I loved this novel. It was beautifully told, with some gorgeous language and amazingly distinct voices. I loved the structure of it, the way it was br...moreI loved this novel. It was beautifully told, with some gorgeous language and amazingly distinct voices. I loved the structure of it, the way it was broken into books like a bible, the way each chapter was from a different character's point of view. And the first few books were utterly engrossing. While I was reading about the Price family's journey into Africa and the time they spent on their mission, I could not put the book down; it was that good.
I do think that it went on too long, though. The last book or so is about the Price girls' lives after that experience, what happened to them, and so on. It was just unnecessary, and dragged a bit. It also got a bit didactic and preachy -- I felt almost like I was reading a history book in some places: Africa, and Why the USA Should Leave It Alone. Those same points were made much more powerfully and subtly in the first half of the book, I think.
But that flaw doesn't detract from the overall power and beauty of this novel. There is a great deal of complexity in these pages -- it's about all kinds of things, from spirituality, multiculturalism, religion, the way religion gets all tied up in cultural imperialism, race, gender, poverty, the politics and history of the Congo, self-identity, and more -- but it's all wrapped up in an engaging story and vividly-drawn characters. I highly recommend it!(less)
I am a feminist. In college, I minored in women's studies, and I ended up taking lots of classes with some very earnest, intelligent women about vario...moreI am a feminist. In college, I minored in women's studies, and I ended up taking lots of classes with some very earnest, intelligent women about various "women's issues." Inevitably in these classes, the sex industry would come up for discussion at some point or another -- stripping, pornography, prostitution, etc. I didn't know what I thought about the subject back then, and I still don't today. I'm deeply ambivalent about it. On the one hand, I agree with the argument that says that all sex industry workers are being exploited, degraded, and objectified; on the other hand, I agree with the argument that glorifies sex industry workers for taking charge of their sexuality, and asks what's wrong with being (or being seen as) a sexual being anyway? I have absolutely no personal experience with the sex industry, so all this discussion was purely theoretical. So when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Surely I would find some clarification, some resolution to this conundrum, in the memoirs of an ex-stripper?
As it turns out, not so much. Lily Burana herself is deeply ambivalent about stripping, about what it means to her, to her friends and family, and to society at large. That's why she decided to write this book in the first place -- to get some closure on a sticky subject. In the end, she finds personal peace of mind, but no absolute answer, no epiphany. The truth, I think, probably lies somewhere in the middle of those two opposing points of view -- as well as at both extremes. The two different arguments are both true, at the same time. It's enough to give you a headache!
The book itself was very good, I thought. I found it entertaining, informative, and interesting. The author has a gift for descriptive prose, for immersing the reader in a particular time and place so that you feel you're there, part of the action. I enjoyed the parts about the various strip clubs she worked at and the parts about her personal life and history equally. Ms. Burana is a gifted autobiographer, and she wrote the book so that her personal journey interwove itself with the nitty-gritty details of what it's like to live as a working stripper seamlessly, each half of a larger whole.
An excellent book! Very different from my normal reading fare, but worth the trip!(less)
This is an excellent novel, action-packed, exciting, and deftly-plotted, with fascinating, complex characters and some interesting science-fictional i...moreThis is an excellent novel, action-packed, exciting, and deftly-plotted, with fascinating, complex characters and some interesting science-fictional ideas. I also enjoyed reading about Luna's culture; I thought the marriage customs were particularly interesting.
One thing I noticed right off was the way the Loonies use language differently than people from earth do. In fact, it threw me at first -- I couldn't figure out what was going on or why the language was so rough and unpolished and choppy. Eventually, though, I found the rhythm of it and settled in just fine -- I didn't even notice it after a while. It makes sense; Luna started off as a penal colony and has since developed completely separate from Earth and relatively unmolested. Of course they would have their own dialect and speech patterns! To my mind, their language seems to be as efficient as possible. They trimmed away any unnecessary deadwood -- they don't use articles, for example, and very few personal pronouns, and they seem to prefer to use fragments to complete sentences. Only the essentials remain, much the same as the original colonists/prisoners had to start their lives over with only the bare essentials and sometimes not even that.
