This gets four stars instead of five because I spent the first half of the book annoyed with the heroine. But I liked her for the second half of the b...moreThis gets four stars instead of five because I spent the first half of the book annoyed with the heroine. But I liked her for the second half of the book, and I loved du Maurier's writing style. I enjoyed the way the suspense built, and I liked the way the heroine's sense of self was reflected in her attitude toward Manderley. The book was beautifully written!(less)
I really enjoyed this story, though it was a little slow to get into. While the characters weren't particulary likeable, I did find myself sympathizin...moreI really enjoyed this story, though it was a little slow to get into. While the characters weren't particulary likeable, I did find myself sympathizing with their situations and understanding their actions based on their own feelings and thoughts. While giving away one's child (especially because that child is imperfect) is an heinous act, based on David's history and the time period you can kind of understand why he does it. Although Norah is an extremely flawed (and at times very annoying and frustrating), I could understand why her grief and her circumstances might make her act the way she does. What Caroline does is technically kidnapping, but her motivations are pure and admirable. In the same way, the novel itself has many imperfections (some things that are too coincidental to be believable, some things that happened that didn't make much sense), but it's enjoyable anyway. (less)
Well, I stupidly read the sequel, which I didn't know was a sequel, first. And I gave it four and a half stars, and I liked this one even better (also...moreWell, I stupidly read the sequel, which I didn't know was a sequel, first. And I gave it four and a half stars, and I liked this one even better (also I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes), so I guess it's only right to give this one five stars.(less)
I read this because it's the first book on the docket for my new book club. I have not read The Kite Runner so I really had no idea what to expect. I...moreI read this because it's the first book on the docket for my new book club. I have not read The Kite Runner so I really had no idea what to expect. I was blown away. Here is a story that is at once difficult to read and yet impossible to put down; joyous and heartbreaking; bleak and hopeful; and always moving. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters from the first chapter. When I say it was difficult to read, I mean that only because of the emotions it drew from me. There were times when I felt such sympathy and compassion for these characters that my heart literally hurt! But Hosseini's almost lyrical prose kept me turning the pages. I only left off the fifth star in the review because I don't think this will be one of those books I read over and over again; it's just too emotional.(less)
In The Red Tent, Anita Diamant writes the story of Genesis' Jacob and his family from the point of view of his only daughter, Dinah. While the menstru...moreIn The Red Tent, Anita Diamant writes the story of Genesis' Jacob and his family from the point of view of his only daughter, Dinah. While the menstrual tent does play a significant role in the book, the whole book is not centered on menstruation. The novel follows the founding family of Israel from Jacob's flight to the home of his uncle Laban, through Jacob's marriages to his four wives and the births of his children, and through Jacob's journey back to the land of his birth. The story continues with Dinah's relationship with the Prince of Shechem and through the rest of her life in Egypt.
In the Bible, very little is said of Dinah; only that she was "defiled" by a man of Shechem, and that her brothers slaughtered every male in Shechem as a punishment. Diamant, however, raises some very interesting questions with this novel. Was Dinah raped? Or did her brothers refuse to recognize her relationship with a man whose traditions differed from their own? How did the patriarchical society of Biblical times shape the telling of this family's story? Would it have been different from a woman's perspective?
While there were many details that differed from the Biblical account, only a few of those differences bothered me (God's renaming Jacob to Israel reduced to a cowardly choice by Jacob, for one). For the most part, I appreciated the way this novel celebrated the relationships between mothers, daughters, and sisters and the way it made me think of the differences in our points of view due to our gender.(less)
I really enjoyed Austen's first novel, but not quite as well as I loved Pride & Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. I loved the way Austen used...moreI really enjoyed Austen's first novel, but not quite as well as I loved Pride & Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. I loved the way Austen used Catherine's overactive imaginiation in a humorous way, and also the commentary Austen was making on trashy novels. I thought it was quite interesting that Austen defended the readings of trashy novels as harmless fun, so long as the reader doesn't blur the lines between fiction and real life.(less)
To me, the mark of a good book is when you don't want to see it end. And when it does end, you can't stop thinking about it. That's how this book was...moreTo me, the mark of a good book is when you don't want to see it end. And when it does end, you can't stop thinking about it. That's how this book was to me. The characters were so richly drawn that I actually felt like they could be real people. When some of the injustices happened I had to remind myself that this was fiction. Sara Gruen writes this amazing story against a backdrop of the Great Depression and that adds so much to the story. I can't say too much about it without giving away important plot points, but I did not see the big twist coming. I'm surprised I didn't, as all the signs were there, but I was just so engrossed in the story that I didn't put them together. This is a book I will read again and again.(less)
I don't always find magical realism hokey. Sometimes I quite like it. But in order for me to completely buy into the magical or mystical qualities of...moreI don't always find magical realism hokey. Sometimes I quite like it. But in order for me to completely buy into the magical or mystical qualities of a book, the author has got to obey their own rules. Contradictions ruin it for me. In order for me to believe in the world the author creates, they've got to stay true to the parameters and specifications of that world. Sarah Addison Allen does not do this.
