i was so excited to read this book. i will read any book that uses Wuthering Heights as its jumping-off point, and since i have been meaning to read ci was so excited to read this book. i will read any book that uses Wuthering Heights as its jumping-off point, and since i have been meaning to read caryl phillips for a long time this seemed to be a perfect opportunity. but if you are like me, and reading this for the WH bits, don't expect this to scratch that itch. yes, there are a couple of chapters that imagine the early life and "rescue" of heathcliff by mr. earnshaw, and it ends with heathcliff's arrival on the moors where the great tragedy of Wuthering Heights will begin, and there is a chapter or two about the brontës, but the bulk of the story is about an english woman named monica in the 1960's, making her family proud by winning a place at oxford against all expectations and then throwing it all away by dropping out to marry julian - an older graduate student from a never-named caribbean island. her decision estranges her from her family, and her story is of the disappointments and tragedies that she and her two children endure when her marriage doesn't pan out.
the parallels between WH and monica's stories are not numerous. julian and monica's relationship has none of the wild passion of catherine and heathcliff, and while neither of them are sympathetic characters, their shortcomings are pedestrian compared to the gothic rages of catherine and heathcliff. catherine is headstrong while monica is fragile and defeated - both are self-destructive and both make bad decisions in love, but monica's descent from brilliant student to frazzled single mother is bland in comparison. catherine would never fret about what to wear to a club.
the story is largely told from the perspective of monica's eldest son ben. like heathcliff, he is biracial in a sea of white faces, and even though he was born english, he is still marginalized and considered an outsider. like heathcliff, the moors will feature in his life, but with none of their omnipresent oppressiveness that characterizes Wuthering Heights. like heathcliff, he is sent to live with a foster family, but there is no catherine for him, and no trace of the inner darkness that pretty much defines heathcliff.
phillips' writing is beautiful, and his story packs an emotional wallop, but no matter how you frame it, this isn't really a satisfying companion story to WH. he has taken Wuthering Heights and removed its central focus - the romance, and chosen to linger over its less-developed ideas of colonialism, racism, outsider status, and the way a family can shatter. which are definitely present in Wuthering Heights, but they're not the salient themes, and WH wouldn't be my first thought if presented with those words and asked to name the book.
there are small instances of overlap between monica and heathcliff's story - location, madness, isolation, loneliness, poverty, sexual abuse; but much of that is overlap with phillips' imagined origin story of heathcliff, not with what is actually in the source material. (i'll give you isolation, loneliness and madness, but the madness in WH is very specific and not the clinical mental illness of this novel.)
the tragic failures here are mainly failures of society; the way the system fails children after their parents fail them, whereas the drama in WH is enabled by the absence of society - everything happens in this seemingly vast expanse of moors but within a much smaller emotional bell jar in which a hurricane rages. had catherine been exposed to society, and like, met more dudes, things may have turned out differently. the isolation of WH is a physical isolation; in this novel, isolation is an abstraction of no one being willing to help these suffering characters. they are both bleak and devastating stories, but it's not always easy to understand their connection.
phillips takes the subtextual assumption that heathcliff was earnshaw's natural son (so take THAT, guy who was arguing with me on my The House of Dead Maids thread) and runs with it, portraying heathcliff's squalid surroundings and his mother's decline as the result of earnshaw's misguided good intentions. the detail of why he didn't allow them to go back home was one of those perfect literary moments - a decision made in shortsighted kindness that only invites tragedy. a lovely little heartpunch.
and monica's decline is also heartbreaking, if less inevitable. we don't get enough insight into her thinking to really understand how her story turned out the way it did. the beginning of her story is meticulously described - her squandered intellectual opportunities and her pride preventing her from turning to her family after her father disowned her (oh, and HIS story - wow, that was another heartpunch and probably my favorite part of this book), her struggle to raise her two sons on a librarian's salary, and her search to find a place to feel like she belonged and she mattered. and the end of her story is also made explicit - the series of events that occurred to lead her to … the end of her storyline. but there's this whole frustratingly muddy middle part where you can see the shine of point a and the tarnish of point b, but the gradation of a to b is unclear.
ultimately, the competing narratives never came together for me, and their supposed connections were a bit of a stretch, but i think his writing is gorgeous, and i definitely want to read something else by him; something unrelated to a novel i have such strong feelings about.
one more thing, and this is spoiler-land, so beware: (view spoiler)[what was going on in that last chapter? coming as it does after a long narrative about child abuse, it's fraught with disturbing implications about earnshaw and heathcliff and those who see and understand the situation, but do nothing to intervene to save an abused child. but there's nothing in the previous chapters about earnshaw to suggest he has this evil in him, and certainly nothing in Wuthering Heights, subtext or no. so i'm not really sure what the message was there. someone lend me an interpretive hand here? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
last year, i read Villere House, despite it seeming to be well outside of my general reading-sphere, just because leslie is such a funny and nice ladylast year, i read Villere House, despite it seeming to be well outside of my general reading-sphere, just because leslie is such a funny and nice lady. and even though, yeah, it was a paranormal romance type of book, it was actually more gothic romance, all full of new orleans voodoo and possession and sweaty passion, which is an easier genre for me to ease into than true paranormal romance.
this companion book doesn't even let paranormal romance get a word in edgewise - this is pure southern gothic. sure, there are paranormal elements, but it's not shapeshifters and vampires and whatever else might be sexxy in those books - this one is all ghosties and voodoo-zonbies and alligators, oh my. and yessss, there is some intercourse, but what else are you going to do in the sultry bayou when you're attractive and you're already sweaty and you're all keyed up from fear and mourning and … book research?? you're gonna take your clothes off and get a little temporary release from your troubles.
this one involves julien, the brother of the romantic hero of Villere House, xavier. he went through some shitty experiences in that first book, and in this one, he gets a little redemption and the opportunity to get away from the glare of perfection that surrounds xavier. and for all his (completely justifiable) bad behavior in Villere House, julien's not so bad. apart from being, you know - dreamy, he's also a good person, handy in a crisis, and capable of coming to the aid of a damsel in distress.
which is lucky for nichole, because she is totally in distress. her father has just disappeared and is presumed dead, but she knows in her heart he is still alive. she's come to the plantation grisé from baton rouge ostensibly to settle his affairs, but also to employ her specific abilities to get some answers and hopefully to reunite with him. julien has been led to the very same plantation after finding a photograph of two women labeled grisé attached to a shrine among his grand-mère's belongings, which inspires him to take a fact-finding road trip do some research for the book he is writing about his family. when he arrives at the plantation, he is instantly attracted to nichole's beauty and the troubled aura she is giving off, and manages to combine research with romance and heroic adventures, like so many great writers before him.
it's a very enjoyable story - julien is a lot funnier and cooler than xavier, and nichole is well-suited to him - it's one of those good partnership-romances that doesn't feel unbalanced. it's got all the good stuff that characterizes a southern gothic - big crumbling antebellum house with uneasy racial history, creepy inbred locals, spectral appearances, foul-smelling swamps, alligators as both predator and prey and so many descriptions about how uncomfortably hot louisiana can get. seriously - it was killing me. how anyone could feel amorous in an environment like that boggles my little new england mind.
It was hot as balls out here; shit probably started rotting before it even died.
yeah, no. i don't let anyone stand anywhere near me when it's like 65 degrees. the thought of getting frisky with someone in the muggy hundreds is nowhere near an option.
but apart from that - i really enjoyed this. solid romance, good resolution, well-incorporated backstory from Villere House without it screaming "remember this??" you should definitely read Villere House first, or risk being slightly confused, but it's good stuff, so no hardship there. plus, leslie's really cool, so you'd be doing a nice thing for a nice person, and that math makes you a nice person. so there.
okay, so this book is fantastic. i mean, to me. it hit all my personal zing-buttons: sharp characters and a george r.r. martin-esque willingness to paokay, so this book is fantastic. i mean, to me. it hit all my personal zing-buttons: sharp characters and a george r.r. martin-esque willingness to pare them down, well-described post-apocalyptic world, surprising twists, bleak atmosphere, and a chewy, cinematic quality to the writing that pans around and takes in everything. when it comes to horror, i can't appreciate that lovecraftian tradition that makes the reader work to "see" the horror. i'll work for any other kind of book, but with horror, i want it all there on the page for me to immerse myself into. it doesn't need to be splatter-gore description, and in fact it's better if it's not, but my mind can't fill in the gaps effectively when it's forced to conjure up "the ineffable." i find it flat, boring and lazy. which i guess describes my mind.
but this book is so descriptive that i could completely see the world he created. and not just because the sanctuary has a real woodbury feel to it.
another series this reminded me of, just in tone, was julianna baggott's pure series, which is a fantastic and underread post-apocalyptic trilogy. i urge you towards it. it is immersive and spectacular, and i haven't felt as viscerally connected to a blasted wasteland in a novel until i read this one. yes, Station Eleven is a great book, but it's a different kind of aftermath novel. it's more cerebral and it doesn't get its hands dirty. like The Road, it's more about the humanity that rises above the ashes than these, where the reader gets to actually roll around in those ashes. and sometimes i like to get my hands dirty.
this book is many things - an aftermath novel, an epic quest, a supernatural horror story, and there's love and revenge and betrayal and human trafficking and power that corrupts and knowledge that sustains and a little clockwork owl.
it's the story of america, 150 years after a flulike virus caused people to cough blood until they died, and the insult-to-injury nuclear ping pong that resulted as a way to prevent its spread. what little life remains is mutated from radiation, and the human part of it is no longer the uncontested top of the food chain. we start out in the sanctuary - a fortified compound in what was once st louis, where a man named thomas is the mayor of a dwindling community, which his panic of being deposed (and losing all the resources he has secretly been hoarding) causes to diminish further with public executions of potential threats to his authority. lewis meriwether, the curator of the museum that serves as the sole entertainment for the walled community, is a quiet scholar whose father was mayor before thomas, and whose hermitlike existence and vast knowledge has given him a slightly spooky reputation - "the wizard in the tower." his no-nonsense assistant ella is the only one who is not in awe of him, and she is the closest thing he has to a friend. wilhelmina clark and reed are both sentinels and rangers, keeping watch on the wall overlooking the wasteland beyond, and venturing out beyond to hunt and assess dangers.
