This has been on my TBR since it was published. I had worked for a while in a program serving a heavily Dominican community, yet knew little about theThis has been on my TBR since it was published. I had worked for a while in a program serving a heavily Dominican community, yet knew little about the Dominican Republic. Reading this book showed me I didn't know little, I knew nothing.
Not that I don't take the historical aspects of this tale, in the exaggerated, compelling but not wholly believable voice of the #1 Dominican player in mid-Jersey, with a few grains of salt...but it did teach me a bit about the fraught history of the DR. (We invaded twice?)
The corrective to my ignorance of just about all things DR was the best part of the book for me, but it was also a near-addictive read. Why, I don't know, since the scrambled chronology was a little difficult, the repetitive incidents seemed more unimaginative than meaningful and, no fan of fantasy, the family-curse stuff did not attract me.
In the end, I'd say Diaz is just a great story teller, and I couldn't put it down....more
So, here's a "post-9/11 novel" set in the period when the Twin Towers were new, in fact, not 100% finished, still trying to attract tenants. August 19So, here's a "post-9/11 novel" set in the period when the Twin Towers were new, in fact, not 100% finished, still trying to attract tenants. August 1974, and a young Philippe Petit sneaks into the WTC with a band of accomplices and achieves his dream of walking across a wire stretched between the Towers, 100+ stories above the plaza. Walks across, dances across, lies down on, juggles on, hops on....he puts on quite a show, and all the while Real Life is going on in New York City, 100+ stories below him.
And this novel jumps, strolls, hops from one Real Life story to the next: the hookers arrested while on the stroll under the Deegan, the group of bereaved mothers of sons killed in Vietnam; the husband and wife artists discovering fissures in their marriage, the disillusioned judge working in a vermin-infested courthouse just a step above Night Court...all separate, all interlocked.
I guess this is well written; the voices were somewhat distinct (though that of the Guatemalan nurse was very unconvincing), the stories just compelling enough that I read to the end. My problem with the book was the long sections in the beginning in the voice of one Irish guy, introducing us to his brother, a type of St-Francis-with-addictive-personality named Corrigan (given the gag-worthy nickname Corrie later on). And I just did not buy Corrigan. I didn't admire him, I didn't get him, and I wasn't interested in him. So I was kind of put off from the start. With a different initial focus (for instance, Gloria, one of the bereaved moms), this might have been a more gripping and pleasurable reading experience. ...more
Of all the just-calling-it-in books in the latter half of Grimes's Richard Jury mysteries, none can have been more just-called-in than this one. WhatOf all the just-calling-it-in books in the latter half of Grimes's Richard Jury mysteries, none can have been more just-called-in than this one. What follows is a rant; my first sentence sums the review up nicely!
I loved the early books in the series, and the early Jury: slightly melancholy, with a devastating smile, the man smarting from the tragic turn of his boyhood. At some point, alas, Grimes gave us a more lighthearted Jury, trading in his melancholy (maybe because melancholy had become such a cliche in detective fiction?) for an almost sappy laughing-and-smiling-at-everything. Then there was the embarrassing Jury the Wild Lover, overturning furniture in his passion for the unfortunate Luz Aguilar.
In this installment, Luz has been gotten out of the way, and Jury's most distinguishing characteristic is his ability to name high-end brands of women's fashion: he recognizes Jimmy Choo shoes, a Lanvin dress, etc. What this adds to his character, I don't know. Given that he was a kid during WWII, and this book seems to take place in the early 2000's, Jury has to be in his 70's, and I find it creepy that he is taking such careful note of what some of the young women in this story are wearing.
But I digress...which is nothing compared to the digressions that pad this weak-plotted book. Grimes trots out the cast of Northants characters mainly for show, and to take up space; even Melrose Plant does little of any importance. But they all appear: his aunt, his butler, his hermit, his goat, his horse, his dog, the waiter at his London club, Vivian Rivington, still blushing, Diane DeMornay, now toting around a dog's water dish, Marshal Trueblood, etc., etc. She seems to bring them out to mollify the subset of her readers for whom they are the most attractive aspect of this series.
One of Grimes's greatest gifts has always been the ability to sketch memorable minor characters in just a few sentences. Alas, that gift is not much on display here. The most striking of these characters seems to be a cross between an extra from La Cage Aux Folles and The Food Network.
Then there is the mystery. The first third of the book just piles up the suspicious deaths....and the solving of all these murders is a murky mess at the end. Perhaps Grimes was going for an amazing fast-paced ending, one surprise after another, twisting and turning. It seemed more like she'd grown tired of writing this mediocrity and just wanted to get it over with. She doesn't even bother to give a straightforward reason for one of the murders.
