I needed these Lunar short stories to get some closure after the emotional turmoil of Winter. (See my review. I was so angry at Levana that I almost gI needed these Lunar short stories to get some closure after the emotional turmoil of Winter. (See my review. I was so angry at Levana that I almost gave up on the book. It was that torturous). When I realized that this book was happening, I jumped on it as soon as I possibly could at the library. Most of the stories are prequels to Cinder, but there is one that's simply set in the same world, and another that's a true sequel to the series.
"The Keeper" details how Michelle Benoit came to have care of both her granddaughter, Scarlet, and a young, comatose Cinder. I have always wished that we'd gotten to see more of Michelle in the actual series, so this story was a nice addition.
"Glitches" describes Cinder's trip to the Eastern Commonwealth with Garin and her reception in his household. I've read this story somewhere before. I liked reading about a young Cinder but I can't say that I felt the need to listen to it again.
"The Queen's Army" is about Wolf being torn from his loving family and transformed into an (in)human killing machine. Or not. Wolf's story has always broken my heart a little bit and this only made me feel worse for him.
"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky"--I wish I could remember what he told us about his past with Kate because this is about his first meeting with her. I know he tells the story in one of the books but the details are long gone from my memory. Still, a young Captain Thorne is every bit as irrepressible as you would expect him to be.
"After Sunshine Passes By" left me incredibly angry at Levana again. A young, sweet, trusting Cress is chosen for a special assignment by Lady Sybil. I was almost in tears at the end.
"The Princess and the Guard" expands on one small story from Winter's life and explains why she chose to stop using her Lunar Gift. I can't make up my mind exactly how I feel about Winter or Jacin, but I did respect Winter more after listening to this story.
"The Little Android" was my second-favorite tale from the collection. None of the main characters show up in this Lunar retelling of "The Little Mermaid" but I appreciated the way that Meyer stayed so very true to the original story.
"The Mechanic" describes Cinder and Kai's first meeting from Kai's point of view. These two are so cute together that I just loved it.
"Something Old, Something New" was my absolute favorite entry. In this sequel, Scarlet and Wolf are getting married and I am finally, finally getting the happily-ever-after that I so desperately needed to read!
I would recommend reading this anthology after reading the other novels in the series, but definitely pick it up if you've enjoyed them. It was a nice way to check in with and say goodbye to characters that I've grown ridiculously attached to....more
Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, RoHenry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip have been friends for ages. Even as Henry has stayed home in tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin to take over his parents' farm, Ronny hit the rodeo circuit, Kip moved to Chicago and started raking in money, and Lee hit the big time with his music, they've remained tight. Over the year or two chronicled in Shotgun Lovesongs, their lives hit roller coasters as marriages and breakups occur, arguments flare up, and their friendship is put to the test.
I'm sitting here thinking about what it was, exactly, that I liked about this book. I can't really say that it was about much of anything. It's just a slice of everyday life. But I think what stands out to me most is that this is a book about male friendship. Not "good buddies" or even battle-forged bonds. These guys just like and genuinely care about each other. They always have, more or less, as is true with friendships of any real length. When is the last time you read a book about male friendship? I'm sure they're out there, but I personally haven't come across many, if any. I like it.
The group really is put through the fire in this period of their lives though. They're all starting to kind of settle down now. Henry and his wife Beth, also a member of this tight group of friends, have been settled for a while. But now the others are coming home to settle too. So they're adjusting to having a more prominent position in each others' lives again. It takes some getting used to. Everybody pretty much fights with everybody else but then they settle down. And then the serious disagreement happens.
The ending sounds a bit far-fetched at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I wonder if this is based on an incident in the author's own life. It's so bizarre, it has to be true. And then I tried to picture my husband and his best friend getting up to mischief like that and I absolutely could. Well, up to a point. I just had to laugh.
I pretty much liked the characters. Solid Henry appealed to me most. I related to him. He's maybe not the most exciting guy in the group but he's the rock. Lee is world famous but he mostly hasn't let that change him. He knows that this landscape is what has shaped his music and his soul. He knows that he needs his friends to anchor him. Ronny isn't quite the same after a head injury years ago, but he's learned to appreciate the moment even while yearning for more. Kip is the weak link. He doesn't quite fit in with the others but he knows it. He tries too hard and manages to always do the wrong thing, even with the best of intentions. He has the most growing up to do.
