Posts Tagged ‘5 out of 5’

29th September
2010
written by Steph

Back in 2001, when I was in my final year of highschool, I had a relatively open schedule, where I had large periods of free time during the day. On such occasions, I would generally take over a portion of the library near the leisure reading section under the guise of doing my Latin or Algebra homework, but really looking for fiction to read and while away the hours instead. One of the books that always caught my eye but which I never managed to read more than the first 10 pages or so of was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So when TLC Tours offered me the chance to finally read and review this puppy, I was more than happy to oblige. Going into this book, I certainly knew of it, but really knew nothing substantial about it except that it took place in Africa. I’m not sure that I even entirely knew that it involved missionaries, but involve missionaries it does. The book kicks off in 1959 when the Price family, headed by Nathan Price, leave their comfortable if not overly happy life in Georgia to spend a year saving the souls in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the deepest wilds of the Congo. The novel is divided into seven books, each one prefaced by the musings of Orleanna Price (Nathan’s wife) on their time in Africa, ruminations which softly foreshadow the action that will form the focus of each book. The books themselves are formed from what read like diary entries, each the voice of one of the Price daughters. Through these girls, we see the Prices struggle with culture shock and culture clash as they attempt to assimilate into their new home, struggling with physical, emotional, and social hardships in an environment in which few seem to thrive. We watch as time gradually shapes their attitudes as well as their notions of faith, family and injustice. Each of them is affected differently by their experiences in Kilanga, but nevertheless, each is irrevocably changed by Africa. (more…)
9th September
2010
written by Steph

I think 2010 may be the year of eating my words. If you’ll recall, this is the year where I finally conquered Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and rather than despising it like I had in the past, I really got into the story and enjoyed it an awful lot this time round. Enter The Great Gatsby, a book most people read while in their teens, but not I! Despite it often being touted as the quintessential American novel, I’d never been able to get into it (and never been forced to while in highschool). Even with its slim size, I’d only made it about 40 pages in or so before giving up in exasperation. The last time I tried it, I put it down saying that either it was the wrong time for me to be reading it, or Fitzgerald just wasn’t the author for me (I found him too “adverby”, that is, I was disconcerted by his liberal use of adverbs). Well, I think we can now chalk this one up to timing, because this time when I picked up The Great Gatsby, I was mesmerized. And not at all bothered by the writing! Quite the opposite, in fact! In vain I searched for instances of overuse of adverbs or other modifiers, bogging down the prose like the heavy fringe on a flapper’s dress. Despite my anticipation of overly fussy writing, this time, no excess weight was in sight. It honestly felt like I was reading a completely different, totally enchanting novel. Except for the commas! Oh, the commas! Clearly Fitzgerald and I have somewhat incompatible views on how these little freckles of punctuation should be used, which sometimes meant I had to re-read certain sentences several times over and had to have my thinking cap on at all times, but who am I to argue with Fitzgerald’s stylistic proclivities? I’ve probably been using commas wrong all this time. (more…)
24th March
2010
written by Tony

Good book, ugly, ugly cover.

“‘To be born again,’ sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, ‘first you have to die.’” These are the first words in a book that manages at once to confound expectations and be more than simply infamous. I must confess that I knew next to nothing about this book when I picked it up and I brought it home — if nothing more — for the novelty of having that book. You know the one. The one that made the Muslims so mad. The book that killed 40 people and put a, now irrevocable, fatwa into existence calling for all good Muslims to kill or, if unable to do so themselves, direct others to kill, anyone associated with this book. It’s a book that you feel a little nervous reading, say, on an airplane. Or in public. It has a stigma attached to it that is hard to get away from. It’s a book that sent its author into hiding for nearly a decade. I expected this book to be challenging on nearly every level. Something that could cause so much hate had to be either a blinding work of secular clarity and religious disavowal, or so basic and insulting that no one could read it and not feel tainted. In a way, it was neither. The language is stunningly accessible, and at times is almost sing-songy. If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood movie you’ll understand the verbal melody that Indian English becomes, how nearly everything becomes an idiom and the nonsense forms a meaning outside of accepted bounds. This is that feeling, put onto paper. Tune up the sitar and put on the hand cymbals and you could sway your hips in time with the writing. (more…)
3rd February
2010
written by Steph

My only regret is that such a beautiful book had such an ugly cover!

