Actually, I'm not sure if it's a 4 or 4.5 or 5 star book. I'm not sure how to rate this book at all, because most of the books I rate are a whole diffActually, I'm not sure if it's a 4 or 4.5 or 5 star book. I'm not sure how to rate this book at all, because most of the books I rate are a whole different kettle of fish, and ratings seem so comparative. And I want to be conservative with five stars.
But it was so good!
George Eliot is the freaking bomb. She is a crackup, for one thing, and I like my books to be funny. She is romantic but critical of romance. She is a realist when it comes to character and relationships but also an optimist. Basically, I wish she were still alive so I could be friends with her.
I started out pretty skeptical of Dorothea, and though I was bummed by the end of Book 1, I sort of looked forward to not hanging out with her much more. But then every time she returns through the book, she is more interesting and more sympathetic and more likable! Her scenes with Will are basically my favorite parts of the book. I think I actually bookmarked most of them. So much wonderful tension! Ah!
On the rest of the characters, my opinions are pretty succinct:
Lydgate: Pretentious but likable anyway. Pretty admirable, on the whole. Rosamond: Boring until she gets worse. Fred: I spent most of the book furious at Fred and thinking he was a big tool. By the end I grudgingly came around. Mr. Casaubon: Pretentious, until he gets worse. The Vincy Parents: Terrible parents, but hilarious. Mr. Bulstrode: Complex, until he gets worse. Mr. Farebrother: My favorite. Miss Henrietta Noble: My other favorite. Mary: Love forever love forever love forever.
Middlemarch: Love forever love forever love forever....more
I'm reviewing the last seven months worth of books right now, and I have basic notes on author/date finished/number of stars, but that's it, so forgivI'm reviewing the last seven months worth of books right now, and I have basic notes on author/date finished/number of stars, but that's it, so forgive me if these next several dozen reviews are perfunctory/lacking in detail/vague!
Cereus takes place on a fictional Caribbean island, in I-forget-what-decade. It's literary but readable and engaging, with a couple likable/sympathetic characters. It contains scenes with explicit and traumatizing sexual violence, so if you can't read that stuff, stay away. But all of it is handled extremely well; Mootoo is dealing with the consequences of said violence, with gender identity (the narrator is trans*, although without that language), with sexism, and with life in a small place.
Not my usual type of read, but I'm very glad I read it....more
I've been searching on and off for good old-school-Meg-Cabot-style chick lit. I feel like I've read some in the last several years that I enjoyed, butI've been searching on and off for good old-school-Meg-Cabot-style chick lit. I feel like I've read some in the last several years that I enjoyed, but most of it has been disappointing, and I fall back into romances, which are actually more interesting and varied, on the whole.
This was no different.
It looked cute! The flap gave cute, flippant descriptions of three friends in their twenties navigating their personal and professional lives while everyone around them gets married. I am down with that scenario!
And the flap is more or less accurate - but it's just executed so strangely. The whole book is a little depressing, actually, although all of the events could have been, if written in a different style, funny and fun. The writing is sort of detached, even when it's fully in the head of one of the characters - almost as if all the characters are detached from their own lives. It results in a book that is weirdly juvenile - short sentences, really obvious reminders of who people are without actual specific characterizations - and sort of foggy. Plus it actually follows more like eight friends, but leaves all but the flap three hanging after their initial anecdotes. So we get just enough of these characters to be intrigued by what will happen to them next - and then nothing. Like, what happens to Abby after her fiance breaks things off? How does she manage her relationship with her weird family? Like that.
I more or less enjoyed reading Girls in White Dresses; I wanted fluff and I got it, and I read the whole thing and I basically liked all the characters. Hence the three stars. But it sure didn't warrant more, and I won't be recommending it or anything. Maybe I'll go watch Bridesmaids again, and read some romance novels....more
So I had approximately fifty million thoughts about this book while I was reading it. Here are some of them.
Obviously I completely disagree with her pSo I had approximately fifty million thoughts about this book while I was reading it. Here are some of them.
