August | 2008 | Linus's Blanket

TSS: Bookkeeping ~ August 2008

Today was a good reading day.  I spent all of Saturday with housekeeping and doing my hair, and today I got the chance to just relax.

I’m hosting a giveway that ends on September 1st, 11:59pm EST.  If you’s like to read Hurry Down Sunshine, by Michael Greenberg go here.  My review is here.

I started out the day reading The History of Lucy’s Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters. Deborah Wright’s writing is clear and engaging and this is a great book to read to take your mind off the heavier stuff.  I don’t read a lot of chick-lit romances but this one called to me in the library because of it’s quirkiness.  A woman dissatisfied with her relationship visits all her favorite poets and writers with the help of a time machine. A little suspension of disbelief is necessary, but I spent two chapters with Lucy and for the most part so far am pleasantly entertained.

I spent the rest of the day reading Mudbound.  My, my , my is Hillary Jordan a great writer.  This is her first book and I sat yesterday and read it all the way through.  It was all there.  The story was compelling, the characters were full and fleshed out, and there wa such exquisite foreshadowing and suspense.  She gives you enough hints without giving away the final outcome and she has a few tricks in the end.  I can’t recommend this enough. Not sure how I can do the review any justice.

August Reads

So, in August I managed:

Hurry Down Sunshine, by Michael Greenberg
The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton
The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
On the Way Home, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Cornrows, by Camille Yarborough
Song of the Trees, by Mildred Taylor
The Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: ANovel, by Xiaolu Guo
Jane Austen: A Life, Carol Shields
Lost, Cathy Ostlere (review)
The New-Slain Knight:The Haunted Ballad Series, by Deborah Grabien
Ain’t I A Woman, by bell hooks
The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood
Diets for Healthy Healing, by Linda Page
The Wife: A Novel, by Meg Wolitzer
The Lost Daughter, by Elena Ferrante & Ann Goldstein (Translator)
Matrimony, by Joshua Henkin
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
Mudbound, by Hillary Jordon

19 books and 5 reviews in the batch for August.  I have some catching up to do.  I have all of my reviews written by hand.  That seems to be the way that I have to do things.  There is something about the way hand and pen connects with the paper that starts my thought process.  Once I have written the review it can take me a while before I come back to it and edit it and then post it up here.  I have committed to writing and posting about all the books that I have read so far, so I have some catching up to do with posting reviews.  It would help if I could just type things right into the computer, but I don’t work that way.

What’s your method for writing reviews?

Book Bulletin ~ Matrimony, Joshua Henkin

I am about eighty pages into Matrimony by Joshua Henkin and I’m not yet sure how I feel about it.  Right now it’s a little loose and it’s just going along; from what I know so far I don’t have a a clue as to what will happen next or how these characters will end up.  I figure at some point someone will get married, since this is Matrimony after all.

Two guys, Julian and Carter, come from different worlds but reluctantly become friends in college at the prompting of their curmudgeonly Creative Writing professor.  They start dating Mia and Pilar, respectively, during their freshman year and manage to maintain their relationships throughout their senior year in college, where they are all trying to figure out their next steps; and that’s about where I’m at right now.  I’m interested enough in the story , and I don’t know if that’s because I have heard such good things about it, that I want  to keep reading, but I am a little disturbed at how insular the characters are.  They move into  a commune, where the couples live next door to each other, and so far not a single person who lives there, outside of the foursome, have been mentioned; and none of them seem to have any other friends beside each other. It’s a little weird.  The only place where other students are present is in the writing class the boys took together freshman year. 

So far I don’t feel I’ve gotten to know either of the boys that well.  I feel like I know their types, but don’t really know them.  But there are some places where there is a nice characterization of Julian , like with the dogs that he walks and the Korean couple that he gets to know at the vegetable market he frequents.  I am starting to get to know Mia a little as her world gets turned upside down.  So far, she seems to be the most fully developed character.  So we’ll see.

I’ll end with a sentence I enjoyed.

The babies lay like take-out orders beneath the warm lights, the boys with blue hats, the girls with pink ones, everything determined already; Mia, hating this, swore that if she ever had a baby she’d have the pinkest boy in the world, she’d have the bluest girl.

I like the image of babies as take out, and the use of the semi-colon (j/k).

Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood – Book Review

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The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood
Fiction, 196 pages, Hardcover
Publisher: Canongate
Publication Date: 2005

I picked up this book while browsing at the library during lunchtime (that is quickly becoming my latest addiction).  I already have copies of Oryx and Crake, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood at home; but of course I couldn’t read those, I had to bring home something else.  This is why I have about 400 books in my personal library and have read less than a third of them.  I go to the library, things look interesting, I pick them up.  People give me books to read (one of my co-workers has given me a second book to read (yay!) in as many weeks), and then I wander into bookstores and can’t help myself and on top of that can’t buy one thing.  Apparently books have that in common with Lays!  But, I digress.

