Sunday, April 10, 2011

All the Time In the World by E.L. Doctrow

From Goodreads: From Ragtime and Billy Bathgate to World’s Fair, The March, and Homer & Langley, the fiction of E. L. Doctorow comprises a towering achievement in modern American letters. Now Doctorow returns with an enthralling collection of brilliant, startling short fiction about people who, as the author notes in his Preface, are somehow “distinct from their surroundings—people in some sort of contest with the prevailing world”.

This stunning collection, contains six unforgettable stories that have never appeared in book form and a selection of previous Doctorow classics.

All the Time in the World affords us another opportunity to savor the genius of this American master.

The last two books I have posted about have been kind of fluffy light reads and ended up duds. This was a serious work and at first I thought, "another dud" but it has stayed with me and gotten even more interesting over time. I enjoy some short stories (You'll Know When the Men Are Gone) (Jumpha Lahiri) but I struggled with these. They were difficult for me because they had some challenging vocabulary but more so because of E.L. Doctrow's writing style. He doesn't use quotes to delineate speech and he doesn't attribute the speech to specific characters with "he said" or "said Joe". There were times when I felt the rhythm of the exchanges and could tell who was conversing and who said what. But there were just as many times where I would get lost and think what the heck is going on?, who's talking?, who said that? So the first time through reading the stories, I could hardly enjoy them because I was trying so hard to understand them. Of the dozen stories there were five that I liked quite a bit right off the bat (Heist, Walter John Harmon, A House on the Plains, Jolene: A Life, and The Writer in the Family). Then the second time around a few more grabbed me. So really, I was left with only one, (Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate0 that I just didn't like. Perhaps that particular story assumes some knowledge of Doctrow's book about Billy Bathgate which I haven't read - I couldn't tell whether or not that is the case because it was just too confusing to even try and figure out! So this collection of short stories is best taken in small doses and then reflected upon and read again.

I read this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith

From Amazon: Joan Sanderson's life is stuck. Her older sister, Allie, is starting a family and her younger sister, Tori, has a budding career. Meanwhile, Joan is living at home with Mom and looking after her aging grandmother. Not exactly a recipe for excitement. That is, until a hunky young doctor moves in next door. Suddenly Joan has a goal--to get a date. But it won't be easy. Pretty Tori flirts relentlessly with him and Joan is sure that she can't compete. But with a little help from God, Allie, and an enormous mutt with bad manners, maybe Joan can find her way out of this rut. Book 1 of the Sister-to-Sister series, Stuck in the Middle combines budding romance, spiritual searching, and a healthy dose of sibling rivalry.

The description for this one appealed to me because I love stories about sisters. I have no sisters just two brothers so those sister relationships just fascinate me! But the description ended up being better than the book. It started out alright, kind of your average Kindle freebie, not great but tolerable - the sisters seemed a little immature, the main character was a bit whiny, but I thought it was going to go somewhere. Instead, the doctor/love interest moved in next door and everything went sour. The sisters' behavior became bizarre as they pursued this doctor - they were alternately hateful and loving to each other and none of it seemed realistic. Then, rather abruptly, it seemed like all the dialogue turned to religion. I am a pretty big church-goer but even I had to start skimming once the author started getting really preachy. It wasn't that faith was part of the story, it was more like the story was just a ruse to talk about faith and not a very good ruse. This is the first in a series, I will know not to download any of the others, even if they are free!

This counts toward the e-book challenge. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Death Dance by Linda Fairstein

From Goodreads: Teaming up with longtime friends - NYPD's Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace - Assistant DA Alex Cooper investigates the disappearance of world-famous dancer Natalya Galinova, who has suddenly vanished backstage at Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera House - during a performance. The three colleagues are soon drawn into the machinations of New York City's secretive theatrical community, where ambition takes many forms, including those most deadly. Within the glamorous but sordid inner sanctums of the Broadway elite, the team confronts the ruthless power brokers who control both the stars and the stages where they appear. Meanwhile, Alex is working on a very different case, using a creative technique to nab a physician who has been drugging women in order to assault them. As Dr. Selim Sengor eludes capture, Alex must navigate the new investigative world of DFSA - drug-facilitated sexual assault - intent on proving him guilty.

