**spoiler alert** I read Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez because of John Cusack. It’s no secret that I have a weakness for the m**spoiler alert** I read Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez because of John Cusack. It’s no secret that I have a weakness for the man. Between him and Gilbert Blythe, I’m likely to remain single for my entire life, because I’ll be searching for the combination of the two of them for eternity. I've started reading this book at least half a dozen times. This last time it was selected for the HBC ... Hersday Book Club. So I had to keep going this time.
Much like my quest for the perfect cross between John Cusack and Gilbert Blythe, Love in the Time of Cholera is a tale of unrequited love. Florentino Ariza falls madly in love with Fermina Daza as a teenager, and worships her mercilessly from afar. When Florentino finally gets the courage to contact her, she accepts his attentions, and they begin a letter-writing affair with one another. When Fermina’s father finds out about their correspondence, he sends her to go live with cousins, and Florentino is heartbroken. When Fermina returns, she rebuffs Florentino, chalks up her affection for Florentino to a childhood crush, and is soon married to Juvenal Urbino, a young doctor. Throughout the years, Juvenal and Fermina have their triumphs and their disappointments, and through it all Florentino watches and waits patiently for Juvenal’s death, so he can reclaim his one true love. The onset of the novel is Juvenal’s death, and then the chapters that follow detail the events leading up to the doctor’s death.
On to the scoring … a side note – the scoring this time is unapologetically FILLED with spoilers. Continue at your own risk.
** Florentino is creepy – maybe it’s because I am jaded, but he is obsessed and not in love – Minus 4
** Chapter length ... I’ve been over the importance of this factor many many times - - but they’re flat out ridiculous in this book. 350 pages and 6 or 7 chapters. UGH … cause it’s so terrible to have chapters in a book - Minus 3
** Beautiful narrative. The story flows nicely and you can feel the Caribbean town in the descriptions – Plus 4
** Juvenal seems to be a genuine person who loves his wife unconditionally. – Plus 3
** Juvenal has an affair, which makes him imperfect, and I appreciated that. Compared to Florentino’s constant reckless anonymous sex, I had a hard time not liking Juvenal – Plus 2
** I have no sympathy for Florentino living with unrequited love for decades. He’s sleazy. And reminds me of a stalker. – Minus 3
** Sara Noriega – one of Florentino’s lovers needs a pacifier in her mouth to have an orgasm. And she keeps them on the bed post - Plus 2 … cause a freaky kink is always appreciated
** “It is as if he were not a person but only a shadow.” – This are Fermina's thoughts on why she cannot love Florentino – Plus 3, I totally agree with this statement. He’s a shadow of a person, and I have a hard time having sympathy for him.
** I was so happy that Fermina originally rebuffs Florentino at the funeral. So inappropriate. I’m biased in this regard having had people offer to buy my grandmother’s house during her wake, something else so totally inappropriate. – Plus 5
** When Juvenal dies, Florentino is in his late 60s (roughly) and sleeping with a teenage girl … who he is guardian of in the eyes of the state. How am I supposed to like this guy? How am I supposed to feel bad for him that he’s been living with unrequited love for 50 years?? He just makes me feel ICKY! Add to the fact that she kills herself after Florentino leaves her for Fermina … he’s such an unlikable bastard! – Minus 10
** The first time that Florentino and Fermina are together, he’s got some ED action. It was great. It was justice. – Plus 3
** Fermina prepares a dish on the river boat called Eggplant al Amor. Loved it. I’m totally going to copy her the next time I make eggplant. – Plus 2
** Always referring to the characters by first and last name was kind of annoying. – Minus 2
Plus 2 – Overall, it was a good book. The narrative was beautiful, and the descriptions were phenomenal. But I had a really hard time reading the book simply because the Florentino was such a scumbag. If not for the HBC, I would have quit despite the lyrical beauty....more
**spoiler alert** Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a story about Jacob Jankowski and his short time with The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Sho**spoiler alert** Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a story about Jacob Jankowski and his short time with The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. The story is told in memory by Jacob from his 93 year old self in a nursing home. Just a week prior to graduating Cornell Veterinary School in the 193os, both of Jacob's parents are killed in a car accident. To distraught to finish his exams, Jacob jumps a train and realizes only afterwards that he has just run away with the circus. The leaders of the circus decide to keep Jacob on once they learn of his veterinary past and with The Benzini Brothers, Jacob meets a range of characters including Marlena, a beautiful horse rider, her mentally ill husband, August, a dwarf named Kinko, and an old timer named Camel. In time, the circus acquires an elephant named Rosie, who quickly becomes a friend to Jacob.
