If at any point during the review you think I'm turning negative, I want you to repeat to yourself, Becky really does like this book. Why the weird wa If at any point during the review you think I'm turning negative, I want you to repeat to yourself, Becky really does like this book. Why the weird warning? I have a feeling this will be one of the hardest reviews I've done in a while. Because the narrator, Terra, falls into the me-not-me category. No, I'm not perfect from any angle whatsoever. No, I don't have a passion for maps, collages, or geocaching. But there are elements here and there of her story that are all-too-real to me.
Terra has a birthmark--in her case a port wine stain--on half of her face. Something that she almost always, always covers up by her "geologic strata" of make-up. But even if most can't see it, some--many--still know it's there. And she hasn't always been able to cover it her entire life, so she's had her fair share of well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning comments, stares, points, and teases. From the "what's that on your face," and the "have you tried..." to the "you should have laser surgery." And for the record she has. Terra has tried--on multiple occasions through the years--a variety of laser treatments. So far in her life (is sixteen, seventeen, eighteen???) none of the treatments have lightened it...at least not much.
Especially bristling, the conversation she has with a teacher that shoves a pamphlet at her, encourages her to have laser surgery, and says, "Do you realize what this could mean? Your entire life could change" (12).
Or perhaps on equal footing is the comment by her boyfriend, "Why not fix your face?" (17) Not that she's in the habit of going around without make-up covering it around him. Still the whole idea that you have "to fix your face" to be worthy, to be normal, to be beautiful rubs me the wrong way.
Terra's life is far from perfect. And her birthmark is only a surface problem. Much deeper is her problematic home life. We've got a father who's only two or three degrees removed from evil incarnate--the degrees of separation being he's not sexually abusive or physically abusive. He's never killed anyone physically. But he's a joy-killer, a spirit-killer alright. His abuse is verbal, mental, emotional, psychological. There's no love, joy, peace in her home. He is negative 100% of the time. 24/7 he is shown to be a jerk. I'm not denying the fact that there aren't jerks in the world who are jerks 24/7. But it would have been more realistic, more authentic, to flesh the father out a bit more. No human is just one trait. Yes, fathers can be jerkish. Yes, some can be mostly jerkish. But it would be more likely that as jerky as he is, as mean as he is at times, there would be, could be moments where he's not a jerk. Moments where he shows a different side. I don't know if this flaw is in the eyes of the narrator--Terra, it is awfully convenient at any age to just brush her father off as evil incarnate and miss what little good there may be--or if it is a flaw of the author, her inability to flesh the character out and make him multidimensional. The mother--at least in the beginning--is one dimensional as well. If her father is stereotypically jerky, her mother is stereotypically a doormat. A non-entity that accepts garbage with welcome arms. She behaves--quite authentically in many ways--by turning to food for comfort. Terra as the sole child at home is between a rock and a hard place. She can't stop her father from abusing her mother--with words sharp as daggers; she can't stop her father from abusing her the same way. She can't protect her mother; her mother can't protect her. Neither try that hard to do so.
And such there life might have gone on...if not for one act of defiance leading them down a very different road. Despite the fact that her father is dead-set against trying laser surgery...again...and despite the fact that Terra herself is the biggest skeptic there is, Terra and her mother, Lois, travel to Seattle during Christmas vacation to have laser surgery, a supposedly "new" treatment that will make a difference. Supposedly. The details of the laser treatment are laid out for the reader. Something you probably won't find in other books of its kind. But that isn't what changes their fates. No. It's what happens after.
On the way home, the two are in a car accident. No, no one is hurt. But--and here is where you'll have to suspend your disbelief a bit--the people in the other car are life-changers: Jacob, an adopted Chinese teen guy who'd had a cleft lip and was at the moment in his goth phase, and his mother, a wonder-woman of sorts. From that day, from that meeting, no one will be the same.
The book is complex--so many layers of life, of interests, of passions, of intense relationships. And life is complex. So it's authentic enough there. And the plot--in its details--isn't typical at all. Terra's mother and Jacob's mother are two of the main characters of the book. How often does one mom--let alone two moms--play an important role in book? I'd dare say that Terra's relationship with her parents outweigh considerably her relationship with her "best" friend, Karin, and her boyfriend, Eric. Both are negligible in importance; both make just the barest of appearances in the book.
