Mickey's Very Eclectic Bookshelf

Mickey's Very Eclectic Bookshelf

I think one of the biggest tragedies of my life is the fact that I will probably never get a chance to read every book I want to read, but I'm going to die trying. I read books from every genre imaginable although I do lean more towards fiction more than non-fiction.

Reading progress update: I've read 24%.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

It's a good thing I'm listening to this book and not reading it.  I'm on chapter 8 and I just realized that nothing has happened.  Everything up until this point has been mostly background and setup.  If I were reading this I'm pretty sure this would have been more evident a lot earlier, and I probably would have put it down by now.  It makes for good listening before bed, but things better pick up soon, or it still might find it's way into my did-not-finished shelf.

2 Stars
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of romances. I do not believe in soulmates, which is a heavy theme in this novel.


When I do read or watch a romance, I expect for the central conflict of the piece to be directly related to the romance. In other words, the question that usually has to be answered is "Will this couple stay (get) together?" Think of all the great romances, and you will see this is the central question of most them. There are myriad obstacles that threaten the couples ability to stay together. There has to be a moment where either me or the characters feel like they might not make it. This conflict does not exist at all in The Time Traveler's Wife. There isn't a moment where I ever wonder if Henry and Clare are going to make it, nor is there a moment where they wonder (at least not for very long). We know they're going to make it because we've usually seen it in some scene from the future. There is nothing ever at stake in their relationship. Even in the few moments where their relationship is struggling (mainly Clare's inability to carry to term) are undercut by a scene where future Henry lets Clare know everything is going to be alright. Since every threat to their relationship is usually neutralized before it ever gets started, I became very bored with this book. Even the time traveling became a bit repetitive. It didn't become interesting to me again until Henry's life is immediate danger, and even then, the plotting is so slow at that point that I couldn't have cared less. I feel like it is possible for Niffenegger to have Henry traveling back and forth to the future and still be able to keep some aspects of their fate a secret. Especially since his future knowledge of events rarely poses a problem. The main conflict in this piece is that Henry can't stay in the present, but his inability to stay in the present does not create a noticeable strain on their relationship. He doesn't miss any major events, and Clare is rarely angered by his absences. She is the perfect long-suffering wife, which is sweet and all but it makes for a boring story. 


Great Beginnings

I actually really liked parts of the beginning of the book. I found Henry a really interesting character. His guilt about his mother's death and his strained relationship with his father was compelling. I like the fact that we get to see Henry without Clare because we get to truly understand how she impacted his life. I did find his change a little bit too easy though. When he meets Clare he is a self-destructive philandering alcoholic, and he seems to get his act together pretty quickly. It would of been a lot more interesting if it took him a little bit longer to shake some of his bad habits. It would have given Clare a lot more to work with if she was given the chance to truly doubt whether the Henry she meets in the present could ever be the Henry from her past (his future). We have one scene where this idea is presented, but it is quickly deflated by future Henry coming in and reassuring her that he'll change. She never seems to doubt future Henry.


Clare-A Bit of a Mary Sue

I wish we could have seen Clare without Henry. Henry is an integral part of her life from childhood (which as hard as I tried I couldn't help but find kind of creepy). Her identity as a character is pretty much defined by him. Her personal conflicts (her family issues, particularly her mother's mental illness) don't feel like they're given as much weight as his. There's this really poignant scene where Clare reads this poem that shows how much her mother cared about her, but I feel like we don't get to see enough of Clare with her mother to know that that was ever an issue in their relationship. We're told that her father and brother are cold, but we never get to see it in action.  Clare is just so perfect: pretty, smart, talented, sweet, etc which makes her a boring character to watch. There is very little room for growth. I wish we could have seen what she was up to the two years before she met Henry.

We see the one scene with Gomez, but it's very brief, comes extremely late in the piece, and doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know. I think the Gomez thing could have been a really good conflict. What if there was a time where she actually saw Gomez as a viable option and really had to choose whether or not she wanted to wait for Henry? The way it reads now, she always saw Gomez as just a friend and only thought of dating him in passing.

(show spoiler)



I guess it's romantic to think that she never doubted she'd meet Henry and always held out for him, but I think it's more romantic when people have doubts but love anyway. It's easy to be faithful if your faith is never tested. There are all these really great moments where really strong conflicts could have been present that never really come to fruition.

