Sometimes you read a book that you think you're enjoying perfectly well, thank you, and then the last several chapters warm your heart and then rip itSometimes you read a book that you think you're enjoying perfectly well, thank you, and then the last several chapters warm your heart and then rip it out and break it and then mend it all back together with a pretty ribbon. This is one of those books. ...more
The easiest way to write what I thought about this book would be to quote from the book itself:
Over the years, people I've met have often asked me whaThe easiest way to write what I thought about this book would be to quote from the book itself:
Over the years, people I've met have often asked me what I'm working on, and I've usually replied that the main thing was a book about Dresden. I said that to Harrison Starr, the movie-maker, one time, and he raised his eyebrows and inquired, "Is it an anti-war book?" "Yes," I said. "I guess." "You know what I say to people when I hear they're writing anti-war books?" "No. What do you say, Harrison Starr?" "I say, 'Why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?'" What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that, too. And even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.
My feelings on this book, like the writing itself, are mixed. The plot itself was kind of a bore to me (Meghan Fitzmaurice is sort of a Katie Couric kMy feelings on this book, like the writing itself, are mixed. The plot itself was kind of a bore to me (Meghan Fitzmaurice is sort of a Katie Couric kind of a character, and I can't stand Katie Couric, so I really didn't care about Meghan Fitzmaurice) and I didn't agree with much of the narrator (Meghan's sister)'s worldview, but I really enjoyed the descriptions about life in New York City. Some of the narration was uneven, jumping from musing to present day to flashback without smooth transitions, leaving me confused at times about what was going on. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I didn't care for Quindlen's storytelling, but I did enjoy her writing....more
Like the main character's path branching in two directions, so did my opinion of this book. Really, I'd give this 2 1/2 stars. At times I liked it, anLike the main character's path branching in two directions, so did my opinion of this book. Really, I'd give this 2 1/2 stars. At times I liked it, and at times I HATED it. Sometimes I was bored, and sometimes I was riveted. Sometimes I thought Irina was whiney and annoying and a pain in the ass, and sometimes I saw bits of myself in her (although, granted, those were probably my whiney, annoying, PItA bits).
What really bugged me, and what I hoped would resolve itself in the end, was precisely what the author DIDN'T want resolved. Irina McGovern's entire future apparently hinges on one decision: whether or not to cheat on her partner of 10 years and kiss another man. From there, two Sliding Doors-esque parallel futures unfold. In one, Irina does kiss him, and leaves her common law husband for him. In the other, Irina does not give into temptation and stands by her man. The problem was, no matter which decision Irina made, she didn't seem happy. When she was with Lawrence (her "husband"), she tried to commit herself to the relationship but felt unsettled and unsatisfied sexually. Lawrence was a class-A asshole who never kissed her and wouldn't even have sex face-to-face. She still harbored lustful thoughts for Ramsey, the other guy, who appeared to be a classy and passionate alternative to the cold Lawrence. In the other future, when she is with Ramsey, he's a histrionic, self-centered, alcoholic prick whose only redeeming quality is that he's dynamite in the sack. Irina spends most of her time with this man fighting with him and wistfully remembering Lawrence, who may not have been as passionate in bed, but in whom she found a more compatible domestic partner. Lawrence, in this future, never turns into the class-A asshole but instead remains a virtuous, faithful, and supportive friend to Irina in spite of the fact that she cheated on him with and left him for one of his friends. In both futures, Irina believes the grass to be greener on the other side.
As it turns out, the author makes it pretty clear that the point she's making with this book is that a person doesn't have only one destiny. That any decision a person makes on any given day can totally shape their future and send it in a different direction. Although she accomplished that by never really telling the reader whom Irina should have ended up with, in a way she does give Irina only one desitny: to be unhappy. Also, in each parallel story line, very similar events would happen but in slightly different ways. It was like the two futures were the same ball game, with the only difference being that in one Irina was playing for the blue team and in the other, for the red.
And speaking of ball games, much of the book involves the game of snooker, as Ramsey is a professional player. Irina (a Russian-American ex-patriate living in London) often remarks on the fact that Americans don't know or care about snooker, and she was right. There were far too many detailed descriptions of matches that bored me, and that I skimmed over. The book probably could have been a good 100 pages shorter without all that snooker (though snooker actually was also a metaphor of sorts).
