I think this got iffy reviews, but it worked really well for me. The intertwining lives of upwardly mobile - moving - Londoners. Class consciousness,...moreI think this got iffy reviews, but it worked really well for me. The intertwining lives of upwardly mobile - moving - Londoners. Class consciousness, gentrification, and women growing up - check check and check. That's basically my life right now. The author casually throws in some points cultural references that - for some readers - may come off as contrived, but to me felt right in how they were experienced in my own life: for example, the way every car passing by seemed to be playing MJ on the night Michael Jackson died. It helps that Zadie Smith is just a really good writer.
Sometimes bitterness makes a grab for Leah. Pulls her down, holds her. What was the point of it all? Three years of useless study. Out of pocket, out of depth. It was only philosophy in the first place because she was scared of dying and thought it might help and because she could not add or draw or remember lists of facts or speak a language other than her own. In the university prospectus, an italic script over a picture of the Firth of Forth: Philosophy is learning how to die. Philosophy is listening to warbling posh boys, it is being more bored than you have ever been in your life, more bored than you thought it possible to be.(less)
I think I will be thinking about this book for a long time. It is an arrestingly well-written "autobiography" of the shamelessly megalomaniacal medica...moreI think I will be thinking about this book for a long time. It is an arrestingly well-written "autobiography" of the shamelessly megalomaniacal medical doctor who discovers a long-lost tribe in the South Pacific, bringing them to the world's attention and himself to fame and fortune. The author did a stunning job of creating a character who's blind to his own flaws, and inadvertently alerts us to them through his judgements of others. It's ultimately a novel about trade-offs: How much are we willing to give up in pursuit of scientific knowledge? How many peculiarities are we willing to overlook in the name of genius? The author's refusal to offer up easy answers means this book will stick with me for a long, long time.(less)
I enjoyed reading this, because it's beautifully written, but it doesn't give the reader any answers. I guess because the desert doesn't give its own...moreI enjoyed reading this, because it's beautifully written, but it doesn't give the reader any answers. I guess because the desert doesn't give its own answers, even though some of the characters find them there. It's a little cosmic, there are lots of jumps in time and narration - I think a patient reader will be rewarded.
There was applause. The host hugged, patted, performed the holding of the wrists. She smelled of some powerful lilac deoderant. She smelled like an office bathroom. They sat down on the couch. We're so glad. Our harts. Such a difficult. Tell me.(less)
Based on the soft-focus cover and prominent positioning on front-of-bookstore tables, I wasn't expecting much from this book. Or, rather, I was expect...moreBased on the soft-focus cover and prominent positioning on front-of-bookstore tables, I wasn't expecting much from this book. Or, rather, I was expecting it to be quasi-literary soft-pedaling, more junky romance than substance. Boy, was I surprised, and am I ever happy about that. There is some tough post-World-War-II stuff going on in here, fantastically detailed and well-researched. I also learned a ton about the Channel Islands, such that I really want to go visit (it doesn't hurt that they're apparently a tax haven). There is a love story, and I did see it coming, so I was pleased the authors were so delayed-gratification about it - it is literally the least-important thing in the book. The most-important thing about the book? It's funny. And it's also truly beautiful to read how much the characters obviously care about each other. This book alone is a perfectly encapsulated illustration of how awesome people can be during difficult times, while that famous English restraint keeps things from ever getting too cheesy.
Now about Markham V. Reynolds (Junior). Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet. ...It's a tuba among the flutes, and I expect better of you.(less)
I think this is one of the most intense books I've ever read. It blew me away. I would literally get stressed out reading it, and at the same time I n...moreI think this is one of the most intense books I've ever read. It blew me away. I would literally get stressed out reading it, and at the same time I never wanted to stop. It's about North Korea, and freedom, and there are a couple of things that really set it apart. Johnson makes a point of finding poetry even in the most terrible details (and in a country where it's estimated that over 10% of the population starved to death, there are a LOT of gruesome details). Because the protagonist first serves in the army and then mans the radio on a fishing vessel, he and the people around him do encounter the world outside of the DPRK, which provide some of the best opportunities for Johnson to underline what "normal" means to North Koreans, in ways both humorous and poignant.
