This was a cute story - as with Seraphina, I really appreciated how fleshed out the world is. So much detail! The characters are not as developed in tThis was a cute story - as with Seraphina, I really appreciated how fleshed out the world is. So much detail! The characters are not as developed in this story, but it was still sweet. I am impressed that the author both wrote and illustrated this. 3.5 stars, if possible!...more
I really wish I had read this before reading Cinder, or that it was left in as the first chapter, or included as a flashback. Since it's the story ofI really wish I had read this before reading Cinder, or that it was left in as the first chapter, or included as a flashback. Since it's the story of how Cinder gets adopted and finds Iko and the basis of her relationship with her stepsisters & stepmother, a lot more about the characters made sense to me after I read this. (Although it shouldn't count as a book on its own for book-count purposes - only 19 pages long!)...more
I finished this book and immediately wanted to read book 2, which sadly does not exist yet. I enjoy fairy tale retellings generally, but I think thatI finished this book and immediately wanted to read book 2, which sadly does not exist yet. I enjoy fairy tale retellings generally, but I think that a lot of the time they end up being too similar to each other. This was a completely different world and I thought it worked really well. I am very curious about how the story will be continued in the next book. I would also love to read a non-Cinderella story set in this same world. ...more
I feel like I have to give this one 5 stars because there are very few books that actually make me laugh out loud when I am reading them in public, anI feel like I have to give this one 5 stars because there are very few books that actually make me laugh out loud when I am reading them in public, and there were several scenes in this one that did. LOVED the dialogue. I felt like I missed some key moments due to my lack of knowledge about horse-drawn transportation, but this was still great to read. ...more
I got about 4 pages into this before I had to go look up profiles of all 3 of the James siblings on Wikipedia (William, Henry, Alice), because I realiI got about 4 pages into this before I had to go look up profiles of all 3 of the James siblings on Wikipedia (William, Henry, Alice), because I realized I knew nothing about any of them. After I read the profiles, and got a little farther into the book, I started questioning why this story was written as, essentially, Real Person Fanfiction instead of an original work with fictional characters. It seemed like the circumstances and narrative were stretched to hang over the framework of the James family dynamic, where a set of characters not based on historical figures could have offered a lot more flexibility. Unless – and this was not made clear on Wikipedia – the James siblings did actually investigate Jack the Ripper?
The character of Alice and her personal circumstances (an invalid solving crimes) are interesting, and she was my favorite character of the book. I wish she got more screen time, especially given the title, I was not prepared for her brothers to be featured so prominently. However – I think the concept – a shut in solving mysteries – has been done MUCH better previously, by Rex Stout, with Nero Wolfe.
One of the things that drove me crazy in this book was the rampant unnecessary namedropping. (To be fair, this also drove me crazy in March, another instance of (I felt) Real Person Fanfiction, but one that won the Pulitzer, so clearly I was alone in that opinion.) But in this book, it was like the names of other famous people were being used to authenticate the characters and the setting. Drove. Me. Nuts. Nevermind the number of literary figures of the time that were included - at least there was a flimsy excuse for having them all involved, due to Henry James. But William Minor? (The Madman of The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary) Why was this necessary?
The writing style was also lacking - especially in dialogue between characters. For someone trying to give the impression of an author (Henry James) with a tendency towards verbose and lengthy speech (examples here), having the (fictional) Henry James speak in short simplistic sentences was just poor judgement on the part of this author.
For a book that is ostensibly a mystery/thriller, the plot is not mysterious or thrilling.
I will end with this statement, from the Wikipedia page on Henry James, which describes everything this book is not. "James claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognisable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting. The concept of a good or bad novel is judged solely upon whether the author is good or bad."...more
There are already a ton of long analytical reviews of this book, so I'll make it short.
I liked this book a LOT. I think a big problem with many contemThere are already a ton of long analytical reviews of this book, so I'll make it short.
I liked this book a LOT. I think a big problem with many contemporary modern day character studies is that the characters themselves are flat and one dimensional - in this book, every character was so much like a real person they could have popped up off the page and started walking around. They did not seem at all like they were designed to fill a mold established by the author, they were real people, doing good things and bad things and okay things and dumb things.
It was not anything like Harry Potter.
I really appreciated the ensamble drama - how the characters interacted or didn't. It was very much like many BBC series set in small towns, but updated to more accurately reflect modern times, with flawed characters.
The writing style, especially in the use of dialect, reminded me of Elizabeth Gaskell.
