'If you could trade, but you couldn't. If there was a way to make it okay, but there wasn't. If you can, but you can't. Why are children doomed to re
'If you could trade, but you couldn't. If there was a way to make it okay, but there wasn't. If you can, but you can't. Why are children doomed to remain beautiful to their parents, even when they become so ugly to themselves?'
My all-time favourite short story collection that I've read. I don't know if it's even accurate to label it as such because it's got quite the cast of characters throughout time and space but they're all beautifully connected to one wide narrative. It's a masterpiece, is what it is.
I actually don't even know how to go about reviewing this because I love it that much. From the very first story I could feel the pull of Anthony Marra's words and they never let go, but instead clung even tighter 'til I never wanted to reach the final pages. I must've felt every emotion that existed as I devoured these stories. I'm in awe of the skill and imagination required to spin such gorgeous tales, full of humour and heartbreak and regret and loss, but above all, with such warmth for the various bonds that exist in families.
Wow. This is satisfying on so many levels. There is a genius to being able to make a reader care about every single character mentioned in your book, understanding their joys and motivations and pains and weaknesses. That is so hard to do. I particularly love the embers that burn in each of them despite the bleakness of the surroundings. They have precious memories of their own, ways that they stick to and fight for - it isn't just about survival. The character of the places pulsed with histories of their own, alive beyond these pages.
If you love short stories, you'll love this. If you don't love them, this may be the perfect introduction for you! Seeing as how I'm still typing this through red-rimmed eyes and a stuffed up nose, this is a favourite of the year so far. My only regret is not mustering up the motivation to read Marra sooner! Sign me up for his previous novel. (And also more Russian lit.) I'm being super vague in this review because the more I love something the less I'm capable of writing about it, and also it's worth the experience of diving in not knowing.
Brilliant. Even as someone who will always have a love for books, it's still special to find reads that remind you of what they can do and how much they make you feel. I should stop this here, I'm getting so sappy and gushing everywhere. This book deserves so much better than any praise I could muster up for it. I'm just really happy. :)...more
A re-telling of Jane Eyre, but in a very light sense. I think the summary plays it off as being more faithful than it is, and also, darker than it is.A re-telling of Jane Eyre, but in a very light sense. I think the summary plays it off as being more faithful than it is, and also, darker than it is. I picked this up thinking that Jane was now on some mission to gut as many men as possible. They're scums of the earth, but still, it's a dangerous path for a heroine to go on. In reality though, the kills are less like a grocery list and more of a necessity for her survival/circumstances beyond her control. She's got a good heart. It isn't like the murders don't bother her at all. They don't bother her as much, but they still do.
That said, it does get quite dark in terms of material, and people do get hurt, and die. You don't get much avoidance of the gritty details here. I think Jane's childhood and her time at school was the strongest section of the story. The cruelty is something else, but also the camaraderie of the girls in their own small ways. Lyndsay Faye's writing shines most when it's about survival and desperation races through Jane's veins. That said, I enjoyed Jane's voice throughout the telling of her story, and found the method of incorporating the classic original quite clever and not overbearing. You can argue that maybe the story would've worked better if it stuck more to Charlotte Brontë's creation, but also praise this version for being able to stand on its own, even if a reader hadn't ever read or heard of Jane Eyre.
I'll admit that I didn't expect (view spoiler)[Clarke living this long and surviving (hide spoiler)] in the storyline but by the first 1/3 of the story I was all for it, so much so that the introduction of Thornfield felt intrusive. Yes, I know he's Rochester and he had to exist for Jane, but when you get something like this, after all that has happened? I reeled:
(view spoiler)['The whisper of fingertips touched my cheek, and then Clarke was kissing me.
It was only a brief press, but it was neither dry, nor chaste, nor seeking. It was the kiss of a person who has thought about variants of the same kiss for a very long time, as if it were a hundred kisses, all of them passionate and all of them hopeless. I was startled and - in the moment - grateful enough even to reciprocate, did so before even thinking why I should not, and I tasted years in that kiss. I tasted years of dying hope, and the sweet bellyache of longing, and coffee, and Clarke herself, before she pulled away, running her thumb over my open lips.
I really do need to re-read the original because after all this time, I can hardly remember how I feel about Jane and Rochester coming together. I wonder because this is the second re-telling that I've read (the first was Re Jane last year), and both times I've found the relationship not too convincing, though I did enjoy a lot of their conversations. It didn't have that spark that I remembered from the original, but my memory is so gone that I don't know if this was a fault back then too. I totally get Jane's desire for a home and for affection and all that, but the romantic angle just doesn't work as well as I want it to. In this one, I enjoyed her interactions with the more minor characters more, and was especially rooting for a completely different pairing for most of the story.