The Second Mate wasn't quite listening. "And what if you do make it around the world--how do you wait in line for your dormitory toilet again, knowing that you've been to America? Maybe the millet tasted better in some other country and the loudspeakers weren't so tinny. Suddenly it's your tap water that smells not so good--then what do you do?"
The second half of the book relies heavily on those aforementioned loudspeakers as a plot device, one that I could have taken or left, although it works well to underscore how malleable the truth can be. And I won't say the plot couldn't be far-fetched - at times it reminded me of certain episodes of Seinfeld, how so much happens in some of them that my memory divides it into two episodes, and when watching the episode again I'm shocked by how many plot entanglements there are, and it all seems so far-fetched, except somehow it works. So much happens to the protagonist that this book could easily be the most depressing Seinfeld episode ever, or perhaps a warped, downer Forrest Gump.
It was hard to believe an interrogator from Pyongyang had never seen nice athletic shoes. Still, Jun Do said, "They're for exercise, I think." "I've heard that," the old man said. "That Americans do pointless labor for fun."
I had read Submarine and really, really enjoyed it (even if I can't quite understand why anyone would want to turn it into a movie). Even before I rea...moreI had read Submarine and really, really enjoyed it (even if I can't quite understand why anyone would want to turn it into a movie). Even before I realized they share an author, I was interested in Wild Abandon for the plot alone.
So: What happens to communes now that the '60s are long over? Wisely, Dunthorne focuses mainly on the kids in the community, particularly a teenage girl who goes to public high school (and is well aware of how different she is) and her much-younger brother (who is still a home-schooled believer). This book is incredibly well-written, and funny while still being suspenseful for the right reasons. I devoured it before meeting a friend for brunch one morning when I woke up insanely early.
For six days [after his failed first attempt to slaughter a goat for food], Don walked slowly up and down steps and made elongated sighing noises when getting in and out of chairs. He also took any opportunity to mythologize his wife's role: her calm manner, perfect aim, but underlying humanity. As a result, it was suggested that Freya be the first person in the community to apply for a firearms license, and once she had that, he fate was sealed. ...Don was never asked to help again, but still, he ate bacon with an air of moral immunity.(less)
Yes, this is "the 9/11 novel about the memorial competition." Even though I was dissatisfied with the ending, I thought it was good. It does get very...moreYes, this is "the 9/11 novel about the memorial competition." Even though I was dissatisfied with the ending, I thought it was good. It does get very political, but I was impressed with the author's ability to portray the viewpoints of characters from both sides of the spectrum (even if it is fairly obvious that she herself tends to swing left). The main characters were well-developed and seemed like real people, although most of the jury members were more like one-dimensional caricatures of artists.
Sean reddened. He didn't need to see his parents' faces to read their scorn. He couldn't even pretend that he would have been as brave as Patrick if given the chance: faced with a building pouring fire and smoke, he would have run away as fast as he could. Nor was he sure this would have been wrong. Patrick had charged into a building that pancaked almost immediately on top of him, and he'd left three sad-eyed children behind.(less)
For some reason I'm surprised I've already read twoother books by him (I've also since discovered who his ex-wife is). I suppose this is my long way...moreFor some reason I'm surprised I've already read twoother books by him (I've also since discovered who his ex-wife is). I suppose this is my long way of saying that I was surprised, once I thought about it, to realize that I had any previous experience with Auster at all, and also that I think it helped my reading of the book. I was annoyed that the second part was written in the second person (I steadfastly refused to agree to read a book for my old book club because it was written in the second person), but overall, I did like this book. The characters seemed real enough (the main character especially), which is impressive because there were some very extreme personalities. There was a lot to think about, it was very well-written, and ultimately redeemed itself from being so man-centric. It's interesting, too, that I'm not yet able to see much of a pattern developing between this and his otherbooks I've read - the mark of a good writer, I'd say.(less)
So this is a book club book that I read at least six months too late. No biggie. It's very intense! Mostly it made me feel incredibly ignorant about t...moreSo this is a book club book that I read at least six months too late. No biggie. It's very intense! Mostly it made me feel incredibly ignorant about the Civil War. This I think is a very bad thing, given how important it is for our history, and especially since it's so easy to be very high-minded about it because of where I live. The book gives an incredibly detailed picture of life in the North and the South wrapped around the literary context of "Little Women." It's a lot, but it's very very good.
