Book Corner

So Many Books, So Little Time

comfy-chair I can’t read enough.

According to my account, I’ve read 43 books this year (so far). I’m assuming that’s correct, why would Good Reads lie to me?

Honestly, I would have guessed half that many. I really feel like I’ve dropped the reading ball this year. But right now? I can’t read enough. I’m absorbed. I CRAVE reading. I CAN’T WAIT to bury my nose in a book.

I CAN’T WAIT to get away from real life.

Not that real life is bad, per se. I have a great life. But it’s dull – wait – no it’s not. Not really. I’m not unhappy. The boys are living their lives but not causing us stress. Kevin and I are fine. Its just … I don’t know – I like to use my imagination. I love submersing myself in a really good story. I love picturing the characters and quietly inserting myself into the story somewhere – a shadowy character with no lines.

I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks – in fact, I haven’t held a real book in … months (years?) I ADORE my Kindle. It’s not a fancy one – just the no-frills, cheap, paperwhite basic Kindle that comes with ads because I was too cheap to pay the extra price to remove them. It’s no bigger than a real paperback book and I take it with me everywhere – it no longer bothers me to wait for anything, in fact, I sort of hope I HAVE to wait so I will have an excuse to pull my Kindle out and bury my nose in a book. (Or stare at a screen).

I read it on my lunch hour (actually, it’s only 30 minutes and that’s when I actually take a lunch). In fact, I often find myself going over my 30 minutes because I just need to finish this one paragraph / page / chapter.

I used this website a lot at the beginning of the year – they give away ebooks from lesser-known authors. I actually like that, it gives me a chance to read stories on the fringe of society.

But they’re not professionally edited and after a while, I just got too impatient with the misspelled words and sloppy format.

Then I discovered that my local library checked out ebooks and I’ve been in HEAVEN ever since. I haven’t paid for a book in probably two years.

However. I feel that trend is nearing the end, too. There are many books I’ve been interested in that are part of a series and the entire series is not available through my local library, so, I’ll most likely splurge and buy the ebook sequels on Amazon.

Which is why many authors like having their books being loaned out by the libraries – because then someone like me comes along and BUYS more of their work.


Even now, I’m thinking about the current story I’m reading and feeling antsy to get back to it. It’s not exciting and not especially easy to read, but it’s interesting in a sort of drowsy, charming way.

But only 43 books this year? I feel like I’ve failed. It should be higher. My goal is to make it higher next year.

But I feel overwhelmed sometimes – there are SO MANY good stories to read and SO LITTLE time.

I better get busy.

Book Corner

Book Review: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back


Amazon Kindle link

My Grade: A-

Author’s Website

Plot / Premise

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect—read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice—stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

My Thoughts

I’m really not that into YA, but I have been reading more of the genre lately. It’s refreshing to read about quasi-innocent characters and it often takes me back to my teenage years and reinforces how incredibly naive I was.

I can sum this story up in two words: cute and predictable.

I got this book for free – it’s one of the few I’ve downloaded free that I would have actually paid for.

The main character, Maddie (Tilly to those that love her), is absolutely adorable. She’s sweet, yet tough, wise, yet naive, smart, yet clueless, strong, yet vulnerable. She is funny (there are parts I literally chuckled at) and easy to relate to.

Like I said, there’s nothing unusual about this story – in fact, I sort of pictured a Disney movie in my head while reading it.

What I really liked about the story was the writing. And the tone. It was fresh, funny, and really well written. I felt like I was Maddie’s best friend, following her around and getting a pretty good glimpse of her personality, her issues and her thoughts. I empathized with the character and enjoyed everything about her. Ms. Wilson did an excellent job with characters, flow, tone …

It was an interesting, cute, fast read and I would definitely like to read more from Ms. Wilson.


By the by: I just found out that local libraries allow members to check-out ebooks. *SQUEE!* Check out this link and see if your local library participates. Or – go to your local library website and see if it’s possible. I borrowed two ebooks today and I have two weeks to read them. GAME ON!

Book Corner

Book Review: Beyond Nostalgia


My Grade: D

Plot / Premise

Born with blue in his collar instead of his veins, best-selling author Dean Cassidy chronicles his soul-scarring rise from New York’s darkest alleys to a place high atop the literary world. As difficult and unlikely as such a climb is, there’s yet another force working against Dean. He’s forever haunted by treasured memories of his long-lost teenage soul-mate. Theresa! Theresa! Theresa! She just won’t go away! Despite all Dean’s hang-ups and mental baggage, he eventually does marry another woman. And for twenty years his wife, Maddy Frances, remains so giving (and forgiving) she deserves to be canonized a living saint. Even after she finds Dean unconscious at a botched suicide attempt–a time-faded photograph of Theresa clenched in his hands-her love never wavers. But is Maddy’s loyalty enough to keep them together? Or will a force far stronger than fate alone change everything?

