Tuesday, August 28, 2001
I stayed up entirely too late last night to finish Joanne Dobson's Northbury Papers. It was really quite good. I do believe I shall read all in the series, apparently I began with the third and most recent title. Her characters were well-constructed, the plot was tight, interesting, and believable.... somewhat. However, it was lovely to peek inside academia, for you certainly learn her perspective as a member of the English faculty. Most interesting is that the protagonist/heroine Karen Pelletier ascended her academic throne despite having a child at 19 and coming from a working-class background. She's fiesty, she's brilliant, she knows her stuff, and has a tender spot in her heart for hulkingly handsome police detectives.
I'll begin Red
Dragon later this evening. The tender spot in my
heart for Sir
Anthony Hopkins demands that I read this prequel to Silence of
the Lambs, which I haven't read either. I understand that there is
a film adaptation of Red Dragon in the works, so I'd really rather
read it instead of relying upon Hollywood's (blech--too bad I didn't
make this blink!) interpretation.
Have wanted to read
reader's manifesto by B.R. Myers for a few weeks
and just today found the July/August issue of The
Atlantic. And here I thought it wasn't online! Well, a few jewels
that you may enjoy: "At the 1999 National Book Awards ceremony
Oprah Winfrey told of calling Toni Morrison to say that she had had
to puzzle over many of the latter's sentences. According to Oprah,
Morrison's reply was "That, my dear, is called reading."
Sorry, my dear Toni, but it's actually called bad writing. Great prose
isn't always easy, but it's always lucid; no one of Oprah's intelligence
ever had to wonder what Joseph Conrad was trying to say in a particular
sentence. This didn't stop the talk-show host from quoting her friend's
words with approval. In similar fashion, an amateur reviewer on Amazon.com
admitted to having had trouble with Guterson's short stories: "The
fault is largely mine. I had been reading so many escape novels that
I wasn't in shape to contend with stories full of real thought written
in challenging style." And then this was a nice goodie as
well: Many readers wrestle with only one bad book before concluding
that they are too dumb to enjoy anything "challenging."
Their first foray into literature shouldn't have to end, for lack
of better advice, on the third page of something like Underworld.
At the very least, the critics could start toning down their hyperbole.
How better to ensure that Faulkner and Melville remain unread by the
young than to invoke their names in praise of some new bore every
week? How better to discourage clear and honest self-expression than
to call Annie Proulx—as Carolyn See did in The Washington Post—"the
best prose stylist working in English now, bar none"?
August 25, 2001
Death's autograph by Marianne MacDonald was okay for a British mystery. I normally don't like to read books in any genre that are written by the English. There's a quality to their writing that I just cannot appreciate. It's too dry or something.
So I didn't read Bridget Jones' Diary (although I did try it and found the recounting of poundage and number of cigarettes smoked too neurotic for my taste), nor have I read any of those Harry Potter books. Plus, Death's autograph took place in an antiquarian bookshop, is there any better place? Ah, perhaps a library you say? Well, it was entertaining, a quick read and all, not terribly fluffy since I really don't care for cozies at all.
Next, I read First kill all the lawyers, wherein the spunky southern heroine is an investigative news reporter...ew, I just noticed that it's considered a Cozy. The dread cozy. Well, I suppose that it is, because it wasn't hard-boiled, yet it didn't have a recipe included, nor was the mystery solved by the heroine's ___________(insert cuddly creature here) or some other such nonsense.
Then I read Flower master by Sujata Massey. I'm not a Japonophile, but learning about Japanese culture and ettiquette was quite interesting, especially since there was an ikebana emphasis. The writing was clear, and everything was interesting, the story progressed well, yet it lacked the wacky, zany, irrereverant character idiosyncracies that I've come to love and expect from the books I read.
And, I started but
have not completed Murder
shoots the bull: a southern sisters mystery by Anne
George. It's well-written, with nicely developed characters (they're
in their sixties), and nice observations of Birmingham, AL, but I'm
not sure that I'm planning on reading every book in the series. Once
I finish the last 30-something pages, who knows what I'll read next.
Oh, I'm sure one of the many library books that I have checked out.
It's a compulsion, I freely admit it...I'm addicted to libraries and
books especially. It's a good thing that I work in one, otherwise
I might just go crazy...nah!
What a sad book, all
420 pages of it! The worst part is how evil the librarian was. Oh, well
evil is a pretty strong word, but what a nasty person, jeez! Well, I
think of all the millions of people who read the book and they're left
with such a cold, uncaring, impatient characterization of librairanship.
