I'm teetering on giving this book 5 stars. Gonna let it settle first.
A sweet, simple story about life in a small town out on the Colorado plains. TheI'm teetering on giving this book 5 stars. Gonna let it settle first.
A sweet, simple story about life in a small town out on the Colorado plains. The narrative flows between its characters, taking its time so the reader can get to know each of them. This allows for surprising depth and authenticity, but will probably disappoint those looking for some gripping narrative or some horrible tragedy to take place. Because this is meant to be a nostalgic look at the simple joys and trials of life -- not a Tom Clancy novel.
So yes, while this book may take 50 or 100 pages for you to fall in love with the characters (and therefore the book), the prose itself is of such a high quality that I was more than content to keep reading til I got swept up in things.
As for the characters themselves... While it seems the young brothers Ike & Bobby were favorites of many readers, the joy for me were the McPheron brothers. They're gruff yet proper, quiet yet hilarious. They don't show up right away, but for me encapsulated the heart of Haruf's tale.
Each chapter is titled with the character it will follow for a few pages, all residents of Holt, Colorado (fictional) and all loosely (at first) involved in one another's lives. In the end -- but before the final chapter -- we have a picture of the town as a whole, or at the very least this community of characters. So when you reach the final chapter entitled "Holt", it's easy to close the book with one of those contented smiles on your face....more
Wow. A lot going on here. A lot to mull over -- and glad we get to discuss this in our book club. Will have more to say then.
... but for now: This isWow. A lot going on here. A lot to mull over -- and glad we get to discuss this in our book club. Will have more to say then.
... but for now: This is quite a read. A pleasure. David Mitchell successfully creates 6 distinct (though inter-woven) worlds, all exciting & enticing with their own unique voices. Sure this isn't a short or quick read, but the break-up of these stories into ~40 page chunks keeps things humming along.
As one story describes the composition of a singular piece of classical music, so to does Cloud Atlas have it's own consistent melody throughout that will keep you hooked throughout.
Fun & somewhat informative, this is certainly an enjoyable read and is closer to a four-star book than a two-star waste of time.
Good stuff: the auFun & somewhat informative, this is certainly an enjoyable read and is closer to a four-star book than a two-star waste of time.
Good stuff: the author chooses a fun/intriguing topic: what is it about certain places that makes people happier there (Bhutan, Iceland, Thailand) than elsewhere (Moldova, Britain)? And he certainly has fun with it, traveling to each locale, interacting with the locals and "attempting" to discover that happiness for himself.
So.. where's the problem? I didn't really catch on until about 100 pages in, but it seems as if NPR reporters have all had the same journalism professor. The few "travelogues" of there's I've undertaken have all read the same:
(1) Choose a contrived travel plan. This is ok, but certainly different than the more "natural" travelogues where the person travels and then says "That was such a unique & amazing trip, I *must* write about it." Instead -- as in this case -- the author seems to contrive a trip that sounds appropriately quirky and kitschy and then finds enough stops along the way to fit the bill... and an appropriately long book.
(2) Revel in their hipster quirkiness. I realize that with travelogues the people involved are just as important as the locations they visit. But so much of that has to do with how the travels transform them into better people. "Better" being entirely determined by the writer. In the case of this book, though, the author seems much more interested in reminding us (throughout the book) of just how quirky/hipster/emo he is. And it's meant for humor, I know, but there's a certain point where you say "I get it!" and hope that the adventure he's set himself on will start working on him a bit. Unfortunately, he seems so proud of his quirky/hipster/emo identity that he consciously resists the core theme of the book: that traveling to these unique places of happiness might be a means of learning to be happier ourselves.
(3) Must be ironic! Must be funny! Again, I recognize that travelogues (as with any book) need to be interesting and fun. But for lack of actual travel & experience, the author decides instead to study & report, leaving him without actual experiences that are both unique and intriguing. His solution is to insert as many quirky/ironic anecdotes as possible, whether appropriate, relevant or not. This is the thing that got me the most as I read, as it took me out of the story. Pretty much every other sentence had an adjoining "here's the author's commentary / ironic witticism" thrown in. Too much.
So there's what I've learned from NPR Reporters who decide they want to write a book. And yeah, I went quite a bit into that, but it's makes the difference between it being great execution on a really fun idea and decent execution on a really fun idea. ...more
When I dislike and am so disappointed by a book, I'm torn between wanting to explain why I had such an issue with iWow. What an awful(ly boring) book.
When I dislike and am so disappointed by a book, I'm torn between wanting to explain why I had such an issue with it and not wanting such a time-sink to take up any more of my time. So, in brief:
// Expectations With a catchy title and hook (Charles Lindbergh elected president in 1940 and leading the U.S. on a path eerily similar to Germany several years earlier), you are left with a certain level of expectation. Like maybe some intrigue, some espionage, a few thrills. Nope. None of those.
// Intentions A big thing for me in judging a book is by comparing it to what it was meant to be. So what is THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA meant to be? It (apparently) is meant to be a fictional memoir of the author during his youth as the "what-if" unfolds. ... which again leaves me confused at the "a novel" proclamation on the cover along with the cover review claiming it to be a page turner. At best (yes, for me), it is a bloated, plodding, mind-numbing remembrance by a 9 year-old of 20% of what you'd enjoy reading and 80% of pointless, boring first-person anecdotes that... zzzzzzzzz...
// Is it really that bad? I'm troubled by Roth's execution on the book. He's regarded as a wonderful author, but -- this being my introduction to his work -- I can't help but feel he couldn't decide how he wanted to write the book... even once he'd finished it. He attempts mightily to write from the mind of a young boy, but then rips the reader from this mode of storytelling to an awkward fire hose of third-person "news" informing the now-detached reader of what comes next. It's an annoying crutch for Roth to use. Disappointing too. If he couldn't convey the story in a gripping and comprehensive manner through his faux memoir, then tacking on such a hefty storytelling band-aid only makes things more cumbersome.
