A beautiful collection of poetry that weaves together the stories of women traveling the Santa Fe trail in the 1800s with Native American myths. Lavon...moreA beautiful collection of poetry that weaves together the stories of women traveling the Santa Fe trail in the 1800s with Native American myths. Lavonne depicts the harshness of life for pioneer, Mexican, and Native American women on the frontier in rich, intoxicating detail. I don't read much poetry, but I couldn't put this down once I started. (less)
This book reminded me of "Twilight," if "Twilight" had been better written, set at the turn of the 20th century, and starred Frank Lloyd Wright as the...moreThis book reminded me of "Twilight," if "Twilight" had been better written, set at the turn of the 20th century, and starred Frank Lloyd Wright as the leading man instead of a sparkly vampire. Seriously. "Loving Frank" has the exact same (lack of) structure as "Twilight" - it's 98% meandering romance, and then for the remaining 2% it has an ending that comes out of nowhere and is so different from the rest of the book that it's practically a different genre. "Loving Frank" also has the same kind of characters as "Twilight" - Mamah Borthwick, Wright's lover, seems to be written so that any woman can relate to her, but the end result is that she comes across as oddly flat and unbelievable. And even Wright comes across as a cardboard stereotype of an eccentric artist in this, not a real person.
With that said, it's an enjoyable book if you go into it accepting that it's a light wish-fulfillment romance. Also, I have to give Horan props for how she handled the ending, which might be the most gruesomely, horrifyingly tragic thing I've ever read. People who know their Frank Lloyd Wright history probably won't find it that shocking, but I didn't know it was coming and it absolutely devastated me. Horan could have woven the ending in with the rest of the narrative better, but I think it's a testament to her writing that it struck so powerfully.(less)
An ambitious tome that is probably as all encompassing as any one book (that isn't a textbook) can be when tackling the subject of depression. Solomon...moreAn ambitious tome that is probably as all encompassing as any one book (that isn't a textbook) can be when tackling the subject of depression. Solomon covers the history and politics of depression, its purported evolutionary basis, mainstream and alternative treatments for it, how it effects and manifests in different populations, suicidality and how it is tied to depression and yet manifestly different from it, and more, all while weaving in stories of his and others' personal struggles with major depression.
His coverage of the different facets of depression is inconsistent at times. His writing is captivating and vividly alive when talking about his own and others' "terrifyingly, addictively heartbreaking" experiences with depression, yet in some of the informative sections he seems to be slogging through a grocery list. Illuminating facts sprinkled even the driest sections, though, one of the scariest that springs to mind being that repeated major depressive episodes can lead to irreparable brain damage.
One thing I really appreciated about the book was that Solomon thoroughly debunks the myth (which robs depression of much of its legitimacy) that depression only afflicts the middle-to-upper class in developed countries. He explores depression in Americans living in poverty, in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodians, in the Senegalese, and amongst the Inuit of Greenland (where a cultural taboo against talking about personal matters has particularly exacerbated their society's level of depression). He also traces the history of depression back to the ancient Greeks, showing that depression is universal and that it only seems overly prevalent in the "leisure class" because we have the vocabulary to label it and the means to seek treatment for it.
"The Noonday Demon" is an emotionally difficult book to read at times, and it has its holes, but overall I found it to be fascinating and eye-opening. It's the kind of book that, while I was reading it, made me want to go around evangelizing and handing it out on street corners, the kind of book that really got me fired up over how important and necessary it is that our society be aware of and understand what it covers.(less)
**spoiler alert** Before I started this book, almost everything I'd heard about it was negative, so I went into it rather tense - really wanting to li...more**spoiler alert** Before I started this book, almost everything I'd heard about it was negative, so I went into it rather tense - really wanting to like it, but unable to stop looking for all the shortcomings it supposedly has. It is pretty different from the first three books, but I still ended up enjoying it immensely. Tenar and Ged are finally reunited, Ogion returns from the first book, Therru, the abused child Tenar takes under her wing, is both adorable and heartbreaking - those things alone are worth the price of admission, so to speak.
