As I was nose deep into Gorant’s harrowing tale of many a bloody and brutal murder at the cruel hands of dog fighters, I was feeling October’s spookinAs I was nose deep into Gorant’s harrowing tale of many a bloody and brutal murder at the cruel hands of dog fighters, I was feeling October’s spookiness creep around me. My husband was out, the baby was asleep and all I could think of was the horrible acts of insane killing that went on only a few states above the one I now call home. Only slightly less chilling than the actual telling, was the fact that only months before the awful truth came out to the media about the Vick property, we had been so head-over-heels in love with “our” QB that we’d almost named our own dog “Mike”.
The fall had made its initial but rapid descent into cool Appalachian weather and was making itself known, loud and clear against the windows via the trees outside. Our older, albeit smaller dog, Teddy (Ted Williams being name-safe and very well dead), was stationed, in his cat-like position, curled up like a jellybean, high atop a couch cushion on the other end of the living room. Donnie (not renamed after the fact but, thankfully, never actually named for the former Falcons player) was nowhere to be seen.
I read on, clenching my teeth in fear as I thought about the cruel acts, described with a sports-writer’s cool, frankness. Just about the time this frankness was being applied to the ways (now less a spoiler than a scandal and sensation) in which the “dud dogs” or the ones who either couldn’t wouldn’t or shouldn’t be fought, were “let go”, I heard a thump. A heart wrenching, mind racing, Halloween-season “thump”.
My aforementioned heart stuck in my throat and I froze. I sat waiting for Teddy: The Fearless Wonder to rise up and attack. I waited for, the yet unseen, Donnie to act on some thread of what people so often refer to as this instinct within pit bulls to rip-tear-ruin.
As neither dog was heard from, I surrendered to my role as chosen house guardian. I shakily sat up from my previously warm hideout on the couch and peered down at where it sounded like the “thump” had originated. Suddenly, my heart slowed and I burst out into full out laughter.
I had found Donnie.
My rather ferocious “Bully” had been closer than I’d thought, though, perhaps he’d been dreaming of a far away place. He tends to sleep rump-up, melting off of the couch, slowly, very slowly, over the course of the evening. He had, indeed, melted right off of the couch. By this point, he had woken up and, being only bruised regarding his ego, was licking my face to his heart’s content, most likely attempting to curtail my giggles.
This has been a typical story in our day-to-day existence over the past four years following Donnie’s arrival into our lives.
Weird to think, then, that it took a horrific story like the one Gorant wrote about in Lost Dogs, to bring any bit of pit magic to the media. Of course, it will take many more such tales (tails?) to make much of a dent, unfortunately and with each heartwarming story of dogs rescued and rehomed, there will be those for whom a story of a dog fighting ring will only solidify the “monster myths” of pit bulls.
For me, The Lost Dogs was less about the political storm of who was right or who was wrong or what kind of person gets behind a statement like: Oh, please, they’re just dogs”. It was about people and puppies and second chances for both. Or sometimes neither.
I loved learning about the breed and the rescue culture (the specifically pit-bull versus “any dog” rescue) from the eyes of person who hasn’t been steeped inside the world of BadRap and BSL’s, yet. I often find that dog books are written by people who are dog-people or who were “saved” by pit bulls. Gorant’s books didn’t give that impression. It shed much needed light on the Pit-Rescue work being done nation wide but it could and should be read by the less fanatic pit-people.
It will be hard for people of dog leaning (or people who don’t like dying and stuff) to read the first bit but I promise it will be worth it. And Donnie will thank you. After he has collected himself from his recent battles with our (he is sure) very tricky couch....more
We live in an age where nearly all of our threats are human. Nature has no recourse against man-made factories, bridges, levees, and weapons. We are sWe live in an age where nearly all of our threats are human. Nature has no recourse against man-made factories, bridges, levees, and weapons. We are safe. We are secure. In the middle-north of the country, though, nestled between the United States and Canada is a reminder that we are human but only human. When I was a little kid I fell in love with Gordon Lightfoot’s Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There is something helplessly beautiful and tragic about the power and majesty evoked by lore surrounding the Great Lakes basin.
While not as factual as Lightfoot’s recount, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s The Day the Falls Stood Still succeeds in capturing the breathtaking spirit of the rivers and lakes that contain the unshakable spirit in the heart of the north. What begins as a typical society girl’s junior year at a local prep school on the Canadian side of the falls, becomes a heart wrenching love story between man and woman but also between mankind and the river.
Set in the early to mid twentieth century, the story is told through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Bess Heath, the second and youngest daughter of a man who, prior to the beginning of the story, has been a social and financial success in the hydro-electric efforts in town. Immediately before Bess returns home for the summer, her father runs into a bit of trouble when a prediction fails to bring success to his fellow businessmen. He is let go from the industry and sets in motion a drama that rolls forward like a stack of dominoes. Caught in the inevitable social recourse of her parents’ plummeting social stature Bess and her sister Isabel are left to wonder what their glitzy upbringing has prepared them for and where to turn.
Amidst the downfall of the industrial elite, there is a softer voice. The voice of the river slips quietly through town, in the form of Thomas Cole, grandson of a famous river man who was more river than man, metaphysically and physically. In a melding of two worlds, Bess and Tom find their lives intertwined in ways that challenge both the unstoppable progress of the hydro era and the fading grandeur of the water that is their livelihood.
To say that this is a historical fiction romance is to completely miss the point. There is history, steeped in incredible drama, which found me at my computer in the wee hours of the morning, searching for more tidbits about the period. And, of course, there is the love story, both believable and magical. However, those two things are not the elements that drive this book. It is Buchanan’s complete dedication to inviting her readers to fall in love with the falls, to imagine themselves there, wading waist deep in the stories, the tragedy and the beauty.
The story reads a good deal like Steinbeck’s more detailed works in its straightforward prose but also carries the depth and honest crafting of characters that one would expect to find in East of Eden or Grapes of Wrath. Even though it’s a small book, it carries the epic weight of something much heavier. The Day the Falls Stood Still is an absolutely stunning debut and I am waiting at the edge of my seat to read more by Buchanan....more
When I first came across Harstad’s book, I, like many probably, thought that it would actually be about Buzz Aldrin or perhaps, maybe about, you know, space. What it turned out to be, instead, was a really intense study of socio-emotional interactions between self and others.
The now famous downward spiral of the second man on the moon is merely a catalyst for our protagonist, Mattias, as he explores his own life crisis. A successful gardener and self-proclaimed nobody, Mattias is perfectly content to be but a cog in the works, claiming no attention for himself. This means no pesky fanfare but also no personal relationships to speak of.
When he finds himself shipwrecked on the Faroe Islands, taken in by a psychologist and his merry band of misfits, his life begins to unravel quickly. Of course, like with most deconstruction, there is a period of rebuilding that follows. Through humor and tragedy, darkness and light, Mattias is able to navigate the rough waters of interpersonal relationships, sometimes floating, sometimes sinking.