and one day, a potential danger arrives at the gates in the form of a black-eyed young girl named gawea who claims to have come all the way from oregon, where a man named aran burr would very much like an audience with lewis.
what follows is an epic journey as lewis and clark (and others) go on a manifest destiny road trip across the blighted landscape, not knowing if the enigmatic gawea can be trusted, or what lies at the end. along the way, they encounter horrifyingly-altered animals, slavers, a band of heavily-armed teenage girls, desert and snow and visions and madness and mutiny.
and it is outstanding.
percy is so good with small details. i still remember that horrifying zoo scene in Red Moon, and in this one, i will never forget the television set with the screen smashed in and dolls placed inside in some kind of desperate tableau.
and his characters are so rich and go through such transformations. apart from those already mentioned, there are other equally tremendous characters: simon - a young petty thief who navigates the secret catacombs of the sanctuary, danica - thomas' brittle trophy wife, clark's brother york - a puppyish street performer, colter - a tracker with his very own wolf pack, and slade, who performs all of thomas' wetwork.
and his descriptions are arresting:
This morning, as the sun rises and reddens the world so that it appears it might catch flame, Clark stands at her sentry post atop the wall. Around it reaches a burn zone of some seventy yards. Beyond this grows a forest with many broken buildings rising from it, black-windowed, leaning masses of skeletal steel and shattered stone. The remains of the St. Louis arch, collapsed in the middle, appear like a ragged set of mandibles rising out of the earth. In the near distance, where once the Mississippi flowed, stretches a blond wash of sand.
and his descriptions of the survivors with their striking deformities (another thing i liked so much in baggott's trilogy):
A second set of teeth barnacling their shoulder. Cysts bulging and sacks of fluid dangling. Moles so plentiful that a body appears like some fungus found in the forest.
i don't know much about the historical lewis and clark expedition, so i'm sure i'm missing a lot of references (for example and conveniently enough, the book i read directly after this one had a character named york who was named after a member of the lewis and clark expedition, so there's a little wink i missed), but that's clearly not a prerequisite for enjoying this book, because i loved loved loved it.
so i was genuinely stunned to see so many negative ratings on here. i've read the reviews, and i understand some of the complaints. yes, scientific explanations are not a priority for percy. which is something i am guilty of complaining about with other books, but mostly in books that were not very well-written and had nothing else to make them stand out.
and not to stoop to saying anyone is "wrong" for their opinions, but i think that a barrage of scientific explanations would have dragged this book down. i mean, there's not a lot of science in The Stand or The Road or Swan Song, but you know what? they're fantastic, entertaining books whose focus is characters and atmosphere, not explanations.
i don't know poundcake about science, but percy's cause-and-effect explanations seemed fair enough to me. i'm not going to cry "biologically unrealistic" when i am treated to the entertainment value of GIANT BLOODSUCKING ALBINO BATS the size of horses, or any of the other amazing fauna that exist here after radiation has had its way with it. that would be like some nerd pushing up his glasses and saying "i don't reckon sharks would survive the rotation-speed of a tornado, nor would they be able to breathe." YOU ARE NO FUN, NERD! just sit back and enjoy the bats.
other complaints: the villain was too … villain-y. yeah, that's probably true. but who doesn't love a completely irredeemable douchebag to root against?
and thomas is really the only character who is flat-black evil. there are characters who are creepier and do worse things on the page, *koff* slade *koff*, but i kind of felt bad for that guy, after seeing his … home furnishings. which were unquestionably horrific, but i am a softie for lonely psychopaths.
he loved his dog SO MUCH!
my only complaint is with the wrapping-up of this book. i started getting a little nervous about 50 pages from the end because i was thinking "how the hell is he going to wrap this all up in so few pages?" answer: not perfectly. it's a little too rimshot-abrupt, and it feels more like the beginning of a marvel movie. it was fine, just not as satisfying as the rest of the book was to me. (view spoiler)[and what happened to colter?? the last we see of him, he's banging on the door like an impatient husband and what - he doesn't go with them on their avengers field trip to the white house?? where is his resolution?? i also would have liked to know what ella is up to now, although her last scene is pretty triumphant. and while we're safe under spoiler-shield, i was so freaking sad about simon. ugh. way to martin it, percy! (hide spoiler)]
but yeah - i guess i'm in the near-minority in loving this book, but i'm perfectly content here. no crowds, good view, and my heart filled with appreciation for someone who has taken the wasteland theme to a whole new level of unsettling. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
years after everyone else, i have finally read this book. and now i'm all caught up on the zeitgeist! phew. and damn, now i understand why rainbow rowyears after everyone else, i have finally read this book. and now i'm all caught up on the zeitgeist! phew. and damn, now i understand why rainbow rowell is so beloved. i mean, i read Fangirl and thought it was excellent, but this one, while it is not as good as Fangirl, does a couple of things so freaking well that it gave me all the swoons and the swirls.
rainbow rowell has this ability to tap into the teenage experience that is a little spooky. and while john green gets all the credit for being the author that writes the contemporary YA novels sophisticated enough to convert stubborn adult readers into YA fans, i think this book is more faithful to the realities of teenlife than his. green's characters are winning and funny and smart and articulate, and they have appeal coming out their ears, but they're a little idealized - too knowing, too confident, too much like miniaturized adults. rowell remembers the rough edges, the uncertainty, and her characters are a puddle of messy contradictions and still-developing personalities. and this, to me, makes them even more appealing because they channel all sorts of messy nostalgia for my dumb teen self.
the best thing about this book is not even the love story because love-schmove. but goddamn, the way she writes about falling in love with music is astonishing. all the making of heartfelt mix tapes for other people, the way certain lyrics can stop your heart, the doodling of band names and songs - not the ones you love, but the ones you want to love - that drive to investigate the bands you encounter through chance and want to remember to check out as part of some teenage rite of passage - that was a perfect scene.
this book did for me what The Perks of Being a Wallflower apparently does for other people. it slices off a moment in time and pop culture that is so essential and precious and you can just feel the pulse of musical revelation. and i don't want to be one of these old fogies that says to the kids, "your music is overproduced and soulless. in MY day…" but it's true. there is no joy purer than a teenager discovering the smiths.
the other amazing, perfect thing, and it's such a small moment, but when - (view spoiler)[ tina finds eleanor running through the streets while richie is out prowling for her in his car, and assesses the situation so quickly and accurately, it's just a perfect moment of teenage solidarity. such an acknowledgment of "we are not friends, but i understand what you're up against and i have your back." it's a perfect encapsulation of that whole "us against them" attitude that pervades teen movies from the 80's - the legacy of john hughes. the moment tina whispers "car," killed me. I WAS KILLED! such a small thing to kill me, but it did. i could see that scene so vividly, and while to most people it was probably just a throwaway moment in between the meat of the story, for me it was the entire book. (hide spoiler)]
i mean, it's not a perfect novel. there's a lot crammed into here, and it can get to feeling a little claustrophobic with all the competing "problem" narratives and underdeveloped secondary characters. there are a lot of unexplored storylines and opportunities to develop situations that weren't and a narrower focus might have made this more powerful overall. but even though it can feel a little overstuffed, it doesn't detract from the novel. the most complimentary thing i can say about a book is that it is honest. not necessarily realistic or authentic, but honest.
and i guess we gotta talk about the romance parts. since that's kind of the whole point of the book, as little interest as i usually have in YA romance novels. for all my eye-rolling over teen romance, this book captures all the feels and the consuming nature of young love and its hollow devouring obsession. and it's handled in a smart way. after eleanor pooh-poohs romeo and juliet as …two rich kids who've always gotten every little thing they want and dismisses the play as shakespeare "making fun of love," the less-cynical park hesitantly pinpoints the appeal of romeo and juliet:
"…because people want to remember what it's like to be young? And in love?"
and that's probably why this book, and other YA romances, are popular with older readers. because while no one (hopefully) ever claims that romeo and juliet's (spoiler alert) five-day infatuation/suicide pact brings back memories of their own teenage love lives, this book sorta does.
perfect example: eleanor and park's "first contact" moment when he realizes that any sort of romantic dalliance before this was unsatisfying and meaningless playacting and that the missing element of excitement in the experimentation wasn't a lack in himself, but a lack of emotional attraction and now he "gets" it.
Or maybe, he thought now, he just didn't recognize all those other girls. The way a computer drive will spit out a disk if it doesn't recognize the formatting.
When he touched Eleanor's hand, he recognized her. He knew.
i mean, an adorably nerdy way to phrase it, but definitely relatable.
i think the writing of eleanor was much stronger than the writing of park. the whole "outsider" romance thing was a little uneven to me. i understand what sets her apart - she's "big" and constantly comparing herself to the adult beauty of her mother, she comes from a damaged home, she dresses like a hobo clown, she's socially awkward, etc, but as for park, he's what - half asian? and that's a problem? i mean, it's mentioned that his dad thinks he's a pussy and that people don't think asian guys are hot, but he's reasonably popular and athletic and girls like him and he seems cool as shit. so his half of the "outsider" dynamic seems forced. but it might just be me not relating to the perceived stigma against asian guys - one of my first crushes was on data from the goonies because - adorable:
and maybe in omaha in the 80's, people didn't think asian dudes were hot, but i don't think park would have much trouble getting a girl on racial grounds today, right?
