This is a really good representation of the Seattle scene from its early days to the quote-unquote end. From the beginning you get the sense that this...moreThis is a really good representation of the Seattle scene from its early days to the quote-unquote end. From the beginning you get the sense that this region was as dark, dirgy, cynical (and yet also funny and irreverent) as the music was. Some of the earlier incarnations of bands that went on to be famous started off making music that wasn't as close to grunge as people would probably like (certainly me). Nirvana was a metal band in the beginning. Alice in Chains was a glam band and the guys in Pearl Jam and Mudhoney started off in a pseudo-glam thing too. In fact, a lot of the music that inspired these bands kind of sucked. Grunge was a real mish-mosh of styles.
I would have liked a bit more on some of the other bands mentioned later on. You hear a bit about L7 in the beginning but that trickles out eventually. You also don't get that much from 7-Year Bitch or the Gits even though people looked at them as real stalwarts of the scene. I'm also confused at the almost-total omission of Bikini Kill. I guess they were really much more of a straight-up punk band, but when you start mentioning friends of friends in this book, I would have included them.
Once you get into the "Kurt and Courtney" part of the book you start to really lose sight of the rest of the bands, which is unfortunate because many of those other groups were much more a part of the scene than Nirvana, but I get that you have to go down that road.
The only complaint I have is that some loose ends remained. Some bands disappeared from the narrative, but I wasn't sure exactly what happened to them. And other stories just weren't finished with certain individuals. On the whole, a really engaging and interesting read. (less)
This book was pretty good. Kind of strange and also outlandish in the way kids like. A good adventure story with an element of magic that is still set...moreThis book was pretty good. Kind of strange and also outlandish in the way kids like. A good adventure story with an element of magic that is still set in a real location (Venice).(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This was a good ending to this series, which is probably the only legitimate fantasy series I've...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This was a good ending to this series, which is probably the only legitimate fantasy series I've read and enjoyed for the most part. And, the Seven Realms was actually a bit of a grower; I liked it from beginning to end, but I thought it improved as it went along. Initially hampered by a slow start with too much setup, the story developed along the way into a fun little set that I like to refer to as "The Baby Game of Thrones." Filled with political intrigue, lots of different characters with varied agendas and a highly developed world, this is a good book for teens and even adults. While the series has its flaws, I would recommend it to reluctant fantasy readers, AKA me. The only other fantasy series I really enjoyed was the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, but for various reasons I don't consider that a touchstone of the genre (it is my favorite of the genre, but all the same...).
This book takes up directly where its predecessor The Gray Wolf Throne left off. Raisa has just become queen following the mysterious death of her mother, and street rat turned wizard Han Alister is living a precarious existence in the palace as her bodyguard. Everyone has secrets, and even those closest to Raisa and Han have ulterior motives. For a book with a large cast of characters, it's not too hard to keep track of everyone. Most of the supporting characters, while somewhat one-dimensional, have enough of a unique identity to make them discernable. But, obviously the most fleshed-out characters are Han and Raisa, who shine among a set of less glowing character lights. The chapters that focus on their interactions are the best, because it is their relationship, which changes drastically from the beginning of the series to its end, that drives the action. Sidekicks like Fire Dancer, Amon and others never really jumped off the page quite as well, though the author seemed to want readers to love them as much as she did.
One thing I like about Chima's writing is that the setting plays a vivid part in the action. I felt like I could picture the queen's court, the wizards' stronghold and the camps where the Clans lived. This gave additional meat to a story that relied heavily on plot, which I tend to enjoy less than character development. When character development did take place, it was rewarding, but over half of the novel dealt with a steady rising action that seemed to work out for the characters in spite of themselves. I loved Raisa in particular; she grew a lot in this series and played a large part in the shaping of her own destiny. Han, while he had a lot of heart and spirit and tenacity, remained more static throughout the story. His personality carried him through the chapters where his lack of growth did not. I must say I was expecting a big reveal more akin to the plots in Megan Whalen Turner's the Thief series, so without giving anything away, I was a bit miffed to see things just fall into place through chance and luck. It's not as if the characters didn't have a hand in shaping their own destinies - it's just that I was expecting some kind of elaborate secret plot to unfold, and it never did.
