On the whole, I enjoyed this book. Original characters for the most part, and a lot of interesting secrets.
The middle of this book (parts 2, 3, and 4)On the whole, I enjoyed this book. Original characters for the most part, and a lot of interesting secrets.
The middle of this book (parts 2, 3, and 4) was by far the best part. Those parts were more 4/5 star, but the first and last couple of sections were not as strong, so there we have a three-star rating. The first part came on strong with all the secrets, while the ending was a little too sugary than I like....more
This book is exactly what you would expect: absurd, delightful, hilarious. The plot is thin but it's just a vehicle for the jokes, so it works well. WThis book is exactly what you would expect: absurd, delightful, hilarious. The plot is thin but it's just a vehicle for the jokes, so it works well. With short chapters (2 or 3 pages usually) and huge text, this book only takes a couple of hours to read but had me laughing the whole time. My favorite parts were the lists that were strangely similar to the "deep thoughts." Who knew he would do that!!
Literally every paragraph is a joke, but here are some good excerpts to get you really interested.
There are orchids all over the place. You think you'd never get tired of seeing orchids, but there are so many it kind of makes you mad. p. 102
I held a point of brilliant white light in my hands. It didn't even burn. Wait, now it's really starting to burn. p. 140
I went farther and farther into the jungle. Arrowhead? No. Arrowhead? No. Arrowhead? No. Sometimes you wonder if the Pelican God even cares if you find an arrowhead. p. 146
"But you did abandon your children," said Don. "They weren't my children! They were my niece and nephew! I was only babysitting! And I only left them for a little while! Why did they call the police? Why! Why! Why!" p. 172
What kind of world was this, where people won't help you carry expensive scotch but, oh, they don't mind carrying water? p. 174...more
Like most people, I imagine, I only picked this one up after the big reveal that it was written by our dear JK Rowling in disguise. I loved The CasualLike most people, I imagine, I only picked this one up after the big reveal that it was written by our dear JK Rowling in disguise. I loved The Casual Vacancy, and with that in mind, this book did not disappoint. It was similarly gritty, with Rowling's trademark characterization and plot skillzzz.
The story centers on private detective Comoran Strike, who happens to be missing part of his right leg, and his investigation into the apparent suicide of a supermodel. He does a lot of interviewing and pulls out some badassery to get to the bottom of things. The ending is not what I expected but for that reason I loved it. Endings are another strength of hers.
I have to confess that the interviews got a smidge frustrating for me--not because I was uninterested, but because I felt a little shut out of the process. Not much is revealed about Strike's thought process beyond his actual questions and certain things he notices about the witness, until we get allllllll of the details at once. I'm not sure if this is really a criticism or just something I felt I had to say because I loved the way it was all revealed at the end and I don't think I would have respected the book so much if I knew where we were going. So I kind of think it was a smart choice, plot-wise. I guess it just speaks to my own tendencies as a reader to want to know everything.
I should also mention Robin, who is Strike's secretary-turned-partner(ish). I loved her right up front, before I even knew whether I liked Strike. She's got some serious guts and spunk. (I am desperately trying not to compare her to Hermione, but that's where my mind keeps going.)
Anyway, I love Strike. (And okay, I have to say it: I couldn't help but picture him as a combo of Hagrid and Dumbledore, which is about the greatest thing since both of those characters.) I can't wait to read more about him....more
This is the story of a 16-year-old boy who is reunited with his family after being abducted at age 7. I read it in about two hours, so it's great forThis is the story of a 16-year-old boy who is reunited with his family after being abducted at age 7. I read it in about two hours, so it's great for a quick read when you have an evening.
Great characters, believable situations and tension, and interestingly, a sweet romance. You can't help liking these people and feeling sorry for the situation they're in. The ending.... was quite something, and I see how it had to be that way, but it makes me sad....more
Wonderful book that deals with a lot of tough subject matter. The author really presents the story well, though, and Carey is very well drawn, along wWonderful book that deals with a lot of tough subject matter. The author really presents the story well, though, and Carey is very well drawn, along with all the other characters (now that I mention it). The way her accent and thought processes change throughout the book really brings her to life. I found all the characters realistic and well-rounded. I'm definitely impressed by this story and the author, and I'll be looking for more books from her in the future....more
Three stars for nostalgia, and the fact that my expectations were extremely low so it was a little better than I anticipated. And this book made me reThree stars for nostalgia, and the fact that my expectations were extremely low so it was a little better than I anticipated. And this book made me remember what I'd always loved about the BSC books: simple lives that are mostly easy and fun, with a few real problems thrown in for variety. Worth the 2 hours or so for a BSC fan!...more
I was shamefully ignorant about the goings-on in North Korea before I read this book, so I was maybe more shocked and amI will never forget this book.
