I have started a new rating system: I put a completed book away, and a month later, I return to it with a question: Do I remember you? Often, I have nI have started a new rating system: I put a completed book away, and a month later, I return to it with a question: Do I remember you? Often, I have no idea what that book was about.
But when I pick up Light Between Oceans, I get swept away by the story all over again: Tom and Izzy, the lighthouse, the loss and grief they endure by themselves on that island, and a baby's cries floating to them on the ocean winds...
...Tom and Izzy, making a decision that you know is wrong, but you completely understand, and hope it will turn out fine in the end...
And then the unraveling, and learning Hannah's story... and wishing that each of them could have the love and justice and happy ending they so deserve.
The plot unfolds cinematically: the world of that lighthouse seems real, the characters like people you come to love over a span of years. Surely Light Between Oceans will be a movie, a beautiful, haunting epic like Out of Africa.
Read this one. The world of that lighthouse island off the coast of Australia will stay with you. Years later, you may pick up this book and run your hand across the cover; your heart will melt and you may think, Oh, how I remember you! ...more
Gillian Floyd is a really gifted writer and one sick, twisted puppy. I’ve now read both Dark Places anThese characters have earned their “dark places”
Gillian Floyd is a really gifted writer and one sick, twisted puppy. I’ve now read both Dark Places and Gone Girl, two books with characters who work SO HARD to be unlikeable – they lie, they steal, they manipulate – and yet you’re mesmerized and reading as fast as you can to find out what will happen to them next.
Libby, the protagonist of Dark Places, is the survivor of a massacre, losing her mother and two sisters in a bloody, horrific crime involving a knife, an axe, and satanic symbols painted in blood on the walls. Young Libby’s testimony sends her brother Ben to jail for a crime that spins the nation into hysteria over the dangers of satanic cults.
We meet Libby as a young adult, depressed and destitute, resenting the victims of other mass murders for ending the flow of donations that has been her livelihood.
At the end of her money, Libby accepts the invitation of a “kill club” – groups that obsessively collect memorabilia and investigate mass murders – and (for money) agrees to revisit and question the massacre, her brother’s guilt, her childhood testimony, and the details of a life that was grim and desperate long before the knife and axe killed her family.
Told from the perspective of Libby, flashback from the dead mother, and flashback from accused murderer Ben, this is a finely-described, compelling page-turner that will keep you awake trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. Really inventive storytelling, beautifully-crafted prose, numerous surprises in store, and a satisfying conclusion. There's even sort of a warm fuzzy or two (even if they are kind of demented warm fuzzies). You may not walk away liking these characters, but they have all earned their “dark places,” and you will never forget them. ...more
Don't take this book too seriously, and you'll have quite a good afternoon of entertainment. Wade Watts, along with most of the inhabitants of an incrDon't take this book too seriously, and you'll have quite a good afternoon of entertainment. Wade Watts, along with most of the inhabitants of an increasingly crowded and desperate planet, spend their days immersed in an online VR world called the Oasis. Wade's primary objective: winning a contest to inherit the Oasis inventor's billions by finding three magical keys and clearing three gates - a race that will involve everything 80s, because this was the Oasis founder's obsession.
I was thoroughly entertained by all the movie, game, book,and music references from my teenage years. The suspense surrounding the contest was engaging enough that I sat by the pool and flipped through all those Kindle pages in a single afternoon.
Implausibly easy plot solutions? 80s culture references poured on a bit thick? Improbably happy endings? Check, check, and check. Don't overanalyze. This book is not trying to be Ender's Game. This book is trying to be fun, and it succeeds. I enjoyed the description of the Oasis and the contest, and liked some of the bonus side plots as well, such as virtual schools where the students can't misbehave because it's not permitted by the programming... and the fitness program that monitors your calorie intake and won't let you log in until you get enough exercise... PLUS I got to read about Ultraman and Wargames and Ladyhawke and Monty Python... all in the context of a game taking place in a dystopian future? Pretty cool afternoon, there.
