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The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards)
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards)
by Scott Lynch
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $4.83
93 used & new from $0.83

5.0 out of 5 stars Wormed Into My Mind, July 10, 2014
I read this book well over a year ago. At the time, I very much enjoyed it, but didn't think of it as being anything particularly extraordinary. However, as time has passed, I've kept - periodically - remembering bits and pieces of it. Images. Lines. Characters. This book has wormed its way into my head.

I can't remember the book in great detail, and so I won't/can't write a more detailed review. But I thought a brief review from a more distanced perspective might still have value, if only to say:

Give it time. It might grow on you, like it did on me.

I recently ordered/received the second book in this series, and very much look forward to reading it, too.


Brando for Breakfast
Brando for Breakfast
by Anna Kashfi Brando
Edition: Hardcover
121 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Joyfully Inaccurate Account of Brando's Life, August 7, 2010
This review is from: Brando for Breakfast (Hardcover)
If you want an accurate account of Marlon Brando's life, look elsewhere. Anna Kashfi Brando had psychological/emotional issues, and it seems very likely that they distorted her view of reality. She also possessed very strong feelings for Brando, and her book often seems unable to look past her biases. It is impossible to take anything she says at face value.

I noted, in particular, that she only ever suggests that her memory is poor when she is describing those days on which her behavior was the worst!

But for all of that, this book was INCREDIBLY fun to read. It's Marlon Brando, larger than life, from the point of view of his crazy ex-wife! This book provides intimate details of Brando's life. Although these details can't be trusted as genuine, they nonetheless provide a fascinating image of the man. When you discover how someone's disturbed ex-wife views him, you really learn something about him!

Anna Kashfi Brando is smart, but she is also all over the place. Her book includes a plethora of strange images, psycho-babble, and literary references. For me, this made the book all the more entertaining. It is further proof that Brando married and spent much of his life interacting with a very peculiar, troubled lady.

Much of the book focuses on Anna Kashfi's legal battles with her ex-husband, concerning their son, Christian Devi. These sections, which might otherwise be fairly dry, seem particularly interesting in light of the story of Christian's later life. This book was written before Christian Devi committed manslaughter, and so it doesn't describe that gruesome scene. But, knowing about this later incident, it was interesting and disturbing to read about how his parents interacted both in and out of court.

I recommend this book, not as an accurate biography, but as a very entertaining read!


The Alchemist
The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
996 used & new from $1.47

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Helpful, But Didn't Stick With Me, April 29, 2009
This review is from: The Alchemist (Paperback)
For several months, I was going through a slump in my life, and I lacked the motivation necessary to seriously pursue my goals. A number of people and experiences pushed me out of the slump, and this book helped a little as well, compelling me to focus on what I should be doing with my life. Granted, this book only inspired me a little, and it didn't have a profound impact on me. But I give it credit for the small but important effect it had.

So don't expect this book to change your life, or to inspire you to greatness. But you can hope that it might have a positive impact.

That said, a number of reviewers have criticized this book for its simplicity (both in writing style and message), repetition of points, and lack of sophistication. These reviewers make solid points; if you want a book with complex syntax, lots of descriptive content, and a morality lesson that requires work to decipher, then you should look elsewhere. If you want to read something comprehensive, this book is not for you. Fortunately, none of these "problems" weighed too heavily on me.

The best criticism I've read suggests that this book doesn't say anything many readers won't already know. Still, while you might already know this books' message, it might still be positive or helpful to hear it again, or to see it described in a brand new light. I knew the message, and it still helped me.

For my own part, I'm amazed by how poorly I remember the book's characters. I finished reading the book several weeks ago, and, while I remember its story, and I'm grateful for its impact on me, I can't call many of its images to mind. Typically, after reading a novel, I can call its images to my mind for months. With my favorite books, the vividness of these images never fades; years later, I can clearly recall certain scenes at will. But, it is now clear, this book just hasn't stuck with me.

Overall - this book was simple and helpful, but just didn't stick with me.


Celebration
Celebration
by Harry Crews
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.83
106 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Gritty For Me!, April 15, 2009
This review is from: Celebration (Paperback)
I deeply appreciated one of Crews' other books, The Knockout Artist. I have continued reading Crews' books, hoping that he's written other masterpieces. So far, I haven't found one. I wouldn't recommend A Feast of Snakes: A Novel, and, while "Celebration" was a bit better, it still let me down.

In general, I have a problem with what one reviewer calls Crews' "gritty realism." Even in Crews' book "A Knockout Artist," I often found the storyline too crass, rude, barbaric, and gritty for my taste. Still, so much of that book was great, and it wouldn't have been as good if the world it described hadn't been as twisted and intense. In "Celebration," there aren't nearly as many great moments, and I was left feeling put off by its grittiness. In particular, the way Crews deals with sex in "Celebration" is disturbing, twisted, and sometimes disgusting. Again, this wouldn't bother me so much if the rest of the book were better.