I wish there were footnotes instead of endnotes for this book. (Actually, I wish that about all books. Footnotes are awesome.) I felt like this was aI wish there were footnotes instead of endnotes for this book. (Actually, I wish that about all books. Footnotes are awesome.) I felt like this was a good overview of the current research about sleep medicine, but it did not really get into next steps, or future solutions. The writing style was great, though, very easy to read.
I wish more people (and by people I mean corporations) took sleeping more seriously. Especially since it can affect so many areas of health. I really hate the macho American culture of competing to see who can get by on the least sleep. The results from the school districts that changed their schedule were fascinating, I don't understand why more wouldn't make the same change to boost test scores, since it is a relatively low cost solution. Ah well.
My own body's personal sleep preference is ideally 8-9 hours, from midnight-2am to 8-10 am. Currently, I have to get up between 5-6am, which falls right in a slow wave NREM sleep cycle, which means I wake up every single morning in a state of sleep inertia. This is the number one thing I would immediately change about my life if I won the lottery or became suddenly wealthy, because it makes every morning terrible. This book did not have many solutions for this kind of problem. But I do know more about why it happens, now....more
I thought the mystery in this was not so mysterious, and the ending was not that much of a surprise, but the characterization was just so great that II thought the mystery in this was not so mysterious, and the ending was not that much of a surprise, but the characterization was just so great that I did not really care. It was a little strange having all the characters just happen to be in this extremely secluded setting in another country, with no forethought or planning, but it made for a convenient story. I personally love that one of the main characters suffers from awful migraines, I identify with this part. Cannot wait for the next book....more
I am going to say right now that this was one of those books that was not super great overall, but it came at a good time for me. The whole thing distI am going to say right now that this was one of those books that was not super great overall, but it came at a good time for me. The whole thing distinctly had the feeling of being an early season Star Trek TNG episode, where there is a very linear plotline and a very clear mission and every character has exactly one personality trait which makes them either a) GOOD or b) BAD. There is also a lot of moralizing on the part of the main character, who is not the brightest star in the galaxy. I kept waiting for them to discuss the Prime Directive but it never came up, since this is technically not a Star Trek book.
Thinking about this analytically, this was not a great book.
I listened to the audiobook version, which was 100% excellent at achieving its primary goal - it made me not think about the fact that I was driving in horrible traffic for 3 hours per day. And it was oddly mesmerizing, like a radio serial drama.
Some of the writing was downright bad - I wanted to take a red pen to it most of the time. But the battle scenes were great - realistic and time delayed, with relativistic distortion and lagging communications.
And it passes the Bechdel test, which was surprising for a military scifi book.
I liked this much more than I thought I would....more
This was another solid installment in the (extremely episodic) series. One of the things that annoyed me about it was the redundant recapping at the bThis was another solid installment in the (extremely episodic) series. One of the things that annoyed me about it was the redundant recapping at the beginning of the book - there is no way you could really understand what was going on if you hadn't read the first 3 books, and for everyone who HAD, it was completely unnecessary. The whole thing was written sort of like a tv episode, though, so it fit into the "what happened LAST TIME" section of the show.
I still think this would be an awesome TV series. I appreciate that the characters grow and change and are different from book 1 to book 4. Don't start reading the series with book 4....more
I think my main problem with this book was that I just did not like it very much. It wasn’t the format – I generally love short stories. It wasn’t theI think my main problem with this book was that I just did not like it very much. It wasn’t the format – I generally love short stories. It wasn’t the historical context or the genre fiction – God knows I read enough of that otherwise. I just think that every story felt like something that had been done before, and better. I did not think it was smart or clever. I thought it was sort of boring and unnecessarily pompous.
I guess one of the reasons I did not like these, where I usually really enjoy short stories – none of them were finished, or started, really. The ending of each story cut off abruptly, and I as a reader was just sort of bodily deposited into the middle of the next story, grasping around to get my bearings. I suspect this was supposed to be some sort of clever narrative technique, but it did not come off as clever, it just pissed me off, as a reader.
I did not really care about most of the characters, emotionally – their names did not stick in my mind, and they were just not a compelling set of people to begin with. My favorite character BY FAR was Sonmi~451. I would have read a whole book about her, and that universe, it reminded me of The Windup Girl, but good. My second favorite character was Robert Frobisher. I thought Mr. Cavendish & Louisa Rey were not interesting. I guess this is common to any book of short stories - some are good and some are not so good.
I was not a fan of the different dialects & writing styles, although I understood why the author did it. It made each story stand out. It was referential to a particular type of writer or a particular style of writing common to the time period. Nice. But a little overdone, I think. I also disliked the obvious connections between the stories - I could just imagine the author giggling to himself as he included symbolic symbols of symbolism in each section of the book.
