Better than _Gathering Blue_. Same world as that and _The Giver_, but yet another pile of new elements without any real explanation by the end. Am I j...moreBetter than _Gathering Blue_. Same world as that and _The Giver_, but yet another pile of new elements without any real explanation by the end. Am I just a cranky adult, or do actual YA readers see these problems, too?(less)
Took a whiiiile to get into this, but once I got to page 55 or so I was fully on board, and I ended up reading the whole thing in one (extended) sitti...moreTook a whiiiile to get into this, but once I got to page 55 or so I was fully on board, and I ended up reading the whole thing in one (extended) sitting on a Saturday afternoon. For the first 50 pages, I found unknown narrator's voice irritating; around page 50 there is a reveal that makes it easier to take.
Overall it seems the author did a huge amount of research, and the book rang true and was even informative about the time period (WWI in England and France). One major problem (with the marketing of the book, not the book itself): this is not a YA book. The themes are adult and there is a significant level of personal violence; I would worry that younger readers would have nightmares, frankly. War is a popular topic in YA but the level of violence being done TO a protagonist (as opposed to violence witnessed by a protagonist) is not quite as popular, is it? Also, the characters are past their teen years, and the relationship between the two protagonists would be much more believable if they were, frankly, a lesbian couple as opposed to "best friends!!<3<3" (as is stated at various points throughout the story, usually before some throwaway lip-service about how good a male side character looks in his uniform). Opening the book up to an adult audience (and editing it accordingly) might have resulted in a 5-star story rather than this engaging, believable, but oddly stilted 4-star one.
(Also, the jacket looks like torture porn -- I borrowed my copy from a friend and asked her to keep the jacket, because it made me uncomfortable.)(less)
Congratulations. In the last chapter of this book you totally destroyed my sympathy for your main character. You may write more novels...moreDear Greg Rucka,
Congratulations. In the last chapter of this book you totally destroyed my sympathy for your main character. You may write more novels and comics starring Tara Chase, but you've systematically destroyed everything in her life that made her interesting. Now she's just a (physically, emotionally, and ethically) damaged shell, and I don't really have any interest in her further adventures.
Also, I'm used to reading Rucka's Queen and Country comics, where events can be illustrated but it's up to the artist as much as the author to detail them. I don't read that many political/spy thrillers so I'm not sure what level of lurid sex and violence is commonly depicted -- but in a few instances in this book, the sex writing was pretty cartoonish and distractingly terrible. I guess it's weird to criticize a book based on a comic book for being "cartoonish," but I became a fan of Rucka specifically because of his well-researched, realistic point of view. *sigh*(less)
I really enjoyed You, Me, and Everyone We Know, and I also enjoyed the Miranda July stories I've read in the New Yorker, so I was really eager to read...moreI really enjoyed You, Me, and Everyone We Know, and I also enjoyed the Miranda July stories I've read in the New Yorker, so I was really eager to read this book. Perhaps too eager. Turns out my favorite story was the one I had already read (in the New Yorker). D'oh.
I'm not a short story reader generally, so when presented with a book of short stories I generally plow through them from beginning to end, skipping none. Because so many of these stories are very short and very personal (lots of inside-the-head neuroticism, little action), I felt like I didn't get to connect with any actual "characters"; they all just ended up being facets of the author. I'm sure that was the intent, but since I enjoy more plot- and narrative-based storytelling, I found it tiring. I almost gave up halfway through the book, but pushed on; fortunately the stories in the second half are "meatier" and not as relentlessly depressing as those in the first half.
(I did, however, enjoy "This Person," which was very very short and very, I dunno, postmodern.)
Goodreads user Afshi has already reviewed this book and she says things better than I just did.(less)
For the record, I am giving this book 5 stars even though I'm pretty mad at it right now... for ending. It was a pretty quick read. I would say perfec...moreFor the record, I am giving this book 5 stars even though I'm pretty mad at it right now... for ending. It was a pretty quick read. I would say perfect for that business trip you're about to go on, but if you get to go on paid business trips you are perhaps not quite in the target audience.
I am a little annoyed that the plot crept up on me -- I was expecting events so mundane they would seem dark/depressing (I've heard And Then We Came to the End is like this, though I haven't read it) -- not actual "dark" plot elements. I kind of wish Ed Park had stuck with the former, though I guess that would have left him with less of a structured novel and more of a genius tone-poem about what the working world is like.
Recommended to anyone who has ever worked in an office. This means you. Go get a copy right now. I will lend you mine but you have to give it back so I can lend it to somebody else after you.
