The Chronicles of Prydain were my first big girl books. We read them aloud as a family, taking turns reading one chapter each night. Eventually I begaThe Chronicles of Prydain were my first big girl books. We read them aloud as a family, taking turns reading one chapter each night. Eventually I began to read ahead & I've been doing so ever since.
This is the first in the series & establishes the characters & basic themes. In many ways these books are all about the hero's journey, but not just for the main character, Taran. Each person here is, in his or her own way, walking the path towards self-discovery.
For me the character of Eilonwy was always my favorite - probably in part because she's a girl & little girls need other girls to identify with in their books. When I was growing up girls like Eilonwy were few & far between in kids' books. She wasn't fluffy or dithering. She didn't a boy to rescue her, although she wasn't too proud to be rescued if need be. She was smart & interesting & independent & self-confident & competent. I identified with that (still do).
This is a great start to a great series. It was nice to re-visit Prydain....more
This is a frequently challenged book (like most of Cormier's books) about a group of teenagers who break into a house, vandalize it, and assault the yThis is a frequently challenged book (like most of Cormier's books) about a group of teenagers who break into a house, vandalize it, and assault the young teenage girl who makes the mistake of coming home early. The violence is ugly, brutal and exceedingly real. The book unflinchingly depicts it and then moves beyond it to address the consequences of this violence for everyone concerned.
Cormier deals with dark subjects in a complex and mature way. So many books for young adults romanticize violence in one way or another, but his do not. They show it in all its nasty, empowering glory. They're disturbing and make you feel dirty once you've read them, but they also make you think and analyze the whys and wherefores and that's what good books do.
This one is disturbing enough to give you nightmares, but compelling and truth telling all the same. Given the amount of violence our young adults experience in their day-to-day worlds, more books need to help them explicate it for themselves....more
I love Rebecca and was looking forward to Jamaica Inn, but once I got to it I was pretty disappointed.
This book should be wonderful - the rundown innI love Rebecca and was looking forward to Jamaica Inn, but once I got to it I was pretty disappointed.
This book should be wonderful - the rundown inn isolated on the moors in Cornwall, smugglers, wreckers, murderers and thieves - what more could you ask for in a plot for a gothic thriller? Somehow, though, this just didn't work for me. I kept reading along, waiting to find someone to care about and for something interesting to happen and it just didn't happen. It all feels too careful and too formulaic - insert charming handsome horse thief into slot A, combine with plucky heroine in slot B, varnish with rumors of smuggling and murder and combine with mist to create your romantic thriller (allen wrench provided with kit). ...more
This has always been my favorite of the series. It has such danger & humor & the various hero's journeys deepen as the story continues. Here wThis has always been my favorite of the series. It has such danger & humor & the various hero's journeys deepen as the story continues. Here we meet Gwystyl & Kaw & the tragic figures of King Morgant & Ellidyr & Islimach.
When I read this book as a little girl, I was quite taken with the character of Adaon, the son of Taliesin. I hated Ellidyr, the last son of a poor family who has nothing but his sword, his horse & his prideful rage to carry him through. As an adult I found myself pitying Ellidyr acutely - to be cast out into the world with little hope of making your way would be a terrible fate. His story is a painful one.
Our main characters are growing up & beginning to deal with all the hard choices that adults must make. I love that Alexander doesn't make everything black & white, good & evil; rather he shows the world in all its many shades of gray - that's a brave choice in a children's book.
This book also has Orddu, Orwen, & Orgoch - one of the most fun representations of the Fates that anyone short of Neil Gaiman has thought to create. From their appearance in Hamlet through all the other literary places they reside, they are at their most amusing & most frightening here - a clearer picture of the True Neutral alignment I have never met.
This book won the Newberry Award & it's easy to see why having read it. Disney turned it into a dreadful movie that I urge you to avoid. Read these books - they are wonderful....more
This is the third book in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. In a way, this is Princess Eilonwy's tale, where she is sent off to the King aThis is the third book in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. In a way, this is Princess Eilonwy's tale, where she is sent off to the King and Queen of Mona to learn to be a young lady. Naturally, that involves lots of needlework and hairwashing and dancing about and listening to other young ladies prattle and Eilonwy hates it. Can you blame her? So it's not surprising that she runs off with Magg, the evil chief steward and gets herself into a bad spot with the dreaded Queen Achren.
