Monday, December 16, 2013

City of God, or, why I need things spelled out for me.

Sometimes you just don't get it.

There were parts of City of God that I really enjoyed.  The narrative of the young Jewish boy in the Lithuanian ghetto was interesting and compelling.  And I liked the story of how the cross wound up on the roof of the synagogue, and the relationship between Pem and Sarah.  I could not, however, figure out how all of the different stories fit together.  About three-fourths of the way through the book, I had the idea to look at the book jacket and the lightbulb finally went on.  The novel is actually in the form of a writer's "workbook" where he records different story ideas and things, and the parts that I liked and got interested in were story ideas.

So.  A little convoluted, to say the least.  But, it didn't diminish the interesting parts.  It just made everything a little more confusing for me.  I think I just need a more traditional novel where I can basically follow what is going on from beginning to end!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sick people.

I took a long time to read Cigarettes.  It was really slow going.  I was able to follow the story (sort of) but I just didn't enjoy it very much.  The book follows relationships between a group of people in the 1960s and basically, everything is very screwed up.  No one is faithful to anyone else, they are all scheming behind each other's backs, and some people are into some very sick things.

I didn't enjoy this one.  I am not really sure what point the author was trying to make.  It was just lost on me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Books 161-170

161. City of God by E.L. Doctorow (2000)
162. City Primeval by Elmore Leonard (1980)
163. City Sister Silver by Jachym Topol (1994)
164. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1749)
165. The Clay Machine-Gun by Victor Pelevin (1996)
166. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
167. Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks (1998)
168. Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard (1996)
169. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
170. The Collector by John Fowles (1963)

Some modern stuff on here!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rules were made to be broken.

Sometimes dealing with a 4 year old and an almost 2 year old has me spinning in circles.  One is old enough to know better (don't jump on the couch) while the other idolizes his big sister and does whatever she does.  Even the most clear rules are simply disregarded when they are having fun together.

The Cider House Rules is an incredible novel that is all about, well, rules.  While the basic point of the novel is the abortion debate, each set of characters has his or her own rules that they opt to follow (or not) throughout and the reader observes how these rules shape their lives.  For example, Dr. Larch feels morally obligated to perform abortions as well as deliver unwanted babies to be left at the orphanage.  To further his perceived moral imperative to do so, he breaks more basic, commonly-held rules such as not falsifying another person's medical degree and lying about a living patient's heart condition.  It is interesting to see how the dichotomy works between the characters' self-imposed rules and the external rules.  Most of the characters have no problems breaking the external societal rules when they find their own rules are more important.

This is a very, very sad book.  I really enjoyed it and the characters will stick with me for a while.  But it also definitely brought me to tears in parts.  And I found I could sympathize with the characters even when, like Dr. Larch, they don't necessarily agree with my own beliefs.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Warm, with cinnamon.

I like my cider warm, with cinnamon.  Especially in the fall.  It doesn't quite feel like fall here yet, but it will be soon.

I also found Cider with Rosie a warm, homey look at life in England after World War I through the eyes of a young boy.  It was warm and sweet and gentle.  I read aloud a few pages about Christmas caroling to Pea, even.  I especially liked the layout of this book - it was more like a coffee table book style and most pages had a painting or a picture on them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Surprisingly good!

Usually the books that I have to get through Interlibrary Loan are very dry and boring.  So I was not particularly excited about reading Chocky.  Was I in for a surprise!  This book was fantastic.  I am amazed that it is not more popular.

Chocky is a being who has decided to inhabit a young boy.  The boy begins to exhibit precocious tendencies and the family assumes that he is being modest when he says that it is the work of his "imaginary friend", Chocky.  I'm not going to give away the ending.

This was a very quick read - I couldn't put it down and was done with it in 2 days!  I highly enjoyed it and recommend it!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Beh Beh

"Beh beh" is what Fuzz calls golf clubs.  Since golf is a big part of our house, he discusses "beh beh" quite often.  Beh beh can also be used to describe my opinion of Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley.  Nothing much happens in this book.  I couldn't get into it.  People just hang out and chitchat.  I'm sure that there is a deeper meaning there, but it didn't connect with me.  So - beh beh, Crome Yellow.  Beh beh.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

God bless us, everyone.

I had never read A Christmas Carol before this week! I was shocked at how short it was - I had thought all Dickens works were ridiculously long.  It was a very quick read.  I knew the general story, but it was nice to read the original anyway. I especially liked the descriptions of the spirits. I really enjoyed this one.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Not a hotel.

