Category Archives: books

Play on book Titles

To play the Angels Game

You need to know

Rules of civility

And before you dive into

Sophie’s world

You should attend

The Friday Night knitting club

Where you will meet Ariel

And the Naked Anthropologist

Before discovering

The perks of being a wallflower

And falling into the Dead Zone

And given 

The wolf gift

To try and be the Other half of me

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

English: Elaine in the Barge
English: Elaine in the Barge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each and every page of this novel, I could not stop marveling at the talent of Atwood’s writing. In the book Cat’s eye, she explores a woman’s life from different intervals, paying extra attention to that of her childhood. The time that we always go back to when we have questions about who we are and what we have become. Atwood is not subtle when it comes to the truth of our experiences. She goes into depths of child hood games, and the  teasing, the cruelty of children, especially girls. Elaine the main character of the novel is in many ways scarred for life in the way that her best friend from elementry school treated her. In some ways that might sound extreme or melodramatic, but it was the foundation on how she saught and formed female relationships for the rest of her life. Cordelia was the friend who always said how she had to “improve” that anything she ever did wasn’t right. Elaine accepted this pain, in her want to be accepted, and in her want to have female friends. The two part ways for awhile, but then do reunite and become friends in high school. At this  point  Elaine; who had better grades and more luck getting dates had the power. Cordelia does not stay in her life in person, but Elaine’s idea of power especially around women was shaped by these experiences. Elaine becomes an artist in her adult life, and so as the reader you also get her retrospective in the purity of how she describes her own art, which is of course her life.  With this narrative going on in her  mind you get to see the vividness, the color, the insecurities, the ideas of what something is and represents, the things that most of us may think about, but never say out loud. Atwood also gives of intricate views of each time period and how they were seen from Elaine’s perspective at different times in her life. I loved this particular excerpt in Elaine’s description of how growing up in the forties molded her painting…

“the colors,” I say.  “Alot of my colors are forties colors.” I’m softening up.  At least she doesn’t say  like and you know all the time. “The war, there are people who remember the war, and people who don’t. There’s a cut off point, there’s a difference.”

….”We have long attention spans,” I say “We eat everything on our plates. We save string. We make due.”

Another Excerpt from Cat’s eye(Awesome example of her vivid descriptive writing!)

“I think about Mrs. Smeath’s bad heart. What exactly is wrong with it? I picture it hidden, underneath her woolen afghan and the billow of her apron bib, pumping in the thick fleshy darkness of the inside of her body: something taboo, intimate. It would be red but with a reddish-black patch on it, like rot in an apple or a bruise. It hurts when I think about it….”(Atwood)

Review of Balzac and the little Seamstress

This was a great, well written, moving novel. Two city boys are sent to the mountains for reeducation, because their parents, a great doctor, and a great dentist have been declared enemies of the state. The only way the goverment sees fit to save their sons is to send them away for a country education. However while they do learn many things about living in the country, they also transform the views the country folk have of the city. Especially that of the little seamstress. The great beauty of the mountain side who is the daughter of the tailor. The tailor whom

Phoenix mountain (Feng Huang Shan)
Phoenix mountain (Feng Huang Shan) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

in this little town seems equal to loyalty since he is the only one who can fashion the men and womens clothes in a suitable manner. After getting their hands on some great western classics through their friend four eyes, they are able to escape their reality of a harsh country life and be thrown into pages of beauty, romance, and drama. With the worlds of country and city coming together when these two boys enter the tiny mountain town of Phoenix Mountain we see how both sides can’t escape their experiences withought being changed.

Review of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees
The Bean Trees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was a wonderful book. Really. I fell in love with each and every one of the characters, from Taylor the adventurous soul who takes her tank of car, and drives away from kentucky as far as she can go. And on the way, down in Cherokee nation a woman comes to her car and drops a three year old little girl. The woman tells her she has to take her because she has no home. Taylor with a brief thought of marching in and returning the child to the bar that she is outside, decides to take her. She figures she can take care of her in the meantime if there really is no one else. She then arrives upon Tuscon Arizona, she is struck by the beauty and the straight out differences between Tuscon and her home town in Kentucky, and she meets the people who became her family in the New town. From Mattie the owner of Jesus is Lord Used tires, where Taylor ends up working and facing her fear of exploding tires. She meets Lou Ann another kentucky girl, who has a fear of saying ridiculous things out loud and is the overprotective mother believin her little boy dwaine ray could choke on anything smaller than a golf ball in site. And at the heart of the story, we learn that children dont have to be biological to be ours; Taylor starts calling her little girl turtle, and turtle starts to speak, she talks about Bean trees and potatoes and cartots. And as she grows and gets stronger just like any bean tree would. And with the happiness and the adventure Taylor has to face some unfortunate truths, like how her new friends Estevan and Esperenza have to always be on the run, because if they are ever sent back home they are bound to be tortured and killed.  She also has to face her own fear of becoming the rightful mother of turtle. Kingsolver true message in the book is that even with all the suffering in the world we can heal and make things better with love.

