This book stuck with me for more than a day after I read it. I loved the characters, particularly Pat and Tiffany, but really all of them, and most ofThis book stuck with me for more than a day after I read it. I loved the characters, particularly Pat and Tiffany, but really all of them, and most of what kept coming to memory during that day were interactions between them--Pat and his therapist/friend/fellow Philadelphia Eagles fan Cliff, Pat and his father, Pat and Tiffany. Matthew Quick addresses issues of mental illness as if they're not "issues" but aspects of his characters' personalities that both constrain their lives and fail to define them, and he does it brilliantly. I also loved how football was the common thread that joined each of them, even the ones who didn't love it. I picture Quick looking at the Eagles' past seasons, searching for a year that would be the perfect setting for the story he wants to tell. Now I'm both eager and afraid to see the movie--how could it live up to the original?...more
This was just as satisfying as I expect from the series. Lots of great character interactions, interesting side characters, and Heather finally confroThis was just as satisfying as I expect from the series. Lots of great character interactions, interesting side characters, and Heather finally confronts the mother who abandoned her and stole all her money. The mystery is a little weak, but the rest of the story definitely makes up for it. And Heather and Cooper are married! Lots of fun all around....more
What occurred to me, while reading this book, is that this is a story of a desperately lonely girl. Morwenna/Mori/Mor is a twin who's lost her secondWhat occurred to me, while reading this book, is that this is a story of a desperately lonely girl. Morwenna/Mori/Mor is a twin who's lost her second half, but she's also being torn from many of her beloved relatives to live with a family she knows nothing about. She escapes into science fiction, I think, not only because literature provides her with a stability she can control, but because science fiction in particular is a hard contrast to the real-life fantasy world of fairies she inhabits. I was tempted to think of this primarily as a boarding-school novel (which I like) but that's really just a framework to highlight Mor's isolation; what's more isolating than being surrounded by a population who can't understand you and doesn't want to?
Another thing that occurred to me is that Mor's extensive reading didn't bug me at all. Normally this sort of thing shows up in a novel as the author's way of establishing street cred, like the character is SO cool and SO intelligent for reading, I don't know, Plutarch in the original Latin while chewing on her crib bars. It's just a form of bragging and I think it's pointless. In this case, Mor's reading is part of her desperation, and neither she nor anyone else thinks she's oh so fabulous or unusual. Either she's considered strange, or she's among people who read as much as she does. I found it refreshing, though there was one point where Mor complains that if you read a lot, people assume you have nothing better to do, and I wanted to tell her, Sweetheart, wait until you grow up and have demands on your time that you can't avoid, and you'll understand why people think that way.
But that's the third thing: I felt that Mor, and really all the characters, were very real, very well drawn. I especially liked Mor's father, whose abandonment of her as a baby mixed with his awkward desire to connect with her as a young adult made him a complex character I felt a lot of sympathy for. With the fantasy element being more or less subsumed for most of the book, I think this story could have worked equally well as straight fiction or, better, magical realism. I can't say I really loved it, deep down loved it, but I admired it, and maybe that's just as good a way to connect with a book as any....more
I'm not sure why I've rated this three stars (probably closer to 3.5) because there was a lot I liked about it. I'm very fond of superhero stories, paI'm not sure why I've rated this three stars (probably closer to 3.5) because there was a lot I liked about it. I'm very fond of superhero stories, particularly ones like this, and I actually liked that the villain's perspective alternated with the hero's perspective. Actually, that's misleading; the "villain" has some sympathetic traits, and the "hero" is a newbie who's just been invited to join the number one super-group in the world. Both of them have doubts about what they're doing, but not in the sense of questioning whether they're right--they simply don't know how they fit into the world.
Grossman has some interesting and clever ideas about supervillains: why are so many of them super-geniuses? Why do they want to take over the world, anyway? which he answers by creating a mental disorder that drives them toward evil, or at any rate a desperate need for control. His heroine, Fatale, is a cyborg who began as an ordinary woman who suffered a hideous accident and was saved only by the process that made her the super tall, super strong, super fast cyborg she is now. Grossman put a lot of thought into what it would be like to recover from such a process, and as I was reading Keeping It Real at the same time, I kept forgetting which cyborg was which--both Robson and Grossman were on the same wavelength, I guess.
