Birmingham, AL, United States | Member Since 2002
I think I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if I had once been a 12-year old boy. Stephen King's obsession with bodily fluids (which I can generally tolerate in most other Stephen King books despite the fact that it is ever-present) was particularly noticeable in this book. Again - if I had once been a 12-year old boy, those references (and maybe even Stephen King's obsession with bodily fluids) would probably go unnoticed. Not one of my favorites by King.
It's funny how books come to you sometimes. I haven't read a John Grisham novel in 20 years (The Chamber) but then Leonard Maltin recommended on his new movie podcast that I re-watch A Time to Kill. I did, and ended up ordering Sycamore Row as the credits rolled. So, of course, it was Matthew McConaughey as Jake Brigance in my mind's eye as I read this sequel. This was a good story, and reading a Grisham novel after all those years was like slipping on a warm and fluffy pair of slippers. I'm now practicing law so I truly enjoyed the primer on wills and estates and the old and new characters were engaging. I didn't know for certain how this one would all work itself out, but it ultimately did so in a satisfying way. I can't remember if all Grisham novels are as packed with legal procedure and explanations as this one is but I suspect that might be why some readers found this novel to be a bit slow and/or boring. Not so for me. I recommend that you re-watch A Time to Kill to catch up on the original Jake Brigance story which is referenced a number of times in this new one, and then settle in for another good - but not too taxing - Grisham tale ripped from the legal headlines.
This was my least favorite book this year - thank goodness it was a short one. There were only about 75 or so pages in which I found myself a bit captivated by the story, but I did not care for the first half of the book, nor did I like the last quarter of the book.
Here are my reasons why: 1) every important character in this book was self-absorbed, self-loathing, and a "victim"; 2) the number of bodily fluids described in joyous detail during the first half of the book caused me to physically grimace as I read and their mention was unnecessary; 3) the characters were cliches; 4) the author did too much telling (instead of just showing) as if she didn't trust the reader to "get it" or understand without her injection of information; 5) the plot was preposterous and completely unbelievable; and 6) the protagonist was so overly dramatic and unlikeable and, given what she was going through, I don't think I was supposed to laugh out loud at her dilemmas.
Not many who read this book disliked the New York Times Bestseller as much as I did, but there were a few. One of those recommended Room by Emma Donoghue which I bought since finishing this book. The book that stood out for me as a worthy alternative was My Story by Elizabeth Smart. The abductor in Elizabeth's memoir is just as sick and creepy and the circumstances of her abduction are preposterous and unbelievable (but actually true); however, it is her grace following the abduction that truly separates Elizabeth Smart from the protagonist in this novel.
This is exactly what I want from an award-winning novel! I was hooked immediately by the author's authentic southern voice and the way she expertly molded and shaped the four Price girls and their mother. The Poisonwood Bible was my kind of Southern Gothic fiction, but instead of being set in the American South, it was set in the Belgian Congo. If you decide to take this journey into Africa, expect Southern Baptist evangelism gone wrong, ignorant racism, the devolution of European colonialism, ex-patriot survival to the extreme, and the unmistakable bonds between siblings. Some readers were turned off by the apparently heavy-handed political tone of the book, but I was intrigued by the history of the Congo and the struggles of its people before and after Belgian occupation (and the impact of all on whites living in the country). There are images from this book that I will likely never lose - like a green mamba snake camouflaged in a tree and the distinctive light blue color of the inside of its mouth.
This was my first Diane Chamberlain book but was just OK for me. I was drawn to the book because it was set in the 1960s in North Carolina (southern fiction is one of my favorite genres) and involved the controversial Eugenics Board of North Carolina. I agree with others that the book was easy to read and moved along at a good clip, but I struggled to connect with the characters and the plausibility of the story. I know that the Eugenics Board existed - in fact North Carolina is just now in the process of making compensation payments to victims of its forced sterilization program. I also know now (after doing some research post-reading) that North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to designate people for sterilization. Hence, I can see why Ms. Chamberlain, as a former social worker, was drawn to writing this untold story. I just felt there was some character development lacking. Instead, I walked away from this book better educated by the crazy world around us (which is a good thing) but not necessarily emotionally touched. I hope to try another Diane Chamberlain novel in the future.
Some readers have described this book as light Australian chick lit perfect for the beach. I read my fair share of chick lit beach reads but I would NOT place Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret in that category. This book is much more substantial than that description. Instead, expect to be challenged by this read. The first challenge is to keep straight the many (seemingly) unrelated characters that you will be introduced to in the first few chapters. The next challenge will unfold as the book progresses. The author let's you in to the thoughts and feelings of these characters as each faces and tackles some pretty daunting life obstacles. Your challenge is to refrain (if you can) on passing judgment too soon. Would you feel the same way given the same obstacle? Would you take the same action? This book is definitely a great beach read but don't expect to just sit on the sidelines, sipping a fruity drink. You will be mentally engaged in the story whether you like it or not. Expect this one to be made into a movie!
