Showing posts from July, 2009

The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, translated by Charlotte Mandell

[My daughter's surgery went really well yesterday. You can read more on my Maya's World blog if you're interested.]

I decided to read The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell after reading a couple of different blog postings concerning the controversy around the book. I probably wouldn't have bothered if I had read this review from The New York Times first.

Describing the book as weird doesn't even begin to explain how surreal the story becomes.

The first-person narrator, Dr. (as in, attorney with a doctorate) Max Aue, has, frankly, issues from long before the start of the war. Issues of a very personal nature that, honestly, detract from any understanding that might have come through in this historical novel about Germans who became officers in Hitler's SS. [Are we to believe that all active supporters of the Nazi Regime and the campaign to eliminate so-called "enemies of the state" (Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, Communists, etc.) were themselves brutal mons…

In the News and On My Mind--July 27, 2009

My daughter, Maya, is having surgery on Wednesday (July 29), so don't expect much in the way of postings from me for the next week or two. Postings or coherency.

Here's what I've been reading about lately related to the world of books:

--RIP, E. Lynn Harris. The author, famous for his portrayals of gay African-Americans, a little-seen lifestyle in any media format, died while on tour to promote his latest book. He was only 54. Check his author site for more information about his books.

--Here's Barnes & Noble's answer to Amazon's Kindle--a free eReader for reading eBooks on your iPhone, Blackberry, or personal computer. There's also a Plastic Logic reader, direct competition for the Kindle, coming in partnership with Barnes & Noble in early 2010. See here for B & N's store and here for the coverage from The Washington Post. [Sad to say that I still have to go through Amazon for all of my Kindle downloads; the B & N site can't be used wi…

Wandering Five Blog

Wandering Five: 2 Adults, 3 Boys, 365 Days of Adventure is the title and tag line for another "new to me" blog that I'm enjoying following. This is actually a new blog, too, as the adventure is just getting started.

To quote part of blog author Jason's About Us page:

We are a family of five that has been given the good fortune to be able to spend a year traveling the world. We’ve been living in Manhattan Beach, California for the past 10 years and have recently sold our house and are preparing ourselves for this year long adventure. We plan to begin our trek on June 23rd, 2009 and end sometime in June 2010. After meeting a family of five in Fiji in 2003 on the last leg of their year around the world we have dreamed of being able to do the same. Now we can.

He then goes on to provide a brief listing for every family member, including his wife and their three boys, ages 9, 7, and 4.

There's the point where my envy turns a bit to dismay. While I would love to tra…

Looking Forward to Reading. . . .

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins--to be released August 25, 2009.

Vanished by Joseph Finder--to be released August 18, 2009.

Once on a Moonless Night by Sijie Dai, translated by Adriana Hunter--to be released August 11, 2009.

After by Amy Efaw--to be released August 11, 2009.

The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson--to be released July 28, 2009.

Dangerous Passion by Lisa Marie Rice--to be released August 4, 2009. Are there any upcoming releases you're anxiously waiting to read?

"Losing My Religion for Equality" by Jimmy Carter

Click here for a link to the full text of Losing My Religion for Equality by Jimmy Carterin The Age.

Yes, that Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States. Regardless of how you feel about his politics and his record as President, I think most would agree that he's a man of strong faith and convictions. One who actually appears to life his own life according to said convictions.

And now he's leaving the Southern Baptist Church after sixty years because of his beliefs concerning the equality of women.

To quote:

"This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugn…

Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year that Made America's Public Enemy Number One by Elliott Gorn

"The United Press laid out the contradictions in the coverage of John Dillinger:

He is mild mannered and never swears, but is evil-tempered and curses all the time. . . . He is a maniac but quite sane, and a moron but intelligent.

Dillinger has robbed 5, 16, 32, 78 banks in 4, 6, 7, 8 states and killed 2, 3, 11 and 17 men.
If you want to verify this, ask Dillinger. You will find him in Wisconsin, Montana, Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas or Idaho."

So reads one of many passages summarizing newspaper accounts of the day in Dillinger's Wild Ride by Elliott Gorn. I think this particular passages shows some self-awareness at the time of the way the media (in addition to J. Edgar Hoover and politicians, including President Franklin Roosevelt, seeking more funds and power for law enforcement) created the story that became the notorious John Dillinger in much the same way that dime novels created mythic legends of the Wild West gunfighters in times not so far removed from Dillinger&…

Swapping Lives by Jane Green

I almost quit reading Swapping Lives by Jane Green after just a few pages, and I decided to continue only because of how very much I enjoyed Green's Jemima J. I'm glad I plugged ahead because I actually really liked Swapping Lives and the evolution of the characters.

Vicky Townsley is a single, professionally successful features editor for a London magazine. Since she's on the wrong side of thirty, as they say, the dating life isn't nearly as fun as in her twenties. She envies her brother the spouse, country home, children, and dogs--family life. Will she ever meet the right man, and can she be happy until she does?

