Mockingjay is great. It really is. It's all the things I've come to expect from The Hunger Games series--interesting plot, strong female protagonist,...moreMockingjay is great. It really is. It's all the things I've come to expect from The Hunger Games series--interesting plot, strong female protagonist, likable characters, depressing storyline, the works. However, I found this final effort a little less focused than the other two books. The scope of the plot was wider this time, and maybe because of that I felt the pacing suffered in parts. This was also the first book where I felt the author was laboring over the prose in some instances--the inclusion of the hangman poem, for example. What I love about Collins' work isn't that her writing is so beautiful but that it's almost completely unobtrusive, which is a rare talent. She doesn't usually distract me from the story she's trying to tell by getting overly cutesy and clever. I think she reached a little for poignancy and cleverness in this book, and it didn't quite fly with me. But it's not egregious or anything. Mockingjay is an enjoyable book and a fitting final act for the trilogy. It is as satisfying an ending as I could hope for.(less)
I love me a good Beauty and the Beast adaptation. But sadly, Beastly is not very good at all. It's competent, I guess (meaning most of the sentences h...moreI love me a good Beauty and the Beast adaptation. But sadly, Beastly is not very good at all. It's competent, I guess (meaning most of the sentences have both subjects and predicates and the author does not seem to be smoking any hallucinogenic substances), but it brings nothing fresh to the story. The characters are hackneyed, the plotting contrived and the romance a yawn fest. The story is just an uninspired rehashing of a familiar fairy tale, and what with the waltzing and snowball fighting it kind of resembles the Disney version of the tale as old as time. Seriously, if you're ripping off Disney you've lost any hope of literary cred.
Reading Beastly was not completely without its charms, however. If you keep in mind the trailer for the movie that is based on this very book and realize that Mary Kate Olsen is supposed to play the sometimes hideous witch and that Vanessa Hudgens is stepping into the role of the plain faced, red haired, freckled heroine it's pretty freaking ironic. A movie ostensibly meant to proselytize about the unimportance of physical attractiveness apparently cannot bear to star an actress who is less than gorgeous. That struck me as funny until it struck me as sad. Girls just can't catch a break, can they? This is why feminism is so damn depressing.(less)
This might not be the fairest of reviews since I'm not certain I was in quite the right mind frame for reading this book, but here goes. The story pic...moreThis might not be the fairest of reviews since I'm not certain I was in quite the right mind frame for reading this book, but here goes. The story picks up where The Bronze Horseman left off. Tatiana has made her way to America and had her baby while Alexander has been arrested by the KGB and is imprisoned in Russia. Now I don't have a heck of a lot of patience for lengthy separations at the best of times, and this book with its many flashbacks and digressions just didn't sit very well with me. To put it bluntly, I was kinda bored. Mostly with Tatiana's end of things. She seems to tread water through most of the plot, feeling a lot but doing nothing about it. Alexander's journey is much more eventful, and his story in and of itself is really worthwhile.
However, the writing worked its way onto my last nerve. Probably because she had to fill so much space between the characters (how do you write a romance when the star-crossed lovers can't even communicate with one another?), Simons wound up getting a little artsy and, in my opinion, precious. In a sort of standard third-person narrated text, there were sections written in first person inserted out of nowhere that struck me as bizarre and unnecessary. Flashbacks were also randomly thrown into scenes where they didn't seem to fit as if to remind me that this is a love story Simons is telling. Thanks, but I think I had that figured. Some of the blasts from the past were valuable and helped fill in holes from the last book (and for the record, Alexander is one heck of a manwhore) but many of them were repetitive to the point of being obnoxious.
The thing is, I don't think Tatiana and Alexander is bad book, really. But I think it's a story that takes too long to tell. A little bit of streamlining would have been very much appreciated. As it was, I found myself satisfied by the end of the book, but impatient and irritated as well, which I could have done without.(less)
This isn't a perfect book by any means, but I liked it, and in the world where I rule supreme that's what counts. The Bronze Horseman is an epic love...moreThis isn't a perfect book by any means, but I liked it, and in the world where I rule supreme that's what counts. The Bronze Horseman is an epic love story set against the backdrop of WWII in the USSR. It's fiction, I know, but I appreciated that the novel offered a slightly different view of the war since it focused on non-Jewish Russian soldiers and civilians. For the most part I enjoyed the prose and the meandering pace of the novel (it's 800 freaking pages,yo!) because I thought Simons used the time to paint a clear picture of wartime life in Leningrad. The slow build also lent a lot of validity to Tatiana and Alexander's complicated relationship. Had it been paced any faster, I'm not sure I could have finished the story due to the damage inflicted on my vision by my constant eyeball rolling. Tatiana's feelings and decisions vacillate wildly at a frustrating clip, and this is usually the kind of thing that doesn't fly with me, but given that she's a seventeen year-old girl and that we get to actually experience the progression of her emotions and thoughts, I cut the author some slack.
