Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Plugging Along

I am actually still reading this book. Seriously, no kidding, I'm reading Villette. In fact, I rechecked (is that a word?) this book out from the library so I could finish it. My reading has slowed considerably, what with life getting its hands all over my day, but I do still try to find an hour to stick my nose in the story when I can. My fingers are crossed that I'll have this done by this weekend.

Right now what I'm enjoying about the book is how it feels like a sort of strange ride. Some of it you can guess before it happens, and yet it reads as if it were totally organic. Of course this would happen; of course that would happen. It makes sense, and isn't at all a boring or shocking occurrence when things fall into certain places. It feels very much like a life journey, where the heroine (Lucy, which is an excellent name in my very humble opinion) slowly evolves, and finds herself becoming different, while at the same time still holding onto the core of herself.

It's a very interesting book, and with about 1/4 of it left to go, I'm very excited to see where this long, curving road of Lucy's goes. Bronte definitely did a great things with this story.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Villette is a Place

Yes, I'll admit it. The book I'm reading, which is actually pretty good so far, is titled after a place and not a person. I didn't know this. I assumed it was about a woman named Villette, whom we'd meet in the process of the story. Nope. Not at all. It's a French town.

I know, I know, I should have realized this. But the fact is, I try to keep myself a little insulated when it comes to the books on my list. I want to be excited, to be surprised, to be completely unaware of twists and turns. I suppose in a way that will make me look a little, well, foolish sometimes. But that's okay. I don't mind admitting to these things. After all, it was a surprising and wonderful revelation to know Villette was a town and not a human being. It made me smile at myself and laugh a little at my assumption.

So, the book reading is going well. I'm balancing it with homeschooling the kids, and writing, and in general getting through the glorious chaos of life. The language in the book gives me a bit of a problem every now and again, as some reactions are spoken in French. It's not so numerous, or so distracting, that it puts me off the story. Plus, I've found that my one year of high school French, as well as the text around the language, helps me to understand what's happening.

Right now, I'd say Villette is a very good book. Not mind blowingly awesome (though I'm not quite halfway through, so it has time to surprise me yet). But a good, solid read about the evolution of the main character, and the crises that cause her to become something more than she ever imagined herself to be. All in all, not a bad premise, and a very enjoyable book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

I just finished this book last night. I have to say, I did enjoy the story. I wasn't necessarily dazzled and awe inspired, but I did like it. I can definitely see why it's a classic, and I would encourage anyone to read it.

"The Good Earth" tells the story of Wang Lung, a poor farmer in 1900s China. He has simple goals for his simple life. He wants to farm the land, harvest a good crop, and maybe have a few pieces of copper to hold onto. In the opening, we find Wang Lung preparing to go get his bride from the home of a wealthy family; a woman who will cook and clean and see to his and his father's care. He's never seen her, as his father was the one who went to the house and struck a deal with the family for Wang to have one of the slave girls for a bride. Someone who isn't too pretty, who isn't too smart, but is a good, strong worker. This is exactly what he gets, and his life unravels in different, unforeseen roads after.

The story itself deals with the horrific poverty of the peasant class in China during those years. It also shows how women are little more than possessions, and how the traditions that were adhered to kept them as such. However, as it turns out, it is Wang Lung's wife, O-Lan, who ultimately seems to be the one to pull his family together during tragedy and keeps them from certain death time and again. However, he does not truly see, or even understand, just how much she's contributed to him, other than his sons. While he isn't cruel to her, and at times is even kind to her, he doesn't love her. But, true for the times, she understands this, and is happy to be in a place where she isn't subjected to abuse.

The book also shows the rise in Wang Lung's status, but the downfall of his strength and character. He begins to pull away from the driving force that had propelled him his whole life: the land. In doing so, you watch a proud man, who had been so happy just to wake and walk into his field in the morning, deteriorate into a listless creature who has forgotten certain promises he's made himself. He slowly begins to become what he had once hated but secretly envied: a wealthy man. It isn't until the end of his life that he realizes he needs to be on his land again, where he is most at peace.

Ultimately, for me, this story also showed how the things that are so important to one generation can become nothing to the next. What one man prizes above all, his son can so easily brush away and fill the void with his own desires.

The one thing that stood out to me was Buck's writing style. It flowed, very raw, sometimes in long sentence structures, in a way that made it all seem more real. After all, how many of us really think in proper structure, with all the niceties that we use when we write? I fell into the rhythm very easily, and was able to picture every place, every person, every blade of grass, without being jarred from the story.

I was also fascinated by the facts of the lives of poor farmers in that region at that time. The story does take place just before the revolution, and throughout there are rumblings of what's to come. But for Wang Lung, it wasn't something he had the time or luxury to really consider. He needed to provide, and he did the best he could. Later, when he was idle, he was too busy with his pride, worrying about how others perceived him, and mapping out the lives of his children, not to mention dealing with greedy relatives.

