Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Review -- The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My enjoyment rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Classic fiction
Objectionable material: none (I would let my 12 yr old read it)
(Ladies of Literature and Big Love Book Club May book choice)


In Old Testament fashion, F. Scott Fitzgerald created a story of greed, decadence, inequality, and moral decay that led to utter destruction. All in turn of the century America.

I was completely captivated by the excess Fitzgerald created in such a sparse novel spanning only a few months.

It oozed lusciousness.

It celebrated temptation.

Souls were sold.

Dreams were shattered.

Lives ruined.

What an amazing piece of literature.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review -- One Summer in Arkansas

One Summer in ArkansasOne Summer in Arkansas by Marcia Kemp Sterling
My enjoyment rating: 2 .5 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating:  0 of 5 stars
Source:  Copy provided by the author (I was not compensated in any way for my review)
Genre:  Fiction; Arkansas fiction
Objectionable material: some minor language

Lee Addison is coming home to spend time with family and begin his summer legal clerkship with a local law firm. But little did he know his summer in Riverton Arkansas would be far more complicated: his sister needs legal counsel when charged with a hit and run, his summer case work involves the suspicious death of a local minority teen, and things might not be quite over with his high school girlfriend, Annie.

Marcia Kemp Sterling has written an appealing novel about family, ethics and choices.

With expertise she has written what it’s like to live in a small town – neighbors, gossip, history, family. She especially captures the racial issues in Arkansas that continue to this day.

However, two of the main threads of the story – the death of Dewaine Washington and the hit & run charges against Lee’s sister, MJ – felt incomplete.

As Lee was researching evidence for the Washington case, I was expecting a John Grisham-like novel to unfold, but the case was solved quickly, before the first half of the book was over.

And MJs issues were written as if SHE was the victim and not the child she hit. For me, it made no sense, and a tad bit angry.

One character who was superbly written was Etta, the black neighbor. She spoke with wisdom and sereneness. A woman who had seen and experienced plenty of Arkansas racism.

One Summer in Arkansas was a satisfactory read – but not without a few storyline issues.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review -- Wild

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars (initially I was going to give it a 3)
Book hangover rating:  1 of 5 stars (I was ready for her journey to end).
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Memoir
Objectionable material:  Language (including the F-bomb); sexual situations; drug use.

Completely shattered by the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed’s life hits bottom: she embarks on an adulterous lifestyle, divorces her husband (whom she claims to love), battles a potential heroin addiction, and becomes distant with her remaining family members.

In order to overcome her overwhelming despondence, Cheryl commits to hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, a 2600 mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington. In Wild, her successful memoir, she recounts the physical, personal, spiritual, and emotional journey she endures to reconnect with herself, and on many levels, with her mother.

This was an amazing excursion.

Admittedly poorly and underprepared, Cheryl battles horribly blistered feet, a back pack so over laden with supplies it becomes the “monster,” lack of water, late year snowstorms, rattle snakes and bears.

But fortunately, her trip is buoyed by the many strangers (who become friends) who help her along the way.

In times of difficulty, we often think of ways to “reconnect” or “find ourselves.” Most of us can get by with long weekends, or longer sabbaticals. But months long adventures are not possible. Ms. Strayed’s bravery and determination are unmatched. Especially for a woman traveling alone.

In the early days of her trek she recounts, “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid…I was working too hard to be afraid.”

That was my favorite passage of the whole book.

The only issue I had with the book:  after weeks (which turned into months) on the trail, I grew a bit weary reading about her hike – it became much of the same -- waiting for supplies at the next outpost, hunger, blisters, setting up camp – same situation, different location.

But it is a bold book about, as Ms. Strayed says, “learning to bear what you cannot bear.”