TBTB (Throwback Thursday Books) – Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold | LibraryThing

I originally read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones during Christmas break my senior year of college. The balance between the macabre and whimsy never left me. The distinct point of view (POV) struck me like not much else.

Some years later, I saw a nice, hardcover edition on the shelf among the Friends of Freeman book sale. Then, over Independence Day weekend 2014, I read this book again. Eventually, I checked out the film based on the book.

Reviews of book and the movie both may be coming soon. As this title seems polarizing, comments are most welcome! If you’ve read it, what did you think? If you’ve also seen the movie, what did you think of the interpretation? I’ve got some strong opinions about both.

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Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved (Bloggerversary Challenge)


What I Loved: A Novel

What I Loved: A Novel by Siri Hustvedt | Jorie’s Store @ Amazon

Title: What I Loved: A Novel
Author: Siri Hustvedt
ISBN: 9780312421199
Length: 370 pages
Publication Date: 2003
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Source: Harris County Public Library

Bloggerversary Giveaway

Goodreads

Reasons for Reading: As I perused the 1001 Books list for a 2000s book,  I noticed Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved and posted this book as an option for my annual challenge. Since What I Loved was less than four hundred pages, I felt reading it wouldn’t take me long.  Hustvedt’s book received the majority of votes and I requested it from Harris County Public Library (HCPL).

Summary: Beginning in 1975 New York City, art historian Leo Hertzberg (narrator of the story) finds a painting which entrances him in a SoHo gallery. After buying the painting, he tracks down Bill Wechsler, the artist. Hertzberg and Wechsler build a great friendship spanning twenty-five years. Additionally, their wives, Erica and Lucille, respectively, fall pregnant. Hertzberg and Erica have Matthew while Wechsler and Lucille have Mark. Later, Wechsler becomes involved with his muse, Violet. The novel follows these relationships; their joys and losses.

One Thing I Learned from this book: I knew macular deg

What I Loved: The rich characterization brought these characters to life. I saw Bill Wechsler as well as Lucille and Violet. The clarity amazed me.

What I Loathed: Not in the stupid sense of this word; this book was dense. Normally, I can read roughly twenty pages in an evening. However, it took me that long to read a single paragraph. Yes, even the title provided hints of things to come in this novel. I spent the first part braced for the crash. When it happened, boy, did it!

RR - Orange

Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17 

 

Song: Paul Mauriat – Love is Blue (HQ)

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Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes


Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult | LibraryThing

(Written on Monday, 14 January 2013)

Title and Author(s): Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Release Date: March 9, 2007
Publisher: Atria
ISBN: 0743496728 
Pages: 455
Source: Library

Reasons for Reading: I read My Sister’s Keeper several years ago. Later, I posted a review when I reread it before doing a book talk at a senior center. When Nineteen Minutes came out in 2007, I didn’t want to read about a school shooting. Yet, watching the continuous coverage of the Sandy Hook shootings, I realized the importance of understanding such situations. So, I requested the book via HCPL.

Summary: Sterling, New Hampshire is a sleepy little town where denizens settle so they can send their kids to good schools. Nothing of note really happens in Sterling until March 6, 2007. In nineteen minutes, bullied Sterling High School junior Peter Houghton hauls five guns into the high school and goes on a shooting spree. When Detective Patrick DuCharme apprehends Peter in the locker room, he finds jock Matt Royston dead but Royston’s girlfriend, Josie Cormier, stirring. Daughter of Madam Justice Alex Cormier, Josie recalls nothing. Picoult relates a tale of bullying, broken relationships, and a reeling town.

One Thing I Learned from reading Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes: Battered person syndrome is a physical and psychological condition that is classified as ICD-9 code 995.81.

What I Liked:  I liked that Picoult began with the date of March 6, 2007. This gave me an idea of the setting and attitudes to expect. Also, she fed into my preference of having a date stamp.