This is Ernest Cline's first book, and his pacing, humor, and ability to create an engaging alternate world point to great things ahead. Keep writing, Mr. Cline; I'm looking forward to your next book! (Awaiting your entry... Stun Runner, Atari, 1989) ...more
Did you know that Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart were first cousins who grew up together in the same small Louisiana town? I'm aboDid you know that Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart were first cousins who grew up together in the same small Louisiana town? I'm about halfway through this book, and it's been terrific so far. It's fascinating to read about the foundations for what is ahead of these men: the talents, the stardom, and the scandals. As always, the backstory is so much more complex, nuanced, and intriguing than the splashy headlines. If you have any interest in the south, Louisiana, Pentecostal church, gospel music, rock and roll, televangelism, country music, or just the volatile mix of human frailty combined with fame, you will find yourself eagerly flying through the pages of this book. ...more
I wanted to love this book about the emigration of Japanese "picture brides," brought from Japan to California in the 30s and 40s for arranged marriagI wanted to love this book about the emigration of Japanese "picture brides," brought from Japan to California in the 30s and 40s for arranged marriages. The husbands pay the families and arrange passage; the women and girls sail to a new world to find a bewildering alien language and culture, roughscrabble existence, and new husbands who almost never match in picture or fact the information sent to them in their bride letters.
The book opens with a collective narrator, and with direct, poetic phrases, Otsuka creates a moving third person picture of their lives: "Some of us were from Hokkaido, where it was snowy and cold, and would dream of that landscape for years. Some of us were from Hiroshima, which would later explode, and were lucky to be on the boat at all though of course we did not then know it. The youngest of us was twelve, and had not yet begun to bleed."
After the first chapter, I found myself ready to move from the collective experience to something more direct, perhaps following 2-3 women as they enter their new lives. However, "We" remains the narrator, and the story flits like a small camera from person to person, a sentence or two, and then on to the next. The chapter of the first night with their husbands is heartbreaking, but as the book progressed, I found myself sadly detached. The book seemed like an overly-long lyric poem: I stuck it out, but often skimmed, and had no trouble putting it down. So many breathtakingly-beautiful phrases, but it just didn't touch me as a narrative; I was never allowed to engage with any character long enough.
I'm sure the narrative style illuminates the experience: thousands of women who made this journey, desperately scraping out a life with new husbands while blending quietly into the background of this new culture. And then, one day, they disappear into the internment camps, and the narrative shifts: now it's the collective "we" of the Americans who remained in the town, wondering what became of the Japanese people who once farmed and cleaned and tended shops. Buddha in the Attic is creative, poetic, and even, at times, haunting. Unfortunately, it just felt more like a required reading assignment than a novel that truly engaged my interest and heart. ...more
I have annoyed my family for days, walking around the house with my iPad, reading this biography, wanting to discuss the details that fascinated me: JI have annoyed my family for days, walking around the house with my iPad, reading this biography, wanting to discuss the details that fascinated me: Jobs' personality glitches, his perfectionism, his flashes of invention or insight.
It has been pure pleasure to learn about the technological innovations that have been milestones of my life: the Apple II I used as a college junior, the Macintosh (and swapping those little blue discs), the iPod that rocked me through a 5K "fun" run, the iPhone that's pretty much imbedded in my hand.
I thought I knew much of this story, and I was wrong. Jobs is far more confounding, the relationships and rivalries far more complex. I have at least 50 passages highlighted just so I can share the "wow" moments with family members who read it after me. (Have you read it? What are your "wow" moments? Start the conversation below!)
