What a spectacular ending to an awesome book. In his Afterword, Stephen King gives credit for the ending to his son, Joe Hill. Kudos to Joe! After 1000 plus pages of reading, I expected to be ready to end this story but, instead, I was thoroughly disappointed to finish. Despite that disappointment, I was thrilled and emotionally touched with the way the novel closes. I have to admit that I had pigeon-holed Stephen King as a certain kind of author - one that I did not generally gravitate to but...this novel broke all previous preconceptions of King's writing for me. The ride down this rabbit hole of a book filled with history and love and unforgettable characters is magical.
This was a solid 3-star book for me. I liked it, but wanted more. Liane Moriarity, one of my new favorite authors for her wit and willingness to tackle difficult subject matter, endorsed this book as "one of those rare novels that is both unputdownable and unforgettable." At no point did I want to abandon the book, but I don't expect this story to stick with me over time. Not surprisingly, however, this book resonated strongly with my mother and I read it at her recommendation. About two years ago, our family dealt with the impact of an unexpected accident that also led to an injury similar to Maddy's and it was my mother who was the initial sole caregiver in that situation. To this day, the effects of that accident can still be felt in our family. I suspect it was the middle that was so emotionally touching for my mother - as it was for me: that excruciating time of "not knowing" while Maddy was in the hospital and then Maddy's unpredictable behavior after her initial return home. Unfortunately, the husband's pattern of verbal abuse, and the reaction of the family, didn't seem as convincing (or important) to me and I think that was supposed to be the meat of the story.
Although Yankee-born, I have lived in Alabama for nearly half my life and I feel a kinship and loyalty to this State - with all of its beauty and flaws. So that is why I'm quite ashamed that it took me 17 years to read Rick Bragg's memoir of growing up in Calhoun County, Alabama, and his amazing journalism career. We all have books that stick with us, invade our thoughts for many days or months after you've read the last page. This is one of those books for me. I spoke recently with a Journalism graduate from the University of Alabama where Rick Bragg now serves as a Professor of Writing and we debated the tone of Mr. Bragg's memoir. He thought Mr. Bragg was overplaying the "country bumpkin" card. I feel I can pick out a poser and Rick Bragg is not one of them. He feels quite genuine to me. In fact, he talks quite extensively in this book about the struggles he's had throughout his life with that perception of being "less" because he was born and raised as a poor white kid on someone else's land in rural Alabama county. It is actually just that tone that endeared his story to me, and reminded me of just why I love this State and its people so very much (with a few exceptions - of course). Great southern memoir!
I think this book would have had much more of an impact if I'd read it back in 1995 when it was first published. The cold sad truth is that these stories are now all-too-familiar in many impoverished neighborhoods around our nation including in my own city of Birmingham, Alabama. Although I have not studied the statistics, my gut tells me that the income gap between the poorest poor and the richest rich in New York City has widened substantially since this book was written. The New York Times, however, reported just this year about the number of middle class professionals, many of them white, moving into the neighborhoods described in Jonathan Kozol's book. Apparently the attraction is affordable real estate, an increasingly safe neighborhood where major crime has plummeted over the past 20 years, and a reasonable commute to jobs in Manhatten. I'm pleased to hear that the reputation of the neighborhood is changing for what appears to be the better but I would be very interested in a follow up book on the children highlighted in "Amazing Grace." Where are they today and have those precious children benefited from the enhancements and improvements in their neighborhood? My prayers may have already been answered as Kozol's newest book, Fire in the Ashes, which was published in August 2012 does just that.
This quiet book hit home for me on multiple levels and I enjoyed this read very much. The format is a story within a story - one set in the present of the 1970s and the other set in the late 1880s - and the narrator, a retired and disabled Berkley professor, is struggling to write a history of his grandparent's lives while simultaneously reflecting on his own lot in life. As a budding genealogist with a secret wish to capture my own family's history on paper, I was drawn to the historical nature of the story as well as the narrator's mission. The book also spoke to me on an emotional level and I enjoyed the study of relationships, and especially the power play between the narrator's grandparents. The balance between his grandmother's career and preconceived notions of what her marriage and husband "should be" and their impact on her husband and children felt very contemporary. Although I have questioned the award of the Pulitzer Prize in the past, this time the accolades are justified.
This was not my first foray into the work of Hitchens. I read God is Not Great as well as several Vanity Fair articles prior to this set of essays. This book, however, illuminated the huge gap in intellect between Hitchens and myself. Not a surprising discovery but rather humbling. Fortunately, Hitchens himself made some progress in closing that gap as I progressed through his 100+ essays from start to finish. Because nearly all of the literary references in the first third of the book were lost on me, it almost felt like I was reading a book written in a different language but that slowly dissipated as I moved along. For the casual reader of Hitchens, be prepared for a literary challenge but don't let that challenge stop you from getting to know this prolific writer and his thought-provoking opinions on literature, politics and religion.
