I love Glimmer Train but this issue was just okay-ish. I thought that most of the stories tried too hard to be "literary" rather than actually tell muI love Glimmer Train but this issue was just okay-ish. I thought that most of the stories tried too hard to be "literary" rather than actually tell much of a story. (Perhaps my own tastes have diminished because these days a story has to be entertaining to keep my interest.) I liked Matthew Salesses' "The Grief Ministry" and could relate to certain parts of it very well. Jennifer Anne Moses' "Duty Free" was unique and interesting. One of the stories was quite poetic but I have already forgotten the name of it. So overall I would say these were rather bland, forgettable stories. I really enjoyed the interview at the end with Charles McCarry. I had never heard of him but after reading his interesting quotes and life story, I want to read his books. ...more
The first book I finished reading in 2015 was a good one. It is a young adult novel, but like many YA books, it explores the grown-up concepts of selfThe first book I finished reading in 2015 was a good one. It is a young adult novel, but like many YA books, it explores the grown-up concepts of self-esteem, body image, first love, family relationships, and more. It was a quick, light read with some profound moments.
The story follows 16-year-old Bethany Stern. (I thought she was really immature for a 16-year-old but I think that's to appeal to younger readers, or maybe 16-year-olds are just like that.) She lives in Baltimore and has a older, bratty sister, a mom who seems too self-absorbed to pay much attention to her, and a dad who's not really in the picture. She also has a humongous crush on her neighbor, an aspiring magician.
Bethany's mom has paid a lot of money-- and is quick to point this out-- for Bethany to attend fat camp in California. But the only problem is, she doesn't want to go. At the last minute she tries a "forgiveness diet" that she sees a TV ad for-- and boy does she have a lot to forgive, mainly, her father for leaving. But nonetheless she's off to fat camp, where she's desperate to escape, until she starts realizing that perhaps she should stay.
This book has some very funny, irreverent parts while also delving into some deep issues. My only critique is that I wanted MORE-- more about Bethany's relationship with her mom, more about why some of these girls (and boys!) are at fat camp, and more tying-up-of-the-loose-ends with TJ and some of the other characters (Hollywood?!). I hope the author writes a sequel or another book soon....more
I really wanted to like this book. And at first, I really did (well, once I got tired of trying to make it through the strange prologue parts and actuI really wanted to like this book. And at first, I really did (well, once I got tired of trying to make it through the strange prologue parts and actually started reading chapter 1). The book opened with scenes of the author's mother slowly dying of stomach cancer on the living room couch (and sometimes dying in the hospital). And then we learn that his father died of lung cancer. This guy who's about 20 years old just lost both of his parents and has to take care of his 8-year-old brother. Holy crap, is that a sad but interesting beginning of a memoir, or what.
I liked that part. It was so disturbing that at times I had to take a break from reading-- but I like books that hit me like that. Make it real, make me feel it. Great. And then we find out that the guy's parents were not very good parents at all. His father was an alcoholic and was abusive and his mother enabled him and failed to protect the four kids they had spawned. I liked that part. I'm a sucker for a good old fashioned dysfunctional family memoir -- they're my favorite kinds.
And I liked the book's ending because it suddenly got interesting again. I liked the parts in the middle that flashed back to the author's childhood and/or parents' death. But I found most of the stuff in the middle really really boring and pretentious. I guess to be fair the author had warned me in that boring prologue part that after the fourth chapter the book would get boring because it was about 20-somethings and 20-somethings are the most boring people there are.
20-somethings might be boring (but they also might be exciting)-- but Eggers sure seemed to go out of his way to make his story about his 20's as boring as possible. The way he wrote just went on and on and on about one stupid scene or thing forever and ever amen. I had little to no motivation to pick up the book again and keep reading it, except that I wanted to finish it so I could start reading something more interesting. (I really try to finish books I start, especially well-known books that I am interested in at first. I try to stick with the author and hope it gets better if I like it at first, or if I have a feeling it might get better. And I guess in the end it did get better but I'm really not so sure it was worth my time to get there. The ending wasn't nearly as good for me as the beginning and I felt like I had to wade through pages and pages of complete BS to get there.)
