"This was one of the massive summer reads for my online Classics Club book club. I even think I nominated it as an option, so I am admittedly a fan of...more"This was one of the massive summer reads for my online Classics Club book club. I even think I nominated it as an option, so I am admittedly a fan of this work. I first read it in 1996, back when I was supposed to be avoiding anything in English as part of the contract for my German immersion summer school program. However, this book was part of my rebellion from slogging through all things German for six weeks. Unfortunately, while I remember quite a bit from that summer, this book was not one of those things. I guess focusing on German for all but an hour a day caused me not to retain much of anything non-German related.[return][return]This book has quite the cast of characters from the snobby rich, proud poor, and blissfully ignorant middle class, good, bad, unfortunate, lucky and everything else in between. The one thing that I truly enjoy about this book is the fact that each of the key main characters grows, sometimes for the worse, throughout the novel. Those who start out overbearing redeem themselves as their stories progress, and vice versa. It really is a great novel to study human behavior.[return][return]To summarize such a tome I feel can't be done. There are SO many subplots, relationships, and side stories that there really is not one overarching story. Part of this, in my opinion, is due to the way it was published - in weekly serial format. Another reason for this is the fact that it is just like living in a small town. The relationships, familial and otherwise, the different classes, occupations and such all have their own stories and subplots. The subtitle of the book is ""A Study of Provincial Life"", and Ms. Eliot definitely succeeds in presenting provincial life in crystal clarity.[return][return]There were some in my book club who just couldn't get into this book or did not like it. Make no mistake, this is a difficult book to get through at times. There are political and religious discussions that go on for pages and can cause the eyes to roll back into the head, but taken overall, it is well worth the struggle. The characters and the descriptions are so realistic that you can picture exactly what life was like for each of the characters. More importantly, not everyone gets a happy ending, which is as it should be.[return][return]While I wouldn't call it the best novel written, I can see how it gets that moniker and would recommend Middlemarch to others. It is well worth the time and effort it takes to get through it, as it presents one of the most complete pictures of life in 1840s England that I've ever had the pleasure of reading."(less)
I must apologize to Ms. Clare for unfairly judging this series. I read City of Bones during the spring read-a-thon and thought it was just okay. It di...moreI must apologize to Ms. Clare for unfairly judging this series. I read City of Bones during the spring read-a-thon and thought it was just okay. It didn't rock my world or make me even want to continue reading the series. It wasn't horrible but it did nothing for me. During a quick trip to the library recently, I happened to notice the final two books in the series sitting on the shelf, and I thought I would try the Mortal Instruments series again. I am definitely glad I did because I was completely wrong about this series.
My original complaint about Jace was the fact that he was too jaded and too impetuous in his actions. City of Ashes shows why he is the way he is. His conflict about his father, his need to feel important and his fearlessness all become understandable as Ms. Clare reveals more about Jace's very intriguing past. Rather than a character I struggled to like, Jace quickly became the character with whom I had the most sympathy.
I recant my thoughts on Clary as well. She is not the damsel in distress but rather the one who understands the importance of love and loyalty and would sacrifice her life for her loved ones. Her unerring faith in the heroes versus the bad guys means that she will never quit doing what she thinks is right. In City of Ashes, Clary also grows in her knowledge of herself and her powers. The transformation of her character from one who is weak to one who is willing to lead by example is quite impressive and pleasurable to read.
Did I compare Simon to Duckie from Pretty in Pink? Boy, was I wrong on that assessment! Rather than the lovelorn sidekick best friend, Simon comes into his own during City of Ashes. His story takes an unexpected turn of events, one that in no way impacts the overarching plot. I admire his ability to adapt and overcome his new..."handicap". Like Jace and Clary, he grows and comes to stand on his own as an equal versus a sidekick.