What's next for Apple? So many of these innovations would have died but for the crazy persistence, grandiosity, and perfectionism of Steve Jobs. I could never have worked for him, and might not have enjoyed knowing him, but I'm in awe of the intuitive, obsessive genius who really did change the world....more
**spoiler alert** I so wish I could place this title on my "abandoned books" shelf. If you've found your way to this review, I'm guessing that, like m**spoiler alert** I so wish I could place this title on my "abandoned books" shelf. If you've found your way to this review, I'm guessing that, like me, you'd like to vent some general frustration at the ending.
So we've got Rob (or Adam) Ryan, an experienced detective who stays on a case despite being hopelessly compromised... who falls under the spells of a psychopath... who heartlessly and ruthlessly destroys the trust and love of the partner he calls his best friend in the world...
Ultimately, I disliked this guy so much that the only reason I kept reading was to find out what happened to the victims in this story: Katy, from the present-day murder, and Peter and Jamie, Adam Ryan's inseparable childhood friends, who disappeared without a trace when Adam was 12, leaving Adam standing catatonic in the woods, with blood pooled in his shoes and no memory of what might have happened to his buddies...
And then Tana French not only lets the central predator of this story walk away with no consequences, she ALSO doesn't solve the mystery of Peter and Jamie. She just lets Adam's memory fade to black again. They're even tearing up the scene of the crime to build a motorway, leading you to THINK they're going to find something, but NO. You just get to leave the book wondering forever about what happened to Peter and Jamie!
And yes, I'm sure cases go unsolved all the time in real life, but this is a novel; isn't there supposed to be some entertainment value?
I have to give Tana French some credit; she wove together some wildly divergent threads. In my opinion, the book would have benefited from tighter editing; I finally had to skim entire sections because the details and the dead time just dragged on and on. This book took me forever to finish, and I have closed it at last feeling terribly frustrated, and so hacked off at Ryan that I could just slap him silly....more
Still Alice gives a moving, first-person account of a woman coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Harvard professor Alice Howland first begins losing tStill Alice gives a moving, first-person account of a woman coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Harvard professor Alice Howland first begins losing things (her Blackberry), then words, then herself (suddenly, she can’t find her way home from Harvard Square, a path she has traveled for 25 years).
Each stage of the journey is so movingly portrayed, from the shock and denial of first diagnosis, to the despair of gradually losing the ability to read, to the panic and rage of standing in your own house, unable to locate the bathroom.
As a reader, I especially admired the way Genova immersed me in the experience of dementia. At least twice, a paragraph is repeated, and because I was reading the book on Kindle, I double checked, thinking perhaps I had accidentally thumbed back a few pages. Then I realized that these must be intentional repeats, asking me to experience the same confusion Alice feels as she circles back to the same thoughts and anxieties.
The book asks excellent questions about identity and quality of life: who are we when our memories and accomplishments are stripped away? Can we find meaning in the present moments of joy, knowing we will have no ability to recall these moments?
I’m appalled by the mediocre review given by Publisher’s Weekly. I did not find Genova’s prose and dialogue the least bit clumsy or heavy handed; rather, I found myself in tears over the relationships as Alice’s family members transform from husband and children to caregivers.
Any reader will appreciate this book, but it will be especially treasured by those coping firsthand with the disease, who will surely find empathy, understanding, and a small light for a dark and frightening journey. ...more
Lisa Genova has created a wonderfully relatable character in Sarah Nickerson, an ambitious career mom trying to balance 80-hour work weeks with the joLisa Genova has created a wonderfully relatable character in Sarah Nickerson, an ambitious career mom trying to balance 80-hour work weeks with the jobs of wife and mother of three. Told in first person, Sarah humorously describes the challenges, stress, and guilt of her maniacally packed days. She's so focused on her job that I wondered how she ever took the time out of her schedule to have children at all.
Multi tasking - using the phone on a rainy freeway - leads to the car crash and head injury that changes everything. Sarah awakens from a coma with "left neglect," a neurological condition in which everything on the left - from the left side of rooms, dinner plates, and books to the left side of the body - simply vanishes from a person's conscious existence. Reading, eating, walking, dressing - all become part of the challenge of forcing the brain to locate and communicate with the left. (As I write the review, I'm thinking these kinds of exercises might be fabulously productive for our politicians - of both stripes!)
