Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: The Reluctant Matchmaker

Title: The Reluctant Matchmaker
Description: The author describes her work as “Bollywood in a book.” Basically it’s a romance populated with Indian American characters. Meena’s boss Prajay hires her to help him find a wife, but she would just as soon keep him to herself.
Review source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
Plot: I’ve read plenty of romances. This is the first where the big conflict is that he’s too tall and she’s too short.
Characters: I’ll have to admit my ignorance here. This is the first book of this type that I have read. The author is part of the Indian-American community, and she writes of the Indian-American community. I don’t know if some of the idiosyncrasies of the characters are characteristics of Indian-Americans or whether they are just this author’s style. That said, these folks were really concerned with appearances (“she’d be really pretty if she dropped ten pounds”) and wealth. Usually the first thing the reader learns about a character is what kind of car he drives. And we can judge him from that, obviously.
Writing style: There were a lot of conversations that didn’t advance the plot. I’m thinking of those between the heroine and her siblings, her cousins, her parents, her co-workers…
Audience: Indian-Americans who like romances. I’m  not sure that the mainstream audience is ready for these.
Wrap-up: Some of the Indian phrases scattered through the books were explained; some weren’t.  I’m interested in other cultures, but this book didn’t make the Indian culture too appealing, with its materialistic judgments, its cultural judgments, etc. etc.  2.5/5*

Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Parents' Guide to a Christian College

Author: Todd Ream, Timothy Herrmann, Skip Trudeau
Title: A Parent’s Guide to the Christian College: Supporting Your Child’s Mind and Spirit During the College Years
Description:  The book was written by three Christian college administrators as a guide for parents who are making the decision, or have decided, to send their children to a Christian college.
Source: I think I got it at Preview Days at Southeastern. Something like that…
Writing style: Each chapter takes a movie that is set at college, or with college-aged young people, and uses themes and ideas from that movie to present issues that parents or students will probably encounter at college. The authors make the effort to distinguish how each issue is handled at a Christian college from how it might be handled (or ignored) in a secular higher education setting.
Audience: Christian parents of teens and young adults.
Major ideas: Christian colleges are the best preparation young people can have for life. Parents need to be transitioning from their daily involvement with their children to a less-intrusive presence in order to avoid being called helicopter parents.
Wrap-up: I’m sold on Christian higher education and lucky to be a part of it, so this book was preaching to the choir. I have a son starting college in August, so I was interested to see what advice the book gives to parents. It turns out to be mostly: “Don’t try to solve their problems for them.” I probably needed that reinforcement. Other than that, though, the book didn’t leave much of an impression. 2/5*

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Silver Sparrow

Author: Tayari Jones
Title: Silver Sparrow
Description: Dana and Chaurisse are sisters; Dana knows this, but Chaurisse doesn’t. They share a father, who is “married” to each of their mothers, but as the first wife, Chaurisse’s mother has all of the respectability and most of the material goods. Narrated by both of the girls (each gets half of the book), the story follows Dana as she spends her life comparing her family to her father’s “real” family and Chaurisse, who knows something isn’t quite right, but can’t put her finger on it.
Review source: ALA
Plot: The book is primarily character-driven; given the situation, and the fact that the girls live in the same school district, what might happen?
Characters: Both of the girls are sympathetic characters, though scarred by their circumstances. Everyone in the book comes across as having a good reason for their actions, except for perhaps the father, who commits bigamy without second thoughts…
Writing style: This is one of those books that sounds interesting enough but nothing special. What makes it special is the writing.
Audience: I was never sure if this book was marketed as YA or not. It could be, but it also reads just fine as an adult novel. Most of the story does take place before the girls graduate from high school.
Wrap-up: A talented author takes on an unusual topic with a worthwhile and engaging result. 4/5*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

