I was very set to like this book. I've read so many books in this genre that I've seen compared to Jim Butcher's work, so my interest level was high.I was very set to like this book. I've read so many books in this genre that I've seen compared to Jim Butcher's work, so my interest level was high. The short version is, I could have enjoyed it a lot more if it had been written in 1950 and my forgiveness level had therefore been set to high. Because that's about where the level of sexism is.
Our hero, Harry Dresden, does not appear capable of interacting with women without thinking of them sexually, or commenting on how their gender affects their career. He assures the reader he's the last of the gentleman, and likes opening doors and paying for dinners. I suppose that condescension is somehow supposed to make the reader feel better when he refers to a woman, in a sniggering mental aside, as a "Classic lady in distress. For one of those liberated professional women, she knew exactly how to jerk my old-fashioned chains around." Or perhaps when he explains that women hate better. Or worries he'll cry like a little girl. Or when he looks into the soul of a vampire madame and sees she really just wants to be pretty. Or when a police officer takes on a demon, and he rationalizes she only had the strength to do so because she accidentally drank a love potion and that love for him gave her the strength to, you know, do her job.
In fact, let's review our female characters. Secondary characters are always there to support the protagonist, but come on: most of the female cast are sex workers (vampire madame, two escorts, and a wife who is sexually abused and shared by her husband). The remainders are his love interest and a police officer - who, as just noted above, he's very quick to reduce to just a woman who probably isn't really capable in a tense situation. The villain, of course, turns out to be a man, because only men have agency in this book.
To make matters worse, he cheerily mocks the enormity of scientific progress in a passing blow: Science, the largest religion of the twentieth century, had become somewhat tarnished by images of exploding space shuttles, crack babies, and a generation of complacent Americans who had allowed the television to raise their children.
Right, that's what science did. Refrigeration, running water, electricity, modern medicine, the grandeur of architecture and transportation, the internet - that's just window dressing.
To be frank, I was unimpressed by his writing. However, to his credit, the fight scenes are excellent, and I was impressed by his pacing. On that principle, it's probably a three star book. But I just can't do it. I'm sure the author could argue his character is a sexist (or perhaps he'd say "traditional"), and he, the author, is not. But honestly, I don't care why this series is the way it is. I don't want to read it. ...more
I found myself deeply frustrated and upset by this book, the pacing of which is atrocious and which relies heavily on a story arc wher[SPOILERS AHEAD]
I found myself deeply frustrated and upset by this book, the pacing of which is atrocious and which relies heavily on a story arc wherein the accused murderer insists on telling you her entire life story before she admits to what happened last night (during, you know, the murder).
I admit my bias is very personal. Macallister has solid prose, an interesting story, and a particularly interesting setting. But although the protagonist ostensibly makes good choices to get away, I was just utterly furious. Wait, it's okay to let yourself be driven out from your home? It's okay to live on the run your entire life because of a stalker? And for some reason you have to defend yourself from the implication of moral corruption for attempting to kill the man who has tortured and attempted to rape you? Excuse me?!
No matter how many times the protagonist made what the author lead us to believe was the right choice - do not kill; make a new life; choose love - I was just bitterly angry. Maybe I grew up reading too many westerns, but I'd have been a darn sight more interested if she'd shot her torturer/animal abuser/attempted rapist/psychopath stalker in the first scene and THEN run away to be a magician. No, she suffers plenty first, then fires all her friends and lets herself be tortured. I'm not saying people don't suffer in this world, or aren't broken by repeated cruelty and abuse. It's all too common. But I don't want to read about it.
(And on a side rant - talk about a set of painfully contrived circumstances, wherein the policeman who investigates her refuses to bring her into, you know, an actual legal interrogation, instead locking her away from everyone to complete a secret investigation, while failing to inform anyone at all who's actually working on the murder. Tediously bizarre.)...more
Anne Tyler at her worst is better than many (most?) authors at their best. She's a love-her-or-hate-her author, too, with family dramas, nice characteAnne Tyler at her worst is better than many (most?) authors at their best. She's a love-her-or-hate-her author, too, with family dramas, nice characters, and unexpected dialogue. I sort of think of her of the opposite of Stroud; Tyler's prose never bowls me over over, but I find her worlds extraordinarily vibrant and real, and I always care about her characters deeply. (Stroud, in my opinion, has great prose and I inevitably detest her books and characters. I am apparently an outlier.)
