Book 350: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Angelou, Maya - I Know Why The Caged Bird SingsI picked up my copy of this book just 11 days before Maya Angelou died last spring. I’d always had this book (Amazon link) on my list, but I’d never found a reason to pick it up and for some reason at the library book sale last year I finally added it to my pile. I knew I wanted to read it because it is one of those books that is mentioned by everyone and has such a place in American culture, but not as widely read as I probably assumed.

As I read the novel I was floored at the breadth of experience Angelou faced before she turned 17. At times the novel reminded me a lot of The Color Purple and Bastard Out of Carolina, but I have a feeling both Alice Walker and Dorothy Allison were inspired/influenced by this. That being said, of the three this is the most profound work. Perhaps because it is explicitly an autobiography (and Bastard is semi-autobiographical and Purple is a fictional novel).

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Book 338: Tender as Hellfire – Joe Meno

Meno, Joe - Tender as HellfireI first encountered Joe Meno way back in 2011 when I read The Boy Detective Fails, which was a wonderfully quirky story. That following October at the 2011 Boston Book Festival I picked up this novel and it’s taken me almost four years to get to it. I’d love to say it was worth the wait, but I’m not really sure and that had very little to do with Meno’s writing or storytelling (Amazon link).

This was by far one of the worst copy edited books I’ve ever read. I found a mistake about halfway through (see photo at the end) and then I found them on every two-to-three pages after that. They weren’t even minor comma mistakes, which I’d miss, they were WHOLE WORDS MISSING FROM SENTENCES!

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Book 333: The Bitterweed Path – Thomas Hal Phillips

Phillips, Thomas Hal - The Bitterweed PathThis response is a bit scattered. It’s as close to stream-of-consciousness as I will ever get so enjoy it.

I jumped this book up my list because someone was getting antsy. For some reason, he didn’t think I wanted to read anything he suggested, or that I didn’t like his last recommendation, Last Summer, so I’ve made a deal with him that I’ll read a book at least every other month from him (talk about dictating!). Thankfully I’ve really enjoyed both books he’s recommended so far. His next recommendation is Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour and these recommendations don’t even include the ones of his that I WANT to read!

I was a little torn on John Howard’s introduction as it felt a bit misleading, but it did provide an excellent history of Phillips life and the setting of the novel. Howard wrote about his own experience as an LGBT academic and activist, and the self-serving nature of getting this book re-published for its early LGBT themes. He mentioned Phillips lack of acknowledgement about his own sexuality, which was interesting, and noted that none of his other books did as well as The Bitterweed Path and didn’t contain LGBT themes.

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Book 329: A Jane Austen Education – William Deresiewicz

Deresiewicz, William - A Jane Austen EducationWarning: Goodreads rant – skip to second paragraph. I’m not sure what jumped up everyone’s butts on Goodreads (I shouldn’t really be surprised), but this book doesn’t deserve as much vitriol as it has received on the site. So many people trashed it without even finishing the book, many obviously had read the synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) and yet were shocked at what they read.

The book definitely deserves a lot of the criticism, but it doesn’t deserve the pure vitriol that Goodread’s reviewers thew at it. Sure, I wanted to smack Deresiewicz for being an insufferable grad student, but it’s very clear in the synopsis that the book was going to be full of naval gazing. He made a couple of questionable sexist and classist comments and he may have reduced a lot of Austen’s genius down to basics, but it would definitely work for people who are not familiar with Austen. Seriously, if you can’t find the good in a book, why bother finishing and trashing it? Just move on to the next book.

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Book 328: The Host – Stephenie Meyer

Meyer, Stephenie - The HostI figured I would check this out after making my way through the Twilight Saga to see if Meyer’s writing was any better when she wasn’t dealing with a manic-depressive teenager girl, oh wait she’s still doing that—sort of. Joking aside, unfortunately, this is another prime example of when a better writer could’ve created a book 100 times better than the one Meyer created, but I won’t knock her she has creative ideas and is a storyteller at heart. Check out a synopsis of the book here (Amazon affiliate link) if you haven’t read it.

Perhaps her writing isn’t as terrible as I think it is, but it’s just so simple that it makes it hard to read sometimes. And to be completely honest I almost didn’t make it past the first 10-15 pages of this book because it was so bewildering and horribly written. I’m pretty sure this was a style choice for the situation, but it did not make me want to read the book that’s for sure.

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