Dystopian visions, no matter how engaging, are not my thing. Due to childhood nightmares (I think that's the cause anyway), my adult sleeping brain la...moreDystopian visions, no matter how engaging, are not my thing. Due to childhood nightmares (I think that's the cause anyway), my adult sleeping brain latches onto the despair and hopelessness and doesn't shake it for a while. The result is weeks of very bad sleeping.
So it took a work assignment to get me to read Suzanne Collins's futuristic tale of a young woman forced to fight for her life on live television. I am positive that this book is for teenagers today what The Chronicles of Narnia was for me: a gateway to a lifetime of reading.
*****************SPOILERS, ALTHOUGH THE PLOT OF THIS BOOK IS EVERYWHERE*****************
This book is depressing - that shouldn't be too surprising considering it's part of the ridiculous amounts of dystopian pop culture churning out right now (can it stop soon, please?). I find hope in this story because Katniss is in a position to change things, and there are rumblings of people wanting a better world.
I had to think of Panem as a far-way land that has nothing to do with this world, in order to read it. Even that didn't stop the nightmares, but once I started reading the book in the daytime the nightmares abated. What caught me first was the author's stance on reality television. I am relieved that a popular author is addressing the falseness of "reality". Collins's idea to prop that idea up as the axis of a love triangle is brilliant, I think.
The second thing that struck me was Collins's approach to Katniss's heroism. She doesn't seek it out, she doesn't want it, she is just reacting to the moment and focusing on survival. But to the reader, Katniss is strong, thoughtful, and resourceful. She has no money backing her, she comes from a poor district, but she finds a way to make her strengths prevail.
The third thing that struck me was how Katniss puts on different hats. One moment she's vulnerable and shy. Thirty pages later she's ready to take out a legion of professional killers. Reminded me very much of being a teenager and trying on different personalities (or sometimes, managing legendary hormone changes).
I did not give this book 5 stars because I didn't feel moved to write any of the sentences down. There were no thoughts that made me stop and consider the impact of their meaning. The writing was to-the-point, much like Katniss. And the style fits the tone, which is not a fault. But when I started writing reviews here I told myself that 5 stars requires that I write sentences down to remember them later and I'm going to stick to that.
I don't think anyone will be surprised by the next book I read, though...(less)
Most surprising thing about rereading this book is how true the movies stayed to it. Tim Burton's version made Willy Wonka more creepy, but he's creep...moreMost surprising thing about rereading this book is how true the movies stayed to it. Tim Burton's version made Willy Wonka more creepy, but he's creepy in the book as well. It's just easier to smooth over when we're not confronted with facial features, I think.(less)
Pete likes Anabell. Pete's friend, Ed, decides to make their relationship happen, so he conjures a plan to put-on a production of Romeo and Juliet cas...morePete likes Anabell. Pete's friend, Ed, decides to make their relationship happen, so he conjures a plan to put-on a production of Romeo and Juliet casting Pete and Anabell in the title roles and his other friends in the rest of the production. The humor relies pretty heavily on knowing the major scenes of the play, but it's enjoyable if you do.(less)
A young man moves to Alcatraz when his dad gets a job as an electrician for the prison. While there, he deals with new people's reactions to his autis...moreA young man moves to Alcatraz when his dad gets a job as an electrician for the prison. While there, he deals with new people's reactions to his autistic sister, which includes the other kids on the island. What follows is a sensitive and genuine tale of a kid trying to do what's right.(less)
A tween girl deals with her parents expectations of her and her school friends' reactions to her as the older sister of an autistic boy. This story's...moreA tween girl deals with her parents expectations of her and her school friends' reactions to her as the older sister of an autistic boy. This story's charm lies in the author's ability to express Catherine's simultaneous protectiveness of her brother and her frustrations over his inability to process social interactions and having to do it for him. Very well done!(less)
A poetic story about a man who finally finds his place in the city after years of yearning over his childhood in Indiana. The paintings have an intere...moreA poetic story about a man who finally finds his place in the city after years of yearning over his childhood in Indiana. The paintings have an interesting reflection motif that contributes greatly to the tone.(less)
A surprising read, since I expected it to be more about the science of the cells than about the family behind the story. The entire time I was reading...moreA surprising read, since I expected it to be more about the science of the cells than about the family behind the story. The entire time I was reading this book I was wavering between "oh, it's bad that the american medical system take samples of people's tissue without permission" and "oh my gosh, if they hadn't we might not have many of our life-saving medicines." I think both the book and I landed somewhere in the middle on the issue.
