Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our next book, The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman

We all voted by email, and decided that our next book adventure would be this rouge travel memoir.  We will be visiting many third world countries, and traveling with Carl on the riskiest modes of transportation, as the title of the book states "The Lunatic Express:  Discovering the World ... via its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains and Planes". 

Carl's saga continues.  He has been writing about his current travels to Egypt at his blog site  It is very interesting to read.

However, if you are going to buy the book, you can show your appreciation for my blogging by clicking on the Amazon link to the left!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Good Faith by Jane Smiley

I was attracted to this book because one of my favorite all time books is by Jane Smiley,  A Thousand Acres: A Novel. I was sure this also would be a great pick.  The way Jane brings you into her character's hidden traits and dirty lives is a reflection of her mastery as an author. She can shock you as her story turns.

I didn't find this story was as compelling as A Thousand Acres, after all this is a story about Joe the conservative realtor who wouldn't mind becoming a billionaire, unlike the characters of A Thousand Acres who are busy trying to murder each other.  The story is richly woven with a multitude of other characters and delightful sub plots.  This is a story about Joe, Joe's close friends, Betty and Gordon, Felicity (Betty and Gordon's daughter), and so many characters I can't list them and begin to make this a sensible review!  The outsider sharks, Marcus and Jane (Marcus' sister, or so they say), bring a new kind of BIG thinking into the little town.

I found the beginning of the book a sleeper, as I'm not interested in real estate deals.  This was followed by a sense of embarrassment over the shocking affair between John and Felicity (that was just wrong).  I then went into the stage of seeing through the self serving, guiltless, sociopathic, shady Bernie Madolf type behavior displayed by Marcus and Jane.  This was so close to my own father's business deals, I found this uncomfortable and wanted to throw the book away.  I found Marcus rotten to the core, though Jane Smiley never convicted him, and left it up to the reader to judge Marcus.  Perhaps by judging Marcus all of us would be judged, as greed is only a matter of degree.

All in all, this was well written, though to me it read more like a soap opera than a novel. There are many satisfied Amazon readers, but this wasn't a book for me.  However, it was compelling enough that I finished it and still wanted more.  Go figure....

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike

This was an amazingly compelling, well written novel.  It is shocking, unpredictable, exciting and hence delightful at the same time.  The story and the mood of the story is very different than the movie.  You won't find a chapter with a description of Darryl Van Horne (played by Jack Nickolson) murderously storming down the street, spitting out chicken feathers, returning to home to take care of his naughty coven.  Instead, you will find that the witches, namely Jane, Sukie and Alexa, are a bit more wicked than portrayed in the movie.  Darryl is a less devious and magical, and the story less fantastic. There is an additional major character, Jenny, in love with Darryl adding a whole new subplot to the story.

This would be a great adult book club book, not only for the discussion of the story, but to discuss Updike's mastery of description and insight into human behavior.  I would follow the discussion with a movie night viewing of The Witches of Eastwick with flowing adult beverages. 

This would not be a good book for high school discussions, and would likely insult the heck out of anyone who isn't open to discuss the self centered wicked lives of the coven.  Morals are not held up in any high standards, though there is a fair amount of regret tied to bad witchie choices.

Lastly, Mr. Updike has a sequel published in 2008, The Widows of Eastwick.  I have not read this yet, but wonder why he waited so long to write part two!  The Amazon reviews are not as high as they are for the The Witches of Eastwick, so perhaps it isn't as good.

Updike has many other great novels under his belt, so if this selection doesn't appeal to your sensibilities, there are many other great novels such as his famous Rabbit series. I found a complete list on wikipedia:

Happy Bookclub Reading!  Katherine.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This was a thoughtful well written philosophical book set in Seattle.  On the surface, it is a story about Enzo the dog and Enzo's family, Denny the race car driver, his wive Eve and their daughter Zoe.  The interesting part is that Enzo was born with human intelligence.  This makes the story incredibly amusing, but also a fantasy.

What makes this book so special is the insight into the seemingly impossible situations that make up each of our lives.  Enzo's family experiences extreme challenges that I hope not a single reader will ever have to cope with, but the application of professional car racing skills to life is absolutely delightful, entertaining and profound.  Just the idea that we are all zooming at incredible speeds on a race car track, trying not only to win, but to survive life is an exhilarating metaphor.

In the following paragraph, Enzo is considering how he will live his next life when, as he believes, he will be reincarnated as a person.

"To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live.  ...  To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day.  To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am.  I am.  This is something to aspire to.  When I am a person, that is how I will live my life."

This is a good book club choice.  It is a short, easy read, and is fun to discuss.  As for the book club party, I would recommend a trip to the races, lunch at a sports bar, or a trip to the doggie park for a picnic!

Please, post and tell me what you thought of this book!  I give it two paws up!