I saw Without You on a recent trip to Borders and had to buy it. Rent is one of my all time favorite Broadway shows and Mark is a character that has a...moreI saw Without You on a recent trip to Borders and had to buy it. Rent is one of my all time favorite Broadway shows and Mark is a character that has always resonated with me. In addition to that, Anthony Rapp has always been the quintessential Mark, at least in my experience, so I was interested in hearing what he had to say. Now that I have read it, I have to say that it was bit of a mixed experience for me.
On the one hand, Rapp gives the reader incredible glimpses into the evolution and experience of a musical and theatrical masterpiece. He also gives great insights into the character of Mark and how that personally related to him. And the story of his mother's struggle with cancer and how desperately he needed the tension between them that came from his sexuality to be resolved before it was too late was very moving.
On the other hand, there are occasions when the details in the story veer off into graphic and sometimes gratuitously vulgar territory. And there were angry descriptions and personal details of people he wrote about by name that made me feel uncomfortable at times. For example when Rapp tells the story of breaking up with a boyfriend who was unwilling to come out of the closet, I couldn't help feeling that he was outing the man in the book.
All in all, I am glad I picked up the book for its insights into Rent but, despite the fact that I often read and re-read books, I probably won't be picking it up again anytime in the near future. (less)
An excellent mystery with a rich, detailed world and great characters. I really enjoy this author's take on faith and think her fictional religions (b...moreAn excellent mystery with a rich, detailed world and great characters. I really enjoy this author's take on faith and think her fictional religions (both here and in the Angels of Samaria series) are interesting, well thought out and respectful. (less)
Another good installment of the Newford series. While The Blue Girl didn't have the same resonance as my favorite Newford books (Someplace to Be Flyin...moreAnother good installment of the Newford series. While The Blue Girl didn't have the same resonance as my favorite Newford books (Someplace to Be Flying, Dreams Underfoot, Widdershinns), it was still a fun read.(less)
While I have been enjoying Orson Scott Card's Women of Genesis series, I was really disappointed in Rachel and Leah. I felt like the author added so m...moreWhile I have been enjoying Orson Scott Card's Women of Genesis series, I was really disappointed in Rachel and Leah. I felt like the author added so much filler to flesh out the story that he ran out of room to actually tell the story! The book ended with Rachel and Leah's marriages to Jacob without any discussion of the drama to come. The Author's afterward notes mentions a part 2, The Wives of Isreal but it hasn't even been written yet and doesn't seem to have a timeline for when it will be written according to the author's website which was rather frustrating.
In addition to that, the characters struck me as somewhat spoiled and tended to get huffy and/or hysterical at the least little thing. And the behind the scenes reason why Leah ended up marrying Jacob was just plain silly, (especially since Rachel got over her "terror" rather quickly once the mess was made).
All in all, while I enjoyed Sarah and Rebekah, I really can't recommend Rachel and Leah. Maybe that will change once Wives of Isreal comes out and I can read the whole story but for now... I wouldn't bother. (less)
Then I went on to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I can definitely see how it could a significant book to many young girls, and I liked how...moreThen I went on to read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I can definitely see how it could a significant book to many young girls, and I liked how it dealt with religion, identity, and family rather complexly and honestly. I especially loved how Margaret realized that just because a boy was cute and popular, doesn’t mean that he was nice or a good person. I think that is an important truth to know, especially if you can figure it out in 6th grade.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was the way Margaret and her friends treated Laura Danker. I was a tall, isolated kid who was singled out and made fun of (although for different reasons) so I really identified with Laura. I hated the scene where Margaret took out her frustrations on poor Laura but what really made me mad was that even after learning the truth about Laura and coming to realize that her new friends are not all that trustworthy, Margaret never really does anything differently. She is still a part of her little group of friends and Laura is still isolated and alone. For a brief moment of time, Margaret feels empathy and understanding towards Laura but then promptly forgets about it, which quite frankly makes me incredibly sad for her. I realize that Margaret has been left to find her own way in terms of faith and religion but learning about compassion could only help her, regardless of if she was Christian, Jewish, or continues to find her own path with her own, personal relationship with God.(less)
One of my all-time favorite books. I can't put my finger on why, but it reminds me of Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn (which, as anyone who knows me c...moreOne of my all-time favorite books. I can't put my finger on why, but it reminds me of Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn (which, as anyone who knows me can tell you, is a HUGE compliment). (less)
I was introduced to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay this past semester when I took an Intro to Poetry class. We read “I, Being Born a Woman and...moreI was introduced to the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay this past semester when I took an Intro to Poetry class. We read “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed” and “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why.” From that point on, I have been a major fan of Millay’s work and I wanted to know more about her. So I looked around for a good biography to read and found Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Vincent (as Millay was known by family and friends) was a fascinating woman, living in a fascinating time period. She was bold, creative, and charismatic, drawing people to her with her child-like beauty, her voice, passion and sheer talent. Reading excerpts from her letters and diaries was interesting and entertaining. (At times, especially when she was a college student at Vassar, she comes across almost like a character from a Lucy Maud Montgomery book (like Emily Byrd Starr) albeit one that smokes, acts out, and has a LOT more sex that any character Montgomery would ever have written about).
