The Discomfort Zone is author Jonathan Franzen's personal memoir. In the book, he covers stories of growing up in a Midwestern, Protestant town with MThe Discomfort Zone is author Jonathan Franzen's personal memoir. In the book, he covers stories of growing up in a Midwestern, Protestant town with Midwestern, Protestant values.
The beginning chapters of the book really shine. They're engaging and beautifully written. But, for me, Franzen starts to lose steam after the second chapter, and the book ends with a bit of a whimper.
Still, those first two chapters alone make the entire book worth reading. Given the chance, I'd love to drown in those words again....more
I said in my review of Preludes and Nocturnes that I trusted that the foundation laid therein would be put to good use. Well, Gaiman exceeded my higheI said in my review of Preludes and Nocturnes that I trusted that the foundation laid therein would be put to good use. Well, Gaiman exceeded my highest expectations.
We already know that Dream is the king of the dreamworld, but he was imprisoned by an occult group for seventy years. Now that he's escaped, he's trying to rebuild his kingdom. But there's a complication: a girl called Rose Walker. The girl is a human dream vortex, and unless she's destroyed, Dream's kingdom could be destroyed. That sounds so much simpler than it actually is, which is a testament to Gaiman's genius for storytelling.
There are also some dream beings who have rebelled against Dream, and are trying to create kingdoms of their own. They're trying to interfere with Dream's attempts to rebuild his kingdom.
There's little I can say to adequately praise the beautiful artwork and breathtaking narrative in this volume. Suffice it to say that I couldn't wait to read the next one....more
The Mean Seasons is a solid follow-up to The March of the Wooden Soldiers. After the Battle of Fabletown, we get a nice expositional episode that tiThe Mean Seasons is a solid follow-up to The March of the Wooden Soldiers. After the Battle of Fabletown, we get a nice expositional episode that ties up a few loose ends: Snow White gives birth, there's a regime change in Fabletown politics, and we get to see behind the scenes into Bigby's operations as Sheriff of Fabletown.
We also get treated to a scene from the past, from Bigby's time serving in World War II.
And some new threads are also introduced: there's a serial killer on the loose in Fabletown, we meet Bigby's father: the North Wind, and Fabletown comes to the cusp of war with the Adversary.
There's a lot of good exposition in this volume, and I appreciated the character development. Willingham continues to introduce plenty of new characters into the story, but doesn't do so at the cost of putting any of the original starring cast on the backburner.
All in all, it's a solid volume, and it made me eager to read the next one....more
Back before kids told their parents regularly that they hate them because they didn't grant the kids permissiThis book took me back to a simpler time.
Back before kids told their parents regularly that they hate them because they didn't grant the kids permission to do something or go somewhere.
Back before kids were driven to drugs and suicide by playground bullying.
Back before kids were so filled with angst before they even started attending school that they arrived with chips already firmly on shoulders.
Lovelace bases most of her book on her own childhood, and what a charmed childhood it was. She lives in a nice house, has an annoying older sister, and lives with both her parents. A new girl moves in down the street, and they become best friends and have adventures like climbing the big hill behind Betsy's house all by themselves.
Betsy and Tacy become so inseparable that people start to refer to them collectively as Betsy-Tacy.
Some might complain that it's unrealistic or too idyllic or just fluff because nobody gets murdered or abused. The most serious part of the book is when (SPOILER!!) Acytay's infantyay istersay iesday. And even that event is handled with a pretty light touch.
But you know what? I appreciate that there's no over-the-top drama. These girls are supposed to be five years old. I like believing that, somewhere out in the world, some lucky girl is enjoying an uneventful childhood, filled with happiness and adventures, where climbing a hill without requiring the assistance of a grown-up is about as exciting as it gets.
this book was a sweet reminder that, sometimes, kids are just kids....more
I remember reading this book as a child and comparing it to other Newbery Award winners and thinking it fell short. After re-reading it, I have to sayI remember reading this book as a child and comparing it to other Newbery Award winners and thinking it fell short. After re-reading it, I have to say that my ten-year-old self was right on the money.
Fleischman's story is about two boys: Prince Horace, a spoiled, selfish prince, and, Jemmy, a poor orphan who is the prince's whipping boy. Since no one is allowed to harm the prince, every time he misbehaves, Jemmy is whipped. But "Prince Brat," as he has been nicknamed, simply tries to misbehave more often in an effort to make Jemmy cry out in pain and to get his father's attention.
One day, Prince Horace decides to run away and makes Jemmy accompany him. Along the way, the two boys are kidnapped by two highwaymen. Jemmy tries to secure Prince Horace's freedom by pretending to be the prince, but Horace's arrogance and stupidity reveal the truth of his identity to the highwaymen.