My Thoughts

Though I can appreciate the character working hard for his success, and the fact that he ultimately grows up and makes the right decision (which, by very definition, comes with maturity), I could not get past the preachy-bankers-and-business-type-people-are-evil segments of this book. I have no patience for characters, or authors, who can’t resist pushing their political agendas on to their readers. I know it’s hard to separate the author from the story, but at the very least, insert a counter character into the story that brings up the other side of the (author’s) issue so that the reader is not left with a bitter after taste.

Look. Life is full of hard knocks and when people work hard, make good life decisions, and finally achieve success, we should be happy for those individuals, not begrudge their hard work. Being envious is a natural feeling, but to harbor resentment and use that bitterness as a roadblock toward a better life, is counter productive. For ultimately, Dean finally achieves success from his hard work and he has every right to savor that success – should he feel guilty for that success? Should he hand his hard-earned success off to someone who hasn’t made good life decisions or who has chosen not to work as hard?


Now that he’s one of the successful people he has resented all of his life – now what? It’s suddenly okay to have money and be successful because it happened to him?

Dean was selfish, immature and a punk. Though I understand his deep love for Theresa and his regret that it didn’t work out and his guilty conscience for his role in the break up, I felt the most sorry for Maddy, she had to deal with the left overs.

I thought the character was weak in so many ways – sure, his childhood was rough, but he allowed that experience to define him instead of giving him strength and courage to grow up and move past it.

I will say, the writing was pretty good. There were some editing glitches, but for the most part, it moved the story forward and the author did a great job depicting all of Dean’s conflicting emotions.

Though I didn’t care one whit for Dean, I’d be willing to read more of this author’s work.

Book Corner

Free E-Books This Week

HURRY! THEY WON’T BE FREE FOR VERY MUCH LONGER! (click on the book to download)

Here are the ones that caught my eye this week …

Fancy Gap
by C. David Gelly
4.4 stars on 111 reviews. Mystery, thriller,murder
The Leopard Tree
by Lisa Brochu, Tim Merriman
4.6 stars on 102 reviews. YA and Literary Fiction
Reckless Nights in Rome (A Ludlow Hall Story)
by CC MacKenzie
4.5 stars on 24 reviews. Contemporary romance
The Dead Room
by Robert Ellis
4.4 stars on 190 reviews. Mystery. Suspense
Courageous: A Novel
by Randy Alcorn
4.6 stars on 101 reviews. Contemporary fiction
Fatty Patty (A James Bay Novel)
by Kathleen Irene Paterka
4.4 stars on 38 reviews. Romance
Some Day Somebody (La Fleur de Love)
by Lori Leger
4.7 stars on 27 reviews. Women’s fiction
There are many, many, MANY more free books to choose from at this site. Happy Reading!
Book Corner

Free E-Books I Downloaded This Week

HURRY! THEY WON’T BE FREE FOR VERY MUCH LONGER! (click on the book to download)

Maternal Harbor
by Marie F Martin
4.2 stars on 108 reviews. Contemporary fiction.
Dead Man’s Hand
by Luke Murphy
4.5 stars on 55 reviews. Mystery. Thriller
Chihuahua Karma
by Debby Rice
4.5 stars on 44 reviews. Contemporary fiction. Humor
by Lenore Skomal
4.3 stars on 101 reviews. Literary Fiction/Suspense
WICK (Wick Series)
by Michael Bunker, Chris Awalt
4.6 stars on 105 reviews. Thriller
There are many, many, MANY more free books to choose from at this site. Happy Reading!
Book Corner

Book Review: Let’s Meet on Platform 8

Let’s Meet on Platform 8 by Carole Matthews
Publisher: Headline Review (May 14, 2009)
ISBN # 0755346602
298 pages
Author Website

My Grade: D

Plot / Premise

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From author’s website:

Teri Carter thinks she’s found the one, but is it possible that someone else has found him first?

After knowing her down while rushing to catch the 6.07 from London, Jamie Duncan bandages Teri Carter’s knee, buys her new stockings, seats her on the train with her foot in his lap and taxis her home from the station. Who says chivalry is dead?

Not only is Jamie a romantic hero – tall, dark, with greeny-gold eyes and a Scottish burr – he’s witty, charming and eager to share their daily commute. Suddenly Teri’s life is Brief Encounter meets Wuthering Heights. But then she discovers Mr Right is also Mr Married. Jamie’s not the type to cheat, and Teri doesn’t want him to… or does she? After dating Mr Lazy, Mr Greedy, Mr Completely Selfish and Mr Downright Pervert, can she renounce Mr Perfect?


