I've avoided this book for six years. Just the thought of entering into this family's pain and the minds of a horrible man and his innocent victim wer...moreI've avoided this book for six years. Just the thought of entering into this family's pain and the minds of a horrible man and his innocent victim were too much for me to bear. I watched it on the shelf and continually said, "no."
But we all gain strength with time and experience, and books wait for us until we are ready. And somehow, they find us at the proper time in our lives.
This one found me at the proper time.
The Lovely Bones is a lesson in paradoxical dichotomy. Even the title places two incompatible words next to each other. The story is heart-wrenching and lovely all at once. The characters are familiar yet distant.
With the lyrical intertwining of imagery and feelings, there is a subtle lesson that the delightful parts and the painful parts that make up our lives are all just components in the wonder of living: simple acts like watching dogs out in the yard, or bottles being built in ships, or gloves being passed on are just as poignant in our lives as monumental first kisses and making love, or jealousy, regret, disappointment, and death. Feeling and being are living. Even dying is living. (less)
In preparation for the Utah Shakespeare Fesitval, I read this play in conjunction with watching the PBS series The Hollow Crown. (My arguments for rea...moreIn preparation for the Utah Shakespeare Fesitval, I read this play in conjunction with watching the PBS series The Hollow Crown. (My arguments for reading the play versus seeing the play and having it count as having read the work can be found here and are also tied up here.)
*** Dear William,
Your words are like melted butter on warm toast (wheat for me, please). They are rich and creamy; running over in drippy, oily sweetness; nourishing and incredibly comforting even when liberally spread. A nibble is as delicious as a mouthful.
Hungry for a Whole Loaf
While there is no complex plot here, the entertainment value comes through despite it being one of the "dry History Plays." This is due, in large part, to Falstaff, who is more than just a comic relief buffoon and has wonderful moments of complexity. But I found that I had taken a great liking to Prince Hal. He is no serious Hamlet, but this prodigal son knows he must rise to the occasion. Here is his soliloquy and a few other favorite excerpts:
I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humor of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wondered at By breaking through the foul and ugly mist Of vapors that did seem to strangle him. If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work, But when they seldom come, they wished for come, And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents. So when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promisèd, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes; And, like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I’ll so offend to make offense a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will. Act I, Scene II
Hal's eulogy over the less than dead body of Percy is both tender and chiding:
Ill-weaved ambition, how much art thou shrunk! When that this body did contain a spirit, A kingdom for it was too small a bound; But now two paces of the vilest earth Is room enough. Act V, Scene IV
And Falstaff's reply shows his pragmatic, though self-serving, credo:
Counterfeit! I lie; I am no counterfeit: to die, is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life. Act V, Scene IV(less)
Wonderfully fun. The Three's Company of the 16th Century, complete with misunderstanding, mistaken identity, swinging doors and a double dose of Mr. F...moreWonderfully fun. The Three's Company of the 16th Century, complete with misunderstanding, mistaken identity, swinging doors and a double dose of Mr. Furley in the name of Dromio.
*The version performed at this year's Utah Shakespeare Fesitval, impeccably done, had an Old West spin to it, showing that The Bard's work transcends time and place.(less)
(I saw this play several years ago. In preparation for this year's Utah Shakespeare Festival performance, I decided to read it.)
The beauty of Twelfth Night is that the story hangs on the desires of two women, Viola and Olivia, foils and mirrors of each other. The other characters just add seasoning to the play.
These are my favorite excerpts:
VIOLA 'Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white Nature's own sweet and cunning hand laid on: Lady, you are the cruell'st she alive, If you will lead these graces to the grave And leave the world no copy. OLIVIA O, sir, I will not be so hard-hearted; I will give out divers schedules of my beauty: it shall be inventoried, and every particle and utensil labelled to my will: as, item, two lips, indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth. Were you sent hither to praise me? VIOLA I see you what you are, you are too proud; But, if you were the devil, you are fair. My lord and master loves you: O, such love Could be but recompensed, though you were crown'd The nonpareil of beauty! OLIVIA How does he love me? VIOLA With adorations, fertile tears, With groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire. OLIVIA Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him: Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble, Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth; In voices well divulged, free, learn'd and valiant; And in dimension and the shape of nature A gracious person: but yet I cannot love him; He might have took his answer long ago. Act I, Scene V
VIOLA I left no ring with her: what means this lady? Fortune forbid my outside have not charm'd her! She made good view of me; indeed, so much, That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue, For she did speak in starts distractedly. She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion Invites me in this churlish messenger. None of my lord's ring! why, he sent her none. I am the man: if it be so, as 'tis, Poor lady, she were better love a dream. Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness, Wherein the pregnant enemy does much. How easy is it for the proper-false In women's waxen hearts to set their forms! Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we! For such as we are made of, such we be. How will this fadge? my master loves her dearly; And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me. What will become of this? As I am man, My state is desperate for my master's love; As I am woman,--now alas the day!-- What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe! O time! thou must untangle this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me to untie! Act II, Scene II
VIOLA Too well what love women to men may owe: In faith, they are as true of heart as we. My father had a daughter loved a man, As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship. DUKE ORSINO And what's her history? VIOLA A blank, my lord. She never told her love, But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud, Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought, And with a green and yellow melancholy She sat like patience on a monument, Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed? We men may say more, swear more: but indeed Our shows are more than will; for still we prove Much in our vows, but little in our love. Act II, Scene IV
VIOLA By innocence I swear, and by my youth I have one heart, one bosom and one truth, And that no woman has; nor never none Shall mistress be of it, save I alone. And so adieu, good madam: never more Will I my master's tears to you deplore. Act III, Scene I
DUKE ...I'll sacrifice the lamb that I do love, To spite a raven's heart within a dove. Act V, Scene I (less)
I received this preciously old copy as a gift from a dear friend, thus my rating doesn't reflect the true meaning behind the book.
