one day a customer at Odd Thomas' diner shows up leading a parade of them.

So now Odd Thomas is following his 6th sense trying to figure out just what this customer is up to. He finds the guys house and inside there is a room devoted to the worst killers of all time. So Thomas is left waiting for the worst.

Ghosts and killers aside, this was a fun book to read. One of Thomas' ghosts was Elvis. Fun, huh. I'll be looking for more in this series.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Awards Reading Challenge IV


I'm a little late, but I'm in. As I did last year, I picked books I already had in my house. I buy more books than I read. And, unfortunately, my local library has an honor room where you can get books for a dollar or less. So I went through the award lists and found 8 on my shelves. Then I had to go through the books and look up the ones that may have won something. Snagged another like that. And as I was going through the books I kept seeing something I want to reread "someday" but I didn't know when "someday" was. So I decided it's now. I threw in one of my all-time favorites to round out the 10. If this isn't O.K. let me know.

Here's my list.

1928 Nobel
Sigrid Undset Ж The Bridal Wreath

1934 James Tait Black Prize
Robert Graves Ж I, Claudius

1985 National Book Award
Don DeLillo Ж White Noise

1989 Man Booker
Kazuo Ishiguro Ж The Remains of the Day

1992 National Book Critics Circle
Carmac McCarthy Ж All the Pretty Horses

1993 Irish Times International Fiction Prize
E. Annie Proulx Ж The Shipping News

1999 Pen/Faulkner
Michael Cunningham Ж The Hours

2005 Alex Award
Jodi Picoult Ж My Sister's Keeper

2006 Bram Stoker Award
Stephen King Ж Lisey's Story

2009 Pulitzer Prize
Elizabeth Strout Ж Olive Kitteridge

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set immediately after World War II. Writer Juliet Ashton is at a loss for her next story. Then comes a letter from stranger named Dawsey Adams. Dawsey has found Juliet's name and address in an old copy of Charles Lamb, his favorite author. He writes asking her for a address for a bookstore so he can order another Lamb book. And in this letter he explains how Lamb got him through the German occupation of Guernsey Island. And he mentions the Society. This piques her interest and she writes back and they begin a correspondence which eventually grows to include the entire Society. And Juliet has her next story. She begins to gather the stories of the occupation from the islanders.

This story is told through letters, journals and telegrams. It's told by Juliet, her best friend, her publisher and the island residents. It's a charming book, happy and hopeful but filled with some horrific stories of the war that contrast with the pleasant life that has resettled over the island.

I loved this book. I borrowed this from my sister (like I don't have enough unread books here) but I'm going to have to get my own copy. I know I'll be rereading it.