Destiny Faraday can't get attached to her classmates at Hedgebrook Academy, because she knows that inevitably, she'll have to move along to another scDestiny Faraday can't get attached to her classmates at Hedgebrook Academy, because she knows that inevitably, she'll have to move along to another school. She sticks to her routine, staying quiet and observant, until one particular day, she meets a stranger who asks her what she wants most. Destiny tells him that she wants just one single fair day, "one day where the good guys win," and suddenly, she's embarking on a road trip with three of her classmates, where they'll find out what secrets and adventures their one fair day will hold.
I loved this book. It's subtly magical, quietly emotional, and utterly compelling. The characters are wonderfully drawn, especially withdrawn, observant Destiny, and Pearson unfolds Destiny's history deftly. I did guess certain elements of her story before they were revealed, but that really didn't matter; the point was the journey and Destiny coming to terms with her own past and her future. It's been a couple of weeks since I finished The Miles Between, but I feel that I could happily sit down and read it again right now (if only it weren't for that enormous pile of unread books looming). ...more
Sometimes, a book comes along which just fits with your frame of mind. I think this is the case for me with On Rereading. I often feel as though I havSometimes, a book comes along which just fits with your frame of mind. I think this is the case for me with On Rereading. I often feel as though I have an obligation to read rather than reread, that it's somehow more virtuous to read something new to me than to revisit a book I'm already acquainted with. This is partly the result of knowing exactly how many unread books I own (296 right now, thank you very much), and partly a general feeling of so many books, so little time -- how can I justify spending time rereading?
Spacks acknowledges this feeling and shares it: what Roger Angell calls the "sweet dab of guilt attached to rereading" (her quote). So she embarks on a deliberate process of rereading, as an experiment, to see if she can figure out what is the good of rereading: what can rereading supply which first readings can't? In the course of her year-long experiment, she revisits childhood favorites, books she teaches, guilty pleasures, books she ought to like, and books she loves and has reread many times. (The Austen chapter is particularly good and one I will have to return to next time I reread Emma and Pride and Prejudice.)
In the end, she suggests that the best metaphor for rereading is that of a palimpsest, originally writing material reused so that many layers are visible. Each time you reread, you add something new and obscure something old, but bits and pieces of every layer are always accessible. Rereading, she concludes, gives the reader a richer, fuller experience, allowing new interpretations along with the joy of revisiting your past self and earlier thoughts.
I had been hoping to convince myself to spend more time rereading this year, to revisit both books I've read many times and books I've only read once. I couldn't have found a better argument than Spacks provides here....more
Laure Permon Junot was a longtime friend of the Bonaparte family; she eventually married one of Napoleon's closest friends, General Andoche Junot, andLaure Permon Junot was a longtime friend of the Bonaparte family; she eventually married one of Napoleon's closest friends, General Andoche Junot, and was intimate with the Napoleonic court. Years after Napoleon's defeat and death, the novelist Honoré de Balzac encouraged her to write her memoirs, when she was in desperate need of a source of income; happily for her, the memoirs were extremely successful, and for good reason.
At the Court of Napoleon: Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes reproduces only a fraction of the eighteen volumes she produced, but it's fascinating nonetheless, full of juicy gossip about Napoleon, Josephine, and Napoleon's family. One feels that Laure Junot would have been a wonderful companion at court; she was possessed of a scathing wit and didn't hesitate to level it at any available target. Here's a particularly good zinger, directed at Josephine: "Madame Bonaparte was an astonishing woman, and must have formerly been extremely pretty, for though now no longer in the first bloom of youth, her personal charms were still striking. Had she only possessed teeth, she would certainly have outvied nearly all the ladies of the consular court."
