I was looking for a book featuring a private investigator to complete a reading challenge, so when I saw this was available (and that it was short--itI was looking for a book featuring a private investigator to complete a reading challenge, so when I saw this was available (and that it was short--it's the end of the year and time was running out), I jumped on it. I've never seen the movie and didn't really have any idea what it was about.
Eh. It was decent enough. Sam Spade, the stereotypical man's man, is hired by Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the stereotypical femme fatale, under false pretenses. She feeds him a line about saving her teenage sister from a married man who will destroy her reputation. When Spade's partner and the man in question both turn up murdered, Sam starts to delve deeper into Brigid's life and lies.
I know I'm not being fair. I know (or assume) that this book is the one upon which all other noir PI novels are based. What seems stereotypical and overdone to me in 2015 was groundbreaking in 1930. But the whole thing did come across as stereotypical and overdone.
Aside from that, the book was irritating to me as a female reader. Again, I know it was a sign of the times, but I hated the way Spade spoke to Brigid and his secretary Effie. "Precious," "Honey," "Darlin." Not meaning a word of it as far as I could tell. He just called them that because he had to call them something. Heaven forbid he should use a woman's name.
The insta-love was laughable! I was wrapping Christmas gifts as I listened, so there's a possibility I missed something, but I truly believe the book took place in just a few days. The crushed feelings! The disbelief! The proclamations of eternal...remembrance! Holy cow, they moved fast back in the day. And speaking of moving fast--sexytimes! There's a discreet fade-to-black, but still--this was published in 1930!
I didn't follow the mystery itself very well. I'm sure that's because I was distracted. But Brigid's constant lying didn't help. I lost track of what the truth actually was, if it was ever even laid out there. I found the resolution to be unsatisfying.
I'm being harsh because the book is still pretty fresh. I'm honestly probably going to forget about it in a few days, hence the forgettable 3 stars. Rating it lower would imply a memorable dislike and I can't say that I felt that strongly about it. If anything, I'll remember that I had fun bashing it in this review.
I haven't had great luck with books narrated by a full cast, but this one was pretty good. I liked the characterizations/voices overall.
The Maltese Falcon is a classic of the crime noir genre, so it's worth reading for that fact alone. I can't say that I found much to recommend it, but it is short so it's not much of a time investment....more
In a series of short stories and scenes, Ray Bradbury explores what the initial colonization of Mars might look like. He begins with stories told fromIn a series of short stories and scenes, Ray Bradbury explores what the initial colonization of Mars might look like. He begins with stories told from the Martians' point of view and moves on to that of the settlers from Earth.
I honestly picked this up for a reading challenge, not expecting to enjoy it. I do love fantasy but science fiction isn't really my thing, with only a few exceptions. I read Fahrenheit 451 back in 8th grade and didn't care for it, but there was very little reading that I had to do for school that I did like. Imagine my surprise when I looked forward to picking up this book.
I almost don't want to even call this science fiction. It's set on Mars in the future, sure, but the stories focus more on the people of Earth and their reactions to the situations they find themselves in.
Bradbury got that part so very right.
A story or two didn't ring true but the rest absolutely did. The various outlooks of the people, the colonists and the order in which they arrived, their attitudes to the new planet--all this and more were addressed in this collection.
It was written in third person, which isn't really my favorite style. In this case, it helped me to feel that each character was standing in for more people who thought and reacted the same way he or she did. That probably doesn't even make sense. By keeping the focus out and painting the characters in broad strokes rather than in details, I could imagine anyone as any character, making the themes more universal.
That's really all I have to say. Don't let the fact that this is science fiction put you off. I found it to be more of a generalized, fascinating character study than anything else....more
A woman spends a couple of summers in a small town on the coast of Maine. She becomes a part of the everyday life thanks to her garrulous landlady andA woman spends a couple of summers in a small town on the coast of Maine. She becomes a part of the everyday life thanks to her garrulous landlady and becomes privy to many of the residents' life stories.
