Tuesday, October 25, 2011

54. The Winds of War

By: Herman Wouk
Rated 3 Stars
From:  Audible
Audio Book

I read this book thirty years ago and it's a perfect example of how one's reading tastes change over the years.  At that time I would have rated it it at least four stars and perhaps even a five.  But as I have gotten older, my perceptions have changed and I'm afraid the most I can honestly give this book is a shaky three stars. 

Wouk used the character of a U.S. Navy captain and his family to tell his version of the events leading up to the second world war.  While I don't expect writers of historical fiction to  slavishly repeat generally accepted versions of historical events, there are limits.  I do expect writers of fiction to provide me with a good story.  Wouk bounced his poor characters from one crisis to another and embroiled him to so many of the plots and plans of  the main players in WW2 that I found it impossible to keep my disbelief suspended.  

I finally made this book work for me by listening to it in the middle of the night  when I couldn't sleep. As soon as I stopped expecting a novel  with a coherent story line I was able to listen to each chapter as an essay based on the author's perceptions of what happened at the time.  From then on  it went much smoother for me.   This made it possible for me to stop and start  listening to the story without having to pick up on a story line.  It was a wonderful help with my insomnia because I could focus on whatever was happening in the book at the time instead of hearing all the things that go bump in the night.

There is a sequel to this book titled War and Remembrance and I'm not sure I will bother with it.  Since Winds of War worked so well for middle of the night listening I just might.  I need to think about it.

Publisher's Summary

A masterpiece of historical fiction, this is the Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation".
Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

Monday, October 17, 2011

53. The Cat's Table

By:  Michael Ondaatje
Rated:  1 Star
From:  Library

It's my own fault I ended up trying to read this book.  I had forgotten that this is the same author that had written The English Patient. Struggling through to the end left me exhausted and out of breath.  What a piece of work!

My journal entry for The English Patient

 If I had a better memory for author's names I wouldn't have touched this book with a 10 foot pole.  Like the English Patient it's a book about nothing that goes nowhere.  Yes Michael Onjaatje writes beautiful prose.  But he can't tell a story.  I'll bet I remember from now on.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Michael Ondaatje's finely wrought new novel chronicles a young boy's passage from Sri Lanka to London onboard the Oronsay, both as it unfolds and in hindsight. Glancing off the author's own biography, the story follows 11-year-old Michael as he immerses himself in the hidden corners and relationships of a temporary floating world, overcoming its physical boundaries with the expanse of his imagination. The boy's companions at the so-called Cat's Table, where the ship’s unconnected strays dine together, become his friends and teachers, each leading him closer to the key that unlocks the Oronsay's mystery decades later. Elegantly structured and completely absorbing, The Cat's Table is a quiet masterpiece by a writer at the height of his craft. --Mia Lipman

Trust me, if there is a mystery it's buried so deep in smarmy prose that it's impossible to find.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

52. The Great Typo Hunt

By Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson
Rated:  4 Stars
From:  Library

Thanks to Maudeen's tip I am currently The Great Typo Hunt; Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time, by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. It's one opf those books I would never have found out about unless someone pointed it out to me.

 I have a lot of nerve snickering at other people's typos seeing that I am Queen of the Typos myself and also someone who has never really gotten a grasp on the correct use of comas and an even shakier grip on the proper use of apostrophes. But I have always loved badly worded signs and have a small inventory of them stored in my memory. One of my favorites is a sign I spied in Michael's in Ft. Worth, Texas that read "All flower arrangements must be returned the same day of purchase with receipt." Bringing it to the managements attention only caused them to look at me like I was crazy for asking what would happen to me if I decided to keep it. Another was in a local Mexican restaurant which read "Everyone eating must have plate including children."

 I Hope that I may have learned a little something about the use of the dread apostrophes and get a firmer grip on commas from this book. Anyway it's a very funny book and I'm enjoying it.

 Product Description

 "The Great Typo Hunt is the hilarious tale of the adventures and misadventures encountered on a quixotic cross-country trek to correct grammar and spelling mistakes. Over-the-top heroic tone and witty wordplay make this book endlessly amusing, without detracting from the larger point the authors are trying to make about the importance of clear and coherent communication. An overall fun read that will change the way you look at typos."

51. Museum of Thieves

By:  Lian Tanner
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

I don't read a lot of fantasy but I do dabble in the genre from time to time.  I had read so many good reviews of this book written by people whose taste generally runs with mine that I decided to give it a try.

What a fun read!  It's set in a world where children are sheltered by being chained to their parents in order to keep them safe from everything.  Dogs, cats, loose nails, broken glass and splinters.  Everything that might be remotely dangerous are  forbidden by law.

Goldie and boy named toadspit escape from this stifling environment and set out to save their world from an assortment of baddies.  A modern fairy tale, this book is a well written fun read that should appeal to readers of all ages not just children.

Publisher Summary 
Welcome to the tyrannical city of Jewel, where impatience is a sin and boldness is a crime.
Goldie Roth has lived in Jewel all her life. Like every child in the city, she wears a silver guardchain and is forced to obey the dreaded Blessed Guardians. She has never done anything by herself and won’t be allowed out on the streets unchained until Separation Day.

When Separation Day is canceled, Goldie, who has always been both impatient and bold, runs away, risking not only her own life but also the lives of those she has left behind. In the chaos that follows, she is lured to the mysterious Museum of Dunt, where she meets the boy Toadspit and discovers terrible secrets. Only the cunning mind of a thief can understand the museum’s strange, shifting rooms. Fortunately, Goldie has a talent for thieving.
Which is just as well, because the leader of the Blessed Guardians has his own plans for the museum—plans that threaten the lives of everyone Goldie loves. And it will take a daring thief to stop him. . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dolley Madison - DVD

Rated:  5 Stars
From:  Library

What a treat!  Before seeing this DVD I knew very little about Dolley Madison as she is not a well know person in American history.  I knew she was First Lady when the British burned the White House in the War of 1812 and there are cupcakes named after her. But she was a very interesting lady who certainly deserves to be remembered. 

The film was beautifully done and the costumes and sets were gorgeous.  Dolley was obviously a lady of style and elegance.  I highly recommend this movie.

Product Description

"Born in relative obscurity before the American Revolution, Dolley Madison became one of the most influential American women of the early nineteenth century. As the wife of the fourth president, James Madison, Dolley Madison played an important part in the political and social experiment that was the early American Republic. Long before women held any overt political power, Dolley used her unelected position to legitimize the nation's new capital, to create a political and social style for the new country and to give Americans a sense of their own national identity." 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Middlemarch - DVD

Rated 2 Stars
From:  Library

I gave the movie 2 stars because at least I finished it.  But I had to force myself to watch it until the end. I formed no attachment, sympathy,  or love for any of the characters. I suppose if I had read the book I may have liked it more but this movie certainly isn't going to motivate me to do that.

However, it was beautifully filmed as all BBC productions are.  As a period piece it couldn't have been better.  Too bad the story didn't work for me.

Product Description

Chronicles the life loves foibles & politics of the fictional english town of middlemarch. This centers on the socially conscious but naive dorothea brooke whose disastrous match to the pedantic rev edward casaubon sets in motion a chain of events that will change middlemarch forever.