I totally get Nikki Moustaki and her crazy obsessive love for pets. When I was a college sophomore, I found a young cat in a Baton Rouge field, and that cat traveled with me through life for 20 years. A lot of happy and sad things happened during those two decades and my cat was there for all of them. The story of Nikki's early years (through age 24) is told through the lens of her pets' lives - mostly birds - with a special emphasis on the illuminating relationship she had with her grandfather, another lover of birds. Through that lens, Nikki shares her passions, insecurities, disappointments, accomplishments, and struggles with alcohol addiction. In the final chapters, Nikki's recounting of her trip to Paris as a single 24-year old woman is an extra-special treat for the reader. This is a beautifully written coming-of-age memoir. I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.
I think I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if I had once been a 12-year old boy. Stephen King's obsession with bodily fluids (which I can generally tolerate in most other Stephen King books despite the fact that it is ever-present) was particularly noticeable in this book. Again - if I had once been a 12-year old boy, those references (and maybe even Stephen King's obsession with bodily fluids) would probably go unnoticed. Not one of my favorites by King.
Julie Kibler's debut novel tackles many themes common to Southern fiction: race relations; interracial marriage; family secrets; and unexpected friendship. The story is split between a present-day road trip from Arlington, Texas, to Cincinnati for 30-something Dorrie and almost-90 Isabelle, and a flashback to Isabelle's coming of age in the 1930s. Of particular interest is an explanation of the "sundown" law in Isabelle's small Kentucky town which prohibited blacks in town after dark. Interestingly, these laws were in no way limited to just the South but were found as far west as California in the 1930s. I like the way this book compared and contrasted race relations between Isabelle's "then" and Dorrie and Isabelle's "now," but - at the same time - there was something lacking for me and I never felt fully engaged. Despite this sentiment, I believe Julie Kibler is a fine writer and I look forward to reading her future books.
If you enjoy pirate stories for foodies, with a subtle romance thrown in for good measure, this is the book for you. Not sure that I can name another book like it. My reading challenge was the incredibly unusual vocabulary of author Eli Brown coupled with my dire lack of seafaring knowledge (i.e., mizzen, bulwark, forecastle, windlass). With that said, Julie Powell's endorsement describes this book as a "great beach read," and I agree that the tone is light and airy despite the swashbuckling violence peppered throughout. Not only was the action packed, but the author fully developed his main characters: Owen Wedgwood and Mad Hannah Mabbot. Great names, huh? At times, this book felt akin to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies - a bit of a parody of the pirate life - but, then again, who takes pirate stories too seriously anyway. Fun read for me.
I started this unabridged audiobook on my 24-hour roundtrip drive to my parent's house (Alabama to Texas) for Thanksgiving this year. I was looking specifically for a humorous novel and selected this one from the Good Reads listopia for Best Humorous Books. I was intrigued by the author's tragic story, the setting of New Orleans and the fact that the book was first published in 1980 by LSU Press (my alma mater). The first 1/3 of the book was laugh out loud funny but as the story progressed, the humor grew stale. As the book came to an end, I wondered whether its Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was a bit misplaced or was based, instead, on the incredible story surrounding the book instead of the book itself. I do, however, agree that the depiction of New Orleans was outstanding and the city truly served as a character in the story itself.
With 20 years of tarot reading experience under my belt, I was intrigued by the title of this book and bought it on an impulse. I'm not sure exactly who would benefit from this book but I can tell you it was not me. I'm not a better tarot reader now. I'm not more enlightened about tarot cards or the life of a tarot reader. And I did not manage to glean any "practical advice from this realm and beyond." I did pull my deck out and contemplated the propositions set forth in each chapter but, in the end, I'll stick with the interpretations of each card that I've developed over time and that works for me when I do read (which is much less frequently these days).
In the classic legal thriller tradition of John Grisham or Scott Turow, this book also proved to be an admirable companion to We Need to Talk About Kevin. Thrown in for good measure was some interesting science on behavioral genetics, specifically the gene encoding the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). If the defendant inherited the "murder gene, " could that be a plausible defense to murder? But wait - the defendant didn't do it so why even go there!? William Landay writes from his experience as a prosecutor and crafts a very enjoyable tale that is destined to be on the big screen. The ending was not what I expected but maybe that's a good thing since I thought I had the whole book worked out in my head at about the three-quarters point.
I waffled back and forth between 3 stars and 4 stars and settled ultimately on 3 stars. I prefer the Anne Rice world of witches and vampires to the Stephenie Meyer or Charlaine Harris worlds. I like my paranormal universes to be dark and I don't mind a story steeped in history - even history of science. With that said, I found the Deborah Harkness world of witches and vampires to be closer to Anne Rice albeit much lighter but pleasantly heavy on the history. I suspect I may enjoy All Souls Trilogy #2, Shadow of Night, even better as it looks like it will be even heavier on the history. After having become convinced that all contemporary paranormal fiction was a lost cause, I'm happy to have discovered Matthew, Diana and the work of Deborah Harkness.
I stumbled upon The Hunger Games trilogy in 2011, reluctantly read the first book despite the genre being one I generally don't tend towards but fell in love. It felt different and I was open to something different. I searched Good Reads for recommendations on the next book to read and the lovers of The Hunger Games consistently recommended Divergent. They were right! I read it in less than a week and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't a regurgitation of The Hunger Games but something else fresh and new. I'm wondering if I'm now a true convert to this YA dystopian genre. Next up: Uglies.
