Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd By Agatha Christie

Very clever story! This was surprisingly the first Agatha Christie book I have read and was completely flabbergasted. I never suspected the Murderer. Very good quick read, will be looking for more of her stories. Delightful characterization as well, I enjoyed the character of Caroline immensely.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Black Like Me By: John Howard Griffin

Taking place in 1959, a white man decides to darken his skin to see what it is really like to live as a black man. His basis was that a black man will never tell him how bad his life truly is to a white man, being scared that there will be reprisals from the white man. I was saddened by the precautions the narrator takes in setting up his "Experiment". He acts like a guilty man at the beginning , not wanting to get his friends involved in case they get attacked for allowing him to do this study. Then after reading up on John Griffin, realized that was exactly what happened. After the story got out an effigy of him was hung in his home town and he received death threats. He was eventually forced to move to Mexico. The book was extremely powerful and showed how utterly powerless Griffin was as a black man. He goes from being treated with respect and kindness from the black population to being treated with contempt and like a child from the whites. He realizes the absurdity of his position while standing outside a restaurant. He says " though I am the same person with the same appetite, the same appreciation, the same wallet, no power on earth can get me inside this place for a meal." This was a very powerful read and makes you hope this heart wrenching treatment isn't tolerated today. In his book Griffin talks about his time of blindness and how his senses of smell and hearing were heightened. Upon further research into Griffin's life, I found that he was blinded from an accident while in the United States Air Force and was blind for 10 years between 1947-1957. Two years later he began this book. This experience lasted for one month, when Griffin realized he couldn't withstand anymore. It really made you think about the people that cannot say "I've had enough" and live another life.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Caves of Perigord By Martin Walker

The Narrator is a female and I would have sworn the author was too, he nailed the female thought process. The book started with a gentleman bringing a stone slab to an antique dealer, which sounds like a boring story, but became very interesting. The book has three stories intertwined;the story of the painting on the rock, the soldier in WWII who found the rock, and the current day man with the stone. I also found it odd for a male writer that each was composed of a love story. It was a very quick, cute read, with something surprising happening in each story. I would even read it again.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trent's Last Case

Detective Phillip Trent is called to a murder investigation and throughout the book becomes a rather atypical detective. First he falls in love with a suspect and then solves the case, only to realize he was wrong. The Murder is complex and neatly cleaned up, so it is amusing to find out at the end of the book that the person who actually committed the murder is the person Trent is dinning with. Trent claims he is done with crime detection and that this will be his last case. Published in 1913, it was a dry read and I had to force myself to finish. The ending was very surprising and acted as a reward for getting through the book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Talisman By Stephen King and Peter Straub

It was hard to get into the first few chapters of this story, it was as though the authors were taking turns writing sections, then it became almost completely a Stephen King book. It was a cute story about good verses evil. A young boy has to save his mother and a kingdom against the unexplainable and prevails. Filled with clever happenings and adventure it was an enjoyable book.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Castle of Otranto By Horace Walpole

The story starts on a prince's wedding day, but the prince is killed by a helmet falling from a statute? The king only has the one heir and decides he will divorce the queen and marry his son's betrothed to insure the kingdom will remain in his family (assuming he will have sons with the new wife). The princess runs off and seeks help from a peasant and a friar, who hide her until her family comes back to bring her home. The princesse's father falls in love with the king's daughter and the kings decide to marry one another's daughters. In the meantime King A thinks his son's betrothed, now his betrothed is meeting the peasant who was attempting to hide her (wow, this is getting confusing) and ends up stabbing her killing his own daughter who had fallen in love with the peasant. So neither of the princesses want to marry old kings is what I am starting to get out of this story! In the end Rescuer A the peasant marries princess B who was first betrothed to the Prince, then to the Prince's father. King B goes home unwed, but with a new son-in-law. If you like puzzles, you'll like this book. If princess A was wearing a red dress and princess B was bethothed to the king who did not own the black horse, who wore fairy slippers?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dimanche By Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky converted to Roman Catholicism 3 years before her death at age 39 in Auschwitz in hopes of protecting her family from Antisemitism. She even began writing with anti-Semitic views. Her daughters survived along with her writings, many were published post-humously, the most famous being "Suite Fancasise".
Dimanche is about the relationship between a girl and her mother. The mother resents her husband who thinks he is being a clever cheater and that no one suspects his infidelity. She looks back on her life and realizes it was all a waste, she spent her life waiting around for her husband and is just now realizing that he had never told her he loved her. She is relieved that her girls are not filled with silly notions of love and that they are cold and indifferent. The daughter sees her mother as cold and indifferent and believes her mother doesn't know what it is like to be young and in love. She goes off to meet a boy after getting permission to stay out late, and the boy never shows. She waits 2 hours until she calls him and another girl answers, crying she wanders home. When he calls and claims the girl was a passing fancy and he will meet her the next day she agrees and is happy again. neither mother or daughter realise how similar they are and that they are destined for the same type of unhappy life.

