Author Archives: Jen K

Jen K’s CBR III Book 43: Stones from the River

43. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi: I’m not sure why I never read this book before. Originally, it may have been the fact that it was on Oprah’s Book Club or perhaps I felt like I needed a break from World War II literature when my mom read it, I don’t know. When I looked at it later, the comparison to Gunther Grass’s The Tin Drum probably would have turned me off: I hated that book. I didn’t like the protagonist at all, and thought he was oddly lecherous and devious. However, having read this book, I believe that comparison has more to do with the fact that both of the protagonists are dwarves in small towns in Germany rather than other similarities. Yes, both use a degree of magic realism (more so in Grass’s case), but Trudi comes off as a real, normal person who happens to be a dwarf, someone who I wouldn’t mind talking to, while the protagonist in The Tin Drum does not . . .


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Jen K’s CBR III Book 42: Regeneration

42. Regeneration by Pat Barker

Regeneration is the first novel in Barker’s WWI trilogy which centers around historical figures and fictional characters as its main protagonists. The novel isn’t about the front lines of the war or the battles but its effects. The novel begins with Siegfried Sassoon’s declaration against the continuation of the war. It appears that he is already a famous figure at this point in history (now of course he is known as one of the war poets), so rather than court martial him, the authorities declare him shell shocked and send him to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh where he comes under the care of Dr. Rivers. Originally, I expected Sassoon to be the main character, but I believe that title goes to Dr. Rivers (another historical figure), while Sassoon and Billy Prior (fictional character) are the two main supporting cast members with a few other extras to illustrate war experiences. The hospital Craiglockhart is for officers suffering from shell shock and other mental disorders as a result of the war . . .

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Jen K’s CBR III Books 36-41

36. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: The last of The Wheel of Time novels that Jordan completed before his death still displays many of the weaknesses that developed with the series, but definitely starts to move the plot forward and get things into the right position.

37. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: I can’t remember the last time I zipped through a book in this series quite so quickly. Don’t get me wrong, with all books in the series, I felt a need to know where it was going and what was going to happen so they kept me engaged, but there were also quite a few chapters that were a chore to get through. Sanderson, however, has definitely breathed new life into the series.

38. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson: Unfortunately, this book was nowhere nearly as well-written as A Short History of Everything. I don’t feel like I learned too much about the places visited (I thought maybe he’d share random knowledge like in A Short History of Everything, but there wasn’t very much) – for the most part, it felt like he simply reiterated stereotypes. I guess in some cases stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason but I expected better from Bryson. Also, having never read a travel book before, I wasn’t sure what to expect – was it supposed to be a tour of the city, was it supposed to be about random mishaps the author encounters, a bit of both? Mostly, it seemed like Bryson walked around, ate, and pretty much didn’t seem to enjoy himself very much.

39. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls: Walls uses the stories that she and her mother remember about her grandmother to create this woman’s life story. Since it is based on family myth, Walls doesn’t title the story as a biography. The book reads very much like an oral history – it is told in Lily’s voice in chronological order, but as a reader I could easily imagine that all the chapters were individual stories told at varying times to her daughter who then helped her own daughter place them in order. In many ways, Lily feels like a portrayal of the quintessential (and possibly even stereotypical) frontier woman.

40. About A Boy by Nick Hornby: Hornby tells the story from the perspective of Marcus, a 12 year old boy who is both old for his age and naive, and Will, a 36 year old man-child to say it in simple terms. Marcus is the child of divorce, and he and his mother Fiona have recently moved to London. His mother struggles with depression, and Marcus understands that things aren’t quite normal. He also doesn’t fit in at school because his mom is a feminist, vegetarian hippie who is opposed to most new popular culture and has raised her son on Joni Mitchell in the time of Nirvana and Snoop Dogg. Being the new kid, he gets picked on quite a bit.

41. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: I heard about this author when I saw that TNT was making a show based on the series that started with this novel. I don’t watch procedurals all too often, but I like the occasional Law and Order: SVU, and figured I might as well check out if this series was any different (I also think I saw a book that was later in the series that sounded like it had an interesting premise for a killer, but I obviously couldn’t start in the middle). Having said that, it was an entirely enjoyable book given the genre it represents. I wouldn’t call it ground-breaking in any way but it had a few nice ideas.

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Jen K’s CBR III: Reviews 33-35

33.  We Two: Victoria and Albert by Gillian Gill:  A bio about the relationship between Victoria and Albert.  Since I knew very little about the reigning couple of the Victorian Era, it was illuminating but the book seemed to focus more on Albert than Victoria in the later half.  Overall, I’d say probably a good introduction to the topic.  

34. Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon: Not deep history, but a fun read with short bios of a selection of women in history, some of whom are more famous than others.  Mahon is a history buff, not a historian so it’s all based on secondary sources.  However, for any bio that sounds intriguing she points the way to history books that cover the topic as well as a list of fictional portrayals of the women.

35. Bite Me by Christopher Moore: The latest in Moore’s vampire series.  Given how it ends, I think this is the last one, but it’s not that tied up that he couldn’t bring the characters back if he wanted to.  Overall, typical Moore, but probably the weakest in the series due to an overabundance of Abbie Normal.

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Books 24-32: Women Reading and The Wheel of Time, Books 3-10

I’m finally starting to play catch up on reviews. Still, 11-12 hour days are definitely slowing me down compared to last year!

Stephanie Staal audits Feminist Texts over ten years after graduating to see how the texts relate to her now as an adult with a child vs. as a young, idealistic student:

Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time: If you are familiar with the series, you know that it is starts off fast, and then the Wheel just keeps turning and turning, possibly while stuck in a rut, while the women cross their arms under their breasts and pull their braids a lot.

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Jen K’s CBR III Reviews 22 &23

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

One thing I really liked about this novel is that for once the back of the book didn’t give too much away. It simply stated that it was about two women who had met two years previously in a life changing event, and were about to meet again. Granted, if it hadn’t been for the fact that this novel was on several bestseller lists, and I kept seeing it everywhere, this might have been too vague of a description to interest me, but as it was, it actually worked . . . (

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I’ve kept in touch with a few of my college professors, and generally see them when I’m back home to visit my parents.  Recently, one of them recommended this novel to me, and I finally had time to read it.  The novel is written in the epistolary format, and is compromised of letters from Eva to her former husband, Franklin.  Kevin is their son who is currently in a juvenile detention facility because he was “one of those Columbine boys.”  Only a few days before Columbine occurred, Kevin shot and killed several students and a teacher at his high school.  Eva uses this correspondence to tell her side of the story, and attempt to understand her culpability, if any.  As a result, while the novel is a series of letters, the level of honesty and detail also make it seem very journal-like . . .

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Jen K’s CBR III Reviews 20 and 21

Yes, I know it’s been awhile.

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan – the second book in the series, before he starts dragging (haven’t gotten to that point yet) and before I start getting pissed off with how he portrays women.

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