Ruth drove me crazy; women who are vulnerable and have such terrible obstacles thrown at them should gain empathy. Gaskell seemed to go to the ex3.5**
Ruth drove me crazy; women who are vulnerable and have such terrible obstacles thrown at them should gain empathy. Gaskell seemed to go to the extreme with Ruth: tragedy, poverty, isolation and no fight. Her character felt one-dimensional.
Ruth starts alone in the world working as a dressmaker, at the beginning she shows empathy towards a fellow dressmaker and some spunk which does make her likable. She meets a Mr. Bellingham, who is completely narcissistic and infatuated with her innocence/beauty/sex appeal, and they end up in a compromising situation which changes her life forever. Eventually alone and abandoned by Bellingham she meets a Mr. Benson who takes her under her wing. He lives with his sister and they both protect and care for Ruth.
Many things happen to eventually bring Ruth into a position of respectableness and she finally finds her way in the world. Unfortunately, her past is rekindled and she is exposed as a corrupt and fallen woman. Some of the wonderful things that I found in Mary Barton were not to be found with Ruth. This novel was a story that was too extreme in its tragedy, Ruth had no fight and by the end I couldn't sympathize with her situation any longer.
On the other hand, I thought Mr. Benson's character was incredibly interesting. He had a physical challenge with his health but I thought he was strong and a plausible potential love interest. Gaskell did a nice job in showing us the depth of his character and his struggles between his religious beliefs and Ruth's past. He is so much more than a black and white character and he sees the shades of gray that make it so difficult to judge others.
If Gaskell wanted to impress upon the reader the double standard and incredible unfairness to women at that time, she could have been a little less heavy-handed. For me, giving Ruth a bit more strength and depth would have drawn me to her more....more
I do enjoy a nice dark, brooding-like beginning where you knowThis was quite the book although not quite at the same level as his The Woman in White.
I do enjoy a nice dark, brooding-like beginning where you know something is just not right but it is initially difficult to pinpoint what exactly that 'something' is all about.
Valeria is a bride-to-be who marries Eustace Woodville despite warnings from her family and friends. There are some odd exchanges at the beginning of this marriage between the two. It made me wonder what drove her to marry Eustace despite the million red flags all over the place.
Of course we (and Valeria) find that he has skeletons in his closet. There is some deep secret that if uncovered will ruin the future of these two lovebirds. And we learn shocking point number two: Eustace Woodville may not really be Eustace Woodville. I know, this is all a lot to take in...
Well Valeria must get to the bottom of this mystery and she dedicates the next several (several, several) chapters to searching for 'the truth'.
Overall it was an okay ride but once you know the dark secret, there isn't that much more to find out. Valeria is a pretty fiesty and cool detective which is amazing for the time period this novel is set in. She is also financially independent which allows her to use her resources for finding out the truth.
My favorite parts were in the development of some really out of the ordinary characters by Collins: Miserrimus Dexter and his cousin, Ariel (a she)who really steal the show in many ways. Miserrius is wheel chair bound but it doesn't stop him from some pretty lively interactions throughout. His cousin Ariel is overly devoted to him and it is a very odd relationship. Lots to like, ponder over and think about with those two.
3.5** A major character in this book earns his fortune by drawing scenes on booklets bound together. When they are flipped through, the illustrations c3.5** A major character in this book earns his fortune by drawing scenes on booklets bound together. When they are flipped through, the illustrations come to life. It's a picture story with fits and starts depending on the skill of the person flipping the pages.
This feeling of watching a disjointed but continuous story is what Ragtime was to me. Different characters float in and out of the main storylines all adding momentary interest. We are privy to bizarre conversations between JP Morgan and Henry Ford and the muddled thinking of Harry Houdini. This was pretty fascinating in and of itself and for a moment, I could imagine that Doctorow had some secret information about who these people "really" were.
The family at the center is nameless: Father, Mother, and Younger Brother are anyone and everyone who is middle class during a rapidly changing time. They have a real disconnectedness between one another that goes along with their names. Younger Brother is searching for love and purpose and makes his choices to fit his desires. Father is a traveler to remote locations and seems to leave a bit of his personality behind each times he leaves, bringing back less and less of his "real" self.