Luckily for Eilonwy she has her intrepid band of friends to save her! All the fellowship makes an appearance here along with Prince Rhun of Mona who is bumbling and endearing and exasperating. Here we meet Llyan, too! Best of all, while her friends help to save her in the end Eilonwy saves herself. Now that's an inspiring message for little girls!
I still love these books even after all these years. It's been nice reading them again!...more
This is not my favorite of The Chronicles of Prydain. I think I like it less because it is so much more traditional in its form and is focused squarelThis is not my favorite of The Chronicles of Prydain. I think I like it less because it is so much more traditional in its form and is focused squarely on Taran. There's some lovely writing here and the story itself has some beautiful bittersweet moments, but the almost ritualistic hero's journey of this book leaves me a little cold.
With Eilonwy off learning to be a proper princess, Taran and Gurgi set off to discover who Taran's parents are. Along the way they meet bandits (like Robin Hood, only not very pleasant - then again, maybe Robin Hood wasn't all that pleasant, either) and farmers and craftsmen and Taran makes stops along the way learning what each of them does, trying on each kind of life like a new cloak.
There's plenty of learning to be had here and lots of character development, but not nearly as much humor and without Eilonwy I don't like the book as much. I guess she's my hero in these books....more
The is the last book in The Chronicles of Prydain and it is my least favorite, I think because it's the most epic. Don't get me wrong - this book is wThe is the last book in The Chronicles of Prydain and it is my least favorite, I think because it's the most epic. Don't get me wrong - this book is wonderful and this entire series is an amazing and wonderful read, no matter what age you are. For me, however, the power of these books lies in the personal, in the smaller journeys and the finding of friendships, in the scary moments, but also in the really funny ones.
The High King takes the fellowship to a new level. This is the story of the final battle against the dark, of sacrifices made, of defeats, victories and choices. Its scope is sweeping and its story is haunting. It's a wonderful series. You should read them all!...more
This is the second book in the series and won the Newberry Award. Most of my strongest memories of the series are buried in this book, in particular aThis is the second book in the series and won the Newberry Award. Most of my strongest memories of the series are buried in this book, in particular an out of time Twelfth Night sequence that represents a Christmas season I've always wished I had.
The Drew children aren't in this book. Instead, we are introduced to Will Stanton, an Old One who has come into his own on his 11th birthday. Will is wonderfully well-written, somehow managing to combine that funny intelligence of all 11 year olds with the wisdom of someone who is ageless. There is snow (lots of snow), a dark rider, a mysterious tramp, and seven signs to be found in a limited amount of time.
I love this book and especially love the beautiful pictures it put into my head. There is a wonderful and very real family here and a diverse and believable community. There is the Light and there is the Dark. There is adventure and choices and merrymaking and sorrow. This is what good books are all about....more
Anne Rice is an author who showed great promise in the early stages of her writing career. She then devolved into mass produced, contrived, poorly wriAnne Rice is an author who showed great promise in the early stages of her writing career. She then devolved into mass produced, contrived, poorly written dreck. I always found that very disappointing because some of her early work is quite good. This is one of those books.
Cry to Heaven is the story of a Venetian castrato in the 18th century. Unlike most castrati, Tonio wasn't cut as a child, but rather as a teenager - right before the onslaught of puberty & the inevitable change in voice. There are a lot of reasons for why this happens to him that I won't go into here, but the story is rich & wonderful.
The novel follows Tonio & Guido - a castrato cut as a child who nevertheless lost his voice, but became a composer. These two stories intertwine to create a story that brings to life the colors of its settings & the sheer beauty of the music. If you've never listened to Baroque opera, now is the time. It's not what you think it is.
The story is poignant & beautiful & it is a joy to watch these characters move through their changes. All of the characters are fully fleshed & complex & believable as is the plot. This book is a pleasure. I wish she'd kept writing at this level....more
I have a lot of issues with the latest string of vampire romances. Unless the vampire is Blade, she or he shouldn't be wandering around in the daylight without consequences. Even more problematic for me is the notion that anyone, immortal or otherwise, would voluntarily return to high school. Please.
Lastly, let me be clear: vampires are predators. They might also be nice to the occasional human, but at the end of the day we're food; expecting a close personal bond with every doe-eyed teenage girl who crosses the path of said immortal while humming vacantly to the latest Lady GaGa hit just seems completely unreasonable to me. Cats are predators, too, & yes, they play with the mice & the birds before killing them, but they eventually kill them. & eat them. Every. Single. Time.
