Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Spoilers ahead!!!

Since I heard the movie was good, and the book is ALWAYS better than the movie, I dug up my copy of Shutter Island. Read in less than a day, there's now no way I can go see the movie. The book was fantastic and I'll just be disappointed in the movie version.

Shutter Island is a place where the criminally insane are kept. Teddy Daniels, a US Marshal, and his partner, Chuck Aule, end up there investigating a missing patient. They talk to the staff, the patients and investigate the island as much as they can. What they come away with is: similar to Nazi's experimenting on Jews, the staff of Shutter Island is performing radical experiments on its patients and creating "ghosts". They are seeking Rachel Solando, who killed her 3 children by drowning them. She believes she didn't and that her children are alive and happy somewhere.

If someone is said to be insane, and they protest vehemently that they are not insane, does that show their insaneness? Teddy is on the verge of cracking, having lost his wife in a fire, set by Andrew Laeddis. He misses his wife and has more than once wondered why he hasn't died yet. Instead of suicide, he has a death wish. He knows that Laeddis is on the island and goes to get his revenge.

Spoilers are coming....beware.

Chuck isn't Teddy's partner. Chuck is a doctor at Shutter Island. Teddy's wife didn't die in a fire. Teddy killed her after she killed their 3 children. Which makes Teddy....? A patient named Andrew Laeddis. Who the hell saw that coming???

Dr. Crawley and Dr. Sheehan (Chuck) staged an elaborate role playing game for Andrew, in hopes that he would come to the realization of who he is. None of the what we read was real. It was all a play, written by Andrew, acting out his fantasies to avoid the reality of murdering his wife and letting his children die at the hands of their insane mother.

Andrew comes to his senses, realizing what he is. But we're not left with closure in this book as Andrew regresses back to Teddy and the threat of a neutralizing lobotomy is in his immediate future.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll

Normally I don't read fantasy-type books but since this was lent to me by a trusted soul, I gave it a try. Bones of the Moon exceeded my expectations and turned out to be a really quick read. Or maybe I just read it quick. This appealed to me mostly because the major portion of the book is set in reality. One of the things that always irked me about fantasy books is the seemingly haphazard way things are named and the way things work. I realize that is the imagination of the author but mostly it feels like the plot, names, etc were just pulled out of someone's ass.

Cullen James, our main chick, is living a charmed life. Married to the man of her dreams, traveling to Europe, has a super gay best friend, and a baby. She starts having dreams of Rondua, another world far away from her own. She's traveling in her dreams with her son, Pepsi (really??) and they must collect the bones of the moon in order for Pepsi to become ruler of Rondua.

Cullen's dreams manifest over into reality and she needs help from her real friends and her fantasy friends to save her.

The story was really good and the fantasy part was slim enough to make me keep reading.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

The rest of the book title is 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie Powell comes to a crossroads in her life where she realizes that she's just a secretary and probably won't become the actress that she wants to be. She's nearing 30 (which isn't that bad of an age, come on), was told she'll have trouble conceiving and everyone and their mother is telling her how old she's getting.

Leafing through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she decides to embark on a year long journey of completing every single recipe in the book. Just something to do? Or searching for a purpose?

I listened to this book and was soon fantasizing about the recipes she described, with exception of the major animal ones, including killing a live lobster. I've always enjoyed just reading cookbooks and dreaming of having time to make more food. And of eating said food.

Julie continued her day job during this project, often cooking well into the night. Her and her husband, Eric, enjoyed a lot of good food and suffered through the ones that didn't go so well. Her husband was a trooper considering Julie seemed prone to hysterics and breakdowns during the year.

My next book to buy is Julia Child's book. Most of the recipes did sound too good not to make at least once.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The dog on the cover of the book implores you to buy it. I gave in to the dog's soulful eyes and purchased a book I've never heard of. I'm a sucker.

Enzo, the dog, relays the entire book to us. It never ever veers from Enzo's point of view and that's really for the best. The world seen through the eyes of a dog is an amazing one. Enzo wishes to be reincarnated as a man, but after reading this, I wouldn't mind being a dog.

