This was a great collection of short stories, originally aired on NPR's program Selected Shorts. They were really well performed, although it took me...moreThis was a great collection of short stories, originally aired on NPR's program Selected Shorts. They were really well performed, although it took me a while to get used to the audience sounds and the feedback from the microphone on some of the (somewhat low quality) recordings. The collection contained two stories that I absolutely loved (5 stars): 'Eternal Love' by Karen Bender and 'The Wife's Story' by Ursula K. Le Guin.
'Eternal Love' follows a mother as she struggles to let go of her need to protect her mentally-challenged child, as her daughter gets married and begins a life of her own.
'The Wife's Story'...well, you'll just have to check it out. It's the shortest story in the collection, at just under twelve minutes long. Amazingly performed. I've already listened to it three times. This one's definitely going on my top ten list of all-time favorite short stories.
I also enjoyed several of the other stories (a mix of 3-4 stars). The final one just could not keep my attention, though it may have been my state of mind rather than the quality of the story that was at fault.(less)
This very short book nonetheless took me way too long to get through. I have never seen the movie adaptation(s?) but knew the book had to do with immo...moreThis very short book nonetheless took me way too long to get through. I have never seen the movie adaptation(s?) but knew the book had to do with immortality. (Actually, I had an entirely different plot mistakenly in mind when I started this book, the source of which I'm still trying to figure out...)
The story follows Winifred, a sheltered 10-year-old, the day she runs away from home to explore the nearby forest and is accidentally kidnapped by the Tucks. The Tucks had returned to Winnie's neighborhood for their decennial family reunion, to the place where they accidentally gained immortality from a spring hidden deep in the forest some eighty years back.
For me, there just wasn't much going on most of the time. I would sit down and think "Okay, I'm going to finish this book now." Then I would read ten pages, put the book down, and decide that maybe I would just finish it tomorrow.(less)
I was really not in the mood for this, but it was the shortest audio book on my iPod. I've been slowly working my way through all of Burroughs's Tarza...moreI was really not in the mood for this, but it was the shortest audio book on my iPod. I've been slowly working my way through all of Burroughs's Tarzan books. This installment, in the form of eight or nine short stories, goes back to Tarzan's adolescent days as a young man-ape. Before he learned to speak, while he was still fawning over she-apes and terrorizing (and murdering) the Gomangani--the black tribal men of the jungle.
Burroughs's racism and class-ism often subtly nuance the Tarzan books. But I found them much less subtle in this book--or maybe I was just paying more attention to that this time around. I felt like he constantly reminded his readers of the Gomanganis' (see definition above) inferior intelligence and imaginations. And we were also reminded (hypocritically in my opinion) that Tarzan's innate virtues, intelligence, and potential were all due to his high English breeding. That he had, in fact, inherited his innate sense of human culture, of reading, of morality from his genes. Hypocritical because Tarzan, before he learns to speak and interact with humans, is much more wild and blood-lusting than his black-skinned jungle counterparts.
How can Burroughs refer to his refined breeding in one sentence and then have Tarzan murder another human being in the next? Burroughs may try to justify these acts by discrediting the Gomangani, comparing them to little more than animals--and they're cannibals, to boot, so...don't they deserve death anyhow? But the only real justification for Tarzan's often brutish acts is that he was raised by wild animals; he doesn't know any better. Which effectively discredits his claim to superior genes.
Enough with the ranting...other than the infringement of Burroughs's own annoying beliefs, I liked these stories, particularly those that illustrated new moments of self-discovery for Tarzan.(less)
I did not read these books as a kid, so my rating is in no way influenced by nostalgia.
In this second installment of L'Engle's Time Series, Charles Wa...moreI did not read these books as a kid, so my rating is in no way influenced by nostalgia.
In this second installment of L'Engle's Time Series, Charles Wallace is mysteriously sick and Meg and Calvin are whisked away by a dragon-like cherubim to battle the Xing Echthroi who are assaulting Charles Wallace's mitochondria and therefore his life.
Almost the entirety of A Wind in the Door felt bogged down in dialogue, most of which consisted of Meg being annoying. It didn't help that I listened to the audio version where the author herself is the reader, and she did a very dramatic and shrieky rendition of Meg's belligerent demands. The plot and pacing of this second novel are much weaker than A Wrinkle in Time, the first book in the series.
My other issue with the audio version is that L'Engle has a slight lisp, which was at first difficult to get past.(less)
I thought I had, but realize now that I never read this book as a kid. So my rating is not influenced by nostalgia.
Mrs. Murry is a scientist who as of...moreI thought I had, but realize now that I never read this book as a kid. So my rating is not influenced by nostalgia.
Mrs. Murry is a scientist who as often as not cooks dinner for her children on the Bunsen burners in her research lab. Mr. Murry, a physicist, was sent off on a Top Secret government mission two years ago, and no one has heard from him since. Their parents' rather unusual occupations, and their own lack of social skills, have made Meg, 14, and Charles Wallace, 6, pariahs among the children in their neighborhood.
