The books listed below are those I read for last week’s Read-a-Thon. I planned not to write a review for each, because I don’t really have time to play catch-up on 8 book reviews, particularly with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting in two days. I did want to get some thoughts and a “rating” down for all of them, though.
2. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck 5 out of 5
—While I did not enjoy this one quite as much as The Pearl, it is still incredible. The Red Pony is actually a tightly woven collection of four short stories about the same young boy and his family. Steinbeck is one of America’s greatest storytellers, and I’m reminded anew of just how brilliant he is every time I pick up and read something by him. The way he recreates rural and poverty-stricken American life goes beyond genuine accuracy – it is perfection. The emotions he evokes, the nationalism (not patriotism) he inspires, and the history he harkens back to — I am never disappointed. The story of Jody, his parents, and their farm hand is the story of every American boy and his wide-eyed American dreams.
3. The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain 4 out of 5
—Absolutely hilarious. I almost don’t know what else to say about this book. It is simple but imaginative. Hilarious but poignant. The book is a reimagining of the Creation, through the diaries of Adam and Eve. The reader first sees the world’s creation and the discovery of all life and things, including Eve, through Adam’s eyes. The diary entries are typically “male” – not much concern for anything but hunting and gratification (“What is this annoying thing that talks, talks, talks, and gets wet in the eyes when I ignore it?”). Then, the reader sees the same events and things through Eve’s eyes, which is wholly “feminine” – the pretty lights in the sky that one could reach if they only just climbed a bit higher in their tree, the moon that someone steals each morning and brings back each night, the animal friends and the new babies to love and nurture (which Adam believes must be another species – perhaps bear? Perhaps kangaroo?). Not my favorite Twain, as it is a bit simple, but it is still classic Twain – witty, cynical, holier-than-thou.
4. The Cat Inside by William S. Burroughs 3 out of 5
—For those not familiar with William S. Burroughs – he was the “godfather” to the American Beat generation. He did a lot of drugs, had sex with a lot of boys, and shot his wife when trying to aim at an apple on her head. He was a strange, twisted, brilliant man who had a bizarre love for cats. He worshipped them in a way near to the adoration given cats by the ancient Egyptians. Burroughs believed cats were the ultimate species and he allowed them to run rampant on his ranch, feeding them, playing with them, forcing friends to care for them when he had to be away. This book is a sort of collection of diary entries about his life with cats. It certainly tells of Burroughs and there are many “Burroughs-esque” elements to it but, overall, it’s probably one which could be skipped. Unless, maybe, you’re a bizarre cat lover.
5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 3.5 out of 5
—The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, and definitely my least favorite. I enjoyed certain aspects of the book – such as the inside-look at District 13 and how it is managed, not to mention the way it must readjust to the influx of new residents, as people from the other Districts flee their homes. I also appreciated that this book took place in the “real world,” outside the games – and was not just all about the champions (although, largely, it was). I was disappointed in the ending, though – it felt haphazardly constructed and unfulfilling. Too much time was spent inside District 13, doing not much at all (even the group’s attempts at rescuing the captured champions in the Capitol is left to the imagination) – too much politics, too much angst, and too quickly resolved sub-plots. The finale was predictable (though a bit welcome) and the fate of one of Katniss’s love-interests (and that relationship) was sadly, sadly deconstructed, as if Collins just got sick of having Katniss so indecisive so made up her mind for her. It was an okay book, but not a great conclusion to an otherwise interesting series.
6, 7, & 8 The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides) by Aeschylus 4 out of 5
—I definitely enjoyed this trilogy more than I expected to, especially since I was reading it in the late, late hours of the read-a-thon (somewhere around hour 18). It is hard to rate these as separate plays, since the trio really only works together in total – but they are separate plays and were written and performed separately at times, until the collection was completed. All-in-all, I found Agamemnon to be the strongest of the set, but each of the three were interesting. The Eumenides, in particular, with its examination of morality and judgment, a new judicial system and the struggle between old and new gods (old and new belief systems, moral structures, punishment processes, etc) was fascinating to read, particularly as precursor to modern-day judicial systems (the presence of the first ‘jury of peers’ is here). Aeschylus and The Oresteia are definitely worth the read.
November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I will be writing my very first novel (at least 50,000 words) and would truly appreciate your sponsorship. All donations go to The Office of Letters and Light – a great charity working for a great cause! If you can spare even $5 (or more) – please Sponsor Me and help me stay energized to write my book and WIN NaNoWriMo!