Although this series is beginning to drag on for me, there were some developments in this book that redeeNote: The above rating should be 3 1/2 stars.
Although this series is beginning to drag on for me, there were some developments in this book that redeemed it - hence the slightly higher rating. Jamie and Clare continue on in colonial America, as do Brianna and Roger, but my general annoyance with the character of Brianna kept me from enjoying the story, and also resulted in my inability to overlook Gabaldon's flaws as a writer.
I'm still working on finishing the series, but I often think about the first book and wonder that I could have so enjoyed the first book, but find less and less enjoyment out of the subsequent installments. ...more
Perhaps it's because some years have passed since this was first published, or perhaps I just don't know what constitutes a Pulitzer-worthy novel,Meh.
Perhaps it's because some years have passed since this was first published, or perhaps I just don't know what constitutes a Pulitzer-worthy novel, but I found this novel to be just so-so.
Nathan Zuckerman, the narrator, is largely absent from this novel, except to narrate the adult life events of a childhood hero, Seymour "Swede" Levov, after Levov's daughter commits an act of domestic terrorism during the late 1960s. This should be great, and from the number of times the words "American pastoral" are used in the book, certainly Roth - and later, the Pulitzer committee - is convinced it is great.
But as story, it didn't work that well for me. The Swede is like a fictional Ken doll - nice to look at, polite, thoughtful, "good", and bland. His daughter is puzzling, his wife narcissistic, and the secondary characters almost all universally unlikable. Why do we care about these people? Is the Swede supposed to represent nice, polite, naïve suburban Americans? To what purpose? Who, really, is Ruth Cohen (a tertiary character involved in a bizarre scene with the Swede, who then largely disappears from the story)?
Maybe since this is the first book in a trilogy, this book is better viewed after completing the other books, and maybe there have been too many acts of domestic terrorism since this book's inception for it to have the desired impact, but I found this book largely forgettable. ...more
Note: The above rating should be 2 1/2 stars, or maybe 2 3/4.
You can tell from my ambivalence about the rating that I am starting to grow weary of thNote: The above rating should be 2 1/2 stars, or maybe 2 3/4.
You can tell from my ambivalence about the rating that I am starting to grow weary of this series. "Outlander", by comparison, was a revelation, and I look back upon my time reading it with nostalgia. Each successive story has been less and less interesting for me, and more and more tedious.
In particular, I don't enjoy the stories of Brianna and Roger. I find them and their relationship forced, and to have pages and pages of plot attributable to a simple misunderstanding feels like author intrusion, and a ham-handed way of fitting in !!more excitement!! !!new fight scenes!! !!unexpected complications!! as opposed to perhaps, winding down the story itself.
I am starting to feel as though Gabaldon had this giant arc of story planned, and refused to let go until it was completed - and this is fine; in fact, it's what most series entail - but many chapters are reading like "filler", as though she couldn't quite figure out how to get the characters from Point A to Z in a more succinct, plausible* manner.
I will finish this series (she vowed grimly), but I fear it's going to be a bit of a slog. As of yet, the characters are starting to take on caricature-like qualities, and it's starting to remind me of Jean Auel's "Earth People" (I think) series: Book #1 being very good and imaginative, the subsequent novels less so, until the last volume becomes more of a trial of endurance than of enjoyment.
*Plausible is used knowing that this is "fantasy", and thus the whole tale is far-fetched to begin with....more
Look, if you're expecting Great Fiction, this isn't for you. But this book, like the first and eponymousNote: The above should be a 3 1/2-star rating.
