I didn't like this one as much as I've liked other Anna Pigeon mysteries. In this book, Anna Pigeon is taking a leave of absence from her job, staying...moreI didn't like this one as much as I've liked other Anna Pigeon mysteries. In this book, Anna Pigeon is taking a leave of absence from her job, staying in New Orleans. Typically, she stumbles across a mystery while trying to take it easy.
I thought that, while Anna as a character continues to grow and change, this story kind of stagnated. The other characters were kind of cardboard, not much behind them.
My biggest complaint, however, is the setting, which is what draws me to the other Pigeon mysteries. The beautiful, weird, wild, or otherwise vivid character of each of the other Pigeon settings is what I love the most. Whether it's Ellis Island in New York City or Isle Royale, each novel's setting is as big a part of the book as the story itself.
But in this book, New Orleans is reduced to two things: child prostitution and voodoo. I live near New Orleans, have been there many times, and I have to say that it's annoying whenever a TV show, movie, or book uses voodoo as the one thing to make New Orleans unique. Maybe people in NOLA are into voodoo, who knows? But as a literary device, I find it kind of cheap, essentializing one facet of the urban landscape.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to Anna's next adventure, but I hope she ventures beyond New Orleans into the rest of Louisiana, which has just as much fodder for weirdness as NOLA!
This is another great and funny short novel by Hiaasen. I enjoy his adult-oriented novels too, but his earlier YA novel Hoot is, IMO, some of his best...moreThis is another great and funny short novel by Hiaasen. I enjoy his adult-oriented novels too, but his earlier YA novel Hoot is, IMO, some of his best work. This one isn't quite as tightly presented as Hoot, but it's highly enjoyable as well. A few situations in Flush were slightly improbable, but the characters and the settings are where Hiaasen shines anyway. (Obviously, the situations in his adult novels are improbable, but it seems less important than in his YA work.)
Anyway, recommended for the YA fan, or for Hiaasen fans in general.(less)
The first two-thirds are great. Fantastic descriptions, gripping story. The last third is pretty forgettable, at least in terms of the narrative. Sinc...moreThe first two-thirds are great. Fantastic descriptions, gripping story. The last third is pretty forgettable, at least in terms of the narrative. Sinclair's project to expose the meatpacking industry's labor practices also becomes lost in the last third of the book.(less)
The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet, 1989) is a novel about the building of a cathedral in the 12th century in England. The author uses this physical...moreThe Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet, 1989) is a novel about the building of a cathedral in the 12th century in England. The author uses this physical structure to center the novel's diverse characters, who include artisans, peasants, priests, monks, bishops, landowners, lords, and others. I appreciated this strategy for how it allowed Follet to write a story set in the 12th century with such a wide-ranging perspective. Without something like building a cathedral, most of those kinds of characters wouldn't have moved in the same spheres, and thus the story would have been solely about monks, peasants, or lords.
The story is set in a fictional town, but takes place during the Anarchy, the period in English history between the death of the King Henry I's only legitimate son and the murder of Thomas Becket. The events in English monarchical history come into occasional contact with the events and characters in the novel, eventually proving to be the major point on which the novel turns.
The novel is full of details about life in 12th century Europe, which I loved. Last year I read A Distant Mirror (a non-fiction account of life in 14th century Europe), and the parts I enjoyed the most were the details about life: what people ate, what they wore, their holidays, etc. Anyway, The Pillars of the Earth seems to be very well-researched in its attention to details in the lives of monks, peasants, and lords.
The intertwined stories were also fun to read: love stories, tragedy, palace intrigue, mysteries, and revenge are all present. This novel is long, but it was a fast read. In fact, I couldn't put it down. I was really drawn in by the humanity in the stories that revolved around the building of this cathedral.
The author conceived of this book as being primarily about cathedral-building, and some of the book's most vivid details are about architecture and building strategies. In fact, one of the characters travels to continental Europe and experiencing a life-changing revelation when he sees the innovations in cathedral architecture in France.
I admit, though, that some of the architectural details got a little beyond me, and I skimmed some of those sections. One of the main characters, the cathedral builder, waxes poetic in his love of architectural design, and the descriptions of the various cathedrals in the book go a little over my head. But I did appreciate them as a way to build the characters.