In a style similar t...moreI received this preciously old copy as a gift from a dear friend, thus my rating doesn't reflect the true meaning behind the book.
In a style similar to the writings of C.S. Lewis, the language of The Mansion is dated, but the message is timeless and touching. It was listed as one of the three books read by Thomas Monson at Christmas time (in addition to the story of Jesus' birth in the Book of Luke and Dickens' A Christmas Carol). I will also include it in my annual readings.(less)
I decided to give some 'chick-lit' another try (with the hopes for a romantic story set in Paris) and found myself strengthening, not only my resolve...moreI decided to give some 'chick-lit' another try (with the hopes for a romantic story set in Paris) and found myself strengthening, not only my resolve never to read such trite nonsense, but also, my eyes, as I rolled them continuously with the reading. (less)
Laurie King's writing is phenomenal; articulate and sophisticated without being pretentious. Her ability to pace the plot without undertow nor hypercl...moreLaurie King's writing is phenomenal; articulate and sophisticated without being pretentious. Her ability to pace the plot without undertow nor hyperclimax is admirable. But more than any other achievement, it is the breath of life she has given to two very dear characters that sets her apart. There are only a dozen fictional characters whom I feel I know as intimately as Mary Russell and [King's] Sherlock Holmes. It is a pleasure to spend time in their presence. (less)
I'm not really a Hemingway fan (see this review for verification), but of all his books, I found a simple loveliness in this one. With subtle allusion...moreI'm not really a Hemingway fan (see this review for verification), but of all his books, I found a simple loveliness in this one. With subtle allusions to Moby-Dick; or, The Whale* and Asian fish lore, the melancholy reader will appreciate the beauty in struggle, trial and death.
*Okay, stupid Goodreads! How difficult is it for Melville to be the FIRST source when choosing options for Moby-Dick?!(less)
Oh, Lily Bart! Do I admire you or despise you? With the same vein of indecision you show, neither can I choose. But I do pity you... and not with a de...moreOh, Lily Bart! Do I admire you or despise you? With the same vein of indecision you show, neither can I choose. But I do pity you... and not with a demeaning, self-righteous pity; rather an empathetic sorrow for your predicament.
This is Wharton's rebuke of societal expectations and requirements placed on women, dependent on suitable marriages to feed their tastes for beautiful gowns and lovely parties. She sophisticatedly weaves together contrasting characters, symbol and motif and (at times excruciatingly) intricate detail with a turn of the century, post-Victorian Era hollowness. We know (because it's Edith Wharton, after all) that it's not going to end well.
My favorite back-handed compliment was when, rather than commend them for attending church, the narrator quips:
“Mr. and Mrs. Wetherall's circle was so large that God was included in their visiting-list.” (less)
Whew. I'm not sure if I can exactly say that I loved reading this Pulitzer winner.
The writing is sophisticatedly clean. I enjoyed the placement and p...more Whew. I'm not sure if I can exactly say that I loved reading this Pulitzer winner.
The writing is sophisticatedly clean. I enjoyed the placement and play of varying motifs and themes related to the passage of time: clocks (obviously), seasons, shadows, things that fade and disappear, counting down the hours until death, even accruing interest as a measurement of time (and birds? I haven't quite figured out how the bird theme fits with time, but it was prominent throughout).
But I wasn't a fan of the frequent narration changes from first person to omniscient third, and continually had to regroup to figure out which character was the father and which was the son.
There were some lovely moments, but many tedious ones, especially leading up to the surprise that a Chapter 2 existed (!) 70 pages into a 190 page book (I could have used a Chapter 2 around page 20, just sayin').