This book was a waste of time. Only glad that someone passed it on to me. Had I wasted cash for this I would have closed the book truly depressed...more
It was a clever idea: the picture that ages, that reflects the vices of the man, while he himself is, visually, unchanged. It might have made a greatIt was a clever idea: the picture that ages, that reflects the vices of the man, while he himself is, visually, unchanged. It might have made a great short story. But it was too slight an idea to support a novel. Despite all the witty, naughty epigrams issuing from Dorian's friend Lord Henry and his circle, I am afraid that, in the end, Dorian had become that unforgivable thing: a bore....more
This was a straight-through non-stop re-read, rare experience that may have added to the pleasure. I have read all of Hillerman's Chee/Leaphorn mysterThis was a straight-through non-stop re-read, rare experience that may have added to the pleasure. I have read all of Hillerman's Chee/Leaphorn mysteries at least once, so this was an opportunity to spend time with old friends.
The thing I noticed this time through, with much appreciation, was that Hillerman was not afraid to show weakness in his "Legendary Lieutenant" Joe Leaphorn. He's retired, and bored, and lonely, and though he has a healthy self-awareness, he can still evoke some compassionate listening from Bernie Manuelito, a young Navajo Tribal Police officer and Chee's budding love interest. The scene in which her kindness to Leaphorn touches Chee's heart was so real and so human. I am glad Hillerman had the nerve to let his "hero" show signs of age and not thunder on as a ridiculous sexagenarian action figure. (Perhaps I noticed this more this time around as I am a bit closer to sexagenarian status myself!)
Beyond this, there's always the pleasure of Hillerman's great creation of sense of place, his interweaving of Navajo belief and practices. Perhaps many readers will catch on to who the real bad guy is a few steps ahead of Leaphorn, but that did not take away the joy of being with him and Jim in the middle of canyon country....more
To really enjoy this book, one must have an intense appreciation for Mr. Ondaatje's almost hallucinogenic poetic images. One must be able to lose onesTo really enjoy this book, one must have an intense appreciation for Mr. Ondaatje's almost hallucinogenic poetic images. One must be able to lose oneself in them. One must have little concern for plot or coherence.
I do not have that talent. So, while reading the book, I had many moments of thinking What the heck is that supposed to mean? I spent a lot of time trying to figure out when a particular set-piece was supposed to take place within the novel's shaky chronology. (view spoiler)[ It this before Patrick was in prison, or after? Is Alice dead already? Does he try to blow up the waterworks after he and Hana go to pick up Clara, or before? (hide spoiler)] I finished reading the book without a clear idea of how it had ended.
My three stars are more of a reflection of my cowardly caving in to the words of official book critics than of my own experience. Yes, Ondaatje sometimes puts words together so beautifully, they shimmer on the page. At other times, however, they are more of a murky morass than refulgence. Out of respect for the book-reviewing-world, I gave it 3 stars. For my own reading experience, more like 2. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is a series of essays by Burrows, a Carmelite nun, on the life of Jesus and our life with God. I love her perspective on prayer, both freeinThis book is a series of essays by Burrows, a Carmelite nun, on the life of Jesus and our life with God. I love her perspective on prayer, both freeing and challenging. She calls for nothing less that total dependence on God and acknowledgement of our incapacity to merit grace on our own. Sounds stark, but it is not. Her initial, humble recollections of her difficulty with prayer, with the Carmelite life, are very encouraging, as they assure the reader that these essays are not the stern recommendations of a super ascetic, but shared, hard-won wisdom of a fellow-traveler....more
Would be 2 1/2 if such a rating were available! This is a hopelessly old-fashioned mystery in every respect, but I still enjoyed it. Tuppence and TommWould be 2 1/2 if such a rating were available! This is a hopelessly old-fashioned mystery in every respect, but I still enjoyed it. Tuppence and Tommy are not as egaging as Hercule Poirot, but this was a fun read and mental comfort food. The LESS one thinks about what one is reading, the better one will enjoy this book. My biggest quibbles: 1. The whole plot turns on the search for a Very Incriminating Document that Will Destroy England. It is handed off to a young American girl on the Lusitania by a British agent in the very first scene. The whole problem would have been avoided had he simply destroyed it....hence the premise is quite ridiculous. (view spoiler)[It also is very much like the ongoing subplot in a five book series WWI series by Anne Perry, equally ridiculous there, too: a potential WWI-ending treaty that would End All We Hold Dear in Britain. Did Perry get her idea from Christie?? (hide spoiler)] 2. There is an extremely unconvincing American character - reminds me of the caricature eponymous American cousin in the play being performed the night Lincoln was shot. 3. An observation that British girls are simpler, or younger, than their American counterparts is repeated a few times. Was this the prevailing belief in 1920's Britain? American men were naïve goofballs but the women were sharp little numbers? ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I received this as a free Kindle book. My enjoyment of the descriptions of scenery and sights of India was diminished a bit by the obsessive referencesI received this as a free Kindle book. My enjoyment of the descriptions of scenery and sights of India was diminished a bit by the obsessive references to misspellings on menus (who cares?) and an "aren't the natives colorful and wacky?" tone to most accounts of his encounters with Indians. The book gave me a good feel for the inconveniences and serendipitous joys of traveling through India and Nepal on the cheap, and respect for those who, like the author, have the stamina to spend months doing it. ...more
An overview of spiritual practices that aim to help someone develop a deeper relationship with Christ and, indeed, to be transformed into one's best sAn overview of spiritual practices that aim to help someone develop a deeper relationship with Christ and, indeed, to be transformed into one's best self, "a little Christ." Some chapters seemed to presume no exposure to any spiritual practices and others quite a bit of experience. Perhaps it was intended to be read over a long period of time, which would also explain the noticeable repetition.