One day, Charles Wallace comes home having made a bevy of very unusual new friends: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Witches? Thieves? Creatures from beyond our solar system? Who can tell? Shortly thereafter, the two Murry children find themselves whisked away from Earth, traveling through space and time accompanied by the three ladies and an additional schoolmate and outcast, Calvin, on a quest to rescue their father from the Dark Thing that is throwing its shadow across the universe.
A Wrinkle in Time is well paced, well written, and quite interesting in its inventiveness. My only complaint is that the plot began to drag while they were with the tentacled things on the planet Ixchel, after they (view spoiler)[escaped Camazotz the first time (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This novel was very hit and miss for me. The story follows the young nun Evangline, who is descended from a family of Angelologists (scholars who have...moreThis novel was very hit and miss for me. The story follows the young nun Evangline, who is descended from a family of Angelologists (scholars who have devoted their lives to the angelic Nephilim--the evil off-spring of angels and man, back in the time of Genesis, who still live among us and are the exploiters of all man's most brutal flaws) as she discovers the truth about her past, her family, and her heritage and helps the Angelologists retrieve an important and dangerous artifact before it falls into the hands of the Nephilim.
The opening left me with a forboding feeling that I was reading the next The Da Vinci Code, only with ten million times better prose at least. Her prose are, at times, immaculate. But even this is hit and miss. Her writing is sometimes so dense and beautiful that it renders the dialogue ridiculous, as everyone sounds like they're reading from a book or writing carefully formed prose in their journals rather than having real conversations.
The large, middle section of the book jumps back in time, changing POV character, and switching from third person to first person. I appreciated the deviation from generic predictability but, on the whole, I thought this section was a huge mistake. Trussoni interrupted the momentum of the narrative and virtually abandoned the story at hand, for some two-hundred pages, to essentially give me a history lesson on angelology and anti-Darwinist religious doctrine that I found very difficult to swallow. This section was so heavy-handed on preach and teach that I never felt the connection with the characters or the friendship between them, which was an essential element of the section. The lack of sympathetic characters and relationships left the whole section feeling hollow.
To top it all off, I was also disappointed in the ending. What I found myself caring about most was a decades old, Romeo-and-Juliet-tainted-by-demonic-angels love story whose lack of time in the spotlight and careless wrap-up left me feeling cold and bored.
And I'll just add that the overall, main character's story arch was very, VERY similar to that in The Da Vinci Code. Too bad Trussoni wasn't able to push this work a bit further. I expected more for the rumored $4 million she got for it.
**Addendum: I'd like to add that I DO plan to read the next book in this series, when it comes out. Trussoni's writing is quite promising, and I hope she can pull through with a stronger follow-up.(less)
Onyesonwu, a young woman conceived through violent means, has magical powers nearly beyond her control and an evil father who is bent on her destructi...moreOnyesonwu, a young woman conceived through violent means, has magical powers nearly beyond her control and an evil father who is bent on her destruction and the destruction of her people.
Nnedi Okorafor does an excellent job of catching the reader's attention and interest in the opening of the novel, but after nearly 100 pages still fails to offer anything new to further motivate the reader to keep going. Her punchy, short-sentenced style is reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler, as is her subject, bringing to mind the African-descended shape-changers of Butler's Wild Seed. Okorafor not only writes punchy sentences, she writes punchy chapters--little, two- to four-page snippets that fracture the flow of the narrative by jerking us through time with little in the way of transition.
I originally tried to read this novel in 2010 and abandoned it after 200 pages. The story had finally moved beyond the setup, but the pace still tripped along awkwardly, and neither the conflict nor the characters pulled me in enough to finish the book. This time, I picked it up in audiobook and was able to make it through to the end of the story with much less difficulty. The awkward transitions and punchy pacing of the printed version did not come through in audio.
In the end, I found myself unsatisfied with the character development, which effectively ceased halfway through the book, and the plot resolution, which was a bit too loose for my tastes. I really liked the kind of confusing meld of modern and fantasy, so that I was never quite sure if the story was taking place in the modern world with magical realism, a post-apocalyptic world, or a magical version of the modern world. I also enjoyed the aspects of reading fantasy based on other countries and cultures. It makes for a very different experience from typical epic fantasy. Despite these pluses, I don't recommend Who Fears Death as an essential read.(less)
This is my least favorite of LeGuin's Annals of the Western Shore series. The reader follows Gav through his life in slavery, his escape from slavery,...moreThis is my least favorite of LeGuin's Annals of the Western Shore series. The reader follows Gav through his life in slavery, his escape from slavery, and his wanderings for several years before finally finding a place he can call home. The works in this series tend to be less action oriented, literature-focused, and contemplative. But Powers seemed to lack that necessary spark that still made the story interesting and motivated me to keep listening. A disappointment, but the first two in the series are worth reading, and I'll still check out any new additions.(less)