Overall, I am so glad that I gave this series another chance. It is unlike any other paranormal YA story I've read, combining multiple mythologies in a way that makes sense and is tremendously fulfilling. The story itself is engaging and suspenseful. A fun and distracting read, it is well worth the time and effort to get to know Jace, Clary, Simon and the rest of the Lightwoods.(less)
Being able to fall into people’s dreams, to see their deepest and darkest desires, is not something I would wish on an enemy. Yet Janie handles hersel...moreBeing able to fall into people’s dreams, to see their deepest and darkest desires, is not something I would wish on an enemy. Yet Janie handles herself with aplomb, making Wake an enjoyable read. Lisa McMann’s signature style allows the reader to get a good understanding of Janie and her struggle with her power without bogging down into details or overly descriptive passages; this also makes Wake a very fast read. Janie is a fun character with a very different problem, one that makes it difficult for her to navigate her way through the tricky halls of high school. Of all the superpowers to have, Janie’s is probably one of the worst ones. A reader is immediately drawn to her fragility but her willingness to fight to control her powers. Wake is not necessarily a departure from similar stories but is enhanced by Ms. McMann’s ability to weave a story. (less)
Bestsellers are tricky reading, especially after they have been released for a while. One of three things can happen: either one has high expectations...moreBestsellers are tricky reading, especially after they have been released for a while. One of three things can happen: either one has high expectations and are invariably disappointed, one starts reading the book having already decided that public opinion knows best and that it is worth the hype, or one starts reading with an eye to disprove the hype. While reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I feel into that latter category. Don't get me wrong; it is not a horrible book. I just do not feel it is as good as everyone was telling me it was.
One of its weakest points is the language and translation itself. Entire passages were extremely clunky, and the fascination with technological details was jarring to the overall story while also dating the book horribly. I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Larsson really meant to define what an MP3 player was or go into details about the type of iBook Lisbeth was using. Also, Mikael was a difficult character to like. For a journalist, he certainly has some decent military knowledge. The brief explanation about his previous military service seemed inadequate. He was surprisingly ethical about his journalistic integrity but rather lax in his personal ethics regarding relationships with women. The two halves just did not mesh very well.
That being said, Lisbeth certainly lived up to the hype. Enigmatic, incredibly intelligent and ferociously independent, she is worthy of anyone's admiration. That being said, her ethical boundaries were also rather thin, if nonexistent, which made for difficult reading at times. While she was invariably out to help bring down the bad guys, one can easily imagine how vague that definition could easily get. The murder mystery was interesting, if just a little predictable and rather slow. The biggest complaint is that the pacing of the entire story is rather glacial. One wants a suspense to be a little more nerve-wracking from the very beginning and not have to wait until halfway through the novel before the pace picks up.
I cannot be upset I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is popular for a reason; there were just too many issues I found that prevented me from enjoying the book as much as others have. While Lisbeth is fascinating, I have no desire to read the rest of the series and am satisfied with what little I learned. For once, I'll satisfy myself with the movies to find out the rest of the story.(less)
Owen Meany is meant to be annoying; his voice, his size, and his sense of purpose, among others, all highlight Johnny's own love/hate relationship wit...moreOwen Meany is meant to be annoying; his voice, his size, and his sense of purpose, among others, all highlight Johnny's own love/hate relationship with Owen. This is one area in which Mr. Irving succeeds. Unfortunately, he succeeds so well that it truly impacted my thoughts on the book itself. A Prayer for Owen Meany is so sweeping in its gesture of heroism and true friendship, in its ideals of self-sacrifice and remorse that the reader should have some sympathy for Owen's fate and Johnny's plight. Yet, my own annoyance with Owen prevented me from truly caring.
My feelings for Owen are as conflicted as Johnny Wheelwright's are. Owen is at times so manipulative, so condescending, so righteous and so devout, I had issues with almost everything he said and did. I cannot understand why people listened to him, never questioned him and followed him blindly. Present-day John Wheelwright reflects on past events with equal parts bitterness and fond remembrance, making it difficult for a reader to discern John's own feelings for Owen. Is it true love, as his current employer and her husband thinks? Is it completely platonic? The love/hate dynamic that exists within John regarding Owen gives the reader permission to feel similarly. It is an allowance on the part of the author like no other.
As with any novel of this length, there are many feints and sleights of hand, making it nearly impossible for the reader to predict, let alone follow at times. Mr. Irving did an excellent job starting out with one story, uncovering bits and pieces of it, only to uncover the whole truth rather dramatically at the end and forcing the reader to realize just how wrong he or she was. Not only does it make the story that much more enjoyable, it makes certain scenes in the story quite horrific because one does not see it coming until much too late.
