Sights Unseen, by Kaye Gibbons

Cover ImageFinished 5-29-09, rating 3.5/4, fiction. pub. 1995

Both she and Mr. Barnes were of a time when properly raised Southerners equated informality of address with being common, with going to the door in stocking feet or talking about one’s gout at the table.  Because I did not yet know my mother well enough to assign an indisputable motive to her, I was unsure if her informality signaled welcome familiarity or disrespect.

Chapter 9

Hattie was conceived in the hope that she would provide her mother with something to do and bring her back to the land of the normal.  That did not happen and Hattie’s mother, Maggie, spent years hurting her family with her manic depression.  Hattie had their live-in cook/maid/nanny/ nursemaid, Pearl, to provide the  love and understanding that her mother could not.   This was 1960’s North Carolina and Maggie was eventually taken to Duke to be cured.  Hattie was hopeful that Maggie would come back whole and make up for the years she went without a mother. 

This is told in first person years into the future after Hattie is grown with her own children and the story is told with a child’s honesty and an adult’s perspective.  The story of her childhood is heartbreaking.  Not only her mother’s mother’s direct beahvior, but also the fact that Hattie and her brother never had a friend to their house because they never knew what their mother’s condition might be.  But this was offset by stories of Maggie’s high times when she would go on shopping sprees and keep her husband in the bedroom for days. 

It was not at all what I expected.  I expected a story, but this was more of a recollection of a difficult childhood, which I liked, but it was lacking something for me.  I wanted more.

It is a charming southern read that can be read in one sitting.

Awesome Awards!

I want to thank, Caspette at The Narative Causality for giving me this award.  She has a wonderful blog and you should check her out.  I was given the award because I comment on her blog more than some (and less than others).  So, I’m passing on this award to those friendly bloggers who are a fewof my top commenters…

 Kathy @ Bermudaonion’s Weblog, Margot @ Joyfully Retired, Staci @ Life in the Thumb


I also want to thank Harvee at Book Bird Dog (who also has a wonderful blog) for this wonderful award.  Here’s the description…

The Literary Blogger Award acknowledges bloggers who energize and inspire reading by going the extra mile! These amazing bloggers make reading fun, and enhance the delight of reading!

The rules: 1) Put the logo on your blog/post. 2) Nominate up to 9 blogs. 3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post. 4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. 5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.    My picks for this award are…

Jo-Jo @Jo-Jo Loves to Read, the Bumbles Blog, Mary @ Bookfan-Mary

So, if you are not familiar with these bloggers you should take a look.  I bet you’ll love them as much as I do!

Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Cover ImageFinished 5-28-09, rating 4.5, fiction, pub. 2003

A lot of people in my own country knew me as a face on a wanted poster.  But is it my own country, I asked myself.  Do I have a country?

It wasn’t until I’d asked myself the question that I realised I already had the answer.  If I did have a country, a nation of the heart, it was India.  I knew that I was as much a refugee, a displaced and stateless person, as the thousands of Afghans, Iranians, and others who’d come to Bombay across the burning bridge; those exiles who’d taken shovels of hope, and set about burying the past in the earth of their own lives.

Chapter 14

This novel is a beautiful, honest, and lyrical love letter to India.  I think before I try to describe the novel I’ll give you some stats about the author.  Roberts is an Australian who became a heroin addict, went to prison, escaped from the Australian prison after two years and made his way to Bombay.  In India he lived in the slums, opened a medical clinic, was imprisoned, worked for the Bombay mafia, and went to Afghanistan to provide weapons during their war with the Soviet Union.  Okay.  Now take all of that information and apply it to Lin, the man telling the story of Shantaram, and you have the basics for the book.  Roberts knows what he speaks.

