This was a cute book -- I liked the illustrations and the way it played with the tropes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White's faiThis was a cute book -- I liked the illustrations and the way it played with the tropes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White's fairy tales, imagining what might happen if they could inhabit one another's stories. And it was nice to see how this experiment reverberated back into their "regular lives" as they negotiated to get better deals for themselves. Especially gratifying was Snow White's insistence that the dwarfs pitch in to help her clean. FINALLY.
The rhymes felt a little forced at times, and even though it's a children's book, I was annoyed that it glossed over the roadblocks that kept some of these princesses where they were in the first place -- if Rapunzel could leave and return to her tower as easily as she does in this book, she would have no story at all!
My favorite page is the one where we see what Cinderella decides to do with her life, though:
"Cinderella went off to college instead, met a regular guy--less well-off but well-read."
This is a good introduction to the Holocaust without being TOO harrowing for kids, as it focuses on a group of Jews who fled through the wilderness toThis is a good introduction to the Holocaust without being TOO harrowing for kids, as it focuses on a group of Jews who fled through the wilderness to escape Nazi persecution. The artwork has a smudgy, memory-like quality that is appropriate to the subject matter. I wanted the angel to figure a little more prominently into the story than she did. ...more
This book started out a little slow for me, as it spent a lot of time talking about "primitive" computer dating, which started as far back as the 1960This book started out a little slow for me, as it spent a lot of time talking about "primitive" computer dating, which started as far back as the 1960s when a program would match up college students in Massachusetts. My interest picked up as it entered the realm of Internet dating as I know it -- and as I experienced. It also goes into the realm of forms of online dating that are still somewhat stigmatized, such as "mail-order brides" (dating sites that focus on matching women in the developing world with American men) and sites specifically to facilitate affairs (yuck).
One of the things I found most interesting was the fact that for many people, Internet dating has given them a sense of "abundance" -- whereas once people might have tried to "work things out" because they were under the impression that finding a new partner would be difficult, now it's supposedly easier for people to get out of lackluster relationships and to get over it more quickly by jumping right back into the market.
Somewhat disheartening was the cynicism of the teams behind most of these dating sites. Many of them do not believe they are facilitating permanent relationships -- they buy in to the idea that it's easier to find a mate and so sustaining a long-term relationship is less likely, and perhaps not even desirable. Because of course, once people pair off permanently, they have no more need for the dating site -- so it's not actually in exec's best interest for the sites to be truly "successful" in matching people up.
Like many books of this nature, this one skirts toward the alarmist at times: online dating makes people too picky, makes it too easy for them to be dishonest, makes it too easy for folks to leave relationships or be unfaithful, etc. This was not really my experience -- it was pretty easy to weed out the folks who were jerks, not serious, or otherwise "undesirable" before a first meeting ever took place, and everyone I ended up dating IRL was more-or-less who they presented themselves to be. And now that I am coupled off, I still have a healthy fear of how "hard" it is to find another worthwhile partner and thus invested in the one I have.
I think online dating, like other social media, exaggerates people's natural tendencies, or makes it easier to act on the less socially acceptable inclinations people have. But I don't think it can "make" someone who would have been a good partner in the past (i.e.: pre-online dating) a lousy partner in the present. Online dating, just like meeting people IRL, requires a certain level of discernment and self-awareness, and those who lack those characteristics are going to have a more difficult time of it.
It was interesting to learn more about OKCupid's demographics, which was the dating site I used. I opted for it for two reasons, both of which were very important to me: 1) it was free and 2) it allowed users to select "bisexual" as an orientation and search both men and women. But it turns out I pretty much matched OKC's demographics in other ways, too, as the book described it as appealing to the "geeky, writer types." No wonder I met the love of my life there! (This book also pretty much convinced me that the folks behind Match are all a bunch of crooks.)
So: I think people without personal experience with online dating would find this book alarming and might wring their hands over what the young folks were doin' these days. I think those with personal experience will recognize their experiences in some places and be shaking their heads in others. All in all though, it's an interesting look at something that has become standard fare in the dating world, and that is definitely here to stay.
Rounded up to 4 for this one mainly by virtue of the author being Neil Gaiman, which isn't really fair.
This was another book that I kind of3.5 stars
Rounded up to 4 for this one mainly by virtue of the author being Neil Gaiman, which isn't really fair.
This was another book that I kind of expected to like more than I actually did. It felt more like a collection of short stories then a novel -- and when I went to my book club group to discuss it, I discovered that Gaiman was in fact aiming for something of a "hybrid" between a collection of short stories and a novel. Unfortunately, it fell a little short on both counts. Although each of the anecdotes were well written and entertaining in their own right, when strung together they didn't feel cohesive enough to be satisfying as a novel. And yet they couldn't stand alone as short stories very well, either -- sort of the "worst of both worlds," unfortunately. I also didn't like how often the story drifted from Bod's point of view, into the perspective of the adult villain, bit characters, etc. One of my pet peeves in middle grade books is when they leave the child protagonist's PoV.
