If I were to put this book on a "genre" bookshelf, I think I'd stick it first and foremost on a coming-of-age shelf. After all, the protagonist and naIf I were to put this book on a "genre" bookshelf, I think I'd stick it first and foremost on a coming-of-age shelf. After all, the protagonist and narrator Lizet is on a mission to find her "true" self as she leaves her urban working-class Cuban home in Miami and ventures north to Rawlings College in New York. There, she experiences the culture shock of lots of white people and a school that expects her to be better academically prepared than she is.
However, this is more than a "freshman at college" story. It's also about class differences (e.g., Lizet is ultra-aware of the impression her brand-name mittens give off . . . mittens she was given by her roommate) and cultural differences (her sister at home tells her to "stop talking so white," while her friends at college find it outrageous that she hasn't seen XYZ movies). It's about the battle of putting family vs. self first--is Lizet bound to go home and help her sister raise her sister's fatherless son and try to protect her mother from joining what amounts to a borderline activist cult, or should she stay at school and battle charges of plagiarism, a term she only just learned upon failing her "plagiarized" essay?
In some senses, these are issues that we all as freshmen faced: how to navigate the world of semi-adulthood while sorting out budding romances and trying to figure out what we actually like to do vs. what we've always been told to do. Yet, for those of us who are White and Privileged, Crucet's novel gives a glimpse into the minority experience that we might conceptually understand but never truly feel empathy for because we have never experienced it ourselves. For that, I applaud this novel and would recommend it to anyone. It's certainly no work of Beautiful Prose or High Literature, but it entertains and it educates, and what more can you ask of a novel?...more
I really loved this book. Not all of this book, but most. And I absolutely think it's because I grew up as a swimmer. So I will start this review withI really loved this book. Not all of this book, but most. And I absolutely think it's because I grew up as a swimmer. So I will start this review with a disclaimer: To all childhood competitive swimmers, read this book. Everyone else . . . take your chances. Because I cannot speak to the experience of reading this book without waves of recognition and nostalgia and the desire to point and shout, "Yes! I did/saw/smelled/felt that, too!" However, I suspect that without those feelings, I would probably not like this book nearly as much, and that suspicion is due to the fact that the parts of the memoir that I didn't like were virtually everything that fell outside of the realm of competitive swimming–namely, Shapton's art career and her never-ending tour of strange and exotic swimming pools.
That is not to say that I did not appreciate the inclusion of Shapton's artwork throughout the book; in fact I adored it. The change in medium and, consequently, in pace, really made the memoir a thought-provoking experience rather than just a story. However, anything she had to say about painting I almost entirely glossed over, just like every time her adult self climbed into a random Italian pool, I started skipping paragraphs.
Her accounts of swim meets, however, of practices, of not wanting to swim yet feeling the insatiable compulsion, of the agony of jumping into cold water in the dark hours of the morning . . . all of those things were so spot on, it's hard to believe I never wrote these depictions myself. The tone of the book as a whole is self-reflective and slightly subdued, as if Shapton herself is submerged as she writes it, in the shaded part of a cool, shallow pool. She recounts her feelings of ambition and competitiveness by showing us how she visualized her races while she waited for her breakfast to finish microwaving. Yet we don't feel the rush of adrenaline, of antsy competitive spirit so many athletes have when they talk about their sport. Shapton is calm, analytical, viewing herself with adult eyes, eyes that have already seen herself come short of the mark and be forced to accept that reality.
I will reiterate: any and every childhood competitive swimmer should read this book. You will find gems inside that will conjure up habits you forgot you had and rituals you forgot you followed. You will find yourself missing your stiff, chlorine-bleached hair and the simplicity of counting against a clock. But it's always there, the pool, and Swimming Studies reminds us that, if we choose to, we can jump right back in....more
Too many characters. Too many overlaying plots. At its core, this is a murder mystery, and it would have greatly benefitted from being pared down to tToo many characters. Too many overlaying plots. At its core, this is a murder mystery, and it would have greatly benefitted from being pared down to the absolute most critical characters and plot points. Still entertaining, particularly given the setting and time period, but just too much going on to keep me fully enraptured in the story....more
Couldn't get into it. My impression was that I needed to "learn the world," similar to A Clockwork Orange, but I didn't have the patience. Gave up aftCouldn't get into it. My impression was that I needed to "learn the world," similar to A Clockwork Orange, but I didn't have the patience. Gave up after 40 pages. Maybe I'll try again in the future....more
Argh! I so desperately wanted to give this book five stars. In fact, had you asked me halfway through whether this would be a five-star, book I'd haveArgh! I so desperately wanted to give this book five stars. In fact, had you asked me halfway through whether this would be a five-star, book I'd have said, "Hell yeah!"