This book was written about forty years ago, and it has stood the test of time quite well, but there are some aspects of it that do seem rather dated. For example, the idea behind the character of Mike -- the computer that is connected to everything and has "woken up" or become alive -- is one that is very familiar to modern readers, one that we accept easily. Apparently, we accept it much more easily than Heinlen expected his readers in 1965 to accept it, because he spends more time explaining it than he really needs to. When Mannie, the narrator, tells Wyoh about Mike and introduces them via a telephone conversation, she is shocked that Mike already knows what she looks like. He looked up her medical records and found a picture of her immediately after being introduced to her. To modern readers familiar with the internet, this is an obvious step and hardly shocking; we expect it, and Wyoh's shock and apparent need to have every detail and implication of Mike's "life" spelled out for her makes her seem a little bit stupid to us. If we don't remember that Heinlen is using Wyoh to explain things to his 1965 audience that his 2005 audience intuitively understands, then we'll get a little frustrated with Wyoh's denseness.
All in all, though, this is a novel about politics -- a very complex, deep, intellectual and sophisticated look at politics, government, revolution and war. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has a very definite world-view and political philosophy, some of which I agreed with, and some of which I really, really didn't. My agreement (or lack thereof) with the politics espoused in this book didn't seem to have much bearing on my enjoyment of it. This is a book that requires the reader to think. And that, I think, is why I loved it so much.(less)
This was a wonderful first novel. I loved the characters -- Maggie (the narrator) in particular was just very vivid and real to me. I identified with...moreThis was a wonderful first novel. I loved the characters -- Maggie (the narrator) in particular was just very vivid and real to me. I identified with her quite strongly, to the point where I was recognizing some of my own character flaws in Maggie's personality. I hope I have the strength to do what Maggie did at the end of the novel and take charge of my own life and change those things about myself that I don't like.
This is, as the title suggests, a book about what it's like to life as a fat woman in modern-day America. It deals with issues of appearance, weight, and self-esteem. But it also is a novel about friendship -- about why people become friends, what friendship means, and what happens when a friendship ends. The death of Maggie and Olivia's friendship is just as sad and bitter and slow as the breakup of a marriage -- and just as poignant and important and life-altering to the people involved.
Conversations with the Fat Girl was funny, sad, uplifting, and depressing, but most of all, it was honest. This was a conversation I both and enjoyed and needed to have, and I will no doubt be rereading this book many times in the future.(less)
Somehow, I have gotten through life as an English major, book geek, and a science-fiction nerd without ever having read this book. I vaguely remember...moreSomehow, I have gotten through life as an English major, book geek, and a science-fiction nerd without ever having read this book. I vaguely remember picking it up in high-school and not getting very far with it. It was an interesting premise, but far too depressing for my tastes at the time.
Fast-forward 15 years later. I just bought a copy the other day to register at BookCrossing for their Banned Books Month release challenge. The ALA celebrates Banned Books Week in September, so one BXer challenged us to wild release books that had at one point or another been banned in this country during the entire month. Fahrenheit 451 fits the bill -- an irony that is not lost on anyone, I trust. (Everyone knows Fahrenheit 451 is about the evils of censorship and banning books, right? The title refers to the temperature at which paper burns.)
I didn't intend to start reading it. I really didn't. Somehow it seduced me into it. I glanced at the first page and before I knew it, it was 1:00 in the morning and I was halfway through with the thing. It's really good! No wonder it's a modern classic. Montag's inner emotional and moral journey from a character who burns books gleefully and with a smile on his face to someone who is willing to risk his career, his marriage, his house, and eventually his life for the sake of books is extremely compelling. That this man, product of a culture that devalues reading and values easy, thoughtless entertainments designed to deaden the mind and prevent serious thought, could come to find literature so essential that he would kill for it...! Something about that really spoke to me.
It raises the question: why? What is it about books, about poetry, about literature that is so essential to us? There is no doubt in my mind that it is essential, if not for all individuals (although I find it hard to imagine life without books, I know there are some people who don't read for pleasure, bizarre as that seems to me), then for society. Why should that be? Books don't contain any hard-and-fast answers to all of life's questions. They might contain great philosophical Truths, but only subjectively so -- there will always be someone who will argue and disagree with whatever someone else says. In fact, as Captain Beatty, the evil fire chief, points out, no two books agree with each other. What one says, another contradicts. So what, then, is their allure? What is it that made Mildred's silly friend start to weep when Montag read the poem "Dover Beach" aloud to her? Where does the power of literature come from?
I think the reason that books are so important to our lives and to the health of our society -- of any society -- is not because they give us answers, but because they make us ask the questions. Books -- good books, the books that stay with you for years after you read them, the books that change your view of the world or your way of thinking -- aren't easy. They aren't facile. They aren't about surface; they're about depth. They are, quite literally, thought-provoking. They require complexity of thought. They require effort on the part of the reader. You get out of a book what you put into the reading of it, and therefore books satisfy in a way that other types of entertainment do not.