(i might be the only one with a crush on b.d. wong, but whatever.)
and once you start adding the eyeliner?? yeah, i am all aboard the park train.
and for that matter, i don't think redheads with big boobs are frowned upon much, either.
it gets better, kids. it really does. but until it does, go listen to the smiths.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
this is another one of those silly books that i pick up because i am weak-willed. if there's a cat on the cover, i'm drawn like butter.
this is another one of those silly books that i pick up because i am weak-willed. if there's a cat on the cover, i'm drawn like butter.
unfortunately, this is another one of those silly books where the text isn't strong enough to provide an equal partnership of entertainment value to the accompanying photographs.
because look - adorable!!
but then - words make it less funny.
so let's just look at the pictures and forget about the words, shall we?? you know, like we should do with all the books. i mean, i gotta be honest with you - i've been too tired to read lately, so i've just been reviewing books by what i think they're about based on their covers. sorry if i've led anyone astray. maybe To Kill a Mockingbirdisn't a sequel to The Giving Tree, but that's what i got out of it and littry interpretation is all sorts of subjective and any takeaway is valid so no one can tell me i'm wrong.
look at that tree - letting that child swing all over it and getting all desperately grope-y with its branches. and now that kid is probably gonna hit it up for money and bounce. that tree is a sucker.
i'm not sure how some of these cats got into these predicaments. i don't even know what this is:
maybe someone else can explain that to me - my interpretive powers were exhausted on that To Kill a Mockingbird riff back there.
here are some of the cutest pictures from the book. feel free to ignore those pesky words.
many of these are familiar to you if you have ever owned a cat. or looked at the internet.
and please do feel free to use this thread as a place to post your own pictures. or you could send them to the tumblr that spawned this book, if you want to be more famous: http://getoutoftherecat.tumblr.com/
who can even sleep like that?? a cat, that's who!
so, yeah, there are a lot of great cats in this book, way more than this little sampling of my favorites.
i'll stop soon, i promise, but i mean wookit!
it is a little FACE!
since the great bedbug fiasco of '15 and all my stuff having to live in bags for now, maggie hasn't been able to lie on my books the way she likes, so here are some other cat-nerds to fill the void in all our hearts:
this cat actually looks like a slightly-less-cute version of maggie!
and here are some pictures of maggie from the middle of the great migration, when drawers were being emptied and books were being stacked and suddenly there were new crannies to explore:
she looks so proud of herself.
get out of there, cat, indeed!!
and because i am a sucker for good endpapers:
okay, i'm just gonna post a few more pictures. pretend these are end credits. you can stay to the end, you can leave, just make sure you take all your belongings with you when you do leave. otherwise, the cats will probably shred them. or barf on them. because rude.
i was approved for this book through netgalley at a time when i had a bunch of books i had to read for that program i read for, and right before i weni was approved for this book through netgalley at a time when i had a bunch of books i had to read for that program i read for, and right before i went home for easter. i brought three "littry" books with me, and this one on my NOOK, thinking vacation = lots of reading time, and i could plow through all of them no problem.
it didn't quite work out that way, as i had many personal-life traumas suddenly obstacling my path at the same time, and i wasn't able to concentrate on any of the books i was "supposed" to be reading. littry just wasn't cutting it for my diminished capacities of concentration. so i picked this one up, and it was exactly right for the state i was in: fast-paced, not intellectually challenging, with an engrossing plot and good squirmy violent bits.
it was just what i needed, but it's not the kind of book that's going to stay with you for long. it's a perfectly solid british police procedural, and great escapist candy for your brain, but it's not changing the map of police procedurals or anything. this is the first book in a series, but there's not that much time spent introducing the characters. in fact, i had to check to make sure that this was indeed the first book because there seemed to be backstory and character relationships implied without being explained. the relevant details eventually come to light, and it's preferable to have it done this way instead of just an info-dump of "here are the characters and their hang-ups," but at first i was a bit confused.
so, it's one of those passive serial killer-type novels, where people are put into elaborate "traps" with instructions from a voyeuristic psychopath, à la saw. in this case, the mastermind selects two individuals who are drugged, abducted, put in a locked room with a gun containing a single bullet and … left there. no food, no water, no further instructions, just two people slowly being pared down psychologically and reduced to their most primal instinct: survival at all costs. as soon as the gun is used and a corpse is cooling on the floor, the doors are opened and the newly-created murderer is released into whatever scarred and traumatized existence they can manage for themselves after having made a terrible choice: my life is more important than your life.
detective inspector helen grace is tasked with stopping this killer before they strike again, but she's also gotta deal with the media, the troubling behavior of the other detectives on her team, and her own personal demons. and when it starts to become clear that the victims have a connection to her own personal and professional past, the emotional toll increases and the need to solve the case becomes even more important.
i am a huge fan of elaborate death-games, so this is right up my alley, but unlike others of its kind, there's really only one elaborate death game, repeated over and over. and while the tension escalates because of the tightening spiral of closeness the victims have to grace, after a while i was just like "oh, this again. and it's written with intensity and horror, as thirst, hunger, cold, boredom and desperation break down the victims, but it lacks the punch that things like saw and se7en have, because it's a personal vendetta, without that satisfying philosophical drive motivating the killer to bring it home to the reader/viewer, the thing that allows you to assess your own life-choices.
but it does what it's meant to do: you have some horrible murders, some red herrings, plenty of fear and doubt and guilt, and a satisfying conclusion that leaves everyone a little damaged. it's a fine piece of dark entertainment, and then you can get back to some more smarty-pants books if you want. or not. you do what your reading heart tells you to do. ...more
okay, we're going to ease back into this whole "reviewing" thing with something that is more of an excuse than a review. here's the thing - i have absokay, we're going to ease back into this whole "reviewing" thing with something that is more of an excuse than a review. here's the thing - i have absolutely nothing useful to say about this book. it's very unlike me to walk away from a book and have no opinion on it whatsoever. and maybe it is because i read this in the middle of a lot of very exhausting personal crises, and i had to keep picking it up and putting it down and forcing myself to stay engaged and not finding anything in the book to hold tight to, but whatever the reason, this one left absolutely no mark on me.
it follows the lives and circumstances of an old-money family living in the bit of connecticut that affluent people who still maintain a manhattan presence live in with their fancy cars and boats and the protection that only money can buy. cece is the elderly matriarch, still holding on to the antiquated etiquette of a bygone time in a bubble of noblesse oblige and well-manicured lawns. her grown son george lives in the house next door - a weak and petulant man who has been insulated by wealth his whole life, unable to hold down a real job, counting on his mother and his family name to pave his way through life. and so far, so good. he is married to iris, a woman completely outside of his social sphere whom he met when she was a coat check girl at the country club, and of whom his mother disapproves, despite iris' genuine goodheartedness and sweet awkwardness. cece has covered up george's lifetime of missteps, be they financial, criminal, or involving his frequent employment terminations, but when she suddenly becomes very sick with a disease similar to parkinson's, and removes herself to a clinical research institute, which she calls a "sanatorium," for a pharmaceutical trial, george is finally allowed the freedom to ruin his life.
the story moves from the POVs of cece left all alone at the institute facing her gilded past and her own mortality, george and his "I don't want to be a grown-up" attitude as he takes advantage of the maternal absence to fulfill (and finance) an artistic pipe dream, and iris, a down-to-earth woman who has somehow stumbled into the distorted funhouse mirror of the ultra-rich.
i think the problem i had with this book was the tone. i couldn't tell if it was meant to be a tragedy or a satire. it has elements of both, but it's definitely not funny enough to work as a satire, and for it to be tragic, the reader has to give a shit about the characters, and i just didn't. george is just reprehensible in every way, but he's not reprehensible in an interesting way, he's just an overindulged manchild who expects the world to bow down to him and cannot handle criticism or resistance. cece is somewhat less reprehensible because she at least grows as a character. left to her own devices in the clinic, abandoned by george and forced to mingle with other patients; people she considers "vulgar," and weakened by illness, she at least manages to let go of some of her brittleness and cruelty and develop some genuine humanity. iris is the only likable character - an outsider who is made uncomfortable by her husband's wealth and perfectly capable of doing without the trappings that come with it, yet she still shields george from his own bad judgment and is as emotionally indulgent as cece is financially indulgent towards him. their relationship is completely inexplicable, and doubly so because she's the only character who is sensible, or practical.
i thought a story about a family in "opulent decline" would be right up my alley, but this was just a big bowl of beige unpleasantness. maybe it's just wrong book, wrong time, but yeah - unfortunate indeed. ...more
animals!!! they're just like us!!! only ... much cuter.
this is another one of those silly little humor books i use as palate-cleansers between big olanimals!!! they're just like us!!! only ... much cuter.
this is another one of those silly little humor books i use as palate-cleansers between big ole narrative books that i have to let settle in my brain before i review. and as a palate-cleanser, it served its purpose ably.
its definitely stronger in its pictures than its words. the things animals apparently think aren't really laffter-worthy:
although sometimes they do echo my own thoughts. evidently my spirit animal is either the otter or the flying squirrel.
but the book is worth looking at because of its illustrations. i love the way he draws animals, even if i'm not in awe of the accompanying text:
whether the animal is already a cutie:
or something less cuddly:
and the way he draws sloths is alone worth the price of admission:
especially this one that shows how a sloth does stand-up:
so if you need a little break from story story story, books like these are perfect little vacations from thinking too hard, and no one should feel lazy or frivolous for taking a silly little book vacation. i never feel that way.
this is a truly beautiful ARC, one of the nicest i've seen:
it's all textured and graphically pleasing and nice to touch and hold:
but the story didnthis is a truly beautiful ARC, one of the nicest i've seen:
it's all textured and graphically pleasing and nice to touch and hold:
but the story didn't really meet my expectations.
