Okay, to start with, this book did not change my life, even though some readers/reviewers say "Oh my God! This book will change your life!! You *have*...moreOkay, to start with, this book did not change my life, even though some readers/reviewers say "Oh my God! This book will change your life!! You *have* to read it!" It did not change my life. My life is still the same as it was before I started the book. That said, it was a pretty intense, crazy, convoluted, confusing ride, but a story that was worth reading.
Jose Arcadio Buendia helped found the town of Macondo oh, so long ago. Back then, it was almost an Eden, where no one died (or at least no one had died *yet*), everyone got along, and the government left them to their own lives. Over time, the town is invaded by "progress" and outsiders, and their idyllic village becomes tormented by greed, war, lies, and death.
Oh, and there's also the incest in the Buendia family. They don't *mean* to be incestuous, but somehow, despite the matriarch's warnings, they just keep hooking up with each other, partly because some of their identities are not fully acknowledged, so one offspring may not know that s/he is a Buendia, and then sleeps with a Buendia... hence the quote "time was not passing … it was turning in a circle” -- those Buendias just keep circling back to each other.
There's an element of magical realism and mysticism that runs throughout the story, too -- people living well into their 100s, alchemy, contagious insomnia, premonitions, spirits of dead people walking around the house, no one remembering a massacre, ... It makes for a fantastic (in that it's wonderful, and also a fantasy) story.
So no, this book did not change my life. And honestly, there's a good chance I'll never read it again. Nevertheless, it was worth reading the one time (or maybe even a second time if I'm ever at a point in my life when I have time to re-read books). Even with all those Buendias and the confusion their similar names (5 with the name Jose, 5 with the name Arcadio, 22 with the name Aureliano, 2 Ursulas, 2 with the name Remedios, and 2 Amarantas) caused in my poor little head, it was a wonderful story, with intrigue, gasp-worthy moments, magic, fantasy, and pity. (less)
I liked this book. Really, I did. I was going to give it 4 stars, but then the last few pages just ... *sigh*
The book is a sort of book-within-a-book...moreI liked this book. Really, I did. I was going to give it 4 stars, but then the last few pages just ... *sigh*
The book is a sort of book-within-a-book: we find out (not so early on), that (view spoiler)[we're reading a "biographical" story that Adam Walker, our main character, is writing. (hide spoiler)] Each section takes place in a different season: Spring, Summer, Fall. And each section (view spoiler)[ is written from a different point of view. (hide spoiler)] No problemo there. I'm with Auster on this, I'm digging it, I'm digging the ploys he uses, the literary tricks, all that jazz. (view spoiler)[I didn't mind the three seasonal sections to Walker's book, or the shifting narrator. I also didn't mind the total brake-screeching flip to Cecile's point of view. (hide spoiler)]
However, that last section did lose some points with me. I was fine with the shift in narrator, even shifting away from the 1967 book (although that kind of made me... sad? No, not sad. I was just sorry to see us stray from Walker's book, but I saw what Auster was doing with it as plot, (view spoiler)[finishing the Born story with the only person who knew the end of the Born story). (hide spoiler)] But it just felt like it draaaaaged on longer than it needed to. And yet, I don't know what I would cut out. Maybe it was that I felt like we'd invested so much in reading Walker's book for the first 3/4 of the book, that now that we were reading someone else's work (view spoiler)[(Cecile's diary) (hide spoiler)], we spent too much time away from Walker's book. That might be it. Whatever it was, it felt like the (view spoiler)[Cecile/Born (hide spoiler)] story could have been snipped a little, and thus it was sort of a let-down ending to what had been a decent book.
So then, this book brings into question a lot about certainty/ambiguity/What do we know?/What do we not know?/What can we believe?/unreliable narrators (And I wouldn't have made most of these connections without the 21st Century Literature group). It makes for a really baffling read, but baffling in a good way. The kind of baffling read that gives your brain a workout. Plus, it's a crazy-ass, mixed-up story, so you can get sucked into all of the "What?!?!" and "Say wha?!?!" moments.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
It's not often that I give fiction books a wholehearted 5 stars, but this book had it all: well-written characters; characters I loved and characters...moreIt's not often that I give fiction books a wholehearted 5 stars, but this book had it all: well-written characters; characters I loved and characters I hated and characters I pitied; intrigue; a novel-within-a-novel; history; a family's history; heartbreak; scandal; first-person narration; and some big old plot twists that made me put the book down while I gathered my wits ("Wait, *who* wrote it?!? Are you kidding me?!?!" "Wait...he... with *her*?!? Bastard!" "Aww...she died." "Aw, he died." "Wait, he...? Oh my.").
I loved Iris, and I loved Atwood's approach of Iris explaining her family's life, her current life, her sister Laura (the sometimes flighty, sometimes sinister, sometimes piercing, sometimes intelligent Laura), and telling the story to someone (to me? to Myra? But we find out for sure at the end.).
Atwood also has an amazing sense of language: Iris writes with a beautiful flow, uses some astounding metaphors and similes, and Atwood's style overall is wonderful.
If I had time to re-read books, this is definitely a book I'd consider reading again. I loved the story of the Chase family, and the mystery of "The Blind Assassin" (the novel-within-a-novel).(less)
Andrew wants nothing more in the world than to have freckles like his classmate, Nicky Lane. A sneaky girl in class, Sharon, tells him she has a secre...moreAndrew wants nothing more in the world than to have freckles like his classmate, Nicky Lane. A sneaky girl in class, Sharon, tells him she has a secret recipe to create freckles. Does the recipe work? Will Andrew find true happiness with his freckles?
