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Red Rock Bookworm (St. George Utah USA)
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The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics) by Scott Fitzgerald. F. ( 2000 ) Paperback
The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics) by Scott Fitzgerald. F. ( 2000 ) Paperback
by Scott Fitzgerald. F.
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND, 12 Oct 2014
It's been many years since I read THE GREAT GATSBY and I thought it was about time that I re-visited Fitzgerald. I had forgotten how much imagery, symbolism and allegory permeates the story being related by Gatsby's neighbor Nick Carraway, whose "seeds" of observation are the basis from which this story sprouts.

Since Fitzgerald and his wife spent much of their time post WW1 in Paris one can only assume that he was not enamored of what had become of life in the United States. Nicks depiction of the land between the two "EGGS" and New York City as a barren, grey valley of ashes may very well have been F. Scotts vision of American society in the 1920's with the haves and have nots obviously delineated........from the lavish parties thrown by Gatsby and the money spent on acquisitions by Tom, Daisy and Jordan , juxtaposed with the circumstances of George and Myrtle, put to rest (at least in Fitzgerald's eyes) the idea of the United States as a classless society filled with opportunity for all. Fitzgerald, however, does point out rather eloquently that for all their wealth and material possessions the rich are for the most part just as unhappy and dissatisfied as their poorer counterparts. Both classes are always waiting for the "green light" to pursue their dreams to acquire their hearts desire.

GATSBY is both a morality and a mortality tale of a Godless land in which "the eyes" (of society?? of God??) are always watching and the fear of living is almost as great as the fear of death. I'm glad that I ventured back into GATSBY territory because the passage of many years has opened these eyes to the greater depths of the story that I missed the first time around. Perhaps re-reading those "REQUIRED" books most of us found so boring in English Lit class would be a good challenge for each of us to undertake.

The Good House
The Good House
by Ann Leary
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars CELLAR SECRETS, 11 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Good House (Paperback)
If you enjoy books with unreliable narrators who keep you guessing as to the veracity of their words then you should certainly appreciate THE GOOD HOUSE by Anne Leary. Hildy Good, the book's narrator, is a woman of "a certain age" who successfully sells real estate, maintains a good relationship with her homosexual ex-husband, has two grown daughters and a grandson, and has (after an intervention) gotten her excessive drinking under control and her life back on least that's what she would have her daughters and several residents of her Massachusetts home town believe. We all know, however, that devil's in the details and in case of Hildy's addiction it's the denial found within the details that allows the devil to do its work.

Hildy considers herself a MENTALIST of sorts when she says, "I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions". "Alcoholics, hoarders, binge eaters, addicts, sexual deviants, philanderers, depressives -- you name it, I can see it all in the worn edges of their nests." Hildy doesn't seem to realize that she is viewing the town and its inhabitants through an alcohol soaked perspective, so the accuracy of her observations regarding her friends and neighbors is questionable. Couple that with the frequent blackouts and memory lapses she suffers after belting down a few (bottles that is) and is it any wonder the reader would question Hildy's insights.

While alcoholism is the firm anchor that grounds the book, it is Hildy's relationship and interaction with the supporting cast that really imbues the story with an underlying uncertainty that drives the plot. Her friendship with the obsessive Rebecca, her inter-action with the parents of a special needs child and her on-going (since high school) romantic trysts with town handyman/garbageman Frank Getchell as well as the consequences that result from her uncontrollable drinking are just a few of the factors that will draw you in and keep you reading into the wee small hours.

Granted, Hildy is a mess, but I really liked the sixty-something year old broad and I think you may too. She's a survivor.

by Marilynne Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.89

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE ROAD OF LIFE, 10 Oct 2014
This review is from: Lila (Hardcover)
If you, like I, tend to be the type of reader who is usually drawn to novels filled with plenty of action and edge of your seat plot twists then you will find Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson's LILA to be a little slow. It falls into the category of more traditional themes and straight-forward storytelling with LILA sharing her innermost thoughts regarding everything from the events in her childhood and the early wanderings that brought her to Gilead, Iowa to her life as the wife of an elderly country preacher.

