Hallelujah! I finally finished a book--it feels like the first one in MONTHS. Victory in our time!
I'll give more thoughts after book club Thursday, buHallelujah! I finally finished a book--it feels like the first one in MONTHS. Victory in our time!
I'll give more thoughts after book club Thursday, but I seriously liked this book. I was going to go with 5 stars, but I had a few issues with some of the plot points, so it's down to 4. But the writing was beautiful, the characters' stories all came together in a very satisfying way, and it wasn't predictable (at all--I really don't enjoy dystopian fiction, but this subverted my expectations). I really enjoyed reading it, so that's something worth celebrating....more
4.5 stars, but I had a few issues with some of the plot points, so I'm rounding down. Atkinson is such a clever writer. I'm rereading Case Histories w4.5 stars, but I had a few issues with some of the plot points, so I'm rounding down. Atkinson is such a clever writer. I'm rereading Case Histories which I read many years ago (but don't remember) and there are similar elements in that book that she repeats/improves in Life After Life. Her ability to weave her characters and story bits into multiple timelines is impressive, and in fact I had to flip back to some of Ursula's "earlier" lives because I'd missed something (I'd definitely recommend this on print versus an e-book). This book is pretty hard to spoil--Ursula is basically reincarnated over and over again as her life happens mainly between WWI and WWII in rural England. She dies numerous ways at different ages, and each time she starts over, she has a glimpse of de ja vu that she's been in that situation before, and sometimes it's enough to avoid that certain death and sometimes not (falling off the roof; succumbing to the Spanish flu; getting shot after killing Hitler, which opens the book, etc.) Atkinson's gift isn't this party trick--it's making her characters real, flawed, and interesting while keeping these various stories of Ursula's lives flowing seamlessly (and still making sense--not an easy thing to do).
At about 200 pages into it (which yes, is a while to stick with a book before it picks up the pacing), I really empathized with Ursula and was fascinated by the situations she found herself in--marrying someone she didn't know and seeing what he turned into to, being part of a rescue squad in the Blitz, finding herself in Germany before WWII erupts, making an impossible choice with her sick daughter--in different versions of her many lives. I always adored the movie "Sliding Doors" because the concept is so fascinating to me--if Ursula made a different choice (kissing that boy, getting on that train, not going to London when the War ended), her entire future changes. How would our lives have changed with a tiny different decision that we might have made? It's a fascinating premise for a book. My biggest complaint is as much as I liked Ursula, I didn't feel that the plot really affected me, like her being in wartime. Awful things happened to her, but I didn't necessarily FEEL them. Not sure if that's Atkinson's writing style or not, but I wanted to be drawn in more. But her writing is impeccable. She deserves all the kudos for this interesting, unique, and well written book....more
It's very interesting to compare this to Everything I Never Told You, which I just read, both about families where a family member dies and a characteIt's very interesting to compare this to Everything I Never Told You, which I just read, both about families where a family member dies and a character is closeted, and yet, Krueger's wins hands down because I felt like I was IN that family, in that time, in that setting. I felt very removed from Ng's story and could not relate to her characters at all. Krueger's characters, including the minor ones, just leapt off the page. I was thinking about the way he wrote his book--it's in first person, so the young 12-year old narrator has to be present in some clever way during many of the storyline's reveals (and Krueger places him there convincingly--he's a nosy sort!). He also makes his narrator feisty, a little wild, and not always likable, while giving the more saintly character traits to his stuttering little brother. Clever, Krueger--you get to have your cake and eat it too by not having your main character be a goody two shoes. The book made me feel emotional and I was very attached to the entire Drum family. I felt their pain, confusion, frustration, and grief, both through the eyes of 12-year old Frank, but also his Methodist minister father, cynical singer mother, younger brother, and luminous and feisty older sister. And his setting was like another character. The fact that it was in small-town Minnesota near Mankato where I grew up visiting my grandma and grandpa increased my enjoyment, but Krueger absolutely has a way with words, characters, and settings. Krueger gives no easy answers, religious or otherwise, in this book, and I found that refreshing--he refuses to take sides on belief, faith, and God. Really beautiful, profound, moving, and just lovely....more
Holy hell, I'm so happy to be finished with this book. I can't even write how I feel about it--I have to give it a few days/weeks to sink in, and willHoly hell, I'm so happy to be finished with this book. I can't even write how I feel about it--I have to give it a few days/weeks to sink in, and will probably get back to it after I go to book club in a few weeks. Ugh. Such a bloated book. And I don't even understand the point of it. What was the point with me spending all that time with drug-addicted (and selfish) Theo? What was I supposed to learn from him? I'm just relieved to be done with him, and Boris, and the whole lot of them (except maybe Hobie. And Popper). Just absolutely tedious, and frankly I'm amazed Tartt chose to spend 11 years with these unpleasant characters. Damnation, I'm irritated with Tartt. I'm leaving The Secret History until much, much later, and I give myself permission to give it up (like I wished I'd done with this one) at any time it starts to irritate me.