(And if I as the reader am to assume he wrote this as an adult looking back, then I'd hope that same adult would recognize the pages and pages of tiresome side-stories do little more than bulk up the book's length, watering down the plot to a point where boredom is all but assured.)
// Wow. This is harsh. Apologies. Sort of. Though I think any reader would be hard-pressed to say Roth is any less harsh. I'd heard in the past of Lindbergh's and Henry Ford's anti-semitic remarks to the public during this period. And I completely understand the venom their words would instill in people of Jewish descent who lived through such times. Roth's "What if" leads to some intriguing and potentially terrifying possibilities. I think the desire for this intrigue and this terror coupled with the lack of execution was what left me so disappointed.
Roth gets so entirely wrapped up in the venom itself that he poisons the novel with it. While I rooted for Roth's family as the story unfolds, the plodding pace and the repeated blunt force of his condemnation of "President Lindbergh" (as well as most every non-Jewish American in the tale) left me screaming at the book "I GET IT! LINDBERGH WAS A HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD MAN!! GET ON WITH IT!!!"
// As Monty Python said... "Get on with it! What THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA left me with... was a greater appreciation for the value of a good editor. Then again, if he'd stuck with the newsprint parts of the novel, it'd be a 30+ page short story... But what if Roth had stuck to his guns and held the story to the first-person narrative of a 9 year old? Wouldn't the ambiguity of what's going on at a national level have kept the reader in a place of worry and suspense? Wouldn't our perspective have been better aligned with his? Wouldn't that have forced Roth to tighten up the story and therefore pare down the detracting chunks that bloat it to the point of morbid obesity? ... And in doing so tighten up the book while improving its overall quality???
I know I'll have a better appreciation for all that's packed in here after my book club discusses it, but for now, I'll simply say that GOON SQUAD wasI know I'll have a better appreciation for all that's packed in here after my book club discusses it, but for now, I'll simply say that GOON SQUAD was a delight to read.
The balance between nuance, brevity, and characters with surprising depth is spot-on. Egan's leaps between tales and bouncing from one time to another had me worried the book would be a tough pill to swallow, but the stories fold together so organically... I couldn't help but buy in to her storytelling's idiosyncrasies -- and to love the book all the more for it....more
A thought-provoking criticism of sociology/culture. Not exactly sure how many stars I'll give it in the end; for now, 4 is a decent starting point.
ForA thought-provoking criticism of sociology/culture. Not exactly sure how many stars I'll give it in the end; for now, 4 is a decent starting point.
For a quick read, Quinn's/Ishmael's message is worth mulling over for a bit. And yes, it's overly clear what their message is to us. Quinn's views aren't revolutionary -- and his lecture-within-a-story doesn't present itself as particularly well-written prose -- but his gorilla power point presentation is worth a read.
Seems like many reviewers are pissed at this book, calling it sexist, cliche, didactic, anti-religion and offensive (among many other hurt-feelings) while others are bidding up the price of gorillas on eBay. I guess it's one of those "You Will Love" or "You Will Hate" books for most... Though in either regard, these acolytes and hypercritics appear to have made up their minds the moment they discover the thrust of Quinn's argument, rather than (what I'd hope is Quinn's intended purpose of) taking things in chapter-by-chapter, lecture-by-lecture and considering Quinn's worldview with an open mind. Might not be your cup of tea; might be your kool-aid. Either way, relax, people. Take a deep breath (k, now let it out) and make up your own mind.
Yes, Quinn's narrator is rather slow on the uptake (which seems to tire many), but I'm assuming this is so he assures his readers "get" Ishmael's message at least as quickly as the narrator does, teaching us slowly, methodically as he does his pupil. (I'd assume Quinn wanted to reach those unfamiliar with similar beliefs as well as those who could nod quickly with the gorilla's questions and breeze through the narrator's struggling attempts at answers.)
So, yes, this is an attempt to creatively lecture his readers... so I guess there's two things to review: his belief system, and his method at presenting it.
// Method // I think I sorta gave my thoughts on that above.
// Belief System // Still sorting that out. I certainly disagree with how a few arguments are made, but I don't think that means the gorilla needs to be tossed out with the bathwater. Then again, my thoughts on his beliefs aren't the reason anyone's going to want to read this, so who cares right? Was I offended? Nope. Was I challenged to take a step back and think about stuff (yes, stuff) for a bit? Sure.
Because if there is anything that this can teach us, it's that a male model's life is a precious, precious commodity. Just because they have chiseled abs and stunning features, it doesn't mean that we too can't not die in a freak gasoline fight accident. ...more
Last spring, I had the good fortune of watching "RESTREPO" at a film festival. Tim Hetherington (who partnered with Sebastian Junger through this projLast spring, I had the good fortune of watching "RESTREPO" at a film festival. Tim Hetherington (who partnered with Sebastian Junger through this project) was on hand and took questions on the documentary. Many of his answers are as true for this book as for the film. For an audience that clearly wanted an excuse to further their own beliefs about war, Hetherington was clear about one point: this book/film was not pro- or anti- the war in Afghanistan. Nor was it specifically pro- or anti- war in general. (So, again, for those looking for this to be a piece that reinforces one side or the other... sorry.)
What they sought to do was to truly embed themselves with those on the front line of modern war and to experience life as they experienced it. As dirty, difficult and messed up as it is. Sure, certain biases creep into their account here and there, but sheesh. What do you expect? This was (to put it far too lightly) an intense experience!
Both the film and book are worth a view/read. And yes, I'd recommend doing so in tandem; it present a fuller picture of their experience....more