Steinbeck? Depressing? No.... Oh wait, yes. Yes indeed.

Doodadeedoo! Sound the trumpets! We have yet another book to add to the list of H’s favorites.

Introducing: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Can you say, holygoodbookbatman? I can’t even tell you how much I was expecting to not like this.
Why, you ask?
Because, when I was probably around thirteen, I decided that I hated John Steinbeck. With a passion. People would say, “Oh he is one of America’s best writers, blah blah blah” and I would be like “Psshh, doubt it.” (Even though I had never ever read something by him. Just, at one point I decided I hated him).
Anyway, I think it was two years ago I picked up East of Eden and loved it. I said, “WTF was I thinking? Steinbeck rules.” Then I read The Pearl (see review here) and I wasn’t as impressed. And now this. This book of amazingness and heartbreak and sadness and happiness and rabbits.

Basically, for anyone who hasn’t read this (although, I am pretty sure this book has been read by 99.9% of the American population), the book is about two pals named George and Lennie. Lennie is a little on the slow side and is just like a big baby. George takes care of Lennie and watches over him like a big brother. Lennie has an obsession with petting soft things (i.e. mice, puppies, women’s clothing). It is this penchant for soft objects that gets Lennie into a lot of trouble. He kills mice because he doesn’t understand how strong he actually is - petting them straight into Mouse Heaven. George and Lennie share a common dream - that one day they will save up enough money working on ranches to be able to afford their own little house, and Lennie can raise rabbits, and no one will be able to tell them what to do. So, they get a job at a ranch, and are determined to get enough money to live out their dream, and then things start to go in the opposite direction of their plan.

Sitting in bed, bawling, and clutching my copy Of Mice and Men is not how I expected to end my night, but what can you do? This book was so absolutely touching and depressing, I couldn’t help but cry.
If you haven’t read it – read it. Steinbeck has such a wonderful way of writing about scenery and characters and straight up human emotions, that it’s hard to put his books down.

I got my copy of The Blind Assassin last night, very excited to start #1book140 tomorrow.

On to reading!


A Book Club Via Twitter? Noice.

If any of you have Twitter accounts (which I feel like a lot of people do), there is a cool thing that is about to happen... basically a Twitter Book Club.

Jeff Howe, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, is helping to organize 1book140 (i.e. one book review in 140 characters, which means you cant blab on and on and bore everyone to tears). The first book that has been chosed for 1book140 is Margaret Atwood's novel The Blind Assassin. I haven't read anything by Margaret Atwood, but I do have The Handmaid's Tale on my To Read list because I've heard a lot of good things about her.

So, for 1book140 all you have to do is read the novel and then share your comments, questions and concerns using hashtag #1book140 when you post on twitter. Once you have posted you can click on the hashtag and see what everyone else has said about it.

The schedule of reading is located here and it starts on June 1st, so if you don't own the book (like me) you should probably run to the nearest book store and pick one up!

On to reading!


The Mind of H.P. Lovecraft

So, between being overwhelmed by the amount of guests I have had in my house the last week and working my little tuckus off, I found this funny little site.

All you have to do is put in a teensy little sample of your writing and it tells you which famous author you write most like.
Lucky for me, I got this creepster:

H.P. Lovecraft.

Who apparently writes about characters that look somewhat like these renditions:

Adorable, huh?
Anyway, I've only read a quick little excerpt from the guy - it was "The Call of Cthulu" and I didn't finish it for who knows what reason... but don't worry, with weird creatures like these, why WOULDN'T I read more of his work?

On to reading!


About bloody time.

Ok. Finished.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy… it’s pretty much about the life of The Kid, who joins an army of Scalp-Hunters in the 1840s. The rest of the “gang” are outlaws and lowlifes. The most interesting character – in the essence that he is the creepiest effing character in the WORLD – is The Judge. He is a giant oaf of a man who apparently has alopecia. Who may or may not be entirely insane. That likes to brutally kill people. Oh, and he is also a molester. No biggie.

I don’t think I can tell you how hard it was for me to finish this. Like I said before, I am not faint of heart, but some of the gruesome images I saw in my own head were a little too much for me to take.
Also, I felt like this story really never had a plot. I never knew where it was going. I knew I was following The Kid, but where was I following him to? What was to be the ultimate goal of the novel? All I knew was that I was bound to see more gore, more blood, more heartbreaking imagery. I knew it would be like “Oh look, someone else beheaded or slain. Someone else’s entrails pulled out to shrivel in the sun. Awesome!” Good thing McCarthy didn’t let me down, I guess.

