This reminded me very much of Ru. Kim Thúy writes in these vignettes that slowly, piece by piece, with the gentlest of touches, form bare images of he...moreThis reminded me very much of Ru. Kim Thúy writes in these vignettes that slowly, piece by piece, with the gentlest of touches, form bare images of her characters. There isn't time for much embellishment. She tends to work with as few words as possible, using the least amount of ingredients to not simplify, but to draw out and accentuate. Not everything resonates with me emotionally but I still find myself drawn to the delicacy of these stories, especially when I think of my father and his family and see them in unexpected phrases.
That said, once I'm able, I want to re-read her books in French and appreciate them in their original language. They're rather lyrical in the English translation as it is but I'm curious.(less)
A beautiful story about atonement. I'm rating just volume 1 but really, this is for the entire series. I started and finished this series (in a super...moreA beautiful story about atonement. I'm rating just volume 1 but really, this is for the entire series. I started and finished this series (in a super short amount of time that I would advise against) all thanks to the live-action film. Everyone was buzzing about this and that for the sequels (!!!) and I had to read the original work to know all about it, from the very beginning. I have no patience to wait for sequels if I can just read the original work and know everything.
Himura Kenshin is burdened with his past as a ruthless assassin and so, vows to never take another life again. As expected, the change in his ideals do not sit well with his former enemies, and his ability to kill is how he's defined by everyone. Kenshin is a wonderfully nuanced character and when I first saw the film, I was really curious to see how the two sides of him, past and present, would work to create this one person. There's a warmth to him that was very refreshing to see and I think the character development was done quite well because the progression made sense. It isn't an abrupt change - he still struggles to keep his past self, that killer instinct, in check. It's an ongoing progress. How do you restrain that part of yourself when it may be the difference to saving your life, or the lives of the ones you care about?
Of course, the story isn't just about Kenshin. He wanders and by chance, gets to know Kamiya Kaoru, the assistant instructor of a school that teaches a style of swordmanship that emphasizes not killing, but living. The dynamic between these two is possibly my favourite thing about this series. I enjoyed the friendships that blossomed with the other characters as well, but Kenshin and Kaoru was the strength of the story for me. I wasn't expecting to care about these characters so much but it all snuck up on me. I can't comment much on the art or the action scenes - there were plenty of the latter - since this is the first anime I've read so there isn't anything to compare to, but I had such a blast reading this from beginning to end. WOW.
I may be getting too greedy but now I want at least two more movies in the series so we can get everything adapted. PLEEEEEEEEEASE.(less)
This book needs to be as well known as Animal Farm. I realize the history of it and how it's been very difficult for the work to spread but I just can...moreThis book needs to be as well known as Animal Farm. I realize the history of it and how it's been very difficult for the work to spread but I just can't stop thinking about it and wish more people could read this. Georgi Vladimov manages to do so much - I'm in awe of how much depth there is in this little novel. I'm not sure if there's an introduction with some of the background history in every version, but this is such a clear glimpse into the human psychology of the time that it is still effective without it.
Ruslan is the most faithful dog you could have. Obedient, forgiving, and loyal to his master and his training. As a guard dog of a prison camp, he's taught to efficiently maintain control over prisoners and attack them in a hunt if they're to run away. Prisoners must obey, as does he, to his "Master" and the other guards. He is completely suited to the environment and takes his job very seriously. No question about it. Why do the prisoners bother running away when they'll be caught, like they always do? Isn't it nicer and better in the camp than the outside world anyway?
What happens to this dog and his life purpose once the camp is closed down?
It's both a chilling and devastating read. You're able to get inside the head of Ruslan, who is an absolutely riveting character that rivals any human I've read about in any other story, and understand his devotion yet recoil in horror over his instincts to only view the world as the gulag. You can't blame Ruslan or any of the other dogs at the camp because this is all they've ever known. The training of the "Masters," however, are the cruel ones. How do men recover from such horror - whether they are the ones to afflict punishment or the ones to receive it? It is frightening to think about absolute obedience but that's what these characters are taught from the start.
I'm so taken aback by how much character each dog had in this novel. For such a short piece, I felt like I knew them all so well. Despite the identical training they received, their distinct personalities allowed for their lives to diverge in the most natural of ways. Ingus and the Instructor in particular has really stayed with me, for better or worse. But there were so many other anecdotes in there that were fantastic.
Brilliant. Leaves you speechless when you're finished. (less)
One of those classics I was so excited to finally start reading and it was so disappointing. The premise had potential, it's practically required read...moreOne of those classics I was so excited to finally start reading and it was so disappointing. The premise had potential, it's practically required reading because I've heard about it everywhere, and it's got a special 50th anniversary edition to boot! Gah.