All that said, I stayed up last night until 2:00 so I could finish it. I still don't know, though, if it was because I was anxious to finish it or anxious to get it over with....more
Eh. Not really my thing. Too much Spanglish and G-talk. Better reviewers than I have summed up my feelings perfectly well. I totally agree with Kim abEh. Not really my thing. Too much Spanglish and G-talk. Better reviewers than I have summed up my feelings perfectly well. I totally agree with Kim about the Spanish and the footnotes, and I totally agree with DFJ about the swearing. I didn't really care about Oscar, and I didn't find his life wondrous at all. Sorry, Alfonso. Is this really you? Because the thing that made me lose interest in Oscar was how freaking obtuse he insisted upon being. You don't strike me as that stubbornly and willfully ignorant....more
I really don't understand what's supposedly so fan-freaking-tastic about this book. Maybe I'm not a fan of teenage boy coming-of-age books (as I alsoI really don't understand what's supposedly so fan-freaking-tastic about this book. Maybe I'm not a fan of teenage boy coming-of-age books (as I also loathed The Catcher in the Rye). Maybe I don't know enough about Mexican literature to appreciate this. Maybe I don't like poetry enough to care. Maybe it was the repetitive nothingness of Juan's diary entries (went here, smoked some weed, saw so-and-so, had sex with Maria. Next day: went here, drank some tequila, saw so-and-so, had sex with Rosario). Snore.
Well, at least I gave it the ol' college try....more
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality.
I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and iI wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality.
I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."
On the last page of The Book Thief, Zusak's narrator speaks these words about the world and the human race. But he could also be talking about the book itself, because that's exactly how it made me feel. This book was beautiful, and it was brutal. It was ugly, and it was glorious. It was damning, and it was brilliant.
**spoiler alert** Historical fiction isn't really my thing, but I can handle it if it feels authentic. I don't like reading a book where I feel the au**spoiler alert** Historical fiction isn't really my thing, but I can handle it if it feels authentic. I don't like reading a book where I feel the author is trying too hard to make the language seem period, and I really hate it when they don't try hard enough and there are anachronisms. At first, I thought this book would fall into the last camp. There were a couple of things throughout that bothered me (like Ellen saying the word "puke" in 1136, or like the married Aliena not being shunned for bearing the bastard son of her husband's stepbrother) but as I got into the story I was more able to forgive some of those errors.
I did feel at times that the book was too long and repetetive. There was just too much back and forth of the upper hand between Waleran/William and Philip. I'm sure it was meant to give us an idea of how much they came to be the bane of Philip's existence, but in a 900+ page book it begins to get tedious.
But Follett can write; there's no doubt about that. He's exceptionally gifted at drawing multifaceted characters. The bad guys have some redeeming or pitiful qualities. The good guys are deeply flawed. And alliances change as much in the plot as they would in a real political situation.
The thing that struck me the most while reading this was the knowledge that Follett does not believe in God, yet he is very knowledgeable about monastic life and Christian virtues. I was most impressed with Philip's capacity for forgiveness. Although he is prideful in many things, his pride did not get in the way of his mercy. This is a lesson I could stand to learn.
Fortuna evidently was smiling upon my being when I endeavored to undertake the consumption of this philosophical masterpiece. How amusingDear Reader,
Fortuna evidently was smiling upon my being when I endeavored to undertake the consumption of this philosophical masterpiece. How amusing to stumble upon a comic homage to Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, an homage that not only mirrors its source of inspiration in both content and structure, but moreover employs said source as a plot device of the most humorous kind. Certainly it was no mere accident; indeed it must have been a result of afflatus imparted by the goddess herself in collaboration with the muses Thalia and Calliope. Oh, what genius has the world lost with the tragic demise of John Kennedy Toole?
Through his quixotic anti-hero, Ignatius J. Reilly, Toole is disposed to explore the ideas of predestination and game theory. Is Rielly a misunderstood genius, surrounded by intellectual inferiors and thus a victim of their nescience? Or is it his own distorted reality, paranoid delusions, and ineptitude that is the impetus of his misfortune? It is for you, dear reader, to decide.
