Dec 28 2012

Rewiews From My Friends On Goodreads

Posted by Mathias in Book Reviews

The following book reviews are from my friends on Goodreads.

99561       12/26  Sarah Dalton gave 4 stars to: Looking for Alaska by John Green

status:           Read in December, 2012

** Spoiler Alert **
Looking for Alaska is a book with a beautiful flow. Right from the first to the last paragraph the prose grabs you. It’s one of those books that becomes unputdownable without using any cliff-hangers. Instead it’s the slow burning prose which keeps you hooked.
*Spoilers*
Now to the themes of the book.
I was surprised as I read the book that it is really very spiritual. I expected it to be about the love story, the love triangle in fact, and the inevitable conclusion of that love story. There are huge clues throughout the book, and even in the blurb, that Alaska is going to meet an unfortunate end, and that end comes about 2/3 into the book.
From then on Miles has to come to terms with his grief. He wants answers. He investigates her death, retracing Alaska’s steps until he finally figures out her mental state at the time of the accident. It’s likely that Alaska killed herself in a horrible moment of impulse, drunkenness and guilt. It’s only then that Miles realises that he has to forgive himself to move on.
But there’s more. There’s a spiritual aspect to the book as Miles has to answer the biggest question of all for his final exam. He begins with the attitude that there is no afterlife and that humans invented this concept as a way of dealing with death. But after the loss of his friend he decides that there is.
I was disappointed with the ending. I thought it would have been much braver if John Green had found away for Miles to come to peace with Alaska’s death without him having to believe that there is an afterlife. I like the philosophical questions in the book – particularly those about humans being greater than the sum of their parts – but no one in literature ever seems brave enough to find peace with the life-cycle without choosing a religious or spiritual way to do it. I feel that this book will leave atheists a bit disappointed but I recommend it nonetheless.

  16226111       12/26 Debbie Young gave 4 stars to: The Sock Wars by Maia Sepp

status:           Read in December, 2012

I came across this book by chance here on GoodReads and was intrigued by the catchy title and cute cover. I read it to wind down for the Christmas holidays – a great choice.
It’s a witty, observant and poignant story of how financial consultant Lucy Tuttle, about to hit the big 3 0, comes to terms with the loss of her only relative, a much-loved, unconventional aunt. The late Aunt Maren is a little like the aunt in Graham Greene’s wonderful “Travels with my Aunt” but in New York in the 21st century. In doing so, she discovers much about herself that she never realised or dared to recognise, having for so long sought comfort and distraction in financial-led safety mechanisms, such as counting to her favourite high number to calm her nerves.
The characters and settings are well drawn. Indeed, the whole book is well written, with realistic conversation, atmospheric description and scene-setting and a plausible, likeable narrator.
I’d recommend it to anyone who is:
(a) recently bereaved (having been widowed some years ago, I found this a touching, realistic portrait of the grieving process) (b) approaching 30 – or any other big birthday – and having a crisis about where they’re going with their lives (c) worried about her biological clock and not sure what it’s telling them (d) interested in the New York City lifestyle (e) in need of a simple, good, entertaining contemporary story about modern life
Although I’m old enough to be the heroine’s mother (yikes!), this book rang lots of bells with me and made me think about my own life choices (about which I’m currently very happy, I should add!)
Incidentally, the parallel to Graham Greene’s great book never entered my head till I started writing this review, and I’m not suggesting for a moment that The Sock Wars is derivative or imitative. But there are lots of pleasing similarities,including a very satisfying ending that will have you punching the air with delight.
Why 4 stars instead of 5? Well, there were a few clunky plot moments where there could have been a bit more “showing” instead of “telling”, as they say – e.g. characters telling Lucy what to do and how to lead her life which were necessary to move the plot on to the next stage. These didn’t quite ring true (or maybe other people’s friends and relations are more direct than mine!) But the quality of the writing is top notch – a very good start for this new young writer who is definitely one to watch.

