THE GARGOYLE is an incredibly difficult read—for starters, it has some very graphic descriptions of severe burns and the painful and lengthy recovery process. This makes up a significant portion of the book, and definitely turns the stomach. The writing makes up for it (in my opinion), but if you have triggers about very graphic descriptions of medical procedures, this book is probably not for you.
The main character, who is never named, was a pornographic actor of some renown. Beautiful, successful, corrupt—the world is his oyster, and instead of making the most of his life, he takes it for granted and abuses the body he has with drugs and debauchery. Then one night, he hallucinates a flight of arrows and ends up driving off a cliff. He breaks several bones and cannot escape from his car when it catches on fire, suffering severe burns all over his body, resulting in the loss of his penis.
His recovery is painful, leaving him a shell of a man in more ways than one. He is determined to heal only enough to get out of the hospital so he can kill himself, but one thing changes that
—a fellow inpatient named Marianne. She is convinced that they were lovers in a past life in medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in a convent. Obviously, the main character is skeptical, thinking her to be crazy as a loon, but her stories are historically sound, and she is such a good story-teller that he cannot help but listen, even though he knows he shouldn't...
Her stories become all encompassing as she weaves a tapestry of love stories that transcend the boundaries of the physical realm
—including a gay Viking, a star-crossed glassblower in feudal Japan, and two lovers in Renaissance Italy during the age of the black plague. Interspersed with these stories is the continuing saga of their past lives. These stories explain the reason why Marianne cannot stop carving stone gargoyles, and also why she believes that she is running out of time...
Obviously, I really liked this story. The summary sounds way more pretentious than it actually is, which is a shame, because I couldn't help but wonder how many people were put off by that awful summary. It makes it sound like this book is a mock-up of the DA VINCI CODE. It really isn't. It's more like THE TAKER by Alma Katsu, or what ANGELOLOGY tried to be, and failed. Maybe with a dash of Pan's Labyrinth, especially towards the end (loved the homage to DANTE'S INFERNO). I loved the broad scope of the story, and how Davidson managed to take two such damaged and broken characters and gradually have us fall in love with them. Their transformation and development is amazing, and by the last few pages of the story I was actually tearing up a little.
THE GARGOYLE is a great book. It's a long book, but the kind that's a pleasure to sink into. If you can get past the gore, I heartily recommend it!
My two favorite stories in this collection were "The Healer" and "The Ring." The Healer is about two girls, one with a hand of fire and one with a hanMy two favorite stories in this collection were "The Healer" and "The Ring." The Healer is about two girls, one with a hand of fire and one with a hand of ice. Ice girl's hand heals; fire girl's hand causes painful burns but, for a brief instant, makes the recipient feel warm and loved. When they hold hands, they neutralize each other. It was very X-men. The Ring is about a woman and her thief husband who steal three rings - one diamond, one emerald, and one ruby. However, the ruby ring has an effect that the couple did not anticipate.
All of the other stories were merely so-so, like the author was trying to hard to be artsy, but still pretty interesting. Her style was good enough that I'd be willing to check out more of the her works....more
this book is basically twilight for adults. not that there is anything wrong with that. i enjoyed twilight, even if i didn't like what it stood for, athis book is basically twilight for adults. not that there is anything wrong with that. i enjoyed twilight, even if i didn't like what it stood for, and therefore i urge you, gentle reader, to take this caveat with an open-mind.
so why is it like twilight? it's got the huge age difference (henry is usually at LEAST eight years older than clare; at times, he is sixteen years older or more). when they make love for the first time, she is EIGHTEEN and he is FORTY-ONE. the book makes a couple light-hearted references to humbert humbert from lolita, with henry continually praising himself for waiting for claire to come of age before he decides to ravish her, but i didn't think that reference was funny at all; quite the contrary, i found it highly disturbing.
like twilight, the time traveler's wife also tries to make itself an intellectual book by throwing in poems in foreign languages, numerous references to classical literature, and descriptions of food, clothes, and artwork that, i guess, are supposed to seem "cultured." i believe twilight does the same. and, like twilight, if you shaved off a lot of the excess descriptions, the book length would decrease drastically.
