Lyrical language, layers of story and complicated characters helped considerably by watching the movie first. If I had picked this up without watchingLyrical language, layers of story and complicated characters helped considerably by watching the movie first. If I had picked this up without watching the movie, I'm not sure I would have continued past the first few chapters. This is the type of literary novel that a reader has to persevere and stitch the pieces of story together as the author seems to throw them randomly at you. In fact, the author carefully crafts the story, but the reader needs to do more work than straight forward fiction...one of the reasons I don't read much literary stuff. Call me lazy, but I work at work and read for entertainment. Those literary books that I do read, I usually enjoy for the language and craft rather than the story, but this one satisfied both needs...once I got past the first couple of layers....more
The blurb on the back describes this book as, "Howard Zinn meets Joseph Campbell and Gloria Steinem in a book written for the omnivorous reader--anyonThe blurb on the back describes this book as, "Howard Zinn meets Joseph Campbell and Gloria Steinem in a book written for the omnivorous reader--anyone curious about China, world mythology and women's history." It's an ambitious book covering the history of China from Neolithic villages to modern times; trying to tie together mythology, archaeology, history, religion, folklore, literature and journalism. That ambition is its downfall. It's so dense that it's easy for the reader to get lost in the names, places and times. It's a difficult read, but chock full of information, probably best sampled in sections or used as a reference. I found the information fascinating, but overwhelming. The "take-away" for me was that China from ancient times revered women and goddesses and that reverence is reflected in today's society, particularly in rural areas. That was a bit much to swallow, given the Western view of modern China, but I'll allow for my own biases, never having visited or studied the culture. ...more
Very interesting read. Reinforced my belief we elected the wrong Clinton back in 1992. Hillary has her faults and blind spots, but don't we all? ThisVery interesting read. Reinforced my belief we elected the wrong Clinton back in 1992. Hillary has her faults and blind spots, but don't we all? This book gives a picture of a woman with enormous energy, intelligence and ability coupled with a fierce since of social justice. I hope she doesn't "retire" after she leaves the Secretary of State position, but she sure deserves a vacation!...more
Beautiful writing and stunning erotic scenes does not a story make. I stuck with this one because the setting was so unusual, but it could have been aBeautiful writing and stunning erotic scenes does not a story make. I stuck with this one because the setting was so unusual, but it could have been a hundred or so pages shorter. I'm obviously conflicted over this book and that's reflected in rating. Great characters, description and deftly woven historical research; but I like a little story with my narrative....more
This was written by a Jewish French historian while he fought in the French resistance during WWII. He was caught, tortured and executed in 1944 and dThis was written by a Jewish French historian while he fought in the French resistance during WWII. He was caught, tortured and executed in 1944 and didn't finish the manuscript. It's a mind-binding academic work on "What use is History?" Worth the effort....more
This was a slog for me. Some literary books catch my attention and thrill me with language and insight, even though I prefer plot and character drivenThis was a slog for me. Some literary books catch my attention and thrill me with language and insight, even though I prefer plot and character driven fiction. This one held my interest primarily through curiosity about how the author would handle the integration with Moby Dick. The author does grace the reader with many lovely passages and descriptions, so folks for whom that's important you can add a star. My main problem was with the main character, Una, "Ahab's Wife." In spite of 666 pages of first person account, I felt I only got a bird's eye view of her life, rather than an insight into her soul. She seemed to drift through life, rarely making a decision or taking action on her own. Even when she (view spoiler)[dresses as a boy and goes to sea (hide spoiler)] it's presented as a dreamlike action with little thought or design. I did not buy her instant attraction to Ahab or his to her. Just too mystical for my taste. ...more
Blood, battles, and brutality...a good example of adventure/military fiction. Folks who like this kind of book, will very much enjoy Conqueror. I didnBlood, battles, and brutality...a good example of adventure/military fiction. Folks who like this kind of book, will very much enjoy Conqueror. I didn't read the first three books in this series, but did get an ARC copy of the fourth book and also this one. Conqeror kept me reading, but more like a person who can't take her eyes away from a tragedy as it unfolds. Iggulden is relentless in his description of savagery and death from the large scale sacking of Baghdad to the small scale execution of a defenseless woman.