Also, I appreciate that Picoult deals with relevant events and offers likely reasons for characters’ motives. On the whole, this novel has believable, sympathetic characters.

While I’ve yet to read Change of Heart, The Pact, or Salem Falls, I liked that Picoult brought back characters Patrick Ducharme, Jordan McAfee, and Selena McAfee. This gives me hope that I might see friendly faces if I pick up other books by her.

What I Disliked: I did appreciate the time stamp of March 6, 2007. However, Picoult would toggle between the big event and chapters with titles along the lines of “Seventeen Years Earlier.” Couldn’t she have added “1990” to this?

Then, there was the sense that this book’s plot was “straight from the headlines.” I’d avoided this book dealing with school shootings for a long time, not wanting to be reminded of Columbine High School Massacre around the time Nineteen Minutes hit the bookshelves.

Additionally, I remember reading My Sister’s Keeper and found reading Nineteen Minutes like watching any M. Night Shyamalan movie after I’d seen The Sixth Sense. Thus, I tended to smell a rat early in the narrative. I won’t spoil the end but I wanted to know more about how certain characters were doing. Maybe I’ll see them in another Picoult work.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks – YouTube

Setting :  Sterling New Hampshire

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Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards | LibraryThing

Edwards, K. (2005). The memory keeper’s daughter. New York: Viking. 9780786571031

Reasons for Reading : One of my friends asked me to read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. (Check out its entry on my TBR list.) Initially, I checked it out from HCPL. Then, I found I could check it out in eBook format from Houston Public Library.  I did this so I could read it on my Nook during my vacation.

Summary: Due to a blizzard in 1964 Kentucky, Dr. David Henry delivers his own twins. First, David delivers a healthy son, Paul. After delivering his daughter, Phoebe, David sees that she has Down Syndrome. Wanting to spare his wife, Norah, heartache, David asks his loyal nurse, Caroline Gill, to secretly institutionalize his daughter. Caroline, though, leaves Kentucky with the baby girl and raises her as her own daughter.  This split second decision changes the lives of David, Norah, Caroline, and their children.

What I Liked: The language of the narrative is lovely. Also, I felt David’s motives were well-explained by the author. He seemed earnest and loving. Norah’s relationship with her sister, Bree. I truly admired Caroline for her love and heroism. It was a relief to me that Caroline created a family of friends for her daughter, Phoebe. Lastly, I found the photography motif beautiful.

What I Disliked: Towards the end of the book, I wondered if Edwards just didn’t know what to do with it. She added in some characters in the eleventh hour to help resolve conflicts. Throughout the book, I wanted to throttle the good doctor and say “Tell your wife that your daughter lives!”

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: Kentucky Rain-Lyrics-Elvis Presley – YouTube

Setting : Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Aruba, France

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TBRs – Katherine Howe’s The House of Velvet and Glass


The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe | LibraryThing

Howe, K. (2012). The house of velvet and glass. New York: Voice/Hyperion. 9781401340919

When I saw that the writer of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane had written another book, I requested The House of Velvet and Glass via HCPL Digital Media Catalog.

TBRs – Miguel Nicolelis’s Beyond Boundaries…


Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines—and How It Will Change Our Lives by Migue Nicolelis | LibraryThing

Nicolelis, M. (2011). Beyond boundaries: The new neuroscience of connecting brains with machines–and how it will change our lives. New York: Times Books/Henry Holt and Co. 9780805090529

I requested this book last year and it arrived along with several others. Then, I went on a mission trip and a couple of vacations. Thus, I’m requesting Beyond Boundaries… again via HCPL.

TBRs – Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards | LibraryThing

Edwards, K. (2005). The memory keeper’s daughter. New York: Viking. 9780670034161

One of my friends on Goodreads asked me to read this book. So, I’m requesting The Memory Keeper’s Daughter via HCPL.

Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat


The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa | LibraryThing

* A 1001 Books Book

Vargas, L. M., & Grossman, E. (2001). The Feast of the Goat. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 9780374154769

I eventually picked up The Feast of the Goat for a few reasons – my latent interest in turbulent Dominican history, the book’s listing as a “Core” 1001 Books Book, and writer Vargas Llosa’s recent status as a Nobel Prize Laureate. Ironically, I finished the book around the fiftieth anniversary of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s assassination. So, I pulled this book off one of HCPL’s shelves.

Vargas Llosa offers three distinctly different storylines throughout the book –  the fictitious Urania Cabral in the 1990s, Trujillo’s assassins, and then Trujillo/El Jefe/The Goat. on his last day – 30 May 1961. The author alternates between these three points of view.

Storyline 1 – In the 1990s, successful attorney Urania returns to her native Dominican Republic for the first time in years. She visits her invalid father, the once powerful Secretary of State Agustin Cabral. Agustin fell out of favor El Jefe. Urania angrily recalls her last days in the DR with Agustin. Later, Urania relates her nightmarish coming of age to her aunt and cousins. The Cabral family was created by Vargas Llosa.

Storyline 2 – the assassins lie in wait on 30 May 1961 for Trujillo. These real-life killers are Antonio Imbert Barrera, Antonio de la Maza, Salvador Estrella Sadhalá – “Turk,” and Amado García Guerrero – Amadito. Each one bears the scars for want The Goat dead. Vargas Llosa based his characters on actual people.

Storyline 3 – Trujillo lives out his last day. El Jefe reminisces about his despotic career, his family, tough relations on the world stage, and his regular deflowering of young girls. Vargas Llosa took an actual dictator and made him even more villainous.

Vargas Llosa recreates the last days of the Trujillo Regime quite vividly. The feelings of desperation, hopelessness, and machismo pervade. The truest rendering of characters were the ones the author made up – the Cabrals. I found the “real people” rather suspect.

I’m happy I read this book because I could see connections to the writings of both Junot Díaz and Julia Alvarez. I wonder if Díaz used the name Cabral as a tribute to The Feast of the Goat. However, I found some parts – especially those from The Goat’s point of view, tedious and disgusting. I felt a need to wash out my eyes or something. Also, I liked that Urania found some peace in sharing her experience with the women of her family.

Three and a Half Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – Antonio Morel y Su Orquesta feat Macabi “El Chivo”

Places : The Dominican Republic, The United States

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Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader


* A 1001 Books Book

Schlink, B. (1998). The reader. New York: Vintage Books. 9780679781301

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink | WorldCat

I spotted a copy of this slim book on the Friends of Freeman Library bookshelf. Moving quickly, I managed to buy it. Despite what I previously heard about the heavy topics, I rapidly finished this book.

Divided into three parts and told in the first person narrative form, Part I begins in West Germany in 1958 when fifteen year old Michael Berg becomes gravely ill on his way home from school. Thirty-six year old tram conductor Miss Schmitz sees him and plays the Good Samaritan by hosing down his shoes and guiding him down the road. Michael finds his way home, where he convalesces from hepatitis. His father, a philosophy professor, and his mother keep him from leaving home. When he’s well again, Mrs. Berg sends Michael with a bouquet to Miss Schmitz’s door to show his appreciation, discovering he’s drawn to her. Miss Schmitz catches him watching her dress and Michael runs from her place. However, Michael returns to Miss Schmitz’s apartment, helps her with lugging coal, and becomes covered with coal dust. Miss Schmitz insists Michael bathe and when he does, Miss Schmitz seduces him. A love affair ensues as Michael settles into a routine of visiting her apartment – bathing, having sex, and reading. Michael reads aloud to Miss Schmitz, who in turn, reveals her first name to be Hanna. So, Michael reads classics such as The Odyssey and War and Peace to his lover. During their affair, they don’t talk much about their lives and Hanna becomes morose and abusive at times. After a few months of this, Hanna disappears. Michael develops into a sullen heel himself.