Title: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Description: Lavinia Warren Bump (Vinnie) was a normal baby, but as a toddler, she stopped growing. She topped out at 32” tall, and her little sister Minnie was just a little shorter. Although she started out as a schoolteacher, she wanted to see the world, and her size gave her an excuse to leave home and travel. After a rough start as a sideshow attraction, she met P.T. Barnum and became one of his wonders.
Review source: I got this ARC at ALA last year, but the book has been out for a year now.
Plot: The author has done some wonderfully thorough historical research here. Her plot follows the incidents in Vinnie’s life.
Characters: It’s definitely a character-driven novel, my favorite kind. Vinnie, Minnie, Charles (Tom Thumb), and Barnum, along with many supporting characters all come to life here.
Writing style: Vinnie narrates the book with a good deal of foreshadowing (“If only I had known then what I know now…”).
Audience: It’s literary fiction; I think all ages and genders would enjoy it.
Wrap-up: I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but it snuck up on me and grabbed me! Rarely do I read a book straight through (I’m usually reading it along with 20 or so others); this one merited a Saturday/Sunday read! I think I enjoyed the historical veracity along with a chance to imagine what it could be like to live such an unusual life. Highly recommended! 5/5*

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: Jesus' Son

Author: DenisJohnson
Title: Jesus’ Son: Stories
Description: A collection of short stories, mostly narrated in the first person, about men (or one man, can’t tell) who have taken so many drugs they no longer know what’s what.
Review source: It’s on the Entertainment Weekly list that I’m reading through.
Plot: No single plot, since it’s short stories.
Characters: They put one in mind of carnies.
Writing style: At least he’s succinct.
Audience: Literary fiction. Men.
Wrap-up: I made it through by limiting myself to one story at a time. 2/5*

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: Some Assembly Required

Author: Anne Lamott
Title: Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son
Description : Anne Lamott’s son Sam learned that he and his girlfriend, Amy, would become parents when Sam was just nineteen. Lamott, who wrote about Sam’s first year in Operating Instructions, continues the tradition here with the first year of her grandson Jax.
Writing style: Classic Lamott. She writes here in journal form, with dates as headings, rather than chapter titles. There are some passages written by others: friends, family, and especially Sam, who receives co-author credit.
Audience: Christians, non-Christians,  parents, grandparents, teens, people who hope to be parents, sober people.
Major ideas: As much as we love those who are closest to us, we cannot live their lives or make their decisions for them. Everything does not revolve around me, even when I think it does.
Wrap-up: I’ve called Anne Lamott my literary bff, so I wait for every one of her books like kids wait for Christmas. She has preceded me in life by just a little: Sam was nineteen at the beginning of this book, and my own son is seventeen now. So I read her books and learn from her and try to remember what she has taught me. She’s funny and wise and real. 5/5*

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: Felicia's Journey

Title: Felicia’s Journey
Description: When the naïve Irish teenager finds herself pregnant, she sets out to find her lover in England. She finds instead Mr. Hilditch, who seems more interested in her than might be ordinary. As she becomes more and more desperate, he makes himself more necessary to her. His motives, however, are unclear, as is her future.
Review source: the Penguin bonanza
Plot: The book was interesting, but I found myself being frustrated at the passivity of the main character.
Characters: Neither of the two main characters is what you would call “normal.” Felicia is more trusting and naïve than would be expected, and Mr. Hilditch is potentially psychopathic. They’re interesting, but not especially sympathetic.
Writing style: The book is short, close to a novella. The writing style is unremarkable. (William Trevor is a greatly respected and award-winning author. Just not my style.)
Audience: Literary fiction; mystery or psychological thriller fans might also enjoy.
Wrap-up: I’m generally not a fan of books with unlikeable protagonists. That holds true for this book. 2/5*

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: The Descendants

Author: Kaui Hart Hemings
Title: The Descendants
Description: This is one of those books that became famous as a movie. I haven’t seen the movie yet (you know I always read the book first). This one was one of our book group selections. Matthew King’s wife Joanie is in a coma and has been for the past twenty-three days.  Not only does he have to make decisions about continuing her care, he has two daughters he hardly knows. Matthew and his girls have to redefine what it means to be a family.
Plot: This book is a really good blend of plot and character development. The plot is simple yet gripping; when Matthew discovers his wife has been having an affair, things become even more complicated.
Characters: Matthew, his girls Scottie and Alex, and Alex’s friend Sid all grow and change during the novel. Even the comatose Joanie is a vivid character. I’d say this aspect of the book is the author’s strong point.
Writing style: The book is not long and reads quickly, but it is nonetheless thought-provoking. It proves that a book doesn’t have to be long to be powerful.
Audience: It’s literary fiction, set in Hawaii. Anyone who reads literary fiction would probably like the book, though I can see it appealing more to women than to men.
Wrap-up: This book grabbed me once I started reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and found much to consider at the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie. 4/5*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: The Prince