It's a wonder folks went to libraries. But, then again some people who
read are more comfortable with books than with humans, so they may not
require any warmth or interaction. Children do though. And it was really
sad too how other children were mean to her because she was poor and
her father was an alcoholic singing waiter. It's certainly one of those
American Dream books....work hard and you too can succeed. And I think
that was true at one time in the US, but not now. I learned this about
the author at the Harper
Collins site: Betty Smith was born on December 15, 1896. The
daughter of German immigrants, she grew up poor in the Williamsburg
section of Brooklyn. After stints writing features for newspapers, reading
plays for the Federal Theater Project, and acting in summer stock, Smith
moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina under the auspices of the W.P.A.
While there in 1943, she published A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, her first
novel. Smith's other novels include Tomorrow Will be Better (1947),
Maggie-Now (1958) and Joy in the Morning (1963). She also had a long
career as a dramatist, writing one-act and full-length plays for which
she received both the Rockefeller Fellowship and the Dramatist Guild
Fellowship. She died in 1972.
Read 84, Charing Cross Road quickly, afterall it is a thin book. Didn't realize it was made into a play and then a movie. But I had not read it, and for some reason I kept coming across it on lists of books one must read.
Also read Not one of the boys by Brenda Feigen. It was not the best memoir I've ever read. For one thing, she didn't mention a thing at all about her childhood. The memoir began with her admission to Harvard Law School. Another problem with the book is that is it so disjointed. The chapters are not at all chronological and that makes her story confusing as well. And, sad to say, not everyone shoudl write a memoir. I really thought it stank. At times she really didn't have a thing to say about her life, but she makes comments on political events, and uses excerpts from other feminists' books to make her points. She does sort of a "state-of-the-art" on feminism but it really doesn't relate to her specifically because she's been out of the loop so long. And, she did't really go into her sexual orientation in great depth, which would have made the memoir more interesting.
I've read a few chapters in A tree grows in Brooklyn which I also find on lots of lists of books to read. So far the little girl loves the library, checks out a book every day and 2 on Saturday. She loves the smell of the library, including library paste! Dare I recall that odor? It's vague, but not much in use in today's libraries. Apparently this was also made into a movie as well. And, the
I think that Fleur
de Leigh's life of crime was supposed to be funny.
And, well, it was. There weren't any glaring deficiencies in Diane
Leslie's first novel. The main character, Fleur is the child of
two Hollywood nasties. The novel documents how sad her life was, but
in a most perky manner. I suppose it's a black comedy, and perhaps
it is supposed to be lighthearted, but honestly, it was one of the
saddest books I've read in a long time. Her parents are wretches,
she's ignored all the time and depends upon the kindness of zany nannies
who move in and out of her life. And, I'm caught between books. Haven't
decided what to read just yet.
Back to Nice girls finish last, for a brief moment. I was struck by a sentence on page 25: "...where viewers were less likely to notice if he confused Liberian rebels with librarian rebels." It's wonderful that others have noticed the remarkable similarity between Liberia and Library. Of course, at our favorite place of work, we have a saying that, At least it's better than Liberia.
I did finish Gibbon's decline & fall; it was most excellent, one of the best books I've read all year. And, I regret that the link in my previous mention of the book gave it a rather negative review, calling it much to feminist. Whatta shock! My, my, my. It was really great until the end, when it got kinda freaky (not that kind of freaky though). And, the end was rather ambiguious, so I didn't especially appreciate that as a plot device, although it probably was pretty durned effective.
I tried a Tami Hoag novel, Dust to dust. It was well-written, with good characters. I especially liked her Nikki Liski, her sense of humor is quite good. The plot was twisted enough to confuse me a bit, but I figuered out 80% of the ending before it happened. I might read another one sometime.
Oh, then I read Miracle strip by Nancy Bartholomew. I'll definately read ther rest of the series. They're brilliantly funny, a fabulous heroine with a great right hook who's also an exotic dancer in Panama City, Florida. Yeah, I know, couldn't quite help but read ANOTHER of those wacky books that takes place in Florida. What is it about the place? And I picked up one of Bartholomew's other wisecrackin' (I hope) mysteries...can't recall the title, but the protagonist is a country western singer. Likely another fabulous heroine with great wit, wisdom, etc. And, there's more (just one though!)....
great writer, Katy Munger.
I read Legwork,
goody, her first. I really wasn't sure if I started reading far into
the series becase she refers back to things in her past a lot, like
other writers do just in case one begins their series in the middle.