i'm giving it a three, but it is a low three. it is an incredibly fast read, and if you are looking for something in that vein - a fast-paced page-turner mystery thing, this may well satisfy you. but be forewarned it is not a creepy book, or even remotely spooky, as the cover and epigraph seem to suggest:
In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house; And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room; And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard; And in the dark, dark box there was a....skeleton!
which also bothers me because the line that transitions cupboard to box has been omitted, so it looks weird. traditionally, it is :
In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house; And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room; And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard; And in the dark, dark cupboard there was a dark, dark shelf; And on the dark, dark shelf there was a dark, dark box; And in the dark, dark box there was a....skeleton!
but for all that, it's not supernatural, it's not horror, it's not even psychologically creepy. the characters aren't particularly nuanced, it's predictable, it does that thing that i HATE where years of turmoil could have been avoided with ONE conversation, and amnesia-as-obstacle is so contrived and trite that unless it's handled really really well, it's just distancing; a device used to stretch out the story and lead the reader along by the nose until the author feels like revealing their zinger. which in this case, is telegraphed pretty early on, so it's not quite the rug-yank it's meant to be.
but there's a time and a place for every book, right? this was neither my time nor my place, but i can see this being an excellent book to read while on a long train ride, or on a plane, or curled up by a fireplace or a beach, if you're into that sort of thing. it's a very fast read, and despite all my complaints, i really was immersed in it. i just wasn't all that crazy about what i was immersed in. i've just read too much in this genre and this one didn't give me anything i hadn't seen before. but you and i are different people, with different needs.
i did have one big chuckle, but i'm not sure it was meant to be funny:
I Googled James. Once. Only once. Google was spattered with images of him - pictures of him in costume, onstage, publicity stills, shots of him smiling at charity functions and opening nights. The ones I couldn't bear were the ones in which he was looking directly at the camera, directly out of the screen, at me. When I scrolled down to one where he was naked onstage, in Equus, I had closed the browser with shaking hands, as if I'd stumbled on something violent or obscene.
that "as if" just cracked me up because - duh - equus.
“That’s what you get when you mix the blood-sacrifice Aztecs with the Catholic emphasis on suffering.”
a deliciously creepy tor short, with a whizz-ban“That’s what you get when you mix the blood-sacrifice Aztecs with the Catholic emphasis on suffering.”
a deliciously creepy tor short, with a whizz-bang of an ending that'll have you all fist-pumping and oorahing no matter how you feel about dogs.
me, i love dogs. i mean, wookit:
but some dogs are very very bad.
nope, worse than that.
yeah, more like that.
david and jennifer are newly-wedded and deeply in love, with plans and dreams and full of the liberal fervor of youth. they get teaching positions down mexico way, but david dismisses the good advice he is given by a wise friend: Don’t be stupid. Find out what you need to know about a country . . . so you don’t die like an idiot, a decision he will come to regret:
We did not yet know that to romanticize a country, to sentimentalize its people and places and the creatures of it, not only is an affront to them—to the struggle between darkness and light which gives any human beings their meaning on this earth—but can end very badly.
and things will end very badly, indeed.
and it will involve dogs. very bad dogs.
yeah, just like that, you sweet innocent thing.
it's a ferocious little story, and it reinforced my decision to never travel anywhere ever. i may still die like an idiot, but i will die like an idiot in my own house, on my own terms.
four stars for the writing, which is full of absolutely gorgeous descriptions and imagery of naturalthis book gets five stars for its illustrations:
four stars for the writing, which is full of absolutely gorgeous descriptions and imagery of natural landscapes and the animals who dwell within, even though it's super-confusing to see deer and lions cohabitating in the woods along with crocodiles, bats, mountain goats, salmon, etc. but this is a fable, not a nature documentary, so after the initial "what the what?," it was less weird.
three stars for the "message," which i am totally respectful of, in terms of someone else's secular spiritual path, but isn't something i feel realistically applies to my own life and experiences. i definitely appreciate the emphasis on the value of community, which would have come across as treacly if the characters were human, but with animals it's somehow more powerful. that's allegory for ya! but as for "love overcoming fear," that one gets a little trickier. i think fear is a healthy evolutionary drive that prevents foolish risk-taking. and maybe i'm too cynical, but i also think that both love and forgiveness have limits, and it's a little jejune to adhere to the "love conquers all" mentality of fairy tales. but i'm old and crochety, and i get a little squicky with the idea of the noble sacrifice. but that's my path and my experience, and i'm not arrogant enough to think i know what's best for everybody.
so, take the average, and it's a four-star book for me. i love its size - how compact it is, and i would definitely read some straight-up nature writing from this guy, because he has a real skill at writing descriptions of natural vistas in a way that's breathtaking, which is rare. except for thomas hardy, i'll frequently skim outdoorsy descriptions to get back to the story. here, nature is a character unto itself, and it leaps from the page and is truly lovely.
a well-written and well-illustrated fable, even though it didn't pierce the rhino-hide of my heart. ...more
thank god for fox, without whom i wouldn't even have known this story existed. and it does exist. and has existed, digitally at least, since last novethank god for fox, without whom i wouldn't even have known this story existed. and it does exist. and has existed, digitally at least, since last november. and while i immediately ordered the $3.99 NOOK version upon learning of it, i also ordered the considerably more expensive signed limited edition from subterranean (only 1,000 copies - hurry up!) because my jonathan carroll collection doesn't understand e-books.
and while this is only a brief novella, it has all the things you want when you're reading jonathan carroll: bull terriers, expensive and well-crafted objets, in this case - a watch, the porous boundaries between the world as we know it and the world beyond, infusing the everyday with profundity - the utterance of "tuna fish" attaining the same mystique as some ancient incantation and a can opener deployed as an admission of love, enigmatic and hungry women, the unusual and powerful genesis of romantic love, vibrant allegorical anecdotes that explain esoteric concepts in the most approachable way, quirky imagery like "the ants with big shoes," life and afterlife and reincarnation and dreams. and all in under a hundred pages. not too shabby, carroll!
it's well worth $3.99! and if you're a true fan, it's worth $40.00. which is what i keep telling myself, anyway....more
looks like i'm all grown up now! utterly adult and humorless!
i don't know why i thought i would enjoy this book. i've never enjoyed "pranksters," or alooks like i'm all grown up now! utterly adult and humorless!
i don't know why i thought i would enjoy this book. i've never enjoyed "pranksters," or aggressive performative gag comedy, so even if this book had been written by someone who was genuinely funny, i probably would still have been the wrong audience for it. but this guy just isn't that funny. i am not a fan of andy kaufman, but at least there was a cleverness to his schtick. i could appreciate his manipulation of boundaries and his provocation even if i wasn't amused by it. this guy - this shit is just boring.
so his whole thing is that he was working a dull job at a smartphone kiosk in a mall. he had a lot of free time on his hands, and a lot of phones at his disposal. so his genius idea was to pay his misery forward and start texting people foolish enough to post their numbers onto craigslist and pretend to be interested in the services they were offering, asking increasingly outlandish or abusive questions until they snapped and ended the exchange with "fuck you!" or "go to hell!"
and that's the joke.
over and over.
and it's just… dull. it's dull because he's not particularly funny. there are probably people who could have pulled this off in a way that would have made me laugh, but this guy just doesn't have the comedy chops to deliver. it's just one juvenile scenario after another. is it funny to contact someone looking for a place to store their boat and offer your garage and then, over the course of a few more texts, reveal that you are a teenager who doesn't have permission to rent out the family garage and is planning on taking the boat out with his friends for crazy good times? is it funny to try to hire a dj for a kids halloween party and then spring all these intricate babysitting responsibilities on him?? is it funny to make a stranger buy you a coffee and wait around at a starbucks for you while you pretend you have an iphone to sell? is it funny to try to to convince people to engage in criminal activities when they are just trying to make a few extra bucks tutoring or coaching or fixing computers? is it funny to waste people's time? see, i don't think it is. and i don't think it's interesting to read a prolonged series of texts in which regular people are put into situations that just stress them out. i worked retail for a long time, and i smiled my way through countless frustrating exchanges that were so bizarre i felt like it must have been a joke, but it never was. and i can assure you, that shitty feeling lingers and can infect the whole rest of the day. this is just a gleeful coward trying to pass the time in his shit job by ruining other people's days at their shit jobs. and that joke isn't funny to anyone who has ever had to work with the public and had their time wasted by people who were lonely or bored or angry and just looking for a target.
this kind of shit is only cool if, at the end, the victim understands that they have been part of a joke, or is given a car or something as a "good sport" treat. otherwise, you just walk around with a part of you thinking "people are such assholes" and simmering with hostility. and lord knows, we don't need any more of that.
this is the only one that made me laugh, because it showed a speck of cleverness:
man, even by monster-porn standards, this one is very short. but i gotta hand it to mina shay - she's always pushing the envelope when it comes to finman, even by monster-porn standards, this one is very short. but i gotta hand it to mina shay - she's always pushing the envelope when it comes to finding exotic monstermates for the ladies in her stories. i appreciate variety, and even though this story seemed a little phoned-in, i'm grateful that she's not giving the world another vampire porn, another bigfoot porn. she's a trailblazer, and maybe the next person who writes trash king porn will make it more … profound. because profundity is what monsterotica readers crave, yes?
so here we have our heroine, brandy. she is at the local dump, searching desperately for her commemorative tonya harding hubcap. this treasure had been thrown out in a rage by ken, the spiteful "yuppie bastard" with whom she'd been shacked up. ken was incensed when he caught her providing oral pleasures to a biker, and callously tossed the commemorative tonya harding hubcap in the garbage, which is the rudest thing a person can do to someone they are sleeping with. i mean apart from blowing a biker.
brandy's going to get her commemorative tonya harding hubcap back, and then she's got some other revenge plans up her … sleeve.
