Saturday, December 31, 2016

Here, there and maybe nowhere


This must be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell


Daniel Sullivan is a bit of a mess; with more than his fair share of screwed up relationships, when he meets Claudette, it seems like things might take a different turn for once. That isn't to say that Claudette, the woman who ran away from a successful film career, has any better of a track record, but certainly love can overcome any difficulties. However, since some people never seem to learn from their mistakes, when do you know if you should give them a second chance?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Scale of a Family

Moonglow by Michael Chabon


Readers of Michael Chabon's novels know that he has a wonderful way of mixing reality and fiction, to the extent that the lines can feel very blurred. I noticed this in his "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," which won him the Pulitzer. Although that novel, (which I really should review someday) focuses on the rise of superhero comic books, with an aside into the realm of magical realism, this book takes on a much more personal form. Here, Chabon takes the last 10 days of his grandfather's life (well, step-grandfather, to be precise) and uses the recounting of the events of this man's life in order to create a fictional biography, or memoir. In this way, Chabon not only makes protagonists out of real-life relatives, but he also places himself and other family members into the cast of characters.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Five (or seven) GOOD things to come out of 2016



Since 2016 has been such a rotten year in general, it is always nice to find something positive to focus on. One bright light I can give you is my "Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016." As in past years, it seems that once again, I need to squeeze in more than just five. This year, I have two books tied for second place, which is a bit of a surprise - but you'll understand that better when you read below. I'm also going to put two books in my fifth place spot, since I cannot decide which of these I liked better, so I can't relegate either one to the honorable mention slot (for which I have nothing this year). That said, this is quite an eclectic collection of books, and I can assure you that the pleasure I got out of each of these books also differed one from the other. Let the countdown begin… (links in the titles are to my full reviews of these books).


Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Buzzfeed Blunder on Children's Books

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook a link to a Buzzfeed article "13 Children’s Books That Encourage Kindness Towards Others." Admittedly, I am familiar with only two of the books on that list. One is the Dr. Seuss book "Horton Hears a Who," which certainly fits the bill. The other, however, is Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," and I must object to their including this book on their list.

My biggest problem with "The Giving Tree" is that for me, the boy does not really love the tree at all. While it seems that way to being with, as he grows older, he becomes more and more selfish, and instead of just enjoying the company of the tree, he starts taking bits of it away, until all that is left is a stump. Then, the biggest insult is that when there's nothing left for the tree to give him, the boy continues to use the tree for his own comfort - as a seat to rest upon. Now, if this had been my book, I would have had the boy plant a sapling every time he took something from the tree. That way, as the years went by, the tree would have younger trees to keep it company. Then, when the boy finally returns as an old man, they can enjoy each other's company once again, while also surrounded by all the new trees that the boy gave back as well. In this way, they would know that eventually, other boys would have the benefits of being friends with the trees and the joys of communing with nature.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Elizabethian Fury in a Modern Female

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler


In Anne Tyler's latest book, she takes on the task of modernizing Shakespeare's play "The Taming of the Shrew." To remind you, the original story is a simple one: Baptista has two beautiful daughters, the younger one is the sweet Bianca, and the older one is the hotheaded Katherine. Bianca is in love with Lucentio, but her father will not allow her to marry before her older sister Katherine. The problem is who would want to take on such a difficult woman as Katherine to be their wife? Enter Petruchio, who decides to take on the task of taming and wedding her, and so the comedy begins. (As an aside, I have to admit that the idea that someone would have to tame a woman to make her marriageable is hardly a feminist theme. However, the more you study the ending of his original play, you may find the Bard was actually suggesting that the "taming" wasn't wholly one-sided - but that's for another discussion altogether.)