Sittenfeld's American Wife is one of my favorite books I've read in years, and I also enjoyed Prep, so I had high hopes for this book. I was disappoinSittenfeld's American Wife is one of my favorite books I've read in years, and I also enjoyed Prep, so I had high hopes for this book. I was disappointed, but I'm still trying to understand why exactly it fell flat for me where the other two novels succeeded.
At times Sittenfeld nailed it with the the portrayal of how Hannah sees herself and her desires as far outside the realm of normalcy even though that's not the case. Her painful struggle between wanting to be seen and wanting to disappear and her discomfort among her peers in college and young adulthood are believable and touching. I very much related to Hannah's desire to fast forward past certain rites and rituals of a particular time of life and get to what you hope is a better stage ahead.
What bothered me, though, was her perpetual best friend/less pretty and confident younger sister/sidekick status. These categories are everywhere in so called "chick lit" books (I hate that term)like Emily Giffin's, but Sittenfeld is a writer of greater talent and depth. I expect more from her. Hannah's cousin Fig, in particular, seems straight out of a chick lit book. Maybe I just don't know women like Fig, but I suspect it's that she's an exaggerated character created as intentional contrast to Hannah but unable to stand on her own in the story.I don't buy that Hannah really grows out of or makes peace with these roles, though I was glad that Sittenfeld avoids the implausible, superficially happy ending. I felt at the end that Hannah sells herself short.
I appreciated the creative risk Mandanipour takes in this novel. He writes about a writer writing a love story, so the narrative switches back and forI appreciated the creative risk Mandanipour takes in this novel. He writes about a writer writing a love story, so the narrative switches back and forth between his love story and his process in writing the story. Central to the novel is the fact that Iranian censors make it nearly impossible to write a real and affecting story of love, so the writer in the novel tries to trick the censors through using archaic Persian metaphors and vague stream-of-consciousness descriptions of less than proper feelings and events. He also writes words that he crosses out but are still readable to us, indicating what he wants to write but knows the censors will not allow.
It's an interesting literary structure, but in the end, it simply didn't work for me. For me, the book lost its momentum at halfway through. The switching between perspectives made it hard for me to keep engaged in the lives of the love story's characters. In addition, as another reviewer commented, there is a strange recurring image of a hunchback midget that simply made no sense to me. I did not at all understand what he was meant to represent. I also would complain that while the book seems to take a stance on women's rights in Iran, the female character in the love story is notably less developed than the male character. We don't get to see inside her head as much as I'd have liked.
If I could have given it 2.5/5, I would have, but there you have it. Mandanipour is clearly a talented writer, so I might give him another try sometime if he has more English translations come out. ...more
I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway. It's probably not something I would have picked up on my own, particularly because it's described as a psychoI won this book in a GoodReads giveaway. It's probably not something I would have picked up on my own, particularly because it's described as a psychological thriller.
The first 70 pages did not hook me, but I'm glad I pushed on and finished the book. It starts slowly in an emotional sense, though the plot kicks into a fast pace from page one. It took a while for the characters to fully emerge, but when they do, they are surprisingly well-developed for a plot-driven, thriller-esque book (with the exception of Lucy, who I felt only halfway emerged as a personality of her own). There are layers of the novel that are much more complex than the plot would suggest: the fluid nature of identity, definitions of family, self-authorship, and so on. At times I really enjoyed Chaon's unpretentious prose--it was just the right tone for a book like this.
By the end, I was racing through the pages genuinely curious to see how it would all turn out. All in all, a good but not great read. Then again, it's not my typical preferred genre, so that may be why I wasn't blown away as some of the other reviewers seem to be.
