Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Female Characters that Deserve a Giant Bitch Slap

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they post a new Top Ten list complete with one of their bloggers answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time...just post what you can!

Top Ten Female Characters that Deserve a Giant Bitch Slap

  1. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.  She was a complete control freak, drunk with her own power, and had absolutely no patience for anyone's opinion but her own.  I believe she was had no conscience whatsoever.
  2. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.  The consummate evil boss.
  3. Barbara Covett from Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.  She was the most judgmental, duplicitous person, and yet she viewed herself as above reproach.  She always had an ulterior motive, and this was particularly evident in how she befriended others and then slowly eroded them from the inside out.  Creepy and obsessive.
  4. Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Not mean, but whiny, self-obsessed, and snobby.  She deserves a bitch slap just to bring her down a peg or two.
  5. Hilly Holbrook from The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  She embodied every bad Southern stereotype, she was the ultimate two-face who would not hesitate to throw anyone (even her own family) under the bus, and when she was crossed (especially by someone she viewed as inferior) she was very, very dangerous.
  6. Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The original bratty, spoiled child who believed the world revolved around her.  She was inherently mean, and treated everyone - parents included - shabbily.  When she acted nice, which was rare, it was with an ulterior motive borne out of selfishness.
  7. Dolores Umbridge & Bellatrix LeStrange from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.  Anyone who 1) followed Lord Voldemort, 2) delighted in torturing others, 3) bragged about killing people, or 4) basically embodied EVIL really should be at the top of any list of mean literary characters.
  8. Aunt Spiker & Aunt Sponge from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  Caricatures for sure, but both are repulsive in every way...they are cruel, greedy (Aunt Sponge), vain, malicious, selfish, and they take great pleasure in tormenting James.
  9. Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians by Justine Korman.  Mean, mean, mean.
  10. Stepmother & Ugly Stepsisters in Cinderella.  Again, caricatures meant to hyperbolize nastiness, but certainly some of the most recognizable meanies in all of literature.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear Author: Letters of Hope by Joan Kaywell

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Philomel
ISBN: 0399237054 (ISBN13: 9780399237058)
original title: Dear Author: Letters of Hope (Top Young Adult Authors Respond to Kids' Toughest Issues)
2 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
To millions of kids, the books they read are more than entertainment— they are mirrors to hold up to their own lives. And the creators of those books are more than just writers—they are mentors, confidants, friends, sometimes the only ones who understand. There is often an unspoken, unseen bond between an author and his or her readers.

Dear Author brings this bond to light for the whole world to see and to celebrate. Laurie Halse Anderson, Chris Crutcher, Jerry Spinelli, Christopher Paul Curtis, and many more of today's bestselling YA authors respond to this intimate mix of heartbreaking and heartwarming letters, giving a glimpse into the hearts and souls of kids today, and the writers who have changed their lives. It's nothing short of inspirational.

My Thoughts:
I got about 1/3 of the way through this book and decided to put it down. It was interesting enough for the part that I read, but I just got bored with it after a while. So my take is that it's a great idea, but in a more limited scope, and perhaps picking reader letters that are real standouts. A lot of these letters just seemed like run of the mill teenage musings. The other thing that bogged me down was the occasional author preachiness, which was somewhat off-putting. Again, a great idea if done exceptionally well, and that is not how I would characterize this effort.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Audio CD, 3 disks (3 hours)
Published April 13th 2000 by Random House Audio (first published 1970)
ISBN: 0375416536 (ISBN13: 9780375416538)
primary language: English
original title: The Bluest Eye
4.5 stars overall / 4.5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
Oprah Book Club® Selection, April 2000: Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel. In an afterword written more than two decades later, the author expressed her dissatisfaction with the book's language and structure: "It required a sophistication unavailable to me." Perhaps we can chalk up this verdict to modesty, or to the Nobel laureate's impossibly high standards of quality control. In any case, her debut is nothing if not sophisticated, in terms of both narrative ingenuity and rhetorical sweep. It also shows the young author drawing a bead on the subjects that would dominate much of her career: racial hatred, historical memory, and the dazzling or degrading power of language itself.
Set in Lorain, Ohio, in 1941, The Bluest Eye is something of an ensemble piece. The point of view is passed like a baton from one character to the next, with Morrison's own voice functioning as a kind of gold standard throughout. The focus, though, is on an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, whose entire family has been given a cosmetic cross to bear:
You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.... And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle over them, and went about the world with it.
There are far uglier things in the world than, well, ugliness, and poor Pecola is subjected to most of them. She's spat upon, ridiculed, and ultimately raped and impregnated by her own father. No wonder she yearns to be the very opposite of what she is--yearns, in other words, to be a white child, possessed of the blondest hair and the bluest eye. This vein of self-hatred is exactly what keeps Morrison's novel from devolving into a cut-and-dried scenario of victimization. She may in fact pin too much of the blame on the beauty myth: "Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another--physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion." Yet the destructive power of these ideas is essentially colorblind, which gives The Bluest Eye the sort of universal reach that Morrison's imitators can only dream of. And that, combined with the novel's modulated pathos and musical, fine-grained language, makes for not merely a sophisticated debut but a permanent one. --James Marcus

