Sad Books Say So Much

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I love books that challenge my assumptions and make me think.







5 - "This book is outstanding!  I need to tell everybody I know about this fabulous book!"


4 - "This book is really, really good!"


3 - "This book is good, but not great."


2 - "This book is not impressing me."


1 - "Burn it!  Shred it!  Or better yet, blow it up!"


Completed April 27, 2015

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

With Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson offers readers a textbook example of wasted potential. This book has strong characters, inspired syntax, well-paced plotting, and a complex, multi-faceted social issue to which we all can relate.


Why, then, do I suggest that Wintergirls is "good, not great"?


1.  Poor narration - Jeannie Stith was not the right narrator for this book.  She does young females perfectly, but she does not take direction (Where were the regional accents?  Why was Elijah's voice not "deep" as the written text indicated?  Why does Dr. Marrigan sound vaguely like Dr. Parker?) and would have been better reading us the text rather than narrating it.  There is a difference, and she missed some of the nuances;


2.  Elijah - He is cast as the epic hero who saves Lia's life.  In fact, he abandons her twice, both times at critical moments in her descent into hell.  This, after he "helped" set in motion one of the major conflicts of the book by abandoning Cassie after her desperate cry for help.  Stealing Lia's money made absolutely no sense, and did not serve the "epic hero" persona;


3.  Faux-Cassie - Author Laurie Halse Anderson has said that this "character" is a ghost.  I'm not so sure.  In various parts of the book, she appears to be a psychological crutch for Lia to lean on, a further symptom of Lia's physical and emotional devastation.  At other times, Lia appears to be in the throes of full-on mental illness, and it is implied that this has been going on for a long time (perhaps even preceding the onset of her eating disorder).  In any event, the "character" is completely unnecessary, because Cassie herself is depicted far more dynamically in flashbacks.  This would have been a better literary device to plumb the depths of Lia's self-destruction.


i weep for Cassie and Lia, two lost girls struggling to find a path to redemption.  Perhaps if they'd never met, each would have found her true self before it was too late.  Sometimes damaged people are inextricably drawn to each other, despite all efforts to pull them apart.  As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, the victor in battle is the combatant who controls the chaos - his own, and his enemy's.

I have no idea what this book is about. I added it to my TBR because I love the cover. I am losing it.

What's Left of Me - Amanda Maxlyn

Time to break up with Goodreads.  Deleting my account on Monday.



Completed March 27, 2015

Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Yes, indeed, agha ojoka - war is very ugly.  Especially when the monsters win.


I hope I never, ever see a body in motion without a head.  I hope my nieces inherit a universe in which human beings are not tortured for daring to improve their minds.


What a book!  As a friend is fond of saying, one does not "enjoy" this type of book, because it is based on other people's tragedy.  But I fell in love with the Igbo people, with their language and their culture, and that sustained me through the horror of learning what was done to them.


I can quibble with the characters' choices, with their complacency, with their delusions.  But I wasn't there.  Others were, or their loved ones were.  I hope this book has brought them some clarity and some peace.  Our disconnected world could badly use it.






Completed January 31, 2015

We Were the Mulvaneys - Joyce Carol Oates

This review is way too long, and riddled with spoilers.  I need to include them in order to explain how truly awful this book is.  Please consider my review a public service announcement.




Michael and Corinne Mulvaney have four children- three sons and a daughter.  Together, they are THE MULVANEYS.  Picture flashing lights, a movie marquee, all the bells and whistles.  THE MULVANEYS are perfect.  Everybody loves them.  Everybody wants to BE them.  Life is good.


But the gravy train is about to derail, in spectacular fashion.  Daughter Marianne is savagely raped after a high school dance.  Mom and Dad have no idea what to do.  So what DO they do?  They send her away to live with a distant relative she HAS NEVER MET.  She is banished - excommunicated.  So she flits from job to job, feeling worthless, the abandoned becoming the abandoner as she flees anyone who gets too close.  Of course, Marianne never figures out that, hey, lightbulb on, I'm over 18 and I can see my family if I damn well want to.


Meanwhile, dear old Dad, for whom this banishment was supposed to be a resurrection (Mom literally having concocted this atrocity to solve all Dad's problems!) becomes a violent drunk and throws away, like yesterday's garbage, a successful business, the country club membership he was desperate to obtain, a happy marriage, the rest of his so-called family, and, ultimately, his life.  Of course, none of this is his fault!  Oh, no.  It's the country club - the same club to which he willingly sold his soul to gain entry!


Mom still believes religion is the answer to all their prayers, so while everything crumbles around her, she takes refuge in a series of nutbar churches that offer her nothing but momentary escape.


The three sons have all found havens of their own.  