Within the book, Terra is on a journey of self-discovery. She doesn't know who she is--really. She doesn't know how she really and truly feels about herself. If her birthmark defines her in a good or bad way. If her birthmark makes her ugly. If her birthmark is something that she should be ashamed of. If she is beautiful. If she is worthy of love. Terra doesn't like to be vulnerable around her boyfriend, around her classmates. She's not comfortable being herself. This is Terra's journey to getting to a place where she can just be. And the reader is along for the ride. And it's a wonderfully authentic journey.
Terra's developing relationship with Jacob--despite the fact that she technically has a boyfriend even if he is a lame one that rarely gets any scenes in the book--is a definite plus to the book. Their friendship, their honesty, their being vulnerable with one another...it's a refreshing teen romance. One that shows intimacy isn't about touching body parts. I enjoyed the romance of this one.
As someone with a birthmark--on her face--who went through five years of laser treatment (one year while I was in high school; the rest while I was in college)--though not a port wine stain--I wanted to connect with Terra. I wanted to see for myself if a fictional character could mirror how it felt to have a birthmark. How it felt for it to be the first--and sometimes the only--thing that people noticed about you. How it felt to be someone who struggled not only with their esteem, not just with their body image, but how it effected them body and soul. If you make it where it has to be "fixed" or "covered" or "hidden" then you're in a way saying that you're not worthy enough as you are, that there was/is something wrong with who you are, that you need to be "fixed" to be "normal," to be "whole." That you're broken. If you attach shame to it, then you take the side of your accusers. They have every reason to point, laugh, stare, be rude, there's something wrong with me. You're not good enough. But on other hand, it's hard to love yourself when you're different. When you're hearing the messages that you should look like everyone else. That you should do anything and everything within your power to look like someone else's definition of beautiful. It's drummed into you that to be confident, to be beautiful, you have to fight nature.
There were elements that felt right--that felt true. And there are instances in the book that get it right. Though Terra's experiences only occasionally mirrored my own--despite her many problems, I felt she had it better off. Which is just strange that you want a fictional heroine to suffer more just so she could mirror your own experiences more closely. See, I told you this was a bizarre review!
By the way, if you're a teacher or a counselor, here's something you should never, ever say to a person with a birthmark going through laser treatment..."what are you going to do when you're normal." Because I promise you that even twelve or thirteen years later, they'll still have not forgiven you for your rudeness cloaked as cluelessness....more
This book is the sequel to The Squad: Perfect Cover. Both books are great fun in a quirky, sarcastic meets Alias kinda way. Both books star a teen girThis book is the sequel to The Squad: Perfect Cover. Both books are great fun in a quirky, sarcastic meets Alias kinda way. Both books star a teen girl, Toby, who unexpectedly finds herself chosen to be a cheerleader. But not just any cheerleader, no, the super-fun, undercover-spy, working-for-the-government, top-secret, glitter-wearing kind of cheerleader. Transitioning from proud-loner to popular-cheerleader hasn't been easy for Toby. The first book is about the recruitment and Toby's first few weeks. The second book opens a few weeks after the close of the first novel. It's fall and homecoming is approaching. But a big case has come up as well. The book balances both the danger and treachery of spies working on a tricky case and the typical high school melodrama centering on homecoming, football, pep rallies, and homecoming courts. (Who will be Queen? Who will be princess? Who will go with whom to the dance?) You can read an excerpt from the book here.
What I love most about this one? Besides the general snarkiness of Toby? The friction-filled, chemistry-packed always-on-the-verge-of-developing relationship between Jack and Toby (or "Ev" as he calls her short for "Everyone knows Toby.") This is the scene right after Toby learns that she has been nominated for Homecoming Queen...along with all the other members of the cheerleading squad.