  12293756       12/26  Carl Brush gave 4 stars to: Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews

status:           Read in December, 2012

Whatever your politics, if you’ve watched Chris Matthews on his “Hardball” TV show, you can’t fail to be impressed with his breezy, energetic delivery and his erudition about issues of the day. He writes just like he talks, and every page of Jack Kennedy resounds with his voice. This is not an objective, or even an exhaustive biography. One might argue that you could learn as much about Kennedy from Caro’s deep-plunging biography of LBJ as from Jack Kennedy. However, it is a wide-ranging look at a life of one of the most important political—and cultural—figures in American history from the pen of an enthusiastic admirer who is not afraid to look squarely at the invisible moles beneath the charming visage. Matthews starts at the beginning and traces JFK’s development through his lonely, sickly childhood (Matthews never mentions it, but the situation begs comparison with growing up of Teddy Roosevelt.), through the familiar story of PT 109 and on to the presidency. We see a boy and man determined to prove himself against the odds. First, for his parents’ attention in the shadow of a favored older brother, then against pain and adversity in war, and finally against the political and religious establishment to become the ambitious officeholder who would be president. The pain followed him always—the back and the gut were always weak. He was given last rites three times. He didn’t survive the fourth, of course. Matthews takes JFK to Dallas, but wisely skips the details of the assassination. Instead he jumps ahead to Jackie’s interview with Theodore White a few days after, in which she invokes the image of Camelot as an apt description for her late husband’s legacy. The aftermath becomes more poignant than any repetition of the event could possibly have been. I came away from this book in some ways more admiring of Kennedy than ever, particularly for his refusal to bomb and invade Cuba during that missile crisis. However, I lost respect for him as a man. His philandering was legendary and has always been a spot of tarnish on his trophy, but I never before realized its magnitude. After his election to the Senate, for example, he took off with his buddies for a Cote d’Azul cruise. Jackie was eight months pregnant. She went into early labor and was delivered of a stillborn by cesarean. He wasn’t present. As he often wasn’t present. Aides tell stories of his simply ignoring her at important events to the extent that she’d just leave without his noticing her exit. He and his buddies would go on periodic “girling” expeditions. Even allowing for standards of the day or for both Jackie and Jack’s parental backgrounds preparing them for such behavior, it’s behavior to be despised. And, though there’s a nasty and salacious component to the public’s hunger for exposure of private lives, I would have welcomed a little more willingness on the part of the press to print what they certainly knew. Whatever you know or don’t know about JFK, Chris Matthews gives you a fresh and entertaining look.

  60x80       12/26 Kate Policani gave 5 stars to: Love and Other Subjects by Kathleen Shoop
bookshelves:         winstatus:           Read in December, 2012Carolyn Jenkins is a new teacher, brimming with optimism and ready to save the world. Well, she’s at least ready to save her class full of kids from a life doomed to illiteracy and menial jobs. Life, however, turns out to be more complicated and dismal than her idealistic vision. The reality of an inner-city school and a broken system threatens to ruin her dreams. Her personal life isn’t doing so hot either. After breaking up with her long-time boyfriend, Alex, her BFF roommates Laura and Nina aren’t necessarily supportive. When she meets a mysterious older man named Jeep, Carolyn gains the courage to move forward with her life-changing plan. Over the school year, Carolyn learns the dirty truth about the school where she works, Klein the sadistic principal who is also her boss, and about Jeep’s crazy family. Can Carolyn push past all this imperfection to grasp happiness or will she lose everything she hoped for? Carolyn was a character of radical highs and lows. Her optimism and quirky courage warred with her negativity and over-analasys of the faults in her life, others, and herself. It was kind of annoying at first and showed her extreme immaturity. Kathleen uses all the awful setbacks in Carolyn’s life to expose her immaturity, aggravate her moodiness, but also to bring out her strength and mature her. I liked Carolyn more and more through the book as I left behind her spoiled whininess and sympathized with her. The other characters served well to help Carolyn suffer more, but they were also her strength. I liked the juxtaposition of the different personalities of Nina and Laura, who Carolyn also worked with, and their different perspectives on life. Jeep, the love interest, was a great elusive temptation and ideal in Carolyn’s life. I don’t think I could have thought of a crazier name for him, and pairing him with a brother-in-law named Ford was just hilarious. This book entertained me and drew me through the story without boredom. The pacing was great and I loved all the subtle details of conversation and background. Thanks for the great read, Kathleen!

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