I found the descriptions of New Orleans particularly diverting. Such a cast of eccentric and delightful characters could only be found within the borders of the Crescent City (or Stars Hollow). Like Proust's madeleine, the wonderful references to NOLA summoned to my mind memories of a happier, pre-Katrina time in one of my favorite municipalities.
I must say that the numerous references to various and sundry bodily emissions offended my delicate feminine sensibilities somewhat. Perhaps this was the plan of some devious alpha-male, to thus corrupt the otherwise sheltered and virginal innocence of my mentality. As Ignatius said, "This subject deserves the attention of a profound thinker who has a certain perspective on the world's cultural development."
(If any perceptive film producers are interested in buying the movie rights to this Review, I might here make a note about the filming of this critique. A song performed by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band would provide excellent background accompaniment. Perhaps the actress playing your humble reviewer could be seated at a table at the Cafe du Monde, enjoying a cafe au lait and plate of beignets.)...more
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 ofI 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....more
Wow, if this isn't the most overrated book I've read in a while...
I appreciated the language and distinctive voices of the characters: Rachel's malaprWow, if this isn't the most overrated book I've read in a while...
I appreciated the language and distinctive voices of the characters: Rachel's malaprops, Adah's palindromes, Ruth May's childish innocence ("circus mission" for "circumcision" being my favorite). It was amusing and probably the thing I liked best about the book. I also liked a glimpse into Congolese life and the reminder that even when we think we don't have as much as our neighbors, we have so much more than so many people, and could get by with so much less.
But I think maybe I'm super sensitive to stories where the Christian is a horrible person, and so everyone decides that must mean God is also horrible or made up, and then everyone is only happy in the end when they denounce God and the horrible Christian gets his comeuppance. (view spoiler)[It also bugged me that when Ruth May died, he was concerned that she hadn't been baptized. If he was that worried about it, why didn't he baptize her when she had malaria? And don't Southern Baptists believe that baptism is something you do when you're older, by one's own free will? It's not like Catholicism where you sprinkle babies lest they end up in Purgatory. (hide spoiler)]
My friends rated this 3.26 on average. That isn't because there are a lot of three star reveiws; it's because about half of my friends loved it and haMy friends rated this 3.26 on average. That isn't because there are a lot of three star reveiws; it's because about half of my friends loved it and half hated it. I mean, there's this review, and this one, and this. Most of my friends who liked it didn't say why. So I feel compelled to give my reasons for the four stars.
1. I've always been uncomfortable with zoos. I love animals and I love the idea of having a place I can to go see some animals I'd otherwise never get to see. But I've always been concerned about the enclosures. I've worried that the animals must be bored in the same environment day after day, without sufficient room to run around. Once, at the San Diego zoo, I saw a dik-dik in an enclosure with a steep slope, and he seemed to be trapped at the bottom of the slope by the wall of the enclosure. A passing zoo keeper assured me that the dik-dik was just fine, and perfectly capable of climbing the slope, but he looked distressed to me and I was upset about it for the rest of the day.
This book, and its defense of zoos and explanations that animals need a safe and secure place where they are well cared for without the dangers of predators convinced me that zoos are okay.
One might even argue that if an animal could choose with intelligence, it would opt for living in a zoo, since the major difference between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second. Think about it yourself. Would you rather be put up at the Ritz with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for you?
2. The prose. Lines like "Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can.”
3. I like survival stories. I liked Island of the Blue Dolphins and Unbroken and Hatchet. I find it fascinating the ways the human spirit can overcome such adversity. I like reading about the creative ways they make do with nothing.
I was giving up. I would have given up - if a voice hadn't made itself heard in my heart. The voice said "I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen everyday. I will put in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen.
4. And, finally, (view spoiler)[I like that in the end, you don't really know what happened. Was Pi the tiger? Did he make up the rest of it because it made a better story? (hide spoiler)]
I do agree with other reviewers who didn't like the carnivorous island. That seemed like something out of a '60s B-movie.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more