This is not a book filled with pretty, languishing vampires. This is a book with one vampire who happens to also be a 12-year-old girl named Eli. Her human servant (for lack of a better term) is a pedophile. The fact that she also befriends another 12-year-old, Oskar, doesn't prevent her from killing & eating other people that cross her path & it shouldn't. For Eli the equation is simple: blood = life.
What isn't simple is the relationship that develops between Eli & Oskar. Even more complex are all of the relationships & half-relationships that litter this novel & people the soulless planned community where the action takes place. This is a book with shifting narratives & moving points of view & many subplots & yet every moment, every character, every happening is utterly essential to the fabric of the story.
Is this a horror novel? I guess so. More importantly this is a novel about love, about life, about what we give up when we have to & what we keep when we can. It is about the horror we all commit - in schoolyards & marriages & subways & behind closed doors, in alleys, in bars, in restaurants & hospitals & churches. We are all searching for some kind of connection, for some reason for continuing. Whether or not we are or are not vampires seems truly immaterial in the face of all of the rest of it.
Read this book. It's heartbreaking, & sad, & compelling, & beautiful. It's all the things a good story should be....more
After The Dark Is Rising, this is my favorite of the Dark is Rising Sequence. This novel works because it is such an intimate and romantic story. TheAfter The Dark Is Rising, this is my favorite of the Dark is Rising Sequence. This novel works because it is such an intimate and romantic story. The Welsh setting is beautifully described and the pain of being different and approaching adulthood are captured in all their sticky reality.
Will Stanton, suffering from the after effects of a long illness and slowly regaining his memory is sent to Wales to recuperate. There he meets Bran, the mysterious white-haired boy, and Cadfal, his beloved dog.
There is quite a story in here interwoven with the larger story of the battle between Dark and Light. It would be easy to make the character of Bran all sweetness and light, but Susan Cooper never takes the easy way out. She fills Bran with all the contradictions contained in every one of us - the potential for good and evil residing uneasily twinned inside him.
This is the book that made me want to visit Wales when I was a little girl. I still do....more
Harry Bosch does not work & play well with others. Well, I don't actually know about the play well part since he doesn't seem to play at all, butHarry Bosch does not work & play well with others. Well, I don't actually know about the play well part since he doesn't seem to play at all, but he is definitely at his crankiest best in this latest novel in the series.
I've written before about how much I admire Michael Connelly. He is one of the most reliable writers of thrillers on the market today. His books are consistently well-written, tightly plotted, & loads of fun. Whether he's writing about Harry Bosch, or about one of his other series characters, or in a stand-alone novel, his books never disappoint.
I have a fondness for Harry Bosch. I've read all of the books in the series & he feels as familiar to me as an old friend - I guess in a way he is an old friend. Harry is complicated & flawed, but mostly Harry is a cop who's in the game to catch the killer.
In this novel, Bosch comes up against the Triads, his daughter gets kidnapped, & he must go to Hong Kong to find her - all in about a weekend. The book is fast-paced with plot point building on plot point. At the same time, we get to learn more about Harry's personal life & that's fun, too. This is a great book - highly recommended....more
This book is definitely on my list of the best books I've read all year. Often a second book is like the second night of a play - you've peaked &This book is definitely on my list of the best books I've read all year. Often a second book is like the second night of a play - you've peaked & you need to move on to see any changes & progress. Other times, the second book builds on the promise of the first & exceeds it. This is one of those times.
I loved Sharp Objects for all of the ways it refused to knuckle under to the convenient stereotypes that all women are caring & never violent & that all children are angelic & innocent. It was a gritty, compelling read & almost impossible to put down.
Dark Places is just as gritty & compelling & perhaps more difficult to put down. Once again this novel defies stereotypes, creating an event (the slaughter of most of a family) that is even more complicated underneath the surface than it appears at first glance. Flynn relentlessly pursues the details of this event through the character of Libby, one of the only survivors. As Libby explores the events of that night & investigates the possibility that her brother, in prison for the crime upon her testimony, just might be innocent.
In a tale whose point of view is a moving target, all the circumstantial pieces of the puzzle are intricately wound together until the climax. All of the characters are completely believable & all are flawed in one way or another. These are people who are living in true poverty & it's not picturesque. These are people who are struggling to put food in their bellies, to keep the heat on, to make it through one more day. In the aftermath of the killing, Libby Day's subsequent struggles are understandable, poignant & heart wrenching, while Libby herself is all sharp corners & thrown elbows - walking out the door with your favorite lipstick in her pocket. Flynn demonstrates the courage of her convictions through Libby, who is not ennobled by tragedy, but is not defeated by it either.