Nonetheless, I got a lot from this book and I can't imagine that anyone who is serious about spiritual growth could read it without profit....more
Both of Hillerman's detectives are in new positions that don't quite fit: Joe Leaphorn is spending his retirement acting like a cop and Jim Chee, ActiBoth of Hillerman's detectives are in new positions that don't quite fit: Joe Leaphorn is spending his retirement acting like a cop and Jim Chee, Acting Lieutenant, avoids supervisory duties by plunging deep into the investigation of the murder of one of his officers. I love the contrast between "modern" Leaphorn and "traditional" Chee and the bits here and there about Navajo (and to a lesser extent, Hopi) belief and practice, which gradually add up to presentation of a whole world view.
My second time reading the book; the first was probably 8-10 years ago. As much a pleasure as the first time....more
This book completely absorbed me. It combined the utterly foreign - Calcutta in the 1960s and the Naxalite movement, a Mao-inspired, student-embraced,This book completely absorbed me. It combined the utterly foreign - Calcutta in the 1960s and the Naxalite movement, a Mao-inspired, student-embraced, ultimately failed violent campaign to lift up poor villagers, which I'd never heard of previously - with the relatively familiar: life in a New England college town by the shore. I thought that Lahiri managed the various shifts in narrators in a masterful way and I was impressed by her ability to keep me interested in the story of so many fundamentally unpleasant characters (not necessarily unsympathetic, but no one I'd like to spend much time with in real life).
I did find myself tiring of her idiosyncratic sentence style from time to time, hence only four stars. But I highly recommend this story, at once a painful look at the passing-on of dysfunction from one generation to the next and a glimpse at the possibility of hope and happiness even for the most broken....more
This turned out to be one of my favorites in this series. Leon isn't illuminating a particular social issue (other than frequent references to governmThis turned out to be one of my favorites in this series. Leon isn't illuminating a particular social issue (other than frequent references to government corruption, but that is a constant in this series!). It starts off with the unfortunate death of a truly miserable human being, reminding me of many "classic" mysteries in which the victim is such a pain in the neck, there is a long list of possible killers. The threads of various leads are woven together by Brunetti's ruminations on the Seven Deadly Sins and there are some instances of truly human interaction between him and his favorite subordinate, Vianello. (view spoiler)[ When I came to the end, closing the book, I looked at the title and thought, HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED IT? The solution was right on the cover! (hide spoiler)]...more
I liked this book enough to finish it, but couldn't see what the fuss was about: the acclaim for the book as well as the always-on-the-edge-of-hysteriI liked this book enough to finish it, but couldn't see what the fuss was about: the acclaim for the book as well as the always-on-the-edge-of-hysteria tone. The characters are operating either at fever pitch ALL THE TIME, or on automatic pilot. The main character's obsession with an obscure book is not credible (whose childhood fixations last unabated through adolescence?) and although loads of outlandish things happen to him, he remains pretty much a cipher. This was in the YA section of our library, and it is pretty YA.
The sad thing is, this book should have been a 5-star experience: a book about being a book lover, and a mystery on top of that: and here I am, a book-obsessed mystery fan. But, no. The set-up was great, but the follow-through was poor. Pages and pages are spent on side plots that go nowhere (such as the hero's passion for an older blind girl). The post-WWII Spanish setting is, IMHO, squandered. One expects all kinds of Franco fascist machinations and, instead, get inexplicable obsessions and a policeman as implacable as Javert, but creepier. The mystery is "solved" in the lamest way possible.
The longer I think about the book, the more inclined I am to deduct a star. It should really be 2 1/2, but in honor of some great lines from the main character's sidekick/protector, Fermin, I'll leave it at 3. ...more
This is my second read - I ran through all of Hillerman's mysteries beginning in the 1990's and loved them.
This time around, it took a little while foThis is my second read - I ran through all of Hillerman's mysteries beginning in the 1990's and loved them.
This time around, it took a little while for this one to grow on me. Jim Chee was meeting one jerk of a white person after another - a Mrs. Vines, her husband, a local sheriff - and it seemed heavier on the jerks than on Jim Chee. I grew more engaged once Chee was more or less on his own, trying to learn about a decades-old event as a way of solving unsavory behavior in the present.
Favorite moment: Chee memorizing the chant for a Navajo ceremonial by listening to a recording of his uncle singing it - via a TAPE RECORDER balanced on the PASSENGER SEAT OF THE PATROL CAR. Ah, those were the days.
The mystery kept my attention enough to read it to the end. But, as many have noted here, the ending was rushed and incomplete and when I reached it,The mystery kept my attention enough to read it to the end. But, as many have noted here, the ending was rushed and incomplete and when I reached it, my reaction was Huh??
On the plus side: we heard a little less from Hamish... ...more