This autobiography of a girl who traveled around with a high-diving horse act in the 1920s is told in very straightforward language but filled with hu...moreThis autobiography of a girl who traveled around with a high-diving horse act in the 1920s is told in very straightforward language but filled with humor and wisdom. Sonora Carver led an adventurous and courageous life, especially after she was blinded in a dive and continued to dive blind for the rest of her career. A quick, enveloping read about a remarkable person.(less)
I came to this novel with great expectations. Just the premise is exciting enough--the prospect of learning about an enigmatic, reclusive horror/cult...moreI came to this novel with great expectations. Just the premise is exciting enough--the prospect of learning about an enigmatic, reclusive horror/cult film director, his odd inclinations, the mysterious sealed-off compound where he makes his movies. The photos/articles/webpages included in the book were a fun idea but ended up taking away from the novel--true book lovers create their own images from the words. For example, seeing the main character Ashley in photos was a letdown. She had lighter hair and a definite I-am-modeling-as-a-dark-personality quality that didn't quite fly. Ms. Pessl, trust to the imaginations of your readers, it will make their experience so much better.
I have to admit that I eagerly flew through this novel, but after finishing it I wonder if it was more because I was waiting for it to be what I wanted it to be or if it was the short-chapter pacing that made you want to read more even though there was no other reason to separate the action into such short chapters. The writing really didn't do it for me; Pessl italicizes several words per paragraph, and very frequently whole sentences, which is horribly distracting and makes it seem like she's either reading for the reader or incessantly mocking mystery novels. It's seriously annoying either way. Also, it was obvious a female was writing a male protagonist, and it's another piece that doesn't quite keep me immersed in the story.
Again, the premise of this novel was so exciting I was fascinated until I reached the end, where I felt let down. The whole reason that Ashley climbed up through a different building to reach an elevator shaft where she jumped to commit suicide...dramatic, but explanation? No clue. The whole motive for her own and her father's behavior was (disappointing) her cancer, yet she seemed to exhibit sociopathic (more than the suggested demonic) tendencies...I think my problem with this book more than anything is that the explanations are not so much deftly-rendered ambiguity than trying to do too much and not quite getting there. All of this being said, I think it's damn hard to write a novel, much less get one published, much less have it be wonderful for every reader, who brings their own experiences and emotions to their reading. Great, great, idea for a book. Sometimes, very captivating. After all the hype, it fizzled out. In the end, I wish the author had left the images to the reader's mind, and she could have gone darker for all the sinister buildup. I wish this novel had been written by Gillian Flynn, because it was missing all the grit and dark psychology that Pessl toyed with but didn't quite deliver.(less)
This story of an Amazon girl born of rape to the queen of the tribe is simple and almost like a fable. The details about their relationships with hors...moreThis story of an Amazon girl born of rape to the queen of the tribe is simple and almost like a fable. The details about their relationships with horses and other animals, as well as their unique way of life was interesting, but much of the story and characters were more ethereal, like sketches. I wanted more depth to the story, more nuance to the characters, and especially more gritty details of their battles and rituals, though those things would be more appropriate for an adult novel rather than the YA novel it is. The story is prettily told and very reminiscent of Native American folklore. (less)
No wonder the term "sadism" was coined after the Marquis de Sade. It took me forever to slog through this book, which I picked up out of curiosity (be...moreNo wonder the term "sadism" was coined after the Marquis de Sade. It took me forever to slog through this book, which I picked up out of curiosity (being an English lit major), thinking, "How bad could it really be? It's only an 18th century novel." I could never have believed this type of masturbatory storytelling could have existed and been published at the time, though Sade was arrested for being the author. This is a strange mixture of political, sexual, and philosophical meanderings told from the point of view of a girl determined to remain virtuous through all sorts of torture, rape, and every other kind of abuse at the hands of "libertines" and criminals because she believes she'll be rewarded by God in Heaven. Being an atheist, Sade laces the novel with plenty of religious and political irony and criticism, but those themes take a backseat to the gratuitous detailing of the sodomizing and torture Justine suffers. Her torturers continuously justify their behavior through the belief that in Nature the strong were meant to rule over the weak, so why should they care if the weak suffer? It's how Nature operates, survival of the fittest, outlined pre-Darwin. I'm not a prude, but the relentless details of Justine's "misfortunes" are hard to see as anything but Sade writing out his own disturbing sexual fantasies, which are actually derived from his own experiences which he was constantly fleeing the authorities for committing. This novel was definitely not worth the 264 pages, not even with the ironic religious and political commentary. I could appreciate the humorous stab at novels of the time that droned on about the rewards of virtue, but with this novel Sade raped and beat that idea to death and set its corpse on fire. What a creep.(less)
I really liked the concept behind this novel--the myriad twists and turns that one life can take, with main character Ursula dying and being born agai...moreI really liked the concept behind this novel--the myriad twists and turns that one life can take, with main character Ursula dying and being born again as the same person but reliving her life with slightly varied decisions and events occurring each time. In one of my favorite lines, Ursula describes life as a palimpsest, or a picture that is painted on the same canvas as the one before it, and another painted over the one before that, repeatedly. I think in lesser hands this idea could have been choppy or confusing, but I thought the story was deftly done and intriguing. Atkinson never quite explains everything fully, nor does she tie up loose ends into a final conclusion; she allows you to come to your own conclusions, dropping little hints like the fox imagery throughout, weaving a sort of magical mysteriousness into the narrative. I found myself thinking about the book long after the circular, not-quite-settled ending, trying to figure out what the little details meant or why things turned out the way they did. This is definitely not some ordinary linear novel, but an interesting look into the connections in one person's life in early 20th century England. Not exactly a quick easy read, but one that will leave an impression.(less)