Now, that said, there are some great moments and themes in this book. I love the interplay between feeling old and feeling young, and the plotline - a young woman introducing celebration to the elderly at a trailer park - is ripe for some powerful stuff. And, in contrast to some other reviews I've read, I loved how ridiculous/surreal the story and characters sometimes were. The world described by the book needs to be larger than life for the book to work as well as it does.

I also love that this book could give me nightmares! I had a rather vicious dream about the Old Ones with their chomping mouths! (You'll see what I mean if you read this book).

So I'll keep reading Crews, and I'll probably continue to gripe about the grit, until I find another of his books as good as "The Knockout Artist."


Free Food for Millionaires
Free Food for Millionaires
by Min Jin Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.99
245 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Connected and Disconnected, April 8, 2009
I feel both connected to the characters and distant from them. For the most part, I don't think the way they do, and their lifestyles and behaviors are worlds apart from my own. And yet, I found numerous passages, scattered throughout the book, to which I related completely. I had very strong responses to some of these sections. One even made me quite angry - a fun and unexpected emotion to experience in response to a character's behaviors! So, while I had reason to feel distanced and disconnected, I also found numerous good reasons to feel connected to the characters, as well.

Reading this book, I sometimes felt like a stone skipped across a lake, skimming the surface, but sometimes making contact.

Still, the author let her characters live such rich, mental lives that I think it would be impossible not to connect. I haven't read many books that plunge into so many characters' thoughts and emotions to such a degree.

That said, the writing, itself, was not stunning, and I'd be hard pressed to give a brief explanation of the book's plot. Neither of these complaints troubled me much, but, combined with the distance I sometimes felt from the characters, they warrant a four-star rating rather than a five.

Very worth reading! Such rich characters!


Franklin Flyer
Franklin Flyer
by Nicholas Christopher
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.48
84 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As A Trip To The Stars, March 5, 2009
This review is from: Franklin Flyer (Paperback)
I loved one of Nicholas Christopher's other books, A Trip To The Stars: A Novel. It was a complex book that was moving, beautiful and thoughtful. It used the repetition of images and reoccurring themes to create a rich, interweaving tapestry.

I read "Franklin Flyer," hoping it would be equally incredible. It didn't live up to my high expectations.

This is not to say that "Franklin Flyer" is a bad book. Some of its images have stuck with me, and continue to live in my mind. I also appreciated that, as in "A Trip To The Stars," images, themes, and people reoccur throughout the book, giving the impression that everything in Franklin's life (and perhaps the world overall) is interconnected. In general, I enjoyed the first half of the book, which tells the rags-to-riches story of an inventor with wanderlust.

But, for me, after Franklin becomes wealthy, the book begins to fall apart. I think my complaint really comes down to this: I just didn't care about Franklin's involvement in World War 2.

I can try to explain why I didn't: While there were some tense, interesting, and moving scenes, the story seemed very haphazard. There was an incredible diversity of characters, locations, missions, and kinds of interactions, and I didn't get the impression that everything added up. While the book's reoccurrence of themes, images, and characters still gave me the impression that everything in life is interconnected, they failed to make the book, itself, completely satisfying.

I'll freely admit that I might be alone, in seeing the book like this. And again, I do acknowledge that this book has a great number of merits. But it still falls far short of Christopher's other work, "A Trip To The Stars." Perhaps, if I hadn't read "A Trip" first, I might have rated "Franklin" better. I'm clearly judging it in contrast.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2014 9:49 PM PDT


Hard as Nails: A Mission to Awaken Youth to the Power of God's Love
Hard as Nails: A Mission to Awaken Youth to the Power of God's Love
by Justin Fatica
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.60
84 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Responses To This Book, March 2, 2009
I'm going to find it very hard to review this book honestly, for two reasons: 1. I don't think I belong to this book's target audience. 2. I've known the author, Justin, for years.

That said, I can honestly relate the following: I've heard people say truly remarkable things about this book. I've heard people tell me that this book dramatically changed their lives for the better. I've heard people say that the book made them cry, that it opened them up and refreshed them, and that they felt inspired by it. I've heard people relate how important they found it.

I know that when I, myself, first read some of the letters Justin has received from young adults, the letters really shook me. Justin shares some of these letters in this book, and they are powerful.

How do you measure a book like this? I doubt it will have a profound effect on everyone who reads it. But it has certainly had a very strong impact on some. And that seems to merit a five-star rating.


Maniac Magee
Maniac Magee
by Jerry Spinelli
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.00
360 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tall Tales And Great Language, February 26, 2009
This review is from: Maniac Magee (Paperback)
I just finished reading this book again, fifteen years after I first read it. It is a fun, engaging, and thoughtful book that is filled with great language.

Here are my two favorite sections, which give a good taste of the book's wonderful use of words:

1: "They found out he could do more with a football than just catch it . . . He juked and jived and spun and danced and darted, and he left them squeezing handfuls of air. Pretty soon the vacant lot was littered with blown sneakers and broken hearts" (55).