"Fancy meeting you here." Jack spoke into the back of my head, but I knew it was him. Darn Noah. Darn the PTA president. Darn Hayley Hoffman. "Aren't you going to say something, Ev?" I muttered an expletive under my breath, and Jack smiled. "That's my girl." "I'm not your girl," I said sharply. He stepped closer, until the rest of the crowd felt miles away by comparison. "You could be." There were times when I almost couldn't restrain myself around him, times when I wanted to kiss him again so badly that my lips literally hurt. This wasn't one of them. He was being suave and smooth, and I wasn't falling for it. "Yeah," I said, "and I could also tattoo an anorexic pterodactyl on my navel, but I'm not planning to do that either." "Anorexic pterodactyl." He repeated my words, and the self-assured smirk on his face was replaced with repressed amusement. "Sounds more like a butt tattoo to me." It was comments like that one that did me in. He could wax poetic about me being his girl or how beautiful I was or whatever from now until graduation, and it wouldn't inspire anything in me other than the desire to spell out for him just how much of a tool I thought he was. But the moment he started snarking or quipping or admiring my snarky quippiness, I was a goner. "I'll make you a deal, Ev. You go to homecoming with me, and I'll save you from having to go to the God Squad after-party." He knew how to sweet-talk a girl. He really knew how to sweet-talk a girl....
But will she say yes? Did she say yes? Can she survive long enough to get to the dance? Read and see!...more
Shocker of all shockers: I liked this one. Quite a lot, in fact. Why is that shocking? When I read this little volume--and no, it's not the same copy-Shocker of all shockers: I liked this one. Quite a lot, in fact. Why is that shocking? When I read this little volume--and no, it's not the same copy--in tenth grade I absolutely hated it. Hate is really too kind a word for what I felt. Needless to say, it held the title of most-hated-book until my college days when Jude the Obscure took its place. (It still holds the honor, in case you're curious.) Which just goes to show you that almost without a doubt classics--at least some classics--fail to be appreciated by high schoolers. Maybe that's inaccurate. I'll rephrase, anytime a person--especially a teen person--is required to read a book, no matter how good or great that book is (sometimes they're really bad, I'm not saying all are good) then it's an uphill battle to have him/her have a positive response to it. It just goes against human nature to like something we're forced against our will to read. And its understandable to me. What could a fifteen year old have in common with Silas Marner, a middle-aged weaver obsessed with gold? He's old (relatively speaking at least!). He's strange. No one likes him in his village of Raveloe. He's an outsider, it's true, a loner. And arguably some teens could see themselves in that way. But is that enough?
Silas Marner, in case you've never been subjected to it, is the story of a man, a weaver, who takes refuge in Raveloe after escaping his unfortunate past. He is living only for himself. The money he makes from his trade, he hoards. He loves his gold. Treasures it. He's not the only one keeping secrets in the village. There's a man, Godfrey Cass, who has quite a secret. Something in his past that he's willing to do just about anything, pay just about anything to prevent from coming to light. His brother, Dunstan Cass, is blackmailing him. He'll tell all to their father--Squire Cass--if Godfrey doesn't do things his way. Why does Godfrey care? really really care? He wants to marry Nancy Lammeter. The secret? He already has a wife, a wife his father would never approve of, a wife he's ashamed of, a woman he'd never claim in a hundred million years. Dunstan (and Godfrey) are in need of money, Silas Marner has plenty. Put the two together and you've got a robbery destined to happen. But things don't always go according to plan, Dunstan disappears the same night as Silas' gold. But that's just the beginning. Silas doesn't know it then, but things are about to start looking up! His life is about to change for the better! Why? His "gold" will be returned to him--providentially according to Silas and his friends--in the form of a golden-haired baby girl whom he names Hepzibah (Eppie) whom he adopts and raises to the satisfaction of all but one....Godfrey Cass.
This one had themes that I couldn't even begin to grasp as a sophomore. And the language? the style? I didn't appreciate the little things. The phrases. But here's the thing. I can now. Everything that I missed then, I can appreciate now. Here is one of my favorite passages:
I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbors with our words is, that our goodwill gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism; but language is a stream that is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort, and took the shape least allied to the complimentary and hypocritical. (77)
I liked the characters--some more eccentric than others--too. I came to appreciate the flavor of this one....more
"In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of eIntriguing cover. Intriguing premise. Here's whats promised,
"In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body--with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica."
Isn't that a great premise? Doesn't that make you at least a wee bit curious about this book? If that premise doesn't get you, maybe the first sentence of the first chapter will:
"Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother's milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts, something I never inherited. When I was born into a typical family in Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1972, my life was finally mine again."