My Thoughts:
This is such a desperately sad book, and the brutality of what happens throughout nearly made me sick to my stomach. It's almost unfathomable that people can exist in environments like this...and worse. Morrison has starkly & superbly illustrated how, when someone is consistently told they are nothing, treated like nothing, or otherwise completely devalued, the outcome is very often a self-fulfilled prophecy. As brilliantly as this book is written - and it is brilliant - the subject matter is almost too brutal to bear, and yet engrossing in its desperateness. This is the second time around for me - listening this time - and it's as powerful now as it was the first time I read it. Ruby Dee does a spectacular job of voicing the characters appropriately, and the result is linguistically beautiful and heart wrenching.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Most Hilarious Book Titles I Have Come Across (a list in progress)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they post a new Top Ten list complete with one of their bloggers answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time...just post what you can!
Most Hilarious Book Titles I Have Come Across (in no particular order)
**Just a note to say that I am drawn to books with unique or unusual titles, and as such, I have many on my reading list with noteworthy titles.  This particular Top Ten Tuesday topic, for obvious reasons, was not only fun, but nearly limitless in scope for me.  These are all legitimate books, I promise!  Hope you enjoy my list! 
Titles I have read are in red.
Titles I own but have not read are in blue.
Titles requested from the library (I can't believe the library had them) are in green.
Titles I want but (as of yet) have not found are in orange.
Titles I'm still laughing about because they're insanely awesome are in purple.
  1. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  2. Walter, the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle
  3. The Flawless Skin of Ugly People by Doug Crandell
  4. Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster
  5. Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster
  6.  Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why It Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots, and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? by Jen Lancaster
  7. The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life by Laurie Notaro
  8. There's a (Slight) Chance that I Might be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro
  9. The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: Reflections on Revenge, Germophobia and Laser Hair Removal by Laurie Notaro
  10. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
  11. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  12. Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst
  13. Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
  14. I'm Fine With God, It's Christians I Can't Stand: Getting Past the Religious Garbage in the Search for Spiritual Truth by Bruce Bickel
  15. Here I Am, Lord...Send Somebody Else: How God Uses Ordinary People to Do Extraordinary Things by Jill Briscoe
  16. Duh-Votions by Sue Buchanan
  17. The Bigger the Hair, the Closer to God: Unleashing the Cute, Witty, Delightful, Intelligent, Passionate, Authentic, Interesting, Life-of-the-Party Inside You by Sue Buchanan
  18. You've Got to Be Kidding, I Thought this Was the Great Tribulation by Kathy Lechner
  19. Superstud, or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin by Paul Feig
  20. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
  21. On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison
  22. Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison
  23. Away Laughing on a Fast Camel by Louise Rennison
  24. Dancing in My Nuddy Pants by Louise Rennison
  25. "...Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers" by Louise Rennison
  26. Startled by His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison
  27. Love is a Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison
  28. Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louise Rennison
  29. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison
  30. Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
  31. Who Cut the Cheese? A Cutting Edge Way of Surviving Change by Shifting the Blame by Mason Brown
