Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Story Sisters

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman is described as a haunting novel. It is that. It is the story of 3 sisters (whose last name is Story) who, in the beginning of the book, look alike and share a imaginative language and life, complete with town, etc. Elv is the oldest and, possibly, most "damaged" of the 3 sisters. As to be expected, she is the leader and tells the stories of their made up lives to the other 2 sisters, Meg and Claire.

Early on, Meg seems to pick up on the fact that Elv is a bit over the edge, and she begins to withdraw from the sisterly pack. Claire shares a secret with Elv and seems to understand that Elv has a genuine need for a make-believe life. Claire continues to be her sister's advocate as Elv spirals into disaster.

The book is really good and, as I said/agreed, haunting. It tells probably about 10 years of the sister's lives, where each has to find her own way, good or bad.

This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be. For some reason, I thought it was about some elderly sisters (must be another new/current book out about that) and so, I was not prepared for what I began reading! It is a strange book, yet I did really like it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Random

I am quite sorry to report the last 2 books that I read were really not worth the read. I did finish both of them, but was very disappointed with both.

First one read was : The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie. It, of course, was about a woman recently widowed who kept seeing and talking and spending time with her dead husband, who convinces her (or she convinces herself) that he isn't dead, just wanted to get away for awhile.
Enough said.

The second book was a great disappointment to me. It was Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue. Mr. Donohue is the author of The Stolen Child, one of my alltime favorite books. Perhaps that was part of the disappointment for me. I had great expectations for his next book, and, for me, it didn't fulfill my expectations at all. If I hadn't read The Stolen Child, I probably would have liked the book better. It is a nice story of a 9 year old girl who shows up on a widow's doorstep one day. The widow had one daughter, who had run away 10 years earlier and never returned. She decided to let the little girl stay and they told everyone that Norah (the little girl) was her granddaughter. Norah soon begins sharing at school that she is an angel and the community gets upset with her. I won't tell more of the story, so as not to spoil it. As I said, it was a nice story. It just didn't have the same impact on me that his first book did.

I just returned from a long weekend in Grand Junction, Colorado last week, where I stayed and visited with an old friend, who loves books as much as I do. It was so much fun to talk about books each day and share our favorites. I learned (again, with great disappointment) that there were no independent bookstores open anymore in Grand Junction. However, while at Borders, I bought Run by Anne Patchett and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

I have not begun either of them yet. I just finished Angels of Destruction last night and I have a message that The Story Sisters (by Alice Hoffman) is ready for me at the library, so I am off to get it this morning and will be reading it next.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Random Thoughts

I was supposed to be flying into Grand Junction Colorado today, but United called with a recorded message last night stating that they had canceled the flight and put us on the same flight for tomorrow. I couldn't believe it, but called United and yep, it was true. Anyway, I went to the library last night to try to get the Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman to take with me. My daughter has read it and really liked it, so I am eager to read it. It was checked out and I am next on the list, so I had to find some other books to take. I ended up with The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie and Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue.

I started The Widow's Season last night...good so far. I am very anxious to read Donohue's book. I loved his last one, The Stolen Child. It rates up there quite high in my favorite books. And so far I have not met anyone else who has read it. I am due to suggest books to my book club for December. Perhaps it would be a good pick. We present 3 books and the group then votes on the one they want to read.

I am also taking Mrs. Lincoln if I have enough time to read it. I am hoping that perhaps Grand Junction has some interesting book stores! Here's hoping that I get to Grand Junction tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Help

I finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett last night. I liked it very much. It is a story that takes place in Jackson,Mississippi around 1962-1963. Skeeter Phelan returned home after graduating from college in 1962, with no job and wanting to be a writer living in New York. Upon arriving home, she learned that her beloved Constantine was no longer working for her family. Constantine was the family's black maid who had raised Skeeter. Skeeter never had any doubt about how much Constantine loved her and Skeeter loved her just as much. When she came home and found that Constantine was no longer with the family, she asked her mother what had happened and her mother was very vague and would not tell her what had happened.

This was the beginning of a seed that grew and grew in Skeeter's mind. She started noticing how her friends and their families treated their female black help.

The book is narrated in chapters by the 3 main characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minnie. Aibileen and Minnie are black maids for friends of Skeeter's. As Skeeter begins paying attention to their lives, she begins to identify the injustice, inhumanity, unawareness, etc, that the black maids have put up with all of their lives. Skeeter has an idea: to write a book about the lives of 13 black maids. She approaches Aibileen first, hoping that she will help Skeeter both find and convince 12 other women to join Aibileen in providing their stories to Skeeter.