Here's what you'll find in The Dust of 100 Dogs. Narrative set in the seventeenth century, narrative set in the twentieth century, and narrative revealing what she's learned during her hundred lives as a dog. These three are woven together throughout the book. Both Emer (the seventeenth century pirate) and Saffron (the contemporary reincarnation) make interesting and compelling narrators. I'm sure it's purely subjective which one you'd prefer. As a lover of historical fiction, I was a bit partial to Emer's story. I found it more interesting than the contemporary one.
But there were a few things that I didn't care for in The Dust of 100 Dogs. Things that made me unhappy. One was the introduction of a new narrator, Fred Livingstone, about 130 pages in. Fred is a despicable character. A villain if ever there was one. He's a cold-hearted man, one prone to abusing his dog, Rusty. "Fred would always get a kick or slap in somehow. Soon it would be Rusty's fifth birthday, and as far as he could remember, every day for five years Fred Livingstone had beaten him." (135) Fred's sense of reality is lacking and he's mentally, emotionally, and psychologically unstable, unbalanced. (He is always daydreaming about women, imagining conversations with them, even in his daydreams he can't get a woman the right way, so these daydreams often turn dark and violent.) He would be an interesting character to analyze because he's definitely in need of help! And in a way this all makes sense there towards the end. But the animal abuse introduced into the book by the presence of Fred in addition to the foul and abusive language (a bit stronger than I personally like) make these passages unpleasant....for me.
Not every reader will find issues with those two things. And I can see how the character of Fred adds tension and complexity to the contemporary story--along with Junior, Saffron's brother who is quite the villain himself--a drug addict, a thief, an arsonist. I would imagine that you would enjoy this one more than I did. I liked parts of it a lot. But not so much on other parts.
I love this book. I do. I love the narrator, Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson. I love that she loves to cook. That she is passionate about something and knowI love this book. I do. I love the narrator, Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson. I love that she loves to cook. That she is passionate about something and knows what she wants. That she has a way about her--a special way of seeing the world and making those connections that others might miss out on. Her "foodology" for example. I love her vulnerability too. How she has--or had--a simple and idealistic way of seeing the world, but this innocence, this naivety is challenged during the course of the book. Life becomes more complicated for Groovy, that's for sure. But though she may struggle with big issues: anger, disappointment, depression, bitterness--there is always something more for her to hold onto: hope, faith, love, and joy. ...more
Inspired by Benjamin Britten's piece, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which was composed in 1945 as an introduction to orchestral music, An Inspired by Benjamin Britten's piece, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which was composed in 1945 as an introduction to orchestral music, Anita Ganeri has written this informative yet fascinating guide to the orchestra. The accompanying CD is narrated by Ben Kingsley. He "gives listeners a lively guided tour of Britten's music, describing the sounds made by each instrument." The book is full of information, but it is accessible. It is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be! If you'd asked me beforehand, I would have bet it would be boring and dry. But it's far from that. The CD and book complement one another well. It is not a recording of the book itself. It stands alone--could stand alone--from the book. And the book could be read and appreciated apart from the CD. However, it only makes sense to give both a try! You might find yourself preferring one over the other. After all, we all learn differently....more
I'll be honest. I don't do scary. Not really. If I did, I'm sure my reaction to Skeleton Creek would be more enthusiastic. But I don't need to love aI'll be honest. I don't do scary. Not really. If I did, I'm sure my reaction to Skeleton Creek would be more enthusiastic. But I don't need to love a book in order to blog about it! After all, I can recognize a good story when I see it, even if that story isn't for me. Skeleton Creek could probably be described as a deliciously creepy mystery about two teenagers--one boy, Ryan, one girl, Sarah--living in a mysterious town, Skeleton Creek, a town that has seen better days, brighter days. The town is becoming more and more abandoned. Sarah, the more curious of the pair, wants to find out why the town is so weird. Why is the town named Skeleton Creek? Why does the librarian have a shot gun? What is up with some of the adults in town? They're not making this up, right? Things are heading towards the Twilight Zone, aren't they? The book is very atmospheric. The videos help with creating and establishing this. And I think for people who love exciting adventures, who love the thrill of a fast-paced dangerous life-and-death-on-the-line adventure...this one will be right for you.