This is a big, thick, complex book that is emotionally heavy but also, at most moments, just a seriously good story. Schizophrenia and other serious conditions are well worked through in the story but there’s more to it than simple science. Even those who do not fall into the category of mentally ill are run along in a journey of personal discovery that knocks all previously constructed assumptions about human interaction. It’s a beautiful look into the way we correspond and live with each other, or really, without each other.
As a side note: I found it pretty helpful to have my phone or computer around while flipping through the story, not as a neccessity but more as an interest tool for researching mentioned people and places.
The government that was the United States has disintegrated, giving rise to a new patriarch regime, classist and oppressive to the core. The citizensThe government that was the United States has disintegrated, giving rise to a new patriarch regime, classist and oppressive to the core. The citizens of Panem have no choice but to go along with a bureaucracy that would give Big Brother the willies. They did try to rise up once but the government came down so hard that no one has tried since. Their punishment for rebellion? Each year every district must set up a lottery, sending one child between 12 and 18 (via lottery) to play in a deeply sadistic form of entertainment for the fat cats and kitties in the capitol. the children chosen are to fight to the death. their last one standing receives eternal riches and glory.
There is, of course, a boy meets girl story but I was not as touched by that as I was by the political commentary. It is also hard to go into any sort of description. as with many science fiction stories without explaining an entirely different world. I will say, though, that Katniss and Peeta, female and male tributes from District 12 were wonderfully well done, Katniss coming in as one of my favorite literary female characters. Of course, the romance arc was not really the point, although it did worlds of good in terms of hooking a teen audience as well as a YA-reading adult one.
Under the surface of the teen drama, Hunger Games is a hard, blunt look at the way war is “played” by adults in high towers, using children to act out their slightest whims and grudges. I appreciated Collins’s nod to the way class is worked into the twisted mix of politics and military. Each child up for selection during the yearly “reaping” (the game lottery) may put his or her name in multiple times if his or her family needs more supplies or wishes to protect a family member from being drawn. For these entrants, participation is a life or death matter whereas the upper class children are trained for glory and honor, giving them a much higher chance of actually surviving the games. Of course, the children of the capitol are completely exempt from entry. This rings true as a parallel throughout history where the rich are excused and the poor are expendable when it comes to battle.
Throughout the book there are allusions and asides to deeper and more vague social references which, I am sure will turn up again in the second and third book in the trilogy. Needless, to say this gets a thumbs up from me, going down in history as a book that should be required by students and adults. If you haven’t read it, do so, right now. This is a political satire sure to make Swift and Orwell proud....more
Egan’s entire novel serves to somehow act as one of its characters. At first, it was not all that palatable. There were a few turnoffs, a few faux-pas and a few things that just make onlookers say, “Ugh, maybe not”. There were moments, through a chunk of the beginning, that had me flipping back to the front to make sure that I was, in fact, reading this year’s Pulitzer pick. By the middle, though, I was hooked and by the end, I, honest to god, just flipped the book closed, took a breath and started it all over again from the beginning.
So what changed? Nothing and, yet, everything. Egan’s book isn’t a single, fluid story, exactly, but more of a mosaic of separate lives, strung together by strange intersections of a very small, very modern world. The private lives of publicists, the older lives of once-young rockers, the kids who came from them all, are the stars and bombs that make this incredible creation work. Over the span of several generations and a few cities, lives weave in and out of the suburbs, the village and a little bit of desert. There isn’t much I can give you in terms of summary so I have to beg you to just read it.
As mentioned above, the beginning starts a bit slow and heavy but I promise that once you get the hang of the whole shebang, it’ll be way too late to put down the book. Emotionally, it is a huge undertaking as all of the players are deeply flawed, yet, in their inherent flaws, they are justly human. It’s a deep look at human perfection and human fault, stardom, failure, revival and restitution....more
If I could describe Domestic Violets in one word, it would be: hilarious.
If I could use two, they’d be: brutally honest
Matthew Norman’s Everyman tale of Thomas Violet, a D.C. copywriter, is anything but regular. In a story that reads like a cross between Office Space and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Norman seriously nails his first novel.
Stuck in a dead-end, lack luster job, Violet is forever in the shadow of his famous, prize-winning writer of a dad and in constant pursuit of some small strand of success to grasp that is truly his own. His marriage is floundering under the pressures of middle age and his relationships with his co-workers, specifically a perky 20 something, named Katie, leave much to be desired.
Domestic Violets reflects on those existential questions we hate to ask ourselves but always dwell on. Tom’s hopeless, yet relentless self-deprecation provides most of the witty prose for the novel. Though the writing is sparkling and well, novel-worthy, it could easily be the inner monologue of any cubicle-bound Joe with unfulfilled dreams.
Even though I weigh in about ten years younger than Tom and find myself in a very different life position, I have to say that there are inherent questions and problems brought up in the book that I found myself nodding along to. Insecurity and uncertainty are the major forces of nature on the surface but there is also an unrelenting voice of urgent self-fulfillment that carries Tom through the novel’s more impressive parts.
For some reason, this reminded me, at moments, of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad. I think most of that stems from the way in which both books look at stress, success, failure and the simple, mundane parts of life. I think that somewhere between Generation X and the Millennials (hey, that’s me!) we were all told that we should want “more” out of life. You know, like having a simple 9-5 wasn’t good enough and that we should strive to have the very best we could possibly imagine. For me, these books both reflect and poke fun of that impossible ideal.
I really enjoyed this and I hope that Matthew Norman has more of this wonderful stuff in the works. I highly recommend this to anyone who has ever had a job, a life or a dream. No, seriously. Just read it....more
Brett Easton Ellis packs his backs and heads east for a little coed action in The Rules of Attraction. Keggers and Kant fill the hallways and dorm rooms far away from his usual L.A. sunshine, as he delves into college life in chilly New England. No less sparkle than his other books, however, Rules of Attraction has the making of every other Ellis book in the twisted relationships, inner monologues and, oh, yes, the substance usage. Written in a far more complex, yet sometimes superficial, method than his Tinseltown stories, Ellis, uses a much more down to earth approach to this telling.
The story shifts back and forth between several college students, primarily, Paul, Lauren and Sean.
Paul is, first and foremost, the voice of settled bisexuality in a campus where everyone seems to be simply experimenting. Solid in his own orientation, he drifts through, lyrically observing everyone else. His passages were, hands down, my favorite. I think that he was, if I had to take a guess, the most “Bret”- like in that the voice seemed too honest for it not to be, in some way, the author’s own.
Sean is the somewhat clueless, mildly jaded, failing drug connection on campus. He has a soft spot for Lauren but a weakness for just about everyone else. His arc is slightly melodramatic but probably right in line with his stereotyped role as a college male.
Lauren is a poetry major but probably the least interesting to read. Her storyline is fairly halting in its telling which makes me wondering if Ellis is not as adept as writing for female voices as he is for males. She remains interesting enough as she’s painted through other tellers’ eyes, yet, when it comes to her own sections, she seems to be lacking in substance.
Altogether, they work to make a picture of college life that could have been in the 50′s or continued through now. I know, though my own freshman year started a decade ago, that this story, in many ways, can relate to segments of my own experience.
