Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Listing for Classics Club Spin #9

I've been waiting for another Classics Club Spin! (I actually drafted my listing a couple of months ago!) As of Monday, April 6th, I will know which of the books from the following list will be my next "classic" read! Whoo! Whoo! :)This review is to be posted by May 15. 

Here are other classics I've read and reviewed!

Wish me luck!

Okay, the ones I rather dread, but for whatever reason wish to read:
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
     I feel as if I really should read this if I haven't yet...
2. The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
     I want to read something written by her, but really have no idea what to expect.
3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
     I'm sure this is going to gross me out, but I think we all need to read it...
4. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
     So many references that I feel I need to have at least read it.
5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
     Loved The Grapes of Wrath, but have never been attracted to this one, though I feel I 
     should read it. It is referred to so often and by so many!! And is loved by many readers 
     whose opinion I value! 

Those books about which I am relatively neutral:
6. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
     Really feel the need to read one of her books!
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
     Have yet to read one of his novels.
8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
     Just keep seeing references to this one all over the place and am definitely curious! 
     And I own a copy now!
9. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
    Loved An American Tragedy when I read it at the age of 15. 
10. The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter
     Fascinated by the concept.

Those I cannot wait to read:
11. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
     Feel I should read it so I can understand the references made to it.
12. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
     Loved the movie and would like to read the book, which is virtually always better, 
     in my opinion!
13. The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes
     Love Hughes, and want to read what he had to say...
14. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
     Love his short stories and this will be the first full-length novel of his for me to have 
     read. (The Last Tycoon doesn't count, since it was unfinished.)
15. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
     Yeah, I know. Unbelievable that some English/literature teacher in my past never 
     got to this one, but I am very curious.

Free Choice:
16. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
     Read this at age 15, loved it, and am anxious to see how I feel about it now, some 
     44 years later! :)
17. The Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter 
     First read when I was 13. I loved it then and am anxious to see how it resonates 
     for me now.
18. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
     I loved Go Tell It on the Mountain and want to read this one! I own it, too! :)
19. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study by W.E.B. Du Bois
     Have always said I wanted to read something he'd written. I admire his 
     accomplishments with regard to the NAACP, etc.
20. Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
     So many have mentioned that this is a "must-read" book and there are so many    
      references to it.

What classic have you read and/or reviewed lately? Some are a bit difficult to slog through (example here!), but others are such a joy to read (another example here)!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It started as just a book club...

The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
One of our Borders Book Club members wanted us to read and discuss this, because she felt our own club was reflected within this story in many ways. In searching for a cover photo for my posting, I was rather amazed at all of them I found, six in all, with the one directly to the right being the cover on my copy. I guess they all "work" with the story contained within. This book reminded me of many others concerned with a group of women who become close friends, when initially drawn together as a group of strangers, united by nothing more than a common interest...in this case, reading books! 

It showed great fortitude and strength on my part to put this book down on Sunday night (I had begun reading it late Saturday night) with only 120 pages to go. I really wanted to finish it before going to bed, but also knew I had to work the next day, so I went to bed like a good girl should! But I thought about this book throughout the day and what was going to happen in the end.

This was an unexpectedly poignant and rather intense read compared to some other books I have read with a similar premise, I feel as if this one depicted more conflict within the group/between members than others have done. However, it could just be that Monroe's writing made it seem more compelling to me. Monroe's writing was more direct and action-driven than other authors of similarly themed novels I have read--there just seemed to be more unresolved conflict and ongoing tension, though not too much. One of our book club members felt these women spoke to each other a bit too directly, rather disrespectfully at times, whereas, we do not typically do that to each other within our group. (Yay, us! :)) There were spots where the language seemed a bit too "flowery" for one of our members, and I felt some of the "romantic encounters" were a bit more detailed than necessary, plus, in all, I found Eve and Paul's relationship just a bit "too good" to be believed, though I wish each of us could find our "knight in shining armor" as she seemed to do. All of us enjoyed reading this one!