My biggest gripe (besides the sort of anti-plot going on) was the amount of dead dogs I had to read about. I can read about dead humans – but dogs are a whole different story. I mean, how can I read about dogs being thrown off bridges, or shot, or burned to death, when I have this snoring right next to me:

But, I can say this - although this book was difficult for me to get through, there were some really endearing qualities to it. There was one particularly striking passage that McCarthy wrote -  The Kid has come upon a massacre, there are dead bodies mutilated and decapitated all around, and he notices an old woman kneeling in an inlet with her eyes cast down, “he reached into the little cove and touched her arm. She moved slightly, her whole body, light and rigid. She weighed nothing. She was just a dried shell and she had been dead in that place for years.”

Dreadful yet fascinating. Just like the rest of the novel.

On to reading!



I love this photo. 

That is all for today.
Have a great Sunday.


Blood Bath

I'm not even sure what I have to say so far about Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy...

I guess the best thing I have been able to come up with is - it's intense.

I like it. I really do.... but there is so much gore, so much violence, so many disturbing images flashing through my brain, that I'm getting dizzy. 
I've never been a very sensitive person. I can see blood and guts and just be like "eh." But, when an author makes me see such horrific things in my own head [that I would never have come up with on my own], it makes me feel all funny.

Take for instance this little gem of a mental picture:

Scene: "The Kid", a ruffian teenager who has joined an army in the 1840s to kill Mexicans, has just been ransacked by a group of Comanche Indians. His army is basically slaughtered, save for a few people. The Kid and this other guy, Sproule, are walking through the desert.

"The way narrowed through rocks and by and by they came to a bush that was hung with dead babies. They stopped side by side, reeling in the heat. These small victims, seven, eight of them, had holes punched in their underjaws and were hung so by their throats from the broken stobs of a mesquite to stare eyeless at the naked sky. bald and pale and bloated, larval to some unreckonable being."

Brutal, huh? There has been a lot of that so far.

I really have enjoyed myself though. McCarthy has a way of writing that absorbs you into the book and stylistically he is always very interesting. I like how in this novel he gives a little synopsis at the very beginning of each chapter. I don't read them until AFTER the chapter though, because they often contain spoilers.

Here is an interesting little YouTube clip I found, just for fun:

Anyway, on to reading!


Ah, Siddhartha...

 Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse is about this young dude [Siddhartha], who just can’t seem to get enough spiritual knowledge and enlightenment. He leaves his family for a meditative life in the forest, but soon becomes restless and finds himself indulging in more “fleshly desires” [aka women, wine, money, and gambling- the life of a baller]. After many years he becomes a very rich and spoiled man, yet Siddhartha eventually becomes disgusted with this lifestyle. In a state of despair, he leaves his prosperous life and comes upon a river that he'd crossed earlier in his lifelong journey for wisdom. While contemplating what to do with his existence, he hears a distinctive sound – which ultimately changes his life forever.

I just have to start this off by saying that I absolutely hated Siddhartha for nearly ¾ of this book [if not all of it, I haven’t quite decided yet… that may take another reading to determine]. I mean, talk about a snooty little know-it-all. He is probably one of the most selfish characters I have ever met. I understand that he wanted to continue his learning and extend his spiritual knowledge, but he is pretty disrespectful to his father and his wishes. He’s pretty much a jerk to his friend Govinda – who has followed him around like a doting puppy throughout the whole book. Then, he just gets up and leaves the Samana who have taught him pretty much all he knows while in the forest, without so much as a thank you or anything.

He says that his best attributes are the fact that he can fast, he can think, and he can wait. I think it’s the fact that he is stubborn and can manipulate people – but tomato, tomAHto.

And then, after he has come to terms with his life – and has found some of the knowledge he has been searching for – his son comes into his life. Obviously the son is unhappy, and Siddhartha is all “I will just be patient and nice with him,” which makes the kid even more mad. He never asks the kid what is bugging him, never tries to really connect with him on any level other than making him work – which is going to make any tween pissy, and then, at TWELVE years old, the kid runs off into the forest, and Siddhartha’s good old buddy is like “just let him go, he will be fine.”

