See, this is why I don't read thrillers. They are just so disturbing. Don't be fooled by it being awarded the Carnegie medal.
I'm not sure what I can sSee, this is why I don't read thrillers. They are just so disturbing. Don't be fooled by it being awarded the Carnegie medal.
I'm not sure what I can say about it without spoiling the ending. The end has a lot to do with my feelings about it. On the dust jacket, there's a quote from Booklist: "...once they put it down, they'll ponder its meanings." This has been true for me, but mostly I'm wondering what I should be pondering. It didn't seem deep, though it was fast-paced. I would have read it in one day if I'd picked it up on a weekend.
I thought for a bit that the psychopath might be a metaphor for God. I mean, Linus uses the capital 'He' and 'Him'. But that's just seriously f*ed up. So, what else? Are we supposed to ponder what we would do? How we would use the limited time we might have, trapped in our lives? How to live/die with dignity? What it says about us that we enjoy the spectacle, just like the psychopath? (Otherwise, why would we keep reading?)
The dust jacket also reads, "People are really quite simple, and they have simple needs. Food, water, light, space, privacy. Maybe a small measure of dignity. A bit of freedom. What happens when someone simply takes all that away?" Assuming the book is supposed to answer that, I think it misses the mark. Life is nasty, brutish, and short is what I learned. And psychopaths do horrible things. There was no room for hope or redemption.
I guess I must not regret reading it because I'm giving it three stars, but I can't say I'd recommend it, unless you're into this sort of thing. And if you are... maybe I don't want to give you any more ideas. *shudder*...more
I am fascinated by the idea of language as a measure of intelligence, and how a person could develop their inner self without the constant feedback thI am fascinated by the idea of language as a measure of intelligence, and how a person could develop their inner self without the constant feedback that the rest of us get through body language and other social cues. Especially interesting was the way Elkins portrays Laura as selfish (around the issue of slavery) but then changes her position once she reads "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and gets that other perspective. Elkins wrote her as such a nuanced character - easy to love (at first through pity, and then genuinely by the end) and just as easy to hate/misunderstand/get frustrated with.
I also enjoyed learning about the time period that Laura lived through, and their fascination with her and her mentor Howe and the richness of all the other characters as well. The afterword at the end tidily summed up what was researched "truth" and what was cultivated "fiction" and gave even more perspective on the story. Yup, a great read. Glad I picked it up.
PS: Book-dar strikes again! Loved the nod to Laura being a lesbian....more
This was an easy way to read about lots of different famous people and learn some history that I didn't know. I liked hearing about the couples' partnThis was an easy way to read about lots of different famous people and learn some history that I didn't know. I liked hearing about the couples' partnerships and how they stayed together or broke apart. Many of the people I didn't even know existed, and the more famous ones I had no idea were gay. So that was cool to learn.
The writing itself leaves somewhat to be desired - lots of direct quotes from other sources turned me off, and the formulaic structure of each chapter sometimes made it seem like he was trying too hard to fit their lives into boxes. I found a couple typos too (always a pet peeve). But it really was an original topic, and I'm thankful I took the time to read it....more
Yes. This. Alexie has this really amazing way of pointing out race without making you feel yucky about it. Even really hard, terrible, historical trauYes. This. Alexie has this really amazing way of pointing out race without making you feel yucky about it. Even really hard, terrible, historical trauma that creeps its way insidiously into the everyday lives of Native and non-Native people alike. Alexie says, "Hey, look at that. Acknowledge it. What happens now is up to you. But don't blink. Don't look away." and amazingly, you don't want to.
Beyond that, the writing is really enjoyable, refreshing, and reflects a wide range of folks. Lots of reviewers complain about all the sexual stuff, but I think it's a hell of a lot more truthful than much of what we are given to read. People have sex. Get over it.
Anyway, it's something I can see passing on to others to read or re-reading myself when I need a little grounding in how other people's lives aren't the same as mine....more
I read this super slowly, which was a blessing. I think I could have raced through it and thought, "eh, that was okay". But because I borrowed it fromI read this super slowly, which was a blessing. I think I could have raced through it and thought, "eh, that was okay". But because I borrowed it from a friend (Chris) who spoke highly of it, I took my time and sought out what was good about it. (Which is a great way to live life.)