Brandy decided to suck every cock she found just to get back at Ken.
atta girl, brandy!!! that is a super-empowered attitude you have there!
she's got other problems with ken, though. he's got all this money, and no clue how to spend it properly
Money was meant for the good things in life, like alcohol, cigarettes and cover charges.
because this isn't only trash king porn, this is white trash porn. hold tight.
Brandy wished she'd had time to change out of her Daisy Dukes into something more appropriate for rooting through heaps of trash, but she couldn't waste her time getting down to the dump. Someone else might claim her hubcap!
like most heroines in monsterporn, brandy is dressed completely wrong for her intended activities, but completely appropriate for attracting monsters. and she does attract a monster. she attracts … the trash king.
and what is the trash king? i'm not … sure. not really.
The Trash King was filthy. He stood at least six feet tall and was covered in grayish, pock marked skin. His ragged clothing was four layers deep, fraying at the edges with numerous holes showing deeper layers of clothing. His jeans looked too short for his legs and his boots too large for his feet. The clothing would have been hopelessly out of fashion even if it had been clean and whole. Beady little eyes peered out from his oversized brow. His arms seemed too long for his body, hanging down far too low at his sides. Brandy wasn't sure if he'd ever been human, or if living in the trash heaps had somehow changed the man into something else.
so it's like … a shabbily dressed dude?? who may or may not be human?? like a cross between a hobo and a scarecrow?
i dunno. creating new monsters doesn't seem to be mina shay's string suit, but at least she's trying!
but as little as we know about the trash king, he certainly knows all about brandy. and he's about to KNOW brandy, you dig? how does he know all about her?? and all about ken??
"I get your trash here. I get everyone's trash here, from that street. You can learn a lot about a person from their trash… [ken] really needs to learn to shred his bank statements."
and the trash king, unlike ken, recognized the value of brandy's commemorative tonya harding hubcap (sadly, not a real thing that can be bought on ebay. i looked) and he's not giving it up. looks like brandy's gonna have to negotiate.
she plans to seduce the trash king to get her commemorative tonya harding hubcap back. but she doesn't even have to make the first move. the trash king, who is very presumptuous, no matter how much he knows about brandy and her loose ways from her trash, just whips out his peen with no provocation.
Brandy never even saw the grin on his face. All she saw was cock and her body reacted instinctively. Brandy was a moth and she'd seen flame. She quickly stepped forward and knelt down on the hard ground in front of the Trash King. She wasted no time in greedily reaching out and grasping his grayish-skinned cock. It weighed heavily in her hands, full of promise.
oh, brandy. i know you vowed to suck every cock you found, but did you need to lead with this one?? this one that you refer to as "mystery meat??" but that commemorative tonya harding hubcap isn't gonna restore itself to your mantelpiece…
soooo - thar she blows!
Brandy suspected he was close to coming and wondered what the trashy man's come would taste like.
ewww, garbage juice.
and then there's a lot of blah blah blah. and sex sex sex.
he bends her over a sofa in the middle of one of the trash heaps because you gotta treat a lady right.
and unlike all the other mina shay bonbons i have read, this one reads almost like a parody of monsterporn. no, like intentionally. i mean, this must be meant to be funny, right?:
A couple of springs rose up through the exposed bottom of the sofa. It smelled like her grandmother. The dead one.
and then, she gets spanked by the trash king. which should be a whole 'nother story because it's a priceless title.
they enjoy some conversation in the middle of their romantic lovemaking
"Yer a dirty little slut, aren't you? Right at home amongst all this trash."
"Yes, I am!" she agreed wholeheartedly .
oh, brandy. you are too eager.
and trash king - amongst? no need to overcompensate with the flowery speech just because you live in a trash heap. i mean, you are still the king. of the trash.
and then more sex sex sex, and since it is essentially human-on-human sex, it's all very perfunctory and vanilla to this monsterporn connoisseur. no fangs, no dragon tails, no big furry beasts. yawn city.
just the bland and obligatory descriptions of the old in-and-out. i mean, apparently the trash king is hung, but even that is just ho-hum.
His cock filled her in a way that her human partners never had. She grit her teeth and braced herself for his continuing onslaught. She beamed inwardly in pride when her pussy took the entire size of his cock.
because it's important to take pride in one's work.
and that's pretty much it. they are both pleased with their orgasms, and while the trash king will not give brandy her commemorative tonya harding hubcap back, he will allow her to crash with him. "…the way I see it, it looks like you need a new place to stay for a bit. You stay here in my RV and you can look at it every day. And I can fuck you senselessly every day, too.".
which pleases brandy. and the trash king spanks her once more as punctuation, and they go off to drink cans of piss-beer together which is the white trash equivalent of riding off into the sunset atop a white stallion.
mira shay! you can do better than that, girl! and brandy? no, you've pretty much hit your glass ceiling there. sorry! ...more
It is winter in the city. Snow dusts the rooftops with a glistening silver, disguises the identity of certain streets, buries children on their way hoIt is winter in the city. Snow dusts the rooftops with a glistening silver, disguises the identity of certain streets, buries children on their way home. The naked statues of pale maidens are clothed now in dresses of frosty white. In the attic it is cold. Like the rats, I build a nest of papers, ancient texts, parchment and papyri, scrolls and palimpsests. I crumple them and stuff them beneath my coat, but still I shiver. I remember how warm your body was, as if for a heart, you had a tiny sun. We were planets, the two of us, orbiting in darkness.
this is one of those stories that i liked, but i do not expect many other people to like. what actual "story" there is is pretty ambiguous; you are presented with a series of images and given the opportunity to infer enough to be reasonably satisfied, but it's an elusive little slippy number, and the reader is kind of abandoned in the flow of the prose.
as my idiomatically-challenged high school french teacher used to say, "you can lead a horse to a river but you cannot always expect him to dunk his head in there."
this story is not for people who want to dunk their heads in there.
this is more for people who appreciate atmosphere and can get caught up in beautiful imagery without having to have loose ends wrapped up. this story is all loose ends. it's a scenic drive off a cliff.
The map is old; one edge is singed by fire, the other eaten by mold. Ink seems to vibrate across it, a frantic tracery of lines. Island and fjords, inlets and bays, river mouths which open like dragons, spitting fiery deltas into the vastness of the sea. Crisscrossing lines cover everything, like the fishermen’s tangled nets. They tell of old trade routes and prevailing winds, currents and gyres, channels between wreck-strewn reefs, the migrations of singing squid. Beneath all this I follow your journey. The map gives no mention of your vessel, so I do not know how to imagine you: the captain of a felluca or dhow, oarsman of a trireme, helmsman of a junk? What were you seeking, as you sailed north, through the Bay of Kes, into the Morlian Sea? Was it treasure? A chest of gold beneath coral sand? Revenge, perhaps? The map is silent, too, on your motives, as you thread the Thevrian Channel, as you round the Cape of Bitter Morns and set your course, north by northwest, into the vastness of the Nameless Ocean. Why do you spin in circles? Are you searching for some hidden isle not inked on any map? Some ancient beast or vast leviathan? A wise and pendulous jellyfish, whose answer you seek to some perplexing riddle? Or did a storm, clenching you in its fist of rain and wind, hurl you so far off course? Did you descend into madness, led astray by a glimmering mirage, a host of angels with green-gold scales which swim beneath your bow? Or was there mutiny? Silent, stupid map! You hint at everything yet tell me nothing. You are not smooth like her skin, nor do you curl round me, enclosing me in whispering softness, sealing me from the world’s wind.
i think that is lovely, if insubstantial. and if this were a larger story - a novel, for example, the lack of closure or concrete story would probably irritate me. but in this small, dreamy shape, i thought it was pretty little escape into the swirl of words.
Under blue moon I saw you So soon you'll take me Up in your arms Too late to beg you or cancel it Though I know it must be the killing time Unwillingly mine
Fate Up against your will Through the thick and thin He will wait until You give yourself to him
In starlit nights I saw you So cruelly you kissed me Your lips a magic world Your sky all hung with jewels The killing moon Will come too soon
Fate Up against your will Through the thick and thin He will wait until You give yourself to him
and yet, it is a fantastic song, where its moodiness makes the lyrics work. the atmosphere supplies the clarity the actual words lack. and that's what this story does, for me. it's a little tone-piece, and i dug it. many will not.
why yes, i AM reviewing another silly little humor book! because i enjoy laughter. and i also enjoy making fun of dinosaurs.
why yes, i AM reviewing another silly little humor book! because i enjoy laughter. and i also enjoy making fun of dinosaurs.
naturally, in order to get maximum giggles out of this book you need to forget everything you know about evolution, history, biology, nature, technology, and all of that stuff. and that is a statement that transcends this situation - history is pretty much a downer. lots of dead people. best to wipe it all from the mind.
if you've read T-Rex Trying, this is just more of the same. however, as any sitcom'll teach you- in order to prevent a joke from getting stale, you must ADD NEW CHARACTERS.
so, welcome she rex
and wee rex
and their various sorrows.
it's more fun at the expense of poor creatures who are too extinct to fight back but would totally eat you if they found out you were laughing at them. so tread lightly, because lord knows they'll make more of these things before they work on making more red pandas just because i have stopped returning science's calls and they are punishing me.
but here - snicker at the plight of this poor dinosaur.
this is a book that uses that kooky structure i so enjoy when it's done right. like John's Wife and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, we learn aboutthis is a book that uses that kooky structure i so enjoy when it's done right. like John's Wife and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, we learn about the life of one character, here eva thorvald, through the eyes of the people who knew her at various stages in her life. in a series of episodic stories told by her father, her first boyfriend, a jealous rival, her cousin, etc etc - people who knew her well and people who knew her briefly, we watch her progress from an orphaned baby to a master chef, successful and bold.