I read this back in college and loved it so much that I still have my copy from that class. I decided to re-read it when my husband and I visited the coast of Maine last month. I might love it even more now.
The narrator, who remains unnamed, is accepted in this tightly-knit community, but she's still enough of an outsider that she's able to see how special it is. The locals just know it as home. They don't exactly take it for granted but they don't realize that it's combination of beautiful scenery, caring neighbors, and colorful personalities make it unique.
This novella consists of many smaller stories and a host of characters that come to life in the pages. The old sea captain who still mourns his wife. The sweet, elderly mother who shines so brightly with an internal radiance that everyone who meets her loves her. The shy older brother with his own, unsuspected story. The woman who is the Queen's twin. The tragic hermit, living alone on her island. No one gets very many pages but I loved them all.
The scenery is described perfectly, and, now that I think about it, may have sparked my desire to visit Maine. Reading it while I was there made it all the more special.
This is a quiet book and won't appeal to everyone. There's not a lot that actually happens. Readers looking to escape to a simpler place and time will love it. I suspect that L. M. Montgomery's grownup readers will be fans of Sarah Orne Jewett....more
A group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
WeA group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
We read this for my book club because one of our members remembered loving it when she read it in an English class and had been wanting to re-read it. Even she said it was not at all what she remembered and it must have been made better by an awesome English teacher. Let's hear it for awesome English teachers!
Left to struggle through on my own devices, however, I found nothing redeeming in any of these characters. Which was probably the point, but still. I like to read about characters that I actually like. The best one was the narrator, so that was a plus, but he couldn't keep his friends in line and I don't think he wanted to. They were all so very cynical and had seen everything and done everything that they got a little boring.
I told one of my friends who hadn't quite finished by the time our meeting rolled around, "Let me save you some time. They go out, get drunk, Brett sleeps with someone who is not her fiance, the Jew (as he was mostly known) got mad that she wasn't sleeping with him and hit somebody, they all drank some more, and started over the next day."
And that's what I took away from this book. Life is short and boring, you drink and argue, then you die.
I did like Hemingway's style. He's very short and to the point and without seeming to waste a lot of time on description, he manages to put you firmly in a scene. I would occasionally get confused as to who was speaking because he didn't like to use too many "I said"s or "Brett said"s. Otherwise, stylistically, we got along just fine.
I knew this was a classic, so I started trying to find some sort of symbolism. I decided that the poor impotent narrator should be the steer in his herd and then I tried to relate what was happening with the bulls to what was going on with the people, but nothing ever clicked. I must not be in a place in my life for Hemingway to speak to me.
I got confused about time a little too. It would sound like weeks had passed when really it had been days. People would be intensely in love and talking marriage and decide it would never work and sound like they'd had a whole long time together when they'd just met for the first time five or six days before, as far as I could tell.
This book was not for me, but obviously it appeals to someone. It might appeal more to men (Hemingway being one of those very masculine writers) or to urbane people with a cynical mindset, I don't know....more
Nick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant paNick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant parties he throws every weekend. Eventually the two meet and become something like friends. The neighbor, Jay Gatsby, is shrouded in myth and legend and no one seems to know where he came from, how he made his money, or anything at all about him for that matter. Gatsby has a very specific reason for living where and how he does and his personal struggle pulls several others into his wake.
Like many others, I decided to re-read this before the movie comes out. I disliked it in school but I've changed my mind about almost all the other classics I've bothered to re-read, so I thought I might change my mind about this one too.
If you follow my reviews at all, you know that I am a very character-driven reader. Give me an awesome character and I'm happy. But there is not one likeable character in this novel. I think I kind of liked Nick in high school but now I don't even like him. He's by far the best of the bunch but that's not saying much.