Probably the biggest difference between "Tehanu" and the original trilogy is that it has much less action in it, the driving force of the story being almost wholly internal and psychological. The backdrop to the plot is not a grand adventure, but daily life on Gont, and the book actually feels like realistic fiction in spite of its fantasy setting. For me at least, this enriched the world of Earthsea even more. I really liked seeing the characters interact in a more ordinary, slice-of-life setting.
On the negative side, there are quite a few times when the narrative takes on a ranting tone. I think the feminist ranting was supposed to be coming from Tenar's character, but it really just came across as Le Guin getting up on a soapbox, and there are one too many snarky comments about men. I have nothing against feminist books (I am a woman, after all!) but this went a little overboard at times.
Also, I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of Ged being depressed and broken after losing his powers. It just seemed out of character for him, especially since "The Farthest Shore" ended with him seemingly at peace with his loss. I was really afraid Le Guin was going to throw everything good about his character under the bus just to make a feminist point, but thankfully she didn't. I suppose I should have had more faith in her and realized she was really just showing him going through a natural grieving process.
I disagree with the criticisms that "Tehanu" sacrifices good storytelling in order to get a message across. The story was very engaging, but I'm actually not sure what the overall message of the book is. Some very interesting questions about the nature of women's power are raised, but I don't feel like any clear, satisfying answers were given to that question (if it was answered at all?).
And that's a lot of criticism from me after I said I enjoyed this book, but honestly, I did! I'll admit that in the end, I think all I wanted was a book that focused on Ged and Tenar's relationship, and in that respect, this completely delivered.
Not as emotionally riveting as "Tombs of Atuan," but better written than both "Tombs" and "Wizard of Earthsea." It's clear Le Guin has fully mastered...moreNot as emotionally riveting as "Tombs of Atuan," but better written than both "Tombs" and "Wizard of Earthsea." It's clear Le Guin has fully mastered writing as a craft by this book. The reader is plunged into the action immediately, and the pacing and plotting in the latter half of the book are handled perfectly. However, the new protagonist, Arren, though likeable and well-characterized, is just not as interesting as Tenar and Ged were. Which I hate to say, because I love Arren when he reappears in "Tehanu," but here his naivete and hero-worship of Ged (and his later disillusionment with Ged) wore on my nerves at times.
On the other hand, I loved seeing Ged as Archmage, and the book builds on everything else I liked about the first two. The world of Earthsea is beautifully fleshed out here. As in the first book, Ged (only this time accompanied by Arren) spends the entire time sailing from island to island, but unlike in the first book, Le Guin gives the reader much more rich, detailed (but never overdone) descriptions of each of their destinations and the cultures there. Like "Tombs of Atuan," this book also has its share of breathtaking moments stemming from strikingly evocative visual imagery and symbolism.
Overall, "The Farthest Shore" tackles the Big Issue, what is the meaning of life in the face of death and ultimate meaninglessness, head on, and handles it with insight and wisdom. The ending is bittersweet and has a sad inevitability to it, but it's a fitting and well-deserved ending for Ged (had this book actually remained the end of the series, that is). (less)
I'm torn between giving this a 3 or a 4. I loved the book, mainly because of Ged's character, but it was hard to get into at first. If it weren't for...moreI'm torn between giving this a 3 or a 4. I loved the book, mainly because of Ged's character, but it was hard to get into at first. If it weren't for its reputation as the originator of the entire coming-of-age-wizard genre, I probably wouldn't have made it past the first chapter, but thankfully I did! After Ged releases the shadow, he gets put through so much emotional and physical trauma that it's impossible not to get drawn into the narrative and to sympathize with him. There's a little too much emotional/mental distance between Ged and the reader in the opening chapters, but this works in the book's favor later on. Ged is in a such a state of despair for most of it, I think if LeGuin had gotten any closer to him the story would have descended into melodrama. As it is now, it's full of subtle, heartwrenching moments that are touched on just long enough to gut the reader before moving on. In general, LeGuin does a great job of never letting Ged wallow in self-pity, and having him stoically persevere under soul-crushing conditions of isolation and hopelessness.
Aside from the emotional distance, which I eventually came to like, I wished the secondary characters had been fleshed out more fully. Ged is supposed to be almost utterly alone in his quest, so I understand why we never get to know the rest of the cast well. Even when he is with other people, though, LeGuin tends to deliver much of their interactions in summary instead of scene which, again, pushes the reader further out of the world (a problem she fixes in the later books).