2: "His smile was so wide he'd have to break it into sections to fit it through a doorway" (102).

I loved these sections, and there were numerous other sentences I liked almost as much! I also thoroughly enjoyed the book's "tall-tale" quality. In American folklore, there's the tall tale of Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack who combed his beard with a pine tree and who captured blizzards and used them to tame a river. In "Maniac Magee," there's the tall tale of Maniac, a super-fast runaway who can untangle any knot and who played baseball with a frog and scored a home run.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book's tall tales, especially since they were told with such great style!

Still, I wasn't as impressed by this book's central plot, which deals, in part, with the notion of racism. I found it a bit forced and far-fetched. If you've read the book already, did you notice that the more racist a person is, the worse he is dressed and the more pathetic his home life is? One very racist family doesn't clean up after its dog after it relieves itself on the floor. The same family encourages kids to drink beer and builds a fortress in its basement to defend itself against its racial enemies. --- All of this is a bit rough, crass, and hard to swallow.

Still, the book is thoughtful, and I remember that the book made me consider race relationships differently when I first read it. And ultimately, the book's language and tall tales make up for any of its faults.


A Trip To The Stars: A Novel
A Trip To The Stars: A Novel
by Nicholas Christopher
Edition: Paperback
132 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Novel, February 23, 2009
As other reviewers have pointed out, you can find wonder and joy in "A Trip to the Stars." It is a beautiful book, and I could sing its praises for hours. But what impressed me most about it was its use of repeating images, themes, and colors.

There are stars all over this book - in the sky, in the seeds of fruit, in spider webs, in characters' names, and in jewelry - and these star-images add up on top of each other in a complex, magical way. Individually, each image makes an impact, but together they create an entirely different, unique, and longer-lasting impression.

There are also spiders everywhere, and there are also creatures that the author, Nicholas Christopher, compares to spiders, and there are numerous connections between spiders and stars. And there are other repeating images, which the author connects to stars and spiders, so that, in the end, everything seems to overlap and connect.

"A Trip To The Stars" is a sprawling work of magical realism, in which various family members, separated from each other through a complex series of events, lead adventurous lives as fate guides them back together. As they lead their lives, they encounter many strange and magical characters, like an eight-fingered man who studies spiders and loves jazz, a woman who is convinced she is becoming a vampire, and a man who can leave his body at will. Some of the separated family members even gain temporary super-human abilities themselves.

Add these magical occurrences to the repeating imagery and themes of the book, and you get a recipe for something very special, intricate, and lasting. A must read! Indeed!


Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald
by Andrew Turnbull
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.40
80 used & new from $3.63

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Biography, January 17, 2009
This review is from: Scott Fitzgerald (Paperback)
Andrew Turnbull's well-written biography brings F. Scott Fitzgerald to life. While the book is well researched and organized, ultimately it is Turnbull's wonderful language that makes this book shine. He carefully and lyrically describes, not just people's physical characteristics, but also their personalities and personal energy. And Turnbull focuses his book's attention on his subjects' most lively and engaging interactions, quoting letters and discussions at length only when they are truly fascinating. Turnbull, who knew Fitzgerald personally and considered him a friend, obviously loved the subject of this book - and that love helped to bring its subject to life. It helps, of course, that Fitzgerald led a wild, legendary existence.

The best I can do, to give a sense of this book, I think, is to quote a few passages, half-randomly, directly from Turnbull's prose:

In describing Fitzgerald's school headmaster: "He was almost pure albino with thin flaxen hair, white eyebrows and lashes, and pink watery eyes that jiggled behind thick lenses. His soft bulk, his round face with a button nose surmounting several rolls of chin -anyone could see that Fay liked to eat" (Turnbull 1962, 39).

In describing Fitzgerald's final years: "Now was the time of hospitals, nurses, night sweats, sedatives, and despair. Fitzgerald seemed to be slipping back into the morass of 1935-6. Half-crazed with worry and isolation, he was also blocked in his work and 'a writer not writing,' he once remarked, 'is practically a maniac within himself'" (Turnbull 1962, 298).

In describing Zelda, Fitzgerald's wife: "Zelda, too, was acting strangely. With her angry sidelong glances and barbed remarks there was something crouching and inimical in her posture. She was a wily antagonist who lay in wait for you conversationally and gave compliments that turned out to be brickbats. 'Did you ever see a woman's face with so many fine, large teeth in it?' she might say of some one she didn't like - after which she would retreat into herself. But the Murphy's remained fond of her and she of them" (Turnbull 1962, 165-166) . . . "Her willfulness had modulated into a bizarre petishness. Out with a group of friends, she would suddenly want fresh strawberries or watercress sandwiches and make everyone thoroughly uncomfortable until she got them" (Turnbull 1962, 177).


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