it also bothered me that henry was portrayed as this ideal love interest, when he was actually borderline abusive. i mean, he stalked her since she was six, and told her that she couldn't change her fate- that she was GOING to marry him- and would dangle secrets over her head. the relationship was never equal; he always knew the outcome. and henry was actually violent. at one point in the book, claire goes on a date with this one guy, and when she refuses to put out, he beats her up for being a "cock tease." so claire and henry hunt him down and beat the crap out of him. well, henry does, anyway, while claire eggs him on.
also, i believe at one point, kimy was described as having a "flat korean face." the inherent racism in there kind of bothered me. i mean, was that comment REALLY necessary? did it add to the plot of the book in any way? no? i thought so.
don't get me wrong, this is definitely an interesting novel, and i liked the concept of time-traveling being a disruption in the biological clock, but one should definitely not take this book as a model for the ideal relationship! but if you're looking for a light read, like twilight, with an alpha male that is older than the female character, you will probably really enjoy this book....more
I seriously need to get off this dead-girls-angsting-from-beyond-the-grave jag, because it's seriously bumming me out. In fact, I think I should makeI seriously need to get off this dead-girls-angsting-from-beyond-the-grave jag, because it's seriously bumming me out. In fact, I think I should make a shelf for it. EDIT: I have made a shelf for it. And the shelf is called "all the lovely bones." Look! I made a literature reference!
Everafter was good. Not great, but good. Good enough that I got a little teary-eyed at the end. There's just SO MANY books in this type of genre, you know? Where the girl (or boy) is caught in limbo and forced to piece together the mystery behind their death.
Basically, Madison wakes up in this strange dark misty place, completely alone except for phantom objects floating in space. When she touches them, she accesses memories from her past: memories where she lost some object that was important to her in some way. If she finds it, her past changes, the object's ghost disappears, and she can no longer access that memory. If she doesn't find it, she can experience the memory over and over until she gets it right.
The reason this gets only three stars instead of a higher rating is complicated and spoiler-laden.
1. It's a bit young for me. The writing style is distinctly teen. This is good for younger readers; not so much for "adults" (I'm a young adult). My rating system is based in part on how much I, personally, enjoyed the book while reading it. This scored a meh-plus. (So, like a B-)
2. I didn't quite see what the objects had to do with her moving on from her death. (view spoiler)[Finding the objects didn't keep her from dying: I admit, I was hoping for some MacGyver-esque conclusion where all the found objects ended up saving her and her boyfriend's lives. Alas . . . (hide spoiler)]
3. The childhood scenes were . . . um. Cringeworthy. It was like reading Room all over again. Or Christian Grey's little monologue about his miserable childhood in stunted, language-deficient prose. Unconvincing children are second only to unconvincing love scenes in terms of literary tropes capable of destroying an entire book.
4. The subplot with Tammy was kind of unnecessary. (view spoiler)[I think she was supposed to be a red herring for the cause of Maddy's death, but other than that she didn't really serve a purpose. (hide spoiler)]
Liz thinks she's dreaming when wakes up on a luxurious ocean liner called the S.S. Nile and finds herself surrounded by beautiful blue water for milesLiz thinks she's dreaming when wakes up on a luxurious ocean liner called the S.S. Nile and finds herself surrounded by beautiful blue water for miles and miles around. The boat is taking her, and others like her, to a magical place called Elsewhere, where it's warm and breezy, and you might just find Marilyn Monroe working at the local psychiatric center. It's a place where all who die go.
She handles her death very badly, lashing out at her grandmother, Betty, who is now younger than her mother (when people go to Elsewhere, they "unage" until they hit seven days, and then they are sent down a river, back to Earth, to be reborn), borrowing large amounts of the currency "eternims" to visit the Observation Decks. The OD's are one of two places where the dead can view the living, and Liz quickly becomes obsessed, spying on her family, friends, and classmates - and her killer.
