This is the story of Louisa, an ordinary English girl who is content to work at a cafe and spend time with her family and fitness obsessed boyfriend.This is the story of Louisa, an ordinary English girl who is content to work at a cafe and spend time with her family and fitness obsessed boyfriend. The cafe where she waits tables closes, and after a round of unsatisfying gigs from the Job Center, she ends up interviewing for a job as companion to Will, a former daredevil businessman who is now a quadriplegic after an accident. Just as she is beginning to understand Will, she discovers that he intends to end his life in an assisted suicide; Lou makes it her mission to change his mind over the course of her six month contract.
Both Will and Lou are touching characters, and their story unfolds in a way that draws the reader in. My only quibble with the book is that the author chooses to, every so often, break from Louisa's first person narration and give us a chapter from a secondary character's point of view. These interludes are also in first person, and though I appreciated getting another perspective, none of them sounded different enough from Louisa to really ring true to me. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the book, even though it was heartbreaking at times....more
Rooms is really the story of a house, told by those that inhabit it, including the ghosts that haunt it. The death of an estranged family patriarch brRooms is really the story of a house, told by those that inhabit it, including the ghosts that haunt it. The death of an estranged family patriarch brings his family back the house, and as they pack up the house, their story unfolds. As they are observed by the ghosts of Alice and Sandra, former inhabitants of the home, the house's history unfolds as well. Secrets from the past and present are revealed, and things are shaken up for everybody when a new ghost joins the group.
While this sounds like it should be a spooky story, it really isn't. It's more of a poignant look at the things that haunt us, and the way the past stays with us. Lauren Oliver has a beautiful way with words and character, and this echoes the feel of Before I Fall. It's a nice return to form after the Delirium trilogy and Panic, which seemed more of the typical YA sort of stories. I hope we'll see more like Room from her in the future....more
Jody and Tommy are fledgling vampires, and they are in love. They just want to live their undeath together, but amid trying to move, finding a minion,Jody and Tommy are fledgling vampires, and they are in love. They just want to live their undeath together, but amid trying to move, finding a minion, and fending off Tommy's vampire-hunting, drug-addled friends, they must also face a murderous master vampire, who has been unwittingly set loose on the streets of San Francisco.
About a page into this book, I realized that I was reading a sequel. Bloodsucking Fiends precedes You Suck, but the novel works well on its own, and sums up events of the past without being too exposition heavy.
Moore reminds me quite a lot of Terry Pratchett, if the Discworld books were set in present-day America. He strikes that balance between absurdity and plot, and I found myself laughing aloud many times while reading, even as I couldn't stop turning the pages. His characters are richly drawn, from the major character to secondary characters like Blue, the blue-skinned call girl/hustler, homeless celebrity the Emperor of San Francisco, and of course, Jody and Tommy's perky goth-girl minion, Abby Normal. Even the huge shaved cat is given a distinct personality. I definitely want to go back and read Bloodsucking Fiends, and I will probably continue with more of Moore's work, particularly A Dirty Job and Lamb. ...more
I thought the book had a great premise- operatives for the Dr. Zeus company visit Tudor England in order to preserve plants, animals, and artifacts foI thought the book had a great premise- operatives for the Dr. Zeus company visit Tudor England in order to preserve plants, animals, and artifacts for the future (and for profit)- but fell a little flat in the execution. There wasn't much plot, other than a bit of forbidden romance, and the little plot there was meandered aimlessly before coming to an abrupt conclusion. The story was set in such an exciting, tumultuous time period, yet we only heard of those exciting details through the reports of other operatives, while our main character was stuck in the country, clipping plants and romancing a staunch Protestant. Not exactly as much fun as it could be, other than a few moments (such as the Christmas spectacle). I did enjoy little details like the "radio" reports and the use of language; Kage Baker mixes Elizabethan English with "Cinema Standard" quite seamlessly. Nevertheless, I felt like I was hoping for more, and was left unsatisfied.I know this is part of a series, but I doubt I will read on; I enjoyed the book well enough, I suppose, but there are so many other, more exciting books clamoring for my attention....more
This meticulously researched book tells the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two Chinese girls who are sworn to be "old sames," a special bond meant toThis meticulously researched book tells the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two Chinese girls who are sworn to be "old sames," a special bond meant to last throughout their lives. They live through many ups and downs and reversals of fortune, but their relationship remains the most important thing in their lives until a misunderstanding threatens to destroy it. See shows the growth of their relationship and the toll it takes when that bond is threatened, and through the women's tale, we are also given a glimpse of what life was like for women living in China in the nineteenth century, from their secret language, to the tradition of footbinding, to the their roles in the home.