These were the lovely moments:
"...The author has heard of a clock supposedly seen in eastern Bohemia that had the likeness of a great oak tree wrought in iron and brass around its dial. As the seasons of its homeland changed, the branches of the tree turned a thousand tiny copper leaves, each threaded on a hair-thin spindle, from enameled green to metallic red. Then, by astounding mechanisms within the case (fashioned to look like one of the mystical pillars once believed to hold up the earth) the branches released the leaves to spiral down their threads and strew themselves about the lower part of the clock face. If this machine in fact existed, Mr. Newton himself could it have sat beneath a more amazing tree (p. 18)."
"Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn't it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and THAT is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty... be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough (p. 72)."
"What of miniature boats constructed of birch bark and fallen leaves, launched onto cold water clear as air? How many fleets were pushed out toward the middles of ponds or sent down autumn brooks, holding treasures of acorns, or black feathers, or a puzzled mantis? Let those grassy crafts be listed alongside the iron hulls that cleave the sea, for they are all improvisational built from the daydreams of men, and all will perish, whether from ocean siege or October breeze (pp. 77-78)."
"...Is it not true: A move of the head, a step to the left or right, and we change from wise, decent, loyal people to conceited fools? Light changes, our eyes blink and see the world from the slightest difference of perspective and our place in it has changed infinitely... (p. 124)"(less)
Tolstoy has created into character the Russian Ebenezer Scrooge. Ivan Ilyich does not get the merciful advantage of nighttime visito...moreProfoundly moving.
Tolstoy has created into character the Russian Ebenezer Scrooge. Ivan Ilyich does not get the merciful advantage of nighttime visitors, however. His Ghosts of Past, Present and Future are his own memories and the unsympathetic muddlings of those by whom he should have been shown compassion and love. Despite this, he finds meaning in life and purpose in death, regretfully at the latest hour.
Let me confess. I originally picked this book because I have been recently rating so many books with 4 stars and I really don't want my average book r...more Let me confess. I originally picked this book because I have been recently rating so many books with 4 stars and I really don't want my average book rating to go higher than 3.36 (give or take a hundredth). I assumed that a book by slap-sticky Steve Martin would surely only warrant 3 stars maximum, possibly even 2 stars, bringing my average back down.
In my expectations to be disappointed, I was disappointed.
It is Steve Martin's voice from the very first line, but his narration of Daniel's reflections and yearnings is so smooth and tender, I was entranced by the telling. Daniel is so well developed that I cared for him and wished him well. When I was gone, I found myself wanting to check back in to see how he was doing. Yes, his choices and issues made me laugh, but the story is beautiful because it does not mock Daniel's neuroses; it celebrates his unique thoughts and endears him to the reader.
I've written before in reviews my wonderings whether an author can create a character who is smarter than himself. Is it possible to give a fictional character a brighter mind and more complex thinking skills than those possessed by the writer? With no offense to Steve Martin's intellect (and I may be wrong), he may have done just that with Daniel.
(I wonder, now, whether a writer is capable of giving any quality to a character without some internal understanding and empathy. It would prove an interesting debate.)
The Pleasure of My Company is captivating, thoughtful, tender, and definitely a pleasure.
(Ugh! Someone recommend a good, solid 2 star book to me, pronto!)(less)
We read this aloud as a family... because what parents don't want to give their children a foundation in necromancy?
"What is a neck romancer, Mom?"
Th...moreWe read this aloud as a family... because what parents don't want to give their children a foundation in necromancy?
"What is a neck romancer, Mom?"
There was a tad bit of editing and curse-softening for the protection of the 11-year-old's ears, and this was probably not well-suited to her age, but the 14-year-old was enthralled (and, at times, caught on to humor that his parents had missed!)
Howard's writing is subtle and effortless, but intelligent. He leads in with a serious moment, just to baffle and catch the reader off guard with a quip or hilarious one-liner. A favorite example:
"'I should have dealt with you years ago, Cabal, when we first met. You never understood the powers that I was acquiring, never understood the cosmic influences that ran through this mortal frame. I have magic that you cannot begin to comprehend. ... You've had your warning, Cabal. Now, prepare to face the terrible arcane wrath of Maleficarus!' Somewhere, a sheep bleated and quite ruined the effect."
Those with an indulgence for the comically macabre will find an appreciation for this work. This book is perfect light reading with substance.(less)
Sweet and intelligent; a wonderful light read. The characters are well developed and the content is well researched. This one, rightly so, feels more...moreSweet and intelligent; a wonderful light read. The characters are well developed and the content is well researched. This one, rightly so, feels more introductory to the series rather than a stand-alone book. I'm sure I will be reading more Maisie Dobbs in the future.(less)