Gatsby himself is kind of pitiable. He's worked hard, being pushed constantly by an overweening ambition. He seems to have been born with a desire for more than he has but circumstances cause him to push himself even harder. He surrounds himself with people who don't bother to know him and seems to think that this is what gives a man a full life. Or rather, he thinks its a step on the way to fulfilling his deepest desire. He just made me feel tired and sad. He could have had so much but in reality, he had nothing. The one sentence that sticks out for me is this: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...." Gatsby, being self-made, doesn't realize this about people with old money and that is his undoing.
We must have watched the old Robert Redford movie in school because I kept picturing him as Gatsby. That's just fine by me; I'd rather imagine a young Robert Redford than Leonardo DiCaprio any day!
This is a short read and I think I'm going to find it a little haunting this time around. It's beautifully written, so if you're interested, go ahead and give it a go....more
Tom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way toTom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way to California in search of a fresh start. Thousands of families are in a similar situation and there are many ruthless people along the way who take advantage of them, mistreat them, and make their lives harder than they have to be.
Is there another version of this book floating around out there somewhere? Because this is not the book I remember reading in high school. Yes, I'm joking. Sort of. I deeply disliked this when I had to read it for class. All I could remember was how depressing it was and the very, very last scene. It made an impression on my 16-year-old self.
Now firmly in my 30s, I don't know if 16-year-old me was an idiot or if current me is just old and jaded, because I just about loved this. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.
It's still dark and depressing, there's just no way around that. Everything that can go wrong for the Joads, does. From before they even hit the road, and I'm sure continuing on well after the last page is turned, they just can't catch a break. It was infuriating, even more so because I knew that this was firmly based on the reality of the Dust Bowl and the Depression.
But this time around, I saw some hope.
The Joads are not beaten. They have taken a beating and they are down, but I don't think they're out. They're still out there struggling along, doing the best they can, for themselves and others. Do you see that? And others. They have practically nothing, but they still give what they have to people who are worse off than they are. They go to some extreme lengths to do it too. As long as the Joads and people like them are still around, I have to have hope for their migrant community. I have an essay about this churning around in my head with quotes to support my point of view and everything, but I'll try to stay out of that. But that's where I stand.
The characters definitely had their own distinct personalities, but they weren't so distinct that I couldn't relate them to people I know. Ma is fierce in protecting her family and gentle in her kindness. Pa just wants to do some honest work for an honest day's pay. Tom has grown up fast and is slowly becoming the leader of the family in their changing environment. Al feels overshadowed by his older brother. Rose of Sharon goes through an emotional journey that is impossible to get into, but I think most women would understand where she's coming from. I think these characters are what made the book a classic. I have never known what it is to be hungry or homeless, but because I know people like the Joads, I can put myself in their place. I don't know if I would have their grace, but I admire it in them.
Steinbeck chose to write in a dialect that might make it hard for some people to understand the conversations. I took right to it and found myself thinking the way that the Joads talked. Even just looking back through the book right now to decide what I wanted to write, I found myself slipping into it.
I read East of Eden about a year and a half ago and was surprised by how much I liked it. I had a feeling that maybe I had misjudged Steinbeck a little all those years ago. I read the first chapter of The Grapes of Wrath and I was pretty much blown away. This man could write! He opens with a description of the land drying up and dying and the people's hope drying up with it and that chapter is practically perfect. I felt parched and dry and uneasy. He set the stage for this book that well in just about four pages. He chose to write the story in alternating chapters. One chapter about the Joads and one chapter about life in this era. I liked that he wrote it this way. He didn't have to make an unrealistic amount of stuff happen to the family to show how bad life was for everyone. He was free to range around different topics. And the beauty of his language showed in the general chapters.
I re-read this for my book club, and I believe we all agreed that reading it in early spring was not a good idea. I for one like fluff when the sun starts shining because that's about all my brain has the capacity for. If you can relate, pick this one up in the wintertime.