I've kind of left Beth out of everything. I really liked her but I don't feel that she was necessarily any sort of real focus. She was the, well, not the outsider, but not one of the guys either. She gave us a different perspective on the group, both in their younger years and currently. She also added some tension and a whole other set of dynamics to the group.
And then there's small-town, Midwest America. Lee says something late in the book about how this is his America. Not the excesses and selfishness, but the sense of community and even the sense of connection to the land. Little Wing could be Every Town, USA. If you're lucky, you grew up in a place like this. If you're really lucky, you know how lucky you are to have roots there.
I really enjoyed the narrators who read the parts of Henry and Beth. Even Kip did pretty well. I didn't enjoy the narration for Lee and Ronny quite as much. It's still definitely a good choice in audio format but I wish the cast had all been equally strong.
I highly recommend Shotgun Lovesongs. It's one of those books that will sink into your bones and linger with you for a long time to come....more
In an unnamed South American country, the government is hosting a birthday party for a powerful Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa. Mr. Hosokawa has nIn an unnamed South American country, the government is hosting a birthday party for a powerful Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa. Mr. Hosokawa has no intention of building a factory in the poor country, but when they told him that his favorite opera soprano, Roxanne Coss, would be performing for him, he had to accept the invitation. Just as Roxanne finishes her last song, armed revolutionaries take the entire party hostage.
I liked this a lot more than I expected to. That description makes the book sound like something it isn't. It isn't about the politics of the country or anything like that; it's about the people and the possibilities within them. There isn't much action but there is a lot of character development and relationship building.
The revolutionaries consist of three "generals" and a group of teenagers they've found and trained in the jungle. The teenagers are mostly uneducated and they've never been given a real chance at life. As time passes, it turns out that there are some amazingly talented youngsters in the group. Even the group of businessmen and politicians discover and nurture their hidden talents and passions now that they have time away from their everyday responsibilities.
The relationships that grow among these groups who should be enemies are amazing. They all come from wildly different backgrounds but they come together and find their common ground. The elders, even among the hostages, come to view the young revolutionaries fondly, almost as younger family members or children. Among the adults, the timid priest, the opera singer, the translator, the businessmen, all bond in unforeseen ways.
The narrator, Anna Fields, did an amazing job. She didn't worry too much about different voices for different characters, but she did give the impossible accents a phenomenal try. She didn't only have to tackle straightforward Spanish or Japanese accents, she tackled the accents of a Swiss man speaking Spanish or a Spanish-speaker attempting Japanese. I was hugely impressed.
I highly recommend this if you enjoy character-driven books but don't go into it expecting a lot of action....more
Frances Reardon and Bernard Eliot meet by chance at a writers' workshop. They have one memorable lunch there and agree to begin a correspondence. TheyFrances Reardon and Bernard Eliot meet by chance at a writers' workshop. They have one memorable lunch there and agree to begin a correspondence. They write each other their deepest thoughts on faith and their personal joys and trials. They occasionally write other friends about the events they experience together.
This is another desperate end-of-year reading challenge grab that paid off. I'd never even heard of this book but I started trolling through an "Epistolary novel" list, comparing it to what was available as an audio download from my library, and landed on this.
I loved it.
I don't know exactly what my reaction would have been to the novel in print, but I fell in love with both these characters on audio. Angela Brazil reads the female parts and Stephen R. Thorne obviously narrates the male voices. I shouldn't even write reads or narrates; they both perform this novel. I felt like Frances and Bernard were old friends. Their personalities leaped off the page for me. Or whatever the equivalent would be with an audio book.
I have a tendency to spell out every little detail of the books I'm reading to my husband, whether he wants to hear them or not. I try, mostly successfully, to curtail this but when a book excites me, I just can't help it; out it all comes. I think my husband got daily updates as I listened to this one. We'd be doing something completely unrelated and out of the blue I'd announce, "I'm really worried about Bernard."
"Bernard. You know. From my book."
"Things aren't looking good. I'm worried about the happily ever after."
"That's nice, dear."
He never promised to actually listen to all my bookish rattling, but at least he lets me get it out of my system!
At first, Frances and Bernard came dangerously close to seeming pretentious to me. They begin their correspondence with their thoughts on religion. I don't really discuss religion at all. The thought of sharing my deepest feelings with someone, much less a near-stranger, just shrivels up my insides. These two carry it off well though, and before things got too caught up in faith and spirituality, they had moved on to other topics. Faith did always remain a touchstone of their correspondence though.
Their letters were hilarious, intelligent, heart-felt, insightful, sarcastic, touching, heart-breaking, and caring. I truly felt like I went through years of the lives of real people.
I highly recommend this book, especially on audio. The emotion may wring you out but you'll be so glad you got to meet Frances and Bernard....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
In the 1870s, George De Long was bitten by the Arctic exploration bug after taking part in a rescue mission off the coast of Greenland. He wanted to fIn the 1870s, George De Long was bitten by the Arctic exploration bug after taking part in a rescue mission off the coast of Greenland. He wanted to find his way to the North Pole. He consulted with many experts, most of whom seemed to believe that the Pole itself was covered by an "Open Polar Sea." If a crew could just find its way through the outer ice pack, the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing, so to speak. Experts also mostly agreed that it was time to try this feat by traveling through the Bering Strait. Greenland had been tried and led to failure multiple times. The Kuro Siwo (Pacific equivalent of the Gulf Stream) should make the trip easier by warming the waters. With funding from newspaper tycoon James Gordon Bennett, Jr. and under the aegis of the US Navy, De Long and his crew set sail on July 8, 1879 to conquer the North Pole.
This is probably one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read. I've been reading about one nonfiction book a month for the past five years or so but I'm still a fiction reader in my heart of hearts. I generally read my nonfiction at night before bed because I don't worry too much about falling into the "one more chapter" trap with nonfiction.
This book caused me to lose sleep.
It started out a little slow. The prologue was fantastic and hooked me immediately. The ship De Long was on was looking for a group of Arctic explorers who had disappeared. They found a large group of survivors on an ice floe. They had been on that chunk of ice, living on whatever raw meat they could catch, for almost a year. Holy smokes. But then the narrative shifted to De Long's preparation for his own voyage, his research, and some background on Bennett and De Long himself. That part dragged a bit for me. I don't honestly think much could have been cut out. I needed the scientific background to understand how anyone could think this trip was possible and the personal details enriched the story. Nevertheless, I didn't stay hooked until the Jeannette finally launched.
It was an easy five stars from there.
I'd never heard of this ship and her crew so I won't say much about what happened in case you haven't either. They were trapped in the ice within a few months of setting sail. They were very well-supplied so life wasn't terribly difficult for them at first, considering the circumstances. One description left me with a haunting image of a ship, her crew of 33 men, some candles and lanterns, and nothing but hundreds of miles of unrelenting darkness and emptiness for months on end. It makes my chest tight just to think about it. Anyway, their circumstances did eventually change and they found themselves struggling against Nature herself for survival.
I can't even begin to imagine enduring what these men endured. I was ready to lie down and die just reading about it. I don't have one speck of whatever it is that causes someone to leave the comfort of hearth and home to travel to the farthest, harshest ends of the world just to see what's out there. I admire those who are brave enough to take on those adventures.
A crew of 33 sounds fairly small to me but that could have been an unmanageable number to write about effectively. The author wisely focuses on just a few and I was able to follow along easily. These men were incredibly loyal and well-disciplined, especially given the circumstances they found themselves in. There were some ill-tempered men but De Long was even able to keep them in line. He came across as a remarkably fair leader who put the needs of his men first. There were a couple of other standouts, Melville and Danenhower. The latter seemed to have been born for life in the Arctic. He could wade through icy water for hours and hours without seeming to suffer any ill effects. He often shouldered a large burden of messy duties simply because he was about the only person who could physically stand to do them. Melville was the guy you always want to have at your side. He could fix anything, find a solution to any problem, and he was stubborn and loyal. He ends up almost literally moving heaven and earth to accomplish what he wants at the end.
This is well-written, engaging nonfiction of the type I like best. I highly recommend it to anyone....more
Quite a few years have passed since we last checked in with the Penderwicks. Rosalind is now a freshman in college, Skye is a high school senior, JaneQuite a few years have passed since we last checked in with the Penderwicks. Rosalind is now a freshman in college, Skye is a high school senior, Jane's driving, Batty's in fifth grade, Ben's in second, and there's a new sister, Lydia, who's only two. The focus has shifted to the younger Penderwick siblings, especially Batty. Batty's not having such a great spring. She lost someone important to her over the winter, and she feels responsible. Then she overhears a conversation between Skye and Jeffrey that leaves her questioning everything she knew about her family, and especially her mother's death.
This book got a little dark! I was surprised! The Penderwicks have always had their childhood troubles but as an adult listening, they don't seem insurmountable to me. My heart ached for Batty now. Poor thing. She's always been the baby of the family, so I guess I'm used to thinking of her that way. I had a hard time thinking of her as a big ten-year-old. Little four-year-old Batty! With her butterfly wings! I was upset by the loss she'd experienced and it didn't get better from there. Even their beloved neighbor, Nick, has gone off to war. These are things that kids are experiencing nowadays, it just took me by surprise in a series that's been fairly light-hearted to this point.
That said, it is still the Penderwicks and all does come right in the end. Whew! It was so nice to see the girls a little older. They're still very much themselves. It felt like I was checking in with some dear friends. I laughed and cheered and mourned with them, as you should in the very best books.
As always, Susan Denaker's narration is perfect.
I won't say more since this is getting pretty late in the series and I don't want to give away more spoilers. If you haven't read this charming series, correct that now. I recommend it as a modern classic....more
1960 was a turbulent year. The Cold War was getting serious, with Eisenhower and Khrushchev using the Olympic Games as a propaganda platform and tryin1960 was a turbulent year. The Cold War was getting serious, with Eisenhower and Khrushchev using the Olympic Games as a propaganda platform and trying to woo athletes into defecting. The Civil Rights movement was gaining traction. Definitions of "amateurism" and the direction of future Olympics were being determined. For the first time ever, a few competitions were being televised. South Africa was trying to fight apartheid. Women were being accepted into more and more events but were still woefully underrepresented. All of these external factors came to bear on the landmark Olympic games set in the Eternal City.
I don't know that I agree that these Olympics "changed the world" but I would definitely agree that they showcased changes that were happening in the world at large.
I'm not a sports fan but I read this for the "Eclectic Reader Challenge" as a sports book that I might be able to tolerate. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying it. I can't say I particularly cared about all the details of every race and competition, but the personalities and the history were the driving force behind the book. I found myself taking away a series of striking mental pictures, some amazing, some that left me shaking my head.
Ethiopian Abebe Bikila running barefoot through the dark streets of Rome to win the Olympic gold medal in the marathon, becoming the first East African to win a medal.
South Africa arguing successfully that the reason there weren't any black athletes on their team was because they just weren't as talented as the white athletes.
Bing Crosby belting out "The Star-Spangled Banner" when an anti-American crowd was booing as it played for Eddie Crook, a gold-medal winning boxer.
Wilma Rudolph, who had polio as a child, gracefully running to a gold medal in the women's 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4 x 100 meter relay.
The shock and dismay of the old-school male committee members when women running the 800-meter (about half a mile) collapsed in exhaustion at the end. The event had been cancelled since 1928 for that reason.
Rafer Johnson hanging on through the final event, the 1500 m run, with grim determination to win the decathlon.
Weightlifter Yuri Vlasov marching into the Olympic stadium carrying the Soviet flag in one outstretched hand in the Opening Ceremony.
Rafer Johnson, the first African-American man to carry the flag for the United States in the Opening Ceremony.
Even though I really don't enjoy watching sports, I do love watching the Olympics. I think it's seeing these world-class athletes at the peaks of their careers that makes it special for me. But more than that, I'm a sucker for the background stories. I absolutely respect the hardship and sacrifice that the athletes endure to get where they are. If you enjoy these kinds of stories as well, you'll enjoy this book....more
The story of the Fable refugees continues, this time with a focus on the many forms of storybook love.
I was much happier with this volume than with thThe story of the Fable refugees continues, this time with a focus on the many forms of storybook love.
I was much happier with this volume than with the previous one. I'm on firmer footing with love stories, however fractured they may be, than with a retelling of Animal Farm.
There's not really a big plot arc here--it's more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but I enjoyed them. I particularly liked the charming tale of the marooned Lilliputian army as well as Snow White and Bigby's continuing...denials. I'm from the Southern Appalachians, a region well-known for our "Jack Tales," so seeing one of those represented here was also a bonus. There was also a death I found to be shocking. I'd assumed this person would be around for a long time!
I still enjoy the quality of the artwork and appreciate the scope. From a typical, happily-ever-after quest tale to a gory blood bath, it's all represented well here.
I don't have much else to write except that I'll be picking the next one up sooner rather than later. If, like me, you were a little turned off by Volume 2, don't hesitate to pick up Volume 3. You'll be back in fairy tale territory....more
I don't know whether I feel like I just made three new best friends or if I just lost them. This was one of those books where I truly felt like I wasI don't know whether I feel like I just made three new best friends or if I just lost them. This was one of those books where I truly felt like I was part of the characters' lives, if only for a little while. I didn't want it to end.
Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been best friends since high school, when they earned the nickname, "The Supremes." Now that they're "women of a certain age," they're still fast friends--practically family--but they've hit a period of change. Odette, like her mother before her, has started seeing dead people. Clarice is getting tired of her husband of 40 years running around. Barbara Jean is as beautiful as ever, but is she strong enough to make a fresh start?
I can't quite say that I cried with these amazing women, although that was a close thing a time or two, but I definitely laughed with them, rejoiced with them, worried with them, and felt like I was living with them.
Odette is strong like the sycamore tree she was born in. She generally says what she thinks and gives everyone else their marching orders. The other Supremes and her husband James see that she has a gigantic heart under all that bullying though. One scene when she was a teenager facing down Barbara Jean's abusive stepfather had me laughing 'til I cried--on my way to work! I am not a morning person in any way, shape, or form. To be laughing at that hour of the day is pretty much unheard of.
Clarice can be a bit snobbish, but she's getting better as she gets a little older and wiser. She's been handicapped to be that way by her awful Mama. As she's growing, she's leaving her Mama's shadow behind, becoming her own woman, and finding her way to the life she really wants to live. I had to cheer for her.
Barbara Jean has had it rough from the beginning. She's experience more loss than anyone should ever have to experience. It's left her wounded and making decisions that aren't necessarily in her best interest. But she's a sweet soul who would do anything for anybody. She's the peacemaker of the group and always has been. She's just gotten to a point where she's tired.
The novel follows a year in their lives and flashes back into the past to some of the high points and a lot of the lows that they got each other through. Their friendship just felt incredibly real.
I mostly enjoyed the narration by Adenrele Ojo and Pamela D'Pella. I don't know who read which part, but the narrator who read Clarice's section was great. The one who read Odette's sounded a bit too much like she was just reading the text to me, rather than narrating, but when she read dialog, she really came to life. I'm also not clear why there were only two narrators in a book featuring three female points-of-view.
This is just a feel-good book that has left me sorely missing The Supremes. I'm glad for the time I got to spend with them though. Highly recommended. Thanks to Christina at Reading Extensively for bringing it to my attention....more
Amy Gumm can't wait to get out of Kansas. A smart girl who doesn't fit in with her classmates, she's always the butt of their jokes. Her mom disconnecAmy Gumm can't wait to get out of Kansas. A smart girl who doesn't fit in with her classmates, she's always the butt of their jokes. Her mom disconnected years ago, leaving Amy to take care of both of them. Still, she doesn't expect to leave Kansas like this.
When a tornado blows through Amy's trailer park, she gets blown away to Oz. But this isn't an Oz any of us would recognize. The yellow brick road is fading. The Munchkins are enslaved. There are vast canyons where the magic has been mined from the earth. It turns out, Dorothy returned to Oz and is causing all this trouble. A league finds Amy and convinces her to help them, because Dorothy must die if Oz is to be saved.
First off, my seventeen-year-old cousin handed this to me, super-excited, and told me I had to read it. She rated it 5 stars.
I'm leaning more toward 3.5. It was exciting and I tore through it, but I'm just a little over YA series containing books that always end with more questions than answers.
I really liked Amy. She's got personality. The book is written from her point of view and she's very sarcastic and abrasive. I like her. She is what she is. She doesn't bother trying to fit in at her school because she knows she's got bigger plans for her future than any of the other kids. She stays true to herself. She's just not entirely who she is yet. She's not too sure about this whole "Dorothy must die" thing either, but she's going along with it because something has to change. She's always questioning what's "Good" and what's "Wicked." They've gotten all tangled up in this Oz. Yet, as one character points out, she always manages to do what's right. That's not always easy to determine, much less easy to follow through with. Points to Amy.
She's by far the most well-developed character, but I did like the others that I was supposed to like, I just have lots of questions about them. I like Nox, the guy who's training Amy, but I'm not sure if he's trustworthy. Luckily, Amy's not entirely sure either. There's another guy, Pete, who always manages to show up when Amy's in trouble and save her in the nick of time. I was dying to know what was going on with him! I finally got a surprising answer at the end, but that just led to even more questions. I really want to know what The Wizard's angle in all of this is. I'm not sure what to think about the other members of the order. They seem to believe that any means are justified as long as they take out Dorothy in the end.
The original characters are imagined pretty perfectly. What would Dorothy be like if she were evil? Probably just like this. Cute and childish and then suddenly imaginatively horrifying. The Lion is a ravening beast. The Tin Woodman is a heartless enforcer. The Scarecrow is a not-very-brilliant mad scientist. See? It all makes a twisted kind of sense.
I was surprised by how violent the book was. It wasn't anything that really bothered me, but there is a lot of blood and killing.
I do wish this book had answered more of my endless questions and ended on less of a cliffhanger, but I enjoyed it. If you're intrigued at all, go ahead and give it a try....more
Okay, this was weird. But it was a weird that I liked.
Astronomer Irene Sparks decides to move back to Toledo on the day that she almost simultaneouslyOkay, this was weird. But it was a weird that I liked.
Astronomer Irene Sparks decides to move back to Toledo on the day that she almost simultaneously creates a mini black hole in her lab and learns that her alcoholic mother has died. She's always wanted to go back home and work for the world-famous Toledo Institute of Astronomy, so when she's offered a job there, she jumps at it.
George Dermont is also an astronomer working at The Institute. While Irene's approach to the night sky is grounded firmly in reality, science, and math, George is fusing religion and science. In fact, the Goddess of Love is the one who gave him the secret to a Gateway that would explain a lot of astronomy's inexplicable problems. Seriously.
George and Irene are instantly drawn to each other, in ways they don't understand and can't explain. What they can't know is that their mothers used to be best friends and made a pact as teenagers to raise their children to be perfect soul mates for each other.
We all know by now that I'm that reader who is upset if I don't like any characters in a book. But you know what? I didn't really like any of these characters and I still liked this book. I must be growing as a reader! They had elements that I liked, and I definitely liked some more than others, but there's not one character here that I would want to spend time with in real life. Irene is so serious and career-driven and resentful of her mother (with reason) that I truly don't know what George sees in her. She has a boyfriend at the beginning of the book (Beallyon? Weird names are the downfall of audio books) and she's using him. I don't really know for what. Company? It's weird. Speaking of Beallyon, I actually kind of like him. He gets his own little subplot that didn't really resolve but that I did like. George is better than Irene but he's a spoiled playboy. His interactions with gods and goddesses definitely caught my attention. But Irene and George's mothers, Bernice and Sally, were really the force behind this whole story. The story of their friendship is shared in a series of flashbacks. It was painful to read. It was obvious what was going to happen between them pretty early on, so watching it unfold just hurt my heart. Bernice should have been the sympathetic character, but knowing how she ends up kills a little of that. Sally is just an insensitive bully. I'm not sure how Bernice puts up with her at all.
I liked George's gods and goddesses. I wish I could remember them all. The Goddess of Love has become more of a Goddess of Lust in modern-day America. We've also added a Goddess of Speed to the pantheon. Fitting, isn't it? She's always urging George to go faster and think less, to keep up before he gets left behind. There's also a very creepy encounter with Death. Holy moly.
I've seen Joshilyn Jackson speak several times and she always cracks me up. When I was searching for a new audiobook, I finally remembered to search for something she had narrated, so that's how I found this book. Her reading didn't disappoint. Empathetic and funny, she definitely kept my attention.
This is not going to be for every reader. It defies description and genre, and follows unexpected paths. But if your normal reading choices have gotten a little stale, go ahead and give this one a try. ...more
In the tenth installment of the Pink Carnation series, Jane and Miss Gwen find themselves back in England, searching for Jane's younger sister, Agnes,In the tenth installment of the Pink Carnation series, Jane and Miss Gwen find themselves back in England, searching for Jane's younger sister, Agnes, and her friend, Lizzy. They were in school at Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, a locale that featured prominently in another Pink Carnation book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Jane is afraid that someone has discovered her secret and is using poor, dull Agnes as a means to get to her. Shortly after arriving on the scene to begin their investigation, Lizzy's father, Colonel William Reid, shows up. He's just arrived home from India and has no idea that his daughter is missing. The Colonel, Miss Gwen, and Jane search for the girls, hoping to find them before any harm befalls them.
Oh my. I did not ever, in my wildest dreams, expect a book about Miss Gwen! What a hoot! Somehow, I'd decided that she was at least 70. She's actually only about 45. And an attractive 45 at that, if you can get past the fierce way she wields her parasol in defense of Jane's virtue. I'm so glad she got her own story though. I've always thought that she was pretty one-dimensional in a series that is full of so many great, unique characters. Don't get me wrong--I've always liked her--but she's mean and fierce and loves espionage and that's pretty much all I needed to know about Miss Gwen. Except that there's so much more. We learn about her past and what exactly happened to her to leave her such a confirmed, man-hating spinster. She has a huge heart that's been severely wounded and she's doing her best as a single woman in a man's world. She deserves a little happiness.
And that's where Colonel Reid comes in. He's very dashing with his Scottish/American accent and has very stern ideas about honor. He also has very loose ideas about love. As Jacqueline Carey would phrase it, his personal motto could be, "Love as thou wilt." But he loves responsibly, which has left him caring for five children. He does his best by them, even though other "gentlemen" don't recognize their half-Indian offspring. He is as much of a match for Miss Gwen's sharp tongue as any man can possibly be. She always gets the last word, of course, but he holds his own. I was so afraid that I would be disappointed when I realized this one was going to be about Miss Gwen. Who could possibly live up to her? But I finished it happy and satisfied.
I'm getting worried about Jane, though. The pressures of leading the League of the Pink Carnation are starting to take a toll on her.
And then there are Eloise and Colin in 2004. They don't seem to be getting anywhere. For my taste, their chapters could be left out completely. I know they have to be written because that's how the whole series is framed but they really aren't doing anything for me now. It's just moving along so slowly!
Kate Reading did an excellent job with the narration, as always.
I adore this series. It's one of my guilty pleasures. If you haven't started it, fix that now. It is romantic, but it's also funny and clever. Highly recommended....more
I don't even really know what I read here, but I do know that liked it.
Part love story, part coming-of-age novel, part environmental warning, Habibi cI don't even really know what I read here, but I do know that liked it.
Part love story, part coming-of-age novel, part environmental warning, Habibi covers a lot of ground.
Dodola and Zam meet as children when they're up for sale in a slave market in what appears to be the Middle East. Events unfold and they find themselves living alone in the desert with only each other for company. Thompson explores the changing nature of relationships as they grow older. Dodola has always cared for the younger Zam as a mother would, doing whatever it takes to keep them both alive. As Zam ages, he outgrows the self-absorption of youth and starts trying to care for Dodola in turn. Their lives keep twisting and turning but their love is always selfless.
The way the story seemed to span through time bothered me at first. I first thought the story was taking place in ancient times but then little things crept in and I kept adjusting the time frame forward until I decided that they were living in the modern world. I interpreted that to be a reflection of the timeless nature of love. The world changes but human nature doesn't really change, for better or for worse. Bits of stories from the Koran were sprinkled throughout the larger story, reinforcing that timeless feel.
Speaking of the Koran, I have to speculate on why this story is set in that particular part of the world. The audience is going to be Western. Maybe the author is reinforcing what we should already know--cultural differences aside, people are still just people, wherever you go. If this book were set somewhere else, a lot of superficial details would change, for sure, but the heart of the story would still be the same.
The artwork is beautiful. I enjoyed Craig Thompson's memoir, Blankets, but Habibi is even more amazingly drawn. The love, the violence, the fear--I could see it all in these pages. The Arabic calligraphy is spectacular to my Western eyes as well.
My apologies for this rambling review. There's a lot here to discuss and I wish I had someone to discuss it with. My thoughts are all disjointed. I recommend that anyone pick it up with an open mind and see where it leads you....more
Allan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making inAllan Karlsson impulsively leaves his nursing home by way of his bedroom window on the day of his 100th birthday. There was no real decision-making involved; it was just done. So there he is, on the run in his "pee slippers" (so called because 100-year-old men don't reliably miss their shoes in the bathroom) and no real destination in mind. His journey leads him to the bus stop, where he steals a suitcase and then travels by bus as far as his limited funds will take him. It gets crazier from there as he goes from a missing geriatric to a wanted murderer.
In flashbacks, we read the story of Allan's life. He meets many, many world leaders during his time, influences world events, and makes a lot of friends in strange places.
I try not to read reviews of books I'm reading too close to the time I start reading them. I don't want others' thoughts to influence my own review. But this title caught my eye and I'd never heard of it, so before I downloaded the audio from the library website, I had a quick look through the GoodReads reviews. I came across many people who compared this to Forrest Gump. I have to agree. But it's like, Forrest Gump to the nth degree. It's just crazy and hilarious. No drama with broken women here. I also have to compare it to the Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. Allan is an agreeable sort of fellow and he'll do anything to help someone else out, whether it's saving General Franco's life during the Spanish Revolution or giving Stalin the secret to the atomic bomb. Indirectly, in that case. Stalin was one of the few people Allan met that he didn't actually care for. Anyway, his propensity to say yes takes him around the world multiple times in a long life that is both well-lived and always entertaining.
I really enjoyed reading about the old man making a run for it and having one last, great adventure. My grandfather is 96 and basically wheelchair bound. I'm sure he'd like to go out the window and do whatever he likes for a few days. It's nice to read about someone actually doing it, fictional character or not.
I liked the reminder that our elderly have lived long lives that we don't necessarily know much about. Allan is just kind of rotting away in his nursing home, bored out of his mind except for his frequent battles with Director Alice, and no one knows what a full life he's lived because no one's bothered to ask. How many people is that true of? Probably a lot.
I love the dedication, which ends, "Those who only says what is the truth, they're not worth listening to." That's my motto. Why would I stick to the facts when I can tell you a story? Facts are boring. I think I would have liked Mr. Jonasson's grandfather.
The translation by Rod Bradbury is impeccably done and the narration by Steven Crossley is excellent.
For a fun romp through fairly recent history, pick this book up. ...more
Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family.Fereiba lived a lonely childhood in Afghanistan. Her mother died in childbirth and her stepmother never treated her like a real member of the family. Her stepmother does eventually arrange a marriage for her and it becomes a love match. Three children later, the Taliban are in power, Fereiba has had to give up the teaching job she loves, and their lives are shattered when the authorities knock on the door late one night, taking her husband Mahmood with them. Suddenly Fereiba finds herself alone with her children, fleeing Afghanistan and trying to reach family in England.
I like books like this. They always make me more thankful for the things I take for granted every day. It's easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I'm free to wear what I want, worship as please, marry whomever I want, work at any job I'm qualified for, and get an education. I have access to healthcare, a nice home, clean water, electricity, indoor plumbing...the list goes on. Not everyone has even the most basic of these.
I particularly enjoyed that the book starts before the Taliban were in power. Fereiba is a teacher, wearing stylish clothes and meeting her friends in public. The change to the Taliban regime is pretty abrupt in the book, I guess in the interest of time, but suddenly she can't teach and she can barely leave the house. When she does she has to wear a burqa and be accompanied by her husband. I've read widely enough to know that these changes have happened within my lifetime but it's good to remind those of us who are aware of it and to open the eyes of those who don't.
I felt so bad for the family as they traveled. They fought so hard to stay together and lived such a dangerous life. Caring for a sick infant made everything so much more stressful. Fereiba doesn't speak English, which is known widely enough to make a difference for them, so she has to rely on her teenage son for almost everything--a hard fact for a devoted mother trying to protect her children.
They stumbled on so many caring, helpful people though. Of course there were dangerous people who threatened them or tried to take advantage of them, but so many went out of their way to be kind. It was amazing.
I also liked that this made me more aware of the challenges surrounding refugees and immigrants. Some countries were so overwhelmed with the unending flood of people that they had become pretty heartless to the travelers' plights. But what is the answer when there are so many people coming through your borders that you can't track them all, much less find a way to help them feed and care for themselves? Some of the living situations were pretty dire.
If you enjoy reading about other cultures and being reminded how blessed your life really is, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for giving me early access to the book in exchange for a review....more