This book was the first book in the brand new Hersday book club. Which is why I read it, although I purchased it before it was chosen. I knew I wanted to read it.
... the scoring ...
** After reading the book, I decided that I didn't like Thomas Edison anymore. Although, that had nothing to do with the book, but the afterword, with a story about Thomas Edison publicly electrocuting an elephant to prove a point. - Neutral cause it wasn't the book itself.
** The ending was absolute perfection, and completely unexpected from my point of view. Even reading between the lines and analyzing it to death, it still makes me happy. - Plus 3
** One word ... elephants. - Plus 2
** Two words ... dwarf clowns. - Plus 2
** I have this personal issue with generic pet names. For example, Dalmatians named spot, and long haired cats named fluffy. It's only excusable when the pet owner is under the age of 6. The Benzini Brothers have a chimp named Bobo. It bothered me. - Minus 2
** Cool depression era photos begin every chapter. Aside from the brief embarrassment of a topless woman while reading on the bus, they were a great touch. - Plus 2
** While I appreciate the research that went into the book, the use of all of the circus terms like First of May and rubes were a nice touch, but they were totally overused. Almost to the point of annoyance. They seemed forced. - Minus 3
** I've read some people that disliked August's portrayal as inaccurate. But I think for a violently ill man, or even just an abusive husband, it was a fairly genuine portrayal. - Plus 4
** It was easy to relate with the characters' struggle at the end of the book, given the time it took place. The depression was felt throughout the story, and the reader felt how that complicated the situation. - Plus 4
** I had never heard of the Jamaican Ginger epidemic. It kind of broke my heart, but I'm glad I'm more aware now. - Plus 2
** My faith in humanity makes me doubt the legitimacy of the brutality of red-lining people. But maybe I'm just an optimist. - Minus 3
** Spoiler ... although not entirely unexpected, poor poor Camel. - Minus 2
** The book reminded me a great deal of Carnivale on HBO. A show that I absolutely love. - Plus 2
** But because it reminded me of Carnivale, I had a hard time not picturing Jake like Ben, and Marlena like Sofie. - Minus 1
** I'm secretly hoping Nick Stahl (aka Ben from Carnivale) will play Jacob in the newly optioned movie. - Plus 2
Final Score ... 12 ... sounds about right. I really enjoyed it, and I totally recommend it to everyone. Super quick read too. ...more
**spoiler alert** The River Wife by Jonis Agee is a novel that spans 100 plus years and details the lives of the women in the life of Jacques Ducharme**spoiler alert** The River Wife by Jonis Agee is a novel that spans 100 plus years and details the lives of the women in the life of Jacques Ducharme, from his first wife, to his mistress, to his daughters, and the bride of his grandson. The tale is told from the perspective of Hedie Ducharme, the bride of Jacques’ grandson in the 1930s. Pregnant and left alone a fair share of the time, Hedie finds the journals of Jacques’ first wife Annie and begins reading of the history of her husband’s family. Jacques is a fur trapper and eventually a river pirate on the Mississippi River during the 19th century. His dealings can be shady, but they’re all for the love of Annie, the teenage girl he rescued from the ruble of the New Madrid earthquakes in 1812. He strives to make her happy no matter what happens. Time passes and other women come and go in the life of Jacques and each of their stories is told to the reader, all the while Hedie’s story is told in between.