I had also heard that the ending of the book was amazing, so that's another reason I slogged through the middle. To me the ending was good but completely over-the-top and exaggerated, even more so than the rest of the book was, and so it didn't do for me what it has apparently done for some others. I feel like a traitor for saying this and maybe it reflects on my abilities as a reader, or maybe it's just that there's so much hype about the final scene that when I finally read it I was left thinking, "Okay, that's it? That's what everyone was talking about?" Or maybe I disliked the middle so much that by the end I was just done.
The relationship between the author and his younger brother was a mixture of sweet, sad and horrifying. I could sympathize with the author's plight and I could tell he loved his brother but mostly I felt bad for the innocent, precocious younger brother, Toph. Overall that was an interesting part of the book but to me it was told in a very uninteresting way. I really didn't care about their day spent at the park and didn't know why it took so many freakin' words to tell. I found their "conversations" (usually banter and making fun of each other) annoying.
I wasn't sure why the author went off on so many tangents. It would start to seem like a diary entry where he wanted to bemoan the fate of his friends or acquaintances who had had tragedy befall them, but it was hard to care about those characters because they weren't introduced or fleshed out before the tragedy occurred and we only got to see them in the context of their tragedy and how it affected the author. Except he didn't even seem that affected by it but instead more like a bystander who liked to watch the train wreck (maybe because it took away from the constant reminder of the train wreck he was living through). At one point near the end his friend John- one of the characters met with self-induced tragedy- calls the author out on this very thing that bothered me about the book. He said that the author was only interested in people with tragedies and he didn't put any of the nice fun happy normal stuff or people into his book.
So the author essentially called himself out on his narcissistic emotional vampirism of other people's tragedies. He knew what he was doing, yet he did it anyway. And I think that's what annoyed me the most about this book. He knew he was being boring, or obnoxious, or egotistical, yet he did it anyway. When someone has that level of self-awareness it is hard to see him as a victim of tragedy and I start to see him as a person who purposefully stays miserable and likes to inflict his misery on other people. Perhaps I take this book too personally and emotionally but it is hard not to do that when the author invited me into his life in such a personal way. I didn't mind the literary "tricks" of making fun of the memoir form while writing it or having the "characters" discuss the book or call out the author about his book in the middle of the book, but I didn't like them enough to not mind the book's super boring or annoying parts. I almost feel like the author wanted me to not like this book, and so I don't understand when people get slack for saying they didn't like it. To me that's irony at its finest.
I thought it was pretty cool that the author and friends were trying to start some ground-breaking literary magazine but I felt like they went about it the same way he went about writing this memoir and I could see why it failed. In my opinion there's such a thing as too much cynicism, sarcasm, and poking fun of a system of which you yourself are a part. I wanted to yell shut up already and either do something different or stop complaining.
Obviously I had very strong emotions about this book and I was going to rate it 2 stars but I have decided to rate it 3 stars because it did provoke a lot of thought and emotions in me, even if many of them were negative. And I think the writing at some points (especially the beginning) was very good and very interesting, so it wasn't a total bust. But I just wish the whole book was like that and that the author could get over himself enough to tell an interesting story instead of show off his literary tricks. (I know that's harsh but it's honestly how I feel about the book!) If the book were just its beginning, its end and maybe about 25% of its middle, I would give it 5 stars. But I guess it's my own fault for reading something that from its title and its prologue was obviously going to be pretty obnoxious. ...more
This book fit its name and was so strange that I still don't really know what to make of it. It starts out very strangely: a guy is on his way to commThis book fit its name and was so strange that I still don't really know what to make of it. It starts out very strangely: a guy is on his way to commit suicide but he decides not to do it because he has to poop and he would be embarrassed to be found that way. Then he gets lost and ends up in a town called Strangeville that is stuck in the past.
The Good: It is a rather entertaining read in that is usually a cute little tale that reads easily. The genre is hard to classify because it's supposed to be humorous (but I didn't find most of it very funny) but it's also rather dark and foreboding, almost like a horror or sci-fi book. At some points it gets really interesting and I kept waiting to find out the deep dark secrets of Strangeville. I guess you could say it mainly kept my attention and it was good for a mindless-type read (while pumping or feeding my son in the middle of the night or when a show I'm watching with my hubby gets boring etc.) Even though it was strange and full of what was meant to be dark humor, it was a light read with a pleasant feel and in fact reminded me of the movie "Pleasantville" (and also "Blast from the Past.") I got this book for free from BookBub and it was an okay free read. I give it 2.5 stars for entertainment value and price.