Mother evolves from a "typical" housewife who waits for her husband to a woman who can call the shots in the relationship. Other characters: Tateh and his daughter, Sarah and Coalhouse and Little Boy add much but are larger than life. I enjoyed each but really couldn't care about them. Exaggerations are hard to relate to.
I liked this novel more than I thought I would but didn't love it. I feel like I need more of a connection although I am sure that Doctorow's intention was to keep it at arm's length for the reader....more
The Aspern Papers I read first, and it wasn't the kind of storytelling style I enjoy. The writing was choppy and a little hard for me to follow. I felThe Aspern Papers I read first, and it wasn't the kind of storytelling style I enjoy. The writing was choppy and a little hard for me to follow. I felt the same as I read The Turn ( although the psychological aspects of The Turn are rather fascinating). Many years ago I read Daisy Miller and remember that I wasn't fond of James's style at that time as well.
Outside of the writing, some of the trouble I had with The Aspern Papers is that the main character is rather loathsome and sneaky. His quest for Aspern the poet's lost papers has him seek out the former lover and muse of Aspern, Juliana Bordereau. This nameless young man talks Juliana into renting him rooms in her home in Venice. From there he woos the niece and only companion of Juliana with the purpose of gaining access to those valuable papers. To the end, I hoped that he would not be successful in this quest. Where James does well is in bringing Venice to life; as a reader I could feel the heat, smell the flowers and see the canals.
The battle of the wills between this nameless young man and Juliana is intense. Will he or won't he get his hands on those oh so valuable papers?
This was my second reading of The Turn of the Screw and it is completely rich with hysteria and creepiness. Again we have another nameless narrator relating the story of a governess and her experiences with two children in a remote country home. The governess from the beginning was dramatic and totally convinced that evil was surrounding the pupils in her care and in their home. The two children she is responsible for, Miles and Flora, seem innocent enough but the governess seems to always be on the hunt for evil influences. It is like watching a guilty person pointing the finger at everyone else. When she discovers that the former governess, Miss Jessel and the former manservant of the estate,Quint, were lovers and the primary caretakers of Miles and Flora, all hell breaks lose. There is the implication that these two were inappropriate with the children and it it is all left up to the reader to interpret. By the end I felt like a little bit of crazy turned into a lot of crazy. ...more
A definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it intA definite winner in my eyes. There are some books that just make you think and this is one of them. Taking the idea of 'odd women' and turning it into a novel is just brillant.
Odd women are those women who are left after all other eligible men and women have been paired in marriage. These women are not outcasts per se but definitely live a much different life than those who have a husband.
Some of the women in this novel embrace the distinction while others are so afraid of becoming one that they make poor choices which resonate over their lifetime. One example is that of Monica Madden, alone in the world, she must support herself as a shop-girl. This profession is harsh and with a limitless supply of desparate workers; there is little to advance any worker's condition for the better. As soon as one worker is depleted there are many others ready to fill a position.
When an opportunity to marry a man of distinction and means presents itself, Monica is so afraid of losing this singular opportunity that she makes a decision in haste. This decision later becomes a central point in the story and leads to numerous bad decisions and complications.
At the same time, there are other women in the novel who embrace their freedom and control; these are odd women who have found a purpose. The pioneers who create the tide of liberation for women.
Rhoda Nunn, a peer and friend to Monica, is a perfect example of the type of woman that laid a path for future women to benefit from. Although she presents as a judgemental character at times, Rhoda is able to stand strong in her beliefs and desires and not become, as so many others do, beholden to any one man.
I loved this novel and there is much too much to describe. I can see a book club embracing this for a wonderful discussion. So many themes to explore: love, class, economic oppression, capitalism, feminism, desire, morals, just to name a few.
Thank you again Sera for introducing me to this gem!...more
This was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, theseThis was my second time reading A Tale of Two Cities! The first being in high school. Although there is a lot of detail and very long sentences, these two things appeal to me as a reader.
Book One and Book Two set up the novel for a fantastic ending. Social inequality and revenge is at the heart of the story in my opinion and both play out well. Dickens was skillful in showing how dogma even if for the right cause, can sweep up the innocent in a large net.
I admired the attorney, Sydney Carton and was silly enough to hope that in the end his life would be spared. Even though Mrs.Defarge had suffered tremendously in the past, I still could not forgive her ugliness to Lucie and her family. The complete opposites in good and evil.
