October 13th, 2008
Robin Hobb - Assassin's Apprentice - 173The sea was cold, the night was black, and if I'd had any sense, I'd have wished myself elsewhere, but there is something in a boy that takes the mundanely difficult and unpleasant and turns it into a personal challenge and an adventure.

This Side of Paradise - F. Scott Fitzgerald

September 29th, 2008

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott FitzgeraldThis Side of Paradise established F. Scott Fitzgerald as the prophet and golden boy of the newly dawned Jazz Age. Published in 1920 when Fitzgerald was just twenty-three, it is the story of Amory Blaine, a privileged, aimless, and self-absorbed Princeton student whose journey from prep school to college to the First World War is a prescient account of what Gertrude Stein would later call the Lost Generation. Fitzgerald memorably describes Amory and his contemporaries as "a new generation...grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken." An exuberant pastriche of literary styles, this dazzling, virtuosic chronicle of youth remains recognizably relevant today.

This story is about Amory Blaine, a young man whose story we follow from his early childhood of great privilege through his college graduation to see him develop a great skepticism. It may have been his life's great economic downturn, maybe it was his poor luck at love, or maybe a mix of these and more led Amory to his new perspective. As readers we feel sorry for what has been forced to endure, but the silver lining comes as Amory and his mates discuss love, politics and growing up. The opinions they share are substantial, eye-opening, and they still ring true generations later.

This book was recommended to me a few years back by a friend. I asked her what her favorite book was and this was her response. It obviously took me awhile to get around to reading it, but I am glad I did. Better late than never, as they say.

I feel the book is best broken up into three sections: pre-college, college and post-college. And the first and third sections were my favorites. The pre-college section covers his childhood as Fitzgerald writes him as an Elizabethan "mack daddy." I laughed continuously as the young man with the silver tongue would, always minding his manners, attempt to seduce any woman he encountered.

The college section, which is the majority of the book, we begin to see the transformation of Amory Blaine. Through a group of friends that I found similar to the Dead Poets Society from the movie of the same name, Amory begins to finally see pain, suffering and injustice. He is handed a social conscience and wears it from then on as a badge of courage. This section of the book grew a little monotonous for me and was where I had to strengthen my resolve to get through it.

The post-college section, though somewhat pessimistic, was my favorite part of the book. In this final few chapters to the book I believe I found why my friend had recommended it. While I agreed with some of Amory's arguments at the end of the book and disagreed with others, I found them all to have merit. I must admit that I am even depressed that many of Amory's complaints about the state of society still plague society today. I applaud the author for writing a book that is still relevant so many years later.

This Side of Paradise is a short book where you may breeze through the beginning, lose interest in the middle, and become somewhat empassioned towards the end. I did not love this book, but I enjoyed parts of it a good deal. I'm glad to have now read some Fitzgerald other than just The Great Gatsby.

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September 26th, 2008
John Irving - The World According to Garp - 5That must be how families are, thought Jenny Fields. She felt if she ever had children she would love them no less when they were twenty than when they were two; they might need you more at twenty, she thought. What do you really need when you're two? In the hospital, the babies were the easiest patients. The older they got, the more they needed; and the less anyone wanted or loved them.

Book of the Month - October, 2008

September 22nd, 2008

A Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

A Man without a Country by Kurt VonnegutA Man without a Country is Kurt Vonnegut's hilariously funny and razor-sharp look at life, art, politics, himself, and the condition of the soul of America today.

Written over the last five years with the examples of Mark Twain, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and the saintly doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis powerfully in mind, plentifully illustrated with artwork by the author, A Man without a Country is an intimate and tender communication from one individual to his fellow Americans, sometimes joking, at other times desparing, always searching.

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September 19th, 2008
Robin Hobb - Assassin's Apprentice - 108"It doesn't have to be that bad," Chade said quietly. "Most prisons are of our own making. A man makes his own freedom, too."

The Bodies Left Behind

September 12th, 2008

Jeffery Deaver's next book is a stand-alone thriller called THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND.

