Posts by Robert

Want Not by Jonathan Miles

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

Community Reads March 12, 2014 Want Not by Jonathan Miles First, I have to say this; I am very opinionated and when I get in a room with others I like to lay down the law (as it holds court with my point of view). This usually works when discussing books but alas, during the last ‘Community Reads’ book club meeting the author showed up. So for the discussion centered on Jonathan Miles’s book (Want Not) I couldn’t bring my point of view front and center. In fact, my entire ego sank down to the level of my shoes as I heard first hand exactly what he meant when he wrote ‘What John Rye had done wrong, Micah would do right.’ Seriously; it was with extreme pleasure the ‘Community Reads’ book club was able to discuss Want Not with the author. And, I have to say, I really enjoyed the read (and the discussion). Want Not is different in its delivery from most books and that alone, the uniqueness, gave it value. It reminded me very much of an art-house movie where the theme is interconnected more than the characters themselves and, Jonathan Miles can write. “Want Not” has a message — the balance between ‘waste not / want not’ no longer seems to register with people. The entire concept of civilization in the throes of waste, decay and pollution, discarding items as soon as the label ‘possession’ is upon them is evident. And, by painting civilization as a whole begs the question, is there salvation? This brings us to the characters: An abandoned professor of dead languages (Dr. Elwin Cross), AND his neighbor’s wayward son, AND a young couple (Micah and Talmadge) living off the grid and off the detritus of super-consumers like Sara and Dave, AND Sara’s daughter Alexis. AND Elwin’s dying father (Dr. Cross, Senior), AND Matty, Talmadge’s old buddy, who crashes in on him and Micah (when he gets out of prison). It seems too much, too many, and as I mentioned above, there is very little interconnection. Jonathan alternates his delivery between the various characters, their current situations and, of course, their back stories until he is (what seems to me) to be almost three quarters through the book. I have to say, I worried a little, but the writing itself kept me glued. I actually appreciate the honest descriptions of people and how they interact and more importantly, why they interact so … I read on. What kept me going, the back stories, the paining of the lives which brings the people off the page and into the three dimensional space in which we live. For example, we follow Micah back through her strange and idyllic upbringing in Appalachia to her revelatory trip in India. Micah and all the others grow into, well into people and you can love ‘em or hate ‘em but either way you have to appreciate what the artist has constructed. After this, the character connections begin to emerge though, they are quick, very quick and very sharp. The young Alexis (high school student preparing for college) grapples with a personal struggle which she keeps to herself and all we can do is hope for the best because what people want is not always what they get especially if there is waste involved. Luckily, sometimes salvation is not understood and emerges from the least likely of places. The message to refrain from waste is brought home by Dr. Cross (junior) too. He is struggling through his divorce when an academic task comes floating his way. He is to help...

Read More

The Shipping News (Book-It 2013)

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

The Shipping News Late again but, as always, I have an excuse.  The year ended almost a month ago and I have still not, until now, posted my Book-It list final review.   In fact, I never posted for November either (no excuse and so I am sorry about that one).   There is a reason I didn’t post for December in December, two reasons really.  The first is, I didn’t read The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) so I could not have reviewed this one.  Why, you ask?  Because I was sidetrack by an old book that came my way.  I picked up this tome and it, figuratively, called to me.  The book that called was The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. At the Book Garden we are blessed with a fast growing horde of ‘previously loved’ books and many times those which cross my desk I have not yet read.  For these I make a note and try to find a way to schedule them in.  Unfortunately, those higher up on my list tend to be high on our customer lists as well.  In other words; they don’t stay in the store long.  This is why when I heard the sirens singing of boats in Newfoundland I not only placed The Shipping News at the top of my list, I took it home with me and placed it in front of my December Book-It entry. Glad I did.  Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Shipping News was published in 1993.  I am not sure how I would have taken to it if I read it way back then.  Now, simple put, I loved it. One of the hardest things to do, and what every writer strives for, is to bring the reader into the world they are creating.  In a sense, allow the reader to relocate for a while to the locations within the story.  Ms. Proulx does this very well.  The Shipping News is like an encyclopedia of information starting with the local vernacular (slang) which she uses to post a treatise (or two) on the anthropology of those living (lore) in her designed world.  The way her Newfoundlanders talk, the most factual accounts seem like everyday gossip, of course it is usually over a supper of snow crab, cod cheeks, lobster salad and seal-flipper stew. The protagonist is Quoyle.  Quoyle is Joe average, or possible, a bit lower down on the scale.  He doesn’t seem to fit in where competition is the norm.  He is described as being heavy and his facial features never seem to draw positive attention “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair” and “features as bunched as kissed fingertips.”  He grows up in New York State and by luck or by accident he marries Petal Bear which leads to a month of fiery happiness followed by six years of suffering. When his two-timing wife dies in a terrible car accident (shortly after she tries to sell their two children) Quoyle is a mess.  He now is left with two young daughters, Bunny and Sunshine and no real sense of self.   Bunny is plagued with nightmares (of a snarling white dog) that match in intensity Quoyle’s hallucinatory re-enactments of Petal’s grisly death.  Life seems stripped of hope until Aunt Agnis arrives and persuades him to travel back to their ancestral home in Newfoundland.  The aunt, as she is often referred to, regales Quoyle with stories of their Newfoundland ancestors; Like the tale of his grandfather who had drowned at age 12 after having already sired Quoyle’s father.  The stories...

