EVPL Communities: HRevvdon@evpl's Blog Postshttp://evpl.org/community/blogs/All of HRevvdon@evpl's blog posts on the EVPL Communities site.en-USCommunityServer 2008 SP1 (Build: 30619.63) <![CDATA[Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, MD]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/19/making-rounds-with-oscar-the-extraordinary-gift-of-an-ordinary-cat-by-david-dosa-md.aspx Fri, 19 Mar 2010 17:44:00 G3T 2132 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/19/making-rounds-with-oscar-the-extraordinary-gift-of-an-ordinary-cat-by-david-dosa-md.aspx to post your comments!

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat (2010) by David Dosa, M.D. is not what I expected.  I expected a heart-warming story, maybe with a little humor, about a cat on the floor that is devoted to Alzheimer’s disease within a nursing home.  One summary of the book states “the story of a unique nursing-home cat whose uncanny, apparently precognitive vigils at the sides of residents who are about to die has enabled staffers to administer patient care and notice to loved ones.”  So I expected the author, Dr. Dosa – a gerontologist – to write about the cat, you know, concentrate on its behavior.  The book really doesn’t do that.  It does start out that way.

Dr. Dosa has a hard time believing what the nurses and aides tell him about Oscar’s ability to know when a patient is dying and to then stand vigil at the side of the patient.  So he starts interviewing the family members of the patients that have died.  What he hears are the heartbreaking stories of the families living with and surviving this terrible disease, and they are survivors even if the loved one afflicted does not survive; and, the families do express how Oscar’s behavior comforts them.  Dosa gains a better understanding of the disease and how a family member learns to deal with it.  Oscar is written with a physician’s perspective on the disease, death, and dying; and, Dr. Dosa believes he is a better doctor and a more empathetic doctor as a result of the talks with the family members.

I have been blessed not to have a family member fall victim to this form of dementia, so I have no firsthand knowledge.  I don’t believe I would recommend this book to someone who has experienced the death of a loved one with dementia, but those who may first be dealing with it or are concerned they will be, may have a different perspective after reading Oscar.

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cats Making Rounds with Oscar alzheimers
<![CDATA[My Life in France by Julia Child]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/12/my-life-in-france-by-julia-child.aspx Fri, 12 Mar 2010 18:09:00 G3T 2120 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/12/my-life-in-france-by-julia-child.aspx to post your comments!

Several months ago I read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (2005) and I also blogged about the book.  I was less than impressed by the book – mostly because I felt that the author, Julie Powell, was disrespectful to Julia Child and most of the time the language was unnecessarily vulgar.

When the film Julie & Julia (2009) came out with Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, I had to go see it because of Streep.  It is a charming movie!  Both Streep and Adams are wonderful, as is Stanley Tucci as Paul Child.  Streep was so good she was nominated for an Academy Award.  The sequences about Julia and Paul Child in France were obviously not in the book Julie and Julia – where did that come from?

Well, it came from My Life in France (2006) by Julia Child and her grand-nephew Alex Prud’homme.  This memoir is much more than Julia’s living in France for several years, it is about how she became the famous French cook, her life as a wife of someone in the diplomatic core, writing her famous cookbooks, and becoming one of the forerunners of home and food shows on television.  It has tidbits of her early life as well.  She was a basketball star at Smith College in the early 1930’s and she worked for “intelligence” during WWII!

Child and her grand-nephew put together this special book using years of saved correspondence and her special remembrances.  The story begins to unfold when she and Paul move to Paris in 1948, she tells the story that you expect and saw in the film, but it is also interspersed with comments about post-Nazi Germany, McCarthyism, Kennedy vs. Nixon, etc.  There are social and political side stories throughout; and, it is also a love story.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

 

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Julie & Julia My Life in France Julia Child Paul Child
<![CDATA[The Canterville Ghost and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/11/the-canterville-ghost-and-the-picture-of-dorian-gray-by-oscar-wilde.aspx Thu, 11 Mar 2010 20:41:00 G3T 2118 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/03/11/the-canterville-ghost-and-the-picture-of-dorian-gray-by-oscar-wilde.aspx to post your comments!

A couple of years ago I spent Christmas week in Paris with a friend and one of the odd little walks we took was through Père Lachaise Cemetery.  A fascinating walk through what seemed an ancient cemetery to my American eyes.  You actually pick up a map of the graves.  Amongst the common and famous interned there are Balzac, Maria Callas, Moliere, Collette, Yves Montand – and most famously Jim Morrison.  Also interned there is Oscar Wilde.  While Morrison is probably the most visited grave, the monument for Oscar Wilde is larger and bizarre in both the style and the remembrances left by admirers – heavy lipstick impressions of kisses.

I had not read anything by Wilde that I could recall, but I knew that he was the playwright of The Importance of Being Earnest.  I had seen the film and have seen the play a couple of times.  It is funny and witty; you have to listen closely as its fast paced dialog soon will outpace you if you don’t.  He also wrote An Ideal Husband, a witty play and a fun film.

Finally getting around to reading Wilde, I chose a short story called The Canterville Ghost (1887) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).  Dorian Gray is his only published novel, his writings were mostly short stories and plays.

The Canterville Ghost takes place in an old English manor house that has been sold to a newly rich American family called the Otis’.  The father, mother, twin boys, eldest boy, and young sensitive daughter are caricatures of how Victorian England must have envisioned Americans.  Too naïve to realize that they should be terrified of the resident ghost, Sir Simon, the twins terrorize him and tease him!  The oldest son keeps washing out the “permanent” blood spot in the library with an American cleaner and the father gives Sir Simon a patent lubricant to prevent his chains from rattling!  The story is told from Sir Simon’s point of view and he is not happy!  Soon the sensitive daughter, the only one to simply leave Sir Simon alone, comes to his rescue.

As I read this delightful but old-fashioned story I realized that I had seen an old movie years ago based on this story – only instead of being set in Victorian England, it is set during WWII and is a comedy with Robert Young as a GI and Margaret O’Brian.  Too funny!  The plot is essentially the same, but everything else is pure Hollywood.  Alas it is not available on DVD – at least not at EVPL or at Netflix.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is so different!  Its high Victorian style where ten words are used when one will suffice is not the easiest read.  It is sardonic, witty, funny, and at times it seems Wilde writes to simply write or to impress the reader, and not for the story itself.  The story itself is melodramatic but good.  A young, rich, and extremely handsome young man has his portrait painted.  The portrait is so good that the man becomes enamored of himself and vain when he was not beforehand.  He dramatically declares that he wishes his portrait would grow old while he stays young – and he gets his wish.  He begins a life of hedonistic debauchery that I expect only Wilde could write so dramatically and all the harm Gray does is reflected in the painting and not on his face. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray was made into a black and white film in 1945 with innovative color sequences to emphasize the changes to the portrait.  I have checked it out from EVPL and plan to watch it this weekend.  It stars Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed, and George Sanders in their prime.

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Oscar Wilde Victorian fiction
<![CDATA[The Associate by John Grisham]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/22/the-associate-by-john-grisham.aspx Mon, 22 Feb 2010 18:21:00 G2T 2103 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/22/the-associate-by-john-grisham.aspx to post your comments!

John Grisham’s new book, The Associate (2009), is predictable Grisham, almost too predictable.  The premise is good, the fast paced style is good, but the characters are not as fully developed or as interesting as you expect to get with a Grisham legal thriller.

Kyle McAvoy is a Yale Law School student, editor of the Yale Law Review, who expects to do public service work for a couple years and go on to a successful law career.  His father is a small-town lawyer, but Kyle expects to do more.  Shortly before graduation Kyle is contacted by a paid thug and blackmailed into accepting a position with the largest law firm in the world – with the objective of forcing Kyle to become a spy or mole and retrieve documents that are critical to a huge lawsuit.  It is never clear who the thug(s) work for – one of the corporations, the opposing firm, or possibly the government.  It is never clear if Kyle is the only spy.

The cause of Kyle’s blackmail is an incident that happened while he was in college, involving fraternity brothers, drugs, booze, etc.  Kyle and the brothers don’t learn a morality lesson.  They learn pretty much to be careful what you do – not because it is wrong but because someone could be watching.

Grisham’s The Associate is a decent read despite the lack of good character development, right up until the end.  The end was disappointing; it made me think “that’s it?”  There could have been so much more to this book.  I would like to read another Grisham that is as good as The Firm or The Pelican Brief

EVPL has The Associate in print, large-print, audio, and as a download.  For other books by this author, click here

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John Grisham The Associate legal thriller
<![CDATA[The Weed That Binds the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-weed-that-binds-the-hangman-s-bag-by-alan-bradley.aspx Sun, 14 Feb 2010 16:56:00 G2T 2090 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-weed-that-binds-the-hangman-s-bag-by-alan-bradley.aspx to post your comments!

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce is my favorite new sleuth.  I loved the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009), so much that I think I have driven my friends and co-workers crazy talking about it.  But I think a lot of them have read it and feel the same way.  I found the book as an advanced reader’s copy and picked it up because of the cover and the title.  I am happy I did.  When I learned that the next in the six-book Flavia series was coming out, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (2010), in March of 2010 – I started searching for an advanced reader’s copy.  A co-worker brought one back from a library event, not knowing that I was searching, and gave it to me.

Flavia de Luce is a brilliant eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and poisons in particular.  She is as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes and as observant and down-to-earth as Miss Marple.  Riding the English countryside on her beloved bicycle, Gladys, Flavia solves murders.  In Weed, she is faced with two deaths but are they murders?