Ryan's story is told in the book. This "journal" that he is keeping. You've just got to supend your disbelief on this one. It's written in many places in the present tense. And no one--as far as I can tell--would really and truly be writing stuff down as it happens. Especially since there are some intense things going on. Would there really be people who'd write about danger right then and there instead of getting out of there and then writing it down? Anyway, if nothing else the tense keeps you right there in the midst of the action.
Sarah's story is told through a series of videos. Sarah is all about her camera.
Both Sarah and Ryan love to break rules. And they're both a bit reckless. So both are prone to rushing into danger with very little thought or preparation.
Personally, as an adult who is not into scary, I just see both as being incredibly stupid. Asking for it stupid. That's just me. I'm unadventurous....more
Our heroine, Mary, has a dream. A dream to leave the safety of her village and find this ever-mysterious ocean her mother romanticized through storiesOur heroine, Mary, has a dream. A dream to leave the safety of her village and find this ever-mysterious ocean her mother romanticized through stories. Mary has always been taught that her village is all there is. Well, all that remains of pure humanity at the very least. Her village is surrounded by a forest--the forest of hands and teeth. Outside the fences and walls of her village, the Unconsecrated roam. Zombies. They're an ever-present threat, but as long as the fences hold. As long as the guardians protect the borders from breaches, then life goes on normally. They're raised to respect the Sisterhood, respect the Guardians, respect the rules of society. And one of the rules is that all young people should make the commitment to family and marriage. All eligible young men and all eligible young women should go through the strict rituals and vows and settle down, start families of their own. Mary has always assumed that her life will follow this course. But after several years of being passed over, she fears that she may have to join the Sisterhood and dedicate her life to God. The idea doesn't thrill her--or the Sisters.
On the day when a young man, Harry, does ask to court her--and courtship almost always leads to marriage--the siren interrupts her response. A breach. The zombies. The two rush to safety. But in a way, it's too late, Mary's life is forever changed. Her mother, Mary's mother, has been bitten by the Unconsecrated. The decision remains...kill her now out of mercy, or let the disease overcome her and release her into the Forest. Her mother's choice? To join her husband who is among the Unconsecrated. Days later--after her mother's release into the Forest--her brother returns angry and vindictive. Jed. He kicks Mary out of his home. Forces her to join the Sisterhood. Harry, it seems, has not gone to her brother. He has seemingly withdrawn his interest to court her, to marry her. While she did not love Harry, she did have a long friendship with him, with his family--his brother, Travis, and his sister, Beth.
But now...now she's being forced into the Sisterhood...forced to dedicate herself to a God she can't believe in. How could God have allowed both her father and mother to have become Unconsecrated? How could God have allowed her brother to turn his back on her? How could God have allowed her sister-in-law, Beth, to miscarry? In just a few days, her life have become a mess, a disaster. It soon becomes apparent--within minutes really--that the Sisterhood is not what she thought. They are more than what they seem. That there are dangerous secrets. That the Sisterhood poses a threat to her very life.
What's a girl to do when there are no choices that can lead to a happy ending?
How could I ever do justice to this book? Seriously. It's so intense. It's so exciting. Full of danger and secrets and betrayals and hopes and fears and love and loss. It's incredibly fast-paced, near-impossible to put down. It's dark and dangerous--not light and cheery. But it's so compelling, so well-written, that I just have to sing its praises...more
Read. This. Book. True, it won't be released for a few more weeks. But make note of it now to get to this one when you get the chance. Written by MargRead. This. Book. True, it won't be released for a few more weeks. But make note of it now to get to this one when you get the chance. Written by Margarita Engle--an acclaimed verse novelist--the book is the story of Daniel, a Jewish refugee, and the friends he makes in Cuba--Paloma and David. Daniel had no intentions of going to Cuba. When his parents tearfully sent him away--hoping and praying that at least their son may survive--this was right after the Night of Crystal or Broken Glass; they all thought that his ship would reach American shores--having heard stories of Lady Liberty and America being the place where all were welcome and the land where dreams could come true. But Daniel's ship was turned away from both Canada and the United States. His one chance for survival now depends on Cuba's mercy. The year is 1939. Does Daniel have a prayer of a chance? This verse novel is told primarily in three voices: Daniel, Paloma, and David. Paloma is the daughter of "El Gordo" a man who is hoping that these refugees will make his wallet fat--very fat. The bigger the bribe, the higher the cost for a visa to enter the country, the richer he becomes. And with the Nazis even sending men to spread propaganda about Jews, the public isn't necessarily on their side--open to the idea of Jews being allowed to enter and settle there. Still, Daniel's ship is allowed. But we're not talking about one ship or even a dozen ships. David is a Jew--a Russian Jew who fled Russia many years before. Paloma helps David--and others--help the refugees providing food and clothing and friendship and support--teaching them Spanish, for example. The book is a novel about many things: hope, life, survival, friendship, tolerance. But it doesn't hide the fact that this was a very ugly, very brutal, very cruel time in history.
