This was a fitting conclusion to Rick Riordan's Egypt series. If you haven't read the other books, start with those first. If you've read the other bo...moreThis was a fitting conclusion to Rick Riordan's Egypt series. If you haven't read the other books, start with those first. If you've read the other books but it's been a while, make sure you review a summary before starting this one. This book assumes from the beginning that you're familiar with all the characters and their various talents.
So...what to say? Constant action, lots of Egyptian gods, strong characters. It's campy and even somewhat educational. Great for kids but also good for adults when they're not in the mood to think too hard. (I listen to these books while exercising because they're exciting enough to take my mind out of the gym but I also don't need to worry about missing any of the plot if I'm not completely paying attention.)(less)
Fun chick-lit, not too serious. Claire's husband left her on the day their baby was born, and she flew to Dublin to be with her family while she picke...moreFun chick-lit, not too serious. Claire's husband left her on the day their baby was born, and she flew to Dublin to be with her family while she picked up the pieces of her life. Of course, while she was there she met a super-hot man who was into her and wasn't afraid of babies.
But trite storyline aside, this book is funny. Like, laugh-out-loud funny on almost every page. I think this was Marian Keyes' first published book and she hadn't yet perfected the art of telling the jokes along with the story. This book was mostly all jokes and not much story. But there's nothing wrong with that--it's a nice break between more serious books.(less)
This seemed more like a creative writing exercise than a novel. Or maybe it was a dare: "Jeffrey Eugenides, I dare you to write a book where the reade...moreThis seemed more like a creative writing exercise than a novel. Or maybe it was a dare: "Jeffrey Eugenides, I dare you to write a book where the reader knows from the beginning that five daughters in a single family will all commit suicide, but they read the book anyway. Oh, and the narrator, who is NOT the main character(s), should be written in first person plural. That's right, plural. Every other sentence should start with 'we'." And Eugenides, unable to resist a double dog dare, wrote The Virgin Suicides.
The grim plot is laid out from the beginning. On the first page, the Lisbon family has five teenage daughters. By the last page they won't have any daughters. But the reader never gets to see inside the mind of the girls. The story is all told by "us", presumably the teenage boys on the block. "We" seem to get information from some improbable places, like when "we" caught up with some adult neighbors in their respective bedrooms to question them about a conversation they had with the Lisbons, or when "we" interrogated Mrs. Lisbon at a bus stop a few years later. It was hard for me to picture a gang of teenage boys finding themselves in these situations.
I read this book because I enjoyed Middlesex, but The Virgin Suicides might as well have been written by an entirely different author. In Middlesex I admired Eugenides' ability to say a lot with a few words. In The Virgin Suicides he uses lots and lots (and lots) of words to say very little.
I can see wannabe writers studying this book for one of their writing workshops. Other than that, I can't think of a reason to recommend it.(less)
"All eyes were on Beth then, before anyone had thought to ask their father how a year at war had changed him."
I was of two minds about this book. On t...more"All eyes were on Beth then, before anyone had thought to ask their father how a year at war had changed him."
I was of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I found it to be a well-crafted and personal tale about the Civil War as experienced by a nonviolent military chaplain, a point of view which isn't often seen. On the other hand, I thought it was too bad that the author chose to tell this story by revealing the tawdry backstory of some beloved literary characters.
Mr. March, father of the Little Women and husband of Marmee, went off to war. Anyone who's read Little Women knows that much. For March (I'm not sure we ever know his first name) the war isn't something happening far away--it's up close and personal. People are shooting at him, he's having trouble fraternizing with the much younger soldiers, and he's starting to realize that war is no place for a man with deep moral convictions. And to his great shame, March comes to realize that he is just a man after all: cowardice can get the better of him.
I thought Brooks created a very believable non-hero, a man for whom the spirit was willing but the body was weak. I felt for him. Taking deeply-held principles and trying to apply them to a real-life situation can be sticky in the best of times, and these were not the best of times.