IT by Stephen King

Very Bizarre. This book took me almost a month to finish, it was hard to get into. I usually love King's character development, but I think he chose to develop too many characters in this story. A couple characters he introduced, developed, then killed. Making me wonder why I spent the time reading about them. I was also confused on a few contradictory points in the story. Throughout the book only the kids are able to see the clown. The narrator actually mentions this twice, yet when interviewing the elderly about episodes of violence in the past, the clown is always remembered. The characters remembering It were adults at the time of the sightings. I was also confused on motive. It sends messages to call the loser's club home, yet when they get there It warns them to leave. It is scared if them, yet wants revenge, then why didn't It attack when they were scouring the town individually instead of when they met back up as a group? The movie was also odd and the ending was left up in the air. So the kids come back as adults and the movie ends with the kids killing It and Stan committing suicide. It never touched on the reason for the adults coming back. I was a little disappointed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Story Without an End By Mark Twain

Funny short story, a bunch of men get together to tell stories and take turns finishing it to see who has the best ending. One story is about a man that loses his hat in the river and strips down to get it, but before he can get redressed he happens upon some ladies that request his help and his carriage. How will this story end?

Sucker by Carson McCullers

This is a cute coming of age story. A boy ignores his cousin Sucker, who lives with him and is like a brother, but then when he starts dating a girl they become buddies. When the girl ditches and embarrasses him he starts being mean to Sucker and finds out how it is to be treated as he was treating Sucker.

The Good, the Bad, and the Mad By E. Randall Floyd

Intriguing book, providing more insight on famous people from history. P.T.Barnum was a deeply religious man, even though he based his life on misleading people. His first exhibit was a woman who claimed to be 161 and a nurse to George Washington. He believed he was providing people with the entertainment they craved at a fair price. His museum burned down twice which made him decide to create "The Greatest Show on Earth" with his rival James Anthony Bailey.

Giacomo Beltrami was an Italian wanderer who roamed the US looking for the secret source of the Mississippi carrying nothing more than a red umbrella. He could neither hunt or row a canoe, but was saved time and time again by the natives. He never discovered the source of the Mississippi, but did collect Indian artifacts which are still displayed in Italy.

Edgar Cayce was a photographer who suddenly lost his voice. He tried hypnosis, the newest treatment at the time, and not only got his voice back, but was able to shout out remedies and prescriptions for other maladies while under hypnosis. Soon he was able to diagnose and treat patients with only an address, though he completely forgot anything that happened when he came out of hypnosis. He then started making predictions about nuclear energy and reincarnation, which baffled even himself.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a hypochondriac and feared "evil spirits had taken control of his body". He sucked on lemons constantly and had to keep his posture erect, rarely using chairs. he would ride in battle with one arm over his head to "establish equilibrium". Ultimately scholars believe he died from pneumonia when he lost his arm since he had the habit of covering himself with cold towels to relieve pain.

Tecumseh was a prophet and predicted the rivers running backwards (earthquake) and the eclipse, although unfortunately not a whole lot is known about him.

Nikola Tesla was an inventor who's work was mostly credited to Edison. He was supposedly working on a "Death Ray" when he died, government espionage was suspected.