I don't know about you, but I'd certainly never heard about Cuba in regards to the Holocaust. It's interesting to see how this one island, small in size especially when comparing it to Canada and the United States, was able to provide some shelter to Jews fleeing Hitler. In the author's note she shares, "Despite tragedies and scandals, Cuba accepted 65,000 Jewish refugees from 1938 to 1939, the same number that was taken in by the much larger United States during the same time period. Overall, Cuba accepted more Jewish refugees than any other Latin American nation."
This book is fascinating. It's absorbing. Read. This. Book....more
Don't you just love the cover? I do. It drew me to the book immediately. Luckily, the text lived up to the promise of the cover. What is it about? Why Don't you just love the cover? I do. It drew me to the book immediately. Luckily, the text lived up to the promise of the cover. What is it about? Why should you read it? It's a fairy-tale-esque book that is satisfying through and through. Our heroine, Lucinda Chapdelaine, is an orphan, now fifteen. Her parents left to attend a royal ball and never returned. Now, ten years later, Lucinda finds herself in a bit of a mess. Her evil step-mom Aunt treats her as a servant--and a stupid one at that. Her uncle is just as beaten-down as his niece. When her uncle dies, Lucinda finds herself homeless and friendless...
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It all begins one day at the shop--jewelry shop--when not one, but two interesting customers appear. One, an older woman, Beryl, leaves a large (but oh-so-mysterious) jewel at the shop for repair--she wants a new setting. The other a young man (and he's ever-so-dreamy) who makes our young heroine go all weak in the knees. Swoon-worthy and then some. This is only heightened when she learns he is not only fine, but royally fine--a Prince, Prince Gregor. He is seeking a special gift that says "forever" to give to his betrothed, a young lady whom he's never met.
When a visit from a priest prompts a command from the Aunt to return the jewel--he thinks the lady is a witch--Lucinda is given the task of returning the jewel. The Aunt fearing that if it is true, the bearer of the jewel might just become cursed if the "Amaranth Witch" is indeed a witch and becomes angry. But Lucinda...well...she doesn't return the jewel as ordered. Something compels her to hold onto it.
That night, a strange young man, Peter, appears demanding sanctuary in her bedroom. Rather than drawing attention to herself--and her uninvited guest--by throwing him out, she allows him to stay. On the floor. What she doesn't know is that he's a notorious thief. The jewel in her pocket, not quite as safe as she thinks...
These three strangers--whom she met within a very short amount of time--will change Lucinda's life for better or worse. It all comes down to whom she chooses to trust...and how much she's willing to risk for her happily-ever-after-ending......more
Despite it's rather odd opening, The Winter Of Our Discontent held my interest. It is the story of a man, Ethan Hawley, and his family, his good wife,Despite it's rather odd opening, The Winter Of Our Discontent held my interest. It is the story of a man, Ethan Hawley, and his family, his good wife, Mary, his son, Allan, his daughter, Ellen. It's a story of the conflict between ambition and honesty. Ethan has always found himself to be a good man, a just man, an honest man. A man who plays by the rules.
