Author: Alice Walker
Publisher: Harcourt Books (1982)
This is the tale of two sisters – one, Nettie, is a missionary in Africa and the other, Celie, a wife, living in the South. Through letters, they share their lives, their hopes, their dreams, and their desires through thirty years. Celie manages to shake the abuse with the love and affection of Shug Avery, her husband’s ex-squeeze, and finds herself with Shug’s support.
Nettie battles jealousies and death in Africa and somehow manages to come out okay enough to see her sister, Celie again.
The length of time they finally find each other again is thirty years but their experiences make them stronger people in the end. Albeit their unfortunate circumstances, they manage to see a brighter future with the people they encounter and be glad they have the opportunity to see another day.
The power of love, as shown in this book, most definitely conquers all in the most harrowing circumstances. Told in epistolary style, we see Celie’s vocabulary change throughout with some assistance from Shug and company and also her confidence grow with each passing entry.
Alice Walker is such an effective and powerful storyteller that I can only hope to write as well as she does. I look forward to reading more of her work!
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Publisher: Dell Publishing (1952)
“The novel follows Doctor Paul Proteus, an engineer at the Ilium Works. The novel takes place in an America of the future where machines run everything and do everything, making people almost afterthoughts. Specialization is the norm, and all of the wealthy upper-class people have doctorate level degrees, with eight years of schooling for everyone; consequently it creates a society of well-educated thinkers and not doers. Paul seems to be on his way up the ladder of success in this techno-utopia – a perfect wife, a fast-track position at Ilium Works and a shot at a major promotion. But he is plagued with doubts about what modern life has become. Through a strange series of events, Dr. Proteus joins a revolutionary organization called the Ghost Shirt Society and even becomes its leader, at least in name. These Ghost Shirts, their name taken from the Native American Ghost Dance, succeed in destroying much of Ilium’s mechanized infrastructure. Yet, they realize the lack of hope in their mission, and at the end it becomes clear that their goal was to give man hope instead of revolutionize society.”
Player Piano is the first book I’ve read by the renowned Kurt Vonnegut and I really wish it wasn’t. This story took me five months to read and the book is a mere 296 pages for frak’s sake. The ebbing and flowing of the narrative didn’t work; it made the story too boring at times to care. The relevant social commentary about man versus the machine, was effective however, the exposition was slow-moving and dull. I’ve read my share of dystopic stories including social commentary that manage to make the story entertaining; Vonnegut fails in this respect in this small book that’s packed with potent material. It’s unfortunate this was my first Vonnegut novel; I hear better things about his other works. I hope I’m not disappointed again.
Would I suggest this book? Most people who have noticed me reading a Vonnegut novel have not read this one particular story. If you are a Vonnegut fan, you won’t miss it. As your first Vonnegut book, pass.
Author: Henning Mankell
Publisher: Knopf (2008)
The book starts with a wolf that enters the town of Hesjovallen that is deserted because someone came and murdered everyone. An older man discovers a body in blood, gets in a car accident, and has a heart attack, dying in the process. Enter the investigators Vivi Sundberg that has to figure out who responsible for this Swedish massacre. Then we are introduced to judge, Birgitta Roslin from another town who learns that her grandparents were killed in that massacre. Then we are introduced to these Chinese brothers – San, Guo Si, and Wu, who have to leave their home in China because the landowner has murdered their parents and will come find them to pay a debt. As the book unravels, these three stories are intertwined in a roundabout way that makes the ending anticlimactic.
As a book club selection, this book was a doozy. Perhaps it was the translation from the Swedish language to English, but I found this book very hard to get into and read. The English was stilted, stiff, trite, too direct, too much the way people don’t talk but should, and not fun or interesting to read. The plot started interesting enough; I thought the author would stay and thrill the reader in the way the story started. I thought this story would be more of a thriller the way it started with each different character section. But as much as each part was necessary to tell all parts of this story, this didn’t work as a whole. It was so damn awkward and blah that I found it so very hard to care. There was social commentary about the Chinese government and affairs which was clunky and bogged down the story; the direction of this tale was on pause as the characters talked about the Chinese government. I was bored to tears. I found myself scanning most of those sections to see what else would happen which was Nothing! I like fiction with current affairs integrated when it’s done well; even Dan Brown made history entertaining and I’m not too enamored with his work. If you are a fan of this author’s work, pick this up. If you are not familiar with Henning Mankell’s work, avoid this and try his other series. As a stand alone work of fiction, The Man From Beijing was weak, uninteresting, and bland.
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published by: Doubleday (1996)
Grace Marks is convicted of murdering her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress/headmaid, Nancy Montgomery. She is thrown in prison for being the accessory. James McDermott murdered them and threw Grace under the bus with him, except he was executed and she was sentenced to prison. Her “sentence” is to work at the governor’s home. A psychiatrist, Simon Jordan, intent on opening his own mental institution, tries to coax the real story out of her while dealing with his own demons. In the end, Jordan, and everyone involved, learns more than they can handle.
