I'm not going to attach any particular number of stars to this book, because I'm totally aware that my feelings about this book have everything to doI'm not going to attach any particular number of stars to this book, because I'm totally aware that my feelings about this book have everything to do with taste and little to do with any intrinsic quality/lack thereof in this book.
I decided to check out The Magician's Assistant because I adored State of Wonder and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
To understand why I didn't like this book, you have to understand a littel about my preferences in books: 1) I prefer books with a strong, problem-oriented plot, 2) I like characters who have strong personalities, with consistent and believable psychology, 3) I like main characters to learn something that makes them better people by the end of the book, 4) I don't mind depressing books if they lean towards dark humor rather than simple morose-ness, 5) I like romance that is about real love, not infatuation (meaning it is not based on superficial appearances or what the person wants their beloved to be, but instead is based on deep, mutual appreciation, respect, acceptance, and shared goals).
This book is pretty much the opposite of my tastes. While I do enjoy some literary fiction, I am not won over solely by perfect diction, amazing description (there is some fabulous insider description of L.A.), or introspection just for introspection's sake. I had a real problem with the meandering nature of the narrative, especially when it follows primarily a wishy-washy main character, who would rather be some kind of tragic heroine who lusts after unattainable, beautiful people than a woman with a real life and real love in it. Also, there were a lot of moments what I think were supposed to be "revelations," but not one of them were actually surprising, at least not to me.
I did, however, like the little magically-real flashbacks with Phan, the aforementioned details about L.A., and the precise and artistic use of language that Patchett excels at.
I didn't enjoy Wurthering Heights, On the Road, Jude the Obscure, and many other books that people describe as classics, and felt lukewarm after reading Anna Karenina. Like I said, my lack of appreciation for this book is entirely about taste. So, I'd recommend you decide what kind of tastes you have, and then you can decide if this book is for you or not....more
A young princess arrives at her new country, expecting to meet her husband-to-be, its crown prince. Instead, she is informed of his recent demise.
HoweA young princess arrives at her new country, expecting to meet her husband-to-be, its crown prince. Instead, she is informed of his recent demise.
However, the prince is not dead. He's been stricken by a horrible wasting disease. Tossed into the city of Elantris with the disease's other sufferers, he must survive in a lawless and leaderless environment.
Richly imagined, Elantris impressed me even more when I discovered it was Sanderson's first book. A standalone from an author who usually writes series, it's a good place to start if you want to read his books.
A third of the book is written from a woman's perspective, and I really like how he depicted what it's like to be a "smart girl." I could identify with many of those passages, and was surprised to see them handled so well by a male author.
I found Sanderson's descriptions of religion interesting, too. At the end, I think he was advocating for a spiritually-driven, but tolerant, lifestyle. I know little of the author's personal life other than that he's from Utah and taught at BYU, and I kept wondering how much of his approach had been formed by his interaction with Mormons.
Charming and complex, yet relatively chaste, this book would be excellent for Fantasy fans 16 and up....more
Sublimely magically real picture book. I asked my 9 y o, "Too weird? Or perfectly weird?" He said, "Just perfect." I particularly enjoyed Adam Rex's rSublimely magically real picture book. I asked my 9 y o, "Too weird? Or perfectly weird?" He said, "Just perfect." I particularly enjoyed Adam Rex's realistic illustrations coupled with the wacky text....more
As a writer, I have to say that this is one of the most perfectly constructed books I have ever read, from the perspective of pure skill.
The book begiAs a writer, I have to say that this is one of the most perfectly constructed books I have ever read, from the perspective of pure skill.
The book begins slowly, but I was not bored. Marina is a pharmacologist living in Minnesota. Her officemate, Anders, departed weeks ago for the Amazon. His mission: persuade the doctor, Dr. Swenson, their company has funded to research a fabulous new fertility treatment to report progress, if not return to the States with the product in hand.
Their boss, Mr. Fox, arrives to hand Marina a letter. It informs them that Anders has died of a tropical fever.
Mr. Fox and Anders's wife convince Marina to go down to the Amazon to 1)bring back Anders's body and a detailed report of the circumstances of his death, and 2)complete the elusive Dr. Swenson to update the company regarding the drug's progress. Marina is selected both because of her long working relationship with Anders and because of her familiarity with Dr. Swenson, who had taught her many years previously at medical school.