Set in 1950, a famous BBC puppeteer and his assistant have a vehicle breakdown in Bishop’s Lacy.  Rupert Porson puts on a show in the church hall to help pay for the repairs and he is electrocuted during the second show.  Who did it?  Did the assistant do it?  Did the vicar’s wife?  What’s it to do with the other death years before?

We can rely on Flavia to find out!  While dealing with her insufferable older sisters, a distant father, and a crazy tyrannical aunt come to visit, Flavia will work with the trusty Dogger to solve this mystery.  Dogger is a “family retainer” with a shell-shocked past that drops gems of wisdom and mysterious information.  I loved the introduction of the quirky spinster aunt, I’ve a feeling she will be around in the next books.

Watch for this book to be put out on the shelves of EVPL in March, but in meantime pick up The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie now and read it.  Sweetness is available to read or to listen to on either cd or download.  My advanced reader’s copy is making the rounds of the Library staff now, who knows when I will get it back…

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Alan Bradley Buckshaw girl detectives Flavia de Luce The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie murder mysteries sleuth The Weed That Strings the Hangmans Bag
<![CDATA[The Music Room: A Memoir by William Fiennes]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-music-room-a-memoir-by-william-fiennes.aspx Sun, 14 Feb 2010 16:16:00 G2T 2089 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-music-room-a-memoir-by-william-fiennes.aspx to post your comments!

The Music Room: A Memoir (2009) by William Fiennes is a memoir that is a portion of this man’s growing up with an unusual family dynamic and in an unusual environment.  It is powerful, but not in the way so many growing up chronicles are; there is no abuse or substance abuse, there is a very normal family in which the eldest brother has severe epilepsy due to a brain injury.

The family lives in an ancestral medieval English estate complete with castle and moat.  Although the castle is almost a character itself, it does not dominate the story because it is just home for Fiennes.  He has grown up with it and so does not find it unusual.  What is unusual is growing up in a family that becomes dominated by the needs and emotions of one person who is mercurial.  Richard can be loving and kind, then abusive and mean, then remorseful and sad – all in the space of a few hours.

Fiennes spins the story of his growing up without strict chronological order, weaving his brother’s story with his story, his family, the staff of the castle (it is open to the public for historic tours), and his perception of his home; all of which alternates with a sequence of stories outlining the development of seizures and epilepsy research.  Fiennes provides a wonderful portrait of his brother who at times is a tyrant and at times an evocative wonder and at times a total bore.

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England William Fiennes The Music Room epilepsy
<![CDATA[The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-angel-s-game-by-carlos-ruiz-zafon.aspx Sun, 14 Feb 2010 15:31:00 G2T 2087 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/14/the-angel-s-game-by-carlos-ruiz-zafon.aspx to post your comments!

Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels feature a very human hero and several cynical malevolent bad guys in sleazy film noir settings.  They are ominous and foreboding.  They are also well written and unpredictable.  I finished reading The Angel’s Game (2009) last week; well actually I listened to a download from EVPL.  I thought listening to it would help me follow the twists and turns, which it did.  However, despite a very good reader I lost some of the pleasure of reading the writing.  I enjoyed The Angel’s Game more than Zafon’s other novel, The Shadow of the Wind (2005).

David Martín, is the young hero and narrator The Angel’s Game, and is tormented soul – undereducated, orphaned, and alone in the word save one or two good men who have been his benefactors while growing up.  Martin is also a tormented writer turning out a “penny dreadful” newspaper serial called “The Mysteries of Barcelona.”  His success with the newspaper serial does not lead him to write a great novel, but a series of books entitled “City of the Damned.”  Martin is approached by a mysterious publisher, Andreas Corelli, who entices him to write a book for him, a writing espousing a new religion; he begins to believe he has made a deal with the devil.  The project Corelli has hired Martin to do involve him in all manner of deceptions and crimes, including a fair number of violent deaths.

David’s saga starts in the final days of World War I and ends with a spooky epilogue in 1945 in a dark Barcelona.  The plot is an elaborate pact-with-the-devil filled with love, hate, and violence.

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mysteries shadow of the wind noir Carlos Ruiz Zafon Barcelona The Angels Game
<![CDATA[If you can't find the book you want...call ILL! Inter-Library Loan]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/05/if-you-can-t-find-the-book-you-want-call-ill-inter-library-loan.aspx Fri, 05 Feb 2010 21:10:00 G2T 2074 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/05/if-you-can-t-find-the-book-you-want-call-ill-inter-library-loan.aspx to post your comments!

The Shoebox Bible (2006) by Alan Bradley is a gem.  It is funny and touching, and difficult to locate!

Bradley, a Canadian writer, is the author of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie; one of my favorite books of 2009.  I stumbled across an advanced reader’s copy and probably only picked it up because of the title.  It is a wonderful story and recently I was lucky enough to have a co-worker hand me an advanced copy of the second book of the series, The Weed That Binds the Hangman’s Bag (2010), which will be out in March.  I liked it even more.

So, while Googling the author, I found he had written a memoir called The Shoebox Bible.  EVPL did not have a copy.  All the on-line booksellers and used books sources wanted around $150 for a copy and the Library was unable to find a copy to purchase for the publisher’s price.  I turned to our wonderful Inter-Library Loan department; they could only locate a handful of copies in the United States (I think only 9!) and they set out to find a library willing to loan the book to me.  In the meantime I had an email exchange with the author, he told me that pretty much any Canadian library would have it and my best bet would be inter-library loan.  Well, EVPL ILL came through for me; they found a copy at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  I had to pay a fee to the University, but by now – I had to read it!

Bradley’s father “runs away from home” during World War II, deserting his mother, two sisters, and Bradley – who is less the two years old.  The family only sees the father one more time, when he briefly returns to tell his wife that he has found another life on the other side of the country in Vancouver and he won’t be back.  The Shoebox Bible is literally a shoebox that Bradley finds as a child, hidden under the floor boards of his Mother’s bedroom.  Inside the shoebox are scraps of paper on which his mother has written bits of scripture and verse that seems to represent her feelings and experiences throughout her life.  Bradley never tells his mother that he has found the shoebox and knows its contents.  Decades later, while his elderly mother lays dying, he finds the shoebox again and cannot bear to open it.  When he finally does, he discovers that his mother has never stopped adding to The Shoebox Bible.  He discovers that while she has never heard from her husband since the day he walked away, she has never stopped loving him and hoping for his return.

This small book is big on emotion and impact.  It is funny and touching.

Because it is so hard to find this book, it is doubtful many will read it, but EVPL customers should know what a great service is available from the Inter-Library Loan department.  If you can’t find it on the Library’s shelves, ask these women and they won’t give up the search until all rocks are turned over.  While I had to pay a fee to the University, you can make up to 10 requests a month without incurring even a minimal fee from EVPL.

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Alan Bradley ILL interlibrary loan
<![CDATA[Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/03/beautiful-creatures-by-kami-garcia-and-margaret-stohl.aspx Wed, 03 Feb 2010 15:55:00 G2T 2057 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/02/03/beautiful-creatures-by-kami-garcia-and-margaret-stohl.aspx to post your comments!

Set in a small southern town, Beautiful Creatures (2009) revolves around Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes.  Ethan is born and raised in Gatlin and can’t wait to get out.  He runs with the "in" clique and is a basketball star.  Then Lena comes to town.  Lena is an outcast from the start because she is not from Gatlin and she is different, she is also part of one of the founding families that has always been at odds with the rest of the town…mostly because for some mysterious reason their plantation house was the only one left standing after Sherman’s March during the Civil War. 

Ethan and Lena fall in love through a series of interconnected dreams and supernatural occurrences.  Ethan soon learns that Lena is a “caster” and that she is about to be “claimed.”  She will basically become dark/evil or light/good.  Their mission is to make sure that she goes light.  Along the way all of Lena’s caster family gets involved and all the mean, prejudice, and closed-minded townspeople cause all kinds of angst for the young couple.

This novel is very gothic in nature, as you would expect, and starts very promising in its uniqueness.  It is reminiscent of Anne Rice, only for a younger audience.  It has some humor as well.  I thought it was great that the Lena’s reclusive uncle names his dog Boo Radley after the character from To Kill a Mockingbird.  A little over half way through the book though it starts losing its uniqueness, it even has a scene directly out of Stephen King’s Carrie (which would have worked if it had been acknowledged and poked fun).  I think the ending was weak at best.  I am sure there will be a sequel but I will skip it.

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witchcraft gothic fiction Beautiful Creatures
<![CDATA[The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/01/16/the-physick-book-of-deliverance-dane-by-katherine-howe.aspx Sat, 16 Jan 2010 07:36:00 G1T 2025 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/01/16/the-physick-book-of-deliverance-dane-by-katherine-howe.aspx to post your comments!

The year is 1991 and doctorate student Connie Goodwin is looking for the subject for her dissertation.  Connie is a student of early American history at an Ivy League university.  Her mother, a native New Englander transplanted to Arizona where she reads auras, asks her to move to her grandmother’s old house in Marblehead to ready it for sale.  The house is ancient and has not been lived in for decades.

Connie finds what she hopes will be the unique new found source that she can use for her dissertation – a undocumented victim of the Salem witch trials, Deliverance Dane.  So begins Connie’s search for The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009).  Katherine Howe’s book is more than the detective work of a student running source documentation to ground.  The novel travels back and forth from the 20th century to the 17th century easily, realistically depicting everyday life as well and the “physick” work of Deliverance and her descendents.  There is social commentary within the story, in both centuries of women’s roles at the time, used as a method to move the story along. 

