Wow. I didn't expect to love this book so much. It's basically a gothic-style ghost story and while I like a good ghost story as much as the next pers...moreWow. I didn't expect to love this book so much. It's basically a gothic-style ghost story and while I like a good ghost story as much as the next person I'm really more of a love story/light humor/inventive non-fiction type of girl. But this was amazingly well done. I read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters about seven years ago and loved it - I still love it quite a lot (it's also written in a gothic novel style but it's got a love story and a dizzying series of plot twists that left me breathless and distracted until I had finished the book completely). The Little Stranger is a quieter, subtler read, but the twist - if it can be called a twist, because it's more like a spin - at the end of the book made me shiver, think twice about everything I read, and walk around for a week comtemplating how every detail of the book was shaded differently once you knew the ending. It was awesome, creepy and haunting. Highly recommended Halloween reading.(less)
It annoyed me to find out AFTER I read The Dark is Rising that it wasn't #1 in the series. However, the timelines are kind of separate so it wasn't as...moreIt annoyed me to find out AFTER I read The Dark is Rising that it wasn't #1 in the series. However, the timelines are kind of separate so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. I remember looking for this book in the bookstore so it must have been important to me to get to the next book. Sundial books I think it was. Next to the all-you-can-eat ice cream parlour.(less)
I doubted that I could be brought to the same height of suspense in another book as I had been in the Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins, Head Gamemake...moreI doubted that I could be brought to the same height of suspense in another book as I had been in the Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins, Head Gamemaker, has done it again.
Although I spent most of the chapters completely caught up in the plot and subplot, there were some parts which dragged. Mostly I think Katniss and Collins both don't know what to do with themselves when the tension goes out of the moment.
How does Katniss reflect on life? How do the warriors return to life at home? Whole chapters of this book are a bit like the scene in the Hurt Locker when the soldier wanders the supermarket completely disconnected from ordinary life after the constant adrenaline rush of war.
The other chapters were every bit as engrossing as the Hunger Games. If Catching Fire left me wanting more, well, at least there is more.(less)
I loved the movie, so I read the book and - surprise! - I loved the book. I love whimsy, I love romance and long-suffering heroines and tortured heroes...moreI loved the movie, so I read the book and - surprise! - I loved the book. I love whimsy, I love romance and long-suffering heroines and tortured heroes are my favorites. I pretty much think I would love this story in any format - if you baked me Howl's Moving Castle, I would eat the entire cake in one sitting. Updated 2/6/10 - was talking to Jessica today about how no-one in this story turns out to be bad - it's true but it makes sense because the war turns out to be started by a terrible misunderstanding. Somehow comforting though in real life it would just be depressing (WMD).(less)
Books about reading are better than books about food because you can enjoy the reading and while you are reading feel more intensely the joy of readin...moreBooks about reading are better than books about food because you can enjoy the reading and while you are reading feel more intensely the joy of reading instead of getting hungry and having to put down the book.
CC and Cheryl gave me this for my birthday and I basically just picked it up and read straight through - only ever putting it down after having a little chat with myself about something I needed to do instead. Like "now you are going to put in this load of laundry and then you can read another chapter after that."
In each article Nick Hornby talks about book he is reading. He's almost always flattering about the book he is reading but that doesn't stop him from getting in a lot of criticism around the edges - and each rambling review-like paragraph contains a heaping tablespoon of self-deprecating humor and asides about life.
I have added about seventy books to my "to-read" list, but I thank Hornby for saying "don't let anyone tell you that you have a duty to read [The Road:]". I am SO off the hook. He likens that book to being at the beautiful funeral of someone young.
My love for nick Hornby is so uncontainable I immediately purchased the other two books. And I'm now resolved to read everything he's ever written.