It's hard to describe the feelings that this novel left me with. The story is allegorical and follows the lives of a group of people who suffer from a...moreIt's hard to describe the feelings that this novel left me with. The story is allegorical and follows the lives of a group of people who suffer from an epidemic of white blindness, all except for one woman who still has vision. The descriptions of just how much filth humans are capable of producing, both in scatological terms and in the way we interact, is depressing to read about and brings up an equal reaction of disgust towards both. Saramago ends the novel with the observation that we are "Blind people who can see, but do not see." Human nature contains the potential for both kindness and savagery, and in line with what Saramago has written, we see it every day in others and in ourselves, but we continue to not see it as well. This book tells us what we already know about being human but never really think about.(less)
Sometimes it's the books that are chosen for you that blow you away. I read this for my book club, and I hemmed and hawed about buying it or even read...moreSometimes it's the books that are chosen for you that blow you away. I read this for my book club, and I hemmed and hawed about buying it or even reading it. Not that it seemed uninteresting, but I'm picky about what I like to read, and honestly the cover said "chick lit" all over it. But I sucked it up and bought the ebook, and I couldn't stop reading it. Lamb's prose is not overly romantic or mushy, and the characters are so unique. Many of them are constantly enduring tragedy but there's a lot of quirky humor to balance it out. Main character Stevie, like all of Lamb's "good" characters, is lovable and human. They're not perfect, but they're trying (although Jake was a bit too perfect!). Lamb doesn't delve too deeply into the psyches of the "bad" characters, but they still feel real; we don't always get the back story on the mean people in our lives. They are the people hurt you and make you forget that there are still good people out there that mean you no harm, who are kind to you; the good ones are not just "out there" but up close, family and people you work with and even strangers who are kind when they don't have to be. Why is that so surprising? The mean people overshadow and kill your sense of compassion and even your sense that people in general can be good and don't want to hurt you. You stop believing in love because a few people in your life make you feel like you don't deserve more than what they want out of you. You have to try not to become one of the mean ones, teach others how to treat you, be kind when you don't have to. A book can remind you of that. This book did that for me.(less)
I downloaded this novel on my Nook during a 5-hour wait at JFK, looking for something entertaining to take my mind off of the frustration of a flight...moreI downloaded this novel on my Nook during a 5-hour wait at JFK, looking for something entertaining to take my mind off of the frustration of a flight that kept getting delayed, and I knew Dan Brown would provide that. There are a few stretches of reality, which critics are quick to point out in his novels ever since "The Da Vinci Code" was lambasted for historical inaccuracies (and religious "blasphemy", all the more chafing to some readers). All that aside, I like how Brown creates a fast-paced adventure through a foreign city, detailing streets and architecture, incorporating artwork and historical mystery. His books make me want to jump online and find the paintings or landmarks or historical figures and learn more about them. People get so up in arms about literature; on this website some guy criticized my one-star rating of Franzen's "the Corrections" by saying I wasn't an intelligent reader because I gave "The Da Vinci Code" 5 stars. Guess what? Many people may agree on what enduring classic lit is, and some (not all) deserve the distinction of great lit, but every reading is subjective, and like everyone else I approach a book with my experiences, education, and whatever mood I'm in. I might read "The Da Vinci Code" again and say, ok, it's not that wonderful, but at the time, being much younger and just starting college, it piqued my interest in challenging the religious norms that people hold sacred, whether or not it was 100% accurate in its facts. And it was fantastic entertainment. These novels are fictional, and while they may make a few blunders that don't quite fit, that's what suspension of disbelief is all about. It's about getting out of your own world and going to Florence with Robert Langdon to delve into clues left in paintings by an erudite Dante zealot. As long as that suspension dissipates when you close the book, you should be fine. Though I enjoyed Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" more, this novel gave me everything I needed it to: an art- and adventure-filled escape from airport drudgery.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. It's a great mix of 19th century science, biography, historical fact, and storytelling. The lengths that people went to le...moreI really enjoyed this book. It's a great mix of 19th century science, biography, historical fact, and storytelling. The lengths that people went to learn about the human body, from public dissections to galvanism of corpses, was disturbing, but interesting to look at in the context of Mary Shelley's life and her writing of "Frankenstein." You have the melancholy, sudsy lives and science-tinged writings of Romantic poets, as well as scientists' preoccupation with exploring human anatomy and how electricity relates to what animates the living body. The illustrations on the inside cover, as well as historical photographs from the time period, were added bonuses to the text. In all, it's a fascinating interdisciplinary perspective on the influences that went into Mary Shelley's creation of a thought-provoking novel.
There's nothing new to say about Austen. She is perfect in her execution of the novel of manners, intricate in the details of human interactions, enjo...moreThere's nothing new to say about Austen. She is perfect in her execution of the novel of manners, intricate in the details of human interactions, enjoyable to read. You always know what you're going to get when you pick up one of her novels.(less)