Definitely guilty of summarizing and telling, but since it covers 30+ years of history, it'd be a ridiculous epic if it showed us every last detail. M...moreDefinitely guilty of summarizing and telling, but since it covers 30+ years of history, it'd be a ridiculous epic if it showed us every last detail. My biggest problem is that our main character and our Only Female Character fall in love without us ever seeing why. But it was still an enjoyable book, especially since I read the introduction first. This revealed that Henty made up stories to tell his kids after dinner, and that historians have recognized the accuracy in Henty's histories (except for the fictional character parts). I didn't think of this book as an epic modern novel, but as history with a character to give continuity and perspective to the history. I won't read this one again, but it wasn't a waste of my time, nor would I discourage anyone from reading it, or any of Henty's other books/stories.(less)
First, a note: One of the lovely ladies at my church loaned her Reader's Digest copy of this, which is not the copy this review is listed with. "My" e...moreFirst, a note: One of the lovely ladies at my church loaned her Reader's Digest copy of this, which is not the copy this review is listed with. "My" edition is a hardcover, green with brown binding and gold lettering, 568 pages. I'm posting my review with this edition because the page count is closest and I like the cover (it isn't a cover that has a lot to do with the book, but I like it anyway).
The biggest difficulty I had in reading this book was the time required and the language. It took me at least two months to get through this tome, and three or four chapters to get used to the dialect. I have no skill with accents (if I try to affect one, I inevitably sound like a Swedish masseuse), so I had a hard time hearing voices in my head, speaking in the accents indicated by Eliot's way of writing out the dialogue. This slowed me down whenever I didn't have the hang of it (it was a come-and-gone kind of thing for me, not a riding-a-bike kind of thing), since the dialect makes more sense when it's heard than when it's seen.
(Tip to future readers: "nor" usually means the same as a modern "than," not the same as a modern "nor.")
I enjoyed the book. I'm not sure that it has greatly changed my life; I tend to agree with what was said too much for it to really make me think, but I appreciated the way Bede described Adam's work in terms of Adam's religion: "His work, as you know, had always been part of his religion… [and] was that form of God's will that most immediately concerned him…" (Book VI, Chapter L, page 516). Just because it isn't directly related to the church – preaching or singing or what-have-you – doesn't mean it isn't the work of God (or whatever higher power you may or may not believe in).
Conclusion: Not a waste of my time, but I doubt I got from it what Eliot wanted me to. Further, it probably won't stay with me very powerfully, since I got relatively little from it. But if the page count and the dialect don't scare you off, I encourage the time and effort it will take to get through this one.(less)
One of the ladies from church loaned this book to me. I'm not certain I would have chosen it on my own, but that isn't to say it was a bad book –I'd s...moreOne of the ladies from church loaned this book to me. I'm not certain I would have chosen it on my own, but that isn't to say it was a bad book – I'd say about 3.5 stars (not just 3). The language is old-fashioned, which might trip up some readers, but it wasn't anything I found unpleasantly difficult. The ending was kind of depressing. (Part of me wonders if this would have ended differently if Henry James had, in fact, been Henrietta James…) It took me a while to finish this book because other, more contemporary, less literature-ly books kept capturing my attention. Old classics are always enjoyable reads, but all those English classes have led me to suspect there's more going on in them than I will find in a casual read. This reduces the enjoyment I get in reading such books, The American included, because I feel un-brain-y. The fault here lays more with English classes than with the book: I cannot separate the English class ideas of themes and symbolism and metaphor from the reading of classics; but neither can I convince myself to apply the ideas of themes, symbolism, and metaphor to my read, which may (or may not) improve the experience.
Conclusion: Nothing I'll gush over, but neither is it something I'd suggest avoiding.(less)
I liked this a lot more when I was eleven. Though I don't think I got the whole persecuted-Russian-Jews-feeling-prejudice part of the story when I was...moreI liked this a lot more when I was eleven. Though I don't think I got the whole persecuted-Russian-Jews-feeling-prejudice part of the story when I was eleven. I remember thinking this was such a cool book, when I first read it. I think it was one of my first epistolary reads, which is probably a big part of why I liked it so much. I used it for a class project in 6th grade, but got in trouble 'cause I used the book of letters as a character to make a "doll" of instead of the writer of the letters. Silly me. Again, definitely more appropriate for younger readers; it might even make good class reading for a history unit that deals with immigration. How typical was Rifka's story? What other experiences were common? That kind of thing.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is another book that was hanging out on the exchange shelf at work, and it was the lightest book I could get my hands on this w...more**spoiler alert** This is another book that was hanging out on the exchange shelf at work, and it was the lightest book I could get my hands on this week, making it ideal for my commute. I made it through the book pretty quickly (I started it yesterday afternoon), a feat made possible by a sudden bout of insomnia. I'm shelving it as "fantasy" because, though lacking magic and creatures (so far), it isn't an Earth-based novel; and as "historical fiction" because it's loosely modeled after medieval life.