It could be an interesting little morality tale, and the friendship between the two boys does grow through their adventures together. But, all told, it's a pretty flat and dull book. I know it's children's lit, so I'm not expecting The Grapes of Wrath, here. But 1988's winner was Sarah, Plain and Tall, and that was a masterfully written book.
1989 was just not a good year for children's literature. Makes me want to write a children's book even more. 2011 could be my 1989....more
There's been a lot of build-up for this volume. Mowgli's hunting down Bigby, Fabletown is still strategizing for a war against the Adversary, and SnowThere's been a lot of build-up for this volume. Mowgli's hunting down Bigby, Fabletown is still strategizing for a war against the Adversary, and Snow White is raising six kids/cubs on the Farm.
It's the will they/won't they of the series, and we finally get answers. The tying off of that thread is beautifully and satisfyingly done, but Willingham's a smarter writer than to just leave it there. He knows how to keep us on the line, even though we've already gotten the answer to the question we called in to ask in the first place.
In this case, he does so by introducing a new world to us: the Cloud Kingdom. It exists over all of the other kingdoms, which is interesting, considering that we're already supposed to believe that there are thousands of other dimensions in existence. The Fables want a treaty with the Cloud Kingdom, but the Cloud Kingdom is hesitant to get involved, since the Adversary poses no immediate threat to them.
Wolves was a nice lift after Arabian Nights. I just hope that Willingham can keep the mojo going.
These books were such an easy read that I was able to finish the entire trilogy in one day.
Gordon Korman's Island series wasn't as fun for me as his EThese books were such an easy read that I was able to finish the entire trilogy in one day.
Gordon Korman's Island series wasn't as fun for me as his Everest series -- possibly because the plot was a little less believable, in my opinion.
But the first book starts off in a promising way. It opens on Luke Haggerty, who's being sent on a sailing excursion called "Charting a New Course". He was framed by a classmate who brought a gun to school and is being forced to participate in the program as part of his sentence. The program teaches kids self-control and discipline through the hard work of sailing. Luke's shipmates include the captain, his weaselly first mate, Mr. Radford, and a few other troubled kids.
As the book's title leads you to believe, the kids do end up getting shipwrecked on an island. The first book covers their journey to this point. While there was a fair amount of action, I didn't think that this series did as good a job fleshing out the characters as the Everest series did. Many of them seemed more like mere caricatures to me, especially the character of Mr. Radford.
And one detail that rather annoyed me was how one of the characters, JJ Lane, is supposed to be the son of a famous director. Korman tries to legitimize his fame by dropping names of actual celebrities, which I think was a mistake on his part. The book will not bear well with time as a result, and JJ's relationships with these celebrities would be pretty improbable, even if he were a real celebrity kid. I personally thought it would have been better if Korman had made up celebrities instead of dropping real names.
All in all, though, I thought that Shipwreck was a fun read; not a bad way to pass time on the train....more
Boy, oh, boy, is Gordon Korman back. His Everest trilogy reminded me that, despite his missteps, Korman can weave a pretty fantastic story when he wants.
The plot revolves around thirteen-year-old Dominic Alexis, a young climber whose brother Chris is the second-ranked young mountaineer in the world. He wins a contest that gives him the chance to go to a boot camp where he will compete with nineteen other people, including his brother, to become one of the youngest people ever to summit Everest.
Korman does a great job with the training scenes and with building up a rivalry between Dominic and Tilt Crowley, the camp bully. He did a good job of building the dynamics between the contestants as well as their individual personalities. He also gives the reader the perspective of the expedition leader, veteran climber Cap Cicero. He moves between different characters' perspectives with relative ease and the story flows quickly and naturally.
And what a story! I'm thirty-two, out of shape, and afraid of heights, and reading this book made me want to train for Everest. I do enjoy a good adventure/survival story, and Korman came blazing back in my personal opinion with this li'l trilogy....more
Season of Mists moves the story of Dream along. He is one of the Endless, along with his siblings, Death, Desire, Despair, and DeOh, wow. Just... wow.
Season of Mists moves the story of Dream along. He is one of the Endless, along with his siblings, Death, Desire, Despair, and Destiny. Destiny calls them all together and, as a result of this meeting, Dream goes to Hell to free someone that he wrongfully condemned there ten thousand years ago. But the going won't be easy because he offended Prince Lucifer (often referred to as "Satan") the last time he was there.
Things aren't difficult in quite the way that Dream expected. This volume subtly makes the point that the harder option isn't always the punishment that we expect it to be, and that the easy road isn't always the boon we think it is, either. Gaiman tells a very subtle allegory here, and it's beautifully told.
Neil Gaiman is a serious genius. I can't wait to see what the next volume is like....more