Susan Orlean is one of my favorite essayists, I'm always excited when I open an issue of the New Yorker and find one of her articles inside. Saturday...moreSusan Orlean is one of my favorite essayists, I'm always excited when I open an issue of the New Yorker and find one of her articles inside. Saturday Night is the perfect opportunity to get my fill, and then some, of her voice. The book is an interesting premise - she examines why Saturday night is important to American society, and takes a look at some of the quintessential (and not-so-quintessential) ways to spend Saturday night across the United States, from babysitting, to waitressing in America's busiest restaurant, to cruising down Main Street, to celebrating a quincenera. Orlean is a master of shrewd observation and painting such a vivid picture of a situation that you feel like you're there. She's witty and touching, and seems to really enjoy learning about her subjects.
I will say that the book could have been 3-4 chapters shorter, I did end up skimming one of the chapters because I was eager to finish the book. And since it was written nearly 25 years ago, it seemed dated in many ways (there's a chapter on Saturday-night television programming that was apparently written just as VCRs came into vogue, but well before TiVo and digital movies were invented) . But Orlean herself ackowledges this in an author's note in the Kindle edition I was reading - she talks about how things have changed since she wrote the book and, in what was one of my favorite parts of the entire book, revisits most of her subjects, updating the reader on where various people and places she wrote about, are today.
It's a great idea for a book, and I really enjoyed reading it. It's one of those books you can pick up and set down over time, since it's really just a series of essays.(less)
I picked up this book thinking it was going to be funny and dark. Dark it is, but maybe because I have a daughter who is a similar age to the little g...moreI picked up this book thinking it was going to be funny and dark. Dark it is, but maybe because I have a daughter who is a similar age to the little girl in the book, I found it extremely depressing. I did love the distinctive tone of this book - Dermansky has a style that is very simple, almost childish, but it is fun to read and made Marie seem even more crazy. It was a fast, engaging read, but ultimately I just felt sort of sad and unsatisfied afterwards, since all the characters in the book were so unlikeable.(less)
The author is dead-on with the voice of 14-year-old June, who's coping with the loss of her beloved uncle, who died of AIDS. It's crazy how this terri...moreThe author is dead-on with the voice of 14-year-old June, who's coping with the loss of her beloved uncle, who died of AIDS. It's crazy how this terrifying epidemic was only 30 years ago (and there's still not a cure) but seems to have really faded from our national consciousness. I loved June's personality, her budding friendship with her uncle's longtime partner, and her memories of her uncle. The only things that seemed contrived were her sister's motivations for how she treated June, and (spoiler alert!) June's idea of being "in love with" her uncle - I didn't really feel like feeling possessive of him and basking in his attention meant anything inappropriate, especially when you're only 14 and getting your first glimpses into the sophisticated world of grown-ups. I was sad to finish this book, it was such a bittersweet pleasure to immerse myself in June's world.(less)
Creepy and compelling - this novel chronicles the dark underbelly of a cheerleading squad in a nameless American suburb or small town, and what happen...moreCreepy and compelling - this novel chronicles the dark underbelly of a cheerleading squad in a nameless American suburb or small town, and what happens when a new coach upsets the squad's natural hierarchy. I loved the sinister tone of this book, it made it hard to put down as I always wanted to find out what was going to happen next! It was a fun, thriller-type read, and an interesting glimpse into the world of cheer (although I hope that the author was exaggerating the girls' unhealthy obsession with staying skinny, and the drastic measures by which they maintained their weight).(less)
Normally I love the (albeit over-explored) premise of student/teacher affair... it's probably why I picked up this book in the first place. But only a...moreNormally I love the (albeit over-explored) premise of student/teacher affair... it's probably why I picked up this book in the first place. But only a few chapters into the book I was praying it would get better (It didn't, really), and I had to force myself to finish it. Choi's writing is overwrought, in love with the sound of itself, exaggerated and pretentious (I got so sick of references to various obscure writers and philosophers, and Brodeurs' stupid baby carseat, which was always referred to as "the Swedish carseat"). The characters weren't very likeable, and I felt like many of them were misrepresented, right from the start. For instance, Regina had heard of the rakish, womanizing, sexual-harassing reputation of Nicholas Brodeur, and for some reason instead of running the other way, she signed up for a class with him to get a little closer. First of all, WHO DOES THIS?! Second, this premise was pretty much abandoned, and when the reader meets Brodeur, there is absolutely no evidence of the sort of sexual magnetism that is hinted about at the beginning of the book. The love scenes were gross and embarrassing (and I'm not typically bothered by an explicit love scene, as long as it's well written), and (spoiler alert) Regina's self-flagellating behavior when she gets dumped made me want to slap her.
