Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"I Just Want You to Know" by Kate Gosselin

I'll confess, when Jon and Kate Plus Eight was a new show in TLC, I loved it and watched religiously.   I'm not a Kate Gosselin fan by any means, but I did enjoy watching the kids.  The last time I was at the dollar store browsing the reject shelves I came across this one and picked it up.  I don't read too many biographical type books, maybe that's why it intrigued me.  It's a collection of stories on raising the twins and sextuplets, with personal letters from Kate to each of the kids sprinkled in between chapters.  It was a book that I kept mentally editing for clarity.

I know Kate gets a lot of flack in the media.  I don't watch DWTS but I heard she was often rude to her professional dancing partner.  Anyone who has watched her shows knows she has a short fuse and high expectations of everyone around her.  BUT, I really believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.  It wasn't like she woke up one morning and decided to raise eight children 4 years old and under and get divorced while it was all on television.  No, she didn't make the best decisions.  And she's making the best with what she's got and with who she is.  Yes, I think those kids are going to be pretty confused adults.  But I wish people would stop attacking people in the public eye, because she's not trying to harm anyone, she just makes mistakes while doing her best.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"City of Lost Souls" by Cassandra Claire

I've mentioned this before, but the Mortal Instruments series is my dirty little secret.  It's not great literature (the editor in me kept re-writing passages in my head as I read the book).  But I'm certainly guaranteed to be entertained by the story.  I don't shout out the the world that I'm an MI fan, but when I meet a fellow book worm I always ask if they've read these books.  I'd compare it to some television shows on TV that are wildly popular but would make you blush if you watched an episode with your parents.  I think they're a tad too mature for YA, then again, I know there are much racier YA books than Mortal Instruments out there.

That being said, when I found out a couple months ago that the fifth book of the MI series would be released May 8, I rushed to and pre-ordered my book.  I couldn't help myself.  When it arrived on my doorstep on May 10, I began squeezing in some of the 500-plus pages.  I managed to stretch it out over eight days and none of my children went hungry in those eight days, which I call a win-win.  I only goal was to finish it by Monday because a friend is coming to visit and I told her I'd be done with it then so she could borrow it.

I really need to read all five books in succession, because often when reading the newest one there is a reference that leaves me in the dust. Some books provide some back story to previous volumes in the series but Claire does not provide those.  Which may be good, or else the books would be 600 pages or more.

I won't say the book was a must read, but I wasn't disappointed in it, either.  Claire has been very consistent with the MI series and that's good enough for me.  I like Twilight, but the vampires and werewolves in MI are in a completely different category.  There are also demons and warlocks and Shadowhunters and magic.  And a lot of blood.  My favorite word I've learned from the MI series is 'ichor'.

So, that's what Amy's been reading.  My upcoming book club book is "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley.  I put my Newbery "Gay-Neck" book on hold while I was preparing to host "The Good Earth."  I'm struggling with the Newbery books, which surprised me. But what was considered the best children's literature nearly 100 years ago just doesn't keep up with the stuff I read when I was growing up.  I think I need to start getting the Newbery's on CD so I can listen to them while I do stuff around the house, or else I'll never finish this goal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

I finished this a few weeks ago, and I'm surprised I forgot to write about this book because I loved it.  I had read it before in high school, I believe.  It had been several months since I had hosted book club so I volunteered and selected The Good Earth.

The story follows the life of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer living near the Yangtze River.  The story begins at the nineteenth century draws to a close.  Wang Lung lives alone with his father and scrapes by the best he can working the land.  He loves the land.

In the first chapter Wang Lung is preparing to meet O-lan, the slave of wealthy land owners in the village, whom his father had paid for to be his son's bride.  She comes home with him and they work the land together. She bears children and they become more prosperous.  Then a drought comes and they are starving and destitute. They even kill Wang Lung's beloved ox for food.  On the brink of death Wang Lung decides to take his family south, where it is rumored that there is abundant food.  O-lan sells their furniture and they later buy tickets for the train that takes them to a new city.  O-lan and the three children survive day-to-day by begging off the wealthy passersby while Wang Lung pulls rickshaws.

At this time China is in the middle of a revolution, and the wealthy are forced to leave the city.  A house of a rich family is raided by the poverty-stricken and Wang Lung and O-lan obtain enough money to go home and begin farming.  Wang Lung is able to buy more land and becomes quite prosperous, hiring men to labor over his land for him.  Even when flood ruins all the neighboring farms, Wang Lung is prepared and able to feed his family and continue to gain riches.

A well-to-do man who cannot work the land for the floods becomes an idle man, and soon Wang Lung finds himself in the company of a woman named Lotus Blossom who works in a brothel.  He brings her home as his concubine.

With time Wang Lung becomes so wealthy he purchases all the land of the great, wealthy family from which his father purchased O-lan, and the house the family had vacated during bad times.  But he missed the land, and his sons prefer wealth to land.

This is one of my favorite stories.  The cultural differences force one to think beyond the realm of experience to discover the human similarities shared with Buck's characters.

For the book club meeting I prepared some orange chicken and white rice, red-dyed hard-boiled eggs and some fortune cookies from the store.  My brother-in-law served a Mandarin speaking LDS mission in California and I borrowed some knick-knacks to adorn the table.  I wish I had thought to bring my camera, because I impressed myself with the display.