Bibliophage
 
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Joyce Carol Oates has yet again, proven why she is one of the premier authors alive today with her new novel Carthage.


Juliette is in love with Brett - an Afghani war veteran.  Brett has come home with some terrible injuries - both physically and mentally.  He knows he loved Juliette before he went to Afghanistan, but he is unsure how he feels now and soon breaks off his engagement with her.

Cressida, Juliette's sister has long been secretly in love with Brett as well, and when the engagement with Juliette is terminated, she decides to make her move on Brett.

He rejects her on a monumental level when they are in a nature preserve.  He is drunk and falls asleep in hi jeep and Cressida is nowhere to be found.  Mixing up events from Afghanistan and the previous evening's tumultuous happenings with Cressida, he assumes he has killed her and admits as much to the police when no one can find her.

The story goes on to detail how Juliette and her parents go on living without Cressida and with Brett in prison.  Eventually, you do find out what happened between Cressida and Brett that terrible evening.

This story is tight and as usual with Joyce Carol Oates, well written.  While the story is dark, which is typical of the author, the ending is unusually hopeful - making this a truly rare book for Ms. Oates.

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9780062208125
Publisher: Ecco
Edition: 1st  Edition 





 
 
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I read this book because it was a Pearl S. Buck book - one that had been found only in the last few years and now is recently published.  I have read a few other Buck books and had really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to reading this one.

Unfortunately, I found the main character of the book, Rann, to be totally unrelatable.  His character was flat, and the things he went through in his life also seemed flat and boring. 

Rann was a boy genius finishing high school by the time he was 14.  According to his mother, he was a perfect kid in every way and he could do no wrong.

By the time he was 16, he was in England shacked up with someone twice his age and doing nothing with his life.

Several years later in Paris he again lives with another woman and her father (though there is no sexual relationship between him and this woman) and having no work, lives off of them just like he lived off of the woman in England.  He never really falls in love with Stephanie, but he becomes very close to her.

He soon leaves to continue on his adventures and on his return flight from Paris he meets up with a middle aged woman who is important in New York Society.  Once they get to New York, she invites him out and they begin a friendship. 

Stephanie and her father end up coming to New York to set up shop there and Rann and Stephanie begin to fall in love. 

I guess I was disappointed with this book because of the flat characters as well as the fact that Rann seemed to not do anything for a living - but preferred to live off of other people.  This just isn't reality.  Maybe it was 40 years ago when this book was written - but even then I think it was highly unlikely.  If you are a Pearl S. Buck fan, you might want to read it - but otherwise I'd skip it.

Rating: 6 / 10  
ISBN: 9781480439702
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 1st  Edition 














 
 
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Alma Whitaker, born in 1800 was the daughter of a preeminent botanist who had come to America to build his empire when his lack of breeding wouldn't allow him to join the ranks of the British Botany Society in England.  Alma's father Henry, had decided there and then to become even more famous and more rich than the people in the British Botany Society that wouldn't let him in.  And this he did. 


Lacking a son, he taught his daughter everything about botany and nature and she in turn became famous in her own right, publishing many articles in botany journals.

Alma in later years, inherited her father's business - with all of its holding in various countries abroad.  She ran his company well and eventually went to Tahiti to live for a few years where they had a vanilla plantation.  Tahiti was also where her husband had died and she wanted to be closer to him. 

This story was very interesting - you learn a lot about botany and the way people lived in the 1800s.  My one problem with the book was that Alma spent quite a bit of time masturbating and I didn't think it was germane to the story and that it could have stood by itself without that inclusion.  If talk of masturbating bothers  you - then don't read this book.  If you think you can read past this part of the book - then I'd say do it - because it is a great story.

Rating: 7 / 10  
ISBN: 9780670015856
Publisher: Viking
Edition: 1st  Edition 






 
 
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The story of the Crane Wife is actually an old Japanese tale.  Author Patrick Ness has retold this story in his new book.

George is asleep one night when he hears a cry outside.  He thinks he imagined it, but when it comes again, he gets up and goes to the window.  On the grounds below is a crane that has an arrow through its wing.  George goes outside and takes the arrow out of the wing and the Crane flies away.

The next day a beautiful woman shows up at his print shop where he quickly becomes enamored with her.  Together they discover that the art that they make individually becomes even more beautiful if put together.  They begin to sell their art and become very wealthy.  George becomes very interested in how she creates her art, but she won't let him come to her home and watch her as she makes it.  This only serves to make George even more interested. 

This is a story of true love and the mess we humans sometimes make of it.  I'm not one usually that likes love stories, but I really wanted to read this remaking of the Japanese tale.  And I'm glad I did.

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9781594205477
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Edition: 1st  Edition 




 
 
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I bought this book because I had read reviews that the short stories in the book were really well written.

Unfortunately, I only found a couple of them to be worthy of reading.

One story, The Semplica Girl Diaries is written with hardly any articles and words like 'I' and 'me'.  It was hard to read because you kept wanting to put those words in the sentence.  It also felt like the writer of the diary was speeding through writing it down and it felt like you were speed-reading and not getting the whole story.  It also kept referring to "SG's" in the book and I could never figure out what it meant.  It wasn't until I wrote this that I realized it must stand for Semplica Girls.  It was very hard to read because every time the author referred to "SG's" you were so busy trying to infer from the sentence what they were that it just got annoying.