Good job, CC and Cheryl. Sorry my birthday gifts to you weren't nearly as dead-on.(less)
NYT paperback row enticed me by describing them as linked short stories (i.e. really telling a longer story) and lesbian and good. This description (s...moreNYT paperback row enticed me by describing them as linked short stories (i.e. really telling a longer story) and lesbian and good. This description (see below) is reminiscent of a proposed work I've been offered recently which intrigued me, so I wanted to see how it worked to have a vaguely sketched love story in short vignettes. It works. Well.
"THE FIRST PERSON: And Other Stories, by Ali Smith (Anchor, $14.95.) In this collection, Smith tests the limits of the story form. Are the nameless romantic couple, both women, the same people from story to story? Perhaps, or not; details are hard to pin down. In five of the stories, the first-person narrator speaks directly to “you,” the beloved. Smith’s style is original, and these stories about an on-again, off-again relationship have an emotional resonance."
Finished it last week, I found myself looking forward to reading each night - I felt very close to the narrator but not in an uncomfortable way - also, I had sort of hoped that one of the suggestive short stories would give a key to the rest and kind of unlock the "big story" but none did. There was a relationship which threaded through the stories and it felt very real but at the end I wondered if it was different stages of one relationship or if it was three relationships. We'll never know - but the delight of good writing - evocative, clear, personal, funny and full of minutia that made me feel I was a close friend of the author - it was enough in my book.(less)
It's official - I've read all of Jane Austen's completed novels and I'll never again have the joy of reading a new one.
I kept picking this up and putt...moreIt's official - I've read all of Jane Austen's completed novels and I'll never again have the joy of reading a new one.
I kept picking this up and putting it down - ever since I was 18 and finished Pride and Prejudice - but now I realize why: because I'm too much like Emma and I know it. I can be just as know-it-all bossy and meddling and self-important and vain and oblivious (Kim's favorite complaint about me).
All of Austen's novels mock the characters for their faults. The plot is floated along in dialogue between comical characters. The garrulous spinster gives long speeches about nothing in which she gives away everything, the hypochondriac older gentleman frets constantly about catching cold, the naive young girl agrees to everything her friend Emma says without comprehending half of it - and so on.
I have to look up a lot of words - with the kindle it's fun looking up the words - I just click on them. Some words just aren't in use any more like "barouche" - and some have come to mean something different - licentious, for example, used to refer to grammatical impoliteness such as calling someone by their first name before you knew them well enough (so much for that!). A "puppy" was an arrogant, foppish young man. And some are just little used - diffident, conciliatory, pertinacity.
I enjoy the vocabulary and the sense of the world at that time that I get - it's funny to hear them talk about the curative effect of sea air and realize that illness was thought to be caused by bad air and vapors - nobody knew about germs! And it's a little depressing to think what life was really like for people who didn't have huge fortunes and the way women were traded around for their dowry and men were counted on for their land and people who actually worked for a living were looked down on is a total shock to a modern American.
Austen and her characters are obsessively concerned with class and with connexion (with an X) - which is all about who your friends and relations are and what class they belong to. Though she mocks so many things she seems quite serious about the horror that Emma feels at having put her friend at risk of a "such a low connexion" as the "natural daughter" of a man in trade.
Furthermore, it's not enough to be someone by birthright and to have the right connexions, because to determine who really belongs, who is truly genteel things like "elegance" and "taste" and "feeling" were talked about almost as much as we talk about celebrity plastic surgery today. Decent people took refuge in formality and rank and avoided familiarity and frankness - which are so valued in America that we forget that they aren't always valued everywhere.
But in Emma, as in Austen's other novels, there is a little rebellion against mere properness. Mr. Knightley, who is the standard of good sense and good manners, says that he values openness is over reserve and in the end of the story pleasantness and warmth of feeling can get you forgiven for your sins.
When it comes right down to it the pleasure is of comedy executed well enough and subtly enough to expose certain truths about human nature. Snobs are snobs, arrogance and vanity and hypochondria and gossip are all so much the same - which is more amazing? That things change or that they stay the same?