The Bad: There isn't much to the plot and it never really gets anywhere. What is supposed to be a big secret is quite obvious early on. I felt that there was quite a bit of potential but it's almost like the author was laughing at his characters and his readers. He would tease us with something serious but then hold back and act like his book was supposed to be about nothing... which I guess it was.
The Ugly: The whole town speaks in an awful southern dialect and all the characters are stereotypes of stupid Southern hicks. That made it very difficult to keep reading and contributed to my feeling that the author was making fun of everyone and everything, including his own characters and readers. The characters had really horrible stereotypical names like Bob McHicks (that isn't really a character's name, but close) and they did very strange things that aren't believable at all (like putting a chicken carcass in the blender), for no ascertainable reason. And the end is just horrid. I was left wondering why I wasted my time reading it and also why the author wasted his time writing it. I think it needs a lot of editing and plot help but the general idea is still good, and the concept stuck in my mind, so that's why I don't view reading it as a total waste of time....more
I read this book because I want to see the movie, and whenever possible (which admittedly isn't often) I try to read the book before seeing the movie.I read this book because I want to see the movie, and whenever possible (which admittedly isn't often) I try to read the book before seeing the movie. Plus, I had heard some juicy controversy about this book, mostly because it's classified as erotica and also because the author recently filed for bankruptcy after getting into trouble for tax evasion. (I don't really think that has anything to do with the book so I'm not going to go into that).
As for the book being classified as erotica, well, perhaps I'm not prudish enough but I really didn't think there was that much sex in it. It tried to go for more of a story/plot than straight sex and I would say that sex scenes made up about 20% of the book, if that. Erotica isn't really my thing and so I mostly skimmed over the sex scenes but I don't think they were that great. (I'm talking Anais Nin great, as that is the only erotica I've really read). I thought the author's terminology was really blunt and off-putting. Kind of like when people say they "popped out a kid" or "have to go take a dump" etc. Maybe regular readers of erotica would like the sex scenes but I didn't, and it's not because the sex bothered me, but rather because it wasn't very well-written for supposedly being an erotic book.
As for the plot... I guess all I can say is "um?" The first half or so of the book is quite captivating and for awhile I was addicted to the book and couldn't put it down. It starts out when the narrator is in therapy for a "sex addiction" and then flashes back to when she is a child and it gives a lot of background. But there is really nothing there to explain a later "sex addiction" so I was kind of confused about why I was reading about it at all. However, it was interesting.
At about half way through, the book goes into what the narrator terms her "sex addiction" but is really just a series of affairs with people who are more into her sexually than her husband is or ever was. I felt that this book did a disservice to women by sending a message that sexual desire and activity is shameful or forbidden. (I'm not talking about affairs, which I could understand... I'm talking about simple things like masturbation or wishing her husband would be more adventurous in bed). I think the author needs to look up the term "sex addiction" because it is nothing like what the narrator does. Some may say the narrator is trashy and she is definitely unfaithful to her husband, but to call it a "sex addiction" is not just not an excuse but it's an incorrect definition at that! I thought it telling that the husband wasn't given the same shaming for his inability to have sex with his wife or show much sexual interest in her at all.
Still, the book at that point was pretty interesting and I was following along in reading about the narrator's trysts and guilt and juicy pleasures etc. But then after about 2/3rds of the way in, the book just got crazy unrealistic. And its tone changed; it felt rushed and forced, like the author was trying to cram the plots of several different possible movies into one book before she finished it. There was little in-the-moment action or description and instead the narrator just runs through what seems like list after list of the out-of-this-world things that have happened to her and her husband in the past and even crazier things that are happening to her in the future. At that point I was just reading it so that I could finish the book but I kept asking myself, "Huh? Why is this happening and why should I care?" It was unbelievably far-fetched and just bad all around, in the last third of the book: bad plot, bad writing, bad dialog.