I thought her denial was done very well. I wanted to slap her for being so selfish and annoying, but at the same time, Liz's behavior was understandable and still well within the bounds of normal teenage behavior. Once she starts making friends and finds a job as a dog therapist, she starts to heal. She even gets a new dog of her own (although no dog will replace Lucy, her canine comrade on Earth) named Sadie. Liz finds out that she's perfect for the job, as she is one of the few humans who is naturally fluent in Canine (dogese). She even manages to make contact with her loved ones back earth several times (almost cried at those parts).
There were three points in this book that really made me cry: when her dog, Lucy, becomes unborn and gets sent down the river; when Amadou, the man who hit Liz with his taxi cab and didn't stop, meets up with her in Elsewhere; and when Liz herself becomes "unborn." As I got to the end, "Innocent" by Taylor Swift came up on iTunes and it just made me even tearier, because the song fits in with the book so well. This isn't just a book about death; it's a book about life, love, and learning to move on from past mistakes....more
Some witches are scary. Some witches are bad-ass. And some witches are . . . cuddly.
Like many of the people who read this book, I found the film versiSome witches are scary. Some witches are bad-ass. And some witches are . . . cuddly.
Like many of the people who read this book, I found the film version to be much more enjoyable - which is surprising, because 99% of the time, it's the other way around (I could kill Hollywood for doing what they did to The Golden Compass). The film is more organized, better paced, and the characters are more likable.
One of the things that galled me in Practical Magic (the book) is that the characters are so fractured. It felt, to me, like the author spent so much time making her words sound pretty that she pretty much threw all sense of propriety to the wind in order to make her characters as interesting as possible. And they are interesting, but they are also incredibly selfish, annoying, spoiled, and . . . well, dumb.
I didn't like the fact that the aunts favored Gillian over Sally because Gillian enjoyed breaking the rules and Sally enjoyed keeping house. I didn't like the fact that the aunts basically spoiled Sally's children rotten when they stayed over, keeping all hours of the night and eating candy until they threw up. I especially didn't like Gillian, and how irresponsible she was.
Watching the characters grow and develop was a nice aspect of the book that got lost in the movie version, but I feel it was a necessary sacrifice. Gillian's and Sally's childhood makes up the first fourth of the book, and it gets a little tedious after a while reading about how magical things happen wherever they go, and how afraid everyone is of them just because cats happen to follow them around, and bits of roof fall on the heads of people they're mad at (seriously? I mean, people didn't think Harry Potter was scary, and he magicked a snake out of its cage and set it upon his cousin).
This was very well written and wasn't at all terrible, but it wasn't nearly as good as it could have been.
Also, the fact that every man wanted to rape Kylie once she became 'beautiful' was incredibly disturbing. And this was mentioned at least ten times. What the actual fuck.
2.5 to 3 stars.
My inner feminist is shaking her head and mourning the decline of feminism....more
Sarah Addison Allen is the diet coke of magic realism. Just one calorie, just enough to qualify for the genre. In The Sugar Queen the main charactersSarah Addison Allen is the diet coke of magic realism. Just one calorie, just enough to qualify for the genre. In The Sugar Queen the main characters are:
Josey The beautiful fat girl with the Wicked Mother. All her life, her mother has pretty much held Josey responsible for her own miserable life. Since Josey's insecurities about her weight and appearance make her an easy target, her darling mother has chosen to latch onto those shortcomings for the pleasure of her critique. Josey does what any normal twenty-seven-year-old woman still living at home with her mother would do - she stuffs her bedroom closet full of verboten sweets and teen magazines. Her super power is knowing when people have a secret (i.e. everyone).
Della Lee A "hard" (read: bar floozy) woman who's pretty in a cheap sort of way ("bless your heart, tramp"), and on the run from her loser ex-boyfriend. Where does she go on the run to? Why, Josey's closet, of course! She can kind of predict the future . . . sort of. She is also a bit of a fairy godmother-type in cheap shoes.
Cloe A sandwich shop chef. Her rich and golden boyfriend cheated on her but he won't tell her with whom - so it has become an obsession for Cloe to find out. Her secret power is that books tend to pounce on her when she least expects it. Sometimes, in the case of the craft books and romance novels, this can be a fun and marvelous thing. Other times, like when she is being stalked by self-help books, it seems more like a curse.
