Monday, August 26, 2013

The Lost Reflection


I would have given this book a two star rating but added a third for the simple fact that I am nostalgic of my New Orleans vacation. The editor for this book, if there is one, missed a slew of mistakes and the characters spoke like robots. I'm not one for crime novels, so maybe that's my fault for reading this and expecting to enjoy it more than I did, but this certainly was, in my eyes, a "crime" novel with a splash of romance and a dash of vampires. In fact, the vampires and crime were only discussion points for the first half of the novel which seemed to be focusing on the romance portion. Then, when the vampires truly took a role, I was left wondering "but what happened" with the romantic perusals.


Some of the descriptions of the city were pretty spot on while many other portions of the book, pertaining to the history and city details, were incorrect. Again, maybe my own knowledge is lacking as I am not a New Orleans resident but a visitor. However, I spent a good deal of times on historic tours, learning about the construction of the city and homes, in addition to hearing about the vampire legends - and that was just for when I was in the city! This isn't counting what information I was able to gather on my own before and after I visited. So I was disappointed in that and felt that the author might have never visited the place to begin with. That maybe he wrote this based off of google map searches and guess work. 


And yet, a shop-keep suggested the book to me and praised it. Maybe it was a selling point to reach a certain daily goal, but I had expected more. The plot is interesting but the writing style, and certainly the editing, make the book sag under the weight of poor execution.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I think it was a little more than a year ago that I saw the movie Hugo. I was attracted to it for two reasons: it looked absolutely breathtaking and the actor playing Hugo was the rather adorable little boy who played Mordred in BBC's Merlin. When I saw it, I was blown away by how beautiful it was (colors! scenery! architecture!) and I found the story endearing and magical. It was the type of sad, yet joyful, story line that I would have enjoyed as a child (I was a child who always enjoyed a dose of drama in her tales).

The book is rather large and thick, a bit overwhelming in fact, but most of the book is filled with drawings that can cover multiple pages at a time. The artistry is done in black and white and for me is a perfect layout for how the film is meant to be seen (and the film, to me, did follow the book quite closely). There is the usage of real photographs through out the book and overall, the passages having been broken up  by imagery was not something equating to a poor decision.

I know very little about the films of old and have never had much interest in it but this book, for me, made it interesting. Georges Méliès, a French filmmaker, has a major role in this story as does automation and the history of film. But what I liked the most was the story of Hugo Cabret. A child who is orphaned and left to live within the walls of a train station, he goes from clock to clock and winds them up every day. He lives completely on his own and manages to survive despite his young age. As a child, this type of story would have been something I would have eaten right up. Children, like me, being able to do things I didn't think I had the guts to do was always a sure way to gather my interest.

With the comparison to the movie, I feel it stayed true to the book right down to the random imagery of famous movies. It's upsetting at points -- I truly felt for Hugo many times and wanted to reach into the book and change the events taking place -- but the ending is quite warm and comforting.

For bookish children, I would suggest this book, as I feel they wouldn't be completely put off by the 500 pages. For children who are not quite into reading just yet... maybe approach the book with caution as the length could be startling. Yet, the book is filled with so many drawings that the story itself is much shorter than the length of the book. In that it may be a good transition for the would-be-reader.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Traveling with Pomegranates

Time and again I would see this book and drift over to it, run my hands over the cover, and consider purchasing it. And every time I would place the book back on the shelf or display then walk away. Why I never bought this book, I don't really know, but I often do this so it doesn't come as a surprise. However, when a pop-up bookstore opened across the street from my job I wanted to browse and see what I could scavenge. With each book costing less than $5 I really couldn't pass up a number of books and so, when I found this on the packed shelves, I knew it was time to finally buy it. 

I've read Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed her story telling and suspected that when writing about her own life it would only be done in the best of ways. See, often enough when there are memoirs out and about I am bored to tears, but only if the memoir is written by someone who labels themselves a writer do I really seem to enjoy the narrative. It's not some snide prejudice against people who write their own memoirs who are not writers by trade it's just that there is more of a story-like feel to the memoir when it's written by someone who can paint pictures with words.

This is a coming of age story as much as it is one of symbolism, female religious figures, and travel. Ann is stepping into the real world after graduating college and facing her first real life struggle while Sue is turning fifty and recognizing signs in her body that she is getting older. Besides this it is the relationship between mother and daughter as it has changed over the years, drifted apart, and come back together. There is obvious symbolism in just about everything (which for some readers is a fault of the book as the authors sometimes get a little carried away by how much symbolism they always seem to see) and a reflection religious stories in what they themselves are experiencing.