Iggulden does a great job of creating a believable world, allowing us to see into the culture and people in this very different time and place. We get intimate details of everyday life, understanding of the politics of the times and insight into major characters' motivations. Kudos for illuminating this little-written about time. Normally I would give the book four stars for the writing and story. However, I couldn't get past the blood and gore. Women have almost no role, even though two women ruled the Mongols for five years (the time between the fourth and fifth books.) So, for personal pleasure reasons, I knocked it down a star....more
"The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in theFrom the back:
"The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation."
"Christian Fiction" is a tricky label and I have not read widely in it. Ten years ago, I read a book by and interviewedJan Karon, who wrote the hugely popular Mitford series. Although they feature Father Tim, an Episcopal priest, the stories are about modern everyday life in a small town. Most people can relate to the problems, foibles, and dilemmas she writes about. Religion is there, but it's in the background; faith is an element of personality. I also read a historical novel Stones of My Accusers by Tracy Groot several years ago. Moody Publishers stated as their mission:"...to equip and motivate people to advance the cause of Christ by publishing evangelical Christian literature..." That book was remarkably free of "evangelical" language. Jesus was treated as a real and flawed person and the "resurrection" viewed with skepticism by the main characters. In fact, I didn't even recognize it as "Christian Fiction" until I read the publisher's mission.
The Hardest Thing to Do is a different book altogether: an outright, unapologetic panegyric to Christian beliefs and religious lifestyle. That doesn't make it a bad book. I actually enjoyed the quiet contemplative nature of the writing, the insight into a religious community and the obvious research that went into the book. I very much appreciated the major themes of forgiveness and "why can't we all just get along?" I would even go so far as to recommend that the publisher send copies to all the so-called Christians in the US Congress, in hopes that they might learn a few lessons in charity and social responsibility, but I'm not holding my breath.
But in the end, the central conflict of the story didn't work for me. The Hardest Thing to Do didn't seem all that hard. The "enemy" the good brothers had to deal with was defeated when he showed up at their door: his house burned, his flock scattered, his body and spirit injured. It didn't seem much of a leap to apply a little Christian charity. If a raider had come through and burned them out, killing their brethren, etc., and they truly forgave him; I might have been more impressed. But the book is what it is: a quiet, uplifting, devotional story. Some people might want or need just that; others might want a little more spice.
I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through the Early Reader program at LibraryThing. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. ...more
Love Molly Ivins and miss her terribly. As to the content of the book? These editorials were written in the Clinton years after the radical right tookLove Molly Ivins and miss her terribly. As to the content of the book? These editorials were written in the Clinton years after the radical right took over the congress and threatened to shut down the government. There wasn't a single essay that couldn't be written with a couple of name changes in today's political climate. Deja vu all over again!...more
This book has had myriad reviews, so I can add little. I found this story about two women in war-torn Afghanistan relentlessly sad, but uplifting. A wThis book has had myriad reviews, so I can add little. I found this story about two women in war-torn Afghanistan relentlessly sad, but uplifting. A worthy successor to the The Kite Runner...more
Others may enjoy this story more than I did. It was a freebie hardback (published in 2009) from the 2011 HNS goodie bag. Although I don't normally reaOthers may enjoy this story more than I did. It was a freebie hardback (published in 2009) from the 2011 HNS goodie bag. Although I don't normally read mysteries, I thought I'd push my boundaries, because this involved the fledgling Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), a pioneering group of women pilots who supported the WWII war effort by ferrying planes across the US and the Atlantic--a group I've always admired and feel more people should know about. The research and detail that went into the book are amazing. The author did her homework. Unfortunately, the plot and characters were just not my cup of tea. Also a slap on the wrist to the publisher Poisoned Pen Press for poor copy editing. I found a number of missing words and wrongly attributed characters that sent me searching through the text to make sure a dead guy wasn't speaking! I hope they caught the errors in the paperback edition. ...more
I got this book in the Historical Novel Society Conference goodie-bag and was intrigued. Asperger's runs in my family, so I was curious as to how ThorI got this book in the Historical Novel Society Conference goodie-bag and was intrigued. Asperger's runs in my family, so I was curious as to how Thorne would handle that aspect of her debut novel. She states in her Acknowledgements and Postscript that she doesn't have Asperger Syndrome and relied on research and particularly the writings of Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known speaker and writer on the topic. (Dr. Grandin also has Asperger's.) For the most part, I felt she got it right. As she notes, this is a neurological condition that runs a vast spectrum of behaviors and can present as a severe disability up to creative genius. Every person with AS presents differently, but they all share a common difficulty with social engagement. They are "clueless" until they figure out, or someone teaches them, the social rules that most children seem to absorb with no instruction. There's no reason to believe Asperger's didn't exist in 5500 BCE, but, from a Darwinian point of view, it was probably very rare. Loners, folks who didn't "belong" or conform to group norms, would have had a significant survival disadvantage. This is how Na'amah describes herself:
"My name, Na'amah, means pleasant or beautiful. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful. Perhaps that is why I am trundled atop this beast like a roll of hides for market and surrounded by grim-faced men. If my captors had bothered to ask me, I would have told them that their prize is of questionable value because my mind is damaged…Memories appear as images in my mind. Each word-sound I hear has its own color and shape and they fit together with the others in patterns that I can recall as easily as I can name every sheep on my hillside…I speak only truth, unwise as it may be, since lies distress me…my words and manner seem odd to other people. I am more comfortable with animals, who do not expect me to be any way than the way I am."