I asked Mike if he had ever read The Childermass by Wyndham Lewis.  He told me no, but commented that Wyndham Lewis sounded like the name of a hotel.  "We're staying at the Wyndham Lewis tonight."  "Can you please take us to the Wyndham Lewis so that we can check in?"  Hee.

Unfortunately, the actual reading of this book did not give me too much of a smile.  I don't really care for Wyndham Lewis, the author.  His books are thick, dry and I can never really tell what is going on in them.  Until I read the Wikipedia entry, that is.  This one apparently takes place in purgatory.  Interesting since he alludes to it but I could not actually figure that out for myself just in reading the book.

I'm glad to be through this one (I pretty much skimmed once I realized I wasn't going to get anything out of it anyway) and onward and upward!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I got stuck reading Choke on vacation this summer.  Well, first I read Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright - which was amazing.  I loved it and was totally fascinated by every word.  But alas, that was not one of the 1001 books.  So then I went back to Choke.

The quality of Choke is totally over my head.  It is graphic and gross.  I didn't wind up caring about the characters.  I wasn't surprised by the "surprise" plot twist at the end.  I just wanted it to be over.  I understand there is some sort of literary value in this book - I just didn't personally enjoy it all that much.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The simple life.

Remember the TV show "The Simple Life" that aired in the early 2000s?  It followed two starlets as they were placed in made-for-TV rural situations such as helping out in a barn, attending a square dance, etc.  It was mildly amusing and interesting to see them navigate the unusual-to-them world.

Christ Stopped at Eboli is a similar fish out of water theme.  I am not sure if it is a memoir or a novel or what - it was in the nonfiction section of the library.  The narrator, an Italian guy is sent to spend 3 years in a peasant village because he opposed the fascism of the predominant political party at the time. While he wishes to spend time painting and living a quiet life, his medical skills are desperately needed by the peasants.  He winds up having a very rich, full life there and even contemplates staying and marrying a local girl once he is free to leave again.

I really liked this.  I found the portrayal of the village interesting and I liked hearing about the life there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Not as bad as I thought!

The Child in Time is about a kidnapped little girl.  I thought it was going to be extremely difficult to read.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, that it wasn't as sad or horrible as I thought.  Yes, the main characters are grieving and go through some real difficulties, but there is a message of hope at the end that is very nice.  I also liked the intrigue and thoughts about the nature of time that were woven throughout the story.

This is one of Ian McEwan's earlier novels and it is interesting to see how his style developed over the years.  This book was not too bad.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy! Happy! Happy!

Fuzz goes around saying "happy!" sometimes.  I don't think he necessarily knows what it means, but it is awfully cute to watch him toddle around saying that he is happy.

After a slog through some really boring, slow books, I was glad that The Charwoman's Daughter was quick, interesting, and yes, happy.  The mother and daughter in the book really love each other and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop.  The mother of 6 next door also loves her children fiercely and does everything in her power to give them the best life - even if it means taking in a lodger, leading to much more work on her part.  The book even had a happy ending!  I liked this one.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Pea has really gotten into the Ivy and Bean series of children's books lately.  They are cute.  Bean's way of proclaiming everything "Bo-ring!" has sneaked its way into Pea's lexicon as well.  Now I am going to borrow the term.

Because, friends, The Charterhouse of Parma is boring.  Boring.  Booooo-ring.  I just couldn't get into it.  On the surface it seemed like a story, anyway, but I just did not care about the characters, I couldn't ever figure out who was who, and it was about 10 times as long as it needed to be.  I had to force myself to read a chapter a day just so I would be sure to get through it.   I'm glad to be moving on!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Books 151-160

As I continue my slog through The Charterhouse of Parma, thought I would update the list.

151. The Child in Time by Ian McEwan (1987)
152. The Childermass by Wyndham Lewis (1928)
153. Chocky by John Wyndham (1968)
154. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (2001)
155. Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levy (1945)
156. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)
157. Chrome Yellow [or Crome Yellow?] by Aldous Huxley (1921)
158. Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee (1959)
159. The Cider House Rules by John Irving (1985)
160. Cigarettes by Harry Matthews (1987)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A long, long, long time ago...

It's been a slow reading year for me.  Something about the ages of my kids and the various activities and responsibilities that they and we are involved in makes it difficult to get reading time in.  (Or, it could be Plants vs. Zombies on my iPad.  But we'll go with the former.)