Eve is just one of the five women depicted in this novel. And although we learn many of the more intimate details of all the women's lives, it is Eve's story about which we learn first. Monroe's writing is absolutely excellent, in my opinion. Eve Porter's husband, Tom, is departing on yet another business trip: 

     She was his trusty sidekick, or as Tom often put it, he was the captain and she the 
        Lately, however, she felt the ship was going down. For no reason she could 
     articulate, she'd begun looking for lifeboats. It wasn't so much that she doubted the 
     competence of Tom, it was just that the buttons of his jacket didn't shine quite as bright 
     anymore. Or perhaps the voyage was just too long. 
        Eve shook these mutinous thoughts out of her mind and stepped out into the morning
     air. "Today will be a good day," she said firmly, silencing her heart murmuring, "He will   
     not ruin my day." (13)

I love the marine analogy Monroe uses here to express the rift that has developed between Eve and Tom. 

     Today was the first day of summer, she realized, her spirits lifting like a kite. She loved 
     milestones of any sort: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, checks on the calendar, 
     notches on a growth chart. Today would be special, brand-new. She felt it deep inside. 
     ... She was relieved to have the grind of the school year finished. She missed playing 
     with her children. (13)
I had to chuckle at the last comment; that's how I felt when I was a stay-at-home mom. I loved time spent with my children and truly interacted and "played" with them as much as possible. And what a milestone awaited Eve and her children...so much change! As Tom flew out of the house, hurriedly packing his cases in the car, stating he would call later, give her his room number, 
     She nodded and opened her mouth to say goodbye, to wish him a good trip, maybe to 
     say I love you, but he'd already turned his back.
     ... "Her eyes swam in water, and through the white noise of pain in her ears, she heard 
     the car door slam... When the sound of his car disappeared, she felt a tremendous 
     sense of loss. They couldn't continue on like this, she thought, sniffing loudly. When he 
     came home they'd have a long talk, maybe go out to dinner. (18) 
I have felt that same "white noise of pain" in my ears. Have you? That passage perfectly described how I've felt several times in my life. And the idea of not hugging, kissing, or at least saying "I love you," when your loved one leaves...that spoke volumes to me of just how alienated they were from each other. My husband and I have a solemn pact to always kiss each other (at the very least} when we separate for any reason; this was his idea, a carry-over from his relationship with his mother and a very good one, in my opinion! I highly recommend it!

There are so many details I would love to include in a review, but I will do my best to pare it down. :) Doris is the stay-at-home mom who organizes everything and everyone, down to the smallest detail and is seen as rather overbearing, particularly by Annie who is the successful lawyer/professional woman of the group with the perfectly romantic marriage. Gabriella is the plump mother of four who begins working more and more hours as a nurse to makeup for the fact her husband is unemployed. Midge is the single bohemian artist living in a loft, and like Doris, does not have the socially-acceptable svelte slender body type, but does have an overbearing and very judgmental mother. *(I could relate to that!)

Doris and Annie are the two book club members who are probably the least compatible among the five. I had to laugh at her inner dialogue as Doris watched Annie:

     No matter how much money she spent, Doris knew she'd never look like that. Deep in   
     her heart, Doris was convinced it was a secret cult that thin, attractive, successful 
     women kept to themselves just to drive plump, dumpy women like herself crazy. (25)
Hah! And yet, my heart went out to Doris, for I could relate to her feelings of inadequacy based upon nothing more than her physical appearance! So sad that our society makes us feel this way. And although she had money, her marriage was perhaps not what she thought it had been for the past 25 years. Annie develops her own challenges later on, as does Gabriella, as well as Midge. Though I think I could relate most to Midge's challenge of accepting the fact that her mother was moving to be near her:
     As far as she's concerned, everything I do is wrong. She doesn't want to talk, she wants 
     to tell. She doesn't want to just shop, she wants to dictate what I buy. Who I see. What I 
     do. God, that woman is so controlling. I moved out of her house at eighteen because I 
     couldn't stand it then. What makes her think I can stand it now? Why does she think I 
     live alone? (164) 
Following my divorce, my mother was determined to live with me--she even made herself homeless in the hopes I would relent! Midge's description exactly reflects my own mother, with the exception that Edith at least had her own friends, whereas my mother did not, so she was even more smothering! Yep! I resonated with Midge on this 100%! Poor woman...

