An excellent and overdue account of how evangelical demand for adoptions is sharping the global adoption industry. Very worth the read. More detailed...moreAn excellent and overdue account of how evangelical demand for adoptions is sharping the global adoption industry. Very worth the read. More detailed review to come.(less)
Um, I finished this book in *mumble mumble* hours, that is to say, pretty quickly. Suffice it to say it was pretty absorbing. I loved the story. It's...moreUm, I finished this book in *mumble mumble* hours, that is to say, pretty quickly. Suffice it to say it was pretty absorbing. I loved the story. It's pretty original both in premise and how the plot unfolded, and the main characters are really charming. Some of the developments are heavily telegraphed, but for the most part I didn't anticipate the twists/revelations, especially the ones tied to the central mystery. Take this with a grain of salt; I'm woefully bad at seeing where a story is going without anvil-like foreshadowing (and generally uninterested in trying to think about where things are going - it takes me out of the story). The ending wasn't as excruciating/evil as I'd expected given all the reports I'd read. It's a bit of a surprise, but not the cliffhanger I thought it would be.
Gothic novels are a big inspiration for Unspoken. There's lots of taut suspense and looming shadows and violent storms, an intrepid heroine who is compelled to investigate despite the constant threat of danger and death, and of course a handsome, brooding, dangerous stranger. It's pretty fun stuff and mostly works. Brennan's penchant for witticisms occasionally sits uneasily with the darker aspects of the book. On the other hand, I laughed out loud several times, so I can't complain too much about the humor being out of place.
I really liked Unspoken and am definitely looking forward to the next book. There is one big problem with it, though, which I haven't seen mentioned in reviews so far: the writing was just not as good as it could have been, in terms of structure and clarity. There are a lot of conversations and thought sequences that shift from one topic to another with little logic, sentences bogged down with too many clauses or poor word choices, and abrupt transitions between scenes. They were jarring, and particularly frustrating because I got the sense that the issue wasn't Brennan's ability as a writer so much as incomplete editing - like the book needed just a little more time to really gel. These passages should have been flagged for not quite making sense/potentially taking the reader out of the story, but weren't. Which is a shame; it's such a little thing to keep the book from being a complete package. The last section or two of the book were a lot stronger in this respect; hopefully there'll be less of this in the next book.(less)
Maybe more like a 3.5, but a fun and fast read. What I liked: the main character, Adoulla, is interesting, fleshed out and likeable; the city felt lik...moreMaybe more like a 3.5, but a fun and fast read. What I liked: the main character, Adoulla, is interesting, fleshed out and likeable; the city felt like a fully realized place, almost like a character itself; it's not faux-medieval euro fantasy; it's well done fantasy inspired by medieval Muslim urban culture and religion (I'd be curious to know which city Dhamsawwaat is based on - my guess would be Baghdad). What I was less impressed by: the pacing is off. There's too much set up, the build up to the climax doesn't really feel like the stakes are ratcheting up - it feels like more set up, in fact. None of the characters besides Adoulla are really fleshed out; Raseed and Zamia feel particularly flat, and the progression in their relationship is way too rushed. The Falcon Prince feels like a cardboard character, which is a problem given the role he plays in the final act.