Halfway through this book, I sat down and watched the trailer for the movie several times. Maybe I could get some additional insight into why so many people gave this book super high reviews? Nope, all I could picture for the second half, while reading, was Tom Hanks in age makeup (or is Tom Hanks really that old now??!??) or Halle Berry scrunching her brow and looking thoughtful.
I don't think I would have kept on reading this through to the end if it wasn't a book club selection. ...more
The science in this book was ridiculous, completely unlikely. (As were the corporate politics, especially for an American company. Where were all theThe science in this book was ridiculous, completely unlikely. (As were the corporate politics, especially for an American company. Where were all the lawyers?) I am still trying to figure out the timetable for commuting from Baltimore to Manaus for the weekend. (JHU must pay better than I thought if 26 hours of flying and $2600/flight are feasible 4x/month.) But if you ignored all that, and read this as something more like a modern day fantasy, it was pretty good.
I listened to the audiobook version, which I liked. The reader was good, she got all the accents right and made each character distinctive. The drama was just dramatic enough to make this a good audiobook for commuting to.
I liked the complex characters. I liked the rainforest setting. I liked the Bovanders and Milton, in particular. I was a little surprised that Marina's father or parents did not ultimately play a larger role.
I did not like the ending, I thought it was incredibly rushed, very out of pace and character with the rest of the book. It was annoying to me as a reader the way that Marina kept losing things. Her phone, her medication, her luggage. I think this must have been some sort of symbolic reference to her as a character or her situation, but for me, it just made me yell, "Hold onto your stuff!" at the audiobook. And then of course she didn't. There were a lot of details involved in this story and plot, I feel like I did not fully appreciate all of them the first time around. ...more
I still really like the whole series of these books, but I definitely felt that this was a weaker book individually - the supporting characters, who wI still really like the whole series of these books, but I definitely felt that this was a weaker book individually - the supporting characters, who were all very strong in previous books, were bit parts in this one. The main plot was interesting (political intrigue, especially the descriptions of language) but the subplot (amateur psychologist? stealth treatment of ptsd? wtf?) was a little out there and not at all interesting.
Jax herself is still a great character, but she was even a little off in this one. Not my favorite in the series, it felt like the second book in a trilogy, not really complete. (Which I guess is accurate, since this is the third of five books.)...more
I feel like the beginning of this book was definitely not as strong as those in the author's previous series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. There werI feel like the beginning of this book was definitely not as strong as those in the author's previous series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. There were 5 or 6 short chapters introducing new characters in a new setting right at the beginning, and as soon as I felt like I was getting to know a character, I as a reader would be ripped away to a new perspective. The beginning of this book, maybe the first 100 - 150 pages, was really an uphill climb in terms of plot and characters, because I felt like all the worldbuilding was being crammed into my head with a mallet. I kept going with this because I knew how strong the author's previous writing was, I am not sure if I would have if this was the first book I had read from her.
But I also really liked the world and the magic and how unique the whole setting was. I liked the dreams and the humors and the fact that the "moon" was really a gas giant and THEY were all on the moon but didn't know it. The uniqueness of the setting is really the best part of the book. I just wish it was introduced a little more gradually or naturally....more
I think that I would rate this 3.5 stars if I could. I liked all the descriptions of ancient Roman life, the details that were described here, but itI think that I would rate this 3.5 stars if I could. I liked all the descriptions of ancient Roman life, the details that were described here, but it was not a perfect book and there were a couple of other things that just bugged me the whole time I was reading it.
For instance, the main character - she was just so wooden and naive and constantly blindsided by basic stuff - like the fact that historically, life smelled much worse. She was incredibly uncurious, for a supposed intellectual, although I am more likely to believe that one, since I actually know people who are like that. This was less of an unbelievable feature and more of a really annoying one. I also felt that the descriptions of nineties life dated the book incredibly, even only 12 years out from publication.
I thought the main character seemed like she existed mostly to serve as a vehicle to display the research efforts of the authors. The plot itself was not so exciting.
I think that this genre - time travel and forced to live in a different era - has been done much MUCH better by Connie Willis....more
I enjoyed this book enough to read it relatively quickly, and there were some sections and anecdotes that were just as funny as the blurb on the backI enjoyed this book enough to read it relatively quickly, and there were some sections and anecdotes that were just as funny as the blurb on the back implied.
The author said that the idea for this book came from her friends, who she was emailing with updates about her life while she was on sabbatical in her childhood hometown, with her parents. They thought her email updates were hilarious and should be made into a memoir. (Spoiler: They were.) BUT these friends apparently did not mention that there should be significant amounts of editing involved, because huge chunks of this book bounced around with no segue whatsoever, as though someone had just copied and pasted...email updates to their friends. It was a little hard to follow the author's train of thought sometimes. Most of the time.