When Lin arrives in Bombay he is immediately taken in by a guide with a huge smile and even larger heart, Prabaker, a small Indian who gives Lin his name,  Linbaba.  The two men become the best of friends and Parabaker even takes Lin home to his small village where his parents live, where he given the name, Shantaram, which means man of peace.  Once back in Bombay Lin takes up residence in one of the largest slums and with only a basic first aid kit opens up a clinic for the tens of thousands of the slums.  He finds ways to make money on the street before he is eventually befriended by Khader Khan, the don of the Bombay mafia.  Lin begins to look at this man as a father fiigure. 

Even as I’m writing this I know that I cannot really tell you even half of this story.  It’s sheer size, 933 pages, forces me to just give you a few of my thoughts.  I was blown away by the description of India and its people.  Also, he does travel to Afghanistan and its history provides much insight into what is happening there today.  I also loved the writing.  Roberts knows how to tell a story and to tell it well.  The introspection of Lin (and Roberts) will start many a conversation and cause much reflection. 

It is almost a perfect book.  I did feel that the last few hundred pages lost a little of the intensity of the rest of the book, but I’m sure that was probably intended.  Also, Lin felt like a very self-important character.  I don’t think this takes away from the enjoyment of the novel, but it did make me read his story with some question about his genuineness.

I recommend this book to everyone.  It has adventure, crime, love, powerful men, war, hugging bears, and people who will touch your heart.  Set aside some time and read it.  Johnny Depp has purchased the rights to the movie and plans on playing Lin (yum!).  This is one of my husband’s favorite books (maybe the very favorite?) and he was hooked from the first line, so I will end this review with the first two lines of the book…

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.  I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them.

Shantaram Quotes

Cover Image

I’ll be reviewing this book tomorrow, but in its 900+ pages there were so many wonderful passages I wanted to share some of them.  Hopefully these will give you a taste of the book and you’ll come back tomorrow for my review.

“When we’re young, we think that suffering is something that’s done to us.  When we get older – when the steel door slams shut, in one way or another – we know that real suffering is measured by what’s taken away from us.”   Chapter 14

The only victory that really counts in prison, an old-timer in the Australian jail once said to me, is survival.  But survival means more than simply being alive.  It’s not just the body that must survive a jail term: the spirit and the will and the heart have to make it through as well.  If any one of them is broken or destroyed , the man whose living body walks through the gate, at the end of his sentence, can’t be said to have survived it.  And it’s for those small victories of the heart, and the spirit, and the will that we sometimes risk the body that cradles them.  Chapter 20

“Lin, a man has to find a good woman, and when he finds her he has to win her love.  Then he has to earn her respect.  Then he has to cherish her trust.  And then he has to, like, go on doing that for as long as they live.  Until they both die.  That’s what it’s all about.  That’s the most important thing in the world.  That’s what a man is, yaar.”  Chapter 29

Lettie had once said that she found it strange and incongruous to hear me describe criminals, killers, and mafiosi as men of honour.  The confusion, I think, was hers, not mine.  She’d confused honour with virtue.  Virtue is concerned with what we do, and honour is concerned with how we do it.  You can fight a war in an honourable way – the Geneva Convention exists for that very reason – and you can enforce the peace without any honour at all.  In its essence, honour is the  art of being humble.  And gangsters, just like cops, politicians, soldiers, and holy men, are only ever good at what they do if they stay humble.     Chapter 39

Wicked Prey, by John Sandford

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #19) by Sandford Sandford: Book CoverFinished 5-26-09, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2009

This is book 19 in the Prey series with Lucas Davenport

“Never done anything to us,” Juliet said, doubtfully.

“Davenport did this to me,” Whitcomb said, whacking his inert legs.  “Set it up.  Started it all.”

“The girl didn’t…”

“Davenport set me up,” Whitcomb said.  He watched the girl disappear into the house.  “I’m gonna get him back.  No fun just shootin’ him.  I want to do him good, and I want him to know what I done, and who done it.”

