I have decided to write a review of this book, but it is sensitive territory, I think, and I don’t want to make anybody feel from my review the way II have decided to write a review of this book, but it is sensitive territory, I think, and I don’t want to make anybody feel from my review the way I feel from the book. I am not giving the book a star rating because I can’t tell if it is a good book or not through the amount that I hate it on a personal level, and I feel like giving it a low rating would discount other people's experiences of tragedy or something. (Okay, after almost a year of considering it, I did decide to rate this book. Sorry, guys.) I can’t even tell if I think it is a deeply false book, or if it is just deeply false to my life. This is probably one of those experiences of wrong place/wrong time. I think if I had seen The Notebook in high school instead of after college, I would not have hated it, just like if I had read The Piper’s Son some other time, maybe I would not have hated it. This is also one of those times when I should have stopped early on and not pushed through. Why have I not learned this lesson yet? Anyway, I’m sorry I hate this book so much because so many of my wonderful friends love it. You will say I didn’t understand, and that will be true.
It seems like Marchetta tends to write something similar to the Job story. Job was never one of my favorite stories from the Bible (being more of a Jonah and Ruth girl myself), but it was my dad’s favorite for a little while, during a more lucid time in his life, so I have done some thinking on it. This book reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad about Job once. In my memory, which I think I have tailored to my reading of this book, my dad was talking about why he loved Job. The story starts out by telling you that Job is God’s chosen and someone with no faults. The author tells you, and so you know, that none of the things that happen to Job are punishment. And then, right away, God makes a bet with the devil that Job will never turn against Him, and He unleashes the devil on Job just to prove it.
In the first page, maybe second, the devil destroys Job’s whole life, and it only takes a sentence or two. He burns down Job’s farm and kills his livestock; a building collapses on all of Job’s children, maybe spouses and grandchildren, killing them instantly; and then Job’s body falls apart with boils and scabs and whatnot. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die, and they go their separate ways. Everyone Job knows abandons him. But, that is not what the story is about. That is all just preface. The story is actually about three of Job’s “friends,” who come and visit him, and who are total pompous assholes. They sit around for the entire story, trying to work out for Job what he did to deserve God’s wrath. It is actually an annoying story to read, to me, because the stuff these guys say is so unbearably windbaggy. Then there is a cool part at the end where God comes by and says, “Who are you to ask why this happened? I’m God, I created the behemoth, and you’re nothing.” Old Testament God is so much more interesting than New Testament God. Anyway, my dad loved that this story about ultimate tragedy is mostly about human blame.
My friend was saying the other day that life feels like she used to have all of these warm winter coats wrapped around her and suddenly they’ve been stripped off and the wind is chill. That’s it exactly to me. And I feel like Marchetta tries to write characters whose coats have been stripped off, but to me she fails, and that leaves me confused and bitter at the emptiness of the stories. I do not want to question anyone’s experience of loss, but watching Marchetta’s kids does not feel like watching loss to me, though I think it is supposed to. Job feels more like someone left in the wind. Because tragedy might be part of nature, but the chill wind is people. All of Marchetta’s characters experience tragedy, but then they are surrounded by so many people who just want to devote their lives to helping and encouraging that it is false to me.
I think I wouldn’t hate it, like I probably wouldn’t hate The Notebook, if so much of it didn’t eerily resonate with me. I have said and done those things, had those experiences, or at least known a close friend or two who did. So, then, the ultimate hugs and puppies feel like deliberate falseness injected into a very real story. I take them personally, and they are very effective messages that hurt my feelings a lot. They are “friends” sitting around saying, well, look how similar this person’s life is to yours, and everybody fell all over themselves to give this person bags of diamonds when they were sad. And I don’t even want to make it out like I have some terrible life, or people are sooooo mean to me, because I totally don’t and they obviously aren’t. I just think Marchetta, like Nicholas Sparks, throws in natural tragedy – death, depression – for emotional impact, and then shies away from hard truths. Like, what if every single bad feeling ever between characters was not just a silly misunderstanding? What if people actually didn’t like each other and that’s why they were assholes? I am not a fan of the theory that people are assholes to each other because they just love each other so much. I think it is more often because they don’t. I feel very uneasy about the opposite message.