The other voices in this novel are just as clear & just as complex & the story builds itself layer upon inexorable layer. The last third of the novel will keep you up all night, make you late to work, late for dinner, make you ride past your bus stop. &, best of all, the ending is completely credible & utterly satisfying.
This is a dark & violent story that is filled with imagery that will stay with you long after you finish this book. It's brilliant & terrifying & I can't wait for Ms. Flynn's next book....more
This is more of a novella than a novel. It has wonderfully whimsical illustrations which add to the sense of the book as a reproduction of an older taThis is more of a novella than a novel. It has wonderfully whimsical illustrations which add to the sense of the book as a reproduction of an older tale & maybe that's the problem.
I really love a good ghost story, but this just didn't do it for me. I found the writing to be mannered to the point of distraction & the story to be a cliched set piece with nothing new to add to the genre.
I wanted to be scared by this book, but the ghostly happenings are just so predictable - the woman in black with the wasted face that pops up all over, the deserted house in the marsh that no one will visit, the ghostly sounds of pony trap & chair, the callow narrator's journey from youth to experience, etc., etc., etc.
I really like this author, but this isn't one of her better outings. I'd like her to write as herself & not in imitation of others....more
What a wonderful treat this book is! I tend to forget Valerie Martin. On the one hand, this means that I end up missing her novels. On the other hand,What a wonderful treat this book is! I tend to forget Valerie Martin. On the one hand, this means that I end up missing her novels. On the other hand, I get to rediscover her often which sort of fulfills my fantasies of re-reading various books & authors for the first time all over again.
I spent most of my twenties & thirties in theaters. First as an actor & later as a director with my own production company. Acting was fun because it provided me with an opportunity to explore sides of myself that I tended to avoid & to do things I'd probably never ever do in my real life. Directing, however, was my ultimate love in the theater. Where else do you get to interrogate text prior to making it get up and walk around?
The Confessions of Edward Day is the memoir of Edward Day, an actor reminiscing about his salad days in the New York theater world of the 1970s where everyone was a student of Stella Adler or Sanford Meisner & living hand-to-mouth from audition to audition waiting for that big break. Edward Day is the definitive actor, a narcissist whose self-awareness is so thin that he can't see himself. Edward stands so far outside himself in observation of his emotions as material for his acting that he is essentially a non-person. Scarily, he is in many ways the most complete person in this tale of doubling & its consequences.
Ms. Martin is asking some big questions here: What is owed to someone who saves your life? What does it mean to be both an actor & a person? If you have a doppleganger, which one of you is real?
Ms. Martin's writing is, as always, superb. She manages to create characters who suck you into their worlds. She writes with a delicate menace that is reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, but less bound to the thriller genre. This is a wonderfully written, compelling story that ended far too soon....more
I read this just after having re-read Rebecca. In this sequel, Susan Hill Long imagines the time after Rebecca. Maxim & wife have been traveling,I read this just after having re-read Rebecca. In this sequel, Susan Hill Long imagines the time after Rebecca. Maxim & wife have been traveling, there's been a world war, & the de Winters have returned to England. This is the story of what happens next for them.
Ms. Hill writes very well & definitely captures the general flavor of Du Maurier's writing, but she's not Daphne DuMaurier - not that I expected her to be. The language & the story here are sufficiently nuanced & the plot makes basic sense within the larger context of the original novel, but it felt somehow flat. Part of this is, I think, due to the narrator's voice. It is as if the narrator stopped after I closed Rebecca. All of the events afterwards, which I would expect to have an impact on her life, passed her by - world travel, aging, living over the long term in a marriage, world events - none of that effected her. She is frozen in amber & it just doesn't work for me.
I enjoyed this novel, but it was mostly just an okay read which was elevated by the well-handled use of the English language....more
Rebecca is a book where not a lot happens. Everything is unspoken & the most vibrant character is dead. This is a novel of the unspoken, of the coRebecca is a book where not a lot happens. Everything is unspoken & the most vibrant character is dead. This is a novel of the unspoken, of the conversation you have in your head when you're trying to convince yourself of something. That it was published in 1938 makes it that much more interesting.