The scoring …
I liked that the story began with the New Madrid earthquake. The history and the changing dynamics of the event were considerable in the area, and I liked how the story included the details in the novel. – Plus 3
I wish there had been more about Jacques losing his arm. It was just barely mentioned. The reader returns to his story and he’s suddenly one armed. One sentence mentions the event. Not every novel has a main character that loses a limb. What a disappointment. – Minus 3
Two tragedies in two chapters is a lot for the reader to take. I understand the mirroring stories but seriously, spread that stuff out. – Minus 3
I totally understood Annie and Jacques’ love affair. He rescued her, a damsel in distress and they fell madly in love. Total romance novel stuff … but I didn’t so much get Hedie and Clement. Yes he rescued her from a domineering mother, but he was a loser. A domineering mother doesn’t compare with a gigantic beam across your legs. - Neutral
Yellow diamonds?? Does anyone actually like those?? - Minus 2
I really liked Annie. I liked her grit and her ferocity. Good strong female characters rule! – Plus 5
I also really liked Omah. Nothing like strong women in novels! – Plus 5
But I wasn’t such a fan of Dealie or Laura – Minus 3
Ghosts … duh – Plus 2
Buried treasure … duh – Plus 2 ** I was totally wrong about how it was going to end. And I have to admit that I liked that. - Plus 3
** In the end, I'm still not sure if I liked or loathed Jacques. He was kind of a drunken bastard, but he seemed so tortured and sad, like a wounded puppy. Or like Jordan Catalano in My So Called Life, or James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause ... a girl has to have a weak spot for the tortured bad boy. - Plus 3
Final Tally ... Plus 8
I think that's one of the higher books that I've reviewed, although to be honest, I'm not sure why. I really enjoyed the elements of the book and I liked a lot of the characters, but I'm not sure that I liked the book as a whole. This might be one of those times that the sum of it's parts doesn't quite add up to the whole ......more
**spoiler alert** Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is the latest book on my quest to 30 and the May selection for the HBC. The story imagines a s**spoiler alert** Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is the latest book on my quest to 30 and the May selection for the HBC. The story imagines a situation in which Greek gods living among us. The primary characters are all the immediate family of Zeus, and all live in a house together in suburban London. There’s Apollo, a romancing talk show host. Aphrodite, the phone sex operator. Artemis, the dog walker. Eros, the born again Christian. Athena, the scholar. The list goes on. Through a turn of events, the group of gods become involved in the lives of two mortals, Alice and Neil. The story progresses from there …
** I loved that Eros is a born again Christian with morality issues and conflicts with himself over worshipping Christ, while being a god himself – Plus 2
** To quote the story, page 223 … ‘Oh no’ said Artemis. ‘They’re very inferior creatures, cats.’ – Minus 8
** The sexual stuff got a little ridiculous. I get that Aphrodite is the goddess of love and lust, and it completely makes sense that she’d be a phone sex operator, but does she have to have sex with all the gods all the time in addition to all of that?? – Minus 3
** Short chapters … you know my opinion about that. – Plus 2
** Super easy, super quick read. It only took 3 days to finish it, and yet I didn’t feel like I was speeding through it because I loved the story. It was more that it was just so simple. – Minus 3
** I liked the representation of the underworld. I envisioned the abandoned London in 28 Days Later. Why I have no idea, but that’s how it went. I also pictured South Park Satan when Hades came on the scene. – Plus 3
** Styx = Synergy – Plus 4
** Artemis was pretty annoying. She seemed to me to be a bitter lady who needed to get out more. – Minus 2
** I liked that Alice was a house cleaner despite the fact that she had her degree. It reminded me of something I wish I did instead of be responsible and get a job in a law firm. – Plus 3
** It was a decent refresher of my Greek mythology. Even though I had to sharpen my skills with some wikipedia. – Plus 2
** Both Alice and Neil were adorably awkward characters. Kind of like Betty