My biggest issue with the book is that I feel like 14-going-on-15 is a little young for the plotting and planning and brilliance of our main character. I suppose the author tries to make it believable by explaining how clever and precocious the guy was when he was younger; but I still feel like even 17 or 18 would be more plausible. But that does cause a slight issue, since, in the story's world, age 15 is "the age of majority."
I was telling a friend about it earlier today, and she has issues with the POV and some secret-keeping. I explained about the late (Chapter 42-ish, depending on how clever you are) reveal that (view spoiler)[ Sage is Jaron is Sage. Though I suppose it fits with the timeline in the book to say "Jaron is Sage is Jaron." (hide spoiler)] The point is that said friend feels that this means that Sage has been keeping this massive secret from us, the reading audience, for over 250 pages. But we're supposed to be in his head. I can kind of see where she has a problem with that, but it didn't bother me. But you are now forewarned, should this be the kind of thing that bothers you.
Aside from these issues, nothing glaringly awful jumped out at me. I won't say that the storyline was fantastically original or anything, but it's a perfectly pleasant read. I enjoyed it. Time flew, etc., etc. Things did get a wee bit convoluted at the end, but I didn't have any trouble following it, really; I just can't explain it in a concise manner (as my friend will attest).(less)
In regards to the edition, I suggest not reading Suzanne Lewis's introduction or explanatory notes unless you're prepared for spoilers or the note is...moreIn regards to the edition, I suggest not reading Suzanne Lewis's introduction or explanatory notes unless you're prepared for spoilers or the note is about a French word, 'cause Lewis is expert at the spoilers and never offers spoiler alerts. Otherwise this was a perfectly acceptable book of stories. I don't have any particular complaints about them, but neither do I feel like raving about how amazing any of them were. I may read other Gaskell works, shall I come upon them, but I'm not sure I'll seek them out. I did, however, find myself wanting to read them when I was, say, practicing, doing homework, or in class; but the urge was quite easily ignored if I happened to be at the end of a chapter/section or story.(less)
My sister read and wrote a review of Clementine before I got to it, so I noticed things that she mentioned in her review that I wouldn't normally noti...moreMy sister read and wrote a review of Clementine before I got to it, so I noticed things that she mentioned in her review that I wouldn't normally notice: It was a fast-paced book; it lacked the sharing of background and history that Boneshaker had; it could probably be called more superficial. But I don't mind. Sometimes, a slow, leisurely exploration of a new place or culture or universe is enjoyable, the way curling up in front of the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a book on a snowy winter afternoon is enjoyable. But Clementine is not fire and cocoa and book on a snowy day; Clementine is more like when we were kids driving with my dad, and he would take the corners as fast as he dared (which ended up never being more than the speed limit, apparently), pressing us all against doors or floating us into the space between seats, suspended in the middle of things (depending on which side of the car we were on). Clementine is brief and maybe lacking depth, but that doesn't make it less fun.(less)
So, after one of the ladies from my church's knitting group loaned me this novel, along with two others she thought I might enjoy, it took me forever...moreSo, after one of the ladies from my church's knitting group loaned me this novel, along with two others she thought I might enjoy, it took me forever to actually start reading them. Olivia and Jai is the first of them, and really, I'm dern glad that I waited. Dolores offered these books during my semester at school, and if I had started reading this right away, I would have died (figuratively). This is not a lighthearted, temporary escape from life; this is an epic. It isn't meant to be read in a weekend; it took me three or four weeks, and if I'd felt the need to rush it, the experience of reading it would have soured immensely. As a story dependent upon the culture of the time and place, there is a lot of explanation of that time and place, as well as background into how some characters came to be as they are. Without such explanations, much of the plot would have made little or no sense to those modern readers who are unversed in the ways of "the British Raj." As my experience with this time and place is limited to the live-action version of The Jungle Book (also Disney), I include myself among those hypothetically confused readers.
However, even with all the insight into the culture and customs of the time, Ryman keeps the reader engaged ("the reader" in this case being me, not necessarily everyone). I did frequently feel the need to put the book down and find something else to do or read, but there was never a question of returning to it, and I was never away from it for more than one book at a time. I had to know what happened, how it turned out. Not finishing this book would probably have driven me batty. I once read that those people who flip to the last page of the book before they get there are control freaks and have since broken myself of that habit. But sometimes, I can't resist; I have to have some clues about who goes where with whom at the end. This was one of those times. I couldn't leave it to the author: I peeked. Even then, Ryman kept me guessing up until the end. And despite the abrupt turn-around that I can't say more about for fear of spoiling it all for everyone else, I bought it. I believed that the characters in question could and would execute the sudden about-face and find the solution that they did. Which is always a difficult task, especially since I tend to be kind of a skeptic.
