Zack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his fZack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Armada. He's always been afraid this would happen. Zack's father, Xavier, died in a work accident when Zack was an infant, leaving behind some journals that outline a vast government conspiracy to train civilians as soldiers for an upcoming struggle against extraterrestrials. Crazy, right? Zack was afraid he would lose his mind too. And now it appears that he has. Except that the next morning a futuristic ship lands on his school lawn and the men in black step out, calling his name and recruiting him for the battle to save the earth....
I didn't even realize Ernest Cline had published a new book until I saw Sheila over at Book Journey mention it. I knew I had to get my hands on the audio. I loved Cline's first book, Ready Player One, but didn't realize that Wil Wheaton narrated the audio version until after I'd read it in print. I wasn't going to miss out this time.
Wheaton's narration was everything I hoped it would be.
The book.... Well, my hopes were high. Cline knocked it out of the park with his debut novel. Armada was good but not great.
The world building just took way too long for me. I tuned out for long chunks of time during descriptions of the video game and the back story and past missions and unbeatable alien technology. That's not my thing.
Which leads into my other problem. I'm not a modern gamer. I'll at least mostly understand references to video games from the 80s and early 90s, and there's a decent chance that I've played them or at least watched my cousins and sister play them. I'm lost with today's games. I have no desire to join a vast online community of people talking smack to each other and playing war games. Totally not my thing. And I think that's the group this book is primarily going to appeal to.
I did like Zack and the other characters a lot. I was rooting for them all the way. I enjoyed their interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt real. Once I got through all the lead-up to the real story, I was hooked and I finished this audio book in record time.
I'm pretty happy with the resolution. There's definitely room for a sequel and, like Zack, I still have unanswered questions. Armada stands just fine on its own though.
Don't expect a repeat of the Ready Player One experience, but I still recommend it. As I said, I do think gamers will enjoy it more than the rest of us, but it's definitely a good book, especially in audio....more
When I have daydreams about packing up and moving to a new country, Spain is always the one that comes to mind. We visited in 2010 and just l2.5 Stars
When I have daydreams about packing up and moving to a new country, Spain is always the one that comes to mind. We visited in 2010 and just loved it. We felt welcome everywhere we went, the people seemed happy, and it just fit. Plus, my husband's bilingual. At least one of us could speak the language.
When I saw this as a free nook book, I had to download it. Here is a couple who did exactly what I would never be brave enough to do. And they aren't just moving to the city, which would probably be easier, but they're completely changing gears and buying a farm to breed alpacas. I'm not clear what the author's career was in England, but his wife was a dance teacher. Kudos to them!
I enjoyed the book well enough--it was cute--but I just felt that it needed to be edited a bit more. It is presented as a finished book, but it felt like pages from a journal. It was a bit disjointed with the flow being more along the lines of, "We did this, then we did that, then we did this other thing," with very little transition or filler.
And they have the worst luck with the alpacas! He kept saying that alpacas are supposed to be easy but I have to say, my grandparents and now my uncles have a small family farm with a few head of cattle. They have never had any kind of trouble like what I read about in here! I felt terrible for Alan and Lorna and the alpacas. They just had terrible luck.
Being so isolated out in the country, there's not a whole lot of commentary about how different things are. Well, there is, I just wanted more. Alan and Lorna are pretty self-sufficient with their farm and their animals, so it's not like they're making daily trips to the market or getting completely submersed in the culture. At least that's not what I took away from the book.
If you're looking for a cute enough read about some really cute animals and their brave owners, do go ahead and give this one a try. I personally just wanted a bit more depth and polish to the story....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
In a prequel to Cinder, Marissa Meyer explores the life of the Lunar queen everyone loves to hate. Levana. Why does she act the way she does? Why is sIn a prequel to Cinder, Marissa Meyer explores the life of the Lunar queen everyone loves to hate. Levana. Why does she act the way she does? Why is she such a raging bitch? Fairest gives some insight into those questions.
I'm finding this hard to rate. On the one hand, it is well-written and exciting and everything that I expect from this series. On the other hand, it's Levana. Oh my gosh! I despise this character!
I tried hard to find something to like and to see her as more of a victim than a victimizer and that worked for maybe the first part. Then she started being herself and I could not stand her!