and Henry, but British. It was a great contrast with the omnipotent gods. – Plus 3
** I kind of feel bad for the gods not being able to enjoy food. Where’s the fun in that?? - Minus 2
** There was definitely an overabundance of gods living in this house; lesser-known gods that no one has ever heard of like Dionysus, Hephaestus, and Demeter. With all of the gods to keep track of, the extra ones were just confusing. – Minus 3
** I loved that Ares was constantly frustrated with the wars in the world currently. It through a nice little current spin on it. – Plus 2
Total … ZERO. Total neutrality. I did appreciate it the story. But, I wasn’t sure I really enjoyed the book. It needed a bit more substance I think for me. ...more
**spoiler alert** The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a novel about a choice. I went from reading a book about a lie in a moment (Atonement**spoiler alert** The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a novel about a choice. I went from reading a book about a lie in a moment (Atonement), to a book about a choice made in a moment. It was a good transition. Thanks to some late spring snow (just like Seattle got last night) Dr David Henry is forced to deliver his wife's twins with only the help of his nurse Caroline. The baby boy, Paul, is born 100% healthy and alert, but the baby girl, Phoebe, is born with Downs Syndrome, and David makes the decision to give his daughter to Caroline to take to an institution, rather than raise the child in his family. He tells his wife, Norah, that the child was stillborn, and tries to live his life with just his son. Caroline, however, cannot leave the child at the institution, and makes the decision to raise the child herself in another town. The novel goes back and forth between the lives of Paul and Phoebe, and the ramifications of David's decision.
** The David, Norah, Paul storyline takes place in Lexington. I love Lexington, and I don't think I've ever read a book that takes place there. - Plus 2
** I really liked David's character despite his decision. The author makes his struggle and pain over his decision up front, and he never seems malicious in his decision. It's clear that he truly made it to try to save his wife from further pain. - Plus 3
** Norah on the other hand, I really didn't care much for her. Especially in the middle part of the book. She was kind of a witch. - Minus 2
** Just following the "death" of Phoebe, I really sympathized with Norah's struggle with depression, postpartum issues, and alcoholism. The way it was treated in the novel seemed to echo what I have heard from my parents about how these issues were hidden from view in that time period, and I really appreciated how it was shown and yet not dealt with, much in how it would have happened during that time period. - Plus 3
** Where I appreciated how Norah's issues were presented, I felt like Caroline's struggles with raising a child with Downs Syndrome were glossed over. One meeting with the school board, one mention of the struggles to find other mom's in similar situations. While it would have added about 100 pages to the book, I would have liked to see more with that storyline and more details on how society reacted to children with Downs Syndrome during the 1960s and 1970s. - Minus 4
** I don't know that I really buy that an at home photographer with a dark room above his garage would get to the point that he's giving lectures. Especially since he spent the majority of his time being a doctor. - Minus 2
** While the book deals with moderately controversial topic, it was definitely something that you wouldn't have trouble recommending to anyone from your aunt, to your co-worker, to your bus buddy. It's relatively unoffensive, and is a novel that I think a lot of people would read and enjoy. Well, one that a lot of women would enjoy, I'm not so sure it's a man's man kind of book ;) - Plus 2
** This is the second book (the other being The Namesake) I've read recently that deals with detached fathers and the resulting relationship with their sons. The story lines were different, but the same type of struggle to have a relationship existed. Both books were written by women. And both made me wonder if the men only have issues with the relationships because they're being viewed and written about through a woman's perspective. It makes me want to seek out a novel about fathers and sons written by a man. - Neutral