Chaireas and Kallirhoe was a short and relatively easy read.  I can't really explain why it took me so long to get into it.  The story is pretty formulaic.  Although I suppose that you can't really say a book written so many hundreds of years ago (in ancient Greece) is formulaic if it was one of the first of that style.  Basically - boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, he accidentally really hurts her and everyone thinks she is dead, she is buried, but alive and is saved by a bunch of grave robbers who carry her off to Persia and various shenanigans ensue.  But all works out in the end, thankfully.

One sad aspect of the story was that Kallirhoe had this baby (and it was Chaireas') and she basically abandons it with Dionysos, the dude who bought her as a slave and fell in love with her) to go back with Chaireas.  I don't think she ever told Chaireas about his son.  The son was like a plot point and then an afterthought.

All in all, I guess I am glad I read this, but it is not one that will leave long lasting memories with me.  It is definitely cool to read a novel written so many centuries ago, though.

Saturday, May 18, 2013're breakin' my heart.

Fanny Burney's novel Cecilia is over 1000 pages long.  The beginning was really interesting.  The main character, Cecilia, is a beautiful, smart, thoughtful girl with a huge fortune.  The only catch is that to retain her fortune, anyone she marries must take her last name rather than Cecilia change her name to match her husband's.  (Interesting twist for 1789.)   The first portion of the novel has her staying with a spendthrift couple who she lends money to and then loses as the husband kills himself to escape debts.

Then things get very slow.  Cecilia kind of decides that she likes this aristocrat, Delvile.  His parents, though they like the idea of Cecilia's fortune, are horrified by the idea that their only son would do anything other than carry on the family name.  Hundreds of pages go by and they go back and forth, nothing being resolved.  It struck me how the mutual interest between Cecilia and Delvile is downplayed.  Cecilia seems happy to be single and seems to sort of choose Delvile not out of any strong feelings but more because she doesn't like the alternative suitors and feels like a life with Delvile would not be too bad.  I am not sure whether this is because of the time at which Burney was writing where declarations of undying love would be seen as gauche or offensive, or we are supposed to consider Cecilia's character as kind of above romantic love.

Finally, 950 pages or so into the book, things get interesting again, and our heroine is able to be married to Delvile, and a Delvile relative leaves Cecilia some money because they like her so much and feel bad that she had to give up her fortune.  All's well that ends well in Cecilia-land.

I liked this book, though it was kind of slow in parts.  I like learning about upper class society from these times.  I can't believe how long it took me to read it though!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sad reflections on The Cement Garden.

I can definitely appreciate the quality of writing in The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan's first novel.  It is intense, interesting, and I found that I could not put the book down once I got to the middle of the book.  It is also an incredibly sad story and I wished that I had not read parts of it.

The story is about 4 children ranging in age from 4 to 17.  Their mother dies and they are left on their own.  They fear foster care, so they inter their mother in their basement and go about attempting to live on their own without an adult.  The story is just so sad.

As a parent, I really felt so bad for the children and that poor little 4 year old crying for his mama.  It really made me think about some of the things I fear the most.

All in all, an excellent book, but I'm not really that glad that I read it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Maybe it should be "1000 books..."

It is a rare occasion that I find a book utterly, completely unreadable.  Peter Esterhazy's Celestial Harmonies is one such book.  It is over 800 pages of stream of consciousness about a man's family and history in and of Hungary.  It was totally confusing and I had no idea what was going on at any point in it.  I finally resorted to skimming because I just wasn't getting anything out of it, then to flipping pages and reading every second or third page.  Just terrible.  Even still, it took me over 2 weeks to read.

So whatever I was supposed to have gotten out of this one, I didn't!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Man Gone Down.

Man Gone Down is not a book I would have found on my own, but I am very glad that I read it.  The main character is a black man who has a white wife and 3 young children.  The story centers around four days in his life where he is trying to get enough money to get their lives back on track - he needs to pay rent and tuition at his kids' school.  In the process of doing this, he reflects on his life and what race has meant to him and his family.

This book was very interesting and made me think quite a bit.  I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tinker, tailor, engineer, spy.

Cause for Alarm is a very neatly written little spy novel.  The basic plot of the book concerns a British engineer who takes a job in Italy for a company that makes machines that make artillery shells.  The engineer gets into trouble with certain agents who want him to do different things for various governments.

It is a classic spy novel - lots of cloak and dagger stuff.  I really enjoyed it - it moved quickly and I loved finding out what happened next.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Before I embarked upon my current path of staying at home with my kids and cleaning up food from the floor, I had a different job. And that different job periodically had meetings in very cool places. Once I skipped a morning seminar to do something interesting...only to run smack into my boss leaving the seminar as I reentered the hotel! Awkward!

