This is a memoir about a kid whose parents, who are free-thinking whites, are poor enough that they live in the lower east side of Manhattan at a timeThis is a memoir about a kid whose parents, who are free-thinking whites, are poor enough that they live in the lower east side of Manhattan at a time when that area was mostly black and Puerto Rican. These parents are not too attuned to their children and pretty much the Dalton grows up on the streets of lower Manhattan as a white minority. His descriptions are great, his insight unique. Having myself grown up on the streets of the same island, but a world away on the upper east side, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and looking into his world through a totally different window. ...more
I found this book fascinating. It's two stories, intertwined -- all well researched and cited. One portion of th book centers on the creation of the CI found this book fascinating. It's two stories, intertwined -- all well researched and cited. One portion of th book centers on the creation of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and John Burnham, the chief architect. The book showcases the rise of modern architecture as we know it and outlines all the pitfalls, difficulties and ego-centric problems that an endeavor of this huge magnitude entails. The author writes this portion of the book in a way that is technically precise, but not boring - although I might be biased as I lived in the area for many years and just loved hearing about the city of Chicago and how it grew.
The other portion of the book deals with a notorious serial killer who went by the name of H. H. Holmes. He operated his gruesome "hobby" at the same time that Burnham's group was creating a masterpiece. The true crime section is riveting and kept me up way past my sleep time.
To me a good book leads to great discussion and further reading -- I totally enjoyed looking for images of the buildings created by the architects of the time, and furthering my reading on the creation of cities, as well as looking for additional information and images of H. H. Holmes, his "castle" and his victims. ...more
I put off reading this because right after I received it there was a thread of "worst reads of the year" and this one came up several times. It got stI put off reading this because right after I received it there was a thread of "worst reads of the year" and this one came up several times. It got stuck at the bottom of my tbr. Having totally forgotten that thread over time, I just recently picked it up again and I am now very happy that I did forget because I actually enjoyed this book. For starters, I read it on a long plane flight, so I got 100 pages into it before putting it down. That made a difference. Other than that, the storyline was very interesting. Kath, the narrator is a carer and has been for 11 years which is a long time. This is sort of how the book starts out. But then we find ourselves in a British boarding school with a bunch of kids, seemingly normal but just slightly off. While it doesn''t take long to figure out what is going on, I won''t spoil it by letting on the rest of the details.
Here''s the thing though with this novel. The emotions the kids go through in this book, the emotional rollercoaster of growing up, figuring out who you can confide in, who will betray you, looking back on your weak moments and forming long-lasting relationships - those are all universal and span the generations. In that sense I thought the book was brilliant. In his seeming simplicity, the book was powerful. However, I did feel the characters lacked depth, they were a bit unidimensional when the whole idea was that they too, indeed, had dimension. They were a bit flat. The plot itself seemed to also have a few loose ends, bits that truly should have been explained and not just glanced over, in order for the book, on the whole, to be more plausible.
In any case, this is a book that resonated with me, whose themes will pop into my head cause me to think for a long time to come. ...more
This one just didn't do it for me. I never did get into the characters and sped-read the last third of the book just to finish it. I kept wanting it tThis one just didn't do it for me. I never did get into the characters and sped-read the last third of the book just to finish it. I kept wanting it to go beyond the superficialities of a story and into the depth of race relations, pre- civil rights era, but it only barely touched on that aspect. ...more
I really needed to read something easy, fast and uplifting and this book hit the spot. I had already seen the movie, but frankly didn't remember a whoI really needed to read something easy, fast and uplifting and this book hit the spot. I had already seen the movie, but frankly didn't remember a whole lot except that the main character was Hugh Grant!...more
I always feel like I'm supposed to like John Irving more than I actually do. This book was interesting and I'm glad I read it, but maybe just not my sI always feel like I'm supposed to like John Irving more than I actually do. This book was interesting and I'm glad I read it, but maybe just not my style....more
This was my very first Jane Austen book, and I'm afraid to say I was disappointed. Part of the problem was taht my copy has very small font so I actuaThis was my very first Jane Austen book, and I'm afraid to say I was disappointed. Part of the problem was taht my copy has very small font so I actually went to the library and borrowed one of theirs to finish it, but that still didn't completely fix the problem. I can't put my finger on my issue with the book, but I didn't care about the characters and I found the writing stilted and wordy. I did watch a biography of Jane Austen on PBS and found out that this was her first effort. I look forward to giving her another chance with Pride and Prejudice which I hope will be better....more
This one started out pretty well, but slogged tremendously in the middle. I didn't like her 1st person, present tense writing style and felt that sheThis one started out pretty well, but slogged tremendously in the middle. I didn't like her 1st person, present tense writing style and felt that she digressed quite a bit. I thought it could have been much better, however, I applaud her for getting her story written and published ; I think we all have a story worth telling, but very few of us have what it takes to get it published,so in that sense it has a lot of merit. ...more
This book was different. It takes place in South Africa and deals with the fall from a coveted position of a university professor who must face the woThis book was different. It takes place in South Africa and deals with the fall from a coveted position of a university professor who must face the world without the crutch of his title or status. The author adds no extra verbiage yet leaves nothing out. I thought the book was excellent....more
An amazing story of a family of Baptist missionaries who move to the Belgium Congo to spread the word of God. The book explores religion, colonizationAn amazing story of a family of Baptist missionaries who move to the Belgium Congo to spread the word of God. The book explores religion, colonization, ignorance, cultural arrogance and so many other layers of topics. ...more
*******SPOILER*******This is the story of Lily, an old woman in her eighties, who reflects back on her life in China in the early 19th Century, her fa*******SPOILER*******This is the story of Lily, an old woman in her eighties, who reflects back on her life in China in the early 19th Century, her family, her laotong or "old same" Spring Moon, and most of all, her one big regret in life. Lily starts off as a young girl of 5, a useless daughter,almost a non-entity in her own home, who is soon to have her feet bound and her life restricted. She will endure years of unimaginable pain and hardship from the binding of her feet. Having the perfect 7 cm foot in Imperial China was an aspiration that all well bred girls (indeed any girl who was not a servant or field worker) desired. The feet were bound for many reasons, as things of beauty (which from pictures I looked at on the internet, didn't seem very attractive to me), and as a pleasure point for a husband, bound feet were expected of any girl who wished to be married.