Amber Winslow, born poor, worked hard to get to college and earn her MRS degree. She successfully married into the Winslow family, leaving her in the position of being a "housewife" with full-time help with the home and the two children in Connecticut while her husband works on Wall Street. Can we all say "lives to shop, socialize, and have h…

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Let me just start by saying that Anne Michaels' Fugitive Pieces received many, many awards, including:
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Lannan Literary Fiction Award
Winner of the Guardian Fiction Award
That being said, I struggled to finish this book, and I wouldn't have kept going accept that I was under the (self-created, erroneous) impression that, at some point, I would learn what happens to Bella, the sister of Jakob Beer, after the Nazis arrive and kill Jakob and Bella's parents. Seven-year-old Jakob escapes, only to be taken from Poland to a Greek island by a geologist who then raises him on the island and, after the war, in Canada.
No, this isn't that kind of a book--you know, the kind with a plot and straightforward storyline. Instead, the reader spends a lot of time reading lovely, descriptive passages having nothing to do with Jakob, really.
Oh, and there's a section at the end of a book about a man who comes to the island seeking the …

Public Enemies

I loved Public Enemies enough that I wanted to sit through a second showing immediately. Real life--going to Mom's house to vacuum and then getting home to a five-year-old--intruded, though. Sigh.

Public Enemies is the very fictionalized account of the final run of 1930s bank robber John Dillinger (played by the always gorgeous, always riveting Johnny Depp). There isn't a single misstep in casting with Christian Bale as lead of the FBI office in Chicago Melvin Purvis, Billy Crudup as FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, and a fascinating Marion Cotillard as Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette.

I generally get annoyed with people who ignore and/or completely change the factual information available when making books or movies about real people.

I enjoyed Public Enemies so much, though, that I'm going to ignore items like having Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd killed near the beginning of the film when he actually died three months after John Dillinger in real life. I just kn…

9 Books on My Kindle--A Shortened Thursday Thirteen

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single--Heather McElhatton . Saw this reviewed on someone else's blog and thought it looked fun.
Fugitive Pieces: A Novel--Anne Michaels. I really, really wanted to like this book because it's Holocaust/Shoah-related, but, at 20% finished, I'm just not finding my groove with this one. I can tell that she's a poet because she has some gorgeous passages in the book; I'm just not seeing much of a focused storyline or character development. I'll probably keep reading because I want to know if the boy's sister actually survived the Holocaust; he saw his parents' dead when he was seven, but not his older sister.
Let the Right One In: A Novel--John Ajvide Lindqvist (Author), Ebba Segerberg (Translator). The book the recent vampire movie is based on. Looks dark and promising.
The Neighbor--Lisa Gardner. Mystery. A woman disappears, leaving her four-year-old daughter as the only witness. Is the husband/father the guilty …

The Book Depository: "All books available to All"

A fun, new-to-me site is The Book Depository from Gloucester, shipping books worldwide without delivery fees. The site is:

From their "About Us" section:

About The Book Depository: The Book Depository was founded in 2004 with the aim of making "All books available to All" through pioneering supply chain initiatives, republishing and the digitizing of content. It is a continuing project, still in its infancy, and one of the most ambitious ventures in the book industry.

All books available to All: Currently, The Book Depository is able to ship 1.8 million unique titles, within 48 hours, from our fulfillment centre in Gloucester, United Kingdom. This figure is increasing everyday. Apart from publishers, distributors and wholesalers, we even list and supply books from other retailers! Amazingly, we are also able to arrange the reprint of over 300,000 out of print titles which, again, we can dispatch from Gloucester within 48 hours…

Much a-Twitter about Alice Hoffman

In terms of full disclosure, when I read something I like by Alice Hoffman, I absolutely love it. When I read something I don't like by Alice Hoffman, I absolutely hate it. I've never found one of her works that I feel even mixed about. I find her writing very uneven, too, leaving a fairly equal number on both sides of the like/hate divide for me.

That being said, and considering how long Hoffman has been "in the business" and how many negative or mixed reviews she must have received in print and on blogs, I was a little shocked to read that she engaged in a rather odd series of postings on Twitter about a review of her latest, The Story Sisters, by Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe. I didn't really find the review in any way objectionable or slanderous, yet you would get that impression from Hoffman's response.

Here are some links to explore:

Jacket Copy Blog on the controversy--The Los Angeles Times

Silman's review--The Boston Glob…

13 Thoughts, Comments, & Questions on Kindle

1. Is there a way to determine a corresponding page for the print edition of a book (if there is a print edition)? I'm feeling a little lost by not having a page to identify where I am, where I want to go, and where I've been in my reading. Apparently, I like knowing how many pages long a book I've just read is, too, and word count just doesn't "feel" the same to me. Who knew page numbering was a crutch for me??

2. Why isn't there a lighting system with the Kindle? Just like you can use a computer while sitting in a darkened room, I would like to be able to read my Kindle. Nope, no internal lighting system that I can find. (Please let me know if I'm wrong about this. I would love to be wrong.)

3. The instant gratification is truly addictive. I can order an item either directly from my Kindle or a computer that arrives by wireless delivery on my system in less than a minute. With Amazon's one-click ordering process, I don't even have to complete…