I am a supporter of passage of the DREAM Act. Hence, I was drawn to this book for the stories of the children whose parents had made the decision to migrate (illegally) to the United States with their children leaving these kids undocumented involuntarily and having to face those consequences upon graduation from high school. So - this book was singing to the choir. Even with that built-in welcome reception, however, I was a bit disappointed in the disjointed nature of the narrative. The book is split into 10 chapters - 10 separate stories with some overlap. Only the Introduction and Epilogue attempt to draw for the reader a more cohesive history of U.S. immigration law and those attempts are not terribly successful leaving me with lots and lots of questions. In the end, I am definitely more informed of the issues and challenges but need to do further research on my own to answer those questions still lingering. I was very happy, however, that the book ends on a note that emphasizes use of the existing legal paths (i.e., humanitarian visa, application for asylum) to obtain entry to the United States while we continue to work towards U.S. immigration reform. I received a copy of this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review.
After finishing this book and then delving into several book reviews by Christopher Hitchins where Hitchins thoroughly examines the authors in addition to the authors' works, I decided to do a bit of research myself on some of the authors I had recently read. I started with Forrest Carter (aka Asa Earl Carter) from Anniston, Alabama - just up the road from my home in Birmingham. What happened next was eye-opening. This book, which I found full of stereotypes and quite average despite its great reviews, is actually steeped in controversy! I started with the 1991 New York Times' article "The Transformation of a Klansman" by Dan T. Carter. I was fascinated to hear that the New York Times moved The Education of Little Tree, originally published in 1976 and then reprinted in 1986, from its Nonfiction Bestseller List to its Fiction Bestseller List after this story broke. Although some of my fellow GoodReads members still have this book categorized as a memoir - be warned - this one is a hoax, a mocu-memoir written by a former segregationist who successfully re-invented himself late in life. I don't really feel all that duped since I was pretty unconvinced of the book's genuineness even before I researched its author, but I may have read the book differently if I'd known all this before I started. Lesson learned.
"Tomorrow I will head to Guernsey, a bobbing diesel-churned journey, and find cobrahead fixtures, unshielded lights, the insistent roar of the motors that rule our lives. But tonight in a field on Sark, I lie staring up - and around - at the starry sky, a man on his back in a field, all but disappeared." The bibliographical references for this book are: Light pollution; Night - Psychological aspects; Lighting - Physiological aspects; and Lighting - Social aspects. Like Bryce Canyon National Park Ranger Kevin Poe observes towards the end of this book, I am one of those people that had never heard the words "light" and "pollution" in the same sentence before. Then I read this book as part of my Postal Book Club.
I vaguely remember a legal case in law school about the owner of a baseball field being sued for trespass caused by the super-bright lights shining from the field at night onto residential houses next door. That's light pollution. I also recently had to move my bedroom from one side of my house to the other after my neighbor installed (without any regard to his neighbor apparently) a super-bright motion-detecting flood light that was regularly triggered throughout the night by cats and critters causing light to flood into my bedroom and disrupt my sleep. That is also light pollution. But I have never studied the night sky or any aspect of astronomy so lots of this content was pretty new to me.
Paul Bogard approaches the subject as the Professor of Writing he is, peppering the scientific and astronomic concepts with tons of literary references in this work of narrative non-fiction. He makes his case well for why we need more night and less artificial light. I felt several times like this short book could have been even shorter, but I appreciated the passion that the author had for his subject and his writing was good. I am heading to the north Georgia mountains this weekend where I anticipate the night sky to be darker than the sky above my home in Birmingham. I will need some help to recognize any constellation other than the Big Dipper but I plan to do it. I plan to lie on my back and stare up at the sky and think about this book. I may never have happened upon this book naturally but, now that I have, I plan to stay aware and vigilant and careful to make decisions and support decisions that reduce the amount of artificial light in my world, and increase natural darkness.
Because I watched the Wallander PBS series prior to reading this book, I was stuck with the image of Kenneth Branagh as Wallander. That's not a bad thing but probably impacted my opinion of that character. Mankell does an excellent job developing Wallander as an immensely flawed police detective and his story really helped glue this mystery together for me. I was not, however, as intrigued by the mystery itself and I found myself a little disappointed as the book came to an end. The story had not stayed with me from the PBS series (possibly a forewarning that the book may not engage me). I do plan to continue the series as I'm curious about Wallander and his future.
This was my first John Green book and, prior to this book, I had no other experience with "cancer kids" in literature. I expected the story to be really sad but...it really wasn't. I generally appreciate snarkiness and Veronica Mars-like intelligence and quick wit in teenagers and I got a lot of that dialogue so that was welcome. I guess what was missing for me was a deeper connection to the characters. Maybe all that snarkiness kept me at arm's length and, although I was moved at some level by the struggles each kid faced, I wasn't emotionally invested so...no tears for me.