First, let me say, I like Matthews’ books. I’ve enjoyed them all up to this point and though I didn’t hate this book, I just couldn’t bring myself to really like it, either.

I’m an old married woman. I’ve been happily married for 22 years now and though I won’t say my marriage is perfect, it’s pretty darn close. We are best friends and we enjoy being together. We finish each other’s sentences and there’s honestly not another human being out there I’d rather be with. He’s a male version of me. We like the same things, we feel the same way about many, many issues and I don’t think anyone else could stand me, quite frankly. So I’m coming from a pretty happy relationship background. I realize not everyone is as fortunate as I am in the love department. I get that. But I simply can not stomach that this book tries to justify marital infidelity, however clumsily.

Granted. I see where Ms. Matthews is coming from. She’s trying to write a more down-to-earth piece of chick lit and honestly? She nearly pulls it off. I get that old married couples, such as myself, get into ruts and yes, there are times I’m bored with my marriage – I’m sure Kevin would agree as well. And I understand there is temptation out there – we’re human after all. And I know that people get themselves into sticky situations and that’s reality, so I can appreciate Ms. Matthews trying to keep the story realistic.

However. I think she drops the ball on this story because she spends more time inside the slutty home-wrecker’s head than she does the poor wife’s head. I’m not saying that the wife is blameless, oh contrare, she certainly doesn’t help matters by forcing her husband to stay in a job he loathes to pay on a mortgage for a house he can’t stand and then to further humiliate him by only communicating with him by serving him nasty meals with snotty one liners in Alpha letters.

But the bottom line is: they’re married. They’re committed to one another and though I understand the temptation to stray from the marital vows, the fact that not only does Jamie stray, he doesn’t seem too overly sorry about it really chaps my ass. Sure. He struggles, but he spends way too much time trying to please his mistress’s feelings rather than putting that energy into trying to make his marriage work.

It’s hard to sympathize with two people who are pretty set on tearing a family apart.

Pamela, the wife, is way too understanding and calm throughout this ordeal. She finds out and yes, she’s upset, but she doesn’t have the passionate reaction I was looking for. She claims to love her man, but she’s perfectly okay with him going over to her house to break it off and have one last romp in the sack???? That seemed way too civilized, and weird, for my taste. I wanted to see some serious butt kicking going on, quite frankly. The tart who was determined to steal him away from his wife and children didn’t deserve the respect that was afforded her.

This is the first time, in a long time, I’ve actually hated the main character.

Even though I thought being inside the heads of Teri (mistress), Jamie (husband), and Pamela (wife) gave the story more depth, I think it would have been more satisfying if the reader spent more time inside Pamela’s head than Teri’s – especially given Jamie finally comes to his senses and dumps Teri to be with his family.

The minor character stories were necessary, though a bit drawn out, in order to show the reader how messing with someone’s relationship takes a huge, and sometimes dangerous, toll on the people involved. These stories were necessary to show Jamie just HOW much he was risking by humping the whore. (I’m sorry, but I’m not sympathetic to home wreckers. Especially to people who KNOW what’s going on and CHOOSE to pursue it anyway – to hell with the other partner as long as that one person finds his/her happiness. Talk about a self-centered, selfish attitude!!)

The writing itself was engaging, if not a bit stilted. I got the impression that Ms. Matthews was feeling a bit hesitant when she wrote this story. She took a chance, and I know she knew she was taking a chance, and it was as if she got halfway through the story and then realized how her reader would likely react and she faltered. Her writing was hesitant and a bit lukewarm – as if she was proceeding with caution because she wanted to push the envelope, but she didn’t want to totally lose her reader in the process of writing something a bit out-of-the box.

I admire her tenacity, but I think she fell short because I just wanted to throttle the b*tch by the end of the story.

And speaking of ending … WTH?!? Yet another reason not to succumb to extramarital affairs because just when you think it’s over – IT’S SO NOT OVER.

Responding to Negative Reviews

This could have been a riveting tale…the problem is the story has no depth whatsoever. I would even say it is badly written. We dont get any insight as to what Jamie found lacking in his marraige. We read about Jamie’s dreams’ being shattered ….but what wexactly were those dreams? to be a race car driver? And how did having a family stifle him? these issues are never explored.

And when he decides to go back to his family, what made him do that. A pep talk from his friend? Guilt? I wish the story had delved more into what happens to the husband and wife when they get back together and how they decide to rebuild their shattered lives. The story was very sketchy and it simply didnt delve into different emotions. There was more time spent on commuting details than the actual affair. And after all that, it seemed like Jamie went back to his wife more out a sense of duty than because he loved her.