I missed the humor that often shines through in his other books, but hey, a revolution is serious business. ...more
This was my first Holmes book and yes, I am hooked. For me this was a great introduction to how Watson and Holmes met and the backgrounds that createdThis was my first Holmes book and yes, I am hooked. For me this was a great introduction to how Watson and Holmes met and the backgrounds that created these fascinating men.
I really like both. Watson is so different from Holmes and is the more practical and immediately likeable.
I don't read a lot of mysteries and this was a very interesting start for me. Holmes and his observations seem so obvious after the fact and I liked being a passenger in his mind. In this tale, the part that the Mormons played was fascinating and meshed well with some of what I have read to date. But again, I don't like being a generalist and I can see how this would prompt concern amongst Mormons. I suppose it is the same with all writers who take liberties with religion, history and famous personalities.
This story also reminds me of Dickens and a Tale of Two Cities. Revenge is at the heart and is bittersweet.
Very few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel CaVery few writers can bring you to the intimate level of familiarity and comfort with the people and times as Steinbeck. I could see, smell and feel Cannery Row. I have been a fan since The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden when Steinbeck first knocked my socks off.
In Cannery Row, Mack is the leader of a rag tag group of men who really don't mean harm but seem to inadvertently cause it everywhere they go. Much time is spent scheming and planning but not in a terribly malicious way, mostly they focus on getting what they need with the least amount of work possible.
Doc runs the neighborhood lab and is a marine biologist; a stable, kind presence. To show their affection, Mack and his boys decide to throw Doc a surprise party. Good intentions and bad karma equal a disaster. There is a round two for the party- givers which has better results.
The parallel stories of Lee Chong, Dora and Hazel blend in seemlessly and add richness to the main narrative. Although a short read, I took the time to really savor the words. So much in so few pages.
This reminded me of The Children's Book a similar mood and cast of characters. Secret relationships, betrayals and poetry are at the center. Cecil ValThis reminded me of The Children's Book a similar mood and cast of characters. Secret relationships, betrayals and poetry are at the center. Cecil Valance is a guy for every occasion and is loved by everyone, drawing them in with his charisma and sexual magnetism. He visits his lover's home, Two Acres, and completely charms his sister. The visit will have effects on generations to come. She is much too innocent to see her brother and Cecil's undercurrents of passion. This all happens in the first part. The book is divided into additional sections where a different timeframe and relationship to Cecil, who becomes a famous poet posthumously, is explored. The selfishness of our memories and the difficulty of relying on individual perceptions to create a legacy are the most interesting bits in the book. You have to wonder how reliable human narratives and histories really are when social norms dictate how we think people are, act and love... the truth can and does vary from person to person. We humans are so complicated and each person's truth is their own. I will definitely read more of this author.
I really liked the story and all of the elements: magic, twins, a circus, a challenge-to-the-death and of course star-crossed lovers. Morgenstern blenI really liked the story and all of the elements: magic, twins, a circus, a challenge-to-the-death and of course star-crossed lovers. Morgenstern blended beauty with tragedy and fear in a captivating way. I could certainly imagine myself there as a spectator. Very few books that I read have the ability to take magic and make it seem very possible and real. The descriptions were also very detailed and delicious something that I certainly appreciate. Bravo and looking forward to more of her work....more
This is a very hard review to write. I really wanted to like Murakami and this book was a lengthy intro.
I found it difficult to get into the over3.5**
This is a very hard review to write. I really wanted to like Murakami and this book was a lengthy intro.
I found it difficult to get into the overall flow; there were so many pieces of the story that I thought would later be relevant but were placed into the narrative in a way that I would characterize as red herrings. I get that red herrings can be interesting to the reader, but too many make my head spin. Cults, multiple moons, strange nurses, kidnappings,dyslexia, clones, there's lots going on.
At the heart of the novel is a love story which was satisfying, but surrounding it were many surreal aspects leaving me scratching my head. i.e. What in the world happened with the "Little People"???
Aomame is the central character and she is likable as a heroine but deadly. Her heart is consumed by Tengo, a long-sought-after first love. In their quest for one another a lot of bizarre things happen including a shifting of realities.
Dare I say that I thought that a lot of the narrative could have been cut out - at times, it felt like the story was dragging and the reader was getting too many details. One month in Murakami's world is a very long time.
