October 2007
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Winner Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2008
Shortlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2009, 2010
Longlisted for Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2011 Shortlisted Best Written Book Blog - 2010

Monthly archives for October, 2007

How To Tell if Your Boyfriend is the ...

How To Tell if Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist

Very few books make me laugh until the tears roll down my cheeks. Patricia Carlin’s How To Tell if Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist is one such book.  My sister and I sat and read this book out loud, screaming with laughter and swiping tears from our eyes. Carlin’s “How To” reference guide for women includes over sixty boyfriend types you might want to avoid; and if you haven’t avoided them, Carlin will tell you if you should break up with them and how to do just that.

Some of the gems in this book include traits that might reveal your boyfriend is:
– Trying to murder you (His favorite position to sleep is with his pillow over your face…)
– Really a woman (Your periods are in sync…)
– A Polygamist (No problem with commitment…)
– A mama’s boy (Wants you to wear a nursing bra…)

Carlin’s dry sense of humor and perfect delivery makes this book laugh out loud funny. Is perfect for single women with a sense of humor; but married types who remember the dating years will also enjoy it!

Highly recommended.

Everything by Design: My Life as an A...

Everything by Design: My Life as an Architect – Book Review

Architecture is a visceral, not an intellectual art. -From Everything by Design, page 292-

Alan Lapidus followed in his father’s footsteps and became a well known architect, designing such buildings as the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and the Crowne Plaza hotel in Times Square. In this book, he takes the reader on his journey from working as his famous father’s assistant, to meeting all the rich and famous (including Donald Trump) as he climbs the ladder to become one of the better known architects of our time. The memoir is filled with Lapidus’ first hand experiences including the colorful characters he meets along the way.

Lapidus displays a sarcastic, and sometimes cruel sense of humor which put me off. The section on his early upbringing and his disdainful description of his mother seemed unnecessarily hateful.  Especially when he describes the death of his mother and how he and his brother made a joke related to the loss of a childhood pet. Lapidus writes: When I picked up the phone, Dick said, “Alan, Mom’s gone to a farm in Connecticut.” Jerry came into the room to find me literally rolling on the floor, laughing so hard my sides were hurting. (page 31) The thought that one’s mother’s death would be this gleeful (regardless of her skill at being a mother) struck me as cold. No one in the book seems immune to Lapidus’ judgment and ridicule, including his aunt who helped raise him (Aunt Rose was either marginally impaired or simply bone stupid; I have never been able to figure out which. – page 29-).

Lapidus’ portrayal of women in the book is also off-putting and smacks of juvenile humor. As a woman, I found myself growing weary with his attitude toward the female sex.

For readers who enjoy the drama and prestige of rubbing elbows with the rich and famous of our society, Lapidus’ book will give them an interesting ride. He reveals the politics and economics of big business, and the momentus task of designing and building the elegant and unusual structures that pop up around our country. Had Lapidus focused more on this aspect of his memoir and spent less time running down those around him that not only helped bolster his career, but provided support to him as he was learning, I might have liked this book better than I did.

Everything’s Eventual – B...

Everything’s Eventual – Book Review

Yet for me, there are few pleasures so excellent as sitting in my favority chair on a cold night with a hot cup of tea, listening to the wind outside and reading a good story which I can complete in a single sitting. -From the Introduction to Everything’s Eventual-

I love Stephen King’s short stories. There are few writers out there who have retained the craft of the short story, but King is definitely one of them. I gave the book a rating of 4/5 on the whole and enjoyed most of the stories in this collection. Below are short reviews of each story.

Autopsy Room Four

How would you feel if everyone thought you were dead and you were seconds away from an autopsy? King explores this idea in true King fashion – inserting his ribald humor in a tale which is blackly horrifying. My problem wih this little story was its predictability. And because I am a King fan, I am spoiled by his previous work which is carried off with greater skill and suspense. (rating: 2.5/5)

The Man in the Black Suit

This creepy short story won the 1996 O’Henry Award for best short story – and for good reason. It is classic Stephen King storytelling which gives just enough foreshadowing to make the reader’s palms sweat. When a father warns his nine year old son “But don’t you go too far in the woods…” we know despite the idyllic setting of warm sun-flecked, fir-smelling forest, that there is danger ahead. Excellent stories are speparated from the mdiocre by voice, setting and the author’s ability to plunge the reader into the scene and experience the tale first hand. In The Man in the Black Suit, King steps over that fine line into excellence. (rating: 5/5)

All That You Love Will Be Carried Away

Alfie Zimmerman is a frozen foods salesman, a lonely and despondent man, who looks for life’s meaning in the scrawled graffitti of roadside rest areas. Sad, with more truth than fiction, this short story is about what separates the living from the dead, unaccomplished dreams,  and finally the fine balance between hope and despair. Poignant and honest,  King’s third story in this collection touched my heart. (rating: 4.5/5)

The Death Of Jack Hamilton

Based on truth and myth surrounding the infamous Dillinger gang of the 1930’s, King creates a compelling fictional short story about the death of the real life Jack Hamilton. Filled with wonderful dialogue and high drama, this tale delights as well as horrifies the reader. (rating: 5/5)

