I loved Into the Woods, not least for French's fabulous writing, and I found Cassie to be a really compelling character. Nevertheless, I had trouble gI loved Into the Woods, not least for French's fabulous writing, and I found Cassie to be a really compelling character. Nevertheless, I had trouble getting into this book and basically just skimmed the last half rather than read it properly. What with the convoluted set-up that demands more than a little suspension of disbelief, the over-long buildup to the conclusion, and the fact that structurally, The Likeness is very similar to its predecessor, I just didn't feel all that engaged in this story. It's not unlikely that if I'd read this book before Into the Woods, or even just waited longer between the two, that I'd have been more excited by this story. The characters are interesting, even when they behave in ways that feel unlikely. But as it stands, I think I need to dip into the series fresh, at a later point—perhaps next I'll try The Tresspasser, which sounds really intriguing. ...more
I've been working on a lot of translation projects lately, which means I haven't been doing hardly any reading-just-for-reading's-sake. But then, whenI've been working on a lot of translation projects lately, which means I haven't been doing hardly any reading-just-for-reading's-sake. But then, when after months of being on the library's e-waiting list for this my turn unexpectedly came around, it seemed like a good time to reinsert a little pleasure reading in my schedule.
I wasn't sure that I'd be able to fall back into these character's lives as middle-aged adults, but in the end, I didn't have a problem with that at all. And, I will hand it to Tiffany and Thorne, they were able to capture much of Rowling's writing and plotting style in his text. While this was a quick read for me, and even a fun one, however, there's a lot about it that seems a little forced. Namely, people—and teenage boys, at that—spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the value of friendship and the challenges of becoming your most authentic self and being true to your values. I realize that these are predominant themes, not only here, but in the rest of the series, but it frequently felt a bit after-school special. (The part where Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Draco all stand in solidarity with one another goes well over the top, for instance, and characters are 'moved' and 'desperately moved' rather too often throughout.) Additionally, there are certain aspects (some of the 'cameos,' for instance, wherein beloved characters like Hagrid show up for just a moment or so) that seem a bit fan-fic-y, rather than organic parts of an ongoing story.
That being said, I did enjoy the 'butterfly-effect' plot line, the alternate realities (badass 'Granger' and her bosom buddy Snape was awesome), the rise of the spike-handed Trolley Witch, the Potter-in-Slytherin twist, and Scorpius—a sort of Neville-meets-Ron-meets-Hermione—was a joy. I liked that the play reflected on the flaws of the series' heroes even as, in Harry's case, at least, it delves more deeply into the real trauma that created those flaws. I liked that it humanized Draco and I hope that if we're going to continue to get Potterverse spin-offs, we get a McGonagall backstory next. And, although ultimately, I think this story has some flaws as a text that you read to yourself, I'm betting that it would still be great fun to see staged. I can't imagine how some of the stage directions (a weaponized bookshelf! a maze that tries to eat people! time 'thinking for a bit'!) have been made reality, but I'll bet it's pretty cool....more
I picked this at random off the stack of Christmas books I received (this was one of the titles obtained in the English-language section at a local usI picked this at random off the stack of Christmas books I received (this was one of the titles obtained in the English-language section at a local used bookshelf) and spent the day reading it. Written in 1966 and centering around an anti-communism operation gone awry in Mexico, the Cold War-era POV verges, not infrequently, into absurdity (i.e. China is only ever referred to as 'Red China,' an epithet that is sometimes used by multiple characters three or four times in a row in the same paragraph; Mrs. Pollifax teaches her Albanian kidnappers about the unbiased wonders of the American justice system).
But overall, this is an incredibly charming and entertaining story with lots to recommend it, starting with Mrs. Pollifax's delight in being put into perilous situations and her general credulousness, which is then balanced by her surprising resourcefulness. Moreover, although it is inherently more of a 'cozy' than your typical spy thriller, the stakes start and remain high and the plotting picks up the pace as Mrs. Pollifax and her fellow kidnapee try and make their way to safety. Given up for dead, they aren't saved through some miraculous coincidence or the nick-of-time intervention of the CIA, but rather through their own endurance and ingenuity. ...more
Even looking beyond the fascinating language (which is both a clever way to reflect the process of language learning and also rather lyrical in and ofEven looking beyond the fascinating language (which is both a clever way to reflect the process of language learning and also rather lyrical in and of itself), and the characterizations, and the humor, this is a fantastic book. And as a language-learner living abroad, it particularly resonated with me. Obviously, there are a whole slew of differences between my own experience learning Icelandic and that of the narrator, Zhuang Xiao Qiao (Z), learning English. She's a 24-year-old Chinese girl from a peasant village who's traveled by herself to England, a country she knows little to nothing about, to study English at the behest of her parents, I'm an American who came to Iceland, a country where my native language is widely spoken, with a partner, to study Icelandic for my own, personal (and not entirely practical) reasons. Nevertheless, Z's sense of detached observation and cultural confusion, her obsession with looking up every new word she hears, her bouts of self-doubt and self-loathing and futility, her slow and steady progress, and the quiet pride when she realizes that she has, in fact, made progress, all felt very poignant and familiar to me.
"I am scared that I have become a person who is always very aware of talking, speaking, and I have become a person without confidence, because I can't be me. I have become so small, so tiny, while the English culture surrounding me becomes enormous...I wish I could just forget about all this vocabulary, these verbs, these tenses, and I wish I could go back to my own language now. But is my own native language simple enough? I still remember the pain of studying Chinese characters when I was a child at school."
Loin n part of the body between the ribs and the hips; cut of meat from this part of an animal pl hips and inner thighs loincloth n piece of cloth covering the loins only
There is no more explanation. I hate this dictionary.
I also appreciated that while Z does go out and experience London (and eventually other countries as well) and while she does have a few other people in her world beyond her unnamed, older lover, her world in London is still rather circumscribed and pretty isolated. There are a lot of narratives that deal with characters moving abroad and finding themselves, but these often feature characters who are extremely outgoing, who are able to step, vibrantly and unself-consciously, out of themselves and succeed in the all-important 'cultural immersion.' They make instant and fast friends, they immediately begin to dream in their second language, and they realize that this new culture fits them like a glove, whereas their native/home culture always s felt wrong somehow.
But while all this combined certainly makes for a fun and vicarious reading experience, it doesn't reflect the full reality of trying to 'be yourself' and find your place in another country and culture, as much as you might want to. Looking back, Z realizes that in England, she "became an adult" and "grew into a woman," but it is still nevertheless "the country where I also got injured, the country where I had my most confused days and my greatest passion and my brief happiness and my quiet sadness." There's a flip side to the adventure, a loneliness that she has to acknowledge and learn to cope with, and that's a very real and valuable part of the experience as well....more