While listening to this book on CD I found it difficult to follow the narrative which is as disjointed as the life of the woman whose story it tells. The narrative lazily meanders back and forth in time taking the reader from Lila's rescue at age four by the itinerant Doll, to her difficult life on the road where she relies on her instincts and survives by working as everything from a field hand to a cleaning woman in a whorehouse, and finally to her arrival in Iowa, her marriage and pregnancy (events not necessarily told in chronological order).

There is an abundance of scripture quoting and examination of the Calvinist doctrines and theology which, while essential to the telling of this particular story, were not particularly absorbing. While Robinson is recognized as a masterful writer, it was difficult to stay awake for Lila's spiritual search for the meaning of life. This is one of those books with beautiful prose but essentially less than captivating subject matter.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2014 10:13 PM BST

The Orphans of Race Point
The Orphans of Race Point
by Patry Francis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.77

5.0 out of 5 stars FAITH & LOVE, AN UNBEATABLE DUO, 4 Oct 2014
With THE ORPHANS OF RACE POINT author Patry Francis has woven a sledgehammer of a story while subtly providing bittersweet insights into love, friendship, forgiveness and redemption. Set in a tight-knit Portuguese community on Cape Cod, and covering dozens of years ORPHANS is essentially a morality tale told from the alternating perspectives of three of the stories primary characters, Hallie, Gus, and Mila. Several members of the "supporting cast" in this richly layered tale also have stories that are equally touching and often tragic but, never fear, Francis has arranged her characters stories in such a vivid and exquisite way you will find the overall tone of the book to be inspirative.

Beginning with an act of violence that will forever follow him, Gus Silva faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience and the support of doctor's daughter, Hallie Costa and best friend Neil Gallagher. Building from this starting point Francis has concocted an engrossing plot, a setting so vivid, and a range of continuing themes ranging from revenge to resignation, hatred to hope and grace to greed with each life story connected by the continuously spinning wheel of time and change that illuminates the ways in which each of us finds meaning in our everyday lives.

Part a tale of abandonment, part mystery of the battle between good and evil, and part love story, ORPHANS has all the ingredients necessary to make this one of the most unforgettable books you will read this (or any) year.

by Alice Simpson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.49

3.0 out of 5 stars EXPLORING THE RHYTHM OF LIFE, 26 Sep 2014
This review is from: Ballroom (Hardcover)
It has been 80 years since the Roseland Ballroom opened in 1919 and in her old age the famous dance hall has become a metaphor for the rhythm of life at its various stages. While some of it's patrons are active participants in their own lives others are mere observers and still others resemble the ballroom itself - old and tired with peeling facades that show they are definitely past their prime.

The cast of characters range in age from very young to very old and although you get a glimpse into their lives and what drives them, the author never really give you a true in depth look at what it is that lies beneath the surface. There appear to be only two constant themes running through the narrative and they are - the effect of their mothers on their lives and the sense of satisfaction and temporary fulfillment that dance brings into each of their lives.

Despite its developmental shortcomings, this book is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for all those of a certain age who remember going out on a Saturday night to socialize with friends and dance at a local ballroom. (I personally remember the Aragon and Trianon ballrooms in Chicago and the weekly radio broadcasts where one could vicariously enjoy the "big band" music even if you couldn't get to the actual venue in person).

This book gets five stars in the areas of dance and nostalgia, but unfortunately only a three in story and character development. 3 1/2 stars

The Drop
The Drop
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.60

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DOG DAYS, 26 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Drop (Hardcover)
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" A version of that question could also apply to Dennis Lehane's latest book THE DROP which began as a movie script based on a 10 year old unpublished Lehane novel which he used as the basis for a short story called ANIMAL RESCUE, about an abused pit bull, that now serves as the inspiration for a movie script he wrote for the film called (what else) THE DROP. (James Gandolfini's last movie).