Here I am again, jumping into the middle of a series and saying, "Meh, it didn't do much for me." And, I will, of course, always wonder..could it be because the characters have five previous books of history that I know nothing about? Maybe. But, character history aside, I found the set up of having two very different and totally unrelated cases in the story to be strange and strained. The book started out with the doctor date rape and then left that story for so long it felt like it was forgotten. When it all of a sudden popped back up again it seemed like an intrusion into what was now the real story. I also thought there were altogether too many odd, unlikable people. And, I didn't much care for the narrator although her flat voice did have a true crime feel to it - kind of like the guy who used to do the voice for Dragnet. This one just wasn't for me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Year She Fell by Alicia Rasley

From Amazon: The tragic mystery at the heart of their family has finally surfaced . . . When Ellen Wakefield O'Connor is confronted by a young man armed with a birth certificate that mistakenly names her as his mother, she quickly sorts out the truth: his birth mother listed Ellen on the certificate to cover up her own identity, but also because Ellen is, in a way, related to the child. The birth father is Ellen's troubled husband, Tom. The secrets of the past soon engulf Ellen, Tom, and everyone they love. This drama of love, loss, family and betrayal will capture readers with its unforgettable power.

I actually finished this one quite awhile ago. It was one of those freebies for the IPad and probably not something I would have picked out except that it was free and it was so easy and I love free and easy! What I remember about the book a month later is that I did like it but I didn't love it; if I came across someone else who read it, I'd like to hear what they have to say but I'm not running out telling all my friends to read it. There was family - I love sister stories, there was a mystery, and there was current day dysfunction - all good stuff! What stands out the most though is the way the book was structured. The story is told through the different characters viewpoints but not alternating like you usually see done. It's more like each character gets their turn. And each time the view point changes there was some serious rehashing of the plot already covered. That was sort of interesting because you formed opinions based on one viewpoint and then those opinions were challenged by other characters. But, it ultimately didn't work for me because by the time I had heard the story X number of times, I was pretty much done and my mind wasn't changing even with some pretty good reasons. That old adage about you only get one chance to make a first impression was hard at work within me so I clung to the first impressions I had of the characters despite the later evidence. Overall = a light mystery that I enjoyed.

This counts toward the e-book challenge. Click on the logo to see my progress.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hell's Corner by David Baldacci

From the author's website: John Carr, aka Oliver Stone—once the most skilled assassin his country ever had—stands in Lafayette Park in front of the White House, perhaps for the last time. The President has personally requested that Stone serve his country again on a high-risk covert mission. Though he’s fought for decades to leave his past career behind, Stone has no choice but to say yes. But Stone’s mission changes drastically before it even begins. It’s the night of a State Dinner honoring the British Prime Minister. As he watches the Prime Minister’s motorcade leave the White House that evening, a bomb is detonated in Lafayette Park, an apparent terrorist attack against both the President and the Prime Minister. It’s in this chaotic aftermath that Stone takes on a new, more urgent assignment: find those responsible for the bombing.

This one started out shaky for me. It was sort of slow the opposite of what I think of with David Baldacci. It was also one of a series and I was jumping in the middle so I didn't have the characters' histories to flesh some of them out and maybe make them a little more likable. But more than either of those problems, what bothered me was the unexpected female narration. I was ready for Ron McLearty; because he has voiced the last few Baldacci books I've listened to, he is the voice I expect to hear when I pop a Baldacci into the CD player. He was there doing his usual outstanding job but then all of a sudden a female voice piped in to narrate the female characters - that was unexpected and unwelcome - I found it very jarring. But, as so often is the case, given a little bit of  time, I got used to it and just let the story take over. The pace of the story quickened and soon we were thick into the action and I ended up enjoying it. It's not my favorite of his books, it was so very convoluted, but it was good enough.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Miss Hildreth Wore Brown by Olivia deBelle Byrd