Though his prose is fairly dry and, at some points, downright lacking, the story and the character portrayal are what keep me perpetually interested in BEE. This is a great departure from his usual fare if you are looking for something from Ellis that isn’t quite as Hollywood....more
Scotland Yard doesn’t have time for reporter, Georgina Bassington-Hope’s paranoid theories. That’s why they’ve sent her packing to see Maisie.
Her acclaimed artist of a twin brother fell off of his scaffolding while working and it’s been ruled, over and over, an accidental death. Case closed.
Georgina can’t fight that lingering malicious feeling, though, and it soon finds her on Maisie’s front step, begging the question: if he didn’t fall of his own mistake then why is he dead?
Though this has been reputed to be the soggy middle of the series, lacking luster and drive, I found it to be one of my favorite reads and stories. Though the subject is largely art and theatrics, rather than the cold, hard facts of war, per usual, crime and conflict still abound in the fourth Maisie thriller.
It took me a little bit longer to get through this than it has previously taken me to read the books in the series, though the story was physically shorter. I think this either lies in a more complex subject (the underbelly of the art world) or a feeling of deeper connection with the players. The focus of the cast was the vibrant Bassington-Hope family that had a seductive charm, though flawed thoroughly.
I was expecting this one to fall flat as it has for so many bloggers, lately, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be one of my favorites.
We are taught from an early age to use our inner censor. That is, we are taught to hold back, to close up, to shun those things that different. We donWe are taught from an early age to use our inner censor. That is, we are taught to hold back, to close up, to shun those things that different. We don’t question our routine and we certainly don’t think about breaking the mold. Every now and then, though, we wonder, or at least I do, what would happen if we just took off for the desert to watch the sunset, hugged a stranger who was clearly having a bad day or stood on the lunchroom table and sang at the top of our lungs.
We, of course, do not do this. Humans are inward beings, acting in accordance with the social constraints placed on us by our team mates, coworkers or fellow students, even ourselves. We are never too nice or too happy, never too outwardly emotive unless our sports team or politician is winning. We, by our nature of self preservation can not be kind to everyone because that does not further our sense of security in maintaining at least the second step above nothingness.
Jerry Spinelli captures these fears and dreams in Stargirl. His fictional Mica High School is in the middle of the Arizona desert and is about as full of life and color as its surroundings. No, this is not Stepford; no one is perfect, they are just all the same. They wander about from mediocre lunch conversation to average grades to a losing football team. They continue skimming the bottom until Stargirl appears.
Bright, eccentric, happy and adventurous, Stargirl takes the school from behind in a sneak attack. At first she is viewed as peripherally weird but is soon embraced as fun and exciting. She represents everything the students do not. She sings Happy Birthday to students she doesn’t know. She sends card to people she’s never met. She is inherently kind and thoughtful and full of exuberance. She is the Judeo-Christian “good” and the Buddhist path to enlightenment. She is the ephemeral moment in which we let go of our inhibitions, climb up on the picnic table and yell “I love you world and I’m not afraid to show it!”
Of course, there comes a moment when we realize that we have mounted said piece of furniture and look around. We realize that we are still within the confines of social mores and we clear our throat, apologize and scuttle down from the bench, running for cover. This is, inevitably what happens to Stargirl after her initial success has worn off.
Stargirl is a beautiful commentary on how we live according to ourselves and others. It is content-appropriate for middle schoolers but high schoolers and adults will undoubtedly embark on a deeper, more thought provoking journey....more
When we first meet her, Maisie Dobbs is a young woman at the start of her career. Opening up shop as a P.I. , her story opens, slowly, almost pedestrian, in the calm between the wars. The phone barely rings. Her filing cabinets are as good as empty.
As she accepts her first client, however, who himself comes with a simple case of suspected adultery, Maisie’s past comes tumbling out, full throttle, into her present and future. Shadowing her client’s wayward wife, Maisie finds herself neck deep in a dark, sinister secret that the England’s countryside has held since the war faded to completion.
It took me almost a year to get around to this story and it’s one of those that I am kicking myself for leaving for so long. The beginning rolls along a little bit like Nancy Drew meets Annie but about halfway through, the story takes on a distinctly Tana French melody. It gives me a lot of hope for the next books in the series since it seems like we’ve passed the fluff and are on to the good stuff. And, as we all know, I like my mysteries nice and complex.
My only warning is, again, that it starts off slowly. If this hadn’t been so highly recommended (and rightly so) I would have tossed it after my 100 page test. It does pick up, though, so it proves that sometimes, it’s worth sticking through.
I will say that I’m really far behind on my Mad for Maisie challenge but I’m hoping to pick up the pace now that I know I’m actually going to like the series style.
Highschool is hard enough without random letters arriving from eccentric (albeit well-loved) aunts. Seventeen-year-old Ginny knows this but does she really? She’s about to find out as a letter arrives from her long-lost, “artsy” Aunt Peg, sending her on a mission to end all missions. Turns out that the first letter is only one of a set, sending her on a whirlwind trip through Europe.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, she does have a few restrictions. Along with some extra cash and a few clues, Ginny has been sent some pretty strict rules via her benefactor:
#1 You may bring only what fits in your backpack. don't try to fake it with a purse or carry on. #2 You may not bring guidebooks, phrasebooks or any kind of language aid. And no journals. #3 You can not bring extra money or credit/debit cards, travelers checks, etc. I'll take care of all of that. #4 No electronic crutches. This means no laptop. no cellphone, no music and no camera. You can't call home or communicate with people in the U.S. by internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.
Right, so, these aren’t exactly things that would encourage a normal Jersey teen to drop everything and run but Ginny takes her assignment seriously. She is soon on her way and what a fun way it is! Though there are dark shadows and snake pits, the whole thing just makes the reader want to quit her day job and grab a Euro rail pass. True to what I can remember from the last time I read a Maureen Johnson creation, this is a typical quirky and funny read with sparks of love but not totally bogged down in romance. The adventure, itself, is true enough to my own travel adventures with lost luggage, wet clothes but, you know, generally a good time.
The only thing I found lacking wasn’t so much terrible but simply, well, that: lacking. I think that I was longing for a little bit more at the beginning in terms of character set up. The whole trip turns out to be so life changing and Big with a capital B, that I felt there could have been a bit more in terms of setting up Ginny’s personality prior to the trip. We get the impression, a few times, that she is fairly shy but there’s not much in way of showing that before the trip begins. It’s mostly realized in retrospect and not to a deep degree. Again, it’s the only thing that I felt was lacking and it wasn’t distracting enough to put me off completely.
Over all, it was an adorable book. I also read it on my own little whirlwind trip (though it was a short trip with no spicy European boys) so I had the added benefit of pretending that my Atlanta-Boston flight was, perhaps going somewhere a bit more extravagant. I’ll probably wait until the sequel is out in paperback but I might get impatient and break down....more
Take a little trip back to SoCal, 1985, courtesy of one, Mr. Bret Easton Ellis.
Poor little rich girls, beautiful blonde beach boys, all of the fondling, fornicating, ragers and rock that a body can or can’t handle under one smoggy, fame-filled sky.