So my suggestion would be to organize anecdotes into something more like a short story format, instead of free form thoughts.
There were some sections that were more coherent (many of the sections on religion and women), and I liked those a lot. I also had higher expectations for the writing, given that the author is an English professor and PhD.
I learned a LOT about Mennonites, who I had always assumed were pretty similar to the Amish, but this is clearly not the case. I appreciated the (funny!) Mennonite appendix in the back of the book.
I wanted to hear more about the author rebuilding her life post-divorce, but there were a lot of reminiscences about her ex-husband, who, to me, was an abusive jerk. It was not totally clear that the author fully realized how abusive her previous relationship was. She kept describing this guy as "artistic" and "creative" when he was obviously a mentally ill violent alcoholic. eg "In spite of Nick's depression, or because of it, he and I managed to achieve a working intimacy."
I really liked all the stories about her family, although I cannot imagine that many of them are speaking to her after she published this book. I really liked the sections about cooking and food and religion. I just wish there was a stronger editor involved in this book!...more
Maybe it was the perspective, with the narration coming from a middle aged guy. Maybe it was the audiobook reader – middle aged guy. Maybe it was because it’s been years (decades?) since I read Little Women so I did not really remember many of the events that took place in this book being mentioned. Maybe it was the whole Little Women Canon Civil War era setting, which I am going to assume was as meticulously researched as the author’s other books, but I was not as familiar with. (Although I DID recognize the battle of Ball's Bluff almost instantly at the beginning of the book, so maybe I know more than I thought.) I have to admit, I picked this book based solely on the strength of the author’s previous books, and I did not read the back or reviews about this before starting it. So for me, it was a little bit like Surprise! Civil War!, which I was not really prepared to read about at this moment.
Also, can anyone explain to me in what way this is different than fanfiction, taking a minor character and working within another author’s creative universe to write stories featuring that character? The source material is older? What else?
Everything was well written, and characters were pretty consistent. (True to themselves, the time period, etc.) The plot was okay. I thought the battle and field hospital scenes were good. The sections based on first person accounts were very believable (these are described in the afterward) – the whole part about Oak Landing, for instance. The parts about the hospital in DC (Louisa May Alcott herself was a nurse in a similar hospital and wrote an account about it).
The part I disliked the most was the character of March himself – in reading Little Women (I am blowing cobwebs off these memories now) I had approximately zero impressions of him, no opinion one way or the other. Reading this? The guy is a tool! I am glad he was absent for Little Women, and Meg and Jo and Amy and Beth did not have to deal with him. He is incredibly naïve and insecure and needy and cloying towards everyone around him, he sometimes has good intentions but can’t get around his own ego in order to carry them out. It was hard for me as a reader, with this being a first person narrative. I waffled between mild and active dislike of this guy depending on his actions in a particular scene for the whole book.
I get that March was based on Bronson Alcott, which is why he was best friends with Thoreau and Emerson in this book. But this, part, taken from real life and inserted into the Little Women canon, was a jarring note, even if it was true to life. I think another reviewer mentioned it being similar to everyone in this era knowing famous people just because we happen to live at the same time in the same area, which I completely agree with. E.g. – I live near DC, so clearly I must have dinner with the Obamas every week.
Also, Grace Clement was about a thousand times more interesting than March himself (I would want to read a book from HER perspective, MUCH more in line with Geraldine Brooks' other narrators) but I thought that throwing them together was completely unbelievable and out of character for both of them. Well, maybe not March, who was for the most part a sniveling child, but definitely out of character for Grace.
I didn't have any strong feelings about Marmee from Little Women, so I wasn't as up in arms as some readers were with her characterization here - but I did think that there was WAY too much modern feminist sensibility involved in a character who lived in the 1800's. This was also incredibly jarring and threw me out of the story.
To me, this felt very cobbled together and inconsistent, especially because I KNOW the author is capable of writing fantastic books....more
I don't know if it was the constancy and fluency of the non-modern language or that the audiobook was read by Jennifer Ehle or the female narrator andI don't know if it was the constancy and fluency of the non-modern language or that the audiobook was read by Jennifer Ehle or the female narrator and point of view, or the maneuvering for a good match, but this reminded me strongly of Jane Austen.
It was also one of the audiobooks that has the ability to completely transport a listener - there is no commute & terrible traffic, the story is completely immersive.
