Thanks to J.T. for sponsoring this fun, quick challenge. To see what everyone was reading, visit her blog and read the many reviews.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Lou Suffern is an extremely unlikeable man. He is self-absorbed, ruthless, arrogant and just plain nasty - to the point that, for most of the novel, I was hoping something heavy would fall on him. He treats his wife as a possession, his children as pesky flies, and his co-workers as stepping stones. Money and power are his singular goal. He schemes and connives to attain that goal at the expense of anything or anyone who steps in his path.
Then Lou meets Gabe, a homeless man begging outside Lou's office building. Lou is unexplainably drawn to show a small amount of compassion and Gabe becomes twisted into the strands of a life that Lou is desperately trying to keep from unraveling. Soon Lou sees Gabe as just one more hurdle, one more person interferring with his path to the top.
At this point, I knew that Gabe was going to be Lou's "Clarence" (the angel from "It's a Wonderful Life"). "You see, [Lou] you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a waste it would be to just throw it away?" But, unlike George Bailey, Lou was such an unsympathetic character that I couldn't imagine how he could be redeemed or why anyone would care to try.
This is where the magic of Cecilia's writing comes in. The scene at Lou's father's birthday party, when Lou attempts to make amends with his family, is painful. Watching Lou as he grasps how deep the cuts of his selfishness are actually made me ache, but also made me - surprise! - sympathetic.
Even though this is billed as a Christmas story, it could take place at any time of year and be nearly as effective. The conclusion avoids the trap of holiday triteness while still delivering it's message. It left me listening for a bell to ring and Jimmy Stewart to whisper "Atta boy, [Gabe]".
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
First, the tear-jerker portion - we have the grandmother and grandson struggling with Alzheimers and the fear of the future. This is a topic close to my heart, as we are dealing with this horrid disease in our family, so I was interested in the way the characters would handle it. However, at 145 pages, the story just isn't long enough to delve deeply into a subject that heavy and the disease had to progress unrealistically quickly and be dealt with superficially.
Still, I was thinking "that's ok" because the point is really the grandson who is saving his money to buy his grandmother the clock she has admired in the store window - a clock that reminds her of her youth - for Christmas, thus bringing in the Christmas portion. But, as you'll see, that storyline never quite makes it to daylight either.
The second facet - the romance - focuses on Sylvia and Joe, high-school sweethearts separated because of tragic circumstances. Both have returned to their hometown and are looking for a second chance at their relationship. I liked their story, even if it was a little predictable.
There is a minor sub-plot involving Floyd and Doris Culver and their attempt to revive a tired marriage, but again there just isn't time to really flesh out this story.
Then we come to the point where all the characters meet and their stories combine and it's a pleasing ending; a nice "happy ever after" moment that was - dare I say it again - predictable. No problem, I was still "ok" with it. Just because you can see it coming, doesn't mean it's not a good ending.
But wait, what about the clock? You know, the one in the title? It gets relegated to afterthought status and doesn't have the impact it could have, which is sad because the idea had the potential to be a touching conclusion and to shine a little hope into life with Alzheimers.
It's probably hard to believe by now, but I actually liked this story, or at least the possibilities of this story. I was disappointed that so many good ideas got squeezed into such a small box and none of them had the chance to develop.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
If you've never read, heard or seen Anita Renfroe's comedy, you are truly missing out. A former pastor's wife, mother of three and creator of the hit youtube video "Momsense", Anita is a total hoot! She shares her opinions and experiences about parenting, mid-life, marriage and friendship. Our daughter even did an excerpt on mothers and daughters from one of Anita's books for high school forensics competition last year, so her humor translates well to all ages. - although I suspect the daughter and I each thought we were poking fun at the other.
"Don't Say I Didn't Warn You" is, I believe, Anita's 7th book (including wonderful titles like "If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother" and "The Purse-Driven Life") and they just continue to get funnier.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
A bazaar and unearthly fog moves across a small town in Maine, bringing with it a circus of prehistoric and fantastical creatures which spring out of the mist to devour whatever gets in their road. A group of locals and vacationers are trapped in a supermarket, devising various escape and survival plans.
Like all Stephen King stories, the pace was fast. Only once did we feel him "rabbit trailing" and then only for a couple pages. The background info on the main character, David Drayton, and his feelings of inadequacy as an artist when compared to his famous father may have been pertinent and useful in a full length novel, but in this formula there wasn't time to develop the character that far, so only served to slow things down.
The various cliques that developed among the refugees trapped in the market were an intriguing microcosm of society: the "flat-earthers" who chose to deny that anything was happening, the blood sacrifice group which was willing to sacrifice someone to appease the evil - as long as it wasn't one of them, those who just sat back and allowed others to make all the decisions...
Of course the gore level was too much for me (Tami) but I had to concede that point somewhat on the grounds of "What did you expect from Stephen King? If you don't want gore, don't open the book." However, even the gore was freakishly fascinating in it's originality. No two people were decapitated, dismembered or disemboweled in quite the same manner. Definitely no points off for predictability.
Our biggest complaint was the ending - or lack thereof. King has a tendency to let his readers form their own ideas of what happened to the creatures he creates, and that approach is great - in theory. But we had a serious desire to call Mr. King and ask, "But what about....???"
Starting with a scale of 5 stars for the perfect book, I took off a point for gore and a point for frustrating ending - but then had to give back a half-point because it wasn't like I wasn't warned in advance that there would be blood (I read every King book I could get my hands on in the 70's). So I rated this novella as 3 1/2 stars. Dave - who uses King's Gunslinger series as the gold standard for the 5-star book - only gave it 3 stars. "The measure of a good book is you can't stand to put it down and can't wait to pick it back up. I couldn't wait to get home from work to get to the next chapter of the Gunslinger books, but I didn't have that feeling with this one."
On to the next novella on our challenge list: Animal Farm by George Orwell.