I bought this book because a review said Shannon was the next JK Rowling. That's a tough statement to live up to, granted..but I don't think the autho...moreI bought this book because a review said Shannon was the next JK Rowling. That's a tough statement to live up to, granted..but I don't think the author even came close. Paige is no Harry Potter, and the Rephaim lack the charm of Harry's adversaries. This book was just plain dark, with no light or humorous scenes to break up the darkness. It would have benefited tremendously from some lighter moments, some lovable characters, and some surprising twists in its tired plot. This is the first in what is to be a series of books. I have no plans to read future books in the series. One was quite enough.(less)
Perhaps it is unfair for me to read only 25 percent of a book and then give it only 2 stars. After all, a lot can happen in the other 75 percent of th...morePerhaps it is unfair for me to read only 25 percent of a book and then give it only 2 stars. After all, a lot can happen in the other 75 percent of the text. But I hated this book! Hated, hated, hated it. I didn't like the protagonist, and I use that term loosely, because he's the most irritating and unlikable character I've come across in my entire history of reading (and I've been reading more than half a century--yes, I'm that old). He's sloppy, obnoxious, and he treats his long-suffering mother horribly (although she's a piece of work herself). I have an enormous stack of books I want to read that aren't about slovenly, lazy, do-nothings. Why should I waste my time on a character who is this shallow when there are so many delicious characters out there with real depth to them? Why this book won the Pulitzer is beyond me, although I think the tragic story of its author may be largely responsible. (The author committed suicide after the book was rejected several dozen times.) Maybe if I read further, I'd change my opinion. But at my age, I'm not willing to take that chance. You hit a certain age and you realize you no longer have to finish a book simply because you started reading it. I'm happy to be casting this one aside. Now, where did I put that wonderful biography of John Muir? (less)
I confess: I'm a junky for books that retell the story of the Trojan War, the Odyssey, and/or Helen of Troy. My favorites? Margaret George's Helen of...moreI confess: I'm a junky for books that retell the story of the Trojan War, the Odyssey, and/or Helen of Troy. My favorites? Margaret George's Helen of Troy, Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad,and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Firebrand. Now, I'm adding Laurel Corona's fine book, Penelope's Daughter, to that list.
The book is told from the perspective of Xanthe, the daughter Odysseus never knew he had. Don't go looking for Xanthe in The Odyssey; you won't find her. She's strictly the creation of Corona's fertile imagination. But her story is one that could have been, if Homer hadn't dismissed women as important characters in history. No matter. Homer himself could not have written so heart-felt and compelling a story.
Xanthe is a beloved princess of Ithaca, but when the suitors arrive on Penelope's doorstep eager to claim Odysseus's wife and kingdom, Xanthe is sent to live in Sparta with Helen and Menelaus to protect her from the unwanted advances of the suitors, all vulgar men who would quite happily rape and impregnate the princess if it meant they would win the kingdom. Here she grows from childhood to womanhood under the love and guidance of none other than Helen herself. In Sparta, Xanthe learns the ways of the goddess and both the travails and pleasures of being a woman. Here, she falls in love.
But when Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca, Xanthe is forced to return home. Will the father she never knew marry her off to one of his cronies as some sort of reward for their loyalty, or to one of Penelope's suitors? Or, just might he allow Xanthe to wed the man she loves?