Having said all that, Nancy Milford’s Savage Beauty was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Milford is fairly successful in recounting Vincent’s early years from childhood, up through college and into the beginning of her career and marriage but the book eventually gets bogged down and lags more than a little towards the end before abruptly stopping in a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Also the author lacked a certain sympathy with her subject that would have allowed her to discuss some of the more sensitive parts of Vincent’s life without coming across as gossiping, judgmental and exploitative. She also allowed her personal hostility towards Norma Millay, Vincent’s sister and her source for much of the book, to be painfully obvious in the text. Even as she depends on Norma to provide access to Vincent’s papers and to recount her own recollections, Milford also makes not-so-subtle digs at her and questions Norma’s accuracy and motivations in providing the stories. It makes the narrator of the book come across as an unlikeable, sneering, insinuating, condescending gossip. During the parts of the book where Milford doesn’t intrude too much and allows Vincent to speak for herself through the documents she left behind, I enjoyed the book. I just wish there had been more of it.
I would love to read another, better biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them. (less)
Phenomenal Women is a small book. It is simply a collect of four poems by the phenomenal Maya Angelou. But these four poems both about being a woman a...morePhenomenal Women is a small book. It is simply a collect of four poems by the phenomenal Maya Angelou. But these four poems both about being a woman and about the central women in our lives are powerful and empowering and a delight to read. (less)
Freaky and fascinating... After reading both American Gods and Neverwhere, I can now say with 100% certainty that Neil Gaiman is both an amazing write...moreFreaky and fascinating... After reading both American Gods and Neverwhere, I can now say with 100% certainty that Neil Gaiman is both an amazing writer and a seriously twisted individual. (less)
Although I grew up loving Little Women and the rest of Louisa May Alcott's books for children, I never really ventured into any of the books she inten...moreAlthough I grew up loving Little Women and the rest of Louisa May Alcott's books for children, I never really ventured into any of the books she intended for more mature readers. I picked up Moods because it was recommended to me by someone in a book club that I joined, who called it Alcott's take on Jane Eyre.
Now that I have read Moods, I can say that it wasn't my favorite Alcott (a part of me wonders if I would have loved her books so much if I had read them for the first time as an adult, as opposed to having a childhood of love and nostalgia to bolster my opinions of them) but it was definitely interesting. The story is a basic love triangle… two friends in love with the same girl who makes bad decision after bad decision because she is ruled by her moods and impulses rather than principal. It was a little preachy in parts but that is classic Alcott, something I think I would have tolerated a little less had I first read her books when I was older instead of falling in love with them as a child.
I am not sure where the Jane Eyre comparison comes in. I agree Adam was imperious enough to be somewhat like Mr. Rochester but he was in no way as fascinating as Mr. Rochester was. And he was held up as a paragon of virtue who the other characters looked to for guidance and correction (again, classic Alcott) while Mr. Rochester was flawed and desperately ruled by his passions and need to be loved. Also the "there is no way he loves me so I should just go about making my plans" plotline is somewhat similar. And I guess you can make a case for Geoffrey being this book's equivalent of St. John Rivers, although I liked him. He was sweet as opposed to the stern, arrogant; saint in training that was St. John. There was a little element of him taking a paternal interest in Sylvia that was a little condescending (even more classic Alcott) but overall he reminded me of Mac from Rose in Bloom (one of my favorite characters from of my favorite Alcott books) or Mr. Knightly from Jane Austen’s Emma.
