Meg C. (maggiethecat) - Reviews

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The Anatomy of Revolution
The Anatomy of Revolution
Author: Crane Brinton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 5/14/2007


The Bible of Revolutionary Theory. Everything that has been written on the subject since its publication is firmly rooted in Brinton's work. Any student of revolutionary history cannot progress very far without it. Covers the English, American, French and Russian Revolutions using politics, history, economics and sociology to compile an understanding of what defines revolution, how they emerge, how they progress and how they resolve themselves as well as the people who play a part in them.


The Brothers K
The Brothers K
Author: David James Duncan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 36
Review Date: 5/22/2007
Helpful Score: 1


This is among the top five books on my favourites list. It is a genius study of family and post-war America over the course of about thirty years that has at its core baseball, religion, baseball as a religion, literature, war and peace. A friend gave me my copy of this book and said, "if ever a book was written specifically for you, this is it." She couldn't have been more right. It has by far the funniest passage about Sunday school I've ever read. I can't begin to explain, but it involves felt angels, Swedes and beatniks. Overall, Duncan's understanding of and ability to write both about the humourous and heartbreaking aspects of life and familial relations makes this book well worth reading.

"Joy to the Wordl! The Saviour Resigns!"


The Brothers K
The Brothers K
Author: David James Duncan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 5/22/2007


This is among the top five books on my favourites list. It is a genius study of family and post-war America over the course of about thirty years that has at its core baseball, religion, baseball as a religion, literature, war and peace. A friend gave me my copy of this book and said, "if ever a book was written specifically for you, this is it." She couldn't have been more right. It has by far the funniest passage about Sunday school I've ever read. I can't begin to explain, but it involves felt angels, Swedes and beatniks. Overall, Duncan's understanding of and ability to write both about the humourous and heartbreaking aspects of life and familial relations makes this book well worth reading.

"Joy to the Wordl! The Saviour Resigns!"


Closer
Closer
Author: Patrick Marber
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 5/27/2007
Helpful Score: 1


A verbally understated (in that nothing is said that doesn't need to be and delivery is equally as important as what is being said) study of love, sex and modern relationship, Marber's play is about as dark as they come. It is less about love than it is desire, less about need than want. If you've seen the movie and thought it dark, the play is even more so. It's a different, darker (and in my opinion more satisfying) ending.


Dancing at Lughnasa
Dancing at Lughnasa
Author: Brian Friel
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 5/27/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Like Tennessee Williams' great work 'The Glass Menagerie,' 'Dancing at Lughnasa' is a memory play, drawn from the memory of a then seven-year-old Michael. Like Williams', Friel's study of family exposes the dysfunction that exists in every family (although, it exists here to a lesser degree than in any of Williams' works, but that should really go without saying,) examining specifically the summer of 1936 on an Irish farm. This is the story of five sisters, one domineering, one free spirit, one quiet unwed mother, one simple sister and one who has taken on the role of protector. Also among the cast, the sisters' brother Jack, a missionary priest recently returned by the Church of Ireland after 25 years in Africa for having abandoned Christianity for increasingly pagan beliefs, and Gerry, Michael's absent Welsh father whose appearances never fail to turn the household on its head. Masterfully written and brilliant when properly executed, Lughnasa is a wonderful examination of the impact of technology and events outside what are considered societal norms (Jack's adopted paganism, Chris' bastard son) on family.


The Emperor's Children
The Emperor's Children
Author: Claire Messud
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 286
Review Date: 8/10/2007
Helpful Score: 18


Up to the fall of the World Trade Center in the last 50 or so pages, this book blew my mind. Chronicling the lives of three college friends now thirty and living in New York and struggling to come to terms with their own limitations while at the same time trying to change the world in some way, Messud's language is brilliant. Simultaneously, there exists a sense of entitlement drawn from their ivy league educations...urban revolutionists without a revolution. In the post-9/11 chapters however, it seems hurried in a wholly unsettling way. Though none of the characters are completely unlikeable, none of them are really all that likable either; their entitlement becomes distracting while their ambition is all but abandoned.


The Emperor's Children
The Emperor's Children
Author: Claire Messud
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.4/5 Stars.
 49
Review Date: 8/10/2007
Helpful Score: 2


Up to the fall of the World Trade Center in the last 50 or so pages, this book blew my mind. Chronicling the lives of three college friends now thirty and living in New York and struggling to come to terms with their own limitations while at the same time trying to change the world in some way, Messud's language is brilliant. Simultaneously, there exists a sense of entitlement drawn from their ivy league educations...urban revolutionists without a revolution. In the post-9/11 chapters however, it seems hurried in a wholly unsettling way. Though none of the characters are completely unlikeable, none of them are really all that likable either; their entitlement becomes distracting while their ambition is all but abandoned.