The things that I liked best... The narrator introduces himself and jumps in before telling us all about his face. We can't see it, so we are better able to hear his story without first writing our own about him, which I think is something people do when they see someone who looks different. As he goes along we learn more about what happened, but he has the power over the reveal, not us. (This spoke to my social work studies and the art of creating rapport.)
Darnielle did a great job of describing the way that the thoughts in our head are inadequately explained by our words and communication with others. There are just some things that don't make sense when said out loud, but are felt deeply. This phenomena in itself is difficult to explain or describe, but I felt that through the author's crafting of dialogue (or lack of it) I got it.
I love reading books where I never get the sense that I could have written that. I could not write this. But I'm glad someone did.
(Bonus points for a second plotline with a post-apocalyptic theme. Sometimes I forgot that wasn't the point of the book, and wondered what was going to happen next in the trace italian.)...more
Lots of people confuse "dystopia" with "utopia", especially in literature. I read a lot of dystopian novels, and they usually show the breakdown of soLots of people confuse "dystopia" with "utopia", especially in literature. I read a lot of dystopian novels, and they usually show the breakdown of society after a utopia has hit its peak. This novel followed the rise of a utopia, the beginning stages. How it comes about. Which, for me, was scarier, because unlike following characters in dystopian novels who rebel to bring the utopia down and restore humanity because (surprise, surprise) it actually doesn't work for everyone (The Hunger Games, This Perfect Day, Birthmarked, etc.), we see people who are caught up in the search for utopia. Their motives are ostensibly pure (Save children! Reduce crime! Know things!), and we can relate to that desire to make the world better. There were times at the beginning of the book that I'll admit I knew there were probably things wrong with their plan, but you know, it sounded pretty good. (Don't worry, by the end, I had changed my position.)
So that's the good stuff. The bad was that it was SO OBVIOUS. I like a little subtlety in my dialogue, a little inference required by the reader. This had little to none. I have to believe that either Eggers did this intentionally (because I know he has subtlety and grace in him, I've read it in his other books) and I don't get why, or he did it because he wrote this book in one burst of outraged, manic passion, alternately scouring the internet for fodder and locked away in a mountain retreat without even a cell phone. And then because he owns his own publishing company, he pushed for very little editing, because it HAS to get in the hands of the people. Now.
Make of it what you will, but I felt it was a good use of time. With no one watching. Except you.
Lots of great stuff about slavery, racism, social justice and overcoming ideas of difference to embrace a common humanity. I'm glad there are sequelsLots of great stuff about slavery, racism, social justice and overcoming ideas of difference to embrace a common humanity. I'm glad there are sequels - while this could be a stand-alone book, the ideas in it are merely the tip of the iceberg, and I think readers need more examples of actions taken to right wrongs, not just the new-found realization that wrongs exist. (I haven't read the sequels, so I can't say if they achieve that or not.) I think setting the book in the future and also on another planet was a useful way to explore these ideas without raising people's hackles from the outset.
Some things I didn't like (which are probably personal picky-picky things) - why couldn't the GEN be male and the trueborn be female? Why does he have to be the hero? Is 100 years really long enough to completely create a religion and division of classes and so much tension? (I'm not entirely skeptical - I think it is possible. Look at our own lack of memory at things that happened 100 years ago. I just read that the term "racism" was invented in the 1960's. What?! Ok, end of digression.)
The book was easy to read, well thought-out, fast-paced without being a roller coaster of tension, and predictable enough to keep my trust. I'd recommend it to teenagers or adults who like YA lit or light sci-fi....more
In a book of collected stories or essays, its hard to love everything in it. And it's true, some of these I didn't get, not so much. But the ones I diIn a book of collected stories or essays, its hard to love everything in it. And it's true, some of these I didn't get, not so much. But the ones I did were amazing, heart-wrenching, truth-speaking pieces. I wanted to hand them out like candy to the people I love. I need to own a copy of this book.