But obviously if I gave it almost four stars there were things I liked about it beyond the fact that it was written by Neil Gaiman. The setting, of course, has a lot going for it -- I could really picture the graveyard where Bod grew up, as well as the many characters that inhabited it. The story idea itself is unique and Gaiman executes it well. The story has a nice balance of frights, humor, and warmth. And the ending is satisfying in a totally heartbreaking way.
I look forward to the movie adaptation as I think it's a story well suited to film, and I hope to read the graphic novel interpretations as well. There's a lot worth "seeing" in this story. Also, I appreciate it a little more learning that it's a bit of a nod to The Jungle Book, which I coincidentally also happen to be reading right now. How's that for spooky?...more
I think what I liked best about this book was that it showed that there are so many different ways to be married. Marriage is an institution that lookI think what I liked best about this book was that it showed that there are so many different ways to be married. Marriage is an institution that looks different for everyone, and the voyeur in me likes to peek inside other people's, inevitably comparing them to my own (mostly along the lines of: "I would never put up with THAT," but of course "that" is very different when it's attached to someone you love vs. something you are reading about in a book and totally detached from.)
The book is arranged in reverse order according to length of marriage, so it starts with essays by women who have been married the longest. I found myself enjoying the book more near the end, when the writers were at similar stages in their marriages to where I am -- I related to these stories more. At the same time, I felt that these essays didn't have the "credibility" of the longer-married writers -- I know for a fact that at least one of those marriages is broken up now, and I was tempted to search the other names to see if their marriages lasted. That started to feel stalkerish to me, though, so I decided my time and energy could be spent better in other ways.
Because the fact that some of these marriages might in fact end was not the point of the collection -- the point was for women to reflect upon why they were still married *at that moment.* Each essay consisted of a time capsule for a particular marriage, but not the marriage's fate etched in stone.
I was glad that the book also included essays by women married to same-sex partners. I was a little surprised by how many of the women were on not second marriages, but thirds. I wanted to believe, as they did, that they were on their "final" marriages.
I found that I related to a lot of the women's thoughts or misconceptions about marriage, namely how "surprised" many of them were by the fact that they found themselves married at all, or that they fell for someone different than what they expected. I wonder if this is because all the women were also writers, which kept this from really being a representative sample of women's experiences of marriage in general. Writers tend to be introverted, tend to have somewhat flexible work lives, tend to have some economic instability, so along with them all sharing the same profession, they shared quite a few character traits as well. It made me wonder whether the book would be less accessible to women who were also wives but not also writers.
Some of the essays blurred together for me, while others seemed to end so abruptly that I was irritated by the editors for not pushing the writer for a little bit better closure, especially when it existed -- I'm thinking in particular of a story about a woman who had a health crisis, which made her think of her baby's health crisis right after he was born. At the time she wrote her essay, the baby was four, so I knew he lived -- but we never learned what his diagnosis was, nor hers. Definitely the most frustrating book in the collection.
Like almost every other anthology, this one is a mixed bag -- worth a read, but not a re-read....more
This book combines two of my favorite book types: marriage memoirs and published journals.
As his wife edges toward infidelity, Henry's faith in his maThis book combines two of my favorite book types: marriage memoirs and published journals.
As his wife edges toward infidelity, Henry's faith in his marriage is shaken enough that he begins looking inward. He is at a crossroads, which causes him to examine his marriage in a new way and consciously decide if and how to stay in it. The journal that unfolds is beautiful and straightforward; vulnerable and filled with wisdom. Anyone who has promised themselves they would "do better" in future interactions with a loved one will relate to what is written here. It's accessible and universal and the pages just flew by. I read it as my husband and I worked through one of our own areas of conflict, and Henry's words were like a balm. I've decided to keep the book to reread when comfort is similarly needed in the future.
I do wish the entries had been organized chronologically rather than by topic to get a better sense of how Henry's relationship with his wife was evolving over time. I also suspected that, as much as the journal helped him find clarity in his marriage, he may have also used it as a way to escape actually interacting with his wife; there are hints that she sees it that way. I also could see where her resentments about him being "selfish" came from -- there is one entry where he is annoyed because she did not pick up a birthday card for HIS sister, and it doesn't even cross his mind that perhaps remembering his own family's birthdays should be his responsibility, not hers. Like a lot of men of a generation older than my own, I think Henry suffered major blind spots when it came to what his wife actually contributed to the marriage. Still, I always admire a husband who is committed to deepening his relationship with his wife, and I'm glad that Henry recorded a bit of his journey doing so....more
I feel a bit like something might be wrong with me for not loving this book as much as a lot of people whose opinions I trust said I would. Was I m3.5
I feel a bit like something might be wrong with me for not loving this book as much as a lot of people whose opinions I trust said I would. Was I missing something? Was it the wrong book at the wrong time? Or was it just not my cup of tea after all?