The kid is twelve. I’d call Child Services on these two old frumps.

Why didn’t he ever think to give up the life he had created for himself? Couldn’t he have moved back into the town to try and make his son happy? Especially since his son is apparently the only love he had in the world. It just doesn’t make sense. And once again, I think Siddhartha is a selfish person. Which makes me dislike him.

Aside from not being a fan of the main character, I did enjoy his journey. I like to read about quests – spiritual or not. (If you haven’t read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, I strongly recommend it, probably one of my favorite quest-y tales). I will probably read this again down the road, just to see whether or not I still feel so strongly against Mr. Siddhartha.

On to reading!


The Long March - a short book.

Ok, so looks like I failed again on the whole Short Story Saturday thing... BUT, this book that I read was very very short, and I did in fact read it yesterday [saturday], while sick, so it kind of counts... right?

The Long March, this short novella by William Styron is about two aging marine reserves, Culver and Mannix. These two guys were 100% positive that they would not be called back to war again after WWII, but due to the Korean War, they were. The novella begins with the death of six young marines killed by a sequence of misfired mortar shells during a training exercise. This leads to the commanding officer’s order of a thirty-six mile march (more like run) through the grueling summer heat. 

Hence, the long march.

It’s interesting to me that such a short novella could be packed with such big philosophical ideas. Mannix is all sorts of mad at the Colonel for making them run this enforced march, and becomes so emotionally wrecked that he can not control himself. He refuses to stop marching, trying to “win” something by making it through the entire march, even when he gets a nail in his boot - which causes serious injury to his foot. Culver is just sort of a go-along guy. All he really wants is just to be home with his wife, daughter, beagle and hated cat. He holds no real resentment towards the Colonel for holding the march. He tries to be the voice of reason for Mannix a couple of times throughout the novella, but in the end, there is nothing that can stop Mannix from saying what he thinks needs to be said.

It had some rather beautifully tragic imagery:
“One boy’s eyes lay gently closed, and his long dark lashes were washed in tears, as though he had cried himself to sleep. As they bent over him they saw that he was very young, and a breeze came up from the edges of the swamp, bearing with it a scorched odor of smoke and powder, and touched the edges of his hair… below, beneath the slumbering eyes, his face had been blasted out of sight.”

All in all, it was well worth the fifty cents that I paid for it. I think down the road, perhaps in another book buying binge, I will look for some of Styron’s other works.

On to reading!


Dark Tower Series? Check.

While trying to overcome this horrible illness that has overtaken me the last couple of days, I finally pushed myself to finish Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Writing a review on a book that took me a year to read is a little tough, but I will try my best. Again, there may be mini-spoilers, say sorry.

So this book started with Father Callahan, Jake and Oy. For anyone who does not know, Jake is the little boy from the first book, who dies, and comes back to life. Oy is a weird little badger dog thing, and Father Callahan is the priest character from Salem’s Lot who joined us in The Dark Tower Series Wolves of the Calla.
The three of them are in this showdown against the Crimson King’s cronies – someone dies. Ok, I will just tell you, it’s Father Callahan.
Jake and Oy run off and get back together with Susannah, who has given birth to Mordred - a half spider, half baby thing. It scuttles away before Susannah can kill it. Dang.

Everyone gets all back together (ka-tet again, if you will) and they go off to try to destroy The Breakers, who are a group of psychics that have been forced into trying to break the beams that support The Dark Tower.

So, that is basically where I was like… eh, I’m done with this. And I took a break.

When I started the book back up again, Stephen King decided that the ka-tet must save Stephen King. Which made me palm-slap my forehead. I mean, I just don’t understand how you can write yourself into your own book. It seems so weird. Anyway, at one point they must try to save Stephen King before he gets hit by a van that is barreling down the road [an accident that did in fact happen in real life, in case anyone didn’t know that]. They succeed, but not without sacrifice.

I was a little upset by the ending of this book. The Ultimate Showdown between Roland and the Crimson King was very lame. I was looking for an awesome face-off and got nothing.
And then the very end. I mean, really?
That’s all I can say.
Stephen King was once quoted as saying that this was the ONLY ending that could have happened. I disagree. But, I am not the man who wrote these 7 books. If that’s the ending he wanted, who am I to say it should be different? Although, for the record, it should be.

On to reading!