Obviously I completely disagree with her parenting style on the whole, not only because she's nuts but because I'm pretty anti-authoritarian and pretty heavily children's rights-y.
But I'd also like to address her writing style, because it's confusing. Sometimes she says these outlandish things (like about how her younger daughter kicked so hard in the womb that she left marks on her stomach - does that happen for real? - or other more parenting-related things that are super egregious that I can't remember specifically and can't reference because I returned the book to the library) and I can't tell if she's being deliberately inflammatory, or poking fun at herself, or honestly just being straightforward, which is the scariest of all. I want to not underestimate her and choose to think she's poking fun, but then sometimes she says things that are ludicrous that she clearly does mean seriously, so then that makes it hard to give her the benefit of the doubt. I guess the point is, this is a weird book, and I would not want to be friends with Amy Chua or probably have her over to my house ever.
Here is one good thing about her parenting philosophy: She doesn't seem to have any gendered expectation about academics. She fully expects her daughters to excel in math and science. I appreciate this.
She also has a good point about private schools having kids learn the fun way - by having parents do extra work. Of course, she extrapolates this to mean that all creative learning is bad. In fact, she also fully expects her kids to learn everything by rote with no exploration or critical thinking - while somehow remaining creative - and in fact presents learning by rote versus learning by exploration as some kind of irreconcilable dichotomy, which is offensive bullshit that is unfortunately actually propagated to some degree in our culture, which means people who are otherwise generally critical of her might not be calling her on it.
She also seems to think there's an irreconcilable divide between having high expectations of your kids and not screaming at them when they don't do well. I mean, call me a liar, but somehow my parents managed to be kind to my siblings and me while also enforcing that we were to get straight As (and without bribing us for them either!). In fact, their straightforward disappointment and frank talks about how we plan on improving our grades were way more horrible than scoldings would have been. In fact, in that sense they were handing me more responsibility - by offering their help but expecting me to figure out what I needed and how to succeed - where Chua is forcing her kids to work hard but not exactly helping them learn to take things on themselves, because she is with them every second telling them what to do and how to do it.
She also talks about Westerners not feeling that children "owe" their parents, which only makes sense in artificial contrast to Chinese kids owing their parents everything - mainly because I haven't ever really heard anyone talk about obligations to family and support for family in terms of "owing" or "not owing," but more in terms of personal family situations and bonds. Which seems much nicer to me and more genuine. In fact, when she rejects the cards her kids made her for her birthday, she is not only being incredibly rude, she is essentially teaching them to be dutiful to her at the cost of love and spontaneous affection, and she also presents her love as highly conditional. There are other ways to teach that you should spend time on a gift!
Then there's the part where she talks about how lots of people tell her that they regret not playing an instrument. This always bothers me a little, because while I think that everyone should have the chance to learn an instrument at any point, because I think music is essential, I also know plenty of people who were forced to take lessons and when they became adults quit as soon as they could and never touched the instrument again. In fact, if I had been forced to continue piano lessons - which I hated - I might not be playing it professionally now. You can't force love of playing an instrument on someone (which of course she learns with her younger daughter). Also, you know, I regret not pursuing another language, and I regret not traveling abroad, but those are presented as standards that everyone should do or they will regret it. For some reason, forcing a kid to do it so they don't regret it - and loudly regretting that you weren't forced to do it as a kid - is especially reserved in our society and Chua's narrative for playing instruments. This is weird.
Also, I really don't think she's actually given that much critical thought to her parenting strategy, even though she seems to think about it in general quite a lot. Because she says a bunch that she's preparing her kids, but not what she's preparing them for, or what other things that her kids might do that would prepare them for other things, and the relative values of what things they could be prepared for. She's not considering things things - she's just doing what she grew up doing and trying to justify it with vague language. She also accuses Western parents of not caring if their kids turn out "bad." What the heck does that even mean? Then there's the part where she totally admires her mother-in-law, and loves and admires her husband (who is also a very successful law professor and author - positions that provide the prestige she won't admit to caring about as much as she does), and yet is absolutely unwilling to consider that her mother-in-law's parenting strategy for Jed might have been a good one; this is a giant hole in her theory that Chinese parenting is inherently better at turning out successful adults. I mean, she even learns in the end that parenting has to be personalized to the kid - since her younger daughter responds terribly to many aspects of her parenting - and yet is still reactive about strategies other than her own. And she again is seeing parenting in black and white: There are two parenting strategies, and if one is good the other must be bad. She certainly doesn't consider that it might be all the time she spends with her kids - rather than how she uses that time - that might be what does the work when her parenting does work.