The whole family is twisted and insane. Maybe that goes hand-in-hand with their Lunar "Gift." Levana actually looks pretty good compared to her parents and even her older sister Channery. But whether they've inevitably twisted her or whether it's a matter of genetics, she slowly starts manipulating everyone around her to get what she wants.
From the story of how she won her first husband to the story of how she became Queen rather than Queen-Regent, I just got more and more agitated as I listened. Even when people are trying to explain to her why she can't just order them to love her, she just doesn't get it. In fact, she's usually not listening but instead trying to figure out a new way to manipulate them.
A terrible incident from her childhood is alluded to throughout the whole novella. It's pretty obvious what happened from pretty early on. The details are chilling when they're finally revealed. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for me to cut her any slack. I still can't stand her.
So this long rant about my dislike of a fictional character should actually say something about the quality of the writing. I'm obviously drawn right into Marissa Meyer's world. Narrator Rebecca Soler did an excellent job, as always. I got chills every time I heard her say, "Come here, baby sister." *shiver*
This really isn't the place to start with this series, despite the fact that it probably is the the first in the story timeline. If you've enjoyed the other books in the series, go ahead and pick it up. It is worth it to know more of Levana's back story. It feels like a good lead-up to Winter, the next book in the series, as well....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
The Story of Land and Sea opens with young Tabitha contracting yellow fever on her tenth birthday. Her father and grandfather, having already lost herThe Story of Land and Sea opens with young Tabitha contracting yellow fever on her tenth birthday. Her father and grandfather, having already lost her mother in childbirth, are desperate to save her despite the limitations of 18th century medicine. Her father takes to the sea with her in tow, thinking that the sea air will cure her. After all, he took her mother to the sea when they first married and she blossomed into the woman he loved with all his heart.
Flashing back 20 years, Tabitha's mother Helen is a young girl receiving her first slave on her tenth birthday. Helen is a serious, bossy soul, teaching the neighborhood slaves on Sunday and becoming perfectly poised to take the reins of her father's turpentine business. And then she meets a soldier.
Hmm. That story I just described is exciting and I'd like to read it. This book is not that book. This book is much more Literary-with-a-capital-L. Instead of the action-y love story I was hoping for, I found a book that explores the holes that grief leaves in the lives of those left behind. It is well-written but I somehow felt removed from the story. I didn't feel like I really knew any of the characters; I only knew their grief.
The book does have a strong sense of place, which is what I was hoping for. I'm a North Carolina girl and we always spent our summer vacations on the coast when I was growing up. I was really excited when I realized that the book is set in Beaufort. We always spent a day exploring the town, eating ice cream at the marina, checking out the maritime museum, and choosing which yacht would be ours if we ever won the lottery. This post-Revolutionary War Beaufort is strangely colorless. It's hot and muggy, as it should be, but it's so hot that all the color has been bleached from the town. I can't describe it better than that.
There are definitely readers who will enjoy this, and they'll be readers who like their books to be more Literary and thoughtful than I generally do. Despite the beautiful writing, this really wasn't the book for me.
Thanks to the publisher for giving me a copy of the book for review....more
Caitrin is on the run from a bad situation at home. With only the clothes on her back, a few coins, and her box of scribing tools, she just wants to gCaitrin is on the run from a bad situation at home. With only the clothes on her back, a few coins, and her box of scribing tools, she just wants to get away. Her money runs out late one evening in the middle of nowhere. She finds her way to a village called Whistling Tor. She's eventually allowed through the fortifications and the innkeeper and his wife fill her head with terrible tales of a mysterious host that was unleashed on the territory about 100 years ago. It still leads travelers and locals alike to their deaths. The next morning, Caitrin, desperate, overhears a man from the keep at the top of the hill asking the innkeeper to send him anyone who can act as a scribe to work for the summer. Caitrin jumps at the chance. The innkeeper warns her that it isn't safe, but anything would have to be better than what she's left behind. She makes her way to the keep and meets a strange group of people. Strangest of all is the chieftain, Anluan, a man who's had an illness that's left him lame on one side and with a mercurial temper. Caitrin realizes that a terrible tragedy played out in the keep's past and vows to help bring the residual effects to an end.
I forgot how much I love Juliet Marillier's books. She writes re-tellings so well! This one is based on Beauty and the Beast but set in Ireland. From the wild and rugged landscape to the damaged hero and heroine saving each other, I pretty much loved every page of this book.