I was shamefully ignorant about the goings-on in North Korea before I read this book, so I was maybe more shocked and amazed than most people would be -- but regardless, the people profiled here are fascinating and their stories are astounding.
It would be hard to imagine a place less like America than the North Korea depicted in this book, and it has really made me conscious of the privilege we enjoy as Americans (regardless of the flaws in our system, because nothing is perfect).
I don't think that's necessarily the intent of this book, though; it is told in a way that leaves the spotlight entirely on the characters, the setting, and the politics, without any editorializing. It is simply the story of these regular people living under a completely insane regime.
The entire book is thought-provoking and interesting, but here are a few passages that stuck with me. If these seem interesting to you, read the book. (Really, just read the book.)
The most famous stores in the country were Pyongyang's two department stores--Department Store No. 1 and Department Store No. 2, they were called--and their merchandise was about as exciting as their names. p. 61-2
Whether they were studying math, science, reading, music, or art, the children were taught to revere the leadership and hate the enemy. For example, a first-grade math book contained the following questions: "Eight boys and nine girls are singing anthems in praise of Kim Il-sung. How many children are singing in total?"
"A girl is acting as a messenger to our patriotic troops during the war against the Japanese occupation. She carries messages in a basket containing five apples, but is stopped by a Japanese soldier at a checkpoint. He steals two of her apples. How many are left?"
"Three soldiers from the Korean People's Army killed thirty American soldiers. How many American soldiers were killed by each of them if they all killed an equal number of enemy soldiers?" p. 120
During a lecture at a prison camp for women caught escaping to China: Then he asked for a show of hands: Who wold promise not to run away again to China? The women squatted in sullen silence. ... Not a single woman raised a hand. After an uncomfortable silence, the prison director spoke up. "Well, if you go to China again, next time don't get caught." p. 232
About a woman who had managed to leave North Korea and seek haven in South Korea: She had been shaped by a thorough indoctrination and then suffered the pain of betrayal; she'd spent years in fear of speaking her mind, of harboring illicit thoughts. She had steeled herself to walk by the bodies of the dead without breaking stride. She had learned to eat her lunch, down to the last kernel of corn or grain of rice, without pausing to grieve for the children she taught who would soon die of starvation. She was racked with guilt. Guilt and shame are the common denominators among North Korean defectors; many hate themselves for what they had to do in order to survive. p. 271
"We're supposed to buy North Korean products instead of Chinese, but North Korea doesn't make anything--it all comes from China--so there is nothing to buy." [...] "If they don't give us food and clothing and we're not allowed to buy things, how are we supposed to survive?" ... As fat tears rolled down the hollows of her cheekbones, she asked, "Isn't it a waste to be spending money on nuclear weapons when people are starving?" p. 291
And this is from the Notes section; I was fascinated because it seems similar to the 30 Rock storyline about Avery (Jack's wife), which makes me wonder if the 30 Rockers borrowed it... [Kim Jong-il's] love of cinema was manifested in its most extreme form in 1978, when he arranged the kidnapping of his favorite South Korean actress, Choi Eun-hee, and her ex-husband, Shin Sang-ok. Choi and Shin had been recently divorced before their abduction--they remarried in North Korea at Kim's "suggestion." They made films for North Korean studios until 1986, when they defected to Vienna. p. 299-300
What a book. I really enjoy Marian Keyes' writing, and despite the sad subject matter at times, and the terrible depression MK herself was suffering fWhat a book. I really enjoy Marian Keyes' writing, and despite the sad subject matter at times, and the terrible depression MK herself was suffering from during the writing, the book remained fairly light and hilarious at times. (I learned about MK's depression from her blog...just to be clear.)
Anyway, the mystery of Wayne and Helen's detective process were both fascinating, and I was mostly kept guessing until the end. And more than that, this was a very insightful, even raw treatment of depression that I haven't seen often before. MK gave some pretty amazing descriptions of the illness. I can't find any quotes now (of course), but it was a lot of interesting, detailed analogies that gave a bit more insight into Helen's state of mind. And it made her whole issue pretty sad, as well.