There is something comforting in finding yourself and your neighbors in characters that are based on people dead now for almost three centuries. (less)
A history mystery - it's just one of those books that proves learning can be fun - written like a good detective novel with a touch of suspense, only...moreA history mystery - it's just one of those books that proves learning can be fun - written like a good detective novel with a touch of suspense, only the mystery is about the history of the British monarchy and the way history is written.(less)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A forbidden romance, you say? Shakespeare references galore, you say? Spooky old houses that might be enchanted, you say? Why, yes...moreFIRST IMPRESSIONS: A forbidden romance, you say? Shakespeare references galore, you say? Spooky old houses that might be enchanted, you say? Why, yes thank you I'll take one of those.
REVIEW: A bittersweet story of a forbidden romance between first cousins and best friends Maddy and Rogan. The story follows them through a year of high school when they perform together in a school production of Twelfth Night, an experience which both intensifies and changes their feelings for one another.
Hand writes in a beautifully natural way - her prose has a smattering of vocabulary words but nothing about it feels pretentious. A few times the storytelling was drifting so seamlessly from a vivid to a vague memory - the way we tend to do when we recollect - that I caught myself wondering if this was actually a memoir. There is just enough of a hint of a fantasy to make that seem unlikely - a glimpse of world beyond our own in the story, but the characters never enter it fully.
There are a lot of fantasy tropes - the sense of a family destiny that has lain dormant, a secret passageway to a hidden room, an aunt who is mysterious - but Hand refuses to play them out into something explicitly supernatural. This means that unlike many fantasy novels, most of the emotional intensity is in the real world - it's the deep bond between Maddy and Rogan which seems vaguely dangerous and completely human and sensual that drives the story.
Another anomaly was the ending - when I finished the book I couldn't decide if things could have been different or if this was just the way they had to be. A balance between a sense of destiny and free will is always the sign of a masterful writer - one who can make you believe that this was what happened but wish it might have been different - or maybe not. In this case you can also read the ending as happy or sad, which I love.
Comes out in March 2010, mark your calendars. If I loan you my copy, you have to promise to give it back.
There are many way to enjoy a book - you can like it but not love it - you can appreciate and respect it but not like it - you can laugh out loud but...moreThere are many way to enjoy a book - you can like it but not love it - you can appreciate and respect it but not like it - you can laugh out loud but be ashamed to admit it - and then you can love a book to much you want to wear it around like a Depeche Mode button on your book bag; to tape it to your dorm room door like a page out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue or the lyrics to an Ani DiFranco song or stick it to your refrigerator like an Obama "Hope" campaign sticker.
That is how I love this book.
If I could break down why I love it so much I would say it's a multiplication of the following:
Nick Hornby's self-deprecating sense of humor (very British) times his ability to articulate his experience times his acute sensitivity to the nuances of different books times his bitingly funny criticisms of what he does not like times his ability to weave in politics and music and pop culture times his sensibility as a populist with a strong sense of his own taste.
I have been reading most of these articles (there are three books of them) as planes take off and land, since my only time for reading is on planes and since during the take-off and landing I'm absurdly prohibited from reading my kindle and since an article is the perfect length for a take-off or a landing. I have lost count of the number of times I've laughed out loud while reading these articles.
Whatever else Nick Hornby does, or fails to do in his life, I feel the creation of these three books ought to absolve him of any sins.
With wit and determination he attacks elitist assumptions about the merit of literature over books. He can make me want to read Chekov's letters in one paragraph and absolve me of the obligation to read The Road in the next.
Also, he has created in my the desire to give Dickens another chance - which if he had approached it from any other perspective than from sheer love he wouldn't have done - but he just loves Dickens, so there you go.
I think if I ever meet Nick Hornby, I'll just plotz.
I will never, never forget picking up this book and reading the first lines "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of be...moreI will never, never forget picking up this book and reading the first lines "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of belief, it was the age of incredulity" musical. Beautiful. And I loved this whole perfect book so much. But I was especially struck by the beginning of the second chapter where Dickens pauses to reflect on how the dead in the their graves are no more a secret to each other than the person lying next to you in bed - how every heart is, in fact, a secret. I read it over and over again. Something along the lines of "The book was closed forever before I had read but a page." I loved the rest of the book, especially the end - it is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. "It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known." Chills, just now, again.
