In-fricken-tense. King is my favorite, and I've read much of his work, much of it more than once. But I won't read this one again - once is enough. It...moreIn-fricken-tense. King is my favorite, and I've read much of his work, much of it more than once. But I won't read this one again - once is enough. It is excellent, but difficult; I had a few bad dreams while racing through it.(less)
JK Rowling's first foray into fiction since the Harry Potter franchise was bound to bring with it much expectation, but I tried to leave off too much...moreJK Rowling's first foray into fiction since the Harry Potter franchise was bound to bring with it much expectation, but I tried to leave off too much forethought. A good book by a solid author is all I was hoping for - not fantasy or fabulousness. But one of the things that made the Harry Potter series so compelling DID, in fact, factor into what made this a five-star book; I would argue the most important thing - the character development.
The book begins with a death, and we meet many characters touched by that death, and some not so touched, within the small town in which it takes place. The death leaves a "Casual Vacancy" on the city board, which stirs up the sleepy town of Pagford. These characters, their ties to the deceased, to the town, to the issues facing the board, are all plumbed deeply and delicately. You see the best of some of the more distasteful characters, and the worst of some of the pristine members of society. Rowling did an excellent job (as is expected from the woman who wrote not only Harry Potter, but James Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Severus Snape) of making the point through her characters that human beings are rich, complex, often sad and wounded, but also capable of love, compassion, and heartbreak. Despite the fact that few of the characters in the book are simply likeable, you care about them. I found myself often sympathising with a character I had been sighing with distaste at only moments before.
I've begun to watch some British television lately, and it makes me think The Casual Vacancy is an extremely British book. It is not whiz-bang, flash and pop action and constant movement, in the way consumptive Americans often expect and need in order for their interest to be held (and I say this as an American myself, mind). It is subtle and delicate and rich and beautiful. It is often slow, quiet, and gentle, though there is a ferocity beneath the surface as well.
This book is not Harry Potter. It is not for children, it is not fantastical, or adventurous. But it is deeply human, and very much worth your time.
I listened to the Audible version of The Casual Vacancy, and the narration, too, was fantastic. It was not over-the-top, with voices varying just enough to clue you in to the speaker, but not so much that you flinched at the male narrator's attempt at a feminine voice. His tone was soothing but not lulling, and the pacing and articulation were spot-on. (less)
A Good American is a fictional memoir of the Meisenheimer family, from the 1880s through the present day. That sounds like a lot of ground to cover in...moreA Good American is a fictional memoir of the Meisenheimer family, from the 1880s through the present day. That sounds like a lot of ground to cover in a 400-page novel, and indeed, it is. But what starts as a slow dance through the early years of Frederick and Jette's life together builds an uneven tempo, and we quick-step through some generations while gliding sashaying gently through others.
Music is a key element to the story, and it's fun to follow its through generations, beginning with Frederick's display of adoration through opera and aria, moving through the seduction of jazz and ragtime, and culminating in family barbershop quartets. Strangely (or not so strangely), as the story moves to the present, we stop hearing much about modern music. *grin*
Keeping with this musical theme, I must say that author Alex George has a penchant for the use of a literary secondary dominant. Dale McGowan describes this musical device (here, ctrl+F "not a coincidence" or just read the whole thing) as "a kind of momentary harmonic trapdoor into another key," and explains that "the result is an unfulfilled yearning." That all is to say that almost every chapter break and transition break within a chapter ends in a cliffhangery statement that encourages you to keep reading. It's a good and relevant device (yearning for home is also a theme of this tale), if a bit overused here.
Frederick and Jette start their affair in their home country of Germany, much to the chagrin of Jette's parents. To escape their disapproval, the couple decides, as so many did in their day, to cross an ocean and try to build a life in the land of shining hope and supposed opportunity - America. While they originally plan for New York, they find themselves instead heading to New Orleans ("Well, they're both new," muses Jette.) and setting in motion a multigenerational smalltown life for their family, with all the quintessential angst and adoration that brings.
Though most of the book's cover blurbs describe the book as alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, I found it to be more often the latter than the former. A Good American begins as a hopeful tale of romance, escape, and new life, and while those themes continue, as the book goes on, it seems the characters are buried in tragedy after tragedy, in an endless march of death. I know - you expect death in a story that encompasses four (or was it five?) generations, but I'm not talking about your typical old-age death (though, of course, there are many of those). There are an inordinate number of characters we readers are drawn to and made to adore, who, as soon as we begin to love them, are ripped from the story in a gruesome death. Consider yourself forewarned.
But like life, this book is worth the heartache. Though it's a fictional memoir, I found myself constantly imagining the narrator sitting in a room piled with history, his grandmother's diary beside him, love letters between she and his grandfather in a pile on the desk, photos strewn across a bulletin board pinned above. The narration is clear and true, and I'd love to read it again as an audiobook.
In all, I thorougly enjoyed A Good American, and while there were a lulls, I frequently found myself picking up my book instead of my laptop, eager to return to the hopeful history of the Meisenheimers, their joy at this country with which I have become disenchanted, and the tangled web of love and sorrow weaved through their lives.
This is a compensated review by the BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions expressed are my own.(less)
A quick and interesting read, and a great, accessible introduction for young adults to one of the great authors and thinkers of the "modern" age - Tho...moreA quick and interesting read, and a great, accessible introduction for young adults to one of the great authors and thinkers of the "modern" age - Thoreau.