I loved the other Geraldine Brooks book I read, Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, and this was just as great, even though the setting & characters could not have been more different. This was still meticulously researched, which is what made it so immersive, I think - nothing pulled me out of the story. ...more
This book also reminded me of Firefly, just like Grimspace did. The plot and storyline were not all that unique if you have read or watched a lot of sThis book also reminded me of Firefly, just like Grimspace did. The plot and storyline were not all that unique if you have read or watched a lot of sci fi in the past, but the writing from Jax's point of view was. I like reading this in her voice, from her perspective, she's a very interesting character.
I love (haha) how the love story is not perfectly sweet and saccharine and tied up with a bow.
I think that this series (so far anyway!) would translate VERY WELL into episodes of a tv show.
I really like how the secondary characters are all fleshed out and seem like real people - none of them are cardboard cutout placeholders.
Plus, the covers of this series are all very pretty....more
I added this review to the Italian edition because I think the cover on the paperback us edition is TERRIBLE. I never would have picked up the first bI added this review to the Italian edition because I think the cover on the paperback us edition is TERRIBLE. I never would have picked up the first book in this series if it had a cover that awful.
I loved this book. Even though the mystery was uncomplicated and the last chapter was incredibly out of place re: pacing compared with the rest of the book/series. (Clearly it was setting up the next book.) The characters in this series are my favorite part. ...more
I enjoyed this book a lot. I like Julia, and the setting, I guessed the mystery in this one pretty early on, but it didn't matter. The characters andI enjoyed this book a lot. I like Julia, and the setting, I guessed the mystery in this one pretty early on, but it didn't matter. The characters and setting completely made up for it. I love how so many siblings and recurring characters are not difficult to tell apart.
I appreciate how the characters are true to their time period. REALLY liked how characters remained consistent between this and the first book in the series....more
I bought this book in a gift shop at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, which I did not think was that far a stretch at tI bought this book in a gift shop at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, which I did not think was that far a stretch at the time, but looking back, this was an interesting decision on the part of the Smithsonian. Chapter 4 of this book covers in detail the ways in which the Smithsonian, in revamping their displays in the early 2000’s, systematically and needlessly destroyed irreplaceable artifacts of great historical, artistic, and biological value in the name of “cost efficiency,” even though there were other options available. For instance: one of three blue whale mounts in the world – hacked apart and stuffed into a dumpster to save money. Now there are only two - in New York and Tokyo. Dioramas that painstakingly recreated environmental biomes which are now no longer found in the wild were dismantled, hacked apart, and burned. Offers from other museums that would preserve and maintain historical displays were rejected. Ugh. This chapter made me almost literally sick, and simultaneously furious. And I can’t believe the Smithsonian decided to sell this book. In hindsight, this may have been a small act of rebellion on the part of some individuals, and the big bosses in charge of buying stuff to sell in gift shops obviously have never read it.
I am now very curious to go back to the museum and look at some of the displays described in this book in detail. So there’s that.
Emily Mayer sounds AWESOME. I love her art, and her attitude, and her personality. If the goal of taxidermy is to cross the uncanny valley and create animals that are as close to life as possible, she is the person included in this book who I feel is closest to that goal. I mean, I have had rodents as pets for years and years and years, and I am very familiar with what they look like - and even after looking at this mouse for a long time, knowing it is a mount, I cannot really pinpoint whether it is alive or not. And this dog? I wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell with a deer or a lion or a bird, but to succeed in the challenge of taking on an animal like a mouse or a dog, where people live with them and are intimately familiar with every detail of how they look - that’s amazing.
I think one of my favorite things about this book is the way the author immerses herself in the subject matter - she doesn’t just interview these guys by phone, she went and stayed in their houses (Ken Walker, Emily Mayer) and really got an in depth picture of who these people are personally, and the reality of the taxidermy field today. Her personal journey as detached sort of scientific observer to someone who then stuffs her own squirrel was almost as interesting as the people she interviews.
I really feel, as someone who knew practically nothing about taxidermy prior to reading this, that the author captured the spirit and essence of the field, the history and artistry of taxidermy as well as the occasional kitschyness of it all. There is a section towards the end of the book where she is describing the critique she is receiving from Jack Fishwick at the World Taxidermy Championship for her squirrel (Gray Squirrel, Yellow Dawn): “ I think it’s very good for a first attempt...but you have been hanging around taxidermists for the past two years - perhaps the best taxidermists in the world. You have an advantage! You are not starting at rock bottom. You have tons and tons of info you could have studied.” Personally I feel that his critique was a little off the mark - the author did succeed - what she was preserving was not a squirrel, but the field of taxidermy, through this book....more