Look, if you're expecting Great Fiction, this isn't for you. But this book, like the first and eponymous book in this series, is fun. It's a fun hybrid of a romance novel and historical fiction with a bit of science fiction woven in. Gabaldon is a better-than-average writer, and her characters are usually true to themselves and without a lot of hyperbole. ...more
Note: The above rating should be 3 1/2 stars. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. This book isn't without its flaws, and I don't know thatNote: The above rating should be 3 1/2 stars. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. This book isn't without its flaws, and I don't know that anyone would consider this "great" fiction (Gabaldon relies a little bit too much on adverbs for that), but it is well-thought-out and plotted, for a book which uses time travel as a major plot point. At least in this book, Gabaldon doesn't dwell too much on the physics of time travel, which is to the book's benefit - I think it makes it easier for the reader to accept, and move on with the story. (That being said, I'll see if this gets better or worse with the subsequent books.)
If this is a "romance" book, it's written at a higher level than I would have given the genre credit for. If this is a historical fiction novel, it's good, but not as "serious" as other books of that genre. Genres notwithstanding, this is pure escapist fiction, and enjoyable - just don't fool yourself into thinking it's any more than that....more
When I first started reading this book, I thought that if it wasn't a book-club pick, I would probably put it down and forget about it. The beginningWhen I first started reading this book, I thought that if it wasn't a book-club pick, I would probably put it down and forget about it. The beginning wasn't bad, but a bit dry and desolate for my taste. Perhaps that speaks to McMurtry's skill, because I felt as though I was *there* in Lonesome Dove, living a monotonous, dull life. But about 200 pages in, the story took on a life of its own for me, and Gus McCrae became an eminently lovable character, and one I won't forget.
McMurtry writes about this cattle drive from Texas to Montana in simple prose, but in a manner that is able to convey everything he sees to the reader. In my humble opinion, he does here what Cormac McCarthy tries (and fails) to do. No pretentious writing here; just good, solid writing, and a story that will stay with me for a long time.
I don't know that I would universally recommend this book - again, I found the first 200 pages slow going, and so people with less patience than I might not make it through - but for those who make it through, I promise that the rest of the book is well, well worth it. ...more
Only time will tell if John Medina's "Brain Rules for Baby" hold up, but I found it to be entertaining and thoughtful, which can be a rarity in this gOnly time will tell if John Medina's "Brain Rules for Baby" hold up, but I found it to be entertaining and thoughtful, which can be a rarity in this genre. Not quite as scientific as Lise Elliot's "What's Going On in There?", but certainly sturdier than many child-rearing books, Medina espouses a few simple "rules" that he theorizes will help develop a well-adjusted kid (and thus, a well-adjusted adult): first and foremost, children need an emotionally safe environment before they can learn anything else; breastfeeding for the first year is highly recommended, if possible; children need clear rules for behavior that are explained to them; and empathy above all.
This was a quick read for me, and I appreciated Medina's tone throughout. I found some takeaways, which is really all I can hope for with books from this genre, and I will probably refer back to this book in the future. ...more
Good, but not great - at least not as compared to the previous books in this series.
I'll admit that this could be due to the fact that I don't care muGood, but not great - at least not as compared to the previous books in this series.
I'll admit that this could be due to the fact that I don't care much for military history, and this book, by necessity, is more militaristic than the other books, as the story is about Richard's Crusade to fight Saladin's armies to take control of Jerusalem. It starts off promisingly, using Richard's sister Joanna - Queen of Sicily - as a starting point, but it bogged down in the middle for me - again, due to the ongoing battles Richard and his armies fought against Saladin and his armies.
That's not to say that SKP's thorough scholarship and excellent writing skills aren't on display here - they are, and it is probably due to those factors that I liked the book as much as I did. In fact, it was refreshing to read a book about a Crusade which makes "the infidels" sympathetic humans, and presents a balanced look at both armies. It just wasn't as much of a "page-turner" for me as the other books in this series. ...more
This was an amazing work of historical fiction. In this book, Penman continues her saga of Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children, pickinThis was an amazing work of historical fiction. In this book, Penman continues her saga of Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children, picking up where "Time and Chance" left off. I can't believe that I previously thought this time period was dry and dusty, and I'm sorry, in a way, that I waited so long to read these books.