One story I did enjoy was Victory Lap.  It was about a young boy who very much admired his next door neighbor Alison.  They both went to the same school - but they ran in very different circles.  One day a kidnapper comes to Alison's door and tries to kidnap her but of course the young boy saves the day and for the first time Alison really notices him.

George Saunders is supposed to be a really good author (though I've never read any of his stuff before) so maybe you might want to give him a try - maybe you will enjoy his short stories more than I did.

Rating: 6 / 10  
ISBN: 9780812993813
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 1st  Edition 




 
 
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The author of this book really created an amazing book with a fictional tribe on an island somewhere between Hawaii and Tahiti.  Norton, is a medical doctor, who goes to the island to perform medical tests on the island's inhabitants.  It is the mid-1960's and the tribe rarely allows people from the outside onto their land. It is a unique opportunity to study the tribe and their beliefs.  Along with Norton are anthropologists Tallent and Esme, who are studying the tribe as well.  However, it is Norton that makes the big discovery - in that there are some people in the tribe that are 2, 3 and 4 times older than normal.

The cool thing about this book is that it is full of footnotes that explain the story further as well as providing 'reference' to other books and materials on the tribe.  The author forgot nothing in the making of this tale. 

There is an ugly aspect to this book, and it has to do with child sexual abuse.  You find out really early on that Norton has been accused of child abuse many years after he comes back from the island.  But you don't find out till the end of the book what really happened.  If you have any qualms about reading this book, I'd say go ahead and read it - the story of the tribe, Norton, Tallent and Esme is really worthwhile.

Rating: 9 / 10  
ISBN: 9780385536776
Publisher: Doubleday
Edition: 1st  Edition




 
 
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This novel brings back the character Morrie from the author's previous novel The Whistling Season.  In this new novel, Morrie has just returned from a whirlwind honeymoon that lasted over a year while traveling to different countries with his wife.

Now back home in Butte Montana, he is faced with finding a job that will pay enough to take care of he and his wife.  Shortly thereafter, he is asked to be the editorial voice for a union newspaper that is trying to take down Anaconda - the big mining company in town.

The characters in this book also talk a lot about reading and books they've read.  They talk about how they feel about books and the smell and touch of them.

For me, having been in the newspaper business for 20+ years and being an avid reader and book collector, I couldn't put this book down.  It drew me in like no other has in a while.  It was also fun to read about Morrie's exploits (he isn't exactly the most moral person - i.e., he won money in gambling by playing tricks) and what he was up to now, having read the previous novel he was in.

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9781594487347
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Edition: 1st  Edition 





 
 
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I love a great historical fiction, unfortunately, this one is only slightly above average.  The problem isn't with the story line - it is with the number of twists and turns in the plot.


Here is the story line:  Chaucer (yes, the great poet) elicits the help of a friend to find a book that is treasonous to King Richard. Not such a bad start to a book, right? 

Well, as I mentioned, it is the twists and turns that make this book less than stellar.  There are so many of them that you begin to lose track of the twists upon twists upon twists.  To make matters worse, it seems as though each new twist has a new cast of characters, so you can barely keep track of those either.

I did enjoy reading the book despite my complaints above. If you are really into historical fiction, then I'd say read it.  Otherwise, skip it!

Rating: 7 / 10  
ISBN: 9780062240323
Publisher: William Morrow
Edition: 1st  Edition 






 
 
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Brewster is the name of the town where the characters in the book grew up.  Jon is the narrator of this tale and is 16 years old; as are his friends Ray, Frank and Karen.

Outwardly, Ray gives off the appearance of being the bad kid from the wrong side of the tracks, but really he is a good kid with crappy parents.  Ray takes care of his younger brother most of the time as their father is a drunk and the mother took off shortly after his younger brother was born.

Jon, Ray and Frank become friends by default because they sit at the same table during lunch.  But these lunchtime friendships have the making of friendships for life in the small town of Brewster.

This book is basically about the friendships these 3 boys have as well as the friendship they have with Karen who is dating Ray.  They are a very close knit group  and this closeness is put to the test when the critical event of the book happens and it is up to these kids to fix the problem.  I don't want to say what happens, because I don't want to ruin the plot.  But it is serious; and these young people end up having to make adult decisions.

I really liked this book because the problems and situations these kids were dealing with seemed like real life and not just something written up in some book. 

Rating: 10 / 10  
ISBN: 9780393239751
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.
Edition: 1st  Edition 




 
 
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The premise of this story is that two seconds of time was added to the world clock in the 1970s, and because these 2 seconds were added, a woman hit a young girl with her car and then fled the scene.

Byron was with his mother when she hit the young girl and it is he that is convinced that if the 2 seconds weren't added she would have never hit the young girl.  Byron becomes obsessed with these two seconds as his mother becomes obsessed with apologizing to the girl and her family.  Which she does and the mother of the little girl gloms onto Byron and his mother and they spend the whole summer together.  The little girl's mother slowly takes over their lives and drains them of everything.

I thought this book was interesting because of the premise - that 2 seconds had been added to time.  Doing a google search, I found that these 'leap seconds' really do occur.  I also was interested in how the young girl's mother slowly took over these people's lives - it was like a mold cloud expanding across a wall when the film has been fast-forwarded.  Scary and fascinating to watch.

Rating: 9 / 10 
ISBN: 9780812993301
Publisher: Random House
Edition: 1st  Edition