All the same, the writing in this book was crisp, and the story moved much faster than it did in any other book in this series. There were no chapters that left me scratching my head as to why they were there, and I felt like Chima had a definite intent in mind. I think the second half of the book could have been shortened, but mostly because I care little for action and exposition. There was a bit of a Scooby-Doo, "this is why I did it and how" moment at one point, which I found anti-climactic at best. But, this was a good resolution for the series, and I liked it the best out of all of the books.(less)
This is a prequel to the book Skellig, which I have not read. However, you don't need to read that to understand what's happening to Mina. This book i...moreThis is a prequel to the book Skellig, which I have not read. However, you don't need to read that to understand what's happening to Mina. This book is plotted out as her diary. Each page is a page from her recitations, thoughts, stories she writes, etc. Mina is an unusual child who has trouble conforming. She hates school. She's not a bad child at all, but she doesn't like to follow directions. I would say she's probably oppossitionally defiant, though the author resists those kinds of labels and so should the reader. Mina loves life, but at the start of this story her mother has taken her out of school to home school her for a year to get Mina sort of back on track. The text is not really illustrated, but done graphically so as to resemble the scrawling, doodling, meandering writing of a child. That's excellent.
This book doesn't have much plot. It's about the inner workings of this one child and how she views the world. It's about her dealing with life as it comes to her, even though it's kind of a meditation on subtlety. This is the kind of book that will be perfect for just the right child if they can find it. Worth talking up and sticking with if you need this kind of book (even if you don't know it).(less)
Alright so I skipped around in this book because I couldn't wait to see what happened. But I did read the whole thing from the beginning, and despite...moreAlright so I skipped around in this book because I couldn't wait to see what happened. But I did read the whole thing from the beginning, and despite a mildly slow start, things got interesting quickly. This book was considerably better than the first one in the series. More plot development and the two main characters interact in more than just an incidental sense. You start to get the idea that maybe their futures are linked. Wasn't interested in the Amon/Raisa relationship, but I would assume you weren't meant to be. The characters (especially Raisa) seemed unsure about the future so they turned toward a familiar, innocent relationship that had yet to be marred by the environmental turmoil of the present. This book seemed to end that storyline as soon as it began though. I found myself more invested in Han's story for much of this one just because there was a lot of mystery built up around his new situation. In general this story was kind of meant to leave you with: so the plot thickens...(less)
Listened to this on audio the second time around at the recommendation of a coworker (looking at you Evie!), and I really enjoyed it. I'm not an audio...moreListened to this on audio the second time around at the recommendation of a coworker (looking at you Evie!), and I really enjoyed it. I'm not an audio person, so the fact that I actually preferred this book in this format is saying something. The dual narrators add a lot to the feel of the book and help to separate the character voices better. And while the story is told in first-person point of view, I didn't lose sight of the characters' nuances and personalities, which are often engulfed by the author's voice in the end.
Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for things, and sometimes I don't always love everything by an author. This applies to this book and Maggie Stiefvater. I really didn't like this on the first go-around. I think it improved largely because of the audio, which allowed me to become immersed in the sense of place the author created. Set during the 20s or 30s on a fictional island likely off of England or Ireland, the landscape is the real star, rather than the time or place. And the characters are well-drawn and evolved from beginning to end. I could see how I didn't like this book the first time, because at times I could see how it would be easy to get bogged down in the descriptions of the setting and the chatter about horses (not into books about animals) but the audio allows all of that to just wash over you easily.
For a book called the Scorpio Races, it's funny how little time is actually spent on the race itself (one chapter of actual racing). It's mostly a story that builds the anticipation little by little. One thing this author does well is reward the careful reader. She's a very subtle writer, and if you have the time to spend, you could contemplate small details for days. I liked that this story wrapped up in one shot. It couldn't have continued with any success, though that's not a criticism. I'd recommend this to people who love audio and people who hate audio but want to give it another try, i.e. people like me.(less)
Finally finished *re-reading* this after a lot of casual fits and starts about nine months ago. I read this back when I was probably 15, and remembere...moreFinally finished *re-reading* this after a lot of casual fits and starts about nine months ago. I read this back when I was probably 15, and remembered enjoying it as much as one could at that age and with the set of life experiences that goes with that. Based on my opinion at the time, I rated this book three stars. While I have a much better appreciation for this story now as an adult, I would still give it three stars.
