I adore Octavia Butler's writing style in Kindred and although the plot in this series isn't my cup of tea, her writing was compelling enough for me t...moreI adore Octavia Butler's writing style in Kindred and although the plot in this series isn't my cup of tea, her writing was compelling enough for me to finish this but I'm working slowly through Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis, #2) (I bought the whole 3 book series in one volume or I probably wouldn't have continued with this series). I can't wait to read more of her work(Fledgling looks particularly promising) but I'm a little "meh" towards this series. (less)
Wow, what a book. Connie Willis managed to take the humor from "To Say Nothing of the Dog" and blend it perfectly with the gripping, page turning stor...moreWow, what a book. Connie Willis managed to take the humor from "To Say Nothing of the Dog" and blend it perfectly with the gripping, page turning story of "The Doomsday Book". I have vastly enjoyed her previous novel forays into time travel and "Blackout" may outdo them all.
Willis's exhaustive research allows her to paint a completely compelling portrait of life on the British home front, weaving together several parallel stories of late twenty first century time travelers who find themselves stuck in a dangerous era despite their careful calculations to avoid these dangers.
There wasn't a sentence I didn't love in this lengthy book-everything from the cover (which looks amazing when contrasted with the upcoming sequel "All Clear") to the last chapter (which I could see playing out on the movie screen) sucked me in completely. In some ways I wished I'd waited until the fall of 2010 to read it because of the cliffhanger ending but I am eagerly anticipating "All Clear". My only fear is that its leading up to a disappointing ultimate end (as some of her works have for me) and I really hope these two volumes aren't her last foray into the world of the Oxford time travel team historians.(less)
I decided to enter the Goodreads giveaway for the newest juvenile book by beloved author Ann M. Martin somewhat on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised...moreI decided to enter the Goodreads giveaway for the newest juvenile book by beloved author Ann M. Martin somewhat on a whim. I was pleasantly surprised to win although I also felt some trepidation at the prospect of writing a review on it. I’m not really one of those adults who read juvenile and YA books so I always feel a bit unsure rating and reviewing books for young readers as someone not in the intended audience for these books. However, Ann M. Martin holds a special place in my heart, partially for her iconic Babysitter Club series (even the cool kids read those in the 1990s when I grew up), but my first Martin love was Ten Kids, No Pets. In that book about a huge, quirky alphabetically named family, Martin’s characters seem so much more vivid than the somewhat formulaic pre-teens and teens of the Babysitters Club. I read the Babysitters Club because they were popular but Ten Kids, No Pets was a meatier reading experience for my young self; Martin delved into the imperfections and joy of being a kid in a family unit in a way that really resonated with me, even though I grew up in a Three Kids, Two Cats family. I found that Ten Rules for Living with My Sister managed to incorporate a lot of the charms I remember as a young reader of Martin’s novels.
Our heroine is Pearl, a young for her age girl who doesn’t quite fit in at school or with her older sister Lexie. Despite Pearl’s best intentions at interacting with her sister, she always manages to play the Ramona to Lexie’s Beezus. Pearl’s attempts to gain access to her sister’s alluring junior high world are given a boost when the girls are forced to temporarily share a bedroom in the family’s New York City apartment. The sisters’ grandfather, Daddy Bo, is no longer able to care for himself and moves in with the family while he awaits an opening at a senior living facility. The shared living situation turns out to help ease the girls’ relationship as both learn better how their sister acts and reacts to the other. Pearl’s new relationship with her older sister helps her blossom in the fourth grade while Lexie learns to think less of the almighty popular opinion at her middle school.
This book was charming and readable even as an adult. I also tried to keep in mind how I would feel if I read this book when I was a child myself. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 12(although she’d begun the descent before formal diagnosis) and to this day, watching my grandmother suffer that disease remains one of the most hellish experiences of my life. Papa Bo’s forgetfulness stroke a painful chord for me and I wonder how I would react to this book if I had read it when I was also a kid dealing with scary grownup things (even though I was somewhat older than Pearl). Martin dealt with the uncertainty of watching a beloved and capable adult struggle with losing their independence in a somewhat tame and digestible way for a young reader, proving that Martin still has the ability to bring to life the most ordinary of family situations and make it compelling and readable. (less)
I won this historic fiction novel about the Iranian Revolution from First Reads. It’s from a smaller press (or maybe self-published, I’m not sure). I...moreI won this historic fiction novel about the Iranian Revolution from First Reads. It’s from a smaller press (or maybe self-published, I’m not sure). I don’t think I’ve read anything about the Iranian revolution except for Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood but the topic of Muslim women is fascinating to me and the reason why I entered to win a copy.