Review of Girl, Interupted by Susanna Kaysen

"View of the Alabama Insane Hospital - Tu...
“View of the Alabama Insane Hospital – Tuscaloosa.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I quite enjoyed this book, a memoir of Susanna Kaysen and the year and a half stint of her stay at McLean Mental Hospital. The book was funny, and yet incredibly profound. She talks about how one day you may question life, the meaning, the why’s, everything, but these answers are not things we ever get a real answer for. But what if you obsess over it, can’t let it go, until it takes over your life, it encompasses you and now you are now longer sane. Kaysen  makes you question and think about sane vs insane. How we classify it in our minds and as a society. What is the difference? What makes one person sane and one person insane. If that person was sane, how did they become insane? Kaysen takes you on a roller coaster ride through her stay at McLean and you get to hear her inner dialogue meet her crew of fellow loonies and learn a thing or two about psychiatry care.

The Miniaturist by Heidi Julavits, another short story from McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

English: Bride and bridesmaids, 1900-1910 A st...
English: Bride and bridesmaids, 1900-1910 A studio portrait of a bride and three bridesmaids. The bride wears a high necked dress and a veil with headpiece. The bridesmaids wear matching dresses with full sleeves gathered at the top and with ruffles at the hem. Shaefer & Deazley, Austral Studio, Toowoomba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was one freaky little short story which I thouroughly enjoyed. It starts out with two sisters driving to their long lost sister’s bridal shower. I say long lost because they only just found out she existed after their father mysteriously dies in a fly fishing accident, and this unknown daughter was mentioned in the will. Jennifer is much more judgemental of Helen the long lost sister, than her sister Maureen, who in Jennifer’s opinion is too nice and too trusting. On their trip to the country in the woods, they end up stuck in the snow, and conveniently find a cabin with someone. Jennifer feels too conveniently so, and she starts to agree with her gut more and more when Meg the old woman who lives in the house starts to tell the two sisters stories of an old witch before their time, who had had her two half sisters as bridesmaids dress up in their white bridesmaids dresses and look in the mirror to see themselves bleeding in their gowns. The bridesmaids would then run outside into the snow believing themselves to be on fire, and then never seen again.  And yes Helen and Maureen’s bridesmaids dresses were also in fact white. This witch whom Meg spoke of was also an avid dollhouse collector. Yet another strange similiarity this witch shared with their supposed half sister Helen. This story did not end happily, but I’ll leave it to you to find out how exactly it does end.

Several short story reviews from McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film)
http://www.exophagy.com Frankenstein (1910 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Review of Lusus Naturae

In this Margaret Atwood short story a girl becomes ill with a disease that turns her into some kind of monster. Reminiscent of Frankenstein she becomes alienated from humanity and flees to the woods to avoid ridicule. If monster stories are your thing,  you should definitely check this one out.

Review of What you Do not know you Want

In this David Mitchell short story a collector has lost sight of a very valuable knife. A knife that was coincidently used in a suicide and a knife that he will follow any sign of for his wealthy client. If it ends up being worth it, you’ll have to read to find out!

Review of Minnow

This particular short story by Ayelet Waldman I found particularly haunting.  The story is about a woman who suffers a miscarriage.  She is depressed and traumatized and understandably so. One day she turns on the baby moniter and hears a baby crying. She assumes it is picking up the signal and cries of a baby in another household. So one day when her husband is at work, she goes out into the neighborhood searching for where this frantic nonstop crying is coming from, only to discover that its signal is strongest in front of her own home; this discovery throws her into the throws of either her own madness triggered by grief or a spirit realm that she should have just let be. Its for you to decide. If you’re into anything creepy or disturbing this story is worth checking out.