Tolstoy clearly pioneered what is now known as modernism. He likely invented the concept of alternating, third-person-limited point of view and the idea that human relations never allow us to fully understand each other. The levels of interaction he portrayed in this story were complex, nuanced and intricate. Though called Anna Karenina, this was a book about Russia as a whole during the late 19th Century. At times, this broad subject made for an incredibly illuminating book. At other times, long sections about the Russian economy, peasant life and political issues sent the very human story at the heart of this book pretty far off course. Tolstoy had quite an intent in mind when writing about virtually everything under the sun here, but the real meat of this book lay in the deeply flawed nature of human relationships, communication and interaction. Tolstoy, while at times was incredibly eloquent and sophisticated in his writing and technique, also made awkward structural choices and was didactic and long-winded.
I also wonder how this book would have gone had it been written by a woman. While extremely sympathetic toward Anna's plight as a frustrated woman ostracized from society for behaving in the same way a man might at the time, Tolstoy's decision to throw her under a train for spiteful and rash reasons on the part of the character seems antiquated by today's standards. The women in this story became somewhat vacuous in the end in spite of themselves. Tolstoy went to the trouble of drawing highly complex female characters for the duration of the story and then willfully summarized them in a shallow light as if on purpose. However, the author is by no means forgiving of the male characters either. Vronsky, Anna's lover, is egotistical, vain and stupid and clearly unworthy of Anna. Her brother Oblonsky is a a good-natured imbecile, and Levin, the counterpoint to Anna, has the most to give as a character obsessed with the question of the meaning of life. But, he's incredibly tiresome at times. And in the end, even though this character achieves some peace, Tolstoy knowingly adds that finding faith in God is not the fix-all to life's problems.
An extremely philosophical book that brilliantly examines the nature of existence, this book would have more fully succeeded had it been cut down and had the theoretical moralizing been excised from its pages. This was absolutely a book worth reading and re-reading. At times, its construction was staggering in its brilliance. All the same, the book had its problems. (less)
Sadly I had to return this to the library because I ran out of renewals. I will be back to pick up probably some time later this year when I have vaca...moreSadly I had to return this to the library because I ran out of renewals. I will be back to pick up probably some time later this year when I have vacation to use.(less)
This is the first Woolf book that I find myself thinking was merely alright. The idea is very interesting, but the execution was a bit awkward. This n...moreThis is the first Woolf book that I find myself thinking was merely alright. The idea is very interesting, but the execution was a bit awkward. This novel is extremely satirical and sociopolitical. Both of these things somewhat impede your enjoyment of Woolf's prose (which is always lyrical, transcendent, concise and yet complex all at once) and the ultimate message of the story. Hung up on parody, the narrative becomes bogged down in attacking more traditional coming-of-age stories and Victorian society in general.
There's plenty of humor to be had, and when it's right it's very funny. Jacob isn't meant to be really known in this story. He's vacuous and awkward and seems generally blase about most things unless it involves debating literature through an academic lens. However, it's interesting to see how Woolf creates a story about a man seen through the eyes of different women and a homosexual.
We're looking at a symbol of patriarchy through the eyes of marginalized people: His mother - a widow unable to really enjoy the remainder of her life because of social mores; Clara, who is repressed for the same reasons; Florinda, a shallow slut whose character is intentionally diminished because sexual experimentation for women relegated such characters in literature at the time to a low and criticized state; Sandra Wentworth - the bored upperclass wife; and Fanny, the girlfriend of an artist whose sole function is to be gazed at. Woolf recognizes these people are stereotypes and also victims of society and makes great use of it, though in this book the ironic narrator intrudes and meanders. True stream of consciousness has yet to be achieved at this point, and I found myself nodding off a bit.
