Posts filed under ‘May 2014 reads’

The Spring Book Rehash

DSC_8826-3207597020-OI have been a bit behind on reviews overall, so I thought I would catch up with a list of the books that I have been reading this Spring.

1. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck:  This book is large but it is amazing.  It is Steinbeck’s retelling, in part, of the Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel story.  I really should add that saying just that oversimplifies it. The characters take the long road to learning that how we live vs. our nature is a matter of choice. And that accepting that there is choice is the only way to find yourself and a full life.  It is brilliant and a great read. In my humble opinion, it is Steinbeck at his best.

2. The S.J. Bolton love affair: Bolton’s first three suspense novels are just fun.  “Sacrifice,” “Awakening” and “Blood Harvest” are all completely different stories but each one has a strong heroine that ends up in disturbing circumstances just because of their profession.   They are great for fast reads – for full disclosure, I was reading part of “Blood Harvest” in the middle of the night and it truly scared me to death. Those Brits have some spooky stuff going on.

3. “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje:  This book was not at all what I expected. I did see the movie years ago and always meant to read the book.  I remember, though it has been awhile, the movie being more of a love story and while that is a part of it, the book is more about the changing of four lives during and after WWII.  The four lives become intertwined in a bombed out villa in Italy.   Ondaatje’s descriptions are beautiful.  I am not sure I completely understood the depth of the story – it is one I am still thinking about.

4.  “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarity: This book is the best kind of summer read.  Cecilia is a great mom, has a wonderful husband, and just seems to have a well-rounded, beautiful life.  While her husband is out of town, she accidentally comes across a letter hidden away.  It is to her from her husband in the event he dies.  Cecilia doesn’t read it but mentions it to her husband on the phone.  He begs her not to read it and rushes home to make sure the letter is destroyed.  Of course then she reads it, wouldn’t you?  I liked this book because the letter does not contain what you expect and it took some fun/interesting turns.  It would pair well with a nice patio chair and a glass of wine.

5. “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson: It is not surprising that this book won the Pulitzer.  I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I think I just needed to read it.  It follows the life of Pak Jun Do who begins his life in North Korea in an orphanage.  His life is surreal but unfortunately life in North Korea is surreal.  The story is sad and unbelievable and  based in part on Johnson’s investigation into North Korea.  While I was reading this novel, North Korea was cited by the UN for Human Rights violations and it began an investigation into these violations, making this novel all the more poignant.

6. “Morning Glory” by Sarah Joi: This book was terrible. I have come to know Joi as a fluff writer that I read when I need a pretty little love story.  So I do not expect Pulitzer writing but this book just got silly.  I will forgive Joi this one transgression and hope it was just a one off.  Skip it, find another light read for your Sunday morning coffee.

And that my fellow readers is my Spring Book rehash. I hope the rest of your Spring is filled with sunshine and a lot of wonderful books.



* The first beautiful photo courtesy of In a Flash photography.



May 25, 2014 at 10:05 am 2 comments

The Saddest Story – “The Good Soldier” by Ford Madox Ford

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, Published in 1915

There is something wonderfully unconventional about how Ford tells this story. The narrator,    Dowell, meanders through his life and what has occurred but in exactly the way we all tell stories. He gets sidetracked, he misses parts, he returns to missed explanations – it is back and forth, and bit by bit the pieces of the story fill in to create a whole view, though unreliable, of what has happened.  As Dowell writes he imagines that he is speaking to someone.

     So I shall just imagine myself for a fortnight or so at one side of the fireplace of a     country cottage, with a sympathetic soul opposite me. And I shall go on talking, in a low voice while the sea sounds in the distance and overhead the great black flood of wind polishes the bright stars.

Dowell also states that the story he is about to tell is the saddest story he has ever heard. Though arguably it is about how his life has gone terribly wrong, so he is probably right – in our self-absorbed moments the saddest stories are often our own.

