Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Frontiersmen - 100in1001

Ah, the first history book I've hit from the list, I am qualifying this as a local history book, although it could easily count as my US history. Depending on the other US/local book I choose to read I may reclassify this one.

The book itself is an easy read for the most part, and Eckert is able to make an interesting historical novel out of the historical facts. So much easier to read this narrative format over the more stale history textbook style. The story follow the frontiersmen (who else?) who came over the Appalachians to settle the Ohio and Kentucky territory (and then expanding further) and the Indians they came across. Simon Kenton is the main character and he, with Tecumseh, take up the majority of the narrative. All the other historical figures you would expect make appearances, as well as many, many others I did not know. The sheer amount of characters is sometimes hard to get your head around, especially since some will make a brief appearance and then show up tens or hundreds of pages later. In general, Eckert is good about reminding you who the character is if they are minor or make brief second appearances.

The story is quite fascinating, especially since I grew up and live in the region described, I've lived in Kenton county much of my life in fact. It actually ends up being a great story because at times you feel for the settlers, at others for the Indians, and, quite often, for neither since they both do horrendous things to each other.

I think this is really a must read for anyone interested in history, as it gives a lot of information on a very important time in American history that is often glossed over in history class.

Frankenstein - 100in1001

I finished this book back in January and am just now getting around to writing up my post-read commentary. Pathetic.

Anyway, I was thoroughly impressed and surprised by Frankenstein. I had never really heard much about the novel itself, so the picture I had of Frankenstein is the pop-culture version you see at Halloween time. This couldn't be further from the truth. While the Frankenstein monster (Frankenstein is the scientist who creates the monster!) is definitely not quite human, he isn't the lumbering, green idiot I had previously known him to be. Rather than being a horror movie about a monster simply terrorizing people, Shelley created a lot more depth of both story and characters. Both Frankenstein and his monster are tormented in different ways, and there is a lot of food for thought on what makes us human and our motivations in life. The monster is not evil to begin, he just wants to belong and be loved, and of course can find no one willing to accept his visually unappealing form. Ultimately it is loneliness and rejection that drives the monster to the murders he commits.

In the end I really loved this book, a great horror story with a lot more thrown in.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Caine Mutiny - 100in1001 book

Ah, what a relief. After several slogs through important, but not always exhilarating, reads, I got The Caine Mutiny. Another WWII themed novel, this one revolves around an eventual mutiny on a ship in the Pacific. There is, of course, a love story thrown in, but it doesn't overwhelm the meat of the tale as they often do and I actually thought it added to the story. The courtroom drama was great, enjoyed how the lawyers made their questions and arguments too. I think I got the most enjoyment out of the characters though, especially Willie Kieth's growth from a rebellious young seaman into a man of more perspective. I may particularly relate to this story now because Kieth's age is at least in the ballpark of mine: someone coming out of college and learning the ropes of the "real" world. There are also some other great characters, one whom I saw through right away I'm proud to say, and this one has a little bit of everything: drama, action, comedy, and love. It kept me interested and coming back for more, especially once Kieth gets out to sea roughly one quarter to one third of the way through the book. I didn't have to renew it so that should say something! I'll rate this one as a Damn Good Tale.

I didn't find the writing to be quite as good as that in A Death in the Family but the story is better and the writing and dialog are always solid, great in places. One bit that made me laugh and has stuck with me is Wouk describes the fireworks and ammunition set off when the boats find out Japan has surrendered:

Now the deck overhead began to thunder with the dancing and jumping of the sailors. And still the bursts of color rose from Okinawa in million-dollar streams, a glory of triumphant waste, and the rattle and roar of the guns came rolling over the water...

"A glory of triumphant waste" was really what got me on that one. Another, with emphasis on the middle sentence:

I'll remember it on my deathbed, if I die in a bed, or wherever I die. Everybody's life pivots on one or maybe two moments. I had my moment this morning.

And finally, just because it struck me, at one point Willie Kieth puts on a "beautiful soft tan suit which had cost two hundred dollars at Abercrombie and Fitch." I didn't know A&F was such an old brand, nor that they actually had quality clothes at one point!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Death in the Family - 100in1001

Finished A Death in the Family today and I'm not sure what to think really. This is not a book that you read for the plot, not much at all happens really. Similarly, the characters do not evolve nor are they terribly interesting. What is great about the book though is the writing is absolutely top notch, I can see Agee pouring over his words more like a poet than an author. I did end up enjoying the book because, rather than a frenzied plot, scenes proceed slowly and you really dig deep into what people are thinking and what goes unsaid. The book goes by in sections, mostly on a chapter-by-chapter basis, where Agee centers on one particular character's thoughts while telling the overall tale. The parts where he focuses on the children I thought were especially good because he so well conveys a child's perspective and understanding. I got through this book in one check-out from the library, so I guess that says something for it being at least somewhat interesting to read. The last couple of books have taken me a couple renewals. That being said, I didn't really attack this book either. Overall thumbs up, if only mildly enthusiastically.