Are there any two words in all of the English language more closely twinned than courage and cowardice? I do not think there is a man alive who will not yearn to possess the former and dread to be accused of the latter. one is held to be the apogee of man's character, the other its nadir. And yet, to me, the two sit side by side on the circle of life, removed from each other by the merest degree of arc.(less)
Of all the books I've read that have been described as "Kafka-esque," this one definitely is, or at least starts out like it. Straightforward, journal...moreOf all the books I've read that have been described as "Kafka-esque," this one definitely is, or at least starts out like it. Straightforward, journalistic, about an alienated narrator who goes back and forth between being hurt and offended by the people around him and hurting and offending them. Then it goes more regressive-squishy, with a digression at the end about torture in the military that I think definitely weakens the book overall. In sum, though, I thought the book was very interesting.
Oh, and also - the author used a lot of obvious foreshadowing, which I never like.
I left the store feeling much more safe and secure, even though I didn't have the Browning yet. It was the feel of it in my hand; in spite of its flaws, or perhaps because of them, it filled me with confidence. I thought of my father's Enfield then, and wondered if it had made him feel the same way. Of course, in reality, the gun did not make him safer--on the contrary, it was the instrument of his death. But I was not my father.
...and I *just* got the obvious Kafka comparison with the title. Wow.(less)
Some books set in New York City really frustrate me. It's like the authors think that the simple fact of the story being set in NYC makes it fascinati...moreSome books set in New York City really frustrate me. It's like the authors think that the simple fact of the story being set in NYC makes it fascinating. I'm sorry, but here's a news flash: The city of New York is not a substitute for having a PLOT.
"Our heroine" is a former party girl who found reformation in her marriage to an artist, who's been in a coma for the past six years. Most of the book is her being self-indulgent and lusting after the minor attentions of other people while simultaneously being afraid of ever attracting anyone's attention, ever. And it's set in Brooklyn, and the author LOVES to show off all the stuff she knows about Brooklyn, and what it means to live in Brooklyn. I did like the ending.
He is technically listening to me right now, but he can't hear a thing I'm saying. I am speaking French. I am speaking Spanish. I am speaking backwards. I am speaking too softly. I sound like the roar of a truck. Whatever he needs to do to the sound of my voice to make it unintelligible, it's working. There is a glaze over his eyes, a thick lacquer, as if he has been baked in an oven. Davis is cooked.
In all fairness to the book, I thought it would be chick-lit-y, and was expecting to be entertained. Boy was I wrong.(less)
So this was by the author of our last book club book, a work of historical fiction, that I wasn't able to get out from the library. And it draaaaaaggg...moreSo this was by the author of our last book club book, a work of historical fiction, that I wasn't able to get out from the library. And it draaaaaaggged. It was about... Astronomy? In Washington, DC? Romance? Malaria? And political corruption? After the Civil War? Unngh.
I finished it three days ago.
Two decades before meeting Hugh Allison and Mr. Michelson, she had underlined the sentence that came just after the numerical estimate: "It follows that, if the sun was annihilated, we should see him for eight minutes afterward..." She continued to lie beneath the counterpane, watching the Sun and wondering if somehow, so far from here, the planet Mercury had just gone dark; and then Venus; and soon, any minute, unaware it was about to be scuppered, Earth. She lay still, one eye on the Sun and the other on her clock, until eight minutes had passed, at which time she sighed and got up to dress.(less)
This is one of those books that I saw around... but it's so, SO much better than the other books I've seen around and then read. This book was so good...moreThis is one of those books that I saw around... but it's so, SO much better than the other books I've seen around and then read. This book was so good. SO good. It's 566 pages, and I read it in a day and a half. It went above and beyond my usual commute reading time, to cut into my couch time, to keep me up too late at night.
I can't believe this is David Wroblewski's first book.