If only it hadn't been about Little Women. Brooks seems like one of those historians who isn't satisfied until the world knows that Abraham Lincoln was a racist or Benjamin Franklin was a philanderer...only she's doing it with fictional characters. I'm not going to claim that I loved Little Women (I was bored to tears by it). But I know Marmee. And the Marmee I know wouldn't regularly lose control of herself to the extent that her husband would have to physically restrain her from attacking other people. Similarly the girls themselves come across as self-absorbed and dull, nothing like the vibrant characters in Alcott's books.
As a Civil War drama I'd give this 5 stars. As a tell-all behind-the-scenes look into the March's marriage, I'd give it two stars. So I'll compromise with 3.5 stars.(less)
This was another one of those neurology books that are all the rage nowdays. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell or Daniel Pink, Adam Alter walks us...moreThis was another one of those neurology books that are all the rage nowdays. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell or Daniel Pink, Adam Alter walks us through scientific studies which show that the colour pink has a calming effect and why New Yorkers are so reluctant to help people who are bleeding to death.
Maybe I've just read too many of these; it seems like the same studies are presented in each book. And the conclusions in this book seemed particularly trite: racism still exists, people are more likely to help each other when they feel some responsibility over the situation, colours affect moods, etc. Unless you really love these sorts of books and you've already read all the "top tier" offerings, give this one a miss.(less)
This was another rollicking romp by Rick Riordan. 12-year-old Sadie and her older brother Carter are descendants of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and...moreThis was another rollicking romp by Rick Riordan. 12-year-old Sadie and her older brother Carter are descendants of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and committed in the last book The Red Pyramid to follow the "path of the gods," as opposed to learning human magic.
The book opens with Horus (god of the sky and Carter's buddy) warning Carter that Apophis, the god of chaos, was going to burst from his prison in a few days and take over the world. Nothing gets the blood pumping like finding out you have to save the world with no notice. And Carter and Sadie are off, battling gods and human magicians alike.
The only unfortunate thing about the book is that I think Riordan worked so hard to make Sadie a strong female character that Carter is weak and boring in comparison. But if only one character can be brave and adventurous, I guess I'm glad it's the girl for once.
When she was a young woman seeking drama and excitement, Piper got peripherally involved in some international drug smuggl...moreInteresting read--3.5 stars.
When she was a young woman seeking drama and excitement, Piper got peripherally involved in some international drug smuggling. Her story is that she basically stumbled across it accidentally by getting involved with the wrong woman, but it can't be easy to accidentally stumble across this sort of thing without intentionally looking for trouble. Anyway, Piper quickly realised she was in over her head and got out, but not before committing crimes for which the Feds would ultimately imprison her a decade later.
Now in her early 30s, Piper reported to prison with no idea of what awaited her or how she would survive the next 15 months. We've all heard the prison stories: violence, sexual predators, segregation, crushing boredom. These stories may be true in other places. Piper, however, was in a minimum security federal prison with nonviolent offenders, mostly drug offenders. In a country where 1 in 100 residents is behind bars, mostly for nonviolent offenses, I'm willing to believe many prisons are similar to the one Piper described.
What she found seems similar to a bad day at the office except that she didn't get to pick her own clothes and wasn't allowed to go home at the end of the day. Piper reports on bureaucratic ineptitude, bullies abusing their power, bad food, and crumbling infrastructure. Of course, there's also the strip searches and roommate assignments--none of this sounds pleasant. But there were also birthday parties, going-home parties, close friends, cooking lessons, and movie nights. Friends on the outside sent her dozens of letters every day, and she had a website which managed who was going to visit her on visiting days. Friends also helped alleviate the boredom problem by sending her hundreds of books. If you're going to be in prison, it's good to have friends.
Piper described a society within a society: a society that developed outside the constraints of "free" society. And she was frustrated by the lack of options available to the common offender; most of her fellow inmates were going to go on to re-offend and re-enter the prison system because nobody else was going to help them with mental illnesses, addictions, health care, or legal employment.
