I had much higher hopes for this book than what were met. I enjoy the odd paranormal thriller, mystery, etc., but this book simply did not deliver. ThI had much higher hopes for this book than what were met. I enjoy the odd paranormal thriller, mystery, etc., but this book simply did not deliver. The premise of this book is that Elizabeth Phoenix discovers upon the death of her foster mother that she is now responsible for leading the worldwide fight against evils of all sorts. Vampires, demons, berserkers, they're all here. Theoretically, these might be the elements of a good story, but those elements are never actually drawn together into a good story. There's very little plot, and almost no character development. We know little about Elizabeth except that she was abused and abandoned in her past, and there's no discussion of how this has shaped her thoughts and her life. All we really hear from Elizabeth is her distaste for the new responsibilities that have suddenly landed on her shoulders. The lack of character development is magnified by the fact that the book is narrated in the first person, but there's absolutely nothing to the character who is the narrator. And then we have the content issues. This book is replete with gratuitous sex scenes that read more like a bodice-ripping romance novel than anything else. The descriptions of the sex scenes go on for pages. I'm just not interested in all that pulsing and throbbing. If I was, I'd read a romance novel. It's not just the fact that the book is full of sex, though. If that was the only problem, a reader could easily skim the sex scenes. The problem for me is that the book is full of sexual violence. I'm not really sure what gratuitous sexual violence is meant to accomplish. And the violence really is gratuitous. Sexual violence can have its place in writing if it works to tell a story or contribute to a larger theme. But when its just there, for no reason, it really serves only to be disturbing. Ultimately, I see little value in this heroine. She's described as kick-butt and no-nonsense, but she's presented as a victim who is only capable of giving in to her sexual urges, and can only accomplish her goals if she sleeps with a variety of men she'd rather avoid. ...more
This collection of short storis examines the capacity of women to do evil. Bringing us into the depths of horror, Oates's protagonists range in age, iThis collection of short storis examines the capacity of women to do evil. Bringing us into the depths of horror, Oates's protagonists range in age, interest, and situation. We meet a six-year-old girl, a young nurse, a middle-aged fashionista, and an elderly woman dying in a nursing home, among others. What unites all of these women across their stories are the desperate personal circumstances in which they find themselves, and the realization that the only path out is a dark and disturbing one. As with much of Oates's work, this collection addresses the exploitation and marginalization of women in American society, yet it does so through horror and suspense. This is a deliciously suspenseful collection, excellent reading for a spooky October night....more
This novel tells the haunting story of two generations of a Wisconsin family brought together and torn apart by the lake adjacent to the family home.This novel tells the haunting story of two generations of a Wisconsin family brought together and torn apart by the lake adjacent to the family home. Focused on four women, sisters of two generations, the novel develops around the sisters' relationship with the lake, and the tragedy that ensues when it claims one of their lives. Much of the book is spent untangling the secrets which led to the drowning, and working out the complicated problems which arise from the family's attempts to keep these secrets.
Scwartz's story jumps back and forth across time, from past to present and back again. This means that the story develops piece by piece, and this is what makes it something of a mystery. I found the plot development to be one of the more satisfying parts of this book, seeing the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. I enjoyed the developments leading up to Scwartz's telling of what actually happened the night of the tragedy. After that point, however, I found the plot to be something of a let-down. The conclusion seemed a bit too neat, and a bit forced.
