this was the last book Verne posted to his publisher before he died. ultimately it was heavily edited/revised by his son Michel, who finished the lastthis was the last book Verne posted to his publisher before he died. ultimately it was heavily edited/revised by his son Michel, who finished the last of his posthumous works, but this is Verne's original.
the editor tries to make a case for its greatness, but i found it only mildly interesting; there's no great sweep of themes, no lyricism in the word choices--it's a serviceable adventure story which found its first American publication in a boys' story paper at the turn of the century (and that's about what you would expect of it). without Michel's editing, it is also rather clunky, repetitious, and unfocused (it was only a draft, after all). for me this is a little bit like looking at Verne in his underwear, which i find (as anyone should) unsettling.
i'm glad i read it, though i doubt it will make much of an impression on me in the years to come. still, it has whetted my appetite for more substantial (more polished) Verne and that can't be a bad thing....more
this was the weakest in the series so far, i think. started out well enough with some taut naval action that leaves our heroes in an open boat and atthis was the weakest in the series so far, i think. started out well enough with some taut naval action that leaves our heroes in an open boat and at the mercy of the fates, but once they are rescued and subsequently captured and end up in America things get dull for more than 100 pages; just a lot of endless nattering about Stephen's dull spy intrigues and a stupid love intrigue between Diana, Louisa, Herapath, and Johnson.
it probably says more about me than the books that i can't stand Diana and Stephen's obsession with her annoys and exasperates me. eventually the book got everyone back to sea, but really too late to salvage this mess. also, i think Stephen's behavior in this one either stretches credulity or makes him kind of a monster; i definitely think less of him in this book than any other.
a bit disappointing return to aimlessness for O'Brian. this started off strong, had some really interesting things building, and then just sort of lisa bit disappointing return to aimlessness for O'Brian. this started off strong, had some really interesting things building, and then just sort of listed off the map once goal-fever set in on board. halfway through, Pullings got put ashore and somehow i knew it was going nowhere from there.
didn't really care for the Wogan/Herapath subplot (predictable), and got a little tired of Stephen's wallowing and Jack's ironic misogyny. the caper with the Dutch man o'war was actually one of the more thrilling pieces of naval warfare in the series so far, but the rest was a bit hum-drummy. maybe it's just all set up for the next book (will they ever get to Botany Bay?). or maybe it just doesn't stand up to the previous book.
too bad since they finally got somewhere snowy for a change!...more
the opening of this book in the series is brilliant: Jack at home, domesticated, as it were, but pining for the sea; his poverty and family obligationthe opening of this book in the series is brilliant: Jack at home, domesticated, as it were, but pining for the sea; his poverty and family obligations bending--but not breaking him.
once we get on board and out to Mauritius, the story felt a bit more labored (lot of politics and boats and whatnot ~ one gets the impression of o'brian just writing a strange sort of naval fan faction about this historical action). nevertheless, a fun character study of Jack's nemesis Clonfert, the happy return of Pullings (albeit briefly) toward the end of the action, and Stephen doing a lot of introspection on why he's such a misanthrope.
overall i enjoyed this, though it was the most predictable so far of the bunch and Jack, as commodore, was trapped in that boring place of sending and receiving dispatches rather than being in the thick of it.
still a satisfying read, though a wee pale next to HMS Surprise....more
anti-Catholicism was quite the national pastime in antebellum America and here's a great book that demonstrates how and why that prevalent attitude slanti-Catholicism was quite the national pastime in antebellum America and here's a great book that demonstrates how and why that prevalent attitude slowly began turning around in the 19th century.
here is a book full of real heroes; nurses, student soldiers, and clergy who rendered aid to a country that didn't want them; helping to alleviate prejudices through their dedication and service. there are some great portraits throughout and excellent details not only of those who left Notre Dame to assist in the fields, but also those who remained at the college. it was especially interesting to read about the aftermath of the war.
a great overview of an underwritten subject, with numerous interesting anecdotes and quotes from primary source documents. one description of a general absolution before battle at Gettysburg was especially affecting.
also a nice starting place for those interested in reading more about general w. t. sherman, whose Catholic wife insisted on raising their many children in the faith (and whose son Tom eventually entered the priesthood despite his father's objections).