So many things added up to me not liking this novel. On a whole I could've dealt with one or two of them but not all at once, especially in such a short novel. I find the stakes higher with fewer pages because you have less time to flesh out characters and make your readers care. Of course, the simplicity and vagueness at times can work to the author's advantage, but it's a tricky balance. I just couldn't get engaged in this one. Every once in a while the writing would flow for me but it didn't happen often enough. My eyes constantly drifted with the stilted prose and constant repetitions of certain names and descriptions. At a certain point there just needs to be confidence in the reader that they know who the character is and how they relate to this or that character.
Now, the main character, Okonkwo, was so unlikable. I know, I don't have to like the character or even be able to relate to him - obviously I can't in this case - to enjoy a novel but I found myself not really caring about his well-being. I guess there's enough backstory to explain his behaviour but the lashes of brutality are still so sudden and almost dismissed. This isn't referring to his actions towards outsiders but mainly those directed at his family. Honestly, I would much rather read a novel about his family. Any other person but Okonkwo. I was interested to know more about Nwoye, in particular. Or have more about his wives. Ezinma would've also provided a better viewpoint.
For me, the highlights of the novel had to do with Ikemefuna and how he grew up and blended into the family. I enjoyed the tidbits of his brotherly relationship with Nwoye. The surprising [somewhat] soft side Okonkwo showed towards Ezinma was something rare to behold. It made me hope with something more with his character but eventually I realized that was it. The various traditions upheld by the village like the harvests and festivals and justice system always held my attention as well.
The cultural aspect of this novel is certainly fascinating and very important to learn about, with this work making a mark as a classic, but I just didn't enjoy reading it. (less)
**spoiler alert** I'm pretty sure I had the plots of five other different novels running through my head in terms of expectations as I read this. Oof....more**spoiler alert** I'm pretty sure I had the plots of five other different novels running through my head in terms of expectations as I read this. Oof. It's such a lauded classic and this particular black and white cover stares at me from everywhere so I never could've read this with a blank slate. A definite 'con' with classics.
Despite the preface from Evelyn Waugh himself criticizing his own novel for its 'infused with a kind of gluttony' language, that was far from the reason for my disappointment with this novel. The language was skillful and personally I can't find any criticism for his craft. I was under the impression that the book would take place mostly if not all during the college days, and alternating between Oxford, Brideshead and whichever travel location Sebastian and Charles would choose to go off to during the holidays, as I assumed these people do. I expected the relationship between Charles and Sebastian to be the driving force - which all right, it did lead to everything else - and not have Sebastian practically disappear for about half of it.
In a way it isn't the novel's fault that I was disappointed, but I just didn't feel satisfied with how anything ended. It was nice seeing Julia again because we barely got to know anything about her when Charles was with Sebastian the entire time, but the affair and ensuing relationship didn't make me care much at all. It was sad to see how affairs ended with the estate and the deaths and Charles looking back during the war, but it didn't grab my emotions.
The absence of Sebastian was sorely missed. As much as I was annoyed at characters like Mulcaster and Mottram, at least when they were first introduced there was Sebastian present to balance it out. From this review it seems like Sebastian's my favourite character in all of it but I wouldn't even say I liked anybody very much in this novel. He seemed like the best anchor as I didn't care much about Charles, to be honest. The storylines seemed to fizzle without Sebastian being there whether to cause conflict or react to it.
Somehow I found myself latching onto this one character in the entire novel to keep my interest going. Totally crept up on me. I didn't appreciate him fully when he was there but it was a glaring omission when he wasn't.
Aside from the prose and initial storyline (the first half of the story), I can only justify giving it 3 stars. Possibly 2.5 if they had the rating, to be more accurate.(less)
**spoiler alert** Speaking from Among the Bones was actually my least favourite of the series and I was getting worried that the mysteries would becom...more**spoiler alert** Speaking from Among the Bones was actually my least favourite of the series and I was getting worried that the mysteries would become stale without further emotional advancement for Flavia and the other characters. I generally don't read many mysteries so having followed this one from the beginning is something special. I didn't want to lose interest.
It turns out I was worrying for nothing. I wasn't as excited about this one as the previous releases, but The Dead in the Their Vaulted Arches, the sixth in the series, reinvigorated everything. It packed a walloping emotional punch from the very start - a cumulation of all that we've learned about Harriet and how much her disappearance has affected the family - and never slow its pace. The grief of all the mourners hang heavy throughout the novel and changes the atmosphere completely. It isn't like the series that we're familiar with, but it works. Flavia's inner voice is as sharp as ever, but instead of providing poisonous tidbits, she offers tender insights about death and loss, more specifically, how the living must now deal with it all.