Caitrin has been badly hurt. She's lost herself in her recent tragedy. As she finds that she cares for the motley group of people she's living with, she starts to heal and leave her own past behind. Her interest in others is what ultimately saves her. It would have been easy to leave her past in the past but Marillier tackles it too. It adds some length to the book but it adds so much depth to Caitrin's character that I'm glad she did it.
Anluan--what do I say about him without giving things away? Not much. He grew on me as he grew on Caitrin.
It took me longer to figure out where the book was going than it usually does. Even then, I wasn't entirely sure. I was anxious to keep reading to find out if I was right. I definitely didn't see what the answer to everyone's problem was going to be!
I do tend to love books where people who've had some bad breaks in life come together to form their own circle of family-by-choice. That is very much the case here. Everyone on the hill was broken but they brought out the best in each other. There were about six secondary characters and they were all memorable in their own ways.
I wouldn't say that Ms. Marillier spent a lot of time describing the Irish landscape, but at the same time it became so real to me that it could have been a character itself. The crumbling keep, the lonely village, the haunted forest--I can picture them all in my mind's eye even now.
Fans of fairy tale retellings will enjoy this one. Readers who like characters and settings that come to life on the page will enjoy it too....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
Claire Harris is a New York socialite, throwing extravagant parties and softening up her husband's potential business partners for him. Her past comesClaire Harris is a New York socialite, throwing extravagant parties and softening up her husband's potential business partners for him. Her past comes back to haunt her one night and she flees to Paris on the eve on the German occupation to find an old lover. Their reunion doesn't go well and she finds herself working in a florist shop and reluctantly assisting the French Resistance.
I'm not quite sure what to think. On the one hand, I did enjoy the book. I love almost any WWII novels and this is no exception. On the other hand, it was a bit too romance-y for me. It just couldn't quite make up its mind what it wanted to be. I can overlook romance--who doesn't love a good love story?--but when I'm suddenly hit with "Heat flooded her core," my eyes start rolling in my head and I start turning pages faster. "Can we please just get through this already?" To be fair, there were only a couple of those scenes but that was a couple too many for me.
I can't put my finger on any examples of this, but I'm also left with the feeling that it needed one more good proofreading before it was published. It's not bad by any means, it could have just been a little more polished.
I knew that the love story was going to center around Claire and Grey from their first meeting, so I did buy it. In retrospect though, I wish that part had been more fleshed out. Well, not that kind of fleshed out, but just the slow, getting-to-know-you part of things. Claire hates him at first, they meet a few times and she starts to change her mind, and then we're to the heated core. Quite a bit of time actually passed in between all these stages, so there was room for it to realistically unfold.
I've been all negative here and I didn't intend to be. I didn't care for Claire at first but she did grow on me. She grows a lot throughout the novel, she has a huge heart and a lot of courage once she decides to let them show, and she's faced with some pretty impossible choices. In the end, she unflinchingly does what she has to for those she cares about.
Readers who like more straight-up romance than I do should enjoy this book. If you're more on the fence, like me, it's worth a try at least. You'll know what you think within the first few chapters....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
Young orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of theYoung orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of them really speak English. They all get off at the same station in Black Hawk. It turns out that the family has just bought the farm next to Jim's grandparents. Neighbors are still far apart back in 1800s Nebraska but Jim still spends a lot of time with the Shimerda family, especially Ántonia, the oldest girl and closest to his age. As he watches Ántonia grow, he realizes that she has an indomitable spirit and admires her for it.
I liked Ántonia. A lot. She's smart, feisty, hard-working, loving, and full of life. As she grew older, I got more worried for her. This is a classic after all. I expected it to take a Thomas Hardy turn. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't.
More than that, Ántonia embodied the American immigrant spirit. Her family starts out living in a dugout, basically a cave dug into the earth. They were comfortable back home in Bohemia so this is an adjustment for them, but rather than complain about it, as her mother does, Ántonia does her best to help raise the family out of that hole in the ground. She has setbacks of course, and people talk about her and her unfamiliar ways, but she just keeps doing what needs to be done.
Ántonia lives in the town of Black Hawk for a while and becomes friends with a group of other immigrants. The wider group shows just how much these new settlers have to offer the country. Some become successful businesswomen, others become farm wives, some are content to just keep working in hotels and laundries. They all make some kind of mark on the world, no matter how faint.