To top it all off, the narrator is unlikeable. She seems so entitled and even when she expresses "remorse" for cheating on her husband she is thinking about visiting her lover in the building where he works, and how she would do it except that she doesn't want to drag her lover into her current drama. It's not believable that the narrator feels bad for her husband and wants to change. It's not believable that she thinks she has, or wants to have, some perfect marriage. And the details don't even make sense. She supposedly runs some successful company so that she can have a Mercedes and Land Rover that she continually talks about, yet she's never at work and she just leaves for weeks on end to tend to her personal drama. Her husband is supposed to be an architect but it's revealed that usually all he does all day is masturbate. So it's hard to understand how these two characters supposedly make all their money. And they have three children (including twins) who are mentioned quite a bit in the first half of the book (when the book is pretty good) but are barely brought up at all in the second half (when the book is mostly pure crap), except for some self-serving "I have to go home and hug on my babies that I'm so glad to have" type of BS. These characters aren't working much, they're not with their kids much, and it's hard to see what they're really doing besides not having sex with each other, and one of them is out having sex with other people and trying to kill herself or get herself killed all the time. It's insane.
I think if the author had spent the time developing the character as an adult like she did when the character was younger, more things would have made sense and it would have been a much better book. As it is, though, I feel cheated because I was supposed to be reading a story about a sex addict, or at least a cheater, but instead it turned into a story about everything and anything under the sun except a coherent and fulfilling story. I give it 2.5 stars for entertainment value-- a good first half and a "wtf?!" second half-- but I would recommend skipping it all together as it's not worth the time....more
I used to love reading John Grisham's legal thrillers, and I picked up this book because it looked like a "female" version of his books. And it kind oI used to love reading John Grisham's legal thrillers, and I picked up this book because it looked like a "female" version of his books. And it kind of was, in that it involved a female lawyer and had a little bit of romance thrown in, but overall the biggest difference was that there is more "thriller" involved, whereas I would say Grisham involves more "suspense/intrigue." Grisham's books seem to center around the legal world and cases but Miller's book has that and more: it goes on exciting detours from the legal world and into a world involving Federal agents, thugs, and assassination attempts. So it's like a super-sized legal thriller that crosses over into other thriller genres.
"Irreparable Harm" is the first book in a series about Sasha McCandless, a senior associate at a big law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a rising star at the firm and is very good at, and devoted to, her job. Her life consists of working a lot, and taking krav maga classes. (I listened to most of this book and my husband heard "krav maga" and was simultaneously impressed and dubious. I didn't know what it was but apparently it's a form of self-defense training developed for the Israeli military. At first I found it extremely "convenient" and unrealistic that she would be trained in this art but as the story fleshes out, it actually kind of makes sense and becomes semi-believable.) The plot of the book is basically that Sasha finds out about an evil plot involving messing with airplanes, and she has to work with a Federal Marshall to figure out who-done-it, as well as escape the murder attempts of people who don't want her to make this discovery. She uses her sassy legal skills as well as her self-defense skills and plain old thinking skills to work it all out.
This book reminded me of everything I hated about being an associate at a law firm. (But was somehow still quite interesting in other ways.) It had quite a bit of legal mumbo-jumbo that I can't believe the average reader would understand or care about. I wondered why the author was spending so much time going into all of that but at the end it all came together and made more sense. (Of course some of it was necessary to explain the court proceedings and legal strategies, but the part about the make-up and functioning of a law firm seemed superfluous until the end-- and even then, I still found that a lot of it was unnecessary).
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on this book and if there was a 3.5 star option, I would have given it that. For pure entertainment value, it was a 4. But some of the stuff that happens is so outlandish that it annoyed me a little bit and I wanted to give it a 3. I found parts of the book to be "scripted" or overdone but I think that's part of the genre. (I don't read a lot of thrillers or even legal thrillers). But when the book was over I automatically wanted to start reading book 2 in the series, so it definitely held my attention and kept my interest. I think that this book appeals to a wide audience and that most readers would enjoy it. It would make a good beach or airplane read, but I added the audio and listened to it while I was cleaning and that was a good option too. ...more
I had never read a paranormal book-- nor a romance book, for that matter-- and this book is billed as both. I was surprised at how much I liked it conI had never read a paranormal book-- nor a romance book, for that matter-- and this book is billed as both. I was surprised at how much I liked it considering the genre! But in fact, "The Spellbound Spirit" is much more than paranormal romance. It's also mystery, thriller, suspense and a good old-fashioned "who done it" detective novel. (Not that those are my regular reading categories either!)
