Stop what you're doing right now, and go read this book. It's quite simply the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time. Simon Rich has created...moreStop what you're doing right now, and go read this book. It's quite simply the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time. Simon Rich has created a biting satirical look into the religiosity of our society, one that bitterly touches upon our consumer culture, corporate America, and even an insanely funny focus on Regis Philbin that had me laughing so hard I was crying. I'm not sure what else I can say to make you go read this book, so just do it!(less)
I just finished reading this to my three-year-old daughter. It was my first read, although I was a big fan of Roald Dahl as a kid. Now with the perspe...moreI just finished reading this to my three-year-old daughter. It was my first read, although I was a big fan of Roald Dahl as a kid. Now with the perspective of adulthood, I find his books, The Witches included, to be amusing yet certainly dated. They are wildly creative, yet I am concerned at the ways in which they reinforce stereotypical gender roles. For example, at the end of The Witches, one of the main characters, an elderly woman, claims to her grandson that she has "made a call to...the Chief of Police in Bournemouth [England]" and her grandson is incredulous. She responds that she is "very good at imitating a man's voice," even though her grandson says nothing about her gender being the reason he doesn't believe her (200). Elements like this certainly don't ruin the book for me as a parent, but they definitely make my job a lot harder so that these small elements of stereotype don't infiltrate my kids' identities.(less)
As a big fan of True Blood on HBO, I was reluctant to read the original source material. Would it be good enough when I already knew the characters an...moreAs a big fan of True Blood on HBO, I was reluctant to read the original source material. Would it be good enough when I already knew the characters and basic plot line? Friends assured me that the series is different enough from the television show to be an interesting read, yet I found this first in the series exactly like the first season. I knew who the murderer was and I knew the red herrings; there was absolutely no suspense for me. Another thing that is intensely similar is the graphic sex, and that is something I wasn't quite prepared for in the novel. I remember sitting backstage during a production of Bye, Bye Birdie in middle school and reading through a friend's mother's romance novel with a dozen of my 12-year-old friends listening in grotesque amazement about a couple experimenting with cherry flavored condoms. That is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the genre, but moments of Dead Until Dark certainly stirred those memories in my mind. I couldn't help feeling dirty about it for some reason! I don't think I'll be continuing the series unless I am in desperate need for something on a beach somewhere.(less)
At first this book was a total joy to read. The satirical elements of the opening chapters are both hilarious and biting. Haroun's father, kindly refe...moreAt first this book was a total joy to read. The satirical elements of the opening chapters are both hilarious and biting. Haroun's father, kindly referred to "the Shah of Blah" and "the Ocean of Notions" is a renowned professional storyteller, often hired by politicians to incongruously garner constituents' support via his fictional tales. In the first chapter, Haroun questions his father's vocation, repeating a miserly neighbor's question: "What's the use of stories that aren't even true?" The question both resonates with Haroun's mother, who leaves his father to run off with the pragmatic neighbor, and establishes the central theme of the novel: What is the purpose of fiction? Soon thereafter, the Shah of Blah loses his ability to tell stories, and Haroun embarks on a fantastic voyage to literally restore his father's flow of creativity.
Once the story plunges into pure fantasy, however, taking Haroun (and later his father) into another world full of imaginative creatures and elements no less satirical than those from earlier in the book, the text goes a bit too far for my tastes, simply because the characters are so outlandish (a giant fish made up of millions of little fish, a gardener made up of flowers and vines) that it's difficult to keep straight what is what and who is who. (For that reason though, I think this would actually be a great book to teach!)(less)
**spoiler alert** I am so embarrassed that I'm giving this book even three stars. At many times while reading, I literally felt the brain cells dying...more**spoiler alert** I am so embarrassed that I'm giving this book even three stars. At many times while reading, I literally felt the brain cells dying in my head. Throughout much of the narrative, Meyer's writing is barely sophomoric. I honestly think that I wrote at her level when I was in sixth grade. (Perhaps this is the source of my ire: she is the one with millions in the bank while I'm writing a crummy review of her book on Goodreads!) Of her many authorial offenses, the most egregious is likely her character development. Over the course of four lengthy texts, she has failed to give readers a compelling portrait of any of her characters--either that or these individuals are truly vapid and banal entities. A portion of Breaking Dawn deviates from the first person perspective of Bella, her bumbling and insipid heroine, as Meyer explores the voice of Jacob, the odd man (werewolf) out to Bella and Edward's affair. Within the pages of Jacob's narration the novel truly devolves into middle school dreck. As a fierce vampire-eating shape shifter, he hurls the most desultory of comments at Bella's new sister-in-law: the blonde joke. He tells blonde joke after blonde joke, and I'm pretty sure Meyer thinks herself endlessly witty for employing this annoying staple of the 1990s. (Amidst this exceedingly dull portion of the text, Jacob even at one point asks, "What am I, chopped liver?" Again, I think used that line in my sixth grade composition "Simon vs. Quintaro" in which a talking beaver battled an evil wizard.)