The most enjoyable part of this book to me was the way in which Scwartz set the scene- the way in which she managed to capture the sense of a time and place. The novel is set in the Wisconsin countryside in the first half of the twentieth century, with most of the action focusing on the last years of WWI, and the 1920s. Scwartz offers a convincing portrait of Wisconsin farm country in the late-1910s and early 1920s. Her descriptions are vivid, without being overstated, and her story intersects with several significant historical events, including WWI and the influenza epidemic. Scwartz gives her readers a strong sense of connection to the seasons, the land, the lake. I really did feel like I was part of the world about which she wrote.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel. The development of the plot engaged me, and the scenery captivated me. I was a bit disappointed by the ending, but my reading was by and large time well spent. ...more
This novel tells the story of the four Season sisters . When they gather for youngest sister Merry's funeral they are presented with the chance to conThis novel tells the story of the four Season sisters . When they gather for youngest sister Merry's funeral they are presented with the chance to confront a family secret that has festered for nearly thirty years. As they gather for the funeral each of the Season sisters is awash in her own problems. Investigating an old family secret gives them the opportunity to face their own demons, as well as to fulfill Merry's dying wish. If the plot sounds a bit hackneyed, that's because it is. The plot is entirely predictable. At no point was I surprised, and I saw the end coming from a mile away. The writing is also clunky. The prose is littered with excess detail, which serves no real purpose. Ultimately this book was far too predictable and sentimental to be enjoyable....more
Moving from the late-nineteenth century through World War II, and crossing North America from Missouri to California, this novel is the story of the uMoving from the late-nineteenth century through World War II, and crossing North America from Missouri to California, this novel is the story of the unhappy and increasingly distant marriage of Margaret and Andrew Early. Always an unlikely couple, the Earlys' marriage grows more troubled over time. By her late twenties Margaret was in danger of living her life as a perpetual spinster. Andrew, a troubled and headstrong scientist, dismissed in shame from his faculty position in Chicago, charms Margaret into accepting an offer of marriage when her options are few. Yet Andrew's problems loom over the marriage: mentally ill, obsessive, a conspiracy theorist, the marriage becomes a cage that holds Margaret in increasing unhappiness.
This book is stark and raw. Breaking out of unhappy marriages is such a mainstay of contemporary fiction, Smiley's work serves as a useful reminder about the realities that have and do face so many women. Reality was and is frequently far more in line with Margaret's experience: decades of unhappiness, few options, with escape beyond the bounds of thought or possibility. Margaret's marriage seems to close in over time. As her existing friends and family die or move away, Andrew's increasing psychosis cuts her off from social circles. Margaret's private life becomes an increasingly tight enclosure. Margaret's is a life that belies easy solutions. Above all, this is a book about making do with what has been given, and its remarkable just how good a book about making do can be. ...more
Reviewing a classic is always difficult business. Most people are likely familiar with the storyline, if only from the Omar Sharif film. Pasternak telReviewing a classic is always difficult business. Most people are likely familiar with the storyline, if only from the Omar Sharif film. Pasternak tells the story of an elite doctor and his family whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the Russian Revolution. During the revolution Zhivago loses his connections to his family and his wealth. But weaving throughout this undeniably tragic tale is the real focus, Zhivago's blossoming relationship with a young woman, Lara. The two come in and out of contact during the war, due more to the vagaries of circumstance than to careful planning, knowledge, or ability to execute travel plans. What results is a deeply tender and moving relationship formed in the crucible of wartime. Pasternak had a clear political agenda in Zhivago, to show the cruelty and violence of the Bolshevik regime, and to highlight the dangers of a corrupted regime. The suffering and misery of the Russian people are clearly acute, and Pasternak presents a vibrant portrait of life in Russia at war. In many ways this reads like so many Russian classics-- deep moral themes, dense plot structure, and a brilliant recreation of environment. It's difficult to review a work of great literature, but I much enjoyed Zhivago. I got the message, I felt the pathos, and I soaked up the Russian environment. I absorbed every bit of this book that I could....more
Ruiz has come up with four principles from ancient Toltec wisdom. If one adopts these four agreements, Ruiz argues, they will help bring a sense of peRuiz has come up with four principles from ancient Toltec wisdom. If one adopts these four agreements, Ruiz argues, they will help bring a sense of peace and happiness to one's life. Generally the agreements sound reasonable enough: don't take things personally, say only good things about others, etc. So far, so good. But there's some serious theoretical problems that underlie Ruiz's plan. Ruiz seems to suggest that the self can determine the majority of one's experience outside of social context. He claims that society is composed of collective dreams. Even recognizing that Ruiz is infusing dreams with more importance than western culture generally does, it still strikes me that the message here is that if one has fortified one's spirit with these four principles, nothing anyone else says or does can strongly affect you. Maybe I'm too close-minded, but I just can't buy it. We all live in social and cultural worlds, and those worlds do shape our experience, whether we like it or not....more
Plumbs the depths of the soul, by dealing with such hard-hitting questions as: - Why don't you like my dead mouse? - Why won't you play with me at 3 am?Plumbs the depths of the soul, by dealing with such hard-hitting questions as: - Why don't you like my dead mouse? - Why won't you play with me at 3 am? - Why is faucet water so much better than cat dish water? - How could you bring a new kitten into our house? - What do you mean, quit clawing those curtains?
