I made it – 52 books. For a while I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’m going to keep reading and reviewing.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #52 book, Writing, by Marguerite Duras, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Writing is a stream of consciousness collection of essays by French author and film director Marguerite Duras, best known for her novel The Lover and her screenplay for the film Hiroshima Mon Amour.
One of her last books, Writing reads as a running meditation on the act of writing. She touches on the many subjects, especially death, that have compelled her to write. As much as she directs some of her prose to the reader, the essays quite often seem like Duras’s dialogue, discussion, even argument, with herself and why she writes.
… Duras tells a story in the second piece, “The Death of the Young British Pilot” about a British airman, age twenty, who died on the last day of World War II, and how his death affected the village in Northern France where his plane went down. His death is still as affecting today as it first was in 1944, to Duras, the village, and the reader. She dedicated Writing to him.
“And then one day, there will be nothing left to write, nothing to read, nothing left but the untranslatable fact of the life of that dead boy who was so young, young enough to make you scream.”
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #51 book, The Shining, by Stephen King, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Jack has a tendency towards violence, whether drunk or sober. He thinks he knows better than everyone (“Father knows best”) and is constantly excusing himself, his judgments, his jealousies. The reader learns that his father was abusive, to the point of almost killing his mother, which helps fill in some of Jack’s blanks, but King never excuses any of his behavior. If the Overlook was holding a casting call, it couldn’t have picked anyone more suited for the job of caretaker-gone-mad than Jack. King writes about Jack’s ability to connect with both the hero and villain in his play. The reader can connect with all of the characters in The Shining. Jack, when he is in his craziest most dangerous moments, is to some degree sympathetic. He also has a wicked sense of humor, “The boiler’s okay and I haven’t even gotten around to murdering my wife yet. I’m saving that until after the holidays, when things get dull.”
It is well-known that King himself was an alcoholic (and was at the time of writingThe Shining). One can’t help but feel that his love/hate for the character of Jack Torrance is his own beating up of himself and his demons. Parenting is hard and there are times, no matter how much you love your child, that they drive you nuts and make you angry. This is taken to extremes in Jack’s story, but one of his defining moments is when he broke Danny’s arm. This violent act haunts Jack as much as any of the other creepy things that inhabit the Overlook. King keeps Jack’s feelings ambiguous. Was evil always inherent in Jack, and the Overlook able to hone it, bring it out? Or is alcohol mostly responsible for his violent tendencies? Is the Overlook King’s metaphor for alcoholism? Are the ghosts Jack’s alcoholic demons made real? The Shining can incorporate all of these elements and still just be a darn good ghost story.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #50 book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by David Selznick, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is also about magic and a love of early cinema and the work of Georges Méliès. Many young people who will read the book and see the movie will be hearing about Méliès for the very first time. Hopefully, after being introduced to his work they may retain the sense of wonder and magic that his movies possess. His most well-known film was A Trip to the Moon [Le Voyage dans la lune], made in 1902, with its famous image of a spaceship poking the man in the moon in the eye.
Author and illustrator Brian Selznick has really done his homework on Méliès. He has also combined some tried-and-true elements of classic children’s books — an orphan, a magical toy, a fantasy world — to create some beautiful imagery, both in his graphite drawings and in his prose. I can’t wait to read this again with my daughter, or just flip through the drawings, skipping the prose, like a flipbook.
The story verges on the dark side at times, the illustrations giving it just the right mood and feeling. At one point in the story, while Hugo and Isabelle watch a film together that features an amazing chase sequence Hugo thinks to himself that “every good story should end with a big, exciting chase.” Selznick is as good as his word, and many of the most interesting and exciting passages in The Invention of Hugo Cabret are told strictly through images, like film. It’s a deceptively simple story, but its ideas and themes stay with the reader long after the end title.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #49 book, Rose Cottage, by Stella Duffy, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Rose Cottage is a cozy old-fashioned romance, with a few mysteries for Kathy to unravel. Can she find out anything more about her mother, who ran off with a Gypsy when she was just a child? Who was her father? Who has been sneaking around the cottage, stealing family papers, digging holes in the garden, and visiting her Aunt’s grave in the local cemetery? Are the local “witches” correct that ghosts from Kathy’s family’s past may somehow be involved?
“I am not myself afraid of the dark,” said Miss Mildred, “but I don’t like meeting strangers in it.”
The characters are all very likable, and even if some of the answers to the questions are more obvious than others, Stewart writes so well that the reader is more than happy to pour a cup of tea and cozy up with Rose Cottage, in no rush to get to the finish to find out who done what.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #48 book, Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, by Stella Duffy, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Her father was a bear trainer and after his death her mother paraded her three daughters in the Hippodrome, trying to win the support of Constantinople’s Blue faction. Theodora became an actress and dancer and ultimately, whore. She would perform for high society at private banquets. One of her most infamous numbers, “Leda and the Swan,” was basically a striptease where was covered with barley and had trained geese peck it away, revealing her nude form underneath. She fell in love with the Syrian Hecebolus and moved to Africa with him wen he was appointed the governor of the Libyan Pentapolis. But she was eventually discarded by Hecebolus and she made her way to Egypt, Alexandria. There she came under the influence of the bishop Timothy and experienced a conversion.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #47 book, The Lover, by Laura Wilson, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Inspired by the true-life “Blackout Ripper,” a serial killer of prostitutes in the tradition of Jack the Ripper, The Lover evokes the twin threats of the nightly bombing raids and a crazed killer on the loose in London.
Real-life murderer Gordon Cummins was a 28-year-old airman. To all who knew him he must have appeared normal enough — a dashing, handsome, accomplished pilot. But in 1942 he also killed four women, most of them prostitutes, first strangling them and then mutilating their bodies, during the blackouts in a six-day spree that terrified the West End of London as much as the seemingly endless German air assaults.
… Every character in The Lover is well-written, from the local people that Rene and Lucy come across in a shelter, to Jim’s victims, to an air raid warden who has a special friendship with Rene. The story is a true page-turner and kept me involved and riveted, almost until the very end, when it went off the rails.
Here is an excerpt from my reviews of my #46 book, Forgotten Hollywood, Forgotten History, by Manny Pacheco, on my blog, xoxoxo e:
Forgotten Hollywood, Forgotten History is clearly a labor of love for author Manny Pacheco. He has pulled together historical anecdotes, primarily from American history, with highlights from the careers of his favorite Hollywood character actors. Many of the essays give the reader a feeling similar to sitting around with a group of friends in front of an old black and white movie on television, trading trivia, and comparing little-known actors’ roles in favorite films. Such a pastime may display a love of all things Hollywood and make for an enjoyable evening, but it doesn’t really add up to a book.