Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather

WOW, readers - just WOW. I am now a Willa Cather superfan. She has once again bewitched me with her ability to create living, breathing characters out of paper and ink, and place them in settings I had no real prior interest in that I now wish I could see for myself.

It's funny, because on paper this book has little to interest me. It's basically a novel-length character study of the titular Archbishop, covering the many years he presides over New Mexico, when it was still a new territory for the US. However, once I started reading it I could barely cope with having to put it down. Something about her writing creates a direct link to images in my brain, and I feel instantly immersed in the story. I cannot wait to read more of her books. Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Oracle of Stamboul - Michael David Lukas

This is one of the last of the Borders Last Day Sales books, and after reading I kind of see why it has been gathering dust on the TBR pile. I really wanted to love this book - the premise and setting seemed so interesting, but....

You know the expression, "there's no 'there' there?"Apparently it was originally a Gertrude Stein quotation, that has, over the years, taken on the meaning of "something that has nothing at its core." This book has no "there" there. The book has a cool cover, the jacket copy sounds interesting, the main character(s) seem interesting, the setting is interesting, but ultimately, nothing comes of any of it. Things are made a big deal of and then dropped. Characters disappear when it's convenient, and for no good reason. And to top it all off, the ending is ambiguous. Sigh.

Unfortunately I can't recommend this one.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Auntie Mame - Patrick Dennis (Spoilers?)

As a big fan of the film Mame, starring Rosalind Russell, who even enjoys the Lucille Ball musical version, I can't believe it has taken me this long to read this book. Yet another lucky Library Sale find, this was just what the doctor ordered. The semi-subtitle printed on the cover, "An Irreverent Escapade," sums it up neatly - it is definitely irreverent. It's also sort of a joyous escapade, one I'd dearly love to visit, Jasper Fforde Book World style.

As a film fan, I will say that the second half of the book diverges significantly from the film versions, but that is not a bad thing. I kind of like that the book is its own entity. And to be honest, the films' changes make way more sense from a narrative point of view, unifying the story and providing a more obvious narrative arc. I will let you know that one of the signature film lines is conspicuously missing from the book, so kudos to the stage or screen adaptor who coined it, it fits beautifully, and is one of my favorite quotes.

Apparently there is a sequel to this book; I might have to check that out. In any case, this is a fun little romp and I recommend it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife - Mary Roach

Another lucky Library Sale shelf find, this book is apparently the UK edition - I guess the US title is Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife. Regardless of the title, the subject matter was fascinating. The author looks into how people have described and believed in an afterlife, and how in the last couple of centuries scientists have been trying to ascertain if there is any such thing, and if we can somehow prove it. The most entertaining part of this book was the part related to the fad for "mediums" and "seances" in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and how some skeptics tried (and succeeded!) to debunk them and their (literal) parlor tricks. I have rapidly become a big fan of this author and I am happy that there are more of her books out there for me to discover. Recommended.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

I've really become a fan of Mary Roach after reading this book - she has a way of breaking down complicated scientific topics into entertaining and easily understood portions. And yes, some of this information is gross, but the writing makes up for it. I have another book by this author on my TBR pile too, so looks like that one might have to be next up!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August - This Month in Reading

Reading seems to have picked up around here - I managed 4 books in August, which is twice as many books as I read for July. Apparently I neglected to ever post a wrap-up for July, but no matter - I'll just say that I am hoping this momentum sticks around. For September, after I finish celebrating what to me is the beginning of Fall, I hope to read at least 4 books, to at least match August's reading.

How was your summer reading? How's your reading for the last quarter of 2017 looking?

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tender Is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another book I was supposed to read months ago for the Classic Book A Month Challenge - to be fair, I started this back in April with good intentions but had a hard time getting into it, so I've been reading it off and on since then and finally finished.

So, as you can see by my review of The Great Gatsby, I love that book, and I expected I'd love this one too. Sadly, that wasn't the case. I realize this book is in some ways autobiographical, but it was the writing that just didn't send me, as they say. Just wasn't my cup of tea.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry

I was supposed to read this book back in May for the Classic Book A Month Challenge, but better late than never, right? I seem to remember reading this book in school but I had forgotten everything about it, so it was like a new book. The play is a classic story of a 20th Century African-American family trying to make their way in a world that can be relentlessly hostile to them because of their skin color. The characters are so well drawn that I could picture them easily in my mind as I read, and I still can as I write this review. All in all a worthy classic that I am glad I got the opportunity to read again.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Truth Will Set You Free - Alice Miller

I've been meaning to read Alice Miller for ages, specifically her book The Drama of the Gifted Child, so when I stumbled on this book at the library I decided impulsively to grab it and see what I might find.

Miller is a psychologist who specializes in child abuse and the effects it has throughout a person's life. This particular book is geared toward what the subtitle spells out: Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Adult Self. The book describes learned patterns of child abuse that are then perpetrated on one's own children, because of "that's the way I was raised and I turned out fine!" and other similar excuses. In this regard, it would be helpful for someone who might be wondering if they really did, in fact, turn out OK, and if their parents' way of parenting was actually abusive.

At the end of the day, the book is an interesting treatise that more people should read, but I do wish it had had more practical information for people trying to recover from childhood abuse, and how to ensure abuse isn't just mindlessly perpetrated generation after generation. But definitely a good book if you're just trying to grapple with why (some) abuse still occurs as often as it does.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Zap - Paul Fleischman

Where was this book when I was reading for the Alphabet Challenge? If you need a book that starts with Z, this play is a quick read!

I stumbled upon this play at the library and was intrigued by the jacket copy. It's a play that is meant as a kind of pastiche/satire of other types of plays (the English murder mystery, the Neil Simon/New York kind of play, a classic Russian play, and of course Shakespeare, etc.) and it's designed to appeal to high school drama departments. Overall I thought it was OK and the idea was interesting, but it seemed kind of confusing, and there were a couple of instances of dialogue that might have seemed OK in 2005, when the play was written, but strike me as somewhat racist and unnecessary here in 2017.

As a semi-related aside, I recently watched the first season of Lisa Kudrow's 2005 HBO show, The Comeback, and found a similar issue. In one of the episodes, Kudrow's character, who is an actress making a comeback in a sitcom, is given a line that is racist. The character doesn't want to say the line, (and it's ultimately changed) but no one ever identifies that it's a racist thing to say, and at no point does anyone just say, "this line is racist and we shouldn't say something like this on a mainstream sitcom." Were people just this oblivious to stuff like this in 2005? I dunno.

So back to the play at hand, it was a fast read and it wasn't awful, I just think it was sort of jumbled. It might make more sense as a stage production than as a "book" to read.