All is not sarcasm and wit, though; Laure often acknowledges good qualities in the people around her. Toothless or not, Josephine's charm shines through (particularly in comparison to Napoleon's second Empress, the bovine Marie Louise of Austria), and her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais comes off well enough to make me want to read more about her. I'd love to get a more complete edition of these memoirs, but in the meantime, even this relatively short version offers an instant trip back to the brilliant, scandalous court of Napoleonic France. ...more
Tiffany Hunter has a lot of typical teenager problems: her dad hates her white boyfriend and thinks Tiffany should study more, her boyfriend's friendsTiffany Hunter has a lot of typical teenager problems: her dad hates her white boyfriend and thinks Tiffany should study more, her boyfriend's friends seem uncomfortable with her because she's Native, and her mom took off with another guy. She longs to be older and to be able to leave boring Otter Lake Reserve for the exciting outside world. And now just to make things more complicated, her dad has taken in a boarder, a mysterious European named Pierre L'Errant who doesn't eat with them and only goes out at night.
I thought this was a really neat and original take on vampires. (This isn't a spoiler because it's quite clear to the reader from the outset what Pierre really is.) Instead of being sexy and beguiling, Pierre is old and knowledgeable, ready to come back to his ancestral home after wandering Europe for centuries.
Taylor shows bits and pieces of the Ojibwa culture of Pierre's youth, along with the culture clashes of today, between Tiffany and her family and her boyfriend. I thought the teenage voice faltered occasionally in Tiffany's parts of the narrative, but not enough to throw me out of the book. And I really liked the ending, which is full of tension yet not at all a showdown between vampire and human....more
This is an utterly eye-opening, fierce, and challenging book which makes a compelling link between sexual violence and American colonialism, both histThis is an utterly eye-opening, fierce, and challenging book which makes a compelling link between sexual violence and American colonialism, both historical and contemporary. Some of what she writes about historical violence against American Indians was known to me, but her exploration of present-day abuses was much newer to me, surprising and horrifying. I was particularly struck by the chapters on environmental racism (and will be looking much more closely at the mail I get from the Sierra Club), medical experimentation, and sterilization abuse, and the penultimate chapter on strategies for fighting gender violence. I was especially impressed, in fact, with the way that Smith doesn't stop with documenting the issues; she also focuses on how to solve them. It wasn't an easy book to read, but it is shocking and illuminating and important, and I'm glad I read it....more
I knew I was going to like this biography when Chitham started out in the introduction being very firm about working from facts and clearly identifyinI knew I was going to like this biography when Chitham started out in the introduction being very firm about working from facts and clearly identifying speculation. This is especially important in Bronte biography, since so many legends and misconceptions have grown up around all of the sisters, and perhaps particularly Emily. Chitham calls this "investigative biography", and I think he does an excellent job staying true to his standards.
Chitham does take for granted, I think, that his readers are already at least somewhat familiar with the Brontes' story, and so I was happy that I'd read other biographies both of Emily and of the family. I might recommend the more detailed biography by Winifred Gerin to go along with Chitham (though he does identify some instances where even Gerin has apparently accepted tale as fact), but this is on the whole a very enlightening, lucid account of Emily's life. I've already ordered Chitham's biography of Anne and am looking forward to reading it....more
This isn't as good as the biography I read before it (Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf, which I think is going to be my gold standard for a while), but iThis isn't as good as the biography I read before it (Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf, which I think is going to be my gold standard for a while), but it's an admirable biography. Rubio co-edited Montgomery's journals for publication, and her in-depth knowledge of Montgomery provides an amazing level of detail and an ability to weigh the contents of Montgomery's journals (rewritten extensively by Montgomery to convey her preferred version of her life) with other sources to paint a fuller picture. Rubio's writing style isn't polished, and I wished she'd talked more about Montgomery's books, but those small weaknesses are more than outweighed by the book's strengths....more
Bloom starts out as a good but fairly standard, slightly slow-paced teen romance; Lauren has the perfect boyfriend, gorgeous, smart, and athletic DaveBloom starts out as a good but fairly standard, slightly slow-paced teen romance; Lauren has the perfect boyfriend, gorgeous, smart, and athletic Dave, but when Evan Kirkland enters her life, she starts to wonder why her perfect relationship isn't making her happy. As Lauren is more and more drawn to Evan, she struggles with memories of her mother, who ran away when Lauren was small, and with her absent-minded, detached father, and as Scott delves deeper into Lauren's history, this is where the book becomes more than the usual. The characters are subtly drawn, especially Lauren, and the relationships finely observed, particularly those between Lauren and her father, and Lauren and her best friend, Katie....more
Mélusine is a fabulous debut fantasy novel, about a pair of unlikely heroes in a richly imagined world. Felix Harrowgate is a wizard of the Mirador, pMélusine is a fabulous debut fantasy novel, about a pair of unlikely heroes in a richly imagined world. Felix Harrowgate is a wizard of the Mirador, powerful and respected until a long-held secret is divulged which drives him back to his evil master, Malkar, and into insanity. Meanwhile, the thief Mildmay the Fox is drawn into intrigue when he meets Ginevra, a beautiful shopgirl who wants him to steal back some items from her former lover. Eventually, the separate stories of Felix and Mildmay combine into one, as they form an unlikely partnership.
