Archive | December, 2011

Book Review: The Other by Thomas Tryon

17 Dec

The OtherMy Rating 4 out of 5 stars

I heard about this book from my sister-in-law who was describing this as being one of the scariest books she’d ever read.  She said she read it in like the 6th grade.  After some searching (no eBook, no library copy and it is out of print) I was able to find a paperback copy on Amazon, which the seller claimed to be in Good-Used condition.  I’d argue that rating since the spine split the second I opened it to the first page.  But whatever.  So here’s the deal with this book.  It was written in 1971 by an actor named Tom Tryon.  He was in a bunch of stuff in the 1950s and 60s.  This book was made into a movie by the same name (not to be confused with The Others with Nicole Kidman in it – it’s not the same).  It scared the bejesus out of everyone who read it or saw the movie. 

So knowing that, would you expect it to be 1) good writing (the author was an actor for goodness sakes) or 2) scary (by today’s standards)?  Perhaps not, but you would be sorely mistaken on both fronts.  The writing is very unique, but Tyron most certainly had talent.  He described the environment and moved the story along so well, it was so believeable.  And it was creepy (the grown-up kind, not the tween kind)…so creepy that it was still creepy to read in 2011, exactly 40 years after the book was written.  How many things that were scary then are just as scary now?  Right, The Omen, maybe.  And everyone’s heard of that.  I think this book is grossly underrated and the author’s style is superb.  If you are interested in borrowing it from me, you’ll have to stand in line (and bring some masking tape).  Thanks to a great SIL for helping me discover this gem!

 

Book Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

17 Dec

The Marriage PlotMy Review:  A regrettable 2.5 out of 5 stars

I say regrettable because I had HIGH hopes for this book.  This author is one of my favorite novelists of all time.  If you’ve never read Middlesex, it was the winner of the Pulitzer prize in 2003 and is my second most favorite book ever.  It’s just so good!  I know, that’s not very descriptive but this isn’t a review of that book.  He also wrote The Virgin Suicides, which is pretty amazing as well.  I suppose no author will turn out a prize winner every single time so perhaps I should go easy on Jeffrey.  But I’ve been waiting for almost 10 years for this and I have to say it was a complete letdown.

The story is about 3 students at a college on the east coast, their lives crossing at random points throughout college and after.  The main character Madeline and her boyfriend are both literature majors and the book is full of references to different authors and time periods of writing.  I actually think that’s what the title is drawing on – the books in the 19th century and how marriage was synonymous with love (or something like that, I wasn’t paying close attention).  The third character, Mitchell, is in love with Madeline but very little of the story focuses on scenes where he’s with her – after graduation he tours Europe and India looking for religion (or something like that, I wasn’t paying close attention).  Are you still awake? 

I finished the novel, which believe it or not does tell you how much respect I have for this author.  If it were anyone else’s book I would have thrown in the towel after the first 100 pages.  If I set aside the subject matter and focus on the storytelling itself, even that wasn’t as Eugenides-y as I had hoped.  I mean, he does have a knack for the written word, but it just seemed so…average.  Madeline’s boyfriend, Leonard, is manic and his breakdowns are described in first person, which is very well done.  I give Eugenides credit for capturing the essence of the no-win situation being bi-polar is.  But aside from that, I am going to re-read Middlesex and try to pretend this novel wasn’t written by the same author.  You can barely tell that it was so that shouldn’t be hard.  Disappointed!

Book Review: I, Alex Cross by James Patterson

16 Dec

I, Alex Cross (Alex Cross Series #16)My Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

I live outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  I few months ago I heard that they were filming the adaptation of this book in my area.  Tyler Perry is starring as Alex Cross and you can see some details on the filming here.  That peeked my interest so I thought I would read the book and see what Alex Cross was all about.  I knew that it was a series – James Patterson has a ton  ‘Cross’ books and the fact that it was called I, Alex Cross made me assume that it must be the ‘introduction’ book, the first of the series.  Well it’s not…it’s the 15th.  Now why would they adapt the 15th book of a series into a movie?  I’m sure they have their reasons.  You’ve probably heard of or possibly read the first 2 Alex Cross books – Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.  Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd…ring any bells?  Now it’s starting to make sense – those are ALREADY movies.  Duh.  I like things to go in order though so I’m not sure where the movies for books 3-14 are, but fine.  We’ll just skip ahead I guess.

Enough of my rambling.  This book, along with most of the Alex Cross books (and almost all of James Patterson’s novels period) was a NYTimes bestseller.  It was about as mainstream of a mystery novel as it gets.  A nice enough character and some suspense, but nothing original or anything that blew me away.  The writing is very average in my opinion.  But as I said in an earlier post, expectations are everything.  I expected the novel to be this way and it was, so I was strangely satisfied by the end.  It is solid and average.  And now I can see the movie (one of my favorite things after reading the book).