Man, what a downer. And not just because daughter Lydia dies (and you know that from line 1), but just everything every family member never told anyonMan, what a downer. And not just because daughter Lydia dies (and you know that from line 1), but just everything every family member never told anyone else was so depressing, and frankly, none of the characters were particularly likable, including the dead girl. Only poor forgotten last daughter Hannah made me sad--she was always trying to stay in the shadows and not bother anyone. I understand that people are complicated, and these characters were full of complexity (especially due to the children being interracial in the 70s, not a great time to be biracial, and their parents having an interracial relationship--also not a great time for that in 70s midwest), but there was no levity anywhere in the story. Nothing to break up the monotony of sadness and feelings of being alone and lonely for each and every character. Every single family member was just...bleh and miserable (and this was before the daughter dies. And on that note--I still don't really know what happened to her. I couldn't really figure out her part of the story. Murder or suicide? Still not sure!) Did the parents love each other? Not sure. Why did none of the children have friends? How were the parents so clueless? How in the hell did the mom just leave her family and think that was ok for about 3 months? Questions that I didn't get satisfactorily answered.
The writing was solid, but a lack of feeling for the characters (and were we supposed to feel empathy? I guess so, but I wasn't sure) made it very writer-ly, very graduate writing school project. Everyone just seemed doomed, and if there was some hope at the end (like seriously, the last 3 pages), it came a little too late for me to care about anyone in the story. Overall, just a complete downer, and not in a way that made me boo-hoo, but more that when I finished the last sentence, I was glad and relieved to be done with the Lee family. Frankly I wanted to know more about the Chinese teaching assistant, but again...denied! 3 stars for good writing, but I'd give it 2 stars for lack of enjoyability. ...more
It's not difficult to read a lot of Nazi Germany books--many of them exist, even in the fiction world (which is almost exclusively what I read). And fIt's not difficult to read a lot of Nazi Germany books--many of them exist, even in the fiction world (which is almost exclusively what I read). And frankly, many of them are powerful because they explore both sides of the issue. But this has a dual narrative that I hadn't seen before, with a structure I hadn't read before, and it makes the book that much more powerful. Doerr's prose is beautiful and poetic, although I disagree with a Goodreads friend who said it didn't call attention to itself. I think it did--especially after 500 pages and I'm ready for the book to wrap up--but the writing was lovely. But at points I thought he got a little flowery, and again--a lot of length. The narrative structure to alternate between German boy Werner and French girl Marie-Laure (and sometimes the creepy bad guy) was pretty brilliant, because their experiences leading up to the war were so vastly different. And making Marie-Laure blind was brilliant, because it made the suspenseful scenes that much more horrifying. Can you imagine being blind and being worried about your safety? I can't even! I can't even imagine navigating her surroundings as well as she does. And I loved her response to someone calling her brave. Basically, she wasn't brave--it was just her only option if she wanted to live. Fantastic. Cutting back and forth to the present day between all the flashbacks leading up to that point was incredibly effective because of the numerous cliffhangers in that timeline--every time Doerr would go back to the past, I thought, "No! What's going to happen to Marie-Laure?!?" I thought both narratives were compelling (usually one character's story is more interesting than another, but not in this case) and I think the book is worth the hype, and that doesn't happen often--it's a very readable literary novel. 1 star off just for the length (I went through many late nights trying to finish it--like homework!) and the flowery prose--sometimes I felt Doerr was just sticking words in there to be all meaningful, but I didn't get the meaning. Besides that, brilliant!...more
I love Ron Rash, and he doesn't pull punches with this story--he's not at all sentimental, and often the characters in his books come to an unfortunatI love Ron Rash, and he doesn't pull punches with this story--he's not at all sentimental, and often the characters in his books come to an unfortunate end. Serena the novel is no different, and I appreciate his accurate description about the harshness of life in 1930s rural North Carolina. Serena the character is quite a woman--a Lady Macbeth, ruthless, cunning, and all-knowing. A mythical creature--it's no shock why Pemberton falls for her in a matter of weeks, marries her and brings her back with him to North Carolina to help build his logging empire. The book opens with a violent act as Serena looks on in admiration, and that sets the stage for this power couple to do whatever they want with no (or few) regrets. There are a lot of characters, and I will admit to being a little lost as to who the various parties were as Pemberton and Serena try to buy more tracts of land to log (and ruthlessly cut down anyone in their wake who doesn't agree with them). Rash includes a ton of detail about the logging business (and dang, that was a dangerous industry to be in) which I thought bogged the story down a bit, but I appreciated his exhaustive research on the subject, and enjoyed the loggers themselves filling the reader in on a little plot. I was definitely happy with the addition of Rachel and her son, who gave the story some heart and warmth in a tale filled with a lot of unlikable characters.