Ethan comes from a legacy, a family with a long history in the area. He's as "established" as he can be. But he's not wealthy. Not anymore. His father lost the family fortune. And now Ethan finds himself--a grown man with two kids--a clerk in a grocery store. He's embarrassed that it's come to this. A Hawley, a man who just twenty years--give or take a few--would have been the big man, the boss man, sunk to working for another man--and not just another man, but an Italian immigrant. Marullo.
But Ethan is noticing the world around him. Noticing that businessmen--including his banking friends--are more concerned with money, with making a profit, than by doing right by their customers. Dollar signs have got them mesmerized. They don't see their family, their friends, their neighbors, their acquaintances. They've lived in town their whole life--know practically everyone--yet when it comes down to it--money comes first and foremost over being kind and compassionate and concerned. Everyone is looking out for their selves. Everyone is greedy. Everyone is selfish. If it's good for you--financially beneficial--then it's right for you no matter who else gets hurt. So Ethan begins to contemplate joining them. If everyone does business this way, lives this way, then maybe it's time he joins them, enters the so-called real world; maybe if he does then his wife will have something to be proud of. She wishes--the children wish as well--for more money. And her friend, Margie, says its in the cards. Her tarot card readings have shown that Ethan is about to strike it rich. With this "prophecy" Ethan decides to go for it...step by step. But will this descent into the "real world" be his undoing? Will his ambition lead to a happily ever after ending? Will his actions--some quite cutthroat when you think about it--be something he can be proud of at the end of the day?
The writing is quite good. Better than good when you think about it. I marked passage after passage. The subject matter is interesting--complex. The hard examination of life, love, marriage, and friendship in a community. I can't say that I "loved" this one; but I did appreciate it. The writing. The language. The complexity and substance.
A day, a livelong day, is not one thing but many. It changes not only in growing light toward zenith and decline again, but in texture and mood, in tone and meaning, warped by a thousand factors of season, of heat or cold, of still or multi winds, torqued by odors, tastes, and the fabrics of ice or grass, of bud or leaf or black-drawn naked limbs. And as a day changes so do its subjects...(514)
"Way I look at it, it doesn't matter about believing. I don't believe in extrasensory perception, or lightning or the hydrogen bomb, or even violets or schools of fish--but I know they exist. I don't believe in ghosts but I've seen them." (560)
A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders. (569)
What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can read only a few and those perhaps not accurately. (576)
Sometimes I wish I knew the nature of night thoughts. They're close kin to dreams. Sometimes I can direct them, and other times they take their head and come rushing over me like strong, unmanaged horses. (587)
It's hard to know how simple or complicated a man is. When you become too sure, you're usually wrong. (634)
I wonder about people who say they haven't time to think. For myself, I can double think. I find that weighing vegetables, passing the time of day with customers, fighting or loving Mary, coping with the children--none of these prevents a second and continuing layer of thinking, wondering, conjecturing. Surely this must be true of everyone. Maybe not having time to think is not having the wish to think. (676)...more
"That child," said my aunt Mercy, looking at me with indigo-colored eyes, "is possessed."
Have you heard of Elizabeth Stoddard? I hadn't either. Not un"That child," said my aunt Mercy, looking at me with indigo-colored eyes, "is possessed."
Have you heard of Elizabeth Stoddard? I hadn't either. Not until I stumbled across this book while looking for Steinbeck. In the introduction, it explains a bit why this author fell into obscurity although during her lifetime she was compared with such greats as Balzac, Tolstoy, Eliot, the Brontes, and Hawthorne. (If your library doesn't have a copy, you can read it online here.)
Is it an exciting read? a thrilling one? Not really. Not by today's standards. It's about one girl, Cassandra "Cassy" growing up, coming to age. We follow her roughly from the age of ten to twenty. We see her in various environments and situations--home, visiting relatives for extended periods of time, school, courting, etc. She's not an easy narrator to love. She's more abrasive than that. There seems to be friction, tension, strife in almost all of her relationships. Perhaps because her whole family is 'difficult' to get along with. Perhaps because she's stubborn and makes no apologies. She's not meek or mild.