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I know Laurel Corona. She and I signed books together at this year's Whittier College Meet the Authors Book Faire. I found her personable and engaging. But in that same spirit, know I am being honest when I say I found this book mesmerizing and difficult to put down. Corona is a gifted storyteller. I cannot wait to read another one of her books. (less)
Forget all the five-star reviews I've ever handed out. This, at last, is a five-star book. Allende is a masterful storyteller. In Island Beneath the S...moreForget all the five-star reviews I've ever handed out. This, at last, is a five-star book. Allende is a masterful storyteller. In Island Beneath the Sea, she tells the story of Tete, a slave in Saint Domingue, the French Colony that later became Haiti. The book follows Tete threw the slave rebellion that led to the birth of the first independent black republic, Haiti; her "master's" flight (with Tete and her daughter) to New Orleans, and Tete's life there as an emancipated woman of color. As historical fiction goes, this book cannot be topped. I've read House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, and Paula, all written by Allende. They were all wonderful books. Island Beneath the Sea, though, is a true masterpiece. I'm ready to read a new book, yet am having difficulty doing so, as those in my To Read stack will pale in comparison. I urge you to read this book. As an author of many popular books myself, I am humbled by Allende's skill as a storyteller. (less)
I'm a big fan of Hildegard von Bingen. I cannot fathom how difficult it must have been to survive being given to the Catholic church as a child of eig...moreI'm a big fan of Hildegard von Bingen. I cannot fathom how difficult it must have been to survive being given to the Catholic church as a child of eight, cut off from your family and all you loved and forced into servitude to the church. But Hildegard not only survived; she thrived, and went on to become a great mystic, healer, and composer. Her composition, Play of the Virtues, is still considered one of the greatest pieces of sacred music ever written (and I say this backed by some authority, as my husband is a musicologist and teaches this piece in his college classes). This, despite the fact she saw visions from an early age, and the visions were of God as Mother. The early Catholic church did not take kindly to the concept of the divine feminine, yet Hildegard went so far as to detail her visions to the clerics, priests, and archbishops who came to know her. She was nearly excommunicated for her beliefs and could, in fact, have been branded a heretic and burned at the stake for her outspokenness. Instead, the Pope himself intervened and declared her to be "a true sybil."
Hildegard was quite the writer, and left behind volumes of her own writings. And while I have read some of her writings, they are, at times, difficult to understand because of the archaic language used. Not so, this gem of a novel. Author Mary Sharratt has written a book that makes Hildegard come to life 800 years after her death, portraying Hildegard both as a humble servant of god and a woman hungry to come into her own power; a saint and a sinner. This is a wonderful read for anyone with an interest in historical novels, women's history, and the divine feminine. (less)
This is a stunningly beautiful book in that Weller' s prose is exquisite. It was, however, possibly the saddest book I have ever read. I highly recomm...moreThis is a stunningly beautiful book in that Weller' s prose is exquisite. It was, however, possibly the saddest book I have ever read. I highly recommend for the beautiful way it is written. If you love pretty sentences, this is a great choice. But if you want an uplifting, happy tale, this isn't the book to choose.(less)
Poor Ellen Meister; perhaps she's suffering unfairly for my having just finished reading a book by Isabel Allende. But no. I don't think so. Farewell...morePoor Ellen Meister; perhaps she's suffering unfairly for my having just finished reading a book by Isabel Allende. But no. I don't think so. Farewell, Dorothy Parker, while funny, just isn't in the same league as Allende's The Island Beneath the Sea.
Violet Epps is a movie critic for a popular entertainment rag who is strongly opinionated at work but meek as a mouse in her personal life, where King Fu and fighting for custody of her niece take up all her time. A bland and boring life, but that's just fine with Violet. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the ghost of Dorothy Parker, and all hell breaks loose. Which, Dorothy Parker assures her, is just fine.
Meister obviously did her research on Parker, and I greatly admired how she captured Ms. Parker's personality so thoroughly. The Dorothy Parker bits made me laugh so hard I woke my sleeping husband one night.
But so much of the rest of the book is cliched and lacks timelessness. What would happen at the end of the book was predictable by the end of the first chapter. Meister repeatedly drops the names of present-day celebrities into the book; we all know who Sean Hannity is today, but who's going to know in ten years?
Still, I'm a die-hard Dorothy Parker fan. Despite the cliches and predictability, anything that makes me laugh that hard was clearly worth reading. And that's a review that even Violet Epps couldn't dispute.(less)