Dowell’s story is about he and his wife’s (Florence) nine year relationship with the elite Edward and Leonora Ashburnham.  What begins as a simple meeting while on a yearly holiday at a spa in Germany turns into a yearly event for the couples.  Through-out the nine years Dowell, the simple American, has nothing but the utmost respect for the Ashburnhams and their proper Britishness. However, after Florence’s seemingly sudden death, Dowell finds out that for nine years his wife was having an affair with Edward.  Dowell was the only one in the party of four that had remained blissfully unaware.  His revelation leads him to reexamine his relationship with Florence and the Ashburnhams.

I am not entirely sure what Ford wants the reader to take away from this story. This book is quite a harsh indictment of marriage, religion, and the ruinous effect that keeping up appearances can cause.  Edward was the proper soldier and Englishman but a sentimental fool who spent his married life in one romantic liaison after another.  Leonora is the dutiful Catholic wife who feels like she must stay with Edward and try to appear like the perfect wife. Dowell is a glorified nurse to Florence, who is faking a weak heart so she can have numerous affairs with everyone but her husband.  Dowell is blind to Florence’s cheating because he is so focused on trying to be what Florence wants.  So Leonora wants Edward, who is enamored with Florence, who is only wants to be a proper English (yet America) lady.  Dowell just wants simple love and devotion but even after Florence’s death he can’t find it. And so everyone is miserable.

Why can’t people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing.

Perhaps most importantly for the period in which it was written, this novel addresses the empty and meaningless lifestyle of the upperclass.  The tragic need to appear proper and refined only ends in dishonesty and a lonely existence for Ford’s characters.  Of course, this lesson is ever relevant – the  killing of another soul and the breaking of another’s heart should  never be considered worth it when the end result is merely station and money.   Perhaps some of our politicians would benefit from spending some time with this book.


Other reviews to check out:


May 18, 2014 at 7:40 pm 1 comment

A story has more than two sides – “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton

73.Eleanor Catton-The Luminaries“The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton, Published in 2013. 

I really grew to love this book. It is another long one, over 800 pages, but it uses the space wisely and there is not a piece of it I would have edited out.

In the mid-1800s there was a gold rush in New Zealand.  When Walter Moody arrives in mining town of Hokitika, New Zealand in 1866 he is running from his family, for good reason, and seeking his fortune.  He wanders into one of the towns few pubs where twelve men are assembled.  When he enters they all grow silent and pretend to be otherwise occupied.  However, eventually the men seek Moody’s impartial counsel.  There have been some strange happenings in this questionably sleepy town. A hermit has died and a fortune has been found in his home. The same day a prostitute has tried to kill herself and the richest man in town has disappeared. Each man who has gathered has a piece of the story and they are trying to get to the truth of what has happened.  Each man is somehow involved in what has occurred and of course perspective is a tough editor of truth.  What the banker knows is one thing, but his assumptions are something entirely different. The same goes for the theater owner and town pimp, the minister, and so on.  And solving this mystery is a bit more complicated than the usual who-done-it.

The writing here is impeccable. Catton is a master who sets the stage for her characters beautifully:

“Dusk was falling, bringing with it a rapid drop in temperature, and turning the standing water at the roadside from brown to glossy blue. There was little traffic save for the infrequent cart or long rider making for the warmth and light of the town ahead…one could hear the roar of the ocean already; a dull, pitchless sound, and above the infrequent cry of a sea bird, the call floating thin and weightless above the sound of rain.” 

This is a suspense novel written, as far as I can tell, as a tribute to Wilkie Collins – its technique reminded me of “The Moonstone” and that is a brilliant thing.  The story jumps around and there is a lot of fate and destinies crossing.   And piecing everyone’s story together is a great reminder that the path our lives take involves many stories and many perspectives to get the whole picture.


Other reviews to check out: 


May 8, 2014 at 7:42 pm 6 comments


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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