  32. Who Cut the Cheese? An Amazing Parody About Change and How We Can Get Our Hands on Yours by Stilton Jarlsburg, M.D. and Kenneth Bleucheese, Ph.D.
  33. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka
  34. Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank and Other words of Delicate Southern Wisdom by Celia Rivenbark
  35. How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art by Kathleen Meyer
  36. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
  37. The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
  38. Everyone Poops by Tara Gomi and Amanda Meyer Stinchecum
  39. Everybody Farts by Lynda White
  40. The Fart Party by Julia Wertz
  41. Smart Feller Fart Smeller and other Spoonerisms by Jon Agee
  42. Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School by Benjamin Franklin, Carl Japikse (editor)
  43. The Grits (Girls Raised in the South) Guide to Life by Deborah Ford, Edie Hand & Annie Flagg
  44. Puttin' on the Grits: A Guide to Southern Entertaining by Deborah Ford, Mary Lynn Blasutta (illustrator)
  45. Grits Friends are Forevah: A Southern-Style Celebration of Women by Deborah Ford
  46. Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar and Other Oddball or Gross Maladies, Afflictions, Remedies and Cures by David Haviland
  47. Slide and Slurp, Scratch and Burp: More About Verbs by Brian P. Cleary, Brian Gable (illustrator)
  48. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
  49. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss
  50. Babies and Other Hazards of Having Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months, with Tools You Probably Have Around the Home by Dave Barry
  51. English as a Second F*cking Language: How to Swear Effectively, Explained in Detail with Numerous Examples Taken from Everyday Life by Sterling Johnson
  52. Watch Your F*cking Language: How to Swear Effectively, Explained in Explicit Detail and Enhanced by Numerous Examples Taken from Everyday Life by Sterling Johnson
  53. The Day My Butt Went Psycho by Andy Griffiths
  54. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A Memoir by Toby Young
  55. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
  56. Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
  57. The Hazards of Sleeping Alone by Elise Juska
  58. Is That a Dead Dog in Your Locker? by Todd Strasser
  59. Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair: The True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split by Laurie Perry
  60. I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
  61. The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert
  62. The Five Jerks You Meet On Earth by Ray Zardetto
  63. Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women by Simon Doonan
  64. Poop Culture: How America is Shaped by its Grossest National Product by Dave Praeger
  65. Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh
  66. The Last Burp of Mac McGerp by Pam Smallcomb
  67. Never Say Excuse Me Louder than You Burp by Bob Deaton
  68. Bottling Burps for Grandma by Andrew Collett
  69. Colder Than a Fart in a Dead Eskimo by David Allen
  70. Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed by Lance Carbuncle
  71. The Florabama Ladies' Auxiliary and Sewing Circle by Lois Battle
  72. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  73. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey
  74. Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola by Mark Thomas
  75. My Life as a Belching Baboon with Bad Breath by Bill Myers
  76. She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
  77. Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood by Hollis Gillespie
  78. How I Fell in Love with a Librarian and Lived to Tell About It by Rhett Ellis
  79. You Just Don't Duct Tape a Baby: True Tales and Sensible Suggestions from a Veteran Pediatrician by Norman Weinberger, Allison Pohn
  80. Cock-a-Doodle-Moo! by Bernard Most
  81. This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record by Susannah Felts
  82. The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom by Jo Barrett
  83. A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity: A Memoir by Bill O'Reilly
  84. Oops! I Forgot My Wife: A Story of Commitment as Marriage and Self-Centeredness Collide by Doyle Roth
  85. B is for Beer by Tom Robbins
  86. Wild Ducks Flying Backwards by Tom Robbins
  87. Mothers-in-Law Do Everything Wrong: M.I.L.D.E.W. by Liz Bluper