Like most people who aspire to write a Dickensian novel, including Mr. Dickens himself, A Prayer for Owen Meany suffers from a tendency towards wordiness and rambling over inane topics. When the story was on track, it was concise, intriguing, and intelligently written. Unfortunately, many times throughout the novel, the narrator veered off onto various tangents, making it quite easy to tune out while listening to this as an audio book. However, like Dickens' works, tuning out proved to be quite dangerous because even the most innocuous comment on the most random tangent became a clue to final mystery of Owen's fate.
As hinted at in the title, A Prayer for Owen Meany revolves around the idea of faith. Many of the characters either question theirs, have lost theirs, or have no doubts about theirs. As a reader, it is not a novel to be read searching for answers. In fact, I feel that because my own feelings about religion and faith are so confused, I could not adequately appreciate this key theme. As religion is mentioned on practically every page, this is a huge omission on my part and directly impacted my reaction to certain scenes.
On audio, one can get a true sense of Owen's unique voice. Joe Barrett does this to perfection, employing a high-pitched, nasal tonality that truly does grate on the nerves. The impact of "that voice" from "that boy" takes on an entirely new meaning because the listener understands completely what a character may be experiencing when faced with Owen and his voice for the first time. As for the rest of the audio performance, Mr. Barrett excels. His voice is conversationalist in tone, pleasant and soothing to one's ear, except for when voicing Owen's lines. His characterization of each of the characters is subtle yet distinct, making it easy for the listener to distinguish between Grandmother and Hester, Aunt Martha and John's mother, Dan Needham versus Reverend Louis Merrill, and so forth. His enunciation is crisp and clear, and his adoption of a faint New England accent adds to the overall experience.
In spite of, or even maybe because of, my feelings for Owen, A Prayer for Owen Meany is a fascinating book. The story itself is engaging and quite interesting. There are enough teasers and hints as to Owen's fate, that the reader is compelled to continue with the story to confirm all suspicions or suggestions. The characters themselves are all quite memorable. Cousin Hester and Grandmother remain two of my favorites, Hester as the tortured soul and Grandmother as a revered matriarch of an entire town. While I may not agree entirely with the final message regarding miracles and spiritual belief, I can respect what Mr. Irving was trying to accomplish, for no matter what one's beliefs are about faith, A Prayer for Owen Meany forces the reader to reevaluate those beliefs. Well-written and perfectly executed, it will keep one pondering the idea of faith for a long time. (less)
Horror – a feeling of intense fear, anxiety, or hopelessness; something that causes a very strong feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. The Stand is a h...moreHorror – a feeling of intense fear, anxiety, or hopelessness; something that causes a very strong feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. The Stand is a horror story through and through, and after reading it, one has no problems understanding why Stephen King is considered the master of the horror story. On this post-apocalyptic cautionary tale, Mr. King takes readers on the ultimate emotional roller coaster, through the highest of highs, the absolute lowest of lows, and everything in between. Along the way, his very large cast become more than characters on a page but take on a life of their own.
Mr. King is not afraid to go for the emotional jugular when it comes to storytelling. No one character is safe, leading to some of the most upsetting scenes in the entire book. At the same time, because no one is safe, there is an air of realism in spite of the supernatural elements, which makes the reader feel like everything unfolding could really occur. Death can and will happen to the best and worst among people, and Mr. King is just reminding readers of that fact. It is a potent piece of writing that keeps one’s heart in one’s throat throughout the novel.
Grover Gardner does an absolutely masterful job narrating this tome. With its extremely large cast of characters, a listener could easily get confused without any differentiation between characters. Mr. Gardner’s performance is subtle but very effective, so that one needs nothing but vocal cues to understand who is speaking at any point in time. He captures their fear, their doubts or absolute certainty in their cause, their joys, pains, and so much more with the least amount of inflection. Through his performance, listeners receive a clearer picture behind each character’s motivation, thereby providing its own character development beyond what is written on the page. Very few narrators would be able to pull of the audio version of The Stand, but Mr. Gardner completely nails it.