At about this time, Lily is paired up with Spring Moon, a young girl from another village who was born on the same day and year as Lily. This pairing is almost a marriage, in that parents are involved, there are various ceremonies, gifts are exchanged and a contract of friendship, trust and loyalty is signed. The union is called a laotang and lasts for life. These girls spend a good part of their childhoods together, going through the excruciating pain of having their feet bound, which is also explained in detail and is not for the fainthearted. The binding is done by each girl's mother. Lily's mother seems to be one of the most uncaring, heartless and cruel creatures I've ever read about. This process of binding and of the girls' bonding through their childhood years takes up quite a bit of the book and is interesting in that it seems as though the lack of love and approval that the "useless" daughter received through her own home, is channeled into the affection given to the laotang. The girls develop a strong bond and love towards one another and grow to depend on one another for their emotional needs. The novel takes us through Lily's marriage to a family of a higher class, and to Spring Moon's marriage to one of the most despicable of families - that of a butcher. Over the years the girls maintain their friendship through nu shu, a secret form of writing developed by women for women. It is a variation on men's writing, but used only by women, often telling stories in the creases of fans, or added to a bit of embroidery on shoes or handkerchiefs or articles of clothing. Over the years the girls send each other many forms of secret messages, poems and songs of friendship and hardship. But over time, Spring Moon's unfortunate circumstances and Lily's good fortune in both husband and all-important mother in law relationship, cause a rift that will be difficult to surmount. From Lily's place of entitlement, she loses her ability to empathize with her loatang and ultimately jeopardizes the friendship. This novel is as much about the miserable history of women in China as it is about the ability to love, the power of a true friendship and redemption. All in all, not an easy read in that the circumstances of these women, bound to a second story room for years due to their inability to walk on 7 cm feet, bound to the harsh words of mothers-in-law and higher-ups in the family, this was all so foreign and unpleasant, that while I'm glad I read the book, I can't say I enjoyed it.
It did, however, force me to think about the plight of women all around the world, about the seemingly never-ending ability of men to demean women, to keep them limited in what they do and say in one way or another. The arranged marriages, loveless lives, the hierarchy of boys and men over women and daughters is not limited to China, but in one way or another, has been seen the world over, from India to the Middle East to Churches of just about all faiths around the world. Why has man had the intrinsic necessity of containing women and demonizing them? That question was not addressed -- maybe the author will in another book.
This book will soon be passed on to another couple of readers....more
"...a highly entertaining, sometimes harrowing account of his family's move from foggy London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tr"...a highly entertaining, sometimes harrowing account of his family's move from foggy London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore converge--and nothing is as easy as it seems..."
Journal Entry 2 by istop4books from Mankato, Minnesota USA on Friday, January 26, 2007 10 out of 10
This is a wonderful, funny and enlightening book. It is non-fiction, a sort of year-in-the-life book about a family that moves from dreary, gray England to a dilapidated old palatial house in Casablanca. The writer it witty and insightful and right on as far as his descriptions. I just can't say enough about this book for the arm-chair travelers out there and even more so for anyone who has ever been to Morocco. Having been there myself a couple of years ago made the reading all the better....more
This novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead, somewhere near Boston and Maine in the near future. Christian fundamentalist men have overtaken theThis novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead, somewhere near Boston and Maine in the near future. Christian fundamentalist men have overtaken the country completely and have religiously cleansed the country of undesireables. They have also confined the women into pre-conceived pigeon holes of housekeeping, breeding, and life threatening jobs -- all tightly controlled by a society of men who kill, maim and torture their opponents using a variety of methods already seen in the history of man. The story is told from the point of view of one person Offred, who reveals in bits and pieces how society allowed this to happen, by ruse and show undermining of free press and communication. She was separated from her husband, her child and her mother, afraid to talk, afraid of the spy system, made to look at dead hanging people, and constantly in fear of retaliation for misdeeds, Offred is a survivor.
Although I found the story a bit unbelievable, I didn't take it at face value - there were too many holes. However, the truth is that some aspects of this have happened in India, in Afghanistan, the rest of the Middle East and in the mormon community. Do we really have freedom of the press in the US? How much of what we hear and read is the whole truth and not just fed to us? While I don't think the story made an accurate case for the possibility of a fundamentalist takeover, I is a book which makes you think and managed to be very moving.
Well this book just blew me away. Here I bought it because I thought it was about a town in England, but no, it's about...hmm...what is it really abouWell this book just blew me away. Here I bought it because I thought it was about a town in England, but no, it's about...hmm...what is it really about? I guess in part it is a treatise as to where hermaprodites come from, how they feel and how they get to come to grips with who they are, but it is also about ignorance, about hating that of which we are most ignorant, about having empathy, about the evolution of science. It's also about family ties, about Greek and Turkish history and a century in Detroit. It is a wonderful, poignant, powerful book and I highly recommend it. ...more