Let me preface this by saying that the week I read this book happened to be a very unseasonably cold week in autumn. Though there was no snow, it defi...moreLet me preface this by saying that the week I read this book happened to be a very unseasonably cold week in autumn. Though there was no snow, it definitely felt like the dead of winter, this lent quite the atmosphere to the story. If I had read it in the middle of summer heat, I don't think it would have been nearly as interesting of an experience.
Having lived in a region where a situation like the one in "Seal Intestine Raincoat" is actually possible and plausible, I had a rather morbid interest in the storyline that unfolded. I fondly recalled the nights I spent in my childhood, warm in my house, watching the snow storming outside; cars struggling to drive through it, some abandoned on the side of the road. I would sit inside imagining the possibility of being completely snowed in, and unable to get out, snow piled to the top of the front door. It had seemed like an adventure. Until the one snow storm when the power went out, and stayed out for over 24 hours. At first, it was just an annoyance; no TV to watch, no computer to play on. As time went on though, as the hot water in the tank was used up, and food in the freezer started to defrost, the seriousness of the situation slowly started to sink in. Luckily, the snow stopped falling, and the power came back on not too long afterwards, and we were never faced with the actual problems we had imagined. Unfortunately, the characters in this story are not as lucky.
For the characters in "Seal Intestine Raincoat", when the winter snow storm starts, and the power goes out, they are faced with more than the obvious dilemmas about keeping warm, and meeting other basic needs. I found the storyline to actually be quite thought-provoking; I found myself wondering what I would have done in the situation, would I have been as charitable, and giving? At what point does your basic survival instinct win out over your moral values, and your sense of compassion and empathy for others? Could you ignore or turn away a stranger in need, knowing their likely fate is death if you do, in an attempt to try to protect your own family from the same fate?
The chilly basis of the storyline is the strength of the book, that propels it through some rather unnecessary information that sometimes detracts from, and confuses, the plot. Though the coldness of the weather while I read it probably added to it, I really felt at times as though I were freezing right along with them in the room. The desperation and fear of the characters as they struggle with the decreasing temperature in the house, and the reality of running out of food, is quite compelling. At times, I felt that desperation and fear jump off the page, and land uneasily in my stomach as I couldn't help feeling an inkling of it with them. Though, it is the quiet determination of Fred that keeps the story moving, and gives it a focal point.
My real only criticism of the book, as mentioned above, involves the excess descriptions, and unnecessary information that was thrown in. While description is important, it should feel natural, and woven seemlessly into the story. I felt in this case that a lot of it was distracting, and completely unnecessary to the story; it added absolutely nothing of substance to it, and made it drag at times. I kept waiting for the importance of some of this information to reveal itself, only to find out that it just wasn't important or necessary at all.
The height of this occurs at the end of the book in the Epilogue, where the author feels the need to explain the fate of every single character who appeared, if only for one sentence in the book, such as "the second woman at the checkout", and "the man in the red coat". This seemed strangely shoved into the storyline, as much of the excess description and unnecessary information that occured through-out the book involved the mention of or situation where these characters were (slightly) involved. This is likely why some of the descriptions in the book did not feel natural to the storyline; their mention feels too forced, as though they were kind of shoved into the story where they don't really belong. Being as they didn't actually figure into the story aside from the final mention in the epilogue, they do not add to it, and if anything, detract from it.
Overall, I found it to be a good book. It was not necessarily what I was expecting from the description, but I do not mean that in a bad way. Rather, I found in an overall sense that this book exceeded my expectations. Aside from my criticism above, I felt the plot was very tight, and unravelled at a natural pace that kept the story interesting. The issues that arose aside from the obvious problems you would expect are believable, relevant, and really added to the atmosphere of the novel. My main concern, and what I was expecting from the description, was that the story would drag on as the characters continued to deal with the situation. I was expecting it to play out in a predictable way, with a lot of redundancy as the same problems just continued. Instead, I was surprised to find the characters faced with other realistic, unpredictable situations and problems that added more substance to the story.(less)
"The Nine Lives of Clemenza" appears to be a short & simple read on the surface, and it is. The short novel is not full of a bunch of pretentious...more"The Nine Lives of Clemenza" appears to be a short & simple read on the surface, and it is. The short novel is not full of a bunch of pretentious words, or long-winded prose. It has no twisted plot line to follow, and is written in very plain, simple language that gets the point across. Yet, the lives that Clemenza leads, and the message behind the book are anything but simple.
Clemenza's journey through her lives, from her first life as air to her last life as a guardian angel, all lead to very important lessons for Clemenza & readers alike, and carry a message to be absorbed. Each time she reincarnates, she learns new things, and meets new & old friends alike, showing how unknowingly interwoven life can be, and how each seemingly small action can cause reverberations through other lives, and affect other souls.
Holly Christine was able to recreate some very clever & interesting lives for Clemenza to lead. The world that is explored by Clemenza has elements of both fantasy, and reality, and sparks a vivid image of what life, or rather lives, are like for Clemenza.
I noticed that "The Nine Lives of Clemenza" was a self-published novel, which is evident in some cases where there are errors, or problems with continouity that an editor would likely have caught prior to printing. For example, prior to her first life, Clemenza does not even know what air is, yet she knows what gender is & what a doctor looks like. These are small things that do come up through-out the novel, but do not take away from the simple, thought-provoking style of the novel. I feel as though this would be a good book for young adults, and that a somewhat shorter & more simplified version would also make an excellent children's book.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is the second novel by Lisa See that I have had the pleasure of reading, and though I did not enjoy it quite as much as the fir...more**spoiler alert** This is the second novel by Lisa See that I have had the pleasure of reading, and though I did not enjoy it quite as much as the first (Snow Flower & the Secret Fan), I was not disappointed.
