Saturday, November 18, 2017

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

I was pretty excited to read this book for my IRL book club. I had heard a lot of good things about it and actually really enjoyed reading it. Sounds weird, considering how dark the book is, but I loved the writing. The book club was pretty full for this book and we had some great discussions on apartheid, South Africa, and what being in disgrace means. We also had some really good wine.

The basis of this novel is a professor, David Lurie, who ends up seducing (that's not the right word and I'll explain in a moment) a student of his. Lurie is 52, twice divorced and something of a sex addict (or just a man - you call it). He sleeps with prostitutes, chases young women, and views women through the filter of their attractiveness to him. His student, Melanie, is 20 and in the initial stages, this very much feels like a rape. Lurie even recognizes it:

"Not rape, not quite that, but undesired nonetheless, undesired to the core. As though she had decided to go slack, die within herself for the duration, like a rabbit when the jaws of the fox close on its neck. "

He continues on, not caring that he, as her professor, is doing any wrong. Finally, Melanie and her father bring up charges against Lurie. He loses his job and moves to his daughter's farm to get away from Cape Town. Things really do not work out much better there. He's immediately critical of his daughter's appearance, critical of the life she has made for herself and critical of her friends. Bev Shaw is one such friend who he is initially angry with:

"He does not like women who make no effort to be attractive"

He does try to settle in and help out on the farm as well as in the animal welfare clinic with Bev.  Petrus is, initially, Lucy's help but ends up taking over part of the farm and no longer in the position to help. In fact, I believe, he cooked up an attack on Lucy and David in order to gain the rest of the farm. David is burned, Lucy is raped and all the dogs on the property are shot. Devastation.

David begins sleeping with Bev, Lucy turns inward and things start collapsing. The ending is a fairly surprising and upsetting turn of events. Disgrace is a place no one wants to live. Yet, everyone ends up there, trying to get out.

Considering the news of the day, this was a timely book to read. Amazing that the book club picked it a year ago, with no idea what was on our horizon in America. I didn't like many, if any, of the characters but they led me along with them anyway. It's astounding how people can orchestrate their own fall from grace (David) and how disgrace is forced upon others (Melanie, Lucy).

I've not seen the movie but will give it a try and report back!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Big Damn Classic of 2018 - You Choose!

My awesome friends and readers choose my 2017 big damn classic to be Moby Dick by Herman Melville and I am tackling it much like one would eat a whale....a small bite at a time. Seriously, guys, 135 chapters about whaling is what you chose??

Well, here's another chance to choose my Big Damn Classic for next year. I really had a hard time narrowing it down to just 5 choices. I consulted all sorts of books to decide on a book (people do this, right?) and between my 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and 100 Banned Books, here's what I came up with:

Click here to vote!

First up, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I wanted to add in an Indiana author and one who has been banned on multiple occasions and Vonnegut fit the bill. This is kind of a big deal for me to want to read since I really don't like reading war stories, but if you've been reading my reviews you can see that I've been reading them more often. SH5 is about the bombing of Dresden in WWII and is one of the most censored books in the past 25 years according to 100 Banned Books. More than enough reason to read it....sticking it to the man.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is also on the list. An epic Russian tale that Russia banned because it "cast doubt on the validity of the Bolshevik Revolution" and Russia forced Pasternak to refuse the award for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958.  It was finally published in Russia in 1988. Don't you know that if you protest a book too much people will want to read it?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is back from 2017's list! Don't think that makes it my preference. Just know that it's back because I've been singing songs from the musical. It's also one that I think I'll need encouragement to read, much like Moby Dick.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, lest you think I'm all about foreign writers. Why haven't I read this yet? Why haven't I followed Huck and Jim down the river? Officially first banned in 1885, immediately after being published in 1884, this one LIT PEOPLE UP.

Lastly, but not least(ly), I added Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky because it really is a big damn classic. Raskolnikov has a theory that so-called extraordinary men are above the law and can, literally, get away with murder. He tries to prove this theory by killing two women.

So there you have it. Now it's up to you to choose my book for next year. Voting will close at the end of 2017 and you can vote as often as you like!

Paper Girls vol 1 by Brian Vaughan

Sometimes it pays to grab a Kindle deal of the day. I had heard about Paper Girls on the now-defunct Books on the Nightstand podcast so I added it to my Goodreads To-Read list. Goodreads awesomely sends out deals based on your list and Paper Girls was a $1.99 deal. So I grabbed it. I actually thought I would hate graphic novels on my Kindle but it was pretty cool. I could zoom in on each section then back out to see the whole page.

I started and finished Paper Girls in one evening, probably less than an hour, and immediately bought Volumes 2 and 3, heck with the deals.

Essentially, we have four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls who set out to deliver their papers on November 1st, 1988 (hell morning). They team up because apparently Halloweeners out past curfew are dicks and always harass the girls (color me surprised at teenage boys being assholes). Erin is new to the job and happily hangs with Mac, Tiff and KJ after she's harassed by a Freddy Krueger wannabe. Mac seems to be the toughest of the group and the first girl to get a paper route.

