Friday, December 28, 2012

Catching Up, Final

Good Reads!

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
I loved the movie but had never read the book, so I finally did. The problem with reading a book after seeing it on the big screen is that the characters and voices are already formed in your mind, even if they don't exactly match the book description. With this book, that was okay. The movie actually followed the book pretty closely, with a few additions and subtractions, but didn't change the overall message. It's worth reading even if you've already seen the movie, and if not, read it first.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
House of Mirth is a commentary on the lives of the rich in 1900's NY society. At the age of 29, Lily Bart is unmarried and in dire financial straights. She is feeling pressure from her friends and her finances to get that done in a hurry, before she loses her beauty. Her goal is to "marry well." Although she has deep feelings for Mr. Selden, marrying him would eliminate her from the upper crust of society with whom she has forged all her relationships. Unfortunately, those eligible men who could maintain her desirable lifestyle are unappealing and unacceptable to her. She soon gets herself into a conundrum, when she takes a favor from her friend's husband and her intentions are misunderstood.
The book presents a number of contrasts (rich/poor, beauty/ugliness, popularity/outcasts), asks some valid questions even for today (Who are your friends? Is it better to have love w/o money or money w/o love?) and criticizes our tendency to judge people by their occupation, their address and their wealth. A great classic novel reminiscent of Jane Eyre. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Catching Up, Part 2

The following books were interesting, but somewhat disappointing.

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
While this book does relate a general biography of Galileo's later years and his struggles with the Church in contrast to his scientific discoveries and beliefs, it doesn't really address his daughter much beyond he living conditions in the convent. The story is told in a very straightforward way, mainly stating facts and inserting letters written from Sour Maria Celeste (the daughter) to her father, which primarily detail her hardships as a nun and asking her father for money. I enjoyed reading about the controversy Galileo endured with the church and the betrayal of his friend, who became Pope Urban VIII. But overall, the book was rather dry.

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
If you are reading this book to learn about William Blake, you will be sorely disappointed! In her previous novels, Ms. Chevalier uses an era, the culture and secondary characters to reveal the main character, but in this book you learn a lot about the fictional Kellaway and Butterfield families and about Philip Astley and his circus, but you learn almost nothing about Blake.
I like her writing style, the story is fun and easy to read and had it not been billed as historical fiction about Blake it would have gone over better.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Although I liked this book, I didn't love it. Mantel tackles a much told tale from a different perspective, telling the story of Henry VIII's discarding of his first wife to marry Anne Boleyn from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. The story begins with a brief history of Cromwell's youth and then follows his rise to becoming the right hand man to the King. I was intrigued by the debate between Henry and the Pope regarding nullifying his marriage, not realizing how lengthy the process was and all the negotiations that preceded that event. The author does a great job in keeping the star of the story as Cromwell, but also uncovering the nature of Henry, Anne, Catherine and many others who were close to the king and his court.
One big negative is that there are so many characters, many of them with the same name, that it is difficult at times to distinguish which Thomas or Mary or Henry the author is discussing. Sometimes a character is mentioned once, only to reappear 200 pages later and I had to go back in search of who this person was (not as easy on your Kindle). I also found this book to be a slow read, hundreds of pages with much of the same going on and never getting to "the good stuff," which I discovered half way through is in the sequel (helps to know in advance there is a book 2)! If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will like this segment of Henry's life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Catching Up, Part 1

As promised, I am catching up on posting about my reading the past few months. I've contemplated the best way to accomplish this and here is what I've decided: I am not going to dedicate one post per book, but am dividing them into rating categories, partially because unless I post immediately, I lose the details, but mostly because it'll be easier for me.

I have a really hard time setting a book aside once I begin reading it. For some reason I feel an obligation to trudge through a book even though I am not enjoying it. Wish it weren't so, but if you have that same compulsion, here are two books to avoid:

12/21/12 by Larry Enright
Poorly written, end of life on earth story. No character development, unrealistic scenario and too predictable. Despite this, just when you start to accept what's going on, it's over! The end is abrupt and totally out of line with where the author begins to lead the reader.
This was a free Amazon download.... but don't be tempted. Even free, it isn't worth it.

Death of the Couch Potato's Wife by Christy Barritt
I should have known to quit reading when on page 2 the narrator divulges that she lives in a neighborhood called Dullington Estates in Boring, IN. After that, do I need to say more?
Another free Amazon download.... I'm sensing a pattern here.