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Showing posts from February, 2008

Shelfari--a PSA

About a year ago, I was introduced to a website called Shelfari.com. What you can do is use the site to track the books you’ve read, what you’re reading, and what you want to read. I think it’s ingenious—you have everything at your fingertips, where you can give ratings and reviews to books and see titles and their covers lined up on your “shelf.” You can also use the site to see what other people are reading and get recommendations. As someone who reads voraciously, that tool has become invaluable to me, since I go through books the way someone with a cold goes through Kleenex.

I stopped using the site after a while and only picked back up on it a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been going to Shelfari religiously. It’s become like Blogger or Gmail or the media websites I visit several—ie, numerous—times a day.

I recently learned that Lauren Weisberger, author of the famed The Devil Wears Prada, is coming out with a new book. I loved Devil, but I hated her second book (as did a lot of p…

Review: The Sunne in Splendour, Sharon Kay Penman

The Sunne in Splendour tells the complicated story of Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet Kings. Younger brother of Edward IV, Richard would never have become king if not for a series of political maneuverings on his part. History (and Shakespeare) have made Richard out to be an evil, greedy hunchback; Sharon Kay Penman tells the story of a man who was fiercely loyal to the people he loved and who was reluctant to take the throne. Richard had his faults, to be sure; but in this novel, he comes off as extremely sympathetic.

Penman has a writing style that literally had me hooked from the first sentence. A trite cliché, I know, but I was definitely drawn in from the first page. I knew in advance of reading the story what the outcome would be, but still I kept on reading to see what would happen. The novel is fiction based on fact that sometimes seems like fiction.

The characters are well drawn; and while the book is ostensibly about Richard, we get to see the story as seen through th…

Review--Maynard and Jennica, Rudolph Delson

Maynard and Jennica is the story of Maynard Gogarty, a man in his late thirties who makes documentaries, and Jennica Green, a twenty-something woman from California who says "like" a lot. They meet by chance one swelteringly hot August morning on a New York City suway train, and later enter into a relationship. The story has multiple narrators, including dead people, animals, and inanimate objects. It isn't difficult to tell which voice is which, though, which makes for a highly enjoyable read.

The first part of the book takes place during the summer of 2000 and the winter of 2001. The second half of the book takes a completely different turn when the treagedy of 9/11 occurs, and while it has a major effect on the rest of the United States, it has a subtle effect on Maynard and Jennica's relationship. It's fun because my neighborhood is mentioned in the novel. And Delson doesn't drag down the plot in the second half of the book with too much wistful thinking o…

Review--Heyday, by Kurt Andersen

Heyday follows the story of four young Americans during the tumultuous years of 1848-9. The novel opens in Paris in February 1948, when the aristocratic Englishman Ben Knowles witnesses an uprising. Eventually, he escapes to the United States, where he quickly befriends Polly and Duff Lucking, and Timothy Skaggs. They’re each of them unique, quirky characters, and I enjoyed reading about them as they make a transcontinental voyage to California followed by a Frenchman in search of vengeance. It’s a journey that’s at once exciting and full of danger.

I had mixed feelings about Heyday. I’ve been reading reviews about the book on Amazon.com, and my grumblings about the novel are pretty much the same as theirs are. The four main characters become involved—accidentally or no—with nearly every moment of historical significance in 1848 and -9. However, despite all the change that surrounds them, Ben, Polly, Duff, and Skaggs don’t really seem to change that much themselves. I like to see chara…

Review--A Pickpocket's Tale, Timothy Gilfoyle

A Pickpocket's Tale is a close, intimate look inside of New York's underworld in the nineteenth century. Ostensibly about one criminal, the half Chinese, half Irish George Appo, the book is more a sociological work about the institutions of crime and punishment as they existed then. Born in poverty in 1856 (or -8), Appo began as a newspaper boy, then graduated to the career of pickpocket. He served time in all kinds of detention centers, from Sing Sing to Eastern State Pen in Philadelphia, to a stint on Blackwell's (now Roosevelt) Island, to a short period in the Matteawan Hospital.

The book gives its reader an in-depth look at everything from street crime in the Five Points district up to Appo's short-lived careers in acting and law enforcement. Appo was an obscure figure who was given a one-sentence mention in Herbert Asbury's The Gangs of New York, but Appo really was an archetype of his time and situation. What was amazing to me was that, even though he was near…