The novel is well written and enjoyable.  I was a little disappointed in the depiction of Connie’s final confrontation with her advisor, it was a little anticlimactic but I will stop there to avoid my comments being a spoiler.  I was also a little distracted with all the running to phone booths to make telephone calls; I realize this was pretty much pre-cell phones but it was a little too irritating to only know the mother thorough the odd phone call to Arizona.  The mother would have added to the story if the character would have been developed more and differently.

Overall a good book that I would recommend; I read the book, but I would think that is would be a good audio book or download as well.

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witchcraft salem marblehead The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Katherine Howe
<![CDATA[Tricks by Ellen Hopkins]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/01/16/tricks-by-ellen-hopkins.aspx Sat, 16 Jan 2010 07:03:00 G1T 2024 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2010/01/16/tricks-by-ellen-hopkins.aspx to post your comments!

A friend recommended Tricks (2009) by Ellen Hopkins; I am not sure why he would have thought that I would like this book.  I read the book jacket quote, “When all choice is taken from you, life becomes a game of survival.”  I thought I would take a chance.  I downloaded the electronic version from EVPL to my iPod for a short road trip.  Regretfully, I did not have another download so I did listen to the whole thing, otherwise I would have stopped at the first chapter.

 

Tricks is about five teenagers, from different backgrounds and parts of the country, that have horrible life experiences thrust upon them and for the most part they become involved in drugs and selling themselves to survive.  I would like to think that the fictionalized lives created by Hopkins are far-fetched but I am sure there are real lives just like these.

 

One of the synopses that I read stated “a story about making choices, taking leaps of faith, falling down, and growing up.”  I think that this person read a different book than I did.  To me, it was about teenagers preyed upon by evil adults and self-righteous parents; none of the young adults acted upon were portrayed as having any control or free choice in their lives.  Worse, none of the stories end in a positive way; all the endings are horrible.

 

This is a Young Adult selection.  My small town upbringing is coming out in me but I think that if you are going to write a book for young adults it should be one that provides the possibility of freedom of choice, accountability for ones actions, and that one could survive the adversity that life might throw at you.  This book was repelling and offered no positive outcomes.

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Ellen Hopkins Tricks Young Adults
<![CDATA[La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/27/la-s-orchestra-saves-the-world-by-alexander-mccall-smith.aspx Sun, 27 Dec 2009 14:18:00 G12T 1991 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/27/la-s-orchestra-saves-the-world-by-alexander-mccall-smith.aspx to post your comments!

La’s Orchestra Saves the World (2009) by Alexander McCall Smith is the first book in a long time that I have sat down and read in one sitting.  McCall’s book is an old fashioned story set in Suffolk, England, during World War II.  La, short for Lavender and pronounced “as in do-ra-mi-fa-so….,” has moved to the country after her marriage ends.  The war breaks out and La stays in the country and begins to do her share by taking care of the chickens at a neighboring farm – an unofficial “Land Girl.”  An injured Polish flyer, no longer able to fly, begins to work at the farm as well.  Their relationship grows into a rich friendship but before it can deepen he is taken from the farm – in part because of La’s concern about his true background.  Is he really Polish or is he a German?

La starts a community orchestra, enlisting neighbors, townspeople, and service men from a nearby air field.  Their unconventional orchestra becomes a symbol for maintaining a normalcy in horrific times.  The story is not about the orchestra at all, it is about the quiet and determined courage of the English people when faced, again, with war.

Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008), I think this book will inspire just as many book discussion groups.

This is the first McCall book that I have read.  It is well written and the characters are wonderful.  I am already searching for my next read by this author, any suggestions?

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WWII England Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Alexander McCall Smith Las Orchestra Saves the World
<![CDATA[The Secret Adversary by Dame Agatha Christie]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/26/the-secret-adversary-by-dame-agatha-christie.aspx Sat, 26 Dec 2009 13:09:00 G12T 1990 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/26/the-secret-adversary-by-dame-agatha-christie.aspx to post your comments!

Agatha Christie’s young upper-class detectives Tommy and Tuppence are often overshadowed by her better known detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.  Tommy and Tuppence are totally different than either.  They are young and fun and out for adventure.  The Secret Adversary (1922) is the book that introduces Tommy and Tuppence to Christie’s readers.  The two are childhood friends that meet again at the end of World War I and decide to become adventurers.  They are trying to recapture some of the sense of life from their wartime days.  Soon they become involved in a complicated quest to retrieve secret diplomatic papers that first are “lost” at the sinking of the Lusitania.  Now, post-war, the papers are sought by villains to undermine the current government.  This quick and easy read is full of international intrigue, secret treaties, disguises, blackmail, amnesia, an American millionaire, and fun! 

 

Tommy and Tuppence are both charming and innocent in their endeavors.  During the course of their adventure, the two realize they are more than friends and in subsequent books marry.  The Secret Adversary is Christie’s second book; it is a good strong representation of the wonderful style she develops to near perfection.  I love the dedication in this book: "To all those who lead monotonous lives in the hope that they experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure."

 

You can also check out the dvds of Tommy and Tuppences adventures at EVPL:  http://evans.evpl.org/search~S0?/achristie/achristie/1%2C44%2C352%2CB/frameset&FF=achristie+agatha+1890+1976&19%2C%2C267 and http://evans.evpl.org/search~S0?/achristie/achristie/1%2C44%2C352%2CB/frameset&FF=achristie+agatha+1890+1976&20%2C%2C267.

 

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mysteries crime Agatha Christie international intrique Tommy and Tuppence
<![CDATA[The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/25/the-forgotten-garden-by-kate-morton.aspx Fri, 25 Dec 2009 17:36:00 G12T 1989 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/25/the-forgotten-garden-by-kate-morton.aspx to post your comments!

The Forgotten Garden (2009) by Kate Morton is reminiscent of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911) for just a few pages.  Burnett appears in the novel only long enough to get inspiration for her classic story. 

 

The Forgotten Garden drifts between the lives of Nell and her granddaughter Cassandra, as they both search for Nell’s true origins.  Nell starts her search in late middle life when her father dies and finally tells her that she was found on the docks of Brisbane in 1913 and raised to be his own.  Just as Nell is close to finding her family in Cornwall, Cassandra is left to stay with Nell.  When Nell dies, Cassandra learns that her Grandmother owned a house in Cornwall and so her search begins.

 

The novel spans nearly 100 years as Morton takes us through the lives of five generations of women, starting in Edwardian England replete with Jack the Ripper and an “Authoress” that spins Grimm-like fairy tales and ending in contemporary Cornwall.  This novel draws the reader in and leads you through the garden maze to an ending that is only a little surprising.

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the Secret Garden Brisbane novel Cornwall Edwardian England The Forgotten Garden
<![CDATA[The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/23/the-girl-who-played-with-fire-by-stieg-larsson.aspx Wed, 23 Dec 2009 17:04:00 G12T 1985 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/23/the-girl-who-played-with-fire-by-stieg-larsson.aspx to post your comments!

The second book of a trilogy by Stieg Larsson (1952 - 2004), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) follows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008).  I enjoyed Dragon and blogged about it a few months ago.  It was a dark thriller; Fire is also a dark thriller, almost as dark and violent as the first. 

The main characters are the same – Mikael Blomkvist, writer and publisher, and Lisbeth Salander.  Salander’s character is evocative.  Salander is by far the more interesting, as she was in Dragon, and more is learned about her background in this sequel.

Dag Svensson, a freelance journalist, plans to publish a story that exposes participants in the sex trafficking business based on research conducted by his girlfriend, Mia Johansson, a criminologist and scholar.  Before the story and book can be published they are both killed. Salander is the prime suspect after the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon.  Salander is on a survival run while Blomkvist and others try to prove her innocent of the murder.  There are a lot of close calls and far-fetched scenarios – all of which make for an interesting read.

I am anxious for the final novel, The Girl Who Kicked a Wasp’s Nest (2010) to come out!  It should be a good follow up!

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thriller swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larrson The Girl Who Played With Fire
<![CDATA[Ford County: Stories by John Grisham]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/01/ford-county-stories-by-john-grisham.aspx Tue, 01 Dec 2009 06:46:00 G12T 1957 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/12/01/ford-county-stories-by-john-grisham.aspx to post your comments!

I downloaded John Grisham’s Ford County: Stories (2009) from EVPL’s Digital Library before heading out on my holiday road trip, Thanksgiving 2009.  I started out pretty early in the morning listening to this wonderful collection of short stories read by the author; Grisham is not at his best as a reader.  For the most part authors should leave the reading of their work to actors.  Grisham’s reading is stilted and with odd emphasis at times.  He tends to end every sentence with uplift.  The first story is the worse for reading style, thereafter either I got used to his reading or he got more comfortable with the reading.

Grisham returns to Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi, and the vicinity for the setting of most of these stories.  There is a wide range of storyline and characters.  Unique and entertaining, the stories are small and intimate tales of small town and rural life. 

My favorite of the tales is “Fetching Raymond.”  It is well written and draws you into the story slowly with heartbreak and humor.  Grisham excels at writing heartbreak with humor.  “Fetching Raymond” is reminiscent of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road (1932) and God’s Little Acre (1933), both favorites of mine.

Several stories involve lawyers.  These lawyers and their tales are very different than what Grisham has written in the past.  His enjoyment in writing these stories is apparent to the reader.