It turns out that not much has changed since Ellis wove his first novel through the hills and valleys of coked-up, strung-out, over-sexed and under-nourished Tinseltown, decades ago. Still, there is a distinctly vintage feel to the novel as Clay, Blair, Alana and Trent stumble their way through 18 going on jaded.
Though well known for his art-imitating-life-imitating-art books-cum-movies, this is the first taste I’ve had of Ellis. I have to say that it was quite a ride and one I’m not willing to get off of, yet. I have never been one to fawn over the US Weekly crowd; I didn’t even watch the Royal Wedding (shock, I know!) but there is always, probably in all of us, a sort of guilty draw to L.A. and its beautiful self-destruction.
Stop short of tossing this in the tabloid bin, though. It’s hardly a trashcan worthy piece of fluff. It rings more so along the lines of fleshing out a Tom Petty music video or adding substance to an early Mark Wahlberg movie than succumbing to the airhead blather of The Hills. Tripped out and tired, the overgrown children of L.A.’s entertainment elite, roll through existential meltdowns faster than they can sniff their way through a snow drift. The underlying tone of the book is not one of nothing but of exploring that long known issue of an excess of everything resulting in a big, black bucket of absolute nothingness.
Ok, so, it’s not all sunshine and puppies but it’s a great read if you have the stomach for it. This is B.E.E.’s first and it is also part one of two, the second of which was just released, last year. I have the second go round on my nightstand, ready to be devoured in all of its aforementioned guilty pleasure, very shortly....more
ISBN: 9780061345685 There is one in every group. The goody-goody, the go to girl, the one who can do no wrong. In Anna Godberson’s turn of the centuryISBN: 9780061345685 There is one in every group. The goody-goody, the go to girl, the one who can do no wrong. In Anna Godberson’s turn of the century Manhattan, that one is Elizabeth Holland. Beautiful, well-mannered,well-heeled, and otherwise perfect, she is the apple of The Apple’s eye and her rivals know it.
Of course, nothing is ever as it seems and when family tragedy leaves the Holland’s in desperate times, Elizabeth is forced to make a decision about her future that sets in motion a complicated network of love triangles that would make Gossip Girl proud.
With its beautifully scandalous backdrop and cotton candy cover, The Luxe gives the impression that it is indeed Gossip Girl one hundred years earlier. Sure there are parallels in the sweet blond society girl; the rough, smart, sexy boy from the wrong side of the class divide; the lower class girl who pines for the same boy; the rough, Type-A brunette who would give Blair Waldorf a serious run for her money. They are all there but with the time difference and the slightly different personalities types, there is enough divide between the two. Of course my favorites were the ones who broke their molds, be it the beat down house help abandoning a life of service for bigger dreams or the society gals and boys trying to shrug off the burdens of fortune.
The story is told from four different alternating view points which is interesting. There are no surprises because we are clued in on every thought before it can sneak up on a third party. While that sounds a bit like it would ruin the suspense, it doesn’t. There is still enough left out to keep the story and reader guessing.
All in all a fun, quick read but not as fluffy as I had originally thought it might be....more
I have never been one for scary movies. Even more indie, artsy “psychological thrillers” don’t really appeal to me. There is, every now and then, though, a story that is so hauntingly (literally) beautiful that I can’t pass it up. The Lantern is one such story. Two stories intertwined, several decades apart, follow the lives of several women and fewer men, as they struggle with identity, discovery and, of course, murder.
The present day strand of the telling is written from Eve’s point of view. A young woman, never quite sure of herself, Eve falls dramatically in love with an American named Dom with a very murky past. They set up their home in a storybook estate, called Les Genévriers, in beautiful Provence. The house carries history for Dom but it also carries a deeper history of the area, one that Eve is determined to figure out, though everything seems to be standing in her way.
The second thread of the story dates several decades back to a family of severely unlucky, slightly dysfunctional siblings, occupying the same compound. Their story is at once more dramatically engaging and, yet, a softer undercurrent to the more modern fare.
Both stories work on our fear and obsession with the supernatural even when human nature is both more interesting and more sinister. The mystery, true and honest mystery, not campy crime solving mystery, is what drives this beautifully told tale. I found myself staying up way too late to find out more about the strange things that passed between the walls of the old house and what sat not so far underneath the surface of the farming town.
Aside from the excellent plain old story telling, the crafting of the telling, in words and thoughtful images, was my favorite part of this book. The story is told in such straightforward, yet, descriptive language that I never, for a second, believed I was anywhere other than the French countryside. This is, at times, spooky but rather than simply just another ghost story, The Lantern is an assessment of human emotion in the deepest sense, both positive and negative. I highly recommend the book to those looking for a well done fall read that explores the way we view ourselves in the supposedly paranormal....more
I started reading this earlier this week and I almost emailed Trisha to say I couldn’t handle this, right now. I’m glad that I pushed on, though because, aside from the obvious hard topics (hello, it’s called The GRIEF of Others), the story is a fabulous one.
The hardest part for me was the axis of the story, centered on the loss of a couple’s child only fifty-seven hours after birth, just struck so close to my current fear and personal situation. The death of infants isn’t generally a topic handled well by those camping out in the NICU. The story is much deeper than that, though, thank goodness.
The story, it turns out, is to put it simply, an analysis of family life in times of peace and times of stress. It looks upon the way we all handle sorrow and joy and how we crack under the pressure of simple things, yet, carry on through the hardest things.
The book is one of those great epic things that shows life through the rotating perspectives, sort of a village-to-raise-a-story thing. All of the characters are endearing, though at times I wanted to shake some of them. That, the shaking bit, is one of the things that work for the story as the players are so very real and it’s easy to see yourself in the position of making the same mistakes.
Though this was a hard topic to explore for me, right now, I think it may have done me a world of good since it offered several thoughts on how to handle hard situations. I’ll be interested in reading this in a few years to see if it hits me the same way when I am outside of the current setting. Over all a very good read, even if you yourself, are going through a hard period. ...more
There is no summary of this essay that will do it justice so I’ll simply say, “Read it”.
When I picked up Woolf’s essay, I thought I’d be in for a femiThere is no summary of this essay that will do it justice so I’ll simply say, “Read it”.
When I picked up Woolf’s essay, I thought I’d be in for a feminist rant. After all, it has been hailed as one of those amazing, post-suffrage bits on how women relate to the world and to men. If it had been, I would have been satisfied but it was so much more.
She begins with Cleopatra and moves to the eternally modern woman. Her thesis is that women have the capacity and potential to have potential, that they are not genetically stunted but are limited in lack of education, means, and plain old space, in a way that stunts true creativity that men have been allowed.
She does not exactly rave on about how men are either superior or inferior, simply that women have been banished from conversations, resources and institutions where learning is gained by the male mind. One of the best lines in the work, in the regard to the above observation, comes from a discussion of limited access to public and private works based on gender.
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. p.76
In this, there is not a hatred but a defiance and a plan of action to settle a score.
