Friday, February 11, 2011

My Man Jeeves

My Man JeevesMy Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
purchased kindle edition from Amazon.com
Description from BarnesandNoble.com:
This collection of eight short stories, first published in 1919, features Wodehouse's most popular characters, the comic duo of Bertie Wooster and his drolly omnicompetent butler, Jeeves. Highlights include "Leave it to Jeeves" and "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg." Rounding out the collection are four stories featuring a Wooster-like character named Reggie Pepper.

My Take:
I read this book because I have been wanting to read some Wodehouse books and in an attempt to make myself do this, I also joined the Wodehouse Challenge.  My Man Jeeves is a short collection of stories, some of which involve Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. Some were about Reggie Pepper and his misadventures. Poor Reggie didn't have a Jeeves to help him get out of trouble --- or to get him into further trouble -- depending on the situation.  These stories were short and funny and not very complicated or difficult to follow.  It was mostly just an easy, fun read for me.  Wooster is a British aristocrat who basically can't seem to function without Jeeves to help him out.  Jeeves is the ever patient, loyal, slightly sarcastic, intelligent, and long-suffering valet to Bertie Wooster.  I must say that Jeeves pretty much makes these stories what they are.  Bertie knows several young men who are basically the same as he is -- unemployed or barely employed and generally lacking in direction -- except that none of them seem to be as financially well off as Bertie. One of said friends always has a problem that needs solving  and Bertie always asks Jeeves how to solve the problem. The elaborate schemes that Jeeves comes up with are pretty chuckle worthy. I didn't have a laugh-out-loud experience while reading this book, but I did chuckle a lot.  I also enjoyed the glimpses into the life of a wealthy man of leisure of the period. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stoner

Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)Stoner by  John Williams
purchased kindle edition from Amazon
Description from Goodreads:
William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.

My take:
Stoner is an amazing, beautiful book. At times, the story is just heart-breaking. His marriage is a prime example of this.  The relationship is just so bitter and sharp and delicate - and absolutely perfect in the depiction of the way William and Edith relate to one another. His mortal, life-long enemy, Lomax is another example of a heart-breaking situation. I just felt so sorry for Stoner while reading certain scenes. But the description of his discovery of literature and his new found love of learning was wonderful. There are numerous examples of his constant desire to continue to read and learn throughout the book.
. . . there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.

This is the story of a life. A life well-lived, full of the joy of learning and teaching as well as heartbreak and troubles that were personal, financial and professional. Much of the story is heart-breaking, but there is also this sense of a life lived with quiet purpose and strength. Stoner does get the love relationship he deserves, but it is a short-term thing, which is one of the bitter sweet events of his life. But I felt that he found a solace in his books and teaching career - even though Lomax made sure that his teaching schedule was mostly freshman level classes. There are also quiet, subtle victories that made me smile and admire this quiet, shy, studious person.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) by Jim Butcher
purchased Kindle edition from Amazon.com
Description from Goodreads:
Harry Dresden--Wizard

Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.

There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed.

My Take:

I found this to be a funny, fast, enjoyable read. I have read several reviews on Goodreads that found the character of Harry Dresden to be sexist and some even went so far as to accuse the author as well. I don't think I could go that far.  I found Harry to be good-hearted and acting on the best intentions. Now the way he went about acting on his intentions wasn't necessarily the best route sometimes, but I didn't find him offensive. I thought he was more awkward than anything else.  I found the story to be fast paced, and enjoyable.  I have heard from several different people and other reviewers that the books get better as you work your way through the series.  I do plan to read some more of the books because I think they are fun. I do hope they continue to improve.

I watched the short lived series before reading the book, so I was probably influenced somewhat by that. While I like some of the changes in there series - like the different take on Bob -- I am willing to give the books a fair shot.