They're easier to ask when it's literature....more
This book: part humor, part travelogue, narrates Bryson's road trip across the United States and back again. Bryson travels without strict itinerary,This book: part humor, part travelogue, narrates Bryson's road trip across the United States and back again. Bryson travels without strict itinerary, and with frequent stops in small towns across the country. The narrative is written in classic Bryson style, with frequent diversions to explain the origin of many of life's oddities, and with constant sideline commentary. As is usually the case with Bryson, the narrative is illuminating, amusing, and shows Bryson's sense of adventure. It was a pleasure to read. Yes, Bryson is frequently critical, but it's important to note that he's an equal-opportunity offender. Wherever he goes he brings his decidedly sarcastic wit, but he also balances criticism with admiration. This is not a book with a weighty message about humanity or morality, but it is a fun read to pick up and put down at leisure. And the ability to dive in and out is one of the beautiful things about this book; one can enjoy it and put it aside at will, and it takes little time to become reengaged in Bryson's prose....more
This novel is a fictionalized account of an all-female gang that forms in a working class community in upstate New York. The gang, Foxfire, is foundedThis novel is a fictionalized account of an all-female gang that forms in a working class community in upstate New York. The gang, Foxfire, is founded by a group of girls who've all suffered alientation and lack of parental attention. The girls share a sense of being alienated and restricted from any sort of real social benefits or meaningful relationships becuase of their age, gender, economic status, and family situation. The gang is formed, and begins, by using public humilation and minor violence to bring justice to local men who have abused the privileges of their gender. Quickly, though, their activities escalate, and it becomes clear that the gang is on a path to self-destruction. This book was a bit hard to get into at first because its written in the tone and style of one of the gang's members, but the writing becomes engrossing. Oates truly takes on the tone and spirit of a teenage girl gang. While this is part of what makes the book hard to get into, it ultimately makes for an engrossing story. It is striking just how anti-male Foxfire's violence is, and the book seems to suggest that this is one of the myriad of social responses to a world in which girls are expendable objects, sexualized, and undervalued. Indeed, Oates invites the reader to consider the gang and it's activities as part of a continuum of responses that individuals in a depressed, sexist, and emotionally alienated society might produce. The book is as much a critique of the word that made Foxfire possible as it is a narration of the gang's activities. While Oates does not excuse the violence she clearly assigns broader culpability to the world in which these girls live....more
I had heard so much about this book before reading it. This is one of those classic texts that all bibliophiles seem to read and adore, so I was thoroI had heard so much about this book before reading it. This is one of those classic texts that all bibliophiles seem to read and adore, so I was thoroughly looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I was not as smitten as most readers seem to be. This slim volume chronicles the correspondence between New Yorker Hanff and the staff of an antiquarian bookstore in London. The entirety of the text is letters, as Hanff cultivates a relationship with the shop's staff, a relationship built entirely on transatlantic correspondence. The second part of the book is comprised of Hanff's memoirs of the trip she was finally able to take to London, sadly after the bookstore, Marks and Co. had closed, and after her primary correspondent had died. Certainly the the letters between Hanff and her primary correspondent, Frank Doel, are touching. The two developed quite a friendship. In the privations of the post-war London of the late-1940s and early 1950s, Hanff sent repeated care packages to the bookstore's staff, providing things completely unavailable in the United Kingdom- basics like eggs (real and powdered), oranges, and women's stockings. It return, Doel and his store provided Hanff with quite a reading list- even the most ardent of bibliophiles will likely be wowed by the density and depth of Hanff's reading list. Those elements aside, I preferred Hanff's memoirs of her time in London to the letters. I drank up her descriptions of the places, though I found it difficult to get interested in the people. In sum, while I found this book charming, it was not the amazing experience I was expecting. Bibliophiles will surely want to read it, but I'm not sure a general audience would find it engaging. In writing this, I feel like a bad voracious reader. I've missed something that makes this book a tremendous experience of other book lovers....more