This is a cute little "The grass is always greener" book for second- and third-graders.(less)
While reading about Memoirs of a Geisha, I learned that the woman Arthur Golden interviewed the most for his book was Mineko Iwasaki, and that when Me...moreWhile reading about Memoirs of a Geisha, I learned that the woman Arthur Golden interviewed the most for his book was Mineko Iwasaki, and that when Memoirs came out, she was angry at Golden's portrayal of geishas. So then she wrote her own book, which is this one. Intrigued, I checked this book out and expected there to be a lot of either "What Golden said is wrong. Life is really like *this*" or at least similarities in their stories. Instead, they're like two completely different stories that just happen to take place in the same country.
Iwasaki's book has a few similarities (I found a couple of people in her memoir that seemed like people in Memoirs), and a few places where it *seemed* like she was kind of taking it to Golden by saying "I understand that there are some scholars of Japan in foreign countries who ... believe these misconceptions [that geisha prostitute themselves] to be true." Other than that, though, I could see no parallels between her story and Golden's, so it wasn't really the rebuttal I was expecting it to be. Rather, they seem like two completely different and unrelated stories that just happen to be about the same(ish) profession.
This book started out nice enough. Iwasaki and her co-writer, Rande Brown, tell a good story, use good language, and the story itself was interesting. About halfway through, though, Iwasaki just kind of started getting on my nerves. She was a very precocious child at times, knowing what she wanted and thinking that she had the right to voice her opinion on how to change life in Kyoto, but other times was very childlike, even after she got older, throwing tantrums and hiding in closets. As the story progressed into her adult life, she continued to sound like "I'm so wonderful. Did I mention that I was the highest-paid geiko? I'm so great." There was just something about her attitude and the way she came across in the book that made her much less likable.
It's not a bad book, especially if you want a second (and perhaps a more true, but I'm not even sure how true it is. There were just a few too many incredible moments for them to have been 100% real. Either that, or she has the strangest luck of anyone alive) perspective on the life of a geisha/geiko. If you're looking for a rebuttal from someone who was outspoken about Golden's inaccuracies in Memoirs of a Geisha, though, you're not going to get it here.(less)
I thought it was kind of fun looking at the pictures like one of those "Spot the differences" games. I'd look at a picture and wonder when the trees o...moreI thought it was kind of fun looking at the pictures like one of those "Spot the differences" games. I'd look at a picture and wonder when the trees on that hill back there went away, or when that house was built, or when the little shack disappeared. Then I'd have to flip back through the pages and see. Conversely, sometimes I'd look very closely at one picture, then turn the page, then study that one to see if I could find the differences just between the two pages. I'd think that could make for some good activity time with a child.
That being said, though, the pictures (illustrations, craft work, art work, collages, whatever) weren't as "stunning" as I'd expected based on some of the reviews I read. I mean, they were *nice*, but they weren't "stunning."(less)
I can't decide between giving this 2 stars and 3 stars, just like I can't decide whether I really liked it or not.
(minor spoilers below, but not much...moreI can't decide between giving this 2 stars and 3 stars, just like I can't decide whether I really liked it or not.
(minor spoilers below, but not much more than you'd get by reading a dust jacket or a description online:) (view spoiler)[ The first part is good and interesting: a boy runs away from his aunt and uncle's house, and I mean he *runs*. Maniac Magee has speed like no one's seen before. He runs all day and all night. He eventually ends up in a town split by segregation: whites in the West End and blacks in the East End. Except Maniac doesn't know this, and shocks people who see this young white boy in the black part of town. Maniac is a charming boy, though, and a lot of the people in the East End like him -- or at least come to respect his talents, which also include untying untiable knots, making one-handed grabs in football, and hitting baseballs farther than anyone's ever seen -- but some don't and chase him out of town.
In Part II, Maniac makes a new friend, a caretaker at a zoo. For me, this section of the book wasn't nearly as good as the first part, but it was okay. I hung in there. Grayson, the caretaker, has an interesting backstory about playing minor league baseball, and he and Maniac form a strong friendship, each helping the other in life.
Part III, though, is blech. In Part II, there was nothing to do with the East and West Ends (other than Maniac thinking about them and the people he met there), but then Part III does eventually double-back to the segregation issue. But first, we have to go through a spell with an annoying family. Not characters who have annoyingness as a trait, but their story was just annoying to me. So Part III totally lost my interest. But, like I said, the story does return to the East vs. West End, but it just felt so poorly done that I almost wish Spinelli had never bothered. The last few pages try to make up for Part III, but... by that time, I'd already considered this a wasted book. (hide spoiler)]
Okay, but that's my opinion as an adult. There's a good chance that late elementary school and middle school kids, the intended audience, wouldn't feel that way. It definitely does deal with racism, and trying to make blacks and whites get along, or trying to learn why they don't get along. But even that's done so superficially that I can't believe this book is supposed to capture the attention and intelligence of fourth- to eighth-graders (according to Scholastic).
So if you're looking to read this book yourself, and you're an adult, you might think twice about spending your time (albeit a short time) with this one; but if you're looking for a book for your 10- to 13-year-old to read (or if you *are* a 10- to 13-year-old), it might be a satisfactory -- and possibly even satisfying -- book. It at least has a neat story for the majority of the book, and a touching ending. So, redeeming qualities for younger readers. Still, the older readers, I wouldn't recommend it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)