August's Library Challenge Books
Total to the end of July: 48
1.Lost in Cyberia: How Life on the Net Has Created a Life of Its Own (James Harkin). I'm not quite sure why it took 256 pages to make a few (pretty obvious) points. There was some interesting historical information in the first four chapters, but after that the book meandered. The information was never really gathered together to make a particular point, beyond the mildest of truisms: Don't be afraid to step out of the virtual loop; it's not as important as you think. Duh.
2. The Sisters Antipodes (Jane Alison). "In 1965, when I was four, my parents met another couple, got along well, and within a few months traded partners." With a sentence like that, you'd reasonably expect the rest of the book to be pretty rivetting, but within the first 70 pages I had grown weary of the self-absorbed and relentlessly depressive Jane, and was skipping through large chunks of the book to see if/when she'd actually ever learn anything, if she'd manage to find a way to move beyond her childhood jealousy and insecurity. Sadly, it doesn't seem she did. She ends as unhappy as she began, a hamster on the wheel of practiced misery.
3. Bean Bag Buddies (Nicki Wheeler), and Dollmaking (E.J. Taylor). I'm putting these two as one entry, because I didn't read them cover to cover, only dipped into them for instructions and techniques for a sewing project I have in mind. Still, they were library books, and I did read at least part of them! Both were informative, though the first, with its brilliant-hued velour animal toys, was by far the prettiest to look at.
4. Dragonwell Dead (Laura Childs). Theodosia (Theo) Browning of Charleston, South Carolina, solves a murder while running her tea shop, helping a friend find a rare orchid, and organizing a fund-raiser for the Orchid Society. With recipes! It may not be Great Literature, but it was fun, I didn't figure out whodunnit before the Unveiling (but then, I rarely do), and I plan to thoroughly enjoy the Strawberry Slush Tea I will make later this week. Fun book.
5. Vanity and Vexation: A novel of pride and prejudice (Kate Fenton). Yes, yet another Austen re-make, but so cleverly done! I loved reading this book, just loved it. This time it's the men who are impoverished and the women who are rich and powerful; there are trans-Atlantic jaunts, ex-wives, drug-runners and crusty pub-keepers, but True Love does indeed triumpth. A thoroughly satisfying read.
6. The Diary (Eileen Goudge). It could be that I was hormonal while reading this book, but the last chapter made me cry. It's a sweet and touching story, revealed through the pages of a 60-year-old diary. With the perfect twist at the end. Lovely.
7. The Greek Villa (Judith Gould). It's a sore temptation to tell you the entire plot and save you the grief of reading this thing. If it were written by a 17-year-old, it would be a decent piece of writing. Sadly, it only sounds like it was written by one, which made it pretty tough going for me. See, I'm the kind-hearted type who will turn off the television if a character on a sit-com is making too much of an ass of themselves. I simply can't stand to be party to someone else's humiliation. This book gave me the same feeling. "Oh, please!" I wanted to plead with the author. "Stop doing this to yourself!" (Because I couldn't in all fairness complain she was doing it to me: no one was forcing me to finish the damned thing.)
In fact, the storyline is energetic and entertaining enough (even if it routinely strains credulity) to keep one turning pages till the end... if, that is, you can overlook the stupidity of the characters, their mind-numbing shallowness, the unbelievably facile plot twists, and the brickbat-obvious psychological insights. Then there's the dreadful, stilted dialogue, and the truly, truly awful sex scenes. Worst of all though, the lovers sometimes tried to talk while
they were having sex, so the poor reader was subjected to BOTH AT THE SAME TIME? Oh, lordy. Let's just say this is one of those rare times in my life I have ever found myself skipping pages to get PAST a sex scene.
Here's a snippet of her style. After about a minute and a half of necking, Our Hero decides it's time to make the next move. " 'Let's get undressed,' he whispered into her ear." (Because, hell, maybe she didn't know you needed to do that first.) And then, after a further minute and a half of necking while undressing, " 'Let's get in bed,'" (in case she couldn't tell where this was leading), "he said, taking her by the hand and leading the way" (in case she didn't know where her bed was).
And afterward? The pillow talk?
"I can hardly believe I found someone like you."
She marveled at his words, wondering if anybody else on earth had ever felt such a great love. ("Great love." They have known each other perhaps three weeks; this is the second time they've had sex. "Great love"??
You can strain your eyeballs rolling them that hard. ) "You have no idea what this means to me. What it makes me feel like. [So, OH! Why don't I tell you what I feel like??] I feel... I feel like nothing could ever come between us. That nothing could ever hurt us."
[Isn't that TOUCHING? Isn't it PROFOUND? Oh, and cue the sinister music, because we
all know the Bad Guy is hot on her heels.]
"And nothing will as long as we're together," he said. [This is a very clever example of the plot device called foreshadowing
, see, because we
know he's about to fly off to do business for a few days, and the Bad Guy, as noted earlier, is hot on her heels.] "Nothing, Tracey. Our love is too powerful."
Eeew. "Our love is too powerful." I winced the first time. I'm wincing again. Eeew, eeew, eeew. Aren't you embarrassed for her? I'm embarrassed for her.
I think what I'm saying is that unless you're the type who truly enjoys seeing other people humiliate themselves, you might want to give this one a miss.
8. Julie and Julia (Julie Powell). Yes, I know everyone has read this one already. I only read it because I was about to see the movie, and only after reading the book did I check out the (now discontinued) blog. Completely backwards for a blogger, and I should be ashamed of myself, I know. It turned out to be the correct order, though: I loved
the movie, enjoyed the book, and found the blog... okay. Julie Powell, needing a project to keep her focussed and sane, decides to start a blog chronicalling her attempt to cook all 500+ recipes from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"... in one year. Funny book, funnier movie. But then, could anything with Meryl Streep in it be bad?
9. Friday Nights (Joanna Trollope). I've enjoyed everything I've read by this author, and this was no exception. I loved the character of Eleanor. I loved the way she made the children so real and believable, the relationship of the various mothers to their children different, but all probable. But the pivotal figure in the book? The New Boyfriend who acts as such a catalyst to this group of women, in one way or another? Totally unbelievable. What man would do those thing? I could never figure out why he was doing the things he did... except to drive the plot, that is. As every Trollope book, a thoroughly enjoyable read... but that Jackson guy? Not real at all.
Total to the end of August: 57.
Year's goal achieved! But why stop when I'm having so much fun??