Five stars for the writing. Russell is absurdly talented; I would read her writing if she wrote about the history of septic systems. Her prose is poetFive stars for the writing. Russell is absurdly talented; I would read her writing if she wrote about the history of septic systems. Her prose is poetry, magical realism, and Southern Gothic beautifully blended. She's got a sharp ear for dialogue and a love for her characters that pulses through the pages. Russell creates a strange and morbidly engaging world in Swamplandia!, but for all the brilliant set-up, the plot meanders and sputters out with a resolution that seems hurried, disjointed, and highly unlikely (even for a novel that repeatedly asks for suspension of disbelief).
Ava and Kiwi Bigtree, youngest daughter and son of the clan, are characters I can't get out of my head. They are the two real triumphs of this novel, along with the outstanding writing. They broke my heart and will not leave it. Osceola and the Chief, middle daughter and father, are more problematic. Both set central plot points in motion but are minimally realized as characters in themselves. I struggled with the Chief in particular, wondering if Russell meant for me to find him sympathetic and not feeling it.
Despite its plot struggles, I would still recommend Swamplandia! to friends. Ava and Kiwi are well worth your time and energy. ...more
Warning: do not read the final 40 pages of this book while at the gym on a treadmill. You may end up like me, trying not to show fellow gym patrons thWarning: do not read the final 40 pages of this book while at the gym on a treadmill. You may end up like me, trying not to show fellow gym patrons that I'm crying on treadmill (and not because it burns). What a devastating, hauntingly wonderful book. By my same-day reaction, I count it among my favorites I've read in years. Perhaps a more helpful review to come once I've recovered and had some time to muse....more
I've been on a memoirs kick for several years now, and I would classify "The Kids Are All Right" in my top three. It's almost up there with The GlassI've been on a memoirs kick for several years now, and I would classify "The Kids Are All Right" in my top three. It's almost up there with The Glass Castle in terms of how much it engaged and moved me. The voices of the four Welch siblings are so intimate and vivid, I feel like I've known and loved the family for years. Having four voices tell the family story and the siblings' individual stories adds a refreshing layer of authenticity to the book. They don't shy from divergent or outright contradictory recollections, which is truer to life than memories recorded as inflexible facts. I also have much respect for the writers' choice to involve their friends, family, and readers on the book's Web site by encouraging people to post their stories, which offer even more perspectives and experiences. If you enjoy the book, check out the Web site for those stories, additional photos, etc.
I live in Austin and am hoping I'll run across Diana Welch one day. I would likely be too much of a dork to say anything to her, but I'd like to think I would tell her simply that the book is brave and wonderful....more
I hesitate to put this book on my "gave up" shelf because even from the start, I suspected I would only read the first half. I had no interest in LaurI hesitate to put this book on my "gave up" shelf because even from the start, I suspected I would only read the first half. I had no interest in Laura Bush until I read Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, which is a novel loosely based on Laura Bush's life. I LOVED American Wife, so I picked up Laura Bush's autobiography on a whim.
The first half of the book explores Laura's life growing up in Midland, Texas. Having moved to Texas last year, I enjoyed her account of West Texas life and her family history. She addresses the great tragedy of her life, accidentally running a stop sign as a teen driver and killing a high school classmate, with directness, depth of emotion, and grace. Laura kept this secret buried for decades, even from her own daughters, till the press dredged it up in the 2000 election.
I also enjoyed her accounts of life as a college student in the tumultuous 1960s and as a young teacher and librarian passionate about educational access. I liked reading about her time as the First Lady of Texas, feeling a personal connection to the story because I live in Austin and my husband works for the state Senate. I've also attended and adored the Texas Book Festival, which she founded.
The second half of the book covers her time in the White House. I started losing interest in the account of politics, travel, relationships with foreign leaders, and so on. I imagine if you're interested in that kind of memoir, you'd enjoy that section of the book. A solid three stars (perhaps it should be four) for the first half of the book. ...more
It's rare that I give up on books, but this.put.me.to.sleep. Sorry to my friends who are big fans, I just couldn't do it. I'd rather re-read all thousIt's rare that I give up on books, but this.put.me.to.sleep. Sorry to my friends who are big fans, I just couldn't do it. I'd rather re-read all thousand pages of Anna Karenina than give FWTBT another shot....more
My back and shoulders are glad I finished this nearly 800 page hardcover whopper of a book so I can stop carrying it to and from work!
So, if The HungeMy back and shoulders are glad I finished this nearly 800 page hardcover whopper of a book so I can stop carrying it to and from work!
So, if The Hunger Games, Jurassic Park, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, and 28 Days Later had a baby, it would be The Passage. Most of this post-apocalyptic thriller takes place about a hundred years after a government experiment goes wrong and unleashes a virus into the US, turning millions of citizens into blood-drinking, killer "virals" and turning even more millions into their prey. These aren't your cuddly Edward Cullen or Bill Compton vampires. They're more like zombie vampires, using no human speech (instead a kind of guttural clicking, the description of which reminded me of the raptors in Jurassic Park), and following a primal, violent urge to kill anything living in an instant. They move at night, silently in the trees, dropping on down on their victims before they even hear a rustle of movement.
The first third or so of the book takes place not far from our own time--2014 or so, I believe. We learn how the virus was discovered deep in a South American jungle, how the US Army conducted super secret experiments to try to turn the virus into a combat weapon, and how it all goes to hell when the test subjects escape. But the plot itself, while gripping, is really secondary to the richly realized, tormented characters involved in the steps leading up to Dark Night when the virals break out. Special Agent Wolgast, Anthony Carter, Sister Lacey, and Amy draw the reader into their stories, causing us to feel the guilt, sorrow, and terrors of their lives as they participate in this deadly experiment in one way of another.
The later two thirds of the book speeds us 100 years into the future, where we visit "The Colony." This settlement of survivors is a fenced homestead protected by blazing lights during the dark hours, keeping the virals at bay until the batteries run out. I found the middle sections, which show us the daily lives and struggles of the Colony residents, pretty slow. The characters aren't as engaging as Wolgast et al, though as the action picks up in the final third, I grew more attached to them. The last bit of the book plays up the psychological and mystical components of the virus, which are creative and compelling (if you're willing to suspend disbelief and ignore some of the technical problems with the explanation).
A warning: if you're afraid of the dark, this book will likely cause you intense nightmares. I'm not particularly, but I had some terrifying dreams while reading this.
The film rights to this trilogy were purchased by Ridley Scott's company before this book was even finished. The Passage reads like a movie plays--I could clearly imagine everything happening and feel the adrenaline surging through the pages. It should make a fantastic movie.
A last note for my fellow Texas residents: Cronin is a Houston resident but grew up in New England. He playfully makes fun of his adopted state by making Wolgast HATE Texas and offering hilarious reasons and descriptions as to why. I was reading them out loud to my husband as I read the book because they were so funny and accurate. He returns to the theme of Texas much later in the book, which I won't explain for the sake of spoiler avoidance, but just know that if you live in or have lived in Texas you'll be delighted by Cronin's highly amusing writing about the Lone Star State. ...more