I loved the discussions about what books should be selected for their book club:

     But we still have to read all kinds of books, books we might never pick up on our own. 
     And there's no way I'd dissect and study a book on my own as much as we do in the 
     group. So sometimes a book I think I'll hate turns out to be wonderful after all. ... I think 
     it's a mistake to only read literary books, or nonfiction, or classics. Or any one genre. 
     Then we'd be stuck. I'm curious about those books that get the buzz, or make the Times 
     list.  (113-114) 
And that sums up what we try to accomplish with the Borders Book Club; we always try to select a variety of books to read and discuss. I agree that diverse reading experiences help develop our understanding of writing styles, themes, and most importantly, others' perspectives. 

I could relate to these realizations of returning to full-time work:

     She wasn't young anymore. She didn't have the same energy. She expected more 
     respect. And now she also had her children to care for. (151)
I notice the decreased energy and my intolerance for those who cannot respect others, particularly me, within the workplace! :)
        Friendships were easy when life was going smoothly. What was hard was to be there 
     for your friend when life got rough and the friendship was neither easy nor fun. The 
     challenge was to forgive the friend when she failed. (343)
And this sums it up so very well. This book demonstrated the ways in which as a group we can all try to help each other as much as possible, yet no one person can always be there for the other every single time...and that's okay, we must learn to forgive and be grateful for the help from those who are available and capable of giving it at the time. 

I think you would definitely like this book if you have enjoyed Kate Jacobs' Friday Night Knitting Club series (The Friday Night Knitting Club, Knit Two, Knit the Season), Marie Bostwick's Cobbled Court Quilt Series, or Terri Dulong's Cedar Key series (Spinning Forward, Casting About, Sunrise on Cedar Key, Postcards from Cedar Key, Secrets on Cedar Key, Farewell to Cedar Key). And I'm sure there are many others. Strangers can become close friends who love and genuinely care for each other. 

Have you read this book? Did you feel it was realistic? Intense? Similar to others?

You can be assured that I will read more of Mary Alice Monroe's books in the future! 
Any recommendations? 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

llama llama and mama...

llama llama holiday drama 
llama llama easter egg

To say I am a sucker for children's books is...well...honestly...to speak the truth!!
I call myself the "book Grandma" since that is 
virtually all I gift to my grandchildren. 
For me, there is no greater gift to give!

Perhaps we all tend to want to 'pass on' to those we love what is most meaningful to us. At least I think most of us do... I have looked at these Llama Llama books for years and finally bought the holiday book while on sale at Barnes & Noble for half price...after the end of the year, of course! However, I never overly stress giving "holiday" books at various times, assuming parents can save them back and/or put them into a reading rotation, if they desire. I decided last night I wanted to read these before I delivered them. This is something I always try to do, though sometimes I run out of time! 

For me, Dewdney's anthropomorphization of the llamas is the most fun part of these books. To see human clothes on these furry four-footed camelids as they walk upright is in itself fascinating! The vocabulary is very simple. There are many things I really like. The fact that llama's schoolmates are of varied species, the fact that mama is including llama in ALL the holiday preparations, and especially that, as many of us human mamas don't remember to do often enough, she sits and snuggles with her child:
Gifts are nice,
but there's another--
the true gift is 
we have each other.

What parent would argue with that? :)

And to be a bit more timely and in line with current holidays:

I love the Easter board book just as much! Board books are so very practical--they last much longer and can take more abuse!

Llama learns about some naturally colored eggs that are never meant 
to be cooked, hunted, or eaten!

Checkout the website: sing-along, app, video. 

In closing, these books are A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!!
I assume Ms. Dewdney does all the artwork herself since she mentions painting on her website. I particularly admire the facial expressions depicted. 
Artwork is a large part of the picture book experience. 

Whether you're looking for gifts for your own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or a friend's child, or a baby shower gift, or as an anonymous charitable donation--
I guarantee you can't go wrong with any of the Llama Llama books!

I intend to gift more of them to my own kidlets!!

Have you read any of these? Or better yet, have you read any of these to children? If not, give 'em a try!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sometimes you must make your own justice...