I remember the first time I read this. I was a teenager visiting my Mississippi grandmother, sleeping in the back bedroom & staying up all night reading Rebecca in an omnibus edition with Jamaica Inn. I thought of this time again this summer, hanging out with my son who stayed up all night to finish Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I remember identifying with the narrator & feeling terrible for Maxim de Winter & terrified of the evil Mrs. Danvers. What an absolute classic of the genre this book is.
As an aspiring adult, the book reads differently. I spent a lot of time thinking about how the narrator needed to assert herself & stop being such a wimp. Easy for me to say now that I'm not a teenager any more.
There is also, of course, the brilliant Hitchcock film of this with Laurence Olivier & Joan Fontaine - forever coloring the way the book looks in my head.
I'd forgotten how engrossing this novel is, too. I read while I walk to BART & nearly missed the turnoff into the station because I was too spirited away. There is something so tragic & delicate about this book, so modern, so quiet, so measured in its pace, so lovely....more
This is a sequel to another book, The Keeper, which I haven't read. Fortunately, that doesn't really matter & didn't keep me from enjoying this onThis is a sequel to another book, The Keeper, which I haven't read. Fortunately, that doesn't really matter & didn't keep me from enjoying this one.
This is a pretty standard horror novel - a mysterious infection takes over a small town in Maine, turning its inhabitants into flesh-eating, well, zombies. It's grim. It's dark. It's gross. It will make you go, "Ewwwww." Exactly what you want from a horror novel.
The influence of Stephen King is all over this book, but I like that Ms. Langan definitely has her own voice. This is a quick read that just might give you nightmares - especially now as we head into flu season....more
My mother gave this book to me to read around the time that it first came out & I remember really liking it, although I didn't remember much aboutMy mother gave this book to me to read around the time that it first came out & I remember really liking it, although I didn't remember much about it. In reading it again this week for Banned Books Week, it all came back to me.
This book resonated when I was a kid because I didn't sell band candy. Everybody was supposed to, but my parents felt that it was unsafe to ask children to go door-to-door asking strangers to buy candy. I always got some funny looks for that refusal, although never anything as extreme as the main character in this book got.
I also related to this book because it, more than anything else I've ever read, truly & accurately portrays what it's like to be bullied in school. Having been on the receiving end of various kinds of bullying (from lunch trays dumped over my head to being tripped on the stairs) I loved the fact that this book gets it right - it's awful, teachers are just about always in on it & there isn't ever any justice for anyone who is bullied. Your choices tend to be a) to conform or b) refuse to conform. There are prices for either choice, but the price is more obviously brutal for those who won't give in.
Add to all of that the fact that Cormier writes beautifully & this is a book that demands to be read for all of the ways it confirms the experience of so many kids & for all of the ways it speaks to power about how awful all of that is....more
In the third book of the series, the Drew kids and Will Stanton team up (not always happily) to find the stolen grail and figure out what's going wronIn the third book of the series, the Drew kids and Will Stanton team up (not always happily) to find the stolen grail and figure out what's going wrong with the Greenwitch.
This book is in many ways Jane Drew's story. It is her participation in the Greenwitch ceremony and her wish for the Greenwitch's happiness that inform the events that transpire.
A wonderful exploration of the Greenwitch mythos seamlessly woven into the story of the battle of Light and Dark that Cooper is telling. This book both builds on the other two and makes you want to know what happens next....more
I am a huge fan of historical writing, especially social history. I care about the broader political context that informs most history, but I also reaI am a huge fan of historical writing, especially social history. I care about the broader political context that informs most history, but I also really want to know about the little things, too - what people ate, what they were wearing, what they did for fun, how they lived day-to-day. This book will give a sense of all of that (plus the politics) & more.
Luc Sante was an advisor on the movie, The Gangs of New York, & if you keep the way that movie looked in your head you might get a sense of the New York he is writing about. Sante explores Manhattan in four aspects from 1840 to 1919 - Topography, vice & entertainment, law & order, & revolt & idealism. Jammed into these four aspects are stories of classic New York characters like Boss Tweed & Butcher Poole, but also many less well-known people like Bald Jack Rose & Leftie Louie.