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Audio CD, 8 disks (10 hours)
Published August 24th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (first published 2009)
ISBN: 0007230451 (ISBN13: 9780007230457)
original title: Remarkable Creatures
setting:  Lyme Regis, 1820 (United Kingdom)
4.5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the early nineteenth century, a windswept beach along the English coast brims with fossils for those with the eye! From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers unknown dinosaur fossils in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world's creation and stimulating debate over our origins. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbours, and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Even nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her. Luckily Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly, intelligent Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who is also fossil-obsessed. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty and barely suppressed envy. Despite their differences in age and background, Mary and Elizabeth discover that, in struggling for recognition, friendship is their strongest weapon. Remarkable Creatures is Tracy Chevalier's stunning new novel of how one woman's gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.

My Thoughts:
This is a truly enthralling read. I have never read anything like it, and I'm astonished that a novel about (primarily) fossils could so capture my attention. I loved that Chevalier was able to not only accurately reflect the culture of the time, but also was able to write technically about the fossil discoveries that permeated the story.

My one (huge) quibble with the author has to do with her theology. She remarks a number of times throughout the book that the existence of fossils, and therefore the evidentiary proof of extinction, shows that God must not be either omniscient or omnipotent, because the changes in the earth were siuch that it was no longer able to maintain certain species. She posits that this is proof that he did not plan...or that he could not prevent extinction from happening...or even that these dinosaurs were early drafts of animals perfected at later times. To speak with such authority about the nature of God, and to assume to know more about God's plan than he himself does (or did) is foolhardy and arrogantly presumptuous. There is no causal connection at all between extinct fossils and an I mperfect or poorly planned creation. It is conjecture, and perhaps this author's way of explaining that which she does not fully understand.

This is not to say that I enjoyed the book less as a result, but it certainly had me shouting out loud in objection during those passages. Thankfully Chevalier was not didactic in her comments, and that allowed me as the reader to fully appreciate the story while disagreeing vehemently with her theological conclusion. I'd rather have a strong emotional reaction to what I read anyday than to feel unmoved and unchanged at the end, so bravo to Chevalier for writing a book that I connected to in this way.

My emotional connection was due not only to Chevalier's beautiful writing, but also to a stellar listening experience. As in other books I have listened to, the main character (two in this case) were narrated by different people, which added exponentially to the authenticity of the regional (and class) differences. It was superbly done, and worth the time to enjoy the audio experience.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bacseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 8th 2010 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2010)
ISBN: 0446582344 (ISBN13: 9780446582346)
4.5 stars
Goodreads Synopsis:
Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.

BACKSEAT SAINTS will dazzle readers with a fresh and heartwrenching portrayal of the lengths a mother will go to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will go to escape the demands of forgiveness. With the seed of a minor character from her popular best-seller, GODS IN ALABAMA, Jackson has built a whole new story full of her trademark sly wit, endearingly off-kilter characters, and utterly riveting plot twists.

My Thoughts:
This book really touched me.  Rose's story (to me) could have been about virtually anyone who comes from a history of abuse.  She's a smart girl with a lot to contribute to society, and yet she seems trapped by her past and continually repeats the cycle.  She is angry at the world - and understandably so - but she is also angry at herself for loving her abuser(s) and therefore being vulnerable to them...particularly her husband.  Even as she realizes he will eventually kill her and sets about to disappear, she doesn't disappear enough.  It's almost as though she has some glimmer of hope that she will get a "re-do" with him...that he will change...even though she knows it won't go that way.  This emotional connection takes so many people back to their abusers time & again, and I thought Joshilyn Jackson did a superb job of showing how difficult it can be to break the cycle, especially when one's abuser is driven by an obsession rather than emotions or drugs/alcohol. 

The second thing that Jackson does extraordinarily well is develop a well-rounded, complex picture of small town Southern life.  She creates characters (families) that embody the good and the bad of being from the small town South.  The stereotype of the Southern family being notoriously crazy, and more so than families from any other region, is not just a literary convention.  There is an attitude that the South produces it's own brand of eccentricity that is more exaggerated & pronounced than any other region in the US.  Perhaps it is true, perhaps it isn't.  It is funny and touching, and stingingly true sometimes, and being a child of the South myself, this resonates with me on every level.

Finally, what I loved most about this book is that Jackson revisits characters & elements of a previous book, and fleshes out a formerly minor character into a full-fledged protagonist.  This is a technique that I find very appealing.  It provides back story for the characters without serializing the story.  Each book can stand on its own, but becomes a richer reading experience if the reader has the benefit of having met the characters in previous books.  Rosamunde Pilcher, Barbara Delinsky, Maeve Binchy and many others have used this technique with great success, and Jackson delivers here in brilliant fashion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Audio CD, 6 disks, 7 hours (finished 3.5 hours)
Published June 24th 2003 by Penguin Audio (first published June 10th 1982)
ISBN: 0142800376 (ISBN13: 9780142800379)
original title: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)
4 stars story (1st read) + 1 star (2nd read) = 2.5 overall rating
3 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
Thirty-three years, a horrific and life-altering accident, and thousands of desperately rabid fans in the making, Stephen King's quest to complete his magnum opus rivals the quest of Roland and his band of gunslingers who inhabit the Dark Tower series. Loyal DT fans and new readers alike will appreciate this revised edition of The Gunslinger, which breathes new life into Roland of Gilead, and offers readers a "clearer start and slightly easier entry into Roland's world."