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
I concur that this book is definitely deserving of the National Book Award for fiction for 2012! I was curious as to the criteria used to select a National Book Award winner. Here is what I found: 

The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America. (Wikipedia)

With this specific book they have recognized an author bringing attention to discriminatory, prejudicial, and unjust laws regarding US Indians/Native Americans. In addition, this is an indictment against the seemingly ever-evasive policies and laws which overlook, ignore, and even prohibit true justice being meted out to perpetrators, dependent upon their skin color and cultural heritage, of course! In other words, the bad deeds of white men could still be 'swept under the rug' with little fear of prosecution and virtually none of conviction, due to a court decision that "took from [the Indians] the right to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on [their] land."  So, the US courts take their land and then make sure any white man can do anything he wishes with no fear of prosecution on that same land. A perfect example of oppression. Nice, really nice...NOT!

The reader learns how and why the Round House was first built and used, as well as other folklore and history that has established the present-day reservation and the people currently living on that reservation. Erdrich's skill at divulging information in bits and pieces about the future as well as the past is unparalleled, in my opinion. There are some fantastical elements: Mooshum's "talking in his sleep," revealing what appear to be 'random' stories; Joe's ability to KNOW what happened with the gas can and its location; the 'coincidental' discovery of a doll in the water. In the aftermath of reading this book, so much information kept re-entering my mind for further consideration, yet it all flows together seamlessly as part of one big story. The irony of the opening scene pervades throughout the book and eventually wraps the story up tightly, coming "full circle," as they say...just as ROUND as that ROUND House. I have spent many hours in the past weeding and pulling seedlings from the soil just as Joe was doing, and it can be just as meditative as he described it to be... 

I love the macro and micro demonstrations of the law contained herein. Regarding the American Indians/Native Americans:
     ...our treaties with the government were like treaties with foreign nations. That 
     the grandeur and power that my Mooshum talked about wasn't entirely lost, as it 
     was, at least to some degree I meant to know, still protected by the law. (2)
Mooshum is how Joe refers to his grandfather. Yet later in the book, Joe's father, Bazil, allows him to help review case files, looking for clues, and Joe is appalled at the seemingly inane issues on which his father has ruled--no big-time murder cases, no earth-shattering precedents set, just trivial issues and disputes resolved. Joe's vision of his father is altered by knowledge of this mundane reality, though Bazil iterates that he does whatever he can to whittle away at the overarching unjust policies and laws, in his own way every day. And that is one of the bigger themes of this book--do whatever you can do for good. (Though some may argue Cappy and Joe's crimes were NOT good...I would disagree--in this case there were virtually no options available to attain true peace.)

I loved this explanation once they realized Joe's mother had been gone too long:

     Women don't realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits. We
     absorb their comings and goings into our bodies, their rhythms into our bones. Our 
     pulse is set to theirs, and as always on a weekend afternoon we were waiting on my 
     mother to start us ticking away on the evening.
        And so, you see, her absence stopped time. (3)
Now that passage was superbly written, wasn't it? :)

And obviously, Joe's father and I have much in common as parents:
     ...Your mother was attacked. [...]
        Attacked? Attacked by who? 
        [As I'm reading I immediately think to myself "whom," not "who"!]
        Absurdly, we both realized that my father's usual response would have been to 
     correct my grammar. We looked at each other and he said nothing. (11)
I resonated so strongly with this; what a unique yet effective way to demonstrate how 'out of sync' these two were without their wife/mother. I loved the way Bazil did not dismiss Joe's belief he saw a ghost, rather discussing others' opinions, experiences, and advice regarding their own ghosts. I personally believe there are other forms of 'being' in this world which most of us cannot yet perceive. 

I could understand the way Joe and his friends related all life's activities to a TV show--my best friends and I did the same with the original Star Trek TV series as pre-teens! Speaking of pre-teens, Joe's adolescent thoughts:
     Sonja was her name, and I liked her the way a boy likes his aunt, but I felt 
     differently about her breasts--on them I had a hopeless crush. (24)
I had to chuckle in spite of myself! Joe was an only child born to older parents who were often assumed to be his grandparents by others, hence he seemed overall to be more serious than not...except when it came to Sonja...and her body. Though this yearning leads to more 'exposure' than he was prepared for and for which I believe he always felt much regret ever afterward. I was a bit surprised by Joe's complicity in Cappy's runaway incident, although these children had access to automobiles way before the age of 16! And when you're young, temptation can emit an irresistible pull at times! Perhaps they felt doubly invincible, considering what they'd just accomplished. Erdrich doesn't hold back on the idea of adolescents having sex, either. For me, such realism helped to ground the story. 