Rebecca Skloot's writing is strong and effective in placing the reader in the moment. And seeing the pictures of the Lacks family in the center strongly hit the point with me that those cells came from a mother, sister, wife, daughter. Her and her family's story deserves to be told and is long overdue. Especially since her name has been out there for 30 years.
It is definitely a book about miscommunication. It's amazing what feelings can be generated from a series of assumptions and misunderstandings. It's also amazing and beautiful how the author and members of the Lacks family brought this story gently into religion and faith. (less)
A bunch of misfits accept an invitation to stay in a house with a questionable reputation. Shirley Jackson blurs the line between whether the supernat...moreA bunch of misfits accept an invitation to stay in a house with a questionable reputation. Shirley Jackson blurs the line between whether the supernatural is physical or psychological.
The book group agreed that the characters in this book were annoying. Luke and Theo to a lesser extent than Eleanor. My jaw dropped when the author revealed her age (32!). I was picturing her as 17 based on her insecurities. I suppose this disparity can be explained by the difference between 32-year-old women in the 1950s and now. But, we're talking about a woman with supernatural events and an invalid mother in her past. Seems like those two serious life events would mature a person right quick.
But I think the author's point of making Eleanor ridiculously awkward and naïve was to establish her emotional susceptibility.
Again i feel the need to say that I am not one to read horror novels. They give me terrible nightmares. So when even I say I was disappointed at the banal horror in this novel it speaks volumes. A book group member consistently called this "the book where nothing happens."
After mentioning this book to several people, our subsequent conversations inevitably went something like this: "Oh, I just LOVED that story! It's so suspenseful." Me: "Really, because I'm not happy with it. The characters are annoying." "Oh, that scene where Eleanor thinks she is hanging on to Theo's hand only to realize Theo was across the room! That is the scariest movie scene!" Me: "Huh. So the 4 page inner dialogue of how Eleanor both hated and loved Theodora during that scene didn't bother you?" "Wait...what? I must be thinking of the movie. Yes. It WAS the movie. Such a great movie! Julie Harris was unhinged. You should watch it."
Wish I had watched it instead.
But I will say that the maid and the doctor's wife were great characters. And Shirley Jackson does a fantastic job setting up the mystery of whether the house was actually haunted (the shaking bedroom, the mutual sightings of strange things, the story at the beginning of the novel of the horseman being crushed) or if Eleanor was just plain crazy-pants.(less)
A look at the people who affected the borders of the states. For me, not as enjoyable as the original HTSGTS. It didn't match the humor and bounce.
Th...moreA look at the people who affected the borders of the states. For me, not as enjoyable as the original HTSGTS. It didn't match the humor and bounce.
The biographies get mired down in the thick gravy of legalese sometimes. And there's one person entered into this book who did not affect a state boundary at all. The entry tries to justify its inclusion by stating that the Kansan suffragette changed the borders of her state's human rights. As important as that is, she probably should have been edited out of the geography book.
I did enjoy the Sam Houston and Ethan Allen entries. Those two men had zazz, and I've always wondered exactly how they figured into history.(less)
I've been meaning to read this Pulitzer Prize winning book for years. Finally got it, and yet again, I have to ask myself why I wait so long to read s...moreI've been meaning to read this Pulitzer Prize winning book for years. Finally got it, and yet again, I have to ask myself why I wait so long to read such good books.
Robert Olen Butler's collection of short stories from the perspective of Vietnamese emigrants to New Orleans.
The first three stories sucker-punched me. About three quarters of the way through each one a character witnesses or does something that either breaks my heart or gives me chills. The Trip Back is one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL SHORT STORIES I have ever read. And I'm pretty well read, if I do say so myself. I'm tearing up just thinking about the husband's act of consolation to his wife at the end. God, I want to write like that.
Ok. So, that said, the first three stories were the strongest for me, Other heavy hitters were Preparation and Missing. Both of these stories had strong psychological implications.