Why then do I hate Great Expectations? I have pondered this a long time and I have no answer except this: Pip is annoying.(less)
After high school and before college I took a year off. I was already accepted to college so it was a relaxing year for me, academically. I'd spent th...moreAfter high school and before college I took a year off. I was already accepted to college so it was a relaxing year for me, academically. I'd spent the last four years reading for school and enjoying most of that reading quite a bit (with a few notable exceptions - Great Expectations comes to mind). But I wasn't used to freedom of choice - even in the summer we had a list of books we were expected to read. About the only outside reading I had done in four years was Weetzie Bat.
So I had time off to read, and I was living in the boonies on a farm. And I didn't have my parents' bookshelves to raid - so I began to poke around in used bookstores, looking for books that I'd heard of but never read. This is how I picked up a battered and yellowed copy of the Grapes of Wrath.
What I remember about reading this book: right at the beginning, a turtle crosses the road, and it takes paragraphs and paragraphs - and yet I was totally absorbed in the story. This is good writing, I thought to myself.
At the end of the book, I was like - how is he going to end this without it being the most depressing book ever written about the Great Depression - and then he ended it and I thought - well, he did it, he didn't betray the despair and suffering of this family with some trite ending, but pierced it with a toothpick of hope.(less)
I saw the movie first, which was a pity, because I could never completely shake the movie set and scenery and actors from my head and just create my o...moreI saw the movie first, which was a pity, because I could never completely shake the movie set and scenery and actors from my head and just create my own world.
As usual, Jane Austen makes me think about how meaning of certain words has changed over time (e.g. - for Austen a person is "expensive" or their lifestyle is "expensive" if they tend to spend a lot - now we use the word primarily to describe an item or experience that is costly).
As usual, Jane Austen is full of clever observations about the life of the upper middle class. Her novels are so full of wit and humor, but I forget all that, regularly, because I love the romance so much.
I'm a sucker for a love affairs involving tormented characters exercising self-restraint for noble reasons. In this case both the heroine and the hero are full of honorable intentions and miserable deprivation. I raced through to the finish.
As usual, I wish she would let me hear a little more of the dialogue between the main characters when they confess their feelings to each other - call me a modern, vulgar voyeur, but I hate how Austen's endings always seem to pan back to a wide shot just when you are craving the close-up.
Nevertheless, thoroughly enjoyable and I'm sure I'll read again and again, just like Pride and Prejudice.
Now I think the only one I haven't read is Emma and I'm kind of saving that so that I won't have read all the Jane Austen that there is in the world.(less)
Read it in ONE night. I loved it. Lord of the Flies meets Lord of the Rings in a dystopian future. Dark, poignant, action-packed, funny, thoughtful no...moreRead it in ONE night. I loved it. Lord of the Flies meets Lord of the Rings in a dystopian future. Dark, poignant, action-packed, funny, thoughtful novel could probably appeal to just about anyone.
In fact, I'll buy a copy for anyone who says they won't like it and buy it back from them if they don't.
Absolutely perfect blend of fairy-tale and legend of a quest and commentary on modern life. Wonderfully paced, great characters, great concepts, plot that is clever enough in its twists to entertain and at the same time illustrates the deeper themes.
I mean what else can make you reflect on the similarity between gladiator games and reality TV shows, allow you to talk to your younger cousins about the evils of censorship, and also feature an impoverished fatherless child who saves the day with her silver bow and arrows?
Although it either set off or fell in step with two out of three trends in YA today, (dystopian future? check, modern re-telling of a myth or fairy-tale? check - it's only missing paranormal elements to be a triple-threat) it is so much more than trend-setting. I think I can safely say this is destined to be a classic.
The Hunger Games will sit next to Susan Cooper in my estimation as well as on my shelf.(less)