However, there were a few aspects of The Bronze Horseman that stuck in my craw. Around the middle of the book there is an idyll set away from the war that felt out of place and awkward to me. This was the only point in the story where I felt the pace was far too slow and repetitive. Instead of an epic love story, I felt like I was reading a romance novel (and yeah, there's a difference)--a romance novel composed entirely of sex and...um, nothing else. One or two such scenes, I understand. But I swear there's something like thirty love making interludes set up, one right after another. It's more than a little indulgent. I think I get what the author was shooting for. No doubt she was trying to slowly build up this new sexual component of the relationship as she had done for their emotional connection, but for me that emotional connection got completely lost just when it should have been most apparent. Probably because the characters were doing so much humping and not so much talking.
In addition, there were times the relationship between the main characters struck me as unhealthy. Yes, the novel takes place in a different place and time than modern-day America, but nevertheless, I have a bit of a problem romanticizing a character who on at least one occasion throws objects in the vicinity of his beloved's head and punches a hole in the wall next to her face. Call me crazy. Now in that character's defense I will say that his feelings were completely understandable, but that does not justify a violent outburst. (In the interest of gender equality, I will also note that the heroine at one point slaps the hero across the face, which is likewise wrong and inexcusable.) I don't mind heroes with flaws--I prefer them, actually--but if it's a romance you're selling me, then all I ask is for one free of cheating, domestic abuse and bullying. Because I want to be able to love the hero, or barring that, at least like him a little bit so that I do not find myself dreaming up creative and nasty ways to fictionally torture him. Vindictive is not a good look on me.
Finally, I had issues with the simplistic characterizations throughout the novel. Aside from the main characters, there were few redeeming qualities to be found in the rest of the major players. In an 800 page book, that's just bleak. It may well be that the privations of war and the terror induced by a harsh and dictatorial regime would bring out the ugliness in people, but there was a feeling pervading the narrative that this story was bringing together the only two decent Russians in all the land. Compared to their supporting cast, Tatiana and Alexander are veritable saints--stupid, temperamental, immature saints, but still...I just found that bit difficult to swallow. They were too generous, too thoughtful, too noble when everyone they sacrificed for was so selfish, greedy and unkind. The dichotomy was too glaring to pass for realism.
In most cases these cons would ruin and overwhelm the story. But despite its flaws, the Bronze Horseman worked for me. It's melodramatic, yes, and maybe a bit basic, but overall, I found reading it to be a cathartic experience. I grew to care for Tatiana and Alexander, dumbasses that they could sometimes be, and I wanted the unflinchingly evil baddies to pay and pay dearly, regardless of my avowed distaste for unremitting dastardliness in my villains. If I wanted to put on my literary snob hat, I guess I could argue that the novel provides an intriguing example of Russian-American literature, which fuses the tragedy, philosophy and poetry of Russian tradition with the sentimentality and idealism characteristic of American bestsellers, but to be frank, I don't really care about all that. Overflowing with literary value or not, it managed to keep me engaged and turning pages, and right now I'm about to reach for the sequel. What more could I ask for?(less)
And this started out as such a charming story. Truly it begins as a warm, funny but slightly angsty portrait of a privileged southern girl's childhood...moreAnd this started out as such a charming story. Truly it begins as a warm, funny but slightly angsty portrait of a privileged southern girl's childhood romance. But that is all prelapsarian. Almost without warning, the story devolves into a ham handed, anvilicious, clumsy narrative that finds its home in an alternate universe. I don't know how else to explain it. Characters lie, cheat and deceive their nearest and dearest, and this is all easily forgiven and shrugged off as an "everybody makes mistakes" type deal. But no, everybody does not do the sorts of things these characters do to each other in the name of love or I would be far more misanthropic than I currently am. Whatever these characters are smoking, I don't want any of it.
Without giving too much away, I can also say that the repetitive motif in the French family drama is just too obvious and lazy, in my opinion, and some of the characters seem to function as plot devices to drive home a point that a five year-old could sniff out. In addition, the main characters are ridiculously dense and unattractive. Even I, with my oft-criticized tolerance for mean, mouthy, bitter women, found the heroine difficult to stomach. And the hero is just a waste. I mean I get that he's not an alpha, and I'm down with that, truly. But the guy's a total doormat who lets himself get shat upon and then asks for more and that? is not sexy. For a man or a woman. Yeah, so basically this is a book about terrible/pathetic people who champion unhealthy relationships and deserve to have rotten things happen to them. When rotten things do happen, I am not dismayed; I am pleased. But my pleasure is always short-lived.
