Lib had a dizzying sense that time could fall into itself like the embers. That in these dim huts nothing had changed since the age of the Druids and
Lib had a dizzying sense that time could fall into itself like the embers. That in these dim huts nothing had changed since the age of the Druids and nothing ever would. What was that line in the hymn they’d sung at Lib’s school? The night is dark, and I am far from home.
I loved this book so much. So much. I can easily see why it won't be for everyone - truth be told, the plot moves fairly slow - but I was just so engrossed in the story and atmosphere. I suppose it just depends how much this kind of tale appeals to you; whether or not you want to know more.
It starts in a dreary, rainy Ireland in the latter half of the 19th Century, shortly after the Crimean War. Lib Wright is an English nurse who served under the legendary Ms Nightingale and she has been brought to Ireland to watch over a new patient - 11 year old Anna O'Donnell whose parents claim she has not eaten anything since her last birthday, four months ago. Lib and a nun work shifts to observe the girl - to try to discover if and how she is taking any food, or if she has somehow managed to survive without it.
I was completely absorbed into the mystery of what was going on in this quiet, rural Irish village. How could she have survived without food? Was it all a crazy scheme invented by the family? Could something else underhanded be going on? Or could it really be an act of God like so many of the locals seem to believe?
In Lib’s experience, those who wouldn’t cheat a shopkeeper by a farthing would lie about how much brandy they drank or whose room they’d entered and what they’d done there. Girls bursting out of their stays denied their condition till the pangs gripped them. Husbands swore blind that their wives’ smashed faces were none of their doing. Everybody was a repository of secrets.
Lib's increased frustration was one I shared - a need to discover the truth. A need to solve this simple but baffling mystery. Between the religious fanaticism of 19th Century Ireland and its infuriating sexism, I got so caught up in everything. And I think so much of it comes down to one thing: atmosphere.
The Wonder is a very atmospheric, Gothic, Irish tale. But it's quiet and pastoral too; more of a Wuthering Heights Gothic than a Bram Stoker. Lib is alone in this little bubble, in the very centre of Ireland, far from what many would deem to be "civilization". The family’s superstitions about the little folk and the small discoveries that Lib can’t explain add an eeriness that permeates the entire book.
As I was reading the book, nothing supernatural had actually happened, and yet I felt an overwhelming sense of otherness. Like something was not quite right; like being in this tiny, unknown place in Ireland was somewhat like stepping into another world where the paranormal was possible. I didn't just read this book; I felt it.
I absolutely needed to know what was happening. I needed to know whether something otherworldly was at play, whether this child was being betrayed by those she should have been able to trust most, or whether she herself was behind it. I was pulled in by the atmosphere, by the mystery, and by the sexism that saw the local doctors dismissing Lib's opinions and cutting her off mid-sentence. Modern nursing was a very new thing at the time of this novel's setting and nurses were generally looked down upon by doctors, considered capable of watching and cleaning patients, but not offering a prognosis.
The Wonder was fascinating to me. I think there were many interesting themes floating around in this small-ish book, but I risk giving away spoilers by discussing them. Anyway, if this sounds interesting to you, go read it. I can't stop thinking about it.
Confession time: I'm partial to the occasional trashy, chick-lit novel. You know the ones I mean. Those meaningless dramas where everyone sleeps withConfession time: I'm partial to the occasional trashy, chick-lit novel. You know the ones I mean. Those meaningless dramas where everyone sleeps with everyone and everyone betrays everyone and you are not required to think too hard. So when people were calling this a "futuristic Gossip Girl", that honestly didn't bother me. GG is an old guilty pleasure. Also, Chuck + Blair 4ever.
On the other end of the call was Atlas, her brother - and the reason she never wanted to kiss anyone else.
I don't care that he's technically her step-brother; my issue with incest extends way beyond genetic factors. I don't mind when it appears to show abuse or is portrayed negatively, but I got the distinct impression that it's actually supposed to be sexy in this book. And I'm sorry, but I don't buy into the "consenting adults" argument for incest, or the comparisons with homosexuality. As Saletan's Slate article says:
Homosexuality is an orientation. Incest isn't. If the law bans gay sex, a lesbian can't have a sex life. But if you're hot for your sister, and the law says you can't sleep with her, you have billions of other options. Get out of your house, for God's sake. You'll find somebody to love without incinerating your family.
It was a huge issue for me in a novel that could have easily been some mindless entertainment. McGee considers many different aspects of what the year 2118 might look like, from technology to global warming to designer babies. On top of that, it's a diverse book, as well as just a very interesting and rather... dazzling idea. Imagine a future where Manhattan literally becomes a vertical city in an enormous skyscraper; the extremely wealthy partying and getting high on the top floors.
But I just don't want to read about siblings making out. I read to the end to find out who falls from the tower in the prologue, but I seriously considered not finishing it the moment Avery and Atlas lock lips. There are a lot of characters in this novel, all being young, stupid and scandalous, and I honestly quite enjoyed reading about their superficial lives, but I won't be returning for the sequel. That kind of "romance" is just not my thing.
2 1/2 stars. Foer explores what it means to be a Jew in this epic, messy monster of a book. He starts with a Franzen-style look at the American family2 1/2 stars. Foer explores what it means to be a Jew in this epic, messy monster of a book. He starts with a Franzen-style look at the American family - a spiraling web of relationships and conflicts that on its own would have still resulted in a dense, challenging work, but probably one significantly less convoluted and more satisfying.
The protagonist is Jacob - a modern day version of the biblical man by the same name. Much of his conflict - internal and external - is either about family or faith, reminiscent of his namesake. Foer makes a lot of interesting observations about humanity, Americans and Jews, and it is the family aspect of the book where he shines.