Jacob remains vacuous until the end of the story, and even his death is shown as an expression of emptiness. His life is summed up by an empty room and now-useless possessions. His mother and Bonamy, the man who was in love with Jacob, take an inventory of his life briefly and in a very hollow way. I tend to look at his death at the hands of a stupid and pointless war as an ending befitting an expression of hollow society (personified by him), and yet also tragic, because before he could attempt to rise above the snobbery and laziness of his class and academia, he is killed.(less)
Here's another one. This is Virginia Woolf still finding her voice as a writer. Certainly if she had written like this throughout her career she would...moreHere's another one. This is Virginia Woolf still finding her voice as a writer. Certainly if she had written like this throughout her career she would have been remembered, but probably not celebrated as a genius. This story still has some of the hallmarks of her famous writing - focus on characters' perceptions, use of setting as a symbol for the characters' journeys, lyrical writing and even irony. This story began calmly and slowly and then came to a pretty sincere climax. The personal voyages of the characters mirrored the real voyage they took on their travels.
Only gets four stars because the final turn of events could have been executed a bit better and more could have been said about how it affected the main character internally as well as externally. Though, in one sense, it seems like Woolf wrote the ending she did for Rachel Vinrace because she herself was going through an incredibly hard time personally. This was written during the worst breakdown of her life, and it seems as if she was trying to say that the logical conclusion to all of Rachel's inner turmoil is to succumb to a physical illness.
This book (interestingly) is similar to Woolf's last book in that it's more outwardly scathing toward society and political and social issues. It's a book about big questions and universal relationships rather than a story focusing on the more personal aspects of unique individuals. These characters felt very real to me, but they were more like archetypes. Very good.(less)
This book is a more sociopolitical and also existential version of a Jane Austen novel - a comedy of manners on the surface that in fact explores deep...moreThis book is a more sociopolitical and also existential version of a Jane Austen novel - a comedy of manners on the surface that in fact explores deeper issues about human relationships and existence. Things are changing during this period in English history, and the old and the new are seen in direct conflict not just between separate individuals but also within singular individuals themselves. Katharine Hilbery is among the latter. She's practical and cynical, but also dreamy and bored and hopeful of living a life that matches the one she wants to lead in her head. Throughout much of the book, she tries to come to grips with how she can obtain it and whether such a thing even exists.
Opposing Katharine's frame of mind and circumstances is Mary Datchet - a working suffragist who lives on her own. She spends about half of the book in love with close friend Ralph Denham, but rapidly becomes disillusioned with this state when she realizes Ralph is first, in love with Katharine, and second, only proposing marriage to her because he thinks she would like for him to do so. Representing a feminine ideal for Virginia Woolf, Mary acts sensibly about this situation and realizes a new consciousness in which she understands that she has lost something irrevocably but at least experiences a true life.
Chapter 16 is when the style that Woolfe became known for later in her career starts to show itself. Katharine stands alone outside of her relatives' home while visiting them during Christmas, contemplating the peace and quiet. Rather than socialize or go about the expected conventions of a holiday gathering, Katharine does what Woolfe herself seemed fascinated with for the rest of her life and career - she looks the void in the face, entering into a staring contest with existence that never produces a clear winner no matter who or what is involved.
This story veers between styles, which gives it a slightly shaky story arc, but nevertheless, this book is a great look at the author early in her career. Her best work is yet to come, but her language, tone, subtle characterization and use of setting are all here in this book, though in a less refined state in some cases. Once you find this author, I don't think there's anyone who can surpass her.(less)
An interesting final work for this author. A definite sense that she was trying to sum up her views about writing and art in this book. You sense the...moreAn interesting final work for this author. A definite sense that she was trying to sum up her views about writing and art in this book. You sense the author's discord a bit as well, because the writing is just slightly choppy. Though I wonder if a failure to communicate significance was intended. The play was heavy-handed and ambitious, but it seems intended to be. It's harder to get to know the inner lives of the characters in this one, but I do enjoy the moments of satire. Style is radical and yet much more straightforward. I'm just now reminded of how Jane Austen threw a play into Mansfield Park, and I find it interesting how much the style and tone in this book mirror that author. As always with Virginia Woolf, her work ends leaving you gasping.(less)
What if animals in a picture book manifested themselves as the words describing the sounds they make? Kind of a arty picture book, but great for those...moreWhat if animals in a picture book manifested themselves as the words describing the sounds they make? Kind of a arty picture book, but great for those who like that kind of thing.(less)
Started skimming this once I got to 1992. This is exhaustive and yet superficial at the same time. If you're looking for protracted commentary about c...moreStarted skimming this once I got to 1992. This is exhaustive and yet superficial at the same time. If you're looking for protracted commentary about certain incidents, songs or events you're not going to get it in this book. It's very authorized in the sense that little is said that's raw. Compared to a bio like Please Kill Me (oral history of punk), which wasn't even that great, you get little detail on nitty-gritty stuff. The pictures are neat, but it's not necessary to do such a play-by-play on events that aren't that important. Nice to go back in time on this one though. At one time Pearl Jam was really important and so was this kind of music, so it was nice to revisit that feeling even if I no longer listen to Pearl Jam at all. (less)
This 3-star rating is not meant to show I thought this book was only OK. It was very good, but I reserve four stars for things that really entertain m...moreThis 3-star rating is not meant to show I thought this book was only OK. It was very good, but I reserve four stars for things that really entertain me. This book, despite having a lot of elements I don't normally enjoy (complex world-building, overlong cast of characters, lots of setup), really came together as I read. The characters were well-drawn, and the story defied a lot of cliches inherent in most fantasy. This book, while I would argue that it did have a climax, was primarily a setup for the second book. However, the story arc builds enough that you're OK with that.