Lookey Lookey I Got A Bookey

This weekend I went on a little bit of a Book Binge. I now have seven new books to read - and I can't flippin' wait. These are the ones that I got my greedy book loving hands on this weekend:

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck: I mean, classic right? Or so I am told. Truth is, I've never read it.

The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams: This is another one of those books that I have heard of and have never read. If we are being honest with one another, I really only loved it because of its title. Is that so wrong?

The Long March - William Styron: I got this book for three reasons - 1) the cover is cool 2) it was fifty cents and 3) the back of the book made it sound really interesting, "a stunning psychological probe of the military world, a novel of sadism, brutality, and quixotic courage that mounts to a swift ironic climax..." yadda yadda. Point is - "psychological probe"? "quixotic"? It has to be a winner, based on vocabulary alone.

Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse: Just gifted to me today from a friend for helping him with all of his writing, I can't wait to read this. It's been on my list of "To Reads" for as long as I can remember.

The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler: Ok. Again with the really cool title! What can I say? I'm a sucker for both titles and covers. So sue me. But, this has also been on my list of must reads for a long time. Slowly but surely I will get all of these "classics" checked off.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers: As far as I know, this is a pretty highly acclaimed novel. It has been on many of those Must Read Before You Die lists, so therefore I must Read It Before I Die. It sounds like a very interesting book and plus, it was written by a 23 year old. If that doesn't inspire me to write, I don't know what will.

And last but not least, Downtown Owl - Chuck Klosterman: He's baaaack. That's right. Another Klosterman book. This is one of his novels though, so it should be an interesting comparison with Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs (seeing as that was a collection of essays).

I am really excited to get to all of these - but up next (after Mr. King) is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy due to popular demand (or rather, the three votes I got on my poll of what to read next).

On to reading!


Short Story Saturdays

Hurray! Short Story Saturday Numero Dos.

This Saturday I decided to read Towel Season by Ron Carlson out of his collection At The Jim Bridger. I figured the weather was getting a little warmer, BBQs were in abundance for the day, and I stood outside for five minutes and got the beginnings of a sunburn, so why not read a story that would keep me in the mood?
Thus, Towel Season

This story is about a man named Edison, an engineer mathematician guy, his wife Leslie, and their family’s summer. Basically Edison is completely detached from him family, their friends, and life in general. All he knows are mathematical equations and the four walls of his study. The story starts with the beginning of summer and Edison being confounded not only by the amount of strange striped and patterned towels stacking up in his house, but also by a giant project he is working on for work. His wife tries to convince him to get out of the house and enjoy barbeques with the neighbors while the weather is nice, but he just doesn’t seem to fit in because he is always in a weird haze – concentrating on his project, rather than conversations with individuals. Edison is the guy who is always two beats behind everyone else and never seems to get a joke until it is too late.

After Edison somehow cracks a joke at one of these BBQ pool party things, he is “accepted” by the group [AKA all the women from some reason want his attention, and the men think he is cool enough to be patted on the back]. Soon the project he is working on falls to the back burner and Edison begins to actually hang out with his neighbors, learn their names, and their children’s names, and all that jazz.

At some point during the story it is explained that Edison talks to his wife about the project he is working on in metaphors. If he gets lost in the equations he is trying to work out, he tells her something like “It’s a forest and parts of this thing are all over the place. It’s going to take a while.” I really disliked the idea of Leslie and Edison talking in bed about his calculations in a forest metaphor. It was kind of cute, showed them being all sweet and connecting on a certain level, but I really felt like you wouldn’t have to dumb it down for Leslie that much. She is a smart lady, she loves her husband - she doesn’t need to be explained that he is in the woods, looking at the stars, feeling scared. He could simply tell her, “I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know where to go from here on this project.” It’s not hard.

I really enjoyed this story at first, the beginning line really reeled me in [“Suddenly it was June and there were strange towels in the house”]. Then it quickly started to die down for me. It was written well but I gave up on Edison, his wife became annoying, and I began to dislike the character names the more I read them [I really felt like Paula Plum pushed my buttons].
The idea of the towels was nice. I really enjoyed how he used such a small detail to base an entire story around. I also enjoyed that the story was written in such a slow, hazy way. I really think that Carlson did a good job of making the reader feel like they were inside Edison’s head, feeling his detachment from the group, his muddled perception of what the summer was about.