Erdrich sneaks in some additional political tidbits. In discussing the criteria for being officially enrolled as an Indian: 
        On the other hand, Indians know other Indians without the need for a federal 
     pedigree, and this knowledge--like love, sex, or having or not having a baby--has 
     nothing to do with government. (30)
Ooohhh...zing!! A bit of women's rights slipped in there! :) And I did find some humor in the irony of the one character who represented 'organized religion'--I do believe he was a bit of a psycho, though he had obviously endured much pain and was perhaps more a product of being a social outcast as a result of his injuries and/or PTSD than anything else.  
Joe does eventually learn of further evidence which may have allowed some justice to be served, though probably not...so he feels vindicated in having provided safety and security for his family by facilitating his own 'justice.' I could appreciate the fact that so many people obviously colluded to keep secret what really happened to Linden on the golf course, including his own biological twin, who regretted having allowed him to live into adulthood. And poor Linda! She was a sympathetic character if ever there was one, though as she confesses, she felt she was the one spared the poison of her biological mother. This was another underlying theme I sensed, perhaps more than read, the idea of nature vs. nurture in the creation of an adult personality. 

This was such an intensely powerful story with so much information, yet so very readable and intriguing! I can't imagine Erdrich's other books wouldn't be just as enjoyable. I hope to find out! How about you? Have you read this one? Or any of her other books? I was totally enthralled and am certain I'll ponder various aspects of this book for months, perhaps even years, to come. Great job, Ms. Erdrich! :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Home. Where the heart is? Or not.

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
As a member of my local Library board, I was asked for a book review to include in the newsletter. In discussing what books we have in our library collection versus what books I've read and reviewed, Neverhome was suggested since the author lived in the local area for much of his childhood and had donated a copy of this, his most recent release, to our library. My interest was peaked, especially after skimming some of the goodreads reviews. (I think I've mentioned before I try NOT to research a prospective read too much since I always want to determine what my own unique reaction is to each book I read with as little interference as possible.) I distinctly remembered picking up this book in the store when it was first released and feeling as if this could wait until later... And as I read I kept wondering exactly to what the title might refer. As I completed reading, for me, the title referred to the fact that it is possible to feel as if you really don't have a home, even if you are there...

Hunt’s writing style is definitely one of the most unique and original I have encountered. To say this is “spare prose” is an understatement. In as few words as I believe could be used, Hunt manages to clearly delineate the characters, set the mood, and depict the environment. Although I found the writing to be a bit "choppy" in the beginning, I did adapt to it. There were several times when I had to reread to determine whether this was the present-day, past, or a dream/dream-like state. I agree with those reviewers who say this is like no other historical fiction novel. (And I’ve read a few!) I can easily envision it successfully transformed into movie format. You can watch the book trailer on Hunt's website

It is set in the US Civil War and explores many issues, particularly those related to the basest of human behaviors. It always scares me to realize humans can, have, and still do, perpetrate such heinous acts upon each other. Although I'm sure the details are quite accurate as depicted, I still prefer a bit of an uplifting aspect to anything I read. For example, My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (I loved that book and really must post a review soon!) depicts many of the same physical aspects of the Civil War, but I feel her book leaves me with much hope for humanity, whereas I didn't feel that way upon completion of Neverhome. Rather, I felt as if there was virtually no hope, and I don't like to feel that way.

Interestingly, Hunt depicts how war and the resulting psychological damage affects not just those fighting in a war, but their friends and family, as well as the general populace. I believe few of us in the US truly understand the suffering of each person living in a war-torn country; most of us have never experienced it. Gender roles and boundaries are explored, as well as familial relationships, particularly marriage and parentage. Then there is the power to corrupt, as it were—from local political office holders to Army Colonels and Generals.

Although Constance/Ash appears to be a reliable narrator, she proves to be untrustworthy as she exposes her own lies and/or restates her “memories” as different from those originally relayed to the reader. Her life experiences include both sides of any given role throughout: male and female, favored and faithful soldier to traitorous and hunted fighter, righteous prisoner seeking justice to repentant confessor. Sadly, in the end, she commits the ultimate betrayal upon herself.