Chapter 1

 Lucas is back and the 2008 Republican Convention has come to St. Paul.  The police are out in full force trying to keep the politicians and the protesters from hurting each other.  There is a gang of thieves that followed the money to the convention and are planning to rip off these men and women for millions of dollars.  There is also an old nemesis of Lucas that is stalking his teen daughter, Lettie.   

Lucas is still working for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and his old friends are all back to help him when he is charged with finding the gang before anyone else dies.  Lettie is front and center in this book and gets into quite a bit of trouble for a 14 year old.  Instead of telling her dad about the stalker she decides to handle it herself, in part by befriending a hooker. 

The many storylines of this book keep it moving at a fast pace.  This fast pace also takes some of the focus from Lucas and I was disappointed in that.  Lucas is one of my favorite characters and I want him front and center!  I think that by giving Lettie more time and showing us what kind of messes she gets herself into, we can look forward to more from this precocious teen. 

I liked this latest installment, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  I wanted more Lucas.  Also, the storyline involving Lettie did seem a bit much for a 14 year old girl on her bike.  But the suspense was good.  The detective work was good. And I will pick up the next installment next May as soon as it comes out.

A note about the language…This is a police novel with many degenerates.  The conversations do have lots of course language.  If you can’t get past it, these are not the books for you.

After some thought I have to say that while you don’t have to read these in order, you would enjoy them more if you at least tried.  The first one in the series is Rules of Prey.  Also here is a link to Sandford’s website which lists them all in order for you.  I love this series and recommend it if you like gritty detective novels.

Teaser Tuesday – Wicked Prey

teasertuesdays31Teaser Tuesdaysis a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Republican convention is starting, and the people who run the party down at the street level are here, as delegates and spectators.  So these big lobby guys come in with suitcases full of cash, and pass it out, expense money.  Everybody knows about it, nobody tells.  Can’t tell, cause it’s illegal.

Wicked Prey by John Sandford, chapter 1

Wicked Prey (Lucas Davenport Series #19) by Sandford Sandford: Book Cover

This is the latest Lucas Davenport thriller, number 19.  Oh, and although this teaser is about Republicans, it is an equal opportunity book, also calling out the Democrats.

So, what are you reading this week?

Southern Reading Challenge

Maggie is hosting this challenge for the third time, although I’m a first-timer.

I have from May 15th (I’m late, of course!) to August 15th to read three books set in the south.  I’ve always lived up north, but am charmed by the stories set  in the south, so I’ve looked at my shelves and chosen three that fit the challenge.  I suppose I could change my choices later, but I’m starting with these…

Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons – set in North Carolina

Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt – set in Savannah

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt – set in Mississippi

Now all I have to do is get reading!

Yesterday I Saw the Sun, by Ally Sheedy

Yesterday I Saw the Sun: Poems by Ally SheedyFinished 5-22-09, rating 3/5, poetry, pub. 1991

Yesterday I saw the sun.  Something in my head had cleared

And I realized there was one.

And I stopped in its Light

From somewhere in the bushes I was hearing heaving sight

And realizing they came from me

I took a breath

and closed my eyes.

I breathed in the River

Breathed the trees

Breathed all around the sky

and in the wind I breathed my God

Who had not let me die.

from the poem There’s Been a Slight Mistake- Rehab 3 a.m.

I grew up watching The Breakfast Club more times than I could possibly count, so I guess you could say I am an Ally Sheedy fan.  And I found this used autographed hardcover at a bookstore and had to have it.  I love autographed books even if I’m not a huge poetry fan.  I don’t know why I feel the need to explain why I have the book.  But moving on…

This is Sheedy’s second book of poetry (her first was She Was Nice To Mice published when she was 12) and it pulls no punches in its honesty.  The topics range from bulimia, addiction, abuse, to abortion.  The writing is raw and it reaches out and grabs you, makes you pay attention.  I didn’t love them all, but most really did touch a nerve and I think could touch many teens today with such an honest look at growing up and its pitfalls.

