A hard read. Hard in that we see likable, sympathetic characters take dubious steps and even dark, dark deeds. That likely is Grenville's point. This...moreA hard read. Hard in that we see likable, sympathetic characters take dubious steps and even dark, dark deeds. That likely is Grenville's point. This story explores the evolution of an impoverished London petty criminal who marries a cheeky, strong woman for love, becomes a decent man, falls on hard times, gets shipped off to Australia as a convict and gradually shapes his own definition of self-realization and freedom. But that definition has a price, a heavy one. The only way that a man like Thornhill can see to become a secure, free landowner in this brave new world is to forcibly displace the prior inhabitants, the Aborigines. The book is not terribly original nor especially well-written, but Grenville crafts it well enough that the reader is caught up in the horror and passion that drives Thornhill and others like him to push, pull, demand, and destroy for his ability to break outside the bounds of the old London society. (less)
Rarely does a romance novel impress me quite as much as this one did. I could not put this one down. Kinsale created vividly real characters, none mor...moreRarely does a romance novel impress me quite as much as this one did. I could not put this one down. Kinsale created vividly real characters, none more so than the main characters of the inwardly feisty Quakeress Maddy Timms and the intense, debonair, and broken Duke of Jervaulx. I greatly enjoyed Maddy's combination of forthrightness, latent passion, and strength with extreme modesty and social awkwardness.
The two heroes develop a relationship that combines not just romance, not just patient-and-nurse, but also friendship and obvious esteem. That nuanced relationship goes far beyond the normal passion of romance novels. Plus the other supporting characters add considerably to the flair and plot of this story. Kinsale flirts with stereotypes (e.g., the dashing merry men who are Jervaulx's staunch companions) but either chooses not to spend much time on those people or imbues enough subtlety into their characters to prevent them from becoming cardboard cutouts.
The premise of the story is quite interesting as Jervaulx has to overcome a truly traumatic and horrifying illness and does so only through his own fortitude and the righteous but firmly caring help of Maddy. The premise enables Kinsale to develop the character's romance in a less overtly physical way, focusing on the emotional and mental attraction as well.
My one critique (and I agree with MAP whose review led me to this book): The book's title is totally useless. And rather dumb. In a classic romance novel sort of way. Too bad.(less)
Likely the most serious and darkest of Gaiman's novels I've read thus far. Perhaps also the best-crafted. This novel twists and turns, taking the read...moreLikely the most serious and darkest of Gaiman's novels I've read thus far. Perhaps also the best-crafted. This novel twists and turns, taking the reader down all sorts of mythological rabbit-holes but we never forget that there will be a climax, an epic one fought by gods for their existence which depends on fickle human nature. The main character's portentous dreams and the periodic flashbacks to ancient ages where these gods sprang into being build up the anticipation. I greatly enjoyed all the characters in this novel, most especially the main character Shadow who personifies the saying of "still waters run deep." I was intrigued by the relationships between Shadow and his beloved, imperfect but captivating zombified wife Laura, between Shadow and his powerful, mysterious employer Mr. Wednesday, and Shadow and the array of deities who use, abuse, and care for him, sometimes all at once. This book is a must-read for classic myth-lovers and fantasy stories set in modern reality. (less)
A marvelous modern myth, crossing the divide between Gaiman’s native UK and the American landscape that fascinates him. I admit that when I first star...moreA marvelous modern myth, crossing the divide between Gaiman’s native UK and the American landscape that fascinates him. I admit that when I first started reading I felt like I was reading yet another Gaiman novel with multiple of Gaiman’s familiar tropes (e.g., bumbling main hero thrown from mundanity into fantasy or the utterly-cool, enviable supporting male companion). But then, when a few new characters were introduced and the action picked up, I was hooked. The ancient story-telling rhythms of this novel move the characters and the plot-lines beyond fun and into something enduring. Plus, there’s great dollops of Gaiman’s droll humor which made me laugh out loud multiple times, especially when the main hero, Fat Charlie, encounters his loathed mother-in-law to-be. All the characters assume vivid life and their internal monologues constantly entertain. The casual magic and ancient legends eerily intertwine with the ordinariness of the real world in classic Gaiman fashion. (less)
This book is as straightforward as its title. There are very few references to studies and the originating science behind the steps and methods the au...moreThis book is as straightforward as its title. There are very few references to studies and the originating science behind the steps and methods the authors advocate but in theory, the authors' weighty backgrounds in decision-making justifies their statements. They use a proliferation of examples drawing from house-buying to job-seeking to litigation that help illustrate their concepts well. My only critique is that there is actually quite a bit of complexity and some redundancy in their steps. However, I think the process will be easier to see and follow once the reader actually uses the book as a true guide (i.e. taking an existing problem and dissecting it into steps as the authors recommend).(less)
Creepy and weird and Romantic. Gaiman takes the known, predictable, mundane world of fast-paced London and flips it over to reveal London Below, where...moreCreepy and weird and Romantic. Gaiman takes the known, predictable, mundane world of fast-paced London and flips it over to reveal London Below, where time pools like London Fog, commonplace names in London Above take on sinister personalities, and earls presiding in the Tube are as normal as Indian curry take-out. I especially love the decrepit splendor feel of London Below, grime, torn lace, patched velvet, stench, and more combine. Gaiman resorts to stereotyped characters in his novels, ones I recognize from well-worn tales and even Gaiman's other books. There's the clueless, rather boring male "hero" who is unwillingly pulled away from his boring life to adventure. The suave charlatan in whom deceptive tricks and morality battle continually. The young, winning female, pure of heart and fierce of spirit. A fun cast but a little worn.(less)