The story is about a couple of sisters who are brought back together again after years of estrangement. The family home has a garden with a magic apple tree (one bite from the apple will show you the biggest event in your life). Claire has a magic ability to bring about certain emotions in people who eat food she cooks from the plants in the garden. Cousin Evanelle has an overwhelming urge to give people things even before it's clear why they'll be needed (she might give you a quarter a week before you have to make a call from a payphone). Five-year-old Bay has an uncanny sense of where things belong. And Sydney... well, Sydney has magical hair-styling abilities. Seriously. She goes through half the book all emo about how she's the only Waverly without a magical gift, and then she gets a job in a salon and that's her gift. It isn't really clear how this is a magical gift, though, but it's definitely said that this is her gift. I mean, I know a couple of people who are crazy good at doing hair. But this chick, she's magically good at it. But, actually, this isn't really her only gift. She has the ability to see auras, but no one ever mentions that that might be something special and unique to her. So, her gift isn't seeing auras, apparently. It's styling hair. And everyone in town thinks the Waverly women are strange because of their unsettling abilities (although that doesn't stop people from hiring Claire as a caterer, accepting gifts from Evanelle, or getting their hair cut by Sydney). Because having someone in your small, ordinary town with extraordinary supernatural abilities is weird, right?
Except it isn't. Because the Waverly women really aren't the only people with abilities. The Clark women are REALLY GOOD at sex. I mean, like, really good. And the Hopkins men, who all always marry older women, can set trees ablaze with the heat of their desire. (This is another theme in this book: that "all Clark women" do this and "all Hopkins men" do that, as if it were in their DNA rather than just family tradition.) But then, Claire also burns things when she's really turned on, so I'm not sure where that comes from. And the tree. The tree's apples aren't the only magical part of the tree. When Claire and Tyler fool around in the garden, the next morning the tree writes "thank you" on the ground. Which is weird.
Also, Claire's next door neighbor and love interest, Tyler, is inexplicably immune to Claire's powers. Her recipes have no effect on him. But the apple tree does affect him.
The big conflict (Sydney's ex, Bay's father, is an abuser and tracks them down) lasts for about two pages. Other than serving as Sydney's motivation to return to the family home, it added nothing to the story. There's another story line involving Fred, the gay grocer, and his breakup with his longtime partner that also seemed to serve no purpose. Many parts of this story seemed disjointed and not fully fleshed out.
And the prose. I could go on and on about the prose. But let this gem about the September heat suffice: "Summer was a lady who didn't give up her spotlight easily."
Don't let the description on the book's jacket fool you: this book is not about the relationship between the two sisters. It's not even about the magic garden. It's a romance novel, plain and simple. Skip this one. Read Like Water for Chocolate instead if you want a good magical realism story about food and love.(less)
On the fictional, language-obsessed island of Nollop, a statue stands erected to the memory of the man who composed the famous pangram, "The quick bro...moreOn the fictional, language-obsessed island of Nollop, a statue stands erected to the memory of the man who composed the famous pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." One day, a letter-tile falls from the pangram and as a result the island Council outlaws use of that letter. As more tiles fall, more letters are banned, and the island dwellers must fight for freedom of speech in its most literal sense.
This is a cute, clever, witty, and original book which I loved. The epistolary form of the novel is key, because as letters disappear from the island inhabitant's alphabet, they also disappear from the book, forcing the letter-writers to be very innovative in words they use and creative spellings. The wordsmithing of the novel is my favorite part.
There is also a deeper level to this book. The Nollopian council believe the destruction of the letter-tiles to be the will of Nollop, exercised from beyond the grave. The Council members place Nollop above God, and worship him as a deity. It seems as though the author was exploring his idea, in an extreme way, of what might happen if there were no separation between church and state, or perhaps he was merely questioning the idea that we can truly know the will of God.(less)
I'd only read one other Picoult book, A Perfect Match, prior to this one, and I couldn't get into it. So when this book was chosen for my book club,...moreI'd only read one other Picoult book, A Perfect Match, prior to this one, and I couldn't get into it. So when this book was chosen for my book club, I was dreading reading it. But, to my surprise, I couldn't put it down. While the writing itself wasn't anything particularly extraordinary, I found myself identifying with a couple of the main characters (both Josie and Peter, in different ways). And though the big "plot twist" at the end was, at least in my case, 100% predictible by the midway point of the book, I still found myself rivited by the way the plot unfolded. The events at NIU last week certainly came to mind many times during the reading of this book, making it emotionally difficult to read at times. Because of the predictibility and also because of several problems I had with Picoult's writing, I can't give it any more than three stars. But since it exceeded my expectations, I guess you could call it a success. (I guess the happiness equation in the book is right. Happiness is reality divided by expectation. The reality of the book exceeded my expectation of it, so I guess I was happy with it.)(less)
At first, it was difficult for me to get into this book. Ginny is, as her father was before her, a lepidopter...moreB&N First Look Advanced Reading Copy.