As the piece moves toward a steadier, more hopeful light, she discusses the art form of writing as it has emerged from society through men and then women, creating different paths through the sexes and through time periods. The novel, Woolf proposes, was an original and natural platform for artists like Austen and the Brontes to explore the publishing world as it allowed printed expression through the emotional intelligence taught in parlors, not parliament.
Moreover, a book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes. And this shape too has been made by men out of their own needs of their own uses. There is no reason to think that the form of an epic or of the poetic play suits a woman any more than the sentence suits her. But all the older forms of literature were hardened and set by the time she became a writer. The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands – another reason, perhaps, why she wrote novels. p.77
As far as the work holds up to 2010, it shows the same as it showed nearly a century ago: We have come far but we have a long way to go. Women are only getting started and are, thus, both more stringently and less harshly judged.
There is no mark on the wall to measure the precise height of women. There are no yard measures, neatly divided into the fractions of an inch, that one can lay against the devotion of a daughter, or the fidelity of a sister, or the capacity of a housekeeper. Few women, even now have been graded at the universities; the great trials of professions, army and navy, trade, politics and diplomacy have hardly tested them. They remain even at this moment almost unclassified. p. 85
In the end, she concludes that women should not strive to be like men as their highest goal but should not seek to hold their accomplishments higher. It is simply, an androgynous goal of egalitarian intellect that she is striving for.
It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if the two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? p. 88
So, truly, this is not a man-bashing, vote collecting, sapphically saturated sack of silliness. It is, without a doubt, a peaceful, academic call to analysis and research on the subject of the ways in which men and women relate to each other, rather than holding one above and the other below....more
Fairy tales generally follow a formulaic plot. born of mundane, humble or destitute beginnings, heroes and heroines dream big, face the fire and, notFairy tales generally follow a formulaic plot. born of mundane, humble or destitute beginnings, heroes and heroines dream big, face the fire and, not without losing a limb, literally or metaphorically, they save the day, often bringing home a lesson.
What we forget, after much Disnifying, is that our beloved stories from childhood did not have squeaky clean beginnings. The first time I heard a telling of the original Little Mermaid, I almost cried (though my grandmother will tell you that, at seven, I cried at the Disney version as well). It’s gruesome and sad and a little cruel.
Like many of the Grimm stories, Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux is a little challenging to read at times due to graphic descriptions, mentions of child abuse or other sad scenes. This, of course, detracts little from the actual plot or message but it is something I found myself wondering and eventually reconciling with the above intro reference to other fairy tales.
The tale, as mentioned above, has all of the classic themes of tried and true children’s stories. The outcast, the ugly duckling, the weak link, Despereaux is smaller than a mouse should be with ears twice his size. He is expected to die as many of his mother’s children have. He is fearless of most things that send mice scurrying, loves to read, you know, the usual iconoclast quirks. He also has a slightly worrisome attachment to human sentimentalities and eventually finds himself head over heels in love with the princess of the castle in which the mice reside. His parents and peers are not amused and do their best to shun him from the community, sending him to no uncertain death in the dungeon.
Of course, the stringent rules of Mouse Society can’t be the only evil in a great tale of woe and adventure. Along the way, our snowball of a story picks up Chiaroscuro, a rat who, like Despereaux, has a habit of breaking the mold, a habit which once landed him in hot soup and landed the entire kingdom in a lot of hot water and Miggery Sow, a beaten down, dim witted country girl with princess dreams.
The story is one of love and compassion beating out cold and fear. Bravery and kindness in the face of all desperation are rewarded and forgiveness and change of heart are paramount. Aside from the aforementioned bits where I thought I might have to squint through the violence and cruelty, the book is fantastic and has all of the winning components of the time tested stories of old....more
I was apprehensive about picking this up, initially. I was terrified of running into another Sophie’s World in which philosophy, at large, is dully muI was apprehensive about picking this up, initially. I was terrified of running into another Sophie’s World in which philosophy, at large, is dully mulled over “from a youth perspective”. With the hope that it would be a bit more adult, I went for it and was pleasantly surprised. That it was written in two different voices was refreshingly insightful rather where it might have turned out gimmicky. Renee, the voice of age, a middle aged concierge, echoes Dostoevsky’s self deprecating paranoia of Notes From Underground while Paloma, the voice of youth, a reflective, angsty, preteen aristocrat, carries the more lighthearted, pondering nihilism of Sartre’s Age of Innocence. Renee prides herself on her ability to serve her building as a typical person of service while keeping her bookishness and penchant for Marx and Proust under the radar. Paloma, in reverse, is desperate to define an intelligence that is not defined by her aristocratic upbringing, largely criticizing the pretenses put on by her over-educated, psychobabble swallowing family and friends. The two are largely disunited through the story, each observing their building’s occupants from separate corners. The advent of a new occupant, a wealthy, attractive Japanese man, brings the two women together for the second half of the book. His presence brings about change and discovery in each protagonist, albeit begrudgingly, primarily. The reading is refreshingly light for such a heavy contextual undertaking and while there is very little to be described in the way of a plot, the piece does not lack action as it moves, internally, thought to thought. There is a subtle, understated beauty in the prose that flows throughout even as the voices change. Barbery succeeds in creating characters both intricate and flawed enough to know and understand while still maintaining a more broad and external reflection of class, love and life....more
Rebel Angles picks up where A Great and Terrible Beauty left off. Continuing in the same school year, Gemma, along with her partners in crime, tries to move forward through the holiday season with no further trauma, magical or otherwise.
Her hopes of a safe winter, though, vanish rapidly when she returns home to London. She finds her father plagued by demons that spread beyond mourning his lost wife, into much darker waters. She is almost immediately worn out by the constant efforts of her social climbing brother and grandmother. Though, that end of the deal is slightly sweetened by new arrival, Simon Middleton, a very big name on the very small campus of London.
As tough as the real world presents itself to be, it isn’t long before other matters call the girls back to the realms where things are not exactly how they left them in the autumn. Kartik, Gemma’s handsome, mysterious confidant where her visions and powers are concerned, takes on a more hectic and desperate tone with his need for control of the realms. Gemma does her best to help him but, of course, there are forces at work on the inside and out that threaten to take Gemma and others down. Her only prayer is to find some semblance of order before it’s too late.
If I developed a crush on this series with the first book, call me officially in love with the finishing of this second installment. Something like a cross between Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Narnia, the world of Libba Bray’s London and the realms is incredibly well done. I have always been such a sucker for stories like Narnia and Harry Potter in which parallel living situations presented alongside regular life. The consistency of the myths that run through Gemma’s second life remains true even through both whopping epic volumes.
Bray has a knack for understanding innate human fears and dreams, both of which she uses to her keen advantage throughout the stories. I am not often a fan of serial stories but this seems to be less a set of books and more a giant book that needed to be sliced in thirds based on shear length. I dare any love of mythology, fantasy or just good stories, to bypass this without falling in love....more
Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged financial journalist set on exposing the wicked underbelly of the banking elite, has just been slapped with a libel coMikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged financial journalist set on exposing the wicked underbelly of the banking elite, has just been slapped with a libel conviction. Lisbeth Salander, a moody, tattooed, computer hacker in her mid-twenties is living P.I. job to P.I. job, occasionally acting as indie-band groupie and living in a state of general debauchery.
