Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “book review”

Katie’s #26 #CBR4 Review: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley is not a book I would have picked up on my own for fear it would be too dark.  However, I’ve been enjoying doing group reads a lot and this was the next book for the Constant Reader Group on Goodreads.  The book tells the story of Ripley, a man sent to Europe to talk an acquaintance into returning to the United States.  Instead, he begins desperately wishing he has his acquaintance’s life and even murder won’t prevent our amoral protagonist from achieving his goals.  I’m sure you can see why I was worried about it being too dark!

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Katie’s #24 Review #CBR4: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth is a “novel of manners” or a novel which focuses on social customs, often the customs surrounding marriage (think Jane Austen, for example).    This particular novel focuses on high society in New York during the early 1900′s, a setting very familiar to the author, and was intended to highlight what she saw as the complete lack of anything worthwhile in that society.  However, as the forward to my version pointed out, what still draws people to this book today is mostly the character of Lily Bart.  Throughout the book we follow Lily’s attempts to marry for money, culminating in her fall from society when she is accused of being a man’s mistress.

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Katie’s #23 Review #CBR4 Review: Tycho and Kepler by Kitty Ferguson

Tycho and Kepler is a detailed biography of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, covering both their personal lives and their scientific careers.  It’s arranged in chronological order, smoothly transitioning between the two scientists.  I liked this format a lot because it made it so easy to see how their lives related to one another.  There was actually quite a lot of personal drama, although it was mostly presented an impersonal manner – enough so that I really want to read some historical fiction now to get a “first-person” perspective on this fascinating time period!

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Katie’s #22 #CBR4 Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I’ve wanted to read the Uglies quartet for years, ever since they showed up on my little sister’s shelves.  The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic society where all of humanity is gathered into a few independent cities.  In every city, when citizens reach their 16th birthday they undergo a surgery to change them from “uglies” into super-model gorgeous “pretties”.  There is, of course, a catch.  Both the catch and most of the other plot points were quite predictable, although the motivations of those in charge surprised me;  I just don’t feel like they got enough out of it.  But the idea was novel and I appreciated that.  The world was also very well developed and the details of the procedure by which people became pretty were fleshed out enough to make it very believable.

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Katie’s #21 #CBR4 Review: Cultivating an Ecological Conscience by Frederick Kirschenmann

Farmer-philosopher Frederick Kirschenmann’sCultivating an Ecological Conscience is a collection of thoughtful essays about the “ethical and practical principles” of developing a sustainable agricultural system.  Drawing on his experiences as a theologian and a farmer, he delivers a series of measured arguments that a shift to more sustainable agriculture is a necessary change.  As I mentioned in my Monday Musing, this was a welcome break from the rhetoric some other authors depend on.  It is clear that the author is a product of a true liberal arts education, with a gift for elocution (I would love to hear him speak!) and a deep knowledge of the classics.  I was at times astounded by the variety of sources he drew on to support his economic and agricultural theories – everything from Adam Smith to Machiavelli.  I think the fact that he has read such different works and thought about their connection to agriculture is truly indicative of his passion for the topic.

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Katie’s #20 #CBR4 Review: Uncertain Peril by Claire Hope Cummings

Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds is a manifesto strongly opposing our current use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  As someone pursuing a PhD in bioinformatics and generally comfortable with the idea of genetic engineering, I expected to be entirely unconvinced by the author’s arguments.  In fact, I almost didn’t pick this book up at all, because I wasn’t sure I could read it objectively enough.  However, I think avoiding reading books by author’s with viewpoints opposed to my own would seriously limit the amount I learn from this project.  Surprisingly, I ended up agreeing with a lot of the author’s points, even though I was sometimes shocked by her completely one-sided rhetoric.

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HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #23: Pronto by Elmore Leonard

Recently, I’ve become unhealthily obsessed with FX’sJustified” and in honor of the Season 3 finale airing tonight, I picked up Leonard’s first Raylan Givens novel, Pronto, this past weekend. In terms of book to film/television adaptations, I’m not a purist. I think it’s irrelevant whether the book matches the adaptation exactly. Ideally, I want to book and the movie to offer me two distinct, enjoyable experiences.

Shame on reading me for failing to read an Elmore Leonard crime novel before. Because the dialogue is unbelievably great. It’s sharp, it’s snappy, it’s sassy. Every carefully chosen word adds something – whether it’s exposing a character’s motivations, pushing the plot along or making you giggle out loud. The language is so precise, and so beautiful, that no real conversation could ever be so fluid. But it still feels real, and familiar, because Leonard writes conversations the way we rehearse them in our heads. When you practice a conversation, you imagine that each word lands with its full meaning, pauses are significant and there are zero miscommunications. That’s how Leonard writes, and it is wonderful to read.

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Katie’s #18 #CBR4 Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows Francie Nolan as she grows up in Boston as part of a poor, second-generation, American family.  A major theme running throughout the book is Francie’s mother’s focus on seeing her children educated and giving them a better life than she herself had.  Francie’s own love of reading and education was to me one of the most endearing parts of the novel.  As a bibliophile, it’s hard not to fall in love with a precocious little girl who’s decided to read through every book in her library – what she thinks is every book in the world.  This is a small spoiler, but I think the fact that Francie eventually got her education was crucial to my enjoyment of the book.  I’m someone who prefers happy endings any way and to have someone so in love with learning be stuck working menial jobs forever would have just been too heart breaking.

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Katie’s #17 #CBR4 Review: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

This is one of the first books I’ve read and really thought, here is a non-fiction book for someone who doesn’t read non-fiction.  The author, James Herriot, shares tales of his life, with all its’ adventures and mishaps, as a country vet in North Yorkshire, the largest county in England.  Like Dewey, this book reminded me very much of the At Home in Mitford series.  It’s pleasant.  It’s about the mundane, but often wonderful events in someone’s life.  It’s a glimpse into a simpler, less busy life than most of us live today.  And it’s very much like a particularly articulate and funny friend is telling you stories about their life.  So you don’t have to rely on my comparison to the Mitford series, here are two quotes I particularly liked and which give you a good feel for the story:

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HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #11: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book has been reviewed a seemingly endless number of times on CBR, so my review will be quick and painless. For more extensive reviews, check out all of the preceding reviews here.

This book is simple and beautiful. The descriptions of the circus are just enough to give you a starting point, but they let you fill in the circus with your own details, embellishments and dreams. It was an exercise in imagination for me, working through the book, trying to imagine the intricacies of the Ice Garden and the Cloud Room.

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