The writing isn't terrible, although the foreshadowing at the end of chapters (e.g., "little did they know the darkness that would shadow them all too soon...") gets old real quick, whatever Stranger Than Fiction says. Plotwise--well, I've kinda gone over that. It's super clunky, in a literary sense, as well as belabored and rushed all at once. And the BIG MISUNDERSTANDING is too stupid for words. I know it's supposed to be all heart wrenching and stuff, but the characters are morons. Just completely not bright. I don't know if this means I'm losing my patience with the big misunderstanding as a plot device or if this one in particular was just so odious it took my normally affable romance novel-reading temperament and turned it into a seething ball of hate. Something to ponder. Anyway, I don't recommend this book if realistic characters or interesting plot development are important to you. If, however, you're of an emotional bent and love watching Hallmark movies so you can cry over lost spouses, dying dogs or sick children, then this just may be a fun, touching read for you. It is well documented that my heart is made of stone, so what do I know of such things as tear jerkers? It didn't ring my bell, but that's just my two cents.(less)
This is one of my favorites of Twain's work. It's battle of the sexes Eden-style, and while some of the jokes get repetitive after a while, the end re...moreThis is one of my favorites of Twain's work. It's battle of the sexes Eden-style, and while some of the jokes get repetitive after a while, the end result is a short chronicle that is both funny and poignant.(less)
I was so excited to finally get around to reading Norse mythology, but I wound up being less than impressed with the Prose Edda. It may be that I am j...moreI was so excited to finally get around to reading Norse mythology, but I wound up being less than impressed with the Prose Edda. It may be that I am just used to Greek myths, which read more like supernatural soap operas (and I looooove me some soapy goodness), but a good deal of the Prose Edda just lulled me to sleep. Really, how much is there to say about mead and gold? If you are ancient and Norse, then apparently there are volumes to be proclaimed on just those two subjects alone. I swear half the book is composed of myths which justify the different slang words for gold--and in case you were wondering, cant expressions for gold abound.
I think the most interesting things about the book were the appendices, which discuss the complexities of Norse poetry. They were didactic, but had little to do with the naming of gold, so score one for the appendices! The myths themselves weren't all boring, but there didn't seem to be a lot of heart or personality attributed to the characters (except for Thor, who, let me tell you, is a crack up), and Greek mythology has such strong characterizations that I felt the lack of them here. For mythology lovers, Tolkien and Lewis lovers and lit snobs, the Prose Edda is still worth a read, but it may be more of an acquired taste.(less)
Yes, another vampire book. I swear I don't look for these novels; they find me. Anyway, this is one of the better YA vamp stories I've read. The premi...moreYes, another vampire book. I swear I don't look for these novels; they find me. Anyway, this is one of the better YA vamp stories I've read. The premise is interesting--the story is set at a school which teaches delicate, mortal vampires (Moroi) to use their magic peacefully and trains preternaturally strong, fast, half-vampire Dhampirs to guard the Moroi elite from the evil, immortal Strigoi vampire-creature-things who want to eat them. It actually comes off a bit better than I make it sound, if you can believe that. The main character is mouthy, stubborn and brave, which is I guess par for the course for every first person female narrator ever. Can I get an AMEN? But she's at least imperfect enough to be interesting (though not quite so interesting as all the guys falling in love with her make it seem. For Pete's sake, I'd love to hear from a narrator who wasn't forever tripping over lovelorn boytoys who are inexplicably devoted to her. Whose life is like that? My life sure isn't, and I'm pretty darn awesome. Can YA authors just not refrain from unleashing their devastatingly attractive teenage alter egos on the printed page? The prevalence of female author insecurity is wigging me out. These women obviously need some hugs.)
Needless to say, the romantic story is trite and saccharine because the girl is all sassy and stuff without being terribly competent or mature and the guy is a total cookie cutter, wise, all-knowing, ever patient Mr. Perfect. He doesn't need a personality because apparently his function is mainly decorative. In this book more than most, however, the relationship dynamic comes across more like father/daughter or maybe much older dude/much younger chica. It's a little creepy when you stop to think about it.
What I do appreciate about the book is the presence of a strong female friendship at the core of it, which is at least as crucial and passionate as the romantic attachments the heroines form. I think that's rather rare in YA books. Girls can actually like each other without being catty, jealous or disloyal. I know because I've heard tell of such relationships in folklore and song, and I am gratified to see a (mostly) healthy portrayal of one such relationship in a book called Vampire Academy. Fiction still has the power to surprise me.