The two stand on opposite ends of the social scene in Stockholm until they are both tapped to participate in a bizarre investigation regarding a murder 40 years cold with not a lead in sight. In the ‘60’s, sixteen-year-old Harriett Vanger, grand-niece to the patriarch of one of Sweden’s wealthiest and most prominent social families, went missing. For four decades her granduncle, Henrik, has gone to obsessive lengths to find out what happened to his beloved girl the night of her murder, with not a single clue. Blomkvist is initially wary of taking on a most likely, dead-end project, but after much pleading and coercion by the eldest Vanger, Mikael, and subsequently Salander, find themselves mired in a family drama so dark and sinister, it’s amazing anyone has lived to tell about it.
The investigative team is a misfit pairing beyond a doubt but the two inevitably find common ground in their various sleuth skills, driving them together. Each is lovable in his and her own, quirky way, despite individual vices and hang-ups. Mikael is a bit of an accidental playboy, although he is a stickler for the rules in everything outside of the bedroom. Neither of these habits dissuades the reader from jumping onto the Blomkvist, though as his vices are sort of endearing. Lisbeth is a much more dynamic, stormy character, filled with a horrible past and current digressions. She, also, find her way into the reader’s heart, though as she shows moments of softness and sincerity underneath her punk exterior.
Taking back anything I have ever said about thrillers being far from my cup of tea, I have fallen head over heels with the genre and this, right here, is the reason. Darkly disturbing and inherently twisted, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is as intricate a story as one could hope for while still maintaining a readable pace. The set up is astoundingly detailed but, again, never slows to an uninteresting speed. I am entirely too excited to dig into the sequel, set to come out in two weeks. The final book in the trilogy is dated for a 2010 arrival, entirely too long to wait, in my humble opinion....more
I made a discovery, recently, had a eureka moment, if you will (or even if you won’t). There are books that are for adults, books for teens and booksI made a discovery, recently, had a eureka moment, if you will (or even if you won’t). There are books that are for adults, books for teens and books for kids. For the most part, books are written geared toward those who need to learn shapes and colors, those who need to learn how to stop lusting after the popular boy and those who need to learn how to tune out their self-absorbed bosses. I was so pleased when I came up with this, the idea that books in sections at the store covered specific periods, specific problems. Why even have a section for self-help books when our fiction is so clearly oriented to each of life’s issues by age?
Well, see, then there was a problem. John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines sort of defies lines. Before you say, “Oh, well, that’s because it’s about that awkward bit of time between the end of high school and beginning of college and it just seems to fit in everywhere”, I’ll tell you to kindly stop. It is not simply that it is a different approach to the old coming of age saga; it’s that it is a whole new story to start with.
Our charming protagonists, Colin and Hassan, exude a fratty vibe that is not usually as suavely and casually applied to the bottom rung nerds but they pull it off. Hassan (a smooth talking, college drafter) decides Colin (your run of the mill child prodigy, valedictorian) having just coming off of the bitter end of his nineteenth relationship (all maintained and subsequently ended by Katherines) needs a road trip. Hopping into Colin’s car, Satan’s Hearse, at the end of high school, their only goal is heartbreak healing; their only destination is out of Chicago.
When they are derailed by a tourist trap (Gutshot, Tennessee: home of the burial site of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria) they are roped into that inevitable plot twist that “changes everything” and shakes up the snow globe.
Ok, so it doesn’t sound all that different from anything else on the shelves but it is. Colin’s former prodigy status failing to result in pre-adulthood greatness is a constant source of worry for him. His other concern, aside from being plagued with a best friend and other acquaintances with what he sees as zero drive toward Meaning, is that he is very close but not right on top of a theory by which he can predict the life span of a relationship. This will not only explain his past heartache and prevent any further romantic interest but also catapult him into genius status, ending his endless bumping along as a washed out kid star.
While the title problem of the Katherines and, really, relationships, is played out well, it is not the deeper focus. The all encompassing issue, I think, is the question of mattering, of making something out of life. Here is where the unconventional approach kicks in. I find that most YA, children’s and even adult books focus on the very thing Colin’s prodigious past leads him to fixate on: Be Great or Go Home. Normal isn’t ok, in essence. Of course, if this is the point being mocked, you can bet that the moral of the story is that everyone, child prodigies, college-bound road trippers and cubicle dwellers need to take a big deep breath. Often, we become so wrapped up in reaching for the stars that we realize we’re already way past the moon.
Green writes in a realistic but funny voice that captures that ephemeral place between high school and college where fading senior wisdom is giving way to a more adult doubt that lingers long past the first day of orientation. As someone well out of age-range for the target of YA, I found myself making a mental list of all of my peers who would be getting this for Christmas. I’m sure that it does speak to a younger audience but that is the beauty as it also speaks to my generation and should speak to those older....more
The emotional and physical fallout from World War One had hardly the concrete closure it can hold, today. The absence of technological identification, digital records or micro chips made it a bit open ended in the days after the conflict ended. Because of the confusion, so many families of all backgrounds, were left wondering if their loved ones could still be alive and well after the dust cleared.
Cecil Lawson’s wife went to her death-bed, begging of her husband to ensure that their son, Ralph , be found as she was sure that the reports were wrong.Though he is convinced that his, fairly estranged, son, went down in a fiery flame, he feels his duty to his deceased darling holds enough weight to call on Maisie for answers.
As the case begins to take shape, Maisie reconnects with her old Girton pal, Pris, who also needs a little Maisie moxie in a similar, ahem, field. Through psychics, psychos, small towns and big secrets, Pardonable Lies is a whirlwind of a story that, I’ll admit to loving the most of the three I’ve read, thus far.
The ideas behind this story are incredibly more complex than the, what I can only describe as surface, issues of the previous two books. Class, identity, family secrets and sinister struggles for power are all things I hold dear to my heart when it comes to my favorite things to read.
I loved the re-entrance of Priscilla, though, Billy had less of a role in this story. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the next few. I will say that I’m a little guarded about reading the next volume as I’ve heard it’s a bit luke-warm. It seems to take on a completely new subject but one that I love more than war: art! Stay tuned!...more
Oh, dear sweet Hamlet. So overly quoted and noted, yet not all that widely seen, even less read. Old William’s famous Danish Prince is most often cited for madness. But, truly, I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. He is often spun into a dramatic teenager, stomping around, pouting. The thing is, we catch up to him shortly after he’s been visited by his father’s ghost. Yup, sure thing. And this ghostly visit is totally corroborated by his best friends so the madness isn’t exactly all his. What happens next is the downward spiral one might expect of a brooding teen, a three-year old girl or a little old lady, really. When the whole plot is set up and explained in full context, it gives a lot more credit to the “sulking” than many give.