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli
Title: The Prince
Description:  Courtier Machiavelli describes how to get and hold power, using many examples.
Source: Part of the Penguin treasure-trove.
Writing style: Since this book was written in Italian, a good portion of the writing style will be that of the translator, in this case, Tim Parks. Parks has a lively, engaging style and made this book really interesting. I also enjoyed his introduction which justifies the translation style he used.
Audience: primarily written for despots, would be enjoyed by others who like reading well-written prose.
Major ideas: Be clever, not stupid, and you’ll have a good chance to hold on to power. This may involve being cruel or harsh at times, but if you’re not prepared to do this, you are probably not well-suited to power.
Wrap-up: I enjoyed this book a lot; short chapters made it easy to read in small bits (I probably wouldn’t want to try to get through it in a single sitting or two). 4/5*

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Healer's Apprentice

Author: Melanie Dickerson
Title: The Healer’s Apprentice
Description: Rose works at the castle learning how to be a healer. There she meets the brothers Wilhelm and Rupert, sons of the Duke. They are both attracted to her, but Wilhelm, as the eldest, is betrothed to the daughter of a neighboring Duke.
Review source: It was a freebie on kindle.
Plot: Which brother (if any) will Rose end up with? Who is Wilhelm’s betrothed? Who is the evil sorcerer who Wilhelm must pursue? Will Gunther, Rose’s friend, be hanged for murder? Plenty going on here!
Characters: I liked the characters here. They were believable; not too holy, but trying to do the right thing.
Writing style: As befits a YA title, there was no sex or profanity. The action moved at a pace that kept me interested.
Audience: Basically, it’s a Christian romance, though it’s set in an unusual time period for the genre (1382).
Wrap-up This book was a freebie for me from Amazon for the kindle. I never know what I’m getting with this kind of book, but this one was better than most. From the material on Amazon, it appears that the book is marketed to YA, but I didn’t feel like it was especially YA-oriented as I was reading it (though it certainly could appeal to teenage girls). It’s also Christian fiction, though that does not become apparent until some way into the book. A pleasant read. 4/5*

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Academically Adrift

Author: Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa

Title: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

Description: Arum and Roksa have written an academic book that successfully crossed over to become something of a mainstream seller as well. They attempt to discover why college students do not seem to be making much progress in learning between their matriculation and the end of their sophomore years.

Writing style: Academic.

Audience: Educators, and perhaps more broadly, those who want to know “what’s wrong with kids these days.”

Major ideas: The study tested the students with a test called the CLA which measured critical thinking and problem-solving. Here’s the thing: I can understand that we want students to measurably improve in critical thinking and problem solving, but most colleges (well, mine at least) don’t have general education courses called Critical Thinking or Problem Solving. They have Composition, College Algebra, American History, and so on. So are the professors teaching them critical thinking and problem solving in these classes? Well, hopefully, they are, at least some. But mostly they are teaching the content of those classes, because that’s what they feel responsible for. So to say students aren’t learning in college is sort of harsh. They may be learning composition and algebra. I realize that we hope to be growing critical thinkers, but I also think it’s tough to condemn colleges when they have no curriculum in place to teach what these authors are measuring and what may be a process of maturing along with education. After all, they matriculate at 18 and took the CLA at 19. I would hate for my college (Wheaton) to be judged on me at 19!

The authors do make the point that students do best in courses in which they are required to read more than 40 pages per week and write more than 20 pages during the course. I shall heretofore make this my goal for all of my courses...

Wrap-up: Thought-provoking indeed, but I’m not sure I buy the whole argument. 3/5*
Here's another view...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review: The Memory-Keeper's Daughter

Author: Kim Edwards
Title: The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter
Description: Twins are born on a stormy night; the only people in attendance at the birth are the babies’ father, a doctor, and his nurse. When he realizes that one of the babies has Down Syndrome, the doctor asks the nurse to take the baby to an institution and tells his wife that she was stillborn. The book follows this family: the doctor, his wife, the boy they keep, and the daughter. The nurse, Caroline, can’t bring herself to leave the baby; she ends up keeping her and moving away.
Review source: Penguin bonanza
Plot: These babies were born in 1964 when many persons with Down Syndrome were institutionalized. This book imagines the effect that such a decision would have on a family. The remaining members of the family all feel the absence of Phoebe, the daughter; Phoebe herself feels no such absence.
Characters: The book is largely a character study; the set-up is created and the characters develop from the initial action, like a pearl being created around a piece of sand.
Writing style: The book is quiet, slow-moving--very typical of literary fiction.
Audience: Literary fiction, probably women more than men.
Wrap-up: I generally like character-driven books, but these characters were not very appealing. 3/5*