Atwood’s prose is top-notch. How this is the first novel I’ve ever read by her boggles my mind. As a historical novel, the story based in reality about a woman in Canada named Grace Marks, Atwood did a phenomenal job at re-creating this world by using first hand accounts and old records to make this story as realistic as possible. By the novel’s end, I wanted to know more about this Marks woman and do my own research.
Would I recommend this? Hell yes. Although as one of Atwood’s best novels, I was told (I was amongst Atwood fans in my book club) this wasn’t her best. If she wasn’t at her best in this book, I’d like to see her at her Best! This was a great read. Highly recommended for history buffs and literary buffs alike.
Author: Christopher Pike
Published by: Archway Paperbacks (1996)
A week before Paige Christian is about board the spaceship Traveler as part of her father’s crew, she meets and falls in love with Tem. Albeit Paige leaving, they promise to write to each other. She vows she’ll see him again. With each hour that passes when she does board the ship, years go by and Paige suffers heartbreak. On the ship, the Shamere, an alien race, plan to obliterate the remaining human race (they’ve been in space for thousands of years at this point) but do not succeed. Without giving too much away of the remainder of the story, time weaves upon itself for Paige and love prevails.
At times, convoluted in execution but the message of love was clear. Pike’s books have that contemporary touch even though most of them were written in the late nineties. I think his work is the only work (some of them anyway) that doesn’t feel dated at all. I remember when I first read this and how I scratched my head in confusion – but when I re-read it as an adult, I could appreciate the beauty of the story he wrote even with all the craziness. The time travel isn’t explained particularly very well; it gets muddled in the process but doesn’t detract from the overall message. I really enjoyed this book and I’d like to re-visit this in another decade and see what I’ll be able to cull from it. Pike is still great.
Hi there loyal readers (if I have any)!
It has been quite awhile since I have contributed to this little blog of mine. So many things happen simultaneously and then I don’t make the time to write. However, now I have obtained a temporary to long term assignment as a Receptionist so there’s no excuse now.
I have seen many movies, read books, watched plays, and am currently dealing with bedbugs (fun). But I am committing to sharing more thoughts and the like to my bloggy.
As for temping, I find that it can be a crapshoot sometimes. You may be called for a long term assignment, they don’t like you so you’re canned and you’re not even told by them but by your recruiter. Or you can be at a long term assignment and it may take them Forever to make you permanent or if ever. Currently, I’m in a good position. Took over for the past two receptionists at my office in the past six months. I’m content that I am currently employed and can now save!
I’m also excited to be taking a writing class again. I’ve signed up with Gotham (it really is cheap) with a kool instructor (checked her out online) so hopefully, this fiction class will be better than the past ones. Well, it’ll be different because it will be the first female fiction instructor I’ve had at Gotham. Gotham is hit or miss with their instructors as well therefore I am hoping for the best.
And with that, I’m out! On to creating posts for this bloggy!
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: Anchor Books (1994)
Seventeen years ago, Anne Lamott published a book about writing in which she weaved her life experiences (reminiscent of Stephen King’s On Writing but of course, Lamott came first) being published, the aftermath, the reactions to negative and positive reviews, as well as putting pen to paper.
I recently got my copy of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Tom Kealey back from a friend who borrowed it (and was accepted to Goddard College) and was transported back to two years ago when I was in the “MFA zone.” All I did was research, revise my story, research some more, talk to people, research some more, and prayed I’d get into an MFA program. When I was rejected by all seven schools, I took a break. But man, it was brutal to try to put yourself on the page, sell yourself, and want to study with other writers. Continue reading
December is halfway done (and the year is almost gone!) and I have not had many new posts. For any loyal followers, I apologize. Life gets in the way. And working six-day weeks doesn’t help either. I don’t even have the energy to hang out with my friends and I’m going to have the energy to write? If I had a desk job, that’d be easy. But this homegirl stands on her feet about ninety percent of the day with two breaks in between. Yeah, if you had my job, you wouldn’t want to do anything but sleep either.
The remaining posts of this year will most likely be book reviews (I didn’t reach my quota of forty books this year – not even thirty!) and then next year is about writing bootcamp! I don’t know what that even means yet but I’m creating something for myself to gear up for MFA applications and to make writing routine (even when I’m crazy busy).
As for right now, reading the books I’m reading (Scott Westerfeld’s series – Uglies, Pretties, Specials) and other random books on the side.
Author: Mary Gaitskill
Published by: Vintage (1989)
I very rarely read short story collections in succession as I did this one. There was a common thread in her stories – a certain uncomfortable quality that made the ready queasy or “dirty” after reading them. The characters weren’t likable, there wasn’t even one protagonist that one sided with – they were all different aspects of deviance. Continue reading