Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “drama”

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #50: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Title: One for the Money
Author: Janet Evanovich
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: This book is like junk food for your mind. It’s fun and enjoyable, but it sucks you in with humor and sex appeal rather than good writing.

One for the Money is a surprisingly plausible story about Stephanie Plum,  a pretty average woman who loses her job and ends up becoming a bounty hunter. Sounds crazy, right? What makes it work is that she’s not instantly good at it. Her bumbling mishaps and witty commentary throughout are both hilarious and believable. Her strong personality and sheer stubbornness – enhanced by the fact that one of her targets, Joe Morelli, is a guy who slept with her once and never looked back – gives her the perseverance she needs to make the job work.

Read more on Doing Dewey.

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Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #33: The Break of Noon by Neil LaBute

Target: Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon: A Play

Profile: Drama, Spirituality, Religion

I read about fifty plays every year.  Some for the first time.  Many for the third or fourth times.  It comes with the job of coaching high school speech and debate.  As a general rule, I don’t let these plays (and assorted other things) count toward my review goals, mostly because a lot of them are ten minute scenes, but also because there is a difference between reading for work and reading for pleasure.  I rarely treat a potential speech piece the way I do an epic fantasy, or a piece of popular nonfiction.  But every once in a while, something will overlap.

Neil LaBute has always been intriguing to me.  I’m particularly fond of his short play, Iphigenia in Orem out of the “Bash” compilation.  LaBute never lets the uncomfortable topic get in the way of telling a story, and the scenes are all the more compelling for forcing the audience to confront these terrible situations.  I could go on, but most of what needs to be said about his provocative style can be found in other, more professional reviews and criticism.

Read the rest of the review…

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR4 Review #18 Tears of a Tiger

This entry marks the last step in my search for books that would fit my students request for “stuff with more DRAMA” (emphasis theirs)

By the end of this last year, after a lot of pondering (and some pretty blunt student responses) I realized that DRAMA meant intense, life-altering events or emotions that revolve around relatable, personal issues.

Sharon M. Draper may be the best provider of DRAMA today. With multiple series and two powerful trilogies, she has managed to create tangible communities that captivate young readers. In the process she’s racked up awards, becoming a perennial favorite for Coretta Scott King awards

Tears of a Tiger offers a DRAMAtic story through a hodgepodge of sources. Letters, English class assignments, phone calls and newspaper articles, each take a turn in telling the story of a young athlete named Andrew Jackson, whose drunk driving accident killed teammate and friend Robert Washington. His friends look on as Andrew attempts to control himself and cope with his grief, but a culture of stoic silence allows emotions to boil up just behind the words we read until another explosion is bound to occur.

As a protagonist, Andy shows a quiet depth to his friends and remains somewhat unknowable even to the readers. He doesn’t want to come out and emote all over the page with his angst and sorrow, but a practiced eye can see his problems and connect. The unique style of storytelling gives readers a number of ways into each character’s emotions. Without devolving into maudlin monologues, the author sets up the character’s feelings and uses familiar “teenager lingo” to communicate the plot. All this enables Draper to spin our focus off of “imagery” or “figurative language” and back to issues of depression, alcohol abuse, as well as the social pressures and expectations placed upon young black men.

There are times when Tears of a Tiger‘s concentration on “teenager lingo”and abandonment of typical novel imagery work against it (especially since the teenager lingo in question dates back to 1994). The style of writing is a nice contrast with typical English books, but doesn’t seem to provide the same rigor that other books might. Impressed as I am with Draper’s thematic work and creation of DRAMA, I may keep looking for more complex texts to include in the curriculum.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review 40: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending is a story about memory. The book has a simple premise: the narrator tells us about events that happened in his life roughly while they are happening. And then, many years later, while in his 60s, the narrator revisits those memories – adding in what he forgot, embellishing, and seeking out the truth about the gaps in his knowledge.

The idea of the book itself is fascinating. Memories really do change over time. Sometimes, as time goes on, you look back on certain events and re-imagine them happier. Or re-imagine them as more tragic. Or assign them a meaning or significance that only becomes apparent as you get older and you start to learn more about yourself.