All of which goes to say I wanted to love this book more than I did. The characters are marvelous, and Tyler continues to write a panoply of ages and types with incredible ability. But the climax of the book I found curiously disappointing--really? that was it?--and I was often frustrated with the roundabout nature of the book in a way that I never felt in her other marvelous book. I kept reading in the hopes of the book it might have been, rather than the book it was. I don't know that this is her worst book, but it's certainly the most frustrating book of hers that I've read....more
This is a marvelous WWII story, and covers far more than just Louis Zamperini's exceptional life, drawing on the stories of his friends and family asThis is a marvelous WWII story, and covers far more than just Louis Zamperini's exceptional life, drawing on the stories of his friends and family as well as sharing fascinating bits of history that better illustrate every story shared. From the extraordinary unending shark attacks that lasted weeks while Zamperini was lost at sea to his years as a POW, it's a life that almost defies belief. My four-star rating may be a bit influenced by the end, which felt a little lackluster after the breathlessly exciting and beautifully written middle of the book. But endings are always harder to write.
What I think keeps me from a five-star rating is that I can't quite imagine re-reading this. Orange is the New Black is a memoir I've read three times; you can't compare the level of pain and research in the two (Unbroken wins ever time), but strangely it's Orange that forever altered my world perspective, and what brought me back twice more to read it. Despite having lived in Japan and having even been to some of the places in Unbroken - an unnerving fact, not having realized I was near former POW camps at the time - this book does not leave me feeling the same.
Still and all, a masterpiece of research, with an incredible story to share....more
In many ways, I feel guilty for giving this three stars; it's quite a good book, and it gives you a marvelous insight into the great flu pandemic. ButIn many ways, I feel guilty for giving this three stars; it's quite a good book, and it gives you a marvelous insight into the great flu pandemic. But I felt consistently a bit robbed - I wanted more details, more story, more insight, more romance. This is a young adult novel, which I didn't realize at first reading, and that may well contribute to my response; perhaps I expected it to read like a different genre. But despite the compelling story and scenario, I came away more frustrated than pleased....more
It took me an enormously long time to figure out why I couldn't finish this book. Like many readers, I usually devour books at a quick rate. This oneIt took me an enormously long time to figure out why I couldn't finish this book. Like many readers, I usually devour books at a quick rate. This one I couldn't. I have borrowed it no less than four times from the library. It was strange, because I loved the atmosphere of steampunk, a genre that Jeter didn't exactly create on his own, but certainly gave a rousing push with this book (not to mention coining the term "steampunk"). I loved many of the characters; I was impressed by the plot. I adored his prose.
But the fact is, I really disliked the protagonist, George. It took me a while to figure out, as he wasn't, by any means, openly objectionable. He wasn't an unreliable narrator; he wasn't crass or grotesque; he wasn't even openly anti-woman, though a bit Victorian-judgmental over one character's sexual appetite (which proved to be a deeply amusing plot point later). The problem was he takes almost no action in the story. George can't figure anything out that isn't literally explained to him in pages-long monologues. He has no interest in helping people, until the end. He is repulsed by the dead-sexy Miss McThane and doesn't appreciate the morally ambiguous but incredibly charming Scape. George is just incredibly boring.
Still, in the end, it's a delightful book, and one I'm glad I finally finished. I just hope the sequel doesn't involve George. ...more
This is, unquestionably, a trashy romance novel. It is best quality fluff. I am not sa=== References to some sexual items below ===
I adored this book.
This is, unquestionably, a trashy romance novel. It is best quality fluff. I am not saying otherwise.
But as a devotee of trashy romance novels, I accept that the majority of them will not be great. The prose will not blow your mind*, and while critical women's issues are increasingly visited in today's romance novels, a feminist perspective is often sorely lacking. And let's face it - that's often for a deliberate purpose: kinks are kinks for a reason, and sex can involve transgressions we don't normally permit in our daily lives. Certainly it is terribly off-putting to read erotica of any kind that attempts to be safe or educational (let us pause to put on a condom, etc.); frankly, as art, it shouldn't have to behave, despite an increasing trend for romance novels to model good behavior, positive relationships, and business savvy. Sometimes you just want your bodice ripped off, you know?
