Ruta Sepetys’ Out of the Easy


Out of The Easy

Jorie’s Store – Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Title and Author(s):  Ruta Sepetys’ Out of the Easy

Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Philomel; First Edition edition

ISBN: 978-0399256929
Pages: 352
Source: Harris County Public Library 

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Reasons for Reading: After reading Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with the infamous E.L. James trilogy), I wanted to read Sepetys’ sophomore effort. Additionally, the setting of New Orleans appealed to me. I placed a request on it and excitedly received the book in 2014.

Summary: In 1950, seventeen year old Josie Moraine barely makes ends meet working in the French Quarter. Her erratic, somewhat estranged mother works as a prostitute. Josie longs to make her way out of New Orleans and to the Ivy Leagues. Around New Year’s Day, a wealthy man from Tennessee turns up dead. When the crime seems to lead to Josie’s mother and her shady boyfriend, Josie finds herself embroiled.

One Thing I Learned from this book: I hadn’t realized Tulane had a sister college – Newcomb.

What I Liked: The fantastic setting of New Orleans appealed to me again. Sepetys’ also diverged greatly from that of Between Shades of Gray. Nonetheless, the characters and situations described still made me want to know what would happen to them as they did in Sepetys’ first novel.

What I Disliked: I wasn’t happy with Josie’s mother being a sociopath sort of whore. Also, I thought there were too many evildoers in this book.

RR - Orange

Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17 


Song: 
Shirley and Lee – Let the Good Times Roll

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John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me


Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin | LibraryThing

(Last book review of books finished in 2012!)

Griffin, J. H., & Childs, R. (2004). Black like me. Middletown, Me.: Audio Bookshelf, LLC.

Reasons for Reading:Yet again, I sought another nonfiction eAudio work to entertain me during my work commute. I came across Black Like Me, checked it out from the HCPL Digital Media Catalog, and put it on my iPhone.

Summary: Texas Writer John Howard Griffin underwent a bold experiment like no other. He left his home in Mansfield, Texas with the intent to “pass as black.” With the help of a reticent New Orleans dermatologist, Griffin took a course of drugs, endured sunlamp treatments, and applied skin creams in order to understand the “black experience” firsthand. He also shaved his head and, later, his arms.

Then, he traveled through the Deep South as a black man. His social experiment altered the lives of many. Black Like Me is a journal of Griffin’s courageous experiment. The title comes from Langston Hughes’ “Dream Variations”

Rest at pale evening…

A tall slim tree…

Night coming tenderly

Black like me.

What I Liked: I appreciated what Griffin did. Also, I found Griffin to be a gifted writer who wanted to understand and help his fellow citizens. I liked that Griffin didn’t lie, either. He seemed to be an interesting and virtuous man.

What I Disliked:  Many versions of this book exist. I’m grateful I got an edition with an epilogue which Griffin wrote in the 1970s. As hindsight is 20/20, Griffin related the outcome of Black Like Me. It’s my feeling that this should be the version everyone reads.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Setting: Texas, New Orleans, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina

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John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief


Amazon.com: The Pelican Brief (Unabridged) by John Grisham, Read by Alexander Adams | Amazon

Grisham, J., & Adams, A. (1992). The pelican brief. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape. 9780736689113

Reasons for Reading:  As I enjoyed The Firm, I looked for some other books by Grisham. I saw The Pelican Brief audiobook on a shelf at HCPL.

Summary:  The deaths of two quite opposite US Supreme Court Justices rock the entire nation. These mysterious deaths leave the country wondering what the heck just happened. Tulane University Law student Darby Shaw sets out to research these odd circumstances. Afterwards, she writes a legal brief which states that assassins killed the two justices on behalf of oil tycoon Victor Mattiece. Mattiece wants to drill for oil in Louisiana marshland where an endangered species of pelican lives. Darby passes along “The Pelican Brief” to her law professor boyfriend Thomas Callahan. Quickly, more people die and Darby must run for her life.

What I Liked : I admired Darby a lot. She was smart and tried to do the right thing. I also liked Gray Grantham. I found Garcia intriguing.I appreciated the pace of the novel – mostly, Grisham got to the point. Oh, and nice Easter egg with Denton Voyles!

What I Disliked: So far, this is the third Grisham novel I’ve read. The ending seemed similar to that of The Firm. I might pick up one of Grisham’s non-legal thrillers next time.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪Aretha Franklin – Chain Of Fools – YouTube

Setting : New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington DC, New York City, The Caribbean

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Isabel Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea


Allende, I., & Peden, M. S. (2010). Island beneath the sea: A novel. New York: Harper. 9780061988240

A few years ago, I picked up Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune. Allende cast her spell on me with her characters and her storytelling. Oddly enough, several years passed by before I read another Allende work. As it happened, I chose her latest work Island Beneath the Sea which I requested through HCPL.

Allende tells the stories of numerous people living on 1700s Saint-Domingue (Haïti). First, she introduces readers to the young Toulouse Valmorain. He and the female Valmorains live comfortably in France thanks to his father’s sugarcane plantation, Saint Lazare, in Saint-Domingue.

His planter father sends a letter, requesting Valmorain to come the island in 1770. Valmorain arrives on the island, receiving a rude awakening. The elder Valmorain can no longer run Saint Lazare. So, it falls to Valmorain to make a go of it, turning Saint Lazare into a profitable plantation. Settling into Saint-Domingue, Valmorain marries a Spaniard Eugenia living in Cuba. In the midst of all of this, Valmorain purchases a slave to serve Eugenia.