Luckily, there's a lot of comic relief from some outstanding peripheral characters, like Artie's daughter Bella, Helen's mother (god love her), the flashback tales of Helen's friend Bronagh, and some colorful witnesses that Helen interviews.
But speaking of Bronagh, I'm not sure I found that part so satisfying. I think I was expecting more from that storyline, probably based on the crazy twist-type thing in Anybody Out There?, so when the big reveal came, it was not that exciting and felt pretty anticlimactic. Still, it was not any of the things I'd guessed might have happened, and the fallout of the Big Thing made perfect sense. So, I think it works; I had just built up my expectations too much.
In conclusion, I still love Marian Keyes and I hope she's feeling much better now and plans to write many more books....more
I'm so glad Lauren Graham decided to write a book. I miss Gilmore Girls more than probably any other show that has ended, so when I heard about this bI'm so glad Lauren Graham decided to write a book. I miss Gilmore Girls more than probably any other show that has ended, so when I heard about this book and saw some reviews that it reads like Lorelai wrote a book, my hopes skyrocketed. Luckily, the book did not disappoint.
Franny is a struggling actress trying to "make it" in New York, while also trying to keep her head above water financially and looking for love, sort of. She is approaching an arbitrary deadline she set for herself to either make it or give up acting altogether, and she's constantly thinking that maybe she should stop trying right now anyway because confidence is hard.
I can relate to Franny in a lot of ways, and I suspect a lot of women could: she tends toward a low to middling self-esteem level, with moments of sheer boldness and moments of soul-crushing insecurity for variety. She is way harder on herself about everything she does than anyone else is. She tries way, way too hard but only because she cares so damn much.
The book has a lot going for it. Franny, her dad, her friend Jane, her roommate Dan, and the various actor friends she has are all interesting and well developed characters. The humor is completely on pitch, and I laughed out loud many times, at lines like this:
I really want a cigarette. I think there might be one left in a crumpled pack in the bottom of my bag. I know there is, in fact, because I pretended to myself that I forgot about it but secretly know it exists. (Franny, p. 37)
"This may come as a shock to you, but many studies have shown there's at least a slight nutritional difference between spinach that's rotting in the crisper drawer and spinach that's ingested into the body." (Franny's friend Jane, p. 120)
(answering the phone) "It's me. It's her." That doesn't sound right. "It is I." (Franny, p. 126 - this one had me laughing for about 10 minutes, but it might be just me.)
At least half the dialogue has a crazy strong Gilmore Girls feel to it, in a way that is perfect and wonderful. Also, this book reminded me of an early Sophie Kinsella novel, particularly the "humiliation" humor and secondary/tertiary character types. That's probably some universal chick lit things, though.
I also enjoyed that the book was set in the 90s -- Franny is constantly checking her answering machine from pay phones. Pay phones! And the song name-dropping at the wedding scene really set the scene for me (although I was only in 8th grade or so when those songs were popular - still, I was there).
Another part I really liked was the ending, although I have a feeling it will be a controversial point among readers and I see why people wouldn't like it. I, however, really did like it. (view spoiler)[The whole time I was reading the book, I was worried it would end with a fluffy, too-happy ending where she lands the lead in a movie or something and all her troubles are over forever the end! That wouldn't fit the tone of the book, though. And yet, neither would her losing many more parts and quitting acting altogether, for good, finally. I didn't want either one. And this ending, where she's on the verge of something, but more importantly, realizes why she's doing it at all and starts to feel like she's on a path, feels extremely right for the character and this story. (hide spoiler)]
The only thing I didn't completely love about the book was how incredibly predictable parts of it were. In several instances, I could see a situation or problem coming several chapters (or even more) before Franny caught on to the idea. It didn't really fit her character since she seemed really smart and sharp, and it made me feel like the author was talking down to me, not expecting me to "get it" and so leaving huge giant hints everywhere. The foreshadowing should have been toned almost all the way down; honestly, those situations were predictable anyway, so foreshadowing at all is fairly unnecessary.
But that issue didn't dampen my enjoyment of the novel very much, and I still have to say this is the really enjoyable, delightful book that I expected from Lorelai (I mean, Lauren Graham) (no, I actually do mean Lorelai).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Sigh. This book. I really wanted to like it. Actually, I wanted to love it so much that I would want to rush out and buy a copy for myself. Alas.