Sante argues that New York is all about the New & tends to ignore its history, but that its ghosts are drifting there - just below the surface. This book captures these ghosts & makes them visible to the reader through clear prose & fascinating stories. This is an excellent example of what good writing & interesting social history can be to a reader. Fascinating & wonderful & you should go read it right now....more
This is a lovely beginning to a wonderful series. I was fortunate enough to have read these several times as a kid and now several times as an adult.This is a lovely beginning to a wonderful series. I was fortunate enough to have read these several times as a kid and now several times as an adult. They are always pleasing and are among the books I wish I could re-read for the very first time.
This first book in the series is a very British sort of story with a collection of children on holiday in Cornwall who have an adventure that involves finding the Holy Grail. Yes, that Holy Grail. It's wonderfully well written and intricately plotted and the characters are so very real that you can't help but fall in love with them. The Drew children are not your typical icons of perfection that you often find in this type of literature. They are cranky and fight amongst themselves and put things where they shouldn't and make each other laugh and do all the silly things that all children do. Combine that with their rather absent-minded parents, the mysterious and wonderful Great Uncle Merriman (sort of a Great Uncle, but sort of not - they call him Gumerry), and assorted evil doers and you've got a delightful and imminently readable story....more
I love good historical fiction & the War of the Roses has been one of my favorite time periods since I was a little girl & read a kid's book aI love good historical fiction & the War of the Roses has been one of my favorite time periods since I was a little girl & read a kid's book about them. I have searched & searched & can't find this book & don't remember the name, but the subject matter made an impression.
I am a big fan of Richard III, whether in his hunchbacked evil Shakespearian incarnation or the more nuanced incarnation one finds when reading history of him that isn't filtered through the Tudor propaganda bias. For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Penman's assertion that the boys in the tower were killed by the Duke of Buckingham.
The White Queen is the first in Philippa Gregory's new books on the Plantagenets. What a great family they are - founded by Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, their history is a fascinating one. In this novel, Gregory focuses on Elizabeth Woodville, the Lancastrian widow who married the Yorkist king, Edward IV. She was considered one of the greatest beauties of her time & the story of her life before, during & after Edward (for whom she bore 10 children) is a fascinating & tragic one.
This isn't Philippa Gregory at her best, but she's not at her worst, either. The story she has chosen is an engrossing one, but she appears to slip over the surface of it, rarely diving deep into any one event or person. I felt that her portrayal of Elizabeth was both the most flattering of her that I have seen yet & the most shallow. This was a woman who was ruled by ambition & Ms. Gregory does little to explore her character beyond trading upon her purported ancestry to Melusine.
I'm looking forward to the next book in the series - I'll be curious to see how much deeper into the history of this time Ms. Gregory is able to take us. This is a good beginning & a decent read, but not as good as I'd hoped nor as good as Ms. Gregory is capable of producing....more
This is a really good debut novel & it is obvious why it won a "First Crime Novel Award" from the Mystery Writers of America. This book reminded aThis is a really good debut novel & it is obvious why it won a "First Crime Novel Award" from the Mystery Writers of America. This book reminded a lot of The Alienist, but also of other books that deal with New York in the same time period; in particular, Banished Children of Eve by Peter Quinn & the classic Low Life by Luc Sante. I was pleased to see that she referenced Sante's work & I went promptly to my bookshelf to put Low Life back on my TBR list.
This book has the feel of its time period while still managing a modern sensibility. I cared about the characters & about the mystery. There were plenty of clues, but the perpetrator wasn't glaringly obvious & that made the book more fun, too.
I especially appreciated her depiction of women in the time period. She presented many different kinds of women living in many different ways & that was nice to see. So often we are given one-dimensional female characters in historical fiction who pursue only one avenue (being supported by a man) - it's nice to see a multitude of other options on display. Her portrayal of Mamie, the brothel keeper, made me think of Sin in the Second City Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott which is set in roughly the same time period (if in a different city) & which I also loved.
Wonderful written, complex, atmospheric read. I hope she writes another one....more
I enjoyed this book, but I do have a few quibbles.
- The use of vernacular. This was a bold choice from a white Southern writer & I went back &I enjoyed this book, but I do have a few quibbles.
- The use of vernacular. This was a bold choice from a white Southern writer & I went back & forth about how I felt about it throughout the novel. On the one hand it's fiction & writers get to imagine all kinds of things when writing fiction. I mean, Mark Twain wrote in vernacular, right? Yeah, but he was Mark Twain & that was a different time. On the other hand, is it insulting to make all of the African American characters in her book sound like they came out of an Uncle Remus story? Does it sound right or put on? Am I spending so much time wondering about this that it's become a device that's taking me out of the story? I'm going to go with the last couple of options.