It must ohave beena Carolina weekend because both Munger and Bartholomew
live in the northern state (Munger in Raleigh, Bartholomew in Greensboro--my
alma mater--ahem!). Hmmm, I wonder if North Carolina has festival
of books? I may read a few chapters in something else this evening
before bedtime. All in all, I've been pretty pleased with my reading
Ok so the plot of Letting loose was pretty predictable. I guessed it, wound up being correct, and now wonder why I even bothered reading the durned thing. Oh, but the great thing about the book is that the heroine has moved from Mass. to some fictional "Paradise Island" on Florida's Gulf Coast to open a bookstore. That was the part that made it so promising and appealling, but alas there wasn't much abou the bookstore in the book. I assumed she opened it, the book ended with the typical wedding on the beach at sunset...blah!
I did read A darkness more than night by Michael Connelly. I read one of his books a few years ago...Blood work, which I recall as being entertaining. And for some reason Void moon sticks out in my head, though I don't think that I read it. Well, after consulting my reading log of six years, I actually did read Void moon last year. Believe it or not. But they are entertaining, well-written, and probably good airplane books. The plots are better than average, but not with the twists and turns that I'm used to ala Jeff Deaver. Btw, don't you think it's interesting that almost every author has their own website? Wow, if I didn't write this stuff down, there's no way I would have remembered that! My memory is already shot at such a young age.
I read the first two chapters of Sheri Tepper's Gibbon's decline & fall. It promises to be really great. My goal is to read all of her books, though I'm ceratinly not going about it chronologically. Already it's pretty pro-feminist, what I always like in a good read. I'm sure to complete it tonight and then I have oodles of books to move on to.
I joined the Mystery Guild
Book Club about 2 weeks ago and read one of those books already,
so I've got at least six more to go through. Plus the 3 mm paperbacks
from the dread amazon.com. Actually I'd rather purchase books
but they're just so SLOW about getting the books out. Amazon is
really quick, which is probably the best thing I can say about
Well I've picked
a ....where's the word?...book to read, that's for sure. Letting
loose is really not my cup of tea....it's more like
liptons (i prefer tetley or even better, celestial seasonings), or
some of that horrid instant mix with water tea. Oh the book is not
terribly bad, but I'm bored with it. It has potential, some of the
characters could be more quirky, after all, it is one of those would-be
humorous books set in Florida, you're familiar with the genre, right?
I guess I decided to read it because it was likened to Jennifer
Crusie's novels. I'll be glad when I'm done with it. I'm already
2/3 of the way through with it, so I really have some time invested
in it. I did finish Beauty last night, and parts of it were really
well done, but then there were sections that just dragged along. It
was tedious, odious, terribly painful to digest. I must say that Beauty
is not my favorite Tepper book. But I have plenty of books at home
to read, I can't wait to read something GOOD, for a change!
Although I really try not to patronize amazon.com (for many reasons), a sweet, thoughtful friend sent me a $25 gift certificate for one of those _0 birthdays. I indulged by purchasing a few mass market paperbacks one of which I read last night. Sparkle Hayter is such a great writer. I've read most of her books, and finished Nice girls finish last, last night. And, I've got Revenge of the cootie girls checked out so I can read it later this week as well. The main character throughtout the series is Robin Hudson, girl (ah, she's a woman, really!) television news reporter.Witty, clever, good humor, they're really fabulous and I would highly recommend them to almost anyone.
Had lots of time to read over the weekend since I've had a malingering illness. Upper respiratory plus allergies, yech! Finished Blue diary...it was good, but it didn't end exactly the way I expected, which was good, I get tired of authors using the same old plot formulae. Read Jemima J by Jane Green. It was entertaining, but eh, not the most thrilling thing I've read. The writing was ok. The characters were ok. Not exactly stand out, but it had a good message.....if you can believe that. It was fun though, and easy to read.
Then, I read Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard. His 29th book, eh!? The first I've read of his books, it was okay, but nothing particularly special as far as I'm concerned. Dont' get me wrong, I've read worse things, but this wasn't a real stand out.
Anyone but you is one of Jennifer Crusie's books. Surprisingly it was a Harlequin romance type book, very thin and all and quick to read, but I read it because I enjoy Crusie so much. Eh, it was okay, but not as great as her other books. I doubt she had the time to really draw her characters and go into great detail.
I tried a Nora Roberts book, too. Carolina moon was ok. Not terribly bad. It kept my interest, and the characters were well-rounded. I don't know that I would read another of her books, but it was a nice departure from what I normally read.
And then, a good old mystery to round things out, Fourth wall by Beth Saulnier. Apparently the third in a series, great newpaper reporter takes on mysteries, the mob, etc. I may try to read her other two books in the series. So now, what to read, what to read?