I felt this work to be rather bleak and dreary overall, but also found it to be extremely thought-provoking as I am left pondering... Have you read any of Hunt's books? This one? What are your thoughts? I would be curious to read another of his books to determine if I felt the same way about his writing style, etc., though that is not at the top of my TBR list for now...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anne goes to college and receives more than just a degree!

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Join me for the third installment in the Green Gables Read-Along hosted by Reeder Reads! Although this was not my favorite book in this series thus far, I keep loving Monthgomery's writing! Perhaps it is just the stage of life in which we find Anne--college student fielding marriage proposals, rather momentous and life-altering. I was initially thrilled that Anne and Gilbert were going to be able to attend college at the same time, but that didn't quite work out the way I thought it might... And this cover did not, in my opinion, accurately reflect this book's story. But the series overall is amazing!!

So many truisms by which to live life in these books: 

     ...she was richer in those dreams than in

     realities; for things seen pass away, but 
     the things that are unseen are eternal. 

Anne and Priscilla discuss their adjustment to college and Redmond:

     Anne: I'm thankful that neither Mrs. Lynde nor Mrs. Elisha Wright know, or 

     ever will know, my state of mind at present. They would exult in saying 'I 
     told you so,' and be convinced it was the beginning of the end. Whereas it is 
     just the end of the beginning.

     Priscilla: Exactly. That sounds more Anneish. In a little while we'll be 

     acclimated and acquainted, and all will be well. (25)

I admit to being rather surprised at Montgomery making fun of the Sloanes:

     And oh, if only that dismal rain would stop 
pouring down as if the whole world 
     were weeping over summer vanished and joys departed! Even Gilbert's 
     presence brought her no comfort, for Charlie Sloane was there, too, and 
     Sloanishness could be tolerated only in fine weather. It was absolutely 
     insufferable in rain. (18)

And Priscilla, when Miss Ada asked her (in a reproachful way!) why she had allowed her prized cushion to be sat upon: 

     I told her I hadn't--that it was a matter of predestination coupled with 

     inveterate Sloanishness and I wasn't a match for both combined. (44)

Admittedly, I despise making fun of people for things they cannot help, but the repeated use of the term "Sloanishnessness" does make me chuckle! Although...poor Charlie!

I was so happy that Gilbert was "Big Man on Campus" and desired by all the girls! High time he got the attention and adoration he deserved! Besides being a top scholar, he was elected Captain of the Football Team!

I had to chuckle at Rachel's wish that Anne would never travel to "The States":

     ...The way girls roam over the earth now is something terrible. It always 
     makes me think of Satan in the Book of Job, going to and fro and walking up 
     and down. I don't believe the Lord ever intended it, that's what. (41)

Aaaahhhh...Mrs. Lynde's "that's what" makes me smile every time! How quaint and precious!

Philippa ("Phil") is quite the character. Again, I love how Montgomery introduces new characters in each book, and each of them adds so much! In discussing a walk in the park with Anne, Priscilla, Gilbert, and Charlie:

        "But," said Philippa dolefully, "if I go I'll have to be gooseberry and that will 

     be new experience for Philippa Gordon.
        "Well, new experiences are broadening. Come along, and you'll be able to 
     sympathize with all poor souls who have to play gooseberry often. But where 
     are all the victims?"
        "Oh, I was tired of them all and simply couldn't be bothered with any of 
     them today. Besides, I've been feeling a little blue--just a pale, elusive azure. 
     It isn't serious enough for anything darker." (43)

Hah! Montgomery's language kills me! The descriptive color of her mood and "victims" rather than admirers or boyfriends! It all makes me chuckle and laugh!

One of the scenes I liked best in this book was Davy's conscience punishing him more than anything else could after he leads Dora astray into truancy from church and Sunday School one fine Sunday morning:

        "What's my conscience? I want to know."
        "It's something in you, Davy, that always tells you when you are doing 
     wrong and makes you unhappy if you persist in doing it. Haven't you 
     noticed that?"
        "Yes, but I didn't know what it was. I wish I didn't have it. I'd have lots 
     more fun. Where is my conscience, Anne? I want to know. Is it in my 
        "No, it's in your soul," answered Anne, thankful for the darkness since 
     gravity must be preserved in serious matters.
        "I s'pose I can't get clear of it then, said Davy with a sigh. (101)

I adore Davy's honesty and openness! And his "I want to know"! And don't we all, especially when we're young...