I remember reading the Odyssey and thinking of Penelope being the smart, beautiful, industrious, long suffering wife of Odysseus. I was expecting that The Penelopiad would have been Penelope’s story, but I guess maybe it wasn’t her story in the way that I wanted to hear it.  In this story she constantly keeps her opinions to herself in order to keep the peace and allows herself to be manipulated by her mother-in-law and a faithful old servant of Odysseus. Atwood portrays Penelope as an uncertain teenager who has ideas and thoughts in her head that she can’t articulate to others, and because  of this can’t take control of her destiny.  She wanders friendless around the palace and lets the servant have dominion over her son Telemachus.  As I think about it now, Penelope has the voice of a teenager (and she is only  15 when she and Odysseus marry), which might explain a lot of her choices but for the fact that she writes it as a dead woman who has had thousands of years to reflect on her life.

Told in flashback, we begin with Penelope living in the Underworld where she has run-ins with her rival, Helen of Troy, the suitors who plagued her in Odysseus’s absence, and her twelve maids whom were hanged by her son Telemachus at Odysseus’s request.  Throughout her tale she offers commentary on the changes that have taken place in the world since her death, like what surprises her and how the living won’t leave the dead alone (she gets conjured up through séances).   These tangents I think, are meant to be cute and to provide Penelope with a hip and modern voice, but I found all the asides to be extraneous and distracting and they take up too much of the book.

Penelope’s voice as a character is in places witty, interesting and humorous; she’s a pretty smart cookie but I would have liked to see that displayed more in the narrative.  More focus seem to be devoted to her insecurities around Helen, and how lost she is without Odysseus. But, I laughed out loud when she talks about her misgivings on spending time with her father after he has tried to drown her in the river as a baby when a seer said that she would have something to do with the making of his shroud.

“I found this affection difficult to reciprocate.  You can imagine.  There I would be, strolling hand in hand with my apparently fond male parent along a cliff edge or a river bank or a parapet, and the thought would occur to me that he might suddenly decide to shove me or bash me to death with a rock.  Preserving a calm façade under these circumstances was a challenge.  After such excursions I would retire to my room and dissolve in flood of tears.”

That was good stuff!

Unfortunately Penelope got lost in the retellings of other people’s stories.  Her story is everyone else’s story but her own, and I considered given this is Atwood the commentary that she is making on women’s lives and how they make their choices.  I can see that, but I am a disappointed because Penelope’s mythology seems so different than the weepy woman who is often times telling this story.  Dead and buried, Penelope is still jealous of Helen of Troy. Even Atwood didn’t think Penelope had all that much to say.  With a title like The Penelopiad I was expecting something a bit more substantial than 196 pages, and the print was huge!  So this was very short; easily read in an afternoon. If I had it to do over, this is one by Atwood I’d probably skip.

Read this book? Send me a link and I will post your thoughts too!

Booking Through Thursday

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If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons
to read is for the story. Not for the character development and
interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the
writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of
metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because
you
want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?

I think the story is what compels me to pick up the book in the first place, but if the other elements aren’t there I question the worth of the story, and whther I will finish reading it. If the other stuff isn’t there it’s like having a delicious pie shell or pastry crust and the filling sucks.  Not very good, is it? 

Characters and their development usually go hand in hand with whether I can actually finish a book, and will have a major influence on my final thoughts on a book.  The only two books that I have failed to finish this year had characters that I didn’t feel anything for one way or the other, so much so that I couldn’t even finish for the story to see what happened to them; and I started reading them thinking that the concepts were interesting.  I just finished reading  The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante . The story was not the most compelling story in the world (a woman goes to the beach for three weeks on vacation), but I finished reading it because the character was interesting, constantly surprising, and even though I didn’t like her, she was fascinating.

Teaser Tuesday ~ August 26

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Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

Please avoid spoilers!

Grab your current read.
Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

I wonder what my life would have been  like with another woman- a life away from men and their caterwauling  and continual need for affirmation, for stroking , as though within their  minds they were alway s deep  in the  Den of Iniquity, always waiting with the  robe belt  loosely tied, wanting a woman to pull it open and make them happy.  Men and women drifted through the room ;  distantly through the smoke I could smell  a malodorous breathe of anxiety, behind which  someone wondered if they would find pleasure tonight, if their robe would opened by warm, new hands.

The Wife,  Meg  Wolitzer