Read More

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Posted by on Jan 2, 2014 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

I know I am way behind in posting my November Book-It (The Psychopath Test; Jon Ronson).  The only way I can wiggle out of that commitment is to mention how busy the Garden has been all throughout November and December (thanks to all patrons).  I have also been busy rewriting (again) one of my own efforts (the editor still doesn’t like it) and this is driving me further down the path where I will no longer need to read The Psychopath Test, I will be the one tested instead. But there is good news.  A customer (Jan) recently purchased a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling).  She sent along her take on the book which I am sharing below.  I am happy to talk about Rowling b/c my hat is always off to her.  I feel she has done more than anyone else in the last few decades to bring reading enjoyment back to our children. If anyone else wants to share their take on books, send me a letter like Jan did.   Robert, A few weeks ago, I came into your store with my boyfriend and bought The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (i.e. J.K. Rowling). You asked me to email you and let you know what I thought about it. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I flew through the book, no pun intended. I really enjoyed it. It’s a suicide/murder mystery. It has her usual very long list of characters, each with their own complicated lives; you never know which one is important and which one’s life will interact with the victim’s (Lula Landry, a famous model). She portrays the main characters as gritty with messy lives; in other words, real and interesting. She starts off with Robin, a minor character, who helps solve the crime but who has very little to do with the main storyline. Robin brings you into contact with Cormoran Strike, the private investigator who is hired by the Lula’s adopted brother. He investigates Lula’s death and brings you to all the other major and minor characters. Some have a direct impact on the victim’s life and death, some don’t. There’s the adopted brother, John Bristow. He was reviewing a contract for his sister and came to return it to her the night she died. There’s Uncle Ted who hated his niece and nephew. There’s Lula and John’s mother who’s dying, or is she? Could she be faking to deflect suspicion?  The Bestigui’s who live in the flat underneath Lula. She’s a coke addict and he’s a film producer with a crush on Lula. Rochelle, who Lula met in rehab. Did she feel indebted to Lula for all that Lula gave her, or was she jealous of Lula’s success?  Evan Duffield, the drug addicted on-again off-again boyfriend.  And what about Lula’s biological family who she was secretly searching for. Did she find them? Who really are these people? And the list goes on and on… I never guessed who the culprit really was, although I never do (I’m bad at that). I don’t want to tell you too much in case you want to read it yourself but if you want more details so you can tell other customers who come into the store, let me know and I’ll give you a much more detailed synopsis. Jan...

Read More

Book-It List: Big Fish

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in Book-It List & Reviews, In The News | 0 comments

There is a reason I put Big Fish on my reading list.  I loved the movie.  Yes I saw the movie first, that happens (see last month’s posting; Babette’s Feast).  Now I see the musical version is in the works.  Will I go to a musical?  Not sure.  I have no idea how a musical can do the movie/book justice and sometimes it is better to stay with the positive interpretations.  If the musical leaves one with a bland or even bad taste in the mouth everything gets tainted.  Then again, if it is good …   Perhaps just commenting on what I have seen will do for now. It is extremely difficult to either find the truth or, to understand it; take it from me I’ve been trying all my life.  In Big Fish Edward Bloom remains a huge mystery to his son Will and by not understanding his father he grew estranged.  But when Edward is confined to his deathbed his son tries to get to know the real man and mend their relationship.  Will, a journalist, begins piecing together a true picture of his father using flashbacks of the stories told and a bit of investigative journalism.   First the stories (there are so many tales I have to list them): Edward Bloom tells many tales, many times over the years.  For example; on the day Will was born, he was out catching an enormous uncatchable fish, using his wedding ring as bait.  Edward also braved a swamp as a child, and met a witch who showed him his death in her glass eye.  With this knowledge, Edward said, he knew there were no odds he could not face.  Edward also claimed he spent three years confined to a bed as a child because his body was growing too fast.  He became a successful sports player, but Ashton, his home town, was too small for his ambitions so he set off with the misunderstood giant named Karl.  Edward discovers the hidden town of Spectre, where everyone is friendly to the point of comfortably walking around barefoot.  Edward leaves because he does not want to settle anywhere yet, but promises to the town mayor’s daughter Jenny that he will return. Edward also tells of the time he and Karl worked at a circus; Edward works without pay, as he has been promised by the ringmaster Amos Calloway that each month he will learn something new about a girl he fell in love with.  Three years later, having only learned trivia about her, Edward discovers Amos is a werewolf.  In return for his refusal to harm him in his monstrous state, Amos tells Edward the girl’s name is Sandra Templeton and she studies at Auburn University.  The story is based in Alabama so it had to be an Alabama school, right?   Edward learns Sandra is engaged to Don Price, whom Edward always overshadowed during his days in Ashton.  Sandra makes Edward promise not to fight Don.  Edward doesn’t fight but Don does leaving Edward in bad shape.  Don’s actions disgust Sandra into ending their engagement and falling for Edward.  Edward later reveals that Don died from a heart attack on the toilet bowl at an early age (Don saw his own death in the Witch’s eye).  During his recovery, Edward is conscripted by the army and sent to the Korean War.  He parachutes into the middle of a show entertaining North Korean troops, steals important documents, and convinces Siamese twin dancers Ping and Jing to help him escape.  He tells them he can make them stars in...

Read More