Book 395: Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

Miller, Henry - Tropic of CapricornI didn’t think it was possible, but I liked this one even less than Tropic of Cancer. Seriously, I was in no way a fan of this book. The amount of raunchy sleazy descriptions in Tropic of Capricorn, if possible out weight those in the first novel.

The only thing I can truly say I’m grateful for is that I got it off my shelf where it’s languished since the 2010 Boston Book Festival (it was the last one!). It also counts toward my Classics Club list so yay for that too!

I can’t even pretend it’s hard to say why I didn’t like this book, it really was just too much sex, misogyny, sexual assault and crass language. When you add in the stream-of-consciousness I’m surprised I even got through the book. It’s no wonder the book was banned in America (Wikipedia link) for 30 years. I don’t believe in book banning or censorship, but this really tested my limits.

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Book 390: The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Plath, Sylvia - The Bell JarThis is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.

Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.

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Book 372: Not Gay – Jane Ward

Ward, Jane - Not Gay“Straight boys and men, I believe, already have all of the information and proclivities they need to manufacture situations that facilitate homosexual (and heterosexual) activity.” (165)

FINALLY! Academia is talking about fluidity of male sexuality (perceived, lack thereof, the dangers of, etc.). We’ve come a long way from Foucault, Butler, Muñoz. When we’re now looking at the idea that “heterosexuality is, in part, a fetishization of the normal,” (35) and no one is batting an eye. We’re starting to get somewhere.

One of the biggest critiques I had while pursuing my master’s degree was the lack of research, or even recognition, of the fluidity of male sexuality. So much of what we discussed resolved solely on women, women’s sexuality and feminists critique.

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Book 360: #First Impressions #Second Chances – Heidi Belleau

Belleau, Heidi - First Impressions, Second ChancesI grabbed a copy of this book for free from the Riptide Publishing website. I did this before I had an interaction with Riptide that left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth and has pretty much guaranteed I won’t read any of their books again, but I’ll save that for the end of this post (after the recommendation).

This novella’s synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) was just too cute to pass up. You get a second chance with your first crush and they happen to be gay too? Add in the techno-crazy insta-celebrity age and of course it’s going to be adorable. This rings especially true if you’re main character is a somewhat neurotic shy guy who has gone out of his way to avoid social-interactions in person, but has a large online following. I mean come on librarians and bookstores, let’s just go ahead and create the sub-sub-genre “Socially Awkward Romances.” I’d be all over that.

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Book 356: The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho

Coelho, Paulo - The Witch of PortobelloIn a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon Affiliates link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.

Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.

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Book 355: Jane Vows Vengeance (Jane Fairfax #3) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Vows Vengeance ( Jane Fairfax #3)Book three of the Jane Fairfax trilogy just didn’t live up to Jane Bites Back or Jane Goes Batty. That being said, there were some great moments, but overall it just wasn’t as light or as fun. As an end to the trilogy, it did a decent job wrapping everything up as it should and leaving enough room to keep going if Ford ever decides he wants to write more, but I doubt I’ll read more.

Rather than keeping the story in Upstate New York, Ford takes the traveling circus that is Jane Austen’s new life on the road. From Jane’s best friend, Lucy, to the future mother in law Miriam, everyone who is important either goes along or is named dropped at some point. Ford again introduces a cast of quirky minor characters, but this time they felt lightweight and fluffy. There wasn’t a lot of substance to many of them and I was left wanting.

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Book 354: Jane Goes Batty (Jane Fairfax #2) – Michael Thomas Ford

Ford, Michael Thomas - Jane Goes Batty (Jane Fairfax #2)When I finished this I did a little wiggle in my seat and clapped my hands. Some times I really do wonder about my sanity.

Having finished Jane Bites Back I immediately got a copy of the next two, this book and Jane Vows Vengeance from the library – YAY Kindle! I didn’t read this one quite as fast as the last one even though I was working from home, but it was just as well written and hilariously fun!

What I took out of this novel was how great Ford is at caricatures, not only of characters but of ideas and fads. I spoke about the Janeites and Brontëites in the last novel and how he brought those together, but he does it even better in this novel. There’s a giant love festival, don’t ask, and the culmination is a game between the two. Originally a softball match, it ultimately is a croquet match, fitting right, and the descriptions and tension are hilarious.

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