Overall, for me, it seemed a lot more like a Dickens’s novel (particularly something like Hard Times), with a touch of Austen thrown in, written in Louisa May Alcott's voice. I am ridiculously happy that the "right" guy won out in the end. Quite frankly, I couldn't see the attraction in Adam. He reminded me of Dan from Little Men but with less charm and a superior attitude that I found grating.
But I love that, at least in part, the solution to the whole mess was taking time away from both men, growing up and getting to know her own mind before making any decisions. (I think if that kind of common sense approach was featured in more romantic books and movies, it would be healthier for both the characters and the audience.) And I found the character of Sylvia to be a little fascinating. I think a more modern author would have cast her as someone suffering from manic depression. Louisa May Alcott even describes her changeability as an illness… albeit one that could be overcome with time, maturity and force of will alone.
Again, it was an interesting read but not something that I would probably pick up and re-read.(less)
I had seen reviews of The New Dubliners, reviews that caught my eye and made me mildly curious to pick up the book despite my rather intense hatred of...moreI had seen reviews of The New Dubliners, reviews that caught my eye and made me mildly curious to pick up the book despite my rather intense hatred of James Joyce. In fact, in order to better compare and contrast between the original and the new versions, I even re-read James Joyce’s Dubliners (confirming, once and for all, that I cannot STAND James Joyce). Still, I recognized one or two of the authors who contributed to the New Dubliners and decided to still go ahead and read it.
It’s not my favorite anthology of short stories. There were some stories that I just didn’t get and there was some that I think were trying too hard to be clever and significant and there were a couple of stories that were good but that I most likely will not spend a lot of time thinking about now that I am done reading them. Having said that, there were four stories that really stood out and justified the time I spent reading the book. They are:
Recuperation by Roddy Doyle An elderly man is encouraged by his doctor to begin walking as a means of getting exercise after a heart attack. The reader follows his thoughts as he walks, reflecting on his increasing withdrawal from social interaction after his children had grown and left the house, and his bewildered wondering about why his wife has moved out of the bedroom. He desperately wants to ask her what caused the rift, there having been no fight, no affair, no crisis to trigger the change, but fears that if he upsets the delicate balance of their relationship it would trigger a chain of events that he is unprepared to deal with. I thought this story was an interesting look at a family quietly in crisis and suffering from a lack of communication.
The Assessment by Bernard MacLaverty A story of an elderly woman whose son has brought her to a nursing home for an assessment to see if she can still live on her own. The woman is fixated on the fact that she is being judged and is frantic to know what she needs to do to pass the “test.” Gradually, the reader picks up on more and more signs of her confused and paranoid mental state and a fascinating and touching portrait of a woman descending into dementia begins to emerge.
All that Matters by Maeve Binchy A young girl falls under the influence of her sophisticated aunt who visits once a year from the States. Through her aunt’s eyes, the girl examines her family and her home and finds it wanting. She sets out to recreate herself in her aunt’s image but an unplanned pregnancy forces her to seek out her Aunt in America. There she finds that her Aunt’s life is all smoke and mirrors. Shocked by this revelation, she re-examines her priorities and discovers what is potentially beautiful about what she has been looking down on.
James Joyce would have detested this story (which might explain a lot of why I liked it). In a lot of ways, it is similar to Eveline, a story in the original Dubliners. Joyce’s character has a chance to escape Dublin and make a “better” life for herself. The fact that she doesn’t, that her fear and doubt keeps her life stagnated and unchanged is a major failing in Joyce’s eyes. He would have approved of the aunt’s “do what you need to do” attitude. But Binchy turns the Joyce philosophy on its head, revealing that despite the fact that the aunt managed to escape Dublin and has fooled the world into believing that she is better than her roots, she is not any happier for that and the although the young girl will have her freedom and prospects limited by having an illegitimate child and will likely live with her course, rough around the edges family for the rest of her life, she can find joy in it.
Benny Gets The Blame by Clare Boylan Benny Gets the Blame is one of the funniest short stories I have read in a while. When young boys, having seen Ben Hur one too many times, decide to recreate the chariot race from that movie with baby carriages (with the babies still inside), the end results are pretty funny. (less)