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Petalfrog’s #CBR4 Review #23: Untouchable by Scott O’Connor

Untouchable is the coming-to-grips story of David Darby, the single father of 12 year old Whitley. Both Darby and Whitley (aka “The Kid”) have been trying to cope for the last year with the death of Darby’s wife/The Kid’s mom. Darby works as part of the cleanup crew for trauma sites (imagine the people who come in when the CSI guys are done). He is doing his best to hold his little family together, but he is always working, doesn’t know how to cook, and is clueless about his son’s troubles. The Kid doesn’t believe that his mom is dead, and has sworn a “Covenant” to try and get her back (under the guidance of his one friend, the religious Matthew). I won’t spoil what his Covenant is, since it’s not clear for quite a few chapters and makes for a very touching reveal. The Kid is tortured daily at school, and is terrified that his own father believes the awful things the others kids say about him (he has bad breath and body odor, for example). I call this a coming-to-grips story, rather than a coming-of-age story, since really Darby and The Kid are really struggling with being a family with just the two of them. They are both clueless and really sad.

This genre (adult literary fiction I guess) is a bit out of my wheelhouse. I lean more towards thrillers, so I kept expecting something dramatic to suddenly happen. The story slowly unfolds in a beautiful and striking manner. I definitely felt emotionally bonded with The Kid; my heart breaking at some of the less obvious bullying. Darby was a bit harder to connect to. He finds himself trying to connect with the various trauma scenes by taking pieces. He is doing this in some bizarre attempt to reconcile his death, and it’s truly unclear how this could possibly helpful until the end.

I borrowed this on Kindle, so there were some odd issues with formatting. The setting or time would frequently change with no page or line breaks, so it was a bit difficult to keep my bearings throughout. I also found some of O’Connor’s writing style a bit repetitive. He would frequently repeat phrases in the same paragraph, to make a point I imagine. I found it distracting, but overall the writing was strong. I enjoyed this book and would certainly read more by this author.

Catch up on all my reviews at my blog!

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #14: The Outcast by Sadie Jones

Another LaineyGossip reccomendation, Sadie Jones’s The Outcast is an understated, beautifully dramatic novel. Lewis, the protagonist, slowly unravels after the death of his mother to the disappointment of his traditional, suburban town. As Lewis withdraws, struggling in silence, his friends, family and neighborhood simply cannot process his pain. Lewis’s behavior fails to comply with acceptable social norms; he’s not quite cheerful enough, he fails to respond to questions, his temper quickens. Everyone around him tries to force him to keep up appearances, to comply with the unstated social contracts that govern his small town, and Lewis eventually breaks, landing himself in prison.

The characters are all heartbreaking in their own way. Lewis’s father, a model of “traditional” fathering, who tries to instill strenght and distance in his son and expunge any traces of emotion from their lives. Lewis’s stepmother, who retreats into alcoholism like his biological mother before her. Kit, the young neighbor, broken by her father who is the only one who might understand Lewis’s pain. Tasmin, Kit’s older sister who uses her charms like a weapon, trying to manipulate those around her.

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Sophia’s #CBR4 Review #8 Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

I think I was browsing through the relatively limited Kindle selection at my library when I saw Nightwoods (2011) by Charles Frazier. Since I’ve both read Cold Mountain and really enjoyed the movie, I figured Nightwoods would probably be worth reading. And although it was an captivating and well-written novel, I lost some interest in the second half of the book.

The story begins with Luce, a woman of indeterminate age, who has given up on society. She lives by herself in an abandoned hotel, across a lake from a small, rural town in the Appalachian mountains. When her only sister is murdered, Luce takes in her sister’s two small children because there is no one else to care for them.

The beginning of this story immediately drew me into the novel. Luce is an independent and interesting character. There are mysterious questions surrounding how Luce ended up where she was, what happened to the children, what happened to their mother, and if they are still in danger. The violence in the novel is so unexpected and uncontrollable that it was truly terrifying. Also, Frazier gives just enough detail about each character that you can sense how deeply hurt they’ve been in the past. And after understanding their struggles, the small bits of hope and change you start to see are very welcome.