At first, it was difficult for me to get into this book. Ginny is, as her father was before her, a lepidopterology expert - an expert on moths. But as I continued to read it became clear that there was much more to this story than the study of insects. Told from Ginny's point of view, we remember the past events which bound Ginny and her sister Vivi together and led to their fifty year estrangement, while we also follow the events of the present weekend. Many questions are raised: Why did the devoted sisters become estranged? Why did Vivi come back now, after half a century of being away? How would Ginny adjust to Vivi's presence in her neatly ordered world? Those questions were only the beginning. As the story unfolded it became clear that there was much more to it than moths, but when the twist came, it was (to me) completely unexpected and most delicious. It became apparent why the family business of studying moths would be important, however I do feel that too much scientific detail was included. At times I felt so bogged down with the moth stuff that it was difficult to retain interest in the story. I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because I would have hated to miss the ending. (less)
This is an enjoyable story, part coming of age, part mystery. Ten-year-old Sally O'Malley made a promise to her dying father that she would take care...moreThis is an enjoyable story, part coming of age, part mystery. Ten-year-old Sally O'Malley made a promise to her dying father that she would take care of her sister, Troo. But that proves harder than she expected when her mother is hospitalized, her stepfather is arrested, and a murderer and molester is on the loose. Sally thinks she knows who the murderer is and that she's his next victim.
Set in 1957, the novel explores the seedier, uglier things that happened underneath the surface of a seemingly innocent time and small town. There is teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, adultery, murder, rape, guilt, and neglect. Yet it is told with a humor that keeps the book from becoming too depressing.
While I quite liked the novel, it was not without its flaws. Some of the characters were too one-dimensional. Some were uneven and inconsistent. Kagen did a very good job of using a child's voice (Sally is the narrator) and I often chuckled at Sally's understanding of things. But Sally's younger sister, Troo, seemed more like a wisecracking teenager than a 9-year-old child. Also, Troo seems to be the stronger personality and the leader of the little gang so it's unclear why Sally, though older, would need to look out for or take care of Troo. Several of the plot twists were, to me, predictible within the first ten chapters.
Still, I'd say this is a pretty good first effort for Lesley Kagen.
What a beautiful, beautiful novel rich with characters so fully fleshed out and wonderfully drawn that I feel like I live in their neighborhood. I was...moreWhat a beautiful, beautiful novel rich with characters so fully fleshed out and wonderfully drawn that I feel like I live in their neighborhood. I was able to empathize with everyone, even when they were feeling conflicting things about the same situation, so that they all felt very real to me. I fell in love with them all.
I'm tempted to give it five stars, but that elusive fifth star is something I usually reserve for a book that moves me beyond words or a book that makes me squee all the way. I wish I could give it four and a half.(less)
On June 7, 1981, the morning of my third birthday, Mario Spezi recieved the phone call that would alter his life, make his career as a journalist, and...moreOn June 7, 1981, the morning of my third birthday, Mario Spezi recieved the phone call that would alter his life, make his career as a journalist, and begin the inquiry into the long and strange case of The Monster of Florence.
When my husband and I honeymooned in Italy, less than three weeks after Douglas Preston arrived in Florence, we had never heard of Il Mostro di Firenze. Now, I will never forget about it.
The first half of The Monster of Florence details the crimes of the Monster, sixteen murders in all, and Spezi's investigation and reporting of the case. The second half details the partly inept, partly corrupt, investigation by the authorities into the case, including the arrest of Spezi as the Monster and the questioning of Preston as an accessory.
This story has it all: sex, murder, corruption, man-eating pigs, satanic cults, missing vaginas, inept investigations, personal vendettas, village idiots, conspiracy theories, kinky orgies, and much more. A handful of careers were made, and more than a handful of lives were ruined in connection with this case. Nine men were arrested, some were convicted (and later released) based on the testimonies of the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. And today the case is still unsolved.
Having spent two of my formative years in North Carolina, I can tell you that racism and classism are still very much alive in the Deep South. Fortuna...moreHaving spent two of my formative years in North Carolina, I can tell you that racism and classism are still very much alive in the Deep South. Fortunately, we've come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.
But this book is about so much more than the way maids were treated in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. It's more than a story of how the Junior League president ruled the lives of pretty much everyone in town. Mostly, it is a story about doing something. Taking action. Trying to change the status quo. Recognizing that we aren't so different from one another. And when we embrace that, just at look what can happen. (less)
This book starts off very slowly and yet some things seemed to happen too quickly. Mrs. Ali calls on the Major and all at once he is smitten in love w...moreThis book starts off very slowly and yet some things seemed to happen too quickly. Mrs. Ali calls on the Major and all at once he is smitten in love with her. It seemed very abrupt. I found the Major's obsession with his father's rifles completely boring, until the ending, when they turned out to be a metaphor for learning what is truly important in life. It reminded me of my mugging, and how at first I was so upset by the loss of my stuff that I forgot to be glad I wasn't harmed.
Although it took me a very long time to get into this, I ended up enjoying the last two-thirds of it. (less)