A few years ago when my real-life bookclub was just setting out, I picked Never Let Me Go as our first group read.  I had heard such good things about it (it was nominated for the Booker!) as well as about its author, Kazuo Ishiguro (though I’d never read him before), and it was also dystopian fiction, which I tend to like, so I thought it would be the perfect book to kick things off.  In some ways, it was, because we all had A LOT to say about the book… unfortunately, most of it was negative.  I remember feeling completely underwhelmed with the story, the writing, the characters felt flat and unemotional and nothing about the novel surprised me (not even the so-called twists).  I was SO disappointed, and quite honestly, I wondered what all the hype about Ishiguro was about.  I couldn’t figure out why the book had been nominated for an award, and I couldn’t understand why people tripped all over themselves to sing Ishiguro’s prose any kind of praise. Despite my poor initial outing with Ishiguro, I felt I needed to try something else by him before banishing him from my reading life.  I decided I might as well try his, ostensibly, best-known novel, the one that actually won the Booker, The Remains of the Day (which I found at McKay’s for the hefty price of 75¢). (more…)
20th January
2010
written by Steph
My first perfect read of 2010!

My first perfect read of the year!

Tony and I have been married for just over six months now, and I love my husband dearly.  But last week while reading The Blue Castle, I fell in love again.  With a book that starts like this, you can pretty much surmise that it was essentially love at first sight:
“If it had not rained on a certain May morning Valancy Stirling’s whole life would have been entirely different.  She would have gone, with the rest of her clan, to Aunt Wellington’s engagement picnic and Dr. Trent would have gone to Montreal.  But it did rain and you shall hear what happened to her because of it.”
The Blue Castle is the story of Valancy Stirling, who at 29, is an old maid.  She lives with her overbearing mother and sniveling cousin and has a dull and oppressed existence.  Valancy is kept under thumb, constantly berated, and is perpetually holding her tongue.  She is only able to find solace in two things: the nature books of the reclusive author, John Foster, and the blue castle of her imagination, a place where her wildest dreams come true and romance is no longer an impossibility.  Valancy’s life changes the day she sneaks out to see a doctor (without first getting her family’s approval) and is diagnosed with a severe and untreatable heart condition that will likely kill her before the year is out.  This revelation spurs Valancy to overhaul her life and break out of her shell; she may not have done much with the first 29 years of her life, but Valancy soon learns that it’s never too late to learn how to live, and when she starts to cozy up to town recluse and possible bad-boy, Barney Snaith, she finds it may not even be too late for love! (more…)
3rd November
2009
written by Steph
My doubleheader for the November issue

My doubleheader for the November issue

For the November issue of BookPage, I pulled double duty and reviewed TWO books.  I first elected to cover The Pursuit of Other Interests by Jim Kokoris, but when Generation A by Douglas Coupland popped up a week or two later with no one to cover it, I knew I couldn't let it lie by the wayside and volunteered to read and review it too. I went into Pursuit hoping it might be a bit like Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End.  It didn't wind up matching the brilliance of that novel for me, but to be fair, I love TWCTTE A LOT.  And Pursuit was actually a really engaging and fun read in its own right - just ask Tony.  I laughed out loud at least 3 or 4 times while reading it, and when the book largely revolves around job loss in these trying economic times, you know that's no small feat.  This book had a lot of heart and managed to walk the ridiculously tricky line between levity and sobriety, and I ultimately enjoyed reading it very much.  If I were rating it on the blog, I'd probably give it a 4 out of 5, so it's well worth spending a few days with.  You can read more on my thoughts here. As for Generation A, well, what can I say except that I LOVED IT and it easily sauntered onto my "best books I've read this year" list.  The writing mesmerized and excited me, and when I was through with it, I was in a frenzy to get my hands on more Coupland. And this is coming from someone who up until this book had had a slightly negative view of Coupland (though I had never read him before).  Now I'm completely in awe and on a mission to read everything he's written.  This book was brilliant and could very well wind up being my favorite read of the year.  This easily snagged 5 stars from me.  Go out and read it now!  You can read my official review of it here. So, all in all, loved the books I covered for November's issue.  Next month?  Nanny Returns... The Pursuit of Other Interests Rating: 4 out of 5 Generation A Rating: 5 out of 5
15th October
2009
written by Steph
True Love Wills Out!