Mike Jr., a recovering alcoholic who still drinks, has run to the Marines, so he's perfect again (phew!).  Patrick, who I could swear is autistic but it's never addressed so I'll never know, has a brief moment of exciting insanity and decides he's going to kill the rapist (this is the best part of the entire book) but doesn't (oh, the crushing disappointment!!!).  Patrick is capital-B brilliant, but tosses his almost-completed degree aside and finds his way, after a long voyage of self-discovery, to...California.  But none of THE MULVANEYS know this, because they don't see or hear from him in FOURTEEN YEARS.  Remarkably, no one files a missing-persons report.  Mom just figures he'll call "eventually".


Judd gets sick and tired of being the only one left to deal with belligerent Dad and clueless Mom, so he quits too.  He moves out of the house (fortunately, just before foreclosure) and manages to become a newspaper editor by sheer force of will.


and then everybody gathers for a barbecue and a softball game, and the kids are all married or in love or (Judd) buried in career, and THE MULVANEYS realize they really do love each other after all.  The End.


What a fucking train wreck.






Completed December 12, 2014

Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon

(To the tune of "If You're Gone" by Matchbox Twenty)


I fear I've lost you forever
Now that I'm safe from the storm.
I think I'll never get back there
Back to your arms, where it was warm.


I think you've already left me
Feels like you never were born.
I thought I knew who I was then
You taught me a new love; now I'm forlorn.


But I think it's a curse, I think it's a dream

I think things are never quite as they seem.
And now thaf I'm lost, can't find my way home

They think I've gone mad; the truth is I'm reeling.

If you're gone, help me to live on my own

There's a new life to live for, but I can hardly cope.
If you're not here, help me to live on my own

'Cause the darkness may just swallow me if you don't offer hope.


I know I'll never get over

The way we parted that night.

I couldn't bid you farewell, love
You are my truth; you are my light.


But I think it's a curse, I think it's a dream

i think things are never quite as they seem.

And now that I'm lost, can't find my way home

They think I've gone mad; the truth is I'm reeling.


If you're gone, help me to live on my own

There's a new life to live for, but I can hardly cope.
If you're not here, help me to live on my own

'Cause the darkness may just swallow me if you don't offer hope.

Adam Mansbach - pure genius!

You Have to F*****g Eat - Adam Mansbach, Owen Brozman Go the Fuck to Sleep - Adam Mansbach, Ricardo Cort├ęs

Adam Mansbach writes what I (and perhaps he) would describe as "alternative children's books".  The man is fucking brilliant.  


Yes, I said "fucking".  If you can't get past the profanity, you are not the target audience for these books.


These books are for everyone who has ever loved a child beyond reason.  These books are also for everyone who has ever watched their own child, or someone else's precious darling, disintegrate into Satan's spawn before their very eyes.  


Sometimes you just have to let it out.  You can't be perfect every second of every day.  There are a thousand wrong ways to parent, but no idiot-proof way to get it right.  And I say this as a non-parent who couldn't do your job for five seconds!


Mr. Mansbach reminds us that we are all so very human, and yeah, sometimes we lose it.    And, my sister's warnings notwithstanding, my adorable nieces will NOT be scarred for life if they hear the word "fuck" now and again.  After all, they're allowed to watch Daddy watch football, right?  :-)

Linda Hilton - The Ban Hammer!

Reblogged from Linda Hilton:

Thank you all, so very much.  You know who you are.  ♥♥♥


I'll have a full accounting in a day or so, though there's not much to tell.  There was never a warning, never a "don't do this again or you'll be gone."  Nothing. 


I have my suspicions and speculations, and mostly it centers on my just not being a very nice person.  I don't tolerate stupidity very well, and frankly, there was a lot of it on display.


Now, however, I don't have to walk quite so carefully. 

Linda Hilton banned by GR while spammers, stalkers and shriekers remain? Outrageous.

"Casual Fridays" at GR HQ

Reserved for major, game-changing announcements, having nothing to do with user wishes, requests, or concerns, delivered with much enthusiasm and excitement, 5 seconds prior to hastily unlocking the Lexus or the Mercedes and rocketing down the freeway to the safety of home.

Sherrie Todd-Beshore - BBA

this weekend, I marked a bunch of books as to-read on Goodreads.  This information was cross-posted to my Twitter account (with my permission).


"Author" Sherrie Todd-Beshore responded by suggesting that I also add HER books to my TBR.  I publicly shamed her, blocked her and reported her.  Nice try!

From LiteraryAmes - Goodreads Deletes Power Users, Leafmarks Benefits

Reblogged from Literary Ames:

I’m coming late to this party and I’m shocked I hadn’t seen anything about this anywhere, not even in in the Goodreads Feedback group, until now, in GR status updates. [1][2][3][4]


Two power users, JennyJen (TwitterBooklikes) and Marco Manganiello (Facebook), who had hundreds of followers and reviews, initially had their reviews deleted based on the images in their reviews, which were flagged by other users for supposedly contravening GR’s arbitrary policy against nudity and anything remotely risqué or controversial, like semi-naked men kissing. The horror! The horror!


