This book will be irresistible to cat-lovers. I'm hooked on this series! Loads of fun and there's an element to the cats (and to one of the human char...moreThis book will be irresistible to cat-lovers. I'm hooked on this series! Loads of fun and there's an element to the cats (and to one of the human characters) which is a delight, but I don't want to reveal it because it's kind of a spoiler. Cat lovers and mystery lovers -- dive into Cat on the Edge. You won't be sorry!(less)
This book is fabulous -- I treasure my visits to Susan's fictional world. The ShapeShifter guys and their friends and family feel so real to me that t...moreThis book is fabulous -- I treasure my visits to Susan's fictional world. The ShapeShifter guys and their friends and family feel so real to me that they're like old friends.(less)
Here we have a novel that illustrates the power of fiction to deeply touch the heart. I, an East Tennessee gal, identified so strongly with Lahiri's p...moreHere we have a novel that illustrates the power of fiction to deeply touch the heart. I, an East Tennessee gal, identified so strongly with Lahiri's protagonist, Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation Bengali guy, that by book's end, I was a soppy, teary mess.
An interesting thing about this book for me was that I'm right around Gogol's age. So much about his growing-up years was familiar from my childhood, from Rubik's Cube to the TV shows that were widely shown at the time. And oh yeah - like Gogol, I have an odd name (though I like mine).
The story starts when Gogol's parents, Ashoke and Ashima, emigrate from Calcutta to America and settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, so Ashoke can study engineering at MIT. Soon thereafter, Gogol is born.
When Ashoke and Ashima arrive in America, they must get to know each other while they're getting to know their new country, for theirs was an arranged marriage. And for years, Ashoke has been haunted by the memory of a terrible train accident that nearly took his life. With him on the train, he'd carried a book of short stories by the Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol, and it was a page of Ashoke's favorite story, "The Overcoat," that he was clutching when he was rescued.
Ashoke and Ashima had planned to give their son a name that Ashima's grandmother promised to recommend, but since they need a name to put on his birth certificate, Ashoke decides to call him Gogol, after his favorite writer. Gogol will be his pet name, and he'll get his "good" name when the grandmother's recommendation arrives. It's when Ashoke sees his son for the first time that his haunting memories of the train accident begin to ease their grip on his mind.
Ashima's grandmother has a stroke, and Gogol never gets his "good" name. And as he grows up, his pet name, Gogol - and its oddness - becomes a symbol for his being part of one culture (India - his parents') and part of another (America) but not wholly in either one. He resents his name more and more, as it seems to epitomize how he doesn't fit in anywhere. On his fourteenth birthday, Gogol receives a gift from his father: a beautifully bound volume of Nikolai Gogol's short stories. Young Gogol, however, isn't impressed: he's more interested in the Beatles, so he shelves the book and forgets about it. And when he grows up, he legally changes his name to Nikhil.
Gogol's struggles between American culture and Indian culture is personified, in his adulthood, by two women. The first is a woman from Manhattan who attracts him because she and her wealthy, cosmopolitan family are so different from his parents. The second, like Gogol, is a second-generation Bengali - their parents are friends, and they'd grown up together. I won't give anything away here, but I'll say that each relationship, in its way, teaches Gogol something about himself and encourages him to look within to find and articulate his personal truths about being a young man torn between two worlds. It is these truths that form the raw material of his hopes for his future.
The Namesake is a beautifully written novel - the characters, particularly Gogol and his father - formed themselves in my mind like memories of people I've known. The book is bittersweet and poignant and speaks, simultaneously, of hope and regret, of life's beauty and its injustices.
It's worth noting, too, that Ashoke's favorite story, "The Overcoat", is about a humble clerk who dies of fright after being upbraided by an Important Person, only to get his revenge in the afterlife. Keep that in mind as you read this wonderful book - it's a subtle but evocative metaphor that's a central thread throughout.(less)
Richard Mayhew is one of the most appealing "nice guy protagonists" I've ever run across. He's kind-hearted, unassuming, and altruistic. And it's his...moreRichard Mayhew is one of the most appealing "nice guy protagonists" I've ever run across. He's kind-hearted, unassuming, and altruistic. And it's his altruism that catapults him into another world: London Below.
If you become a denizen of London Below, you're all-but-invisible in London, which is known by those who dwell Below as London Above. But Richard knows nothing of London Below when he and his fussy, relentlessly self-absorbed fiancée, Jessica, are on their way to meet Jessica's boss for dinner and run across an injured young girl in the street. Richard tells Jessica to go on, that he must help the young girl because she's bleeding. Jessica hardly seems to see the young girl and warns Richard, quite nastily, that if he skips dinner to help the girl, their engagement is off.