I liked this book. It was a bit too sappy for me towards the end, and I skimmed the last twenty pages or so because I started to get annoyed at how "neatly" everything was being wrapped up. Garden Spells was more bittersweet, more "men are great but you don't need them to make you happy." This one is more like, "You can act like a totally dysfunctional woman but if you believe in magic, someday your prince will come!"
I liked the message of the other one, better.
Also, Helena really annoyed me. Not her as a character, per se, but what she represents. I'm pretty sure that she was black (not 100% though as it was not mentioned very often - and with good reason), and if she was black, Allen made her a completely gross stereotype better suited to the 1940s than the present day. Helena spoke in fractured English, and her voodoo practiced served as many a running gag in the story. I get that there's a lot of white guilt in the south right now, and that they want to show themselves as "tolerant" and "compassionate" by inserting characters of color into their books, but it just doesn't work if you rely on racial stereotypes for the basis of your characterization. Not cool.
Also, Josey's mother, Margaret? I just have one thing to say to you:
"Maggie darling, I've just received the most terrible news. It seems that a house just fell on your sister."
I did like the twist about Della Lee at the end, though. No, not that twist. I saw that one coming for ages. The other one. If you read the book, you know what I'm talking about.
You would have thought that I'd havYou can read more of my reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
The circus arrives without warning....
You would have thought that I'd have read this already. Unfortunately, I don't buy my books new -- if I did, I would be homeless -- so I had to wait for it to show up in the used bookstore. You can tell how good a book is by how long it takes people to get sick of reading it, and it took almost two years for a copy to show up in the store. To give you some sense of perspective here, I immediately started finding copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in both hard and soft cover, but am still waiting on an edition -- any edition -- of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn to show its face.
Life is hard when you're a cheapskate.
I liked The Night Circus. I'm not in love with it, but I liked it. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.... Yes, I totally stole that from The Princess Bride. Shut up. It's true. Well, if you replace 'giants' with 'contortionists' and take 'monsters' in the figurative sense, then yes, it's totally true. Maybe there could have been more action. Certainly the "dueling" promised in the book's summary (you see? -- accurate) is an overstatement.
I don't know about you, but when I think about wizards dueling, I think of this
But what actually happened is more like this,
Yes, it's cute and charming, but not terribly exciting.
The magic is understated. Sometimes magic is used for action, and sometimes it is used for scenery. In this instance, the magic makes up the wonders of the Circus of Dreams. You will see labyrinths made of clouds, clockwork animals, forests of ice, and color-changing dresses, but not a whole lot of actual spells.
The magic of The Night Circus is all about the atmosphere. The dark spaces between the imagination of a child and that of a grownup. Other reviews have compared The Night Circus to The Prestige or Johnathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. I think a better comparison would be The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda -- the magic in this book is also used for atmosphere, and the world-building takes second place to the buildup of the scenery and the romance.
By the way, this is a romance, so if you're coming in here expecting a hard fantasy novel, you'd best beat a hard retreat, because one does not simply walk into Mordor -- err, The Night Circus.
There are a lot of characters, and it's difficult to keep track of them all, but I do feel that all of them were mostly fleshed out. Certainly Marco and Celia are interesting, but they are the magicians, after all. Their personalities are less ... crucial. Actually, this is one of those books where the secondary characters rush in to steal the spotlight; this is a good thing, too, because otherwise the multiple POV-swaps would be unbearable. My favorites were probably the twins, Poppet and Widget, though Tsukiko was great, too.
Did I like this book? Yes. Am I in love with it? No. Am I in love with the idea? But of course! Who doesn't fancy the idea of a magical circus? The whole time I was reading, I was thinking what a great Tim Burton movie this would make, with its motifs of black and white.