The final straw is that the lead characters are totally unlikeable. Jamie acts like a total jerk and seemed to be more considerate towards his mistresses’ feelings than his wife’s. And Teri seems to relish the affair with no thought to the consequences of what they were doing including throwing her best friend out.

I hope Matthews doesnt write a sequel to this story…the heroine is totally unsympathetic and I doubt if many readers will identify with her.

I couldn’t agree more with this one-star review.

Let’s Meet on Platform 8 features a cast of some of the most hateful, loathsome characters I’ve encountered. The plot centers around a woman, Teri, who meets the man of her dreams: Jamie, a liar and a cheat, with a tired wife and little children at home. He lies to Teri and starts a flirtation with her, because for reasons that are not explained, his marriage to Pamela is getting… stale? I have no idea.

O, the turmoil! As Jamie grapples to fight his physical attraction to Teri while his wife tries to raise her children as best she can with an unattentive husband. Teri, who dives eagerly right in, without a thought for the wife, the children, the family structure she is destroying.

I hated the characters so much! Jamie, a spoiled and ungrateful liar. Teri, who decides selfishly to pursue this married man. Pamela, who decides to make Jamie think she’s also having an affair, and then actually does: stupid and irritating.

Two points of major contention: Teri throwing her cheated-on best friend out of her apartment, because her friend is making her feel badly for the affair. And Jamie, in the hospital to visit his friend who has attempted suicide, still nattering about his pathetic guilt over his complicated love life.

These characters were selfish beyond belief. I kept hoping that maybe they would slip and fall onto the tracks on Platform 8, and be run over by one of the oft-and-unnecessarily described trains. Were we supposed to LIKE and ROOT FOR Teri and Jamie? Impossible. There was nothing sweet, romantic or beautiful in this book at all.

Again. Good points and I agree.

This story would be better left ON the platform. Don’t waste your time. (Unless you want to buy it from me. *grin*)

By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it. It’s only been read once and is in very good condition.

Book Corner

Fall Reading Challenge ’11

Ready to read? As usual, I’m trying to read more … I go through spurts where I will read two books a week and then nothing for two months. It’s terribly frustrating to ME because I want to read more, I enjoy reading, always have, but I just can’t seem to tear myself away from the computer.

I complain that the boys spend too much time on their computers, and yet, here I am setting a STELLAR example. Since I’ve vowed to be a good example for my boys, I’m going to really try and read more so they will look back on this time period and say, “Man, mom sure read a lot,” as opposed to, “Mom, you sure goofed off on the computer a lot.”

At any rate, my average reading rate is two books per month, (and when I say average, I mean average in the loosest since of the word), so I’ll keep it realistic and list six/seven books I plan on reading before December 21st. However, since I’m working full time now AND November is National Novel Writing Month and I’d like to attempt to reach that 50,000 word line, AND I’m still maintaining NINE school websites after work, AND we’ll be traveling out of town every Saturday in October for band competitions, AND we have three birthdays in November AND the normal holiday rush to get things done, I honestly don’t know how much time I’m going to have to read. But I’ll do my best.


In addition, these books will be for sale in my Amazon book store after I read them, if you’re interested.

Happy reading!

More from Write From Karen

Book Corner

Book Review: A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
ISBN # 0312342020
256 pages
Author Website

My Grade: B+

Plot / Premise

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From Amazon

A searing, emotional portrait of a son who wants nothing more than the love his father will not grant him, Burroughs’s latest memoir (after 2004’s Dry) is indeed powerful. Absent is the wry humor of Running with Scissors and the absurd poignancy of Burroughs’s years living with his mother’s Svengali-like psychiatrist. Instead, Burroughs focuses on the years he lived both in awe and fear of his philosophy professor father in Amherst, Mass. Despite frequent trips with his mother to escape his father’s alcoholic rages, Burroughs was determined to win his father’s affection, secretly touching the man’s wallet and cigarettes and even going so far as to make a surrogate dad with pillows and discarded clothing. Only after his father’s neglect—or cruelty—leads to the death of Burroughs’s beloved guinea pig during one of the family’s many separations does the son turn against the father. Avoiding self-pity, Burroughs paints his father with unwavering honesty, forcing the reader to confront, as he did, a man who even on his deathbed, refused his son a hint of affection.

So. I’m not crazy about autobiographies. And it’s doubly hard to critique autobiographies because how can you critique a person’s life? And let’s not forget that even though autobiographies are about the author’s life, how much of the memoir has been exaggerated?

In other words, take autobiographies with a grain of salt. A LARGE grain of salt. Because you really just never know how much is truth and how much truth has been stretched.

