Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Million Little Pieces - James Fray

a million little pieces
james frey
c. 2005
448 pages

This book made me crazy. It really did. While the story itself was intriguing, though nothing we haven't really heard before, I really could not stand the style of writing. There are rules for when one is writing a piece of prose, whether fiction or non, and I am a firm believer that those rules should be followed. For instance, punctuation is important. I wanted to scream every time someone new started talking as there were no quotation marks. I feel it somewhat takes away from the story when I constantly have to figure out who's talking or even IF someone's talking.

On an entirely opposite note, I think the controversy over this book is somewhat rediculous. People are outraged that it's possible some things did not happen entirely as the author says they did. It's possible the relationship between James and Lily was partially fabricated. Ultimately, why does this matter? Why did Oprah have to freak out quite as badly as she did. It's still an important story to tell. And one that I am glad I read.

I feel I cannot judge a book too harshly just because the author wanted to be artistic with his writing choices. Though it drove me crazy, the story itself was what was important and therfore I will grade that accordingly.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dead Man Walking - Sister Helen Prejean

dead man walking
sister helen prejean
c. 1994
288 pages

A Catholic nun's compelling polemic against capital punishment.

I actually had no idea what this book was about before I read it. I'd head the title many times, and knew it was a movie, but of the subject matter I knew nothing. I don't know why, but I was surprised when I found out it was about capitol punishment, and even more surprised when I found out that it was a true account.

This book was incredibly difficult for me to read. It took a long time, but I eventually got through it. The subject matter itself was something I struggled with. Much of it was extrememly depressing and wasn't something I could stomach a lot of. The style of writing was difficult as well. Some of the book was written as a narrative, and intriguing if gruesome story, while the rest was bare boned fact. It was odd how this narrative and fact intermingled.

After reading this book, I did, however come to a definite conclusion. I am very decidedly against the death penalty.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Giver - Lois Lowry

the giver
lois lowry
192 pages
c. 1993

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

This was really an odd book for me to read. And not because it's for young readers. Despite the fact that I'm 22, I can still quite enjoy books that are significantly below my reading level. If they are well written with an egaging story, why not appreciate a young book? Some people may not agree, and that is fine, but we are appreciating animated films as an adult society now so why not lower level reading.

I've gotten off topic.

What's odd about me reading this book is it's subject matter: gentle science fiction, utopian societies, etc. Something I generally hate. I had to read both Brave New World and 1984 in highschool, and while I could understand why they are thought of as incredible literature, I hated them. I don't like science fiction, I don't like utopian societies. Things like that just in no way interest me. So why did I read such a book? Because my girlfriend gave it to me saying it was her favorite book. Kim and I had only just begun dating and she bought it for me as a present and so of course I had to read it. Immediately. I kinda went into dork mode (not that that's in any way unusual for me), called both my sisters to see if they had read it and what they thought of it and if they thought I would like it. I felt it was very important, to my life and relationship, that I like this book.

And surprisingly enough, I did. The end I wasn't sure about, I think it was too ambiguous. I don't realloy like it when I get to decide how I think something ended. I want it spelled out for me (had I watched it I'd probably be one of those people angry with the series finale of The Sopranos), and the ending of this was left open to interpretation. But that's my only real complaint. It was well written, I thought Jonas and the Giver were both interesting characters. Everyone else was fairly flat, but then they were supposed to be considering their lifestyle.

All in all a decent read. Quick and easy and it made my girl happy that I liked it.


Monday, July 2, 2007

The Courts of Love - Jean Plaidy

the courts of love
jean plaidy
576 pages
c. 1987

This fifth volume in the Queens of England Series is devoted to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Evoking the beautiful, tempestuous and sensual woman who divorced the King of France and married the King of England, Plaidy employs the ingratiating domestic details that are characteristic of her historical storytelling. Despite a hobbling first-person narrative that tends to repetition, the novel is dramatic in the sweep of its background and in the vividly realized events of Eleanor's long life. Raised with the Provencal languor of the courtly love tradition in her native Aquitaine, her beauty the toast of jongleurs, Eleanor relieves the tedium of her marriage to the pious French King Louis by daringly joining the Crusaders. She further shocks by pursuing her attraction to unattractive Henry Plantagenet, lured as much by the English crown as by the mutual sensuality that produces her favorite son, the enigmatic Richard the Lionhearted. Later, ambitious, headstrong Eleanor locks wills with Henry, leading to her imprisonment for many years. Even then, Eleanor remains central to the tumultuous epoch that witnessed the murder of Thomas a Becket and other royal infamies.

This was the first book I read in 2007 and it took me forever. I think that's because of my schedule and constantly changing location and nothing against the book itself. This is the third novel I've read by Jean Plaidy. I hate that I haven't really been going in order. For something like this I really like it better if I'm reading them in chronological order, but as I've jest begun getting into this author, and many of her books are out of print, that has been difficult. But I am attempting to get into a chronological ordr, simply for my piece of mind.

I felt bad for Eleanor through most of this book. I think she somehow surrounded herself with unfortunate people, though oftentimes that was not her fault. She also had some nieve ideas, I think mostly due to her upbringing. In the end, I think she must have been very unhappy for most of her life.


In all manner of things, she looked appalled...

I like to read. Sometimes I feel I am an avid reader, though it is really only recently that I have begun reading what some (and by some I mean my sisters) would deem decent reading. However, they are snobbish when it comes to most things and so I don't really pay much mind to what they say regarding my reading (or dating or clothing, etc.) Anyway, I have recently discovered something that has caused me to feel appalled. Due to my incredibly rediculously busy and slightly miserable schedule (I'm currently serving as a Team Leader in AmeriCorps NCCC Eastern Region Class XIII), I have only been able to read five books since the beginning of 2007. FIVE! This is such a low number. I am deeply ashamed. And so I am attempting to rectify this situation. I have a number of different list of books that I plan on reading before I die (The London Observer's 100 Greatest Novels or The Complete List of Penguin Classics to name a few) as well. Hopefully in the next half of this year I'll be able to get through at least SIX books.