And they aren't mass-produced. They are individual, unique, gloriously singular. They are each an island, much-needed refuges from an increasingly homogeneous culture.
I'm glad I read Fahrenheit 451, even if the ending was rather bleak. It challenged me and made me think, stimulated me intellectually. We could all do with a bit of intellectual stimulation now and then; it makes life much more fulfilling.(less)
I literally just finished this book a few minutes ago, so I have not by any means worked though all of my reactions to it yet. It is written in a very...moreI literally just finished this book a few minutes ago, so I have not by any means worked though all of my reactions to it yet. It is written in a very spare, emotionally distanced style, even though it deals with very emotional topics. It is a page-turner, an absorbing, fast read that keeps you anxious to find out what happens next -- but that seems almost incidental, besides the point. I thoroughly disliked the main character, David Lurie -- he is unbelievably arrogant and chauvinistic -- but that seemed less and less important as the novel went on, and totally irrelevant by the end. In fact, I don't think there is a single likable character anywhere in this book, not even Bev Shaw (she is admirable, I think, but not likable). But these characters and their lives have so much to say to the reader that their likability just doesn't even enter into it.
This is an extremely complex book, with a lot going on -- I haven't even begun to unpack it all. At its core, it's about race, specifically about race relations in modern-day South Africa. But it also has a lot to do with gender politics and with animal rights (or, if not animal rights exactly, the treatment animals receive at the hands of human beings). Lucy, David's daughter, becomes the focal point for most of these issues, yet she, as a character, would eschew the whole notion of "issues". She doesn't deal in abstractions, only in the concrete necessities of daily life. She is -- all of these characters are -- hard to wrap your head around, hard to understand their motivations. Honestly, Lucy disturbed me even more than David disturbed me. David is an arrogant jackass who constantly romanticizes everything around him. Lucy, however, is a victim, a voluntary martyr. It is the role she has adopted for herself, the price she has decided she has to pay for being a white woman living in the South African countryside. She is powerless and oppressed -- not by other people, not by the society she lives in, but by herself. She may be trying to live a good life and be a good person, but I cannot imagine that anything good could possibly come out of the stance she chooses to take. She takes self-loathing to new and extreme levels, in my opinion.
So what is the disgrace that the title references? David's disgrace at the beginning of the book, being caught in an affair with a student? The disgrace Lucy feels from the rape? South Africa's disgraceful history of apartheid? The disgraceful behavior of the rapists and of Petrus, who is protecting them and may possibly have instigated the whole incident in the first place? Lucy's lack of self-respect? Her father's lack of empathy and connection with other human beings? Some other meaning I haven't considered yet? All of the above?
I don't know. But I know I will be thinking about this little novel for a long time to come. Haunting is, I think, the right word for it.(less)
All in all, I had mixed feelings about DH. There was a lot that I really liked about this novel, and I lot that I didn't really like. The very fact of...moreAll in all, I had mixed feelings about DH. There was a lot that I really liked about this novel, and I lot that I didn't really like. The very fact of the book, for instance -- I was torn between reading it in a great, gallumphing fit of glee as quickly as possible (because hey! new Harry Potter book!) and drawing it out for as long as I could and reading it as slowly as possible (because, you know, last new Harry Potter book ever). I thought I would miss the structure of the school year and the Hogwarts setting, and I did -- but I also really enjoyed seeing the trio break out of that mold and go off on their own. Then again, the long section in the middle of the novel where Harry, Hermione, and (sometimes) Ron wandered around the forest looking for Horcruxes and trying to figure out what to do got old pretty fast. I loved the ending, though; the final battle at Hogwarts, Harry's sacrifice, the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort -- it all rocked just about as hard as it possibly could. And how happy was I that, for once in his life, Harry actually managed to defeat Voldemort on purpose? Pretty darn happy, let me tell you.
