Tuesday, May 24, 2011

These Is My Words

These Is My WordsThese Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great feel-good book--great for a beach read. Our book club read it, otherwise not sure I would have. I think had she changed the title, it could have been a bigger hit than it was. No one really wants to read a book that starts out with bad grammer. Turner did do a good job with the diary format, writing things that really would be in a diary, using references to things that go unexplained (but not annoyingly so) and skipping months and years when things get busy. Only toward the end, did I feel like it was contrived (she conviently starts up again after 4 years, only to have a major event happen 12 days later). The characters are enjoyable, but kind of one-dimensional, and their attitudes, thoughts, actions, just a little too modern to be believeable. Still, a fun, inspiring love story.

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Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I can't believe I haven't read yet. There was an anniversary issue for sale at Costco, so I quickly remedied that. It wasn't what I thought it was...for some reason I thought it was a WWII thriller with spies (no idea where I got that notion)...It is about WWII but falls more into satrical comedy. The first few chapters made me feel completely lost--What are they talking about? and Why is this novel so great? I kept thinking as I read about an air force pilot that was in love with a chaplain? may or may not have a liver condition, had a friend who kept falling on his face, and signed his name as Washington Irving...Fast forward to the middle and the end--loved it. Loved it. Loved it. I loved the tongue in cheek, the exaggeration, the way it was almost monotonously repetitive only to go to the juggular with a quick slice of an airplane's propellar--so that you were as shocked as the characters in the book. I loved how Yossarian gets under your skin and you love him despite his failings. I love how pieces of Snowden's haunting tale are revealed bit by bit. I love how everything in the novel loops around and around (read the first chapters at the end, and it makes perfect sense). The last walk Yossarian takes in Rome is brillantly, shockingly written. I even liked the ending--I loved how despite how desperate it all seems at the end, plodding, apple-cheeked Orr gives them all hope. I admit that I thought some parts were a little too long--Milo's chapters in particular (we get it, big business will do anything for money)and I never did quite get why the opening line " It was love at first sight..The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him" is quoted as a great first line, or what it had to do with the rest of the book. And the edition I had boasted of critical essays and reviews, and I wished they were a little more insightful. Definitely a classic.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Things They Carried

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of stories and essays about the Vietnam war and about writing. I loved the titular story. I read it in an anthology in college and it has always stuck with me. It is a list of the things soldiers carrry, physically, emotionally, psychologically, yet it tells a story as it goes along. The rest of the war stories elaborate on things alluded to in "The Things They Carried", but somehow by elaborating the stories are not as poignant or shocking as they were when told in passing--except for "Speaking of Courage" which is less about the war and more about the soldier dealing with the aftermath.

Interspersed between these stories are essays about how to write fiction from experience--which was interesting and insightful. Although I couldn't help wanting to know what EXACTLY was truth and what was made up, and the essays only muddied the waters. But that is the whole point..."I want you tho know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth", he says in "Good Form".

Its a great read especially to understand one soldier's point of view, and to understand the writing process and it was a great introduction to Catch-22, which I happened to read next.

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