Because of See's vivid descriptions, I was motivated to research on my own, particularly footbinding, which is difficult for my modern American mind to fully understand. One site I really recommend to gain some insight into this tradition is here, which features interviews with sixteen different women who have had their feet bound, as well as images of what a bound foot and the special shoes look like.
I really enjoyed the book, and the only thing that prevented me from giving it five stars was the ending, which I don't want to spoil or give away. ...more
The story of several men, really, who were wrongfully convicted of murders they did not commit, The Innocent Man is a page-turner. Grisham turned froThe story of several men, really, who were wrongfully convicted of murders they did not commit, The Innocent Man is a page-turner. Grisham turned from his usual legal fiction to pen this true-crime novel, and I think he accomplishes the jump to non-fiction pretty well. Sometimes the writing seemed a bit simple, but I think that can be appropriate when presenting facts.
I was horrified by the way the main subject of the book, Ron Williamson, was treated by the justice system, and possibly even more appalled by the way Dennis Fritz, the man assumed to be Williamson's partner in crime, was handled. Also nestled into the book are another pair of men, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, who were also wrongly convicted in the same town of a different murder. The inner workings of the legal system were fascinating, if infuriating; it was uplifting to see that, in the end, there were lawyers and judges who worked fairly and who worked very hard to see justice done.
I found The Innocent Man to be reminiscent of In Cold Blood, if not quite up to Capote's level of writing, but from the opposite point of view- that of men who are innocent. This is only my second true-crime book ever, however (the first being the aforementioned), so I don't know if that's just the accepted style of writing. Overall, I found the story intriguing, enough finish the book in just a couple of sittings. I'd recommend it for any fans of cold case shows or the Discovery ID network....more
I sat down on Thursday, groaning because I had to finish the book for my saturday book group. I finished in the wee hours of Friday morning. It's nothI sat down on Thursday, groaning because I had to finish the book for my saturday book group. I finished in the wee hours of Friday morning. It's nothing earth-shaking,but WfE has a plot that sucked me in and kept me reading.
Gruen tells the tale of Jacob Jankowski through a story within a story format. Jacob is in his nineties, in a nursing home, and is looking forward to a family visit that will include a trip to the circus. As he's anticipating this, he looks back at a period in his early twenties when, left ruined by the Depression, he joined the Benzini Brothers circus as a veterinarian. Weaving together life as an elderly and young man, he reveals the inner workings of life under the big top, particularly in the menageries, and relates his intense feelings for one of the circus performers, who happens to be married to his boss. The arrival of a circus elephant shakes things up for the cast and crew of the circus, and especially for Jacob, his boss, and the boss' wife. The story comes full circle to the present day with Jacob's longing to visit the circus across the street from his retirement home.
I found Gruen's narration is this book fairly deft; there is a definite difference in the voice of naive 20-something Jacob and crotchety ninety-something Jacob. She captures a male voice pretty well, and Jacob rings true as a character. I appreciated all the details on 1920's circus life, and I know Gruen did her research.
WfE was a quick, engrossing read; I'd say it would make a nice beach read, and it was an excellent book club selection. We'll have plenty to discuss, and it was an easy read.
ETA: Reading through the reviews, I've noticed that most of the lower rated reviews take issue with the sexual content of the book, to which I say: I'm puzzled. There are exactly two sex scenes, one of which is not explicit, and the other of which takes place in a drunken haze. They're less graphic than one would find in just about any romance novel, and tame compared to some scenes I've run across in "literary" fiction. I'll have to see how my book group reacts to it, but really, I find that reaction a bit prudish and silly,to be quite honest.
Spoiler: Also, while I admit that it was a fortuitous coincidence that Rosie, the elephant, only understood Polish, and Jacob happens to speak Polish, as well- Gruen based that off of a real circumstance, as she explained in the afterword. So to say that is a flaw in the plot, well, I don't get it. YMMV.
I believe I said up at the top that the book is nothing earth-shaking, and it's not. It's pretty standard best-seller fare. Still, it was enjoyable, and in my opinion well-written, which is why I'm responding to nitpicky reviews. It was an enjoyable book....more
This is one of those books that I often picked up and looked at, but never read. I'm shallow enough to admit I was turned off by the artwork and lackThis is one of those books that I often picked up and looked at, but never read. I'm shallow enough to admit I was turned off by the artwork and lack of recognizable characters. I must say, I am so glad that Watchmen was chosen by one of my book groups, forcing me to get past my first impressions.
Watchmen takes place in alternative universe, where the emergence of costumed adventurers has altered the course of modern history. The superheroes, the majority which are neither super nor all that heroic (with one notable exception), are in forced retirement, until the murder of one of their own compels them to action once more. The plot twists and turns in unexpected ways, all the while introducing us to these masked men and women, their histories, and their motivations, and draws to a riveting and ambiguous conclusion that leaves the reader pondering what heroism really means.