Evangeline and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)
Evangeline and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions)
Author: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 6/24/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Having grown up in Canada, this was required reading and I must say, it was, and remains, one of my favourites. It is hugely tragic, but incredibly interesting as a history.

Longfellow's work details the exile of the French Acadians from Nova Scotia by the English in the mid-18th century, many of whom ended up in Louisiana (the word "cajun" being a bastardization of "acadian,") and the lifelong search of one woman named Evangeline for her love Gabriel from whom she was separated during the exile.

There is some debate as to Evangeline's actual existence, but the fact is, whether she existed or not, under another name (as many believe) or not at all, but she is immortalized in a beautiful epic poem, in a parish in Louisiana and in a driving route in Nova Scotia.

Longfellow's poem brings to the forefront an oft-neglected piece of both Canadian and American history in a beautiful, if tragic, story.


The Gargoyle
The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davidson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 4/20/2009


This book was just sort of meh for me. A quick throwaway read that a year from now I'll remember having read, but not what it was about. The premise is interesting enough and the first half was decent, but the story took too long to get there. So much of the middle of it could have been left out with the story remaining intact and none of the characters existing in the present seemed to have any dimension. I wasn't big on the hollow godliness, the awkward, mood-breaking pop culture references, the wholly unnecessary bits of esoteric pretentiousness thrown in for added measure (Marcello's oboe concerto? Really?), the shallow lessons on tolerance, the annoyingly condescending tone suggesting that none of us have read Dante's Inferno or the dull chastity of the whole endeavour. For a love story, this read an awful lot like every sex dream I had before I lost my virginity...the implication is there, but with no actual experience to see it through, there's no real action. The imagery of it all was truly beautiful, but it was just a beautiful mirage; there was nothing of substance.

I have to admit that I was disappointed because it came so highly recommended and lots of people seem to genuinely enjoy it, but it just wasn't for me. For lack of a better word, the book lacked fire.

It's not a bad book, it's just not a very good one.


The Gargoyle
The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davidson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 30
Review Date: 4/20/2009
Helpful Score: 2


This book was just sort of meh for me. A quick throwaway read that a year from now I'll remember having read, but not what it was about. The premise is interesting enough and the first half was decent, but the story took too long to get there. So much of the middle of it could have been left out with the story remaining intact and none of the characters existing in the present seemed to have any dimension. I wasn't big on the hollow godliness, the awkward, mood-breaking pop culture references, the wholly unnecessary bits of esoteric pretentiousness thrown in for added measure (Marcello's oboe concerto? Really?), the shallow lessons on tolerance, the annoyingly condescending tone suggesting that none of us have read Dante's Inferno or the dull chastity of the whole endeavour. For a love story, this read an awful lot like every sex dream I had before I lost my virginity...the implication is there, but with no actual experience to see it through, there's no real action. The imagery of it all was truly beautiful, but it was just a beautiful mirage; there was nothing of substance.

I have to admit that I was disappointed because it came so highly recommended and lots of people seem to genuinely enjoy it, but it just wasn't for me. For lack of a better word, the book lacked fire.

It's not a bad book, it's just not a very good one.


The Gospel of Judas
Review Date: 6/9/2007
Helpful Score: 5


As a scholar of religion with a particular interest in Judas, this was for me a particularly interesting examination of the relationship between Judas and Jesus. The text is referred to as early as the 2nd (I think) century C.E. by St. Iraneaus who writes of a Gospel of Judas in 'Against the Heresies,' but didn't surface again for nearly 2000 years. For apologists like myself who feel that Judas has drawn the short straw throughout the course of history, 'The Gospel of Judas' is a fascinating rendition of Judas that shows a wholly different, more sympathetic Judas from the one modern Christianity knows.

This is not, however, a text that should be read for anyone who is spiritually married to the Bible as it exists. A friend of mine who is highly religious and highly tied to Biblical text as, well, gospel truth, called it "sacrilege."


Grand Central Winter
Grand Central Winter
Author: Lee Stringer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 8/26/2006


It gets a little tedious about 3/4 of the way in before picking up at the very end, but overall, it's a pretty good book with vivid characterizations of the real life people the author met in his time on the street.