The real triumph of Mélusine is in its language and voice. Monette tells the story in three separate voices -- Felix's haughty sanity, Felix's insane delirium, and Mildmay's slangy thieves' cant -- and she handles them brilliantly, never losing her grasp for an instant or letting the reader be confused about who's narrating. Along with the narrative voices, the language is simply lush and vivid, utterly suitable to the richness of the setting; the city of Mélusine is particularly well described in Mildmay's sections of the narrative.
As far as the characters go, I preferred Mildmay's narrative to some extent, as he's the more immediately sympathetic character, with unsuspected depths of feeling. Felix falls into madness so quickly that it was a little difficult for me truly to enpathize with the change in his circumstances, as there had been so little time to get to know him before his fall. Still, the vivid, present-tense passages where he's delirious and mad are emotionally compelling, simply for the horror of what he endures. ...more
Archer's Goon is a mysterious large man who shows up one day in Howard Sykes's kitchen, refusing to leave until Howard's father Quentin delivers the tArcher's Goon is a mysterious large man who shows up one day in Howard Sykes's kitchen, refusing to leave until Howard's father Quentin delivers the two thousand words he owes. When Quentin won't deliver, the Sykes family finds out that their town is run by seven competing siblings who are wizards - and one of them needs those words.
Jones's plots are always mysterious, and I think Archer's Goon is up there with her most bizarre. But she does a wonderful job keeping the mystery intriguing right up through the end of the book, as Howard and his sister Awful try desperately to figure out what's going on before the seven siblings drive them all to distraction or worse. ...more
Kabumpo of Oz is a big improvement over The Royal Book of Oz, Thompson's first. There are a few mistakes (the constant misspellings of "Gillikin" as "Kabumpo of Oz is a big improvement over The Royal Book of Oz, Thompson's first. There are a few mistakes (the constant misspellings of "Gillikin" as "Gilliken" and "Nome" as "gnome", for instance), but Thompson does a nice job using Ruggedo the Nome King as the villain and introducing several other excellent characters: Kabumpo the Elegant Elephant, Peg Amy the wooden doll, and Wag the rabbit, whose constant spoonerisms are very amusing....more
This is still my favorite of the Young Wizards books. While at the beach with Nita's family, Nita and Kit stumble into helping a group of ocean wizardThis is still my favorite of the Young Wizards books. While at the beach with Nita's family, Nita and Kit stumble into helping a group of ocean wizards (whales and dolphins) with an important magical ceremony, and Nita commits to playing a role that turns out to be far more than she bargained for....more
Jane Jarvis isn't looking forward to her senior year at St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls; she's unpopular and proud of it, but she does haveJane Jarvis isn't looking forward to her senior year at St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls; she's unpopular and proud of it, but she does have her best friend Allison as an ally. She does, that is, until something strange happens to Allison, who's suddenly attractive, smart, and dating Jane's ex, Elton. Clearly, Allison has sold her soul to the devil -- quite literally, and Jane decides to save it for her, with the assistance of a mysterious but very cute freshman boy. Devilish is populated with well-drawn characters, but Jane is particularly great: snarky, rebellious, and very smart....more