Not only does Penman write about this era so knowledgeably that these books rival nonfiction sources, but she is able to infuse these long-dead kings, queens, and other historic figures with such empathy and such insight that at times, I would have to set the book aside to ponder what I had just read, and to think of its real-world application (in the case of Henry and Eleanor's marriage). It is truly a gift to be able to make this period of history come to life the way that Penman does, and I look forward to the next books in this series.
I admit that even though this book was recommended by a variety of sources, I delayed reading it because I felt the title was somewhat florid, and I wI admit that even though this book was recommended by a variety of sources, I delayed reading it because I felt the title was somewhat florid, and I worried the contents of the book would be the same.
I am relieved to say I was wrong. In fact, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The title, as I now know, has a historical base - the period of England's 12-century Civil War has been referred to as "when Christ and His saints slept". This is due to the utter chaos that reigned for twenty years, when Stephen and Maude warred over the English throne. The late King Henry I named his daughter Maude as his heir, and had sworn assurances from his lords that they would support her claim upon his death. However, once his death occurred, the prospect of a female ruler was too much to bear, and many changed allegiances to support her cousin Stephen's claim to the throne.
This time period is difficult to write about, in my opinion - possibly because this is during the Early Middle Ages and sources are limited, books about this period are either almost entirely fiction (and overly florid fiction at that), or of a dry, scholastic bent. Penman is a thorough researcher - very few of the characters in this book are completely fictional - and yet she is able to write knowledgeably about actual events while still maintaining narrative flow and character depth. Penman seems to assume her audience is smarter than the average historical fiction reader, and writes accordingly. Even though the time periods are totally different, I couldn't help comparing Penman's writing to that of Ken Follett's atrocious "Fall of Giants", or Philippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl". Unlike "Fall of Giants", Penman does not rely on cheap writing tricks (ex: abuse of adverbs, deux ex machina), nor is her writing overly romantic. In short, I'd describe this book as "more history, less bodice", and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction....more
Here's the thing: If you turn to this book for hard-and-fast advice, you'll be disappointed. This is not your typical parenting advice book - it's parHere's the thing: If you turn to this book for hard-and-fast advice, you'll be disappointed. This is not your typical parenting advice book - it's partly that, but also part memoir. Druckerman is an American ex-pat and former journalist who, after marrying a British journalist, lives and raises their three children in France. With wit and self-deprecating humor, Druckerman compares the differences between the American way of raising children and the French way of raising children. This comparison is written with mostly anecdotal passages, but she does supplement the anecdotes with actual studies (there are footnotes and a bibliography in the back).
I found this book to be an extremely quick read, and also very enjoyable. Perhaps I'm biased, because as a recent first-time parent, I found a lot of what the French supposedly do to mirror my own parenting decisions, occasionally to the disapproval of family (usually in-laws). What I took away from this book, if there needs to be a takeaway, is that it's best not to be a "helicopter" parent; to set a firm framework of guidelines, but to be flexible within that framework; and to encourage your children to be courteous people who know how to be independent, but also how to act appropriately within the context of their society.
If you really loved "What to Expect", you probably won't like this book. But, if you found "What to Expect" annoying and condescending as I did, then you will probably find this book entertaining and a good quick read. ...more
After being disappointed with "Under the Dome", I was a little worried about "Full Dark, No Stars", and wondered if maybe I should take a break from mAfter being disappointed with "Under the Dome", I was a little worried about "Full Dark, No Stars", and wondered if maybe I should take a break from my chronological reading of King's works. Thankfully, I was very pleasantly surprised by this collection of "novellas". Like "Different Seasons" and "Four Past Midnight", this book is a collection of four long short stories (or short long stories, whichever you prefer), but whereas the other two had a defined thread tying them together - at least the obvious one, in the titling of the respective stories - this does not, except to say that all four stories are unreservedly DARK (perhaps hinted at in the title?)- and yet very satisfying. In my opinion, this is because all the stories and the characters involved follow their natural destination, with little to no "author interference" (for the clearest example of this, see "deus ex machina"). Unlike "Different Seasons", these stories may not leave you with a lot of hope for the human condition, but if you're anything like me, they will leave you with that definite feeling of mingled satisfaction and disappointment when you finish a well-written, well-told story (or four of them).