I also think it's a myth that you can't have moderation without sacrificing excellence. Like, really, if you give your kid a day off of playing the violin while on vacation, she is no longer going to be an excellent violinist? Yeah, ok.
There's also the part where she only exhibits flexibility when absolutely backed into a corner, so when she changes her tactics she does so desperately and without any serious thought and ends up doing things like bribing her daughter instead of making any kind of deliberate adjustment to her demands or the way she delivers them.
I guess part of the key is - or anyway when I sort of "figured out" this book - is when she says, "I've never been very good at enjoying life." Which explains why she doesn't think it's important for her kids to, or to do any activities that might contribute to a holistic, fulfilling life. She doesn't prioritize it. She prioritizes prestige and I'm not sure what else. What is the freaking point?
Anyway, the point of this whole review is, she is a weirdly, highly problematically, practically dysfunctionally binary thinker who is analytical only on the most superficial of levels - i.e. only enough to convince herself that she's an analytical person, but not enough to actually reach reasonably objective or logical conclusions. I was entertained by the book and read the whole thing and clearly have way too much to say about it, so I have to give it at least three stars, but the book is too infuriatingly shallow (and demonstrates how appalling her behavior has been and even still is) for me to give it any more than that....more
I'm learning to trust Melina Marchetta. The beginning of Finnikin is slow, the names are bad, and the flashback storytelling at the beginning confusinI'm learning to trust Melina Marchetta. The beginning of Finnikin is slow, the names are bad, and the flashback storytelling at the beginning confusing, and it took me a long time to invest in the characters.
But but but!
Once I did invest in the characters, I loved them and all their understated complexity! It's undoubtedly a plot-driven novel, whatever she might say about being first inspired by hearing the voices of characters, and a theme-driven one - but the themes and the plot hinge crucially on the development of the interesting and integral people who populate the book. Yet the book got me absorbed, little by little, before I'd fallen in love with the characters. The world-building is sparse, but the politics among the seven countries and the plight of the refugees is fascinating, frustrating, and heartbreaking. We're clearly not working with a capital-F Fantasy author here: the magic is unexplained, inconsistent, and rare; the religion is incredibly hazy; and the geography is unclear. As a fantasy reader, I want to know those things. But as a reader, I get everything I need: driving plot, truthful characters I care about, a lot at stake, a very very real denouement, and a satisfying ending.
Like I said, I'm learning to trust her. Now for Froi of the Exiles....more
Sharon Shinn is consistently hit or miss - like, I absolutely love some of her books, and there are others I can't even finish because I think they'reSharon Shinn is consistently hit or miss - like, I absolutely love some of her books, and there are others I can't even finish because I think they're so poorly written. Archangel is in the former category.
Heads up: If you read this book, I highly recommend NOT READING THE BACK COVER COPY or any other blurbs about the book, because they have a really egregious spoiler for not only this book but for the next one!! That said, I read the cover copy unknowing and had them spoiled for me and still loved these books. If you know the spoiler, it will take away any mystery and all the suspense and ruin what is probably a great surprise (I wasn't surprised, so I can't say for sure) - but if you are, say, a member of my family or someone like them, and you find the books totally infuriating (we can talk about why once you're reading them) and are considering putting them down, go ahead and read it and it will fix that for you.