Also...I don't like the title. I don't think it's very appealing to the reader who knows nothing about the book, and I don't think it does the book justice. Not sure what else I would suggest though, and it's probably a moot point by now anyway even though the book has not been released yet....more
I picked up this book at a used book sale years ago, and it has sat expectantly on my shelf ever since. I finally gave it a shot, and overall, it leftI picked up this book at a used book sale years ago, and it has sat expectantly on my shelf ever since. I finally gave it a shot, and overall, it left me cold. There's no doubting Updike is a gorgeously gifted writer, but nothing about the novel as a whole or the characters particularly gripped me. This is a book about the bleakness of married life, the destructive adventure of adultery, and the complicated layers of shifting power balances in sexual relationships. The characters by and large are people at their worst: selfish, in denial of the consequences of their actions, and willfully ignorant of the inevitable pain their choices cause until that pain hits them full force. Couples is an ugly look at human interactions, too ugly for me I'd say. I'm not particularly an optimist and I'm certainly not a romantic, but this novel was still far too loveless for me. While Updike creates a believably complicated main character in Piet Hanema, his quasi-lead female of Foxy Whitman is frustratingly incomplete. ...more
Ohhhhh Chelsea Handler. You make me laugh, cringe, cringe some more, laugh harder, squirm, and giggle. This book is a silly, quick read best suited toOhhhhh Chelsea Handler. You make me laugh, cringe, cringe some more, laugh harder, squirm, and giggle. This book is a silly, quick read best suited to a setting in which you won't be embarrassed to laugh out loud. Easily offended readers--STAY FAR AWAY. Handler's pretty graphic on the topics of sex, bodily functions, body parts, body odors...you get my drift. All in all, it's a very entertaining take on the general malaise of late twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings.
Some of the chapters try a bit too hard to be funny but succeed anyway (dog-sitting/peekapoo), some try too hard and fall flat (the Japanese massage, Mini-me), and some are pure comic brilliance (Re-gift, Big Red). There's nothing subtle about Handler's humor--it's obnoxious and in-your-face, so you'll either love it or hate it. ...more
I enjoyed the overlapping stories of two women addressing conventional problems in their own ways; their lives are at the heart of this novel. Delia aI enjoyed the overlapping stories of two women addressing conventional problems in their own ways; their lives are at the heart of this novel. Delia and Meri, through whose voices the story is told, are complex and believable characters who face external marital and familial issues while also dealing with questions of their own identities--how much of themselves is defined by the people in their lives, and what do they determine about themselves? The quirky relationship between the two women is a creative and intriguing plot thread.
The unfortunate thing is, the ending to this novel nearly retroactively ruined the whole experience for me. I hated the author's choice in the end. In an attempt not to give away secrets, I'll say only that the final plot point is not entirely outlandish in terms of the storyline, but it nonetheless left me feeling tricked and that the some of the book's messages were suddenly and sharply undone. Yes, I know...that's probably the point. But I still think it was cheap, and I hated it. I'm giving a three star rating because I liked most of the book, but the end almost knocked it to a two star. ...more
I loved about a fourth of the essays in this book, liked about half, and hated a fourth. Most of the stories are quirky, heartfelt, excellently writteI loved about a fourth of the essays in this book, liked about half, and hated a fourth. Most of the stories are quirky, heartfelt, excellently written, and engaging. A few are whiny drivel, but those are the exceptions. My biggest quibble with this book is the structure/order of the essays. The editor groups them by stages or categories of love: seeking, finding, breeding, staying, leaving, and bound (yeah, that last category doesn't flow as well). Because the predictably depressing "leaving" chapter is near the end and the collection closes with the equaly sad "bound" chapter, it's hard to recall the joys of some of the earlier essays that discuss the triumphs of love. The final essay in the collection deals with hope and new beginnings, but it wasn't enough to shake the feelinsg from the pages and pages of sad stories from before. I would have much preferred the essays be mixed up and not categorized so sharply. It reads the way you would hear a CD that has its peppy, upbeat songs all first, then the mellow, brooding ones all second, then the depressing or angry tunes at the end. If the structure of the collection is supposed to mimic the stages of love, then it suggests we will all be heartbroken and alone in the end.