Na'amah is an appealing first person character and, in one sense, an unreliable narrator. Because of her autism, she misses the nuances in others' behavior, facial expressions and voice. The author has to give the reader clues through Na'amah's descriptions about what is "really" going on—a tricky proposition and usually handled well. Where it falls down is with Tubal, Na'amah's brother and nemesis. He is an irredeemably evil character (and therefore boring) from the first pages. Na'amah knows him as a bully with a burning hatred for her. As the story continues, he breaks every (to be written) commandment in the Good Book. The readers have no clue as to why that might be, except that his mother died at Na'amah's birth. Because we can't see the nuances, we find out his motivation far too late in the book. Any chance that he might be a complicated (and, therefore, more interesting) character is lost in Na'amah's black and white world.
Thorne does build a believable prehistoric society. Technology and agriculture are appropriate for the age. I found the (Earth) Mother Goddess/(Sky) Father God dichotomy a bit religiously simplistic. Most of the evidence we have points to our ancestors' profound belief in the supernatural, with spirits and "gods" inhabiting every niche of the unknown. The concept of being able to harm others through supernatural means surely did exist and any "odd" person would be at risk for expulsion or other harm, even death. Na'amah's religious skepticism and her awareness of its dangers, is nicely portrayed: "I loved stories, though many of them were not truth. People pretended they were, so sometimes I did too, but I had never seen Mother Goddess or Father God…Speaking such thoughts would get me thrown into the pit. My mind might be damaged, but I was not stupid."
As to the flood? This is not your Bible story. No Heavenly Being giving directions. No animals trooping two by two (sorry dragons and unicorns who didn't make it on the boat!) But I like this story better. Thorne uses archaeological and geological evidence to put her fictional characters in a real catastrophic situation that might very well have happened. The echoes of that catastrophe have come down to us as fable and myth. Much more satisfying!
In summary, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a good debut novel. The story is engaging and moves along well. The setting is unique and interesting. The science and history seem to be solid. My only complaint is that the characters, in general, were a little two-dimensional; but that could be an artifact of the Aspie POV and, therefore, brilliant writing. ...more
My sister gave this to me while on vacation and I enjoyed it for what it is. I only read a couple of "literary" books a year because I generally findMy sister gave this to me while on vacation and I enjoyed it for what it is. I only read a couple of "literary" books a year because I generally find the structures unsatisfying and plots non-existent. I like plot-driven fiction and well-developed characters. I do enjoy the work of a superb wordsmith when that is not the end-all of the piece and unusual structure when it is in service to the story. It took me a little time get into this book (and it's a little book at 191 small pages), but that probably had more to do with the fact that I had just finished a dense fantasy epic and hadn't quite switched gears.
I like the peripatetic structure of the book, visiting the sick bed of a dying man and swooping back and forth between his life and his father's, interspersed with passages about clocks. The language is engaging, the people flawed and endearing, the setting is hauntingly evoked, and the ending delivers. As a Pulitzer Prize winner, it has been glowingly reviewed elsewhere and I can add little in the way of analysis. I liked it and can recommend it to those who like to be challenged in their reading. ...more
This was my commuting book for a several days and it was a pleasure to ride the subway. Isabel Allende is a master storyteller, creating characters thThis was my commuting book for a several days and it was a pleasure to ride the subway. Isabel Allende is a master storyteller, creating characters that live and breathe in your dreams and sometimes haunt your waking hours. It's classic Allende. ...more