This slave is a child named Zarité – called Tété. She’s the daughter of an enslaved African woman and a sailor. Tété leads a harsh existence and discovers comfort in voodoo and the slave community. Numerous passages in the book are related by an adult Tété. The rest of the novel told in third person.

Tété endures many abuses and hardships at the hands of Valmorain, who aims to be a “benevolent slave owner.” Yet, they later flee to New Orleans – together.

All I can say without further spoiling the plot is that I found the storytelling and character development of Tété mesmerizing. I also enjoyed learning about the enterprising courtesan Violette and Dr. Parmentier, the man of science with twenty-first century ethics. I even appreciated the complexity of Valmorain. Characters such as Gambo, Maurice, Rosette, Zacharie, and the Murphy family seemed unrealized, though. I could’ve easily done without Hortense! Nonetheless, I guess there was need for such a catalyst.

I also felt Allende did well with the rising action and then slammed the reader into a wretched nightmare that was Tété’s early life. Then, in the New Orleans part, the novel seemed rushed. I wanted to find out more about New Orleans life as well as denouement for Tété and her family. Overall, it was good storytelling but the plot needed help.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Places:

France, Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Cuba, New Orleans

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Kate Chopin’s The Awakening


Audio Book

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*1001 Books Book

Chopin, K., & O’Karma, A. (1987). The awakening. Charlotte Hall, MD: Recorded Books.

When perusing the audio bookshelf at my library, I saw The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Remembering comparisons to Flaubert’s Madame Bovery, Tolstoy’s  Anna Karenina, and part of Lahiri’s The Namesake, I readily grabbed the audiobook. With the soft-spoken narration of Alexandra O’Karma, I soon enjoyed The Awakening.

The Awakening begins in late nineteenth century Grand Isle, Louisiana, a resort for the New Orleans “who’s who.” The lovely and intelligent wife and mother of two, Edna Pontillier focuses intently on her conversation with Robert Lebrun. Edna’s husband, Léonce, looks upon her as a cherished possession and so Edna basks in the attentions Robert, the grown son of the owner of the Grand Isle resort.  Growing up in a Protestant home and converting to Catholicism in order to marry Léonce, Edna is much the outsider. No matter how much she spends time with friend Adèle Ratignolle, Edna’s disconnect and discontent pushes her into a metamorphosis or awakening all of her own. Once Edna rises from this deep slumber that has been her life, she strives to capture personal happiness in late nineteenth century New Orleans.

I liked many aspects of this book. Chopin captures the life of Edna Pontellier so well. Additionally, both heroine and writer are women. Where Flaubert and Tolstoy felt sympathetic towards their respective heroines, Chopin portrays more empathy for Edna Pontillier. Also, Chopin’s characters clearly stood out in my mind.

I did not like the resolution of the story, though. What happens in the end is quite debatable and I will leave it for future readers to interpret. Does Edna Pontillier triumph? Let me know what you think. . .

Four out of Five Pearls Places: Grand Isle, LA; New Orleans, LA, Kentucky

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My Mother the Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow


 

Sharenow, R. (2007). My mother the cheerleader: a novel. New York: Laura Geringer Books.

Cover of book shows narrator Louise standing in front of her mother's boarding house.

Cover of book shows narrator Louise standing in front of her mother

 

After reading some heavy, long books, I decided I wanted both lighter and shorter. Then, I remembered seeing one of my coworkers reading and talking about My mother the cheerleader at lunch. Well, at least it was shorter than most of the stuff I have been reading lately. This was not at all light or fluffy.

 

My mother the cheerleader is narrated by thirteen year old Louise Collins. She lives with her beautiful mother, Pauline, at her mother’s decrepit boarding house in 1960 New Orleans. Louise spends most of her time at the boarding house working with paid African American servant Charlotte because Pauline has pulled Louise out of school. Pauline does not want Louise to attend school with the African American Ruby Bridges, the first child to integrate William Frantz Elementary School. Pauline is a cheerleader – one of the many women who goes to the front of Frantz and heckles Ruby Bridges and protests desegregation. While Louise finds her mother to be a lovely visage, she thinks Pauline is a pain who throws back mint juleps and leaves the hard work for others.

When the dashing New Yorker Morgan Miller appears at Pauline’s bed and breakfast, Louise sees a way out of her life. Morgan attracts Pauline as well. He works in publishing and has returned to see a friend. Louise hopes that Morgan will take her with him. For once, someone seems to be listening to Louise. Yet, when Morgan, Pauline, and Louise all learn more about each other, the outcome is questionable.

After reading My mother the cheerleader, I was amazed that this was Sharenow’s first book. The detail and consideration of characters and subjects found within these covers appeared to have been written by a Pulitzer-ed veteran. The desciption of characters such as Pauline and Morgan were clearly brought into focus for the reader. The actual events of the book and the real people tastefully wove around Sharenow’s characters.

Yet, while I thought Louise stood out well, I was not sure that a preteen girl was the best narrator for this story. I am often divided when it comes to men writing in the voice of a female character and vice versa. Several times, I think there is something off about this. Still and all, Louise was well-illustrated by the author.

My only other complaint was that I wanted to know more about what happened to the characters. I hope there is a sort of sequal in the works. Hint, hint. . .

Four out of Five Pearls

Places: New Orleans, LA

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