Edgar Sawtelle lives on his parents' farm. He can hear, but he cannot talk. And this book is so much more than the sum of its parts. Go and find it, immediately.
Papers and notebooks mounded over his desk, but the walls were unadorned except for a framed certificate and a photograph of a youthful Glen in his Mellen High wrestler's uniform, pinning some unknown behemoth in a fetal curl. In the picture Glen was up on his toes, almost parallel to the floor, body rigid as a log, veined thighs thick as a draft horse's. The referee's arm a blur as he slapped the mat.(less)
Before starting reading, I was amused to note an endorsement from Francisco Goldman and pleased to note one from Vendela Vida as the first two on the...moreBefore starting reading, I was amused to note an endorsement from Francisco Goldman and pleased to note one from Vendela Vida as the first two on the back of the book. Well, mostly, this novel made me sad, and occasionally confused me with complex meteorological references.
It's about a psychiatrist who, one day, suddenly becomes convinced that his wife has been replaced by an exact replica of herself. In trying to figure out what may have happened to his "real" wife, he gets caught up in the delusions of one of his patients. It's a fascinating portrait of the dissembling of an analytical mind, but is also incredibly sad as it becomes more and more obvious he's doing it to himself. As much as I wasn't sure if I even wanted to finish it, she is an excellent writer, and her choice of details is incredible.
I turned away from this woman and went to the bathroom, where I ran hot water over my hands, which I something I like to do in the colder months, it just makes me feel a little bit better. Then I touched my face with my warmed hands. It calms me down, it's just this very normal thing that I do.
I thought you didn't even love her that much anymore, some part of me taunted. Some parts of me are so mean.
"No, of course she doesn't love him," I answered in a quiet, calm, not at all irritated voice.
This is irrelevant to your investigation, one parliament member of me said to another.(less)
An historical novel set in Amsterdam about painting, love, and - yep - tulip fever. I liked it overall, even though it was slightly predictable, and t...moreAn historical novel set in Amsterdam about painting, love, and - yep - tulip fever. I liked it overall, even though it was slightly predictable, and the characters weren't especially complex. One thing that I wasn't sure if I would like but did is that Moggach writes each of the chapters from different points of view - including some as "The Painting" or "Autumn." While I was nervous at first that this would be too gimmicky, she keeps the more abstract chapters short, and I thought overall it added depth (in addition to the more conventional going back and forth between different characters).
He is drunk with the vision of ourselves, immortalized on canvas. Drinking beer sends him to sleep, but drinking wine makes him patriotic. "Ourselves, living in the greatest city, home to the greatest nation on the globe." It is only me sitting opposite him but he addresses a larger audience. Above his yellowed beard his cheeks are flushed.(less)
I haven't exactly been crazy about a couple of books I've recentlyread, so you can imagine how stoked I was when I picked this up at the library. "It...moreI haven't exactly been crazy about a couple of books I've recentlyread, so you can imagine how stoked I was when I picked this up at the library. "It's about Mormons, on the frontier, and the last wife loves taxidermy?! Count me in!!" I was not disappointed.
And really, you don't need to know much more than that. The author may be Canadian, but it takes place on the American frontier, shortly after the Civil War. The fourth wife is new to the enormous family, they live on a farm, there's all kinds of drama, and it's really, really good. Oh, and it would be a great book club book, there's a TON to discuss.
...ever since he'd received word of Bill Drown's comeuppance, he could feel himself coming loose from the moorings of his new life. Could a boy--a man, really, he was closing in on fifteen--could a man one day up and begin to float? A fool's notion. But in the war between sense and sensation, the latter inevitably holds sway. He took to keeping his hands full at all times ...At night he draped himself with heavy saddle blankets, woke sweating, certain he'd dropped into consciousness from a position several inches above the straw.(less)
I really wanted (and, I admit, still do) to read Sittenfeld's latest novel based on the life of Laura Bush. Unsurprisingly, it was checked out of the...moreI really wanted (and, I admit, still do) to read Sittenfeld's latest novel based on the life of Laura Bush. Unsurprisingly, it was checked out of the library, so when I saw this there instead, I figured, good enough. It's Sittenfeld doing Jennifer Warner - should be fine by me. I picked the novel up, read the first few sentences. I liked them. Figured the first-person narrator was telling us about her friend. Well, you know what they say about assumptions...