As Ruby describes her regrets of a ruined friendship over something petty and now seemingly so "silly," I am once again struck by Montgomery's recurrent theme of misunderstandings and/or lack of communication ripping people apart from each other. I admired Anne's loyalty and devotion to her dying friend; that is difficult to do at any time of life, but especially when you're so young... 

        "All life's lessons are not learned at college. Life teaches them
     everywhere." (111)

Although Anne took her education very seriously and studied hard, she also realized that everyday life offered much learning in and of itself! One such example was Diana's well-meaning use of Anne's story to advertise Rollings Reliable, earning Anne some money by editing, commercializing, and submitting her first short story in a publishing contest. Again, Anne is impressive in her maturity, squelching her shock that Diana had done this without her knowledge, though grateful for the money! And Gilbert proves his practicality:

     "...One would rather write masterpieces of literature no doubt--but 
     meanwhile board and tuition fees have to be paid."
        This commonsense, matter of fact view of the case cheered Anne a little. 
     At least it removed her dread of being laughed at, though the deeper hurt of 
     an outraged ideal remained. (115)

And we know how idealistic Anne can be! 

Sharing my home with five felines, I was appalled at Phil's attempt to kill the kitty that followed Anne home! How awful! But he became "Rusty" and acclimated to Sarah-cat and Joseph, making it a three-kitty household. :) Of them Aunt Jamesina says:

        "Let them fight it out. ... They'll make friends after a bit." (125)

And they did, once Sarah-cat put Rusty in his place "with one contemptuous sweep of her capable paw" and he and Joseph became best buds!

I was gratified that Anne was able to connect to some degree with her own parents, speaking with someone who had known them. As she stated:

        "This has been the most beautiful day of my life. ... I've found my father 
     and mother. Those letters have made them real to me. I'm not an orphan 
     any longer. I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday, 
     sweet and beloved, between its leaves." (147)

Having never met my own father, and having recently acquired part of a letter he wrote many years ago, I could relate to this. And yet, as Marilla contemplates her life:

     ...the coming of Anne--the vivid, imaginative, impetuous child with her 
     heart of love, and her world of fancy, bringing with her color and warmth 
     and radiance, until the wilderness of existence had blossomed like the rose. 
     Marilla felt that out of her sixty years she had lived only the nine that had 
     followed the advent of Anne. (148)

This passage brings tears to my eyes each time I read it. Anne could never fully realize just how much love and happiness she had brought to Matthew and Marilla, much as any child does for any parent...

Regarding Gilbert:

        "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (238)

        The rose of love made the blossom of friendship pale and scentless by 
     contrast. (240)

        "I don't want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you. You see I'm 
     quite as shameless as Phil about it. Sunbursts and marble halls may be all 
     very well, but there is 'scope for the imagination' without them. And as for 
     the waiting, that doesn't matter. We'll just be happy. Waiting and working 
     for each other--and dreaming. Oh, dreams will be very sweet now." (243)

This was the outcome for which I had hoped...

What is your reaction to this third book in the Green Gables series? Join us in this Reeder Reads read-along! I do believe L.M. Montgomery to be one of my absolute favorite writers EVER!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jess & Jason...the "perfect" couple?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Firstly, this is one of the few books whose cover has truly intrigued me., as well as the premise. And I don't know when I've seen a book get such press!  The publishers really pushed this one, even if it is a debut novel! Not even two months following release there are 54,741 ratings on goodreads with an average of 3.96. That is unbelievable! 

Secondly, a disclaimer of sorts, I rarely read psychological thrillers. I don't like to be scared and it is next to impossible for me to get them out of my head once I finish! Yikes! Due to this, I probably would not have read this one except so many readers were "gaga" over it! 

I felt Hawkins' writing style was very effective, and I really liked her characterization, but especially her plot development. She was quite good at giving the reader just enough information to suspect-- virtually everyone-- of being a murderer. And...not just once, but multiple times it appeared plausible that each person could be "the one" as I continued through the book! 