Denny picks Enzo out of a litter on a farm and they become best buds. Enzo is a little jealous when Eve comes into the picture and acknowledges that he wasn't very warm with her. Once little Zoe arrives, they are one happy family. Enzo's uncanny sense of smell detects something wrong with Eve before she even starts showing symptoms. But, being a dog, he can't speak and tell her to go to a doctor. She finally does, but it's too late.

Denny's in-laws are horrid people and managed to really envoke some anger in me. The hell that Enzo and Denny are put through is unthinkable but somehow, if you keep your eye on the finish line, things manage to come through.

Denny is a race car driving so expect quite a bit of racing stories and metaphors. Enzo himself is quite the racing fanatic so he's happy to tell you all he knows.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Me by Katharine Hepburn

I'll be upfront in saying I never watched many Hepburn movies even though the woman is a legend. Me is a book of stories and I was interested in hearing those stories (read by Kate herself in her unique way). This isn't her biography per se, it's just personal stories from her life. She lived to be 96 so you know she had some stories to tell.

This books covers some of her childhood, Fenwick and growing up in Connecticut. She dearly loved her parents and siblings. In 1921, she found her brother Tom hanging by the rafters. It was presumed an accident but no one knew for sure. Kate also covers her early acting career. One obvious quality of Hepburn is her self-confidence. She never seemed to struggle for parts or self-esteem, even when she was "box office poison".

She saved Spencer Tracy for last. They met filming in 1941, already having known about each other. Tracy was married but Hepburn and Tracy had a complex relationship that lasted until his death in 1967. Listening to her account of time with Tracy, it showed that she put herself aside for the man she loved. The very last part of the book is a letter to Tracy, read with her voice breaking throughout.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King

King started this book way back in 1976, when I was only 1! It's a behemoth of a book, at 1100+ pages, that is apparently the pared down version of his first draft. That's a little scary to think about.

UTD is a sincerely good King book. I was getting worried about him, having not been enthused about his newest work.

The story begins on October 21st, when an invisible barrier comes crashing down around the town of Chester's Mill, a small sock shaped town in Maine ( I think it's Maine). Dale Barbara is trying to head out of town after a 4 on 1 fight with some of the local thugs. He almost gets a ride but the young girl changes her mind and drives on, leaving Dale aka Barbie to walk on. He doesn't make it out of town before he's trapped by the Dome. Interestingly there wouldn't be a book if Dale had hitched that ride out....

Thankfully King provides a cast of characters list because the town holds a couple of thousand people and I believe we're introduced to almost all of them. Some of the most repugnant is Big Jim and Junior, a father-son duo that is dead set on turning the Dome to their advantage. The only word I have to describe them both is: Repugnant. Kudos to King for writing such vile and nasty people that actually makes you want to punch through the book and into their throats.

It's batted around that the dome is a terrorist act, a karmic intervention, aliens, and some maniacal person in town. I would be a terrible person to give away the end of the book since it's such a task to wade through, so I won't.

Even with it's size, UTD is surprisingly easy to speed through because King has his foot jammed on the gas pedal the whole way through.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow is not necessarily a good man, but he's not nearly as bad as some of the other characters in this book. Shadow is serving time when we meet him for a robbery gone awry. He's deeply in love with his wife, Laura, and is nearing the end of his sentence.

The end comes faster than anticipated when Laura is killed in a car accident. Shadow is released and things just go downhill from there.

In this book, gods walk the earth. Anansi, from the book Anansi boys, is alive and well and very much still the spider god. Each god is kept alive and viable because people believe in them. Once people move on and quit telling the god stories, the gods become nothing.

Shadow is confronted by Wednesday and enticed to work with him. Wednesday is a god, turns out he's THE god. And Wednesday wants to start a war with the new gods, gods of tv, media, computers, you know the things people all worship now.

Along the way to war, Shadow meets up with Laura, who is dead but not really, and several other gods in disguise. Lucy Ricardo tries to entice him with her breasts and gods fall into crumpled heaps. The war is not what it appeared to be and Shadow does what he can to save both sides.

Probably should have read this before Anansi Boys but it didn't matter too much. American Gods is ripe with imagination and vision. A scary vision, but a vision nonetheless.