But I'm speaking seriously when I say Courtney Milan is a treasure. Like Jennifer Crusie, she manages to deliver a damn good story that you don't have to turn off your brain for - clever, sexy, feminist, thoughtful. And The Duchess War may be her best - and I can say this fairly knowingly, having just completed a Milanathan of six of her books. (Not in my budget to get more yet, alas.)
I'm not reviewing the rest not because they aren't charming, but because I generally don't review romance novels or even bother to list them on Goodreads, since it's not something I normally share or recommend. But The Duchess War merits the exception.
The book blurb, if you haven't read it, will tell you the basics: she's the brilliant woman with a tortured past, he's the Duke that fears he'll never be loved for who he is. It's a fairly typical plot until you hit the wildly unusual background story, which I won't spoil for you (though I will say it once again demonstrates the author's willingness to go an unusual route). But the real charm of the book is its willingness to be smart and inclusive. Our heroine is not only smart, she's incredibly, remarkably brilliant. There is a lesbian couple as well, a welcome inclusion in a genre that's usually painfully heteronormative. Impressively, the book absolutely oozes a feminist, yet surprisingly realistic, perspective for its time. The prose is also far more than just competent; it's downright clever, and if I could wish it were a little more attentive to historic detail, well, that's my personal kink, and no fault of the author's.
There's not many romance novels I randomly email people over. This one makes the list. Romance lovers, rejoice! Courtney Milan is here.
*I do secretly consider several Fancy Literary Authors to write high-brow trashy romance novels that no one dares call by name, but that's a discussion for another day. ...more
This book elicited a complicated response from me. I care about Asperger's, about that variation in people, and I loved that this book was written froThis book elicited a complicated response from me. I care about Asperger's, about that variation in people, and I loved that this book was written from the point of view of a particularly brilliant person with Asperger's, which much of the time felt very accurately written. But the strangeness of the plot, searching for Rosie's father doing secret DNA tests of men her mother knew, felt more like a contrived subplot against the real focus of the book - the world from the point of view of someone with Asperger's who is falling in love. Worse, the answer was obvious from almost the first page, which I found very irritating as a mystery fan. Perhaps most troubling, I felt like Rosie was in some ways the thinnest character of all, when nominally she should have been the most fully embodied, as the object of our hero's affection.
Why four stars? Because I did fall in love with the protagonist. I wanted to read his every thought and roll up in them, read more of his exploits, learn everything about him. I have rarely cared so deeply about a character, wanted to protect him so much and help him. I need to read this book again to tell how good it really was, as in the end, I felt a had a strangely muddled impression of it, vision blurred by my rosie-colored glasses....more
Always a lovely writer, Greenwood's prose and fabulous period awareness is wonderfully evident again in her third Phyrne Fisher mystery. But, perhapsAlways a lovely writer, Greenwood's prose and fabulous period awareness is wonderfully evident again in her third Phyrne Fisher mystery. But, perhaps unfairly, I felt the story lacked the vigor and involving nature I've seen previously, and it seemed strangely predictable for a mystery. Still and all a wonderful read. ...more
Is it petty and niggling of me to think first of this book's faults?
It's really such an excellent book - phenomenal, distinctive voices; complexity inIs it petty and niggling of me to think first of this book's faults?
It's really such an excellent book - phenomenal, distinctive voices; complexity in theme, concept, and execution; a cast so worldly and well-written it feels like the work of many fine authors, rather than just one - but this is just the kind of book that invites criticism because of its complexity (Inception comes to mind). You can wonder, as I did, why Crispin's character is given so much time only to feel like a pointless dead end in retrospect; you can be annoyed at the book's progression in point of view; you can roll your eyes (as I did) over what seemed to be numerous red herrings and painful interludes here and there for what seemed, in the end, for no reason at all, all of which distracted me. Come to think of it, that's assuming you can run with the many fantastical fundamental underpinnings to begin with, that of traveling spirits, psychic powers, and more. While that's absolutely my cup of tea, I can see how for others that might actually be the sticking point.