like those other books, everything we know about eva comes through the filter of another, with their own perspectives and prejudices. and while i liked this book very much, i don't think the potential of the unusual structure was exploited to its fullest extent. normally in a book set up in this way, there's some psychological unpacking required of the reader, a complexity that needs to be dissected in order to fully comprehend the voiceless character. this one doesn't have much in the way of subjective intricacies; eva's character remains consistent throughout, and while some characters (well - one character) interpret(s) her behavior in an unflattering light based on their own prejudices, the eva on the page comes through the same regardless of the narrator's stance - good-hearted, a little clumsy, driven and talented. this is more of a charming read centered around a likable character than any sort of commentary about how we perceive others or construct our own narrative around them. it's light and sweet and fun, which is not usually my cuppa, but i must have been in the right mood for it this time, because i enjoyed it, to my own delighted surprise.
there were a couple of things that halted me at the four-star mark - while i loved braque's chapter overall, it was a little jarring when it dipped its toe in the magical realism pool, when the rest of the book was straight realism. and then the ending was a bit contrived and treacly, in that "coincidence jubilee" way that always makes my teeth itch.
but those were minor, karen-specific complaints. overall, this book was great - i loved the food writing, i loved the bake-off chapter, with its spotlight on how obnoxious modern-day foodies can be, and i even liked the inclusion of the recipes, even though they weren't the most staggeringly exotic dishes in the world.
but this passage made me so hungry and jealous:
The third dish, a tiny cut of venison steak, about half the size of a playing card, with tomatoes and sweet pepper jelly, was a different matter. The venison, firm enough to meet your teeth, and soft enough to yield agreeably in your mouth, revealed subtle, steely new flavors with each bite, while the tomatoes were so full of richness and warm blood, it was like eating a sleeping animal. Their pairing, the light-bodied Pinot, didn't erase these senses, it crept beneath their power, underlining them. It was about as much flavor as fifteen seconds were capable of; after one bite and one sip of wine, Cindy felt luminous and exhausted.
and this cracked me up:
"You want to feed carrot cake to a four-month-old?" Dr. Latch asked.
"Not a lot of carrot cake," Lars said. "I mean, a small portion. A baby portion. I'm just concerned about the nuts in the recipe. I mean, I guess I could make it without nuts. But my mom always made it with nuts. What do you think?"
"Eighteen months. At the earliest. Probably wait until age two to be safe."
"I could be wrong, but I remember my younger siblings eating carrot cake really young. There's a picture of my brother Jarl on the day he turned one. They gave him a little carrot cake and he smeared it in his hair."
"That's the best outcome in that situation, probably."
"Well, now he's bald."
"Looking over your dietary plan here, I'd have more immediate reservations."
"Well, pork shoulder to a three-month-old baby. Not advisable."
"puréed, maybe?" Lars asked. "I could braise it first. Or maybe just roast the bones and make pork stock for a demi-glace. That wouldn't be my first choice, though."
"You work at Hutmacher's, right?" Dr. Latch said. "You do make an excellent pork shoulder. But give it at least two years."
"Two years, huh?" He didn't want to tell Dr. Latch that this conversation crushed his heart, but the doctor seemed to perceive this.
"I understand your eagerness to share your life's passion with your first child. I see different versions of this all the time. The time will come. For now, just breast milk and formula for the first three months."
"That's awful," Lars said.
it's a light and enjoyable read, touching on the issues of nature v. nurture, family loyalty, reluctant maternity, the evolution of food culture, and the ripple effect of intersecting lives. a delicious debut. (groan)
also - on the back of my arc, in the "publicity" section, it says there will be a magazine editors farm-to-table luncheon and bookseller dinners. someone please come feed me food!!...more
People who use cookbooks are cowards. If you love following directions so much, go build an end table from IKEA. Coward.
(probably not actually) MarioPeople who use cookbooks are cowards. If you love following directions so much, go build an end table from IKEA. Coward.
(probably not actually) Mario Batali
this book is very funny, but just like its subject matter, the more you indulge in it, the less enjoyable it is. at first, it was great; i found something funny on every page, and i was digging the bite-sized sections and the variety of its humor.
but then with the next course the book tightened its focus and just became chapter after chapter of humorous recipes, and i started feeling a little full. the jokes were still mostly funny, but they were the same kind of jokes and the sameness got to me after a while.
so i wouldn't recommend reading this cover to cover like i did - save it for little palate-cleansing snacks in between other things you're reading when you find yourself needing a little giggle.
this book came to be after some ucb folks handed out this menu at the first googamooga. i did not get one, sadly, but it's a great poke at food-snobbery, and the kind of prank i can high-five, even with my mouth full of googamooga treats. mmmmmm,umami…
and in this town, when you make brooklyn laugh, you get a book deal. it's a lovely book, all elegant and gold like prosperity. and there are so many helpful tips inside for the home cook, such as pantry staples:
Add texture as well as a sharp, dangerous pain to any dessert.
FRUIT GARBAGE PIECES
The stems and rinds are terrible to eat on the fruit, but they will help your guests appreciate how good your cooking would have been had it not been covered in dirty, disgusting food garbage.
CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH
You don't need this for any recipes, but there are several times in the day when you'll be thinking, I could really go for a handful of Cinnamon Toast Crunch right now, and then it will be there and you can eat it.
as well as things every kitchen should have:
AIR, SURFACES, AND SPACE
The three most important things you'll need in your kitchen are breathable air, matter in the shape of surfaces, and spatial dimensions. Without air, you cannot breathe; without surfaces, you have no place to put the food; and without dimensions, you would be floating in an endless white void, and that's no good for cooking.
and then some very basic food information such as the difference between "good food" and "bad food." good food is: Any food that tastes good because it has a lot of bacon, cheese, sugar, or ranch dressing on it. So basically a bacon ranch cheeseburger served on a donut. while bad, or "natural" food is As disgusting as it sounds, natural food grows straight out of the ground. It's covered in dirt and sometimes there's bugs on it. Gross, right?"
and then, after more amuse-bouches like that - on to the recipes. for a selection of recipes covered in this book, please enjoy (the real) mario batali giggling as he reads them aloud here
they are quite funny and will probably come in handy the next time you have a hipster dinner party. it's just … a lot of recipes. thankfully it eventually returns to the same kind of funsized bits and pieces i was enjoying in the beginning of the book. like a listing of who's who in the kitchen, from the cook to the waiter to the food enhancer:
A well-groomed, well-dressed man, usually about the age of sixty, who crouches under the table once customers have received their meals. As they eat their food, the food enhancer breathes deeply, rubs the customer's lap, and whispers things like, "Mmmmm, baby likey? Yeah, you're a bad little boy. You want more, hmm?"
to the manager:
The manager is in charge of the restaurant and he is always a huge fucking asshole. He makes sure the restaurant is running efficiently and he has a goatee and he fucking sucks. He's in his early forties and he's twenty pounds overweight and when he has sex he comes immediately.
and other assorted tips n' tricks.
so there's a lot of spectacularly useful information in this book, and it will make a great gift for any friends you may have who are really obnoxious about being foodies. it will enable you to basically call them douchebags without actually calling them douchebags. because they are your friends and all.
i will leave you with this overlong section that made me laugh a lot.
People frequently ask us questions about food, which is why we thought it'd be helpful to include some QAAS - Questions Asked A Lot.
WHERE DOES FOOD COME FROM?
IS FOOD GOOD?
For the most part, yes, food is very good. But different people like different foods. For instance, we fucking hate black olives, but we know some dipshits who like them.
WHY DOES FOOD GET THROWN AWAY?
That's not food, that's trash. Trash and food are two different things.
WHAT IS THE BEST FOOD?
Eggs Benedict wrapped in gold.
HOW MUCH FOOD IS THERE?
IS THERE ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE?
What do you mean?
AM I FOOD?
WHEN CAN YOU GET FOOD?
Food is put on sale at eight a.m.
WHO HAS THE MOST FOOD?
WHAT IS THE MOST FOOD SOMEONE CAN HAVE?
A whole turkey with mashed potatoes and stuffing.
HOW MUCH DOES FOOD COST?
Like five to ten bucks.
IS IT OKAY TO FILL UP ON BREAD?
Yes. And not only is it okay, but we encourage it! The funniest situation would be if you ordered your meal, then filled up on bread, and then by the time your meal came, you would say to the waiter, "I'm sorry, I filled up on bread. I'm not hungry anymore." Try that the next time you go out.
WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY WHEN YOU WANT FOOD?
"Please give me food" or "Give that to me now."
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU COMBINE EVERY SINGLE FOOD INTO ONE?
You get a turkey sandwich with Swiss cheese, mayo, and honey mustard on ciabatta bread.
IS A BANANA FOOD?
No. A banana has a peel on it, and no one eats the peel, so a banana is not food. We have never tried unpeeling a banana, it's too risky. We don't know what could be under there.
IS FOOD ART?
It depends. If you go to a bowling alley and see some cheese fries on a table, it is not art. However, if you see those same cheese fries in a glass case at an art museum, it's part of an exhibit, so it is art.
WHAT WILL WE EAT IN THE FUTURE?
WHY IS SOME FOOD WET AND SOME FOOD DRY?