However, the novel just gets weighed down more and more by everything else Foer keeps adding. The geopolitical conflicts between Israel and the Arab world add another huge layer to an already complex novel. This drags the second half of the book down and, unfortunately, the introduction of the struggles in the Middle East made me lose interest in the parts of the story I was previously enjoying.
Over the years, I have read a lot of books. I've picked my way through the so-called "Classics", got losWe MUST talk about this hidden indie treasure.
Over the years, I have read a lot of books. I've picked my way through the so-called "Classics", got lost in Fantasy and Science-Fiction, been taken to other times by Historical Fiction, stayed up late to find out the answers in the latest Psychological Thriller, fallen in love with Romance, and rode the wave of every YA trend. And yet, I have never read a book like this one.
Requests for indie/self-pub reviews come to me all the time. I usually take a glance at the first few pages and am almost always put off by the poor grammar or writing. I rarely make it past the first chapter and, if I do, the story quickly loses my attention. And, to be honest, I didn't expect Senlin Ascends to be any different.
However, I took a chance on this because it came so highly recommended by Mark Lawrence, and I didn't come up for breath until I'd finished the final page. It is both a masterfully-crafted work of art AND an addictive pageturner.
“Newcomers may expect the ringdoms of the Tower to be like the layers of a cake where each layer is much like the last. But this is not the case. Not at all. Each ringdom is unique and bewildering. The ringdoms of the Tower share only two things in common: the shape of their outermost walls, which are roughly circular, and the price of beef, which is outrageous. The rest is novel.”
Just so you know: it's nothing like Mark Lawrence's work. As I said, it's unlike anything I've ever read. Senlin Ascends is about a man who loses his wife on their honeymoon to the Tower of Babel. Concluding that she must have entered the Tower, the book chronicles his ascent through the ringdoms of the Tower - each a unique, dazzling and completely weird world of its own - on a mission to find his beloved Marya.
The writing is gorgeous and oh so very compelling. It's a bizarre tale that at times feels like one of those strange, suffocating dreams where everything is familiar but also not. There's this undercurrent of wrongness to the novel, even when Senlin finds himself merrily drinking wine on the Baths level of the Tower.
Senlin was unprepared for marriage in every way. He possessed neither the imagination nor emotional warmth that intimacy required.
Marya was so much better at taking the flaws of the world in stride, which was why she was indomitable and difficult to disappoint. She probably found the bull snails and drunken merry-go-round charming.
Characters major and minor come bounding off the pages. I always feel like the best tell for an author truly adept at creating characters is when smaller, secondary characters are important, well-developed and worthy of our interest and/or sympathy. Of course Senlin is important to us, but I also really enjoyed reading about the many people he meets on his journey - Tarrou, Edith, Adam, etc.
But, really, it's so hard to explain why this book is so good. The best tool of a reviewer is comparison but Senlin Ascends just stands on its own. It's depth is almost literary, and yet it is hard to put down. It's unsettling, and yet darkly comical. The protagonist is a stuffy old headmaster, and yet lovable. Add to that some beautiful descriptions of each ringdom, portrayed in exquisite detail with everything from bloodthirsty executioners to clockwork animals... how can you resist stepping in?
And the best thing about this? There's a whole sequel to enjoy!! Arm of the Sphinx is next on my wishlist.
Oh god. It's like every bibliophile's wet dream came true. This book can't possibly be as good as it looks, can it? I tried to read the reviews but I
Oh god. It's like every bibliophile's wet dream came true. This book can't possibly be as good as it looks, can it? I tried to read the reviews but I only got a 'B' in high school German and that was eight years ago. Screw it, I must find out!...more
A really interesting concept, but almost impossible to enjoy. The author is clearly reluctant to give up any secrets and the result is a book that revA really interesting concept, but almost impossible to enjoy. The author is clearly reluctant to give up any secrets and the result is a book that reveals almost nothing, plunges you into a confusing scenario without explanation, and expects you to keep reading to find out what's going on. Trouble is, with so little given up, it's very hard to become invested. How are we supposed to seek out the answers when we don't even know what the questions are?...more
Cherry is a book about four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity during their senior year of high school. It could have been dumb, annoyingCherry is a book about four friends who make a pact to lose their virginity during their senior year of high school. It could have been dumb, annoying or message-driven, but instead it was honest, sensitive, sex-positive, diverse, and a whole lot of fun.
It's a touch more serious - or maybe important is the better word - than AMERICAN PIE, but it's not a dark, "woe is me" tale about the horrors and pains of losing your virginity. The four girls have very different experiences, but ultimately, sex is portrayed as something fun - as long as you play it safe and use protection, of course.
Unlike most stories featuring girls and virginity, this isn't really about boys, love or romance at all. Friendship, supporting your girlfriends, and not hating on other girls or slut-shaming are all the most important things in this novel. There's frank and open discussion about masturbation, as well as positive LGBT representation.
It's HONEST - and here that means not sparing any details. It is so refreshing to see a book tell it like it is for teen girls, allowing them to have sexual desires, as well as all the usual fears. I, for one, thought it was great that the author showed the girls talking openly about masturbation - a word that usually only conjures images of horny teen boys jerking off (that makes me sound kinda creepy, but you know what I mean).
As I said, in the wrong hands this could have gone so wrong, been childish and silly, and read like a PSA. Fortunately, Rosin weaves some wonderful characterization to make each girl - Layla, Alex, Emma and Zoe - painfully human, and each of their stories funny and memorable. There's a lot of great family/sibling dynamics to go alongside the main plot, and Rosin deeply considers why each girl might act the way they do in their different situations.
It is not a serious book. Truly, it is full of laughs and friendship and warm fuzzies. But it is just serious enough to be mature as well as lighthearted, touching as well as hilarious, and thoughtful as well as enjoyable. I liked it very much.