How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory Of Globalization
How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory Of Globalization
Author: Franklin Foer
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 4/1/2006
Helpful Score: 1


The book was just okay, which disappointed me a bit. While it was an interesting look at a game to which most Americans pay little attention, the arguments could have been made by anyone with even the slightest knowledge and understanding of international affairs.


Ignorance : A Novel
Ignorance : A Novel
Author: Milan Kundera
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 7/11/2007
Helpful Score: 1


Though I much preferred 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being,' Kundera's 'Ignorance' is an equally passionate book. This main character returns to the Czech Republic after 20 years in exile in France following the fall of the Iron Curtain and finds herself in familiar places with familiar people, wholly unfamiliar with the jokes. Drawing comparisons to Odysseus and his long voyage back to Ithaca, 'Ignorance' is a fascinating examination of time, friendship, memory and what it means to go home.


The Inner Circle (Full-length Version)
Review Date: 3/19/2006


It is a VERY powerful work about a group of four friends, one of whom contracts HIV/AIDS. It's aimed at a high school and younger audience.


The Inner Circle (One Act Version)
Review Date: 3/19/2006


This the one-act version of the longer play. It is a VERY powerful work about a group of four friends, one of whom contracts HIV/AIDS. It's aimed at a high school and younger audience.


Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles, Bk 1)
Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles, Bk 1)
Author: Anne Rice
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 1476
Review Date: 6/24/2007
Helpful Score: 8


I finally picked this up after years of avoiding it. I really, really enjoyed the first part of the book. The history of how Louis becomes a vampire and the time and place (Louisiana during the plantation era) are fascinating, as is Rice's attention to detail as regards New Orleans at the time. I quickly got bored with the second half of the book though. It just seemed like Rice suddenly realized that there was a story that had to be finished by a certain number of words and she'd better get it done. The history and aura of it all was lost in favour of driving the plot.

It's not that I didn't like the plot. Just that I liked the plot a whole lot more when Rice was in touch with the pulse of the time and place she was writing about. That said, I know that she lives in NO and so has a very good understanding of the city and its history, so it might be for that reason that the parts of the book set in New Orleans are better simply because of Rice's intrinsic knowledge and understanding of it. Overall, it was a decent book that could have been better if the knowledge of Paris had been as good as Rice's knowledge of New Orleans.


The Madonnas of Leningrad
The Madonnas of Leningrad
Author: Debra Dean
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 114
Review Date: 6/25/2007
Helpful Score: 10


Easily the most engrossing book I've read this year, Dean's work is a quick, easy read (for me, just one sitting on a free Saturday afternoon,) but at the same time is educational. I've a graduate degree in European revolutionary history and I've done some study of Russian history, but I knew nothing of the siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) or how the Hermitage coped with the it. Dean's illustrations of suffering and struggling with the simple act of just being alive is exceptional. The book is also an interesting examination of Alzheimer's Disease as, at the same time as the main character is coping with the limitations of her disease, the memories of 60 years ago are as fresh as ever, her "memory palace" wholly intact.

An excellent throwaway read, but not one I'll keep coming back to or even keep on my shelf...


Prague
Prague
Author: Arthur Phillips
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 53
Review Date: 9/19/2007
Helpful Score: 2


From what I understand, people either love or hate this book. I don't love or hate it, but I get it. And I enjoyed it. It is the story of five (well, it starts with five) ex-pats living in Budapest in the spring of 1990 after the Velvet Revolution. And it encompasses everything that being twenty-five in a foreign (and in this case newly established) country is...the ennui, the homesickness, the people, the restlessness, the sex, the culture shock...


Rasputin's Daughter
Rasputin's Daughter
Author: Robert Alexander
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 34
Review Date: 5/2/2007
Helpful Score: 2


Easily one of the worst books I've ever read, Alexander's take on Rasputin is drawn nearly exclusively from the 500 pages of testimony given by those closest to him to the Thirteenth Section in the months after his murder. The author's near abandonment of the revolution, despite it being a major player in the lives of all characters involved is a disappointment, not to mention that none of his characters show themselves in any sort of multi-dimentional way. The "shock" at the end is embarassingly contrived and the narrative overly simple. Overall, the book is miserably plebian, its pages better served as a table leveler or fire kindling. For a book worth reading, read its source material in Edvard Radzinsky's 'The Rasputin Files.'


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