Truthfully, I expected to hate this book. I have long had this compulsion to read even the things which for whatever reason I'm certain I'm going to dTruthfully, I expected to hate this book. I have long had this compulsion to read even the things which for whatever reason I'm certain I'm going to dislike it. After reading other novels by Charlotte Bronte and the others of her era, I really assumed this was going to be much like the others. Jane Eyre, Emma, and Shirley were all required reading during high school and I felt nothing for the characters and even less for the plot.
However, Vilette offered an attraction that I can't quite explain. Lucy Snow herself is at the center of the difference between this novel and Bronte's others.(view spoiler)[ While she is the first-person narrator, she tells the story with a cold distance that often makes it difficult to get a picture of who she actually is. As the novel begins, Lucy is so secretive about her emotions that she seems almost to be an observing narrator rather than the main character in it. She tells the story of the little girl who comes to stay at Lucy's godmother's house when the girl's father falls ill and must travel to Italy. Certainly she passes judgment on the little girl, called Polly, and the relationship that she develops with the godmother's eldest son, Graham, but we know very little about how Lucy feels about being sent to stay with her godmother, or what is going on with her life at this time.
But once Lucy leaves her godmother's house, she grows into adulthood and at once she is forced to share more with the reader. However, her revelations are not what most of us would expect from her coming into the this book. Lucy is not dreaming of marriage, or children, or fretting about the future prospect of her family name. While her family is mentioned, through tragedy and circumstance, by the age of 23, Lucy is without anyone. The main portion of the plot begins as Lucy takes off for the European continent, in search of "something". Even Lucy isn't certain what she hopes to find, nor does she begin with a set destination.
Once Lucy lands in Vilette, where she teaches English classes, she must learn French and how to be a teacher. The reader quickly learns that Lucy is a self-confident, strong young woman with a highly reserved personality. But it is her internal passions that move you to love her. As she falls in love and then is forced to let him go, Bronte forces you to face Lucy's isolation and loneliness once more.
The story nearly feels modern, despite its setting, and anyone in their twenties can certainly relate to Lucy's struggle to find her place and her identity. The only real downfall to this book was the strangely ambiguous ending, which I can't help but see as just as sad as the rest of Lucy's tale. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The things I could say about Margaret Atwood... I'm sure they could fill a book. Overall, I tend to have a rather love/hate relationship with her workThe things I could say about Margaret Atwood... I'm sure they could fill a book. Overall, I tend to have a rather love/hate relationship with her work because she has an incredible talent for creating beautifully horrible images that stay with me long after I'm done reading. But at the same time, her plots are heavily psychological with feminism and other political issues grating their way into every scene which in some ways ruins the otherwise lovely prose. For this reason, when I say that I am a fan of Margaret Atwood, I am mostly speaking for my love of her poetry and her essays, not really her novels.
That being said, for me, Surfacing has grown on me. Perhaps because it is one of her earlier novels, there is a roughness to her imagery which allows me to adapt to the sometimes detached, analytical narrator. The story itself is about a woman who returns to her childhood town in search of her father, which evolves more into a journey for emotional connection and healing as the story of how this woman came to become so isolated and emotionally damaged. When I first read this book, I was in my teen years and found little connection to this story. In this way, I find it often reminds me of The Awakening, because it wasn't until I was confronted with finding my own identity that I really began to understand the emotional depth of these stories.
But it is ultimately the tone and scattered focus of the narrator which I find most fascinates me about this book. Even though it is written from a first person perspective, with the narrator's thoughts and questions and memories streaming into the action of the plot constantly, the narrator observes and analyzes the moments of her life from a impassive distance. When her emotions are discussed, they come through imagery - the lake, the landscape, the reaction of the others around her - rather than through actual statements or the description of the feeling. During my earlier readings of this novel, I had accepted this merely as a short-coming of the author, but re-readings have lead me instead to a deliberate choice.
I had long avoided the works of Sarah Waters, though not for any sort of sensible reason. The world of lesbian fiction and film tends to be full of hoI had long avoided the works of Sarah Waters, though not for any sort of sensible reason. The world of lesbian fiction and film tends to be full of horror, tragedy, and isolation to the point that at times, it feels like there is nothing else. When I first heard about her works (and the films made from them), I was really striving to seek out gay and lesbian stories which did not entirely revolve around such dark themes.
This was the first of her books that I dared to purchase, though I didn't actually read it for nearly a month. With my car dead in the parking lot and only this book for company, I gave in and quickly realized that I'd been foolish to ignore these books. This title still remains my favorite, primarily because it builds suspense in such a wonderful way that I sat, engrossed, reading it cover to cover in just about two hours.
