5 word summary: Losing your whole family sucks. I have nothing but admiration and compassion for Sonali Deranyagali, but there's just not enough here...more5 word summary: Losing your whole family sucks. I have nothing but admiration and compassion for Sonali Deranyagali, but there's just not enough here to make an engaging book. Great survival stories need at least one of these elements: a dramatic struggle against the elements, or a life changing spiritual/philosophical reawakening. This has neither: the author survived purely by chance, and her path to healing contains no particular revelations. While this is probably realistic, it's simply not interesting.(less)
One can hardly give it zero stars given the source material, but my, what an unimaginative, scene by scene retelling, rather like a paint-by-numbers v...moreOne can hardly give it zero stars given the source material, but my, what an unimaginative, scene by scene retelling, rather like a paint-by-numbers version of an old master. Several plot points simply do not work in the 21st century: Edward's obligation to marry Lucy doesn't carry the same weight,and since no two young people could possibly go more than a few hours without texting each other unless one was dead or comatose, Willoughby's failure to communicate with Marianne becomes highly implausible, and everyone's willingness to make excuses for him frankly bizarre. Giving Marianne the same chronic asthma which killed her father is a nice touch, but it makes her indifference to her health appear even more self-indulgent and childish than in the original.
For a truly masterful, creative re-working of S&S, try The Weisssman's of Westport or the films From Prada to Nada (set in contemporary L.A.) or I Have Found It (mid 20th century India).(less)
Okay take on a familiar trope: the gold-digging grifter who worms her way into the unsuspecting affections of a vulnerable man, only to shake up his l...moreOkay take on a familiar trope: the gold-digging grifter who worms her way into the unsuspecting affections of a vulnerable man, only to shake up his life for the better. Grieving widower Richard Favour is a pushover for glamorous Fleur, who chats him up at his wife's funeral, and quickly becomes ensconced in his golf club mansion. Everyone (except Richard) suspects she's up to no good, and yet her charm and good sense start to improve the lives of Richard's unhappy children and sister-in-law. While not a timeless work of everlasting genius, Wickham, (actually Sophie Kinsella pretending to be British) delivers a smartly paced story with a roster of appealing characters, one clear villain, and a protagonist who keeps you guessing.(less)
Well, its a collection of essays, so of course some are stronger than others. And its old, so there is no discussion of more recent films like the new...moreWell, its a collection of essays, so of course some are stronger than others. And its old, so there is no discussion of more recent films like the new Masterpiece versions, or Bride and Prejudice. Interesting that so many critics detested the Emma Thompson penned "Sense and Sensibility", pointing out that the romanticization of the two male leads goes against Austen's themes completely.(less)
Teens Em and Finn have been imprisoned and our now on the run from a repressive government that uses time travel as a weapon and a tool of social cont...moreTeens Em and Finn have been imprisoned and our now on the run from a repressive government that uses time travel as a weapon and a tool of social control. Their only hope is to travel back in time themselves to thwart "The Doctor", the sadistic, cold blooded genius who created time travel in the first place. Tragically, "The Doctor" is actually someone both Finn and Em once loved. Will they be able to kill a younger innocent version of "The Doctor" before time runs out? A gripping, heartbreaking suspense tale that asks some hard questions: how does a good person become evil, and do the ends ever justify the means?(less)
Upstairs Downstairs. Gosford Park. Remains of the Day. Downton Abbey. These fictional depictions of early 20th century British households have nurture...moreUpstairs Downstairs. Gosford Park. Remains of the Day. Downton Abbey. These fictional depictions of early 20th century British households have nurtured an obsessive fascination with butlers and ladies maids, 14 piece silver dinner sets, and the illusions of a simpler more gracious time. Lucy Lethbridge slices through the sentimentality with the deadliness of a finely sharpened carver, revealing a history of domestic service that is far less rosy than what one sees onscreen. Along the way, she provides illuminating insights into the inherent snobbery of ostentatious foodie-ism, (serving home grown freshly prepared produce at every meal was a sign of having a large staff), the origins of British resistance to technology and central heating, (who needs labor saving devices when you have an army of skivvies?) and the roots of anti-unionism (legalizing workers' rights was feared to interfere with the "unique bond" between masters and servants.)Upper and middle class feminism comes in for criticism as well; a woman's ability to cultivate "the inner life" was dependent on another, poorer woman's availability to run the household and care for the children.(less)
Although adroitly argued, I had trouble with Baden's confident assertions about what we now "know" about a quasi mythical figure. His primary line of...moreAlthough adroitly argued, I had trouble with Baden's confident assertions about what we now "know" about a quasi mythical figure. His primary line of reasoning seems to be, "If the Bible argues strenuously that this happened, we KNOW the opposite actually happened!"I find Bart Ehrman's approach to Biblical historical criticism more convincing. Still, this is a worthwhile read, especially in comparison with Jonathan Kirsch's King David, which looks at David more as a literary character than a historical one.(less)
What a charming book. Playwright Ken Ludwig recounts his humorous, inspiring and touching experiences in sharing his love for Shakespeare with his son...moreWhat a charming book. Playwright Ken Ludwig recounts his humorous, inspiring and touching experiences in sharing his love for Shakespeare with his son and daughter. Each chapter breaks down key speeches, with paraphrases, and a breakdown of the rhythm and metre. In between, Ludwig provides insightful commentary on the scene, and the character speaking, interwoven with anecdotes about his own, or his children's first encounters with the play. By focusing on 9 plays, including romances, histories, and comedies; Ludwig is able to cram in a tremendous amount of information in a lively and accessible format.