2 Stars
A Long Review for a Long Book
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver

TL;DR- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is an okay novel that has some interesting characters, but the last 200+ pages are very didactic and unnecessary and take away from the novel as a whole.


So The Poisonwood Bible....I finished it, so it kept my interest. However, I'm having a hard time pinpointing what I liked about it. I guess the first thing to consider is the main thing I look for in a good book: good characters. Each of the characters in the book took turns being insufferable, which I kind of consider a good thing. None of the characters were all wonderful, all the time nor were any all bad. Except for Nathan Price. He was all bad.




The only thing we really know about the good reverend, Nathan Price is that he's an arrogant and misogynistic bigot who may be acting out of guilt for being the only man in his unit to survive the war. We don't really know since we don't hear about his military experience from him. We hear about it from Orleanna. I understand Kingsolver's impulse to have only the women speak in the book (giving voice to the powerless, one of many didactic messages from the book). However, I really wanted a chance to examine Nathan's motivations from his point of view since his choices shape a lot of the story and the various characters' lives. He's entirely too one note for me, which made him very uninteresting.




Orleanna is my second least favorite character. Each of her sections were my least favorite sections of the book except for the last hundred pages. That was definitely my least favorite part of the book. More on that later. In the beginning, Orleanna's sections were the most preachy and were less urgent because they're set in the future with Orleanna looking back at past events in the Congo. The other characters' sections are told in present tense as the girls are experiencing the events in Africa. Her sections are also where I feel like Kingsolver tries to use very poetic prose, and it comes off clunky and forced. I almost put the book down after reading Orleanna's first chapter, which starts the book. The portrayals of her in her daughters' narratives are interesting, but of all the characters who were allowed to speak, I found what she had to say the least interesting, closely followed by Rachel.



Adah has a line where she says that if Rachel were to go to her high school reunion, she would win the prize for "Least Changed." The girl does not grow at all. I try not to fault her too much because I understand what Kingsolver is doing. Rachel represents the ignorant American who will do anything to not think about how their wealth affects the less fortunate. If they are poor, it's their own fault, not something that she did. Unlike the rest of her family, she refuses to feel guilt over what happened to Africa. What happened there is the Africans' fault and has nothing to do with her. Rachel is very much like her father. He believes that his religion is the one and only way to righteousness and looks down on all who disagree. Rachel believes that the "American way" is the one and only way to live and refuses to change her way of thinking.

Although, it is very telling that she never returns to America.

(show spoiler)

One thing I really hated was the diction Kingsolver gave Rachel. In an attempt to show how less educated and aware Rachel was when compared to her sisters, Kingsolver often has Rachel mispronounce words. Some of them were okay, but some of them were just completely unbelievable for a girl her age. Sometimes I thought I was reading a Ruth May section since the mistakes were more believable for a six-year-old than for a 16-year-old. I understand that it's supposed to show that she isn't very book smart but I think there are more creative ways of showing it.



I liked Adah only because, of all the characters, she seems to have the most objective view of things. She, of course, goes into her tirades about white guilt, but there's a sort of emotional distance there that doesn't exist in her twin sister, Leah, who is all passion all the time.  Her arc of being an angry, self-pitying child and learning to not see her suffering as special was interesting, but I wished it was explored more. Her feeling of abandonment during the fire ant attack is a good example of where this anger works really well.


Ruth May

Ruth May is a child for most of the book so there really wasn't much to say about her. I liked her headstrongness, but again she's a child so there isn't much we can do with it.



Leah was the most infuriating character of all of them. She starts out my favorite character because she has the most room to grow. She idolizes her father and his ideals even when she sees them continuously fail and sometimes harm the people around her. Watching her grow disillusioned with her father and with God was interesting, but towards the end of the book it becomes page after page of Leah being angry at white people for ruining Africa. I don't disagree with Kingsolver's message. I think her criticism of the U.S's involvement in the Congo is fair. Even though she simplifies the issues a bit, Kingsolver does attempt to show both sides: the ways Africa was harmed by Western involvement and the way it was helped. Leah may rail against America and the rest of Western Civilization, but this doesn't stop her from taking Western medicine to ward off African diseases. I just wish Kingsolver could have been a bit more subtle. The last two hundred pages or more is basically her using her characters to give a history lesson on the Congo and how we f-ed it up. It's 200 pages of history with a little bit of story sprinkled here and there. The last section, Exodus, occurs after the family escapes from Africa, and it really should be half the length it is if that. It was too much of the same thing over and over. I almost gave up, but I finished reading it because I decided I was not going to read 300+ pages of a book and still have to mark it unfinished.



