This really blew me away. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I got something that felt a little like a John Green/Sylvia Plath mash-up in tone, an...moreThis really blew me away. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I got something that felt a little like a John Green/Sylvia Plath mash-up in tone, and I loved it.
It's tough to sum up the plot here briefly -- it's as layered as every family always is, and narrated by a boy who's straddling the divide between childhood and adulthood from the beginning. Chase is, as the copy says, trying to hold his family together, but you can't forget that Chase is a member of the family, too. As constant and steady as he wants to be, he learns over the course of four summers that things will always change, that life is as fluid and impermanent as a wave on the beach. Who's holding him together?
The writing is completely real, and not always pretty. Chase creates a really intimate portrait of his family and friends, marked by the kind of love that's too honest to overlook flaws and faults. Every summer delivered a new, unexpected twist -- just like life does, of course.
It's another book that made me cry, too, in the very best way. I can't wait to read everything else Hannah Moskowitz has written. (less)
A quarter of the way through The Chaperone, I was hooked on a book I had, until then, only found a pleasant enough read. And Louise Brooks, as I'm sur...moreA quarter of the way through The Chaperone, I was hooked on a book I had, until then, only found a pleasant enough read. And Louise Brooks, as I'm sure the author intended, wasn't what I was interested in.
Not that Louise isn't interesting, of course. Moriarty writes her so convincingly -- smarter than most girls, as damaged as many, buoyed by unique beauty and talent, Louise is also a completely typical snotty teenager. Her contempt for Cora -- thirty-six-year-old corset- and sensible-shoe-wearing Cora -- perfectly pitched.
The author's trick, however, is that by the time Louise is high on New York City and the promise of a dance career -- and therefore even more disdainful of the Midwestern housewife who has accompanied her -- plain, quiet Cora has revealed secrets to the reader that Louise would never imagine. Cora has her own painful reasons for wanting to visit New York, and Louise is not much more than a decent excuse, so Cora's journey is the one we undertake, and it's a lovely one. Her enlightenment halfway through the book is maybe a little too easily earned given her background and the time period, but it's never perfect, never absolutely complete, which makes it more believable. The conclusions she comes to about love and deceit and morality are often heart-breaking, too.
Moriarty's depiction of New York City, especially through the lens of 1922, is vivid and precise, and her conclusions about family and fate are beautifully simple and very effective. As Louise fades, Cora blooms, and it's a fascinating juxtaposition of women's freedoms, real or manufactured, as the country changes in dozens of ways. (less)
So many people I know had read this, I wanted to give it a shot (and I do love circuses).
Older Jacob really charmed me, and the details of circus lif...moreSo many people I know had read this, I wanted to give it a shot (and I do love circuses).
Older Jacob really charmed me, and the details of circus life were fascinating and often pretty startling -- a few characters suffered fates I didn't see coming, and I have to applaud the author for being willing to suck it up and make the hard, but likely realistic, choices. It's a fast, enjoyable read, too. But the end was a slightly disappointing -- she seemed to have run out of steam, and Jacob's fate post-Benzini Brothers was a lot happier than I expected. That said, the very end -- the last scene -- was so whimsical and fairy-tale-sweet, I was charmed all over again. (less)
This is fantastically good fluff, and I have no idea why I hadn't picked it up sooner -- it's been sitting on the shelf for probably two years. It com...moreThis is fantastically good fluff, and I have no idea why I hadn't picked it up sooner -- it's been sitting on the shelf for probably two years. It combines two of my favorite things -- the Gilded Age and New York City, and even though it's essentially Gossip Girl set at the end of the 19th century, the writing is better than I expected, and the details are yummy period goodness. The pressures of the age and the restrictions on young women are one of the reasons it's more interesting to me than the actual Gossip Girl series; it's the same reason I tend to like historical romance more than contemporary, too.
I could tell early on where the plot was going, but I didn't mind going along for the ride anyway. Diana is a lot of fun, and Elizabeth is nicely conflicted, although I wish we had seen more of her relationship with Will. Penelope is more than a little cliched in her villainy, but she and Buck are still amusing. Definitely picking up the next one. (less)
This is exactly the kind of book I love to read around Halloween. All creeping tension and mysterious noises and dread in a big old isolated house. Pe...moreThis is exactly the kind of book I love to read around Halloween. All creeping tension and mysterious noises and dread in a big old isolated house. Perfect.
Set post-WWII, Waters writes in the style of the time -- precise and detailed, and oddly polite. But it works so well here, because the book is told by a character who would never dream of speaking otherwise, for quite a few reasons. Dr. Faraday has come up in the world, but maybe not quite far enough to befriend one of the county's last genteel landed families -- especially when his mother was once house staff at Hundreds Hall.
The Ayres have, unfortunately, come down in the world. The changing economy and the unfailing march of progress have left them with their lovely estate, and no real way to maintain it. As Hundreds falls to ruin around the remaining family, Dr. Faraday tends to those in residence and falls under the spell of both.
But there's no happy ending here. This is a gothic novel in the old tradition, and the ending leaves you wondering what did happen in the house, and who, exactly, is responsible for it. It's as much melancholy as it is spooky, the perfect book to read curled under a quilt in front of a fire with a big mug of tea and rain tapping at the windows. (less)
A friend mentioned this book today in a discussion about favorite children's books. I love this book. I went through a phase where I reread it constan...moreA friend mentioned this book today in a discussion about favorite children's books. I love this book. I went through a phase where I reread it constantly, and as Barb reminded me of the book today, I think it's time for another reread.
Kit is everything I love in a protagonist. I can always relate to the outsider perspective, and hers is so gorgeously foreign to the people of Wethersfield. All of the characters are memorable -- Mercy and Nat and Hannah -- and the atmosphere is really lovingly detailed (and so strange to a modern kid, as well as a girl brought up in the lush beauty of Barbados).
It's a coming of age story, a love story, a story about beliefs and faith and tolerance, i.e. classic for so many excellent reasons. I can't wait till my daughter is old enough to read it. (less)
I'll admit the HBO series turned me on to the books, mostly because I was finding it hard to keep up with the enormous cast of characters and everyone...moreI'll admit the HBO series turned me on to the books, mostly because I was finding it hard to keep up with the enormous cast of characters and everyone's motivations and quarrels in the first few episodes. I'm thrilled I picked up the book -- Martin isn't a hugely talented stylist with language, but he tells a damn good story.
I think I saw it described as "fantastorical" or something, which is pretty apt -- it feels like the world we've heard described in medieval tales, but with enough quirks to make it Other (dragons, the quixotic and punishing seasons, the frightening creatures north of the Wall, the totally awesome direwolves). And as someone who doesn't read a lot of fantasy (really, almost none), the naming conventions and political setup are easily understood with just enough of the fantasy flavor to make it a quick read.
It's not for the faint of heart -- Martin certainly embraces violence, sexuality, and taboos of all kinds. But the characters are for the most part fairly three-dimensional (aside from a few villains sketched in rather than fully drawn). Tyrion is one of my favorites, with Arya and Danerys and Jon Snow following right behind. I've already started the second book in the series, and for sheer escapism to a world still bound by claims of blood and the power that comes with the size of an army and the wealth of its lands, it's perfect reading. (less)