In the end, "The Good Earth" is a very good read about life in a time that most of us have never experienced. At its heart, for me, it also felt like a tale of the human condition, of how things can change, and how people change (and don't change) because of that.

This wasn't exactly an all time favorite read, I'll admit. But it was definitely a book that kept me interested, and it was one that made me feel and understand things that I hadn't really considered before. I would say pick it up and add it to your classic collection.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pearl S. Buck Is Excellent

Not that her memory needs any praise from me, as many more knowledgeable, learned people have extolled her work for years. But I just had to stop and say...wow! "The Good Earth" is is such a wonderful read so far.

It's not like you open it and are immediately dazzled, like a deer caught in headlights who can't look away. It's more like a subtle creeping up, an easy flow of words, and suddenly *bam!* you're caught. The grasp of culture, the way every day life is described, the fulfillment and the sadness, it's all there, wrapped in a world I don't know, but one I can understand. Even though these people are, outwardly, so different from me, there are so many common threads that are simply about life and the struggle to live it, that the story is crossing the time and culture barriers.

For now, I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I'm half way through it, and I only opened it yesterday. However, I can tell the story is about to fall into a difficult area, where I might find myself wanting to reach through the pages and smack a few heads together. But again, what's a great life story without the foul ups?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer

"She only stopped screaming when she died." How can you turn away from an opening line such as that? I couldn't. And once I'd started reading, I found it very hard to put the book down. In matter of fact, even though this one is a very thick volume, I finished the story in three days.

Kane and Able is the story of two boys, each born into two very different worlds, and raised in very different ways. One is born illegitimately in the woods in Poland and is taken in by an extremely poor family. One is born to a prominent, well-to-do couple in America and has his whole life planned out for him. The only thing that these two babies have in common is the date of their birth.

The story follows their lives, through personal tragedies (all relevant to early and mid-1900's history) and triumphs. We see the passing of familiar characters, the addition of more, and the stories that surround them and entangle the main characters. Through various circumstances, we find our main characters, Kane and Able, cross swords, unknowingly cross paths, carry animosity for each other, and ultimately find the truth that life is more than vendettas and pride.

Seeing two people with such different lives dealing with some of the same sorts of tragedies was nearly mesmerizing at times. Jeffrey Archer also did a brilliant job of showing how the world around these two changed, and how those changes either worked their way into their lives, or merely skimmed the surface while barely creating ripples.

I would definitely recommend this book. Though it's not necessarily for the faint of heart (it does deal very plainly with issues related to war, including death and vicious abuse, suicide during the Great Depression, etc.), and it's size can be daunting (I'm not joking when I said it was large), I believe that it's so well written and executed that it shouldn't be missed. In fact, I just found out that there's a sequel, and I'm happily adding it (The Prodigal Daughter) to my list of "To Be Read" books.

Review: "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" by Anne Tyler

One of the reasons I picked out this book was because of the title. I'm not sure why, but it just sort of yelled, "Mya! Mya you have to read me!". So I did, and I'm glad I listened to that loud voice.

The story itself is as complicated and somehow as easy as life. Because really that's what it's about. It's the story of a family, of four very different people (and the very unique individuals who played roles in their lives) and how these four people struggled to be a family. It's also the intricate tale of individual lives that inevitably entangle, whether the characters want them to or not, as all of our lives do with our families.

What I enjoyed about the book was how Anne Tyler laid the story out. A few chapters were in one person's POV, the next were in another. It was interesting, and very entertaining, to see a different take on the same experience. While one didn't see complete lack in their childhood, another might. While the mother might remember an outing as annoying and tiring, a child might see it as an adventure and not remember the bad parts. It gave the story much more depth in that all the various POVs gave a different twist on what had happened, or what was happening at the time.

The themes in this book are timeless. What happens in our childhood forms us, and our perception of those events shape our very character. How one person reacts to the same situation isn't how another will, even when they are siblings. Being a parent is never easy, it can be a thankless job, and it isn't one that comes with an instruction manual. You do the best you can, and in the end, you have to hope your children understand that.

So, what was the deal with the title? It's in reference to a restaurant and one of the siblings. That's all I'm going to say about it, because really, finding out the truth of the title is like finding the kernel of the story.

I highly recommend this book. There is a reason it is considered a classic, and deservedly so. Pick it up, take it home, be sure you have several hours set aside to read it (cause you won't want to put it down too often), and see if you can spot just a bit of yourself in the characters. I know I did. I think I even found an aunt, a brother, and a cousin in there, too.

Reviews, Reviews!

Yes, I've been reading. And reading, and reading, and reading...and I've also been writing, and writing, and writing...but I have not been reviewing. 'Cause I'm a bad girl! lol Yeah, I know, it's sort of laughable to call me bad.

Anyway, I have read two books that I need to put reviews up for. Other than that, I have to say my life has been busier than usual, and very exciting, too. I've been talking to people about publication for my romance stories, so my head is full of romance novelesque stuff as well as business.

But enough about that. I have reviews to post!