The American Couple went on a little too long. I trust the author to know that he needed the game show stuff in that story, but its purpose was not clear to me and did not add anything of value. Also, I found Gabrielle's constant awareness of her own observations very grating. If I could go back and skip reading that short story, I think I would have given this book 5 stars.
The short story from which this book is named was also one of my least favorite stories of this collection. I have to conclude that its themes are essential in Butler's mind, because he named the collection after it. But the narration was nebulous (on purpose, I think, because the narrator was on his deathbed), as was its meaning. I should go back and read that one again to see if I missed something. A Ghost Story also seemed unnecessary.(less)
One of the first, if not the first, novels to bring Sci-Fi out of camp and into more meaningful subjects.
What would happen if, say, someone in the Rom...moreOne of the first, if not the first, novels to bring Sci-Fi out of camp and into more meaningful subjects.
What would happen if, say, someone in the Roman Empire predicted its fall and shipped hundreds of people to Iceland to maintain the knowledge of the Empire as the rest of the world falls into barbarism. That's the very simplified premise of Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Only think galactically circa 1950.
The bookgroup talked about the timeliness of the novel. How the Foundation's crises can be directly related to today's issues. They discussed how the novel was less about character and more about the social implications of politics and religion intermingling. They talked about how nice it was to not have characters to worry about just these over arching ideas of how society was and could work.
I was silent.
For those you who don't know me. I am pretty soft-spoken. The only other people I know who are more soft-spoken than me are family members. I'm the guy in the office that you have to lean into a little bit to hear when you ask me a question because the A/C unit is on and creates a whirr that blurs out my voice. If you can hear me, I'm also pretty funny and dry witted and not necessarily shy. This book made me scream at poor Cruz (sorry again, Cruz).
I'm not exactly sure why this book enraged me so much. All I know is I do not like reading about a two guys in four different times sitting in a room talking about events in the empire that has, is, or will happen without much context and with exactly one woman. The encyclopedia excerpts at the beginning of each chapter felt like an editorial cheat because the author couldn't naturally work in explication. For a novel with so much at stake - the fate of the universe - it sure didn't feel like there was much riding. The narration didn't stick with any character long enough for me to invest. Not once did the men (who were bare delineated from one another - one had a lisp, and one talked like guy, you know, the guy from the 40's movies who say "see" all the time) mention kids, or wives, or parents, or whoever they want to preserve the Empire for. It felt absolutely passionless to me. And it completely pissed me off that I had to read it.(less)
A fun read concerning the true circumstances of a member of a Sherlock Holmes fan club's murder, Arthur Conan Doyle's true experiences working for Sco...moreA fun read concerning the true circumstances of a member of a Sherlock Holmes fan club's murder, Arthur Conan Doyle's true experiences working for Scotland Yard after rising to fame as Sherlock's author, and the true fact that one of ACD's famed journal entries was missing for most of the 20th Century.
I had a hard time getting into this novel, but once I was riding along with the author I found I liked the story. This book motivated me to go back and read more SHerlock Holmes stories. I think the only one I've read is Hound of the Baskervilles in high school. Also, my mother-in-law is a huge fan, so reading these stories will give us something else to talk about.
I don't have a lot to say about this book. When I'm reading mysteries, I tend to just accept the plots in front of me. I don't read too far into the writing style of the character's motivations because I know they are all leading up to an explanation at the end. Graham Moore's respect for ACD's writing is adoring. Even without reading Sherlock's stories anytime in the past 20 years, I picked up on the nods to the Sherlock style and literary devices. Fun. Perfect read for a 90 degree week.(less)
Parents linger over the disappearance of their daughter.
***SPOILERS AHOY!******* Don't go looking for any resolution in this book. Just like in his nov...moreParents linger over the disappearance of their daughter.
***SPOILERS AHOY!******* Don't go looking for any resolution in this book. Just like in his novel A Brief History of the Dead (which I loved), Kevin Brockmeier delights in exploring the vortexes left in the world by people who've passed away. Truth About Celia seemed scattered to me until I remembered that the main character's profession was author. The scattered chapters are insights into the father's grief. The stories give the reader insight into his mental state as the plot moves farther away from the day of Celia's disappearance.
Quiet, brooding, and beautifully written. Only three stars for me because I couldn't get over the wall the narrators put up. I'm sure it was on purpose that the father and mother are guarded. But reading-wise, for me, they seemed about as present in the novel as Celia.(less)