** I wanted more with Al. - Minus 2
** Despite not being a total Norah fan, this book had some great strong female characters. Caroline, who makes a decision to raise a child with Downs Syndrome that is not even her own flesh and blood. Norah, who goes from being a house wife to a successful business woman. Doro, a successful physics professor at a time when most women didn't work, let alone were leading academics. And Bree, who has a strong sense of self throughout the novel, and really sets a good example for Norah to be strong. - Plus 3
** I didn't like why it was titled The Memory Keeper's Daughter. For a while there, I was hoping that Caroline lived out her dream and traveled to a far away country with Phoebe. To a place where people worshiped those who were different, and Phoebe became a powerful shaman in an indigenous tribe. - Minus 2
** From the television channel that brought us, The Fantasia Barrino Story ... Lifetime is making the made for TV movie. It airs on April 12th. It stars Dermot Mulroney. I admit to having a slight weakness when it comes to Lifetime's made for TV movies and a pretty big weakness when it comes to Mr. Mulroney. I'll probably watch it. I might be a little excited. - Plus 2
** So, what about Rosemary?? - Minus 2
Final score ... 1
I didn't love it or hate it. There were some flaws, but some outstanding points as well. The final tally seems about right. ...more
**spoiler alert** It’s difficult to describe The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. On the surface, the novel tells the**spoiler alert** It’s difficult to describe The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. On the surface, the novel tells the story of a small community in North Dakota over a span of about eighty years. The primary narrator and character in the novel is Father Damien, who is actually a woman named Agnes. Through an unusual set of events, Agnes takes on the role as priest to a small Native American Catholic church, thus becoming Father Damien. Under her charge is a young girl named Paulin possesses extraordinary powers, and in In time becomes Sister Leopolda, and after more time, Sister Leopolda is under investigation for sainthood. From the back cover of the book, this seems to be the entirety of the story. The struggle for Agnes to tell the story of Leopolda without divulging her long standing secret of being a woman.
The reality is that the novel is more about the Ojibwe community that Louise Erdrich has created to tell her story. There’s the oversexed Nanapush, the bitter Lulu, the second priest Father Gregory, the investigating priest Father Jude, Kapshaw and his 4 wives … The reality is that the book is about much more than what the back of the book would lead you to believe.
Scoring on this novel has been difficult. It’s a complex narrative, with a lot going on at any one time, and I had a hard time picking it apart in pieces rather than seeing it as a whole, but I did as best as I could …
** There is something about this woman’s books that makes me have dreams about my Grandad. This is the second novel by Louise Erdrich that I’ve read this year, and while reading both of them, I’ve had at least half a dozen dreams starring my grandfather. – Plus 3
** God bless a book with cross-dressing. – Plus 2
** There is SO much going on in this novel. For the first time in a while, it certainly seems like there was not an editor pulling out important plot points to the story to keep it under 350 pages. But all the same, it’s hard to keep all the details straight sometimes. – Minus 3
** Something I don’t quite get … the back of the edition of the book that I have mentions that Father Damien risks losing everything by revealing the whole truth. But at the same time, Father Damien guesses that he’s at least 90 years old, and probably closer to 100. How much could you really lose at that age, it’s not like he would have to start over from scratch. – Minus 2
** Nanapush & the moose … hilarity – Plus 2
** I love the murder mystery element of the novel. There are so many small towns with a crazy unsolved murder of a bad seed ruffian that creates gossip. – Plus 3
** The San Francisco Chronicle compared Erdrich to Garcia Marquez. It’s no secret that I hated Love in the Time of Cholera and I love both this book and Plague of Doves, so I’m not a huge fan of the comparison on principle. – Minus 100,000 points to the San Francisco Chronicle.