Arrrgh. No wonder I was glad for Richard to fall through the cracks. It got him away from that awful woman. Alas, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The young girl is from a family of Openers in London Below. Her name, fittingly *wink*, is Door, and she can open all kinds of doors, portals, and passageways. Her family has been killed, and she, the survivor, is on the run from a vile duo of men -- at least they're shaped like men -- whose names are Croup and Vandemar.
Door doesn't tell Richard about London Below, but after he helps her with her injuries and assists her with contacting other people in London Below to get her safely away, he discovers that because he's had extended contact with residents of London Below, people in his world, London Above, can no longer see him. He can't hail a cab to get to work and once he gets there, extremely late, nobody can see him. Jessica no longer knows him. To make matters worse, strangers move into his apartment on top of him as though he weren't even there.
To get to the bottom of his predicament, Richard sets out to find Door, and as fun as things have been up to this point, the real fun starts here. Soon he, Door, Hunter (Door's bodyguard -- a powerful woman who lives to hunt prey), and the self-styled Marquis de Carabas (who owes Door a favor) are journeying together in search of a Key to bring to a wingless Angel, Islington, who holds the key, in the figurative sense, to the mystery of who killed Door's family and also to Richard's way back home to London Above. If they bring Islington the physical Key, he'll give them, in return, their keys to what they want.
But there's a catch. A big catch. In Neverwhere, nothing is what it seems.
The story is laden with mythical overtones, cultural references and social commentary. Richard and his friends in London Below call to mind Dorothy and her companions in The Wizard of Oz. There are allusions to John Milton's Paradise Lost. And London Below strikes me as an allegory for the plight of homeless people, the dispossessed, those who have fallen through the cracks or through the Gap, if you will ("Mind the Gap" means something very different to those who populate London Below than it does to those who live in London Above); people who are all-too-often tragically "invisible" to those who live "normal" lives.
And I love the way in which this book suggests that "normal" life, as it's lived by people who adhere to some sort of Lemming-See, Lemming-Do Life Script, may just be tremendously overrated, at least with regard to society's presumption of its desirability for everyone.
One of my favorite chapters in Neverwhere is where Richard is put to the test to get the Key from the Black Friars, who are its keeper. During his trial, Richard is led to believe that the entire time he's been in London Below, he's actually been wandering about in London, hopelessly insane and disconnected from reality. I shivered all the way through.
I don't want to give anything away, but I loved the ending to this book. I tore through the last few pages, the last few paragraphs, the last few sentences, to find... hmmm, well. Again, I don't want to have any spoilers here. But the ending was perfect, masterful.
Neil Gaiman is an amazing writer with a formidable imagination, and I will run, not walk, to read more of his books.(less)
Not only is this a rollicking read, but it’s a rock-and-roll read. Maelstrom is the name of the band featured in Ann’s novel, but they’re no ordinary...moreNot only is this a rollicking read, but it’s a rock-and-roll read. Maelstrom is the name of the band featured in Ann’s novel, but they’re no ordinary band. They’re not even human.
Maelstrom is comprised of Kalila (a genie, or more properly termed, a djinn), Vic (a vampire who loves all blood types except AB negative), Lazaro (a zombie who likes to hang around college campuses for the smart food, and I’m not talking about campus buffets), Bo (an incubus with one thing — lustin’ — on his mind), and Nevin (a sweet-tempered fairy who loves nature and tries to urge the band away from misbehavior and toward philanthropy).
And the band manager of this motley musical crew? Ricky Landon, who just happens to be a good-hearted but quite ordinary human. His biggest struggle with his otherworldly band members is that being immortals, they just don’t understand human conventions, and as a result, they tend toward wreaking havoc everywhere they go and everywhere they play. Oh, and did I mention, the roadies are werewolves? And that Ricky has a crush on the gorgeous Kalila, who thinks that physical relationships with humans are icky?
Complicating the situation is the bet which Maelstrom has with Ragnarökkr , a band made up of washed-up deities whose front man just happens to be Thor. The two bands are competing to see which will be the first to win fame by human means — in other words, no magic allowed. The losers — including poor Ricky — will be banished to Hades for five hundred years. No big deal when you’re immortal, but for Ricky, we’re talking about a life-and-death situation.
Maelstrom is chock-full of delights, from the mysterious yellow cat who attaches itself to Ricky, to Echo (the answering service Ricky uses to contact members of the band via his Blackberry), to Kalila and her eccentricities regarding her lamps, which serve, of course, as her homes.
Particularly entertaining is the interplay of the strong personalities of the band members, juxtaposed with their struggles to comprehend human ways, and Ricky’s earnest endeavor to understand the ways and means of immortals.
The plot cracks along, keeping the reader turning pages to find out just what the Hades is going to happen next, while throughout the mayhem and hilarity, we see developing a message of friendship and tolerance — no matter how starkly individuals may differ from one another, common ground can be discovered and nurtured if they work from a foundation of compassion and understanding.