Things are also awkward in Caught, which takes place in World War Two London .  The main characters are upper class Richard Roe, and not upper class Pye, who is Roe's superior at the auxiliary fire department. It turns out that Pye's sister kidnapped Roe's son. That's not a great way to start off a working relationship!

I liked this book less than Back, the other Henry Green book I have read. It was kind of slow. I definitely missed nuances. I would benefit from someone who knows literature explaining their take on it, I think.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I love Margaret Atwood's writing!

I love Margaret Atwood's books.  I really do.  I can't believe that I never heard of her until about 5 years ago, when someone recommended I read The Handmaid's Tale.  I thought it was a fantastic book and then with this project I've also had the opportunity to read Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin, both of which I really enjoyed as well.

So I had high hopes for Cat's Eye.  It did not disappoint one bit.  Like all of Atwood's writing, it is a complex, multilayered tale.  This story is about an artist who returns to her hometown for a show of her art and the return brings up a whole bunch of childhood memories for her to deal with.  It is really thoughtful and deliberate but at the same time is an intense story.  I really loved it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why food on the floor could be LETHAL.

Anything on the floor is fair game for Fuzz to eat right now.  Plus, he spits out his food a lot, so the floor is sort of part of the digestion process.  There are various Cheerios, parts of pretzels, and a couple of sticky spots where he has dropped melons adorning my living room floor at the moment.  Obviously, I should do less reading and more sweeping!

It is a good thing that we don't live in San Lorenzo.  In Cat's Cradle, most of San Lorenzo's citizens were wiped out by simply touching a piece of ice-nine and then touching their mouths.  Not a good situation for busy toddlers!  (The rest of the world was wiped out, too, but that was due to the ice-nine wrecking the earth, not because they accidentally ate it.)

I really enjoyed this book.  I had not read any Kurt Vonnegut books before beginning this project.  What a fantastic writer he is. Cat's Cradle is an amazing, multi layered story about the end of the world  It moves so quickly with interesting characters, an original religion, and a mystery surrounding a famous scientist.  He manages to weave this incredible tale and also present a commentary on today's society without it being boring or preachy at all.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I read The Catcher in the Rye last week.  As I read, I kept thinking about Holden Caulfield, the misfit.  Holden Caulfield, from a privileged background, but doesn't think he fits in anywhere.  Holden Caulfield, kicked out of school.  Holden Caulfield, almost molested by a former teacher.  Holden Caulfield, wanders around New York and has numerous negative experiences.

I understand why people love this book.  People sympathize with Holden Caulfield, the boy who doesn't fit in.

I couldn't.

I kept thinking about Adam Lanza.

I should point out that I grew up near Newtown, Connecticut, and so the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have been incredibly difficult for me to process.  I still think of those tragic deaths daily.

And so, as I was reading about this classic literary hero, I couldn't get past the parallels between Holden Caulfield, the misfit, the boy who doesn't fit in, the boy who needs help, and Lanza.

Of course, unlike Lanza, Caulfield manages not to hurt anyone, winds up going home and at the end of the book, obtains the mental health care he desperately needs.

Maybe this analysis is too simplistic.  I understand why the book is viewed as such great literature.  Perhaps I simply read it at the wrong time.  In any case, I wish I could like Holden Caulfield more than I do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Books 141-150

Here are the next 10 books on the list!

141. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1963)
142. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (1988)
143. Caught by Henry Green (1943)
144. Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler (1938)
145. Cecilia by Fanny Burney (1782)
146. Celestial Harmonies by Peter Esterhazy (2000)
147. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (1978)
148. Chaireas and Kallirhoe by Chariton (1750)
149. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839)
150. The Charwoman's Daughter by James Stephens (1912)

I'm looking forward to reading more by Margaret Atwood and Fanny Burney this winter/spring!

Happy New Year and a slow read!

Happy New Year 2013!  Many things other than reading have captured my attention since my last entry in December.  I seemed to have lost whatever few minutes I have had to read in the past.  Hence, it took me nearly a full month to read Catch-22, a novel by Joseph Heller.

I was first introduced to Catch-22 when I was in high school and I selected it from the summer reading list.  The only thing I remembered from the book the first time around was Major Major.  Major Major is still one of the more entertaining aspects of the book, and will probably be what I remember from it years from now.  This book just wasn't entertaining, friends.  The critic on the back of the text says the book is "bitingly funny" and I just don't see it.  Perhaps I'm too far removed from the realities of a war to truly understand the humor.  I'll treat that as a blessing.