It's a good book. It just didn't pull me in the way I thought it should. For all it's an action book, it's also sort of slow--should it be read as a science fiction novel, or a form of literary fiction (of which it has many hallmarks), or something in between? I think I can recommend it to fans of both--i.e. fans who like both science fiction and a more literary style--because I feel it has a lot to offer to the right reader....more
This was such a fun, lighthearted romance, perfect for the mood I was in. Sweet, sexy, funny, with interesting characters and a fun plot. Lacey TerwilThis was such a fun, lighthearted romance, perfect for the mood I was in. Sweet, sexy, funny, with interesting characters and a fun plot. Lacey Terwilliger's response to learning about her husband's infidelity--with his secretary, even, such a cliché--is to write a scathing newsletter and mail it to everyone on his email list. It's true that some of the things she writes might be libellous, but what bugged me on her behalf was how so many people turned on her when she was the one wronged. Her husband's mother even chastizes her for not just turning a blind eye and reaping all the gifts her guilty husband should shower upon her. The truth is that Lacey does what every one of those women wish they had the nerve to do, and they punish her for it. Good thing the book has a happy ending and a really great rebound guy who turns into more than that.
(It's weird listening to sex scenes instead of reading them. Totally different experience, and you have to be a lot more careful when the kids are around.)...more
I think I'd have liked this better if I were an Italian man who'd lived in Mussolini's Italy as a child. The concept of regaining one's memory throughI think I'd have liked this better if I were an Italian man who'd lived in Mussolini's Italy as a child. The concept of regaining one's memory through triggering reading associations is good, but Eco just keeps going on, examining book after comic after book without developing a plot. Two stars for the effort and for including the art associated with the books. That was a good idea because it would trigger associations from the reader's own history, but it only works if the reader shares Yambo's reading list.
The first time I read this (many years ago) I loved the mystery and all the little details of a murder complicated by emotional blackmail, adultery, aThe first time I read this (many years ago) I loved the mystery and all the little details of a murder complicated by emotional blackmail, adultery, and organized crime. This time I was surprised to discover that my life is now very similar to Judith Singer's, and what a difference it is to have that life in 2013 rather than 1978. I keep forgetting how hard it was for many women in the '70s, trying to be defined by something other than their relationship to a man. And yet in the differences between Bob Singer and Nelson Sharpe, it's clear that not all men were sexist pigs, that not all women were dissatisfied with being housewives, but also that fighting those gender roles (both male and female) still wasn't easy. Isaacs doesn't focus too much on the details of late-1970s fashion, design, or culture, so the book remains surprisingly readable and relevant. I'm not sure how I feel about the adultery, which is an important part of the story, but in general this is a book I enjoy coming back to....more
This book didn't age very well; the premise (that artists use GPS data to create virtual works of art only visible with the right technology) now seemThis book didn't age very well; the premise (that artists use GPS data to create virtual works of art only visible with the right technology) now seems unlikely and a little weird, given that the actual result of publically-available GPS tracking has been geocaching and comforting female voices directing you to your destination. I didn't care for the overarching conspiracy plot, which felt subordinated to the individual "quests" of the three POV characters, even though those storylines all fed into that plot. In the end, it was Gibson's ability as a writer of prose that kept me interested, as well as how the conspirators executed their act of terrorism/patriotism.
UPDATE: I just learned that this book is a sequel to Pattern Recognition, emphasis on "sequel." I thought it was the first book because it didn't seem to have the immediacy of its predecessor. More evidence in the "this didn't age well" column....more
I'm starting to find that I don't have a lot to say about the individual volumes of this series. I enjoy getting a new one, and I try to make sure I kI'm starting to find that I don't have a lot to say about the individual volumes of this series. I enjoy getting a new one, and I try to make sure I know when a new one's available, but none of them stand out as unique in my memory--and I'm fine with that. It's more like comfort reading than anything else. On the other hand, I'm glad that after I forget how many volumes, Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radaphuti finally get married. If you liked the others in the series, you'll like this one....more
As always, this is an excellent addition to a very enjoyable series. Mma Ramotswe uses her insights and compassion to solve people's problems, Mma MakAs always, this is an excellent addition to a very enjoyable series. Mma Ramotswe uses her insights and compassion to solve people's problems, Mma Makutsi edges ever closer to the altar, and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni continues to be the gentle man he always is. Recommended for anyone who's enjoyed the series so far, but new readers should probably start with the earlier books in order to appreciate how the characters develop over time. ...more
Isn't it nice to pick up books cheap from a library sale? This book is just as good as the earlier volumes in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency seriesIsn't it nice to pick up books cheap from a library sale? This book is just as good as the earlier volumes in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. My favorite part was seeing Mma Potokwane use her formidable intimidation powers on someone else's behalf--someone other than her orphans, that is. It's definitely worth reading if you've enjoyed the rest of the series....more
The Cardturner is a beautifully written and tightly plotted novel about oneAdapted from my write-up for YA/MG Book Battle because I'm basically lazy.