Continue reading 


Completed August 23, 2014

Plaza Suite; a Comedy in Three Acts - Neil Simon

This three-act play (or series of playlets) is thought to be a comedy.  I consider it a tragedy.


In each act or playlet, the characters have been going about their business, living lives of quiet desperation, until a central event which occurs during their stay at the Plaza Hotel in New York City blows their world right open and reveals to them how pathetic they truly are.  The difference between their aspirations and their reality is too stark to be ignored.


I'd be curious to know if anyone who has seen this performed live had a different experience.  The audiobook (which was produced in the late 1980s with an all-star cast) made the material seem dated and the characters appear to be mere caricatures.  This was not the best exposure to Mr. Simon's work.





Completed August 22, 2014

Porch Lights - Dorothea Benton Frank

Time does not heal all wounds.  Anyone who's lost a loved one, or had a falling out with a friend, or struggled to understand why the unforgettable Robin Williams so abruptly removed himself from our midst, can attest to that.  But if you leave yourself open to a new approach, if you soften your heart and let people in again, if you believe your dreams aren't can begin again.  Not as it was before, but in a way that allows you to come to terms with the past, embrace the present, and glide optimistically into the future.


I'm still not sure why I was drawn to this book.  It has a much lighter tone than what I usually read, most of the major events were predictable, and Ms. Benton Frank does like to tie everything up into pretty little bows.  But there is a joy and a hope that is ever-present in the prose, and gosh, don't we all need a taste of that!

From a Facebook page called Circles of Inspiration...advice for Badly Behaving Authors.


Completed August 1, 2014

The Dinner - Herman Koch, Sam Garrett



(A small, windowless room in a suburb of Amsterdam.  PAUL sits at a table.  There is a vacuous expression on his face, and he seems unaware of his surroundings.  A young man in uniform escorts a woman through the door, waits until she is seated, and goes to stand behind PAUL.  A dim light is switched on, and we see that the woman is BABETTE.  PAUL gazes at her for a few seconds.  His eyes flash in a mixture of anger and contempt.)


YOUNG MAN:  Twenty minutes, Mrs. Lohman.


(BABETTE waves her hand dismissively, and he is silent.)


BABETTE:  Oh, Paultje, het is fijn je te zien (Oh, Paulie, it's good to see you). It's been too long.  


(PAUL suddenly begins to struggle to his feet.  YOUNG MAN snaps to attention, placing a restraining hand on PAUL'S shoulder.  PAUL does nor resist.)


BABETTE (laughing):  Be careful, Paultje.  They know...your  They've been well-briefed.  You're too heavily medicated to scratch that itch.  And you know by now how I react to threats.


PAUL:  (unintelligible)


BABETTE:  You never understood, did you?  I had no interest in protecting "the children".  The kids did what they did.  It wasn't nice, it wasn't pretty, but we're not talking about babies.  They did the wrong thing, and they were going to pay dearly for their stupidity.  At least Beau had the common sense to avoid getting his hands dirty, and if he made a buck over the whole sordid mess?  He earned it.  He was never accepted here.  Never would have been.


(She pauses to re-apply her lipstick.)


BABETTE:  No, you don't get it at all.  I was trying to preserve a dream.  A dream Serge and I worked hard to achieve.  It was right in front of us, and you planted yourselves in our path.  You would have eventually cracked, or the boys would have, and we needed to manage the information that came out.  Produce our version of the truth.  You had to be neutralized.  We had found the perfect solution.  A few platitudes about the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, how SORRY we all were, and the people would have begged him to reconsider.  They would have said he wasn't to blame.  Lock the boys up, but we want this honourable man to be our next Prime Minister.  "Stront, at least he tells the truth!"  They would have elected anyone just to get rid of the idiot in office.  Voters always vote against someone, never explicitly for another candidate.  That's politics!


PAUL (slowly and deliberately);  The dream is...dead...we won.


BABETTE:  You've won NOTHING.  You're sitting here.  Claire's about to have another heart attack.  It's all right, love.  Serge and I still have money, charm, connections.  We can make the proper arrangements.


PAUL (moaning):  Claire!


BABETTE:  She no longer exists.  You and that shrew you call your wife always thought Valerie wasn't too bright.  She's the smartest of the three - of all of them, Michel included.  She came up with the idea of tampering with Claire's heart medication.  Her next dose will be her last.  In an hour, the final chapter will be written.


(PAUL begins to sob hysterically.  YOUNG MAN slaps PAUL, then gives him an injection.  BABETTE kisses YOUNG MAN passionately, then leaves the room, slamming the door behind her.  The curtain falls.)










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