Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Selected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty

Synopsis: Eudora Welty's subjects are the people who live in southern towns like Jackson, Mississippi, which has been her home for all of her long life. I've stayed in one place,' she says, and 'it's become the source of the information that stirs my imagination.' Her distinctive voice and wry observations are rooted in the southern conversational tradition. The stories in this volume, from the first two collections she published, range in tone from the quietly understated and psychologically subtle to the outrageously grotesque. Linking them all is Welty's remarkable ear for the language and point of view of the South." (From the back of the book)

Review: I picked this up at a book sale for cheap, mostly because the forward is by Katherine Anne Porter. I also read Welty is considered one of the great Southern short story writers. I enjoy short stories, and since this contains two complete collections, I thought it was worth the pennies. Now, as for her stories. First, they are distinctly Southern, and distinctly pre-Martin Luther. Originally published in 1936, her attitudes towards blacks is typical of the deep south during the early part of the 1900s. She uses the word nigger* quite a bit, often in a disparaging manor and her portrayal of blacks feels like a caricature and a farce.

Second, I found the stories Gothic, odd, weird, and sometimes horrible confusing. For at least 1/3 of the stories, I was uncertain what was happening, or even who the main character was. This isn't to say her prose isn't interesting. She had clever and descriptive word choices and illustration. But they did nothing to clarify what the heck she was saying!

I can see why she is considered a Great. This is just the sort of dense, vague, high-literature, super-deep writing that is generally considered great. However, I can't help but wonder if it's a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Nobody gets it, but they don't say so to avoid appearing stupid or low-brow.

Bookmarks: 4 of 10

Awards: Several regional awards

Date Finished: 3-29-2011
Pages: 214

*I use this word in the academic sense and I believe in being clear when discussing things of this nature. You don't get anywhere pretending these things don't exsist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ramble: Reading or Writing

If I disappear from the book blogging world, you can bet it's because I'm writing. Currently, I'm finishing a novel I wrote last November during the NaNoWriMo. It was my second attempt and the farthest I've gotten. The novel stands at 81K, with about 15-20K more to go. My first attempt is hovering at 56K and once I figure out the a crucial bit, I intend to finish.

Of course, the million dollar question is: Are you going to publish it?

And I answer myself: maybe. I don't know.

Truthfully, because I read so much, I have a solid idea of what good writing is verse mediocre writing. And my writing is mediocre. It might get published, a few hundred or so copies, sit on the shelf at B&N for 6 months and then end up in the $1 bargain bin. I'd rather wait until I'm certain my writing is good. Something I can proudly point at instead of something I'm ashamed to acknowledge as mine.

To turn my writing from mediocre to good, I am doing what all experts say you should do: I write. Everyday. Even it's dreadful (and it frequently is). Even if I'm tired. I write. I read books by writers better then myself, to pull myself up to their level. I study the craft. I dream. I think. I research. But I write, mostly, I just write.

Be prepared, I warn you. Once I get a novel worthy in my eyes, I shall require Beta readers. Any volunteers?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Review: Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry

Synopsis: Joel Goss knows that Little Bub is a special colt, even though he's a runt. And when school teacher Justin Morgan asks Joel to break the colt in, Joel is thrilled! Soon word about Little Bub has spread throughout the entire Northeast -- this spirited colt can pull heavier loads than a pair of oxen. And run faster than thoroughbreds! This is the story of the little runt who became the father of a world-famous breed of American horses -- the Morgan.

Review: I'm not a horse person and not particularly fond of horse books. Therefore, I have little to compare this one too as a "horse" book. It was a pleasant and easy read, based on the real story of the sire of the Morgan Horse Breed. As such, it would appeal to young child interested in horses and early American History. For myself, it wasn't the best Newbery book I read, but it was decent.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor 1946

Date Finished: 3-12-2011
Pages: 160

Friday, March 11, 2011

Aquisitions: Paperback Inc.

Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings ed. by Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby

Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White

Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren

Reveiw: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Synopsis: Who hasn't dreamed, on a mundane Monday or frowzy Friday, of chucking it all in and packing off to the south of France? Provençal cookbooks and guidebooks entice with provocatively fresh salads and azure skies, but is it really all Côtes-du-Rhône and fleur-de-lis? Author Peter Mayle answers that question with wit, warmth, and wicked candor in A Year in Provence, the chronicle of his own foray into Provençal domesticity.