And as for the "paranormal" part... I really liked it. I never thought I would like a story about a ghost but I was enchanted while reading it. The book starts off with a woman who buys a pair of fancy lingerie from an antique store and soon very strange things start happening to her. The events that occur due to the haunted lingerie are really far-fetched but I just kept reading because I couldn't believe how crazy it all was. Part of this book's attraction is definitely that it is unpredictable! It is not at all a run-of-the-mill story. And meanwhile the main character's life-- as an administrative assistant at the sheriff's department-- continues, and this part is a lot more realistic, although things get crazy there too.
The book is well-written and the tone and writing sucked me in from the beginning. I think it was haunting me because I couldn't put it down.
My least favorite part was the "romance" part, as I couldn't really figure out what was up with the main character and her love interest, Deputy Jack Snow. There was some kind of back story that kept being hinted at and talked about but it seemed to change from "he totally abandoned and jilted me when we were extremely close lovers" to "one time we laid on the beach together and for that he owes me his undying devotion." To be honest the romance part was the least believable, whereas all the supernatural stuff was like "yeah, I could see that happening in this book... why not?"
Still, I'm giving this book 5 stars because I don't really care about romance plots and I loved the rest of the book. I was totally immersed in it at times and my husband kept asking, "Are you all right?" I'd say, "Yeah but you'll never believe what's happening in this crazy book I'm reading." (I nicknamed it "My Crazy Book.") I was sad when it was over and I already miss My Crazy Book. I really hope the author comes out with another book soon so my husband can start asking me if I'm okay again.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, with the caveat that it's rather "adult" themed and I think that some things are in here that wouldn't be in "traditionally published" books because it's self-published. To me this made the book more authentic in nature but I think that the conservative/religious crowd might be offended by this book. Otherwise I recommend it to anyone who wants to go on a wild ride and read a crazy but well-written book!...more
I chose this book by the cover (which was a different one than the lady-wearing-a-hat cover that it has now-- it was a fascinating picture of a littleI chose this book by the cover (which was a different one than the lady-wearing-a-hat cover that it has now-- it was a fascinating picture of a little girl on a swing) and I really wanted to like it. I can see that it has a lot of good reviews but I guess I'm just a dissenting voice, because I struggled to finish this book and I did not enjoy it. The story is about a woman named Vivi who uproots her teenage daughter Melissa to Greece on a whim when Vivi's marriage collapses. In Greece she goes off on frivolous pursuits while her daughter is still very troubled and having a hard time.
To me this book was a huge cliche. Everything bad that could possibly happen to someone happens to Vivi or Melissa. While these very serious and sad events are happening, the author inserts her own cliche jokes or random musings. It's like you're watching a movie where someone is better murdered and then there's a voiceover that comes on and says, "Well, at least she was wearing matching socks on the day that she was cut into pieces." (Which could be funny if that's the spirit of the movie but I found nothing funny about what was going on with the daughter and it seemed like Vivi/the author were making light of very serious issues! So it would be more like the character's daughter is being killed in the movie and the mother thinks, "Well, at least I'm wearing cute underwear on the day my daughter is cut into pieces. Where's that hot doctor? I'm off to find him!"). The plot was so far-fetched and unrealistic. And of course it had the obligatory push-and-pull plot with a heartthrob love interest, which I also found very over-the-top and unbelievable. Almost all the characters were like cardboard cut-out stereotypes and were really shallow.
Probably worse than any of the above was the fact that the book had a lot of typos and grammatical errors. At one point the author spells her own character's name wrong! (Christos instead of Kristos). I felt that there was very lazy writing and editing. I know it's a self-published book (and I enjoy reading them) but that's all the more reason to look professional and present the material in the best way possible.