This book definitely has a message, and the last part of the book's purpose is definitely to push that agenda.  This book made me appreciate Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea a lot more. It's a great novel that looks at postcolonialism and doesn't beat you over the head with its agenda.

3.5 Stars
The Abstinence Teacher: A Story about Faith or (Lack thereof)
The Abstinence Teacher (Reading Group Gold) - Tom Perrotta

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta.


Overall Score: 6.5/10 stars (or hearts or spades whatever works for you)


Quick Summary:  This novel is about two characters, Ruth and Tim.  Ruth is a 40-something divorced mother of two girls who teachers sex-ed in a small town.  She is forced to teach an abstinence-only curriculum and is constantly being monitored by a evangelical, Christian church.  Tim belongs to the church called the Tabernacle and is the divorced father of one.  He used to be a drug addict but was saved by the power of Jesus.  He is the coach of his daughter's soccer team and is currently struggling to stay true to his faith.  The two clash when Tim decides to conduct a team prayer with his daughter's soccer team, a team that also includes Ruth's youngest daughter.  


Characters 2/3**

Tim is a very interesting and complex character.  He wants to stay true to his faith even though his faith is driving a wedge between him and his daughter.  He suffers a lot from guilt and the belief that he is constantly doing something wrong.  He's haunted by his past addictions and a growing attraction to Ruth who seems determined to destroy him.  On one hand, I liked Ruth and I understood why she is so upset by Tim's prayer at the soccer game after suffering so much persecution from the Tabernacle.  However, as the book progresses she becomes a much less compelling character when compared to Tim.  While Tim is worried about losing his faith, his daughter, and falling off of the wagon, Ruth is worried about her dismal love life and the fear her daughters might develop beliefs different from hers.  Don't get me wrong.  I liked Ruth and she has many touching moments (like when she breaks down in tears while out to dinner with her friends Randall and Greg).  Her fear of dying alone is a legitimate fear and I do feel for her in that respect. But overall I liked Tim's character better, and I feel like he had a much better arc.  He is definitely more changed in the end than Ruth.  The supporting characters are very well done also.  


The Story 2.5/3**

I liked the plot of this book a lot and felt that it moved at a really nice pace.  Ruth's spars with the Tabernacle representative Joann were wonderfully entertaining, and I really liked watching how a simple moment like Tim's prayer could have such a ripple effect in this small community.  The book is definitely more character-driven than plot driven.  The scenes between Tim and Ruth are really lovely.  I really liked Ruth's story about her teenage relationship with Paul Caruso.  It was one of my favorite chapters and liked seeing how that relationship eventually ended up.  Ruth's relationship with her daughters is portrayed very strongly and so is Tim's relationship with his kid.  I really liked the comparison between Tim's relationship with his ex-wife Allison and his new wife Carrie.  It reveals a lot about Tim and where he currently is when it comes to his life and his faith.  There are lot of wonderful past anecdotes that reveal a lot about the characters.  


The Writing, Genre Aspects, And Other Things that Haven't Been Mentioned 1/2*

There's not much to say here.  Simple, clean prose.  Nothing really special but nothing to complain about either.  I've never read Little Children, but I have seen the movie and based on that and the summaries I've read of other Perrotta novels, he really likes to write about suburban families and portrays them in a really honest and often comic light.  


Bookshelf or Giveaway Pile 1/2*

I definitely plan on giving this book away.  It was a great read but there's nothing about it that seems to warrant a second reading.  I will however be checking out some other titles by Perrotta because I did find this book enjoyable.  Little Children has been on my to-read list for a while now.  (Let me know if you want my copy of The Abstinence Teacher.)


The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo

I've read three chapters of this book so far and nothing has happened.  This book requires a lot of patience which I am very short on.  Will be switching gears soon.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo

I've read three chapters of this book so far and nothing has happened.  This book requires a lot of patience which I am very short on.  Will be switching gears soon.

Reblogged URL
Reading keeps your brain fit as you age

A new study has found that mentally demanding activities, such as reading, can protect your brain against aging. Participants in the study who read regularly showed less cognitive decline than non-bookish counterparts, even when their brains showed signs of degeneration.


Forget antioxidants or vitamins or superfoods, a book a day keeps the doctor away.

Reblogged from BookFlap
I can't wait for this to go live!