This is an excellent book. It is about loving animals, but NOT in a cute-widdle-wooda-wooda way. More in the sense of recognizing them as living being...moreThis is an excellent book. It is about loving animals, but NOT in a cute-widdle-wooda-wooda way. More in the sense of recognizing them as living beings. File under animal (and human) cognition, psychology, and philosophy; and maaaaybe animal training after that (but while it gives some excellent advice, this is in no way a how-to manual).
In fact the only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that I have absolutely zero grounding in philosophy, and some of the academic discussion (Stanley Cavell? doesn't ring a bell) was really heavy going and I skimmed more than processed the ideas. But that's my failure as a reader, not Hearne's failure -- she's writing heavy stuff, and expects the reader to keep up.
Read if you love, well, thinking. And own, or might ever own, a doggie or a kitty.(less)
David Lovelace, his father, mother, and younger brother have all been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Only his younger sister seems to have dodged t...more David Lovelace, his father, mother, and younger brother have all been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Only his younger sister seems to have dodged the bullet. But bipolar disorder was not well recognized, nor were there very good treatment options, until the mid-1990s. So David and his family spend years struggling and hurting themselves and each other. This memoir is Lovelace's attempt to educate the lay public about his disorder and to caution his fellow sufferers (and their families) from thinking that they can "beat" their diagnosis.
Based on the cover and blurbs, I was expecting this to be a rollicking! crazy! time! on the model of Running with Scissors, but instead this is a sober, personal, and chilling window into the life of someone with a serious psychiatric condition.
Lovelace comes from a Christian fundamentalist religious background (his father was a Presbyterian minister; his parents met at a Christian revival summer camp) in which individuals were taught to wrestle with their demons and pray for salvation. As an adult, he rejects religion, tries to self-medicate with various illegal drugs, and eventually wholeheartedly embraces modern psychiatry, though his relationships with lithium and antipsychotics can at best be described as love–hate.
Generally Lovelace does an excellent job of owning his life decisions, even though he's made some major mistakes and is frequently narcissistic. That's probably the best thing about the book; phrases like "unflinching portrayal" come to mind. His illustration of his family's religious tradition was also pretty fairly presented (given that he has since forsworn it) and informative. I would have liked more insight into his siblings' experiences (for example, his sister avoids bipolar disorder but grows up to be a therapist -- no issues there!), but the author is clearly focused on describing his own lived experience.
My only other major criticism is that Lovelace periodically slows down the narrative to discuss the history and characteristics of bipolar disorder; I found these digressions pedantic, but then I have a pretty good working knowledge of current psychiatry and so may not be his target audience.
Overall: chilling; quick read; good for those interested in mental health, memoirs, and family dynamics, or to throw at relatives who don't understand psychiatric diagnoses
[This isn't out 'til August/September, but I grabbed a free uncorrected copy sent to us at work. "Bible" was sometimes uncapitalized.](less)
This is my second favorite Narnia book, after The Magician's Nephew. It reads most like a novel (as opposed to a religious tract), has one of the str...moreThis is my second favorite Narnia book, after The Magician's Nephew. It reads most like a novel (as opposed to a religious tract), has one of the strongest female characters of the series, and includes my favorite Narnian character, Puddleglum the Marshwiggle. The plot is a sort of mystery/puzzle for the characters to figure out -- Aslan appears at the beginning, gives them clues, and then he's basically gone for the rest of the story, leaving the characters some agency and personal growth of their own. (As compared with many of the other Narnia books, in which personal growth occurs by having Aslan breathe on you.)
[NB: I'm basically just reading all the books that have piled up in my room so I can give them to Goodwill before I move...]
Nifty premise: sometime in...more[NB: I'm basically just reading all the books that have piled up in my room so I can give them to Goodwill before I move...]
Nifty premise: sometime in the future, some dude invents a) immortality and b) time travel. So he goes back into the dawn of time and grabs young kids and confers immortality on them, and then they secretly work for him from their time up until the unknown murky future. Problem is that they themselves can't go forward in time, so they have to take on faith that their employer will one day appear and make all their work worthwhile.
This novel (clearly meant to be the first in a series) follows one of these immortals on her first adult mission out into the world, which for her is Elizabethan England.
Problem: Main character's story is pretty interesting for about the first third of the book, until it becomes clear that the major plot involves her romance with a totally emo Protestant Reformation mortal dude. Then the whole story descends into romantic schmoopiness. So. Much. Schmoopiness. By the end I was hoping both parties would die a tragic death, but of course the main character's immortal, ain't she? Sequels ahoy!
The plot: a marketing consultant with ephemerally-defined special "coolness" powers gets pulled into a(n inter)web of crime and intrigue...moreDisappointing.
The plot: a marketing consultant with ephemerally-defined special "coolness" powers gets pulled into a(n inter)web of crime and intrigue after she tries to find out who is uploading some neato viral videos. Maybe this plot sounded more compelling in the early noughts -- now it seems kind of lame since viral videos are all over.