As a reader, I was never sure of Cassy. If she was the one disconnecting from her family...or if maybe her family were the ones disconnecting from her. There never seemed to be a bond between family members. Not with her mother. Not with her sister. And only slightly with her father. And this slight bond is only because he allows his daughter to go off on all these adventures away from home to visit family and friends, etc. He also keeps her well dressed. So I never was sure if she genuinely loved her father. Or if she just seemed to like him best because he was the one who was able to grant her desires. There seems to be a harsh distance, an emotional barrier that prevents Cassy from genuinely loving and being loved. As I said, I'm not sure who is to blame for this.
Cassy seems to attract some strange men to her. Especially true in the case of her cousin, Charles. Though married, though a father, he seems to find Cassandra irresistible. And though it is never out and out revealed, this attraction is mutual. Cassy, still a teen, maybe fifteen or sixteen?, finds herself in love with her cousin, inappropriate as it may be. See, she's come to live with her cousin and his wife, Alice. She's with this seemingly 'happy' family for a little over a year. And his wife, Alice, is aware that there is something going on between the two. But she's so busy being a good and perfect wife and mother that she pretends she doesn't know or doesn't care. What strikes me is one scene where Charles returns home from a business trip, I believe, and gives Cassandra a diamond ring to wear on her third finger. I don't remember if "good" little Alice gets a present as well, and if so, what it might have been. But there's a distinctly creepy vibe from this family.
Other men in Cassy's life are a pair of brothers, Ben and Desmond Somers. Both alcoholics. (They come from one crazy family!) One marries Cassandra. One marries Cassandra's sister, Veronica. Only one sister will get her happily ever after ending. But which one? Can a 'bad' boy ever turn good and mean it?
Though Cassandra seems a bit of an unnatural heroine, I am glad to have read this one. (After all, Scarlett O'Hara is plenty unnatural!)...more
I loved this book. I did. It's YA Fantasy at its best. A story of seven not-so-perfect kingdoms: Nander, Wester, Estill, Sunder, Monsea, Middluns, andI loved this book. I did. It's YA Fantasy at its best. A story of seven not-so-perfect kingdoms: Nander, Wester, Estill, Sunder, Monsea, Middluns, and Lienid. The story of the Graced--and those royalty who seek to control and manipulate them. A story of a girl, Katsa, and the boy that loves her, Po. A story with secrets and betrayals. A story with plenty of punches. A bit violent? Maybe. But that's because our heroine, is "graced" with the power of killing. Or is she?! Who are the graced? Well, the graced are those born with two different eye colors. For example, Po has one silver eye, one gold eye. I can't quite remember what two colors Katsa has...(don't hate me!) but I know that those that are graced are often ostracized by others. It's hard for others to look them in the eye, to treat them as "normal." The graced are those with special abilities, enhanced traits. The power might be a gift with livestock or the power to read minds. True, a large part of the people's fear... for both Po and Katsa... is that both are graced in fighting, in combat. Po is the Prince--seventh prince--of Lienid. Katsa is the niece of the king of Middlun, Randa.
When we first meet Katsa she is on a mission. A mission to save an old man, a Lienid, a man in the royal family of that kingdom who has been kidnapped and held prisoner; he is the grandfather of Prince Po, though when she seeks out to rescue him, she doesn't know of Po. It is on her way out--mission successful--that she stumbles into Po. Though she knows that it would be safer if she killed him--he's a witness to her "crime" after all. Yet something about him makes her hesitate. She gets a feeling that they're on the same side. That he is not her enemy--witness though he may be. So she merely bonks him on the head and lets him be.
Doesn't sound quite like love at first sight, does it? Yet as these two born-fighters struggle with each other, train with each other, struggle with their feelings, a great love is born...but is it a love that can last?
I won't go into all the details. I don't want to spoil the plot. But life seems to have thrown these two together for a reason...and it will take everything they have for the good guys to win...this is one exciting read!...more
Cranford is a wonderful read! It can be delightful and quirky and quite satisfying. It can be very funny, but it can also get quite sentimental. ThisCranford is a wonderful read! It can be delightful and quirky and quite satisfying. It can be very funny, but it can also get quite sentimental. This novel focuses on a community of women; a strong, opinionated community of women. These women can be the best of friends and truly come together at times, but, there are other times when disagreements keep them apart. Readers catch glimpses of Cranford and its residents at various times through the eyes of a frequent visitor, Mary Smith, niece of Miss Matty. ...more