This is the fourth and final entry (for now) in my series discussing the books I’ve been reading lately. Today we’re taking about Emma Cline’s The Girls.
The book takes us into the lives of the Manson family, one member in particular. It leads up to their most notorious crime. It’s a fictionalized version, of course. On the surface you might be intrigued when hearing that, but don’t be.
When I go to the bookstore (only Half Price Books) I always check online first to see if my store has what I’m looking for. Buying this book was one of those rare occurrences I happened to see it on the shelf and though I knew nothing about the story itself, I remembered when it was first published it had been quite the bestseller. So I bought it.
The book alternates between the 60s and the present when our protagonist (if you can even call her that) is middle aged. I hate repeating myself from an earlier post in this series, but nothing happened. The book doesn’t go into the actual crimes committed. It gives a perspective from within the family before they’re committed and talks about the aftermath. But again, nothing happens and chapters stretch on and on of nothing. It couldn’t be more exhausting.
Upon completion my first thought was that I’d have been better off reading a true crime account of the family and their crimes. Maybe I will at some point. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’ve rated three books this year as one star. This is one of them.
This is the third in my series to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading this year. Next up is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.
The book takes you on a long journey through generations of Oscar’s family. From Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) to NJ and back again several times over. Though the book gives insight into some of their experiences under Trujillo’s dictatorship, most of the story follows Oscar and his love for writing, science fiction, and his never-ending attempt to find what he thinks is love.
This was a very recent read for me (as in last week). One thing that gave me pause at the start is the narrator uses the n-word quite a bit. It was almost a turn off, but the use drops way down after the first chapter or two.
With the book following several members of Oscar’s family, it becomes clear early on that they’re dark-skinned. It also becomes clear that the DR is no different from the US and other western countries in that dark-skinned people are treated as lesser than their lighter skinned counterparts. This was interesting because so often we’re made to think of Latin countries as third world or developing. Yet the US isn’t always more advanced, even as we constantly say otherwise.
What I found most relatable about this is how indicative it is of the Hispanic experience in 20th century DR and the US. Either Oscar, his mother, or his sister go back to the DR several times throughout the story. This is something that happens all the time. And sure people of other nationalities do the same, but the US has become much more Hispanic in recent decades. As a Mexican-American I hadn’t read previously such an Hispanic story. That’s more on me than anything.
I didn’t grow up in a Spanish-speaking household. I wish I had, but the concept of Spanglish is something even I’m familiar with. Intertwining both languages effortlessly happens in so many households every single day that it’s impossible to put a number on it. That’s how this book is written and it makes it all the more genuine. Don’t ask me if I bought a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone afterward because I won’t tell you. Yesterday I said I couldn’t understand how that book won the Pulitzer. Not the case with this one.
This is an unabashedly Hispanic/Latin story and it could not have been better written. Every so often you read a book you know you won’t soon forget. This is one of those few. The best book I’ve read this year and #6 ever for me. An incredible work. 5 stars.
This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.
This is the second in my series to discuss some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some good and some not. Today’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
We follow a father and son along a road in post apocalyptic North America. As I sit here trying to give just a little bit more of a plot description I realize there’s nothing else to say about it. We follow them as they try to stay alive along this road, but that’s it.
I have serious problems with just about every aspect of this book. There are no names for the characters. The father is the father and the son is the son. I might be mistaken (I read this a few months ago), but I don’t think the book has chapters and the punctuation is not proper. I never could figure the point for writing this way. My only guess is because it’s in this post apocalyptic world that the author felt it best to show that grammatical norms don’t matter when everyone and everything has been destroyed.
I’d love to write about the action or the climax of the story to give more insight, but there’s neither. Nothing happens in the story. This book won the Pulitzer and was adapted into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie and likely won’t, but there should be a White House Commission to investigate who was bribed to award this book the Pulitzer. If you couldn’t tell, I rated this 1 star. It’s also worth noting that this book is partially responsible for a nearly two month gap in my reading this year after I started and stopped because there was not a thing to keep me interested. Thoughts?
This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.
I said in yesterday’s post I wanted to write about some of the books I’ve read so far in 2020, and look at me actually doing it. I’m starting with one I know some of you have read. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Billy Pilgrim takes us through his life as he time travels through different periods, most notably to when he’s captured by Germans just before the Allied bombing of Dresden at the end of WWII.
What bothered me most about the book is the time travel. It happens from one sentence to the next with no warning and keeps you as the reader jumping around in your head trying to figure out where he’s gone back (or forward) to now. But that may not be the worst part. During the course of his life Billy is taken to an alien planet and put on display in what amounts to a zoo. Just writing it takes me back to the absurdity of it.
It would have been perfectly okay to write the same story minus the alien planet and time travel. The Allies bombed an unguarded city at the end of the war, killing tens of thousands. The story could begin just prior to the bombing and tell of the destruction and death that follows. But it doesn’t.
I rated it between 1-2 stars, erring on the slightly higher end. Thoughts?
This is one of Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read.
Y’all! I just realized something and it’s life changing!