At this point, you're asking too many questions. Let's just move on.
yes, let's move on and make a big batch of fat cream whores! ...more
this memoir was pushed on me by someone who kept stressing how honest and funny and brave it was, and i read it as a favor to her, but i was unpreparethis memoir was pushed on me by someone who kept stressing how honest and funny and brave it was, and i read it as a favor to her, but i was unprepared for just how much it would suck me in, make me laugh, and completely charm me.
i don't read a lot of memoirs. i have enough trouble keeping up with the crap my own life throws at me, and it doesn't give me comfort or make me feel empowered to read about other people overcoming their problems. and i don't have any personal experience with alcohol addiction, so i didn't think there would be anything in this book that would make me nod or squirm in recognition.
but i was so wrong.
because it's about so much more than hepola's drunken misadventures and morning-after regrets or her long stretches of blankness where memories should be. there's plenty of that, but it's also about all the funny and horrible things that come with growing up as a girl and dealing with various social situations and body dysmorphia and all the ways our perceptions of our behavior differ from the way we come across to others whether we are sober or not, and she's merciless and incisive in her observations and good lord - her VOICE!
her writing is this perfect blend of confessional slumber party storyteller and broader view commentator on the mechanics of the blackout experience that is completely seductive, and even though i was about a hundred pages into another book when i picked this one up intending to just get a sense of her writing, suddenly i found myself several hours later, having abandoned everything else in favor of curling up in my bed and devouring the entire thing because i could not stop reading it. i needed more of her story. and not with the gleeful voyeuristic trainwreck schadenfreude of "how will she fuck up next?" but with genuine appreciation for how funny she is. not "i'm chelsea handler and i've wet myself" funny, but actually funny. jenny lawson funny. there's the same kind of "warts and all," lack of vanity here. she's way less kooky than lawson, but there's a freedom to her writing which, combined with smart and funny - is completely intoxicating. if you will excuse the word choice.
even though i have never blacked out from drinking - never lost time, never returned to my life to find myself having sex with a man i didn't recognize, i have had several seizures before, unrelated to alcohol. i have woken up confused, mind racing to fill in the gaps of my last memory and how i ended up covered in blood and pee on the floor of my apartment, and every time there is a rush of helplessness and fear barreling through me but also a completely rational calm feeling overriding it where my brain's first impulse is of self-preservation, of refusing to acknowledge a weakness - "do not let anyone know that you have lost control." even though in my case, it's a moot point because of all the twitching and flailing. but she articulates this so well in the book - the terrifying feeling of not knowing what is going on, but covering it up with a purr and a tightly-controlled veneer of composure while her mind is whirring to establish a graceful exit so she can examine the evidence in private. i can completely relate to this instinct to present an unruffled appearance in the face of the sudden realization that you have taken too much and gone too far. never let 'em see you sweat, sure, but never EVER let them see how fucked up you are. never be a target. and while she does put herself in the target position time and again, and bad things certainly do happen, she is lucky enough to have lived to tell the tale with all of her limbs and her sense of humor intact.
Once I'd gotten so blasted at a party I woke up in a dog bed, in someone else's house.
"Do you think you got roofied?" my friend asked me.
"Yes," I told her. "I think someone slipped me ten drinks."
but she is also capable of frank and clear-eyed self-assessment that makes me want to push this book at all the college-aged girls in the world:
Sex was a complicated bargain to me. It was chase, and it was hunt. It was hide and seek, clash and surrender, and the pendulum could swing inside my brain all night: I will, no I won't; I should, no I can't. I drank to drown those voices, because I wanted the bravado of a sexually liberated woman. I wanted the same freedom from internal conflict my male friends seemed to enjoy. So I drank myself to a place where I didn't care, but I woke up a person who cared enormously. Many yes's on Friday nights would have been no's on Saturday morning. My consent battle was in me.
this is a cautionary tale, yeah, but it never gets preachy, even after - spoiler alert - she gets sober. it's just a story of her own life, in which many of the early stories of her childhood don't involve (much) alcohol, but are instead just completely familiar stories of growing up with self-doubt and insecurity and being exposed to economic diversity and all the shame, rituals, aggression, and complicated erotic baggage of growing up girl.
her musings on body image are particularly great. and honestly - when this:
is one of your best friends, it's pretty hard to not feel like this
i mean, i imagine.
anyway - this book is great. it surprised the crap out of me by being so great, and i urge you all to check it out. i'm mostly speaking to the ladies here, because it is such a wonderful psychological cross-section of female experience, but fellas are also welcome.
this is her blog, which also has some good stuff on it:
In every crime scene every one of me was looking at, he lay face-down on the floor with two bullets in his back.
this is a neat little futuristic sci-fIn every crime scene every one of me was looking at, he lay face-down on the floor with two bullets in his back.
this is a neat little futuristic sci-fi noir story in which crimes can be solved by accessing any number of possible timelines by a detective with a heisen implant stuck in their brain. in this story, we have detective o'harren, a woman working in future-chicago, confronted with a corpse of a bootlegger and mobster called johnny rivers.
the story is full of the language of your typical noir:
It was one of those drab Chicago winters, the kind where every sunrise brings fresh bodies on the sidewalks.
but also full of those brain-boggles that occur when authors get a little frisky with the quantum physics:
Other universes closed around me. I clung to the possibility thread that I had plucked out from the throng, visualizing it as a literal rope clutched in my fist. I felt like I was falling—the walls lurched briefly into the ceiling—then all at once I stopped, and I was standing in the basement—just one of them—listening to the faint wash of traffic on the street outside.
it's an interesting and thought-provoking little story that playfully subverts the noir genre and also inserts a little emotional drama about the consequences of being able to see not only the future, but a variety of different futures, and how that can really put a strain on a marriage. and it's also got a nice pop of an ending.
the whole schrödinger's cat thing is always a fun little mindgame, and can be a fun physical game if you have one of these things that i bought for greg.
and while most of the comments on the thread following the story on the tor site seem mind = blown by one of the cool lines in the story, i preferred this one:
That’s one thing they don’t tell you about Schrödinger’s cat: you leave the lid on the box too long and the damn thing starves regardless. No quantum possibilities required.
this book is great, but i think it's probably most useful to people who have, like, a whole passel of unicorns at theiunicorn!!
this book is great, but i think it's probably most useful to people who have, like, a whole passel of unicorns at their disposal. if you only have one lousy unicorn, how would you ever decide if it would be best used as a paperweight or a a piñata??
a proctologic instrument or a back scratcher??
(you're not going to want to change your mind halfway through)
and how can you tell if your unicorn would make a better chauffeur or good cop?
and what if you receive an invitation to a wedding right in the middle of plowing season??
it hardly seems fair to have to make these kinds of choices - i want my milk and my honey both! give me a herd of horny creatures so i can use this book to its fullest, is that too much to ask?
however, if i had to choose, i would go with either bookmark
those two things seem best suited to my day-to-day needs.
i like that this book has some "fun with homonyms" juxtapositions like
but when presented the opportunity to do it a third time, it totally drops the ball.
come on, book - we're all adults with unicorns here, don't be a tease!!
lacking that companion-photo, i will just post a few other examples out of the 101 that i enjoyed:
my only question is - why are the unicorns' horns located so damn far down their noses??
it's like these people have never even SEEN a real unicorn, jeez. i should send them a warning. you know, for science.
this book is very david mitchell-y in structure and theme, but it is somewhat less intellectually demanding than mitchell, and as the ever-astute blaithis book is very david mitchell-y in structure and theme, but it is somewhat less intellectually demanding than mitchell, and as the ever-astute blair points out, there isn't much of a difference between the voices of the discrete narratives. but that doesn't mean it's not an astonishingly good book on its own merits.
it's a sad, frequently brutal story of the various incarnations of two souls spanning the course of hundreds of years, with detail-rich backdrops of ancient to modern china. the stories satellite around wang - a taxi driver in beijing in 2008 with a wife named yida, a daughter named echo, and some heavy emotional baggage in his rearview (chortle). and as he will soon learn, that emotional baggage is not just restricted to this life; he has had five previous lives in which he has engaged with another entity in various ways, many of them centered around erotic entanglements, and most of them ending in betrayal and gruesome death.
although he has no memory of these lives, he begins to receive mysterious letters from the person with whom he shared these experiences, detailing the nature of their relationships through time and vowing that their paths will cross again.
the five letters chronicling their lives are standalone chapters in the novel, and had they been five stories in a larger collection, i would have thought "what excellent stories these are!," but i am so glad that barker chose to go the extra step and use them as bones to wrap a whole other story around - it is a wonderfully ambitious risk and i think it paid off. the only quibble i have is that i wish the story had been more evenly distributed. there's a lot of wang (heh) in between the past-life stories, and while his own current-life is beautifully, tragically written, i would have loved more islands of past-lives breaking up his storyline.
but that's just a minor complaint in what was a singularly enjoyable, discomfiting, immersive reading experience. if she writes a book of short stories, i will read it gladly. if she writes another novel, i will read it gladly. if she writes a poem on a bathroom wall, i will read it gladly. (edit - so i just learned she has TWO OTHER BOOKS! which i will read gladly)
i don't want to say much more, but i urge you to get your hands on this, as long as you have the stomach for some of the graphic bits and pieces. it's available on netgalley right now for both u.s.:
i was drawn to this book because 1) pretty cover and 2) The Secret History comp. which gets me every time.
and i understand that this book was describi was drawn to this book because 1) pretty cover and 2) The Secret History comp. which gets me every time.
and i understand that this book was described as a BLEND of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches, but people have got to stop using The Secret History as a readalike; it generally does more harm than good unless the match is spot on (and it never is). yes, it'll attract readers to the book, but they won't be the right readers if the book is, say, a supernatural romance, and they probably won't like it, even if it's a very literary supernatural romance. are there common factors? yes. both of these books take place on the campus of a college in new england, where many people are wealthy and the POV character is not. also, classical mythology and ancient rituals/ceremonies come into play. but the way these things are treated is completely different and maintaining that the two books are similar because they share locale is like saying an omelet is the same thing as a chocolate chip cookie because both have eggs in them. they don't serve the same purpose, or scratch the same itch. sometimes you crave an omelet and sometimes you crave a cookie.
that is a blanket complaint for all books being compared to The Secret History, because it is one of those oft-invoked books that is trotted out anytime someone writes a college novel, and it doesn't always work. the same way that every psychological suspense book is now marketed as the new Gone Girl. Gone Girl is a very specific kind of psych suspense novel, and its frequent misapplication as a readalike is maddening to anyone with a passion for readers' advisory. like me.