From While Olivia deBelle Byrd was repeating one of her many Southern stories for the umpteenth time, her long-suffering husband looked at her with glazed over eyes and said,“Why don’t you write this stuff down?” Thus was born Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle. If the genesis for a book is to shut your wife up, I guess that’s as good as any. On top of that, Olivia’s mother had burdened her with one of those Southern middle names kids love to make fun. To see “deBelle” printed on the front of a book seemed vindication for all the childhood teasing. With storytelling written in the finest Southern tradition from the soap operas of Chandler Street in the quaint town of Gainesville, Georgia, to a country store on the Alabama state line, Oliviade Belle Byrd delves with wit and amusement into the world of the Deep South with all its unique idiosyncrasies and colloquialisms. The characters who dance across the pages range from Great-Aunt LottieMae, who is as “old-fashioned and opinionated as the day is long,” to Mrs. Brewton, who calls everyone “dahling” whether they are darling or not, to Isabella with her penchant for mint juleps and drama. Humorous anecdotes from a Christmas coffee, where one can converse with a lady who has Christmas trees with blinking lights dangling from her ears, to Sunday church,where a mink coat is mistaken for possum, will delight Southerners and baffle many a non-Southerner. There is the proverbial Southern beauty pageant, where even a six-month-old can win a tiara, to a funeral faux pas of the iron clad Southern rule—one never wears white after Labor Day and, dear gussy, most certainly not to a funeral. Miss Hildreth Wore Brown—Anecdotes of a Southern Belle is guaranteed to provide an afternoon of laugh-out-loud reading and hilarious enjoyment.

What a treat of a book! I feel like I just sat on the porch with a friend laughing our way through stories. I really like Southern humor in this style, just gentle stories that find the humor in every day events. It reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite comediennes, Jeanne Robertson, another Southern humorist, and takes me back to the columns in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of Lewis Grizzard and Celestine Sibley. In this collection of essays, Olivia deBelle Byrd takes us through every stage of life. Her opening lines give a taste of what the book is like, "I got exactly two spankings growing up. That's one more than my daughter and 3,254 less than my son." Olivia tells tales of child-rearing and church going and shopping and hair - themes that every women will relate to, not just those raised in the South. All of the stories were great but I think she's at her best telling stories about her family. It's obvious that she loves them but everyone feels this way sometimes..."The only reason I've refrained from killing my husband is I really don't want to wear orange for the rest of my life." For anyone who's mother ever watched As The World Turns or nagged nudged them about writing thank you notes, this book will have you laughing.

These are the stops on the Miss Hildreth Wore Brown blog tour. I think you should go visit them. Really, do. Because I am so technologically unsavvy that I had to link them all by hand one at a time, and I would hate to think I did that for nothing!

Friday, April 1: Mrs. Q: Book Addict

Saturday, April 2: A Journey Into Reading

Sunday, April 3: Reading Between Pages

Monday, April 4: My Round File

Tuesday, April 5: Chaotic Compendium

Wednesday, April 6: 4 The Love of Books

Thursday, April 7: Knitting and Sundries

Friday, April 8: Chocolate and Croissants

Saturday, April 9: Lulilut's Stack O' Books

Sunday, April 10: Let Them Read Books

Monday, April 11: Steph the Bookworm

Tuesday, April 12: The Cajun Book Lady

Wednesday, April 13: Library of Clean Reading

Thursday, April 14: CMash Loves to Read

Friday, April 15: The Road to Here (Squirrel Queen)

Saturday, April 16: The Preppy Book Review

Sunday, April 17: Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

Monday, April 18: Kelsey's Book Corner

Tuesday, April 19: Books and Life!

Wednesday, April 20: Life in the Thumb

Thursday, April 21: Diary of an Eccentric

Friday, April 22: Metroreader

Saturday, April 23: Just Books

Monday, April 25: Ramblings of a (Future) Librarian

Tuesday, April 26: Socrates' Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 27: My Life In Not So Many Words

Thursday, April 28: So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, April 29: Peeking Between the Pages

Saturday, April 30: Under the Boardwalk

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bastard Out of Carolina - the movie

I read this book by Dorothy Allison in 2006. My diary entry says, "Gritty, sick to your stomach scenes of violence and family turmoil. Hard to read but captivating." That about sums up the movie too,  watching Bone get abused just feels like you are being kicked in the gut. The casting was great. Jennifer Jason Leigh is Bone's mother, Leigh's look can change from sweet to haggard in an instant - a quality that served her well in this movie.
But the star was Jena Malone as Bone. She was heartbreaking. She gave life to moments of pure childish joy like singing gospel songs with her sister into a spinning fan (remember how that makes you voice vibrate?) and then MISERY. She keeps getting taken to the brink of hope and then pushed down again. The scene where Bone is carried to the car by her mother is a prime example; it appears they are running away to safety....but then mama's hand reaches out that car window back into the muck - ugh, just kill me here and now. Overall, an emotional film that as much as I can remember with five years past, stayed true to the feeling of the book.