excellent photos and notes round this book out very well. as with schmidt's other book (Lincoln's Labels), i only wish it could have been longer!...more
This is an interesting book, but not what I expected (nor hoped for). Whereas other Civil War books have too many lists of minutiae with not enough coThis is an interesting book, but not what I expected (nor hoped for). Whereas other Civil War books have too many lists of minutiae with not enough context, background, or notes, here's a book that I actually wish had included more lists and minutiae. The focus here is on a few American brands that have been around forever (Du Pont, Tiffany, Brooks Brothers, Squibb, Borden, Scientific American, American Express). A single chapter is dedicated to each "brand" and a brief history of the product is provided with some context on its impact during the war and subsequent evolution over the next 150 years. While they are all interesting, it felt like a mixed bag to me and I longed to know more about other brands in vogue that didn't weather the century. But that was not Schmidt's intent, so I can't fault the book for my expectations. Nonetheless, I feel I can quibble with the fact that this feels more like an introduction to a subject on which a great deal more could be written. Great footnotes, a nice collection of essays overall, but I could have used a little more meat with my potatoes. ...more
Zulli can do no wrong in my book, so it's hard to review this. You will either roll with it or you won't. A meditation on dreams, the creative processZulli can do no wrong in my book, so it's hard to review this. You will either roll with it or you won't. A meditation on dreams, the creative process, and sovereignty, I could relate on certain levels, but like Zulli says, this is about questions rather than answers, so some might find it short on revelation. The artwork is astonishing. For me, that's sufficient....more
i guess they can't all be gems. i was excited to read this based on other reviews and my own love of Robertson's style, but can't say i understood thii guess they can't all be gems. i was excited to read this based on other reviews and my own love of Robertson's style, but can't say i understood this one at all. at best it could have been a short story that might have been mildly affecting. but victoria arguing with her parents over a playground incident did not, in my opinion, demand a novel of 300+ pages. given Robertson's other works, i kept expecting something horrible to happen ~ or at least for there to be some "reveal" pertaining to victoria's behavior. mostly this book just made me feel uncomfortable in my own speculation. maybe i expected too much. at the very least i expected to understand victoria (being a sort of power of one kind of person myself), but she was not only inscrutable, but mostly unlikable (even in her righteousness).
and, strangely, i found the references to Paradise Falls and the masonbrinks to be very distracting ~ i kept wondering if i was forgetting some important detail. ...more
best so far of the series. stephen is much less weird and bitchy in this one (perhaps torture humbles him a bit), and it feels so much less all over tbest so far of the series. stephen is much less weird and bitchy in this one (perhaps torture humbles him a bit), and it feels so much less all over the place than the previous two; there's an actual plot with some over-arching complications, and an ending satisfying enough that were this the only book O'Brian penned, it would have been just fine. I am almost afraid to be disappointed with the series moving forward, but move forward i shall.
a handful of bits out of this were borrowed to plot the weir film adaptation. i am grateful that the film didn't bother trying to include either diana or stephen's intelligence agent storylines ~ the former i hope to be done with and the latter really feels more like an intrusive (and convenient) plot device.
lovesick stephen was mercifully restrained and lovesick jack was hilariously adorable.
as was mr. pullings, who once again did not receive sufficient page time....more
Baricco's Silk is one of my favorite novels. I've read two others of his, neither of which did much for me ~ and now I have read Ocean Sea.
What a strBaricco's Silk is one of my favorite novels. I've read two others of his, neither of which did much for me ~ and now I have read Ocean Sea.
What a strange and mesmerizing book this is. Can't say much about the plot because it seems a fragile thing: there are a number of characters (some more intriguing than others), and an inn, and strange things happen that form kind of story that I feel is partly successful and partly just landscape ~ reading this book is very much like just watching the ocean: you either see something there or you don't.
So I think it's brilliant, but flawed ~ three stars because I don't know if I would read it again, though I am sure some of its painfully beautiful moments will stay with me forever. Maybe later I will come back and change it to four stars. We'll see....more
this second book is a stronger effort in my estimation. there appears to be a more cohesive plot (or set of plots, really). so generally i enjoyed itthis second book is a stronger effort in my estimation. there appears to be a more cohesive plot (or set of plots, really). so generally i enjoyed it much more than Master and Commander, though it still had its detractions and plenty of aimless boat boat boat blah blah blah kind of stuff that i occasionally skimmed.