In the Deathroom

King sets the fifth story of his collection in the dank, frightening room of a South American torture chamber.  Told in the first person by the man who has been detained for interrogation, the story spins out of control and  adds an extra (and satisfying) twist to an “old” story. (rating: 4/5)

The Little Sisters of Eluria

Fans of King’s Dark Tower series will love this short story. It is a prequel of sorts with gunslinger Roland arriving in the ominously silent town of Eluria on his quest for Walter the Magician. In true King fashion, Roland soon encounters the dark forces which have taken over the town. Filled with creepy characters like the “doctor bugs” and the green people (not to mention the little sisters themselves) and crafted for maximal suspense, this tale is entertaining and wonderful. Although I have avoided The Dark Tower series for years now (I didn’t think I’d enjoy the sci-fi genre), I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. In fact, I have decided to read book one of the Dark Tower in 2008. (rating: 5/5)

Everything’s Eventual

Eventual as Pug used to say. He was the one guy at the Supr Savr I liked. When he wanted to say something was really good, Pug’d never say it was awesome like most people do; he’d say it was eventual. How funny is that? – From Everything’s Eventual, page 211-213-

Richard Ellery Earnshaw (aka “Dinky”) has a special gift – he can kill people simply by sending them encoded letters. When his unusual talent is recognized by a faceless corporation called TransCorp and Dinky meets the smooth talking Mr. Sharpton, it seems like Dinky’s life has taken a turn for the better. But, sometimes luck is really a shadowy undercurrent of evil. King’s title short story Everything’s Eventual explores human greed and obsession; and the murky world of big business and government intrigue. One of King’s best stories of the collection, this tale will haunt the reader. (rating: 4.5/5)

L.T.’s Theory of Pets

Stephen King writes about this title: I had a marvelous time working on it, and whenever I’m called upon to read a story out loud, this is the one I choose, always assuming I have the required fifty minutes it takes.

L.T.’s Theory of Pets is really a story within a story – and it’s entertaining with a sad twist at the end. But, it is not my favorite tale of the collection. The end is a little too pat, too predictable. I thought King could have done better with the animal characters, although L.T. (the main character) is engaging as the story unfolds. It is one of the shorter tales in the book. A quick read. (rating: 3.5/5)

The Road Virus Heads North

Richard Kinnell, a grade B writer, takes a road trip and on the way home stops at a yard sale. The painting he buys (a water color of a scary kid with fangs for teeth driving a pumped up Grand Am) transforms Kinnell’s relaxing drive into a horror only King could dream up. Capitalizing on the most basic of human fears – a boogey man who will not die – King succeeds in crafting a tale that will scare the reader silly. It is stories like this one that make Stephen King the lord of the horror genre. Readers will never look at yard sales the same again – and perhaps they will be re-checking the paintings that hang on their walls as well! (rating: 4/5)

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe

Have you ever been kept awake by the incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog? If so, you may relate to this gory and horrifying story.  When Steven Davis and his wife meet in Gotham Cafe to discuss their divorce settlement, things go tragically awry. King does not hold back on the violence or gore, taking this short tale from melancholy to outrageous in a few short paragraphs. Not for the weak of stomach. (rating: 3.5/5)

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What it Is In French

In this tale of deja vu gone wrong, King says: I think this story is about Hell. A version of it where you are condemned to do the same thing over and over again.

Artfully constructed and believable in a surreal sort of way, this is a brilliant story. I can’t say more without giving away the premise. (rating: 4.5/5)

1408

I love ghost stories, and the 12th selection in King’s collection is one terrifying ghost story with a twist. King’s set up – a hotel with a room whose numbers add up to unlucky number thirteen, and which has not been used in twenty years because of the horrors it contains – is wonderful. The aging hotel manager, Mr. Olin, reminded me of the bartender in King’s bestseller The Shining – he knows the truth, he counsels the main character, but things unravel anyway. This is the classic tale where the audience yells “Don’t go into the house (in this case, the room)” but we all know the guy will go anyway and bad shit is going to happen. Knowing this just adds to the terror. Great story. (rating: 4.5/5)

Riding the Bullet

This wonderful tale was initially marketed as a down-loadable story … and its success as such helped launch the e-book market. King picked a great story to make his mark in publishing history. Riding the Bullet is about mortality, and love. About saying good-bye even when we don’t want to. About the pull of life no matter what.

When a young college guy gets word his mother has had a stroke, he decides to hitchhike from his college back to his home town to see his mother that very night. The characters he encounters drive the adventure. With spot on dialogue and sharp characterizations, King gives the reader quite a ride and keeps her guessing right up until the end.

This was the best of the bunch, in my opinion. (rating: 5/5)

Luckey Quarter

The final story of the collection is one of introspection. What makes a person happy? Do we make our own luck, or is there something more to turning one’s life around? Set in a run down hotel with a maid as the main character, Luckey Quarter is short and sweet. (rating: 3/5)

East of Eden – Book Review

East of Eden – Book Review

There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill? -From East of Eden, page 413-

I have yet to be disappointed by anything John Steinbeck writes … and East of Eden is no exception.