How many times have you asked a librarian for guidance on something to read or where to find a book? There are 16,000 public libraries in America and soon the librarians will come to you via a new online recommendation service called LibraryReads. 


LibraryReads is a joint effort between the ALA (American Library Assn.), AAP (American Assn. of Publishers) and the ABA (American Booksellers Assn.) A number of major publishers have agreed to participate as well.


Each month librarians will present a list of their favorite top 10 books they have read and want to recommend. The service will officially launch in the fall of 2013 at the web address www.libraryreads.org


Library Reads

Reblogged from Books Are Like Ships
Source: http://libraryreads.org
!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
5 Stars
The Namesake
The Namesake -

This was my second time reading this book and I really enjoyed it. Lahiri's prose is very clean, and it just flows effortlessly from one page to the next. I think the beginning of the book that chronicles Ashima's first years in America are just amazing. I love her character. I think the way Lahiri addresses Gogol's struggles with his heritage by examining the choices he makes in his love life is just wonderful. Gogol loves Maxine because she reminds him of everything his family isn't. He loves Moushumi because she reminds him of everything his family is. I've read a lot of people complaining that they feel Lahiri uses too much exposition. On one hand, I can see their point. For instance, there are very few actual scenes during the sections that chronicle Gogol and Maxine's relationship, but I think that's on purpose. It's Maxine's overall lifestyle he's in love with not necessarily Maxine herself. So they're aren't any moments to chronicle. It feels like Gogol just got swept up in her world, and the way it's written really conveys. All of the days sort of blurred for him. It was kind of a whirlwind courtship. The only complaint I have about the novel is that Gogol does often seem to find himself the victim in all of his relationships.



I especially didn't like the portrayal of his relationship with Moushumi. I feel like she takes too much of the blame for the ending of that relationship. She comes off a bit too villainous for me. I actually think that the movie adaptation of this book did a much better job of portraying her. It does a better job of highlighting the things she gave up to try and be the perfect Indian wife. There's hints of it in the text, but I think that could've been explored more. Other than that I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.