Leila is a typical upper class Iranian girl (and later woman) enjoying her life in her native Iran somewhere between Islamic traditions and modernity’s beguiling tugs. Her mother wants Leila to follow the proscribed path of a young arranged marriage leading into submissive Muslim wifehood and motherhood while her father wishes for her to have the opportunities for education and self-fulfillment her older brother enjoys. Leila is able to pursue a post-secondary education at a small liberal arts college in America. Leila is studying there when the Ayatollah’s rise to power keeps her from returning home for most of her school vacations. During her time in the United States, she favors a secular life with American friends over associating with the more traditional Muslim student society. She dates and falls deeply in love with an American man, involved in a frustratingly unnamed “Christian community.” The couple deals with backlash from their respective religious communities that eventually tears them apart. The breakup coupled with a family tragedy convinces Leila to return to a deeply changed Iran after her graduation. She adjusts to a new Tehran where women are veiled by law and spouses carry their marriage licenses with them in the street to escape punishment for interacting with the opposite sex. Leila agrees to an arranged marriage that is ultimately unhappy and her life takes another downward spiral when her beloved parents are forced into exile in France to escape the regime. Leila is imprisoned and abused until she is able to make a dramatic escape herself to be reunited with her parents in Paris where she rebuilds her life far away from the religious fundamentalism that scars her ancestral nation.
Most of the characters seemed a little flat to me. It’s obvious the author had a story to tell about her native Iran but the characters used as vehicles to tell the story were not always relatable and compelling. The characters often acted in ways contrary to how they were described with no real explanation of the contradictions. I also was really confused about the “Christian community” Jack engaged in. Its characteristics didn’t sound like any contemporary group I’m familiar with and it would have added a great sense of reality if this group was named. Ultimately, I would recommend this book to people wishing to know more about Iran’s turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s but not so much to people looking for a novel with a strong plot and characters. (less)
I am not a Philippa Gregory fan and always find myself somewhat mystified by her popularity. However when I saw her newest book up for grabs as a Firs...moreI am not a Philippa Gregory fan and always find myself somewhat mystified by her popularity. However when I saw her newest book up for grabs as a First Reads, I couldn’t help myself and entered to win it. The promise of a magical element in the plot convinced me to give this popular historic fiction author another shot.
I found myself enjoying this novel more than I expected. But it still took me until page 300ish out of 435 to really want to read it for more than just a zoning out tool. My biggest problem with Gregory is that all her protagonists seem like the exact same person to me, largely devoid of personality or any distinguishing features beyond their particular lineage and life span. Jacquetta wasn’t an exception; she seemed just as flat and wooden as the other women Gregory writes about, despite the addition of her magical “abilities”. Despite Gregory’s research into the nuances of the various time periods she writes about, her characters just aren’t compelling to me. There were several redeeming characters in The Lady of the Rivers, namely Richard Woodville and dotty King Henry. Normally, I can easily forgive flat characters if the story makes up for it or there are enough satisfying details about the setting to keep me enthralled. The Lady of the Rivers didn’t really have any of these, although it did have some tantalizing hints of historic detail. (Side note: this novel made it clear in several places that headdresses were in vogue during this time period but the cover art has a typical generic “medieval maiden” sans head covering. Sigh.)
However, this book did redeem Gregory’s status as a decent historical author in my eyes. I’m very interested in reading the nonfiction book she co-authored about the War of the Roses (The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother) to see how she writes in a different genre. In fact, as I write this review it’s rather hard for me to find anything particularly positive to say about this book other than it was readable but yet I feel strangely compelled to read the other books in this series. (less)