The book ends on a happy note for Piper (she goes home) but a sad note for most of the rest of the prisoners. They have no future, no homes, no prospects. Piper gives a list of resources at the end of the book for those who want to help, but the problem seems overwhelming.(less)
When I was twelve, my friend Stephanie's little brother died of cancer. Once while he was sick, I was fighting with my brother Jared, who was the same...moreWhen I was twelve, my friend Stephanie's little brother died of cancer. Once while he was sick, I was fighting with my brother Jared, who was the same age as Stephanie's little brother. My mom came in to break up the fight, saying, "How would you feel if Jared had cancer like Aaron does?" Because I was a vicious 12-year-old brat, I said something like, "I wouldn't care at all." It still makes me cringe. I couldn't look Stephanie in the face the next time I saw her--my brother was healthy and I wasn't even trying to get along with him, while all she wanted to do was to love her little brother for as long as possible.
I've thought of Aaron many times over the last 25+ years. If he had lived, he would probably have a wife and children like my brother Jared does. He would have a career. He would have made hard decisions. Perhaps he's doing some of those things on the other side of the veil.
Aaron's parents have recently published (on Amazon) the journal they started keeping when Aaron was first diagnosed. They don't hold anything back; this is a story of a family in pain trying to cling to hope and to each other. They share the experiences that tore them apart and the experiences that brought them together. Faith helped them through the trials.
While I am in awe of their strength, I secretly hope I'll never have to be as strong as they are.(less)
I think this is the fifth time I've read this book, but it seemed appropriate to read it as I was hiking a long trail. ("Long trail" in my world means...moreI think this is the fifth time I've read this book, but it seemed appropriate to read it as I was hiking a long trail. ("Long trail" in my world means that it took 6 days, which would be a short jaunt to those who hike the Appalachian Trail.)
In an effort to get himself fit and to reconnect with his homeland, Bill Bryson recruited a friend (Katz, for those who have read Neither Here Nor There), bought a bunch of new equipment, and flew to Georgia to start walking to Maine. He had no idea what he was in for. I've frequently heard people insist that humans can walk an average of 20 miles/day. This may be true for some humans, but I'd guess that 95% of the population would struggle to sustain an average of 10 miles/day with a full pack. And this makes the Appalachian Trail...long. Very long.
But with his trademark humour, Bill Bryson turns an endless slog through mud and trees into an enticing adventure. Even the simple act of cooking some noodles is laugh-out-loud funny. Bryson does still hate women, as he does in all his previous books (they only show up in the narrative so he can comment on their low IQ or their relative attractiveness), but if you can get through that, it's well worth the read.(less)
I found this guide to be comprehensive and helpful in planning a pilgrimage along the Camino. The author covers packing tips, walking tips, and some b...moreI found this guide to be comprehensive and helpful in planning a pilgrimage along the Camino. The author covers packing tips, walking tips, and some basic health and safety information. (less)
Much as I liked the other three books in this series, this one was disappointing. As readers of the other books know, Melanie Middleton sees dead peop...moreMuch as I liked the other three books in this series, this one was disappointing. As readers of the other books know, Melanie Middleton sees dead people. She's also a realtor in the haunted city of Charleston, South Carolina, so she has plenty of opportunities to run into ghosts. This time around, the skeleton of a newborn baby is found in the foundation of Melanie's house and the discovery appears to have awakened a hostile ghost.
Melanie was brittle but lovable in the first three books, but in this book she's an idiot as well. Like, she intentionally schedules a manicure for same the afternoon that she plans on delivering her baby--so she can have nice nails when people come to visit, of course. I may not have had children, but even I know that a woman's mind probably isn't going to be on her fingernails three hours after giving birth. And she never shows up at work anymore but also doesn't seem to notice that her house's trust fund is struggling. I wondered what happened to the strong and independent woman I liked so much before this last book came out.
And the ghost stories are usually great, but this one seemed to be all conjecture with no facts. I found the outcome to be implausible at best--people jumping to all sorts of unreasonable conclusions. (I'm trying not to give anything away, really I am.) And the whole love story was just manufactured drama.
This appears to be the end of the series, since every character from the series shows up to take a final bow in the last chapter. I'm sad that such a good series had to end this way.(less)