** Impossible title to remember and tell your friends about. – Minus 1
** Chapter length … pretty average. But you can’t get away with absent minded skimming in this book. So no reading half asleep on the bus or in bed. – Minus 2
** Reading Louise Erdrich’s books makes me kind of want to go North Dakota, which is a strange feeling. I also love that in her real non author life, she owns an independent book store. – Plus 2
** I kind of like how difficult it was to score this book. Seeing the forest through the trees doesn’t always happen, especially to me, since I like to pick apart all of the details. I appreciate that the combine whole overwhelmed the details. – Plus 3
** All of the priests were human in this book. There were four different priests in the novel (six if you include the pope and the old dead priest that Father Damien replaces) and each of them had their flaws, and had their weaknesses. None of them were portrayed as holy and without imperfection. And none of them had a weakness for little boys. - Plus 2
Final Tally ... 9 points. I really liked this book, but be warned, it's not for a casual reader. It's really something that you need to read in only a couple of weeks. Any more time without reading constantly, and you get lost in what's going on....more
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a WWII era Romeo & Juliet-esque story. Henry is a 12 year old first generation Chinese boy growing up wHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a WWII era Romeo & Juliet-esque story. Henry is a 12 year old first generation Chinese boy growing up with very conservative parents in Seattle. Keiko is a 12 year old second generation Japanese girl growing up just a couple blocks away. The two are the only non-Caucasians in their elementary school, and the two quickly bond over their similarities rather than their differences while working in the school cafeteria. But it's the time of Japanese internment, and things quickly change, when Keiko and her family are forced to evacuate Seattle. The story jumps between 1942-1943 and "current day" 1986 with Henry and his adult son.
** Plus 5 - Perfect spot-on Seattle details. Much like The Art of Racing in the Rain, it's clear the author lives in Seattle and knows it's history. I love it when someone gets the details right, down to street names, buildings, and local clam chowder.
** Plus 3 - Loved learning about a part of Seattle's history that I really didn't know much about sadly. Makes me wish I could have seen the International District prior to WWII.
** Minus 4 - Gonna be a while before I can go back to the Puyallup Fair. Reminders of its checkered history are tragic and unfortunately true.
** Plus 2 - Positive male role models coming from outside of the home. Henry's relationship with Sheldon really just made me happy that he had such a positive male influence when he had such a strained relationship with his father.
** Minus 3 - The mail clerk thing was kind of lame. So was the old man smoking on the steps at the jazz club. Contrived coincidences are just annoying as a plot point.
** Minus 4 - I don't understand Henry's father's actions towards the end of the novel. But then again, I don't understand the harsh bigotry he shows throughout the book either. It makes me sad that those feelings exist all over the world between countless groups.
** Plus 3 - I love that Sheldon and Henry remain friends throughout their lives. Again, it made me super happy.
** Plus 2 - A really nice love story. At 12 & 13, it's really just puppy love but the way it's portrayed I think is true to any love story at that age.
** Plus 3 - Cheers to hidden heroes. Anything more said, and I give away something, so I'll just leave it at that.
Final tally - Plus 7
Really this was one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. It'd make a good accompaniment to The Help, with similar undertones of racism and fighting against it. Definitely recommend this one to anyone. Can't wait to read it again for book club....more
**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker.**spoiler alert** Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez is a memoir of a woman who traveled to Kabul just after 9/11 as a humanitarian aid worker. Her trade is cosmetology and she wasn't sure what she could offer to the people of Afghanistan but she knew she wanted to help. During her first trip, she felt mostly useless but fell in love with the country and people of Afghanistan, and knew she would return. Over the next year, Ms. Rodriguez took the lead and became involved with a project to begin a beauty school in the city of Kabul to help train the women of Afghanistan in a trade. She gets sponsors, donations, and returns to the country to change women's lives. She slowly adapts to the culture, marries an Afghani man, and ends up staying in Kabul to keep the school running.
Kabul Beauty School is my first nonfiction book of the journey to 30. As I was reading this book, I realized that my usual method of scoring a book is not going to work very well for non-fiction. It's not like I can judge a decision of a character when in reality it's a decision of this woman's life. So ... bare with the kinks of having to review a non-fiction memoir rather than a novel.