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Leota's Garden

Author: Francine Rivers  
Title: Leota’s Garden
Description : Annie has been kept from knowing her grandmother by her mother’s bitterness about her unhappy childhood. Rather than going to the prestigious college her mother prefers, Annie decides to stay in town, go to art school, and get to know her grandmother, Leota.
Review source: this was a free book on kindle.
Plot: Annie and her grandmother are at the center of the story, but we also meet Corban, a college student who is assigned to Leota as part of a research assignment, Eleanor, Annie’s unhappy mother, and various neighborhood residents.
Characters: Annie is barely eighteen, sweet and naïve, but determined to get to know her grandmother. The various supporting characters add interest.
Writing style: This is pretty standard Christian fiction. The non-Christian characters are desperately unhappy—though to Rivers’ credit, she doesn’t fall into the then-they-all-got-saved trap at the end of the book.
Audience: Rivers has many fans who will enjoy this book.
Wrap-up: I found it pretty sappy and thought it was too long. 2.5/5

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

Author: G.K. Chesterton  
Title: The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare
Description: A poet has the chance to join a secret group of anarchists who are not all that they seem.
Review source: This book is free on kindle as it is in the public domain.
Plot: As the subtitle insinuates, the plot is dreamlike, moving rapidly from place to place and idea to idea.
Characters: None of the characters seems to be very well-developed; this short novel is almost allegorical in function.
Writing style: There are surprising elements of humor that I didn’t expect. I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything that was going on.
Audience: Chesterton was one of C. S. Lewis’ favorite authors. There is noticeable similarity. Inklings fans should give him a read.
Wrap-up: This was my choice for this month’s book club read. I chose it mainly because I’ve heard of Chesterton often, but never read him; he is one of the most famous Christian authors who I hadn’t yet tried. I was surprised to find him so funny; some of the book was dated, but it was still thought-provoking. 4/5*

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: My Reading Life

Author: Pat Conroy
Title: My Reading Life
Description: A collection of essays about books and reading and how much they have meant to Conroy.
Writing style: This is Conroy. His style is over-the-top, and absolutely, lushly gorgeous.
Audience: Conroy fans, book lovers, those who enjoy reading beautifully-crafted essays.
Major ideas: Words can change your life.
Wrap-up: The way this book is put together it’s probably not a great one for reading straight through. But rationing it out at an essay a week or so it’s a beautiful read. 5/5*

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book Review: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain  
Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking
Description : The United States, according to Cain, is the most extroverted nation on the planet, yet one-third to one-half of people are born introverts. Is it a character flaw to be introverted? Can one succeed in spite of this in-born handicap?
Source: This is my book group’s selection for April.
Writing style: You can tell the book was written by an introvert. It’s not flashy, chatty, or fast-paced. It is thoughtful, in-depth, and reflective.
Audience: The primary audience would be introverts, but there is plenty here for those who identify as extroverts, and even for those who haven’t really thought about it (btw, I would say that means you are an extrovert).
Major ideas: Cain points out that in our extroverted American society, introversion can often be seen as a character flaw, but it is not; it is merely the opposite side of the extrovert/introvert coin. While giving tips on how to cope better in an extroverted world, Cain maintains that introverts have much to offer by staying true to their introverted predilections for deep thought and quieter, more reflective thinking habits.  
Wrap-up: So I’m one of the most introverted people I know, which isn’t saying much, since I don’t know that many people (remember, I’m an introvert). The best thing about the book, and well worth the purchase price (yes, I actually bought this book, a rarity for me!) is that it reaffirmed my introverted qualities. Expect to see much less of me in the future. 4/5*