Sure, revenge isn’t the best medicine, especially to the tune of murder but then again, hey, he’s been through a lot. Avenging his father and driving the long road to his own self-destruction and discovery takes the time of the remainder of the play, though it’s obviously not that simple. One of Shakespeare’s finest plays and, for me, his best tragedy, Hamlet is deep, dark, depressing fun. It’s an inside-out thriller and a serious case study in power and politics.
Right, so, I haven’t really read a play in a very long time. While I have been known to do such things for fun (though not as much as my film major husband or my theater professor sister) I do prefer plain old prose for my fiction. I picked up a copy of Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet, this past weekend and a few pages in, I realized that I really needed to read the play. I have seen it on a few stages but not enough (or recently enough) to compare the YA adaptation. And, magic, there you have it. Just like that, Hamlet and I have been snuggling up for the last night or so.
Oh but you know what they say about the best laid plans. It turns out, that might not have been a superb idea. It falls into the category of stupid things I do like rushing out to read the book before going to see the movie. I guess I have this problem with people who try to adapt Shakespeare. The original is just so darn good. Often, the biggest downfall comes when the original is revisited because it is hysterical in the pure and simple form. I find that, too often, a lot of the humor of the first is lost in modernization. Still, if it propels people who would otherwise not dig into Shakespeare, then I’ll take what I can get. I think, personally, I just need to remember that adaptations are just that and they are not the exact duplicate of the oldie.
Ah, anyway, to make a very long story short, I love this play and I think it’s a great one for folks who love a nice, dark tragedy. You’ll be able to go out and rent or buy all of those fun adaptations after, and feel like you actually know what you’re watching or reading....more
Step parenting isn’t easy under the most congenial terms, Casey knows that. The problem is, things are rarely congenial. As she grows in her relationship with her fiancé and his three children, Casey is thrown into a whirlwind of emotion involving teenagers and a very “dynamic” ex-wife.
In the middle of making sense of chaos and sorting out her own jumbled past, Casey is thrown another curve ball in the form of her fiancé’s second child and only son turning up missing. As if her husband’s rather unstable ex needs any more fuel on her fire, the events of the disappearance, send her into a total tailspin, turning the entire household upside down.
Through this hyper-paced family drama, Casey struggles with her emotions regarding her family of origin and her impending place in this new, volatile family. As the storm rages around her, she works to define what “family” means in the best of times, the worst of times and everywhere in between.
Though I am a child of divorce, I can hardly say that my parents’ split was novel-worthy. I have been around the block, enough, however, to know that this story is far from unrealistic. Riggle does an excellent job of telling the story through revolving eyes as each family member passes the torch, eventually painting an evolving, three dimensional view of the situation.
I found each person to be relatable, though sometimes, their flaws were a bit exasperating. Mallory, the ex-wife at the center of it all, is a bit hard to handle in her narcissism and irrationality. Although, I don’t think that my annoyance was always with her but with the family members, and even Casey, who allowed and enabled her totally outlandish behavior. Again, though, the problem lies in not “what do we wish people would do in a perfect situation” but “how do people act in fear, loneliness and love” even though they can see the mistakes as they are making them.
Things We Didn’t Say is a beautiful but tough story, especially as a parent and partner. I highly recommend it to those who like a fast-paced yet deep journey through family struggles, though, again, it’s not really for the faint of heart ...more
16 year old Gemma Doyle doesn’t think it too large a birthday request to ask for passage to London. After all, her whole life has been spent in sweltering hot India with only her family and servants to occupy her time. She is sure that the letters and stories she receives from her grandmother, in the heart of the London social scene are far more exciting than anything she has yet experienced. Her mother is firm in her refusal, however, and swiftly puts an end to such talk.
When tragedy strikes, suddenly, Gemma gets her wish, though not at all the way she imagined. Thrust into the catty world of Spence’s finishing school, Gemma is alone on a new and strange sea, surrounded by forces she has no navigational feel for.
Stranger, though are the visions that have been creeping in to Gemma’s nightmares and daydreams. As the year progresses, Gemma finds herself in league with Spence’s elite set but this elite set soon finds itself locked in to the great and terrible thing that has been plaguing Gemma’s thoughts.
A story rich with mythology, of both east and west, A Great and Terrible Beauty is a wonderful trip into the imaginary. One of the most compelling aspects of the story lies in the exploration of fear in perceived strength and unexpected bravery when the human soul wants to cower and hide. Gemma and her confidants dare to break the mold as far as social constraints fall, choosing adventure over corsets.
The absence of head over heels romance in fair trade for myriad travels through the unknown is a welcome relief for me as far as this genre is concerned. I can handle a little bit of love but it is rarely, personally, palatable if overdone.
I’m well over halway through Bray’s second installment in the trilogy and I have to say that I’m just smitten. It’s definitely one of those that I want to finish in one gulp but know that I shouldn’t as I’ll be devastated when it’s all over.
It’s the old classic. You know, the one that goes: Girl meets boy. Girl keeps meeting boy in various forms of time traveling flashbacks. Then Boy finaIt’s the old classic. You know, the one that goes: Girl meets boy. Girl keeps meeting boy in various forms of time traveling flashbacks. Then Boy finally meets girl.
I honestly don’t feel comfortable saying any more than that because it’s a quirky little book that you’ll have to discover for yourself.
That said, I’ll throw caution to the wind with a confession and run the very probable risk of this being read by anyone I’ve bumped into over the past week.
Here it is: If I have seemed a little bit absent, it was because I was reading. I literally could not put the book down. I read it on my way to the bathroom, at work; I read it, sitting in my car at stop lights; I read it while meandering through lunch lines and hallway traffic in our building; I stayed up way too late, several nights running.
Ok, you caught me. I know, generally, these are things I do with whatever book I’m into at the time but this was different. Not only was I reading every second, I had to be reading it. I was thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. It was calling my name. I had to have it.
Reading this book has taken me a very long time to get around to. I was turned off by the best-seller, movie remake bit. I’m not one for an old-fashioned love story but this was done differently. The idea was not based in the cliche, but in something so far removed from surface romance that “love story” is basically, missing the point.
I read it, instead, as a reflection on the hopes, desires, regrets and wonder we feel surrounding our lives and regarding the lives of those around us. So many questions are sandwiching me, in my life, as a nearly 28 year old, that I think the idea of Niffenegger’s particular system (or lack thereof) of time travel both appealed to me and appalled me. It was such a system where one was simply a scripted player by action and words, unable to change the past or stop the future, but able to see, observe and interact in a way not normally allowed by linear time.
Questions of what our children will be like in the years to come or what our lovers were like as children or what our own parents were like when they were young, married, childless people, often become topics of conversation with my peers and with myself, these days. This made The Time Traveler’s Wife the exactly right book at the exactly right time.
The comfort, for me, was not in some superhuman ability to change the past nor in a mystical ability to forecast the next day’s events. Simply being able to observe people in one’s life at different stages, whether they recognize you as you or not, is totally, perhaps oddly, compelling.
Without getting terribly personal, I’ll end in saying that it was a beautiful book but not in the way I expected. It was more science fiction than chick lit and it allowed for a much deeper inwardly tuned search than anticipated....more
Feeling washed up and worn out, Randolph Henry Ash scholar, Roland, is about to throw in the towel. His girlfriend, Val (a former scholar, herself), hFeeling washed up and worn out, Randolph Henry Ash scholar, Roland, is about to throw in the towel. His girlfriend, Val (a former scholar, herself), has found a “sensible” job and wishes Roland would just do the same.
Things change, one afternoon, when lo and behold, Roland stumbles across a piece of Ash’s past that will send his colleagues and competitors into a whirlwind chase for the glory of bragging rights and the hope of historically charged romance.
Though the book is well written and incredibly layered, there was depth lacking, for me at least. Despite weighing in at over 550 pages, it seemed a little bit rushed. It might have been better served to have been played out in a series or, at least, two books.
That said, I obviously would have read more of it, had there been more to read.
I enjoyed the characters a great deal and was not bothered by the three-dimensional, noir-like villains (they actually made me smile, a lot). The true beauty was not in present day (well, 1990′s present day) character development but in the evolution of the characters not shown: Ash and his literary correspondent as the subjects of the academic artifacts.
Of course, as any fine writer accomplishes, Byatt succeeds in at least some transfer of life altering change from the subject of study to those doing the study. The book watches those wandering in the badlands of rejected academia come around to the spark they once had. It also sees several lives, formerly entrenched in walled confinements of emotionally devoid solitude open up to receive love through unexpected paths.
Over all, I think it was a fine read if not as fleshed out as it could have been and has encouraged me to read a little bit more of Byatt’s work, down the road. It has also given me a bit of a different view regarding the wide variety picked for Booker winners, each year as Finkler and The Sea differ greatly from Possession....more
Picture yourself on a Paris-bound train in the middle of a snow storm. Usually a vacant vehicle, this time of year, the Orient Express is rather full. Suspiciously full. All goes, crowdedly well until an unlikable, well-to-do American passenger is stabbed to death in his cabin.
Because of the snow, the train is stuck in the vast whiteness with no way on or off. This, of course, makes finding the culprit pretty easy. Or so one would think. The problem lies in the train’s passengers, all of whom seem to be guilty of one thing or another while also remaining frustratingly innocent.
This is the dilemma that meets detective Hercule Poirot on his journey home, one fateful winter night. One of the, now world famous, stars of Agatha Christie’s many novels Poirot is faced with a seriously puzzling issue in the middle of nowhere with no modern (or even modern for the 20’s) devices of detection.
This was a deliciously exciting story, oh man! I can’t believe I’ve held out on Christie for so long. Though the whole plot and outcome seemed totally out there (you’ll have to read it to believe it), it was awesome fun and very well built. For a little book, it’s seriously detailed and all of the pieces ended up fitting in perfectly.
I haven’t read anything else by Christie, yet, but I’d have to believe this would be a good place to start. I’m off to collect some more. I suggest that you do the same.
In an alternate universe, Tom Wolfe’s Charlotte Simmons was born in Indiana and wrote her story from prep school instead of college. Curtis SittenfeldIn an alternate universe, Tom Wolfe’s Charlotte Simmons was born in Indiana and wrote her story from prep school instead of college. Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep is so similar to Wolfe’s novel, I had to keep flipping to the front cover to make sure that I wasn’t rereading it.
The stories are slightly different in paper work, mostly in that Lee, the story teller in Sittenfeld’s novel is thirteen when she decides to go to New England for boarding school and Charlotte is 18 when she leaves her rural southern town for a Duke-like campus. Both girls leave lower middle class homes in relative obscurity where they had been the top of their class. They soon find themselves in the middle of academic and financial excess, completely out of their element. Instead of thriving in the environments presented, both flounder to the point of self destruction.
The commentary on class division and social culture wars are similar and the self doubt is rampant through both. Prep sings a slightly more authentic tune as it takes place over the course of four years versus Wolfe’s one, fleshing out characters and allowing the observer to watch Lee grow out of some of the crippling social anxiety she had when she arrived at school.
I think that my biggest problem with the “shy girl goes to school” issue is that both Lee and Charlotte are so completely disarmed by their own insecurities that neither study rings true as teenage angst but rather manifests as a deeper, more serious social disorder and I found myself less sympathetic and more concerned.
Now, this may be because I am fairly extroverted and while i was never the head cheerleader or my sorority president, I have very rarely been a true wall flower. Perhaps both novels are accurate portrayals of shy students. In Lee’s case, though, her loner habits appeared after her arrival at Ault so it seems less likely that she would really go from a happy social girl at her public high school to a serious recluse.
I think the other problem is that while I enjoyed the cultural commentary and the level of mockery at Society’s expense, it comes at a bad time. Prep was published in the year between The O.C. and Gossip Girl, two successful tales of a youth out of water, scooped out of lower middle class obscurity to observe and dissect the pleasures and perils of the wild elite. Certainly the waiting public never gets tired of the political Cinderella story but it does seem that the market is a bit saturated at the moment or was at the moment when Prep arrived.
All of this in mind, had I not read Charlotte Simmons or had I shied away from my T.V. over the last five years, I think that I would rave about Prep. While it has several notable flaws, the writing is not one and I think that given a different subject matter, I would definitely pick up something else by Sittenfeld. Don’t over look this book but do keep in mind that it is nothing to write home about on the administration letter head....more
The Hopewell is a family owned, failing, but one time great, boutique hotel in Manhattan. Fifteen-year old Scarlett has just been given her own room tThe Hopewell is a family owned, failing, but one time great, boutique hotel in Manhattan. Fifteen-year old Scarlett has just been given her own room to supervise and oversee when the space’s newest occupant, a flamboyant ex-actress, bursts onto the scene. With her busy city friends out of town for the summer and a diva to tend to, Scarlett gives in to the whimsy of her charge is and taken for a very dramatic ride.
You know those kids in school who would act out their scenes for the spring musical in the hallways? They would rehearse their Shakespeare monologues standing on top of the lunchroom tables and break into random song in the middle of math class? I’m pretty sure Maureen Johnson has known a few in her time because Suite Scarlett is spot on. Under the guise of a story centered around hotels, Suite Scarlett is more about what happens when those kids grow up.
The center calamity is focused on Scarlett’s brother whose acting career has one foot in culinary school and the other in the grave. In order to convince his parents he shouldn’t be shipped off to make souffle, he has to come up with a paying gig and soon. The most fantastic part about this was the detail to the actors both major and minor. Most of the actors we see on TV or even in theater have made a name for themselves and frankly make it look easy. We really only see the tip of the ice burg, forgetting all of the former high school stage stars who still have the moxie but aren’t making money.
Aside from the actual reality check served up, the tone that rings true is in the little details. The romances born of proximity when working on a show, cast fights, late nights, the works. It has the effect of both making the reader wish she was back on the stage and thanking her lucky starts that she got out when she did!
As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed it but I think having read Devilish recently, it just struck me as less funny. The banter between Scarlett and Spencer (and certainly Scarlett’s inner monologue) was fantastic and totally indicative of Johnson’s work but for some reason the other characters fell flat for me. Over all, a fun read, though and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it prior to Devlish....more