Friday, 6 August 2010

Dear John ~ Nicholas Sparks

The book starts (prologue) in the year 2006.  It's first person, from the perspective of John.  He explains that he's sitting on a hill waiting for Savannah to walk out of her house, so he can see her.
He gives a little background before chapter one begins and we're flown back six years earlier.
The story is about how John and Savannah fall in love at first sight.  John is in the army and he's on his two week leave before he has to return to Germany.  In the two weeks spent together both John and Savannah know they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
John goes back to Germany and he and Savannah write and call each other frequently.  Neither of them could even guess that 9/11 would happen.  The tragedy that no one saw coming will now test and pull their love.  Will their love survey the distance and the stress of war?

Personally, I'd never read anything by Sparks before.  I'd heard that this movie was supposed to be good and I need a book to read so I thought I'd try it.  I wasn't impressed.  The story line was catching, yes, but I didn't like the way it ended, and obviously Sparks' theology is at best sketchy. There were a couple swear words and an adults scene (not a graphic, detailed one but it was there none the less).
I don't necessarily recommend this book.

The Jungle ~ Upton Sinclair

If you’re a little frightened by the cover of this book you’re not alone. It took me several seconds to realize what the red “thing” was: a piece of meat. But that’s what this story centralizes on--the Chicago meat-packing district in the early 20th century.

Throughout the book we follow the life of Jurgis and his family. They are immigrants to the U.S., coming here in pursuit of that ever elusive American Dream. Looking for work in NY, they are urged to travel inland to Chicago and find jobs at the huge slaughter houses. Jurgis takes this advice, and soon he and his family are caught in the trap of slaving away for the giant companies who do nothing but work them all to their literal deaths. And the reader gets to read about the corruption within the business and the swindling that most of the immigrants fell prey to as well. The story highlights one misery after another that Jurgis endures until finally the tale turns into a political advertisement for Socialism.

This famous novel brought about laws and changes to the way our food was handled in the U.S. Some of the things that were done to consumable food would turn your stomach. I have a very difficult time reading and watching human misery stories, and this book was full of it! It seemed like an endless trial for poor Jurgis, and sadly, his dealings were true to life of what many people who worked in that industry experienced. That made it all the more difficult to read. I was determined to finish the book, but I would never read it again. It’s one of those tomes that you read once and that stays with you for awhile afterwards. Not sure if I’d recommend reading it or not.

Cranford ~ Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell’s book is about a little town called Cranford. The village is filled to overflowing with old women and very little men (so it would seem). The ladies know everyone and all their business, and we learn about each and every one of the gossipy gals through the writings of one of Cranford’s former frequent visitors: Mary Smith. As Mary ages she finds it her to duty to recall and record some of the more memorable events that took place in Cranford because the world around the town is changing, and the way of life the older women enjoy is no longer relevant. But she doesn’t want others to forget her beloved friends.

I watched the BBC miniseries of this book this summer, and it moved me to tears--ones of joy and sorrow. I was so enthralled with the story-line and the characters that I was saddened when I came to the last episode. I knew then that I had to read the book as I was convinced that it would be every bit as good as the film version.

Unfortunately I was disappointed. Yes, the book contained many of the colorful antics of the inhabitants of Cranford, but the central story-line that I so enjoyed in the movie version--that of Sophie and the young Doctor--were not included in the novel. I felt slightly unfulfilled after I finished reading. Read the book for sure as the writing is very good, and the little stories are humorous and touching. But afterwards be sure to watch the BBC production.

The Adventures of Jack Lime ~ James Leck

The title character Jack Lime is a high school student at Iona High. He is new to the school having moved from Los Angeles. Wanting to be noticed by his fellow classmates Jack tries his hand at private investigation. Voilá! A new-age Sherlock Holmes is born. Jack’s antics get him into trouble and often bruised, but he always solves his case.

This junior fiction novel pays homage to 1940s film noir detective stories. I loved the classic PI language: “a dame walked into my life”, “I should quit the business”, etc. It had me laughing out loud! James Leck writes the book as several of Lime’s cases compiled into one novel. Each mini story was enjoyable and left me hoping that this debut novel won’t be Leck’s last. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something light-hearted, quick, and purely for entertainment.