Weirdly enough, it was a recommendation by Amazon for "Shanghai Girls", which I have yet to read, that brought to my attention Lisa See's work. I thought it sounded interesting, so added it to my wishlist, and then started browsing through her other work. That is when I came upon both "Snow Flower & the Secret Fan", as well as "Peony in Love". Both of these books caught my interest immediately. Though they both share some common attributes, such as their cultural relevance & discriptiveness, they are quite different.
I found "Peony in Love" harder to get into. The story starts off at a slower pace, but as you get further into the story you realize why, as the simple start to the story is the anchor that ties it all together. The pay-off with this novel is to stick with it. As you get past the beginning, a different world of Chinese belief & tradition is explored than that in "Snow Flower & the Secret Fan"; the afterlife.
Though the plot of the novel is about how Peony dies, and how she continues to watch & influence the lives of those left behind, that is not what I personally felt was the basis of the novel, rather that it is the catalyst for the exploration of the beliefs the people of China have about life, death & the afterlife. The way the world of the dead & the living is intertwined in this novel is a remarkable glimpse into the traditions and beliefs of the Chinese people concerning death. See was able to achieve this while also telling an amazing & historically significant story based on something that really occured.(less)
I think this book would be best described as an acquired taste. It was kind of floofy and disjointed, but it was written in such a poetic and erratic...moreI think this book would be best described as an acquired taste. It was kind of floofy and disjointed, but it was written in such a poetic and erratic way as to still make it somewhat intriguing, enough so remained interested enough to keep reading. The characters were at times both irritating beyond belief, yet so damaged and haunted that they were all capable of drawing empathy. It was a good enough read, but it's one of those books that didn't leave much of an impression; I'm likely a few years from now to forget I ever read it to begin with.(less)
It is a story that is tragic, beautiful & haunting. I became so absorbed in it, that I felt as though I were a ghost watching it unfold before my...moreIt is a story that is tragic, beautiful & haunting. I became so absorbed in it, that I felt as though I were a ghost watching it unfold before my eyes. The friendship between Lily & Snow Flower, which is the main focus of the book, is completely wrapped up in the traditional world of the women in China during the 1800's, which allows the author to really weave a story that is interesting, as well as culturally educational.
Lisa See's ability to use words to create a believable atmosphere is phenomenal. It is not just descriptive of the relationships & the setting, but poetic & captivating. In this book, See is able to tell a story that is both modern & historic, describing a friendship that is formed by historic traditions centuries ago, but that any modern woman could relate to & understand.
It is an emotional journey, filled with sadness, heartbreak, love, friendship, and hope. It has definitely taken it's place in my heart as one of my favourite books ever.(less)
How in the world someone can claim to have "written" a book, when all they did was transcribe interviews, is beyond me. Maybe it's only the aspiring w...moreHow in the world someone can claim to have "written" a book, when all they did was transcribe interviews, is beyond me. Maybe it's only the aspiring writer in me that takes offense at someone plopping their name on something compiled as though they wrote it, but the book really should have said that it was edited by Greg Prato, rather than by him. I would then have known that it was just interviews, rather than a biography. I was looking forward to reading this book, and was greatly disappointed to find out that was all this was - a bunch of interviews with way too many people to keep track of. After the first couple of chapters, I got sick of flipping back to the front to figure out who each person was, as I quickly forgot by the time their name showed up again.
It was horribly edited, with a lot of mistakes, which I guess is what you get from a self-published book. It's as if no one even read over the manuscript before it was printed, and relied entirely on spellcheck.
This had potential to be good, but fell short when the supposed "author" decided that all he needed was the mash together the interviews into some semblance of a timeline; had he actually used them as a catalyst to add some writing in between other people's words in an effort to help paint the picture of what was going on, it might have been great. I would assume since he is a journalist by profession that he has the ability to write, why he chose not to is strange. Don't get me wrong - the interviews at time are interesting, and it's nice at times to hear the stories straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, but having it entirely composed of the interviews makes it quite hard to sit & read for very long, and some parts of Blind Melon & Shannon Hoon's journey are screaming for someone to actually write about, rather than just transcribe.
The one good thing about this book; it got me interested in listening to more Blind Melon. I originally was only interested in this book for two reasons; because of Shannon's connection with Guns n' Roses, since they are one of my all-time favourite bands, and because I like reading rock biographies. I was only familiar with two Blind Melon songs prior to this book, but have since found & fell in love with other songs mentioned in the book after reading about them. So I guess you did that much for me, Mr. Prato. (less)
Completely captivating. This book has now become one of my favourites. The setting, the characters, the story - based around real events, but fictiona...moreCompletely captivating. This book has now become one of my favourites. The setting, the characters, the story - based around real events, but fictional - is excellently written, and completely absorbing.
I was completely drawn in to the life of Sachi, devouring page after page, unable to put it down. Having a love for Japan, especially geisha, I have read previous work by Lesley Downer, and I was immediately interested in this book. I was a little intimidated though; to be honest, I've never been one for reading historical fiction. Having only read non-fiction by Downer, I was slightly skeptical of it. My interest in Japan being primarily geisha, I also had not read a lot about Japan aside from that, and definitely did not know much about life in Japan over a century ago.
The way that Downer was able to weave the history, the turmoil, the tradgedy, and the tradition into this novel was amazing. I really felt as though I could imagine life in Japan at the time. I found myself at once both drawn into Sachi's life, and also drawn to everything else that was happening around her, wanting to drink in every tiny detail of what was occuring.(less)