If you have enjoyed Grisham in the past, especially his writings outside the courtroom, you will enjoy these short stories.  I would recommend reading instead of listening on this one.

 

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Rural Life short stories Ford County Stories Erskine Caldwell John Grisham Tobacco Road Gods Little Acre
<![CDATA[The Art of Racing in The Rain by Garth Stein]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/23/the-art-of-racing-in-the-rain-by-garth-stein.aspx Mon, 23 Nov 2009 16:29:00 G11T 1950 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/23/the-art-of-racing-in-the-rain-by-garth-stein.aspx to post your comments!

I have never read a book quite like this one.  A friend recommended it as a good “dog” book.  I think that is an understatement of what this book is about.  The Art of Racing in the Rain (2008) by Garth Stein is a lesson in life.

Set in contemporary Seattle and told from the view point of Enzo, a lab terrier mix, this heart-wrenching and heart-warming story is wonderful.  Enzo is humorous and he is brave.  He tells the story of his master, Denny, as he falls in love, marries, is widowed, and fights for the one thing that means the most to him – his daughter Zoë.  Denny never loses his pride, his honor, or his courage – and neither does Enzo.

Denny is a race car driver by trade and so the novel is full of racing metaphors that are well written.  There is kind of a whacky courtroom sequence played out in Enzo’s imagination, but even that is not too bad.

As a dog lover, I had mixed feeling about how Enzo was portrayed – some of his “points of view.”  Don’t read this book because it is a “dog” book, read it because it is a lesson in the philosophy of life.

 

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Garth Stein The Art of Racing in The Rain dog stories car racing
<![CDATA[Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/14/homer-and-langley-by-e-l-doctorow.aspx Sat, 14 Nov 2009 13:36:00 G11T 1940 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/14/homer-and-langley-by-e-l-doctorow.aspx to post your comments!

Homer and Langley Collyer were brothers that were infamous for being reclusive and being hoarders.  They lived in New York City in the decades after WWI.  E.L. Doctorow’s new novel picks up the story and gives it new life as a sort of memoir written by Homer Collyer.  Homer and Langley: A Novel (2009) is well-written and hard to put down, both because of the story and the writing.

In the novel the Collyer brothers were born to privilege and the 'manse' in which they are raised and subsequently live their lives is on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park.  Homer is the younger and an accomplished pianist; however as a young man he loses his eyesight and gradually becomes blind.  Langley goes to war, WWI, and comes back home shortly after the parents are struck down by the influenza epidemic in 1912.  Langley has respiratory damage from being gassed in the trenches, but is also more or less emotionally damaged.  The two men resume their lives in society throughout the 1920’s but beginning with the Depression start to become reclusive. 

 

Unlike most stories about the true-life brothers, Doctorow concentrates on the brother’s relationship with each other and their slow withdrawal from the world as opposed to the hoarding.  The emotional troubles of Langley are told in the manner that a loving brother would see them; the physical limitations of Homer are minimized until the end but are told more in respect to how Langley cares for Homer and protects him.

 

Interesting events in history are told from the point of view of the brothers and how the events affect them and make them want to further withdraw from the world.  This is a good read because the insight of what the brothers may have really been like, instead of what the media sensationalists portrayed them as, it is fascinating and touching.  I wanted to reach out to Homer and just pull him out of that house!  But, make no mistake, Homer is no whiner!

 

Google "Homer and Langley Collyer" and you will find information and great pictures of these brothers that were both reclusive and eccentric.

 

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recluse Homer and Langley Doctorow hoarders Collyer brothers
<![CDATA[A Separate Country by Robert Hicks]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/14/a-separate-country-by-robert-hicks.aspx Sat, 14 Nov 2009 13:18:00 G11T 1939 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/11/14/a-separate-country-by-robert-hicks.aspx to post your comments!

A Separate Country (2009) by Robert Hicks is another of his Civil War epics.  Well written in a narrative form, through three main characters, the novel unfolds a complicated story.  The novel revolves around John Bell Hood; it is a fictional account of the Confederate general’s life after the Civil War.  Hood was famous to some for his aggressive battle style and infamous to others for his reckless decision in battle that cost thousands of men their lives.

A Separate Country is about his life in New Orleans after the war.  On his death bed he asks Eli Griffin, a man who once tried to kill Hood for what he did to Griffin’s family during the war, to publish his secret memoir and to seek out and destroy a war memoir that another Confederate general is holding for publication.  Hood wants his true memoir, in which he comes to terms with his life and finds love and God, published instead of what he now considers his false war memoir.  Eli also finds Mrs. Hood’s diaries and memoirs in the house.

So begins a saga told in the voices of Eli Griffin, John Hood, and Anna Marie Hood.  The stories trace John and Anna Marie’s tumultuous relationship, their family of eleven children, their dwindling fortune, growing love, social consciousness, and deaths.  Mixed in are the intricacies of New Orleans mixed Creole and American society, a black marketeer dwarf, a fop’s murder, a giant of a priest, and a man whose only talent is for killing.

Hick’s book is complicated but very good and the style of writing, using the voice of three different protagonists, makes the plot easier to follow and more interesting.

 

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civil war John Bell Hood New Orleans Robert Hicks
<![CDATA[The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece ]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/08/07/the-lost-painting-the-quest-for-a-caravaggio-masterpiece.aspx Fri, 07 Aug 2009 19:14:00 G8T 1746 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/08/07/the-lost-painting-the-quest-for-a-caravaggio-masterpiece.aspx to post your comments!

In the late 1990's a little known painting restorer at the National Gallery of Ireland recognized a long lost Caravaggio painting called The Taking of Christ while in the living quarters of Jesuit Priests.  He had been called in to clean and restore several paintings, none of which were thought to be of much value.  Attributed to another artist and the value not known, the painting had hung in the priest's dining room where it became covered in grime, tobacco smoke, and coal smoke.

The Lost Painting by Jonathon Harr reads like a historical novel, knowing it is non-fiction only makes it more interesting.  Harr intertwines the true stories of the young students in Italy that discover documents that eventually help to establish its provenance, the Caravaggio experts that argue over the authenticity of paintings, and the restorer who works to establish Caravaggio as the artist and restore the painting.  I also learned about Caravaggio along the way.

I do think that there was a little too much about the young women students, their personal lives, and too little about Caravaggio himself.  However, I enjoyed this read.

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caravaggio harr
<![CDATA[A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/08/06/a-far-cry-from-kensington-by-muriel-spark.aspx Thu, 06 Aug 2009 19:56:00 G8T 1742 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/08/06/a-far-cry-from-kensington-by-muriel-spark.aspx to post your comments!

Earlier this week I stumbled across a reading list on the Seattle Public Library's website.  It was a Pearl's Picks list, some of you may know Nancy Pearl from her work on NPR.  I scanned her July picks and discovered that on the July 1 list I had already read two of the three books - so I thought she must be right about the third one.  I looked it up on-line at EVPL and Central Library had it on the shelf.  A quick and entertaining read, I finished it in just a couple of days. 

A Far Cry From Kensington was first published in 1988, and went on the shelf at EVPL in paperback form in 2001.  From the condition of the book, its not been read much and this is a shame.  The main character, Mrs. Hawkins is a heavy set WWII war widow in Kensington in the 1950's.  She lives in a third story room of a Victorian house with other tenants that are wonderfully colorful.  She works as a book and magazine editor for a series of publishers and her "dealings" with one particular man hopeful of becoming an author is one story line.  It is interspersed with lesser story lines revolving around her fellow tenants, neighbors, and work mates.

Mrs. Hawkins is thought of as a stalwart womon of responsibility and is "Mrs. Hawkins" to all despite her youth and short-termed marriage.  Everyone goes to Mrs. Hawkins for advice, for help of all sorts, but no one truly sees her as she is.  Mrs. Hawkins matter-of-factly resolves to lose the weight and break out of image others have made of the young widow.  She does by the end of the story in more ways than the reader realizes along the way.  She becomes Nancy.

This story is well written; not surprising since Spark is the author of several well written books including The Prime of Miss Jean Brody.

 

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Muriel Sparks kensington
<![CDATA[The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/07/21/the-good-earth-by-pearl-s-buck.aspx Tue, 21 Jul 2009 16:00:00 G7T 1695 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/07/21/the-good-earth-by-pearl-s-buck.aspx to post your comments!

Once in a while I like to go back and read a classic that I have not read in years. This summer I pulled out my old copy of The Good Earth (1931) by Pearl S. Buck. I have read a couple other books by Buck, Dragon Seed, most notable. I enjoy her writing, but mostly I enjoy her stories. Buck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for this novel and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. The Good Earth is part of a trilogy including Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935); neither of which I can find to read. A few years ago The Good Earth hit the best seller lists again when Oprah chose it for one of her book club selections.

Buck's novel is set in pre-revolutionary China. The lead character is Wang Lung, a poor farmer's son with a bit of land. The story opens with Wang Lung excited about meeting for the first time and marrying his pre-arranged bride, a slave girl from the house of a wealthy old family. O-lan is quiet, saying the fewest words possible and only when absolutely necessary. She is strong, homely, and a hard worker. She works diligently by her husband's side in the fields helping to make him a successful farmer, she takes care of her husband and her husband's father, but most importantly she bears him three sons.