The books that got me hooked on reading were mysteries. PIs. Homicide detectives. Murder mysteries solved by the ex cop who left the department under a cloud. You know what I’m talking about. And back in the first couple of years after high school when I was reading the most, I was reading mysteries exclusively. No young adult. No literary fiction. No classics. No nonfiction. I was reading what I enjoyed reading the most.
Then I tried branching out. Tried to become more “well read”, whatever the hell that means. And I hit a wall. I’ve been clawing at it now for several years. When I was in college I wouldn’t read textbooks or review notes. Every break I had I’d pull out my current novel on campus and read! Not sure how you are, but usually after I read I want a nap. Fell asleep numerous times in class because I wasn’t about to talk about Alexander the Great’s empire right after reading about the unsolved murder of a kid buried in the hillside. Like, priorities!
Call me stupid or crazy or just not “well read”, but I’m going back to what made me love books to begin with. I have plenty of non mystery books to pick from when I feel the time is right, but it isn’t right now. I’m currently reading my third detective novel in a row. Not stopping even if I have to buy more.
PS: I have a rule to not read any author twice within any 5 books, but I think I’m breaking it.
Oh, look at me finishing two books in quick succession.
I’m just going to dive right into the post. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The story follows Sophie. A Haitian girl being raised by her aunt at the age of 12 when her mother sends for her from New York. You follow her to New York to marrying to returning home to the tragedy of her mother’s suicide.
I’ve owned this book a couple of years now and knew absolutely nothing about it. I didn’t know the author. I didn’t know the premise. I didn’t know the themes. The story blew me away from page one. Haiti is arguably the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and you know it immediately. But as soon as you wrap your head around Sophie’s surroundings they completely change as she heads to New York to be reunited with her mother she doesn’t know. She soon realizes how difficult her mother’s life really is. This is important because of the conversations people are having TODAY. So many people in America want to paint immigrants as criminals, worthless, and illegal. But so much more often than not, they’re just like Sophie’s mother. Working multiple jobs and supporting family back home.
But the book isn’t only about being an immigrant and trying to find where we belong. Sophie suffers from bulimia and sex phobia, as it’s described in the book, and her mother suffers from severe mental illness, ultimately leading to her suicide. Sophie seeks help in multiple ways. I’m not going to say I suffer from anything, but I know how it feels to be entirely unhappy with every aspect of life, and to feel like no one is coming through that door to help.
Those are the two things I’ve taken from this book. That we should look at immigrants just as we would anyone else, and that we all have the ability to free ourselves from things we can and cannot control. Sophie begins the story as a struggling girl and ends it as a struggling woman. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to seek help when you need it.
I’ve read this week about two lawsuits currently pending. They both concern the work of authors who have died. And in both cases it’s one part of the family suing another part.
One of the lawsuits concerns the work of John Steinbeck. The other is about Tom Clancy.
What happened to preserving the legacy of authors once they die? So many times lawsuits are filed almost immediately upon the death of an author. I guess this is no different from other types of celebrities who leave their families to fight over large estates. But it’s still a bit disappointing.
I think Robert B. Parker did it best. He left his series in the hands of other authors he knew. Though I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to read a Spenser or Jesse Stone novel written by another author, at least there was no fight when Parker died unexpectedly.
Do you think it immediately becomes all about the money involved once an author dies?
Earlier this year I happened upon the adaptation of this book on Netflix. I was just minding my business scrolling through the menu and happened to see it as a new release. I knew nothing about it. But I recall it being an early Saturday afternoon and I was doing nothing. One episode wouldn’t hurt. I watched. Again. Again. And again. Until I’d managed to get through the entire season the following evening.
Soon thereafter I bought the book. I made it halfway through and then simply stopped. It wasn’t because I was not interested or it was poorly written, I just have these periods almost every year.
I finished it last night.
I’d rate the show as five stars. I know some call it controversial, but I’m not part of that faction. I’m of the opinion that we need to have a conversation about the topics discussed in the book. All of them. But we aren’t. Not until it’s too late and tragedy has struck. The show began one of those conversations.
But this is one of those extremely rare cases in which the adaptation is better than the original. At least in my opinion. Clay Jenson comes off as accusatory throughout the book. He almost appears to blame Hannah for everything that’s led her to make her final choice. The book also focuses entirely on Clay’s perspective, whereas I think the show gives a bit more from the other involved characters.
I won’t get into every single detail in the book I had an issue with. I still rated it three stars. The show showed us the anguish and isolation Hannah experienced. The book struggled to do the same.
I have a rule. The rule is that I won’t read multiple series by the same author at the same time. Then Prime Day happened and anew release was available for $8! It’s the first book in a new series by an author I really enjoy. I’ve resisted the urge to pick it up and start reading for about a month I’m just about ready to break my rule and start it. After all, I haven’t finished anything since February.
The actual request was for a book that may make them cry.
To Kill a Mockingbird
All of the books have completely different storylines. Two are based in fact. Two are not. The common thing from all of them is that I believe there are lessons to be learned from each. Just like there’s a lesson to be learned from nearly every book ever published. The messaging may be off and the writing poor, but find a book in which you take nothing away from it and I’ll gladly hand you hundreds in which you’ll find something hidden beneath the printed words.