Llew's Reviews

Archive for June, 2005

Book #29 Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Thursday, June 30th, 2005 by Miss Laura

This is one of my rare forays into non-fiction, but it came highly recommended by a friend so I decided to venture boldly into it. It’s the heartwrenching story of 26 Mexican men who walked into the US illegally, and became lost on their way causing the death of over half of them. More than just their story, and the plight of many hardworking people who are taken advantage of by the coyotes who exploit their desire to have a better life, it is also about how the men who work in the sothern counties of the border states work to keep these wanderers alive. Their job is focused more on the people’s survival than on the legalities.

I guess it was a subject that I had not thought much on but the book caused me to have two new resolves:
1. I’m never ever ever going out into the desert again. I don’t care how many indie rock bands you throw into Indio. IT’S NOT HAPPENING.
2. I have a lot more respect for certain people now, and a lot more loathing for others.

Book #28 Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham

Saturday, June 25th, 2005 by Miss Laura

“All that false exuberance. All those lists of things boiled in one pudding-cloth! No, no! I don’t want all those things inside me, thank you.” — D.H. Lawrence on Walt Whitman

Lately, the bookstore has been receiving incredible amounts of damaged books from publishers due to poor packing. When these books come in, we call the publisher to report the damage and have them send out replacement copies. They then tell us to donate or destroy the books. In our last VHPS shippment, ‘Specimen Days’ came in damaged, and we kindly donated it to a very underpaid overworked bookshop girl to read until the book’s more permanent home of a library could be arranged.

As in Cunningham’s ‘The Hours’, his latest novel is also told in three novellas centered around an author. Instead of Virginia Woolf, it is Walt Whitman. All are set in New York. One a ghost story during the industrial revolution, the second a detective story in modern day post 9/11, and the third a science-fiction tale in the future many years after the earth had to be evacuated due to nuclear fallout. All of the stories center around three characters named Simon, Luke/Lucas, and Catherine/Cat/Catareena. They don’t build on each other as much as one will story will reveal a fact about the first.

Though the similarities between this and The Hours are apparent, they really are not similar books. The authors in which the stories are centered around play completely different roles in each of their respective novels. Whitman verses here are used by the odd, and abnormal, the abused and half-human. His lines are said in uncontrollable bursts with the quoter not fully realizing their meaning or even really wanting to have quoted him in the first place. And although I did not really enjoy this literary device I still quite adored the book. I love Cunningham’s abaility to juxtapose different stories to advance the plot in all of the tales. Even though the three stories have the same themes and motifs, the kind of writing they were differed so drastically that it made them each enjoyable to read.

Word to the wise

Friday, June 24th, 2005 by Miss Laura

Never tell me that a reviewer left you feeling vindicated for disliking a well-liked book, and then admit that the esteemed critic was JANET MASLIN.

Well, at least don’t tell me that and not expect me to laugh heartily at you.

Book #27 Brevard by Susan Lefler

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005 by Miss Laura

The Images of America series has been out for a while. They basically take old pictures of a city/county/college/regional sports events tack on extended captions and call it a book. I haven’t really been interested in too many that I’ve seen because most of them have been South Carolina oriented. However, I am a big sucker for Appalachian culture. In fact, a lot of time I think about going back to school to get a graduate degree only there’s nothing I want to do for the rest of my life. But if I could get a job in something pertaining to Appalachian folklore or culture only if I would only be able to make a very meager living at it I would drop everything for it in a heartbeat, especially if I could work with someone named “Jim Bob”.

Most of this volume contained information I already knew but photos that I quite enjoyed. I finally got to see a picture of the failed steamboat they thought would be able to run up and down the French Broad River – ha! Also, I learned that whenever a tragic calamity happened there was nothing southerners loved more than getting gussied up and posing for the camera in front of it. There were all these pictures of horrible looking train wrecks and here were all these people primly dressed smiling for their posterity. I guess it was the equivalent to my family reunions.

Book #26 Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Sunday, June 19th, 2005 by Miss Laura

This was my beach read on my trip to Edisto Island with my boyfriend’s family. Of course, I can’t read while actually on a beach so I missed going outside and being roasted in the hot sun to read this book. That kind of dedication deserves a reward – something along the lines of an aloe kiss on the nose.

What this book did the most was make me realize that I missed reading russian literature. About seven years ago I went on a kick of sorts and fell in love. However, I never touched Gogol which is a theme of sorts in this book, and now I feel lacking. So, now I shall set out and get my hands on some Gogol to rectify that flaw in my literacy. Of course, it also makes me want to get my hands on Lahiri’s first work as well.

Book # 25 All The Blue Moons At The Wallace Motel

Tuesday, June 7th, 2005 by Miss Laura

I was given this little gem of a ya book by Miss Laurel, and read it on my plane trip back from New York. I have discovered that I CAN read on planes as long as it’s something esy and quick to get into. Otherwise, I get bogged down and start noticing my motion sickness. Like the time I tried to read Slaughterhouse 5 on the plane. Now that was a nightmare.

This little book is about a girl whose father has been brutally murdered in the very large house they live in. After her father’s death, her mother moves her two daughters to another wing of the house while letting the rest of the mansion go untouched until it falls into slight disrepair. The main character wants to be a ballerina, but the family can no longer afford lessons. Yet, she still practices.

It is a young adult novel so there is the requisite punchy younger sibling who is always toeing the lines, and quirky next door neighbor who longs to have a life like they do. All in all it’s a cute story even if a tad predictable.

Book #24 Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin

Sunday, June 5th, 2005 by Miss Laura

Isn’t it horrible to go on a trip and accidentally leave behind the book you were reading? Isn’t it all that more fantastic when you discover that the person you’re staying with has that book on their shelves? This is why it is important to visit well read friends with wonderfully stocked shelves.

This was the first work of Le Guin’s that I’ve ever read, and I quite liked it. Also, the cover work rules.

Book #23 The Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thursday, June 2nd, 2005 by Miss Laura

Remember when Laurie Halse Anderson wrote phenomenal literature that when you finished it you felt changed and thought, “Everyone should have to read this book!”

Yeah, well, not anymore.

Book #21 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005 by Miss Laura

On June 14th, Elizabeth Kostova’s book “The Historian” will go on sale, and you (yes, you) should read it. Even if you’re too poor to shell out the $25.95 that it takes to support your local independent bookstore who cultivates literacy while strengthening your community, you should go harass one of those do-gooder librarians for a copy to borrow.

It is one of the most well written captivating books I have read ever with a rich detailing of the history and culture of eastern eurpoe. Sure, when someone asks you what the book is about you’ll have to lower your voice and kind of slur your words so they don’t understand you’re saying “Vampires” but really the novel is a lot more than just that. Plus, it overshadows and completely diverges from any modern vampire tales. Trust me – it’s good.

Also, I hope that I’m the only one who hypes it up because I would be a little crushed if people began to see it as overrated or overdone.

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