Really interesting in theory and very well-researched and written, but let's put it this way: I'm an overeducated somewhat-left-leaning feminist in go...moreReally interesting in theory and very well-researched and written, but let's put it this way: I'm an overeducated somewhat-left-leaning feminist in godless commie heathen New York City who is a proud employee of a Silicon Valley company with famously progressive political views, and even I thought that this crossed the border from historical treatise to liberal polemic entirely too often. The underlying beliefs in the "nations" that Woodard believes to be "bad" -- e.g. the ones that currently vote Republican -- were presented as significantly more one-dimensional than those that form the basis of the "nations" that happen to contain "blue" voting blocs. Liked the thinking behind it, and I realize that every historian/author comes with a bias, but this one seemed a little too evident.(less)
Love Frazier's writing style, but he's got a cast of stock characters here -- "independent" woman harboring dark secrets who really just needs to be r...more
Love Frazier's writing style, but he's got a cast of stock characters here -- "independent" woman harboring dark secrets who really just needs to be rescued, creepy twin children, unconditionally good male protagonist and unconditionally evil male antagonist, corrupt cop, etc. There are many beautiful passages worth quoting, but they all concern Frazier's own depictions of the world he created, not anything coming from the (frankly unoriginal) cast of characters.
Would've worked much better as a movie, not a book, because a shallower amount of character depth works onscreen than on the written page.(less)
I loved the concept, loved the setting, and for the most part loved the writing, but there were a few standout flaws that prevent me from giving "When...moreI loved the concept, loved the setting, and for the most part loved the writing, but there were a few standout flaws that prevent me from giving "When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man" a higher rating. I've never been a 14-year-old boy, but the dialogue between Cal and Jamie was so jarringly adult at times that it was hard to imagine the lines being spoken by anyone under 30. Second, many of the plot points were a little too obvious. Maybe it's because Cal brings up the childhood memory alluded to in the title so early in the book, but entirely too many "twists" were visible from about a mile away. A few things were just too heavy-handed, like the fact that the town in question is called "Loyalty Island" but, as we learn, *it's not really an island.* Symbolism!
I may have missed quite a few of the "Treasure Island" references (seeing as it's neither regular childhood reading nor school literary canon anymore, I'm only familiar with the most basic of its narrative and theme) and having read this I'm actually interested in going back and reading it. Clearly, it made a big impression on a very talented author.(less)
This is the "trail narrative" for a reader who thinks that most hiking travelogues are too bogged down in self-indulgent rants about the circumstances...moreThis is the "trail narrative" for a reader who thinks that most hiking travelogues are too bogged down in self-indulgent rants about the circumstances that compelled their authors to take to the trail. Miller focuses less on himself and more on the trail itself and the people he meets, which is refreshing -- the kind of book that will actually inspire people to hike and appreciate nature. In turn, his own personality and experience shine through on their own. He's a sparse writer (very unlike Bill Bryson) and so anybody looking for florid, exalting prose about the wilderness will be disappointed, but in its place are deadpan gems, like Miller's description of getting picked up while hitchhiking by a probably-drunk driver who wouldn't stop talking about how he needed "a fucking hunting knife" because of "fucking bears." In Miller's own words, "His cursing is not angry; 'fucking' is just an all-purpose adjective, and sometimes a sentence."(less)
I'm never really compelled to write a "review" on Goodreads, but this one's a little different. I was drawn to this book because of some uncomfortable...moreI'm never really compelled to write a "review" on Goodreads, but this one's a little different. I was drawn to this book because of some uncomfortable parallels between the author and myself: I lost my mother at exactly the same age, also as the result of a fast and painful battle with cancer, and I also found myself uprooted, unable to sit still, and engaging in self-destructive behavior because of what was suddenly missing in my life. Even though my own upbringing was nothing like Strayed's and my mother bore few similarities to hers, the pain of missing a loving parent was exactly the same.
The book is not perfect. The plot can be disjointed. It's tough to keep track of which of the minor characters actually meant something to Strayed and which of them just happened to be there. The ending is extremely rushed, and yet at the same time it's near the end (particularly when she arrives at Crater Lake) that Strayed makes connections between the human experience and the history of the natural world that I wish she'd done more often earlier in the narrative. Sometimes when describing her own emotions, Strayed is relating something so personal that the reader (e.g. me) can't quite understand what she's trying to say or mean. At other times, she offers so much personal information that it seems very excessive.
But I'll give her this: At no point does she seem entitled, whiny, or any of the other negative adjectives that were levied so frequently against Elizabeth Gilbert in that other memoir about a woman packing up and leaving her comfort zone in a moment of crisis. Wild is a personal journey worth following, from someone who really does have a story to tell.(less)
David Grann is a terrific writer, and I loved "The Lost City of Z," but this set of stories (all previously published in magazines) does not satisfy t...moreDavid Grann is a terrific writer, and I loved "The Lost City of Z," but this set of stories (all previously published in magazines) does not satisfy the reader in terms of thematic continuity or real mystery-style excitement. Were they all in the league of the first story, about the mysterious death of an obsessive Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, this would be four or even five stars. Some verge on dull, even the final story about a Haitian warlord and the essay about a researcher chasing the elusive giant squid. Because there are no common threads tying the stories together ("obsession" is too vague) the book ends anticlimactically. It seemed mostly like an excuse for Grann to get another book out.(less)
ATLANTIC is a truly sloppy book in many ways, given that Simon Winchester insists on basing the structure of the book on a speech in a Shakespeare pla...moreATLANTIC is a truly sloppy book in many ways, given that Simon Winchester insists on basing the structure of the book on a speech in a Shakespeare play rather than, you know, chronology. As a result, there are some themes that get mentioned prematurely in the name of thematic significance, greatly reducing their gravitas when it's really time for them to take the stage. And he can be wordy. So so so wordy. But there were some incredibly beautiful parts of the book, and it was clear that so much research went into it, and there were few moments when I didn't enjoy what I was reading. And I learned some awesome things, like the fact that the first two men to cross the Atlantic in an airplane had two kittens with them, one of whom was named Twinkletoes.(less)
This book would be perfect for a high school American history teacher to assign as summer reading to students in order to prepare them for the class:...moreThis book would be perfect for a high school American history teacher to assign as summer reading to students in order to prepare them for the class: It's historically meticulous but as literature it's more than a little bit drab. You've got to appreciate the effort and work that Rutherfurd put into the book, but at times his writing (especially the dialogue, which can be sometimes cheesy in its attempts to be historically accurate and sometimes wildly and obviously anachronistic) just isn't very good.(less)
Wavered between three stars and four stars on this one, ultimately choosing four because of the sparse beauty of Vann's prose. My dissatisfaction here...moreWavered between three stars and four stars on this one, ultimately choosing four because of the sparse beauty of Vann's prose. My dissatisfaction here comes mostly from the fact that I felt the characters, with the exception of the middle-aged couple who anchor the narrative, were unnecessarily one-dimensional -- pothead burnout son, sultry moneyed outsider, marriage-obsessed sister with a future husband on the cusp of a mid-life crisis. That detracted significantly from the broader story, especially since Vann can obviously give characters and narratives so much depth and in too many cases here just didn't.(less)