Jones upends the deceptive binary concepts of white vs. black, guilty vs. innocent, in this fictional portrayal of black slave-owners (multiple sets o...moreJones upends the deceptive binary concepts of white vs. black, guilty vs. innocent, in this fictional portrayal of black slave-owners (multiple sets of them!) in the pre-Civil War era in the South. Jones took the rare historical occurrence of black slave-owners and ran with it to create a fictional Virginian county peppered with enough black slave-owners to form a small, tightly-knit society. Modern readers can't help but open their mouths in horror as one of the main characters, Henry Townsend, a former slave, cuts the ear off one of his slaves to punish him for attempting to escape. But on the other hand, Jones also takes care to develop those hypocritical wealthier slave-owning black Americans by detailing their constant persecutions at the hands of whites, their sense of dignity, their strong need and capacity for love for family and partners. In a transcript of an interview with Jones, he says that only one of his characters truly transcends slavery, finding forgiveness and mercy for all who come her way, despite her black skin, slave status, and her physical limitations as a cripple. The rest lose themselves, only occasionally finding redemption in moments of great loss or love, forging ahead within the small, small scope of their known world.(less)
Sagan's book starts out strong with an amnesia-stricken narrator slowly piecing together the mysteries of his world. A world full of alternate realiti...moreSagan's book starts out strong with an amnesia-stricken narrator slowly piecing together the mysteries of his world. A world full of alternate realities, omniscient virtual caretakers, and a band of ten teenagers who have grown up together but circle each other with the wariness of feral dogs. A sense of impending disaster or violence seems to lurk behind every corner, heightened by the fact that the narrator Halloween cannot remember all the social or even logistical details of his existence. Halloween stutters between death-obsessed teen angst and highly practical, mature reactions to a bewildering and frightening existence. Sagan's other characters are shallower, with the stereotypical funny-guy, trouble-maker, love object, ditsy girl, etc. However, Sagan keeps our interest not only by Halloween's re-discovery of his rapidly unraveling world but also through flashbacks to the world-that-was. The world that created Halloween's virtual reality. My biggest disappointment in this book came from the sharp drop in plot momentum in the latter half of the book and the all-too-rapid resolution of the "bad guy." Sagan keeps the book from turning into a fairy-tale through his realistic development of the deeply disillusioned and emotionally tortured Halloween but by then, my interest had waned significantly. (less)
I found myself strongly pulled in by Pirsig's strong lyrical prose and straightforward narrative style but I found myself struggling to finish the las...moreI found myself strongly pulled in by Pirsig's strong lyrical prose and straightforward narrative style but I found myself struggling to finish the last third of the book. Pirsig's schtick is all about writing an intuitive-seeming, easy-to-follow detailing of his life philosophy but when he really digs down deep into how he arrived at that philosophical manifesto, the narrative bogs down. Pirsig definitely knew how to craft a story well at the beginning and even through the middle, using the the narrator's son and the roadtrip as a foil for plot and continuity and then the mystery of Phaedrus as the thriller element. I still find myself musing over Pirsig's philosophy of Quality but I think I would have to read the book again (or at least certain parts) to have more of his message sink through. Not sure I want to though...(less)
I waver between two and one stars for this book. I chose this book as one of the more highly rated thorough histories of Ethiopia but the writing styl...moreI waver between two and one stars for this book. I chose this book as one of the more highly rated thorough histories of Ethiopia but the writing style and content were often disappointing. While I do feel I learned a lot about the modern history of Ethiopia, since the 1800's, I learned next to nothing about culture, except obtusely through politics, about lifestyles, and not all that much about pre-1600 Ethiopia. Marcus chose to skim over "early" history of Ethiopia by rattling off names of emperors and who they conquered or what territories they lost. Stories took on a bit more liveliness in the more modern era but I did not get a strong sense of people. Only their political actions. Major shifts like religious changes, connections to the Western world, socialism that toppled the monarchy, etc. seemed to pop into being and their origin, their meaning within Ethiopia borders and to Ethiopian peoples, went largely unexplained. (less)
This is a textbook but I decided to read it out of interest in what Kareiva, a self-proclaimed conservation iconoclast, had to write in an introductor...moreThis is a textbook but I decided to read it out of interest in what Kareiva, a self-proclaimed conservation iconoclast, had to write in an introductory conservation science textbook. I would say this book is worth the read for anyone wishing to refresh themselves on basic conservation issues, ongoing and new. It's also worth reading for some of the synthesis and science-backed take-home messages that Kareiva and Marvier present. They often stress the need for moving beyond old conservation adages (e.g., just "saving" land) and provide food for thought and motivation for scientific exploration.(less)
A book meant for kids (pre-teens) but one with universal life lessons which adults could stand to read, remember, and internalize. Wonder is a book ab...moreA book meant for kids (pre-teens) but one with universal life lessons which adults could stand to read, remember, and internalize. Wonder is a book about people stretching their kindness skills just a little bit more than usual. The main character Auggie does this time and again by accepting society's inability to handle his "deformity" in a non-awkward and sometimes non-cruel way. He never lets the gasps, the slights, or the taunts stop him, but he is also helped along the way by "non-deformed" people, family and friends, who push themselves, others, and Auggie to be stronger through kindness. I had issues with the ending of the book (yes, it's a kids' book but really, it ended with such an obvious feel-good hero-takes-all climax), the changes in voice (the narrative style did not change to match the characters), and the one chapter that had emails/texts (the entire style of being in one person's head at a time just flew out the window). (less)