But pick it up, even if, like me, you hated it when you were forced to read it in school. You might be surprised by how your perspective has changed....more
John Singer is a deaf-mute living a solitary life in a Southern city. His best friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, has been taken away to the state asylum. BJohn Singer is a deaf-mute living a solitary life in a Southern city. His best friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, has been taken away to the state asylum. But as Singer makes his solitary way through life, he draws a group of four lonely individuals to him: Mick Kelly, a poor young girl with dreams of being a famous composer; Jake Blount, an alcoholic trying to spread the word about the evils of capitalism and the glory of Communism; Dr. Copeland, an African-American doctor trying to lead his people to a better life; and Biff Brannon, a cafe owner who is trying to figure out what the others see in Mr. Singer.
I read this back in college but couldn't remember a thing about it when we decided to read it for book club. Time for a re-read! Now I know why I wiped it from my memory.
This is one of those novels that is probably classified as "Realism" and that I choose to call "Pessimism." No one is happy. No one will ever be happy. They are all going to die alone and misunderstood. And McCullers seems to be saying that's the way life is for everyone. I refuse to buy it. That's my biggest problem.
Another problem is that nothing really happens. Nothing. The book just drifts from character to character, each of whom just will not move on to another topic to think about. There's only so much I can read about Mick's "inner room" and how much she loves music. I can list about three or four events that are actual events. The rest of it is just repetitive introspection.
I will say that Carson McCullers' writing voice is perfect for the story. It just feels stark and lonely from the beginning. Perfect for this bleak novel.
I didn't like any of the characters. Mick could have been a great character for me. A dreamy Southern girl who loves music? I should have loved her. But she's too antsy and aggressive. She just won't let well enough alone. She's always picking at everyone in the family. Her tendency to yell at people to leave her secret treasure box alone had my elder sibling tendencies kicking; I was itching to open it up and taunt her with it. I never understood why no one else did. Blount is just an alcoholic. Dr. Copeland won't come down from his ideals to work with the real, living people around him. He sees "his people" the way he wants to see him rather than how they are and so he never reaches them. I still don't know where Biff Brannon was coming from. He's an observer, so maybe he was supposed to give me an outsider's perspective, but he just puzzled me with his motherly tendencies. I didn't even understand Mr. Singer. He was objective enough to realize that the others saw in him what they wanted to see but he couldn't see what a drag Antonapoulos was and move on.
If you like your books stark and bleak, you'll probably like this one. If you see any hope in the world, you should probably give it a pass....more
In this classic tale of growing up in the Jim Crow South, Scout Finch captures readers' hearts as she plays her games and begins to lose her innocenceIn this classic tale of growing up in the Jim Crow South, Scout Finch captures readers' hearts as she plays her games and begins to lose her innocence as she watches the adults in her town. A trial that has been defined by race is making everyone show his or her true colors and it's an eye-opening experience for Scout.
I've read this probably 4 or 5 times by now, but I've never actually reviewed it. I really want to say, "I love this book. Not a passing love, but a deep and abiding, down to the soul love. Read it." And leave it at that.
But I won't let myself do that.
I love everything about this book. The biggest thing for me are the characters, especially Atticus and Scout. I love Atticus. No, really. I do. He's such a good man. As several other characters point out, he's the same on the street as he is in his house. He tries to live a life that permits him to look his children in the eyes. As someone else points out, he's the town's conscience. They trust him to do the right thing, often in spite of them. He never lets them down. I noticed this time how much it costs him. Scout is such a little motherless tomboy, I just have to love her too. She's pretty passionate about everything and she's still so innocent. This time around, I actually noticed Jem. I've overlooked him in the past, but I can see that he's going to follow in his father's footsteps.
The story is such a well-done contrast. There are the carefree, almost idyllic days of Scout and Jem's childhoods painted against a background of racism and pettiness and revenge. Harper Lee makes her point about race issues without beating her readers over the head with it. It sneaks up on me every time the same way that it sneaks up on Jem and Scout.
I'm more curious than I've ever been about Boo Radley after this reading. Why does he stay inside? Is he happy, or at least happy enough? What really happened to him in his past?