The Winter Witch kept getting lost while I was reading it. Or I'd get sidetracked and find myself doing something else. After several weeks of it moldThe Winter Witch kept getting lost while I was reading it. Or I'd get sidetracked and find myself doing something else. After several weeks of it moldering and gathering dust behind my bed, I thought, "Hmm, I should probably get around to reading and reviewing this." I even tried bringing it to work, and do you know what happened? I literally ended up staring at the sky instead. It was that boring.
Which is sad, because it's got a good premise. Winter Witch is a historical fantasy novel set in medieval Wales. Morgana (yes, she is named Morgana; and yes, somebody brings up this "astonishing" coincidence) is mute, apparently by choice, and has been since her father disappeared when she was a child. She is married off to a slightly older porthmon, or cattle-drover, who was recently bereaved himself.
The two of them make the perfect couple. They are both complete morons.
What was most frustrating for me, as a reader, was the fact that there was some beautiful writing and truly touching moments between Morgana and Cai, but these moments were mere islands in a tortuous ocean of stupidity. For example, when one of the townsfolk (a minister, unclichely enough) comes to the farm to harass his wife for being a witch and then kills one of their dogs to illustrate his point (also a dragonfly), Cai comes home, sees the minister who claims to have just stopped by for a chat (remember: Morgana is mute), and oh, your dog is dead? sorry! didn't see him there. He suspects--suspects, mind--that something is not right in the state of Denmark.
And then brushes it off.
There's another villain, a woman named Isolda, who also kills bugs to illustrate how evil she is (a beetle, this time, in case you wondered). Also bereaved. Cai kind of has the hots for her, despite the fact that she unsettles him and his wife balks everytime she comes near. Does Cai trust his wife's intuitions? Nope. Instead he forces her to come with him, or just sneaks around with her behind Morgana's back, having dinner, being seduced, taking mysteriously convenient loans--
Come on. Can't you see the evil radiating off this woman? She's only a few steps below cackling beneath flashes of lightning and commanding hordes of flying monkeys.
Morgana is also a total Sue. She had the potential to be interesting, but her weaknesses and tragedies are just too construed and come off as mere plot devices than actual weaknesses and tragedies. I felt like her thoughts about her father were very cold and impassive; if she missed him so much that his absence rendered her MUTE, shouldn't she think about him more often? Or not think about him as often? Or dream about him? I think she did, once, but it wasn't very touching. Not nearly as touching as, say, when Harry sees his mum and dad in the mirror of Erised. Oh, God, how the tears flowed in that scene.
Also, why is she mute? A curse? Is this like the Seven Swans fairytale, when she's sworn to silence to protect her father? I would have liked to have known that--it would have made me like her more. Can she write? I feel like she could at least GESTURE to Cai why he should stay away from Isolda and the bug-squashing, dog-killing minister instead of just glaring at him and waiting for him to figure it out himself because, I hate to say it, honey, he wouldn't know a eureka if a lightbulb smashed on his head and zapped him with it.
I also feel that she picked up magic waaaaaay too quickly considering that she repressed it all her life. And she was waaaay too good at suppressing it, too. Also, there are only so many times I can be told that a female character is beautiful before wanting to hurl the book against the wall. Ugh. And her narrative. UGH. Such a bitch.
Overall, my feelings are very ambivalent. I wanted to like this book and I thought the cover was absolutely gorgeous, but the execution of the plot and the personalities (or lack thereof) of the characters were just too frustrating for me to get emotionally invested in it.
Wise Child and Juniper are much better examples of witches gone right. Both take place in Cornwall and feature strong, flawed protagonists who dabble in witchcraft.
P.S. The twist with Mrs. Jones was great. In fact, Mrs. Jones was great, period.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. This in no way biased or shaped my reading or opinion of the book. ...more
The cool thing about finding a book that nobody on your friends list has read, is that yoYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian!
The cool thing about finding a book that nobody on your friends list has read, is that you get to champion it; you get to be the one who discovers it. The downside? That you don't have the trusted opinions of GR friends to fall back on when deciding whether o not to read the book.
I bought The Art of Disappearing for $1. The pretty cover caught my eye, and when I looked at the summary on the book jacket and found out that it was about a stage magician, I was really excited. I don't think I've read a book about a magician (who wasn't a witch or a wizard or anything like that) since The Prestige. Which I liked, even if nobody else did--it's hard to hate a book that incorporates the genius of Nikola Tesla.