Remember the whole Frey fiasco? I think that episode turned a lot of people off autobiographies, myself included.

At any rate, I saw this book at the book fair and I picked it up. And I read the blurb. And I admit, I was intrigued. And it was mainly because I read Burroughs’ “Running with Scissors” in college. It was a literature class and we were instructed to read an autobiography and give an oral report on it. I thought the cover of Burroughs’ “Running with Scissors” was interesting and after delving into the book, I couldn’t put it down. And then I wish I had never picked it up.

This man has had a very disturbing life (if what he writes is indeed true. I can’t help it, I’m a cynic). He was abused, but not so much physically (though there were moments), but rather emotionally. In fact, it’s safe to say that I’m rather surprised Burroughs’ is still with us today because no human being should ever have to live with two parents who were as crazy as Burroughs’ parents.

Overall Thoughts

I’m pretty sure I frowned throughout this whole book. In fact, I caught myself frowning quite a few times and Kevin even commented on my expression at times.

My emotions ran the gamut: anger, frustration, horror, disbelief, sadness … and there might have even been a moment when I would have gladly strangled Burroughs’ father for being such a poor excuse of a human being.

But even though the events were horrifying, and I certainly felt sympathetic toward Burroughs’, I have to admit, Burroughs did an excellent job of balancing the events with how he reacted to the events. His memoirs could have easily morphed into a pity fest for himself, but you can tell, by the tone of his story, that the man has true strength. Through all of his terrible ordeals, he still manages to hang on to a shred of dignity, strength and even humor.

Burroughs’ has a way with words. His prose is magical and it’s at once both lyrical and practical. He was thinking as a child when he wrote this, so a lot of his descriptions was like listening to a child talk. Though some people criticized him for that, I think that was his intention when he wrote this book – he’s telling the story of his childhood, therefore, he’s keeping his writing at a childlike level. His writing is innocent and his childish thoughts are direct and almost endearing as he walks us through his life and I often caught myself grinning in places because of Burroughs’ young imagination and how he would explain, or justify, the horrific activities around him.

I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style. Not to mention, his mental strength of character.

I also admire the man’s determination to make something of himself even though his father did his best to make him feel less than a human being.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Is this book an example of “Creative Nonfiction?”

The thing I find most disturbing about this ‘memoir’ is that I saw Mr. Burroughs at a book reading when Magical Thinking was released and he spoke about his father and how they had reconciled. During the Q&A, an audience member asked what he thought of “creative nonfiction” writers like David Sadaris (a writer who admits to changing his stories based on audience reactions at readings) and Mr. Burroughs said he had no problem with either the term or concept as long as the book is entertaining.

Yes actually, that’s exactly what this book is. In fact, I would even go so far out on a limb to say that a lot of autobiographies could be classified as “creative nonfiction.” Autobiographies are like the movies that have “based on a true story” at the very beginning. There’s a kernel of truth in the story, but it’s been embellished to make it more dramatic and/or more interesting.

It just comes with the territory. I think people who take autobiographies so seriously are honestly setting themselves up for disappointment.

Grain of salt, people.

Does this guy really think he was abused? I felt more compassion for his father who seemed to suffer from not one but two crippling diseases, as well as being “blessed” with a narcissistic psychotic wife. (Think that would make one tend to be a little preoccupied?) Yet in recounting all the horrors his father endured, all this author can seem to feel is pity for himself. Except for enlightening the reader as to what a self absorbed whiner considers to be “abuse,” this book is a waste of time and money.

Actually, I sort of agree with this one. Burroughs’ father obviously had health issues, which isn’t an excuse to neglect your children, but it’s definitely a factor. It sounds like Burroughs’ father reached a point where the pain just sort of ruled his life and he went crazy trying to manage it. He took his frustrations/pain out on Burroughs’ because he was an easy target. I’m not excusing the father’s abusive, cruel behavior, but there is definitely a flip side to this story, too. Children are annoying under the best of circumstances, they are nearly intolerable when one is in constant physical pain.

I can’t figure out why A.B. wrote this book. It was painful to read. I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be getting out of this book; there is no life lesson, nothing entertaining, nothing compelling. He actually pulled off an amazing feat: He wrote a book that is harrowing and boring at the same time. Furthermore, because he writes about his father as a shadowy, mysterious figure, I never got a real sense of who (or what) his father was. This is just a series of painful stories about a horrible, abusive father. I didn’t get it.

There were several negative reviews along this vein: “I didn’t get it,” “not very compelling,” “boring,” “self-indulgent” (I’m pretty sure self-indulgent is the definition of an autobiography, duh).

I guess the father wasn’t abusive ENOUGH for these people. I find that a bit disturbing, actually.