One can easily see why The Stand is considered one of Mr. King’s best pieces of work. It really does have it all – a terrifying image of the brute force of a pandemic and its terrible aftermath, good versus evil, survival at its most instinctual, deep character knowledge, romance, humor, and so much more. It is by turns horrifying, thrilling, mystifying, thought-provoking, and utterly breathtaking. Mr. King sweeps the reader into his post-flu world within the first few harrowing sentences and does not let them go. The Stand just may be one of the best examples of a modern-day epic to date and well worth the time involved to either listen to it or read it. (less)
The first book had me completely absorbed in the little details and fascinating plot, the second book made me angry by the huge jump in time and then...moreThe first book had me completely absorbed in the little details and fascinating plot, the second book made me angry by the huge jump in time and then made me happy, while the third book continued to hold my interest. The fourth book was a little slow. The fifth book made me wish for all that time spent listening back again because really, however many pages an author should devote to homesteading, Ms. Gabaldon surpassed it at least ten-fold. The sixth book frustrated me with its plodding story, with its hyper-attention to detail, and with the continued and inexplicable use of multiple narrators. This does nothing but prolong the agony. If the last two books have been less-than-ideal and even somewhat of a waste of time, why did I continue the series and move on to A Breath of Snow and Ashes? I wish I knew.
The writing sucks. It is not a well-written series at all, repetitive and worthy of many an eye roll or snort of disbelief. Ms. Gabaldon uses the same phrases, descriptions, and dialogue all the time. While continuity is important, the repetition becomes old very quickly. This is on top of the fact that the entire series is just one big, very bad soap opera – the kind where the villain suffers forty different ways to die but always survives to torment his victims. Stephen Bonnet is the eighteenth-century Stefano. One can practically predict which major character is slated for his or her turn at mortal peril because it happens to them all with such frequency. Yet, I keep listening, yelling at the characters for their stupidity and getting anxious on their behalf even though I know they all survive for at least two more books. I was sucked into the Outlander world, and I can’t seem to get out.
In the beginning of the series, the sex scenes were so unusual in a romance novel because they were actually vital to the story. Through their most intimate moments, readers learned more about Clare and Jamie, their vulnerabilities and their sensitivities. It was never a sex scene purely for titillation but a method by which the characters developed and grew. The same can no longer be said about any of the sex scenes within these later novels. First of all, there is nothing more to learn about Jamie or Clare. Readers have been with them for years now, and their characters are fairly set in their development. Then, there is the ick factor. Both are approaching 60 years of age, and while I appreciate that their love life is healthy and frequent, it is not necessarily something about which I want to read. Jamie’s comments about Clare’s body have him turning into a lecherous old man, and that is just wrong. Then there is the physical descriptions themselves. While Jamie is clearly an ass man given his many lascivious (and slightly disturbing) comments about the state of Clare’s derrière, I’m beginning to think Ms. Gabaldon is a breast woman herself. There is way too much attention and description devoted to all females’ breasts. Dresses cling to them, sweat trickles between them, they are fondled, kissed, and cupped, they leak milk, and babies release them with audible noises. If there is a woman in any given scene, Ms. Gabaldon will inevitably mention something about that woman’s breasts. Frankly, it’s annoying and disappointing.
Then there is the issue with Jamie and Clare’s daughter and son-in-law. I hate Bree and Roger. There. I said it. Bree is one of the most spoiled, stupid girls in print. Roger was great, if a bit weak and unmanly in comparison to Jamie, until he married Bree. With that one act, he became thoroughly uninteresting and superlative. As for Bree, she is just now thinking of the dangers of going back in time 200 years to the Revolutionary War – after the war has started. For someone who is supposed to have such a brilliant mind, she completely lacks in common sense as well as empathy. The scenes told from either of their points of view are just agonizing, as Roger spends most of his time thinking about Bree and Bree spends most of her time worrying about how certain events are going to affect her. Their sex scenes are not in the least bit erotic or even very romantic. Very rarely do they contribute something to the overarching plot, and most of the time, their presence causes more complications than solutions. It goes without saying that their removal from the story would also eliminate a good number of pages in this very bloated series.