I'm extremely uncomfortable with vernacular that makes all of one set of characters sound in a particular way. Not all Southern African Americans sound like Uncle Tom. & some white Southerners of the time sound uneducated, too. The author's use of vernacular just feels far too heavy handed to me. It also tends to deny the situational nature of speech & of accents. People talk in different ways to different people depending on relationship, context, & a whole host of other factors. You probably speak in one way to your minister, another way to your employer, & yet another way to the guys you drink beer with on the weekend.
I think there are ways to incorporate vernacular & dialect into a story without being this heavy handed. The fact that I spent this much time thinking about this device while reading the novel is a great argument for not doing it in quite this way.
- The lack of a sense of time or danger. The events of the day don't intrude much on the people in this story & I think that's unfortunate because it is precisely the events of the day & the changing nature of the world that make this story possible & plausible. In addition, although the author makes mention of violence against people working outside of the segregated Jim Crow system, the true sense of danger just isn't there. Mentioning that Medgar Evers was shot a few streets over, but not really exploring how that might have felt at the time seems overly facile & unrealistic to me. These elements could have been much stronger throughout the novel & would have enhanced the story enormously.
Despite my quibbles I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a great story with just enough unanswered questions to make me want to keep reading. Despite some of my issues with the portrayal of the speech of the African Americans in the book, Stockett has imagined some wonderful women - each with her own set of strengths & weaknesses & foibles. Equally well drawn are her white Southern women.
Some have expressed the feeling that the "evil" character, Hilly, is just too evil. I recommend you attend a couple of Junior League meetings or meetings of the Daughters of the Confederacy or try to rush a sorority at a Southern college or University & then come back & talk to me about how unreal she is.
Others have said that they don't believe in the "good" character, Skeeter - it just doesn't seem plausible to them that a white person raised with racism would be able to rise above it. I would recommend that these people do a little more reading on the civil rights movement in America. Yes, many white Southerners were & remain hopeless mired in bigotry. & yes, many white Southerners have rise above this bigotry & were instrumental in fighting the civil rights battles of the 1960's & beyond. I find Skeeter to be absolutely believable. She is not, however, as fully realized as most of the other characters, but I think this works in her favor because I think Skeeter is still trying to figure out who she is & how she wants to live her life.
This isn't a perfect book, but it was enjoyable & the story kept me reading. I'll be interested to see what Ms. Stockett does next now that she has the first novel out of the way....more
I did something last night that I haven't done in a long time on a work night - stayed up until I finished my book even though I knew I would hate lifI did something last night that I haven't done in a long time on a work night - stayed up until I finished my book even though I knew I would hate life in the morning on the way to work. In fact, I pretty much read this book all day once I took care of the unimportant stuff like pancakes, groceries, & procrastinating doing the laundry. This isn't a surprise, though. John Connolly's books are just that good.
This is the latest in his Charlie Parker series wherein Charlie learns some truths about his father's suicide & his own parentage. As always, Charlie is violence haunted & cursed, fumbling in the darkness for something that remains as unknown to himself as it is to his readers. This was a wonderful book with the tight plotting, great characterization, & beautiful writing that you expect from a Connolly book.
I especially appreciate how well he fleshes out even minor characters, like the Fulci brothers. Angel & Louis, his two closest friends, make a brief appearance here - I find I miss them terribly & hope they'll be back in the next book.
People frequently comment on the paranormal happenings in these books & I always have to pause & think about that ("Are there paranormal things in this book?"). The pause is because Connolly makes these happenings a normal part of life - the only person other than Neil Gaiman who manages that as well as he does. These are also among the only books that have given me nightmares as an adult (in company with Alan Moore's Watchmen - good company, indeed).
Connolly also happens to put words together beautifully. There are parts of Dark Hollow that are so achingly beautiful you want to cry from reading them.
If you haven't read these books, what are you waiting for? Get going!...more
The main character in The Risk of Darkness is Simon Serrailler, a British police detective who is also an artist. He has a quirky family & interpeThe main character in The Risk of Darkness is Simon Serrailler, a British police detective who is also an artist. He has a quirky family & interpersonal troubles & is likely to remind you of PD James' Adam Dalgleish. This is the third book in the series. I thought I hadn't read any of these, but realized as I was reading that I recognized Simon & found that I had read the first one, The Various Haunts of Men.