And holy crap, Galloway is one scary dude.
Can't wait to see the movie with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper!...more
I don't usually give books 5 stars, but I just loved this from beginning to end. I was worried at the start that this would be a "Sheldon Cooper [fromI don't usually give books 5 stars, but I just loved this from beginning to end. I was worried at the start that this would be a "Sheldon Cooper [from Big Bang Theory] tries to date and fails spectacularly", which irritated me (I can't take a whole book of Sheldon) but Simsion made a much more compelling and lovable (if not necessarily...lovable) character in Don Tillman. Don, in his own (undiagnosed) aspie kind of way is a charming character, who believes in order and sense, but can't resist the wild charms of Rosie. I fully bought into both characters, i really rooted for Don to figure it out (and cringed when he did things so clearly clashing with acceptable cultural and society norms just because he doesn't' really know better) before Rosie got away (not that she was going anywhere, really, but Don was being such an idiot he almost ruined everything). I think it's challenging to make a character on the autism spectrum not only funny but relatable, and Don's inner monologue was so amusing that yes, I was laughing at him (because he really just doesn't understand how the world works, and asks reasonable questions that are natural to the rest of us) but also I just wanted him to be happy. Don deserved it. Great story....more
Oh wow--this was incredible. Definitely Ron Rash-esque, and I'm amazed it was Jordan's first novel. It was so evocative and self-assured. Every chapteOh wow--this was incredible. Definitely Ron Rash-esque, and I'm amazed it was Jordan's first novel. It was so evocative and self-assured. Every chapter alternates a different character's perspective, and she has such a terrific ear for dialogue and understanding of her characters. I'm lucky I had a snow day today, because i was in bed for a few hours finishing up this terrific story. I couldn't put it down. It follows two families, one black and one white, in 1940s Mississippi, and contrasts the casual racism of that time and place with two sons from each family who were in World War II, especially the black son who was an independent, well-read tank commander who just can't come to grips with the subhuman status he and his family afford when he returns from the war. The language and actions of the townspeople (specifically the men) are horrible, but it shades the characters and how they became who they were. The grandfather is especially horrific, but he was a product of his time and place, and a coward to boot--regardless, I had no problems being grateful he was dead in the opening pages of the book. The interesting part is how he got there. Natural causes? Hmm...I think not.
Jordan has a terrific way of introducing cliffhangers that aren't showy, but a sense of foreboding pervades the entire story. But I won't say it ends in a hopeless, depressing way--Jordan brings some sense of hope to all involved parties in a way that seems believable. Terrific first novel (or 2nd or 3rd!)...more
I'll give Cash this--he definitely has a terrific, unique voice and writing style. But this book was just so DAMN BLEAK. It reminded me of Crooked LetI'll give Cash this--he definitely has a terrific, unique voice and writing style. But this book was just so DAMN BLEAK. It reminded me of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, but bleaker, and that book was no picnic! I enjoyed the triumvirate narrators, which broke up the story (even though I didn't love Adelaide, I respected Cash having three separate and distinct voices for her, 8-year old Jess and 60-ish sheriff Clem). The story is beautifully written, very southern and gothic. The bad guy seemed extra bad to me, and I always wish my fiction bad guys were more nuanced, but frankly some people in real life are just--awful. So I'll accept it. I thought the pacing was very good, the characters believable, and the writing lovely. I can't say that it really resonated with me, but it was definitely a great book club choice--lots to discuss. It was overwhelmingly liked in our little circle. I think Cash is a real talent, and I've heard his next book is terrific too....more
I'm going to put this in the "did not finish...yet" pile, but I'm taking it off my currently reading list, because a) it just makes me feel guilty forI'm going to put this in the "did not finish...yet" pile, but I'm taking it off my currently reading list, because a) it just makes me feel guilty for having it on my list this long when I haven't been currently reading it for about 4 months, and b) I don't know when I"ll get back to it and I don't want to add it to my ridiculous long to-read list. So, 3 stars is what you get. I know, it's not fair to rate a book I'm only halfway through. Sorry, Patchett! I promise to finish you someday (I say hopefully) and give you a proper rating!
As of my place (about halfway through), it was definitely an odd book. Not unlikeable, but it didn't try very hard to be likable either. The characters all felt very standoffish and kind of removed, which might have been Patchett's point, but still didn't make for the most enjoyable book. But I haven't gone deep into the jungle yet which i guess is where the excitement happens.