My one complaint is the framework of the book. The author (I'm unclear whether this is supposed to be Cather herself or an unknown "Author") meets an old friend and they start talking about Ántonia, whom they both knew. They both remember her as being a strong character and agree to write down what they remember about her. The "Author" forgets but then she receives Jim's notes. He says, "I didn't arrange or rearrange. I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people Ántonia's name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn't any form. It hasn't any title, either." And then the author says that the following is Jim's manuscript, essentially unchanged. There follows a completely finished novel. There's no mention of the "Author" who supposedly knew both Jim and Ántonia from childhood. It's a small thing but it bothered me. Why not just write a book from Jim's point of view without all this business of an unfinished manuscript and deferred authorship?
Anyway, the book is very readable, with language that evokes the plains. I haven't spent any time in the Midwest but to me it just brings to mind mile after mile of corn and wheat fields. I hate to say it, but that sounds pretty boring to this mountain girl. Willa Cather showed me her plains, with rolling hills; amazing light; beautiful, life-giving streams and rivers; rich land; and people who are the salt of the earth. I won't think of the Midwest the same way again after reading this book.
I highly recommend this for a beautiful read about the pioneering spirit on which America was built....more
Jess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, viJess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, visit with relatives, play some baseball, and get up to a whole lot of no good, as my grandmother would say. Jess's dad is a mischief-maker. He just can't help it. Johnson and Jess adore him and follow his lead in everything. Whether it's Halloween tricks or trying to find out exactly how long Uncle Gurton's beard really is, they are always up to something.
I laughed so hard reading this! My poor husband might as well have read it with me; I read all the good parts out loud to him anyway, and they were all good parts. He's not much of a reader and it just blows his mind when I start guffawing out of the blue at something I've read, but even he let out a few chuckles as I read to him.
I read and enjoyed Brighten the Corner Where You Are by this author several years ago. It was funny and then all of a sudden it had this serious message. It was also written from a child's point of view, so the kid's missing what's going on but the older reader really sees it. Well played, Mr. Chappell. I waited for something to come out and hit me in this book too. It didn't really happen. There was a bit in there about the cost of war, and I guess you could even say something about what soldiers in WWII were fighting to protect, but mostly this felt like a bunch of good family stories of the sort that tend to take on a life of their own.
I feel like I write this every time I read a well-written book set in Appalachia, but these characters felt like my people. I call this part of the world home and always have. The word choice, the eccentric characters, the tight-knit families that tease each other mercilessly but always have each other's backs--that describes my extended family. I just love when someone records it and gets it right. Times are changing everywhere, even in these sleepy mountains, but at least our way of life is preserved for the future somewhere.
For a good laugh and a look at a simpler time and way of life, give this one a try....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
I walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not goiI walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not going to check out any fiction. I grabbed the book I was there for and then started wandering the fiction stacks. It couldn't hurt to just look, right? OK, so I hadn't read anything by Patricia Briggs in a while. I needed to check out the next in the Mercy Thompson series since it was available. But that was it. Nothing else. I marched toward the checkout desk with blinders on. I would not be deterred.
But, oh! What's that? Over on the "Staff Recommends" shelf? It's so pretty! My feet were going that way of their own volition. My hands were reaching for it. Beautiful and creepy. A quick glance at the back. Fairy tale? Sold. I had Beautiful Darkness checked out and in the car before my brain even processed what had just happened.
It truly is a beautiful book. It's large and hardcover so it was very striking on display. The interior artwork is all gorgeous too. I took my time looking over each frame.
The story--? So-so. It was very dark, in a Lord of the Flies way. I was never entirely clear exactly what happened, but I was clear enough. There's a murdered little girl in the woods. All of these fairy-ish creatures fled--her body? her mind?-- when she died. Now they're alone in a harsh world trying to survive.
All of the personalities you would expect to see in this situation show up. The "Queen Bee," demanding that the others cater to her every whim. The caretaker who is doing her best for everyone. The outcasts. The sneaky manipulators. And a whole lot of clueless people who get themselves killed for no good reason.
It was just too episodic for me. Each smaller story lasted just a few frames. There was a larger story arc and I did like that one. I did not expect the ending at all. It was deliciously shivery.
The translation was done very well. I would never have guessed it wasn't originally written in English.
If you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, you'll probably like this twisted little beauty of a book. If you're looking for a Disney-ish fairy tale, keep those feet marching toward the checkout desk. This one's pretty disturbing....more