Stephen was kind of weird in this one (and getting on my nerves as a result). he comes off very Mary Sue in this novel with O'Brian attempting to temper his awesomeness by constantly referring to him as "reptilian" ~ but i don't buy it. i actually enjoyed my time with Jack much more this go round, though the two of them together continue to be pretty awesome. there were numerous interactions that were comic gold throughout this one.
and Pullings is just adorable. he desperately needs more page time. ...more
Another reviewer likened this to Jane Austen--but with battleships. I now get the comparison.
I have been meaning to read O'Brian's series for many yeaAnother reviewer likened this to Jane Austen--but with battleships. I now get the comparison.
I have been meaning to read O'Brian's series for many years and now have finally gotten around to it with mixed results. I can appreciate the wealth of historical detail and the slavish attention to nautical detail, but the first novel of the series is sadly lacking in things like, well, plot, for one. And yes, Maturin and Aubrey are charming and there are some genuinely wonderful moments, but I felt exasperated for much of this waiting for something to happen. How can a book so chock-full of battles be so wanderingly aimless? I don't know, but O'Brian somehow manages it.
I didn't hate this, but neither was I madly in love with it. I might give the second novel a try and see if the narrative doesn't improve now that so much exposition is out of the way, but for me this was just so-so; impeded by strange choices in the pacing, truly bizarre dialogue at times (and I don't even mean the period vernacular--I mean sometimes it felt like the writer was paying no attention as to whether a reader could hope to make context out of random snippets), and again, just an odd plotlessness in which the whole setup never manifests anything in particular and the final battle is pretty much just a 50-page denouement.
The first book in this series is surprisingly ho-hum for being "the most violent story that ever erupted from our native territory". Oh, it's got violThe first book in this series is surprisingly ho-hum for being "the most violent story that ever erupted from our native territory". Oh, it's got violence, sure. I lost count of the bodies after fifteen. But the character of Edge is pretty dang flat and the basic revenge plot is devoid of any nuance. Asking too much of a pulp western? Perhaps. But this one got a little silly in its picaresque journey. Edge meets so many ridiculous characters (and mostly kills them), that I was literally skimming by the time he got to the Apaches attacking the wagon train. Too too silly. I also feel like maybe Gilman improved as he went along. The narrative is pretty humdrum and so much of the dress and behavior in this was weirdly anachronistic--and if he used the word "boot" one more time with regard to holstering a rifle on a horse, I was going to have to start shredding.
Eh. Lackluster, weakly written introduction--and this edition is riddled with publishing errors.
And yet somehow I keep reading 'em. Must be the 50-cent price tag. ...more
a 19th century homosocial contigency. snow. cannibalism. it's like this book was tailor-made for me! but the reviews were so polarized it took me a loa 19th century homosocial contigency. snow. cannibalism. it's like this book was tailor-made for me! but the reviews were so polarized it took me a long time to decide to actually read it. still, i suspect it's fans of Simmons' science fiction who hated this rather than people like myself who are new to his work.
it's hard to talk about the book without spoilers, but i'll try: yes, i agree with reviewers who say this is an exercise in the minutiae of polar expedition research. there are definitely places where Simmons rolls in his details like a lion in its kill and i found myself skimming whole sections about ice ice ice and boat boat boat. but that's okay. i appreciate that the detail is there for those who want it, and especially appreciate that Simmons did the work, period--even if an editor could have helped him sort some of it out.
where the book founders for me is in the balance between all this research and the insanity of the Thing on the ice. in a book so overwrought with precision, it was hard to reconcile this creature. i feel like the story would have been that much better had we known earlier what the heck was going on. the jumble of revelation at toward the end hurts the story because it feels hurried, tacked-on, and explanatory rather than organic. that said, i was not disappointed or dissatisfied as some other readers were. it doesn't work entirely, okay, but i think the idea is interesting enough.
the other major struggle is that it takes about 300 pages for the characters to really grow on you. the heartbreak is worth it once they do, but you have to give it a steep commitment. normally i would have given up less than 100 pages in, but i confess sheer ghoulishness pushed me onward. also the "villains" in this story (perhaps with the exception of Tozer, who's not really a villain, but kind of an idiot) are a bit flat, unfortunately, but our protagonist Crozier matures nicely.
the agony of the expedition's struggle is plenty terrorizing even without the Thing, but maybe a lot more fun with it. Cut about 200 pages of too much sledge-dragging and descriptions of ice and this is a pretty good monster yarn. the fact that the expedition itself is historically based just makes it all the more harrowing....more