As for redeeming qualities of the book, I can say the following: It was free for me to buy, so I guess I can't complain that much about a free book. It's an easy/fast read. (I suppose it's okay book for the beach or plane). I liked the cover on the book I read but not necessarily the new cover. I'm not a huge fan of point of view switches in a story but the only part I enjoyed reading was written from the daughter Melissa's point of view. At some points it seemed convincing for a teenager (while at other points it did not and just seemed cliched or unrealistic). There is a dog featured in the story, which I always enjoy. And the setting is unique. I liked reading about Greece but I didn't like when the author would patronize me by inserting parentheticals explaining what a Greek custom or word is. I appreciate the background but I thought she should have explained it organically in the story rather than as if she were a sixth grade teacher inserting a lesson in the middle of the story.
Apparently most readers liked this book so I may be off the wall in ripping it to shreds. Maybe I have odd taste or maybe I'm not the book's intended audience. I did want to add my opinion, though, because it was hard for me to stomach this book and I do not recommend it, but that's just me....more
I read this book because Elizabeth Strout's linked short story collection "Olive Kitteridge" is one of my favorite books, and I wanted to read more byI read this book because Elizabeth Strout's linked short story collection "Olive Kitteridge" is one of my favorite books, and I wanted to read more by the same author. I was not disappointed. Like "Olive Kitteridge," "Amy and Isabelle" is set in a small New England town and features everyday characters with dark secrets, and it is written in a sparse and distant tone that sucks me in from the beginning and keeps me enthralled the whole way through.
I actually thought this book was about sisters, but Isabelle is an older, single mother and Amy is her 16-year-old daughter. Isabelle is known to be cold and distant, and she is very strict in raising her daughter. Amy is awkward, and not just the typical teenager kind of awkward: she is painfully self-conscious and shy, and can't easily relate to anyone except for her one friend Stacey. Amy alternates between love and hate for her mother, and it seems that Isabelle alternates between love for her daughter and hatred for herself or for life in general that is so powerful that it causes her to not be able to love her daughter in the way that Amy likely needs. She doesn't seem to understand, accept, or unconditionally love her, although it's clear that she does love her in her own way or to the best of her ability, maybe. In that sense the book was overwhelmingly sad for me, and I rooted for the awakening of both characters, which does come (to some extent) by the end, but in a more realistic way than one would expect in a novel.
I can't say more about the plot without giving things away, so I won't. I knew nothing about the plot of the book when I started reading it, and I think it's best that way. I will say that the events that unfold are quite shocking and disturbing. There is some dark subject matter here that I imagine some readers wouldn't like. But it remains true to life and is a portrait of both a mother and a daughter as well as a town and its townspeople. It is mostly a coming of age story, as well as a story about a rather dysfunctional little family that is trying to overcome a lot of issues, and it's even, surprisingly, about the power of female friendship and solidarity. At its heart I would say it's about human nature, including all of its hypocrisy, irony and deep dark secrets that everyone seems to carry around with us until we can find the right time and place to unburden ourselves, hopefully with the help of an understanding support system.
I read this book in just a few days (granted, I was on vacation and had a lot of time to read at the beach and on the plane) and was really captivated by it. It's no fluffy beach read but the writing and character portrayal is just excellent enough to have kept my attention despite its heavy and dark story. I would recommend it to anyone although it's definitely more of a book for and about women than men. ...more
This book is ridiculously unrealistic. A nurse gets away with doing things that seem to violate all kinds of professional ethics rules. Heck, the entiThis book is ridiculously unrealistic. A nurse gets away with doing things that seem to violate all kinds of professional ethics rules. Heck, the entire plot is unrealistic. A nerdy high school girl turns into a lonely middle-aged woman who suddenly gets a chance with the high school hunk, except that he's dying of a brain tumor and she happens to be his nurse. The high school hunk's high school sweetheart turned rekindled romance even comes to stay with them, and even though she's a successful divorce lawyer, she claims to be able to work from anywhere and take all the time off that she needs.