* If you're going to give your main character some sort of special fantasy power, maybe it should further the plot. I just found it distractingly fantastic in a novel that's otherwise pretty realistic.
* The ending was annoying -- not enough was revealed. BOO.(less)
Quick/easy/beach read. Not as good as Case Histories, which was the first to feature Jackson Brodie as a main character.
I do like books (and other me...moreQuick/easy/beach read. Not as good as Case Histories, which was the first to feature Jackson Brodie as a main character.
I do like books (and other media) that feature interlocking storylines where connections only gradually become clear. But Jackson Brodie, as a main character, is pretty played out for me at this point. I might pick up future novels in this universe if they focused on one of the peripheral characters (the lady cop, for instance, shows promise).(less)
Too much Jesus and fatalism. But the imagery is lovely (Lucy seeing the mer-people under the waves, for example), and some of the plot points are movi...moreToo much Jesus and fatalism. But the imagery is lovely (Lucy seeing the mer-people under the waves, for example), and some of the plot points are moving/chilling, especially Eustace's stint as a dragon and Deathwater Isle. As with the other Narnia books, totally lame that all personal growth is bestowed upon passive characters by Aslan, not discovered by the characters themselves. (I.e. Eustace is a fuckwit, but then Aslan causes him see the light and then he is less of a fuckwit.)
I had recalled the Monopods quite fondly, but upon reading that section as an adult, I realized that their relationship with their wizard is very White Man's Burden-y and the whole escapade was kind of sickening.
I continue to find Prince Caspian, as a character, pretty boring. Fortunately the book focuses on Eustace, who is far more flawed and thus, compelling.(less)
Read this in 2 hours the day I went to see the movie. I had forgotten pretty much everything about this book. Re-reading it, I can see why I didn't re...moreRead this in 2 hours the day I went to see the movie. I had forgotten pretty much everything about this book. Re-reading it, I can see why I didn't remember anything (and why this is my least favorite Narnia book) -- it's because nothing happens. Most of the actual drama (how Caspian's uncle took the throne; Caspian's education and eventual escape) takes place in flashback. What we do get is a lot of faith, or lack of faith, in Aslan coming to save the day. Wah wah wah. The final conflict is anticlimactic, and the denouement is really rushed (like C.S. Lewis was late to catch a plane or something).
On the other hand, the movie version was less of a let-down because I had recently been presented with the mediocrity of the book. So directorial choices like having Caspian and Peter get into a "who-is-king" pissing contest, while irritating, were more understandable.
Re-reading this was useful in reminding myself of the difference between children's and young adult literature. Even though this is a chapter book, it probably works best as a story for littler kids. I think in the first go-round, the entire Narnia series was read aloud by my mom (with the exception of The Last Battle -- too much Jesus). I had forgotten that, and was remembering them more as teen fantasy lit, like Alanna: The First Adventure or the initial trilogy of Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey.(less)
Took me a while to get into this, because the visual style is very reminiscent of The Lion King, and most of the dialogue is over-dramatic and, well,...moreTook me a while to get into this, because the visual style is very reminiscent of The Lion King, and most of the dialogue is over-dramatic and, well, comic-book-y. (Bryan K. Vaughan loves to use kvetching as a model of conversational style; cf. Y: The Last Man.) There's also a strong freedom-and-danger vs. slavery-and-safety theme presented that really never comes down one way or the other. But the ending took me by surprise, emotionally, and Vaughan uses that emotion to hit the reader with a second theme, completely obvious but completely necessary to reiterate again and again: war destroys lives. (less)
I think I missed out on some of the connections because I haven't, historically, followed the DC universe all that closely (I'm much more in tune with...moreI think I missed out on some of the connections because I haven't, historically, followed the DC universe all that closely (I'm much more in tune with Marvel). But I was able to follow the plot, which was pretty compelling. And the art is both technically amazing and constructed with attention to visual storytelling.(less)
Short version: it's like Friday Night Lights, only with marching band, not football. Kristen Laine follows the students and teachers of the Concord (I...moreShort version: it's like Friday Night Lights, only with marching band, not football. Kristen Laine follows the students and teachers of the Concord (Indiana) Marching Minutemen for a calendar year and uses their experience to discuss the current state of “middle America.”
In theory, I love this book. I love sociological non-fiction and BOY HOWDY was I ever in marching band — a perfect fit! But the writing was overwrought and trite, and the band angle of this book left me cold (and bored, and even annoyed). Unexpectedly, it was the discussion of the students’ evangelical religion that kept me going. In fact, the completely unexpected discussion of teen experience with evangelical Christianity was the only thing that saved the book for me.