Beginning, appropriately enough, on New Year's Day with a divine luncheon in a quaint restaurant, Mayle sets the scene and pits his British sensibilities against it. "We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers," he writes, "looked with an addict's longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window." He describes in loving detail the charming, 200-year-old farmhouse at the base of the Lubéron Mountains, its thick stone walls and well-tended vines, its wine cave and wells, its shade trees and swimming pool--its lack of central heating. Indeed, not 10 pages into the book, reality comes crashing into conflict with the idyll when the Mistral, that frigid wind that ravages the Rhône valley in winter, cracks the pipes, rips tiles from the roof, and tears a window from its hinges. And that's just January.

In prose that skips along lightly, Mayle records the highlights of each month, from the aberration of snow in February and the algae-filled swimming pool of March through the tourist invasions and unpredictable renovations of the summer months to a quiet Christmas alone. Throughout the book, he paints colorful portraits of his neighbors, the Provençaux grocers and butchers and farmers who amuse, confuse, and befuddle him at every turn. A Year in Provence is part memoir, part homeowner's manual, part travelogue, and all charming fun. (from the description on Amazon)

Review: When I think of this book, the word "charming" seems to fit best. I found it for a few cents at a thrift store and I'm still unsure why I picked it up. However, I'm eternally glad I did! The prose is lite, humorous, well-crafted, beautiful and delightful. I laughed out loud several times, once even have to set the book down to because I could not breathe (the goat race scene had me crying I was laughing so hard). Mayle's description of the people and customs, his own response and their adventures are - charming! I enjoyed every minute of this book and was rather sad to see it end.

Bookmark: 8 of 10

Awards: British Book Awards Best Travel Book of the Year (1989)

Date Finished: 3-10-2011
Pages: 224

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Aquisitions: Thrift Stores

The Ear, The Eye and The Arm by Nancy Farmer

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
by Edmund Morris

Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Listen to the Warm by Rob McKuen

Synopsis: A book of free verse poetry written by pop-poet Rob McKuen, published in the early 60s. This is his second (or third, depending on how you count things) book of published poetry.

Review: I'd never heard of McKuen until my Grandmother died and I inherited her collection. I probably wouldn't have cared, except she had every one of his books, several with dog-eared pages. I miss her terribly and wish I'd been able to ask her about the ones she marked. I am determined to read all of them; this is my third. I remain ambivalent about his work. It's not the worst poetry I've read, but it's certainly not the best. It's trite, repetitive and cliched - almost as if it's trying too hard to be deep. However, it was extremely popular in its day, so it appeals to the masses.
People say poetry is dead today, but I disagree. Songwriters are the new poets. Poetry is now in the music. Some is extraordinary, but most is banal and mediocre at best. McKuen's work is like Brittany Spears - catchy, but in 100 years, it won't be around.

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 3-3-2011
Pages: 34

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: The Iron Palace by Morgan Howell

Synopsis: Seventeen years have passed since Yim, an ex-slave blessed by the benevolent goddess Karm, sacrificed her body—and perhaps her very soul—to Lord Bahl, avatar of the evil Devourer. In that selfless act, Yim stripped Lord Bahl of his power but became pregnant with his son. Now that son, Froan, is a young man. And though Yim has raised him in the remote Grey Fens and kept him ignorant of his past, the taint of the Devourer is in his blood. Even now an eldritch call goes out—and the slumbering shadow stirs in Froan’s blood, calling to him in a voice that cannot be denied. Armed with a dark magic he barely understands, Froan sets out to claim his destiny. When Yim seeks to stop him, her sole hope is that Honus—the love she abandoned—will take up the sword again for Karm’s sake and hers. Only then can she hope to face the impregnable bastion of unspeakable evil: the Iron Palace. (from the back of the book)

The is the last in Howell's The Shadowed Path trilogy, and is an excellent closer to the series. The struggle Yim has with the darkness inside and out is well crafted. Honus, Froan, Cara - all struggle and some prevail. I can't say much more without giving away the plot.
One thing I found intriguing was the frequent Christian metaphors used: the goddess as both divine and mortal; the goddess who created the world but gave it's creatures free will; the idea of love being the only thing to overcome darkness. I have no idea what religion Howell ascribes too, but I found this recurring theme interesting. As a Christian, it made me wonder.
I would also say I was please with how Howell handled the sex scenes. They were not graphic or crass or TMI. Even the violence and gore weren't graphic, but enough to give the idea without being gratuitous.
My only complaint is I feel more time could have been spent on how Honus moves from anger to faith instead of the pages of "camping and walking and trudging". Still, this didn't diminish the overall story. This series overall is an excellent example of solid story telling, with rich characters, complex plot, intrigue and deeper message. Worth the time to read.

7 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished:

Aquisitions: Borders

Goblin Hero by Jim C. Hines

Goblin War by Jim C. Hines

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre

Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

In the Mailbox is meme created by The Story Siren.