Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Thoughts - Life Could be Verse by Kirk Douglas

Life Could be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters by Kirk Douglas
128 pages
publishing 12/2/14

Synopsis from Goodreads -

For his 98th birthday, Kirk Douglas offers us an intimate look into his life. Through a collection of poetry, prose and photographs, he pulls the curtain all the way back exposing the bombs and blockbusters of both the personal and professional aspects. From uncomplicated poems written for his beloved wife, Ann, of 60 years, to poems written for his four boys when they were still small, Douglas' words are comical, sentimental, romantic, and sometimes painful. He chaperones us through the stages of his life, including the untimely death of his youngest son, and shares nostalgic pictures of the other 'leading ladies' in his life like Marlene Dietrich, Lauren Bacall, and Bridget Bardot. Kirk Douglas is an American legend crowned as one of the greatest male screen legends in American film history by the American Film Institute. And, at 97, he is the highest ranked person on the list alive today. Life Could Be Verse's beautiful design makes it a keepsake for the myriad of Kirk Douglas' fans who have adored "Spartacus" for many, many decades."

My thoughts -

I read this book purely for the novelty of it - a famous actor writing poetry? Who doesn't want to know what THAT sounds like? And let's be honest - I don't expect him to be a contender for Poet Laureate any time soon. But the poems are sweet and heartfelt, and each carries with it a snapshot of what has been a fantastically complex and interesting life. My only real complaint is that I wish the book had been longer - Douglas comes across as warm and funny, and I would have enjoyed hearing more stories from his 97 years. Recommended for Kirk Douglas fans or Hollywood fans.

Finished - 11/16/14
Source - review copy from the publisher via NetGalley
MPAA rating - PG
My rating - 3/5

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Thoughts - Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmenn

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmeen, illustrations by Kerascoet
published 2/25/14
96 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Kerasco√ęt’s and Fabien Vehlmann’s unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale is a searing condemnation of our vast capacity for evil writ tiny. Join princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization's heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.  The sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerasco√ęt’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann's story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over.  Beautiful Darkness is a harrowing look behind the routine politeness and meaningless kindness of civilized society.

My thoughts -

I don't think anything I've read for RIP this year has felt as perfect for the challenge as this slim graphic novel. This is Lord of the Flies in a fairy-tale world, it is eerie and creepy and unsettling and challenging. This is much less about the plot and much more about the layers of horror, unwrapping before the readers' eyes. This is a gorgeous piece of art, wrapped around a completely terrifying story.

Like all good graphic novels, there is much to uncover behind the first glance, and this is the type of story than can be read many times, with the reader finding something new upon each subsequent visit to this dark world. I know I'm being vague, but part of the impact of the story, for me, was not knowing very much about what I was getting into when I started. More than anything I've read in the past couple of months, this is the book that has stayed in my mind, lingering in my thoughts, popping up in my dreams. It's good, scary stuff. Recommended for readers who can deal with dark.

Finished - 10/22/14
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - R. This is not for young kids. Scary stuff.
My rating - 4/5

And with this, I have completed

Hooray for me! My first year to complete my RIP challenge. It feels pretty good, I have to say! And now I'm looking for recommendations for next year - what perilous reads have you enjoyed this season?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Shorts, R.I.P edition

Just a quick summary of what's been going on around here, R.I.P.-wise....

First I read

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
published 2006
406 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.

My thoughts -

I think I'm at the point where I'm just going to admit that novels with ghosts as a plot device are not my favorite thing. This book had lots of saving graces, though, so I did enjoy it very much. But the ghost parts? Not so much. I loved the emphasis on reading and literature throughout the novel, and found Margaret as well as Miss Winter to be extremely engaging heroines. Good stuff here, even if it DOES have ghosts.

Finished - 10/15/14
Source - mom
MPAA rating - PG-13 for adult situations & possible scaryness.
My rating - 4/5

Then I read the first two stories from this collection -

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
published 1953

You can read a summary and some analysis of the title story here.

I intend to read the entire collection, but it is not a collection I will breeze through. These first two stories were tough, and bleak, and full of despair. In some ways they remind me of episodes of The Twilight Zone, which used to freak me out SO MUCH when I was young. These are worlds where horrible things happen, in ways that you don't expect. 

A Good Man is Hard to Find is a gut-punch of a story. It plays with emotions and perceptions, and introduces some pretty unpleasant characters without giving any of them much of a chance of redemption. I didn't particularly choose this collection to go along with RIP, but it certainly fits the bill. Lots of perilous situations in these stories!

Next I read this novel -

Advent by James Treadwell
published 2012
448 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Once there were virtues in the stars and mermaids in the seas; but then a gift was lost, and all of that became no more than the stuff of fantasy. What if it came back? Everyone tells fifteen-year-old Gavin that the things he sees aren't really there. He hardly believes himself any more.

My thoughts -

Okay, there is A LOT going on in this novel. Elements of Arthurian legend, Faust, mermaids, Greek myth - there is a lot to keep track of, and there were moments in the novel that I could feel some of the threads slipping away from me. But I have to say that I was completely entranced by this story from the very beginning. Even when I wasn't quite sure that I was keeping track of all the fantastical bits, I was always eager to see where Gavin's story was going to take him next. I loved the writing, and I definitely plan to read the next in this series.

Finished - 10/24/15
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for fantasy violence
My rating - 4/5

And then I read -

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesa Lia Block
published 2013
240 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait. In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.

My thoughts -

This YA novel was a fairly loose retelling of The Odyssey, and it didn't work all that well for me. I thought the writing was lovely, but I didn't particularly care for the story as Block told it. I thought it was difficult to follow, and there were certain plot elements that seemed to be added more to have something to say about a "hot topic" issue than to really further the action of the plot. I will read more by this author, but probably not more in this sequence.

Finished - 10/25/14
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - R for violence, language, sexuality
My rating - 2/5

So this means that I have completed

for RIP this year!