Anyway, The Art of Disappearing takes place in Las Vegas. The main character, Mel Snow, is a bit dippy in the Bella Swan sense, but she actually has a pretty cool ability: she is a fabric designer, and different textiles sing to her. So, just per hyperbolic example, a red and green Hawaiian shirt might sing Mele Kalikimaka, whereas a swatch of silk might play Saint-Saëns.
Hello, Alison Lohman!
When she stops at a roadside dive for a drink, she meets Toby Warring, the magician who's only got one secret: all of his tricks are real. He actually can do magic, and the sad, bitter irony is that he spends his entire career trying to "dumb" his tricks down to make them appear like actual tricks since his audience does not enjoy his shows as much when he uses actual magic.
Hello, John Krasinski!
Both Toby and Mel have haunted pasts, rifted apart by tragic circumstances that befell those whom they love. Toby made his assistant/girlfriend of old disappear, and then she never came back. Mel had a brother with a preternatural affinity for swimming and being in the water. One day, he allowed himself to get carried away by the sea, and she never saw him again.
The two of them get married on the same night they meet, by a Vegas priest, and the story then turns surreal as Mel discovers that love cannot be enough to surmount the deep veining obsessions of her new husband.
Overall, I enjoyed The Art of Disappearing. It had an original premise that I really liked, and the gorgeous writing was distinctly cinematic. I could definitely envision this as a movie done by Tim Burton, Robert Schwentke, or Catherine Hardwicke.
There were definitely some plotholes that weren't resolved though. Like, what happens with Swenson? What about the society of magicians? What are the consequences of The Dissolving World? And what the heck happened to Mel's amphibious brother, Max?
The summary for this book is incredibly misleading.
PIRATE DYNASTY They were two of a kind -- Andrew Sheffield, the red-bearded pirate captain called Flambé, and the beautiful Marie, prostitute and former convict.
Outcast from polite society, they determined to build a kingdom for themselves and their heirs on the island of Jamaica, and to establish a dynasty to rule over their great plantation, Sugar Hill.
SUGAR HILL tells the story of three generations of the Sheffield family. Yes, the original paterfamilias was a pirate and his wife was a whore, but their story actually constitutes a relatively small proportion of the bulk.
Maybe about one third or less. The summary makes it sound like it's just about Andrew and Marie, which confused me because Marie is described as a blonde and there's a freaking black lady on the cover, so what gives here? Now you know. :)
The story starts out on a tropical island with a hanging. Andrew Sheffield and his good pirate buddy Ben are about to be hanged, when a BIG MOTHERFUCKING EARTHQUAKE changes things. They break out of jail to find out that everyone has been sucked into the abyssal chasms opened up by the quake -- everyone except Marie, the beautiful blond English prostitute, of course.
(I was actually quite amused by Marie's back story because it was quite similar to that of Marietta Danvers in LOVE'S TENDER FURY, what with the prostitute with the heart of gold being sent on a white slaver ship for crimes that were vastly exaggerated, and all that. Must be a common theme.)
Marie gets gangbanged by Ben and Andrew as they fight over her. The next morning Ben apologizes and says that further gangbanging won't be necessary because she belongs to him now. Andrew is jealous. But the three of them don't have time to dally because suddenly a bunch of angry Arawaks chase after them and Ben gets killed. Oops. Andrew and Marie have sex and dig up Andrew's pirate treasure and then have more sex and go to Jamaica to start a sugar plantation.
Nobody will ever figure out their origins.
I have to say that the sheer ridiculousness of the storyline nearly put me off several times, but it's just so filled with drama and unapologetic wtfuckery that I couldn't resist. Plus, Amanda Hart Douglass seems to have done her research. The culture of the Jamaican natives, and the voodoo rituals, and the mistreatment of the slaves all seemed pretty realistic. I also learned more than I'd ever like to learn about the treatment of blisters with bat guano, and how to gut things and cook them on fires. Yuck.