ThereSigh. This book. I really wanted to like it. Actually, I wanted to love it so much that I would want to rush out and buy a copy for myself. Alas.
There was a time when I loved Jaclyn Moriarty's books. I bought them without even questioning. I bought Feeling Sorry for Celia after just randomly spotting it in the bookstore, and I read it in one day and looooooved it. So buying them all worked out well, until it didn't anymore. This was somewhere at the end of the Ashbury/whatever group of books (I forget now what the other school was - started with a B, I think? Brookfield, maybe?). The last one of that "series" or "cluster" of books, The Ghosts of Ashbury High, was when her stories veered off a track I understood (and followed well) and slid into a ravine that, frankly, bewildered me. Then there were the two Listen Taylor books, the one adult novel and the other YA, and those were so off-the-wall that they were nearly unreadable.
So it is for this book, although really, my problem is with the first 100 or 150 pages. But it was such a significant problem that I considered giving up on the book. I'm having trouble putting my finger precisely on what I objected to here (and in the books mentioned above), but it has something to do with the way the characters behave. They just don't seem real to me. They are very clearly people someone imagined up, and the imaginer decided that she wanted these people to be bizarre, so she gave them very strange quirks and dialogue and thoughts and behavior, so much that in the end it was just like trying to make a painting with too many colors, and they all blended together and formed a dull brown blob that nobody really wants to look at.
For the first third or so, none of the characters seemed like real people. I couldn't get a handle on Cello, but strangely, I had more trouble with Madeleine's plot than Elliot's. Those people had some ridiculous conversations that I couldn't imagine any humans ever having. I mean, take the part where Elliot is worrying that one day he would tell Belle that he thought the word "daft" when he saw her. That is just fucking weird. And not in a cool, look-how-weird-this-guy-is, I-really-want-to-know-him-better way. Just in a way like, who thinks people have thoughts like that? It's so removed from the way that real people think and talk that it was distracting.
As I said, I almost gave up on this book. Somewhere around the day the three kids in Cambridge were going to their homeschool classes, I was getting really tired of how hard the book was trying to be kooky and funny and weird, when it was just being weird without any kook or much humor. I don't object to weird, though; see, that's why I'm having trouble explaining what I mean. In theory, the book works. But in actually reading it, the characters are all cardboard figures with a crazy person moving them around.
But enough about that, because the feeling mostly faded by page 150 or so, and I did finish the book, and actually, I'm pretty glad I persevered. **minor or possibly major spoilers ahead**
Somewhere around the time the Butterfly Child appeared, I began to give a shit about these people. I liked the Bonfire townsfolk; I kept forgetting who everyone was, but I found that the narrator reminded me often enough that it wasn't too much of a problem. I enjoyed the various letters and articles and found a touch of the humor from Feeling Sorry for Celia throughout those. The attacks of Red were pretty delightful, and that was probably my favorite part of the book, except maybe the ending (the Cello ending, anyway). That conversation with Princess Ko at the end almost blew my mind. I really loved that.
And whatever her flaws, Jaclyn Moriarty is quite a lovely writer. Observe:
Nikki had a giggle that was low and unexpected, rolling across the air between them like marbles.
Walking across the empty room felt like elbowing through a crowd.
These weren't even my favorite ones, just the ones I could find again flipping through the pages.
I still have some other quibbles, though, like what was the point of dividing it into parts? There seemed to be no logical division system. I think the chapter breaks would have been sufficient. And what was the point of giving Elliot a love interest for like, two paragraphs of the story? Perhaps that's more of a setup for the rest of the series, but it seemed so lightly touched upon that it probably shouldn't have even been in there at all.
Honestly, I kept wondering during the whole book...why do we even need Madeleine's story at all? I see how she's needed for the next book, sure, but her story in this book was flimsy at best. Maybe more to the point, I didn't like her story very much. I was much more interested in the goings-on of Bonfire. That felt like the real story to me, while the Cambridge plot was just slightly boring filler that I had to endure.
So, all in all, it was worth reading. I'm not sure if I'd recommend this to anyone else, but if you're already looking at it and thinking about reading it, maybe give it a shot. I am definitely interested to see where the next two books take us, though. I have a feeling the continuation will be more rewarding than the setup....more