Of course, it is difficult to convince the women to spill all of the treatment and secrets, etc. of the families that they have worked for over the years. Skeeter promises absolute anonymity and that the name of the town would be changed.

Skeeter's book happens and, of course, all hell breaks loose in the town as some of the white women began to think that they recognize the stories.

I really liked reading this book. Hearing the narration from the 3 different women added a lot of substance and variety to the book. I wished that there was actually more about the actual stories that were put into Skeeter's book, as The Help primarily was focused on Aibileen and Minnie's lives.

As I have noted before, I feel that one of the things that defines a book as "good" is if the book leaves you wanting to know more about the subject...this book did that for me. In the Acknowledgements, the author refers to a book called Telling Memories Among Southern Women by Susan Tucker...I need to find and read it! Fascinating, hard-to-believe lives. I am almost always drawn to books about the South.

Anyway, good, easy reading book that I recommend!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey is absolutely brilliant! I loved this book! At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but then it finally occurred to me..the writing reminded me of Stephen King' writing. Characters are magnificently developed, and the pace was quick. Probably hundreds of characters are introduced, but there are just a few that thread through-out the book. Very well written and I think that it really portrays what living in a large city is like for much of that city's population.

This is from the Publisher:

"One of the most celebrated and controversial authors in America delivers his first novel—a sweeping chronicle of contemporary Los Angeles that is bold, exhilarating, and utterly original.
Dozens of characters pass across the reader's sight lines—some never to be seen again—but James Frey lingers on a handful of LA's lost souls and captures the dramatic narrative of their lives: a bright, ambitious young Mexican-American woman who allows her future to be undone by a moment of searing humiliation; a supremely narcissistic action-movie star whose passion for the unattainable object of his affection nearly destroys him; a couple, both nineteen years old, who flee their suffocating hometown and struggle to survive on the fringes of the great city; and an aging Venice Beach alcoholic whose life is turned upside down when a meth-addled teenage girl shows up half-dead outside the restroom he calls home. Throughout this strikingly powerful novel there is the relentless drumbeat of the millions of other stories that, taken as a whole, describe a city, a culture, and an age. A dazzling tour de force, Bright Shiny Morning illuminates the joys, horrors, and unexpected fortunes of life and death in Los Angeles. "

Interestingly, this book is the pick of my book group for August. I would not have ever read it, I don't think, except for that. I had read his first two books and thought that they were very good, but was quick to realize (being in the substance abuse field) that the books didn't ring true. I was disappointed in the author. However, this, his first novel, redeems himself mightily in my eyes.

A great read. And perhaps, may be a classic!

Prodigal Summer

Quite simply, a lovely book, authored by Barbara Kingsolver. I had not read it before, but last month at my book group, one of the members asked if I had read it and said that they thought I would enjoy it. I trust all of the group's opinions, so I got the book and read it. My book group had read it several years ago. And he was right! I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

The book weaves together three different stories of people, all living within a short distance of each other in the Appalachia's. Deanna is a park ranger living in the Appalachian Mountains who has been living in the mountains by herself for the past two years, telling herself that she does not need anyone. Lusa is a recent bride, then widow, trying to figure out where she fits in on her husband's family place. Garnett and Nannie are elderly neighbors of each other who live down the road from Lusa. They have continued to feud and fuss with each other over the years.

The book beautifully raises and explores several different themes. One is just plain themes of love, which each of the characters experience in different ways. But the book also is about survival of the land, including the trees, bugs, birds, animals, etc. Deanna is tracking a family of coyotes, long missing from the Appalachian Mountains. Lusa is trying to farm responsibly. Garnett and Nannie disagree on the use of pesticides. The author does a very nice job of presenting the facts and arguments, without the book seeing preachy at all.

Kingsolver does an excellent job developing the characters, making them real and likable. I cared about them, and what happened to them.

As stated, a lovely book!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Won A Book!

I won a book, signed by the author! I have never won a book before, so you can imagine my excitement! The book that I won is: Frank Lloyd Wright: The Heroic Years. I won it in a drawing. I subscribe to the weekly newsletter Living PrairieMod and they are the ones who had the drawing.

The newsletter is about all things FLW, and arts and craft style, etc. If you are a fan of FLW, it is full of interesting items and you would probably enjoy it. To sign up for the newsletter go to:

Here's the announcement:

"Thank you to all who entered to win the July 09 Living PrairieMod Newsletter giveaway.Sue F. won the author signed copy of Frank Lloyd Wright: The Heroic Years written by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer.

Only subscribers of the Living PrairieMod Weekly Newsletter are eligible each month, so we invite you to sign-up if you like!"

I will let you know how the book is after I receive it! I am excited!