The problem is that at an average audiobook length of 50+ hours, I have spent way too much time devoted to Jamie and Clare to quit the series now. I may not be quite as vested in their survival as I once was, but I would like to solve the mystery of how they die. I would like closure. Ms. Gabaldon has not yet written her stories to provide closure, and so I am stuck in this world of time travelers. I will continue with the series onto book 7 and eventually book 8 when it is released next year. Perhaps by then, Ms. Gabaldon will have made it possible for me to say good-bye. Until then, there will be more yelling and eye-rolling and general frustration at the slow pacing, repetitive syntax, unnecessary narrative shifts, and completely unnecessary sex scenes. It is most definitely the book world’s version of a daytime soap opera.(less)
Touted as the second part of the "Life as We Knew It" series, The Dead and the Gone is really more of a companion piece to the first novel. Readers ex...moreTouted as the second part of the "Life as We Knew It" series, The Dead and the Gone is really more of a companion piece to the first novel. Readers expecting the story to continue suddenly find themselves reading about the same events but in different parts of the country and from a completely different perspective. It is an unusual twist to a trilogy which will upset some, while others will relish the chance to discover how other parts of the country dealt with the event and its aftermath. The regional reactions and their differences provides the reader food for thought on what life might be like in his or her area should something like this occur.
Having heard complaints about the lack of action in the novel, I was prepared to hate it. Rather, I feel this is Ms. Pfeffer's point. The lack of action indicates an inability to do so, which is a frightening prospect. It also highlights the fact that society does not break down in a day. The slow demise of society makes action moot. More importantly, the slow descent into horror makes that horror more palpable.
While I could relate to Miranda in Life as We Knew It, I struggled with Alex in The Dead and the Gone. It was difficult for me, as a strong-willed, independent woman to relate to the male dominance of a teenager in a Hispanic family, especially when the narrator gives no thought at all to taking a nap while his sisters are forced to do all of the cooking and cleaning. While I completely understand it is a cultural difference, I do not necessarily have to like it. Honestly, I found it difficult to stomach at times.
In all, I still need to work on prepping that supply room as a worst-case scenario. Too many post-apocalyptic novels have me seeing the merit of storing a year's worth of food and having a wood-burning stove available. I am more curious and interested in how the final novel ties the first two together. I'm also intrigued to see if society gets slightly better after a year or what the conditions are in yet another part of the country. Overall, the moon moving closer to the Earth is a frightening yet plausible scenario and the after-effects as rendered by Ms. Pfeffer are scarily realistic. I continue to be a fan of this series and hope to finish the third novel soon enough!(less)
Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends is a rollicking novel that happens to have a vampire as the main character. Its subtitle is "A Love Story", an...moreChristopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends is a rollicking novel that happens to have a vampire as the main character. Its subtitle is "A Love Story", and this is more accurate a description than lumping it in the vampire oeuvre. While there are quite a few pages devoted to Jody's vampiric self-education, and the Big Baddie just happens to be her sire, the rest of the story follows Jody's overall growth into a self-sufficient woman and her burgeoning relationship with the very sweet Tommy.
In fact, the vampires in Bloodsucking Fiends provide more humor than horror. If one were to take away the vampiric elements, the heart of the story remains the same but the humor disappears. Jody is fairly squeamish for someone who exists by drinking blood, and one cannot be accused of murder without the "dead" body of his girlfriend found stuffed into a freezer.
In Bloodsucking Fiends, Mr. Moore satirizes more than just vampire stories. Stylistically unique, his satire of romance novels is strangely reminiscent of Jane Austen and her skewering of society and popular culture during the Victorian era. Both Austen and now Mr. Moore highlight just how trivial popular culture can be.
Susan Bennett does an admirable job narrating Bloodsucking Fiends. With only one female character and at least ten male characters, a female narrator could have been disastrous. Any doubts about a female narrator are foundless, as Ms. Bennett proves more than capable of embodying Jody, Tommy, the Emperor, and the rest of the cast. She switches back and forth between Jody and the various male characters with aplomb and manages to make each character unique and distinctive without straining her voice or the reader's credulity. Also, she balances the correct amount of snark and worry that permeates Jody, as well as Tommy's earnestness, throughout the novel. The entire story sparks under Ms. Bennett's performance.