This graphic novel, published originally in 1986, ushered in a new era for comic fans; comic books became literature, and superheroes became people with flaws and angst of their own. Alan Moore truly takes the genre to the level of literature, pulling out all those post modern favorite techniques like meta-fiction, intertextuality, and symbolism, while still retaining the classic elements of comic books; while there are no whizz-bang sound effects or thought bubbles, he stays true to the format and elevates it to a new level. Likewise, David Gibbons, the artist, uses the art in a deeper way; each panel is filled with meaning and symbolism, from the repeated use of the Comedian's smiley face, to the repeated graffiti asking, "Who watches the watchmen?" The art creates a cinematic feel and also evokes the "golden age" style of comics, and in the end I was appreciative of it. Both writer and artist have put a lot of thought into this work; for example, the chapter "Fearful Symmetry" is based on the William Blake poem, The Tyger, and not only are there numerous places where both plot and image symmetry are used, but the panels are symmetrical goign from first page to last page, second page to second-to-last page, and so on. The chapter also refers to the character, Rorschach, who wears a mask with a shifting, symmetrical inkblot, who tends to think in black and white, and is a character that others should be fearful of.
One negative issue did get brought up in my book group meeting, and that was the treatment of the women in the book. Try as we might, we couldn't find many positive portrayals of female characters. We found the rape storyline distasteful, if only because all the characters but two, including the character who was the victim, are pretty dismissive of the serious nature of that act, and pretty forgiving of the rapist. I don't like seeing rape used as the start of a consensual, romantic relationship, and I don't like seeing a woman put her rapist up on a pedastal.
I still give the book five stars, however, because overall I loved the story and the characters, and found the writing stunning and moving. This is a landmark, watershed book, but it is also just a fine, enjoyable read. I'd recommend it to folks giving the genre a try for the first time, as well as graphic novel readers looking to branch out from Batman, Supes, and Spidey. ...more
It's interesting to do this review right on the heels of reading Duma Key, by Stephen King, because the overarching theme is much the same: do we creaIt's interesting to do this review right on the heels of reading Duma Key, by Stephen King, because the overarching theme is much the same: do we create or change reality through art, in this case, through fiction? Once we take a dream, nightmare, or inspiration from "the muse" and give it physicality, whether on page, screen, or canvas, have we made that real? How does it affect the people who are exposed to it? Without giving away the plot twist, I'll just say that from the very beginning, Briony Tallis influences everyone around her by voicing her perceived reality, and while that's immediately evident, that notion is deepened and turned on its head by the final pages. This is a thought provoking read, centered on creation, consequence, culpability, and of course, atonement. It leaves the reader with more questions than answers, and the seeds planted by the ideas in the novel will remain with the reader long after they turn the last page.
I will say I got a bit bogged down in the descriptions of the war and the nursing ward, but then again, other people in my book group loved those sections of the book. It is interesting how the time period plays into the plot, and how the class distinctions of the time play their role. ...more
I liked what I read of this book; I just have a giant TBR pile of things calling to me, and once the date for thebook group passed, I put it aside. I'I liked what I read of this book; I just have a giant TBR pile of things calling to me, and once the date for thebook group passed, I put it aside. I'll probably pick up again once the pile is a bit smaller....more
The book synopsis indicates that this book focuses primarily on the personal ad Juska placed ("Before I turn 67-next March-I would like to have a lotThe book synopsis indicates that this book focuses primarily on the personal ad Juska placed ("Before I turn 67-next March-I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like.") It does tell the tale of her ad, the response, and the results of her emotional and physical journey, but that story is equally balanced with Juska's recounting of her past. The tales of the men she meets are interwoven with stories of her family life, her teaching career, her failed marriage, and her parenting hits and misses.
I honestly found the memoir aspects of the book more interesting than the details of her love affairs and sexual encounters. Her discussion of her parents and of growing up in the midwest in the 40s and 50s piqued my interest, whereas the information about the various men in her life merely raised my eyebrows. I was especially interested in the chapter about her tenure teaching prisoners at San Quentin; I wish she would have written a memoir about that, instead of her misguided sexual escapades.
The one thing I really fault the book on is the overuse of quotations; I get that Juska is well-read and intellectual, and I don't need to see a bit of poetry or a witty line from an obscure writer presented on every other page to remind me of that. I know that this is Juska's first book, and that the quoting is probably an earmark of amateur writing, but I would rather read her words than someone else's.
Overall, it was an entertaining book, but I probably would never have picked it up if it hadn't been a bookclub selection....more