Ani FaNelli is the sort of high-class WASPy bitch that, when you see her on the streets of New York, you can't help but hate. And she's worked hard to appear that way. In fact, her whole life of luxury has been painstakingly constructed to make sure you never guess that her real name is TifAni and she grew up in a not-rich-enough suburb where parents can't afford to get their BMWs serviced and if you aren't wearing hot-pink lipstick, you're clearly ill. The secret is, she actually hates every bit of it.
Luckiest Girl Alive is a "whodunit" of sorts. From page one, you're wondering what happened in Ani's past to make her work so hard to create this whole life that she actually hates. As you jump back and forth in time, you find yourself partially emerged in a YA book (Ani is the new girl at school, trying to find her place in the social hierarchy) and partially following a romance novel gone wrong (Ani has the guy, is planning the wedding, but is starting to seriously second-guess the whole thing . . . from page one!).
So what happened. What happened? What HAPPENED?
Well, when I finally found out, yes, I was slightly horrified. But then I couldn't really figure out why I had so many pages left. What else was there to reveal? Oh boy, that meant there was a twist coming up! (After all, this book was compared to Gone Girl.) I looooove twists.
But, dear future reader, let me be the one to warn you: there is no final twist. So don't get your hopes up. After the frenetic pacing of the first two-thirds of the book, I actually found it difficult to get through the end, where she does the documentary and has her wedding. Because the actual end just felt so predictable. I knew which character she'd inevitably encounter doing the documentary. I knew how her wedding would go. But I kept slogging along, because I was waiting for the Big Surprise that I felt I'd been promised. It never came.
So four stars it is! In spite of my ultimate disappointment, it was still a very fun read, especially because it isn't often you find yourself hating the narrator of a book, yet frantically pushing forward to find out what happens (or in this case happened) to them....more
For a software engineer and self-proclaimed science nerd, Weir does a very good job writing what could have become an overly technical novel in an accFor a software engineer and self-proclaimed science nerd, Weir does a very good job writing what could have become an overly technical novel in an accessible way that (clearly!) appeals to the mass market.
Mark Watney--the novel's hero and frequent narrator--is accidentally left on Mars, presumed dead . . . only he's not dead. He spends the rest of the novel (with the eventual help of NASA and his original mission crew) working to survive and return to Earth.
What I liked most about this novel was the way the narration was broken up; not necessarily just how we got more than one story (Mark on Mars, NASA on the ground, the rest of the crew in space), but how even the narrative voice and writing style itself changed. Mark's diary was obviously told in first person; the NASA and crew sections were told in third person; and when something ominous was about to happen, the narration became a very distant third person describing the landscape and Mark himself in a detached, scientific way. The ability to change up the narration like this shows Weir's (and his editor's) talent as a writer.
I personally didn't love the book because I spent a lot of time skimming the technical details. I'm not a scientist, nor am I a software engineer, and I don't care about these details; I want to know what happens next. Of course, I appreciate that all the biology/physics lent the book a huge amount of credibility; it's just not my personal preference. I liked Mark Watney's humor, and my favorite parts were the bits at the end where he and the mission commander exchange barbs. I wish there could have been more of that! (But then, of course, it would have been a very different book.)
All in all, a quick read, and while science fiction readers will undoubtedly enjoy this novel, it can clearly appeal to a large swath of everyday fiction readers, as well....more
Like so many 3-star reviewers, I'm giving Eric Fair's memoir a middle-of-the-road rating because I can't quite decide how I feel. On one hand, I admirLike so many 3-star reviewers, I'm giving Eric Fair's memoir a middle-of-the-road rating because I can't quite decide how I feel. On one hand, I admire the narrative style he chose, because I think its austerity reflects the emotional numbness he forced upon himself in order to press forward on the life path he was perpetually choosing. That said, I desperately wanted to feel something throughout this book. I kept waiting for some sort of break where I would feel the horror and cringe at the atrocities Fair so carefully denoted. I just simply never did. In the same way that Fair treated every event of his life academically, with a cerebral knowledge of the guilt he refused to allow himself to feel, I also followed is narrative at a distance, which kept me from truly becoming immersed.
Suffice to say that while I do believe Fair was intentional in his writing and likely accomplished what he set out to achieve with this memoir, it will never move readers the way that a book of fiction--devised by someone with less internal anguish to suppress--will move them....more