Thus begins Marina's painfully slow trip down into the Amazon. Dr. Swenson has intentionally made the location of her research lab remote and those who know its whereabouts are -- for some reason at first unknown to Marina -- intentionally concealing them. Teasing little tidbits of what happened to Anders and to what is going on down the Amazon are offered to the reader, and I started to try to guess what would happen. Layer upon layer of foreboding hit me as I read of Marina's misadventures. Maybe I've read too many horror novels or sci-fi novels (and this truly is a sci-fi novel, albeit a literary one) -- I expected bad, bad, bad stuff to happen.
When Marina finally discovers Dr. Swenson, what she discovers is much tamer than the horrors my imagination pictured...but at the same time scarier in a way, because there are real moral and scientific issues presented and Marina is repeatedly called on to confront her personal demons.
I was not 100% satisfied with the conclusion. I thought that Mr. Fox's personality needed more depth. Marina as a character is sympathetic, but you kinda wish she'd become a little more unhinged by the craziness around her. And that she would stand up for herself more firmly. And that after all the creepiness, the payoff would be something a little more dramatic, with a fear that was more visceral and less cerebral. And that (view spoiler)[when we see Anders, he's a little more interesting. And why do they sleep together? I felt like it was the cheap way out and didn't make psychological sense. This is a man who wrote love letter after love letter to his wife while away. It would have made more sense for Marina to feel great love when she finds him, but for him to look at her with gratitude, but no romantic love. The reason she loves him now is because she missed him, presumed him dead, and has made him the center of her existence since the moment she learned of his death. But that's not the case for him. It would have made more sense for him to talk incessantly of Karen, or to have really gone mad. (hide spoiler)]
Other than that, there is hardly a thing to criticize. Every "shotgun" introduced early on is fired in the end. All endings are based in hints that appear early on, and with the exception of my complaint above, logically follow. And in an era where most novels feel like the editor made no cuts whatsoever, this book is written very, very tightly. There's hardly a word that doesn't need to be there. Very masterful, impressive writing.
And fun. I had problems putting the book down. The only reason I didn't finish it last night was because I was worried the end might scare me (and then I'd NEVER sleep...I'm definitely the type who is susceptible to nightmares).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Appealing YA book about growing up and learning to extend your focus beyond yourself.
When 16 year-old Raina is "counselled out" of her Jewish high schAppealing YA book about growing up and learning to extend your focus beyond yourself.
When 16 year-old Raina is "counselled out" of her Jewish high school in New York, she moves in with her aunt in Toronto to start over. At her new school, Rain flounders along, but when she scores unexpected success a arranging a shidduch, she finds herself suddenly in demand among the desperate singles in the community under the pseudonym, "MatchMaven." There's only one problem: they don't know she's a teen. Things get still more complicated when her sister -- who blames her broken engagement on Rain's being expelled -- turns to MatchMaven to find a new mate.
Okay, soon there are other problems, too. But you'll have to read the book to learn about those.
The book starts out very light, very fun, capturing Rain's youthful voice beautifully. She pouting because her joie de vivre has been tamped down by her parents and the administration of her last school. She isn't a bad girl, but like most teens, she's more interested in friends and fun than responsibility or the needs of others.
As her online identity as MatchMaven starts to endanger her RL existence, Rain matures on the page. She accepts her past mistakes and does her best to right those wrongs. Rosen still handles her heroine with humor -- in fact, the book gets funnier as it goes along. But Rain picks up weight as a person, and the book become more introspective, more substantive.
There are other things I liked, too. For all it's focus on matchmaking, the central character is an Orthodox Jewish girl who does not date herself. Her concerns in daily life are those shared by teenager everywhere -- finding friends, balancing fun and responsibility, growing independence, coping with school staff and class assignments -- but the lack of a romantic subplot for Rain is refreshing, to me.
Also, the girls and women in this book enjoy baseball, dig math, practice law, aspire to be "techies." Many books with Orthodox female characters portray them as old-fashioned, anti-feminist girlie-girls, and this book stands out in depicting the more varied personalities I see in my own Orthodox community. And the old ladies in the book are a riot.