Marchetta takes away a scarf, which we hear rumors that a character had before the story began, and then replaces it with snow gear, a hazmat suit, and a plastic bubble. I do not want to see characters suffer more, but it feels manipulative to use real tragedy to facilitate the Grease story. For whatever reason, the specific things that sent me through the roof in the story were (view spoiler)[ 1. Seriously, dude, your dad forgot your name (or forgot who you were, or whatever, I don’t remember) one time and then turned from alcoholism because of it, and you’re going to pull a James Dean over it? Get over yourself. 2. The deal with the partly-deaf co-worker needed not to happen. That dragged on for so long, and it was so obvious that the guy was going to have hearing issues. And, wow, the moral of this story is . . . 3. (my biggest issue) The conversation Georgie had with her friend where the friend says, “If only you’d taaaaalk to us!!” and then helps her get her boyfriend back. That conversation almost made me throw the book. It my experience, that is not how that conversation plays out. In my experience, that conversation plays out like it does in Job, not with a fun shopping trip after (hide spoiler)]. At another time in life, I think I would have read it and hoped it somehow related to reality, like I think I would have hoped with The Notebook. But now I read it and just feel bitter and old and confused. I don’t want these kids to stop having fun or even get off my lawn, but I need a little easier transition between before and the after of this ABC Home Makeover.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This one left me feeling underwhelmed. I listened to it on audio, and the audio production was . . . good. The writing, too, seemed . . . good. I feelThis one left me feeling underwhelmed. I listened to it on audio, and the audio production was . . . good. The writing, too, seemed . . . good. I feel indifferent about the political message, but, like, sure. True believers are the more dangerous sort of activists. I’ll ride that train. Overall, though, it just felt like there was not that much going on here.
But, you know, this was pretty good when they made it into that movie, Mission Impossible. Fake disguises and dramatic unmaskings are almost always a good idea. And I’m glad they left off the LSD-inspired Beatles-cartoon ending because that was weird.
I also feel like there is rumored to be some kind of message about God in here? And maybe that was what the LSD ending was about. But, if this guy is supposed to be God, then Chesterton’s God sure is a tricksy fellow! And he has a lot of time on his hands for pointless hijinks. Am I supposed to think that is a deep message about existential anguish??? I don’t know!
It actually felt more to me like watching LOST from start to finish. Like, when that show started I said, “This show is totally going to be pointless. And it is a terrible concept. And they obviously have no idea where they are going with it.” And then I kept watching because, you know, I, like God, have all this time on my hands for pointless hijinks, and there were some genuinely entertaining parts. And then it ended and the whole universe was like WHAAAAA????? And went back to folding its laundry.
That is basically my response to this book as well. ...more
This was fun. It felt sort of like reading P.G. Wodehouse with a laugh track. Like, it was definitely funny, and it is usually a good bet to write anThis was fun. It felt sort of like reading P.G. Wodehouse with a laugh track. Like, it was definitely funny, and it is usually a good bet to write an innocently arrogant rich young man slipping on banana peels, right? Everyone likes that. My only complaint isn't even really a complaint, but just something that I think makes Wodehouse's stories slightly more effortless. It is that there is no foil in this book, so the narrator has to act as a foil to himself and reveal his silliness. That ends up being a little *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* where Jeeves, as a foil, allows Bertie to maintain blissful helplessness throughout.
On the other hand, the lack of a direct foil to the narrator did give the stories maybe something of an O. Henry feel. Like, you could feel the wrap-up coming, and you knew it would be a surprise. Sometimes it was not a surprise, but it was very tidy in the sense that O. Henry's are, I think.
I tend to not love laugh tracks, but this was still good. It was very clever, and I do like to laugh at rich British young men. Guarantied good time with that. Still, I would easily pick Wodehouse up before this....more
I’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a booI’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a book that is mostly about girls looking for penises, but you want to know what happens next? And you don’t even want to throw it across the room a little bit? And then unexpectedly hilarious slapstick comedy ensues, but doesn’t lead to the most boring Scooby Do mystery resolution ever? No? You’ve never had that experience? Me either. It was disorienting. And I’m at a loss as to how to rate this. I mean, I have to give it five stars because I Laughed Out Loud at almost every page, and even though most of the laughter was in a WHAAAAT??? way, I don’t even really think that was unintentional. It was funny. I am going to have to watch Jersey Shore. You are here for a show-changing moment in my life.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to spoiler one of the storylines. Let’s be serious though, once the characters come on stage, pretty early on in the story, you basically know how this storyline is going to go. So, one of the main characters, a kickass aerobics instructor, who took karate all her life, is named Bella Rizzoli. This creepy, asshole, voyeur Abercrombie guy latches onto her and his name is Edward Caldwell. . . . right??? RIGHT???