But it would be foolish to spend too much time pointing out such trivialities. It's only because of its complexity, of its richness of text, than you can find so many things to argue over. It's a novel with a deep, complete vision, and a simultaneously violent yet tender consideration of the human spirit and heart. Imperfect it might be, but a great book nonetheless. ...more
This is a beautiful, beautiful book. A series of poems taking you through a child's life from birth to the realization of herself as a a young writer,This is a beautiful, beautiful book. A series of poems taking you through a child's life from birth to the realization of herself as a a young writer, Woodson manages to build whole worlds with fewer words than I can manage to review it. Crammed with emotion and a deep sense of place and time and change and love, it's one of my favorite new books. A must-read....more
Apparently unlike everyone else, I loathed the first book and quite enjoyed the second. This met all the necessities of a pleasant beach read, and thiApparently unlike everyone else, I loathed the first book and quite enjoyed the second. This met all the necessities of a pleasant beach read, and this time I actually cared about the heroine and felt far less condescended to as an Austen fan. Graded on the romance novel curve I favor, a solid 3 stars....more
I could not escape this book. It showed up everywhere: at the library, in conversation, even at an airport. It was clearly aimed at me in so many waysI could not escape this book. It showed up everywhere: at the library, in conversation, even at an airport. It was clearly aimed at me in so many ways (Harry Potter meets Circus one of the more common and incredibly inaccurate descriptions), but I was, I confess, very ready to be annoyed by its trendiness and aggressive marketing. I don't know why, but it just sounded so desperately hip. Even after downloading it I put off reading it until I literally forced myself to read a few pages.
And to my surprise, I loved it. Rather than feeling like a what I expected, a bad reprise of Something Wicked This Way Comes, it's more distantly akin to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the story of two children forced into a magical battle that endures for years. There was so much in it that could have been imitative and mediocre - circus life, 19th century fantasy, True Love - only it wasn't; it was lovely and sincere and in every sense, magical. The circus is impossibly perfect, but it works in a way that reads easily but is fantastically hard to pull off as a writer. And there's a quality to the yearning in the book - it's knee-deep in wistful, everyone wanting something, an emotion I rarely read in such depth outside of children's literature. Similarly, there is a plethora of truly memorable characters, each of them wonderfully varied and brightly drawn. I was especially thrilled that there were so many likable characters - something I don't get to enjoy often outside a romance novel. In fact, I'd say it's the most satisfying ending I've read in years.
My only caveats: the back-and-forth nature of the book, which skips merrily through time, I found aggravating a few times. It has an excused inclusion as in one place it really pays off, and I would hazard a guess it's the reason the book skips around to begin with - to make that one skip seem natural. In addition, this is a book that doesn't go gut-deep into the characters: it's a story about a story and a place, and if brightly colored but perhaps not terribly complex characters aren't your cup of tea (think archetype, not character study), it'll annoy the heck out of you....more
I love a good romance, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips usually gives good value. While I grant that 4 stars is a bit much for any romance novel, I'm gradI love a good romance, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips usually gives good value. While I grant that 4 stars is a bit much for any romance novel, I'm grading this on a curve for romances. And this is a darling book - sweet, hot, and delightful. But what really lifts it above the rest are the chances the author takes: to be specific, the protagonist is a ventriloquist with a herd of puppets she travels with and who, in her head, constantly comment on the action. I actually wish someone would make this into a movie with the puppets galavanting all over the screen, almost like an informal Greek chorus, flirting, arguing, and generally elevating a fun, silly mystery/romance into the strangest and sweetest of experiences. What a bizarre, fabulous twist on the usual romance experience. Kudos, Madame. ...more
This is a lovely book, well-written and with a disarming, moving love story. But I couldn't get past my frustration that the[MILD SPOILERS FOR GENRE]
This is a lovely book, well-written and with a disarming, moving love story. But I couldn't get past my frustration that the book changed from a love story to a different kind of novel entirely. While the author's afterward makes it clear that this plot was intended all along, I was far more interested in the original lovers' story: how they'd manage their love affair, if they were brave enough to defy society, and how they'd manage to live on nothing - perhaps rejected by all good society. I felt cheated of that story as the book veered drastically into a courtroom drama, and was never quite able to forgive it.
Still, this was the kind of authorial meeting that leaves you with a taste for more. This book may have frustrated me, but the author is clearly one whose works I want to know better. A three-star review, but with a happy asterisk....more
It seems painfully immature to give this Pulitzer Prize-winning book four stars, but I certainly pondered it. It's a wandering, often frustrating bookIt seems painfully immature to give this Pulitzer Prize-winning book four stars, but I certainly pondered it. It's a wandering, often frustrating book, frequently dragging you through what feels like an endless series of details and philosophic pondering over the hours of a life that feels worst-lived. Wrong choice after wrong choice left me wondering why I was reading at times - I have no interest in closely observing disasters, fictional or otherwise. And while the prose is unquestionably solid, it lacks the lyrical qualify of, say, Barbara Kingsolver, where a sentence for a sentence's sake won't find any argument from me. It feels bloated, and bloated in a particularly hard to read way.