However, I did like Murakami's creativity; he did a great job with the "Town of Cats". And he had Aomame read Proust which was certainly appropriate...isn't he also the king of words?
Maybe my mind was suffering from information overload, hence my less than enthusiastic liking for the novel. It was a struggle to keep all of the characters and situations in order. Despite all of that, I will certainly read more Murakami; who can resist contemporary Japanese writing?
This was an excellent change of pace for me after a spell of tragic novels. Fast paced and magical, the storyline was unique which isn't easy to do. IThis was an excellent change of pace for me after a spell of tragic novels. Fast paced and magical, the storyline was unique which isn't easy to do. I enjoyed the protagonist Jacob and could feel his teen angst as he tried to not be too 'different' in a world of weird happenings. Jacob is very close to his grandfather who tells tales of an island where safety and strangeness co-exist. Jacob must find this island and how he is tied to its history.
The descriptions of the island and the 'peculiar' children made me believe. The photos included as part of the novel (I read it on an Ipad) are fantastic and gave me goosebumps. They are so unusual that the author blogged about their orgins on the Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ransom-...
The ending leads me to believe that there is a sequel in the works (yeah!)
And what is cooler than an author named Ransom Riggs?...more
This was such a great read for me. It's a very slow build-up but it is worth it in the end.
I would imagine that most readers generally know the storyThis was such a great read for me. It's a very slow build-up but it is worth it in the end.
I would imagine that most readers generally know the story-line: Edmond Dantes is an innocent man framed by his jealous rivals during the anti-Bonaparte paranoia in France. He is accused of being a collaborator and of bringing messages from Napoleon to supporters. Edmond is sent to prison and leaves behind his father and true love, Mercedes.
His life sentence to the Chateau d'If is so well written - the despair, the hope and the change in Edmond is profound and Dumas portrays it all very well. One of the best and most interesting characters is also introduced, Abbe Faria. He brings hope into the darkness. The years in the Chateau change Edmond radically and he escapes with only revenge on his mind.
The rest of the novel is focused on this revenge and each person he seeks to pay back is so intricately studied and followed until the perfect net is cast. As a reader, some of the outcomes feel well deserved, others much less so.
At the beginning I felt like I knew who Edmond was as a character, his feelings and experiences were shared. Once he leaves the Chateau, the tone of the novel changes drastically, the reader is watching a stranger who is cold-hearted and remorseless. I was also sad for Edmond, so much of his life was dedicated to finding and getting his own justice that he does not experience life as a free man to the fullest or share love with a family or partner.
There is much to think about as you read the book and I am looking forward to re-reading it again. Sometimes the best part for me is getting the first impression, understanding the story and then long afterwards, reading and seeing new and important things. The same way I find in an Austen novel, lots of surprises and always a good read....more
I was swept right off my feet and it sneaks up on you in a big way. At the beginning I felt like the story was just too strange for my taste. Soon enoI was swept right off my feet and it sneaks up on you in a big way. At the beginning I felt like the story was just too strange for my taste. Soon enough I found myself with my kindle in my hand every free moment.
A blend of old and new, the story begins with Shadow just as he is released from prison, soon after, on his way home to resume his pre-prison life he meets Wednesday - a god of the old world and beliefs. Shadow is soon employed by Wednesday and finds himself on a mission to rally the 'old gods' against the new. The old gods were brought by newcomers to the country and have faded as new gods have grown in influence I.e. media. This setup is just the portal to a deeper story that I will certainly visiting over and over again. Brilliant.
The setting felt rustic and medieval despite the fact that this is many years into the future. Scary reaDifferent from The Giver, but still very good.
The setting felt rustic and medieval despite the fact that this is many years into the future. Scary really when you think how basic our lives would quickly become without electricity or other modern life helpers.
I was also struck by the hardness of the post-apocalypse survivors and the disintegration of caring parents. Children are a nuisance for the most part and cared for only in the most basic way. It is a fend for yourself survival mode for almost all. Feelings also parallel basic needs: food, water and sleep are priorities; no time for love or dreaming.
Kira, the heroine of the story, starts out defenseless and weak but finds ways to strengthen herself and those around her. I really like the subtle way Lowry weaves life lessons for YA readers into the story.