Yeah, so she kicks his ass in a pretty hilarious (and elaborate) way.
Mostly this book is about a coupla girls hittin’ the beach for the summer looking for some juicy guido gorilla juiceheads. It seems like simple quest, but it turns out life is never that simple. These girls have to work and work out issues with their families and kick the asses of people who have self-loathing body issues.
It’s my impression that people’s problem with reality TV, aside from the troubling voyeuristic aspect of it, is the shallowness of the people who make fools of themselves for our entertainment. That’s fair in some ways. And this book plays to a lot of that shallowness. There is a lot of funny stuff about tanning and shoes and fake eyelashes and cleavage. But, ultimately, I feel like it is a more complex issue than shallowness = bad. I am about to mount an obvious feminist soapbox, so be on alert.
I know we’ve talked about this before, but I have a problem with the idea that the accoutrements of femininity are shallow, while the accoutrements of masculinity are respectable. I think that interest in makeup trivia and interest in sports team trivia is not different, whether the person having the interest is male or female. Maybe it is shallow in the sense that it will not solve world hunger, but very few of the things any of us do every day solve world hunger. And sometimes world hunger needs a break, and we need to chill out and be okay with talking about dumb things we are interested in. So, my point is that even though there is a striking focus on pink fuzzy slippers in this book, that is something that I really like about the book, not something that makes the book itself shallow. Pink fuzzy slippers, cleavage, and four layers of fake eyelashes are a style decision, not a soul-changing decision. You could hate it, and I don’t have a problem with that, because WOW, but it seems unexpectedly shallow to make a judgment about another person’s shallowness based on their eyelashes and slippers.
Anyway, this book addresses both female and male body image, family dynamics, date rape, acceptance and rejection of personal weaknesses, and navigating the different expectations for women and men when it comes to career choices. And, seriously, it does it in this really respectable way. Of course, these girls are not wearing monocles and smoking jackets and explaining tautologies, nor are they having tautologies explained to them. They are mostly partying, scoping out guido gorilla juiceheads, and kicking ass. They are passing the Bechtel test. They are talking like girls talk and being friends to each other. I don’t know if this book went through a genius editing process, or what, but if I saw a high school girl reading this, I would be happy. The writing is not complex. It is more like reading a blog of silly quotes from teenagers, but let's be honest: I would read that kind of blog. It is sparkly, but addresses important issues without apology, equivocation, or lectures. It entertains, and ultimately has some really positive, thoughtful messages. I can’t think of what else I look for in a book.
This book was given to me by the publisher, and while I did promise to review it, I think we can all honestly say we thought I would rip it to shreds. Unexpected bonus for all. ...more
A wise woman, while brushing her hair demurely in front of a mirror, once mocked another wise woman saying, “Remember that time I wrote a book with aA wise woman, while brushing her hair demurely in front of a mirror, once mocked another wise woman saying, “Remember that time I wrote a book with a conceptual spoiler?” Well, Laini Taylor, I now picture you in that room with the other wise authors chatting each other up about your conceptual spoilers. Because, holy shit. How do you even talk about this book?
I’ve been marinating in it for a couple of days, while getting caught in apocalyptic electrical storms, losing luggage, stumbling around airports and homes and streets trying to get ready for school to start. In the midst of this busyness, I’ve been letting the story sink into my brain, but really I keep coming back to the fact that all of this story, the whole crux of the character development and plot of the entire thing, is in the last, maybe, three pages of the book. That may sound bad to you, but I’m telling you, it’s completely genius. That’s just my opinion, but it’s true.
The first page of the book says, “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” And that lovely beginning, a thesis really, which tells you the entire story in two short sentences, echoed through my head the entire time I was reading. Well done. Just masterful. That is the way you should give away your story.
And I’m not saying that the 400-whatever pages that precede the pivotal last three aren’t enjoyable – they are absolute fun and action packed for the most part. They were strangely ordinary, though. When you read the book, you’ll laugh that I said that because they are very un-ordinary looking in most ways. But, there is a lot of furniture and clothing and staring-into-smoldering-eyes and yearning for completeness, and other things u see in ur romance novels. After Lips Touch, which is three sharp kicks to the gut, the meandering descriptions and sudden brainless passion were weird. I still think there could have been less “their hearts were so one that they didn’t need to communicate with words” business. Like, you know, “she knew by his sideways glance that he had eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich earlier, gotten heartburn, decided to drink a glass of water, and then felt better, after which he watched TV for a little while and then took a walk.” I mean, at some point, the silent communication of soul mates is just not entertaining to read. Even after the last three pages, I think you could have cut some of that, but I could actually be dead wrong. Maybe you need all that to get to the end. Anyway, it was so worth it to me when I was done.