The second half of the book, which takes place 14 years after the first, doesn't really seem to make sense, as to how the characters ended where they did. And although I found the ending compelling, there was very little portent of it when I thought back to earlier in the book, which made it seem unlikely.
I rarely regret having read a book, but I'm a bit sorry I wasted my time and money on this one. (less)
This book was a fascinating look into the turn of the 19th century and what life was like in a world where slaves were the norm. So many terrible thin...moreThis book was a fascinating look into the turn of the 19th century and what life was like in a world where slaves were the norm. So many terrible things happened to the people in this book that I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction, but sadly, I've read so many similar accounts of slavery that I am beginning to realize that the atrocities might not be exaggerated. The Kitchen House was gripping right from the start, and I found myself completely falling in love with Lavinia and rooting for her amid all the misfortunes, misunderstandings and other pitfalls that befell her. I can't wait to discuss this book with my book club!(less)
This book was deliciously creepy and disturbing, dealing with the issues of how far should science go before progress is unnatural and cruel. I picked...moreThis book was deliciously creepy and disturbing, dealing with the issues of how far should science go before progress is unnatural and cruel. I picked this book up without having a clue what it was about, only knowing it was about some friends who went to boarding school together. And I think that's the best way to read this book, as you are completely unprepared for what's to come! But, and I hope this doesn't reveal too much, I was left with a burning question: Why the hell didn't they just run away?!?!?!(less)
I love books that imagine a crazy utopian/dystopian future, and this book does not disappoint! The premise - a world in which everybody has a surgery...moreI love books that imagine a crazy utopian/dystopian future, and this book does not disappoint! The premise - a world in which everybody has a surgery that makes them homogenously attractive, thus eliminating the dissention that can result in people looking (and thinking) differently - is really clever, as are the gadgets and toys that Westerfeld imagines occupants of this world using. Hoverboards (think floating skateboards)? jackets with built-in heaters? hovercars? a totally eco-friendly society? count me in! Of course, the world isn't as ideal as it seems (although I still harbor fantasies about how awesome it would be to be one of the post-op "Pretties"), and a small group of people try to uncover the ugly truths behind the operations and the way society is run. The book is in the Young Adult genre but is well-written and engaging, and very thought provoking. I've already started the second book in the series and I'm looking forward reading them all!(less)
A page-turner in the truest sense of the word! I loved all the twists and turns and shifts in perspective. The characters were truly despicable but th...moreA page-turner in the truest sense of the word! I loved all the twists and turns and shifts in perspective. The characters were truly despicable but they still had human, redeeming qualities. My only complaint is that the last part of the book really dragged on, and I thought the ending was a little dissatisfying considering how cleverly plotted the rest of the book was. But I liked it well enough to start reading another book of Flynn's (Sharp Objects) nearly immediately after!(less)
What a quirky, endearing little book! The narration device (told in a variety of letters, emails, articles and other paper records) was a little contr...moreWhat a quirky, endearing little book! The narration device (told in a variety of letters, emails, articles and other paper records) was a little contrived, but I quickly got used to it and started enjoying the creativity of it. I loved the characters of Bernadette and Bee, their sweet mother-daughter relationship made me hope that my daughters and I are just as close when she's a pre-teen. This book was odd and satirical (the portrait of the new-agey school hit a little close to home!) but really enjoyable, especially in the last half.(less)
Sure, it's chick lit, but in the very best way - absorbing, escapist, compelling, likeable characters and full of delicious details. I'm sure Giffin w...moreSure, it's chick lit, but in the very best way - absorbing, escapist, compelling, likeable characters and full of delicious details. I'm sure Giffin wrote this with the hopes that it would ultimately be turned into a movie, because the descriptions of the setting, the clothes and the characters were very visual, I could picture them in my mind (and even have ideas on who can play some of the characters!). I thought the characters' feelings about their own roles in an adoptive relationships were very believably multidimensional, they had positive and negative feelings. SPOILER: The ending was a little unsatisfying, and I hope she's just paving the way for a sequel, because I was very sad to say goodbye to Marian, Kirby and Conrad.(less)