Ludwig's method stresses memorization, a technique that has fallen out of favor, and may strike some parents as needlessly didactic. He provides helpful "quotation pages" to make this easier, and stresses that memorization not only can help children understand the lines, but that it can also be fun; and that the words will then remain with them their whole lives. The most moving experience in the book is Ludwig's daughter, on the eve of her departure for college, reciting to her father, from memory Polonius' parting advice to Laertes. Chills.
A great book for anyone looking for an engaging guide to Shakespeare. includes a bibliography of many other wonderful Shakespeare resources on film, paper and audio.(less)
You are about to learn All About Death. Matheson's ponderous and self important introduction reads: "only one aspect...is fictional: the characters an...moreYou are about to learn All About Death. Matheson's ponderous and self important introduction reads: "only one aspect...is fictional: the characters and their relationships. With few exceptions, every other detail is derived exclusively from research. (His italics, not mine.)
In case you're curious as to how Matheson "researched" the afterlife, he provides a 6 page bibliography of sources from theosophy, parapsychology, and spiritualism, but nothing from biology or neuropsychology. Terms like "aura", and "etheric body" get tossed around, but there is no coherent logic or ethical system at work here. Ann, the hero's loving and emotionally fragile wife, is damned to a hell of her own imagination for committing suicide, yet her grieving husband is smugly informed that this is "the law", but NOT a "punishment", (sounds pretty darned punitive to me.) The "Office of Records" can determine how long a person is "supposed" to live, (who decides?), yet apparently this can be short-circuited by accidents or suicide. There can be reincarnation, yet souls may choose to wait until the kid is a few months old before incarnating so as to avoid soul-death if the baby doesn't live. I found this aspect particularly fascinating: if we know how long a person is "supposed" to live, why would anyone pick a baby marked for sudden infant death syndrome? And what's up with all those soulless 2 month olds? That would explain some horrendous babysitting experiences, but still.
Vincent Ward made a reasonably entertaining movie out of this with Robin Williams a few years back, wisely focusing on the love story and the adventurous rescue angle, and leaving out the New Age mumbo jumbo. As a fantasy adventure, it works, barely; as a serious exploration of immortality and the nature of death it's glorified pseudo science.(less)
I was wowed by The Reluctant Fundamentalist last year, but I think this is even better. Expanding the 2nd person narration used only intermittently in...moreI was wowed by The Reluctant Fundamentalist last year, but I think this is even better. Expanding the 2nd person narration used only intermittently in TRF, Hamid presents the life of a(presumably Pakistani) businessman in the guise of a self-help book. Chapter headings such as "Move to the City", "Don't Fall in Love", "Be Prepared to Use Violence" are often ironic, as is the title: the protagonist, born in a rural village gradually works his way into urban prosperity, yet whether or not he attains his goal, or actually follows the outlined "rules" is debatable.
A moving, often profoundly sad depiction of poverty and callousness in ultra competitive societies, all the more effective due to the narrator's detached style.(less)
Arrgh. How do you write a book on men who have inspired famous songs without including "Killing Me Softly"? As with the companion Girl in the Song, er...moreArrgh. How do you write a book on men who have inspired famous songs without including "Killing Me Softly"? As with the companion Girl in the Song, erratic choice of entries, random organization, and uninspired writing.(less)
Mildly interesting background on several well-known pop songs, although it inexplicably leaves out some famous ones like "And I Love Her", "Annie's So...moreMildly interesting background on several well-known pop songs, although it inexplicably leaves out some famous ones like "And I Love Her", "Annie's Song", "I'm Looking Through You", and "Sara Smile" and "My Lady Darbanville". Agree with other reviews on the plodding style.(less)
Good lord. Just as not every soap opera about lovers from different social groups is _Romeo and Juliet_, not every romance featuring a hardheaded woma...moreGood lord. Just as not every soap opera about lovers from different social groups is _Romeo and Juliet_, not every romance featuring a hardheaded woman and an arrogant, socially superior man is _Pride and Prejudice_, (are you listening Bridget Jones fans?). Barker is hardly subtle in her hubris: P&P references are sprinkled throughout, even when they don't make sense: why is an honest, good hearted young suitor compared to Wickham?
There are charming elements to this story, and a handful of interesting characters: Hirizjahnkinis, Mrs Toristel, Ilissa. But I agree with reviewers who complain of extraneous plot details that go nowhere and add nothing to the story. There are dozens of characters that abruptly appear and disappear, and the lengthy references to Orsian history apparently designed to flesh out this alternate world only drag down the narrative and make it more confusing. A reviewer once cracked that the Phantom Menace felt like watching C-SPAN on another planet; this is like watching the History Channel in an alternate universe.
Writers like Tolkien, Zelazny and J.K. Rowling were able to create fully realized universes with characters and histories which were clear, relatable and even funny. Barker is not in that league, nor does she manage the introspection of Lev Grossman's The Magicians. The only reason I persevered was to find out whether or not Nora decided to stay with Arundiel, and we don't even learn that, since this overstuffed mess is apparently the first in a series. Oooh, can't wait!!!(less)