As a neuroscientist, Genova does wonderful work accurately portraying this neurological condition while immersing us in the emotional journey of learning a new reality.
I enjoyed the book, though I felt that some threads simply resolved too easily and neatly. Even with one child diagnosed with ADD, these three kids come off as the easiest, least-demanding kids ever. Take for example a morning of skiing: the kids simply clomp obediently out the door after dad. No whining about itchy, tight coats, no forgotten mittens or neck warmers, no last minute heroic struggle to fasten boot latches, no sibling fighting at all. And baby Linus - that kid is ALWAYS sleeping. I'm trying to remember a single time when the child cried for an hour or woke up with croup.
Without putting in any spoilers, I'll just say that husband Bob is also a mighty understanding guy.
But these nitpicks aside, the book is enjoyable and even inspiring. I loved the evolving relationship between Sarah and her mom, and the outcome did not follow the predictable plot arc I was expecting. By the end, I was rooting for these characters, and moved by their setbacks and successes. ...more
This book received such glowing reviews; I feel like I must be misguided somehow because I really did not enjoy it all that much.
Soli did a wonderfulThis book received such glowing reviews; I feel like I must be misguided somehow because I really did not enjoy it all that much.
Soli did a wonderful job immersing the reader in the experience of Saigon, frontline battles, and the lives of both the Vietnamese people and the journalists covering the war. However, I just did not ever grow to really connect with the main characters. Helen Adams arrives in Vietnam with the ambition of becoming a combat photojournalist, yet her only previous photography experience is a high school photography class? It seeemed too big a jump that she progresses from novice to cover photographer. I wished for more of an emotional connection to her motivations, something that would leave me pulling for her success. Instead, I felt frustrated at many of her decisions, especially in those crucial last chapters.
I wondered if female photographers were really allowed to travel into battle, but have since found online biographies of fearless, ambitious women like Catherine Leroy, whose experiences must have informed this novel.
I did find the backstory of Linh very moving.
I read Lotus Eaters on an iPad, and I'm wondering if perhaps the electronic format creates an emotional disconnect? I expected to enjoy this book much more than I did. Instead, I was skimming and flipping the virtual pages, impatient to be done with all the angst and just get to the darn resolution....more
I just finished the last pages, and have been left in awe of the decade of interviews and research that went into this book's creation.
Henrietta LacksI just finished the last pages, and have been left in awe of the decade of interviews and research that went into this book's creation.
Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951, but left behind an immortal legacy: the first cells that survived and continuously reproduced in the laboratory. These surviving cells - called HeLa - were shared by the doctor who discovered them with labs all over the world, enabling innovations such as the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, and genetic research. Many scientists in the book are quoted as believing that HeLa cells were one of the most medical discoveries of all time.
But behind the story of the cells is the story of Henrietta Lacks, the 30-year-old kind, vivacious woman, daughter of sharecroppers, granddaughter of slaves, who died an agonizing death from cervical cancer. The children she left behind suffer poverty and the misery of a criminally-abusive stepmother. Later, those children suffer more as they are told the nearly incomprehensible news that their mother's cells are still alive, with billions of them having been reproduced and used in experiments: they have been cloned, blasted with radiation, subjected to chemotherapy, exploded in an atomic bomb blast, and even launched into space.
The author, Rebecca Skloot, spent ten years researching this story and developing a close relationship with the Lacks family, especially Henrietta's daughter Deborah. Skloot carefully and lovingly presents each character with accuracy and humanity: we hear their accents, witness their mood swings, and experience moments of violence and of transcendent grace.