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

15 Dec

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenMy Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Expectations are everything in life, aren’t they?  I got about 25 pages into this book annoyed that this author thought we readers were so naive.  Then I realized that this is a book written for young adults.  I was expecting ‘grown up creepy’ instead of ‘tween creepy’.  Tween creepy – yawn.  Once I adjusted my expectations, my impression of the book changed and I started enjoying it.  For a minute.  And then I got so confused by the plot even though it’s a book for young adults!  Seriously, I would pay someone to explain to me what exactly is going on with this home and these peculiar children.  I won’t divulge and details here – you’ll have to read it yourself and see if you can figure it out.

So I adjusted to the PG rating and decided not ask too many questions about the paranormal aspects of the story, only to realize I was getting a Harry Potter vibe.  C’mon people! The storylines have a lot of differences, but still – teenage boy, finds out something out about himself and his family, which sends him on a journey where he meets people ‘like him’ and then decides that this is his real family.  Hmmmm….

Okay, fine.  If I set THAT aside too…I sort of liked it.  Unique in many ways and there is certainly some creepiness (even if it is PG).  I liked the pictures in the book, it was exciting at the very end and set itself up for a sequel in a big way. I will make sure I have the appropriate expectations when I go to read the sequel!

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

14 Dec

The Paris WifeMy Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

This book is about the life of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  If you know anything about Ernest Hemingway, you know that he was a famously troubled and eccentric writer in the 1920s.  So it’s obvious that his wife would have a great story to tell.   

But relationships are always more complex from the inside looking out.  Hadley had good breeding and education with lots of promise.  On one hand it was hard to believe that she ended up so in love and willing to bend to the wills of Ernest’s craziness.  But at the same time, knowing the mutual love and respect they had for each other and the happy times they shared, it becomes believable that she would try to hold on to their marriage and endure his ‘dark’ periods.

I thought Hadley’s character would annoy me, since I was banking on her being a helpless coward who didn’t have the strength or confidence to get herself out of a destructive relationship.  But she was much stronger in many ways and their relationship was so more complicated than one would ever know from the outside looking in.  I thought this was one of the most believable relationships I’ve ever read about.  Kudos to the author on that.  Add in the era (1920s) and the locale (Paris) and it makes for a very cozy and thoughtful read.

Book Review: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

13 Dec

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed AmericaMy rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars

This novel follows two intertwining stories:  all of the construction for the opening of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer living in Chicago at the same time.  Both aspects of the story are true.

I picked this book up because someone told my friend it was their favorite book of all time.  I take that as a very serious assertion and had to find out what could make it someone’s favorite.  I still don’t quite know.

Do you remember having to write a research paper in high school or college?  The project had to follow a certain order of operations like:  pick a topic, find resources and put quotes from them on index cards, write an outline (that you had to turn in) and then write the paper?  I think that’s the gist.  Imagine the topic you chose to write about had so much information that it would have yielded an entire room full of index cards.  Now imagine you incorporated every single fact on every single index card into your paper.  That’s Devil in the White City.  While it’s obvious that the author did an exorbitant amount of research, he thought we were as in love with these topics – particularly the Fair construction – as he was.  I don’t believe a single detail was edited out of this book.

Each chapter was so chock full of information that I struggled to stay interested.  And it was pretty fascinating what they pulled off for the world’s fair in such a short time with little money.  But the detail around all of this was just too much.  The alternate story about H.H. Holmes and his macabre serial killer life was honestly all that keep me going.  And  even that I didn’t think was that creepy.  I mean don’t get me wrong, it was creepy, but not THAT creepy, especially since it wasn’t posed as a mystery.  You knew he was doing it.

Okay, all of that being said really means this book was just okay in my opinion.  The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze as my boss would say.  Struggling through this book wasn’t worth it in my opinion.  But if you like history and non-fiction and the late 1800s in America, this might be a good one for you!

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

12 Dec

The Red TentMy Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

This historical fiction is narrated by Dinah, daughter of Jacob .  As in the Jacob, brother of Esau, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.   She tells of her life as a young girl growing up in Mesopotamia amongst her father’s small tribe of wives and children.  The red tent is, literally, the place where the women go each month to bleed and ‘celebrate’ their womanhood.  As a child she saw the red tent as a mysterious almost heavenly experience.  Upon entering womanhood herself she became indoctrinated in the ways of a biblical woman and soon after enters wifehood, at which point her life takes a very grave and violent detour.  The novel follows her throughout her life up to her death in Egypt as a famous midwife. 

This book is pretty fast paced (I had to write down the names of the family members which added a bit of time for me) and the writing is solid.  It’s a great way to learn about the actual history and logistics depicted in pieces in the bible.  

I loved how being a girl during these times meant a lot of hard work and a lot of hardships, yet these women respected themselves and their womanhood like they were royalty though they were quite often treated like slaves.  They had this “Behind every great man…” attitude. This book was pretty emotional for me, especially as a woman, wife and mother.

I typically don’t like chick lit, but this is chick lit in a different sense.  There is a LOT of discussion about menses, child-birth, etc.  If you are not fully comfortable with these topics in their most descriptive, I suggest you not read this book.  But if you are, then this is a great ‘girl power’ book!