There was a lot of violence in this book, reflective of life at that time, I'm sure. The main bad guy just seems to hang around forever, since the book spans a lot of time. The bad guy goes from being a bad teenage boy, to a really bad man, to a tired but still bad old man. And he's still the bad guy. This thread in the book was kind of exhausting because his threat was constant throughout the book. He harasses the other characters throughout the long, long novel, and sometimes I wanted to just clip him out of the story. Just because I was sick of him cropping up. But I digress. The violence was pretty graphic and kind of disturbing: the depiction of a rape really stuck with me, which I didn't really want.
Overall, though, this was a really engaging novel, especially if you have any interest in European history or architecture.
Recommended if you have lots of time!
[I did watch the first disc in the TV miniseries adaptation of this novel. I enjoyed the actors and the production seemed to be good, but having just read the book, I couldn't handle the elimination of so many details. Perhaps if I watched it again later, I could appreciate the TV series as a stand-alone item, without constantly saying to myself, "Well, that's not how it was in the book!"](less)
This is my favorite of Potok's novels, though Davita's Harp would be a close second.
Though it's a full-length novel, this book has some qualities of a...moreThis is my favorite of Potok's novels, though Davita's Harp would be a close second.
Though it's a full-length novel, this book has some qualities of a short story form, which give it its unique tone and slightly spartan storytelling style.
The book tells the story of two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1940s and 1950s. Though they come from different branches of Orthodox Judaism, the two boys become close friends. Their friendship endures through the intense years of adolescence, the political upheavals of World War II and its aftermath, and the postwar Zionist movement, which had devastating effects on the boys' friendship.
Though The Chosen could be any average coming-of-age story, the beautiful writing and its slightly spartan voice sets it apart from the pack. Additionally, the themes of faith, religion, and politics draw the two main characters into adulthood, and into the landscape of post-WW II America. (less)
**spoiler alert** I loved this book when I was younger; I think age 13 or 14 is about the right age to fully enjoy it. Upon rereading it as an adult,...more**spoiler alert** I loved this book when I was younger; I think age 13 or 14 is about the right age to fully enjoy it. Upon rereading it as an adult, I can't help but see the philosophical axe that Alcott was grinding in writing this and the other March family stories. Each March sister is drawn to illuminate some philosophical or theological belief of the Alcott group, and so provides a teaching experience in reading the book.
I'm not complaining too much--I still get excited when Amy and Laurie get together and it's still sad when Beth dies. And Jo is always everyone's favorite character because of her imperfections. What a great story.(less)
I wanted to like this more than I did. I didn't *dislike* this, but it was kind of lackluster. I wanted to read it because it's set in Quebec, and aft...moreI wanted to like this more than I did. I didn't *dislike* this, but it was kind of lackluster. I wanted to read it because it's set in Quebec, and after enjoying that part of the Temperance Brennan series, I saw this at the library and grabbed it. I think the series will get better, because the setting is great: the combination of cultural artifacts and languages in Quebec makes for interesting reading.
The story here was interesting, but not super compelling. And the characters of the small town in which the crime occurs were also interesting, but not highly compelling either.
I'll keep an open mind and try another one in the series before I give up.(less)
In a similar vein to The Poisonwood Bible, this book weaves a fictional story into historical events. The main character grows up in Mexico in close a...moreIn a similar vein to The Poisonwood Bible, this book weaves a fictional story into historical events. The main character grows up in Mexico in close affiliation with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, a fact which has enormous impact on his life.
I really enjoyed this book, though it didn't give me the same visceral, personal reaction that Poisonwood Bible did. Perhaps that's because the main character, Harrison Shepherd, is written at arms length, which is exactly how he holds all his acquaintances.
The narrative device of using diary entries, letters, and newspaper clippings (some real, actually published) is interesting and sort of felt like the reader is browsing through someone's personal effects. Which is kind of the point, I think.(less)
Though I risk blasphemy in saying so, Franny and Zooey is my favorite Salinger book. I love the descriptions of the apartment, the conversation betwee...moreThough I risk blasphemy in saying so, Franny and Zooey is my favorite Salinger book. I love the descriptions of the apartment, the conversation between family members. It's a very intimate book.(less)