In short, I agree with Amal's review of the book, especially on the question of why the book is written from multiple POV when Adoulla's perspective is the only one that really seems to matter (I also agree that the final act is pretty darn bold). I'm definitely curious to see where the next book goes, though. (less)
I don't agree with all of it, but there's lots of good stuff here on cultivating presence of mind and openness to oneself and the world...basically ad...moreI don't agree with all of it, but there's lots of good stuff here on cultivating presence of mind and openness to oneself and the world...basically advice on how to be at home with yourself and roll with the punches life brings. Something I really needed to read about now.(less)
I really enjoyed this. There's a lot of originality and creativity in both the plot and the world Jemisin builds. It has the feel of a mystery to it;...moreI really enjoyed this. There's a lot of originality and creativity in both the plot and the world Jemisin builds. It has the feel of a mystery to it; Jemisin slowly reels out bits of information that give a fuller picture, and there are quite a few unexpected revelations that spin the book off in a different direction than anticipated. Yeine is a very sympathetic character, if a bit too good - morally, ethically - to be true for the rather dark and harsh world she's a product of, and a bit on the passive side (a lot of the plot is stuff happening to Yeine and her finding things out). But it's really engrossing, so I can't complain. I loved how race was handled in the book as well. Yeine and several other characters are explicitly written as being brown-skinned, in a world where the ruling family and dominant culture is light skinned. Jemisin deftly works in race as a factor in her world in a way that speaks to real issues, but in an unexpected and subtle way that doesn't resort to overly obvious or hamfisted parallels to contemporary race/racism (for example - Jemisin establishes early on that darker-skinned races are generally considered inferior to the light-skinned dominant race, but slowly reveals that the reasons for this hierarchy are totally different from what one might expect or assume based on contemporary racism).(less)
Captures the sadness, loss, and dysfunction that a life of shame and repression inflicts, not only on an individual, but on everyone intimately connec...moreCaptures the sadness, loss, and dysfunction that a life of shame and repression inflicts, not only on an individual, but on everyone intimately connected with them. Wrenching and beautiful. I'd give it five stars if not for the fact that Bechdel's attempts to make sense of her father's inner life by superimposing literary narratives on it is occasionally excessive and overindulgent.(less)
Um, so I read this in a day. I guess it's pretty good >.> Richly imagined world, engrossing story. The heroine is a bit on the hapless side, tho...moreUm, so I read this in a day. I guess it's pretty good >.> Richly imagined world, engrossing story. The heroine is a bit on the hapless side, though? *spoilers in the comments*(less)
Intelligent, complicated, relentless - much like Cromwell himself. Mantel clearly did some impressive and meticulous research for this book, and she d...moreIntelligent, complicated, relentless - much like Cromwell himself. Mantel clearly did some impressive and meticulous research for this book, and she does an excellent job of drawing realistic and engaging characters. On the other hand, the prose is occasionally difficult to follow, the use of present tense is not my favorite, and the book is definitely not an upper.(less)
This was deeply uncomfortable to read. Not just because it's basically an extended psychoanalytic therapy session with Alison Bechdel - and thus an ex...moreThis was deeply uncomfortable to read. Not just because it's basically an extended psychoanalytic therapy session with Alison Bechdel - and thus an excruciatingly detailed and intimate metanarrative of her life - but also because a lot of it was just way close to home for me. I found myself honestly repulsed by Bechdel's extreme self-consciousness/performance of self, which comes across as indulgent and self-absorbed (it's crystal clear what she means by the recurring motif of the "false self"). At the same time I identify personally with issues similar or identical to much of what she relates about her family and inner life...which is a bit terrifying. The main thought that kept coming to mind as I read the second half of the book was that I really hope I'm not treading this same psychic ground - infantilizing territory in a very real sense - when I'm Bechdel's age :/ (50+). On the third hand, heh, it's clear that Bechdel's dysfunctional family history and her own OCD play a large part in her hangups, and it seems a bit unfair to hold that against her. Bechdel would probably say I'm projecting my aggression against myself on her and the book, and I don't think she'd be wrong in that respect. Long story short, after reading Are You My Mother?, I feel like I sat in on an intense and painful therapy session myself; It's a masterful piece of work, and there's lots of food for thought - it requires at least a second read to get the most out of it - but I can't really say it was at all an enjoyable read.
Less thoughtful review: Oh my GAWD but Bechdel records every last tedious detail of her life. And are her dreams *really* that vivid, so faithfully remembered, so neatly fit into psychoanalytic frameworks? I guess I don't have any trouble believing that she records all of her dreams and pores over every details. The rest, though...0_0(less)
Meh. Mediocre and occasionally sloppy, patchy plotting. Too many words. It's one thing to be wordy in writing scenes that actually matter or add somet...moreMeh. Mediocre and occasionally sloppy, patchy plotting. Too many words. It's one thing to be wordy in writing scenes that actually matter or add something to plot or characterization, but the book is overrun with irrelevant scenes and passages bloated with superfluous details. Disappointingly dull for a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and particularly towards the end Holmes' characterization reads more like romantic fanfic than a serious story. Tempted to give it two stars, but I think that's because my expectations were so high when I started it (I've wanted to read this for a while). It's not without its entertaining moments. Still, a disappointment.(less)