I'm trying hard to avoid spoilers in this review, so I don't want to go into great detail about specific things I liked or didn't like. I will say that I hated the epilogue with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. It was awful, awful, awful. But, otherwise, I loved the ending. I felt this novel did a lot, tied up the major plot points and villains but still left the reader wanting more -- which is about as perfect an ending for such a well-loved series as you can get, I think.(less)
I was a little disappointed in this book. I love Julia Quinn; I find her novels engrossing, entertaining, funny, and romantic. They're generally just...moreI was a little disappointed in this book. I love Julia Quinn; I find her novels engrossing, entertaining, funny, and romantic. They're generally just good reads. But The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever was just okay. It was one of the first novels she ever wrote -- she revised the manuscript when she needed a standalone novel to publish after the end of her Bridgerton series -- and it shows. It was mildly entertaining, but both Miranda and Turner lacked the spark that makes truly interesting characters. And the twists and turns of the plot were extremely conventional. The whole books was utterly predictable. It's not a bad book, but I didn't love it either -- strictly middle of the road.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a sweet magical realism novel about two sisters, their lives and relationships, both with each other and with oth...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a sweet magical realism novel about two sisters, their lives and relationships, both with each other and with other people. I enjoyed the prose style and the story itself.(less)
I enjoyed this quite a lot! It's a fun, fast-paced urban fantasy novel with several quite original, unusual elements (a ballroom-dancing, parkour-runn...moreI enjoyed this quite a lot! It's a fun, fast-paced urban fantasy novel with several quite original, unusual elements (a ballroom-dancing, parkour-running cryptozoologist heroine, anyone?). The world-building was unique, too. I really enjoyed all the different species of "cryptids" (aka, monsters) McGuire populated her universe with. The Aeslin mice were delightful!
The plot twisted, turned, and kept me guessing, which was a refreshing change; most urban fantasy novels are depressingly predictable. If you like urban fantasy with quipping, kick-ass but-not-unrealistically-so heroines, this is the book for you!(less)
I really enjoyed this book! It's a "non-romance romance" -- it's not a romance novel and the romantic relationship isn't the main focus of the book, b...moreI really enjoyed this book! It's a "non-romance romance" -- it's not a romance novel and the romantic relationship isn't the main focus of the book, but it is important to it, and it frames the story. The most important relationships in this book -- besides the human/canine ones -- are the relationships between Lara and her parents. Her relationships with her mother and her father are very different (her mother, although devoted to providing Lara with everything she needs, is critical and seems to want Lara to become somebody she's not; her father is the "fun parent" who is never around except when he wants something), but her journey with both is the same. This novel is the story of Lara learning to set boundaries and deal with all of her relationships, romantic, canine, and especially parental, as an adult, not a child. I really enjoyed seeing all of these relationships unfold and Lara blossom into herself.
That said, what I loved most about this book was the doggy goodness! The dogs are all fully-fleshed-out characters, with their own personalities, motivations, and behaviors. I loved all the dog scenes! Great fun.(less)
This was a delightful book. Sophie is my favorite Regency heroine ever! She's smart, she's sassy, she has a mind of her own and is determined to get t...moreThis was a delightful book. Sophie is my favorite Regency heroine ever! She's smart, she's sassy, she has a mind of her own and is determined to get things done. She takes no grief from anybody, and she manages to be thoroughly charming while doing so!
My only complaint has to do with the unfortunate stereotypes and racist attitudes that Heyer displayed when describing some of the minor characters. I really could have done without the anti-Semitic portrayal of the Jewish moneylender character, for instance. But, given the age of the novel and the fact that it's a historical, I'm willing to give it more leeway in that regard than I would to a modern author.
I highly recommend this book for anyone even a little bit interested in Regency romance! It's a lot of fun!(less)
This was an excellent book, by turns thought-provoking, horrifying, and funny. Alexie does a fantastic job creating a very realistic teenage voice; Ju...moreThis was an excellent book, by turns thought-provoking, horrifying, and funny. Alexie does a fantastic job creating a very realistic teenage voice; Junior feels and sounds like a very real character, a smart, funny boy doing the best he can in difficult circumstances. Definitely worth reading!(less)
An enjoyable, sweet read. I was a bit dubious of the premise, but it was a Kindle freebie, so why not give it a try, right? I'm glad I did.
I was initi...moreAn enjoyable, sweet read. I was a bit dubious of the premise, but it was a Kindle freebie, so why not give it a try, right? I'm glad I did.
I was initially afraid that the heroine, Olivia, was going to be one of those unrealistic, wimpy romance-novel martyrs -- you know, the kind of heroine who bravely struggles on and never says a harsh word while everyone in her life takes horrible advantage of her and treats her terribly in order for the author to show what a good person and how deserving of love she is. I hate that kind of character.
There is a bit of that in Olivia's character, but not overwhelmingly so, thankfully. And she is very realistic, right from the start. We first see her driving into town for her sister's wedding (to Olivia's ex-boyfriend) -- and having a small breakdown in the car. She's not a wimp; she's a real person trying very hard to strike a balance between doing the right thing even though it hurts and protecting herself and setting boundaries.
I enjoyed this novella enough that I'm going to try tracking down some of the other books in the series!(less)