What I liked about this story was the package it arrived in. I found the setting of the Night Circus to be truly exquisite, described and luscious detail and haunting me with its imagery, sounds, and scents long after the book was complete. I think this is the reason that so many fall in love with this book -- it creates a place that you really do want to return to, and a place that you find yourself longing to somehow see in real life.
But that wasn't quite enough for me in a book that felt a little bit cluttered with too many characters, some of whom I never really did get a clear handle on, and none of which I really connected with or liked as much as I liked the setting. The love story didn't capture my heart. The writing was good, but felt as though it tried to be a little too artsy fartsy -- the decision to tell a historical, third-person story in the present tense never stopped feeling out-of-place to me. Same with the interspersed second-person descriptions of the circus.
I did find the book's ending to be truly satisfying, and being able to write a satisfying ending truly is a gift. It was almost enough for me to bump my star rating for this up to four -- but then I remembered that I was fairly bored throughout the majority of the book.
Perhaps this is one of those books I would have liked more without the hype. I can see its appeal, but didn't quite feel it for myself. Although I do think it would make a truly stunning movie and look forward to its cinema debut. ...more
So, this book is one of those self-publishing "success stories" folks love to yammer on about.
When Grahame first wrote "The Wind in the Willows," no oSo, this book is one of those self-publishing "success stories" folks love to yammer on about.
When Grahame first wrote "The Wind in the Willows," no one wanted to publish it. He self-published it, it gained great popularity, now it's a classic, etc.
But all I could think as I read it was that I could see why no one wanted to publish it.
Talking animal stories are not really my cup of tea, but I've read plenty of them that were done well (Watership Down, Bambi, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH). This one was more the type of story that reminds me why I don't generally go for talking animal stories. The world-building here was horrible -- we have anthropomorphic forest critters who wear clothes, ride horses, and drive cars, and yet we also have humans who interact with them and seem to be comparable in size? Not to mention one scene where a rabbit is described as an auxillary character, and another in which Mr. Toad EATS a rabbit stew. Isn't that basically like eating your neighbor? All said, I couldn't figure out WHY this story had to be told using animals at all. Or why it even needed to be told, come to that.
Because it had absolutely no plot. I guess you could say that the plot had something to do with Mr. Toad's "reformation" from a cad to a humble gentleman, but there is no real evidence that a true transformation has taken place at the end of the book, since Toad had put on airs of repentance in the past that never stuck. And then there are all sorts of scenes that have nothing to do with this plot or with any discernible subplot, such as one where Mole and Rat go looking for a missing otter -- this is the story that, apparently, is behind the novel's name, even though it seems pretty inconsequential to the greater story.
It's written well enough and can be charming in places, but it was one of those books that leaves me wondering what in the world all the fuss is about, and why it came to be so popular in the first place. I guess I'll go read some positive reviews now to see what the heck people see in this book. ...more
I never thought that a book about a deer in the woods could be such a page-turner.
One of my friends described the book as beautiful. Another told me iI never thought that a book about a deer in the woods could be such a page-turner.
One of my friends described the book as beautiful. Another told me it was "quite good." And I first came across it referenced in a YA book when I was in middle school, in which the narrator claimed it was much better than the Disney version.
I agree with all of the above.
I first quickly flipped through to make sure that the animals actually talked, since I have a hard time making it through books without any dialog. They do, and their discussion characterizes their individual species well. I loved the kindness and respect with which the animals seemed to treat one another by default, humoring one another's weaknesses and foibles. At the same time, there is an undercurrent of the danger and harshness of the natural world, as birds and smaller rodents are occasionally killed by fox and ferrets.
But the main point of tension comes between those who live in the forest and the humans who encroach upon their very lives. The human threat looms much larger in this book than it does in the movie; the scene in which Bambi's mother is shot is a virtual blood bath, harrowing in its sense of entrapment. Indeed, it reminded me of a war story in which the enemy's soldiers had discovered and surrounded your hideout. Perhaps it is because of this harsh reality that Bambi's father instills in him the ideal that the only way to remain safe is to be alone:
"But of all his teachings this had been the most important; you must live alone, if you wanted to preserve yourself, if you understood existence, if you wanted to attain wisdom, you had to live alone."
Which is quite different from the overall feeling one takes away from the Disney movie, which is filled with cheerful sidekicks and the theme that "love is a song that never ends."
This sense of aloneness permeates the book and is perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of it. We see Faline's pain and confusion when Bambi decides, after a heady courtship, that he's "not sure" if he loves her anymore. We see Gobo's naivete when he returns from the human world believing that he has nothing to fear from it -- and the way this sets him apart from the other deer, so that he is no longer really one of them or truly domestic. One of the most poignant scenes in the book is one in which a fox tries to convince a hunting dog that he has become a traitor by allying himself with the humans; the dog's insistence that the human is the bringer of all good things, and that he is not alone in his decision to cross over to his side.
There's also a quiet spirituality about the piece, as Bambi's father tells him that there is "another" who is higher than both humans and the forest creatures.
I found this book at a library booksale and probably paid a quarter for it. I didn't know until I read it this weekend what a treasure I had on my bookshelf. ...more