Also difficult to achieve is to convince the reader to feel sympathy for all the characters in the novel, not just the protagonist(s). This was an important goal for Ryman, since her antagonists are protagonists and vice versa (a dichotomy that I find satisfying, since people in real life are never as flat and static as to simply be "good" or "bad"), and it is a goal that I feel she met with acceptable skill. While certain characters obviously induced more sympathy from me, I couldn't dislike anyone. Well, except for Peter Barstow; he was slimy. yick.(less)
So, another light-hearted mushy-gush history, but I have to say I liked it better than the previous one. The Gunsmith's Gallantry was mostly about the...moreSo, another light-hearted mushy-gush history, but I have to say I liked it better than the previous one. The Gunsmith's Gallantry was mostly about the mushy-gush; there were other plots, but the mushy-gush-ness took up the most time. The Blacksmith's Bravery was about a girl who wants to drive a stage, a job for men at the time. The mushy-gush kind of took a back seat to the stage driving and bandits, which is really just how I like my mush. So if you like girls who won't accept that something is "man's work," guns, and/or westerns, and aren't worried about being one of the big brainiac literati, this should be an enjoyable two- or three-day mental vacation from real life.(less)
**spoiler alert** I enjoyed this novel, but I have to say that I thought it was less stellar than, say, Pride and Prejudice. I find it irksome when th...more**spoiler alert** I enjoyed this novel, but I have to say that I thought it was less stellar than, say, Pride and Prejudice. I find it irksome when things put in quote marks aren't quotes; it's totally confusing to me. (If you don't know what I mean, my Jane Eyre review goes into more detail.) I don't remember Austen doing this in Pride and Prejudice (yes, that's the only other Austen book I've read so far), so I'm wondering if it was a fad in writing style that came about mid-career for Austen, and she went with it for some reason. I, however, think that was a dumb move, 'cause it makes my brain hurt, trying to figure out if the pronouns are referring to the speaker or not.
In addition to this irritating technical quirk, the end seemed kind of abrupt to me: One minute, Anne's wondering why Wentworth won’t even look at her; the next, they’re married. Okay, slight exaggeration, but really, in 5 or 10 minutes they went from Anne wondering how she’d ever communicate her preferences to Wentworth without breaking the conventions of propriety to “They were then married and Wentworth helped Mrs. Smith regain that bit of property of her late husband’s.” And then the book was done. I’m not going to profess to know what Austen should have written instead, not being a writer myself, but being a reader, I will say that such an ending is really much too hasty for my tastes.
Despite these shortcomings, I will say again that I enjoyed this book. It was like an icky romance, but without the icky, and being rather on the prudish side myself, I found this lack of icky pleasing. And now I shall end this review as abruptly as Austen ended Persuasion.(less)
My biggest problem with the writing in this book (which surprised me, considering how celebrated this author is) was how Brontë will put a section of...moreMy biggest problem with the writing in this book (which surprised me, considering how celebrated this author is) was how Brontë will put a section of dialogue in quotation marks, but write it like the narrator was telling a friend after the fact, but still put it in quotes: e.g. "He asked me, 'Do I find him attractive?' And I said, 'I love your face, but it isn't traditionally beautiful.' " I found it much easier to understand to just mentally rewrite it (e.g. " 'Do you find me attractive?' he asked. And I said....") so that the quotes were actually quotes and not paraphrases incorrectly put in quotes. Does that make sense? It feels wrong to say that Brontë did something wrong, because her work is considered literature, and is therefore treated (in my experience) as if it's the end-all, be-all of literary and grammatical perfection. But this was wrong; it confused me and I had to go back and read it again with my mental edits to understand who was saying what about; and if I'm confused, something isn't right. But overall, I found the story enjoyable, the plot interesting (though, in places, predictable, likely due to later emulators, not lack of originality), and the characters that needed to be likable were likable. Though not a casual read for a weekend, I found Jane Eyre to be a (mostly) enjoyable read to spread across the nights of a week or two.(less)
Though a little slow at first, and flirting with the Melvillian danger of giving too much detail about background that doesn't interest the readers, C...moreThough a little slow at first, and flirting with the Melvillian danger of giving too much detail about background that doesn't interest the readers, Clan of the Cave Bear is an engaging, enthralling hypothesis about the evolution of man and the beginnings of civilization. It also makes me want to research herbal medicine. These are all the coherent thoughts I have to provide today.(less)
I found this to be an interesting twining of fairy tale and dark history, providing a new perspective on the purpose and creation of stories such as "...moreI found this to be an interesting twining of fairy tale and dark history, providing a new perspective on the purpose and creation of stories such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Cinderella," or other tales adopted and adapted by Disney. However, I think I'm a little more excited about the "Recommended Reading" list in the back than I am about the book I just finished. I'm going to blame this lack of enthusiasm on illness and exhaustion, though, and not on any inherent lack in the writing or the story. (less)
So, I love alternate histories. I don't know why. Okay, maybe I just like them. A lot. But I really like this alternate history. I also think my siste...moreSo, I love alternate histories. I don't know why. Okay, maybe I just like them. A lot. But I really like this alternate history. I also think my sister's review pretty much covers my feelings, though I don't think about life enough to realize whether or not she and I actually share neuroses. But I liked all our good guys, and I disliked our bad guys, and the rotters were gross. My favorite parts are, really, any part where Briar or Zeke get all protective of the other. "I'm going to find my son," and, "That's my mother. You don't get to talk about my mother that way." And because I'm not feeling at all eloquent or coherent today, I'm going to stop there.(less)