Leave it to Mr. Moore to make vampires fun again. As a fledgling vampire, Jody is by turns absolutely hilarious in her naivete and extremely vulnerable. Tommy never loses his endearingly sweet Midwestern earnestness, and the Animals provide a much-needed comedic counterpoint to that goodness. Together, theirs truly is a love story. Decidedly silly, Bloodsucking Fiends is immensely satisfying.(less)
"This one definitely started slower than Ms. Harris' previous novels. I was actually able to put it down for a day or two. I'm also torn about Sookie'...more"This one definitely started slower than Ms. Harris' previous novels. I was actually able to put it down for a day or two. I'm also torn about Sookie's increasing involvement with Eric. I liked Bill better, and even Alcide was a better option, in my opinion. So, my heart just wasn't in to reading more about their burgeoning relationship...at first.[return][return]However, the action definitely picked up towards the end, not to mention some fabulous bedroom scenes. This was the first of the series, except for the first one, where I honestly did not figure out how it was going to end. I also made the mistake of bringing the book with me to work today to read during lunch. I may or may not have taken a longer lunch in order to finish it. In my defense, a battle between witches, Wiccans (they are different from witches if you didn't know), werewolves, and vampires is like heaven to anyone who adores the genre, like me. I couldn't stop without figuring out what happened![return][return]Poor Sookie. The girl just can't catch a break, can she? All she wants is to love and be loved in return but is constantly thwarted by factors out of her control. I was a bit bothered that she appeared weaker than normal, not the strong female lead I had found her to be. Then again, when I think that the first five books are supposed to have taken place roughly one month apart from each other, the girl has been through more than most people would be able to handle. Once I figured that out, I was able to cut her some slack and admire her ability to be able to deal with so much in such a short period of time. And this book does pack some emotional punches for her, more so than the previous books. Her relationship with Eric becomes something that she never had with Bill, and I'm curious how this is going to play out in the end.[return][return]A few days ago, I was ready to just chalk this one up to the fact that not all books can be at the same excellent level as previous ones. Authors are allowed one bad novel now and then. However, as I mentioned earlier, the plot picked up in a hurry, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I'll take that as a sign that Ms. Harris did it again. She managed to weave a thrilling action story filled with ""supes"", a bit of a mystery, and even more heartrending decisions for Sookie. It definitely left me wanting more, yet again![return][return]I'm going to give the Sookie Stackhouse series a rest for a few days and pick up some other books that I recently received. But, I have a feeling that my thoughts won't be far from Bon Temps as I wonder what the next installment has in store for Sookie, Bill, and Eric!"(less)
The French Lieutenant's Woman is one of those novels that challenges the reader in his or her understanding of the Victorian era and of the idea of th...moreThe French Lieutenant's Woman is one of those novels that challenges the reader in his or her understanding of the Victorian era and of the idea of the novel itself. The descriptions of each person's role, down to the buttons on the coat, are exacting and precise. The visual descriptions are breath-taking and leave little to the imagination. Yet, this is as much a novel about the Victorian era as it is a comparison of modern society, or that in the 1960s when it was written, to that era. The comparisons and contemporary asides that draw the reader's attention to the differences, while startling at first, do force the reader to put aside modern sensibilities and allow the reader to appreciate those differences in a "how far we've come" fashion.
Having read this among my book club, there was discussion about the idea of role reversal between Sarah and Charles. Charles ends up being the character who wants the traditional life, marriage and children, career and contentment, while Sarah chooses to blaze her own path and not follow tradition or what society deems appropriate. Of even more importance than the gender roles is the idea of happiness. In each of the three possible endings, either they are both miserable, they are both happy, or one is miserable and the other is content, if not happy. Happiness, in Fowles' world, is more than following set rules, or not following them as the case may be. Rather, it is something that is not guaranteed no matter which path one might choose.
