Showing posts with label book jar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book jar. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I'M FINALLY DONE! Moby-Dick by Herman Melville


Title: Moby-Dick
Author: Herman Melville
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 1851
Source: received as a gift many moons ago!

Summary from Goodreads

In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author's lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

My Review:

Time to be corny!

Moby-Dick was my white whale.  (Ba-dum-ching!)

Seriously though.  FOUR months to finish it?  Oy vey.  But it is done.

Why did I feel such a compulsion to read this classic novel?  I'll chalk up a lot of it to the fact that I grew up in Connecticut.  Because of course, every Connecticuter (Connecticutian?) born before the early 90's has a deep, soulful connection to the HARTFORD WHALERS!
THE WHAAAALE!
What can I say.  My little state does not get much in the way of professional sports teams, and then they TAKETH IT AWAY.  So sad.

Anyway, the other thing is that I'm specifically from southeastern Connecticut, very near Mystic, which is home to the Mystic Seaport, a "living history" museum that chronicles a lot of the whaling history of the region.  Any kid who grew up in southeastern Connecticut went on AT LEAST one field trip to Mystic Seaport while they were in school.  Which means you toured a whaling ship and learned a lot about...whaling stuff.  All very relevant to Moby-Dick, RIGHT?!?!?

So I'm sure these are all important reasons why I made myself hang with this book for the first third of 2015.

Honestly, as time-consuming as this book was, it really was not a bad read.  Yes, there are some boring parts.  There are entire chapters devoted to whale anatomy and the proper dismantling of a dead whale and other such valuable whale-type knowledge.  There is also a lot of soliloquizing.  These sailors really like to listen to themselves talk!

But beyond that, there is also an interesting story.  Captain Ahab--you've all heard of him, but the guy is truly bonkers.  His journey to find Moby Dick is crazy and arrogant and foolhardy, which makes for excellent reading.  If you've ever heard anyone talk about this book over the years (and you likely have), you pretty much know what's coming from page 1.  But to watch it unfold is entertaining.  Figuring out Ahab, his fellow sailors, and the twists and turns of the journey itself, is certainly enough to keep you engaged.

There's also a lot of deeper meaning re: the arrogance of man, duty/honor, etc. but I'll let you hit up SparkNotes for that.  :)

I'm not going to try to go any deeper in my review about a book that's already been reviewed (and essayed, and analyzed) a billion times.  The question is, is Moby-Dick a book that you should pick up right now?  As always, it depends on what you're looking for.  If you want a classic with lots of subtle meaning, something that moves a bit slowly but still has an engaging story behind it...and you can stand all of the long-winded sections about whale biology, then I say, go for it.  I'm happy that I was able to experience this novel, despite the time it took to complete.

Have you read Moby-Dick?  For an assignment, or for fun?  Like or dislike?

This book is part of my 30 Before 35 list...woohoo!  It was also a pick from my TBR Book Baggie, so I took this opportunity to choose the next book from my bag.  The next one will be...

The Interrogator by Glenn Carle!

Stay tuned, hopefully I will get to it soon!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson


Title: The Memory of Love
Author: Linda Olsson
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: February 26, 2013 (first published in Swedish in 2011)
Source: copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

Marion Flint, in her early fifties, has spent fifteen years living a quiet life on the rugged coast of New Zealand, a life that allows the door to her past to remain firmly shut. But a chance meeting with a young boy, Ika, and her desire to help him force Marion to open the Pandora’s box of her memory. Seized by a sudden urgency to make sense of her past, she examines each image one-by-one: her grandfather, her mother, her brother, her lover. Perhaps if she can create order from the chaos, her memories will be easier to carry. Perhaps she’ll be able to find forgiveness for the little girl that was her. For the young woman she had been. For the people she left behind.
 
Olsson expertly interweaves scenes from Marion’s past with her quest to save Ika from his own tragic childhood, and renders with reflective tenderness the fragility of memory and the healing power of the heart.


My Review:

I love a book that I go into with no expectations, and it ends up being a pleasant surprise.  I *think* I received this book ages ago from the publisher when it was first released in English, and I just never got a chance to review it at the time.  It sat forlornly on my shelf until it got picked in the TBR Book Baggie.  It seemed fairly short, so I gave it a go...and what a gem I found!