Fifty pages in, I had given up on hoping that our fun, bubbly first-person narrator would be interjecting any time soon. Instead, I was caught in yet another absurdly dry and emotionless book about a woman who doesn't really like herself all that much. It's well enough written. I mean, it must be well-written, because I have a decent number of pages dog-eared. But it doesn't have a why. I had a professor in college who would always ask us to keep WHY? in the back of our heads. Why am I writing this paper?? Ever since, I get really agitated by books, articles, anything that doesn't have a justification for its existence (truly, this isn't very many works). This book has no why. The very last chapter is a letter from the main character to her therapist - the book would've been great if the entire thing had been written like that. Because, hey, emotion! Not that it needs to be the centerpiece of everything, but if you're writing a book for women about a woman, and the ENTIRE BOOK is about the woman's development as a person...
Is Hannah becoming ugly? If so, it seems like the worst thing that could happen; she is letting down her family and, possibly, boys and men everywhere. Hannah knows this both from TV and from boys' and men's eyes. You can see how what they want most is beauty. Not in a chauvinistic way, not even as something they can act on. Just instinctively, to look at and enjoy. It's what they expect, and who they expect it from most of all is teenage girls.
She forgets what Allison ordered and has to come back, and Hannah feels an odd though not unfamiliar desire to be this waitress, to be forty and calmly unattractive, to live in a strange and tiny town in Alaska with a short-order cook who loves you.(less)
Interesting. Interesting, interesting, interesting. The first half reads like what I basically imagine is every man's fantasy - He meets a beautiful y...moreInteresting. Interesting, interesting, interesting. The first half reads like what I basically imagine is every man's fantasy - He meets a beautiful younger (MUCH younger) woman who really understands him, he loves her, and she actually loves him back, he risks (and loses) everything for her, but she loves him, and together they sail happily off into the sunset. I kept flipping back to look at the author photo - "Really? This was written by a woman? REALLY? I need to read her other book(s) so I can get a better idea of how she actually feels about women!" But then, in the second portion of the book that comes twenty years later, it all comes crashing back to earth. Which, I guess should be a relief given my confusion about the first half- but man, it's really sad. I mean, it CRASHES. Plus, it doesn't seem like any of the characters have grown, changed, or learned much at all. I'd still like to read something else by this author.
Only months ago, Berta Fernandez would have roused Maria from dead slumber to help with the reeking piles, but now that her girl was earning good money, she let her sleep, shushing her boys if they so much as raised their voices. "Has it ever occurred to you fat-ass losers that it's us with the tits who bring home the cash?"(less)
Oh, look - another historical novel centered on women that goes back and forth between two different periods of time! Imagine that! This one centers o...moreOh, look - another historical novel centered on women that goes back and forth between two different periods of time! Imagine that! This one centers on Lady Elgin, married, yes, to the man who stole the marbles, and goes back and forth between their time on the Continent and ancient Greece, when the friezes were actually being carved. At first, I preferred the chapters about Lady Elgin. The author's ancient Greece seemed too ponderous to be believable, well-researched as it may have been (and she threw in enough vocab words that you KNOW she did the research). They weren't enjoyable chapters to read. As the book progresses, though, I came to prefer the ancient Greece chapters - not seeming as bogged down by historical accuracy actually freed up the characters to be more interesting. It was a pretty good book, although because of it the first thing I think of whenever I hear Lord Elgin's name will be that he lost his nose to syphilis.
Owing to long walks with his mother and his grandfather, Bruce was becoming adept at identifying the coastal birds, and went into blue mood for an entire day when he saw a stout, black great skua devour a small, defenseless puffin. But being a little gentleman, he hid the reason from his sisters. "They might have bad dreams if they knew, Mother," he told Mary when she went into his room to bring him tea and to comfort him. "Litttle girls love little birds."(less)
According to the jacket copy, David Sedaris thought this was "a great comic novel." Well, David Sedaris, you and I are just going to have to agree to...moreAccording to the jacket copy, David Sedaris thought this was "a great comic novel." Well, David Sedaris, you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree. Sure, it was funny... but I'vereadfunnier, and this just didn't measure up. It -is-, however, a good, fun, road-trip/romance/mystery/coming-of-age book.
