**** 1/2
Very good
**** 1/2
Just okay
Not for me
Definitely not for me

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Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (book and film)

disgrace-coetzee Winner, 1999 Booker Prize

Disgrace caught me by surprise. I didn't like the main character; I didn't like the events that happened in the book; but yet, as I turned the last page, I realized it was flat out brilliantly written. It definitely deserves its place on the shortlist for Best of the Bookers.

Before reading it, all I really knew about it was that a professor had an affair with a student. As it turns out, that's only a minor point. The book has several issues: men's subjugation of women, South Africa after apartheid, and animal rights. How Coetzee could say so much in just a little over 200 pages is amazing. There are several parallel stories going on. I want to say so much about it, but to do so would be to give away everything. I'm glad I was ignorant going into this novel, so I won't say much except that it will definitely get a re-read from me someday and preferably in a group setting. There would be many, many things to discuss.


(1999, 220 pp.)

As to the film, I thought it followed the book almost exactly. It was produced by Australians but I believe most of the outdoor shots at least were filmed in South Africa; the scenery was beautiful. John Malkovich played David Lurie exceptionally. My only small quibble is that his South African accent went in and out some. I thought the actress who played Lucy was also excellent. I highly recommend this movie IF you have read the book. You probably wouldn't appreciate it as much or at all if you haven't.

Film grade: A

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

catchingfirebn It was fun to read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire back-to-back for the read-a-thon. I'm glad I didn't have a long wait between the first two books of the trilogy, but obviously I'll have a longer wait for the third book to come out. The bad part is, the cliffhanger between 2 and 3 is quite a bit greater than from 1 to 2 in my opinion. I do look forward to reading the next book.

I liked this sequel about the same as the first book and both books received a rating of 4 stars. As I said in my post about The Hunger Games , though, I still feel there are some better written young adult dystopian books out there. However, this series, though a bit dark and violent, will definitely keep you going until the very last page.

2009, 391 pp.


Disclosure: I received this book from a promotional company (but after I had already purchased The Hunger Games ).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

hungergames I read this book for the read-a-thon, and I must say it was an excellent choice as it was quite a page turner. This book is taking the internet by storm, and while I did enjoy it, I didn't quite love the book.

I'm not going to go through the plot as quite a few people have read it, or if they haven't, there are plenty of sources to find that information. I will say that the plot was, in my view, the best part of the book. As I said above, it's quite a page turner, but although I didn't think the writing was bad per se, I didn't feel it was up to par with The Giver by Lois Lowry or The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. The romance angle in the book irritated me a bit. I understand to a degree why it was necessary to the plot, but I thought it could have been a little more well done. Another minor irritation was the naming of the characters in the book. I suppose it was done on purpose, but I felt it distracted me from the story every time I came upon a strange name. I've never really noticed it in books like Lord of the Rings , etc., but in this book the names just seemed a bit silly.

Even with all that said, I did like the book quite a bit and plan on reading the entire trilogy. I hate to be too negative when I actually enjoyed it, but since it's received so many rave reviews, I just thought I'd explain why my rating was a little lower.

2008, 374 pp.


Disclosure: I purchased this book for my personal library.

The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne

lastbridge Cat,
He isn't who you think he is.
Mom xxxooo

When Cat returns home after a 10 year absence because of her mother's suicide, this is the note she finds. There are several possible 'he's' in Cat's life that this note could refer to, so we are kept guessing until near the end who her mother means. As she stays for her mother's funeral, several ghosts from her past come back to haunt her. Domestic violence and alcoholism are prominent themes in the book.

I didn't really care for this one. There seemed to me to be some plot holes in the story, or at least some unexplained events. For instance, Cat had an extremely happy childhood until age 5 or 6, but we are never told why at age 7 everything changed. She remembers her parents as loving before that time, but definitely not afterwards. Also, I had a hard time believing that the older Jared was so beloved by both of Cat's parents. The circumstances between he and the rest of the family didn't seem to warrant this. I just didn't understand it. I also wanted to feel more sorry for Cat than I did, and normally I would for a character that has suffered such tragic events. I wonder if I would have felt more sympathy for Cat if the book had been written in 3rd person instead of 1st. Her voice seemed to 'tell and not 'show' throughout the book. Third person narration may have been able to correct this. For instance, although I know alcoholism was one of the themes of the book, it just got irritating to hear something to the effect of "I need a drink' on every other page when 3rd person narration could have shown her alcoholic side a little better. These are just my own thoughts, though. Several people on librarything and Amazon have loved the book, so be sure to check out their reviews for a balanced opinion.

2009, 225 pp.


The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman won the Newbery Medal in 1996. I listened to this one on audio, and the narrator did a fantastic job.

'Beetle' is an orphan girl who is a midwife's apprentice . All the difficult aspects of being poor in Medieval times are aptly described in the story. There is hard work with very little benefit for Beetle, but yet she knows she is lucky to have her job. She learns midwifery from the very difficult Jane but thankfully doesn't pick up Jane's more callous traits. There are some very graphic birth scenes. I didn't mind it as an adult who has had two children myself, but it may be a bit too much for very young kids. There are also some s*xual connotations in the book that were, to be fair, probably typical for the time period and setting.

One of the best things about this book is that Beetle (who later names herself more appropriately) finds her own inner strength and discovers what it is she wants out of life that is within her means. I really appreciated the book in that regard.

I guess there has been some controversy surrounding the book due to its more graphic content, but I think it is appropriate for 12 and up. I would encourage parents of younger children to read it first if unsure.

1995, 122 pp.

The Devil and Miss Prym

Most people either love Paulo Coelho's writing or absolutely hate it. I haven't seen many who have straddled the fence on this author. I'm in the former category, though I know quite a few people who don't care for him at all. While some believe his writing is too simplistic, I, on the other hand, sometimes crave simplicity! I do quite a bit of heavy reading (though not recently), and it's nice sometimes to curl up with one of Coelho's books and know that I will probably read it in one sitting. I also believe his 'simple' books have a much deeper meaning to them, and this story is also indicative of that.

One day a stranger comes to Viscos, an idyllic mountain town. The stranger has a plan to tempt the villagers with some gold. They only have to do one thing to get the gold, but that act is contrary to the basic character of the town's residents. There hasn't been any trouble in the village for years, and when Miss Prym, the local barmaid, is told of the plan, she is confident the villagers will be able to withstand the temptation.

The story raises the question of whether humans are generally good or generally evil, and also why God, if there is one, would allow evil things to happen to good people.

Highly recommended.

2000, 205 pp.
Rating: 4.5/5

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