The story follows Wang Lung through his trials, tribulations, success, poverty, and finally wealth. He is a strong man with few weaknesses, but the weaknesses he has are large. All the characters in the novel are finely drawn. Wang Lung's sons do not stay on the farm but become a scholar, a merchant, and a soldier. There are daughters, slaves, concubines, and unwanted opium addicted relatives, all serve to move the story along and make it lively!

The ending leaves me wanting more. I will be trying to find Sons and A House Divided so I can catch up on what happened to the Wang Lung family!

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china farming pearl buck
<![CDATA[Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/07/21/between-georgia-by-joshilyn-jackson.aspx Tue, 21 Jul 2009 13:21:00 G7T 1694 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/07/21/between-georgia-by-joshilyn-jackson.aspx to post your comments!

Between, Georgia (2006) by Joshilyn Jackson is my first read by this author.  To tell the truth I was expecting something along the lines of the Fannie Flagg books.  Although Jackson's novel is not at all like Flagg's, I was not disappointed in the book.  I will be reading more by this author.  Between, Georgia has some funny parts, some quirky characters, and some feuding - just what you would expect from this genre.

The feud is between the Fretts and the Crabtrees.  The Fretts are well off and pretty much run the tiny little town "surrounded by pine scrub and nearly smothered by kudzu."  The Crabtrees are the never do well, poor clan of the town.  Nonnie is born to a Crabtree with the unwilling assistance of a Frett, and Stacia Frett takes her in as her own.  Thus Nonnie is forever caught in the middle.  Stacia is blind and deaf, she depends on her twin sister, Genny, to be her bridge to the world.  While Stacia is the confident and strong one, Genny is the opposite.  When an incident happens that threatens and injures the twins, the old feud comes to a head and all hell breaks loose.  Nonnie tries to make peace while trying to straighten her own self out.

This book is full of small town southern charm and folksy sayings.  My favorite was "Don't call me again unless you are personally on fire."

Its a good read.

 

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southern novels Fannie Flagg Joshily Jackson
<![CDATA[The Help by Kathryn Stockett]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/30/the-help-by-kathryn-stockett.aspx Mon, 30 Mar 2009 21:28:00 G3T 1387 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/30/the-help-by-kathryn-stockett.aspx to post your comments!

Sometimes books are just better when you listen to them.  This is one of those books.  One of the women I work with had read this book and when we were talking about it she recalled that I had both read and listened to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows.  I got more out of the book, listening to it.  She suggested I might rather listen to The Help (2009) by Kathryn Stockett, and even though I already had a copy of the book, I downloaded it from EVPL's digital titles.  She was right - the voices brought the characters alive!

The Help is told from the prospective of three women in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi.  Two are African American household help and one is the daughter of one of the local white society families, a woman that had been raised by "the help."  Because each alternating section is read by different voices full of personality and inflection the stories are more powerful. 

Eugenia aka "Skeeter" has returned from college - Ole Miss of course - to a repressed life of social responsibilities and her mother pushing her to husband-hunt.  But she wants to be a writer.  Encouraged by a New York City editor to write about something she cares about or "disturbs" her and something more interesting than her current job writing about household hints, "Skeeter" convinces Abileen and Minny to help her write the stories of several African American women and their experiences working for white women and helping raise white children.  Most of the stories are heartbreaking, full of the prejudice of the time, and just plain hateful.  Some are sweet.  Some are funny.  Some would make you cry.  Abileen and Minny come into their own through the experience - they begin as strong women in their own way and end up even stronger in a much different and self-actualized way.  Skeeter changes amazingly from a young woman just floating through the life created for her into the beginnings of a strong woman and civil rights activist - an activist of actions and words.

This is an incredibly strong book about prejudice and love.   As a debut novel for Stockett, it is an amazing.  I will be watching for her work in the future.

 

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African Americans civil rights women Stockett help Mississippi
<![CDATA[Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/29/rhett-butler-s-people-by-donald-mccaig.aspx Sun, 29 Mar 2009 20:04:00 G3T 1385 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/29/rhett-butler-s-people-by-donald-mccaig.aspx to post your comments!

I have to admit, I am a fan of Gone With the Wind (1936).  I know that may not be a very politically correct admission.  Sure I like the movie, but Martha Mitchell's one-hit wonder introduced me to both epic novels and the genre of southern novels that I have come to love.  The book is very different from the movie, much better of course, although am not a fan of some of the characterizations that are stereotypical.

I read Gone With the Wind, War and Peace, and Dr. Zhivago all in one semester in high school.  It was a English course and each of these books counted as three books - I could read three for the value of nine!  To this day I love epic books, historical novels, and both southern and Russian novels.  My feeling is that I am attracted to what all three of these novels do.  They take the issues of the times that are historic, at times horrific, and they romanticize the historical facts and introduce wonderful characters to live them out.  They are also a product of their times - politically and socially.

I read Scarlett (1991) by Alexandra Ripley.  I hated it and hated what was done to the characters.  I won't even insert a link on this blog.  Enough said.

Now I have read Donald McCaig's Rhett Butler's People (2007) and I was pleased.  Not a great book, it is not a silly sequel and it is well-written and is loyal to the Mitchell's storyline and characters.  It is about Butler's family and background.  It fills us in on Rhett Butler's life - before, during, and after the time space that is Gone With the Wind.  McCaig's Butler is true to Mitchell's Butler, as his other characters are.  Scarlett is not the center of this novel, and is only part of Butler's life.  Scarlett does not, thank goodness, go to Ireland to do a repetition of her life as in Ripley's book - I found that ludricrous.  My favorite part of this book is the great development of the Belle character - the "fallen women with a heart of gold."  Belle is wonderful.  To read the parts of this book that are the same as in Gone With the Wind, only from Butler's point of view is very interesting.

If you are a Gone With the Wind fan, I don't think you will be disappointed in Rhett Butler's People.  Give it a try.

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Gone With the Wind Donald McCaig Martha Mitchell southern novels
<![CDATA[Bachelor Brothers by Bill Richardson]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/21/bachelor-brothers-by-bill-richardson.aspx Sat, 21 Mar 2009 13:41:00 G3T 1374 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/21/bachelor-brothers-by-bill-richardson.aspx to post your comments!

A fellow blogger told me of Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast (1993) by Bill Richardson when I lamented about needing a light comforting book about small town/village life - the one I had read and blogged about I had been sorely disappointed in.  I checked out Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast, and its companion Bachelor Brothers's Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book (1995) from Central Library.  I was not disappointed in either.

The premise is twin bachelor brothers who have opened a Bed and Breakfast that caters to those who want a simple quiet place to read.  In the first book we learn about Virgil and Hector, some of their neighbors, and some of the guests through writings by the brothers interspersed by guest book writings by the literature buffs that stay with them.  There are also a couple of suggested reading lists such as best readings while soaking in a tub.  We learn of the boys' mother and how she conceived them and lived outside of the social norm.  There is a cat named Waffle and a parrot named Mrs. Rochester because she is a cranky as her namesake character in Bronte's Jane Eyre. The characters are quirky and I laughed out loud a few times.

Pillow Book expands on the characters we have already met, but add in even more quirk.  It is not as good as the first one.  There are random letters, recipes, and thoughts interspersed throughout the main story. 

These books are not "great" reading and the writing is not great - but it is not intended to be.  They are light, funny, and concentrate on quick portraits of characters.  They were a little more special to me as they are based on a small island in British Columbia; I have friends that live on Salt Spring Island, a small island in British Columbia, where I love to visit.  I can just imagine the Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast being a real B&B there! 

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bachelor Bill Richardson b&b
<![CDATA[The Underneath by Kathi Appelt]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/10/the-underneath-by-kathi-appelt.aspx Tue, 10 Mar 2009 16:39:00 G3T 1359 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/10/the-underneath-by-kathi-appelt.aspx to post your comments!

I finished The Underneath (2008) by Kathi Appelt over the weekend.  I am not sure what to say about it.  The first thought I had was "why would anyone write this book?"  It is a young readers/juvenile fiction book and a finalist for the National Book Award, and I wonder why?  I would not want my child to read it.  I stopped reading several times, but I did pick it up again.  When I read about the book I knew there would be some cruelty but I was not prepared for how much I received.

A mother cat is dumped off by her owners because she is going to have kittens.  The mother cat is befriended by a hound dog that has been chained to the corner of a falling down bayou shack to be an "alarm" because he is not good for anything else in his cruel master's opinion.  The dog is starved, beaten, and has not been off the chain for years.  The kittens are born under the shack in The Underneath where they are sheltered and protected by the unique alliance between the cat and dog.  This is a lesson in diversity and family that is not as well written as it could be and gets loss in a lesson of both the thoughtless and intentional cruelty of people towards animals.  The dog's owner is a victim of his mother's desertion and his father's drunken abuse.  He is a monster, there is no humanity left in him.  He cares nothing for any life.  All ends well, well, as well as can be expected.  It is a horrific journey.  The thoughts of the animals and the conversations between the animals were well written, that and the second story line kept me reading.

The second story line involves a 100 foot alligator, a 1000 year old grandmother snake, her shape-changing daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.  This mythic and mystical story, at times, is better written than the cat/dog story line.  The switching back and forth of the story lines sometimes helps to move the story along and sometimes hinders it.  I would have enjoyed reading a more developed version of this mystic tale and its prehistoric peoples. 

I did not like this book, mostly because of the cruelty to the animals - I could not get past that to appreciate the book as a whole.