The Jewish material is only what is required to make the story and characters make sense, and it is provided with an absence of complicated lingo or complex ideas. Nothing is preachy, it's just part of the atmosphere.
I was a bit more pareve about the original Chu book, which seemed to me to rely too heavily on a single gag, but this book charmed the pants off my 5I was a bit more pareve about the original Chu book, which seemed to me to rely too heavily on a single gag, but this book charmed the pants off my 5 year old, who will be starting her first day in full-day school next week. The "Ah-choo" joke remains, but it's put into a more meaningful context here by Mr. Gaiman. The parents are surprisingly complex. The artwork by Adam Rex is subtle and attractive. Definitely a winner....more
In the Lipstick Proviso, readers will find a feminism that promotes women's interests without locking them into any particular role -- not the "traditIn the Lipstick Proviso, readers will find a feminism that promotes women's interests without locking them into any particular role -- not the "traditional" role shunned by Second Wave feminists, nor the role those feminists tried to replace it with. Lehrman points out the irrationality of a lot of Second Wave and even some Third Wave feminism, basing a lot of her points on research that feminists ignore (the studies to which she refers are listed in extensive endnotes). She also describes the gap between what the most outspoken feminists espouse and how women live their lives and aspire to live their lives. Another theme Lehrman comes back to repeatedly is that women must do what is best and healthiest for THEM -- women should be active agents in their lives, not simply following the herd, no matter which herd that might be.
Even though the book is now over a decade old, I found myself nodding along with a lot of Lehrman's points. While a few discussions suffer under the weight of time -- mostly, the discussion of date rape fails to consider the mind-games offenders will play with their victims -- research subsequent to the book's publication often boosters its arguments.
For those who call themselves feminists, yet feel put-off by the feminism of the previous two generations, this book is a winner. ...more
When Tor released the first five chapters of Lock In for free over the summer, a fast-paced plot with well-developed and believable world creation hooWhen Tor released the first five chapters of Lock In for free over the summer, a fast-paced plot with well-developed and believable world creation hooked me on this near-future sci-fi thriller. There was no way I was going to pass up on reading the entire book.
This week, I got to follow through on that desire. The plot kept up pace, with some memorable scenes that could only have happened in the world of Lock In (My favorite scene lasts all of two pages, when the narrator shows up at the FBI office in L.A. Just too funny.). World creation continued to be top-notch. That said, the narrator lacks personality, and doesn't act or sound like the young guy on the job for the first day that he should sound like.
Also, the stagey end wraps things up too tidily (almost like an old-fashioned cozy, with a confrontation scene and all). Since we are pretty much told to expect the fall of the bad guy before it actually happens, most of the suspense gets sucked out of the last 25 pages. I found myself hoping for a twist that didn't come.
Despite this, Lock In is definitely a fun and zippy read, with just enough substance due to moral issues popping up here and there and everywhere due to the technological issues presented for the book to have some weight to it. For example, there's a lot to discuss with fellow readers about what makes us human, the difference between personality and body, what a person's priorities would be if they were "locked in" and then embodied in an "integrator," and so on. The discussions about prejudice will resonate with Americans of every color and also advocates for those with special needs. Overall, I prefer Fuzzy Nation or Old Man's War, but Lock In was worth reading nonetheless.
P.S. The prequel up on Tor's site (which ran prior to the five chapters I mentioned up front) is mentioned in at least one of the other reviews. It is EXCELLENT. I actually found the writing even more compelling than the novel itself, and it's definitely a great idea to read it before starting Lock In....more
Useful, friendly advice on all details of grant applications for artists of all types. Rosenberg makes a boring subject readable, and throws in lots oUseful, friendly advice on all details of grant applications for artists of all types. Rosenberg makes a boring subject readable, and throws in lots of resources for even more info....more
First-class, elegant writing in these very personal essays, along with significant insights into the act of writing itself. In particular, Patchett shFirst-class, elegant writing in these very personal essays, along with significant insights into the act of writing itself. In particular, Patchett shows how writing from the writer's perspective without excessive editorializing can touch without offend people who might disagree with the author's opinions about controversial topics such as politics and religion. My favorites essays were "Love Sustained," "The Sacrament of Divorce," "The Getaway Car" and "The Mercies." Highly recommended in particular for writers....more