Being Henry David is a different kind of coming of age novel - one in which the hero has to learn who his is literally, as well as figuratively. "Henry David" aka Hank, is a teenaged boy who has awoken in Penn Station with amnesia. As he tries to scrape together some of his memories, or at least some semblance of a new life, we the readers learn along with him - about the streets of New York, the writings of Henry David Thoreau, and the quiet town of Concord, Maine.
Though the book is peppered with interesting supporting characters (as usual, the librarian is my favorite, but there's a twist this time), and a couple of minor subplots, the real character development is all centered around Hank as he learns to come to terms with the realities of the present, and the past so shocking he had to forget. (less)
Three-and-a-half stars might be more appropriate, but it wasn't an option. ;)
Since Fifty Shades of Grey began the mainstream pseudo-kink craze, I've k...moreThree-and-a-half stars might be more appropriate, but it wasn't an option. ;)
Since Fifty Shades of Grey began the mainstream pseudo-kink craze, I've kind of shied away from it all. I disliked the concept of "mommy porn," the way non-vanilla sex was stigmatized, and what can I say, I'm a little bit of a hipster when it comes to staying off the beaten path.
But when the opportunity to review Diary of a Submissive, an ostensibly true story, and clearly a response to Fifty, landed in my inbox, I couldn't resist. In many ways, I was not disappointed. In other ways, I was let down.
Far and away the most refreshing thing about Diary of a Submissive is the author's ability to, well, write. She's a journalist by trade, and I laughed in delight when I read, "I decided quickly that committing crimes against grammar was a hard limit for me."
The other big positive to Diary, as compared not only to Fifty, but also to the seeming opinion of the mainstream world, is that the pseudonymous Morgan quickly dispels the myth hat only people with some sort of trauma in their pasts could be interested in kinky sex. She describes her simple life that is very much like yours and mine - except that she's a self-described masochist who gets off on physical pain and humiliation, when they're meted out by someone whose judgement she trusts, who has her best interests at heart.
The big letdown of Diary was the quick and dirty finish. In what seems like the midst of the story, suddenly it's over, and you're left unsure what even just happened. I guess real life doesn't have tidy endings.
EDIT: I've read on Sophie's twitter and interviews that there is a sequel coming soon. Hopefully that will relieve my angst at the ending.
This is a compensated review commissioned by the BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. (less)
Finally finished the version of this book that is downloadable here on Goodreads and quickly searched for new chapters. Turns out there are like 20 mo...moreFinally finished the version of this book that is downloadable here on Goodreads and quickly searched for new chapters. Turns out there are like 20 more, and when I got to the end of THOSE, I found out the next update comes out tomorrow. \m/
I love this book. I originally described it as good-naturedly poking fun at all of the ridiculousness of the original series (and it does) but it's so much more than that. This fic started out sciencey and funny and a little ridiculous. Then it stopped being so funny but was still interesting. Then it got REALLY interesting, and deep, and scientific and thought-provoking.
So far there are over 2000 pages. It took me three months to get through (granted, I broke it up with other books), but it was really worth it.
Highly recommended to Ravenclaws, to fans of HP who are fans of science, rationality, and original thought. (less)
Theodora's mother never wanted her to enter the entertainment world, but after her father was brutally murdered, there was little choice if the family was to survive. And like her mother Hypatia, Theodora is nothing if not a survivor. Her talent for dance is only average, but her penchant for comedy launches Theodora into a spotlight career (view spoiler)[ that takes her from brother back rooms to faraway lands, on a religious pilgrimage, and home again to become the Empress of the entire Byzantine Empire. (hide spoiler)]
Duffy's fictional tale, which undoubtedly takes many liberties with the deeper aspects of Theodora's life, touches on many aspects of the sixth century, from politics to religion (which were deeply intertwined), and the acceptable roles of women.
Though Theodora's exploits fascinated me (I loved the bit where she takes up spinning - I myself have started recently to spin!), I was particularly touched by Duffy's commentary on the nature of relationships, from family and friends to God and spouse. These are skillfully woven and absolutely believable - not least because they touch a chord of recognition in me at some of my own experiences.
At 300+ pages, Theodora is definitely worth every minute.
This is a compensated review for the BlogHer book club, but the opinions expressed are solely my own.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I wish I'd payed more attention to the chronological order of the series. After finishing Ender's Shadow, I jumped right to this (because it follows E...moreI wish I'd payed more attention to the chronological order of the series. After finishing Ender's Shadow, I jumped right to this (because it follows Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow chronologically), but it turns out this book references many events in the rest of the Shadow series, so those books have been "spoiled" for me. I'll still listen to them eventually.
I love listening to Ender stories, but I'm the kind of person who gets into a series, a character, and then just loves to read more about them, quality be damned, so take this with whatever grain of salt you will.
There are a few inconsistencies where Ender in Exile overlaps with the concluding chapters of Ender's Game. OSC references them in the afterword, and his explanations are sensible, but it does distract somewhat from the story when you're going, "wait, is that what happened? I thought..." That said, I like this version of events well enough.
If you go straight from EG to EIE, you will almost certainly be disappointed at the pace of this book. However, if you read the rest of the EG series and then jump back to EIE, the pace won't be anything different. It's obvious to me that, while this book follow chronologically from EG, it was written after the rest of the series, because the style is more consistent with those later books.
In all, this is, as a fill-in, a book you can skip without missing anything, but a book worth picking up if you are just hungry for any more Ender stories you can get your hands on. (less)