Things start getting really weird when a group of guys attack Tiff and KJ and steal the walkie talkie the girls are using to communicate. The guys don't speak English but we really don't know what they speak. The girls try to follow them and end up in an abandoned house and find a ..... what is that? No time to find out because shit starts happening.

People vanish, giant bird dinosaur things come out of the sky and strange strange people are out in the streets. The girls are on their own.

This flung itself out into a crazy weird time travel but not really kind of way and I LOVED IT.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Camino Island by John Grisham

I read an interview with John Grisham where he was talking about his new book, Camino Island. Now, I like his legal thrillers quite a bit but when he veers off of those (Painted House, etc.) my attention goes elsewhere.

Camino Island had a good premise that made me decide to grab it from the library. Five of F. Scott Fitzgerald's original manuscripts are stolen from Princeton and enter the black market. Is this a mystery involving books? I'm in. And a good deal of this takes place on an island in Florida at a book store? Yep yep!

I'm sad to say I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped. I read til the end and was really not happy with the ending at all. It started well with the theft. The men involved in the theft could have really carried the book, but  *spoiler* the FBI stepped in way too quick and took nearly all of them out of play. What? Where is my mystery??

Enter a mysterious woman named Elaine who is trying to hire Mercer Mann, a "writer", to go to Camino Island and live in her dead grandma's house. Elaine wants Mercer to infiltrate Bruce Cable's life and bookstore to find the manuscripts.


Mercer is barely a writer. I couldn't stand her character and, frankly, she spent too much time "admiring her body" in the mirror and whining about her inability to write. Cable was an interesting enough character to follow so that gave me something to hope for but in the end, I was very disappointed with him and his actions. Hardly the stuff of a shady book dealer. Denny, one of the thieves, was a violent asshole who never got to shine before a convenient FBI person arrested him and threw him out of the picture. Who were we supposed to be enticed by here? Surely not Mercer.

Alas, I think we were supposed to like the whiny wannabe writer (heeey, alliteration!). The end of the book wrapped everything up in one extremely tidy bow that I disliked.

If I hear Grisham is putting out a new legal thriller, I'm in. Everything else, I'm out.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Frozen Heat by Richard Castle

Another junk food book. I love these things. Number four in the Nikki Heat series, in this one, Heat is tasked with the homicide of a woman stabbed and stuffed into a suitcase.

A suitcase that belonged to Heat's murdered mother....

Dun dun dunnnnnn.

And we're off, investigating the current murder and Heat's mother's murder at the same time. Rook is back, annoying but there for bouncy sex and occasional insight, but mostly Heat is on her own.

This took some twisty turns that got slightly (more than slightly) unbelievable. LOTS of dead bodies pile up but Heat doesn't seem worse for the wear of it.

Super fast read. Just enough when you need to escape the world for a bit.

These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson

War stories and war movies bother me. So, when I got this book to read, I almost didn't read it. Since it was a collection of short stories, I went ahead and read it, hoping for the best.

Mogelson did a great job depicting how wars and combat affect soldiers, both in war and in peacetime. This is actually why I dislike war stories so much: it's just commonplace to throw these men and women into horrific conditions, instruct them to kill then toss them back in to reality without any help. I've always felt that war is played as a game by the people declaring it. It's easy to declare when you never have to fight.

The characters we meet actually intertwine throughout the stories, their past, their present. Veterans of Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq. Veterans who can't handle life after war, who give up, turn angry and violent.

All in all, each story made me sad and angry about how vets are treated, or in several cases, ignored and left alone, after they have been used by the bigwigs to win their wars. Don't get me wrong, some wars were justified. But just as many were not.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

There'll be no butter in hell!!!!!!

I have never heard of this book before, let alone knew a movie existed, but I'm glad, once again, that I read outside of my comfort zone! Cold Comfort Farm turned out to be a very entertaining and funny book!

Written in 1932, Cold Comfort Farm is about Flora Poste, recently orphaned and looking for family to stay with. She does hate a mess and is determined to clean up the farm when she does to stay there. She wasn't quite prepared for the crazy side of her family and they weren't prepared for her. Flora does, in fact, come in and re-organizes in a way. In the end, everyone is much happier that she moved in with them.

At first I didn't care for Flora. When she spoke with Mary about not working but going to live off of family and "being a parasite", which doesn't sound good in any context. I felt at first that she was just a spoiled brat who refused to work. Gradually, I began to like her. She had grand plans for helping out her family at the farm and they were good plans, helpful to her family and not just herself. Somehow, all of her plans worked out perfectly.

It took a bit to get into the rhythm of the "country" talk but once I did, I moved right along. Don't let the language or age of the book dissuade you from reading. It's really a clever funny book!

I watched the movie as well and was pretty pleased that it was a faithful adaptation. I rarely ever say that!

The new Penguin cover cracked me up! I can't picture Seth as anything else now.

Cold Comfort Farm trailer