I've never been to the circus, but I suspect that this book is better than the real thing. It's been a while since I read a book that was so vivid. II've never been to the circus, but I suspect that this book is better than the real thing. It's been a while since I read a book that was so vivid. I could almost smell the sawdust, the musty animals, the old hay, the greasy chips with the powdered vinegar, and hear the Calliope music playing jauntily in the background. Is this book amazing? Oh, yes.
Water for Elephants takes place during the Depression/Prohibition era (which doubly sucks because if for many, if you lose your job and all your cash, your first impulse is to get wasted). Jacob, now ninety-three and in a nursing home, recalls his tragic circumstances that led him to join the circus in the first place. He was studying to be a vet at an Ivy League when, one day, he finds out that both his mother and father were killed in an accident. To make matters worse, their deaths left him destitute - his father took out a second mortgage to pay for his education.
Blinded by guilt and misery, Jacob ends up hopping on a train to get away from everything. It turns out to be a circus train. After some back-and-forth talk, the ringleader decides to keep him on as a veterinarian. You can tell that Ms. Gruen loves animals, because all of the creatures in this book are so full of life and personality - not gimmicky personalities, but real animal ones. I loved Rosie the elephant, Queenie the dog, and Bobo the orangutan. When he's not taking care of animals, he's helping with set-up and shoveling poop.
But Jacob soon discovers that the circus is not all fun and games - shady dealings go on when the rubes go out. Men who speak up against the poor conditions disappear and don't return. The treatment of the animals is abhorrent and cruel. Horses are worked until they die and then fed to the large cats as meat; the bloody slops are stored with the donkeys and giraffes; and Rosie, the elephant, is brutally beaten by August, for reasons both real and imagined.
Although at first they are friends, Jacob soon detests August for his mercurial temperament and sadistic streak. Plus, he's the husband of Marlena, the object of Jacob's passions. He's pretty sure that the feeling is mutual - but if he acts on it, there is no doubt that August will kill him.
The suspense was absolutely amazing. I don't usually like the whole "I'm-an-old-person-lost-in-my-memories"-type storyline - I find it gimmicky, and have ever since I read The Notebook, which I hate with a fiery passion - but Ms. Gruen made it work. I'm surprised this book has as many negative reviews as it does - they nearly put me off reading this book!
Water for Elephants is absolutely delightful, and deliciously Gothic, like something out of the Brothers Grimm, and I was alternately charmed and chilled by the prose. The next time you're in the mood for vicarious adventure, read this book!
P.S. An elephant never forgets... ~~:3 <--my poor attempt at an elephant...more
I'm such a girl. When I first see a book, my first thought is, “OOH PRETTY COVER. WANT.”
BLISS is pretty much the opposite of what the title suggests.I'm such a girl. When I first see a book, my first thought is, “OOH PRETTY COVER. WANT.”
BLISS is pretty much the opposite of what the title suggests. It is anything but blissful. But wait — I'm getting ahead of myself, and venturing into the treacherous outskirts of Spoiler Land. Change course! The book is named for the protagonist, a girl with the unfortunate name Bliss Inthedewgrass (and, instead of being praised for having what I call a special snowflake name, she receives ridicule for a rather striking lapse in parental forethought). It takes place in 1969 — during the Manson trials, the Vietnam war, and, of course, free love and the bloody end of the civil rights movement — and the turbulent times Myracle has chosen for her setting really lend a grim and solemn atmosphere to high school life, showcasing both the hypocrisy and hope of the 1960s.
My parents were sobered by the fact that their pasts are now considered “historical fiction.” I imagine that I will feel the same way when fresh-faced young writers are writing about life in the early 90s. You can bet I'll be waving my cane, surrounded by My Little Ponies memorabilia and Beanie Babies, and saying, “Dang kids. Mario was originally for the NINTENDO. Not the SUPER NINTENDO. And the Game Boy wasn't invented until 1989. Can't get anything right.”
But anyway, back to the book. I liked it a lot. Have you watched The Craft? It's a bit like that. Girls being bitches while also being witches. I think you can imagine how ugly things can get when the cattiness of girls gets mixed up with blood magic and the dark arts. In fact, a really good way to sum up BLISS would be a cross between The Craft and A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY. Secret girl groups and sorcery. Bliss's parents want to go off and be hippies, but her mother has decided that Bliss really should get a formal upbringing. So she takes Bliss and dumps her with her well-to-do mother. Bliss and Grandma tiptoe around each other and Bliss discovers what it is like to be a real teenager in 1969. Myracle really captures the odd dichotomy of old tradition and radicalism. Some of her classmates still exchange high school pins and stay the respectable 12-inches apart at the dances, but others are pressing for reform. I thought the way people reacted to her life at the commune was very realistic, and that many of the stereotypes and prejudices accurately reflected what I know of the sentiments of those times.
