Saturday, May 7, 2016

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse REVIEW

SiddharthaSiddhartha by Hermann Hesse
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Finishing this book was actually work. Between the cardboard characters and senseless philosophy, I was a little bit miserable. I should have just called it quits, but I couldn't let a 130 page book go unfinished.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 15, 2016

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel (Illustrator) REVIEW

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t really appreciate this book. It was weird nonsense to me that never delivered anything exceptional.

I did like the writing and the way Alice never took any of it very seriously. Alice gave the reader a pass to just enjoy. If she could roll with the punches, so could you, as the reader. I felt in on the joke, but it went on too long. Each chapter had some interesting aspect to it, but at the end of each chapter, I didn’t care. I knew that nothing would end up meaning anything.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has appealed to generations of children. My son told me that, when he read it as a child, he loved it. It is a whacky adventure that I think most kids would enjoy, but it was a miss for me personally.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ethan Frome REVIEW

Ethan FromeEthan Frome by Edith Wharton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I couldn’t muster much sympathy for Ethan Frome. He married a woman he didn’t love out of fear. Then, he managed to blame her for his unhappiness. Just as he didn’t have the gumption to make the life that he wanted for himself when he, finally, met the woman of his dreams, he didn’t have the will to seize the day. What was his final answer to all of his problems—suicide. What a weak cop-out, but I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. I saw it coming a mile away, which made it worse. 

The entire story was too melodramatic for my taste. However, I’m giving it three stars, because it did, eventually, capture my interest enough for me to want to know how it would end.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter REVIEW

The Tale of Peter RabbitThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a cute, quick read with a message that all parents can support. Children should do what their Moms tell them, or they might end up in a stew pot. There is just enough angst for a disobedient little rabbit. Mom's can't go wrong with this one.

View all my reviews

I have abandoned answering the W questions, but, in this case, I will answer the "why" question. I am thinking about reading Lost in a Good Book.  Characters from several classics are written into the plot of that book and it would certainly act as a spoiler for the classic mentioned.  Consequently, I am trying to read any book mentioned in Lost in a Good Book before I actually read it.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick REVIEW

The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is incredibly clever, but that didn’t translate directly to enjoyment for me. I was always initially interested, but I quickly fell asleep when I picked up the book in the evening. The biggest problem for me was that I didn’t care about any of the characters. None of the POVs had any moral fortitude, nor were they enjoyable antagonists.

I had other problems as well. Dick tackled big themes, but I’m not sure I always knew what his point was. Was he trying to say that we, as individuals, control our destinies, or we should just throw in the towel and let I Ching direct us on a need to know basis? I have no idea where Dick was going in Chapter 14 with Tagomi’s exploration of the pin. I had the feeling that was mumbo jumbo ramblings disguised to seem like something deep and intellectual. Also, the ending was lackluster. I didn’t mind ambiguity in the wrap-ups of each of the POV storylines, but I greatly disliked the ending as related to The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. That needed explanation. I’m not impressed when authors just throw out weird stuff, leave it to you to figure out and walk away.

On the whole, even though I didn’t love it, I would recommend this book. The themes were very relevant in the context of the 1960’s political and social environment. I appreciate sci-fi used as social commentary. Alternate realities aren’t particularly unique, but for some reason, when they are done well, they seem fresh. The Man in the High Castle isn’t ordinary. I can understand the wide appeal of this book.

View all my reviews

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold (Translator) REVIEW

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a difficult book for me to rate. On one hand, there is no denying that it is brilliant. Kafka has a strong point of view. He wants to talk about alienation and loneliness among other things. His themes are universal and have been worked by many other competent writers, but Kafka gives the reader something unique and unexpected. An English teacher could spend a semester of delight helping students understand all of the nuances of this book.

But…For me, personally, reading it was a chore. I didn’t look forward to it. Metamorphosis did not speak to my soul. It was annoying that it was so weird. Taking into account my level of enjoyment, I can only give this book three stars, but I would never want to discourage anyone from reading it. It is a classic for a reason, and I think that it could be enjoyed today as easily as the day it was written.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, by Mary Seacole REVIEW

The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many LandsThe Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you public domain for another excellent, free book. The most interesting part of this book was Mrs. Seacole’s observations during her travels and her notions about race and discrimination. She was very proud of being Jamaican, but she was also proud of her “yellow” complexion. She loved the English, but knew that they were a conquering power. The writing has a sense of flirtation and hominess, but Mary Seacole was complicated. Her attitudes were an amalgamation of contradictions that were just down right interesting.