The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffery DeaverA spring night in a small town in Wisconsin. . . . A call to police emergency from a distant lake house is cut short. . . . A phone glitch or an aborted report of a crime? Off-duty deputy Brynn leaves her family's dinner table and drives up to deserted Lake Mondac to find out. She stumbles onto the scene of a heinous murder. . . . Before she can call for backup, though, she finds herself the next potential victim. Deprived of her phone, weapon and car, Brynn and an unlikely ally – a survivor of the carnage – can survive only by fleeing into the dense, deserted woods, on a desperate trek to safety and ultimately to the choice to fight back. The professional criminals, also strangers to this hostile setting, must forge a tense alliance too, in order to find and kill the two witnesses to the crime.

The Bodies Left Behind will be released on November 11, 2008 in the USA and Canada, and in January 2009 in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

If you are interested, he has posted an excerpt.

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September 11th, 2008
John Irving - The World According to Garp - 132As for Jenny, she felt only that women -- just like men -- should at least be able to make conscious decisions about the course of their lives; if that made her a feminist, she said, then she guess she was one.

The 2008 Man Booker Prize (Shortlist)

September 9th, 2008

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction represents the very best in contemporary fiction (from the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth). One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer. It has the power to transform the fortunes of authors, and even publishers. In 2004, not only did Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty reach the bestseller lists, but previous winners The Life of Pi (2002) and Vernon God Little (2003) were also amongst the bestselling books of the year. Congratulations to last year's winner Anne Enright for her novel The Gathering.

The White Tiger by Aravind AdigaThe White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian BarryThe Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Sea of Poppies by Amitav GhoshSea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda GrantThe Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
The Northern Clemency by Philip HensherThe Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve ToltzA Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
The Complete 2008 Nominee List

September 8th, 2008
Per Petterson - Out Stealing Horses - 7In less than two months' time this millennium will be finished. There will be festivities and fireworks in the parish I am part of. I shall not go near any of that. I will stay at home with Lyra, perhaps go for a walk down to the lake to see if the ice will carry my weight. I am guessing minus ten and moonlight, and then I will stoke the fire, put a record on the old gramophone with Billie Holiday's voice almost like a whisper, like when I heard her in the Oslo Colosseum some time in the 50s, almost burned out, yet magic, and then fittingly get drunk on a bottle I have standing by in the cupboard. When the record ends I will go to bed and sleep as heavily as it is possible to sleep without being dead, and awake to a new millennium and not let it mean a thing. I am looking forward to that.

The World According to Garp - John Irving

September 3rd, 2008

The World According to Garp by John IrvingThis is the life and times of T.S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields -- a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes -- even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with "lunacy and sorrow"; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries -- with more than ten million copies in print -- this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: "In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases."

T.S. Garp is the only child of the famous, yet constantly-misunderstood, Jenny Fields. Under her care he had a most peculiar upbringing and maybe...just maybe, that can help explain who he has become. For one thing, he has become a writer, like his mother, but he is different. His mother's memoirs, her only published work, are read by many as the original feminist manifesto. Garp writes fiction. The World According to Garp is exactly that: a glimpse of the world through the eyes of a man who was raised by the woman credited as the founder of the feminist movement, and is now married and raising children of his own.

I appreciate recommendations as much as, if not a little more than, the next guy. And this one came with a very passionate delivery. Anyone who can speak with that much resolve about a book has my attention. She did not tell me what it is about, just as I was unable to really tell anyone what it was about while I was reading it. She only told me that it was the best book she had ever read, and she seemed a credible source.

While it wasn't, necessarily, the best book I have ever read, I thoroughly enjoyed The World According to Garp. It took me awhile to get through it; each word seemed so carefully chosen that it deserved as much attention as the rest. From cover to cover I was captivated by the writing. A few sections of the book made me a little uncomfortable, but for the most part Garp was an interesting protagonist who was able to hold my attention.

The gentleman who sat next to me on an airplane as I read this book shared that he had enjoyed it when he read it. I told him my thoughts on the slow pace of the book and he said Irving writes each of his books that way, calling his writing very "Southern." I'm not sure if he was saying that so I wouldn't feel isolated in my opinion or as a caution should I ever choose to read Irving again. If he meant it as the latter I do not plan to heed his warning; I liked The World According to Garp and I am curious to read more from John Irving.

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