King writes both a new introduction and foreword to this revised edition, and the ever-patient, ever-loyal "constant reader" is rewarded with secrets to the series's inception. That a "magic" ream of green paper and a Robert Browning poem, came together to reveal to King his "ka" is no real surprise (this is King after all), but who would have thought that the squinty-eyed trio of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach would set the author on his true path to the Tower? While King credits Tolkien for inspiring the "quest and magic" that pervades the series, it was Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that helped create the epic proportions and "almost absurdly majestic western backdrop" of Roland's world.

To King, The Gunslinger demanded revision because once the series was complete it became obvious that "the beginning was out of sync with the ending." While the revision adds only 35 pages, Dark Tower purists will notice the changes to Allie's fate and Roland's interaction with Cort, Jake, and the Man in Black--all stellar scenes that will reignite the hunger for the rest of the series. Newcomers will appreciate the details and insight into Roland's life. The revised Roland of Gilead (nee Deschain) is embodied with more humanity--he loves, he pities, he regrets. What DT fans might miss is the same ambiguity and mystery of the original that gave the original its pulpy underground feel (back when King himself awaited word from Roland's world).

My Thoughts:
OK, I got half way through it this time (I read it in high school and loved it), and I just could not go any further. I was actually dreading it, and I decided that was enough. My taste for Stephen King has changed so much over 20 years, but I never expected the Dark Tower series to be on the "blech" list. Regardless of my reaction to the story, I thought the narrator was appropriately voiced - melodramatic, but completely in tune with the timbre of King's story.  Nevertheless, I still could not get past my negative visceral reaction to the story, and as such will not be revisiting this series again.


Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Audio CD, 8 disks (9 hours)
Published 2002 by Borders (first published 1947)
ISBN: 1402523777 (ISBN13: 9781402523779)
original title: Het actherhuis
setting: Amsterdam, 1942 (Netherlands)
5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
The diary as Anne Frank wrote it. At last, in a new translation, this definitive edition contains entries about Anne's burgeoning sexuality and confrontations with her mother that were cut from previous editions. Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is among the most enduring documents of the twentieth century. Since its publication in 1947, it has been a beloved and deeply admired monument to the indestructible nature of the human spirit, read by millions of people and translated into more than fifty-five languages. Doubleday, which published the first English translation of the diary in 1952, now offers a new translation that captures Anne's youthful spirit and restores the original material omitted by Anne's father, Otto — approximately thirty percent of the diary. The elder Frank excised details about Anne's emerging sexuality, and about the often-stormy relations between Anne and her mother. Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the horrors of Nazi occupation forces, hid in the back of an Amsterdam office building for two years. This is Anne's record of that time. She was thirteen when the family went into the "Secret Annex," and in these pages, she grows to be a young woman and proves to be an insightful observer of human nature as well. A timeless story discovered by each new generation, The Diary of a Young Girl stands without peer. For youngreaders and adults, it continues to bring to life this young woman, who for a time survived the worst horrors the modern world had seen — and who remained triumphantly and heartbreakingly human throughout her ordeal. 

My Thoughts:
Incredible story.  This should be on everyone's "must read" list. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Audio CD, 15 disks (18 hours)
Published February 10th 2009 by Penguin Audio (first published 2009)
ISBN:0143144189 (ISBN13: 9780143144182)
primary language: English
original title: The Help
setting: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962 (United States)
5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration (audio perfection)

Goodreads Synopsis:
In 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, two African-American maids and one white Junior League socialite—seemingly as different from one another as can be, will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating withing the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes line are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three memorable women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Thoughts:
I'm not sure what to say about this book that hasn't already been said. I LOVED it. I thought it was as authentic a portrayal of the South as I have read, and it was written with grace, tenderness, and a deep understanding of human nature. The characters were textured and complex, and they evoked a real emotional reaction from me as a reader. I loved that I could love (or hate) these women so passionately, and these emotional connections I had with the characters made this book a rich and rewarding read.

Couple the excellent writing with a stellar cast of narrators for the audiobook. Every one was pitch perfect for her character. It's not often that a book reaches out and embraces me on every level, but this one has done so, and I will never forget it.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Funniest Excerpt Ever

"S----ing, the other day, I knew
Exactly how much I owed my arse;
The stink was so strong, so compelling, so nasty,
That my nose curled up and my ears turned blue.
Oh ! If only someone would bring me
Her for whom I long, and I sing me,
While S----ing !"

--from Gargantua & Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais