Elizabeth Gilbert is an emotional train wreck. She's going through a tortuous divorce and her on-again-off-again relationship with her new boyfriend i...moreElizabeth Gilbert is an emotional train wreck. She's going through a tortuous divorce and her on-again-off-again relationship with her new boyfriend is just killing her. She realizes that she needs a change in her life if she is going to save it. So she sets off on a year-long journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia to learn how to live "the good life" in different ways. Italy is about pleasure, India is about prayer, and Indonesia (Bali) is about finding balance between the two.
This could have turned into a great big pity-fest but it didn't. Gilbert realizes exactly how blessed she is to have the time and money to undertake this physical and spiritual journey. She gives us the down-and-dirty on exactly how low she had sunk and exactly how bad she felt sometimes, but I didn't feel like she was ever asking for pity.
Oh, these settings and the people she meets! By the time she got through eating her way through Italy, I felt like I needed to go shopping for a larger pants size with her! Just read this description of Lucca. "Sausages of every imaginable size, color and derivation are stuffed like ladies' legs into provocative stockings, swinging from the ceilings of the butcher shops. Lusty buttocks of hams hang in the windows, beckoning like Amsterdam's high-end hookers. The chickens look so plump and contented even in death that you imagine they offered themselves up for sacrifice proudly, after competing among themselves in life to see who could become the moistest and the fattest. But it's not just the meat that's wonderful in Lucca; it's the chestnuts, the peaches, the tumbling displays of figs, dear God, the figs..." Hungry yet? I love what she has to say about the pursuit of something just because it gives us pleasure, whether it's learning a new language, seeking out beauty, or simply buying pretty underwear because you want to.
India was the weak point of the book for me. Elizabeth stays in an ashram practicing meditation and prayer. Richard from Texas is a larger-than-life guy who adds some humor and a dash of reality, but mostly this section was her reflections on--spirituality? That's probably the closest word, because she's not focused on one religion. It's also about the walls she finds on her spiritual path and her breakthroughs. There are people who will love that kind of thing, but I'm not among them. I applaud her journey, but that's not something I typically want to read about.
Then she got to the island of Bali in Indonesia and she started to put it all together. Her teacher there, Ketut (one of only four names they really use in Bali) is an old medicine man whose favorite meditation technique is to sit still and smile. "To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver." That's a meditation I think I could handle! She meets some wonderful people on Bali. There's Yudhi, a brilliant musician who was arrested and deported from New York after September 11 simply because he's Indonesian, even though he's married to an American woman and not even Islamic. There's Wayan, a female healer who found the courage to leave her abusive husband in family-centric Bali before he beat her to death. And then there's Felipe, the Brazilian expat who's suffered through a nasty divorce himself. They all come together to help Liz finish this year of journeying that I can only imagine is the year that has defined her life.
I'm not usually a big fan on non-fiction, but Gilbert's style is more that of a story-teller than of a facts-presenter. She works in the background and the history and the philosophy in just the perfect way to keep me reading. I recommend this for those who can see the value of this kind of journey and who want to live it vicariously.(less)
Captains Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have retired from active duty in the Texas Rangers and tried to settle in to life as ranchers. When an old b...moreCaptains Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call have retired from active duty in the Texas Rangers and tried to settle in to life as ranchers. When an old buddy shows up talking about how beautiful Montana is and how much land is available for ranching, Captain Call is seized with the idea of being the first man to drive cattle up there. He gathers a crew and, along with Gus and a handful of loyal workers, takes off to cover the 3000 miles to Montana.
I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this western. I've read a few of them, and even a few of McMurtry's other novels, but I didn't love any of them the way I loved this.
It was just so epic in scale, it gave me a sense of how the "frontier" must have felt back in the day. And yet all these people wandered in and out of each other's lives in a way that is almost unbelievable. In a way it makes sense--there weren't many people, so surely they would all know each other--but the sheer distance makes it feel improbable. I guess I'll never know. It does make for good storytelling.
The story switches back and forth between a lot of characters, which is occasionally a turnoff for me. It mostly worked in this book though. I never cared about Elmira one bit and couldn't wait to move on when I got to her sections, but even she served a purpose in the big scheme of things. I never had any trouble keeping track of who was who. Each character was so distinct that there was no danger of confusing anyone.
Gus was hands-down my favorite character. I'll probably write a blog post about him alone one of these days. He had a good heart, he knew how to have fun, he mostly understood people, but when it was time to get serious, he got deadly serious. He won my heart when he went after Lorie.
Speaking of Lorie...I liked her and Clara. A lot. It would have been easy to let them just fade into the background and be the silent, supportive women who were barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, but they had spunk. Clara especially.
It fell apart for me right around the end, which is a problem I remember having with all of McMurtry's books. He and I do not see eye-to-eye on what makes a good ending. I finished watching the mini-series from the '80's last night and I realized that our problem just might be that we disagree on what the story is about. I loved Gus and wanted a book about him. I think it was supposed to be more about Captain Call. And in that frame, the ending makes sense. But I'm still not happy about it.
I highly, highly recommend this for anyone who likes fiction on an epic scale and characters who climb inside your head and live there for a while.(less)
Daria just graduated with a degree in engineering, but in Odessa, Ukraine, jobs are almost impossible to find. She eventually starts work as a secreta...moreDaria just graduated with a degree in engineering, but in Odessa, Ukraine, jobs are almost impossible to find. She eventually starts work as a secretary for an Israeli import/export firm and as an interpreter for an email order bride company, Soviet Unions. Good men are hard to find in Odessa too, so Daria finds herself corresponding with a few men, even as some she already knows start to make advances.
Really, this was 3.5 stars for me, but I'm rounding up because it's something I'm interested in.
I really liked Daria. She's a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted survivor. Throughout the book she changes in ways that follow a natural progression considering what she's going through. But I felt like the whole "a good man is hard to find and I'm so lonely" side of her got over-developed. That's all she thinks about. At one point, some friends of hers showed up at her house for a birthday party, and I was surprised that she had friends. All I'd seen up until that point was work, and all she'd thought about was work and love. Where did those ladies come from?
I really enjoyed reading about life in Ukraine. We have a surprisingly large community of Ukrainian immigrants where I live. They aren't mail order brides. Whole families come here to escape religious persecution, from what I understand. Anyway, I like listening to one of my co-workers, Sofiya, talk about her life in Ukraine. She never complains, she seems to love her native country, but in a roundabout way, she makes me realize again and again exactly how good I have it. She's only 21, so she never really knew life in the Soviet Union. But she still knows what it's like to be hungry, and her stories of selling old toys on the side of the road, trying to earn money for food, break my heart. I should add here that she comes from a family that seems to be hard-working and caring. But if there's no money, there's no money. She's very open about it all, but I don't even know enough to ask her intelligent questions. I feel like I have a bit more of a starting point after reading this. I feel like we've already had one good discussion because of this book.
The author did a great job of showing why some women feel like becoming a mail order bride is their only option. For various reasons, women outnumber men in Odessa. The men who are left, at least in the book, tend to be alcoholics, abusers, and/or criminals. There aren't any jobs available. Women must choose whether to stay in Odessa, a city they love but where they will never get any further ahead, or whether to take a chance on the unknown dream of America and an American husband. Through Daria's eyes, we see that it's not an easy choice. When former female clients call home with reports of abuse from their American husbands, we see that the dream can become a nightmare. Abuse is bad enough, but imagine being in a country where you don't speak the language, you don't know the system, and you don't know your rights. Terrifying.
Right after starting this book, I caught part of a documentary on TV about this very subject. Maybe I'm projecting my own feelings onto what I saw, but the combination of fear, hope, and uncertainty I saw on the women's faces made me feel for them. It got worse as I watched the soon-to-be husbands start to kiss, hug, and just generally hang all over these women whom they barely knew, and yet who would soon be their brides. The women looked very uncomfortable, but you could tell they were trying to hide it.
All of that came through here. I have to admit that I have the men who use these sites stereotyped as desperate, lonely men. I can't help but feel that they can't get a woman in their own country because there's something wrong with them. I'm sure I'm wrong--they can't all be like that--but this book didn't do anything to dispel that notion. They were all desperate lonely men who couldn't get women in their own country because something was wrong with them.
I've made this sound all serious, and it mostly was, but it had a few lighter moments. Daria's exchanges with Ukrainian men and her friend Olga could be pretty funny. And I'm ready to visit Odessa, based on the loving descriptions of the city found here. Apparently, they have the third-most beautiful opera house in the world. Their climate on the Black Sea sounds positively balmy. Well, compared to what I think of when I think of the former Soviet Union, anyway! They have beaches as we know them! And I want to make my husband carry me up all 192 steps of the Potemkin Staircase. I probably shouldn't say that, or he'll never want to go!
If you're interested in Ukraine or mail order brides, go ahead and pick this up. It was a solid story, I felt like I learned a lot, and it would be great for a group discussion. Look how long I've rambled on here, trying to discuss it by myself without giving anything away!(less)
In Persepolis 2, we pick back up with Marjane as she arrives in Austria. She has a hard time adjusting to life in Europe, and after a few years she fi...moreIn Persepolis 2, we pick back up with Marjane as she arrives in Austria. She has a hard time adjusting to life in Europe, and after a few years she finds herself back in Iran. Then she feels that she doesn’t fit in anywhere. To paraphrase, she’s too Iranian for Europe and too European for Iran.
Overall, I enjoyed this more than the first book. I missed her frequent conversations with God, but I found it easier to relate to troubled teenage Marjane than activist child Marjane. I was busy playing with Barbies when I was ten, not trying to figure out how I could sneak out to political rallies that frequently ended in shooting. Anyway, I felt that since Marjane had lived in Europe at this point, she had some interesting observations to make about how Westerners treat Iranians and the differences in our cultures. It seems that she’s able to see the good and bad on both sides. As an American, it was interesting for me to see what she thinks of Americans and Brits and to see how she thinks the Iranian government manages to keep such strict control over the people.
Marjane herself could be a little whiny, but she is a teenager--I managed to overlook it. I did love the way she would just speak her mind sometimes. I would always catch myself holding my breath as I turned the pages, waiting to see if she had gone too far and really gotten herself in trouble this time. Her grandmother was great. She was always good for a laugh, or at least a healthy dose of reality.
I believe there was a different translator for this volume, and I didn’t like this translation as well. I can see that it would be hard to find a way to work with at least three languages and effectively say what Satrapi was trying to say. But I really think there should have been a way to do it without including the frequent footnotes. Easy for me to say, right?
Again, I felt like she just stopped when she felt like it at the end. There was a resolution, but when I turned the last page and realized it was the last page, I was left thinking, “What?!?! But what happened after that?” It looks like she’s written a Persepolis 3, but my library doesn’t have it. Looking on here, I can’t even tell if it’s been translated into English yet. I’ll be looking for it though.
I recommend this for anyone who wants to continue the story that began in Persepolis, and also to anyone who wants a little more understanding of Iranian culture. Don’t let the graphic novel format put you off.(less)
I find it hard to describe this book without making it sound dull and boring. I've tried to tell my husband and he just looks at me blankly.
"It's abo...moreI find it hard to describe this book without making it sound dull and boring. I've tried to tell my husband and he just looks at me blankly.
"It's about trees?"
"Well, yes, but it's interesting and it's about...trees."
Sometime in the late '80's, a few people who didn't even know each other decided to start exploring the remaining stands of redwoods. Michael Taylor believed that the biggest redwood had yet to be found, despite a National Geographic statement to the contrary made decades earlier. Steve Sillett became the first biologist to really explore and attempt to describe the redwood canopy. They each had friends who helped them and they eventually met each other and joined forces as they attempted to understand these ancient living things.
I was fascinated from the beginning. I do have that old biology degree that I mention every single time I read something even remotely scientific, but I am more interested in mammals than plants. I was so interested in the lives of these guys who were/are climbing 30 stories on some ropes in a freaking tree. I panic if I get above the second or third rung on a ladder. The descriptions of the canopy, their progress and trial and error as they tried to figure out how to do what no one really had done before, their personal setbacks and triumphs, I liked it all.
The author starts climbing with them and adding his own perspective maybe two-thirds of the way through the book. I was a little turned off by this at first. I don't know if the part of me that had "Don't ever use I in an essay" drilled into her head was horrified that a published author was breaking that cardinal rule or if I had a little bit of an attitude of "Seriously? You're talking about climbing an oak tree while these guy are climbing redwoods?" but I did get over it pretty quickly. The descriptions of what he saw firsthand were of course better than what he'd only been told about. I even got really interested when he goes on vacation in Scotland to climb in the few remaining ancient Highland forests.
I really kept meaning to look up some of the climbing techniques that these guys use just to see what they involve. They sound beautiful and graceful and scary as hell! I never got around to it while I was reading but I definitely will before posting this review on my blog.
My copy had a few illustrations, but I really wish there had been photos. Preston tried to be secretive about where the oldest, biggest trees are located in order to protect them from weekend climbers who might damage them, so maybe he was afraid that pictures would give away something about the location. Or maybe it was a cost decision. Either way, I would have like to have seen pictures. I plan to look for photos of some of the named trees as soon as I finish this review.
If you're at all interested in the natural world or even explorers' lives, this might be a good choice for you. I'm doing a terrible job with this review but it was a surprisingly informative yet entertaining book.(less)
This is apparently based on some popular YouTube videos of the same name. I've never heard of it, but since I almost never go to YouTube, that's not s...moreThis is apparently based on some popular YouTube videos of the same name. I've never heard of it, but since I almost never go to YouTube, that's not saying much. Still, I saw the title on the Goodreads giveaways list and decided to enter to win a free book. I have a cat, and who doesn't love a good cartoon about cats? I was lucky enough to win a copy.
This was cute. I think every cat owner will recognize their cat in these pages. The way he's always begging for food, plotting to catch the local wildlife, ripping off his bell-collar, and just generally being a lovable, annoying furball are spot on. There's one section about the ordeal of getting the cat into the pet carrier and to the vet that I am going to show my aunt. She will love it! And does she have a story about that! Some things seemed a little familiar from Garfield (mostly the cat-as-birdhouse routines), but mostly this was original and funny. With his best friend the garden gnome and his arch-nemesis the porcupine in tow, Simon's cat will charm your socks off.
One thing that bothered me was that I wasn't sure where one little storyline ended and where another started. They weren't consistently the same length, sometimes there were several on a page, and sometimes one little story went on for pages. Maybe it was just me. But still--that's what knocked this down a star.
Overall, though, I recommend this for cat lovers. I'll be checking out the YouTube videos soon myself.(less)
"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of peopl...more"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of people. "I see paint on your pocket-handkerchief, and traces on your fingers where you wiped it away. The only reason to mark bees that I can think of is to enable one to follow them to their hive. You are either interested in gathering honey or in the bees themselves, and it is not the time of year to harvest honey. Three months ago we had an unusual cold spell that killed many hives. Therefore I assume that you are tracking these in order to replenish your own stock."
Retired, fifty-four-year-old Sherlock Holmes is left speechless at this speech from fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. He realizes immediately that he has finally met a mind to match his own, and his retirement might not be quite as boring as he expected.
I haven't read any of Conan Doyle's work recently enough to be able to comment meaningfully on how well the Sherlock in The Beekeeper's Apprentice matches up to the "real" Sherlock. All I can say is that I enjoyed the originals and I enjoyed this one.
Mary is a rare heroine. She's ultra-intelligent, fiercely independent, funny, sharp-spoken, unafraid to get her hands dirty, and ultimately vulnerable.
Sherlock finds himself losing interest in everything around him until Mary comes into his life to both test his wits and learn from him. The pair, who, from the outside would appear to be aloof from everyone else, ultimately save each other.
There were several mysteries the two investigate throughout the book, from Mary's first attempt to solve a small local crime on her own, to the infinitely-bigger plot that almost proves to be the team's undoing. I think the mysteries were strong and would have done the original Sherlock proud, but, like I said, take that with a grain of salt coming from me.
What I mostly liked was the way the two worked together, and watching Mary grow and learn even as she taught Sherlock to rejoin the world. The dynamics between them are never easy but they are always interesting. Other characters obviously put in an appearance, and it was fun to check in on the affable Dr. Watson, but it was Mary and Sherlock's characters and their interactions that made this book for me.
If you aren't too much of a Sherlock purist, go ahead and pick this up. It was an interesting look at a couple of complicated minds and I truly enjoyed reading it. I'll be continuing on with the series.(less)
Busy week + training + overtime=forgettable review. Sorry, guys.
These stories/poetry were pretty dark. But then it's been a while since I read any Gai...moreBusy week + training + overtime=forgettable review. Sorry, guys.
These stories/poetry were pretty dark. But then it's been a while since I read any Gaiman, so maybe I've just forgotten how dark he can be. I would really put this on a dark fantasy/horror lite shelf, but that's fine by me.
As in all short story collections, some of these were winners and some were okay. Some that stood out were
"A Study in Emerald"--A fun take on the classic Sherlock Holmes format.
"October in the Chair"--Memorable more for the framework than the actual story, although that was pretty good too.
"Bitter Grounds"--Pretty creepy
"Other People"--I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after reading this one. But that really has more to do with my own buttons than the story.
"The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch"--Just might be my favorite. He stops in just the perfect place and tells just enough. Loved it.
"The Problem of Susan"--Should have come with a warning a la Stephen King and The Dark Tower. He has a point, but I will never look at Aslan the same way again.
"Feeders and Eaters"--I hate to pick on The King again, but I really think this one would have done him proud. Super creepy.
"Goliath"--Absolutely perfect for what it was written for
"The Monarch of the Glen"--I can't honestly say that I remember all that much about American Gods, except that I liked it. Still, it was fun to check in on Shadow.
One last thing. There are a few poems scattered throughout the book. I did not care for the earlier ones, but as I continued reading, they improved, and I genuinely enjoyed "The Day the Saucers Came" and a few others.
Two young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "r...moreTwo young men, children of parents that the Communist government in China deems enemies of the state, are basically exiled to a remote mountain for "re-education." Their parents' "crimes" don't even warrant the word; they're basically just too educated for the government's comfort. The teens find a harsh life waiting for them on the mountain. They must plow fields and dig in mines and haul human waste around. If the local party leader is upset with them, he makes their lives even more miserable.
They eventually meet a local tailor's daughter. The little seamstress, as she's known, is the most beautiful girl on the mountain. One of the teens of course tries to win her heart. He takes a novel approach and starts telling her stories out of Western literature, in an effort to make her better company for himself. And so time passes as the boys wait to see if their period of "re-education" will ever end.
This is so hard for me to review! I had some issues with the boys throughout. Luo, the one who tries to win the girl, is basically a nice guy but--c'mon. He's trying to "improve" the little seamstress? So she'll be a better girlfriend? Who does he think he is? I was listening to this so maybe I misunderstood something, but I really don't think so. But then--I got to the ending. And I loved it. And that's all I can say.
I also loved B. D. Wong's narration. He has a nice voice and a nice delivery. If my library has any more audio books that he's narrated, I'll gladly give them a try.
I enjoyed the imagery in the book as well. It was very short, maybe 4 hours, and enough happened to keep my attention, but at the same time I feel like I can clearly picture this misty Chinese mountain and these harsh rural villages. As someone who likes to use way too many words when writing, I'm impressed when an author can pull this off. And especially considering that the book is a translation. Ina Rilke did a fabulous job with that.
I don't think I've ever heard of Chinese re-education, but what a horrible, effective practice. Take the kids who are going to have the best opportunities at education, and embracing new ideas, and y'know, revolutionary ideas, isolate them and send them out to the wilds to suffer under the hands of uneducated peasants, and you've kind of shut down any immediate governmental threats. Sure, you're probably setting up big trouble for the future, but you've bought yourself time to plan for that. Sheesh. Whose mind comes up with this kind of bs? Can you imagine?
At this length, I would recommend anyone give this book a try. I was surprised and very pleased at the end and I think most readers will be too.(less)
This is a collection of short stories that de Lint wrote to accompany dolls that his wife made as gifts for the children they knew. Pictures of the do...moreThis is a collection of short stories that de Lint wrote to accompany dolls that his wife made as gifts for the children they knew. Pictures of the dolls accompany each story. Think Wendy Froud's A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale on a much smaller, humbler scale. de Lint's book is a slim volume, but it's big on whimsy and charm. Each story has a dark moment, as true fairy tales do, but they end on a happy note, with the characters having learned something about the value of friendship or the power of imagination. Dedicated fans of de Lint will be thrilled to see a cameo appearance from one of Newford's own as a child.
The editor residing in my head is making me say that the book could have used some better editing. The reader in my heart thinks the book might have lost some charm if it had been too polished.
Overall, the collection honestly isn't all that original, but it did charm me. This is probably more of a collector's edition for de Lint fans; I don't think he's going to win over any new fans with this little book. But fans will be pleased to add it to their collections.(less)
Max Trader is a luthier who wakes up one morning in a body not his own. After the initial panic and a little further investigation, Trader finds out t...moreMax Trader is a luthier who wakes up one morning in a body not his own. After the initial panic and a little further investigation, Trader finds out that charming, womanizing rake, Johnny Devlin, has wished for a different life and somehow they have traded bodies. Devlin has no intention of trying to switch back. He gets a fresh start while Trader tries to navigate his way through the wreckage of Johnny's life. While learning about Johnny, though, Devlin learns a few things about his own life and how he needs to start living as large as trees, to paraphrase.
Characters, characters, characters. What draws me to Charles de Lint are his characters, and he did not disappoint with this one. Trader is a mild-mannered kind of guy, mostly forgettable except for his talent, but he's willing to learn from this unbelievable experience he has. He learns to live his life to the fullest and not take a single day for granted.
So that one's obvious. What makes this a de Lint book is that even the secondary characters grow and learn and change. Trader and Devlin's switch is like a stone thrown into a still pond: the effects ripple out in ways that you don't see coming. Even minor characters learn self-acceptance, the value of having your own life outside of a relationship, acceptance of others, forgiveness, open-mindedness and all kinds of Important Life Lessons. I've loaned out my copy already or I would throw out a couple of quotes that sum all of this up much better than I can. Expect to see a revised version of this review when I get my copy back.
Finally got it back!
"The thing to do is to be happy with yourself, with what's in your own life; then if a relationship comes along it's a bonus, something to enjoy instead of the thing your life revolves around."
"Look inside yourself for the answers--you're the only one who knows what's best for you. Everybody else is only guessing."
What kept this from being five stars are two of the characters who actually grow the most. They were the whiniest women I have read about in a long time. Oh, they felt real alright. I know plenty of women who moan on and on and on about their boyfriends, the lack of, or the fact that they need a life apart from. They are not women I want to spend time with, either in books or in real life. I have very little tolerance for that kind of thing. It's an important lesson to get out there, but spare me. Please.
What's a little unusual about this novel is that there isn't really a bad guy. Devlin's not anyone's idea of a nice guy, but the real antagonists are apathy, inertia, missed opportunities, wasted talent, and a lack of self-awareness. Devlin's actually sort of the poster child for the "wherever you go, there you are" theme running through the book. He gets a new life, but he's unwilling to change and makes the same old mistakes all over again.
This falls pretty early in the Newford books, which I will still maintain that you don't have to read in order, but it was pretty cool to go back and read an early book and see how the regulars were doing back then. I finally know who Tanya is and how she and Geordie meet, and I finally realize that there are hints of Jilly's The Onion Girl (Newford, Book 11) trials this early.
On a side note, I adore the cover art that John Jude Palancar creates for de Lint's books.
Anyway, this is a great example of why Charles de Lint is my favorite author. He tells a great story with an important message without being preachy, all while creating characters who honestly feel like old friends to me at this point. Reading this one has given me the urge to go on a Newford re-reading binge. Highly recommended.(less)
My grandmother bought me these for my birthday several years ago. They're sweet little Christian romances about pioneers establishing the city of Seat...moreMy grandmother bought me these for my birthday several years ago. They're sweet little Christian romances about pioneers establishing the city of Seattle.
I'm not sure what happened to my copies. I'm wondering if I've left some books at my parents house. Any ideas, Mama?(less)
I just don't even know where to start with a synopsis here without giving anything away.
I enjoyed this one so much more than the previous, The Girl...moreI just don't even know where to start with a synopsis here without giving anything away.
I enjoyed this one so much more than the previous, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that I was left wondering if I just read that one at the wrong time or if Larsson really improved that much between one book and the next. Or maybe it was just the background framework of economics. Whatever it was, this was way, way better than I expected, and I'm glad it was chosen as one of my groups' monthly reads. In all honesty, I would probably never have gotten to it.
Once I got into the story, and it did take a little while, I couldn't stop reading until I got to the end. And what an ending! When does the third one come out in the US? Not soon enough, that's for sure! Talk about a cliffhanger!
Salander is just as inscrutable as ever, but she's starting to learn that she shouldn't take her relationships with others for granted. I was so indifferent to the first book that I wouldn't have continued with the series if I hadn't been curious to find out more about Salander. I'm glad I continued and got this payoff. The important parts of her personal story are revealed, and they are every bit as shocking as I expected them to be.
This would have been five stars except for a few things. The first section--55 pages in my copy--doesn't seem to have a real bearing on anything else. I'm left wondering if it will tie in to the third book, or if it was just a long example of how much Salander "hates men who hate women." Also, there were parts that could easily have been edited out. The thing that bothered me the most was when Salander goes furniture shopping. It's two pages of an IKEA shopping list. Two pages doesn't sound like much, but it's so detailed and so unimportant! Who cares?!? Unless you have IKEA's entire collection memorized, it's just filler that needed to go!
I knocked the translation in my review of the first book. The same guy translated this one, but I think he's improved a lot. There were only a couple of things that reminded me that I was reading a translation, and they were so small I can't even remember what they were. Overall, though, for a thrilling read with a complex, troubled intriguing main character, pick this up. You just might want to wait until after the release of the third one though. You will be dying to pick it up as soon as you finish this book.(less)
"'I think this is the greatest generation any society has ever produced.' I know that this was a bold statement and a sweeping judgment, but since tha...more"'I think this is the greatest generation any society has ever produced.' I know that this was a bold statement and a sweeping judgment, but since than I have restated it on many occasions. While I am periodically challenged on this premise, I believe I have the facts on my side."
So writes Tom Brokaw in the introduction to this book about the World War II generation, and he proceeds to make his case by telling individual stories of survival, courage, leadership, and trail-blazing.
I pretty much loved this book. I have always liked reading books centered around WWII, but I haven't actually read much non-fiction, and especially not exactly like this. I got what I expected and more.
I expected stories about the heroes, both celebrated and unsung, and their exploits in the war. I may have even expected stories about the women on the home front.
I did not expect Brokaw to tackle some of the issues this generation had to overcome. He did not shy away from segregation, both in civilian life and the military. He confronted the issue of the Japanese internment camps. He took a close look at the women in uniform during the war and the paths they had to forge to get anything that even resembled equality. I was impressed that he included those topics, and I learned a lot from the personal stories he used to make his points about these issues.
I also didn't really expect the personal stories to dwell so much on life after the war. I was a little disappointed at first; after all, the war was what drew me to the book. But I quickly got over it and realized that this generation didn't let one major event define their lives completely. They moved on and shaped the world in the ways they thought best. And that is part of what makes them great.
I'm struggling to find a way to say what I mean with this next thought. Here goes. The people who told these stories all came home to live successful lives, in big ways and small. There had to be people who came home and just couldn't adapt to civilian life. It felt like, in order for the picture to be truly complete, some of that should have been included. Of course, who wants to be interviewed about why they started drinking too much and wound up homeless, right? Or maybe those guys mostly passed away before this book was written. The point could be made that including that kind of thing would weaken the book's central argument, I know. But ignoring the facts doesn't make them go away, and addressing all the facts makes your case stronger. It's a small thing, but I noticed it because of the thoroughness of the rest of the book.
This was also an interesting study in how times have changed. This generation was very much about patriotism, duty, honor, and personal sacrifice. They had widely experienced crushing poverty during the Depression, and they never forgot the lessons they learned in those times. In comparison to our current society, where we just have to have the newest phone/video game/book, or whatever, it made me feel shallow and small. I don't think that's bad at all. Sometimes we need to be reminded about how blessed we truly are.
There are surprising tales of heroism on all fronts, both during the war and in the years following. Tom Brokaw makes a strong argument that the WWII generation was truly the greatest generation. (less)
Seven-year-old Rachel Kalama is living in Honolulu in 1893. Her life is punctuated with a child's hopes and dreams and drama. Her father is a sailor,...moreSeven-year-old Rachel Kalama is living in Honolulu in 1893. Her life is punctuated with a child's hopes and dreams and drama. Her father is a sailor, and she loves it when he comes home on leave, mostly because she's excited to see him, but also because she loves to hear his stories about the wider world and for the exotic dolls he brings home to her. Then she's diagnosed with leprosy. Native Hawaiians are incredibly susceptible to the disfiguring, deadly disease. To prevent the spread, all who are diagnosed are sent to Kalaupapa, a lepers' colony on the island of Moloka'i.
This sounds a little depressing. Seven-year-old girl sent away from all her friends and family to await death. But Rachel is stronger than that.
She is lucky that has a very strong resistance to the disease, and she has a form that is slow-moving anyway. She has a hard time at first (who wouldn't in her shoes?) but she forms her own family in the colony, and she chooses to live.
I loved her. I loved that she never gave up hope, that she lived a life that was as normal as it could be, she loved to read, she loved to surf, and she loved her chosen family. I loved that as she grew older she fought hard for improvements to conditions in the colony. She was a heart of this community. She always dreamed of and longed for the wider world. When something happens in her life that would have broken many women, she hurt but she kept on hoping. I missed her when I finished this book.
Rachel was the biggest draw of the book for me, but I also enjoyed reading about this part of history. I had never heard about it until I came across a brief mention of the lepers' colony in our guide book when we went to Hawaii. To think that we did that to children and families. *Shudders* I know that there had to be some sort of isolation to slow the spread of the disease, but I can't imagine being ripped away from my family like that. There had to have been a better way.
I enjoyed the descriptions of Hawaii and life in the islands. We went on our honeymoon. We didn't go to Moloka'i but I still felt like I was revisiting a place I loved as I read these descriptions. Hawaii is one of the few places that we consistently talk about going back to.
Highly recommended for those who like their heroines strong and who love a tropical, historical setting.(less)
FBI Special Agent Pendergast is assisting Lt. D'Agosta in the investigation of a murder that has hit them both close to home. Their friend, Bill Smith...moreFBI Special Agent Pendergast is assisting Lt. D'Agosta in the investigation of a murder that has hit them both close to home. Their friend, Bill Smithback, has been murdered in his home on the night of his first anniversary. The perp has been positively id'd by Smithback's wife, Nora Kelly, and several others in the building as neighbor Colin Fearing. The problem? Colin died about two weeks earlier. Twists and turns lead through animal rights groups, allegations of voodoo, squatters on public land, and rumors of zombiis.
I have to admit that I always see problems with Preston and Child novels and yet I can't ever seem to put them down. I don't even particularly like any of their characters, but the convoluted plot lines keep me so intrigued that I just keep turning pages.
Parts of this were just silly. Let me see how I can phrase this...The way the bad guy is stopped actually made me laugh, it was that silly. I hope that's vague enough. Pendergast is pretty much superhuman. In the two books of his I've read, he knows about voodoo, he can perform the Japanese tea ceremony, he's mastered some sort of transcendental Buddhist meditation technique, and I'm pretty sure he's a master of at least one martial art form. I don't know much about any of these things, but I do think I know enough to know that each one of these would take years and years and years to master. And he's mastered them all, plus more? C'mon.
I would have liked a little more resolution at the end. The crashing climax is big, complicated, and messy, but only the main point is addressed. There were all kinds of issues raised that had absolutely no resolution.
I am surprised that these books haven't been made into movies. They're just exactly the kind of thing that would rake in beaucoup bucks at the box office, and they already even play like movies in my head. The authors must not want it to happen. I feel sure that offers have to have been made.
For a quick, mindless page-turner, this is a lot of fun. It would be perfect in between weightier books. There is a bit of an order though, so you might want to pick up Relic, the first Pendergast novel, first. I've read them all out of order though, and I think I've missed out on a little, but not much.(less)
I struggled with where to shelve this. Some of the stories are ghost stories, some are horror, some are just eerie, and some are just straight-up fict...moreI struggled with where to shelve this. Some of the stories are ghost stories, some are horror, some are just eerie, and some are just straight-up fiction. But they're all good.
Joe Hill shows an amazing range in this collection, going from a story about a boy who wakes up as a giant bug, to a bittersweet ghost story, to a story that's sort of a reflection on father/son relationships and the glory of baseball.
My favorites are probably "Abraham's Boys" and the title story, "20th Century Ghosts." That might be because I read this to start off what I plan to be a month-long horror-fest (we'll see how that plays out) and these two fit the bill. "Abraham's Boys" is about Abraham Van Helsing's children, and I think anyone can see the possibilities there. Hill does it justice. "20th Century Ghosts" is about a ghost in a movie theater. It was oddly touching.
My least favorite was "My Father's Mask." There's probably something there that I just didn't get, but I don't have a clue what that was supposed to be about. It was just weird and disturbing and I don't know why.