Bliss ends up befriending a girl named Sandy. Sandy is a very odd duck. But Bliss feels simpatico with her when she sees Sandy helping up a girl who has fallen and inadvertently flashed her panties to everyone. Her liberal attitudes aren't very popular in Georgia, where people tend to think that people belong in their respective niches and that anyone who tries to break free from social constraints is a danger to all things American, and must be a pinko commie and/or a Manson murderer. Sandy is very curious about her life in the hippie camp. She also takes care of her invalid mother and volunteers at an old folks' home. But she's very odd. And there's something about her that seems almost sinister, although Bliss is loath to admit this because she isn't sure if her premonitions actually come from solid evidence, or from the gossip and unpleasant physical appearance of her classmate.
But she is odd. Her obsession with cats could make a crazy cat lady turn green with envy. She has odd ideas about what constitutes appropriate social and sexual behavior. She's a little too obsessed with Lilianna, the girl who committed suicide in their school so many years ago. She's not very popular and people seem unwilling to talk about her. She holds grudges. But Bliss interprets this all as a passing fancy. A morbid one, but short-lived nonetheless. …Gradually, though, Sandy becomes crazier and crazier as she becomes more obsessed with obtaining power…
And if Bliss doesn't help her, people might die.
Oooooh. I just gave myself the chills. It's been a long time since I've read a YA horror novel that scared the jeepers out of me like this one did. Not since the R.L. Stein days of yore. I really liked how similar this book was to the thrillers of my young adolescence. It was a little cheesy, sure, but had that creepy atmosphere down pat, and the gruesome climax culminated on prom night (ugh. Why must all high school books end with prom? It's SO cliché). BLISS, unlike the others, has the added benefits of multi-layered characters and an interesting historical venue. It doesn't have a happy ending though. Not even close.
I have mixed feelings about that. I'm a happy person. I like me a happy ending. On the other hand, I'm also a very moral person. I believe that actions should have consequences, and that people should learn from their stupid mistakes. It's a little distressing to read so many YA novels with bubble-head protagonists who do a whole bunch of stupid and dangerous stuff, act insensitively and immaturely, and then reap the wonderful rewards of their own juvenile actions. So yeah, it's nice to see books saying, “No, actually, you can't act like an idiot and expect people to give you a gold star” but sometimes that can be depressing — especially with books as dark as this one. I was kind of rooting for a happily-ever-after.
Don't get too attached to any characters. There, I warned you. Also, that thing with the dove — anticlimax or no? Please, give me your opinion on this because I'm genuinely curious what other people think. I, myself, was kind of disappointed by what I perceived as a lack of significance. 4½ stars! ...more
Competition at the pageant is rough. And Sakurako is also one of the competitors! When competing against such beautiful flowers, Tsukushi has to relyCompetition at the pageant is rough. And Sakurako is also one of the competitors! When competing against such beautiful flowers, Tsukushi has to rely on her "weed" strength... but will that be enough? I love how Tsukasa is becoming a better character. In the beginning, he was really scary, so it's good that he is changing for her.
The dog on the cover is because Tsukushi says Tsukasa looks like a dog in this book. It was kind of a random interlude; Tsukushi being mean to TsukasaThe dog on the cover is because Tsukushi says Tsukasa looks like a dog in this book. It was kind of a random interlude; Tsukushi being mean to Tsukasa after he saves her, as usual. Junpei leads Tsukushi into a trap that stems back to a petty vendetta from Tsukasa's darker years. You also get to meet Tsukasa's mommy dearest....more
I hated the Twilight Saga so much that this book has been sitting on my shelf for a year, collecting dust. Then I found it again while going through mI hated the Twilight Saga so much that this book has been sitting on my shelf for a year, collecting dust. Then I found it again while going through my shelves, deciding what to keep and what to toss. Since I hate getting rid of books without finishing them, I decided to give The Host a read.
It was beautiful. I finished it in a day.
Stephenie Meyer is finally getting an idea of what "girl power" really means. And while she still has a way to go before she is a Tamora Pierce, this book is SO MUCH BETTER than Twilight. Okay, yes, so there's the two love interests, Ian and Jared, and one of them is incredibly misogynistic. But Ian really is a decent man. And the best part of all is that he loves the Wanderer because she is kind, compassionate, and gentle. Not just because her host body is attractive.
The science fiction element was not underplayed, either. I loved the descriptions of the other alien worlds the Wanderer had been to. There was grit and gore, some of it worthy of Star Trek, and very realistic. The alien parasites kind of remind me from the Yeerks from the Animorphs series, in the sense that they are worm-like creatures that wrap themselves around their host's brains. The host is a prisoner in their own body, and can only experience the sensations that the parasite experiences.