If you are a frequent poetry reader, this may not be the book for you.  Do you remember the poetry you wrote in high school?  This is it.  I believe her own words describe this book better that I can.

I hate profound poems and

complicated imagery.

Everything about me is quick and salty and easily digested.

Very simple.

from the poem  Junk Food.  Or I Am Not A Corn Chip

If you are a fan, pick it up.  If you have a teen or young adult with a few of these issues they may get something from this book.

Smart Women, by Judy Blume

Smart Women by Blume Blume: Book CoverFinished 5-19-09, rating 3.5, fiction, pub. 1983

He grabbed her roughly, forcing her to face him.  “I’ve spent six years paying for what may or may not have benn my fault.  I’ll never get over it completely.  But I’ve learned to deal with it… with my guilt… with your hate… with losing Bobby… and then you, taking Sara away.  Six years is enough.”

“Enough for you,” she said.

“Enough for any of us,” he said softly.

Chapter 6

B.B. and Margot are casual friends who have a lot in common.  They both escaped to Boulder, Colorado, after their divorces and both have impressionable young daughters.  B.B. has Sara, a serious preteen who bears the brunt of her mother’s anger.  Michelle, Margot’s daughter, is a 17 year old who is full of anger at her mother and is not afraid to show it.  These four share time telling the story.

B.B. is a successful realtor with her head in the sand.  She lost her 10 year old son in car accident with her then husband, Andrew, driving.  She is incensed that Andrew now wants to move to Boulder to be closer to Sara and she asks Margot to keep an eye on him when he moves next door to her.  Margot, who has had a string of boyfriends, meets the sexy Andrew and tries not to fan the flames between them.  Andrew for his part has no problem pursuing Margot and it sends B.B. over the edge.

I found the story readable and compelling and I don’t know why.  These ‘smart women’ all had problems.  B.B. was a cold, unforgivable shrew.  Margot cared more about her next boyfriend and sex life than her two kids.  Michelle is the awful teen cliche and may have been the only one to show any real growth from beginning to end.  And poor Sara bore the brunt of her mother’s verbal abuse and was the only sympathetic character in the whole bunch.  But, maybe it was their extreme flaws that made them so recognizable  and therefore the story compelling.

At its best it is about what makes a family and the blending that takes place with divorced parents.  At its worst it is a shallow soap opera.  I’m torn as to which side it falls closer to.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Hardy Hardy: Book CoverFinished audio 5-18-09, rating 4/5, fiction classic, pub. 1891

Tess Derbyfield is living with her impoverished family in southwestern England in the 1800’s when her family finds out they are related to an old and noble line, the d’Urbervilles.  Her parents are eager to claim kinship to the closest d’Urberville they know and send the beautiful Tess to make an introduction as family.  Once there Tess is seduced by the cad Alec d’Urberville and becomes pregnant.  She races back home and gives birth to a son she names Sorrow.

After the death of Sorrow Tess must find work to support herself and her family and she finds work at a dairy farm.  It is at the farm that she meets Angel Clare, who comes from a respected religious family.  The sparks fly and Tess is confronted with the choice of telling Angel about the baby or letting him continue to believe that she is a virgin.  Her mother tells her to keep the secret and Tess tries, but she is at heart an honest soul.

Tess was pure of faith and heart, but she was so mistreated by everyone she came in contact with, her family included, that she lost that innocence.  She is the shining example of the hypocrisy of the day.  Women had so few options and I applauded her effort to remain virtuous of spirit.  She is a tragic figure that represents Victorian era.

This classic is a love story that runs the gamut of emotions.  I knew nothing of this book when I checked the cds out of the library (14.5 hours unabridged) and loved the language and tone of  the book.  I was also shocked by many of the things that happened.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you here, but let me say that I am happy to be living in 2009 and not in the 1800’s, especially not as a poor girl with a sad family. 

It is not perfect, but the things that bothered me most were aspects of the time period, not the writing or the story itself.  I recommend this tragedy as one that will touch your heart.