And yet - and yet. Almost every time I wondered why I was wasting my precious time reading this, some beautiful paragraph would leap up at me, or there would be a sudden tenderness to the text that would move me to tears, or, finally (finally!) things would start to happen in a tremendously exciting way. My favorite scene in the book is unquestionably when our hero speaks, briefly, with a black market art dealer, with the knowledge and expertise and passion for art that is always a marvel to read. (Admittedly I'm a sucker for well-researched writing; similarly, the passages on furniture repair were passages I read twice, mesmerized by the charm and exactitude of their understanding, the mysteries of wood grain, even the titles of the furniture pieces, so romantic they sounded more like endearments than chairs or tables or any little wooden thing.)
Ultimately, this was a book where, to my surprise, the beginning felt like a lukewarm promise, but the ending gave me everything I could have hoped for. I'd half-consider telling friends to skip the first five hundred pages, barring the inciting incident. Yet I admit, if grudgingly, that the long slow trudge of the first half certainly helps you to understand the final choices of all the characters. Worth the read....more
I began this book ages ago, but set it aside after somewhat inadvertently seeing the movie and being quite annoyed with it. I finally had a chance toI began this book ages ago, but set it aside after somewhat inadvertently seeing the movie and being quite annoyed with it. I finally had a chance to finish, and I'm glad I did. I add nothing to the chorus of reviews when I say it is lovingly written, tender, and nicely paced. It also benefits from the subject - who wouldn't be enchanted by the magnificence of the old American circus, the inside view of its historic and dark, mythic, impossibly alive world? While not a perfect book, it manages to hit so many beautiful note I'd be ashamed to criticize it. Avoid the movie. Read the book....more
Kingsolver's Flight Behavior is a gorgeous book: exquisite research, marvelous prose (melodic, yet without pretense), and a moving protagonist. I knowKingsolver's Flight Behavior is a gorgeous book: exquisite research, marvelous prose (melodic, yet without pretense), and a moving protagonist. I know little of Kingsolver herself, but what struck me most was not the core plot - poor, uneducated, smart woman becomes involved in scientific investigation into local phenomena of butterflies wintering in the wrong location - but the unrelenting compassion of the book, the awareness of other people's plights, diverging points of view, and the reality of poverty. It would be incredibly easy to have written this novel with a bias towards the scientists, towards the impoverished residents, towards *someone* - but instead there's this marvelous, unique voice providing a clear, compassionate glance into the world of everyone with equal weight.
It's a lovely, lovely book. I hope you read it. ...more
Always a treat, Rubin digs into habits this time - how they happen, and then how to improve them, reinforce them, escape them, or reshape them. WhileAlways a treat, Rubin digs into habits this time - how they happen, and then how to improve them, reinforce them, escape them, or reshape them. While it may lack the ebullient feel of her initial blockbuster treatise on happiness, the research is stronger and the text engrossing. It's a book as fascinating to read as it is to apply to your own life.
Of course, I'm an Upholder. Read up to understand why....more
I have always been in favor of visibility over absence when it comes to minorities of any kind: even if done badly, I'd rather people try to be inclusI have always been in favor of visibility over absence when it comes to minorities of any kind: even if done badly, I'd rather people try to be inclusive. But frankly, this book slipped a little too far in the direction of the Wise Old Colored person, even if it's more with the supernatural as opposed to an actual character. I'm sympathetic. It's a tough gig to write, especially as a white person (or at least she appears to be, based on her picture). And it's a competent romance novel, even if I wasn't personally taken in by the romance.
I tend to think I'm a pretty forgiving audience. Example: as questionable as Linda Howard's crack-addictive, old-school Mackenzie family romance series is, I'm a secret, guilty fan. Because in those books, whatever their many foibles, the native characters are actual characters - not exciting "extras" to spice up the plot, as in this book of Freethy's.
