I had high hopes for this book, as it was recommended on National Public Radio. Unfortunately, I discovered that the characters deal with their griefI had high hopes for this book, as it was recommended on National Public Radio. Unfortunately, I discovered that the characters deal with their grief in a manner that is... not accessible to the reader. (Saying much more would be a spoiler alert.) Which I think defeats the point of fiction - to live through another's life in order to better understand your own. Granted, this can be accomplished through fantasy by means of metaphor, but I wasn't seeing the metaphorical equivalent.
If you asked me to rate the last couple of chapters, including the protagonist's reveal, I think I'd probably up my rating to four stars. The ending pulled it all together and made it worth reading, in my opinion. There was a realness to it that grabbed me. So, I probably won't go back to it, but it wasn't bad....more
The best way to learn an untold history. Most moving for me were The Shame and Two Letters. May we make sure never to repeat such tragedies. I love hoThe best way to learn an untold history. Most moving for me were The Shame and Two Letters. May we make sure never to repeat such tragedies. I love how this book is simple enough for middle grade readers (or younger) yet nuanced and real enough for adults.
Make sure to spot the nod to platform 9 and 3/4. I won't tell which chapter. ;-)...more
I read this in two sittings, and didn't even notice the time passing. Yet despite being engrossed, it didn't pull my heartstrings for the people of NeI read this in two sittings, and didn't even notice the time passing. Yet despite being engrossed, it didn't pull my heartstrings for the people of New Orleans the way What is the What connected me to the plight of refugees. So I guess I walked away... not disappointed, per se, just... underwhelmed.
Probably my mistake was in thinking this book is about hurricane Katrina. That's what I was looking for. It's set there, but it's really about two other things - one, the basic goodness of people who are usually maligned by the media, and two, the depths to which our country has sunk when it comes to the actual "justice" piece of the criminal justice / human rights system.
Because the truth that I came away with is that when the apocalypse comes, it's not mother nature, the looters, or God you should fear, it's the government bureaucracy handing out guns that turns decent people into uncaring psychopaths. And that's enough to traumatize anyone.
Or, that's what I got from it. And that wasn't what I was looking for....more
This was a curious book. Normally the fantasy novels that I read have some form of violence in them, as the theme of good vs. evil tends to play out oThis was a curious book. Normally the fantasy novels that I read have some form of violence in them, as the theme of good vs. evil tends to play out on a grand scale, which, until I read this book, I thought had to include great battles. And there was a great battle, but overall violence was decried as a generally unnecessary evil. Instead, one wins the hearts and minds of the people (albeit, sometimes with magical technology, which is a force in itself).
Now, don't get me wrong - other fantasy books also give lip service to shunning violence. Phedre of Kushiel's Chosen undergoes a ceremony that causes her to feel keenly the deaths of everyone she caused in some way to die. And yet there is still an undercurrent of glory in scenes of battle, the way the author writes them. There is none of that in this book, which I found fascinating. It's all about making one's self a force of love in order to wield power over others.
This book also reminded me in some ways of Wells' The Time Machine, in that it shows a civilization with human beings that is so far in the future we can't even imagine that scope of time. Fourteen thousand years in the future? The science fiction I've read tends to look a couple thousand forward at most, or even just a couple hundred. Instead, Silverberg shows us a society of humans and aliens fully integrated (well, almost - see: Metamorphs), evolved (almost) past the point of violence. Which, you know, is kinda cool.
What kept me from giving a full four stars was the preponderance of description. Everywhere the characters went, Silverberg had to tell us ALL about what they were seeing. Amazing fields of trees that float, castles of incredible size, cities that never end... shame on me, at some point I started skimming. Yes, Majipoor is amazing. I get it. Is the point to simply amaze me with the things you've thought up? Or to explain why Valentine loves and needs to save his world? Or does all this become relevant in sequels? I never figured it out. This manifested itself in repetition as well; for instance, looking back and listing Valentine's companions and where they had been every time they went somewhere new. It was a little thing, but it irked me.
Anyway, I can see why my friend Mike (who recommended the book) got into juggling. It is certainly a celebration of the art, layered with symbolism and metaphor, as is the rest of the book....more
Sometimes, when I'm out backpacking or even just on a particularly beautiful day at the park, I'll get the feeling that my heart is both full and heavSometimes, when I'm out backpacking or even just on a particularly beautiful day at the park, I'll get the feeling that my heart is both full and heavy. This is what I think makes beauty strike me to my core - knowing that it is fleeting. Sunsets, childhood, cherry blossoms, moonlight: all these things will end. This is what makes the apocalypse the perfect setting for this elegiac novel. It is an ode to all the things that the character loves and has or will someday lose. As I love these things too (okay, not flying, but the rest of it), I connected very closely with Heller's writing.
I find myself often looking at my cat, knowing someday he will die and I will be heartbroken beyond imagination. I also think about this in the context of the apocalypse. So, thanks, Heller for showing me how to keep going when that happens.
If you aren't into violence or apocalyptic fiction, I can see where you might want to steer clear of this book. But the plot and setting, while arguably essential, take a backseat to the love poems Heller writes to life, to happiness, to humanity. I wonder if in some way, though, by romanticizing the end of all things, Heller isn't dooming us to give up on saving the planet? It is a danger. (But a lot more enjoyable than books that illustrate merely that life is ugly, brutish, and short!)...more
This was an excellent follow-up to my experience reading Gender Failure. Bergman writes in-depth about trans issues in society, and while ze also sharThis was an excellent follow-up to my experience reading Gender Failure. Bergman writes in-depth about trans issues in society, and while ze also shares many, many stories about hir life (what I loved about Gender Failure), each one tied back to the big picture of politics, society, gender, and everything else. I loved the concepts of "reading" vs. "passing", trans people having excellent problem solving skills, and there being a place for those who are outside the gender binary.