If you want to read a quick little story that will make you happy that summer is here, read Towel Season. If you want to read something that is going to make you want to rip your hair out – The Dark Tower. No, I’m just kidding, but seriously: that MUST be finished this weekend.

Anyway, on to reading!


A Complaint Towards Stephen King

I can’t even begin to explain how hard it is for me to get through The Dark Tower by Stephen King. I mean, I literally powered through all SIX of the other books in no time. It was to the point where I was sitting at the door waiting for the mail man to show up and give me the next book (because, unlike most people, I decided I would order them all individually online - instead of being smart and just going to a store and buying all seven at once…). 

So here I am, an entire YEAR later, and I still can not get through the last of the seven books. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it – pulled weeds, cleaned house, watched mindless television shows... and I still can not bring myself to finish it.

Am I worried that I won’t know what to do with myself once Roland of Gilead finishes his quest for the Dark Tower? Not really.
Am I sick of reading about all of the same characters? Not really.
Am I upset because everyone seems to be getting killed off? Maybe a little.
Am I irritated with the turn of events that Stephen King has presented? Definitely.

Ok, if you haven’t read this book, and really want to at some point, there are going to be mini-spoilers. So, lookout.

The “plot twist” that has made me sort of go “Mmmm not so sure how I feel about these books anymore” is the fact that Stephen King has written himself into the books.
Now, I know for some people this was probably a totally BRILLIANT moment, but for me it was a mood killer. I’m not sure if I feel like King is patting himself on the back, showing how awesome he is that he can be a character in one of his own books, or what. I just know that it bugs me.
And the fact that all existence is dependent upon Stephen King. I mean really? If he doesn’t write these books the tower will collapse and all of the worlds will fall too. It’s very hard for me to buy into that (even for a science fiction series).
It also bugs me that he keeps referring to all of his other works. I know you’ve been obsessed with the Tower since you were nineteen buddy, but I just don’t understand why you had to write yourself into the book as a main character. Like, as an integral part to the existence of all humanity.

Maybe I am just not “getting it” like everyone else.
I will definitely finish this though. I can’t go six and a half books into a seven book series (soon to be eight book series) and then just quit.
Wish me luck on getting through this.
On to reading!


A is for Adultery.

After yet another random hiatus due to driving - I am back to el blog.
I have been away from blogging – but not away from reading, so that’s a plus. Basically I cruised through The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne like it was no big deal and that made me a very happy little camper. I’ve always wanted to read this book. I’m pretty sure 95% of American High School kids have read this book and I, for some reason, was not one of them. I always thought that was super lame – so one day I bought the novel, and then put it on my bookshelf, and there it sat. And sat. And sat. 

So Vwalla! I have read it. Go me! Take THAT random high schoolers, I am just as cool as you!

I have to say I really did like this book. I can’t be sure that I would have loved it when I was sixteen, but now that I have a stronger appreciation for literature, I can see why this has always been regarded as a classic.
Basically – for anyone else who may not have read it – the story is set in Puritan times. There is a lady – Hester Prynne – who is convicted of adultery (her husband has been in England for two years, and the story opens with her holding a brand new baby… so, unless the gestation period in the 1600s was longer than 9 months, it doesn’t add up). She is forced to wear a large scarlet “A” on her chest, and she refuses to name her lover.
On the day of her sentencing, while standing on a giant scaffold for three hours, with the towns people staring at her and the scarlet letter she is forced to wear, a traveling man comes along and sees her up there.
The traveling man turns out to be her husband and he forces her to swear she won’t tell the townspeople who he is because he is going to come up with a new identity and act as a physician. He also says he is going to find out who the man is that helped her commit her crime.
Hester devotes herself to being a pious woman, sewing to make money for herself and her daughter, Pearl. The “physician” Chillingworth (aka husband) latches on to the town’s minister, whose health is failing rapidly due to a mysterious ailment.

This book is labeled as a romance, and I guess it sort of is, but most of the book lacks in the romance factor. It is mostly just about Hester raising her crazy daughter and always feeling very guilty because of the scarlet letter that she must bear on her chest. There is only a little section of romance, and then tragedy, and then the story ends.

Mostly it’s a very lonely book.  

So, sadly, I also missed Short Story Saturday. Dang. And I was so excited to have started something new! Oh well, Saturday will be here again before we know it. So look forward to that, and until then, on to reading!