True Love Wills Out!

How’s that for turnaround time?  After taking about two weeks to read through the first two-thirds of the book, I positively raced through the last portion of this novel.  And what can I say: I LOVED it.  This may not have been the most important book I’ve read this year, nor perhaps even the most impressive, but it was fun to read from beginning to end and it ultimately captured my heart quite deftly.  I cannot say for certain that I did indeed read this book when I was younger, but I am definitely glad that I read it again now as in an odd way it reminded me of how I used to read when I was younger – purely for pleasure and purely to be swept away by a magnificent story.  I feel Jane Eyre definitely delivered on both those counts, as it was for me a whirlwind of emotion and a novel that really engrossed me.  The writing was lovely and evocative, the characters strong and luminescent, and as the temperature slowly begins to drop outside, I can hardly think of a better book to curl up with! (more…)
24th September
2009
written by Steph

This book is anything but.

Another double header! We're aiming to make this a regular feature on the old blog. This time we didn't read the feature out loud to each other (though we do have another title slated for that), nor did we read it at the same time. Steph read this and passed it along to me and we decided that we needed to discuss it with each other in order to get the most out of our readings. With out further ado... Steph’s Take Every once in a while, we as readers are lucky enough to have truly magnificent books pass through our lives, books that make us think, and even more importantly, ones that make us feel.  Often times I find that upon finishing a truly great book, I have to take a bit of a breather from reading so that time can cleanse my literary palate.  Finishing a great book results in me spending a few days thinking about what I’ve read, working through all of the emotions it has stirred up within me; in such a state, any book picked up in haste is sure to be a disappointment, my reading of it irrevocably colored by the previous Great Read, looming large in my mind.  And is so often the case with great books, they frustratingly defy description.  Disgrace, is one such book. (more…)
4th September
2009
written by Tony
This isn't the ogirinal, but, stupidly, I forgot to take a picture.

This isn't the ogirinal, but, stupidly, I forgot to take a picture.

Wandering down the stacks in the fiction section of our local library branch Steph and I stumbled across this little yellow book nestled on the second shelf from the top. It has obviously been rebound into a quaint yellow cover with what appears to be a blue owl debossed on the cover (I would later learn this is, in fact, a vulture, or “Charleston Eagle,” to be precise) and the large name “Porgy” down the spine. Having recently been to Charleston and through Catfish row it seemed only reasonable to pick this book up. Porgy is set in the black tenements of Charleston in the early 20th century. It centers on the exploits of the eponym Porgy over the course of one summer. Porgy is a beggar and has a deformity that denies him the use of his legs, and after the source of his mobility (Peter and his horse) is unjustly jailed, he takes to getting around in a small cart pulled by a slowly putrefying goat. It’s interesting, for the purpose of this story, to note that a porgy is a bottom feeding fish that swims in shallow waters. Bottom feeder that he is, Porgy’s meager livelihood depends on the kindness of passing strangers as well as his “regulars” and suffers for a time at the hands of goat stink and rampant dice playing. Eventually a transient woman of ill repute named Bess moves in with Porgy and they begin to have the trappings of a stable life together. It so happens that Bess “belongs” to a man named Crown, a man Porgy witnessed murdering another over a gambling dispute and who is now currently on the run. (more…)
17th June
2009
written by Steph
I'm just gonna call it now: best movie of 2009

I'm just gonna call it now: best movie of 2009

How’s this for a short review: if you haven’t seen this movie, go and see it.  Now!  The end. Ok, did you do as I said?  No?  You need a little bit more incentive?  But it’s a PIXAR movie.  Those things are pretty much guaranteed to be cinematic gold (with the exception of Cars… what was up with that one?  I never saw it and quite honestly have no interest to ever do so.  Oh, also, I’ve never seen A Bug’s Life, but I consider that an oversight on my part and I’m going to go put on my Netflix queue right now…).  I didn’t even really know what Up was about for the most part going into it (my synopsis pre-watching Up: it’s about a crotchety old man who makes his house fly using balloons), and yet based on the fact that it was Pixar, I knew we had to go see it.  The 98% fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t hurt either. [By the way, my post-watching synopsis?  It’s about a crotchety old man who makes his house fly using balloons and is AWESOME.] (more…)
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