Sarah Winchester (wife of the rifle manufacture) heard voices when her husband passed and kept building onto her house. When she finished (after 38 years, 24 hours a day) it had 40 stairways, ten thousand windows and 467 doors. she believed the voices were from people killed by her husband's invention.

This book motivated me to research further into some if these people and was an interesting read.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

The Narrator is an older gentleman confined to a wheelchair and appears to be an embarrassment to his family. His son believes he should just check himself into assisted living instead of insisting on moving out to the farm, which the son wants to sell for personal financial gain. The narrator has moved to the farm in hopes of writing a book about his grandparents through their letters and papers scattered throughout the house. Intermingled between the mundane routines of the man's day the story comes to life. It is an interesting comparison between the narrator, whose unpretentious life has become very simple and painful from aging, to the grandparents in their prime. Lyman Ward is an amusing narrator, he plays the part of a crotchety old man, who says funny things like "thanks for your help, which I suppose I will recover from" and picks on a friend's lisp. It includes very simple and humbling entertainment. Lyman starts reading his grandmother's letters and is embarrassed by the content, he realizes he is prying into her heart. After learning his grandmother was a lesbian, he realizes she probably never felt this great love for his grandfather like he had assumed. It is confusing if the pieces between reading the letters and his daily activities are all speculation or if the reader is to believe it is a flashback to his grandparent's day. The story is about life in the mine and the grandfather keeps losing his job, forcing the grandmother to keep moving back in with her parents. At the end Lyman realises how similar he has made his grandparent's life to his. Although a good book, it was not really something I would read for entertainment, you should have an agenda in picking this piece. It comes alive in the last 100 pages.

QB VII by Leon Uris

QB VII stands for Queen's Bench courtroom number 7 in a London Court. The story starts with a doctor being accused of being a war criminal in the Nazi camps during World War II. He spends two years in jail until his name is cleared and he is released, seeing his son for the first time. The first portion of the book creates the background for the Plaintiff and how he lived his life in the furthest reaches of the earth hoping to remain anonymous. This portion serves to show that the doctor is a good man and seeks betterment. The second portion is dedicated to an author who decides to write a story about the atrocities of the holocaust and stumbles across information against the doctor. He includes it in his book even though he is not sure that the doctor actually committed the crimes. The book is brought to the doctor's attention from a boy he considers a son and want to give his business to after retirement. To save face he presses charges and both men's lives are changed (the doctor and the author). The Defendant's attorney brings witnesses to the stands that testify to the treatment in the camps, but no one can actually attest that the doctor was the one responsible. There are stories of "shock therapy" and castration and the focus appeared to be on the lack of pain killer used and the Whys to the happenings. Nothing seems to be relevant to the doctor's guilt, but the fact that conditions in the holocaust were unspeakable. In the end the Defendant brings in a witness that holds a medical log indicating how operations by the doctor were preformed and ties all the patient that gave testimonies to the victims operated on by doctor Kelno. The plaintiff's closing speech states "We have learned that Adam Kelno was not a madman, but an ordinary man in an insane situation. He is the tragedy of us all, suddenly trapped in the most horrendous circumstances." But doctor Kelno loses the respect of his family and community. He tried to redeem himself through acts of kindness postwar, but lived in paranoia because of the horrible things he had done. This book shows that even the aftermath continues to destroy people.
After doing more research on QB VII, I learned Uris wrote it about his own experience writing about Dr Wladislaw Dering in his book exodus. The Doctor was also awared the half penny.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Seamstress by: Frances De Ponted Peebles

This story is set in rural Brazil and is about two sisters who are as different as the dreams they keep. This was not a book with happy endings, it leaves you numb after reading. It is a complex story expertly woven about the strength of love when you do not expect it and exposes heart breakingly that you cannot understand love nor the ones you love. Though a larger book (641 pages) it moves quickly and painfully. The reader easily gets into the book and roots for the characters in their lives which differ in everything but their desire to help the same people, though they have different ideas on how it should be done. Their only connection to each other is through news in the paper, one an outlaw, the other a philanthropist, each finding solace in their sewing, neither happy with the turns their lives made. A must read although it is geared more for women.