In Part II, as a law student in 1965, Michael and his classmates observe a war crimes trial. Former female Schutzstaffel (SS) guards are on trial for the deaths of 300 Jewish prisoners. One of these guards just happens to be Hanna, Michael’s former lover. Even more perplexing is the fact that Hanna, unlike the other women on trial, refuses to defend what she did as an SS guard. Then, Michael understands that Hanna is hiding an even darker secret. Michael faces the dilemma of letting Hanna “hang herself” for the crime or to reveal what would set her free.

Part III holds the conclusion, taking place in the 1990s. Herein, Michael comes to terms with his relationship with Hanna and choices they’ve made. Without spoiling the book, all I’ll say is that he seeks absolution.

What an austere little book! The sparse prose and clipped tone of the work seemed in perfect accord with the Michael Berg’s thoughts. Also, The Reader delves into the psyche of a rich inner world and thought life – read cerebral. Another element worth noting, Michael’s rather miserly when it comes to labeling people. For example, he never offer names for his parents nor his siblings. Then, he doesn’t name the survivors who bring about Hanna’s trial. Simply, Michael bestows names upon few.

Schlink portrays the intimacy of the two German generations – the Nazi participants (willing/unwilling) and the post-War youth who desire to rectify their fore bearers’ mistakes. He shows precisely the grayness that contemporary analysts find polarizing. No matter how much Michael’s generation wants to wipe the slate clean, none of us should forget. Michael even recognizes how his own father, a philosopher who focuses on Kant and Hegel, inadvertently supported the Nazi cause by writing hiker’s guides. They are inseparable.

Another remarkable theme is ignorance versus knowledge. Enlightenment leads not just to better ways to make a living for oneself, it also opens the path to better decisions.

Then, there’s the intertextuality – the complex relationship between a text and other texts taken as basic to the creation or interpretation of the text (Merriam Webster 2011). Michael’s literary selection came from Enlightenment Era.

Lastly, there’s the prevailing theme of humanity. Part III sees to a purposefulness in Michael that Part II seems to lack. Here, the titular Reader becomes enlightened and compassionate.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – Nicole Atkins – Together We Are Both Alone – Live Troubadour

Places : Germany, Poland, The United States

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Charles Webb’s The Graduate


The Graduate by Charles Webb | LibraryThing

* A 1001 Books Book

Webb, C. R., Brick, S., & Blackstone Audio (Firm). (2008). The graduate. Ashland, Or.: Blackstone Audio. 1433255456

The movie has pervaded American culture since its debut in 1967. Growing up in the 1990s, I remember listening to Simon and Garfunkel sing about Mrs. Robinson because my dad chose what music we listened to when we were driving. Like many other great movies, The Graduate was based on a book. Seeing that Houston Public Library owned the audiobook version, I requested it and was soon listening to this bildungsroman.

Brilliant but disillusioned Benjamin Braddock just graduated from some nice institution in New England and has returned home to Southern California. He’s discontented, unhappy, listless, seemingly aimless, not to mention whiny. His parents’ prodding just exacerbates the issue. Then, the wife of his father’s business partner, Mrs. Robinson, begins pressuring him into an adulterous affair. With nothing “better” to do, Benjamin finds himself meeting Mrs. Robinson in a hotel room. This is all fine and dandy until the Robinsons’ lovely daughter, Elaine comes home for a student holiday from Berkeley. Cuckolded Mr. Robinson urges Benjamin to date Elaine while Mrs. Robinson has other ideas. Then, Benjamin suddenly has something. . . rather someone, to live for beyond postgrad.

Once I recovered from my initial dislike of the petulant Benjamin, I enjoyed this morality play. Throughout most of it, I was purely disgusted by Mrs. Robinson and aggravated with the others “over thirty.” It amused me that the only characters with first names were the kiddos. . . just like school. I’d recommend this dark comedy to the mature reader.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel

Places : The East Coast, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara

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