Llew's Reviews

Archive for September, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #11

“What I Talk About When I Talk About Running should be essential reading for all aspiring novelists. Focus. Endurance. Will. Murakami argues that these traits are at least as important as talent in both running and writing-probably even more important. Whether you’re a writer or a runner (or both), or just somebody who wants an entertaining read, you’ll find a lot to love in this marvelous little book.” — Dave Mallmann from Indie Bound’s Indie Next List August 2008

I would like to say that when I’m 60 I hope that I’m running marathons. But seeing as I didn’t make myself do that when I’m 25 – why try to be some geriatric over achiever. I must say that it was nice to read a Murakami book where the main character wasn’t having sex with every woman in sight.

It’s not exactly the most exciting memoir ever told but it wasn’t a total snooze. Plus, I never knew that Murakami owned a Jazz Bar (which he sold early on in his writing career when he made the decision to become a full time author.) That tidbit of information makes some of his books make so much more sense now!

Also, as I start a new exercise regimen it was kind of nice to read someone else’s contemplation on the subject and their lifelong affair with it. Here he is in his late fifties (or is it early sixties now?) and he runs a marathon every year as well as doing a triathalon each year.  Amazing.

Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos

Friday, September 12th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #10

“Belong To Me is a portrait of suburban assimilation filled with heart, laughter, and recognition. Marisa de los Santos manages to write about the funny, awkward situations that so many of us have endured, while creating characters as real as your own next-door neighbors.” – Danielle Marshall Indie Bound’s Indie Next List April 2008

Look it’s Desperate Housewives: The novel

Not badly done, just not my thing. For those who do like family drama chick lit it’s something worth checking out.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames By David Sedaris

Monday, September 8th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #9

Confession: David Sedaris’ books are my guilty pleasure.

It usually takes me a while to get into one of his books because it always comes off as too strong in the beginning, like Sedaris is trying to hard to be funny. Not this one. It starts off seamlessly and is hilarious all the way through. It ends with a diary of living in Japan as he tried to quit smoking (that’s reminiscent of his Santa Land Diaries). He decided in order to quit smoking he needed to be in a completely different environment with a completely different routine so he decided to move to Japan for a few months. It’s a hilarious recount.

As I forced myself to finish the last novel (The 19th Wife), I would tell myself that as my reward I could read “When You Are Engulfed In Flames”. What a reward it is! Like all of his books it’s not for everyone (with all the cursing), but for the right people – it’s perfection.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Monday, September 8th, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #8

“Being a fan of David Ebershoff’s, The Danish Girl and Pasadena, I was delighted to see he was still writing along with his editorial work at Random House. The 19th Wife, brilliantly combines two stories, one, historical fiction about Ann Eliza Young, who defies her church and husband, Brigham Young; the other a modern day murder mystery set in Utah. Ebershoff adroitly gives the reader a behind the scenes glimpse and understanding of a world of faith and love most of us can not comprehend. Initially, you are drawn to the feisty Ann Eliza Young’s story to find one true love, but due to circumstances is forced to make compromises, but then you are pulled into the gripping story of Jordan Scott, an outcast, can’t have too many boys around in competition with the older men, and the son of the woman accused of murdering her polygamist husband. As always with Ebershoff, he stunningly writes with great depth and feeling for his characters, which leaves readers thinking about Jordan and Ann Eliza days after finishing the book.” — Jane Dawson in Indie Bound’s Indie Next List for Setpember 2008

ANSWER ME THIS, WORLD:  If all of Brigham Young’s wives were as whiny as Ann Eliza (the 19th) then how in the world did he live to be so old?

This one received rave reviews, and was even compared to one of my favorites, Wallace Stegner. I’ve read another of Ebershoff’s novels and really enjoyed his writing style. Plus, his first book “The Danish Girl (which is based on the life of Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery) is on my To Read list.I was really hoping to like this one and thought that his past novels might be a credit in the way he was able to handle certain characters while avoiding sterotypes. Not so much.