Also, the clothing and furniture were good. Like, usually, everyone’s walking around in damask and chemises, or, like, jean skirts and velour jogging suits, or whatever, and it’s itchy and boring. And all their furniture is so uneventful. Here, I kind of wanted to know what Karou’s furniture was like and what she was wearing that day. Plus, blue hair is almost always a good idea. I had blue hair for a while, and it was very pretty. I’m sure Karou’s is, too. It might be petty, but I think it’s worth a wish.
The other . . . criticism? . . . I have is that I’m not totally positive who this narrator is. Taylor wrote the book in a very distant, omniscient third person, but that raises some questions for me because the narrator is obviously from Earth and American. The dialogue is American slang, even though, when the characters are even on Earth, they are in Prague, speaking Czech. Also, the devils in the book are part human, part animal. But . . . the only logical conclusions from the way the characters discuss the devils is that Earth is the reference point for their species. For example, a half-human, half-wolf dude is called that. A hummingbird with moth wings is called that. But, if you only grew up with a hummingbird with moth wings, and you had no reference-point in Earth, would you know that it’s wings belonged to something else? Wouldn’t you get to earth and say our hummingbirds are weird? So, at certain points, when characters were staring into each other’s eyes, I got to thinking about how the narrator is this teenage American girl behind the curtain. I just wanted her to out herself and be like, “I’m off shopping at a thrift store on weekends,” so that I could orient myself to the source of the story. That is over-analyzing, I know, but there were narrative pauses to think about stuff like that.
I loved how this book undermines. I love the fantasy and romance mythos that it breaths and destroys. I love that it looks straight in the face of what angels and devils could be, what they are, and what love is, in a cultural sense. I agree, but also disagree, with Taylor about one of the fundamentals of her world, but that is kind of a spoiler – I disagree that (view spoiler)[the source of magic is pain (hide spoiler)]. But, in the way that magic is commerce in this story, and the way that is just factually true of industrial capitalism, I have to agree with Taylor. It is not a lecture in the way she presents that reality, but it is fundamental to the story in a respectable way. And I am left, days later, turning that fundamental over and pondering both sides of it.
So, you are obviously going to read this anyway, but I am here to tell you that I think you will not regret it. It’s got style and action, and then a kick to the gut in the end. Some of you will get hives from the middle of this book, and some will get hives from the end, and I think that is because the story is luring and elusive, but, really, only because it is actually being rather brutal the whole time.
I read an ARC copy of this, and it was lovely although the cover leaves something to be desired.
P.S. Ethnocentrism is no good, kids. Don't try it at home.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One of the nice things about YA novels, and also one of their faults, is that they, almost universally have the skeletal feel of a story resting solelOne of the nice things about YA novels, and also one of their faults, is that they, almost universally have the skeletal feel of a story resting solely on plot. You’re almost never going to have a moment in a YA novel where you have to stop because the beauty and subtlety of the writing is too much. This is not absolutely true because I’ve read coming-of-age novels, and those probably count as YA, where I have had to put down the book for its beauty, but these genre-type stories are usually a rush of plot – kisses, deaths, revelation, and identity discovery. Divergent is no exception to that, and I have to say I like it for that. I like that type of story, even though it is not exactly beautiful or subtle. I kind of want Roth to go back and fill in the characters and dwell on the moments and even take out a few fights if she needs to in order to make the ones she includes more potent.
But, ah well. It’s still good.
There is one part in the book where Four says to Tris that another character, a sweet character, was cruel to her because he wanted her to be weak and frightened, but she was strong instead. I thought that was such a lovely thing to say. It was a brilliant way to explain violent cruelty, and I thought well done. You know, it is such a cliché in action stories for the characters to remind each other ask, not whether they have the guts to do something violent, but if they want to be the person they will become as a result of it. I thought this book did it well, though, and that it is an important thing to ask. Like, don’t ask, do you have the guts to kill, but do you want to be a killer. While the book addressed the idea of violence being cowardice pretty straightforwardly, it didn’t feel maudlin, and I liked it.