The two stories within this novel (of Marion's childhood and Marion's present-day issues with a young boy that she's taken under her wing) are woven together beautifully.  As you learn more about Marion's past, the way she chooses to deal with her present makes more and more sense.  And her past is quite shocking--the slow buildup to the climax of her childhood trauma made me want to devour the entire book in one sitting.  All of this is highlighted by the fabulous writing, which is lyrical and poetic without coming off as too flowery.

The fact that this isn't a terribly long review shouldn't be a reflection on the quality of the book, as it may be one of my top reads of 2014.  It's a smaller book in size, but it packs a big punch with complex characters, surprising twists, and intriguing relationships.  Someone order me Linda Olsson's backlist, STAT.

This was my fifth pick from the TBR Book Baggie! My next pick from the baggie is:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville!

Yup...I'm a little intimidated.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen


Title: Someone Like You
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: May 1, 2004
Source: won in a giveaway

Summary from Goodreads

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

My Review:

I won this book in a giveaway sometime last year, and I profusely apologize to the blogger who sent it to me (along with another Dessen novel)...because I didn't make a note of it, and I haven't a clue who it was at this point.  Sorry, fellow blogger!  Please reveal yourself if you happen to read this!  :)

This review will be rather short, because Someone Like You struck me as very run-of-the-mill, cliche young adult lit.  That's not to say that it's a bad book.  I think it will appeal to YA audiences, especially the younger age groups in that market (late middle school/early high school).  But there's nothing unique or memorable here--I will likely forget this book within a couple of months.  (I will put money on it, especially because I've read two other Dessen books in the past--This Lullaby and Lock and Key--and couldn't tell you the faintest detail about them.)

Wow, that's not really the best way to get you interested in this novel, is it?  Like I said, despite it's blase feel as a whole, I still had fun reading it.  Halley is negotiating relationships with a lot of different people here--her mother, her best friend, her boyfriend, etc.  I liked that Dessen didn't always make Halley the "good guy" (and conversely, her antagonists were not always the "bad guys").  Halley screwed up just as much as they did.  Lots of teachable moments here for the teen audience.

That said, the ultimate outcomes were very predictable, and the ending was rather disappointing.  I felt like it ended a bit too early--the characters all went through a rather momentous event, and then it just ended.  I don't mind open-ended conclusions (as you all know), but this one was too clunky, not purposeful.

Overall: a nice way to pass the time, but Someone Like You isn't anything to write home about.

This was my fourth pick from the TBR Book Baggie! My next pick from the baggie is:

The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson!

I have no idea how I got this book on my shelf.  I think it was from a publisher, long ago?  But it's not an ARC, so I'm not entirely sure.  Ah well, looks interesting anyway...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell


Title: Gone With The Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 1, 1936
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell's epic love story is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and its people forever changed. At the heart of all this chaos is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O'Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

My Review:

HOW to review a novel as vast, as famous, as this one??

This book has been on my TBR pile for a long, long time.  I operate on the principle that if there is a well-known movie based on a book, I must try to read the book first.  Such is the case with Gone With The Wind.  Somehow, I successfully avoided the movie for the last 30.5 years of my life (minus endless clips of Rhett Butler's famous "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"...which was actually mildly spoilery for the book, by the way), and I was able to first enjoy this story in written form.  And enjoy it I did!  For over two months, in fact.  I spent most of the summer finishing this book, and I have zero regrets about savoring those 1024 pages for so long.

I knew that GWTW was a romance, but it is so much more than that.  Because first of all, how fantastic of a character is Scarlett O'Hara?  She is such a force to be reckoned with, especially for a woman in the Civil War era.  At the same time, she is outrageously self-centered and naive, very much to a fault.  I alternated frequently between cheering for her to get on with her bad self, and shaking my fist at her stupidity.  The complexities of her character are endless, though in the end I really did love her, despite her many faults.  (Okay, except maybe her role as a mother.  She was a positively horrid mother.)