Anyway, the second generation, James and Geoffrey, are twins and one of them is good and one of them is not so good. (Isn't there a rhyme about that?) They grow up and one of them gets involved with a beautiful black slave named Azurée. But disapproval from his family keeps him from installing her in the house as an actual mistress until his parents die. But social pressures lead him to take a wife -- and what better specimen than the woman who his twin brother just so happens to be in love with? Unfortunately, Azurée doesn't like this and she happens to be skilled in...VOODOO.
The James and Geoffrey portion takes up a pretty huge amount of the book. I don't want to spoil too much, but since I'm the only person who's reviewed this book I also want to give the people who are checking this out as a potential read a bit of an idea of what they're in for. So let's start with the usual caveats: rape. Not as much as some vintage novels but a pretty noticeable and uncomfortable amount. Some of it is gang-rape. Some of it is marital rape. Rape, rape, rape. There's a lot of racism. It's a product of the times, and this book was published in 1979, but again, it's there, and if it makes you uncomfortable you might not want to read the book. There's a bit of pedophilia. There's adultery. There's blood sacrifices, voodoo, graphic murders, gore, and various gross-out novels that occur throughout the book, including basting a woman's vag with aligator grease to help ease a difficult pregnancy. Again, if this makes you feel like yarking, maybe you shouldn't read the book.
The saga ends with the third generation, which I can't really say too much more about. There's another difficult pregnancy, more voodoo, more gross-out deaths, and random wtfuckery.
All of this happens in 317 pages which, to be honest, wasn't really enough. I felt like just when I was beginning to get to know a particular generation of the family the story cut off and switched to the next set. I would have liked more transitory passages explaining how scene A got to scene B. On the other hand, maybe shorter is sweeter, as long books (I'm looking at LOVE'S TENDER FURY) can sometimes be padded with gratuitous information and details that bog down the plot. So I dunno.
SUGAR HILL is an interesting read because it was written just before the golden era of bodice rippers. By the mid-1980s, most of them had a sort of formula going. The ones written in the late 70s and early 80s tend to be darker and more experimental, so you get all these crazy WTF scenes that make you wonder what the hell the publisher was thinking, releasing that to the public. A lot of them have fallen through the cracks over the years, doomed to thrift stores and boot sales, but my latest hobby is finding these babies, reading them, and reporting the down and dirty.
The idea of THE TIGER'S WIFE was really compelling; beauty and the beast, and its many incarnations, is one of my favorite fairy tales. I liked the idea of a work of magic realism, set in the Balkans during one of their (many) civil wars, about an escaped tiger and his "wife" (but is she really, though? That's the question).
The Tiger's Wife is not actually the main character of the story. That goes to Natalia Stefanovic, who is a doctor undergoing an existential crisis. Her dying grandfather went off on his own, as though he had a specific thought in mind to die. Now, while trying to give medical care to suspicious villagers, armed only with her childhood friend Zora and her grandfather's stories, she tries to figure out what was going through her grandfather's mind.
And the truth is--we really don't know.
There are two magic realism subplots woven into this storyline, which may or may not have happened. First, the deathless man: a man who cannot die, who her grandfather encounters several time during the course of his life, with whom he made a bet where his treasured copy of The Jungle Book was the stakes. Then there's the Tiger's Wife, a deaf-mute woman married to an abusive butcher named Luka: one of his attempts to kill her puts her into contact with a half-wild tiger prowling the hills, which, of course, stirs up all kinds of superstitious rumors.
My biggest problem with THE TIGER'S WIFE is that nothing of consequence really happens. The subplots are interesting, yes, but Natalia is a very boring character with little to no personality, and reading from her POV was very tedious. She is such a bland character, and passive in her own narrative: it's always sad to me when a character doesn't even take center stage in his or her (usually her) own narrative.