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dogs Kathi Appelt animals cats bayou
<![CDATA[Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackson]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2009/03/05/australia-with-nicole-kidman-and-hugh-jackson.aspx Thu, 05 Mar 2009 21:21:00 G3T 1345 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/" target="_blank">Movies Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2009/03/05/australia-with-nicole-kidman-and-hugh-jackson.aspx to post your comments!

Australia (2008) was a better picture than I expected.  Hugh Jackman is decently convincing as an Australian drover.  Nicole Kidman is ok the first half of the film and much better the second half of the film.  I think Kidman is one of those actresses that get better and keep looking good as they continue to protray characters that are of the same age they are.  Australia is not the sweeping epic that all the trailers promote.  It is really limited to northern part of the continent, a specific time period, and deals with specific content.  The first part of the film is about a English noblewoman that comes to the outback to sell her husband's folly, a cattle ranch, and bring him home.  She arrives to discover herself a widow and learns that in order to save her wealth she has to get her cattle to market.  Hugh Jackson to the rescue.  Predictably a motley crew of drovers made up of Aboriginal women, a child, a Chinese cook, an old drunk bookkeeper, the Drover (Jackson) and the English noblewoman get the cattle to market after predictable obstacles are overcome.  I kept thinking of that old John Wayne movie Cowboys (1972) where he takes on a group of young boys, trains them to be cowboys, and then takes them on a cattle drive.

After the successful drove, life is good...for a while.  WWII starts, the Drover goes off after Kidman's character challenges his independence, the half-breed Aboriginal child they care for is sent to a relocation orphanage, the evil guy continues to plague them, and the Japanese attack.  It is very dramatic and at times melodramatic.  But, that being said, the second half of the film is much better than the first.

The filming itself is usually very well done, but oddly at times a little cartoonish.  Maybe those are the digitized sequences, I am not sure.  The biggest disappointment is there is no Sam Neill!  How can an Australian movie be made without Sam Neill?  Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson make it into the picture, why not Sam Neill?  Over all it is a good movie to borrow from the library and I am glad I didn't pay the big ticket bucks for it at the theatre.

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outback cowboys WWII Australia Nicole Kidman Hugh Jackman
<![CDATA[Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel by Jamie Ford]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/03/hotel-on-the-corner-of-bitter-and-sweet-a-novel-by-jamie-ford.aspx Tue, 03 Mar 2009 20:23:00 G3T 1325 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/03/hotel-on-the-corner-of-bitter-and-sweet-a-novel-by-jamie-ford.aspx to post your comments!

I am happy that I seldom listen to book critics.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel (2009) by Jamie Ford has gotten mixed reviews, one of which called it "flat" and "strained."  I did not find it either.  I very much enjoyed this novel.

It is a love story between a young Chinese-American boy of twelve and a young Japanese-American girl of twelve, Henry and Keiko.  The story is set in Seattle and alternates between the 1940's and the 1980's.  After the belongings of Japanese families sent to internment camps during WWII are found in the basement of the Panama Hotel, Henry begins to remember that time of anti-Japanese sentiment and the bigotry shown to the Chinese as well.  What ensues is Henry's narrative of his life then and in the present time of the novel. 

Henry and Keiko meet while working as scholarship kids in a "white" school.  They are separated when Keiko and her family are sent to the camps.  They are devoted to each other and defy Henry's parents to maintain their relationship.  I think the passages set in the 1940's and involving the internment are exceptionally well written and from a fresh perspective.  The 1980's passages are less interesting by comparison but still held my interest in the comparison of the relationships Henry had with his father and with his son.

Henry and Keiko are separated by the historical events of the time, and since this is Henry's narrative we learn about his life, his wife, and his son.  What happens in Keiko's life is a mystery.

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WWII Internment Camps Japanese Seattle Chinese Jamie Ford
<![CDATA[Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/02/mr-muo-s-travelling-couch-by-dai-sijie.aspx Mon, 02 Mar 2009 21:17:00 G3T 1319 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/03/02/mr-muo-s-travelling-couch-by-dai-sijie.aspx to post your comments!

Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch (2005) is by Dai Sijie, a Chinese author who works in France and writes in French.  So this is a Chinese novel, written in French, and translated into English.  There is little lost in the translation.  This is one of those small books where in the flow of the writing is as entertaining as the story itself.  Mr. Muo is a psychoanalyst and devoted student of Freud who returns to China on a comically romantic quest. Oddly reminiscent of Don Quixote, the story is about his Muo's quest to free his love who is a political prisoner.  He must provide the local judge/potentate with a virgin in order to win his love.  Like Don Quixote, his love has been romanticized into a damsel in distress.  Mr. Muo travels the country interpreting dreams in order to find the elusive treasure to provide he judge, the result is a series of sad and humorous mishaps.

Dai Sijie is also the author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel (2002), one of my favorite novels from a few years ago and for much the same reasons as I enjoyed Mr. MuoBalzac is the story of two young men who are the educated and privilaged sons of doctors, they are sent to a tiny mountain village to be "re-educated" in Mao's China.  The two young men begin to entertain the uneducated villagers by pantomiming and reciting the lines to popular movies, in their own unique method of story telling.  They sustain themselves with stolen illegal books, including a volume of Balzac.  They begin to read Balzac to the beautiful little seamstress while their imaginations and yearnings turn the ignorant country girl into a sophisticated young courtesan.  I thought this novel wonderful.

Dai Sijie has a novel coming out this year called Once on a Moonless Night.  I can't wait.

If you have read either of these books and liked them you should also try Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel (2005), a great read.

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china Dai Sijie
<![CDATA[Dexter Marathon!]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2009/03/01/dexter-marathon.aspx Sun, 01 Mar 2009 09:12:00 G3T 1309 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/" target="_blank">Movies Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2009/03/01/dexter-marathon.aspx to post your comments!

I am hooked on Showtime's Dexter, and it is strange to root for a mass murderer!  I have watched Season 1 and Season 2 in what amounts to a Dexter marathon over the last two weeks.  I will have to wait for Season 3 to come out, but will be watching for it both at the library and it's in my Netflix queue.

Based on the books by Jeff Lindsay, this is one of the more popular Showtime series.  We learn through flashbacks (that are a little cheesy at times) Dexter is a survivor of a horrific childhood experience that leaves him with a dark need to kill in order to feel alive.  As an adult he is without emotion and lacks the emotional need to connect with other people.  He is raised by a cop foster father who teaches him to kill by a code - only those who have killed and escaped the reaches of law enforcement - and how not to get caught.  Dexter becomes a blood splatter forensic expert with the Miami police where his foster sister is a homicide detective.  Dexter avoids law enforcement, he makes some mistakes, has personal angst, and by the end of Season 2, whether he realizes it or not, the viewer realizes that he is a more human character than in the beginning.  He cares about his sister and his girlfriend and her children - all of whom just started out as cover.  Dexter may be a hero of sorts for those that view him as a vigilante, but as he becomes more human and the viewer becomes more involved, he becomes a hero for many more reasons.

The series is graphically realistic without too much gratuitous gore. It is suspenseful due to the storyline curves that are thrown at the viewer.  There are no overdone cliffhangers at the end of the season.  The characters surrounding Dexter in homicide are great - I especially like Angel the homicide cop, Vince the oriental forensics guy with a awful sense of humor, and Lt. LaGuerta who starts out season 1 with unrequited hots for Dexter but morphs into a much better and interesting character as the series goes on (you will recognize her if you are a fan of OZ).  Dexter is played by Michael C. Hall, from the series Six Feet Under, and he plays this part as well as he did his character in that series.

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dexter Michael C. Hall Jeff Lindsay
<![CDATA[The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/21/the-gravedigger-s-daughter-by-joyce-carol-oates.aspx Sat, 21 Feb 2009 13:21:00 G2T 1291 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/21/the-gravedigger-s-daughter-by-joyce-carol-oates.aspx to post your comments!

The Gravedigger's Daughter (2007) by Joyce Carol Oates is my favorite novel by this author since We Were the Mulvaneys. Oates' writing style does not fail her or her readers in this interesting and different novel.  The sheer size of Oates' novels are often daunting, but I have not found them disappointing as the narrative is always so good.

The Gravedigger's Daughter tells the story of Rebecca Schwart.  Rebecca is born to German refugees who have fled from Nazi Germany and ended up in upstate New York in a small town along the Erie Canel.  Rebecca is born on a cramped transport ship in New York Harbor and so is the first of the family to be born in this country.  Her father, a well educated man, takes a job as a caretaker of a small town cemetary.  The family is not well received by a community that mocks them by calling them Nazis or Jews, or mocks them for their thick accents.  The mother loses what sanity she has left and becomes reclusive, the father loses his mind as well and eventually drives the two sons away.  After a final tragedy, Rebecca is left on her own in this alien world.  Eventually she begins a relationship with a man that turns into a brutal nightmare. Rebecca escapes the man, with her young son in tow, and becomes Hazel Jones.  As Hazel Jones, she begins a life of running from one town to another. Hazel changes and becomes a different woman as she seeks to adjust to the life she is living at the time, and the men she becomes involved with.  In the beginning she is a poorly educated small town factory worker and in the end she is a sophisticated woman still dealing with her haunted past.

Oates, once again, does not disappoint.

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Joyce Carol Oates
<![CDATA[Cedar Green by Rose Boucheron]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/19/cedar-green-by-rose-boucheron.aspx Thu, 19 Feb 2009 07:31:00 G2T 1281 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/19/cedar-green-by-rose-boucheron.aspx to post your comments!