At any rate, they’re missing the point – the “life lesson” in this book is that parents need to be more aware of how they treat their children. Children are not pets, they’re people. They have thoughts, feelings and how they’re interacted with determines their personalities. Parents are responsible for shaping their childrens’ personalities and I think too often, parents forget that fact. Children are not disposable, they are not made to sit in a corner and be ignored. If people don’t want to sacrifice themselves and their time, they shouldn’t have children.

That’s right, I said it.

Burroughs’ father was written as a shadowy figure in this story because that’s what he was to Burroughs. This reviewer never got a real sense of who his father was because Burroughs never got a real sense of him either. He wrote this story from the point of view of a child – as HIMSELF as a child. It would be ridiculous to expect him to have any sort of insight into what sort of man his father was at that young age. The fact that Burroughs’ father remains a mysterious character even into his adulthood speaks volumes – HE NEVER KNEW THE MAN.

Burroughs’ memoirs are depressing but thought provoking. They really make you appreciate a happy childhood and they’re a lesson on what NOT to do when you’re a parent.

By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it. It’s only been read once and is in excellent condition.

Book Corner

Spring Reading Challenge ’11 Wrap Up

It’s time to wrap up Katrina’s 2011 Spring Reading Challenge over at Callapidder Days.

(You can read my original post here).

This is about my second (or third?) time participating in the reading challenges but my first time to actually meet my reading goals. I don’t know, I was HUNGRY to read this go-around. I’m really going to try and spend my time reading as opposed to surfing the Internet – it’s a much more productive use of my time (though I won’t necessarily say more interesting because you guys? Are a pretty interesting bunch of people). I ended up reading a total of 13 books.

Here is the list of books and a short blurb about my thoughts on the books. The ** signifies that the book was added onto my original list.