This book reminds me of The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Interestingly enough, Chima and Turner are both local authors for me. Anyway, The Demon King has lots of political intrigue, and things are not as they seem. Characters also chaff under what they feel are their proscribed lots in life. (less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The moments that can't be articulated. Virginia Woolf is the only writer I have ever encountered...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The moments that can't be articulated. Virginia Woolf is the only writer I have ever encountered who can describe those moments - the surreal nature of existence and the blur between the conscious and unconscious - and have them make perfect sense. These memoirs are just a non-fiction extension of the writing she pioneered throughout her life.
Much of this work concerns her childhood, with particular focus on her mother and the issues that arose in her family following her mother's death. Woolf describes her life unflinchingly and without much ceremony. Though everything is still conveyed lyrically, it was what it was. Reading about the sexual abuse she suffered from her older half-brothers is hard to take. It's by no means graphic, and one is unsure exactly how far it went, but you can't help but feel terrible for her no matter what the extent.
However, Woolf does not seem to look back on these incidents as things that paralyzed her. She is in fact much more preoccupied with the deaths of her mother, father and older half-sister. I always get a sense when reading her writing that she spent her life, not merely gaping, but boldly and unflinchingly staring existence in the face, so to speak. I think Woolf felt it was her duty as a human being, not even simply as a writer. Unfortunately, I don't think her mind was capable of overcoming what she saw. These memoirs, though, present the author's struggle with this task that she set for herself. And I can't help but admire her for it. For me, I know there won't be any other writer, as in, no one else can equal her. I haven't seen any other artist (in any medium) so profoundly convey back to me the way I have always felt about perception, existence, human relationships...
Getting to my tags now... I think conscientious teens could read this book. It's very much about grief over the loss of parents, siblings, coming into one's own on the eve of adulthood. It's also much easier to follow than her fictional work. The cover, too, provokes a lot of speculation. I think this photo was taken of Woolf as a teenager, or a very young adult, and I found myself looking at it repeatedly as I read this book - wondering what was going through her mind as she sat for this portrait. Perhaps she was experiencing a moment of being? Or maybe she was incredibly bored and thinking of what else she could be doing. Either scenario is intriguing.
The pieces done for the Memoir Club are much lighter and easier to take (despite the chilling side of "22 Hyde Park Gate"), and these will be of particular interest to teens. "Old Bloomsbury" is perfect in its portrayal of a family previously caught in the cross hairs of a stifling, patriarchal upbringing now coming into their own with abandon once Virginia and Vanessa in particular crept out from under the rule of their father and older brother. I could picture their faces as I read, "running wild" for the first time without a care. (less)
I have to admit I read a little over half of this book and then kind of glossed to the end. The writing The cavalier way characters express the horrib...moreI have to admit I read a little over half of this book and then kind of glossed to the end. The writing The cavalier way characters express the horrible aspects of this oppressive society is chilling. However, so far I'm unclear why, in a society bent on controlling its members, the officials have allowed one person to know the true pain and happiness of life and then allow that one person to pass these secrets onto another person. This person with secret knowledge of what life could be like without suppression of emotions and feelings would obviously be a huge threat to maintaining the oppressive status quo. We'll see....(less)