Most of the time while reading this book I was like, "Yeah right." Still, I enjoyed it. I was a big Elizabeth Berg fan in high school and I randomly decided to pick up a book of hers that I hadn't read back then. I read most of it in one sitting. It was an easy and interesting, if not a bit cliched and predictable, read. And it was very very sad. A tear-jerker for sure. There are parts towards the end that are really beautiful and deep. What do you think about, or talk about, when you're dying? The small details of life become important and the things that once seemed so important fade away. The main character is pretty well-developed, if not a big of a cardboard cut-out, and I liked that the story interspersed flashbacks from high school and her relationship with her mom with how she is today. Some of the other characters were rather stereotypical, and I couldn't really "believe" the love interest character. But I still read along with interest. I would recommend this book to anyone who can suspend their disbelief in the name of a good story, which, in my opinion, is very well-written in some parts, especially towards the end....more
This is one of the best books I've read in awhile. It was very timely and appropriate for me, and so i must say that if anyone has experienced a miscaThis is one of the best books I've read in awhile. It was very timely and appropriate for me, and so i must say that if anyone has experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, you will totally be able to relate to this book. It's about a group of women who meet in a support group for moms who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. It traces each woman's story and background. I couldn't put the book down and I am really grateful to the author for having written this book. I had an early miscarriage and then a full-term stillbirth. My husband's cousin sent me this book afterwards and it really helped to read about (fictional) women to whom I could really relate. I also think the author writes very well and I would love to read other novels by her, no matter what their subject matter. I would highly recommend this book....more
This novel is about a women caught in mid-life and marriage boredom, who starts filling out an online marriage survey. First of all, I would advise anThis novel is about a women caught in mid-life and marriage boredom, who starts filling out an online marriage survey. First of all, I would advise anyone who has a Kindle/eBook reader NOT to buy this book because it doesn't show you the survey questions as the book goes along-- only her answers to the questions, most of which are entirely useless without context. If you have a hard copy of the book you can bookmark the survey and flip back to it each time she answers a question (but even that is annoying, I would imagine-- as was electronically bookmarking the survey questions page and having to go back and forth all the time while reading). In my opinion this choice downgraded the book from 3 stars to 2.5 stars for me, because it was horribly inconvenient for me as the reader and I don't know why the author couldn't have just included the questions before the answers. It was very stupid and frustrating, to say the least.
Anyway, I read this novel for a book club I'm in, and mostly on airplanes and in the airport while traveling. I would say that it was fine for that kind of a book-- "beach read" or "airplane read"-- for entertainment value. It is a quick read which for the most part kept my interest, but I agree with the consensus of my book group that it is superficial and rather cliched.
Sure, there are some good lessons in here for people who are married but that's pretty much because it's the tired-and-true story of a middle-aged woman who has been married for a long time and is bored with it. The book did a include a new twist-- social networking and email communication, etc., which I thought was important because that is how people communicate these days and I don't know why more books haven't explored this theme and medium. At the same time, I think this twist could have been included along with a more solid story line and better developed characters, all of which seemed to fall by the wayside, sacrificed for the sake of the technology inclusion.
I was disappointed with the characters because they had strong potential but the author seemed to forget all about them with her attempt to splatter electronic communication all throughout the book. I mean I guess that goes to show that one of the dangers of getting so caught up in technology and the Internet world is that you forget about your own family and the down to earth relationships you have in real life. So perhaps it was intentional but still, the kids are brought up in the beginning but then forgotten about until mid-way through the book when the daughter starts having all these issues and I as a reader was left thinking, "Um, I would CARE more if I had learned more about this along the way." I also think that is a remark on modern society though (or maybe it has always been this way)-- the teenaged kids are in their own world, the parents are in their own world, and it's hard for the two worlds to intersect and create meaningful connections.
I did think the main character was selfish but relatable... I would say she's a spot-on caricature of a privileged, middle-aged American woman, so, the character was true to type. Some people in my book group thought the husband seemed selfish or clueless, but I don't really agree-- to me he was just a normal guy, doing his thing, but also in his own unique way, which was pretty cool. I thought his character could have been explored more, like all the other characters, but from what I saw of him, he just seemed like an average or better-than-average dude. Yes his career was in crises but whose isn't these days? I don't really blame him for his career malaise and I think he was taking actions to shake things up and create radical change-- which I guess the main character was also doing in her own way, although I was not nearly as sympathetic to her, and she seemed a lot more passive while the husband seemed a lot more active.
There's something else I want to say about this book but I think even hinting at it would be too much of a spoiler, so, I'll stop here. In general I don't think anyone will miss anything if they DON'T read this book, but if they do, they will probably be entertained for a few hours, and then go "meh" and move on with their lives. ;) It's not earth-shattering nor, in my opinion, is it extremely well-written or well-plotted, but it does have some remarks to make on the status of modern American marriages.
