As the "gay marriage debate" was heating up back in oh, 2005, Dan Savage and his boyfriend (they dislike the word partner) were in the middle of their...moreAs the "gay marriage debate" was heating up back in oh, 2005, Dan Savage and his boyfriend (they dislike the word partner) were in the middle of their own debate. Should they or shouldn't they? They'd been together ten years, they'd adopted a son together, neither had any intention of leaving the relationship, they fully believed that gays and lesbians should have the right to get married, they just weren't sure that marriage was for them. They talk it over, going back and forth, receiving lots of input in favor of marriage from Dan's mom, and against marriage from their 5-year-old son.
Honestly, I read this for a book challenge I'm trying to complete before the end of the year. I think I saw Dan Savage once on Real Time with Bill Maher but other than that he's not on my radar. I keep my political opinions to myself. Has anyone ever changed the mind of someone else in a political argument? I think not. So let's just say that I'm a happily-married heterosexual female who thinks that gay people should be allowed to get married. And that's all I'll say about that.
Savage's memoir is, for the most part, hilarious, brutally honest, and straight to the point. He points out the fallacies in the tired old arguments trotted out against gay marriage, takes some potshots at its most vocal opponents, and chronicles his own personal debate within the debate. I laughed most of the way through it.
It did irritate me that Savage has no compunction about casting people around him in broad stereotypes, but at least he admits that he's a close-minded liberal (or something like that anyway). Apparently the entire population of South Dakota is fat, wants to kick his butt simply because he's gay, and doesn't have the mental capacity to read the New York Times. I shudder to think what he says about us Southerners.
If you have the ideology to enjoy this, go ahead and read it. It was entertaining but also a little sad to see that we haven't made much progress in the eight years since this was published.(less)
Renée is the concierge of a very upscale Parisian apartment building. To the families who reside there, she is the very embodiment of all that a conci...moreRenée is the concierge of a very upscale Parisian apartment building. To the families who reside there, she is the very embodiment of all that a concierge should be: she's overweight, she eats smelly food, watches tv all day, and has a spoiled cat. Most importantly, she doesn't have any thoughts about anything except perhaps her immediate duties and what she's cooking for dinner that night. Inwardly, she is a brilliant woman, a reader and thinker who stays in her position because it gives her time to read all the books she wants, exposing herself to different schools of philosophical thought. She also feels that being concierge is her place in the world and she should stay in it.
Young Paloma lives with her wealthy family in Renée's building. Paloma has decided that she is going to commit suicide and burn down her apartment when she turns thirteen next summer. She doesn't feel particularly suicidal but she's looked around at all the adults around her and realized that they're living a lie; they tell children they can grow up to be whatever they want and do whatever they want, but all she sees are adults who look trapped in lives that make them miserable. She's decided to get out of the rat race early.
I hesitated over this book for a long time. I'd somewhere picked up the idea that it involves a lot of Philosophy, which I read as Big, Boring Thoughts That Have No Practical Application to Anyone's Life. Is that bad? Probably. But I came across it in Will Schwalbe's memoir, The End of Your Life Book Club and it piqued my interest. When I needed a short book to help me finish up my own Books in Translation challenge this year, I finally got brave and gave this one a try.
I didn't love it but I definitely enjoyed it. There were philosophical sections that I had to skim as my eyes glazed over, but way less than I had feared. Even in those, I could pull out a few ideas that I really liked. I can't quote any of them, but I liked them.
I identified with Renée to a certain extent. She has almost a pathological need to keep up her crusty concierge appearance, which I did not relate to, but in reserving her true self for her close friends and family? That I get. Her life slowly changes through the book and I was happy to see it happening because I liked her a lot. She's terrified but she goes with it. We eventually learn why she has lived her life the way she has and it broke my heart. I was not at all happy with the ending of the book, but I can see why it had to happen that way.
I liked Paloma too but I couldn't help feeling like she just needed to get out of her own head a little more. Easy for me to say, I know. She just loved wallowing in Big Ideas and looking down on her family (who were pretty awful, at least from her point of view). She's super-intelligent but she needed some kid time. Unfortunately, most of the kids her age are out shopping or listening to music or doing drugs or other things that she has no interest in, so that leaves her with herself for company and too much time in her own head.
The translation by Alison Anderson seemed to be very well done.
If you've been hesitating to read this one, go ahead and give it a try. There is some philosophy but I mostly saw it as a story of two lonely people slowly changing their lives. And that's a story I enjoyed.(less)
Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to lead a high-profile murder investigation into the death of a Senator's granddaughter. But the granddaughter was a...moreLieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to lead a high-profile murder investigation into the death of a Senator's granddaughter. But the granddaughter was a "licensed companion," i.e. prostitute, and she was murdered in a pretty graphic way. Working mostly alone, Dallas must find the murderer before he kills again.