The Cardturner is a beautifully written and tightly plotted novel about one young man and his relationship with his “favorite uncle” Trapp, and how that relationship changes because of the relatively prosaic game of bridge. Maybe it takes someone like Sachar to make bridge, now the province of the old and uncool, interesting to an audience of young people, but make it interesting he does, and I’m incredibly impressed by that. Sachar’s strong characterization on all levels is also impressive, because everyone Alton interacts with is unique and well-defined, even the one-off bridge partners he and Trapp encounter. It’s this skill with characterization, I think, that makes Alton’s romantic entanglements so compelling, particularly since it’s uncommon to see a boy as the POV character in a love triangle. And then there’s the story behind Trapp and the great love of his life—a story in which legend and history are tangled in a way that makes that love story far more resonant even than Alton's.
This isn't Sachar's strongest work. It's slow-paced, not very exciting, and there are all those sections on bridge that might be off-putting to a young reader, even if Sachar does provide useful summaries and shows how to skip the longer bits if you want. But the only way I can really call those things flaws is to set up some artificial standard by which all YA fiction should be judged, and I’m not going to do that. Besides, all those things make the book what it is: tightly plotted, smoothly characterized, and all without the seams showing.
Alton’s voice is evocative of youth, from his vocabulary to his approach to life. As the book begins, he’s rather...laid-back is the wrong word, but so is apathetic; he’s somewhere in the middle, willing to take action if he’s pressed into it, but like so many teens uncertain of what he wants to take action about. He’s honest enough not to want to have anything to do with his great-uncle Trapp, wealthy great-uncle Trapp whom Alton’s parents have been pushing him toward since he was a child, hoping Trapp will write them, or at least Alton, into his will. And Trapp isn’t any more enthusiastic about having Alton around; his treatment of Alton as not very bright and probably not very reliable is exactly the way you’d expect a man of seventy-odd years to treat a teenage boy. Their relationship progresses in a way that feels natural, with both Alton and Trapp overcoming their respective first impressions of each other to come to a state of mutual respect, so when I reached the first climax (there are two) I was engaged enough with both characters to be emotionally moved.
Alton’s relationship with Toni, Trapp’s former cardturner and bridge protégée, really captivated me because it looked like it was going to be a typical romantic relationship until it was sidelined by Alton’s “best friend” Cliff, and the scare quotes are there because I think Cliff’s habit of stealing girls Alton’s interested in isn’t entirely coincidental. That Toni and Alton manage to come back together at the end says a lot about the nature of teen relationships and how shared interests are far more powerful a bond than casual attraction. Alton is sort of bumbling along here, which I found endearing, and this romance had an incredibly satisfactory resolution--or, possibly, a beginning.
The one issue that I think readers of The Cardturner get stuck on is how mental illness is addressed in this book, specifically Toni’s schizophrenia or lack thereof. I think it’s possible to read this book as being dismissive of the seriousness of mental illness, since Toni’s diagnosis is shown to be false; that could imply that Sachar thinks it’s possible for people with schizophrenia to be sane but misunderstood (and therefore capable of fixing themselves if they just want it badly enough). But that’s not the way I read it, for two reasons. First, it’s very clear that Toni does not have schizophrenia—her hearing her dead grandmother’s voice is established as fact, not as a delusion she’s having. I found this interesting because it kept The Cardturner from being a problem novel with a sort of is-she-or-isn’t-she coyness; I like a little supernatural thrown in with my realistic fiction sometimes. This approach means that Toni not taking her meds is not only reasonable, it’s the only possible approach; one does not take antipsychotics if they are unnecessary. Second, the circumstances of Toni’s diagnosis are iffy. No reputable psychiatrist would treat schizophrenia simply by throwing pills at the patient, which is what seems to be going on here. I don’t want people thinking that psychiatrists are quacks and that mental illness is imaginary, but I also don’t think it’s a good idea to forget that sometimes the system fails us—a point that is reinforced in The Cardturner by the forced hospitalization of perfectly sane Annabel King, and we are not all that far from the days when that sort of thing was possible. It’s still an uncomfortable aspect of the novel because Sachar doesn’t ever show a positive side of psychiatry, which allows for the reading that psychiatry is always to be distrusted, but this isn’t a book about mental illness, it’s a book about bridge, and in general I don’t get the feeling that Sachar’s got an axe and is looking for a grindstone.
In general, I get a sense of completeness from this book that satisfies me, though I doubt it will ever be a real favorite. I both enjoyed the story and admired Sachar's skill in creating it, I felt satisfied when I got to the end, which I consider fairly impressive....more