One last observation: this is a very New Yorky book. It's a collection of essays from the New York Times, so that's an obvious statement, but be warned: the New Yorkyness may irritate you (as it did me) if you don't live there or put the city on a pedestal. At times I found it challenging to connect with certain characters because they seem so specific to that city and its culture, unlike men or women I could recognize from my own life and with whom I could better empathize....more
This novella got under my skin very insidiously. I read the first half and found it funny and quirky but not particularly affecting. Daniel Pecan CambThis novella got under my skin very insidiously. I read the first half and found it funny and quirky but not particularly affecting. Daniel Pecan Cambridge, the neurotic and possibly autistic main character, is an expert at building walls between himself and the world through a series of compulsions and habits. When he is forced to break out of his isolation against his will, and later consciously makes the choice to break out further, he comes alive to the reader as he does to those individuals in his small circle. The final 40 pages or so made me unexpectedly teary but also frustrated that my view into Daniel's life was ending. Martin glosses over an entire turning point and relationship in his protagonist's life, and I felt cheated out of a glimpse into the transformation. I wish the book had been 100 pages longer. ...more
I struggled to make it through this book, sustained by the periodic flashes of linguistic and narrative brilliance within a sea of tedium. Having readI struggled to make it through this book, sustained by the periodic flashes of linguistic and narrative brilliance within a sea of tedium. Having read The Road but no other McCarthy, I expected similar stripped down prose. Wrong! Blood Meridian reads much more like Faulkner than Hemingway. I'm a glutton for punishment via Faulkner, so I thought I'd enjoy the challenge more than I did.
Over the week it took me to read, I usually felt a sense of dread as I picked up the book. What miseries are in store this chapter? More dead babies? Mass murder? Torture? Animal abuse? Body parts worn as decoration? I push myself to read works that make me uncomfortable, even upset, but this was just too much awful and not enough story. The kid's character felt only half developed to me until the last quarter of the book, at which point I finally felt invested in his character and connected to his story. But it came too late to save the book for me.
I was left cold in the end. Well to be fair, cold AND terrified, but not moved. The two star rating captures my experience of reading Blood Meridian, though it doesn't do justice to McCarthy's brave and brutal imagination and his masterful grasp of language. He's a huge talent, and I plan to read more of his work despite my squirmy, miserable reaction to this one.
I'm also fully prepared to eat crow after I've mulled over this book for several months. I think it's going to haunt me, which will mean I have to conclude that I was more than just horrified and was moved, after all....more
The Jonestown tragedy happened a few years before I was born, so prior to reading this book I knew very little about the People's Temple and Jim JonesThe Jonestown tragedy happened a few years before I was born, so prior to reading this book I knew very little about the People's Temple and Jim Jones. I saw a news story one day that marked the twentieth anniversary of the mass suicide, and I poked around online until I came across Deborah Layton's book.
Layton was a privileged, rebellious teenager when she was introduced to the People's Temple and the world of its charismatic leader, Jim Jones. She is a talented and passionate storyteller, tracing the evolution of the Temple from a socially conscious advocacy organization that helped the poor, homeless, and drug addicted to a perversion of socialism that brainwashed, abused, and terrorized its members. Layton's brother, sister in law, and mother all joined the cult as well. The latter two traveled with her to Jones'so called Promised Land in the jungles of Guyana, where members were held prisoner and ruled by lies and fear.
Layton's eventual escape led to an American contingent of a congressman, members of the press, and concerned relatives traveling to Guyana only to be ambushed by Jones' security forces. Hours later, Jones ordered the mass suicide, his soldiers killing any who refused to drink the poison.
The story is compelling and heart breaking. Layton debunks myths about cults by portraying the lives of intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, and others from all walks of life who joined the Temple. It's frightening how insidious the transformation of the Temple was from a legitimate commmunity organization to a cult ruled by a sociopath. She shows us how any of us could fall prey to a charismatic leader only to have things go terribly wrong.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as "Something Borrowed" and "Love the One You're With" (still need to read "Something Blue"). I don't think Claudia iI didn't enjoy this book as much as "Something Borrowed" and "Love the One You're With" (still need to read "Something Blue"). I don't think Claudia is one of Giffin's best characters. The premise of the book is engaging and relevant to many women, but I did not connect with Claudia to the extent that I've connected with other of Giffin's characters. I had difficulty following her decision making patterns and found some of her choices near the end of the book not very believable. It was also challenging to root for her marriage because Ben disappears (at least physically) from large chunks of the book, which has the effect of minimizing how much we as a reader can get to know him and decide if we like him.
Complaints aside...I'm still a sucker for Giffin's books. They are a quick read and she's great at capturing the complexities of women and their relationships. Even if this wasn't her biggest success at achieving the latter, it's still a good read. ...more