In short, an unfortunate introduction to an author I might have otherwise enjoyed as a guilty pleasure, but one I won't be able to forget. ...more
A lovely book which my memory can no longer do justice to in a proper review. Charming, thoughtful, and above your average mystery, with the added delA lovely book which my memory can no longer do justice to in a proper review. Charming, thoughtful, and above your average mystery, with the added delights of 1920's Australia....more
Trade Me is a charmer of a book - sweet, dear, and, yes, hot as needed. But what makes it a standout from the rest of the beach reads is its diverse cTrade Me is a charmer of a book - sweet, dear, and, yes, hot as needed. But what makes it a standout from the rest of the beach reads is its diverse cast and frank talk about how money affects people - really affects people. It's genuinely the only fiction book I've read this year where poverty's intrinsically crippling nature gets discussed, and while done briefly, it's done quite well.
Admittedly, this article may have given me unfair expectations for a pop romance novel; I ran into plenty of frustrations, too. It's a fun romance novel - tender, almost oddly realistic, and with some fist-pumping sections of triumph. But as much as I enjoyed it, I found myself dogged by small items. I respect the author's avoidance of shopping porn, a fairly predictable use of sudden comparative wealth in a book like this, but would a woman who has been eating a survival diet, possibly for years, really only take one moment to enjoy mangos? Where was the detail of the new luxury of her surroundings, a woman who had been sleeping in an unfinished garage without heating? I often felt blind to the physical world in a book where the physical world has serious differences; only Blake's car receives any real attention, though that was certainly done well. (I know I would struggle with driving a car worth so much!) And less minor, didn't the male and female voices sound very similar here? It feels ungracious to mention those items considering how enjoyable and intelligent the book is in general, but they were nevertheless distracting.
Still, this is far and away above your average romance read, and more, I expect good things from this author. Milan feels like a young Jennifer Cruisie, which is the highest praise I can give a pop romance novelist. I'll be signing up for her future books....more
Reading this book was an almost physically painful experience at times: as much as I was fascinated by the information it presented, the heaviness inReading this book was an almost physically painful experience at times: as much as I was fascinated by the information it presented, the heaviness in my stomach I felt at reading situations so similar to my own couldn't be wholly ignored. Perhaps it was made heavier still by a fact the author is quick to admit - she has no easy solutions for U.S. parents, only a recognition of the problems in existence for them (though she sadly notes other nations with superior childcare and social safety nets have far happier parents in all studies). Somewhat surprising to me was the recognition of women's burdens creating a uniquely harsh situation for working mothers, even those who are married in nominally solid partnerships.
The title could just as easily have been "You're not alone," but either way, it made for a fascinating, if acidic, experience. ...more
I'll say right off the bat that I'm biased here. I've briefly met Eric Flint, and, curmudgeonly older gentleman that he is, I liked him a lot.
But I tI'll say right off the bat that I'm biased here. I've briefly met Eric Flint, and, curmudgeonly older gentleman that he is, I liked him a lot.
But I think there's a lot to like here, regardless. 1632 is an easy book to like. It has a U.S. town that's thrown back in time and space (by, no less, a small sliver of an alien lifeform's art) to 1632 Germany, where its inhabitants struggle to determine how they're going to survive. The optimism and fortitude shown by the people of Grantville is sometimes more fantastic than the time travel itself - but it's also a welcome experience in a sea of nauseatingly dystopic literature. From day one, the town decides to tell "the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" to anyone who will listen in this era about their time travel and origin, and from there they cautiously work out a temporary council, new constitution, and new way of life. In a movingly altruistic wave of cooperation, a great swathe of coal miners, machinists, chemists, historians and doctors work together in serious thoughtfulness to do what they can to hold together. And hold together they do.
Brilliantly, the town decides to go back to old-school steam-engine power, to embrace nineteenth-century technology (still far ahead of the surrounding areas) to keep their electrical power advantage to protect itself in what is essentially a war zone. As a historian and experienced machinist himself (Flint is a fascinating combination - worked on his PhD in history, quit to work for labor rights and did hard manual labor), these are some of the most compelling sections of the book. Perhaps most surprisingly, they adopt a no-compromises approach to maintaining their social identity. This isn't to say they're isolationist; to the contrary. They adopt half the countryside's refugees and farms and militantly defend their religious and physical freedom in an era of no-joke Inquisition and marauding mercenaries. In fact, Flint's characters quickly and wisely point out that it will be very easy to create a second-class citizenry with Americans first, and to avoid it they work hard to integrate with their neighbors and learn from them.