As the above quote states, this is two stories. The one I like the most (which isn’t saying much) is the modern day murder mystery with the main character being a boy who grew up in a polygamist sect but was abandoned on the highway by his mother, who believe she was following the Lord’s directive, when he was 14. He seems to have settled himself into a somewhat comfortable although transient life in California when one day he sees the story where his mother is accused of shooting his father. He drops everything (which doesn’t seem to be much) to go see her. Immediately, he picks up an orphan sidekick (also ousted from the polygamist sect for being male and thus competition) who reminds me of Brad Renfro in the movie “The Client” except instead of a bad southern accent he would have a bad Utah accent. (And let’s face it the worse someone trying to do a Utah accent sounds the more accurate it usually is.) The sidekick is feisty, foul mouthed, wiley and impossible to control – but has a good heart. After that, he picks up a boyfriend. They’re basically husband and husband after the first date.  However, in order to point out that in the Gay World this is considered taking it slow, the author makes sure to point out that they could have just had sex but instead went out on a date, then had sex, and then immediately were a couple. Thank you for clarifying the confusing gay gay world to a heterosexual such as myself, Mr. Ebershoff.

So two (maybe one?) days after dating the couple (and the trust foul mouthed sidekick!) drive two hours to Las Vegas go to a LDS(ish?) church in Las Vegas for homosexuals, transgendered, bisexuals, and whoever else still wants to go to a Mormon church. It’s somewhat unbelievable – if for the mere fact that the place the group congregates is described as tacky.

So that’s the storyline of the two I like the most.

The second one is set WAY back as the LDS church is first forming in Utah, and is about Ann Eliza Young – one of Brigham Young’s wives. First off, every man (and there are many) in this part of the story is the EXACT same man. The author took one personality, one set of actions, and then just pressed them all in a delightful cookie cutter set. This cookie cutter happens to quite loathsome. Every man might start off not wanting to take more than one wife, but soon they become obsessed with taking a newer prettier wife and can’t help themselves – no matter what the cost to anyone else’s feelings or their budget.

Brigham Young himself is portrayed as a dishonest manipulative bastard who cheats Ann Eliza Young’s brother into a horrible situation ruining his reputation, and then offers him a way out of it ONLY if Ann Eliza will marry him.  Ann Eliza Young is an actual woman in history, and this is actually exactly what she claimed to happen (in addition to writing a book on the subject, she also testified in front of congress about the cruelties of polygamy and was instrumental in getting it banned in the US) so it’s not the portrayl that I have a problem with.  It’s the fact that every other male character is the same shade of evil. That there’s no real variety. Then, the women are exactly the same way – the same copies as each other – all some variation of Ann Eliza Young although just maybe not as boisterous or outspoken about it.

I’ve always liked Ebershoff’s writing style but his tone and storyline were so condescending in this novel. I haven’t actively disliked a book that wasn’t actually poorly written in a long time. I’m not gay but the modern day story offended my inner homosexual. I could not stop rolling my eyes at it. Plus, the portrayal of every single grown man in Salt Lake City to be a randy cheating scum bag bothered me almost as much. 75% of every single grown man sure…

Anyway, from reading reviews and comments it seems as if I’m alone in my feelings.

In Hovering Flight by Joyce Hinnefeld

Monday, September 1st, 2008 by Miss Laura

Preparing For Christmas Season In The Harried Book World: Book #7

“In Hovering Flight is the story of a couple, Addie and Tom, a bird painter and a bird scientist, of their romance and marriage, and of their only daughter, Scarlet. In lovely but precise language Joyce Hinnefeld slowly reveals the larger world and the more intimate landscapes within it. This is a remarkable first novel and a unforgettable story.” — Cheryl Upchurch from the Indie Next List, September 2008

This was the top pick for September’s Indie Next List so evidently it really struck a chord with a lot of booksellers – just not this one. It’s a well written story, and I can see how the characters could be compelling to some. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t (thankfully) had to go through the experience of losing a parent or becoming pregnant or any of the other myriad of various life experiences which this novel covers.

I could not deeply relate to any of the characters or their experiences so it really was just a vaguely neat story with a lot of asides about various birds that I didn’t know before. It was worth reading and none of it made me mad (see: Story of Edgar Sawtelle) but none of it made me passionately love it either. If you know an avid fiction reader who also really loves bird watching, it might be a fantastic choice for them.

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