Obreht's writing is lovely, even luminous, as some have said, but her story-telling ability falls flat. THE TIGER'S WIFE is an acclaimed work, and a hyped one at that: I definitely think that this had more than a little to do with her age; I believe she was twenty-six at the time that this work was published. Which is impressive, considering that it was a debut, but it certainly does not warrant the rationalization of a sub-par work. An author does not deserve accolades just because they are precocious. To do so, I think, is damaging, because it can create a false sense of one's own worth, and stunt the development of the creative process when producing more mature bodies of work. A lot of people make apologies for young authors, most notably the author of Eragon, but I have never bought into that mode of thought. A work should be able to stand on its own, regardless of the age, sex, or ethnicity of the person who produced it. Saying otherwise is offensive and, well, harmful.
I like magic-realism. The only problem is that it's often pretentious. It's like authors decide that if they're going to write in this genre, they have to be as pretentious as humanly possible.
This book is no exception.
The main character and narrator of this book is a GIANT. She has acromegaly, an over-active pituitary gland that will cause her to keep on growing until she dies. (Andre the Giant had this, too.) Giant also has a sister, Pretty Bitch. Pretty Bitch gets everything she ever wanted out of life simply because she's beautiful, and ignores the shit out of GIANT. GIANT accepts this, because Pretty Bitch is pretty. Except one day Pretty Bitch gets raped by Dr. Douchebag, gets preggers, and is forced into a shotgun wedding. Her son is a gay transvestite. The doctor doesn't know. Pretty Bitch is miserable and accidentally/maybe not kills herself.
Meanwhile, GIANT has a friend, Quiet Girl. Quiet Girl's family adopted GIANT because the woman who adopted Pretty Bitch (let's call her Actual Bitch) doesn't want GIANT skulking around her house. Dr. Douchebag is pretty much shite at taking care of himself, though, and tells GIANT he wants her to move in with him and Gay Transvestite, because if she doesn't he'll call in all the debts on Quiet Girl's family farm.
GIANT learns herblore, and experiments on Dr. Douchebag. She makes him gravely ill because he deserves it, in her mind, and it's good practice to see what the herbs actually do. Vomiting, the shits, boils, pus -- nothing is too good for Dr. Douchebag. GIANT also uses the herbs to kill Actual Bitch's poor innocent kitty (D:), and, eventually, become an Angel of Death.
This book might have gotten three stars for me if not for the ending. The way GIANT treated her Best Friend was disgusting. Seriously disgusting. You want to talk about selfish, GIANT? Look at the way you treated your friend. Look at the way you treated the only person who ever stood by you in your miserable fucking life. But it doesn't matter, right? Because you got married at the end.
So, somehow my parents have gotten the impression that I have too many booYou can read more of my reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
So, somehow my parents have gotten the impression that I have too many books. How they got this impression I do not know, as I think it's perfectly natural to have your books thrown all over your room. That way, you never have to figure out which book to read. Just bend down and grab the nearest book at hand and, oh - Hello, Penelopiad!
But no, now my mom is drawing unfair comparisons between my room and the Augean stables. It's not fair, I tell you!
The Penelopiad is a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's point of view. What was she doing the whole time Odysseus was off having his eponymous odysseys? What was the story behind those twelve traitorous maids that were hung until dead when Odysseus stormed his own castle to gain control of it from the suitors? And is Odysseus really as cool and awesome and noble as he pretends to be?
Since this book is under 200 pages, and the Odyssey is several hundred pages, you can imagine that there isn't much to tell when it comes to Penelope. We learn a little bit about her, and her past, and her naiad mother, and what a bitchy bitch Helen is. Mean Girls, much? ("On Wednesdays, we wear pink togas. Get in loser! We're going to the acropolis!") Atwood does a pretty good job giving Penelope her own story, though her voice, as others have complained, is not particularly strong.
Honestly, the reason I picked this up was because of this really cool mythology professor I had back in college who is also the reason I read Olympos and Ilium by Dan Simmons. Those books were awesome and I figured that this book would be pretty awesome too. Especially since it's written by Margaret Atwood, who is probably one of the best contemporary feminist writers ever, and who gets that a book can be beautifully written without being soppy or pretentious or super slow-paced.
It's kind of a weird book, but the prose is lush and lovely, and there is tap-dancing and snark.