that rant aside, i definitely feel that this book has a huge readership; it's just not the same one as The Secret History. this is an easy sell to fans of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, or the new adult genre. the writing is better than Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, and it has supernatural and mystery elements that Fifty Shades of Grey and new adult do not, but the romantic entanglements mirror the kinds found in those books, and are the driving force behind their success.
the writing is very lush, and there is a feeling of the fairytale to this story, but it's a very modern and erotic version of a traditional fairytale, and the "happily ever after" is not guaranteed.
thea is a first-year student at princeton, an accomplished pianist coming all the way from bulgaria to study at the same university her older sister elza attended fifteen years ago. elza was an enigmatic, ethereal, and dynamic young woman, who had a profound effect on all who knew her until she died under mysterious circumstances and her body disappeared from the morgue in even more mysterious circumstances. thea plans to solve these mysteries to give her parents closure, and to try to understand the legacy of the sister she never knew.
but then she meets a boy. or two.
after a mistaken-identity secret admirer fiasco, thea finds herself involved with two brothers, also pianists: jake and rhys. they are both older, immeasurably wealthy, and equally attractive/attracted to thea. rhys is the older and more dominant of the two, and he claims her immediately, while jake stands down and pines on the sidelines, occasionally given encouragingly romantic scenes with the confused thea. rhys immediately insinuates himself into all aspects of thea's life, arranging her time, wardrobe, and living arrangements - telling her who she can and cannot spend time with while retaining his own autonomy, declaring that he can never be a one-woman man. he is as mysterious as elza, with a haunted past and a tragic family story, which thea attempts to unravel, while all the while trying to discover what happened to her sister.
so, despite the supernatural elements that will eventually reveal themselves, this seems to be a relationship completely in line with those found in the new adult genre - a damaged male lead with violent possessive tendencies and the only woman who can save him from his worst impulses. ditto this for the Fifty Shades of Grey comp, and add to it the financial angle, and the fact that thea is a virgin seduced by a man with an unusual and prolific sexual history.
i think people who are fans of romance will definitely like this book. for me, it didn't appeal to me because this just doesn't speak to my own personal fantasies. wealth isn't a panty-dropper for me, especially when it's inherited money and not earned. i can understand and appreciate the way money makes life easier in certain aspects, and it opens doors to experiences and opportunities foreign to someone who has not come from that background, but unless the suitor has other qualities that are attractive, it's not enough to make me say "yes, this appears to be a good match." and rhys is a nightmare character. i know that this is the new trend of male characters, from the limited experience i have with new adult, but i would have punched both jake and rhys in the face within moments of our meeting. do not approach me, stranger, in the dark deserted room of a museum and stand close enough that i can feel the heat from your chest on my chest. do not tell me that the elegant gown i have put on is "too prim for (your) taste." and do NOT do this, when i am hesitant about consummating our relationship in a fairly public place, when i am a cautious virgin.
"Because… you don't even know me."
"I don't need to know you." His stunning eyes were ruthless. "I need to have you."
He pressed me back against the tree with an insistence that he was unable - or unwilling - to control.
yeah, that doesn't work for me. that's how you get maced, frankly. i am not personally into this kind of fantasy that has so much violence simmering under the surface. i don't want to be "had." i want to be "known."
but i get it, for other readers. it's a romance painted in broad strokes, and the fantasy of being swept off of one's feet by a man unaccustomed to hearing the word "no" is a common trope in the genre. plus, in this world which is porous enough to let in all different kinds of monsters, this isn't even the worst thing that can happen to someone, romantically speaking.
the writing is at its best when it is focused on music. which is impressive enough, considering how difficult it is to pin down the transcendent effects of music in mere words. it is also fantastic when it discusses bulgarian vs. u.s. values, and in one of those passages, it managed to dismiss one of my criticisms as simply a product of my own cultural perspective:
…she loved worrying about me. Still, there were worse things than being "stalked" or "claimed" by a guy like Rhys. And what was this American obsession with stalking anyway? We had no such word in Bulgarian - people expressed their emotions in all kinds of ways, and to pursue a woman was expected of men; it didn't automatically mean crossing criminal lines.
which i found illuminating. my ideas of courtship do not include statements like
"I'm guessing there are many things you think you don't want. But we'll have to change that."
and i cannot relate to this sentiment:
There was something intoxicating in his jealousy, even in his rage. It left him vulnerable and gave me a strange sense of power.
"Rhys, you are crushing me. I can't even breathe…"
He pulled back just enough to let me catch my breath, but his grip around my wrists tightened. "I said that I'm not going to share you. Which part didn't you understand?"
but maybe that's just my americanness poking through.
thea's no prize either as far as heroines go. there's a selfishness to her, a cruelty, as she keeps rhys and jake on strings, vacillating between them indecisively, while keeping a third man on the side for those times when the estlin brothers are both off sulking somewhere. she's presented as an ingénue, so it's meant to be forgivable instead of heartless, but no one is that naïve. she consistently brings jake up to a certain point and then scurries away, and he just retreats and waits and yearns for her with unwavering devotion even though they barely know each other. there's a lot more patience and forgiveness in this book than is realistic. but again - this is a romance, this is a fantasy.
and just because i don't like being pushed and pulled and pressed up against walls and told where to go and whom i cannot see, and just because i have no applause for a thirty-year-old man treating a teenaged girl like a kept woman with expensive gifts whose response to her telling him she will be going home to bulgaria for christmas to see her parents is "They don't own you" and "It's your life. Nobody should tell you how to live it" even though that is what she WANTS to do and pot/kettle and all that, doesn't mean this isn't an enjoyable romance novel for people who actually enjoy romance novels and aren't stupid finger-wagging killjoys like me who have to examine and dissect the fantasy like people don't understand that what's acceptable in fantasy isn't always acceptable in real life.
so, yeah - while i find the romantic elements of this book irritating, that's just me and my pretty standard reaction to the kind of dangerous relationships idealized in popular romance novels these days. because i am an old curmudgeon with personal space/freedom issues. but i did like the music, the mythology, the parts where people weren't saying things like
"You make me come just with your breath, Thea…I can come just from feeling your breath on my mouth."
so, while i think the suggested readalikes are iffy (i still don't understand the Jane Eyre comp at all (view spoiler)[unless we are meant to see elza as bertha in the "complicated romantic entanglements" aspect. (hide spoiler)] but otherwise, thea is the exact opposite of jane, who is way into romantic self-denial and not taking shit from rich guys) this book is definitely going to please folks who like bad boys and literary paranormal romances with a new and interesting spin on the typical supernatural elements.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
i liked this valley cat book slightly less than the first, but do keep in mind that i am reviewing this as an old childless lady and not as someone w
i liked this valley cat book slightly less than the first, but do keep in mind that i am reviewing this as an old childless lady and not as someone with any connection to its target audience.
this book introduces five new cats to the valley cat clan. (well, four - they find three orphaned kittens, which are distributed amongst the families, but one of those kittens - the calico - is never mentioned again, which made me sad because i do so love calicos.)
where did you go, little calico??
this book, like the first in the series, is full of both adventures and life lessons. however, i thought the didactic elements in this one were a little forced - they weren't inserted as effortlessly as they were in Valley Cats. for example, boonie the cat knows an awful lot about astronomy and will just info-dump his knowledge to his rapt cat-audience:
"Shooting stars, also known as falling stars, are not stars at all. They are meteors. As the Earth travels on its annual journey around the sun, it encounters clouds of debris in space left from passing comets. The clouds consist of ice crystals and rocks made up of various minerals. The rocks, when pulled by gravity into the Earth's atmosphere, become meteors. They fall faster and faster, heating up so hot they light on fire… Every year in mid-August, the Earth passes through a known cloud of space debris. For the next few nights, weather permitting, we will be able to see hundreds of shooting stars. This time of high activity is called a meteor shower. Most of the meteors burn up long before they hit the ground. What we will see tonight is happening high above us. You need not worry about getting hit by one."
which is just a lot to process in a bedtime story. i think it's great that there's a teaching element to these books, but it just comes across a little clunky here, as opposed to before, where the facts about the natural world were better woven into the adventure narrative. no one likes a know-it-all, boonie!
and later, a (human) character states:
I am not familiar with pasties," Winslow admitted. "Please tell me everything you know about them."
and the other human does. and he knows A LOT about pasties, as it happens.
the information is interesting, if you are into food history (and i am), but it just doesn't sound natural.
there are also lessons to be learned of a less academic and more social nature. the introduction of new cats leads to problems of jealousy and friend-sharing. it's an important lesson, but it occurs two times in this volume, and it seems redundant to revisit the theme twice in such a short book. i mean, it's fine and laudable for the kiddies with their still-blooming socialization bits to be reminded that we need to share with others in this life. but me, i know how to share, and i am actually wicked good at it, even when it is cadbury mini-eggs, so i would have liked more adventure instead of more tales of overcoming jealousy.
this volume also introduces a blind (human) character, which i thought was handled very well and was a good example of how the teaching-bits could be seamlessly contained within a story, as winslow explains to the cats how he navigates his new surroundings and compensates for the loss of his vision.
i liked the winslow stories very much, and the final story, which emphasizes the skills of courage, self-reliance, and thinking outside the box in a really charming way.
my only other tiny complaint is a sort of inconsistency regarding the realities of the animal kingdom. there's no hesitation in this book in asserting that the orphaned kittens were most likely orphaned because a fox ate their mother, but in a few other stories, the valley cats encounter a squirrel and some mice, and in one of the mouse stories, the cats lure the mouse out of the house with a trail of crumbs instead of - you know - devouring it. neither the squirrel nor the mice are given cutesy squeaking voices or anything, so it's not like they would be eating a fwiend, and while it's a cute little story, it's not consistent with the already-established admission that sometimes nature will eat other nature. i dunno, i just think you can either write a book where animals behave like disney or you can write a book that's actually about nature, and this one seems to want to have it both ways, which can be confusing. i imagine.