And from Ricky’s adventures with the band, we also see that sometimes what looks at first like an infernal mess might just turn out to be one of life’s most meaningful lessons.(less)
This book is about theoretical physics, relativity, superstrings, and the space-time loaf. Well, there isn't actually a space-time "loaf": rather, it'...moreThis book is about theoretical physics, relativity, superstrings, and the space-time loaf. Well, there isn't actually a space-time "loaf": rather, it's a highly effective metaphor -- a thought experiment -- that Brian Greene uses to get across the idea that in the mathematics of advanced physics, space-time isn't just an ephemeral construct but an actual something which has reality and which can be shown, mathematically, to possess that reality.
Greene goes on to show how, because of relativity and the specifics of relative motion, all slices of the space time loaf, no matter how wackily they may be sliced, will exist for all time, in all space in a "reality" of all-time-and-all-space that human beings, confined to our ephemeral existence, cannot perceive save for small, small slices. In other words, this moment, in which you're reading this review, shall always exist, frozen as it were-was-and-ever-will-be on an infinitesimally small part of the space-time loaf.
Don't believe me? Well then, read the book for Einstein's sake!(less)
This book is a treasure -- it rocks and rolls, on all possible levels. First, it's about a rock band, and no rock band could be more lovable than Shap...moreThis book is a treasure -- it rocks and rolls, on all possible levels. First, it's about a rock band, and no rock band could be more lovable than ShapeShifter. And Trevor Wolff, the bassist, is irresistible. In Trevor's Song, Susan Helene Gottfried weaves together poignancy, humor, and serious situations into a gem of a story that begs to be read not just once, but multiple times. Her characters come to life so strongly that they enter one's thoughts and dreams just like old friends. Don't miss this one -- highly recommended.(less)
Pieces of a Rainbow is a collection of character-driven and compelling short stories. The characters who people these stories feel real, and their joy...morePieces of a Rainbow is a collection of character-driven and compelling short stories. The characters who people these stories feel real, and their joys, sorrows, and challenges come to life in the reader's mind. Each story pulls the reader into its world, and each story is like a powerful lens on the day-to-day life struggles of its characters. There's a depth in each of these stories, which rings true to life, and the rainbow theme is wonderfully executed, with each short story titled a single color that's reflected in the theme of the story. Surprises abound in these stories, making the reader say, "Wow..." and giving a pleasurable read and ample food for thought, as well.(less)
Marwa Ayad's debut novel, The Years of Silence, is a touching, beautifully-written story of a young woman who overcomes adversity in order to find out...moreMarwa Ayad's debut novel, The Years of Silence, is a touching, beautifully-written story of a young woman who overcomes adversity in order to find out who she is and what she wants. The story speaks eloquently to the mystery, joys and challenges of true love and connecting with one's soul mate. Highly recommended!(less)
What a treat! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I hadn't read a regency romance in years, and I found this one to be romantic, refreshing, and lots of f...moreWhat a treat! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I hadn't read a regency romance in years, and I found this one to be romantic, refreshing, and lots of fun.
McAlistair and Evie are appealing, engaging characters: strong-minded, independent people who march to the tune of their own drummers -- oh, how I enjoy such characters in a love story! And Alissa Johnson adds a healthy dash of humor, making their story irresistible. Highly recommended!(less)
A fabulous read! Erin Quinn has created a real page-turner with Haunting Beauty. I enjoyed not only the story and the characters but also the subtlety...moreA fabulous read! Erin Quinn has created a real page-turner with Haunting Beauty. I enjoyed not only the story and the characters but also the subtlety and richness of her world-building and magical elements. I highly recommend this one to fans of magical and paranormal novels.(less)
Amazing book, and beautifully written. Talk about a different perspective on Edward Rochester, and I found Antonia (Bertha) to be absolutely captivati...moreAmazing book, and beautifully written. Talk about a different perspective on Edward Rochester, and I found Antonia (Bertha) to be absolutely captivating and so, so heart-rendingly sad. I'll definitely be checking out more of Rhys's works.(less)
I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. This edition of The Unbreakable Child, published by Behler Publications, is new and expanded, and d...moreI simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. This edition of The Unbreakable Child, published by Behler Publications, is new and expanded, and details Kim's horrific abuse as a child at the hands of the clergy who were supposed to be caring for her and nurturing her, and it also chronicles Kim's work, together with other former orphans, with William McMurray, a strong advocate for victims of clergy and institutional abuse. Kim and other former orphans were the first clergy abuse victims to win a settlement against an order of Catholic nuns. The book is very timely, with new horror stories of clergy abuse coming to light each day.