The usual formula worked well for the other books but I was feeling a bit of staleness. Flavia's humour never tires but full credit for Alan Bradley for making me want to find out more about the constant characters, so when I wasn't getting much development there and just the mysteries, I got bored. So to have Harriet as the centre of the novel not just in the sense of character development but the actual mystery? Wonderful. There's so much more at stake and seeing how the concrete fact of Harriet's death affect everyone in the house is heartbreaking. Especially Haviland. Oh god. All along, as seen through the eyes of Flavia, he comes off as this standoffish character that show much of a personality, and every little detail about his mourning here had my heart aching. There are only bits and pieces but now I can piece together a past for him, a story that existed before Flavia. A story that consisted of him and Harriet, being happy together.
With the twists and turns in this one and further adventures for Flavia at her new school, I'm now excitedly awaiting the next book! Bradley's done it. Aside from the first book which introduced me to this series, my favourite one out of the series has got to be A Red Herring Without Mustard because there was more emotional development with Flavia, mostly to do with Harriet. I wanted more after reading it and that was one of the reasons why I was disappointed with the next two. Now that there's this whole other backstory for Flavia to uncover, the possiblities are endless! And we will get to see her interact more with other children! Okay, Undine was not my idea of fun (and quite grating) but I think Flavia having some friends would be nice. Bike rides, picnics and chemistry experiments need not be lonesome activities, afterall.
I was hoping for more improved relationships with Daffy and Feely (I think I'm more like Daffy myself out of the three sisters) but ALAS. It was not to be! And now it looks like they're going to be driven even further apart. I know it wasn't important to the overall story but I was looking forward to Dieter and Feely's wedding, and more truces between the sisters. Perhaps distance may heal some wounds instead of letting them fester. I really hope it's the former. Maybe someday there can be a reunion or sorts and the family can be together again. (less)
"Sometimes, for a moment, everything is just as you need it to be. The memories of such moments live in the heart, waiting for the time you need to think on them, if only to remind yourself that for a short while, everything had been fine, and might be so again. I didn't have many memories like that."
Now, bits and pieces like these scattered throughout the book ragged on my conscience and had me change the rating from 2 to 3 stars. I thought it was a bit too harsh because the book did show moments of brilliance, but if the system allowed it, I truthfully would've given this a 2.5. There just weren't enough of these glimpses that shone for me.
It's 1871, and in the streets of Lower Manhattan, our main character is Moth, a twelve year old with a Gypsy fortune teller for a mother, and a father who has abandoned them both. The girl is headstrong and bright for her age, already well-engaged with the world around her. She understands the risks that she is allowed to take with older men to make life just a little bit easier on a day-to-day basis. It's a survival tactic that she learns to balance and tweak. There's a desire to run and make more of her life, but she can't leave her mother just yet, as unreliable as she is. Her plans are ultimately interrupted when she's sold to a wealthy lady, Mrs. Wentworth, in exchange for a bag of coins.
Moth is thrust into the role of Mrs. Wentworth's personal maid, with riches all around her and the chance of a better situation, but the lady proves to be abusive. She takes another risk and runs away, back to where she came, but her mother has already left. There's no sign that she'll return or any clue where she has gone. Whether it's fate or fortune, she finds a connection to a brothel, run by Miss Everett, and with the temptation of a luxurious life with riches, dresses, and more than enough to eat, she agrees to stay.
Now, in comes Dr. Sadie, who is the resident doctor for the area, checking up on the women living in poverty and working the brothels. She is the origin of the story, both as the voice between the margins, and the ultimate spark for this very book. Ami McKay's own great-great-grandmother once worked in the position and in discovering more about her, she was motivated to tell the story and write this book. I do admire the work the doctor has done, and the effort to do all this research, but to me, the pacing of the book was off and there was never many moments where I was very engaged in the story. I appreciate the abundance of female characters and Moth's strength in survival is admirable, and do feel pity for her situation and the countless women that her story represents, but as a novel, it all felt weak to me.
I do remember enjoying The Birth House, so this might be a bit of mismanaged expectations on my part. Maybe the next book will be better? Ami McKay seems like she's got plenty of stories to tell, I'm looking forward to more. (less)
Well, this book didn't make me feel much of anything.
I initially picked it up because of the charming cover (a different one than the one shown here),...moreWell, this book didn't make me feel much of anything.
I initially picked it up because of the charming cover (a different one than the one shown here), but it was the summary that hooked me in. A love affair set in Paris with the promise of some vengeance. And that isn't even including the real people in telling of the story. I still expect to enjoy historical fiction even if I don't have an in-depth knowledge of the time period or the characters involved beforehand. It's a mark of a good writer to lure me in, keep me interested, and intrigued enough to look into more details later.