Laine tries to tie her subjects’ experience to a greater middle-American fall-from-grace, mentioning the loss of skilled blue-collar jobs, white flight, and new (Hispanic) immigration to this particular area of Indiana, but I can't help but compare her to Buzz Bissinger, who covered the socioeconomic and racial issues in his chosen town (Odessa, Texas) with more good research and a lot more insight. Or maybe Laine just chose a boring topic; it’s hard to feel particularly enthralled with the lives of a bunch of teenagers who are white, middle- or upper-middle-class, make good or great grades, and have parents who fall all over themselves being involved in their children’s lives. (One major character is an exception: a freshman girl who represents the new Hispanic population moving into the area. But the author neglects to use this important window on a life to make any sort of larger point about racial and economic tensions in Indiana, historically and currently. Meanwhile the almost completely white band spends the year working on a show about the African roots of American music, including a piece where the students pretend to dance at a New Orleans-style funeral.)
And the band stuff? Well... I already know about summer rehearsals, and Saturday rehearsals, and roll-step, and horns-to-the-box, and judges’ tapes, and GE scores. I know enough to critically compare the director (Max Jones)’s choices to those of my own high school band director, such that the seemingly dramatic outcomes of those choices seemed obvious. (Want a clean show? Don’t change the ending 5 days before the competition.) At times I found the author’s excitement cheesy and distracting; yeah, they WORK REAL HARD. Lots of people do. We did, in my high school band. Do they shit gold bricks?
So for me, the saving grace of this book was religion. It's useful, when you have fled to a very blue state, to keep yourself up-to-date on how the rest of the country works — and works on its own internal logic. Apparently a whole lot of people in this country, very smart people, analytic people, are WAY INTO JESUS. And when you take that as the foundation of your world, all kinds of assumptions follow. Like that you might actually vote for someone else who loves Jesus (George W. Bush) over someone (like, say, John Kerry) with whom you seemingly have absolutely nothing in common. Of course I’m being overly simplistic. But I have absolutely no relationship with Jesus, and continue to work on not automatically fleeing those who do. Reading about smart kids, with whom I identify (they are in band AND they play Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit, for gosh sakes), and trying to empathize with their struggles? That was truly enlightening.(less)
What happens when the voters of East St. Louis are disenfranchised and Bush steals the presidency? East St. Louis secedes from the U.S., of course. Wa...moreWhat happens when the voters of East St. Louis are disenfranchised and Bush steals the presidency? East St. Louis secedes from the U.S., of course. Wacky hijinks ensue.
This is solid political satire from talented guys ( Aaron McGruder, creator of the comic strip The Boondocks, and Reginald Hudlin, director of House Party). Kyle Baker's art is ideal for the work -- he's got an animator's heart, so he gives the characters real movement and facial expressions. The only reason this didn't get 5 stars from me is that I prefer Baker when he is both artist and author; he wrote one of my favorite, favorite comics of all time, The Cowboy Wally Show, and compared to that piece of total genius, this was only very good.(less)
A lovely anthology of art by lots of really famous folks -- many of them famous for excellent reasons. This book is real purty. It's also neat to see...moreA lovely anthology of art by lots of really famous folks -- many of them famous for excellent reasons. This book is real purty. It's also neat to see non-comics folks like Paul Auster and David Sedaris try their hand at working with artists and telling a story visually, and to discover the gorgeous work of several underground, foreign (non-U.S.) artists.
Unfortunately the book isn't really sure what it is. The stories and activity pages are very narratively and thematically simple (in contrast to the very polished art) and thus are designed to appeal more to kids than to adults. But (and of course I am an adult) though I was gently amused by the stories, I wasn't enthralled enough by any individual story to want to read it over and over. (The story that most stuck with me is Paul Auster's -- it's about a man who dissociates -- and it was truly creepy and dealt with very adult themes. More of that, please!)
But the book isn't really for kids either -- the classy printing and binding and high price tag ($20) mean that parents may want to keep this high up on the shelf where it can't be scribbled in. I can't really see someone handing this to their child, with a magic marker, and saying "OK, find all the hidden objects!" I had lots of Tintin and Asterix and Donald Duck comics when I was a kid, and my brother and I read them so many times they were physically destroyed (we are still finding loose pages of Tintin and the Shooting Star in the attic). This book is too goshdarn nice, by too many nice famous adults, to let a kid destroy.
If Art Spiegelman really wants to make this project work, he could invite swanky famous non-comics people to write short stories for adults and collect those; OR he could invite swanky famous people to write stories for children on a monthly basis, print them on crappy paper, and sell them for $4.95. I suppose he could then collect the best and repackage those for $20. But right now the series is neither here nor there.(less)