Beyond the horrible writing, other philosophical dilemnas arise for me as a liberal minded reader. We all know that no piece of literature is innocent, and Breaking Dawn is no different. Laced within this love story is a tale of white supremacy. I'm totally serious! The Cullens are endlessly admired for their "marble" skin, and once Bella is turned into a vampire herself, she recognizes the new white sheen of her skin that has transformed in to a true beauty. (The chapter that details her transformation repeatedly mentions how she can taste the "dust motes" in the air. I think Ms. Meyer uses "dust motes" about a hundred times in that chapter. Vivid detail used repeatedly until ineffective: Check! She then goes on to describe how her "mouth felt like four o'clock on a June day in Death Valley." Sixth-grade simile: Check!)
The first time Bella and Edward make love (after marriage thank goodness--again thank you Ms. Meyer for that little bit of fiction), Bella comments how she "half-smiled, then raised [her:] free hand...and placed it over his heart. White on white; we matched, for once." What could be more perfect than a white on white romance, eh Ms. Meyer? (On a less serious note, Edward admits to having "bit a pillow. Or two" after the consummation of their marriage. Just like most conservatives, Ms. Meyer must not have known this is slang for someone who enjoys gay sex.)
More disturbing though is this whole business of "imprinting," in which the werewolves of the series find their soul mate. Upon first site for their partners, they imprint upon them and must be paired with them for life. Sounds fine, until two characters imprint on toddlers. Why would a mainstream Mormon writer create a plot point that so easily analogizes her work to elements of the fundamentalist sects of her religion?
The one thing that drove me to migraines though was the name of Bella and Edward's child: "Renesmee." Bella (Ms. Meyer) ingeniously creates it by combining her mother's name (Renee) with Edward's mother's name (Esmee). Again, isn't this something we all though was a great idea when we played marriage at recess in elementary school? One could argue that Meyer is simply employing the adolescent voice for her narration, yet if this were true it would belie the very nature of her story, that Bella is even remotely ready for the life she now will live eternally as a wife and mother, not to mention why a 100+ vampire would find her even the slightest bit interesting.
By now, I'm sure you're asking yourself why I gave this book three stars, and why I gave Meyer my $20 or whatever I spent on the four downloads to read this series on my Kindle. The only answer is that she does create an intriguing story and an interesting spin on the vampire tradition. The climax of this final book in the series (so far) is actually thrilling and will certainly make for an intense film installment. How Meyer creates such an engaging story with such childish renditions of characters and narrative style is the truly amazing feat here though.(less)
Meyer must think she's so clever. In Eclipse, she includes oh-so-witty references and parallels to Wuthering Heights, and as is her wont, focuses not...moreMeyer must think she's so clever. In Eclipse, she includes oh-so-witty references and parallels to Wuthering Heights, and as is her wont, focuses not on the traditional, suspenseful action of her truly engaging story, but rather on the banal and trite inner-struggle of her protagonist.
Of the first three books in the saga, this is certainly the best yet, but obviously the limits of Meyer's writing style similarly limit the praise of that sentiment. (At one point, Bella literally says, "I love you, but I"m not in love with you.") The traditional elements of the storyline are far better developed here; the inevitable conflict of the novel (which the climax resolves) is introduced early on, as opposed to the late stage induction that occurs in the first two books. However, she again chooses to circumvent that climatic resolution for a surprise encounter, providing secondhand narration of the other after the fact.
As the relationship between Bella and Edwards matures (another term used lightly), so does Meyers attempts to create true abstinence propaganda. Here more than ever, Bella is portrayed as the sex-crazed temptress who hopes to help Edward deviate from his path of goodness. He tells her during a failed seduction attempt that "it doesn't help that you are so eager to undermine my self-control" and asks her, "Must I always be the responsible one?" (He is of course more than one hundred years older than her; doesn't that by default make him the "responsible one"?)
Edward is of course consumed with thoughts of Bella's soul, at one point suggesting she is the one who has "a shot at heaven." This complicates her desires to both bed him and be converted into a vampire. Strangely, Edward is willing to follow through on both fronts if she will only wed him first. Why is he so consumed with thoughts of her eternal salvation only until she agrees to marry him?