And yes, there is the typical happily-ever-after, no one dies ending that Meyer has become somewhat notorious for, but it actually fits in this book. It leaves the reader with a hope for peace and humanity that a lot of post-apocalyptic books lack. I would definitely recommend it to young adults, especially those who liked the moral and philosophical questions raised in books like The Last Unicorn and Animorphs....more
Gail Carson Levine is the standard by which I judge all YA fantasy targeted at girls. She is my golden mean - and you know what? Julie Berry has justGail Carson Levine is the standard by which I judge all YA fantasy targeted at girls. She is my golden mean - and you know what? Julie Berry has just joined that highly exclusive A-list of authors who fit the bill when it comes to balancing feisty heroines, dashing danger, magic and mystery, and fairytales wearing masks. Ms. Berry takes Cinderella and turns it into something completely unique and beautiful.
And speaking of beautiful, that cover? That's half the reason I got this book in the first place. I know they say don't judge a book by its cover, but I do. They look so pretty on my shelves. *___*
Lucinda is an orphan who basically works as a slave in her aunt's floundering jewelry store. One day a mysterious lady comes in with a beautiful jewel requesting a base made for it. That lady is the Amaranth Witch, and it turns out she has ties to Lucinda's family. As with most fairytale heroines, Lucinda has a tragic past. Her parents went to a ball and never came back - they were brutally murdered and left bankrupt, leaving their only child wallowing in debts.
A chance encounter with the prince also impacts her fate. Because, when the gem is stolen by a thief named Peter, it ends up in his - Prince Gregor's - hands. It's love at first sight...except not really, because Prince Gregor is already engaged. And the stone - the Amaranth Witch's stone - is to be his fair bride's engagement present...unless an unspeakable evil gets to it first.
The plot, pacing, romance, and world-building were all spectacular. I had fond reminiscences of Ella Enchanted while reading this. Lucinda is likable. She can take care of herself, and she's funny without being snarky, contrived, or obnoxious. I also liked how she wasn't uber-clingy or flirty - in fact, her awkward bumbling around the prince endeared her to me, as well.
Over all, this was a really cute retelling of one of my favorite fairytales. Definitely a must for fans of fantasy with strong, smart female leads!
Apparently Rebecca Brand is the penname of Suzy McKee Charnas, who wrote another vampire book called THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY. Since THE RUBY TEAR was amazing you can be sure that I'll be checking out Ms. Charnas's other work.
I grabbed THE RUBY TEAR as a lark. The cover was unbearably corny, but the writing, as I flipped through the pages, seemed decent. Even good. It reminded me of Mercedes Lackey when she's writing her fairy tale retellings. Lyrical, with every word seeming to require a meticulous amount of forethought.
Jessamyn is a play actor and the ex-girlfriend of budding playwright, Nic. But after the two of them are involved in a terrible accident, Nic cuts off all contact with her, even going so far as to try to have her blacklisted from performing in his play! Luckily, the playwright doesn't have control over the casting, so Jessamyn's role in The Jewel is safe...for now.
But she receives mysterious gifts, and her benefactor turns out to be a charming and elegant, and mysteriously good-looking man named Ivo von Cragga. He's urbane and sophisticated and smooth-talking and everything that Nic is not. He may or may also be dangerous. Because in addition to the gorgeous jewelry being left in her dressing room, someone is trying to hurt her--filling her water bottle with ammonia, scattering marbles over her dressing room floor. Nasty pranks that bode ill intent. Jessamyn must figure out whether her attacker is Nic or Ivo or someone else entirely--and what connection these two mysterious men in her life have to Nic's play, and her own role.
I. Adored. This. Book. Fucking adored it. I'm a sucker for vintage vampire novels, but this one was exceptionally well-written, sexy, romantic, dark, lush, and everything vampire novels of today aren't. It was published in 1997 so it comes across as a little dated--no mention of internet or cell phones--but that adds, rather than detracts, to the book's charms.
I loved all the characters, and the gorgeous writing, and when I came to the ending I felt myself choking up a little. It was sad--but then, good vampire novels usually do end sadly. For how can a romance with an immortal end as anything other than bittersweet?
I was heartbroken when I saw that there were no more books listed under Rebecca Brand's name, but thank God her real name was supplied along with the pseudonym. Now I can stalk this talented author, and get me some more vintage vampire fiction! Hurrah!
Rui and Tsukushi are finally dating, but it's not all smooth sailing for the couple. In a jealous fury, Tsukasa challenges Rui and Tsukushi to a baskeRui and Tsukushi are finally dating, but it's not all smooth sailing for the couple. In a jealous fury, Tsukasa challenges Rui and Tsukushi to a basketball game. And if they lose, they are going to be expelled from Eitoku Academy!...more
Domyoji goes to NY and ends up dancing with a group of Rastafarians for money. Tsukushi meets a mysterious boy who calls himself "Kin-san." He seems lDomyoji goes to NY and ends up dancing with a group of Rastafarians for money. Tsukushi meets a mysterious boy who calls himself "Kin-san." He seems like an upbeat poor boy, but what are his real origins?...more