Speaking of the three endings, yes, there are three possible endings. Fowles presents each of them by including himself in the actual cast of characters, not as the omniscient narrator but as an actual character who interacts with Charles directly. It is this inclusion of himself into the novel and the three potential conclusions that creates the most confusion and ire among readers. For myself, I appreciate what Fowles was trying to accomplish. Life is a lot messier than choosing one path or another and knowing that all will end well no matter what. Sometimes, life takes us down a path that we neither want nor expect. It does not result in pat endings where all story lines are concluded neatly and nicely but rather often leaves more questions than answers. This true-to-life approach to The French Lieutenant's Woman makes the novel more realistic and profound.
The synopsis above lists The French Lieutenant's Woman as a love story. I am not certain I agree with this assessment. In fact, one could make a very clear argument that Sarah was never in love with Charles but rather in love with her freedom. This makes her actions more explanatory, if not acceptable. If she is in love with Charles, her actions become a lot more difficult to explain and understand.
The French Lieutenant's Woman is a beautiful story in and of itself. The reader can all but smell the sea air, hear the rustling of silk and satin, and feel the breeze on one's face through Fowles' gorgeous prose. The story itself unfolds quickly and clearly, without the need for extraneous words that so depicts Victorian-era novels. There are enough quirks, however, that allows the reader to understand that this is anything but a Victorian-era novel but rather a modern novel written about the Victorian era. This distinction is key to one's enjoyment of the novel.(less)
When I purchased the book last year, it looked vaguely familiar. Let me be clear; I have read a LOT of Nora Roberts. Between haunting the library shel...moreWhen I purchased the book last year, it looked vaguely familiar. Let me be clear; I have read a LOT of Nora Roberts. Between haunting the library shelves in Germany for her books and purchasing almost all of the rest, I do believe that I have read most of her books. There are only a few I have not gotten around to reading. When I bought Public Secrets, I thought this was one of those that remained unread. After reading the first page, I remembered the story. It turns out I did read it more than ten years ago and just forgot that I had. Big time #michellefail, but I figured this was a good one for the Flashback Challenge. There is nothing wrong with re-read!
The best part about this story is that it is not, in my opinion, a typical Nora Roberts novel. She breaks away from her formula and gives us something a bit different. Yes, there is a romantic lead and a murder mystery, but the romance and the mystery itself play as the backstory to the overarching plot of Emma's development and growth as a strong female character. Rather than flashing back to Emma's past in the first few chapters, the book actually starts out when Emma is three years old, and we follow her progression as she ages. In addition, Emma is not the sole focus. At times, the reader is able to get more insight into her father, at times the narrator focuses on her mother and stepmother. The reader watches Emma grow, make poor decisions, and face the consequences. It is a break from the formula, but it definitely works.
If my daughter were to come to me, in future years, and ask me which one Nora Roberts book should she read, I would almost have to say Public Secrets. As a mother and a female, there are some very strong moral messages delivered in such a way that it is palatable to the reader. Throughout the novel, Ms. Roberts shows us the damage that sex, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse can wring on a person (no, not the same person). She shows us that to be popular, you can find ways to avoid drugs and alcohol when offered to you, that it is okay to wait, and more importantly, that you can and should stand up for yourself and your beliefs. The most important message of all that Ms. Roberts passes along is the idea that it is okay, and sometimes necessary, to admit mistakes and ask for help. These are ideas that some would argue need to be shared and discussed a bit more these days.
I am and always will be a Nora Roberts fan. There may be books of hers which I would not call favorites, but I almost always enjoy her work. Public Secrets is no exception. Reading it again helped me understand just what a gem this book is, and reading it after having read so many of her other works made me realize how unique it is in the Roberts canon. Ms. Roberts is not one to shy away from interesting or controversial topics, but I believe she outdid herself with this one. Her tackling of domestic violence is spot on, from the emotional and mental abuse escalating to physical violence to the shame and guilt a person feels when in that situation. Emma McAvoy is a character every woman should come to respect and admire for battling her personal demons and winning. For those of you Nora Roberts fans who have not had the pleasure, I highly suggest picking up this selection as soon as possible so that you too can discover what a gem it is!(less)