This is where Meyer's own religious views come through all too transparently. Her Mormon faith and its belief in celestial (eternal) marriage provide the backdrop for Edward's contradictory belief that marriage will provide a safety net for his future bride's soul.
I have no problem with teaching adolescents about the benefits of waiting to engage in sexual relations with a partner; it is merely the misogynistic elements inherent in Meyer's narrative that disturb me. Why is Bella portrayed as the Biblical seductress and Edward is, as one of my students put it, "a perfect gentlemen"? Why is so much time devoted to reinforcing issues of Bella's poor self-image as it relates to Edward's pure physical perfection?
While I am not the type of parent (or teacher) who would suggest that this book should be removed from the hands of every adolescent girl in an effort to counteract the detrimental stereotypes it preaches, I do believe that a healthy discussion of these trappings should be required for every young woman who reads these books!(less)
**spoiler alert** Most of my students say this book isn't as good as the others, and having read only two now, I have to agree, at least in respect to...more**spoiler alert** Most of my students say this book isn't as good as the others, and having read only two now, I have to agree, at least in respect to Twilight. My problem isn't with the absence of Edward; the problem is Bella's characterization. Why does it take her so long to figure out that Jacob is a werewolf? Why does she refuse to believe that Edward loves her? Why is she blind to the old tell-her-you-hate-her-even-though-you-love-her-so-she'll-move-on ploy that he pulls on her? I just don't understand how she can be so dense AND also be such a wanted woman by every male being in Forks.
The other issue I have is Meyers' plot construction. Just as with the first novel, this one starts on a particular course (in both cases a journey of personal awareness for Bella) and then three quarters of the way through, the plot shifts into this high speed action thriller with little to no connection to the rest of the book. (Of course I will be moving on to Eclipse to see if this trend carries on!)
And finally, this book starts to delve a little too heavy handedly into the whole eternal marriage issue. Edwards reveals his moralistic problems with being a vampire here, in particular his belief that it signifies the death of the soul. Then when he only promises to convert Bella when she promises to marry him first, the whole thing starts to sound a bit too much like propaganda for Meyers own religious choices.(less)
The remarkable thing about this book is that Meyers creates such an engaging story with virtually no writers' craft at all. Her turn of phrase is bana...moreThe remarkable thing about this book is that Meyers creates such an engaging story with virtually no writers' craft at all. Her turn of phrase is banal and trite, utilizing cliches and contrivances in place of character and plot development. I won't say I couldn't put the book down (I often felt compelled to do so in fact), but it was an incredibly swift read.
I see now what all the hullabaloo is about. This book reinforces stereotypes of male dominance and perfection and female submissiveness and temptation, and doesn't our society like to revert to the known, no matter how oppressive that is? Bella is the empty vessel, self-described as a plain and clumsy girl. Why then does every boy in town, including a 100+ year old vampire often described as having the physical attributes of "a god," fight over her? Edward, her undead paramour, constantly tells her how evil she is for doing other than what he tells her, including after her near-death experience with the novel's underdeveloped antagonist (who doesn't appear until the final quarter of the book), and she blindly acquiesces to his misogynistic scolding.
In terms of traditional development of plot, Meyers pays little attention to the trappings of what creates a good story (nor does she play with these elements in an interesting postmodern way), and yet I didn't even realize how poorly constructed the narrative is until very late in the novel. As mentioned above, she doesn't introduce a traditional antagonist until the final quarter of the book, after which the conflict is all too swiftly propelled toward a climax--a climax during which the narrator is subconscious and the reader is never allowed to know what actually happens! The majority of this book's plot is devoted to the "bad girl Bella" mentality outlined above as prescribed by the pure perfection of the male figure Edward.
All that said, I'm totally reading number two.(less)
So this wasn't my favorite book. It's kind of the caliber of Mirror, Mirror for me. There have been a few books of Maguire's that I totally LOVED (lik...moreSo this wasn't my favorite book. It's kind of the caliber of Mirror, Mirror for me. There have been a few books of Maguire's that I totally LOVED (like Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, but this was definitely not one of them. I enjoyed Wicked in spite of a few really long-winded sections, and I really liked Son of a Witch, probably because it was very similar to Wicked but much shorter. But this one just got really boring in sections I have to say, and it wasn't really clear to me until the end what he was trying to do with the book...which seems to be to set up a fourth installment in the series. He does an adequate job giving an interesting backstory for the Cowardly Lion, but it was just wasn't as intriguing as Elphaba's in the first book. (And I'm so nervous posting this because Maguire lives down the street from me! I hope he doesn't read this!)(less)