Beyond the romance, beyond Scarlett, we have a novel set quite dramatically against the backdrop of the Civil War.  Scarlett and Rhett's story is inseparable from the tragedies of wartime in 1860's Atlanta.  Not only is their relationship perfectly woven into this turbulent time period, but the novel does a pretty excellent job of detailing Civil War history.  I was raised in Connecticut, where I imagine the Civil War is taught in schools with a bit of a different tone than it is in Georgia, or any of the southern states.  This was probably the first account of the Civil War that I've read from a southern perspective (albeit a fictional one), and it was extremely eye-opening.  The historical detail in this novel is every bit as compelling as Scarlett and Rhett's dramatic romance.

One of the most important messages in GWTW is this: be happy with what you have, when you have it.  The grass is not always greener.  Love the one you're with.  I won't tell you if Scarlett learns these lessons or not, but it's quite a ride watching her try to get there.

I am so glad that I finally got around to tackling this classic.  It is absolutely an epic novel that's worth your time!  Now I need to get to the movie...although I must admit, the few clips I watched on YouTube already have me feeling like it won't do the book justice.  (That famous Rhett quote isn't delivered in anywhere near the same tone it was written in the book...#readerproblems.)

This was my third pick from the TBR Book Baggie! My next pick from the baggie is:

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen!

YA up in the hizzy!  And another main character named Scarlett?  Weird.  Stay tuned for a review...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: Blaze by Richard Bachman


Title: Blaze
Author: Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 12, 2007
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., was always a small-time delinquent. None too bright either, thanks to the beatings he got as a kid. Then Blaze met George Rackley, a seasoned pro with a hundred cons and one big idea. The kidnapping should go off without a hitch, with George as the brains behind their dangerous scheme. But there's only one problem: by the time the deal goes down, Blaze's partner in crime is dead. Or is he?

My Review:

For those unfamiliar with the connection between Richard Bachman and Stephen King, Bachman was the pen name that King occasionally wrote under in the 70's and 80's.  Bachman "died of pseudonym cancer" (as the book jacket explains) in 1985, when King was basically outed.  However, he continued to occasionally release books under that name, including this one, which was actually written before King made it big with Carrie but was not published until 2007.

This is my second "Bachman book" (I read The Long Walk the year before I started blogging), and I have to say that this one definitely has a different feel to it than your average King novel...I suppose that could be because it was written in his very early days, even before Carrie.  The Long Walk is extremely King-esque in nature (macabre, gory, with an all-around dreadful premise), but Blaze is distinctly...not.  It has some elements that are recognizable from his other work (namely, a LOT of suspense, and a child playing a fairly central role), but otherwise I'd say this one could have flown under the pseudonym radar pretty cleanly.

Blaze is not a terribly long novel, but even so, it took me a bit to get into it.  It opens with a slow build as you learn more about Blaze's background, his now-dead crime partner George, and the kidnapping plot that he plans to execute alone.  I was finding the whole thing a bit blah, honestly, for the first 25% or so.  However, after that point, two things happen.  One, the story starts to flash back for longer periods into Blaze's past--and you learn a lot of things about his history that are rather disturbing.  And two, the actual kidnapping gets underway, which is pretty nail-biting.

(Side note: reading about a 6-month-old baby getting kidnapped (albeit fictionally) while you are feeding your 2-month-old baby is a good way to induce a blood pressure problem.)

The ending isn't particularly earth-shattering...in fact, it winds up pretty much the way you would expect, once you get to know Blaze.  But that's where the hook of this novel lies--with the characters.  As with so many other King works, he creates an amazingly complex protagonist, and given the short-ish length of this book, it's rather impressive that he was able to do that with Blaze.  If this book was really about the kidnapping, it would be called...The Kidnapping.  Or something.  (WHATEVER, nobody ever said I would be good at choosing book titles, you get my point.)  But it's not, and by the end you'll know why.

So, despite the slow start, Blaze hooked me well before the mid-point and kept me along for the ride all the way to the last word.  A bit of a cleaner ending than I'm used to with Stephen King, but if you want to see a different side of his repertoire, definitely give this one a try.

This was my second pick from the TBR Book Baggie and a good one at that! My next pick from the baggie is:

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell!