In summary, the book is easy to read, the characters are likable despite the fact that the boys are one-note, the plot is meh, the girl power is subtle but shows glimmers of life, and I will definitely be reading the next book. Am braced for good times.(less)
Abraham Lincoln? Is awesome. Even more awesome than I ever thought he was. Team of Rivals? Starts out boring and gets better. I kinda hate biographies...moreAbraham Lincoln? Is awesome. Even more awesome than I ever thought he was. Team of Rivals? Starts out boring and gets better. I kinda hate biographies because the authors are always quoting excessively, imo, and this book was no different. But once I got over that little (but extremely annoying) pet peeve, the book proved interesting, informative and, naturally, tragic. If you're interested in Lincoln or the Civil War this is definitely a worthy read.(less)
I really loved this play, which I see as a prototype of Romeo and Juliet with a heavy emphasis on societal responsibility. This work is also touted as...moreI really loved this play, which I see as a prototype of Romeo and Juliet with a heavy emphasis on societal responsibility. This work is also touted as portraying one of the first feminist representations in Antigone, and she is certainly portrayed as a strong, tough-minded woman who is a skilled rhetorician. The drama unfolds mainly through speeches so there is little in the way of action, but lovers of courtroom dramas and philosophy should find little to complain about.(less)
I happen to agree with Scorgie's conclusions, but at times I find the case he builds tenuous. I think he gives a pretty excellent feminist critique of...moreI happen to agree with Scorgie's conclusions, but at times I find the case he builds tenuous. I think he gives a pretty excellent feminist critique of church history, and he brings to light some good points about the trinity's connection to gender relations. However, in his exegesis of Paul I can't help but feel Scorgie cuts off his nose to spite his face. By apologizing for Paul's seemingly patriarchal and hierarchical biblical prescriptions, Scorgie, in my opinion, weakens the Bible's claim to divine infallibility. Scorgie suggests that Paul wrote what he did 1) to be tongue-in-cheek, 2) to sell people on the gospel even if it meant compromising on gender equality, 3) to illustrate a different principle altogether and 4) because he though Jesus was coming soon so he put women's rights on the back burner. If Paul had known better, Sorgie suggests, he might not have written what he did. That to me sounds like Paul, and by extension God who breathed Paul's inspired words, made a mistake. Anyway you slice Sorgie's argument the Bible is framed as a document nearly impossible to understand and difficult to trust. Now Scorgie may well be right about all of it (though he gives little evidence to back up his hypotheses) but I have an inkling that undermining the legitimacy of Scripture was just about the last thing he wanted to accomplish. Nevertheless, I appreciate his zeal and his dedication to an egalitarian vision of Christianity. Yet for my money, William Webb's book on the subject is still the best reasoned work I've read on the role of women in the church.(less)
It's not the best written book ever. It's hard to get a feel for the places or people since descriptions are decidedly lacking. But as a merging of ph...moreIt's not the best written book ever. It's hard to get a feel for the places or people since descriptions are decidedly lacking. But as a merging of philosophy and science fiction it raises some interesting ideas and twists and turns unexpectedly. It's definitely entertaining with more depth and complexity than a novel of this sort is wont to have. It's a worthwhile read.(less)
The next stop on my quest to read every vampire/werewolf book known to man. This is one of the better written ones, focusing around the character of a...moreThe next stop on my quest to read every vampire/werewolf book known to man. This is one of the better written ones, focusing around the character of a young auto mechanic named Mercy who also happens to be a shapeshifter. Mercy is a winsome character with a lot of humor and warmth. The world Briggs has created is a believable one not so different from our own, just with the addition of magical creatures navigating the political waters of human society. It's not an incredibly deep novel, nor is it super scary and suspenseful, but it kept me reading and engaged, and I look forward to reading what else Briggs has to offer.(less)
This novel has an interesting premise, and though it's slow to get things moving, the build up is well done. However, for such a sprawling, complicate...moreThis novel has an interesting premise, and though it's slow to get things moving, the build up is well done. However, for such a sprawling, complicated plot I found myself a little let down by the denouement. Everything seemed to get tied up a little too neatly, and some of the characters' abilities and schemes stretched credulity. I also found the main characters a little inaccessible. They were alright--a little bland--but difficult to connect to or feel for. And between this book and Let the Right One In I'm beginning to think Swedish novelists are obsessed with sexual sadism. It's a bit kinky. Other than that, it's a fun read if you can get into it.(less)
...or the power of positive thinking. I have a soft spot for the story which owes itself to many a childhood afternoon spent watching the old Disney m...more...or the power of positive thinking. I have a soft spot for the story which owes itself to many a childhood afternoon spent watching the old Disney movie with Hayley Mills. It's not the best children's story ever, and it doesn't quite have a plot, but I appreciate the sanitized small town Americana it portrays. Pollyanna, while not the most realistic characterization ever, does not annoy half so much as fictional children normally do. And I thought the book made its point about the poison of negativity and the courage it can sometimes take to look on the bright side very well.(less)