Iyengar is a professor at Columbia University who studies human patterns of choice. She uses her training in social psychology as a base for examining choice in a variety of religions and societies. In The Art of Choosing she explains various studies, including her own, that address the topics of choice and freedom. Her in-depth insight on the multiple factors that influence human decision making are unveiled in this eye-opening and fascinating look into human psychology.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
There is much to like about The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis. The main character is a 42-year-old man contemplating suicide, still grieving over the mysterious death of his twin brother ten years before and now an unhappily divorced father. Ezekiel Cooper is a flawed protagonist but an eloquent one.
Ezekiel has three sisters in addition to his dead twin, Carter, who suffered brain damage as a toddler and died as an adult under mysterious circumstances. Ezekiel is the child his mother, Lillian, expected to make something of himself and get out of Clayton, the small Tennessee town she has always felt stuck in. When Ezekiel left for college in 1960 and went to live in Virginia with his mother’s cousin, his mother made decisions that changed lives and that still form a barrier between Ezekiel and Lillian 25 years later.
Ezekiel’s flight from Clayton in 1985 to fulfill his vaguely formed suicide plan ends instead at that same Virginia farm of his college days. His brother’s ancient dog, Tucker, keeps him company on the trip. His troubled relationship with his mother is reflected in his awkward parenting of his own two teenaged daughters.
As seems to be a requirement of novels these days, the book jumps around in time, from the 1980s to the 1940s and various dates in between. The book is broken into three parts. The first and third are told by Ezekiel; the middle is told by his mother. (Oddly, her section does not have the date headlines that Ezekiel’s sections do.) Fortunately, the timeline jumps are pretty straightforward and I did not find them confusing.
Despite the title, the quotes from the Bible that appear before each part, and the biblical name of the main character, The Lost Saints of Tennessee is not an overly religious novel. The religious themes are not wielded like a club to make points throughout the story, which I found refreshing.
The author often turns a nice phrase. For example, when the mother is trying to justify an affair with her brother-in-law, she says, “I needed to believe someone still saw a spark in me, something that didn’t have to do with [my husband] or the children. Maybe that’s why most married people have affairs. Because the affair is separate from the family; it’s just about you. Of course, in the end, it winds up right back with the family.”
However, the book is not without its flaws. I found a romance between two of the characters unbelievable, unnecessary and indeed a drag on the plot; the book would have been better if the events could have played out without the romance. I also found the “big reveal” of the mysterious secret from the past to be very anticlimactic.
Still, The Lost Saints of Tennessee is well written, and it kept my interest to the end. If you enjoy novels that are more about character development than plot, I recommend The Lost Saints of Tennessee. It is scheduled to be released in February 2012.
This is a story about Mikey Walsh (not his real name) and he tells the tale of his life growing up in a Romany Gypsy camp. His writing style is matter-of-fact, which is perfect for this kind of a story. He is literally surrounded by people who, at one time or another, do him harm. His mother is really the only one in the family who shows him any love whatsover, and even she can't keep him safe from her abusive husband. Mikey also mentions a teacher who really tried to help him, and I am hoping that she gets a chance to read this book so she will know how much she meant to him. This gypsy culture is so different from anything I have ever known, and I found myself wondering why those living in the camp would knowingly allow these things to happen. It was quite sad.
But again, after all the disappointments in his life, and the struggles he faced in trying to live up to what his father wanted, and the total isolation he must have felt living with this family, Mikey came out on top. He endured so much in his young life and it didn't scar his heart.
This was a tough book to get through. I admire Mikey for his strength, his character and his courage to write these things down on paper so that the whole world can know what his life was truly like.
Monday, December 26, 2011
I love the parallel writing style, seeing the story from two different points of view. I loved all of the characters and the writing was expressive and well done. Stef Penney is a fabulous writer and she has another book called The Tenderness of Wolves which I am going to run right out and get.
If you like a well-written mystery, books about unusual subject matter or books that you might not be able to put down, then this book is for you.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
The book started out very well. The author found ways to bring in many familiar characters and situations from Pride and Prejudice, but the story is also original and funny. However, the novelty wore off after a couple hundred pages. The book is over 400 pages long and would have been much better if it had been closer to 300. Still, overall I enjoyed reading it.
If you like revisiting the characters of Jane Austen and are looking for something to read, I recommend Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star. However, be warned that although this romance is inspired by the works of Jane Austen, it is not written in the style of Jane Austen. There is plenty of sex and liberal use of the F word.
I just read it again, for the library's adult book club discussions. At the first discussion last night, it was interesting to see how everyone referred to the book's narrator as if he was a real person. Holden Caulfield gets inside your head. I highly recommend The Catcher in the Rye.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
This collection of memoir-esque essays by Kaling, a writer, producer, and actor on NBC's "The Office," is everything I wanted it to be: offbeat, hilarious, sweet, and honest. Kaling opens up about her childhood (her parents were immigrants), her early experiences with comedy at Dartmouth and off-Broadway, and how she came to write for television. The chapters are short and topical, making this an easy and very enjoyable read. If you like the style of humor featured on "the Office" or are interested in female comedians in general, give this book a try.
Friday, December 2, 2011
If you are a Jack Reacher fan, you will love this book. If you are NOT a Jack Reacher fan (which just means that you haven't had the opportunity to read any of these novels) then you should start right now. Seriously, go down to the library and check out any one of his books and start reading. The first book I read was Bad Luck and Trouble, which falls somewhere in the middle of the series, and I have since read every single novel Lee Child has written about Jack Reacher.
I think if I had to do it all over again I would read the books in order, and then read The Affair, which is a prequel, coming after Worth Dying For, which I believe is the last book before The Affair. But there is no reason in the world why you couldn't read this book first, and then the rest of the series later. This is the first I have heard of an author writing a novel that takes place in time before an established series, but it really did answer a lot of questions I had thought about while reading this series. I think it was a brilliant idea and Lee Child did an amazing job of showing us how Reacher became the man he is today. You can sum up Reacher by this one paragraph in The Affair:
he was walking down a dark road, deciding what to do when a stranger in a car drove up and blocked his way, the stranger rolling down the window and sticking his elbow outside so Reacher couldn't pass: