I am a child of the 90′s and proud of it. I like to think that I missed out on all of the geekishness of the 80′s and went straight for the 90′s more organic, grunge thing.
Ah, but alas, it is not so easy to escape bad hair and Atari. It turns out that I am also a child of no less than three computer programmers and the sister, sister-in-law and wife to “gamers”. Because many of my loved ones went to engineering school, were in bands with neck-tie keyboards and consider a hot date night to be snuggling in with their significant others and playing WOW, I have, by default, acquired some nerd knowledge.
Because of this, I feel like I can rightfully announce that I have a serious crush on Ready Player One.
Now, look, you don’t actually have to be a gamer or even know one to get the book.
It’s more about political science fiction than it is plain old geek fact. Sure, there are a few things that you may need to google but those are more along the lines of 80′s pop culture than anything gamer related. It’s yet another near-apocalyptic dystopian bit but this time, it’s all played out in the hunt for a dead billionaire’s hidden easter egg within a massive multiplayer online game.
Whoever finds the egg wins mega bucks and the ability to control the game which almost everyone, worldwide plugs into for free. The best part is that the bad guys are threatening to commercialize the currently free network if they win the egg. I think it’s cute given the current events playing out around the world, related to such topics.
Oh, but wait! There’s more.
Sure it’s about gaming, the 80′s and sticking it to the man but it’s also about something else.
It’s about human ature and love and friendship and the assumptions we make when we aren’t given physical prejudices when we first interact. There’s also maybe a message about not losing yourself in virtual reality and giving yourself over to the outside forces of natural light.
It’s a pretty cool, deep little story that I think will appeal to people way outside the gamer realm but one that will hopefully measure up to gamer standards. And of course, the song that played in my head during the whole reading was Tom Sawyer by Rush....more
Have you ever had that book that made you cry when you finished? Not because it was so much emotionally charged in a sad, or even happy way, but simply because you didn’t want it to end? Ever?
Without too much ridiculous, unsupported gushing, I have to say that this is, hands down, that book for me. I haven’t wanted a book to be endless in quite sometime, possibly ever.
Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is simply magical. It’s not magical in a campy, Harry Potter way not is it dark or weird like, well, I don’t know, I don’t read dark and weird things.
It’s magical in the purest sense of the word. It’s a dream and a hope and a wish and bit of a nightmare at moments. It’s filled with beauty and wonder and love and danger, all of these things both subtle and bold.
The story is based around two magicians, trained from early childhood, prepared for one looming and overwhelming challenge, later in life. The manifestation of their “game” or “challenge” becomes a bit of a runaway train in the form of this completely unique circus. Picture the more hauntingly beautiful parts of oddball show business like Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, coupled with classic dream-based scenes from places like Narnia and Alice in Wonderland.
The plot itself is too complicated to lay out in any way but it’s very easy to follow once you have the book in your hands. The story is about love and passion, obligation and freedom. In a word, it’s about choice. I know that this is just one more positive review for this book and that I will probably be looked over in my plea for your acquisition and experience of this book. However, I beg you not to write this off as hype. Truly, this is an awesome book. You have to read it. You have to. I was kidding about the choice part. This has nothing to do with choice. Read this book....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
So, I may be admitting to serious sin, here but I did not read Hugo before embarking on Wonderstruck. Though Wonderstruck has been seriously buzzed and well-loved, I have noticed that some folks, especially those that I rely on for story reviews, have not been quite as charmed by this second offering by Selznick. I have to say that I’m pretty happy then, that I read Wonderstruck first as I absolutely loved it. Sure, it’s simple and sweet but it’s magical all the same. I started reading it to my three and a half-year old and he was definitely able to follow the story. The words are simple, yet elegant and the stories are just perfectly put together.
For those who have not heard, by now, the book is composed of two stories, one in text, the other in pictures. Selznick is just as talented with his illustrations as he is with his words. The stories told in both mediums are brilliant and well crafted. I wasn’t sure I would like the illustrated one as much as I’m not a big picture fan, never have done movies or graphic novels very well. Needless to say, I found that this style did actually work for me.
I love the way that the two stories eventually meet up. I knew they would, eventually, for, hey, why have them in the same book, but I didn’t really see the outcome coming before it landed. There is the obvious Pam-draw in its serious focus on the Natural History Museum which I can’t say too much about. Just read the book, sillies. We all know I’m obsessed with museum-like stories but this just takes it to a whole new level because, goodness, there are pictures. That was also a draw for Kai as he has inherited (or has been forced into) his mother’s love of all things collections.
Overall, this was a wonderful experience for both my own reading preferences and Kai’s bedtime story enjoyment.
As for Kai’s favorite part? “I liked the little girl”....more
So, I’m probably the last person on earth to read this but I have my reasons. Mostly, those reasons have to do with laziness but I feel like laziness is good enough if not simply good. Whatever, I don’t have to explain myself to you. The point is that I did read it, eventually, and I was well rewarded. This was, like my foray into Sedaris, a gift from a parent at school during my hospital stay and, really, I should do that more often (joke!) as it clearly, expands my reading in a positive way.
I have always enjoyed Fey’s bits on SNL (though I’m not a die hard fan of the show) and while I’ve never watched 30 Rock, I know it’s pretty funny. The book isn’t really a memoir but it’s not really just a straight essay collection. It’s sort of just like Tina, talking to herself or to us or to everyone or, you know, like…no one. It spins through her life, a bit like a memoir but I hate memoirs and I loved this so, therefore, LSAT logic style, it couldn’t possibly be a memoir.
Whatever it isn’t, it’s definitely one thing and that one thing is funny. Sure, it’s heartfelt, sappy, edgy and honest in parts but it’s mostly just laugh out loud, crying tears of joy, hysterical. I mean, I know everyone else has said this but, honestly and truly, it’s just that hilarious. Now, you have to like subtle silliness. It’s not Will Ferrell and Charlie Chaplain but it has all of these little lines that just make you just pee.
I have to say that I’m an absolute sucker and after reading the book, now plan to wholeheartedly throw myself into appreciating 30 Rock while on maternity leave. Mostly, I’m commiting myself to this because, yes, I really did enjoy the book, or really, Tina, that much that I must have more.
If you haven’t read this, yet, please make me feel better and bump me up from the bottom rung of the ladder, carrying the title of “the last person ever to read this book”. Read it and you can thank me later....more
At this point, I hate to elaborate on the ‘plot’ as this story has been tried and tested and, ahem, mother approved, for centuries. A simple run down of King Edward’s love and wife, The White Queen, Elizabeth, would include joyful love and ruthless revenge as well as the requisite unending ambition. Ah, but, again, what else is new, on that side of the pond 9or any other for that matter)? I haven’t really dug into a Philippa Gregory book since I was pregnant with Kai. I can not, for the life of me, tell you why this is the case. I really think she missed her calling as my European History AP teacher because goodness knows, my old, fat white guy who taught the class never told history like this.
Now, I’m sure that there is a little bit of elaboration on the dialogue but for the most part, the bigger scandals of adultery and witch craft are pretty well proven in history. Gregory’s gift is not just in the dispensation of the facts but in the serious craft of her story. I was a big history geek, still am, and am pretty familiar with most of the stories that she puts out. The thing I love about her stories, or rather, her books, as the stories are everyone’s at this point, is the intense connection I always manage to feel with the players.
If there is one thing that I felt lukewarm about on this book was the length of the battle scenes. I understand the importance of the impending political issues but I think that there was just a bit of redundancy in the writing and scene setting. this is such a minor quibble that I almost didn’t mention it but I thought I’d just put it out there.
Overall, it was a fantastic read and I’m already well into The red Queen which tells a somewhat parallel but very different story. If you haven’t gotten your hands on Gregory’s stories, yet, this is a very good place to start....more
For two reasons, I thought that this might be a little bit far fetched as a book I’d enjoy. The first being that I’m not really a Hepburn fan. You know, that bit about Tiffany’s and the height of femeninity and all. The other is that, well, quite frankly, it is an account of women’s studies but is written by, ahem, a dude.
Now, I can safely report that I was happily mistaken on both accounts. Well, on the second, it is in fact written by a “dude” but that turned out not to be a turn off.
I tend to give men in general a lot more credit than many people, even men themselves, when it comes to understanding women. For that very reason, I shouldn’t really be surprised at all that Wasson so expertly manages to capture the transformation of feminine and feminist culture surrounding the early moving picture industry.
Moving expertly through one of Hollywood’s most dramatic periods of transformation, Sam Wasson, weaves a story that is fun and pure but also one that is full of and true to life.
I haven’t done that much research when it comes to the silver screen, (that’s more my husband’s department) so this is a fun intro to many of the names I’ve only ever heard in passing. Of course, I do know the name Capote and he is a prominent player, which, which is cool to see.
The time period is also a relatively unexplored one for me, though my parents were born in it and it is when my, oh so beautiful herself, grandmother was born. This is an age of glamour and glitz but also of chaste solitude of the american woman. Again, Wasson really does his gender a serious service in tapping into the mind and emotion of the developing female culture of the time,
This is a short book but a seriously fun read. It’s a little bit of history, a little bit of culture and a whole lot of entertainment....more
It is true what they say: “you can take the girl out of politics but you’ll never take the politics out of the girl”. Don’t know that one? Well, it’s an old standby for me. Since I was a little kid, system dynamics and the stories of politics and power have always been of high interest. Now, I’ve generally relegated my interest to the past few decades or, at least, the last couple of centuries.
It turns out that the same old games have been going on for as long as we’ve had any semblance of organized society. Philippa Gregory’s latest non-fiction rundown of the ladies involved in The Cousins’ War (betterment known, now, as The War of the Roses), demonstrates that midieval political life and strife were not very different than today’s drama.
In her joint project, with fellow historians David Baldwin and Micheal Jones, Gregory gives readers the blueprint material behind her three fictional women who have become the focus of her Cousins’ War series. I have to say that I’ve now read two out of the three in the series and it’s really quite delightful. For readers who love the time period but have been burned out on Tudor Mania, recently, Gregory ‘s new set of books offers a welcome relief.
As far as the nonfiction account, this is a very interesting format by which to back up the novels. While the history itself reads a bit like a modern-day mobster movie (family loyalties, covert offings and general, social unrest) my favorite part of the book was Gregory’s opening piece about why she began writing about the three featured women in the first place.
Much like Virginia Woolf’s observations in A Room of One’s Own, Gregory highlights the serious setbacks women have faced over time and why women have been shut out of politics and thus, history. Those who have the means and allowance to learn, do, but those who are shut out by social repression or finances, simply don’t make it into the books as they are not able to get onto the field in the first place. Of course, this has, thankfully changed today, in large part, even though money and background still create obstacles for so many. I won’t get too deep but I will say that this introduction and thought provoking bit from Gregory was one of my favorite parts of the book.
In that line of thinking, the only part that I found I had an issue with was in the other end of things. After all three stories are told, the book simply ends. I would have liked a bit of conclusive wrap up on how telling these stories will perhaps effect the history of future women in politics. No book can be perfect, of course, and the whole thing is well written and well executed despite my desire for more.
This is a susinct little telling that I definitely recommend it to Gregory fans and just history fans in general, especially (but not only) those interested in women’s role in politics....more
Oh, lordy, Margaret is a nut! I mean this in a good, intelligent, disturbing and totally off her rocker sort of way. I think, by the end of the story, I came to see her as Blair Waldorf’s medieval counter part to Elizabeth Woodville’s Serena Van der Woodsen. Portrayed as a type-A, power hungry type and known for her obsessive piety and religious visions, the woman who would one day give birth (literally) to what we know, now, as the Tudor Dynasty is one for the history books for sure.
Born into the house of Lancaster in a time of conflict between “The Roses”, Margaret Beaufort was a young girl when she was married off and essentially forced to have “relations” with her then husband, almost twice her age (12). While this was not a terribly uncommon betrothal and activity for the time, a modern therapist or, hey, even little old me, might determine that many of Margarets strange quirks and her obsession with power and control, might have had something to do with what we essentially define as repeated statutory rape, today.
Again, while that bit of history is hard to read about, it’s well documented and was unfortunately not all that uncommon. What was uncommon, at the time, was the sense of political upheaval that had been ravaging Europe during the Hundred Years War. Right on the heels of that, began the more cutthroat and, really, less “warlike” Cousins’ War or War of the Roses. This new conflict saw a rise in the throwing away completely of all heretofore “manners” dictated on the subject of little things like regicide and fratricide. Growing up in a time of power lust, Margaret fit right in, eventually clawing her way to the tip top as the king’s mother.
It is such an interesting history to start but then, of course, Gregory weaves her magic around the existing threads of time. This is a story that runs parallel in many parts to the first book in the Cousin’s War series, The White Queen. While I found myself comparing the two stories at the beginning, it’s better, I found, to just read it as its own story as the two story tellers are just so drastically different.
I really do recommend this to those who love Gregory or even those who just love a good fun story about murder, betrayal, saints and sinners. I have been so pleased thus far with Gregory’s novels and this one is no exception....more
The very first time I heard the name David Sedaris, was from one of the girls on my hall, freshman year. She said the book she was reading was incredibly funny and offered to lend it to me but I turned it down as I really don’t do pop-memoir, nonfiction types. That stigma stuck with me, along with the name, until this past week. In a super gift basket from my families at school, packed with magazines, snacks and other fun entertainment, was Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.
One might think that I would be disappointed, given my heretofore denouncement of said writer for absolutely no good reason. I was, however, actually really excited. Call it breaking the seal or guilty pleasure but the fact that someone else bought it for me alleviated my obligation to admitting I actually wanted to buy it.
Of course, many of you know where this is going as I am the last living person to read his stuff. I absolutely hate myself for holding out for so long. He’s funny, smart and incredibly honest. As his book winds through his life from less than movie perfect scenes out of his childhood to completely Hollywood level of scandal in his adult life, hilarity peeks around every corner.
Sedaris leaves no one and nothing out of mockery, least of all himself. He makes fun of his inability to leave his family alone in his writing, analyzes his sexual orientation, as well as that of others and just generally pokes fun at the world in a sardonic, wry, excellent manner.
I still, for the life of me, can not understand why it’s taken me ten whole years, almost to the hour, to get my hands on this and my head around it. Don’t do as I have done. If you haven’t read Sedaris, do so now or regret it later....more
I just got off of the phone with my mom, ending a conversation during which I referred to this book as “A Post Apocalyptic Plato’s Cave with Zombies”. She laughed but it’s true. I tell not lies!
The setting is in the dark underworld of College Enclave, a tribe of folks who don’t expect to live to 12, never mind 24. The whole society is based on hunting, building and breeding and there is a serious commitment to the age old bit about “only the strong survive”.
In all of this stark misery, a young teen huntress has just been given her name (Deuce) and is determined not to fall victim to the many perils that await those in her tribe. As she takes on adulthood, sewer rats, zombies and the strict ruling circle of her society, she comes across another hunter named Fade. An outsider and rebel at heart, he’s an unlikely companion for driven and determined Deuce. Like most unlikely pairs, though, there are so many of those beloved little learning experiences waiting to happen.
Together, the two team up to forrage for meat, fight evil and find answers about a society that seems to have nothing but lies to tell.
I know it seems like so many others in setup but there really is a parallel to Plato’s bit about our inability to accept that all we’ve ever known might not be the end all be all in the truth department.
The story is super fast and never drags. It’s a fairly short book but that works to its advantage with no fat to trim from the bones. I feel like sometimes this genre and market are flooded with mediocre toss outs but this just isn’t one. It’s a little campy but it’s just plain old fun, really....more
I have put off reading this since before it was published. I think it came out right around the time I started blogging and I found out about it via IndieNext or something of the sort. I loved the cover, loved the genre but was, I hate to say it, a little bit turned off by such a young narrator. I thought, for some reason, even though it’s billed as an adult mystery,m that it would be a little bit childish.
Silly me, as usual, of course.
I was so very wrong.
I feel like this has been the case, a lot, lately. And really, how could I not enjoy such a fun story?
Flavia de Luce is anything but your typical eleven year old. She’s obsessed with chemistry, primarily poison. Until the events in the book, she’s mostly concerned with using her talents against her evil older sisters in the form of fabulous things like rash-inducing lipstick.
Vengeful cosmetics take a backseat to true crime investigations though, the day a dead bird shows up on the door step of the de Luce household. Of course, things become dark fast when later on, that night, a corpse is found in their yard. Flavia, in all of her young brilliance throws herself into solving the case of both occurrences, no matter the obstacles in her path.
Written in the voice of a very precocious eleven year old, the story has the advantages of both being able to tap into the mature prose of gifted kids and also the occasional campy, melodrama of plain old eleven year olds.
The story itself is nothing short of fabulous, well written and very intricate. It gets a little slow in the middle but it picks up quickly after, getting seriously thrilly for the big ending.
This is the first of my R.I.P. challenge offerings and what a wonderful place to start! I’m on to the next in the series, now, and hopefully it will be as delightful as this was....more
Oh how I cried when I reached the end of the published Maisie Dobbs books! I thought I’d never find such a fun mystery series again. It was almost as bad as when I finished my third Tana French book, knowing there were no more out.
Well, my friends, I have found a new mystery series that I just adore…to death.
My lovely pal, Flavian de Luce and her creator, Alan Bradley, are just phenomenal. I’d give all of the cdit to Bradley since it is technically he that is responsible for such a wonder but Flavian has such character and life of her own that it’s really impossible not to count her as her own living entity.
This is her second story and man, it just gets better and better. This time, she finds herself literally tangled up in puppet strings, in a deadly dance with a troop passing through town. When the lead gets knocked off due to “accidental electrical failure”, Flavian is on the beat in a heartbeat, tracking down suspects and putting pieces into the puzzle.
The mystery is in high suspense until the end while leads continue to appear, disappear and reappear. History is a bigger part of this mystery than it was in the first which is always a rocking good time for this geek.
I have to say that Bradley is incredibly good at writing female characters. From Hollywood starlets to tween detectives to lumpy kitchen staff, he always creates such deep, lovable, women. The men are, well, fine, but they don’t always have that much depth. I’m not really complaining because, especially for a male writer this is a first to go the opposite way.
I think that the third in the set is going to have to wait until I get out of the hospital in a few weeks because by then it will be out in paperback. Good timing, I think. The fourth, thank goodness, comes out around the holidays so I won’t have long to wait. This is such a fun series and I’m loving it…ahem…to death.
Oh and this is also my second contribution to the R.I.P. challenge which I am seriously enjoying....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
Some places are a melting pot but the eternally combustible sands of the middle east could better be described as a pressure cooker. Under the desert sun in Israel, three lives bake and squirm amidst a stronger power in Joan Leegant’s Wherever You Go. Yona Stern has come halfway around the world in one last-ditch effort to save an all but lost relationship with her sister. Mark Greenglass has jumped out of the hot pot, only to land in the equally spiritual and tempestuous New York City as a visiting scholar. Aaron Blinder has never really found his way, in life, until, now, camping out along the more militant and extremist edges of the Israeli fight.
The three strands of life serve to paint a picture of life in the birthplace of Abrahamic faith and also in its far-flung little sister, New York. intensely emotional and deeply searching, the book, is one that I think many people would enjoy, Jewish or not. The questions of faith and commitment, of personal and inward reflections, are not necessarily tied specific to Judaism, though they are a very open and blunt look at the way the world embraces or rejects the faith in certain ways, today. I found the book to be reflective of many of the questions I’ve mulled over in my adult life, both spiritual and secular, dealing with everything from completely internal emotions to the macroscopic views of a society at large that is ready to explode.
I found the three voices very easy to distinguish and fun to follow. The stories are different enough that they didn’t need to be any more separated than they were. This is not a light read, even though it’s a little book. I recommend it for those looking to get into something a little bit deeper as the weather turns to a more scholastic autumn....more
In a peaceful world, where everything is clean and good and beautiful, every man, woman and child fits in perfectly where he or she is meant to be. Dating is unheard of, even handholding is frowned upon, but hey, there is no violence or pollution.
The only problem, like with so many perfect things, is that there doesn’t seem to be any choice in the matter. Plugging into the mother board, every citizen is subject to the whims and control of the Thinkers who, like you might conclude, think for the rest of the population.
In all of the creepy perfection there ate a few lone people who know that things could be another way. Vi, a teen with a mind and some hair of her own, dares to strike out against the forces at play.
It’s a typical Utopian cum Dystopian story. With some new and neat technological bells and whistles and a few more old school elements of magical mind control, the story is a fast, fun little adventure. I have to side with other readers and reviewers in sharing a little bit of confusion toward the end. I can only hope that in subsequent books (it is promised to be a series) that the confusion of the very energized and rushed ending will be cleared up.
Overall, I think that Possession was a good attempt or start, though it did have some pieces that left me confused or wanting change. These elements can be overlooked easily, though, as they are often things that come with a first book in a series. I think my main squabble with Possession as a Dystopian piece was that it just left the “political” out of “political-science fiction”. Because the genre of Dystopian Literature has become such a wide cast net, I should expect some to be just luke warm. I am so used to Libba Bray and Suzanne Collins with their very spot on assessments of the world around us. Where I think Possession fell flat was in airbrushing references to modern life. Swift, Orwell, even Wilde, wrote to reflect and for me, that’s the best, if not only type of Dystopian story. I simply felt that Possession was stabbing only at “perfection” and not at anything smart or specific.
That said, if you take away my ridiculous snobbery (I really didn’t mean to go off, there!) it is a fun read with a lot of love and adventure. Just don’t expect anything too deep....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
In Shakespeare’s famous graveyard scene, Hamlet, our young and depressed Danish prince, takes up the skull of the deceased court jester to say the above quote. I couldn’t think of a better line to use, leading in to my review of Michelle Ray’s Falling for Hamlet. The book wasn’t horrible but the humor, like the famed court jester, was sadly dead. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Hamlet is a tragedy. Tragedy as it may be, it was still born of Shakespeare’s pen and thus has this inherent humor to it in word plays and ironic minutia.
Unfortunately, the humor wasn’t the only theatrical element missing from the retelling. Because Ray chose to tell the story from Ophelia’s point of view, it felt as though many of the original scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Many of the interactions between the teens’ parents and friends were lost, as were the scenes in which Hamlet and his deceased father’s ghost. As so many historians will tell you, these are really what drive the whole story, setting the scene for the revenge and the creepiness that the original capture.
The setting also proved to be a bit of a thorn in my side. I’m pretty sure that most of Ray’s references to pop-life, while tricky and well placed, in theory, wouldn’t translate to modern-day Denmark. Because most of the “royalty” issues were similar to those of a pop-star, I think it would have been a better fit to place the story in L.A. (ala Baz Luhrmann’s 90′s Romeo and Juliet) and play it out that way, as it seemed way too fakey and American as it was written. My biggest pet-peeve in this area was the reference to a fictional Denmark State. Denmark isn’t a state and thus doesn’t have a state university. With very little research, a more believable fictional back-up school could have been created.
So, did I hate it? No, of course not. I was in an eight grade performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream and, personally, I thought it was phenomenal. I think that if a person’s heart is in it, any adaptation is worth watching or reading. Adaptation and interpretation are human instinct and Shakespeare has been subject to both for years and years. I did enjoy many parts of the story, though, I think that I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t read or seen the original. I made the very bad mistake of reading the original script while reading this one and I think that it really undercut the otherwise probably minor faults in the YA edition.
As a hugely positive note, I will say that where Ray stuck to reinventing exact scenes as opposed to going off script, the reworking was superb and really, quite funny in its modern portrayal. The places where she was able to most precisely translate the script to the more modern stuff seemed to really capture the essence of the play, rather than her guesses at what Ophelia (really, an obscure character in the play) might have been going through.
Well, there you have it. I think, as far as adaptations go, this one was luke-warm. I’ve seen worse but I’ve definitely seen better. I’ll definitely give Ray another chance if she promises to leave the adaptations alone....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
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to wait for the next book in a series to come out. I tend to be the person that waits until all parts are out to go anywhere near the first one. I was suckered into reading Nightshade about half a year ago and I am just now coming to the second book in the set. Wolfsbane is really lovely, although I do think I would have benefited from rereading Nightshade before I dove into its sequel. Things to remember for the third book, I suppose.
Overall, the story is quite in line with the way second books tend to go. That is, there’s a whole lot of action and not a great deal of explanation. While the first book did a lot of groundwork in the way of setting up the story, I found that Wolfsbane was just sort of (fun) rip-tear-ruin, action thriller. Don’t get me wrong; still present it the huge emphasis on character building, magical realm weaving and back-history that I fell in love with in the first book. It was just that there was a lot of blood and gore that needed to be handled to progress the story, I think.
The “love” story was the only thing that got under my skin a bit. Calla and, really, all of the other female characters, shine with this strong energy that isn’t usually put into girls and women in fiction. Though she has moments of weakness, the men in the story have their own shadows and doubts to flank any emotional misgivings that the XX-ers showed. The men were charming, of course, even the ones who I didn’t initially like. But I think that because there was so much action and everyone was, for the most part, self-sufficient, the periodic pining and whining over love choices just seemed to distract when it came up. I mean, it wasn’t a huge issue as there was so much more going on but I did find myself rolling my eyes whenever Calla brought up her “difficult choice” between Shay and Ren.
Ah, but really, that was about it. I can’t say much in the way of the plot as the second book takes a completely different turn from the first. I can tell you that there is a very different cast of characters in the second installment, a cast I favored compared the first. I’m pretty pumped to see where everything and everyone are headed with the next book, but next time, I will do a reread before I jump in. ...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.
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
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.
When a plane of beauty pageant contestant crash on a deserted island, the prognosis is not good. There are no resources and even fewer answers. It would seem that stranded teens, used to primping and prepping would have no place in a rough island setting. Ah, but it soon becomes clear that all of their blood thirsty, cutthroat competition has indeed done more for them than one might think.
Some have compared this to Lost or Lord of the Flies. I can’t say that I found either one in the pages. I think that this is, by far, my favorite Libba Bray book to date and I know that I might be the only one who thinks that. See, here’s the thing: it’s a total joke.
I don’t mean badly written or poorly done. In fact, I mean the opposite. It’s literally a joke. It’s a satire in the way of old school, Jonathan Swift, or new school, Jon Stewart. You absolutely can’t look at this as serious contemporary YA in the idea that the issues it tackles will be subtle, honest and well-respected. Rather, it’s contemporary in that it takes stereotypes for sexual orientation, sexuality, gender roles, academic pressures, cultural ideals and everything else under the adolescent sun, into high comedy by poking fun and addressing the issues head on.
I think that I have a little bit of a jaded edge when it comes to satire and fiction in general, having read a lot of political science fiction over the years. I also have had my fill of trans, queer, eco-terrorist throw downs so I might be a little more well versed in the silliness that takes place between the pages, recognizing the jokes for what they are. Many found the book to be overly stereotypical but again, I repeat, it’s not so much to be taken “seriously” but as a seriously hysterical and well placed political bumper sticker. Yes, it addresses issues but you have to take it as total, campy humor in order to “get” it.
So I’ve probably turned a lot of people off in my rambling but I hope that it will make this more accessible and more understandable. I seriously loved every second of this and really do think it’s my favorite Libba Bray piece. I hope everyone will give it a chance and that maybe in remembering to take it less seriously, it will be taken more so.
Thank you, Libba Bray. You’re seriously a genius....more
Our story dawns on an 1880′s Virginia, as a reservoir eployee discovers a gruesomely displayed young woman in the water. Lacking any form of identity, her case hits the papers as a tragedy but not one with sinister ties. Assumed an accident and then a suicide, the death is, at first, not the subject of foul play.
Soon, though, between the meddling media and the word of a few questionable souls, blame is turned upon the victim’s cousin, Tommie, a bright and rising lawyer. We are given the story through his eyes which, at first, gives a feeling of comraderie and trust. Soon, though, trust becomes something a bit grayer as distrust and wavering beliefe set in. The distrust comes largely in part from Tommie’s possible misrepresentation of the story from his perspective for even though he has a showman’s way with words and fanfare, he is not altogether airtight in many of his arguments, even the ones in his own head. The mystery becomes not one of who, but if, as the town works against scandal and Tommie works against the clock.
Though he is of questionable honesty and innocence, Tommie is a lovable character and I found him much more endearing than many of the other, more two dimensional players on the stage. As many noted in our discussion, yesterday, much of my positive outlook on Tommie, my have come from his cold-blooded, albeit charismatic, portrayal of the events.
The story is told moving forward with big leaps backward to explain just how everyone got into this mess. In another setting, this may have ended up confusing the plot but, I think it worked perfectly, illuminating details as they needed to be revealed. The story, itself, is written well and never falls victim to campy “period” speak. It also, though, comes through with enough legitimate authenticity to stay believable.
I’m not a huge true-crime gal so I was relying on the historical fiction aspect of the story to carry me through. I did find this whole trial and case to be incredibly interesting and well done, though, much to my pleasant surprise. I think that one detail swaying my sympathy for Tommie, can be grounded in my huge distaste for modern media frenzies surrounding trials. There was a huge element of that phenomenon in the book even though the whole story fell over a century before what we think of as media hype, today.
Overall, a fabulously fun drama and one that I think is worth reading for crime and history fans alike. ...more
There isn’t much to do in Holton Mills, New Hampshire, especially for thirteen-year-old Henry. He lives with mis mom who has a strange history to go along with her current habit of running scared from the outdoors. Though he occasionally gets out of the house for school, as Labor Day weekend dawns, he admits to feeling like the summer has been a bit long. Relying on his talkative, albeit, generally anti-social mother and a hamster for company, Henry sticks it out, leaving, once a week, for excruciatingly awkward “family dinners” with his father and his new family.
Their routine carries on this way until one fateful afternoon on an infrequent trip out. Henry and his mother find a bleeding stranger in need of help. They take him home and their life begins to unravel and rebuild in the tiny confines of their home. Though both Henry’s mother and their guest have secrets that might deter others, they find solace in one another’s oddities. Along the way. Henry learns the beauty of baseball, the fun of pie making and the delicate balance some call the fine art of love.
Sad, beautiful and, quite often, just downright strange, Labor Day is a little book that packs a solid punch. Maynard is superbly skilled at getting right into the middle of the emotional spectrum, running everything from small child fears to the heart wrenching sadness of adults experiencing loss. Even though there are very bizarre elements of all of the lives caught up in the story, there are such ordinary, touchable bits of the whole mess that keep reality linked in. I’m not sure that I’d call this a beach read but it’s little and compelling enough to inhale in one deliciously emotional gulp.
Sometimes I like books for the story and sometimes I like books for the storyteller. The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock is definitely in the second category. Though the book is a fantastic tale in and of itself, the true beauty of it lies in the teenaged narrator, Cat.
Cat’s story starts in 1984, on the Channel Island of Guernsey. It also starts with her immediate dismissal of the horrible death of her previously alleged best friend, Nicolette. Backtracking as she moves forward, Cat is somewhat of an emotionally changed, unreliable, albeit very enthusiastic source on the life and times of the island’s teens.
Much of Cat’s narration is backlog through the past few decades of the island, hinging primarily on the fall out of the Nazi occupation. The wartime throwback is fleshed out, in full, by entries from Cat’s deceased dad during the time of the occupation, detailing a story very similar to the one being told by his daughter.
Not your average thriller, The Book of Lies is fast paced and intelligent, charming and creepy in all of the right places. The writing is well done, especially on the part of Cat. I did find the bits from her father a little bit confusing to piece together, though his story was easier to get through as it spun deeper into the book. That’s not to say that it was hard to follow but it did seem a bit haphazard and stilted alongside Cat’s brilliantly voiced telling.
This is the very second book that I’ve ever come across dealing with the history of Guernsey (the first, of course, being the super popular The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). Though that was, I guess, an adorable tale, itself, this was a much more solid and human story and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Channel Islands or just a really great story.
Alice Blackwell was not always Alice Blackwell, First Lady of the United States of America. She was once a small town girl from Wisconsin who lived and loved much like any other girl in the country. After a fairly standard childhood (save a rather life altering incident involving two cars and the love of her life) she found small time success as an elementary school librarian, close to home, never marrying, never reproducing.
That’s how the story went until she met Charlie Blackwell, heir to Blackwell meat-packing fortune and fame. After a whirlwind courtship, their romance sparked what would become the chaos and contentment of the rest of Alice’s adult life. As Charlie abandoned the family business in favor of a different kind of spotlight, Alice followed him from governor to president, dodging literal and figurative bullets on their climb to the very lonely top.
Based very loosely on our most recent Republican president’s wife, American Wife did not, originally, strike me as something that would be my cup of tea. I was not a huge fan of Sittenfeld’s previous best seller, Prep, but for some strange reason, I ended up finding an interest in this. Despite all odds against my favor for this story, I liked it a great deal. Sittenfeld has seriously improved her storytelling skills since the last time I met her on the page. Even though the focus is a couple I have never found much joy in following in real life, the fictitious couple had me hooked for a good portion of the book.
My only complaint is that, toward the end of the book especially, I found Alice (or really, Sittenfeld) to be talking and telling in circles. There was a lot of, what I felt to be, very redundant “reflection” that was felt in other portions of the book and didn’t need to be discussed over and over again in the last two hundred pages. That said, with a bit of a more cutthroat editor, this would have been a spectacular piece of fiction. A fun and perhaps frivolous one, at times, but, altogether a good one....more
I really need to quit judging books by their covers. After Vaclav & Lena surprised me, one might think that I would be less judgmental of books that seem frilly on the outside. Yet, here I am, once again, reporting on the deep and gritty content within a seriously “chick-lit” cover.
I’ve had Commencement on my shelf for almost a year without so much as cracking the cover. I don’t know why it took me so long as I grew up in the area where the story takes place and know a huge number of women who went to Smith, Mt. Holyoke and the like. Whatever initially deterred me from beginning the book was finally shed, this past week and boy am I glad!
The story isn’t really one that can or should be summarized because the true “point’ of the whole thing, I think, is that journey. The growth and change of friendship, love and heartache are the driving forces in the novel and all other plot items are simply along for the ride.
Commencement is one of those books that I took as a personal letter to my own life even though other people have actually had the privilege of reading it. Though the book is based on the campus of a small women’s college and I went to a large, co-ed state school, the people in the story could easily have been found in personal history: the smart but hard partying Catholic girl from Boston; the sweet, preppy “good girl” from the Massachusetts suburbs; the pretty southern belle; and, of course, the seriously radical, over involved, under-manicured, Midwestern activist.
Though this sounds like a wide range of personalities, people who know me well will probably laugh at the combination. I found several figures from my life, to compare to each young woman in the story, making the progress of the book that much more personal. Now, not everyone grows up with a mix of preppy and Irish Catholic kids, all the while going to protests and marches with her parents and then, ultimately, moving to the deep south. So, maybe it does sing to me on a more personal note.
I loved the analysis of feminism, gender identity and other timely topics that have been at the front of my brain for the last little while. Because each player in the story is so different, the big picture provides such a complex and full overview of the breakdown of these issues.
I’m not really sure how to recommend this book because, again, it seemed to call to me on such a personal level that I’m not actually clear that it would appeal to anyone else. How silly but I feel like it’s my own little story. I do think that it’s a great book that should be read, regardless of personal experience, simply for the character development and overall fun. Sullivan did a great job with this and I hope other readers have and continue to enjoy this as much as I have.