Cedar Green (2008) by Rose Boucheron is my first read by this author.  A few years ago I was transferred by my employer to a nasty little town that I disliked very much, as an escape I started reading the Mitford books by Jan Karon and then the Miss Read books.  I wanted to live in the little villages and know the quirky residents that are the mainstays of those books.  They are all light fast reads with humor.  I stopped reading the Mitford books when they got a little too preachy and repetitive - but I still like the characters.  I have collected and read all the Miss Read books, and still like the characters.  These books are not what I normally read, more likely what my Mother or Grandmother would, but they give what is expected if you need that little bit of escapism.

So, when I was searching for something similar with funny little caricatures of village people, I found Cedar Green.  The blurbs from the publisher and on Amazon.com sounded like what I wanted.  Even the book jacket projected what I was looking for.  I am afraid I was disappointed.  The story line is disconnected and the characters are not in the least interesting, they could live next door to me and not in a quaint English village.  I finished the book, but I don't believe I will read another of Boucheron's.

 

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villiage English Jan Karon Rose Boucheron Miss Read
<![CDATA[The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/the-little-giant-of-aberdeen-county-by-tiffany-baker.aspx Sat, 07 Feb 2009 13:13:00 G2T 1240 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/the-little-giant-of-aberdeen-county-by-tiffany-baker.aspx to post your comments!

I didn't know what to expect from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (2009) by Tiffany Baker, it was recommended by a friend and I had not heard anything other than it is a first novel from Baker.

The story is about two children in a very small northeastern town.  Serena Jane is the older child and is a beautiful petite child.  Then there is the younger sister.  When their mother is close to giving birth to the younger sister she is so big that the townspeople start taking bets on how many babies she will have.  She has one very large child, and dies in childbirth.  The doctor misunderstands the mother's delirious ramblings and names the child Truly.  This is really Truly's story.  Truly is large and keeps growing.

As children the two are separated at the death of their father - Truly to a poor and bad-luck farmer's family and Serena Jane to the preacher's home where she is pampered and coddled.  Serena Jane's life is tangled with the town doctor's family and she marries his son, Robert Morgan - Bob Bob.  She has a son and then runs off.  Truly then becomes housekeeper and her life becomes tangled with Robert Morgan.

Truly realizes that an antique quilt holds the secrets of Robert Morgan's greatgreat-grandmother - reputed to be a witch.  She learns the secrets of herbs and plants to help cure, and the secret of how they can harm or kill.  At first the knowledge gives Truly something of her own to hang on to, but then she learns it can also be a burden if she does not use it correctly.

I enjoyed this book and thought it an impressive first novel.  My one problem was that from time to time I forgot that it was not set in an earlier time, but in today's world.  The book does not dwell on the reason for Truly's being a "little giant", just that it makes her very different.  I liked that.

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witchcraft giant Tiffany Baker first novel
<![CDATA[The Reader by Bernhard Schlink]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/the-reader-by-bernhard-schlink.aspx Sat, 07 Feb 2009 07:34:00 G2T 1235 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/the-reader-by-bernhard-schlink.aspx to post your comments!

The Reader (1995 US) by Bernhard Schlink tells the story of its main character, Michael Berg, and his affair with an older woman.  The larger story is about generations of German people, after the Holocaust, struggling with trying to understand what and why it happened and how their own families were involved or chose to do nothing.

The story is told in three parts.  First, Michael as a young boy recovering from an illness.  He is helped by an attractive older woman when he is sick in the street.  Their relationship builds as they are both lonely people in their own ways.  Reaching out to each other they begin to have an affair, a 15 year-old and a woman more than twice his age.  The writing of the love scenes is well done, and the meaning of the affair to Michael is well conveyed.  As part of the relationship Michael begins to read to Hannah.  Reading becomes an intimate part of their relationship.  Soon the affair dwindles as Michael grows up and joins his friends, and when Hannah unexpectedly leaves her job to move to another city.

The second part of the story takes place much later when Michael is a law student auditing a war crimes trial.  Hannah is one of the defendents accused of atrocities while she was a guard at a concentration camp.  It is here that Michael realizes that Hannah is illiterate and that she would rather be punished more harshly than necessary than have her secret found out.  The third part of the story is about Michael's continued relationship with Hannah while she is in prison and at the time of her release.

The Reader is about a young man growing up in troubled times in a troubled nation, but it is also about the tragedy of ignorance and pride.

I came late to reading this book, deciding to read it only because I wanted to see the recently released film.  I wish I had read it sooner.

 

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Bernhard Schlink WWII Holocaust
<![CDATA[Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/comfort-food-by-kate-jacobs.aspx Sat, 07 Feb 2009 07:05:00 G2T 1234 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/02/07/comfort-food-by-kate-jacobs.aspx to post your comments!

Comfort Food (2008) by Kate Jacobs is a light book set in the world of a cable cooking channel.  I listened to the audio version while on a road trip.  That's a good format for this novel.  There's not much to think about with this book, it is just good entertainment.  Funny and ecclectic characters are jumbled together in predictable but funny situations.  The main character is Gus - a middle aged widow with two grown daughters with their own problems as celebrity kids.  Gus is thrown into a new cooking show format with Carmen, an ambitious Spanish ex-beauty queen who's main ambition is to be in the spotlight and own her own restaurant.  The cooking assistant is a financial whiz millionaire who has given up his career, but not his money, to pursue his love of food and cooking.  My favorite quirky sidekick minor character is Gus' next door neighbor - an ex-tennis star who has become reclusive since she was ostracized for throwing matches at her father's behest.  All ends well, as you would expect.

This is a quick read and very entertaining, especially if you like watching the shows on the Food Channel.

Jacob's other books, Friday Night Knitting Club and its sequel Knit Two, have been very popular.  I have not read them but if they are the same as Comfort Food, I am sure they are worth a listen.

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Food Kate Jacobs cooking cooking channel
<![CDATA[Olive Kitteridge (2008) - Elizabeth Strout]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/29/olive-kitteridge-2008-elizabeth-strout.aspx Thu, 29 Jan 2009 13:17:00 G1T 1198 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/29/olive-kitteridge-2008-elizabeth-strout.aspx to post your comments!

Olive Kitteridge (2008) by Elizabeth Strout is a string of short stories all of which either feature Olive, or in which Olive is either a major or a minor part of.  At times I thought Olive irritating and just a plain nasty old biddy.  At other times I thought she was basically a good person just doing the best she can.

There are thirteen stories, with linked characters and themes.  It is a unique story-telling form that I enjoyed.  Set in a small town in coastal Maine, the character studies are wonderful especially Olive and Henry Kitteridge.  I really liked Henry for his quiet intelligence and kindness, and that he loved Olive despite her faults.  Olive is a character that will suddenly drop a pearl of wisdom.  The stories are sometimes funny, other times they would wrench your heart.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading the stories, and enjoyed the thread of continuity of Olive's appearing.  Really, I guess I was waiting to see how Strout would introduce her to a story that did not have any direct relationship to her.  I would recommend this book.

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Maine short stories Strout
<![CDATA[Out Stealing Horses (2007) by Per Petterson]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/28/out-stealing-horses-2007-by-per-petterson.aspx Wed, 28 Jan 2009 11:45:00 G1T 1197 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/28/out-stealing-horses-2007-by-per-petterson.aspx to post your comments!

Out Stealing Horses (2007) is not about horse rustling.  Set in Norway, it is a contemporary story about a man that moves to a rustic cabin in the woods after his wife and sister both pass away.  In the quiet he begins to reflect upon his life.  When he realizes that the closest neighbor is the brother of a boy he was friends with in his early teenage years, he begins to reflect on the summer that changed both his and his friend's life forever.

Trond Sander tells the story of that summer in reflection, telling the reader not only about the friendship and that fateful summer, but also about his father's experiences and heroism as a member of the resistance during WWII.  It is not a story about WWII, but a description of the man his father was and how that influenced his behavior.  It is also the story of a lonely man isolating himself from the world and his daughters.

Two of my friends raved about this book, but I was a little disappointed because I had very high expectations.  It is a good story.  The writing is good, and although I would not say it was depressing it is not an uplifting read. 

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old man Norway reflection
<![CDATA[The Song Before It Is Sung (2007) - Justin Cartwright and the film Valkyrie (2008)]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/04/the-song-before-it-is-sung-2007-justin-cartwright-and-the-film-valkyrie.aspx Sun, 04 Jan 2009 15:23:00 G1T 1101 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/04/the-song-before-it-is-sung-2007-justin-cartwright-and-the-film-valkyrie.aspx to post your comments!

I like to read historical novels about World War II, not about the battles, politics, or war tactics, but stories about the home front, resistance, and the historical figures involved.  Usually what I have read has been about the Allied side of the conflict.  The Song Before it is Sung was recommended to me as a novel about a "good German" and the German resistance.  It is the story of a friendship between a professor at Oxford and a German nobleman.  They met as young men when they were both Rhoades Scholars at Oxford.  Total opposites physically and in temperament, they build a relationship based on their intellect, indulging in late night conversations and arguments about theories and life itself.  With the war looming they struggle to maintain a relationship that is splintered by Mendel's strong opinions about the Third Reich and the German people's complicity and von Gottberg's strong German nationalism.  Mendel is Jewish and of course this has an impact on his feelings.  Von Gottberg believes that the real Germany is a good Germany and if he can rid the country of Hitler by working from within he can help prevent the war.  Von Gottberg returns to Germany and when the war begins he resists joining the party but does become part of the government.