Let's start with Ann. Ann just graduated college and is in a depressed slump as she tries to figure out what to do with her life. She thought she knew that her life was destined to study Greek history at a specific University but was not accepted. Now she's lost. On one hand, I completely understand what Ann was feeling. When I graduated college I went through a similar slump because I had no clue what I was to do next. For all my life the next thing was school and suddenly I was out of school for the first time in my life and I had no clue what I wanted out of my future. It was overwhelming and depressing. However, unlike Ann, I ended up working as a janitor and then a gas station attendant while I tried to figure my life out. While Ann was feeling depressed and lost she was cruising around Greece and Turkey. So, while on one hand I understood her depression... on the other I felt that she was being a little self absorbed. She was on vacation in another country and moping around most of the time rather than thinking how lucky she was to be in Greece again and able to have that opportunity! So... I feel for her and understand where she's coming from but only to an extent because in the grand scheme of things she didn't have things half bad.

Then there's Sue who is approaching her fiftieth birthday and realizing her age. I don't find fifty to be "old" but I assume turning fifty is another story (just as I am slightly panicked about turning thirty in a few years). Besides the realization that her body is changing she is also realizing that there is a distance between herself and her daughter. Her daughter is no longer a child but an adult and the relationship they once had has changed. I think most mothers and daughters go through this type of experience with one another and it hit close to home. Close enough that I would like to send this book to my mother because I think she'll just get it.

Besides discussing her changing body and healthy, Sue also over analyzes a lot and while at times it's wonderful, it sometimes gets a little boring as it seems anything will set her off. As I mentioned above, it seems some readers really disliked this aspect of the book.

There is a lot of detail about the different Mary's of the world, something that's near and dear to this mother and daughter duo and familiar to anyone who has read Sue's book The Secret Life of Bees. And besides all of this, the religious aspect, the relationship between them, and much more there is also the talk of writing. While some people dislike the symbolism I, at times, felt that Sue was pitching her other books to me. At first I really enjoyed hearing about her writing but the constant deep thoughts about symbolism and the likes did get a little tiring. Mind you, I love The Secret Life of Bees.

By the end of the book I did feel refreshed so please, despite my complaints do not assume I hated the book. I was glad to see how the chapter finally closed and a little bit jealous. I love to write, I do consider myself a writer, but boy do I wish I could live in a situation where I didn't have to work and could instead devote my life to writing! Or traveling overseas. Whichever.

It also reminded me so much of my relationship with my mother and I do intend on sending her a copy of this book, if only to hear what she thinks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dewey

This is a book for lovers of libraries and cats. If you like libraries, but not so much cats, then this isn't the book for you. If you like cats in any location, libraries or not, you'll still likely fall in love with this story.

Dewey made headlines as the library cat in Spencer for quite a span of time. In my opinion there isn't an animal that goes better with books than a cat. Maybe it's because they can't help but rub their faces all over the book or because reading seems to offer a moment of peace and comfort -- something which sleeping, cuddly cats are often associated with as well -- but it seems like a no-brainer that a cat would be perfect in a library.

Dewey was found as a kitten in the return book bin of a library in Spencer, Iowa and adopted by the head librarian and staff. From tiny, frostbitten kitten to a grown cat, Dewey was loved by the library patrons and many people both near and far.

This book tells the story of Dewey; how he was found, how he grew up, and the widespread affect he had on everyone around him. He's a cute cat with a lot of quirks and a great personality. That's something that is wonderful about cats and, I feel, non-cat owners often miss out on: cats have great personalities and they're all different. The author of this book does a good job at showing just how special cats can be.

But the book isn't just about this; the author writes a lot about herself. As much as this is a book about Dewey's life and impression on the library, it is about the author as well. We learn of her childhood, her children, her parents and health problems. At times I enjoyed reading about her life but other times I found myself thinking, "This is a book about a cat. I want to read about the cat." However, even the portions that were completely focused on Dewey came off a little repetitive at times.

Besides these two ingredients to the book there was also the dose of talk about Spencer. The small town was discussed just about as often as the author and Dewey and, well, part of me didn't care. Again, I was here for the cat. It's obvious the author has a lot of small town pride but I also began to feel that she was trying to convince us of something. The importance of the town? That she really means it when she says she loves it? I don't really know.

I wasn't expecting to have glorious literature when I read this book and my expectations were correct. This is a book that is meant, in my opinion, to make you feel warm and fuzzy about cats and libraries. It did as much and it honestly left me crying in the middle of my commute to work, surrounded by business men and women, when I was getting to the end (reminder: this is a book that is covering the life of a cat). My mother loved this book and I'm sure other cat-inclined people will enjoy it too. I have another Dewey-inspired book on my shelf which I intend to read... later.