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: Harmless as Doves

Author: P. L. Gaus  
Title: Harmless as Doves
Description: An Amish convert turns up dead, and a young Amish man hurries to confess the murder to his Bishop. Questions remain, however: how did one punch (from a pacifist) kill an adult man? What happened between the time the confessed killer fled the scene and law enforcement’s arrival? And where is the dead man’s best friend?
Review source: netgalley
Plot: The plot grabbed me right away. I have to admit that I’m not a fan of those Amish romances that are all over the place these days, but I am interested in the Amish, so books about them in other genres do attract my interest. The plot keeps twisting: another murder, a disappearance, and a twenty-year old crime are added to the mix.
Characters: After I read the book, I did some quick internet research on the author and discovered that this is the eighth book in a series of Amish mysteries featuring three (!) detectives. The detectives are the English (i.e. non-Amish) sheriff, a college professor, and a pastor. This explains why this college professor was called to the scene about halfway through the book with no introduction. I think three detectives is a bit much. Point of view flipped around pretty crazily.
Writing style: There were some things I really liked and some things that really drove me crazy. On the crazy side: there’s a lot of repetition of some ideas. Amish don’t know much about the law? I got that after the first time; the fifth or sixth time I was told, I just got annoyed. Likewise, the saintly Bishop wonders if other men are as saintly as he is about twelve times more than he needs to. On the positive side, I did like the thoughtful presentation of ideas, especially regarding the Amish lifestyle and the Bible verse this book is titled for.
Audience: Obviously there could be some crossover from fans of other Amish fiction, but mystery readers would be the primary audience. And I’d definitely class this as Christian fiction, although it’s published by Plume.
Wrap-up: I wanted to know how the story ended right from the beginning, so the author did well at pulling me in. I was disappointed by the ending, though. While we have a villain by the end of the book, there are a lot of loose ends that weren’t dealt with to my satisfaction.  I would have also liked more details and insight into secondary characters (i.e. the perpetrators and victims) as opposed to the three (!) detectives. I’d read another book in the series, for sure. 4/5*

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Review: The Art of Community

Bacon, Jono. The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation. O’Reilly, 2009.
           Bacon became fascinated with Ubuntu, Linux, and the open source world, learned as much as he could about it (largely self-taught), and started teaching others, through articles, podcasts, blogs, discussion forums, and now this book.  Bacon’s concern in the book is the power of community.  Given that so many pundits are heralding a new age of collaboration, unlimited by geographical boundaries, how does one go about organizing those who are interested in a given cause?  Bacon has been involved with several online communities, and this book is basically a how-to manual about forming a community that will last, produce, collaborate, and even get along. 
            Bacon describes each step toward building a complex, multi-functional community.  He asserts that these communities can be formed around any interest, on- or off-line, but it appears to me that the primary audience of the book will be those few who are actually running, or contemplating running online communities (as well as those of us who are interested in how the internet environment is shaping collaboration).  He uses plenty of examples, so the book avoids sounding like a list of instructions; in addition to listing the necessary steps, Bacon offers comments from his own experiences, both positive and negative.
            Bacon has a fortunate combination of technical expertise and writerly love for language.  He recognizes that, as he puts it, “the mechanism behind communication in a community is stories” (8).  I imagine that part of the reason for his success in the open source world is his (unusual, for a techie) recognition of the value of human connection; he knows that while some programmers are programming for open source to scratch an itchy bug, even these guys will appreciate being accepted, encouraged, and appreciated by the members of their community.   He encourages the leaders of the community to recognize this and to take intentional steps to make it happen. 3/5*

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: Still

Author: Lauren Winner  
Title: Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
Description: I’ve followed Lauren Winner for at least eight years now, first in her account of her conversion, Girl Meets God, through her struggle with remaining chaste as a single Christian and as she gradually got to know the man she would eventually marry in Real Sex. So I was sad to see that this book is a result of her divorce, five years later. Not quite a memoir, the book is composed of the short essays that Lauren does so well.
Writing style: The best word to describe it is “spare.” Lauren writes that she tries to leave spaces in her writing as a result of her reading poetry, and I would say that is a pretty good way to describe the book. The essays range from about a half a page to several pages in length—not as long as in Girl Meets God.
Audience: Readers of spiritual memoir; those struggling with their faith after a difficult time, especially divorce.
Major ideas: Lauren’s divorce and the death of her mother precipitate a crisis of faith. The book is divided into three sections, tracing the feelings of God’s absence and the very gradual return of something that could be normalcy and renewed relationship with God.
Wrap-up: Lauren Winner remains one of my very favorite authors, and I couldn’t read this book without feeling sad for her in a very personal way. Her meditations on faith—or here, sometimes, the lack of it—are always insightful and memorable. The joy of Girl Meets God is absent here, but I hope she’ll return to it in time. 5/5*

