29
Jun

Review: There Was an Old Woman

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

There Was an Old Woman
There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I chose this as the book club selection for our group. I based my decision off of a review by Orson Scott Card, because I find that we have similar tastes.

While my book club had problems with it (as did I), I did enjoy it and the discussion that it created.

Plot: The gist of this suspense novel is that Evie is called on to help her mother, who is quite old and who has apparently gone on a massive alcohol overdosing binge. Evie meets the nice older lady next door, who seems to be losing her memory. But someone also seems to be trying to get rid of all the old people in the area. Or is it just in the old lady’s mind? The plot was fairly straightforward, with not a lot of twists or turns. My book group thought the ending was too obvious. I had to explain the difference between mystery and suspense, dramatic irony and tension. The plot, to me, wasn’t a problem because this is an Idea story and that is what interested me.

Setting: The story is set in the imaginary location of Higgs Point, roughly around Clason Point in the Bronx. Most of the description was spent on the dilapidated home of Evie’s mother and the contrast with the neighbor’s home. Scenery was mostly just background and I felt like this could have been placed just about anywhere. The setting didn’t get in the way of the story (except for the idea of a huge basement holding carnival rides on a point of land where the water table would have been fairly close to the surface).

Characters: Most of my book group felt like the characters were all really one-dimensional, with no complexity and no character arcs. There was the obvious bad guy, the jerk boyfriend, the independent and fierce protagonist, the perfect sister, and the nice old lady. While the characters are rather obviously typed, I found that I liked Evie and the old lad, Mina. And I thought that they were developed well through the story.

Conflict: The conflict of growing old and being taken care of and independence were all intertwined here in a lovely way for me. It reminded me of King Lear. The idea that old people are and can be taken advantage of, has some interesting turns. And while this kind of topic might not appeal to a younger crowd, it is relevant in the way we treat each other and the cultural expectations (or lack thereof) of respect for elders.

Text: The writing was unobtrusive and clear.



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Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking about Time and Space
Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking about Time and Space by Rob Bryanton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book because the story I am writing has some inter-dimensional elements in it and I wanted to get a little more science behind what I was writing. I was hoping for science that I could understand, but this is more a new-age, popular take on the science related to M theory (string theory). Still, it was interesting to get this take on it and there are things that were very useful for me and for what I want to do. The explanations were pretty clear and the idea seems to hold together fairly well.



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4
Jun

Review: Saga, Volume 1

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Saga, Volume 1
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This month’s book club selection was a strange one. But it was also a fun and quick read.

Saga is a graphic novel (meaning that there are lots of pictures and not as many words). It is also graphic because it is bloody and has some swearing and naked aliens. So, this book will not be for everyone.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. There is some good characterization going on here and the conflicts are meaningful (but not heavy-handed).



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12
May

Review: Casino Royale

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Casino Royale
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another bookclub selection. I have only ever seen the movies, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I also didn’t realize that this was Fleming’s first book (nor did I realize that he wrote what became Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

I may read other later books in the series, but this was definitely a first crack at writing. There were some interesting events and the Bond character was larger than life. But, the descriptions were sometimes overly stylized for my taste and the focus on minutiae made the book hard to get through at times.

Still, it was a fun read and very interesting in how different from the more modern versions of the movies that I’ve seen.



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27
Mar

Review: Dad Is Fat

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Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished reading this book for my book club (I am late). It was a bit difficult for me to get into.

It kind of read like a joke book where every sentence is a setup to a joke.

And, while I appreciate Mr. Gaffigan’s clean humor and focus on being a dad, it felt a bit disconnected because of all the jokes and the need to be funny all the time (because it is not).

I did enjoy much of the humor and his interesting take on fatherhood. I would have just liked something more autobiographical with humorous stories thrown in rather than what felt like a script for a show (with “beat” thrown in to make sure I caught the humor).



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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish the movie had been as emotionally charged as the book was. I am glad that I got to read the book as part of my book club group.

I learned things I didn’t know about about WWII (which is, admittedly, not all that much). Specifically about the air force and bombers. I also gained new understanding into the Japanese psyche as portrayed by Hillenbrand.

Some of my book group were surprised by the cruelty of The Bird and other guards and how they could go “back to being normal people” after the war. There have been studies done on the whole “I was just acting under orders” kind of attitude and how susceptible people are to it. I’m not trying to excuse what they did, but to point out that the “bad guy” isn’t always easy to identify. I also want to point out the this is one area where the movie failed. If it would have showed some guards being merciful and kind (as in the book), the film would have been taken to a whole new level. (Also, they should have cut out much more of the ocean time — just saying).

I asked the book club why they thought about the title. Because it seems that Louis was broken by the end and especially afterwards. I’m not sure, but to me it seems like the highlight was him turning all that around and becoming un-broken so he could forgive and let it go. This is also what I missed in the movie (the whole “after” part was cut down to just a couple sentences on a black screen), where the climax for the director seemed to be the whole holding up the log thing — while certainly impressive and showing his determination, it was just another example, not a big turning point.

I also enjoyed the little rebellions of the prisoners that were highlighted in the book (but only very briefly in the movie), because it showing the survival and resilience that are part of the book’s title.



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22
Feb

Review: Dracula

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Dracula
Dracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been slowly making my way through this book on my Nook. I have so many physical books on my shelf to read, that I often forgot about this one. Or, my Nook battery would die before I could get to it.

In any case, I wanted to read this classic because of all the hype and other takes on the vampire genre. It was nothing like I expected (the genre has come a long way from these origins, for good and ill) and yet exactly as it needed to be.

The use of letters and diaries as the method for exposition and even action was intriguing to me. It make the suspense that much keener and it also made it easier for the author to “hide” some of the actions and motivations of various characters, especially of Dracula.

I’ve always heard about the turning into bat thing that vampires do, but I had not heard about the wolf as well. Nor about the being able to control wolves and rats as well as bats.

This was definitely written a long time ago, and so it has some of the same literary devices and writing style that characterize the era. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is different than we expect in modern writing, so it takes some adjusting to.



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22
Feb

Review: Insurgent

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Insurgent
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since this is the second book in the series, I won’t review it as rigorously as I usually do.

However, I will say that I found this book to be even better written than the first and the plot and characters and tension were so much more real and dynamic to me. This makes sense because it is the middle book in a trilogy. But, I thought that Roth did exceptionally well with keeping the pace moving along briskly while still giving the reader time to enjoy the characters and to feel the danger and uncertainty.

I am excited to read the last book in the series — sooner rather than later.



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30
Jan

Review: Eleanor & Park

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Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection that I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. But I’m happy I got a chance to read it.

It was different from other teen romances I’ve read, which is a good thing. It wasn’t saccharine or predictable.

It was sweet and nerdy and lovely.

This is the story of how a misfit girl who is stuck in a bad home comes to know and fall in love with an eclectic music-loving boy. It is a wondrous journey for both of them.

Well worth the read.



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27
Dec

Review: Killing Ruby Rose

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Killing Ruby Rose
Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how to rate this book. First of all, I read it several months ago and never got around to writing up the review – so I don’t remember it as well as I would like. Second, this was a free e-Book and in some ways, I believe that I get what I “pay” for and shouldn’t expect Shakespeare. Third, there were lots of good things about this book that I still remember.

So, I won’t go into a full-on review. I do recommend this book and the author. I would imagine that the writing for the series will be even better over time and the main character is quite enjoyable. Her voice is snarky and teen-girl-like, but also mature and logical as would befit the daughter of a cop and a DA.



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