Anyway, I love Archangel. I love the love story (although certainly I'm frustrated sometimes with the total blind bullheadedness of both Rachel and Gabriel, and if you don't get a kick out of angsty heartbreaking [verbal] fights the way I do, you might not find it as compelling), I am fascinated by the world Shinn has created here, I love the pervasiveness of music, and I am totally won over by the supporting characters, especially Obadiah and Maga. The geography is great. I love how she stretches the ending out and away from what you originally think will be the climax. The good and evil is a little black and white, but it rarely bothered me. And it is more than made up for by the tantalizing glimpses of the history and future of Samaria - in this book and the other Samaria books, two of which I've read and two of which I haven't - though I wish there were a promise of a book about Hagar and also of a book about the very distant future.
I can't give it a five, because Summers at Castle Auburn is a five and none of Shinn's other books are quite as perfect - or quite as much my soulmate - as Summers at Castle Auburn. But it might be a 4.5; this is the second time I read it and I still read the whole thing in a day because I couldn't put it down.
P.S. I just read somebody's suggestion that you read book 2 (Jovah's Angel) before you read Archangel. If you're afraid you might accidentally read a blurb for Archangel if you're reading it, then you should take that advice - Jovah's Angel doesn't spoil anything on the back. Reading Jovah's Angel first would make Archangel a little less interestingly suspenseful, but it's really Jovah's Angel that gets completely spoiled by the Archangel blurb....more
Well, the (long) beginning sucked and so did the (short) end. The middle was ok. I liked the individual teeth metaphors but didn't understand how theyWell, the (long) beginning sucked and so did the (short) end. The middle was ok. I liked the individual teeth metaphors but didn't understand how they all tied together, and no one in book club really seemed to either. I liked exactly one passage enough to mark it: "Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time."
There were a few characters I liked (mainly women): Irie; Alsana; Clara; Hortense; Niece-of-Shame. (Ok, all women.) There were also characters I disliked: Samad; Archie (more or less) (this is why I hated the beginning of the book, because it's all Samad and Archie); the twins (Magid more than Millat); and of course all of the Chalfens, including Josh. Plus I was confused by the way some of the characters were super-realistic and some were super-charicatures, although I appreciate her anti-imperialist stance.
And that's basically all I've got. I don't regret reading it; I certainly wouldn't read it again. Lit fic: Over it....more
I've read this several times and it remains one of my favorite contemporary romances. The only reason it's not my flat out favorite is that I read WelI've read this several times and it remains one of my favorite contemporary romances. The only reason it's not my flat out favorite is that I read Welcome to Temptation first, and it holds an abiding place in my heart despite not being objectively quite as good of a book. Bet Me is the romance I recommend to people who want to read a romance. It's smart, funny, honest, and sexy. I am so all about it. Now I want to re-read it again....more
This was a third or fourth read, and the book still stands up. Enough, in fact, that I gave it to Alex next - and he liked it a lot too, even though hThis was a third or fourth read, and the book still stands up. Enough, in fact, that I gave it to Alex next - and he liked it a lot too, even though he's not usually a romance reader. As usual, Crusie is a riot, the plot is complex and features bizarre criminality, and the sex is hot but unintrusive. I'm keeping this one!...more
Just re-read this for the second or third time. Still love it. Still want to go lie on a lake under a willow on a sunny day and drink beer with a hotJust re-read this for the second or third time. Still love it. Still want to go lie on a lake under a willow on a sunny day and drink beer with a hot guy, although he could lose the mustache. For a first book, it sure is something....more
Pretty sexy and with a good story; better than the later Bridgerton books but not as fun as the earlier ones. I might still hang on to a copy, but we'Pretty sexy and with a good story; better than the later Bridgerton books but not as fun as the earlier ones. I might still hang on to a copy, but we'll see....more
Absolutely hilarious and a joy to read. That said, I don't buy Marianne's romance at all, and I think Edward is kind of a loser and was never rootingAbsolutely hilarious and a joy to read. That said, I don't buy Marianne's romance at all, and I think Edward is kind of a loser and was never rooting for him either. So... guess I'll have to watch the movie to get won over in terms of luuurrrrrve! Again, though, love Austen, love her characterizations, love the book....more