I had such a love/hate relationship with this book at times. Mostly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. But then Roarke, the drop-dead gorgeous bazillionaire and number 1 suspect (with an Irish accent, no less!), would do something that was supposed to be all hot and dominating, I assume, and irritate the absolute hell out of me. As a completely made-up example, let me offer this: "No, I'm not trying to seduce you right now, Lieutenant. When I do decide to seduce you, I won't be trying, I'll be doing it. And you'll like it more than you've ever liked anything in your life." Again, that is completely my own fabrication but it is true to how I perceived Roarke. I was hoping Eve would kick him in the balls a few times, just to bring his ego down to size. Either he got better as the book progressed or I resigned myself to him, but either way it didn't bother me as much by the end. I actually liked him a lot when he gave all that crap a rest.
Roarke's ego aside, I have to admit that I couldn't wait to get in my car and continue listening to this book. I don't really read romance novels, I guess because I assume it's all "heaving bosoms," etc. and my sense of humor would get in the way of all that mess. So I started this with some trepidation. I was hooked in the first half-hour.
I really liked Eve Dallas. She's a strong loner who obviously has a pretty messed-up past. She's a woman in a man's world, even in the near future of 2058, but she's doing well for herself. She refuses to be intimidated by the Senator or her own superiors. She is investigating this murder her way and she knows she'll crack it if they'll just leave her alone.
I kind of guessed whodunnit pretty early on. There was much more to it than I expected though and I was honestly shocked when everything was revealed. I do wonder if the narrator may have unconsciously clued me in a little. One voice was pretty creepy with no real reason and that was the person I zeroed in on.
I did love Susan Ericksen's narration. Her characters had voices that were just distinct enough that I could easily keep track of who was speaking without being distracting. I would definitely listen to more books she's narrated.
I found the very, very end to be kind of silly and a little weak. Luckily that was short and followed some pretty intense action.
There was some pretty graphic violence toward women and girls in this book. If that's a trigger for you, you should stay away. It's never gratuitous or presented as anything other than sick and disgusting, but it is definitely there.
Otherwise, I recommend this if you think you can overlook Roarke's raging ego. Eve is a strong heroine and the resolution was a surprise. I'll be continuing the series on audio.(less)
If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)
Author Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write...moreAuthor Meera Lee Sethi travels to Sweden one summer to volunteer at a bird observatory. Her time in the mists and mountains of Sweden led her to write a collection of contemplative essays that are collected here.
What beautiful language! I was in deep like from the beginning and in love by the closing sentences of the first chapter.
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. What you are reading was supposed to be a book about birds but it is about this, too."
Aren't you just ready to sink into Sethi's writing and follow wherever she leads?
This slim book is imbued with layers of meaning. There are the surface stories about the birds and the landscape of Sweden and then there are the ways in which Sethi ties those things back into human experience. In the first chapter the migratory cuckoo becomes a metaphor for the wanderlust and yearning for other lives we all feel sometimes. In another the isolation we each occasionally feel is linked to the poor "vagrant" birds who get blown so far away from their native lands that they will never make it back. And so it goes throughout the whole book.
The fjälls of Sweden are so beautifully described that I'm ready to catch a plane and visit. Not being a fan of cold weather, Sweden isn't high on my list of places to visit, so this is really saying something.
I loved that there is an index at the back listing some of the birds that Sethi mentions in the book. When I'm reading I really don't stop to look up things I want to know. I always think I'll do it later but, of course, when later comes I've forgotten the names of what I want to research. I'll be hitting Google in a few minutes to look at these birds for myself.
And that brings me to the one thing that could really make this book better. I think it is just begging to be illustrated with watercolors or charcoal sketches that match the author's evocative yet spare style. I would buy that edition in a heartbeat. There's nothing wrong with it as is but I want the deluxe illustrated edition.
Bird-watchers should enjoy this but those with a scientific leaning or even a tendency toward the philosophical will enjoy it as well.
Thanks to the author for sending me a copy for review.(less)
Homicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived t...moreHomicide Detective Robbie Brownlaw was promoted a few years ago after a crazed arsonist threw him out of a sixth-floor window. He obviously survived to tell the tale, but he was left with a form of synesthesia--he sees people's words as colored shapes. He's learned to use this ability as a primitive lie detector. He's called in when a former cop is found murdered.
My attention wandered a bit a lot while I was reading this, but I can't say it was necessarily the book's fault; I've got a lot going on at the moment. Even so, I wasn't particularly surprised when I found out whodunnit. I even managed to figure it out a little before it was laid out plainly.
I found Robbie to be irritating. His marriage is falling apart but he just goes on and on about how special his wife is. I saw her as a spoiled brat who had a lot of growing up to do. Then I started to see him as just being a step away from a stalker. He got a little pathetic. That's not how I want to see my heroes. And the whole synesthesia thing was kind of...redundant? Came off as a crutch? Something like that. It was just an easy way for Robbie to know if someone was lying without having to do a lot of footwork to actually prove it.
I did enjoy narrator David Colacci's performance, but otherwise, this audiobook was forgettable for me. I enjoyed Cold Pursuit by this author much more.(less)