The narrator of the story is a student of Mendel, to whom Mendel has entrusted all his papers in regard to von Gottberg upon his death.  The story is told through the student's research and interviews, and the secondary plot line is about his personal life.

I was about a third of the way through the book when a friend of mine asked me to go see the film Valkyrie (2008) with Tom Cruise.  The film, which was better than I expected, tells the story of the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944.  The attempt almost succeeded as did the coup that was in full swing before it was halted upon the realization that Hitler was not killed.  The man who engineered the plot and attempted coup was von Stauffenberg.

When I continued to read The Song Before it is Sung this weekend - the next section was about this plot and von Gottberg's involvement in it.  This is when I realized and confirmed (thank you Google) that the novel is based on the real friendship between Isaiah Berlin, an Oxford scholar, and Adam von Trott who was deeply involved with von Stauffenberg in the attempted assassination.  Von Stauffenberg and von Trott were executed as a result of their involvement.

The book is well written and the characters are well developed.  It takes the historical facts of this friendship and the assassination plot and weaves a story that is compelling through characters that are a product of the historical events and atrocities of that time.  The book tells a story not often told of the good Germans that tried, albeit too late, to prevent the horror of the Third Reich

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Nazis Germany Von Trott Berlin
<![CDATA[Possible Side Effects - Augusten Burroughs (2006)]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/03/possible-side-effects-augusten-burroughs-2006.aspx Sat, 03 Jan 2009 17:08:00 G1T 1100 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2009/01/03/possible-side-effects-augusten-burroughs-2006.aspx to post your comments!

Possible Side Effects is a collection of short memoirs by Augusten Burroughs, as his previous books are.  Augusten Burroughs has had one of the most interesting and bizarre childhood and young adulthood ever.  His family puts the dysfunctional in "dysfunctional family."

His life, and writing skills, makes for hilarious reading.  I have read two of his other books.  Running With Scissors (2002) is about his childhood in which he describes among other things how his mother gives him to her psychologist to raise in his own very bizarre household.  Magical Thinking (2004) continues the memoirs into his early adulthood with stories of his drug use, alcoholism, and career in advertising; a successful career despite his lack of formal education beyond elementary school.

Possible Side Effects has no chronological order, jumping from a "current" story about him and his partner at a Bed & Breakfast infested with creepy dolls to stories about his southern grandparents to childhood chronicles of his mother, father, and brother (a genius and author himself).  Don't try to make any sense out of his method of reasoning and thinking - you can't.  Just sit back and enjoy the read - let go of the dark underpinnings of the stories that obviously have made him the neurotic man he has become.  If you can do that you will laugh out loud at how different he sees the world!

 

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memoir Augusten Burroughs
<![CDATA[Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise - Ruth Reichl]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/28/garlic-and-sapphires-the-secret-life-of-a-critic-in-disguise-ruth-reichl.aspx Sun, 28 Dec 2008 16:08:00 G12T 1082 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/28/garlic-and-sapphires-the-secret-life-of-a-critic-in-disguise-ruth-reichl.aspx to post your comments!

Daphne Durham (Amazon.com) says “Ruth Reichl is a wonderful memoirist--a funny, poignant, and candid storyteller whose books contain a happy mix of memories, recipes, and personal revelations.”  This is a great description of Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (2006).  Reichl was the New York Times food critic for several years, a coveted job considered to be the top of the profession.

The book is interspersed with her own recipes – usually very simple and delicious sounding.  If I cooked I would certainly try one or two of them.  The humor is in Reichl's equally delicious disguises in which she visits New York’s most famous restaurants to avoid being recognized.  She loses herself in the characters she develops and quickly learns how differently she is treated dependent on the costume.  She  also learns much about herself and grows from the experience.  She describes New York’s harsh restaurant reality with humor and personal observations that are at times touching.  Actual published reviews often follow the stories in the book as well.  The reviews are humerous and different than most restaurant reviews that I have read; they are not pretentious or condescending.

This book is a memoir that reads like a funny novel.  I am anxious to read her other books.  A great light read for everyone – foodie or not.

 

 

 

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Food memoir critic recipes Rachel Reichl New York Times
<![CDATA[Two Weeks (2006)]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2008/12/27/two-weeks-2006.aspx Sat, 27 Dec 2008 17:58:00 G12T 1079 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/" target="_blank">Movies Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/movies/archive/2008/12/27/two-weeks-2006.aspx to post your comments!

Two Weeks (2006) is about four grown siblings that return to their mother’s house to be with her while she is dying from ovarian cancer.  There are wonderful poignant performances from all the characters, all of which are played by actors that always turn in credible performances but don’t have the star-power to make you remember their names.  You will remember their faces.

 

The strongest performances are from Julianne Nicholson as Emily and Ben Chaplin as Keith, along with the usual excellent performance by Sally Field as the mother.  Field is in an almost dual performance as a woman in the last days of dying and in video vignettes filmed by one son in the days before she becomes bedridden.  The vignettes serve to punctuate the emotional impact of what the siblings are going through and give insight to the character of the mother.  Listen carefully for gems of wisdom and observation from both the mother and Emily.

 

The film is touching, emotional, and funny.  It is well written and directed by Steve Stockman and based on personal experience.  Having recently lost three family members, two to ovarian cancer, I thought the film would be difficult to watch but I told myself I would just stop it and take it out of the DVD player.  Rather that being difficult to watch or depressing, it was a cathartic experience for me and so obviously close to “real life” that I was laughing out loud.

 

It is an exceptional independent film that I would highly recommend.  I am very glad I stumbled across it.

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films Sally Field ovarial cancer independent films Julianne Nicholson Ben Chaplin dying
<![CDATA[A Christmas murder mystery...and Agatha Christie...two of my favorite things.]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/16/a-christmas-murder-mystery-and-agatha-christie-two-of-my-favorite-things.aspx Tue, 16 Dec 2008 21:26:00 G12T 1021 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/16/a-christmas-murder-mystery-and-agatha-christie-two-of-my-favorite-things.aspx to post your comments!

I thought I had read all of the Agatha Christie murder mysteries years ago.  Then, while Becky was searching for a book of Christmas short stories for me, I found Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot's Christmas.  The only ties to Christmas are the dates and the estranged family coming home for the holiday.  Pretty much the usual Christie/Poirot murder mystery - a gathering of people, a murder, and the little Belgian detective.  Picture Murder on the Orient Express - only in an English manor house at Christmas, without any signs of Christmas.

I love Agatha Christie for the simple old-fashioned murder mystery - no high tech here, but unusually there is a bit of gore.  Mild by today's standards though.  Lots of blood and talk about the quantity of blood.  The disappointment of the book is that Poirot does not demonstrate much of his expected manner, and never referrs to "the tiny gray cells."  But, am I remembering that from the other books, the movies, or the great A&E movies starring David Suchet (the consumate Poirot, in my opinion)?

Sure, I thought I had figured out whodunit, but I didn't.  As usual Dame Christie through in a twist that I didn't catch in the multitude of useful and useless clues.

I don't know if Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile is my favorite.  Do you have a favorite?  Does anyone read Agatha Christie anymore?  And, who is the better detective Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot?

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Christmas Hercule Poirot murder Agatha Chrisie mystery
<![CDATA[Sandra Dallas - Unusual story lines]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/15/sandra-dallas-unusual-story-lines.aspx Mon, 15 Dec 2008 08:13:00 G12T 1011 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/15/sandra-dallas-unusual-story-lines.aspx to post your comments!

I am a big reader of southern regional novels, but I stumbled on a Sandra Dallas book called The Persian Pickle Club a couple of years ago and I have read most of Ms. Dallas' books since then.  Recently I finished New Mercies and really loved it.  Most of the books are set in Denver, or there abouts, and are from the 1920's or 1930's.  This book is partly in Denver and partly in Natchez.  So it fit the bill for me!

The lead character in New Mercies is slowly recovering from a divorce and the social stigma associated with divorce at that time.  She inherits an old plantation house that has gone to ruin, and she travels to Natchez to discover a world completely different from her own and loaded with characters (maybe caricactures would be a better description).  It is a fun read and very enjoyable.

Next on my list of Sandra Dallas' books is Tallgrass, I am looking forward to reading it.

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Natchez Denver Sandra Dallas 1940s
<![CDATA["The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters" by Lorraine Lopez]]> http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/12/the-gifted-gabaldon-sisters.aspx Fri, 12 Dec 2008 10:45:00 G12T 1003 HRevvdon@evpl Posted to the <a href="http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/" target="_blank">Books Blog</a> on EVPL Communities. View the original post at http://evpl.org/community/blogs/books/archive/2008/12/12/the-gifted-gabaldon-sisters.aspx to post your comments!

I just finished reading "The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters" by Lorraine Lopez.  The Gabaldon family consists of four sisters, a brother, and a widowed father.  The sisters and brother are all named after movie stars - Bette Davis Gabaldon; Sopia Loren Gabaldon; Cary Grant Gabaldon; etc.  The story follows the the four sisters primarily, a different sister is speaking in each chapter in a particular time period.  The sisters are exploring throuh their life experiences the mysterious "gifts" that an old woman has given them upon her death.  Interspersed are "reports" that somewhat detail the old woman's life.  It is interesting and a quick read.  I found I was more interested in the old woman's life and I wish there had been more about her.

I read the reader's guide in the back of the book, apparently I should have gotten more out of the book than I did!  One thing I did get out of it was the use of interesting love/hate relationships of siblings to help tell the story.

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reviews fiction Lorraine Lopez gifted gabaldon sisters