It wasn't so for this book. For such a juicy premise, it didn't deliver. I don't know if a third-person POV would've worked better, allowed the constraints and challenges of being in one character at a time to be dismissed, but sentences felt choppy and nothing seemed to flow. It's disappointing because the story spans quite a few years but I wasn't struck by anything that happened, but in reviewing the timeline alone - any one of the 'major' events could've been an emotional punch.
I didn't care for Adele or Charles. I didn't come out of it feeling anything for their relationship. Victor wasn't as striking as he could've been, his role was diminished by the writing, even though he was lurking in every corner of the story. A lot of it felt like the characters just telling us what Victor was like instead of the author showing us via his actions, and letting that develop. Most of it seemed to be a thought about their love, a fleeting meeting, then another thought, then something happening in the time period, repeat. It was all written so matter-of-factly. I don't know Sainte-Beuve's style so perhaps that was done intentionally, but surely Adele could've sounded different. It doesn't seem to be a stylistic choice.
Forgive me. Even this review is bland because I don't want to talk about the book anymore. I can't give it one star since it wasn't an awful book (I'll reserve the rating for something that deserves it), but it's been just a day and I've forgotten most of it. Sigh.(less)
In the very beginning of the book, the reader is instructed to take the presentation as you would a film, imagini...moreAn innovative method to tell a story!
In the very beginning of the book, the reader is instructed to take the presentation as you would a film, imagining dark surroundings and letting yourself be engulfed by the story. I had a feeling I'd love it, and the many beautiful drawings speak for themselves.
Hugo Cabret is a young boy who lives and works in the train station, unseen by others as he keeps the clocks running on time. He holds a dear secret to his heart, hoping to figure out a possible message his father's left him, trapped in a broken automaton. We're left with many questions to answer at the very beginning, and Brian Selznick paces it all very well with his drawings.
I'd recommend this book on the choice of storytelling alone. :)(less)
I understand there is a girl of good character and women's learning in your home. You and I are of the same year and the same day. Could we not be sames together?
This timid invitation written by a young girl starts the friendship between the lao tongs (old sames) - one that is expected to endure for life.
Lily and Snow Flower are two girls brought together by destiny, with matched eight characters, sworn in a bond that is stronger than marriage. The pair undergo the same preparations to becoming a woman readying herself for marriage - from the perilous process of foot-binding to the countless family rituals and traditions - and communicate amongst themselves by the language of nu shu (women's writing). The fan that Snow Flower first sends to Lily signifies the beginning, and on this they mark their grievances and joy.
The entire story is told in Lily's voice, having lived many years but she is filled with regret with what she's done to Snow Flower. The mystery behind the betrayal drives the story, along with curiousity at how the girls' lives changed over the years.
As far as research go, I believed completely in the world Lisa See created. She's immersed herself in the culture and tries to tell the story of the suffering women had to endure as they obeyed the rigid traditions of the family. I never realized there was such a language as nu shu, and the author's note gave me hope that it won't go extinct, with how quickly China's changing. She took time in explaining the rules and values the women had to learn, which might've been overly effective because the pacing barely budged at certain points.
Despite my appreciation for detail, the story didn't seem to go anywhere for me. I wanted to love these characters; their plights were impossible not to sympathize with but I struggled to get through certain parts of the book. Lily's character didn't hold my interest, and as much as I anticipated finding out what her betrayal was, the buildup fizzled out. I didn't see how things got to that point. Maybe it was the arc of the plot that was the problem, or the writing/execution, but it didn't work.
The foundation of this book was their friendship and I found myself straining to believe in that as well. There was potential at the start with the girls learning to bond at their first meeting, but it went downhill from there. They didn't click. I immediately picked this up after seeing the trailer for the upcoming film (with some timeline changes, from the looks of it), but I can't recommend this. It's disappointing because the premise sounded solid, and I was so sure I was going to enjoy this one. (less)
...and I want you all to remember - that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, mus...more...and I want you all to remember - that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for you all, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something every little peasant boy can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is a part of - something he can work and fight for.
- Kim Malthe-Brunn, Danish Resistance fighter, in a letter to his mother written the night before his death.
What other words could I say about this book itself? Lois Lowry has always been one of my favourite authors growing up, and she managed to use very little words to convey the courage of the Danish people to bring their fellow Jewish neighbours over to Sweden during the occupation.
A powerful story of friendship, loyalty, and the fierce determination to do good no matter what the circumstances are. As Uncle Henrik tells Annemarie: "That's all that brave means - not thinking about the dangers. Just thinking about what you must do. Of course you were frightened. I was too, today."(less)