I did enjoy having just a taste of the secrets surrounding the community. And I hope that the third book in the series wraps up some of these unknowns. ...more
The Historian is a story within a story, mostly told through letters. I didn't mind the lengthy transitions that followed different main characters,
The Historian is a story within a story, mostly told through letters. I didn't mind the lengthy transitions that followed different main characters, the timing of new bits of information kept me turning the pages. The novel takes the history of Vlad Tepes and blends it with the legend of Dracula and carries his presence into the modern world. Kostova made this believable, not an easy task. As the reader learns more about the real Dracula, the story becomes even creepier.
While reading the book, I was looking up additional information on the leader of Wallachia; Tepes was incredibly cruel and such evil does feel supernatural. Eastern Europe and its history adds to the tone and believability. It wasn't really a horror story but felt like a good old-fashioned gothic tale.
I did get a little lost in the battles that involved the followers of Dracula, but it didn't affect how much I enjoyed the story. I also was not crazy about Helen, the narrator's mother. Some of her choices were incredibly frustrating!
I thought the ending was exactly what I needed/wanted after my time reading this lengthy book. For those who like long novels, a bit of creepiness, and a detective story-like plot....more
I must confess that initially I had thought that this would be a ghost story. The title is very mysterious and the cover made the woman iOk. Amazing.
I must confess that initially I had thought that this would be a ghost story. The title is very mysterious and the cover made the woman in white appear ethereal. Generally I try to not read too much about a book before I begin. I like to just let it unfold as I read.
Anyway, despite my initial misconception, I loved this book. It had a great build-up, amazing characterizations, and the "just right" ending.
It is told in pieces from varying viewpoints which give it the flavor of individual perception. As in real life we all 'think' we know what we saw but is it really what occured? I enjoyed being in the shoes of different observers as I tried to piece together what was happening. Also, I must say that when I read a passage written in the diary of one of the main characters by an outide person, I got tremendous goosebumps.
The novel begins with an art teacher, Walter Hartright who comes to the home of a Ms. Fairlie to instruct her in drawing techniques. This Ms. Fairlie is pretty darn fair so there is love in the air; but unfortunately she is to be wed to a Sir Percival. Her half-sister Marian is there to watch the flame between the two grow but advises that the proper course must be taken and Mr. Hartright is soon sent on his way. After his departure things become complicated. Sir Percival is too good to be true and has some Jerry Springerish things lurking in his closet. Hartright goes into the deepest darkest locations to try and forget his true love and we meet one of the best characters ever, Count Fosco.
For the longest time I couldn't tell if Fosco was the good or bad guy. But that in my opinion is what makes a good story. Fosco was such an oxymoron and very complex. He truly made most of the story and it was a worthwhile endeavor getting to know him.
I love how Collins sneaks in bits that are subtle but say a whole heck of a lot. I don't need everything spelled out for me and I enjoy a writer who can trust his readers to interpret as they wish.
Another observation is how delicate women were percieved to be at the time. The smallest emotional discomfort could set your health back for weeks. Thankfully Marian, for the most part, broke that mold. She was strong and smart!
Collins is the master of mystery in this book. I read the book and also listened to it on Librovox. This is the first time I have tried this approach with a book and I must say that it really worked in terms of getting a more complete experience of Collin's writing. A great experience and I enjoyed every page. ...more
Eco is brilliant, but perhaps too much so for me. He is an amazing philosopher. The central arguments around the politi3* for enjoyment 5* for quality
Eco is brilliant, but perhaps too much so for me. He is an amazing philosopher. The central arguments around the political and the theoretical aspects of heresy might be interesting to those who enjoy that type of discourse but for me, it was outside my area of interest. The arguments he makes and biblical references were a lot to absorb, and I had to be in tip-top mental shape during my reading. Although not a long book, plan on spending some time reading each chapter.
The mystery that is a sideline (I wouldn't call it the central part) of the story, was my favorite part. I enjoyed the deductive reasoning and the Sherlockian feel.
The Latin throughout was a small hindrance but I could generally get the gist of what was being said. I spent some time looking up the different philosophies and monks in order to get a better understanding of each. I highly recommend this for those who don't have a lot of background in medieval history. It helped to clarify for me the stances that the monks took.
A small complaint style-wise is in Eco's love of lists, some paragraphs were lines and lines of information which I thought could have been pared down.
This is a future re-read in order to truly appreciate this incredible work ...more