Lawrence Wright's epilogue to Going Clear sums up my feelings about this book quite succinctly. No matter how shocked or horrified or disgusted or scared or baffled you are with the underpinnings of Scientology and the ongoing behaviors of its believers, just study any other religion and you will uncover religious principles, stories and directives lacking in any fact basis; human rights abuses; disgruntled former believers who now feel duped and disillusioned; and lots of financial resources sheltered from government taxation. What makes Scientology especially disturbing to me, though, is the emphasis on self-centeredness, narcissism, and individual gain at the exclusion of all others. Wright's book focuses on the celebrity Scientologists just like the religion itself focuses on the celebrity Scientologists. There are definitely the haves and the have-nots within this church. Out of curiousity, I tried to find the nearest Scientology center to me in Birmingham, Alabama, and was not so surprised to find that there is a Scientology Celebrity Centre in Nashville, Tennessee. There apparently are not enough celebrities in Alabama to warrant any other presence by the church. That is OK with me. This book got me thinking and talking - definitely worth a read.
This was not my first foray into the work of Hitchens. I read God is Not Great as well as several Vanity Fair articles prior to this set of essays. This book, however, illuminated the huge gap in intellect between Hitchens and myself. Not a surprising discovery but rather humbling. Fortunately, Hitchens himself made some progress in closing that gap as I progressed through his 100+ essays from start to finish. Because nearly all of the literary references in the first third of the book were lost on me, it almost felt like I was reading a book written in a different language but that slowly dissipated as I moved along. For the casual reader of Hitchens, be prepared for a literary challenge but don't let that challenge stop you from getting to know this prolific writer and his thought-provoking opinions on literature, politics and religion.
This is historical fiction at its finest. Even if you think you know all there is to know about World War II and its impact on American families living in the United States and abroad, think again and read this book. The Winds of War is to World War II what Gone With the Wind is to the Civil War. It expertly blends the history of the war itself with a family saga full of love, lust, disappointment and triumph. This book, however, strikes an even better balance and there is lots more political history. I would also recommend checking out the 1983 miniseries of the book which can be watched instantly on NetFlix. I actually watched as I read and found that the miniseries was a very true adaptation of the novel. Herman Wouk himself wrote the teleplay. On a final note, be warned. The Winds of War ends with lots of question marks making it nearly impossible not to reach for War and Remembrance next.
Slammed is a first novel for an author with little to no previous writing experience that was written initially only for family and friends and then was self-published on Amazon to (a surprisingly) great reception. After finishing this short book, I just don't agree with the majority of readers that this was a great YA romance. I think I was especially let down by the central slam poetry theme which fell pretty flat in terms of the poetry itself and the development of the slam poetry culture. When I think of slam poetry, I generally imagine great emotion and raw truth and sticky subjects. None of this was captured in Ms. Hoover's novel. Some young people in my life recently told me that the slam poetry movement is now full of "posers" with no real message to share and no real passion for the art. This book felt full of "posers." Even though their life experiences could have been the source of good poetry, those opportunities were squandered away by the characters in this book. Elsewhere on the web, Ms. Hoover has expressed her concern that there were not more novels with slam poetry as a central theme. I'm afraid we are still waiting.
After finishing this book and then delving into several book reviews by Christopher Hitchins where Hitchins thoroughly examines the authors in addition to the authors' works, I decided to do a bit of research myself on some of the authors I had recently read. I started with Forrest Carter (aka Asa Earl Carter) from Anniston, Alabama - just up the road from my home in Birmingham. What happened next was eye-opening. This book, which I found full of stereotypes and quite average despite its great reviews, is actually steeped in controversy! I started with the 1991 New York Times' article "The Transformation of a Klansman" by Dan T. Carter. I was fascinated to hear that the New York Times moved The Education of Little Tree, originally published in 1976 and then reprinted in 1986, from its Nonfiction Bestseller List to its Fiction Bestseller List after this story broke. Although some of my fellow readers still have this book categorized as a memoir - be warned - this one is a hoax, a mocu-memoir written by a former segregationist who successfully re-invented himself late in life. I don't really feel all that duped since I was pretty unconvinced of the book's genuineness even before I researched its author, but I may have read the book differently if I'd knownall this before I started. Lesson learned.
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