I didn't finish Blue
diary last night, I decided to catch up on my sleep instead.
So I'm about 1/3 of the way through it, and it seems promising so far.
I certainly want to keep reading. I looked through my list of books
that I've read in the past years and realized that I read Hoffman's
Local girls. I completely forgot about that. Well, honestly I really
would not receall the books I read if I did not keep a list. I read
far too many of them to remember each and every one. Will probably start
Bourke-White's biography, Margaret Bourke-White: A biography,
this weekend. I'm writing an entry for the Biographical Dictionary of
Literary Influences on her and need to get on the ball for this project.
So I finished Blackberry wine early this morning and it was not disappointing, although I did feel like Harris wrapped things up pretty quickly at the end. Like jackrabbit quick. Oh, and she did do that thing...I have no clue what it's really called....that literary device of sorts wherein the chapters alternate eras. For example, one chapter takes place when Joe was an adolescent and the next would happen in 1999. Sometimes that works, but more often than not, it just annoys me. It began to grate on my nerves after a while.
I'll start Alice
Hoffman's new book Blue
diary while I get my hair done this afternoon. I've
read a few of her books, but she's not my favorite author just yet.
I enjoy her stories, though I wish they were meatier, or something.
Can't quite put my finger on that just yet. I thought River
King was a bit dark, but
I do like her use of the mystical/magical. And I did read ......um........
the one that became a movie.....Practical
Magic. But Turtle
moon was my Alice Hoffman initiation, just so you
Finished Word freak, and it was pretty well-written. The author actually did address the gender issue. He devoted about 3 pages to the three top women in the game. Those women theorize that they actually have lives outside of scrabble and that's why the tournaments & top 50 are so male-dominated. Ok, so still not quite as much analysis as I would have liked. And, actually what annoyed me a lot with the guy is that he has this negative mindset about "blue-hairs", which I'm sure refers to older women, not men; he seemed very complimentary, at times awestruck by them.
I know that Joanne
wine will be great. I just read the first chapter
earlier this morning. I really like her stuff even though she's part
British. There's just something about the way that British authors
write that I just can't appreciate. That's why I haven't read any
of the Harry Potter books. But I like Harris because there's such
a magical quality to her writing. I've always loved magic realism,
and that's why I'm so drawn to Latin writers like Gabriel
García Márquez, Isabel
Alvarez, and Laura
Gosh, started Power by Linda Hogan, but couldn't really get into it. It will sit on my bedside table for a few days until I feel like I can go back to it. Guess it's just too lyrical, poetic, filled with imagery, and I like a one-two punch kinda book that's pretty straightforward. But I've really enjoyed her other books Solar storms and Mean spirit. I found a Linda Hogan bibliography, too.
Also tried to read Cane river by Lalita Tademy, but just couildn't get into it, either. I don't know what's wrong with me, but my patience for books is really low right now.
Now I'm reading
freak: heartbreak, triumph, genius, and obsession in the world of
competitive Scrabble players.It's pretty engrossing,
especially since I'm a Scrabble addict, myself. My only criticism
of the book thus far (p.149) is that Stefan Fatsis doesn't investigate
or analyze the gender inplications of the game. Only one woman, Rita
Norr has ever won the national championships, and at one point in
the book Fatsis says, "it's a fact of scrabble that the novice
and intermediate ranks are heavy, literally and figuratively, with
middle-aged women; twenty-five of my thirty-one opponents will be
of th eopposite sex, maybe one under age thirty." So I'm wondering
if the nature of Scrabble is
more masculine, or if it's just that misogyny permeates matches, or
perhaps it's just the author's projection. Although he frequently
mentions all the male freaks he encounters at matches, he doesn't
disparage them in the way that he does women (saying that they 'chirp'
and referring to them as blue hairs).
Could only read to chapter 6 in the Pistol packing' mama book; it was way too dry and tedious, odious, you know what I mean. It's a shame too, I hoped it would be informative and....good. There was some extraneous narrative/information throughout A theory of relativity by Jacquelyn Mitchard. I suppose it didn't get great reviews, but it was somewhat interesting.
Finished Fast food
nation a few days ago and have since read Jennifer Crusie's Crazy
for you, J.
Deaver's Speaking in tongues (which was not his
best effort, btw), Joanne Harris' Five
quarters of the orange (fabulous is all i can say!)
and Amy Tan's Bonesetter's
daughter. Began Pistol packin' mama: Aunt
Molly Jackson and the politics of folksong yesterday and am
lingering at chapter 3.