A 3.5 rating is more accurate because I thought the pacing was quite solid up 'til the last 1/3 or so, though the ending I liked. As much as I appreciated the different spin in the story and the historical research, it lost a lot of steam. I don't know if I'd recommend this, because I'd have to feel very enthusiastic and confident for that, but it's worth reading out of curiosity, whether or not you've read Jane Eyre. I don't know if it'd be better if you were only vaguely familiar rather than being a fan, because you might end up making a lot more comparisons and enjoying the book less. I'm not sure. I may not have felt this inclined to read the book if it wasn't for all the Brontë I've been consuming as of late - this bicentennial of Charlotte's birth is no joke!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"Here they came tumbling out of the sky with a message meant just for him, he could actually hear it, hear the voice in the smoke, in the canisters d
"Here they came tumbling out of the sky with a message meant just for him, he could actually hear it, hear the voice in the smoke, in the canisters descending, the canisters that in about two seconds were going to reach their earthbound destination. About one second from now they would be landing in Victor's lap, and he heard the message the smoke wanted to tell him, heard it as clearly as if his father knelt there on the cold concrete beside him, whispering in his ear.
"Son," the smoke said, "care too much and the world will kill you cold."
This one's been on my list for a while because of the hype, the vibrant cover, and the subject matter - the 1999 WTO protests of which I wasn't old enough to have any memory of. The book takes place in the span of a day and skips between: the lives of the protesters; the cops assigned to be on scene; the chief of police, looking for his missing son who ran away years ago; his son, Victor; a Sri Lankan delegate who is trying to get a meeting with Clinton himself, for that one last signature, and how they all collide in this chaos and violence. I enjoyed the balance of all the different voices and thought the pacing of it all was excellent. The father-son relationship for me was done beautifully, and had me hoping for some sort of reconciliation. I appreciated that it was such a brutal read at times because the incidences weren't glossed over - as hard as they were to read, it would've been worse to not acknowledge that this existed, and if we're frank about it, it hasn't gone away.
'Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of si
'Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things according.'
I heard this passage being read a short while ago and it nagged and churned until I finally picked up a copy to read the rest of it for myself. Now that it's over, I'd say the last two paragraphs are heartbreakingly beautiful too. Perfect bookends for Janie's story of self-discovery, of a life well-lived, with its joys and disappointments and triumphs and losses, and a sense of hope for the rest of her days.
I'm very thankful for Alice Walker's determination to bring Zora Neale Hurston's words back to life . Next month my book club pick is the biography, Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd, which I'm very much looking forward to. There is still much to discover!...more
I found a Borders signed copy in a used bookstore one summer when I was on break from waitressing in a small tFinally. Finally I get to read this one.
I found a Borders signed copy in a used bookstore one summer when I was on break from waitressing in a small town in Eastern Canada. Years and years ago. What are the chances, right? I've never even stepped foot in a Borders before it closed down for good. Anyway, I picked it up because I had heard fantastic things about it and vaguely remembered things like: this wonderful love story, supposedly tragic but possibly unrequited love in there somewhere, and that was it! That's what I assumed this story was going to be. Nothing about the historical setting, the political implications, etc. Nada. Then it went on to live on my bookshelf back at my parents' place for a few years until I finally got it out because I had nothing to read on the 5-hour bus ride back.
What a love story it was.
Besides the occasional nap, I zoned out for the rest of the trip trying to get into the book. I definitely struggled for the first...50 pages or so and it was really slow going because of the prose. I didn't expect it at all. It was difficult to wrap my mind around how thoroughly O'Neill knew these characters and the setting, in a way that he infused every single sentence with purpose. All of it transported right to the village and I could've sworn I could hear the waves and smell these very people as I was sitting on the bus. Not only that, but the motivations of these characters were so neatly weaved together with the dialogue, so seamlessly that I spent a lot of time backtracking because I must've missed everything under the surface of these interactions the first time. It's frustratingly brilliant. O'Neill must have the entire novel written in his head with every character's POV, from the way this reads. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. He demands more from you as a reader and it's such a joyful challenge to take him up on it. Or that's what I felt anyway with how many times I had to retrace my steps. Other times, I wanted to retrace my steps just to relive certain scenes again, written with such tenderness that I had to pause, go back, and savour more slowly. The arcs that he's managed to create for these characters are incredible. I have a particularly soft spot for Mr. Mack, having gotten to know him so well from the very first page.
I won't even get into Jim and Doyle's relationship because everyone needs to discover that for themselves. I wouldn't know where to begin. It's two wondrous characters in their own right, somehow finding their way to one another. I knew I had to mourn one way or another when this book was over because I didn't want to say goodbye to these two. The heart ends up hurting in the very best of ways, and I never tire of it.
One of those precious favourites that will be on the top of my rec list for years to come. An easy 5. I'm genuinely shocked that it doesn't even have 5000 ratings at the time of this review! How?! I thought it was a modern classic! It's always been on my radar because people keep mentioning it every once in a while. And it's been quite a few years since its release. I really would've expected more popularity. In any case, I'm so glad I finally took the chance on this and gritted my teeth through the start. It was so worth it. ...more
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 heThis 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....more
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 superA 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....more
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 canThis 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. ...more
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 readOne 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. ...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.**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....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 becom**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. ...more