** I learned a lot about the Taliban's reign in Afghanistan and the ramifications. I knew they were the bad guys, but it some of the restrictions - like outlawing all beauty salons - I had no idea about. - Plus 3
** I really didn't need the life story of the maid. Call me elitist ... but I didn't really care. - Minus 2
** I've said it a TON ... girl power rules and the fact that this woman left her abusive husband, went to Afghanistan and started making a difference is super duper girl power! - Plus 10
** Long chapters ... I've said my full on this, but it took me about 4 days to read this book from start to finish, so it couldn't have bothered me too much ;) - Neutral
** I loved all the side stories of the women in the school, but they got distracting keeping up with them all. And they were all depressing. - Minus 3
** Total curveball that she became arranged to be married. And then actually got married. (I'm not giving anything away if you read the book cover) - Plus 2
** I love memoirs. They're pretty much the only non-fiction book that I'll regularly read voluntarily. - Plus 3
** I learned something. Learning is good and knowledge is power. - Plus 2
And I'm tapped out. It's a lot more difficult to come up with scoring when you're critiquing someone's life rather than someone's literary decisions.
Final Tally ... 9. I'm sure that's high because I couldn't find the heart to say that I didn't buy that she screamed and yelled and tried to get a guy arrested for grabbing her ass in the market. Cause I'm sure she did do that, and she has my respect for it. I'm pretty sure I would have ignored it and just shot evil eyes. ...more
**spoiler alert** Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story about two friends in nineteenth century China. The two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, are ol**spoiler alert** Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a story about two friends in nineteenth century China. The two girls, Lily and Snow Flower, are old sames or laotongs. They are closer than the best of friends and closer than spouses. Lily is the narrator, and the story is follows her from her early childhood to her foot binding years, through her engagement, marriage, and motherhood. It’s a moving story, and is skillfully written.
As a general rule (thanks to a Lit class in college) I tend to shy away from Chinese Literature, but this novel was picked for the November/December meeting of the Hersday Book Club, and so I was “forced” to read it. I was pleasantly surprised …
** Late in the novel, there is a simile that compares something to tofu skin. Delightfully unique – Plus 3
** There were simply way too many times when the foreshadowing was blatantly obvious. I’m all for some subtle foreshadowing here and there, but when it’s obviously stated it’s annoying. - Minus 2
** The chapters tended to be longer, but usually the longer chapters were a bit more quick paced than the shorter chapters to compensate. – Minus 1
** The so called secret fan kept the details of the friendship between Snow Flower and Lily throughout the 20 plus years they were friends. It had their first meeting, their hardships, their marriages, the births of their children, the deaths of their children, and finally the death of Snow Flower. Which lead me to wonder … how fricking big was this fan??? – Minus 3
** I found the relationship between Snow Flower and Lily, mostly comparable to many life long girlfriends. Lots of ups and downs, a couple of drag down fights, but in the end genuine love for one another. – Plus 3
** It was difficult for me to picture the foot binding process without trying to find a picture. If only this had been a non-fiction, and then there could have been photos. – Minus 1
** This novel gets a bonus simply for being one of the first novels that I’ve read in a while that I genuinely liked. I’ve had a string of bad luck lately – Plus 5
** I’m usually a pretty open person about cultural foods, and usually will try anything once. But all the same, caramelized fried taro sounds particularly disgusting. So I don’t really understand why it’s such a treasured treat. – Minus 1
** The idolization of Snow Flower by Lily reminds me of nearly every stereotypical nerdy girl looking up to the cheerleader in high school. It’s a nice reminder that even the ones who seem to have a perfect life, probably have just as many problems as you do. – Plus 3
** This book was entirely TOO SAD. I understand that it takes place in a time and place when child mortality rates were extremely high, but still. A little less death would have been nice. – Minus 2
** I found it an interesting approach to have very few named characters. Aside from Lily and Snow Flower, most of the characters in the novels failed to have names. It was mostly things like Elder Brother, Third Sister, and Second Son. – Plus 2
** It's hard to read a novel about how treasured small feet are when you're a girl with slightly larger feet (but nothing ridiculous). – Minus 1
Final Score … Plus 5 … I guess that isn’t stellar, but the sum of the parts made it a good novel to read. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’m glad it came along when it did. I was beginning to grow disheartened with my book selection....more
**spoiler alert** My latest selection is The Commitment Dan Savage. To be upfront and honest, I should state at the beginning that I love Dan Savage.**spoiler alert** My latest selection is The Commitment Dan Savage. To be upfront and honest, I should state at the beginning that I love Dan Savage. I’ve read his column every week for over 10 years and I’ve listened to every single one of his podcasts as well. Plus, when I was a freshman in college, I went and saw one of his lectures. I read one of his earlier books, The Kid, when it first came out. When I was in high school, Dan Savage was a beacon of light for one of my best friends, who was in the closet, and terrified of what would happen when he eventually came out. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of his. Which means, this review is more than likely tainted by my love for him, and my final score should probably be halved to account for it.