Set in the heart of the Salinas Valley, the novel spans three generations of two families whose lives overlap – the Trasks and the Hamiltons. Samuel Hamilton, an Irish immigrant and dreamer who believes in the goodness of mankind, raises his family without financial wealth but rich with love and family unity.

He came to Salinas Valley full-blown and hearty, full of in inventions and energy. His eyes were very bulue, and when he was tired one of them wandered outward a little. he was a big man but delicate in a way. In the dusty business of ranching he seemed always immaculate. His hands were clever. He was a good blacksmith and carpenter and woodcarver, and he could improvise anything with bits of wood and metal. -From East of Eden, page 8-9-

Adam Trask descends from wealth, and the conflict of sibling rivalry and moral weakness.

These usually bought land, but good land, and built their houses of planed lumber and had carpets and colored-glass diamond panes in their windows. There were numbers of these families and they got the good land of the valley and cleared the yellow mustard away and planted wheat. Such a man was Adam Trask. -From East of Eden, page 13-

Narrated in the philosophical voice of Samuel’s grandson (who flavors this all-American classic with his thoughts and observations of the politics and economics of life in America at the turn of the century), Steinbeck uses the timeless story of Cain and Abel to draw his characters – and with this adds a greater depth to a novel rich with symbolism.

As in all of Steinbeck’s novels, the characters drive the story. Lee, a Chinese servant, surprises and delights the reader with his wisdom and gentle nature. Cathy (later Kate) surpasses the stereotypical evil character, allowing reader empathy to exist side by side with revulsion and demonstrating no one is all good or all bad. The overriding message of East of Eden seems to be that man (or woman) are free to choose their path regardless of inheritance or circumstances – in fact, perhaps in spite of them.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. -From East of Eden, page 132-

Now there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win. -From East of Eden, page 303-

Steinbeck’s fine sense of place resonates throughout the novel. It is easy to see why East of Eden is considered his greatest work.

A classic which is a must read, this novel is highly recommended.


Reading The Nobels Challenge

Reading The Nobels Challenge

A Challenge With No Time Limit

Aloi Reads is sponsoring a challenge to read the Nobel Laureates. She’s started a Group Blog for participants to post reviews and talk about the Laureates. I’ve always wanted to read these award winning authors, so I’ve decided to join up. There is no time limit – so this might take me my whole life!

Here is the list of those authors I’ve read and links to my reviews of their books:

2003: J.M. Coetzee

Slow Man – Read June 5, 2007; rated 4/5; read my review here.
Disgrace – Read December 14, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review here.
Life and Times of Michael K – Read February 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review here.

1993: Toni Morrison

Song of Solomon – Read February 25, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review here.

1991: Nadine Gordimer

A Beneficiary (short story) – Read November 22, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review here.

1962: John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath – Read January 19, 2007; rated 55; read my review here.
Travels With Charley In Search of America – Read March 29, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review here.
Of Mice and Men – Read July 13, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review here.
East of Eden – Read October 12, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review here.
The Pearl – Read November 30, 2007; rated 5/5; read my review here.

1958: Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago – Read November 24, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review here.

1954: Ernest Hemingway

For Whom The Bell Tolls – Read April 7, 2007; rated 2/5; read my review here.

1938: Pearl Buck

The Good Earth – Read November 28, 2007; rated 4.5/5; read my review here.

My Apologies…

My Apologies…

..to those of you who like to post anonymously. This morning I opened my email to find more than 20 comments on my blog which were ALL SPAM. This happened before and became a huge chore for me to delete and block this unwanted junk from my blog. I had thought that the new spam filters and devices installed on my blog would prevent this and had opened my blog back up to anonymous comments. For a long time things seemed fine. But, based on this morning’s mess, I have once again blocked anonymous commenting on my blog.

If you would like to leave a comment, you must sign in at the top right hand corner of  my blog. I know this is annoying and I apologize for the added work necessary to leave a comment.

This is Only a Test…

This is Only a Test…

…to see if BlogLines has finally figured out how to read my feed again 🙂

Wendy *who is trying to stay sane despite the computer glitches that seem to be plaguing her of late*

East of the Mountains – Book Re...

East of the Mountains – Book Review

East of the Mountains is a novel of lush beauty, set in the deserts and mountains of eastern Washington state. Ben Givens, a cardiac surgeon, is diagnosed with terminal colon cancer at the age of 73. Faced with a drawn out death, and still grieving for his dead wife, Ben packs up his car along with his two hunting dogs and heads to the land of his birth for a final hunting trip. Deep in apple orchard country, amidst the deserts and mountains of Washington, Ben contemplates ending his life. He remembers the years of his childhood amid the apples, the War where he served in a mountain fighting unit, and the idyllic years of his marriage.

Guterson’s skill at using natural settings to emphasis internal conflict is great. The novel covers a period of only a few days, but Ben’s journey covers a lifetime.

A thoughtful, provocative novel of immense beauty – this is one I can recommend.

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