Bergman writes clearly and obviously knows hir stuff. I felt my mind expanding with every new essay, and felt a keen desire to share what I learned with people who get it. Which was painful too, because I don't feel like I have a community where I see Bergman's theory intersecting with real life. Ze talks about this in one of hir essays, that ze goes on speaking tours, exclaiming about how there exists a fabulous rainbow of gender expression, but when folks leave the lecture, they walk back into a world that is mostly GIRL or BOY and not a lot in between. Maybe in Chicago. Maybe in New York. Maybe even in LA or Portland. But not here.
Should a book review be entirely clinical? If so, I can say that Bergman does tend to lapse into too much jargon, or at least sentence structure that loses me. A couple times I was wondering how much longer an essay would go on for, which is not a great sign. Hence the four star review. But I'd read even those long essays again and again, because the personal, soul-deep connection was made. For the week I read this book, I didn't need a best friend - Bergman filled that role. I can't guarantee ze'll do that for you too, but I doubt you'll be too disappointed. If nothing else, Bergman will make you laugh out loud....more
This is exactly what I've been looking for, and I'm so glad I found it. I've never seen their shows, so I can't compare, but I will be keeping an eyeThis is exactly what I've been looking for, and I'm so glad I found it. I've never seen their shows, so I can't compare, but I will be keeping an eye out for them in the future, if they are still touring. The biggest takeaway for me was the reassurance that existing somewhere outside the gender binary is not just possible, but real and valuable. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you. Though I don't necessarily see myself there, it still helped me feel less alone, somehow.
Both Rae and Ivan's stories were moving in different yet complementary ways. I appreciated their up-front acceptance of their own privilege, despite some of the oppression they face. I loved Ivan's chapter on Trans Awareness day and pointing out the difference between how trans men and trans women are accepted. I reveled in Ivan's self-acceptance and pronoun fluidity, as well as how they weathered the top-surgery-without-hormones debate from doctors. And I just wanted to hug Rae. All the time.
I don't usually buy books, but I finished this and could think of several people (and libraries) to which I need to give this book. Everyone needs to read this. If I can't afford a box of them, I will at least get myself one and underline, star, heart, and exclamation point all over it.
It was real, it was thoughtful, it was everything I needed at this point in my life. I totally get if there are readers who will dislike this - to each their own - but not this reader....more
There were a lot of twists and turns in this book, and I'm glad I finished it, because the concept and takeaway gave me something to chew on. I wasn'tThere were a lot of twists and turns in this book, and I'm glad I finished it, because the concept and takeaway gave me something to chew on. I wasn't sure I was going to though. The first quarter of the book was a bit of a slog for me. Where is the editor? I thought Willis could have said the same thing in a hundred fewer pages, but I guess that's her style. I found myself skimming over parts, thinking "Seriously, they're complaining about the cafeteria again? This had better really add to the plot." (The twists of the hallways do, eventually, I guess. The cafeteria does not.) Also, the immature hissy-fits that each character throws at least once were a major turn-off. We are not in middle school here, people. And if I have to hear the word "confabulation" one more time, I may banish it from my vocabulary forever.
The richness of detail and the immediacy of the energy in Joanna's NDE's, especially as she gets closer to figuring things out as a major reason I stuck with it. That was good writing. The way Willis tied things together neatly - but not simplistically - worked for me as an ending. It wiggled its way into my dreams for the past week.
As the first book finished in 2015, not a bad way to start off. Thanks, Mike for suggesting and lending it to me!...more
It is hard to write a review that is objective when I had such a heart-deep reaction to what Wise said. I read through some of the other reviews when I was halfway through because I wanted to make sure I was reading critically, but found that I disagreed with them. It's easy to find fault with an author, but harder to find fault with one's self. Wise encourages self-reflection, which I think many balk at. I am reading this at a time when I am learning more about these issues through my Social Work classes, so I am perhaps more open to this than most. But with the politics around Ferguson, how can we *not* ask ourselves how each of us is complicit?
It's a relatively short book, but there's a lot to digest, so take it slow....more
The concept of human-animal hybrids, and sex-shifting characters are what drew me in and kept me reading, despite times when the plot/action felt as hThe concept of human-animal hybrids, and sex-shifting characters are what drew me in and kept me reading, despite times when the plot/action felt as holey as swiss cheese and the prose required third-try readings. Descriptions of cold, the forest, and the characters' bodies were interesting, but I can't say it was stellar writing.
Take this bit at the end. "The torch she'd lost in her scuffle with the dogs lay smoldering and now the rug beneath it had begun to blaze." And yet this fire isn't mentioned in the following fight scene, nor does it seem to exist when they go back upstairs to light everything else on fire. Huh? Plus, the marble is described as "rotting". Does stone rot? And she's frigging FROZEN in a puddle, yet not frostbitten? Stuff like this was on every page. If you aren't paying much attention, it's fine, but I do, and ugh, it was no good.
Why I feel compelled to give this three stars instead of two is beyond me, but for whatever reason it was worth finishing, so that's something....more