One of my favorite books is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, so I was so excited to read Chabon's newest. It was good, but I maybe would...moreOne of my favorite books is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, so I was so excited to read Chabon's newest. It was good, but I maybe would have liked it better if I'd been more into 70s soul music... the book goes into great detail about these artists, and I'm sure a music lover of this genre would have really enjoyed the references. I had trouble keeping track of the many, many secondary characters. I did really like the main characters, I thought they were really well developed and multifaceted - everyone was flawed, but in a realistic way that allowed you to still love them for who they were. I'm glad to have read it... but because it was so lengthy and did get a bit tedious at points, I'm also glad to finally be done with it!(less)
Two things made the experience of reading Swamplandia! especially meaningful: First, I was actually in Florida while I was reading the last half of th...moreTwo things made the experience of reading Swamplandia! especially meaningful: First, I was actually in Florida while I was reading the last half of the book (Albeit in Orlando and not the Everglades), so I could relate to Florida's weird atmosphere. And second, my husband had already read the book, so I could have someone to talk about it with... which I did, constantly. This is a story and characters who will stick with you for a long time, a weird, sad, motherless family in the process of losing the world they know. I loved how the book shifted between reality and some sort of magical, supernatural world, and you weren't always quite sure which was which. Even at the end, I'm still a bit confused, but in a good way. I am so envious of Karen Russell's talent - her writing is lush and poetic and beautiful - I found myself constantly marveling over her turns of phrases and the singular voices of the two narrators. I can't wait to read her next novel!(less)
For anyone who was obsessed with the Little House books as a child, this book is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the Wilder family again, and t...moreFor anyone who was obsessed with the Little House books as a child, this book is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the Wilder family again, and to know a little more about what their lives were *really* like. The most compelling part of the book is when McClure and her boyfriend road-trip across middle America to see all the historic Laura sites. McClure is sometimes impressed, but more often disappointed with how reality differs from what was in the books, and she also does a great job researching and analyzing all the critical studies and historical articles and books written about the Wilder family. It wasn't until reading this book that I really understood that the Little House books are historical fiction, with composite characters (Nellie Olsen, for one, is a combination of several girls Laura knew) and liberties taken with the ages of the characters and the order in which events in their lives occurred. My only complaint is that McClure wasn't the most reliable of "tour guides" through the historic sites... on occasion she gets disheartened or just plain bored, and passes up the opportunity to see or do certain things, which I found a bit of a let-down. (less)
I loved the premise of this book - the idea that the protaganist could pass through different versions of her life, where decisions or major events le...moreI loved the premise of this book - the idea that the protaganist could pass through different versions of her life, where decisions or major events led her on completely different paths. But ultimately I found that the device wasn't very well thought out or explained by the author. Why did Quinn cease to exist in one life if she visited the other, yet in the other version she didn't "disappear" when she left to go back to her "real" life? Why wasn't one of the main issues of the story - her mother's suicide - better resolved? By the end of the book, even though Quinn seemed to come to peace with her mother's death, I still felt like there were unanswered questions. And the book ended just as another conflict - whether her daughter would be born healthy or not - was about to be resolved. I can't decide if I liked being able to imagine for myself what Quinn and her family's future would hold, or if this frustrated me.
I also felt like the writing was odd - almost too clinical and straightforward and stilted, like I was reading a bad translation. I did enjoy this book and liked the idea behind it, but there were definitely a few flaws.(less)