Ged's character more than carries the book, though, and the novel's overall message (and the way it emerges from the narrative) is powerful. It was refreshing to read a fantasy book that doesn't fall back on any of the usual simplified tropes of good must vanquish evil, or "the power of love," but actually addresses the full complexity of human nature.(less)
The premise of this book is fascinating: old world gods brought to America by immigrants only to find themselves struggling to survive in the face of...moreThe premise of this book is fascinating: old world gods brought to America by immigrants only to find themselves struggling to survive in the face of fading belief and the rise of new gods of technology, television, conspiracy theories, etc. Gaiman really delivers in his exploration of this mythology, and American Gods is full of what he does best, which is finding the magical in the midst of the mundane. Also, I was impressed by how fresh his portrayal of America was. Many parts of this made me feel like I was getting to know North America for the first time, almost as if it were an invented fantasy world, and by the end Gaiman seems to have almost created a new North American archetype from the ground up.
At times the pacing flags, such as with some of the short stories that break up the sections of the larger narrative, and also with the setup for the Lakeside storyline. The ending, though, with all of its unexpected twists and turns, more than pays off, and I was sad to leave the characters behind. (less)
**spoiler alert** The world building was my favorite part of this book. I was really impressed by how much thought Herbert put into the culture and ec...more**spoiler alert** The world building was my favorite part of this book. I was really impressed by how much thought Herbert put into the culture and ecology of Arrakis, all the different schools of philosophy and mental training, and the Imperium in general. This book was full of original ideas and I had a great time "exploring" the Dune universe as the story progressed. I also wasn't too bugged by Herbert's dry writing style, which has been a problem for me in the past with older sci-fi/fantasy books.
I was sad that Duke Leto died so early on. I guess it had to happen, and it was a pretty daring plot move, but the whole doomed-yet-nobly-trying-to-stand-his-ground thing made him my favorite character. I had a harder time getting into Paul's character; he struck me as being a little Mary Sue-ish, especially in the beginning when he impressed basically everyone who met him. Oddly enough, I found him more likeable towards the end when he became colder and started freaking people out.
I've heard some people say that the connection between spice and oil is heavy-handed, but the world of Dune was complicated and fleshed-out enough that I never felt like it was simply an allegory for oil-dependency (even if it is).
This was just as amazing as the first volume of All Star Superman. It's just as jam-packed with quirky, imaginative scenarios, and its scenes range fr...moreThis was just as amazing as the first volume of All Star Superman. It's just as jam-packed with quirky, imaginative scenarios, and its scenes range from being whimsical to achingly poignant. I read most of this on a bus and had to stop several times because I kept tearing up. In a weird way, this reminded me of The Little Prince—it's idealistic, it frequently borders on being surreal, and the way the storyline eventually wraps up has the same transcendent quality that The Little Prince's ending does. Morrison does a fantastic job of distilling the essence of what makes Superman well, super, and portraying him as a symbol of hope, inspiration, and the embodiment of the human spirit's will to rise above adversity. Parts of it went over my head because (I got the feeling at least) this volume is pretty strongly tied into the first one—which is good, except it's been a long time since I read the first volume. Some day I will have to read both of them back to back—and they are definitely worth reading again.(less)
This was a really eye-opening saga about a ragtag tribe of 20th century Native Americans near San Francisco—unvarnished, unromanticized Native America...moreThis was a really eye-opening saga about a ragtag tribe of 20th century Native Americans near San Francisco—unvarnished, unromanticized Native Americans—who are struggling to hold onto their cultural identity while facing prejudice both from outside and inside their tribe. The story spans three generations and, likewise, the protagonist changes three times, but Sarris' characters are so three dimensional and fully realized that I came to love each one. I can't remember the last time I encountered characters who lived such subtly nuanced emotional lives. I only wish the book had gone in chronological order. It starts in the present, then jumps about seventy years into the past and circles back to the present. The end result is that the first third of the book is excruciatingly slow; it's hard to appreciate what happens in the beginning without knowing the full history of the tribe. Once I got past the beginning, though, I really enjoyed it. (less)