This is a slow, almost meditative book that I hesitate to call a mystery because, while there is crime in the book, the book itself isn't really about solving a crime or capturing a criminal or even understanding a criminal. Instead, this is book that weaves together the threads of stories that happen in the aftermath of a crime. It's as if Hill dropped a rock into a pond & rather than talking about the rock or the pond, she decided to talk about the ripples & the things they touch.
This is well-written & contemplative. If you're looking for a fast-paced thrill ride, this is not your book. Read this to peer all around the edges of a crime & to see its impact on many different lives....more
This is a book about dogfighting & the other blood sports that surround it. You know the ones - drugs, human trafficking - the list goes on &This is a book about dogfighting & the other blood sports that surround it. You know the ones - drugs, human trafficking - the list goes on & on.
When Michael Vick was convicted for dogfighting & sent to prison for 23 months, many people wanted to minimize the offense. Some argued that God has given us dominion over animals so Vick's actions were inconsequential. People that are involved in dogfighting don't just pit their dogs against one another to fight to the death for a ravenous crowd exploiting the love of human beings that has been bred into these most domesticated of species. They also torture & kill these dogs for poor performance, including electrocuting them, starving them to death, or just beating them to death. They use bait animals, obtained from shelters or stolen from people's yards, to test a dog's fighting instinct. The list of cruel behaviors also goes on & on. It's very hard for me to believe that a loving God would support the overtly cruel treatment of animals.
Penn Cage, a recurring character in Greg Iles' novels, returns - this time as Mayor of Natchez, MS. A childhood friend who works on one of the casino boats brings him pictures that show dogfighting & various kinds of sexual cruelty to underaged girls - acts that are being facilitated & sponsored by the casino. This novel is the story of Mr. Cage & his friends & allies trying to stop these actions from continuing to poison their town.
Unlike his other thrillers, Greg Iles casts a wide net here - much of the action is global & plays out on a national security stage. I think his books are better when they deal with more local events & players, but this is a good thriller. Penn Cage can be a self-righteous martyr, but as this novel progresses those tendencies become minimized in the face of the utter depravity that our heroes (& heroines) are up against.
This book is filled with graphic violence - against animals, against women, against men - these are equal opportunity offenders. If you are squeamish about this sort of thing, this may not be the book for you. The violence is not gratuitous or entertaining. It is integral to the plot that Mr. Iles has built & it moves the story along. It also gave me a lot to think about with regard to bloodsport & its place in our culture.
A good well-written page-turner, although somewhat less successful than some of Iles' other books. As an argument for how awful the reality of dogfighting is, however, this scores a 15 on a 1 to 10 scale. That may or may not be what you want from a thriller, but I'm glad I read it....more
If you're looking to read something that will be added into the canon of Great Literature look elsewhere. If you're looking for entertaining mind candIf you're looking to read something that will be added into the canon of Great Literature look elsewhere. If you're looking for entertaining mind candy, you're set.
This book is mostly a thrill ride, telling the first part of the story of Maliha Crayne who has a secret. She was burned for a witch in 1692 & saved from the flames by a demon for whom she became an Ageless assassin. Tiring of this life after hundreds of years she strikes a deal with the demon - if she can save enough lives to balance the ones she has killed for him, she will be free.
This book has a great premise & mostly lives up to it, although it at times feels a bit disjointed. I suspect that Ms. Banks is trying to introduce the characters & set the stage for the entirety of the series, but in this first one she would have benefited from a slightly slower pace. As it is the book is fun to read, but the pace feels a bit herky jerky & that detracts from the funner elements of the plot.
Ms. Banks writes martial arts well & the fighting sequences of the book read almost like a video game plays - not any easy thing to do.
This book won't change your life & it's not an Important Novel, but it's a fun & quick read that looks to be a promising beginning for a fun new series....more
The writing is good. The story should be interesting - a chef who is spiraling down into a nervous breakdown, hisUrk. What to say about this novel ...
The writing is good. The story should be interesting - a chef who is spiraling down into a nervous breakdown, his work in his restaurant kitchen, his interactions with his staff, his family, his girlfriend, a body, human trafficking, cancer ...
Somehow this just all falls flat. It's all sort of bleak, but nondescript - like a bus ride you take to & from work every day. The people on the bus look like they might be interesting & the scenery is okay, but by day 30 or so it's all just one big muddle & you ending up sleeping through it like everybody else. Very disappointing....more