0 Stars
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them - Francine Prose
Francine Prose's love of language and literature is apparent throughout the book and made this book very enjoyable. My favorite chapters were the last two chapters which highlight the ways several wonderful authors have broken the rules that are often foisted upon writers in workshops. I'd recommend this book just for the wonderful bibliography at the end. Prose's recommendations have significantly increased my TBR pile. As a book on craft, it's not particularly groundbreaking but I do love Prose's approach to teaching writing. The best way to learn how to write is to read. It's amazing how many people I've met who want to be writers who don't read. Or who don't know how to read for closely for craft. This book is a really nice crash course.
2 Stars
Angelmaker -
I tried. I really tried. I had less than 70 pages to go, but after reading the last line of chapter 15, I had to quit. It's really bad. The protagonist in this is just so boring and I could care less what happens to him and his too-good-to-be-true girlfriend. His whole thing about not wanting to follow in his father's footsteps gets old real quick. I'm not that big of a reader of science fiction but the stuff that had to deal with Shem Shem Tsien near the end just didn't seem possible, not even in a world where golden bees reveal the truth. The rules of the world weren't clear to me about that situation.The only reason I gave it 2 stars is because I really loved the character, Edie Banister. I loved her present story and her flashbacks (even though they did often jarringly interrupt the present action which slowed down the plot of the book.) Harkaway really seems to lock in when using her voice and this is where I really enjoyed his writing. I also enjoyed her battles with Shem Shem Tsien who I think made a fantastic villain. There's some witty parts but all in all I wouldn't recommend this unless you were a die-hard steampunk fan or something like that. (There's some really cool stuff about trains in the book.)
3 Stars
The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir
The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir - Domingo Martinez
Martinez is a mediocre writer who was blessed with an interesting family that helps this piece along. His family is interesting and so is his upbringing but the book lacks structure. There are so many events he recounts that the reader could've done without. I really enjoyed the last half of the book about his relationship with his brothers but it feels like a completely different book from the rest. Martinez beats you over the head with the theme of the memoir and even though I can relate to a lot of what he went through growing up different in a poor, racially segregated community I did find him kind of whiny. There's also his tendency to allude to future events and then never address them (his constant references to Derek's near death experience). There are some chapters that are really interesting and compelling. But the book overall is unorganized and while I enjoyed reading it, I won't be reading it again and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to others.
2 Stars
Great Expectations (Oxford World's Classics)
Great Expectations (Oxford World's Classics) - Kate Flint, Charles Dickens, Margaret Cardwell
I first read this in high school and I remember thinking that the story was good but the experience of reading this book was awful. Wanted to see how I felt about two English degrees later. I stand by my original review. It's an interesting tale and I caught a lot more of the humor this time around, but it still drags on forever and ever. I was so happy when I was finished. Will not be reading it again.
5 Stars
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
I just reread this because I haven't read it since I was a teenager and I was curious to see if it would affect me the way it did then. It completely does. Melinda is such a wonderful character. She's snarky yet incredibly sympathetic and wonderfully flawed. We watch her go to hell and back and when I got to last page I felt like I was saying goodbye to a really old friend. Some of her observations about high school and the world around her are LOL funny and really dead-on. The writing is crisp and clean and pretty fast paced. The only complaint I might have is that the ending does feel neat and a bit unrealistic, but with everything we've watched this girl go through I find myself being okay with that. I also think this book reminds me of how important it is to remember what it was like to be a teenager especially if you have to deal with one on a regular basis. I'm not even that old but I find myself dismissing a lot of my 15 year old sister's complaints because they seem so childish. I have to remember that it's hard to accept the fact that high school isn't everything when you're in high school. Seeing how the adults in Melinda's world dealt with her silence really made me sad because I know that it's a very common attitude especially in public schools. Adults in charge of young people really need to work on finding ways of letting students know that they're there to listen and then they really need to listen to them and not just assume that everything is teenage angst.
3 Stars
Unwind - Neal Shusterman
In this book we follow 3 runaway unwinds, Connor, Risa, and Lev. In this world abortion is illegal but parents can have their 13 to 17 year old children unwound where they will basically be torn apart and their body parts given to other people. This is a compromise created to end a bloody war between pro-choice and pro-life camps. It is a ridiculous concept but Shusterman does such a good job of plainly outlining the rules of this world that I find myself buying into it despite how unrealistic it is.Connor is being unwound because his parents think he is a troublemaker (apparently he has a temper and gets into fights but he seems like a pretty good kid). Risa is being unwound because she's a ward of the state and they need more room in the state home. Connor and Risa's stories are not that interesting to me. They go down very familiar paths and while they are likeable characters, I find myself not really caring what happens to either of them. They don't seem to change very much from beginning to end and the changes they do incur seem a little superficial. The reason I kept reading this book is because of Lev.Lev comes from a religious family that believes in tithing 10% of everything they own to the church including their children. Lev being his parent's tenth child has known since birth he was going to be unwound. He is happy about this and thinks it's a great honor until he is kidnapped by Connor is a hare-brained attempt to take on hostages. Lev is put in a position where he has to question everything he has ever believed and it tears him apart. Watching him try and put the pieces back together after the destruction of his belief system is very poignant and something I think a lot of people can relate to. He's brought to a place where he has to decide where he stands on different issues. He can no longer depend on others to think for him. I think that that is a huge part of growing up and I really enjoyed watching this character go through this process.
1 Stars
A Suitable Boy: A Novel
A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
There are way too many wonderful books in the world and not enough time to read them all. If I'm going to invest my valuable reading time into reading a 1500-page book that book better have one hell of plot or be written so well that I continue to read only to marvel at the author's wonderful use of the English language. This book does neither. The storyline moves incredibly slowly. I finished the first two sections and the story still hadn't gone anywhere. The prose is pretty bad. Seth feels the desire to pack each section of the book with unnecessary details that do nothing to further the storyline. Despite his desire to describe any and everything under the Indian sun, he does not extend this wonderful use of detail to his characters. Often times the characters are characterized by exposition instead of in scene. He tells more than he shows. He even tells while he's showing. For instance when we first meet Rupa Mehra's father we're literally told over and over again in the exposition how short-tempered and tyrannical he is even though his actions in the scene clearly show us that. I also felt that he overused his thesaurus. He really liked to use big 10pt SAT words throughout the piece not because it fit his prose style but because it made it seem as if he had a big vocabulary.I did feel that whenever Seth did resort to actual scenes of dialogue and action that the prose became a lot cleaner and the story actually became somewhat interesting. (Loved the scene where Pran argues for permission to make James Joyce a part of the university curriculum) However, I'm not willing to trudge through all the unnecessary exposition just to get to these moments. I don't need to finish the book to tell that it probably should have been a few thousand pages shorter than it is.