Kim's story is healing to those who have themselves experienced such horrors, and it is a testament to Kim's spirit, her unbreakable strength, and the power which resides in her heart to forgive. Her story also offers encouragement to people who have suffered abuse, that it is possible to strengthen the broken places and live fully and freely. And last but not least, her book plays a strong and vital role in demanding accountability and apology from the Catholic church, acknowledgement by the Church of the wrongs committed by its clergy to bring about an environment, in all institutions of the Church, in which those wrongs will never be tolerated again.
Kim Michele Richardson is an inspiration and a true heroine.(less)
Ah, what a delightful doorstop of a book. It's over 1,000 pages, and still I didn't want the story to end. And speaking of endings, Susanna Clarke pul...moreAh, what a delightful doorstop of a book. It's over 1,000 pages, and still I didn't want the story to end. And speaking of endings, Susanna Clarke pulls off a consummate ending to a story into which she threaded numerous strands. She wraps them up just right, in a way I didn't foresee but which, to my hindsight, is perfect.
But enough about the ending -- no spoilers in this review, I promise!
The story takes place in Regency England and revolves around two English magicians, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and their activities during and immediately following the Napoleonic Wars. At the beginning of the story, magic has become, in people's minds, a theoretical construct only, and a dusty group of theoretical magicians meet periodically in Northern England to discuss it. Perish the thought that anybody actually practice magic. That would be downright ungentlemanly.
But a new member of the society has other ideas, and pretty soon, he discovers that there remains one practicing magician in England: Mr. Norrell. Though Mr. Norrell practices magic instead of only talking about it, he's conservative in what kind of magic he'll practice -- nothing too wild or woolly -- and he jealously guards his knowledge until a talented upstart, Jonathan Strange, becomes his pupil. And even then, though he admires Strange's talent and enjoys Strange's friendship, Mr. Norrell continues to withhold significant areas of magical knowledge from him, telling himself Strange doesn't need to practice those kinds of magic, nor does anyone.
Mr. Norrell breaks with his conservatism once, however, and performs a type of fairy magic to raise from the dead the wife of Walter Pole, a prominent politician, to curry Pole's favor. Then the trouble starts: a malicious fairy, "the gentleman with the thistle-down hair" who is never named, places under enchantment not only Lady Pole but also Walter Pole's head servant, Stephen Black, and ultimately Jonathan Strange's wife, Arabella, as well.
And enchantment by the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, by the way, is not fun. It starts out somewhat that way for the adventurous spirit, but it becomes a sort of death-in-life for the enchanted. The more time spent in faerie the darker and more dismal and tedious grows the stay. The gentleman with the thistle-down hair is a fairy king but he's a neglectful one, and his brugh, which he disguises as a run-down castle, is surrounded by the bones of the people he has killed for sport over the ages.
Mr. Norrell's goal has been to "return magic to England", though paradoxically he wants to control most of the knowledge and practice himself, and he also wants to keep under wraps, as much as he can, the magic performed and inspired by John Uskglass, a powerful magician-King from centuries past whose knowledge has largely been lost. When the brave and resolute Strange discovers some of the Raven King's magic and begins performing it himself, Mr. Norrell strongly disapproves, creating a rift between England's only two practicing magicians.
Strange and Norrell hold it together long enough to help Wellington defeat Napoleon, but compared to the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, Napoleon was a piker. Can they put aside their differences to defeat the malicious fairy?
To say this book is magical would be gross understatement. It's an enthralling combination of mind-blowing fantasy and tongue-in-cheek fun-poking at the manners of the day. Delightful, dry humor is woven throughout, and its sheer imaginative power rivals the works of Tolkien.(less)
"Genteel" isn't a word one often hears today. But it describes this very special novel. In its pages, its story, and its compelling characters, there'...more"Genteel" isn't a word one often hears today. But it describes this very special novel. In its pages, its story, and its compelling characters, there's a quiet dignity which I find tremendously appealing.
I love Emily Dickinson's poetry, and I was fascinated by the idea of a fictional exploration of Emily Dickinson via the coming-of-age story of a friend, Miranda Chase.
I enjoyed the parallel drawn between the two friends: Miranda, who starts out life as a lonely child and who, as she grows up, increasingly pushes herself out into the world to work for the good of others, and Emily, daughter of a prominent Amherst family, who becomes more and more reclusive in order to hone a laser focus on her work: her poetry, which she hopes will win immortality. Miranda and Emily are dissimilar in their personalities, but each, at her core, is an unconventional woman for her time, and that is the glue that bonds them together in friendship.
The novel is beautifully written, its story lovingly told, and Rose MacMurray's children have given readers everywhere a gift by ensuring that Afternoons With Emily got into print. It's a delight, and I highly recommend it. But be sure and take your time with it. This is a novel which is meant to be savored page-by-page, not raced through at breakneck speed.(less)