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: Wife 22

Title: Wife 22
Description: Alice Buckle is nearly at the twenty year point in her marriage, but things are going wrong. Her son is probably gay, and her daughter probably has an eating disorder, not to mention that she and her husband are more like cooperative roommates than anything else. An email inviting her to be a participant in a marriage study seems to be offering her a way to engage in some self-reflection, so she signs up and becomes Wife 22.
Review source: Netgalley
Plot: The plot is really cute. Wife 22 is assigned to Researcher 101, and they quickly strike up a bond that might be more than professional. How is it that Researcher 101 is so in tune with her, yet her husband of nearly twenty years can be so oblivious? Meanwhile, her job is difficult, his job is difficult, and the kids are having teenage drama.
Characters: The main characters, Alice, William, and Researcher 101 are all quite engaging. Some of the secondary characters are not quite so well-written, but overall, they are a very lively bunch.
Writing style: This is where Gideon excels. The book has facebook posts, tweets, texts, IM chats, and of course the marriage research that Alice faithfully completes. Alice is a witty and sympathetic first-person narrator.
Audience: It’s chick lit, but definitely a cut above.
Wrap-up: I totally hated that it ended. And when it ended, I just wanted to start it again. This one surprised me with its utter charm! 5/5*

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett  
Title: The Help
Description: Come on. I know I’m the last person on the planet to read this book. You don’t really need the description, do you?
Plot: This book was one of the rare ones that had me obsessed; I was either reading it or thinking about reading it for the 4 or 5 days it took me to get through it. Several of the subsidiary plot lines had me consumed with wondering what would come next.
Characters: Beautifully done. The black characters speak in dialect, but it doesn’t come across in any way as patronizing.  I can’t think of any characters who aren’t spot on.
Writing style: Stockett uses the writing of a book as the main plotline of this book. The maids’ stories form subplots, as does the story of the author herself. The narration alternates between Skeeter, the young author, and two of the maids. The terror of the maids at possible ramifications of their actions in speaking to Skeeter, which defy race laws, is palpable.
Audience: The whole world?
Wrap-up: One of those books that actually lives up to its hype. 5/5* The movie is good too...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Stress-Proof Your Life

Author: Elisabeth Wilson 
Title: Stress-Proof Your Life: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Taking Control
Description: 52 short chapters each describing a way to decrease the stress in your life.
Source: free for kindle
Writing style: Easy to read. Nothing special.
Audience: Stressed people.
Major ideas: I think the idea is to read—and implement—one idea per week for a year, at the end of which, you will have a remarkably stress-free life.
Wrap-up: Some of the ideas are good, and some are a little bit out there (aromatherapy, supplements, etc.). Some are nothing more than common sense. The book has value if you actually follow through on the ideas that click with you—and just ignore the rest. 3/5*

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: White Noise

Author: Don DeLillo 
Title: White Noise
Description: Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler Studies at a small college. He and his fourth wife and their assorted children, along with the rest of their town, are subjected to an airborne toxic event, which Jack figures may end his life, though he’s not sure when. As he tries to learn German (because what self-respecting Hitler Studies scholar does not read and speak German) and his children negotiate visitations with various non-custodial parents, Jack’s wife Babette may be taking a mysterious medicine for an unknown malady.
Review source: The Penguin motherlode.
Plot: By the end of the book, a plot has developed, although it certainly takes a might long while to get going.
Characters: The characters in this book are either caricatures or the type of people I’ve never met. I think it’s sort of weird that I don’t really know which.
Writing style: This is my first DeLillo book. I know he’s revered, but I don’t know why, especially. I guess the best I can say is that this is the type of book that certain people who are not me really get excited about. I did find it a little bit funny at points, in a wry, non-smiling, non-laughing kind of way. I also found it pretty disconnected—both me from the characters and the episodes in the book from one another.
Audience: literary fiction
Wrap-up: This book is ultimately about living in the late 20th century and the fear of death.  A completely secular approach to these problems never does much for me because it is always so incomplete. It’s probably realistic, since most folks think that way, but I just can’t relate. (Or maybe it’s more gender-specific than I realize and there is this sort of old white man kind of writing that I just hate: Roth, Bellow, Updike, blah blah). Anyway, it was readable. 3/5*