As a result of this, I will not recap any part of it. I will only say that Waters has amazing talent for rich, meaningful description that I can only compare to the likes of Edith Wharton or Joyce Carol Oates. The darkness and sensuality of the world she creates is undeniable, but at the same time, the language can feel rather sparse. (As compared to say, the likes of Herman Melville or Victor Hugo, who at times can make you feel as though you're drowning in the details...)
In short, this book captivated me and motivated me to buy the rest of her novels, though admittedly, the others lack the level of horror and depth that this one offers. It feels like poetry - with meaning hiding behind nearly every passage that builds so gradually that when the ending arrives, it feels like a surprise and like everything you expected all at once....more
Reading this book, like much of Jose Saramago's work, is an investment.
Everything about this novel from the nameless characters, to endless paragraphsReading this book, like much of Jose Saramago's work, is an investment.
Everything about this novel from the nameless characters, to endless paragraphs and sentences, to the jumble of dialogue and sensory description are deliberate, and immerse you in the world that has been created. If you have watched the movie adaptation of this book because of the premise, this book certainly offers the realization of it. (view spoiler)[ As a plague of blindness spreads, Saramago uses the stages of panic and the breakdown of society that follows to examine everything from the idea of identity and self to the nature of humanity and compassion. (hide spoiler)] I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys magic-realism or works that seek to examine social issues through fiction. But I would also strongly recommend this book to readers who have a love for prose and poetry. The deliberate stylization and symbolism used in this book are a real treat to find in a longer work, though it can be overwhelming at times. I do wish I could read Portuguese in order to read this book in its original language to get a feel for what might have been lost in the translation.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"Virals" was certainly far better than I expected, even though it is clearly written for a much younger audience. Sometimes YA novels don't have that"Virals" was certainly far better than I expected, even though it is clearly written for a much younger audience. Sometimes YA novels don't have that feel, but this one certainly did. I picked this up because I was excited to hear about science fiction for young adults that didn't entirely center around high-school romance and vampires, especially one with a girl for the main character. Working in a book store, I find it sad how many young women end up reading book after book focusing on male characters. (Which I'm guessing stems from the fact that in college, adolescent lit class told me again and again that girls can relate to male characters, but that it is much less likely to work in the other direction...)
I had read a few of Kathy Reich's adult novels and found them fascinating if a bit dry, and thought I'd give this a go. Certainly Reich's has really let up on the heavy science and spent more time on her characters, but there's still a little something missing. The characters feel a bit more on the level with the old "Animorphs" series than with other YA novels I've read.
The other thing, which didn't surprise me, is that Reich's seems a little afraid to delve into the sci-fi elements of the story. Understandable, I suppose, since in interviews she seems like such a staunch scientist. Given the official descriptions of the book, the cover, and even some of the reviews, I really thought that this was going to be on more a grand scale, but while there were some dramatic moments, most of this book focuses on the research the friends undertake, their school work and interactions, and interjections of scientific explanations.
Reichs apparently also needs to get a bit "hipper" about her tech. With her target audience being the young adult market, it seems quite awkward that she took the time to explain private chat rooms and social networking applications on their smart phones.
But ultimately, it was a fun, smart adventure headed up by a Tory Brennan, who makes smart seem pretty damn cool. Murder is uncovered, teens get fun super-powers and save the day. Makes for a fun Sunday afternoon read....more
I picked up this book from the library honestly not expecting much. Kristin Hannah's books seem to be quite popular at my bookstore, and I'd never givI picked up this book from the library honestly not expecting much. Kristin Hannah's books seem to be quite popular at my bookstore, and I'd never given them a chance. It got a second star for being slightly better than I thought it might be, but there were quite a few issues that I couldn't look past.
The most redeeming thing about this book was some of the beautiful imagery, in particular in the portion of the book which covers their childhood years. After that however, the writing style seemed to lose it's sense of purpose.
"Firefly Lane" attempts to be an honest, emotionally driven tale about two women who are friends for their entire lives, despite their vastly different personalities. Yet, when things get tough, that is often when the story skips quickly over the topic and skips forward several days/months/years. (view spoiler)[ The most noticeable example of this was after Kate has a miscarriage. Hannah begins to delve into Kate's grief and guilt, but the opportunity is quickly lost when her friends and family deliver a few brief platitudes, and we skip forward to when Kate is once again pregnant. Certainly some of this can be explained by the fact that there is some suggestion at the end of the book that the words we are reading are meant to be the book that Kate is recording for her children as she is dying. However, certain other portions of the plot suggest that the book includes not just the memories she is writing down, but also to the memories that didn't make it on the page.