As a result of said association, marriages soon spring up like mushrooms, and if I found the romantic sections wanting at times, I still liked the principle of the thing. Flint has brought together a broad swathe of characters, and though, yes, the lead's a white male, he does an excellent job of bringing in a variety of other characters, notably including a key Jewish father and daughter duo and a boisterous, tough-as-nails ex-Marine black doctor as well as a librarian with a radical past. If his characters sometimes don't work as well as I'd like, well, I'll take an imperfect attempt any day over a perfect absence.
Although it's hard for me to imagine there wouldn't have been greater angst about whether they'd return or not to their own time and place, and whether or not to interfere with history by sharing information - how will future inventors invent their creations when they are already known? paradox! help! - the complete dismissal of the issue certainly saves time. Because this book is really about the American spirit; it just about bleeds red, white, and blue. It's a love letter to American determination, history, politics, and science, and it was delightful to read someone who believes in the ability to build a better world - no matter where or when you're at....more
I went into this book, given to me by my father, with few expectations. I'm more than moderately fond of Bill, and I love Star Trek, but I wasn't sureI went into this book, given to me by my father, with few expectations. I'm more than moderately fond of Bill, and I love Star Trek, but I wasn't sure what to expect here. I'd already read Nimoy's take on the days, and it was hard to imagine this would flesh it out more, or live up to Nimoy's excellent I Am Spock.
Color me surprised when Shatner says right out the gate it's not a collection of memories, or at least, not entirely his memories (as the cover certainly implies). Instead, it's a ton of stuff I'd never heard before - memories from other actors, details on producers and hirings and firings and how great the wardrobe and set design staff people were. Shatner works hard to help you to see the big picture - why some episodes were so good, others so bad, and why, among other amusing bits, those uniforms' sleeves kept changing lengths. (Answer: crappy, cheap material that shrunk so fast they could barely get any wear out of them. I suppose tearing them up, which Trekkies enjoyed almost every episode, seemed like a fun way to retire them.)
Considering Shatner's reputation for insensitivity re: Trek, I was quite moved to read his oftentimes humble comments on his less than perfect behavior, and his generous inclusion of others' experiences and effusive compliments towards the cast and crew. I was also terribly sad to learn that his first marriage fell apart during those brutal, busy original Star Trek days; I can't help but think some of the other cast members had some unfair expectations. Who can manage to work 70, 80 hours a week when their marriage is falling apart with three small children, and yet manage to be perfectly cheerful and be fully involved with their coworkers? Not to mention his father's passing during the filming of The Devil in the Dark. By the time things were getting to a new normal with him, the series was wrapping up, and opinions were fairly cemented. Thank heavens for the incomparable Nichelle Nichols, who managed to look past his foibles and make him more aware of them, too.
Regardless, it's a fascinating read of the rise and fall of the original Star Trek, with crazily weird tidbits such as Roddenberry's desperate attempts to include a strong female lead and keep Spock, as well as the tragic blacklisting of the incredibly talented head of lighting/chief gaffer, George Merhoff. (Accused of slowing down production, he did a detailed set review which broken down who did what and how fast. Mortified to learn it was their own faults, the producers blacklisted him lest the information get out and make them look bad.) There's plenty more, too: the real story behind Grace Lee Whitney's departure, the misery of broken promises and changed budgets, and Roddenberry's abandonment of the series in year three all make for compelling reading. But perhaps memorably, I've now got a fond place in my heart for Gene Coon, the "other" Gene who, at least according to the Shatner, seemed half the reason the original Star Trek went anywhere.
Since it's Shatner, sure, there's a little navel-gazing, but in the end, it's the kindness of that book that'll stick with me. Three stars as a book, but an extra star for lots of fascinating material that Shatner went out of his way to collect....more
I can't help but feel like a bit of a Scrooge giving this book four stars, but I am reluctantly doing so. It may be a question of expectations, but ulI can't help but feel like a bit of a Scrooge giving this book four stars, but I am reluctantly doing so. It may be a question of expectations, but ultimately what I found was a dear, gentle, sad book, wonderfully well written and thoughtful, but with a plot that never felt like a plot. It might be my own fault - I am not a big YA fan - but there it is. ...more