The biggest problem that I had with the book was that so much was left out about Mrs. Seacole’ financial dealings. Mary Seacole engaged in capitalist activities everywhere she went, but where did she get the seed money? Who paid for her first trip to England? What did she do there? Why was she there? How much of her services did she deny to men who couldn’t pay. The complete lack of disclosure left me with a feeling of impropriety. Also, the book contained absolutely nothing about Mrs. Seacole’s personal life. She told us that her first husband died, but, after that, she mentions absolutely nothing about romantic interests. Who was Sarah, a young woman who is documented to have joined her in Balaclava? Sara is rumored to be Seacole’s daughter, but there is no mention in the autobiography of Sarah at all, which is weird no matter who she was. Like I said before, Mary Seacole was a complicated woman. She wrote this book to make money, not to unburden her soul, but mostly everything that is known about Mary Seacole comes from this book. I wish that she would have left us with more.

In 2004, Mary Seacole was voted the ‘Greatest Black Briton’ in history, and I’d never heard of her. This book is worth at least four stars to me for introducing me to a person that I should have been teaching about right alongside Florence Nightingale. I would recommend this book to anyone who is unfamiliar with Mary Seacole. We should all have learned about her in World History. Shame on public education.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Black No More by George Schuyler REVIEW

Black No More Black No More by George S. Schuyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this Harlem renaissance classic, Schuler mixes satire and science fiction for a unique blend of social commentary. Black No More is not often referred to as science fiction, but it is the first science-fiction work by an African-American writer.

By definition, a satire is supposed to be “over the top” funny. Here, Schuler’s jokes are mostly “in your face”, but just when you, as a reader, are feeling saturated by the humor, he switches it up and gives you something a little more subtle. For myself, I didn’t think that it was laugh out loud funny, but I found it extremely interesting. The irreverence he showed for the icons of his time, like DuBois was shocking, but I felt he made a good cases to justify his criticism.

Schulyer’s overarching themes are: (1) Racism is absurd; (2) Racism is used by capitalist elites to control the population. After reading this book, I did a little research on Schyuler, and I was shocked that shortly after writing this book, his political leanings took a 180 degree turn. Clearly, part of the agenda in writing Black No More was to garner support for, what was considered at the time, socialist ideas. Also, Schuler was very critical of the NAACP. Maybe his satire spoke more truth about who he was than anyone could have guessed. In Black No More he accused everyone of using racism to make money, but Schulyer seems to have done exactly that. He aligned himself with agendas that most would consider hostile to civil rights. For example, in 1968, in a radio broadcast Schuyler said, "In South Africa you have a system of apartheid. That's their business. I don’t think it’s the business of other people to change their society." He opposed Martin Luther King’s award of the Nobel Peace prize. Although, in Black No More, he was very critical of the NAACP, Schulyer worked for the NAACP from 1937-1944 as business manager.

Was any of the satire based on genuine conviction? He criticizes black men for their apparent rejection of black women, but at the time he wrote the book, he was married to the rich, white heiress, Josephine Lewis Cogdell. Schuyler became a staunch conservative, leaning extremely right, and he made a good living expounding his point of view. He may have switch sides in real life as easily as Max Disher turned into Matthew Fisher. It might be interesting to read one of his later books like Black and Conservative: the Autobiography of George Schuyler or Rac(e)Ing to the Right. I assume either would offer some explanation for his transformation.

Questioning Schuyler’s real opinions when he wrote this book is interesting, on an academic level to me, but does not change my perception of the book itself. It is well done. The book lacks depth, but that can be forgiven with a satire. I didn’t like the part of the ending involving the botched getaway. I thought it was little long and gory. When I read Black No More, it reminded me of Mat Johnson’s Pym. In a way, even the endings were similar. Johnson lost control of Pym in the same way I think Black got away from Schulyer. Both books offer irreverent, entertaining social commentary.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 1, 2016