Read the rest here.

PerpetualIntern’s #CBR4 Review #4: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was one of the more fascinating reads I’ve had in awhile.  I am in no way a science person.  I dropped it my senior year of high school in favor of a second foreign language, and my science requirement in college was filled by Computer Science 101.  So when my friend suggested I read this book, I was skeptical to pick up what I thought was a “science book.”  However, Rebecca Skloot’s treatment of the story and the family of Henrietta Lacks weaves a narrative that makes the science parts interesting and approachable.

While studying biology in college, Rebecca Skloot often used cells called HeLa to do her work.  HeLa cells are used widely in the scientific community because they were the first human cells that were able to not only live in culture, but to thrive.  They multiply at an incredible rate and can be frozen, preserved and shipped throughout the world.  Today, it is estimated that 50 billion metric tons of HeLa cells exist all over the world and are used to discover new treatments for disease (including the polio vaccine) and to expand scientists’ knowledge of how human cells work.  But what many scientists had never stopped to wonder is where the HeLa cells came from.  Skloot decided to dig into the past of the donor whose cancerous cells were taken from her cervix in the 1950s and thus The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was born.

Skloot spent years delving into the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor woman who died from cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins medical center in Baltimore.  This story is not just about the life (and death) of Henrietta Lacks but of those she left behind: her husband, five children, and numerous grandchildren who were been born since her death.  The family was never told that tissue had been taken from Henrietta’s cervix, and it was taken without her consent.  It wasn’t until years later that her children, who couldn’t even afford health insurance or to see a doctor, began piecing together that HeLa came from their mother and had completely changed the face of science.  Skloot spent months gaining the trust of the children, who had been scammed by so many in the past.  Their lives were full of confusion about what the cells were (for instance, one of her children was convinced that clones of her mother were all over England) because no one had stopped to truly explain how HeLa was being used.  Together, they pieced together the life of Henrietta and the book serves as a memorial to a woman who unknowingly changed the face of cancer and science forever.

The book is difficult to read.  The experiments performed on black patients in the 50s at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere are appalling.  To so many of us who take patient-doctor confidentiality for granted, the way that Henrietta’s medical records were passed around and published is frustrating.  To read about how she and her family were treated is infuriating.  The book raises so many ethical questions: who owns cells once they leave the body? Who is entitled to profit from them?  How is it that Henrietta Lacks’ cells helped cure polio, and yet her family cannot afford a doctor?  It is an important read, not only because all of us who participate in the health care system should know these dilemmas, but also to pay tribute to a woman who unwittingly has helped us all in one way or another.

squeakytoy’s #CBR4 Review #02: Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahonI picked up McMahon’s Don’t Breathe a Word last year and very much enjoyed it. I was really hoping the author’s earlier work would give me more of the same. I was unfortunately disappointed by Island of Lost Girls, but I don’t think it’s going to keep me from reading more of her work.

While parked at a gas station, Rhonda sees something so incongruously surreal that at first she hardly recognizes it as a crime in progress.  She watches, unmoving, as someone dressed in a rabbit costume kidnaps a young girl.  Devastated over having done nothing, Rhonda joins the investigation.  But the closer she comes to identifying the abductor, the nearer she gets to the troubling truth about another missing child: her best friend, Lizzy, who vanished years before.

I felt that this book was trying to go in way too many directions with so few pages.  Both of the stories being developed throughout the book were compelling, but neither had particularly satisfactory endings.  Somewhere between a third and a half of the way through the book, I could see most of the twists coming and the ones I didn’t see?  They were clumsily handled.  The book spent too much time on red herrings and too little time on the actual resolutions.

(Sort of spoilers ahead.)  I was expecting something of the supernatural, with the description of 6-foot-tall bunnies, or at least a Norman Bates-like character in a bunny suit.  Instead, I kind of got Norman Bates, but if Norman Bates arbitrarily decided on a bunny, a victim, and then made his son do it.

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