Oooooh a 30 Before 35 book!  EXCITING!!  Gonna take me a while to finish that chunkster though...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review: Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance


Title: Queen of the Night
Author: J.A. Jance
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
Source: given away to me by a friend

Summary from Goodreads

Every summer, in an event that is commemorated throughout the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Queen of the Night flower blooms in the Arizona desert. But one couple's intended celebration is shattered by gunfire, the sole witness to the bloodshed a little girl who has lost the only family she's ever known.

To her rescue come Dr. Lani Walker, who sees the trauma of her own childhood reflected in her young patient, and Dan Pardee, an Iraq war veteran and member of an unorthodox border patrol unit called the Shadow Wolves. Joined by Pima County homicide investigator Brian Fellows, they must keep the child safe while tracking down a ruthless killer.

In a second case, retired homicide detective Brandon Walker is investigating the long unsolved murder of an Arizona State University coed. Now, after nearly half a century of silence, the one person who can shed light on that terrible incident is willing to talk. Meanwhile, Walker's wife, Diana Ladd, is reliving memories of a man whose death continues to haunt her.

As these crimes threaten to tear apart three separate families, the stories and traditions of the Tohono O'odham people remain just beneath the surface of the desert, providing illumination to events of both self-sacrifice and unspeakable evil.


My Review:

Let me get this out of the way first.  You absolutely CANNOT name one of your main characters Brian Fellows and expect to be taken seriously.  Authors, make sure you Google search all of your character names before choosing them.  Trust.
(There was also a minor character named David Blaine, so, you know.  Magic.)
Sorry, I had to start with that, IT WAS BUGGING ME SO MUCH.

So, this was the first pull from my TBR Book Baggie.  I ended up with this book in my collection a few years ago, because a friend was clearing her bookshelves and offered me a bunch of her stuff.  I'd never heard of this one, but I never turn down a free book, so home with me it went.

As the description says, this book has a whole lotta plot going on.  I will say that the primary plot line (regarding the murder of the little girl's family) was absorbing.  A cold-hearted murderer, on the run from the cops, will he make it over the border?, etc.  The suspense-lover in me was more than satisfied here.

However, this novel is definitely an example of how much is too much.  There's the story about the murder, but then there's also this years-old cold case that a separate set of detectives are trying to solve.  This cold case is introduced right at the start of the novel, implying that it has a major bearing on the rest of the story...but it most definitely doesn't.  In fact, the resolution of the cold case is so maddeningly underwhelming, I could not for the life of me figure out why it was mentioned at all.

Add that to the fact that there are WAY too many characters, with WAY too much backstory for each of them--it was just overkill.  At the heart of this story is the potential for a great, suspenseful thriller, but all this extraneous information made it more complex than it needed to be.

I did find out partway through that this is part of Jance's "Walker series", which all center upon the same family.  Each novel is supposed to be able to stand alone, but in my opinion, this one is likely much more enjoyable if you've read the other novels first.  Much of the information that I felt to be extraneous was probably detail related to those other novels.  I imagine that you'll have a lot less catching up to do if you join the series at its start.

Final verdict: this novel has a great story to tell at its core, but I wish it wasn't so bogged down with extra baggage (side plots, characters, background stories, etc).

Well, my first TBR Book Baggie pick was...not great.  But, I'm excited to announce that my next pick from the baggie is:

Blaze by Richard Bachman! (aka Stephen King)

So stay tuned...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January 2014 wrap-up

Pretty short recap this month!  Busy with these two crazy faces:
Sorry I look drunk here.  My drunk face and my tired face are very similar.  I don't condone drinking while parenting.  Except maybe in extreme cases...?
I'd say those are two very nice reasons for being MIA, wouldn't you?  :)  It also doesn't help that I decided to jump into 2014 with a nice 800-page chunkster (review coming this week!), so I'm hoping for more frequent review posts here soon.

I only read 2 books in January!
The Stork Reality by Malena Lott, and
What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell.

I don't think it's fair to do a best/worst book of the month when I've only read two, but...I really loved one of them, and thought the other one was just meh, so you figure it out.

On the horizon for February: my first review from my TBR Book Baggie, some bookish love, and a fun giveaway.  Also, maybe temperatures above -10 so I can start going for outdoor runs?  Whatchoo think, Mother Nature?

Stay warm, mah babies!
 
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