Favorites included "Transcension" by Diamond & Blazes (it was a comic), "The Manly Art of Pregnancy" by j wallace, "Why you don't have to choose a white-boy name" by Kenji Tokawa, and "Pilgrimage" by Zev Al-Walid. I also enjoyed (mostly) the interchanges between Bornstein and Bergman throughout the book.
So many of the things that hold trans* people back from full inclusion and acceptance in society are things that hold many other people back as well, but are often much more compounded. When the day comes when we have addressed these inequalities in employment, housing, health care, and just plain being seen for who we are, it won't just be trans* people who benefit, but everyone....more
This was the first Ann Patchett book I ever read, and I've loved her ever since. I remember I read this soon after Autobiography of a Face, and felt eThis was the first Ann Patchett book I ever read, and I've loved her ever since. I remember I read this soon after Autobiography of a Face, and felt each added to the other....more
Normally when I read short stories (which, for the record, these are essays) gathered into a collection, I enjoy not reading them in order. Despite thNormally when I read short stories (which, for the record, these are essays) gathered into a collection, I enjoy not reading them in order. Despite the hard work of curating and organizing that an editor does, I like fate to choose what I will read. Out of deference to Patchett's brilliance, I read this one in order, which turned out to be too bad. The writing was good, but the way these were pulled together, mostly chronologically, made them often repetitive. I don't think this would have bothered me if I hadn't felt like "I've just read that."
Still, I very much enjoyed her essay on being a writer and the writing process, having toyed with being a writer myself. I also liked the speech she gave at the school where her book was in such controversy. And there was something sweet about the title essay about her marriage. Oh, and the one about being a touring author was interesting too.
I never did figure out the answer to the word game. Maybe someday I'll have to go to a book signing and ask her in person....more
It is a brave and monumental task, in my mind, to write a book about books for book lovers. There are so many ways you can quickly go wrong. Luckily,It is a brave and monumental task, in my mind, to write a book about books for book lovers. There are so many ways you can quickly go wrong. Luckily, Zevin sidestepped these pitfalls (at least for me). In some ways it reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, though it didn't have the same historical context. Still, both were about loving books, stories, and the written word, and both were set on islands. I liked how periodically Zevin would jump to one person's perspective, even if they were a minor character, and talk about how a particular book or genre affected their life (ex: child welfare caseworker). I too feel that books find us at the right time, and will put off reading something if it doesn't "feel" right - hoping, of course, that it will come back to me when I need it. Though I felt this lacked a certain depth that might have put me off at another time, I didn't need or want that now, and there was enough character development to keep me engaged. A perk of this type of book is that it piles other books onto one's list, so I better get cracking (spines, that is!)....more
I visited John Brown's farm in upstate New York a few years back when in the area for a wedding. I had heard of Harper's Ferry, vaguely, but didn't reI visited John Brown's farm in upstate New York a few years back when in the area for a wedding. I had heard of Harper's Ferry, vaguely, but didn't really know much about it. This book fleshed out the man and his cause, and what I enjoyed most was the nuance. McBride paints Brown as a flawed man with a passionate cause; one who must be crazy in order to keep it up.
The other piece that McBride does really well is that he shows how even the whites fighting for abolition of slavery had no idea the true nature of the black experience. Brown just barges ahead, not really listening to how this is going to affect the slaves he's trying to recruit. And yet, McBride also does a fine job pointing out that it's up to each of us to "be a man", ie, choose to live our lives as our consciences, not our fear dictates. (I kind of hate the phrase "be a man", but it works here, as a reflection of Onion's gender dilemma.)
There were a couple points where I found McBride's phrasing to be a bit repetitive. I also wondered if so many people really said "I is". Especially Brown, with all his thee's and thou's. There were a couple other language anachronisms in there too. I tend to believe an author, figuring they did their research (and I hope he did - there's a lot of room for inaccuracies in here otherwise), but those tripped me up a bit. Speaking of, I wish McBride had included an afterword with some historical facts. I think it would have added to the richness.
That said, the book isn't about the facts of John Brown's life, or even the fight to end slavery. It's about finding out who we are and what we are called to do. And I think it's also a call to weigh the fallout - but not so much you lose the will to do the right thing....more
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