...also, this was MY book club book choice that I hosted, so I feel double guilty for not finishing it. Ugh, I'm the worst. Hey, at least I know how it ends...that takes some of the pressure off!...more
This book has such a different tone and style than The Tenderness of Wolves that I would never have guessed they were by the same author. Both are verThis book has such a different tone and style than The Tenderness of Wolves that I would never have guessed they were by the same author. Both are very well-written, but the setting and the characters are so different and unusual, it's hard to know how Stef Penney came up with both. I think I preferred her first book, but the characters in this were wonderful. The story has alternating chapters of Ray, the half Gypsy private investigator, and JJ, the young teenage Gypsy who's family was involved with the missing woman Ray is looking for who disappeared 7 years ago. Both characters are interesting and full-blooded, immediately coming to life on the page, and the mysteries of the story--what happened to Rose Janko, JJ's former aunt-by-marriage? Why is JJ's uncle so secretive? Why are the Janko clan so steeped in tragedy? Why is Ray so haunted?--definitely kept my attention. The mystery almost seemed too unlikely to be believed when it got resolved at the end, and that kind of took me out of the story a little. But I enjoyed meeting JJ and Ray and the whole Janko family that I'm giving it 4 stars. I also enjoyed learning more about Romany/Gypsy life. Definitely a unique story, and one well-told....more
Argh, this book. It's taken me so long to read it because i just found it so frustrating (and frankly, I haven't been reading a whole lot in the lastArgh, this book. It's taken me so long to read it because i just found it so frustrating (and frankly, I haven't been reading a whole lot in the last few months.) McEwan just isn't my thing--he's too highbrow, too committed to going off on tangents that I don't find at all interesting about science or literature (related to his characters' interests), and it took him about 10 pages of buildup to talk about a single incident in this book...get ON with it already ("If I'd known what was about to happen, would I have tried to stop it? How could I have realized what was going to happen? How did I not know he was sitting with his back to us? Why am I having such a lengthy internal monologue right now?") He definitely conveys the craziness that Jed makes him feel as well as how he might seem to others (the police, Clarissa). It just couldn't keep the momentum going for me.
In all honesty, because i knew I wouldn't finish this in time for book club (back in February!), I watched the movie with a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig. You know, it was odd, but I enjoyed it, and it was fairly faithful to the book (although I know book-Joe is no movie-Joe). It distilled in 90+ minutes what took me months to get through with the literary version. McEwan is a great writer, I do believe that, he's just not the writer for me, and I will stop trying to attempt his work....more
Hmm. I can't say this book is disappointing, because that's not fair to Ms. Erdrich--she's a lovely writer. More that I was disappointed IN this bookHmm. I can't say this book is disappointing, because that's not fair to Ms. Erdrich--she's a lovely writer. More that I was disappointed IN this book because I was expecting more from her (I've heard so many things about her writing) and I wanted to be really sucked in...and I just wasn't. The writing was beautiful (although she doesn't use quotation marks in dialogue, and for some reason that just really aggravated me) and the story was less dark than I expected (considering it revolves around the rape of the main characters' mother)--it was really about the relationships between the 4 teenage boys. The ending came out of nowhere to me and I thought it pointless and poorly wrapped up, and I thought she spent too much time on the Native American folklore to keep my attention. Really I just wanted to be engrossed, and I wasn't. It was well done, and I wouldn't hesitate to read more Erdrich, but after all the hype I was expecting...more. ...more
I've been suffering a little bit with classics because I think my taste is just too modern--so many of them are too long, too flowery, too SOMETHING,I've been suffering a little bit with classics because I think my taste is just too modern--so many of them are too long, too flowery, too SOMETHING, and I just can't focus. This was short enough for me to get through, and I had fond memories of the movie, even though I hadn't seen it in a while. But I will say it's one of the few times I enjoyed the movie (after rewatching it last weekend) more than the book. The heart of the book--the love story between the reluctant Lucy and wild-at-heart George, and her relationship with both the imperious Cecil and the pain in the rear Charlotte--rang true, and those interactions were definitely the best parts. But the rest of it was a little overwrought and muddled ("It's a muddle!") and frankly I had problems following some of it--who was saying what, what exactly was happening, plot-wise--but I soldiered on and got the general idea of it.
I have to say--the ending was fairly dark. Not dark in a "someone DIED" way, but in the fact (as I read it) that the family basically shunned George and Lucy for getting married because it bucked society a little bit. I didn't really get that part. Why would they care if she married George? They didn't even like Cecil?
Let's just be honest--I think the movie encapsulated all the best parts of the book, and left the rest that didn't matter. Perfectly cast, scored, and set--it's a fantastic adaptation. Daniel Day Lewis as Cecil is absolutely brilliant (the pince nez spectacles!) as is HBC as Lucy. Such great chemistry among everyone. I'm really happy I re-watched it as an adult....more