It was kind of funny the way the factions were set up in terms of good and evil, though, and the message felt very small-town American conservative. I think, actually, there is a note at the beginning that Roth wrote this while she was in college, so maybe her hatred for intellect is more bitterness about doing homework, but it felt very Republican “army good, college bad” at a lot of times - both Salvation Army and the military. But, then, with piercings, so more badass. And then there was the “If only they’d return to the founding documents” message that seemed like a good idea for them, but is troubling if we want to extrapolate it to American politics. Maybe I’m just mad because I for sure think that ignorance causes the most problems in the world, so I would probably be in the Erudite faction, and I DON’T WANT MY FACTION TO TURN EVIL!!
Anywho, it was a super fun read, and I read it late into the night. I thought the relationship between Tris and the boys was great, and all the characters felt like I could fill in actual characters, even though they were just skeletons. It has a lot of factual similarities to Harry Potter, but a spirit of its own. Really fun....more
Beryl Markham is someone who you would want to meet and study, I think. This story is nuts, but at the same time, it lacks the pull of human relationsBeryl Markham is someone who you would want to meet and study, I think. This story is nuts, but at the same time, it lacks the pull of human relationships that generally carry me through a story. People obviously read for different reasons, but for me it is relationships that pull me through a story – not necessarily romantic relationships, you understand, but the way people interact. Will they be friends? Will they fall in love? Will they betray each other? There is none of that in this book, so it is not an obvious fit for me as a reader in that way. It is, however, about a badass woman, who was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.
For the most part, people have such interesting lives. I mean, even a person who lives the most normal, or the most domestic, life ever has some kind of story, something to say about life, something about betrayal or compassion or just what it means to be a human. And then there are people like Beryl Markham, who are like, Oh hai, did I ever tell you about the time I almost got eaten by a lion? !!! ???? Whaaa? That is very exotic to me. And then there was that time where she went hunting boar with her buddies, who were Maasai warriors. Oh, and that other time where she saved everybody from floods and killer ants and killer elephants using just her wits and tiny airplanes. So, despite the general absence of human relationships in this book, it’s just an inherently interesting story.
Hemingway was a fan of this book, and it is always interesting to me to read the writers he admired. With Hemingway, I always get this feeling that every sentence is seething with emotion just underneath the surface of what it says, and he’s stuffed that emotion down and tried to nail the sentence shut, but the emotion seeps through the cracks. But, the authors he loves always seem to actually be apathetic. Maybe I’m generalizing too much, but that’s how it seems to me from A Moveable Feast. I think this book is a good example of that. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it seems like it is entirely different to write a memoir where you treat your own story objectively and have compassion for your enemies, and another thing to be generally apathetic. And you don’t get the sense that a woman who flew across the Atlantic, before it was really the thing to do, would have been very apathetic. But, that is what I feel from the writing. Ambition, yes; competitive spirit, yes; but, passion? Not really. It is interesting because I am inclined to assume that Beryl Markham was one of the most passionate people in the twentieth century.
There was another funny thing about this book. I don’t have it in front of me now or I would quote to you. She really back-loads her sentences. I think this might have been something that created the sense of apathy for me. I’m going to give an example of the kind of sentence I’m talking about, even though I don’t have the book, so I can’t give you a quote. It’s something like, “In the heat of the summer, when the warm breezes blew and people sat on their porches drinking lemonade, and before we had heard of airplanes, but after my father had started his flour processing plant, a stampede of elephants flattened our entire village.” It’s like, WHAT? WHOA. That sentence is not about the heat of summer. It is not easy for a stampede of elephants to sneak around, but they got into that sentence pretty stealthily. I guess it is sort of a litotes sentence structure, but I felt tossed about a little bit as a reader.
I read this because my boss and I were talking about the Swahili coast, and how beautiful it is. Markham grew up there and learned to fly planes there. What a beautiful and rough and interesting place to live.
Generally, I think this is a wonderful story. Over and over, I was stunned at how amazing this woman is. And, man, if there is anything that proves that women have always been badass, it is stories like this. I think, for people who love books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Jeannette Walls's books, this is a great recommendation. You just get this sense that Markham did whatever the fuck she wanted to do, and she could not have cared less if someone told her not to. She just swatted them away and worked with more drive to get what she wanted. I am left with an unfortunate desire to read celebrity gossip about her, though. Who was the woman behind the legend? But, at the same time, I am glad at the dignity of the story, and I am unimpressed at my own unseemly dissatisfaction....more