  • One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
    Have you seen the movie? It has Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger in it. I can honestly say this is one movie I’m not interested in seeing. The book was depressing enough. And somehow, though these actresses are great, I wonder just how true to character they would portray them. Quindlen’s work is heavy on the emotions and thick with pretty descriptions but I enjoy her work, overall. I just have to have a lot of patience to read her work.
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    What can I say? I enjoy The Hunger Games Trilogy. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m looking forward to the movies simply because it’ll be interesting to see how they bring it to the screen (these stories have a lot of bloody action). I think the premise behind these stories is pure genius. Collins does a spectacular job of producing moral dilemmas and displaying raw emotions. I really enjoyed how she tortured her characters (quite literally, actually) and was then rewarded with their reactions.
  • 1st to Die by James Patterson
    This is my first exposure to the Women’s Murder Club and I’m hooked. I bought the 2nd through the 4th books at the library sale this past spring and I’m looking forward to reading them. I think the mix of different female roles in this story really added an interesting element to the story and really gave the mystery a human face.
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
    I’m also looking forward to watching the movie adaptation of this story, too. I watched the first movie and they did a really good job sticking to the story – which is really saying a lot considering Larsson is a very thorough writer. His stories take a bit of patience, they generally start out slow, but they soon pick up and of course, Lisbeth is a force to be reckoned with – I’d hate to get on her bad side. I already have the third book in this trilogy and I’m looking forward to seeing how Lisbeth’s story plays out.
  • Daddy’s Girl by Lisa Scottoline
    I really enjoy reading writers who were a professional first before becoming writers (like lawyers, doctors, etc). I think Scottoline’s law experience really adds another dimension to her stories. It also gives her stories authenticity. I also appreciate how concise her writing is as well – you can tell the woman knows her way around the English language. I’m on a mission to read all of her work.
  • Die for Me by Karen Rose
    This story was recommended to me by one of the Write Anything writers. I REALLY enjoyed how the story was told through four different POV’s. This sounds confusing, but Rose does a good job keeping everything straight and the multiple POV’s really added depth to the story. I’d really like to incorporate this style in my own writing as I find writing multiple POV’s challenging and quite fun. Now if I can only handle it half as well as Rose did.
  • Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
    I have to be honest, I don’t particularly care for Sparks’ writing. I think his writing is a bit stale and geared more toward telling as opposed to showing. However, his stories are quite compelling and very emotional and Sparks does a good job tapping into our basic need for solid and meaningful relationships. I have to sort of mentally pump myself up whenever I read his work because his writing really does bug me and it’s sort of emotionally draining. But, I’m learning from his ability to tell an interesting story because obviously people like him and I can learn from that attraction. I’m going to try and read all of his work, too.
  • ** Chocolat by Joanne Harris
    I saw the movie with Johnny Depp (*DROOL*) and was naturally curious to read the book. This is one of those few times that I actually liked the movie more than the book. The screenwriter inserted a love story between Vianne and Roux and though it was only a secondary story line, I thought it really gave the story an interesting twist (and I’m a sucker for romance, obviously). The real story, of course, was the spiritual battle between one’s duty to God and one’s natural inclination to be tempted with worldly pleasures (in this case, the sweet temptation of chocolate and other sweets). I ADORED the movie and really enjoyed Harris’ interesting and somewhat tormented characters.
  • ** Meet Me in Venice by Elizabeth Adler
    I enjoyed how Adler weaved two different stories into one. I also thought it was fun how the two main characters never actually met before one of them was killed. Adler does a really good job at keeping the reader interested in both the story and in compelling characters. The ending was a bit contrived and ho hum, but overall, it was a story worth reading.
  • ** The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
    I have to say, I don’t care for the title of this story, at all. It sounds like a boring documentary about the life of bees, but I’m glad I ignored my initial aversion to the title and read the story. It’s a period piece that takes place back in the Civil rights days, so the language is a bit off putting, but appropriate given the time period. This story is character driven, not plot driven, but somehow, that doesn’t slow it down. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Lily, for all children in her situation, actually, but it was satisfying to see her character grow and mature and for her story to resolve itself. The characters surrounding Lily were also really interesting and they made this story, in my opinion. I watched the movie, mainly because I really like Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning, but the screenplay was pretty true to the book and worth watching.
  • ** The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner
    This was a series of short stories so don’t expect to shut the book with any sort of satisfaction because a lot of the stories leave you hanging and not really a desire to read more. It was like Weiner compiled some of her warm-up stories and put them into a book – they weren’t bad, but not really good, either. I’m not a big fan of short stories (which is ironic considering I like writing short stories) and though I wouldn’t read this book again, it was worth a quick look.
  • ** Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
    Ah, the story of Belle and Edward. I’m not a big vampire fan. But as with so many other people, I’ve gotten sucked (pardon the pun) into the Belle and Edward story. I’ve posted my thoughts on the Twilight series here and here, so I won’t rehash that on this post. I thought it was interesting that we spend so much more time following Jacob’s story in this book. I guess Meyers wanted to show her readers Belle’s love struggle – though I never really get a sense that Belle loves Jacob anymore than a good friend, her clear obsession with Edward is almost sick in it’s intensity, but still, I suppose she had to throw a wrench in there at some point because it truly is exhausting to watch two characters nearly destroy themselves over their love for each other. I have the movie in my Netflix queue and will be watching it shortly. Fun fact: Kevin is pretty hooked on the Twilight stories, too. Which REALLY surprises me, actually.
  • ** The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen
    Gerritsen is an ex (?) doctor who writes medical thrillers. As with Scottoline, I really enjoy her stories because you can just tell the woman knows what she’s talking about, which lends an air of credibility to her stories. To spice things up, Gerritsen writes her stories centered around two strong women, one a cop and the other a medical examiner, which gives the reader two different perspectives on the same situation. At the same time, these two women have their own personal problems and though I can appreciate Gerritsen writing in some of their drama, I do find myself getting a little impatient with the detours and wish she would stick a little more to the case at hand. But her writing is interesting and pretty fast-paced so it keeps my attention. I personally admire Gerritsen and Scottoline and would like to fashion my own writing after them.

Thanks for sticking this post out. Reviews aren’t always the most interesting, unless you’re a book worm, like myself. A lot of these books are available to buy (for cheap!!) in my Amazon book store, just click on the links and it will take you there.

I hope you find some time to read this summer and I’ll see you at the Fall Reading Challenge!

More from Write From Karen

Book Corner

Book Review: One True Thing

One True Thing
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 8, 2006)
ISBN -10: 9780812976182
320 pages
Author Website

My Grade: B-

Plot / Premise:

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From Barnes and Noble:

The novel begins with a deceptively hubristic prologue in which our narrator, 24-year-old Ellen Gulden, describes what it’s like to be in jail charged with killing her dying mother. Then we get the real story, every painful, ironic bit of it. Fresh out of Harvard and eager to prove herself as a journalist, Ellen is completely unprepared for her rather elusive and dismissive father’s request that she move back home and nurse her mother, who, at age 46, has suddenly become terribly ill. Ellen has always been a daddy’s girl, dismissing her homespun mother as an anachronism. Now, as she enters her mother’s world just as her mother is about to exit it, everything she’s ever assumed about her family and, indeed, life itself is challenged.