The Commitment is a memoir of marriage. It tells the journey in which Dan and his boyfriend Terry decide to marry or to get tattoos commemorating their 10 year anniversary. From family vacations, and family pressures, to their son being totally opposed to the idea, the book presents what I believe is an honest portrayal of gay families in the United States.
- Dan talks about his grandparents’ marriage, but not the end of his parents’ marriage. – Minus 3
- The hotel room scene in South Dakota/Iowa (I can’t remember now) – absolute hilarity and totally something that you can picture happening to any parent – Plus 3
- Surprise ending for me. I read his column weekly, and listen to his podcast, and I was still surprised. – Plus 2
- Super quick read. I read it over Thanksgiving weekend and I didn’t even have to try that hard to finish it. – Plus 2
- I’ve said it before, I genuinely enjoy reading books that take place in Seattle and mention specific places. Authentic Seattle is awesome. Way better than generic Hollywood version (better known as Vancouver BC). I loved that I know where Re-bar is, and know all about Dan’s annual Valentine’s Day party. – Plus 2
- I liked the mini update on DJ’s mom. I read The Kid, about half a dozen years ago, and I appreciated that he took the time to update readers on how her life had progressed since giving up DJ for adoption. – Plus 3
- I did not dig the fake ending. Lame parlor trick. – Minus 3
- It was bittersweet reading this book with so much of Dan’s mom knowing that she passed away this spring. It was also bittersweet reading this novel so soon after Prop 8 passing in California. – Neutral
- The Mad Clipper … totally reminds me of my Grandmother sending me comics in the mail when I was a kid. Of course, her return address was usually hers, unlike Dan’s mom. – Plus 2
- While I’m completely used to Dan’s vocabulary and blunt use of sexual language, it could certainly throw some readers. If you’re not sure what you’re getting into, it could be a surprise. – Minus 2
Final total … 6 – not nearly as biased as I expected. But I held back ;)
This novel took me forever to read. And I can't figure out why. It's interesting enough, and the story moves well, but I could not stay motivated at aThis novel took me forever to read. And I can't figure out why. It's interesting enough, and the story moves well, but I could not stay motivated at all with this book. I'd read 20 pages here and there, but no marathon sessions.
The story is a good one. Twists, turns, deaths, births, revelations, and ghosts. A mostly decent book, but I think it failed my expectations since most people seem to love it....more
I don't know what to say about this book. On the one hand, I pretty much hated every single character in the book. On the other hand, I don't rememberI don't know what to say about this book. On the one hand, I pretty much hated every single character in the book. On the other hand, I don't remember the last time I felt this much emotion towards a book; negative or positive. This is a deeply disturbing novel, one I wish to never read again. I don't even want the book in my house again. ...more
Interesting read, although some of the plot points at the end were mildly frustrating to me. Definitely made me more curious about both Hawaiian histoInteresting read, although some of the plot points at the end were mildly frustrating to me. Definitely made me more curious about both Hawaiian history and about how Hansen's disease has been viewed/dealt with over the years. ...more
I so wanted to love this as much as I did Middlesex, and unfortunately it fell quite short. Enjoyable enough but it failed to live up to my admittedlyI so wanted to love this as much as I did Middlesex, and unfortunately it fell quite short. Enjoyable enough but it failed to live up to my admittedly high expectations...more