I will never forget this difficult book. I left it with questions about scientific research, wondering who should own the rights to the tissues and cells of my own body. But most of all, I left with gratitude for this author and Henrietta Lacks, and admiration for Henrietta's indomitable daughter, Deborah, who struggled so hard and long to comprehend and honor the story of the mother she never knew. ...more
Here it is: your summer page turner for an afternoon by the pool. New author S.J. Watson places his main character, Christine, in a fascinating predicHere it is: your summer page turner for an afternoon by the pool. New author S.J. Watson places his main character, Christine, in a fascinating predicament: she wakes every morning with no memory of the past two decades of her life. Slowly, deftly, Watson weaves mystery into the narrative: is her husband Ben lying to her? Hiding events and people from her past? Why?
Great pacing, an interesting style shift from present tense narrative to journal entries. I didn't even realize I was reading a mystery at first; I thought I had picked up an exploration of memory as a foundation of identity. The mystery/thriller thread hooked me by surprise, and then kept me flipping pages late into the night. I thought I had guessed the end, and then was thoroughly, entertainingly surprised.
Perhaps at the end, characters explain themselves a little too thoroughly, and the plot threads all wrap up a bit too quickly and neatly. Ah well, I don't like ambiguity or pessimism in my summer reads! Recommended, and looking forward to more from this author. ...more
I absolutely admire the storytelling ability of this author; she weaves all her research together into an exciting narrative that keeps you flipping pI absolutely admire the storytelling ability of this author; she weaves all her research together into an exciting narrative that keeps you flipping pages to get to the outcome. Seabiscuit introduces you to the bold, colorful people who discovered this horse and transformed her into an unlikely champion. I didn't enjoy the book as much as her newest title, Unbroken, primarily because the subject of horses and racing didn't interest me as much as World War II. ...more
I can't think of a better recommendation for this book than to say a cousin loaned it to our family, and all of us - my father, my husband, me, my 19-I can't think of a better recommendation for this book than to say a cousin loaned it to our family, and all of us - my father, my husband, me, my 19-year-old son, and my 16-year-old daughter - have devoured it and discussed it many times these past weeks.
I loved the arc of the story, and (disagreeing with a reviewer below) I especially enjoyed the description of Louis' boyhood. I loved seeing how a rebellious, thieving, wild child developed into a young man with the stamina for running in the Olympics, then found in himself the inner strength and optimism to survive unbelievable ordeals, first at sea, then in the Japanese POW camps.
Unbelievable is a word you will be saying to yourself often as you read Unbroken. Having grown up around the sea, it's difficult for me to comprehend some of their experiences on the rafts. (The behavior of the sharks has left me afraid to scuba dive.) Their experiences in the camps left me with such rage and despair; I almost cannot comprehend how the survivors managed to continue with normal lives.
You must read this book. It is a gift in so many ways: history lesson, true adventure story, glimpses of the best and worst of man, and ultimately, a testament to resilience that you will never forget....more
Parts of the book had me mesmerized, and I am certainly fascinated by this look at Ethiopia (and suddenly have a desire to taste Injera and Wot). I loParts of the book had me mesmerized, and I am certainly fascinated by this look at Ethiopia (and suddenly have a desire to taste Injera and Wot). I loved many of the characters, particularly Hema and Ghosh, Matron and Tsige.
My main objections were two: first, the sort of magical POV of the narrator - he describes details that should not be available to him, with no good explanation. Without spoiling a plot point, how would you know what someone is wearing and what they say if you are, at the time, unconscious? At first I attributed this to the style of magical realism; later, it just frustrated me.
My second objection: the big plot twists are just SO over the top. Too much gore, too much graphic detail, too many coincidences accompanying too many turning points.
I was happier with the book when it focused on the everyday. This writer really has a way of making you care for certain characters. Certainly I stayed with the book through the end, and I would probably read Verghese again. Overall, the book reminds me of a television miniseries - certain episodes go too far in creating the drama, but I still enjoyed the characters and the setting and hung in there for the finale....more