Highly recommended - but maybe not for everyone.
*2014 Update: My review (originally posted in 2012) stays essentially the same, but I removed one star from my original 5-star rating. Upon re-reading the book, the ending of "1922" seemed a bit "been there, done that" - although the story itself is still good. ...more
I admit that I didn't have high hopes for this book in the beginning. Initially, I found this story, set in New Zealand during the 1860s, to be very sI admit that I didn't have high hopes for this book in the beginning. Initially, I found this story, set in New Zealand during the 1860s, to be very slow-going. The book opens with the initial protagonist, Walter Moody, and his arrival in a gold-mining town in New Zealand. Moody has witnessed something that has affected him deeply, but we don't know quite what it is that he has seen, and how that will impact the rest of the story. The reader then follows Moody to a billiards room of a hotel, where Moody meets 12 other men, all of whom have different perspectives of the same tale to tell.
At first I found these individual tales and character studies to be drawn-out and dull, but in retrospect, I see how these vignettes add to the story as a whole, and how this first half enhances and illuminates the second. That being said, I enjoyed the second half of the story - what happens after Moody has heard the tales of these men - much, much more.
Although it is evident that Catton is a talented writer, I did have a couple of minor quibbles with this book. Without giving anything away, I realize that the pacing of the story is deliberate. However, towards the end, I wondered if perhaps Catton had focused so intently on a certain plot point/stylistic device that she either forgot about or let go of an earlier plot point, for it felt as if there were a couple of "loose threads" in the story. Also, Catton focuses heavily on astrology to frame her story, and I doubt many people are well-versed enough in astrology to pick up on any greater meaning within the story that Catton might have intended to convey with this usage. I realize this is not necessarily Catton's fault, but it did leave me wondering what I might be missing in the story by not being exceptionally knowledgeable about astrology.
Overall, a good read, but not one I would universally recommend. ...more
When I became pregnant with my first (and probably only) child, I wanted to know everything - and then became frustrated at the quality and oft-contraWhen I became pregnant with my first (and probably only) child, I wanted to know everything - and then became frustrated at the quality and oft-contradictory advice given to pregnant women. Most books or their online version were patronizing, if not downright condescending (*cough* What to Expect When You're Expecting *cough*), and the more literary, science-based guides were either awash in technical lingo or a mere blurb of the study in question. I wish I'd found this book then, but I'm glad I found it now (7+ months into this life-changing experiment known as parenthood).
Eliot, who is a scientist by trade, manages to convey large chunks of information without getting too bogged down in technical jargon or otherwise carried away by individual studies, which makes the science inherent in this book very accessible. She also minimizes the anecdotal segments, which I prefer for this type of a book. If I want to learn, I prefer hard data, not someone's sister's experience (and then I question whether the person named is even really a person, or a complete fiction dreamt up to illustrate a specific point or bias). There's a LOT of useful information in this book, but it is not all-inclusive - nor do I think it was intended to be. This is a good book for a layperson, albeit one who is not completely sleep-deprived and struggling to concentrate on basic tasks.
I think most people who are inclined to read books about early childhood development won't be surprised at Eliot's takeaways, but I think the science and studies behind those findings are interesting. That being said, the biggest takeaway is something we've all heard before, but it bears repeating: "The fact is that children pick up much more than mere cognitive skills from their parents and other caregivers. They also learn how to work, share, love, nurture, juggle, and enjoy life. Once again, it is the model we set, rather than the specific teaching we attempt, that is going to have the biggest impact on a child's cognitive abilities and success in life."...more