Final rating: 2.5 stars (Would be 3 except for the ridiculous choice to only show the main characters' answers to the survey, and leave the survey questions in the back of the book. Grrrrr!)...more
These stories are mostly magical realism, which I hadn't read outside of the Latin-American genre (these are Japanese). Some of them were outlandishlyThese stories are mostly magical realism, which I hadn't read outside of the Latin-American genre (these are Japanese). Some of them were outlandishly far-fetched, which I don't really go for, but most of them were great. I couldn't stop reading a lot of the stories and I still go back and re-read many of them. I would recommend this book and I want to read more by Murakami....more
I devoured this book, reading it mostly over the period of two days and becoming completely engrossed in it. It's the story of a boy who is a senior aI devoured this book, reading it mostly over the period of two days and becoming completely engrossed in it. It's the story of a boy who is a senior at an all-boys' prep school in the 1960's. He is enamored by the written word: he loves to read and he wants to be a writer. Many of the other boys at his school are the same way, and many, including the narrator, are pretty competitive and driven to outshine the other boys in the literary arena.
Objectively speaking, there's a lot about the book to critique-- a lot that some people wouldn't like, and that I didn't necessarily like. Take, for instance, the fact that we never learn the narrator's name, not to mention the name of his school, or the exact setting of his school. Or take the fact that on its surface the plot could seem rather boring, and it lacks a conflict until towards the end. Basically the boy writes stories for a school contest in which the winner gets to meet one of the visiting authors who come to the school: first Robert Frost, then Ayn Rand, and then Ernest Hemingway. The story is told like a memoir, or almost like a diary, which gives the reader a very limited view of the world at large and instead focuses on the boy's inner thoughts and limited experiences. At some points I guess this could get frustrating because I wanted to know more details about certain things and less details about certain things. And I suppose the narrator isn't all that likeable, because he can seem petty, insecure, and perhaps even snotty over things that many people would think insignificant or banal: who can write the best essay, or who can memorize a passage by Faulkner, etc.
What made me love this book despite all of the above would-be flaws was that I could completely identify with the narrator's immersion in literature. I loved how he loved words, he loved thinking about books and authors, how he loved dreaming about being a writer. I could completely relate. At one point he gets all caught up in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, which I also did in high school, and he spends all the time he is supposed to be writing his story instead reading or thinking about the book. Another thing that I liked is that I felt that much of the book must have been autobiographical, and I know that Wolff is known for his memoirs. I don't know whether it is or not, although I know that Wolff went to a prep school called the Hills and that the front cover photograph is of his class at dinner. But I kept wondering how much of the book was kind of a trick that Wolff was playing on the readers, because at certain points the narrator would start wondering about how much of an author's work is reflective of the author's life, and vice versa. I loved Wolff's portrayals of the different famous authors and I wondered what he used (except for legend, and maybe that was all) to write so convincingly in fiction about these larger-than-life characters.
For me the only issue I had with the book was that I really didn't like the last chapter, and I was left wondering what the book's overarching theme was supposed to be, if any. At first I thought the book was about how many writers or would-be writers are really only dreamers, and it inspired me to actually take action and write and work hard at it instead of just thinking about how much I'd love to be an author like all the famous authors. Obviously not many published writers are famous and it seems to me that the allure to be well-known as an author can sometimes outshine the down and dirty aspect of just sitting down and writing, with the realization that maybe few people if any will actually read your work. Kind of like the guts is more important than the glory thing. But by the end I thought maybe the book was supposed to be about redemption, or about how all humans are fallible and make mistakes and have secrets, and to me there was a disconnect between that theme and the earlier theme. I obviously liked the earlier theme and therefore thought the later theme or explanation unnecessary.
Anyway, I can't put into words why I loved this book so much. I think it is simply that it captures the experience of being a reader and a wannabe writer. In my opinion people who love literature will love this book and people who like more of an entertaining story or likeable character could probably hate this book. I personally loved it and wish it was longer because it seemed to be over way too fast. I give this book 4.5 stars and classify it as one of my favorites!...more