But perhaps the biggest flaw in this book is the fact that the friendship between these two women is not at all heartwarming as it is clearly intended to be. Time and again, you witness Tully walking all over her "friend", often unintentionally, and even more often because Kate isn't honest about her feelings. Then, each time Kate reaches her breaking point and sends Tully away, there comes a time when she calls Tully right back in, always making excuses for her friend's behavior. (hide spoiler)]
To be honest, the entire thing felt so contrived and a bit campy with all the name dropping, nostalgic-brand naming, and bad relationships with men. I even started imagining (not seriously) that the plot was suddenly going to twist and this was going turn into "Oh my god, we're in love with each other! That's why we can't seem to get relationships right!" (My mind does get awfully snarky about books when things are just going very wrong...)
All in all, at least I have one more book that I can cross off the "it sells well, but I'd never intentionally read it" list.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I discovered Madeleine L'Engle in elementary school and poured through every one of her books that our local library carried by the sixth grade. But tI discovered Madeleine L'Engle in elementary school and poured through every one of her books that our local library carried by the sixth grade. But this one in particular was especially moving and became a guiding part of my teenage years for it's hauntingly beautiful prose, the romance of communing with nature, and most of all, for it's intelligent and stubborn protagonist - Vicky Austin. (view spoiler)[ Vicky herself is the strongest piece of this book, as well as the entire series on the Austin's. While often the other characters remain under developed, much of that is more a reflection of Vicky's still developing view of the world, rather than the author's talent based upon reading many of her other novels. The sadness that haunts this introspective, smart girl as she heads to the shore with her family for the summer is rarely outright stated, but is unmistakable.
As Vicky deals with the turmoil around her, we see part of her "coming of age" as she attempts to deal with her own hormones and boys while trying to gain the respect she wants from those around her. Wanting to appear strong and mature, Vicky bottles up her emotions and tries to push aside her fears. Eventually, she finds an outlet for all of this turmoil in nature - first with the dolphins and then later with the sea itself. (hide spoiler)] Being an introverted, introspective-type, I clung to Vicky as one of the few heroines out there that actually reminded me of myself. From this book, I found myself launched into more nature/wilderness literature, as well as my first real sense of a spiritual self, having not been raised with any religion or denomination in the house.
I strongly recommend this book (as well as the rest of the Austin family series) for young adult readers, especially young women. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** I am not quite sure what exactly the quoted reviewer in the Kindle description of this book was thinking when he/she proclaimed that**spoiler alert** I am not quite sure what exactly the quoted reviewer in the Kindle description of this book was thinking when he/she proclaimed that fans of Gail Carriger would love this book. As best I can tell, the only real similarity between the "Parasol Protectorate" series and this novel is that they are based in the same city, and both firmly fall into the "steampunk" genre.
Admittedly, I come bearing quite a bit of bias. It's fairly rare that I enjoy books primarily centered on men, and even less that I enjoy what I think of as "predatory romance", both of which are strikes against this book. I picked it up initially because of a desire to explore more steampunk novels after having so enjoyed Gail Carriger. I was quite dissatisfied, so I will make this quite to the point.
1. Arthur comes off as an obsessed, near-sociopath sadist. Sure, he's a vampire, to a degree this is the sort of thing we're supposed to think of him. However, in making him the main focus of this book, there really needed to be more evolution and depth to his character. When the author begins the book with Arthur killing one woman after using her for sex, and then follows this with Arthur treating himself to a prostitute, almost patting himself on the back for being less perverse than other johns.
I believe the author was trying to show Arthur going from this to learning to love again because of Avalon, after the betrayal of his long-lost wife. However, because of the constant comparisons to his lost wife, his feelings for Avalon come across instead as an all consuming obsession with the woman, ending with him taking "possession" of her by turning her into a vampire under the guise of saving her life. We're supposed to believe that Avalon returns his "love" and consents to this, but the transition from fear/revulsion to utter devotion and carnal desires is so quick, that it is unconvincing at best, given Arthur's admission that he possesses the ability to sway the minds of the vulnerable, which Avalon has certainly become at this point.
2. There is nothing witty or adventurous about this novel. Instead, it feels more like the macabre tale of the inner-workings of a serial rapist/sometimes murderer, who happens to be a socially high-functioning member of society, as he selects and draws in the inquisitive and challenging Avalon.
3. The "mystery" killings are not so much a mystery. The hints become quite heavy handed after a while.
The only way in which I could possibly read this book as being "redeemed" in any way, would be to take it as a broader allegory for what misogyny has done to destroy women's intellect, education and personal identity. But this really only works when applied very loosely, nor is this really what this novel seems to have been marketed as.
One final note? For all the sass and intelligence Avalon has throughout the book, Avalon's final words are - "Can I have a new dress, too?" while on the way to find "someone to drink".
I think I will never truly understand paranormal romance....more