Birmingham, AL, United States | Member Since 2002
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.
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.
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.
This novel embodies the nineties by magnifying its mistrusting, rule-rejecting, self-reliant characters - all members of Generation X. It is a dark, twisted tale of self loathing and self destructive behavior which culminates in a surprise revelation that makes you want to start the book again. I saw the movie 15 years ago and then promptly forgot the plot (but managed to not forget Brad Pitt) so the movie did not spoil the book for me. I was impressed with the author's quirky writing style and there is no doubt that this style of writing has contributed to the many lines of this book now embedded in pop culture: "The first rule of Fight Club is..."
Although I have only spent one night in the woods with a backpack, I'm oh so happy I took this hike with Cheryl Strayed. Unlike some die hard backpackers that have criticized the book for fear that more inexperienced hikers will follow in the author's blistered footsteps, I really understood this memoir and her motivations. In some ways, I've lived a parallel life to Cheryl Strayed minus the 1100-mile hike. We were born the same year and we lost a parent the same year. The author lost her mother to lung cancer when her mother was 45; I lost my father to lung cancer when my father was 47. What followed those deaths for both of us was a pattern of self-destructive behavior that would last for several years. One morning at about the halfway point of listening to the audiobook and walking my dog at 5 a.m., I burst into tears and realized that I was reading one of the best books of 2012.
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