        There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks. Light blue cloth--a shirt,   
     perhaps--jumbled up with something dirty white. It's probably rubbish, part of a load 
     dumped into the scrubby little wood up the bank. It could have been left behind by the 
     engineers who work this part of the track, they're here often enough. Or it could be 
     something else. My mother used to tell me that I had an overactive imagination... I can't 
     help it, I catch sight of these discarded scraps, a dirty T-shirt or a lonesome shoe, and 
     all I can think of is the other shoe and the feet that fitted into them. (page 1)

I rarely begin a review with a direct quote, but by the book's end this opening scene is so very ironic, while initially it was so resonant for me that it placed me in the real world, it became rather creepy and portended unreal things to come... I stopped after reading this passage, thinking to myself, how very many times have I seen abandoned clothing and wondered...about the owners, about the reason or circumstances under which these items ended up right here, in front of me at this very moment...was there a mysterious disappearance or was it simply due to careless actions that I am now looking at this clothing? I always wonder, just as Rachel always wondered. Perhaps we both just have fertile imaginations! Thus I had an immediate connection with the protagonist! (Well done, Ms. Hawkins!) :)

     I'm going to tell her that the line he used with her--"don't expect me to be sane"--he used
     it with me, too, when we were first together; he wrote it in a letter to me, declaring his 
     undying passion. It's not even his line: he stole it from Henry Miller. Everything she has 
     is secondhand. I want to know how that makes her feel. I want to...ask her, "What does
     it feel like, Anna, to live in my house, surrounded by the furniture I bought, to sleep in 
     the bed that I shared with him for years, to feed your child at the kitchen table he fucked 
     me on?" (page 34) 

Oooohhhh...can we say "bitter"? I remember that at this point I could easily imagine this unemployed down-on-her-luck alcoholic embittered woman as a murderer... And the man--this type of repetitive behavior denoted an uncaring insensitive person simply out to "con" someone to get what he wants. And exactly what does he want? I can't say I ever understood exactly what he did want or expect from life overall. However, he wasn't the only "bad man" in this book! 

Then Jess:

        When I came home this evening, my laptop was warm. He knows how to delete 
     browser histories and whatever, he can cover his tracks perfectly well, but I know that I 
     turned the computer off before I left. He's been reading my emails again. ... I don't mind, 
     because it reassures him there's nothing going on, that I'm not up to anything. And     
     that's good for me--it's good for us--even if it isn't true. And I can't really be angry with 
     him, because he has good reason to be suspicious. I've given him cause in the past 
     and probably will again. I am not a model wife. I can't be. No matter how much I love 
     him, it won't be enough. (page 46)

Now that is just plain BAD, in my opinion! Why stay married? Money? I don't know, but it's rather obvious she is not faithful to her partner. But then, he is certainly no prince charming, either!

     We shouldn't, we ought not to, but we will. It won't be the last time. He won't say no to 
     me. I was thinking about it on the way home, and that's the thing I like most about it, 
     having power over someone. That's the intoxicating thing. (page 47)

        Being the other woman is a huge turn-on, there's no point denying it: you're the one 
     he can't help but betray his wife for, even though he loves her. That's just how 
     irresistable you are. (page 233)  

Sick! Absolutely sick, in my humble opinion! 

        He follows me and I take off my clothes as I'm going up the stairs, and when we get 
     there, when he pushes me down on the bed, I'm not even thinking about him, but it 
     doesn't matter because he doesn't know that. I'm good enough to make him believe 
     that it's all about him. (page 49)

Hah! And that was with the husband! Trust me...to say these characters are flawed is a massive understatement! In fact, this book felt a bit "noir-ish" to me, in that there was no character who felt likable to me, except the baby! A baby is always innocent and likeable, right?!? ;) I suppose I could relate to Rachel's struggles, though she needed lots of help, at the very least! As she says, "None of us is perfect." (page 106) And that, my friends, rather sums up this book! 

The main way in which this was scary to me (Remember, I don't like to be scared!) was that it could be true! These characters are all believable, even if so flawed! I really wanted some more positivism in this book--it truly left me on a bit of a "downer." And...for my money, while I thought TGotT was a good read, Tana French's Broken Harbor was much creepier to me. 

Have you read this one yet? What did you think?