I'm also curious about Calpurnia. She seems happy enough, but is she really? I started conflating her with Aibileen from The Help. I think Calpurnia is probably as happy as anyone in her position can be, working for the Finches, but she still lives in a racist society.
And I think that's about as articulate as I can be. Why is it always so hard to write reviews of books you love? If you've never read this, pick it up. If you have, isn't it about time for a re-read?...more
I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes way back in high school one summer. When I ran out of library books, I occasionally delved into my parents' shelves anI read a lot of Sherlock Holmes way back in high school one summer. When I ran out of library books, I occasionally delved into my parents' shelves and that's how I was first introduced to Mr. Holmes. I have a collection on my nook now and I decided to re-read this first--novella, I'll call it--for old times' sake.
I really didn't like it. I enjoyed the setup with Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson and their meeting and all that. But the actual mystery? Improbable is not even the word for it. It just defied belief. Why wouldn't a British detective know all about the American West? Please. The whole murder and everything is just overly melodramatic.
And then there was the way that the Mormons were portrayed. Unflattering to say the least. I am not Mormon and know shamefully little about the faith, but, my goodness--I was offended on their behalf!
I'm sure I'll get around to reading some more of the stories, but this re-read left a bad taste in my mouth....more
Everyone who knows pleasant Dr. Jekyll is surprised that he has taken the brutish Mr. Hyde under his wing. Hyde is a horrible person, and everyone whoEveryone who knows pleasant Dr. Jekyll is surprised that he has taken the brutish Mr. Hyde under his wing. Hyde is a horrible person, and everyone who meets him claims to be immediately repulsed by him. It's obvious that there's more to the relationship than meets the eye, but no one guesses exactly how twisted this relationship is.
Okay, you probably know the basic story. I think that takes a lot away from the book. I can imagine that this novella was shocking and horrifying when it was first published, but I just felt a little "meh" about it. I understand that there's a message about pride and ambition and man's dual nature and all that, but I'm usually looking for a good story. I'm not saying that this is a bad story, or that it shouldn't be a classic or anything like that, I just found it a little disappointing.
If you're interested, pick it up. If you somehow don't know what's going on with these two men, go ahead and give it a try too. It's a pretty easy read for a classic, it's short, and it would be creepy if you didn't know what was going on....more
Axel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist livingAxel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist living in the 1700s. They eventually crack the code, realize that they've been given directions for how to reach the center of the earth, and set out to accomplish it themselves.
Axel was a whiny wimp who complained endlessly about having to go on the trip. The minute his uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, started to get the least bit angry with him over his dithering, Axel would cave and blithely go along with whatever ridiculous plan the professor has in mind. Axel was generally the one with the most sense but he didn't have a backbone at all.
I've decided the professor must be going through a mid-life crisis. Or maybe a career crisis. Or maybe both. Why else do you plunge yourself, your nephew, and your hapless guide into a volcanic crater, not even carrying a supply of water but rather only a supply of gin? My guess is that you're feeling your age and you're out to prove that you're just as virile--no, more so!--than your 20ish-something ward. He's a tyrant but I think I was supposed to like him after one or two incidents where he shows that he does actually care about Axel. Too little too late is all I have to say about that.
Hans, the poor guide, is really the hero of the story but since he's a barbaric Icelander (If that's not a description directly from the book, it's at least implied), he doesn't really count. He's just there to carry stuff. Lots of it. And build things that the two intellectuals can't. Oh, and save their useless asses multiple times. But he's barely educated so he doesn't matter.
There is so much potential for this plot but it mostly went nowhere. There are a couple of well-developed scenes and adventures but the things that would have interested me even more are cut drastically short. Like, "I think I saw this but I'm not entirely sure. And does this other thing I saw mean what I think it means?" short. There was too much buildup for not enough payoff.
This is a classic for a reason but it's not something that I'll remember. I don't regret reading it but the details will probably fade within a week. Other readers obviously disagree since this thing has been around since...1864....more