Now that we have that out of the way, let me give you a brief overview of the novel (hopefully just enough to whet your appetite without divulging any of the secrets). THE DROP is the tale of an abused abandoned puppy left in a trash can by a psycho named Eric. The pup is rescued by a quiet unassuming bartender named Bob who works in a neighborhood bar called Uncle Marv's. Marv is Bob's cousin, and ostensibly the bar owner, however, the bar is no longer his since being taken over by a Chechen gang who use it (along with other places around the city) as a "drop" for illegal money.

In addition to the aforementioned trio there are several other quirky characters making appearances throughout the story, including the very Catholic and unusually observant and persistent Detective Torres, the reticent Nadia, a woman with a questionable past who helps Bob take care of his rescued pup, and an assortment of nasty Chechens whose methods of persuasion are right out of a Jason Statham flick. Are you intrigued yet?

Just know that there is a lot of story and plenty of action crammed into the scant 207 pages of this little gem. There are definitely more sinners than saints peppering its pages and the back story of each character is more than a little intriguing. I finished this book in one evening, so that should tell you how quickly the narrative moves along and how truly adept Dennis Lehane is at seducing his readers.

Cartwheel (Random House Reader's Circle)
Cartwheel (Random House Reader's Circle)
by Jennifer DuBois
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.58

3.0 out of 5 stars EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN PERSPECTIVE, 24 Aug 2014
Reading CARTWHEEL by Jennifer duBois is akin to picking up an issue of The Star or the National Enquirer at the local supermarket. Most people will be aware that this novel was inspired by Amanda Knox, an American foreign exchange student who was tried for the murder of her roommate. The Knox case was, and continues to be, fodder for the tabloids. In duBois's very imaginative fictionalized version of the tale, Lily Hayes is the sexually active, priveledged, and morally complex young woman accused of the murder of her roommate and fellow exchange student Katy Kellers. Kellers is also sexually active and more than a little devious but displays a façade of freshness and innocence.

The reader is taken back and forth in time as each character in this sizable cast recounts their actions and interactions with and between the two women from their individual perspectives. From Lily's put upon father Andrew and Sebastian, Lily's next door neighbor and part time boyfriend to her younger sister Anna, each narrator comes with plenty of personal emotional baggage. For the most part, all of the characters in this book are not very likable - from the victim herself and the smarmy Sebastian down to the Argentine prosecutor Eduardo Campos, who is possibly the most interesting and complex character. Eduardo is a man advanced in years who seems to have a genuine dislike for young people and their youthful peccadillos . While he never really stoops to actually altering the facts in the cases he prosecutes, he is not above omitting certain data while at the same time utilizing everything from biased media depictions of the two women (casting them as virgin and vixen - young girl versus woman) in order to manipulate and adjust public perception. He is a bitter climber with an agenda.

The author manages to bring to life the sights, sounds and smells of Argentina as she leads us through the unfathomable nightmare that results from what was supposed to be a young woman's fun filled cultural experience. Lily, it seems, is her own worst enemy.

As for the title, Cartwheel, it is the perfect metaphor for the mental gymnastics the reader goes thru as they turn the details in this narrative over and over while conducting an inner monolog in attempt to arrive at a viable answer to the question "Did a young woman who appears to have everything going for her really commit murder"?

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
by Mira Jacob
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars INDIA, ALBUQUERQUE, SEATTLE & BEYOND, 20 Aug 2014
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is compelling stuff, engaging the emotions from the first page and becoming almost impossible to put down. It is a vibrant, imaginative family saga that spans 20 years and is, by turns, amusing and appalling but hard to resist. Mira Jacob manages to balance the caustic humor and heartfelt compassion surrounding this dysfunctional family, originally from India and now living in the US, in a way that draws the reader in as each family member deals with their own individual demons.