Overall Thoughts:

Dense. Beautiful prose. That’s how I would sum this book up front. This is an author that likes to take you on her character’s journey through the senses. I admire this type of writing because writing this way is HARD. It requires the writer to draw on his/her sensory experiences and I just haven’t paid that much attention to how things sound/smell/taste/feel in my lifetime so that I can regurgitate those sensory details in my own writing. When I’ve been forced to do so (creative writing classes in college), it was like pulling teeth and I remember spending HOURS, sitting at the dining room table, hunched over my laptop and agonizing over first what to write and then how to write it.

Put simply, it was hell for me.

So I can fully appreciate this kind of writing.

With that said, it’s not an easy read. Again, it’s dense. Which means the plot sort of stalls so the reader can get inside Ellen’s head and FEEL what she’s feeling before the story can move forward. This kind of writing doesn’t appeal to everyone and I confess, I have to be in the mood to read it. In fact, it took me six weeks to read the darn thing. (But to be fair, I wasn’t really trying to read it it, either. Life got in the way).

The subject matter is sensitive. It’s about a woman who, in essence, is guilted into coming home to take care of her dying mother. It’s also about her complicated relationship with her parents. I could relate to a lot of this character’s issues. And though I wouldn’t be resentful of having to put my career on hold to help my mother, I can imagine it would be hard to juggle all of those complicated feelings.

Ellen’s character was a bit too hard for me. She came off as brassy and a bit bitchy, if you want the truth. Even when she was accused of assisted suicide, she didn’t quite take it seriously. It was almost as if she wasn’t a participant in her own life. I tend to create the same kind of characters, so this was a good lesson for me to be careful when I write “tough” characters – I don’t want them to come off as brassy and bitchy.

Responding to Negative Reviews:

The follow-up of the book as expressed in Part Two was only the rambling self-importance of a narcissistic feminist campaigning strongly in favor of today’s evils-as-rights. Katherine Gulden, for all Ellen’s (or Anna’s) wishing it, would not have been the woman that Ellen (Anna) described, either in her relationship to Brian, or to her husband, or to Ellen, or to herself. Ellen (or Anna), in spite of her self-righteous avowals would not have protected her father. At least not in the father-daughter combination she had portrayed in the rest of the book.

The book, in short, did not ring true.

I disagree. I think this book was a pretty accurate portrayal of a self-centered woman who is desperate to retain her individuality while at the same time try and please her parents. I think that’s a pretty common desire – to want to please one’s parents. And I totally bought the whole father asking her to come home and take care of her mother bit because Ellen is desperate to make her father proud of her. She’s never felt smart enough to compete with her father so she uses this opportunity to show him that she’s a strong, intelligent and capable woman. Though she does resent him for asking. And while we’re talking about the father – UGH. Talk about an arrogant, clueless, poor excuse for a man.

The feminist comment is interesting. I never really tagged Ellen as a feminist but now that I think about it, I think this reviewer might be right. She had a very self-important attitude about her accomplishments and intelligence and though this might be an unfair assessment, I sort of categorize feminists into an arrogant and self-important box. Perhaps that’s why I disliked Ellen’s character so much, because of these “feminists” traits.

Ms. Quindlen doesn’t attempt to write about things she doesn’t understand, but she understands so little of the mother/daughter relationship that the book is rather empty. The mother, Kate, is so wonderful, so nurturing, so accepting. She spent her life creating a beautiful home and loving her family. She bears her illness with grace and courage. The daughter, Ellen, has only to watch, learn, and forgive. With Kate for a teacher, she could hardly do otherwise.

Ellen is not jealous or resentful of her mother. She is merely dismissive of the way her mother chose to live. As the novel progresses, Ellen realizes that there’s a lot more to her mom and less to her dad than she had previously thought. Welcome to adulthood, Ellen.

‘One True Thing’ wraps an inherently messy experience up in a very neat package. The novel rings true only to those of us fortunate enough to have wonderful mothers, only to those of us whose lives have never been touched by terminal illness. At its core, it is Anna Quindlen’s elegy for her mother and her childhood: touching and personal, deeply felt, but without the resonance that would have come had she explored the less attractive aspects of the relationship at its core

I completely agree with the second and third paragraph, but I have to disagree with the first paragraph. I thought Quindlen did a great job portraying Ellen’s dismissive attitude toward her mother. She took her mother for granted and it was only after she had passed away did she really learn to appreciate her for who she was, not for what she did. Just because someone has a wonderful and nurturing nature doesn’t mean that they are appreciated, especially by their children.

Ellen is immature and selfish and learns, by taking care of her mother, by being FORCED to be compassionate and understanding to someone else’s plight, that people shouldn’t be put into nice, neat categories. Though it was sad that it took her mother dying for her to get to know her, the fact is that she had the opportunity, and the experience taught her about reality and forced her to grow up and accept people for who they are, not for who one wants them to be.

By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it and check it out for yourself.