SLEEPWALKER'S GUIDE focuses on the interaction between the Eapen family; Kamala, Thomas, Akhil and Amina as well as and their adopted/extended family. Narrated primarily by Amina, a once successful Seattle photojournalist who has abandoned that career following a tragic incident and is now following her passion for photography via wedding assignments. Having always been a "daddy's girl" of sorts Amina returns to Albuquerque when her mother informs her that her brain surgeon father, Thomas, has been carrying on lengthy conversations several deceased relatives. Are these conversations merely a coping mechanism for the brilliant surgeon or is there something else at the bottom of his behavior?

Moving back and forth in time we experience the many aspects of the family's secrets as well as the losses that have made each of them who they are today. The title itself alludes to the various times when sleep, sleepwalking and lack of sleep are instrumental in the outcome of various situations confronting this family.

Despite its sometimes abrupt jumps from one time period to another as well as the profanity and sex scenes that often seemed out of place in the story, this is for the most part a credible, relatable and complex story whose almost 500 pages move along at a steady pace as we follow the book's protagonist as she makes surprising discoveries not only about her family, but about herself.

When the World Was Young
When the World Was Young
by Elizabeth Gaffney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.81

4.0 out of 5 stars AN END TO CAREFREE DAYS, 14 Aug 2014
WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG by Elizabeth Gaffney uses a Brooklyn Heights neighborhood and a select group of its inhabitants to tell its story. Gaffney has managed to encapsulate a time in U.S. history from post WWII to the"police action" in Korea and give the reader an overview of those times. Throwing into dramatic relief an era of wartime situations and focusing primarily on the emotional sacrifices made by four women during this time period as well as the changes in social convention the reader is swept into the lives of Wally Baker, her mother Stella, grandmother Gigi and Loretta the maid - the person who provides the emotional glue that sustains these women through trying times. Confronted by separation from loved ones and multiple losses these women are forced to face their challenges as well as the consequences of the choices they have made.

This is a novel that will take you back to a time when rationing was the order of the day and the women on the home front, who had previously been delegated the roles of homemaker, stepped up to display a strength and power they had been previously required to keep under wraps.

Told from the viewpoint of Wally, the young protagonist, the book also deals with, among other things, interracial relationships, infidelity and suicide. If all of this sounds like it might be a promising basis for a soap opera, you could be right. While the book does hold the reader's interest as it examines this particular time in history, it is also a little "over the top" in the amount of calamity that it heaps on one family. For that reason 3 ½ stars.

W Is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
W Is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)
by Sue Grafton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AN UNLIKELY PAIR, 10 Aug 2014
W IS FOR WASTED is a parade of lives wasted due to addiction, extortion and estrangement. Author Sue Grafton takes us on a trip back in time to the 1980's with her ever independent straight shooter of a P.I. Kinsey Millhone as she is caught up in a double edged mystery involving two dead men, one a private eye with questionable ethics and the other a homeless stranger who, for some reason, has left Kinsey a bequest in excess of a quarter of a million dollars.

How did a homeless man amass this amount of money? Why did he disinherit his three grown children and leave his money to a complete stranger? How are the deaths of these two men connected? In her pursuit of answers to these and other questions, orphan Kinsey's family tree grows larger when, in the course of her investigation, she comes upon some new and previously unknown relatives from her father's side of the family whose antics set her teeth on edge.

Making a surprise return engagement is Kinsey's former lover Robert Dietz as well as some old favorites like her octogenarian landlord Henry and his neurotic brother William, who has returned from a recent trip with a Japanese bobtail cat in tow.

No need to detail the particulars of the novel, however, let it be said that the fundamental themes of unbridled greed and flawed characters runs through both narratives, which seems to be more than appropriate for the "me -me-me" materialism of the time period being portrayed.

Once again, Sue Grafton has delivered a choice little time capsule of enjoyment to her readers.

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