"Who called it beating your meat?" asked Carson. "Uncle Jack. He told me his mama told him he'd go blind if he did it, and so he asked her could he do it till he started wearing glasses." "What does that mean?" "I don't know." "Does he wear glasses?" "No."(less)
Um... Sad. Just, sad. I had read good things about this short novel and was excited to read it, but goddamn is it sad. Aging former alcoholic takes st...moreUm... Sad. Just, sad. I had read good things about this short novel and was excited to read it, but goddamn is it sad. Aging former alcoholic takes stock of his ruined life while he's derailed on his way to his estranged daughter's wedding. Normally I'm a sucker for anything involving translation or translators, but jeez. I do have a lot of pages dog-eared, which I suppose means it's well-written.
Shortly before I left New Orleans, I was fooling around with an equally alky divorcée named Sandra ("Sahn-dra"). She claimed to have been a model once but that seemed dubious from a visual point of view.
Because of its status as a port city ("a crucial port city," the nuns said), New Orleans would be obliterated in the first wave of attacks; this, we were told, was the price we had to pay for living in such an important town. Also it was rumored that the Russians hated Mardi Gras and/or for that matter all parades of a festive nature.
I take an oversized amount of pride in the fact that I've never worn a wristwatch since my thirteenth birthday, when my father gave me a Timex and I smashed it with a nine-iron to see how much licking would stop its ticking (not much, as it turned out).(less)
Okay, so it's the life story of a man who's born old, but baby-tiny, and as he gets bigger and older, he looks younger and younger. You're confusing i...moreOkay, so it's the life story of a man who's born old, but baby-tiny, and as he gets bigger and older, he looks younger and younger. You're confusing it with that movie, aren't you? Well, I've seen the movie (and would love to discuss the tugboat-submarine scene with anyone who knows a lot about boats, BTW), and they are actually really different. "Max Tivoli" is more complicated, and his life takes very different turns (although there are some similarities in terms of the story arc about "the girl"). The ending is more depressing, too, but more realistic, I thought. Overall, I think "Max Tivoli" takes you on a better emotional journey than the movie version of "Benjamin Button" (I haven't read the short story).(less)
This was very, very interesting. It makes me proud of my country, and also a little sad, that Philip Roth thought this would've been plausible. And al...moreThis was very, very interesting. It makes me proud of my country, and also a little sad, that Philip Roth thought this would've been plausible. And also kind of ignorant, because I'm really not sure how likely it would have been. It's about what Roth imagines would've happened if Lindbergh had won the election right before WWII over FDR, and the country were run by Nazi sympathizers. Very implausible ending. Lots of the "Anti-Semetism lurks deep inside most of us" fearmongering. I'm glad I read it for book club; we'll have a lot to talk about.
"Son, anything can happen to anyone," my father told me, "but it usually doesn't." "Except when it does," I thought, but I didn't dare to say as much because he was already upset by my questions and might not even know how to answer if I kept on going. Since what Uncle Monty said to him about Lindbergh was exactly what Rabbi Bengelsdorf had told him--and also what Sandy was secretly saying to me--I began to wonder if my father knew what he was talking about
and at another time...
Then he opened a drawer and showed me her brassieres and offered to let me touch one of those, but I declined. I was still young enough to admire a brassiere from afar.(less)
So this is the book that the author of "The Cat Who Went to Paris" was trying to adopt into a movie along with Roman Polansky, but they couldn't make...moreSo this is the book that the author of "The Cat Who Went to Paris" was trying to adopt into a movie along with Roman Polansky, but they couldn't make the screenplay work. He describes it as a surrealist Russian novel, and from that I was expecting that it wouldn't make any sense, which it mostly does, and would be difficult to read, which it really isn't. On the back of the book, it says that the author couldn't publish this until the 60s, and even then it had to be heavily censored, because of its descriptions of Soviet life, to which I say, it's not that realistic. It does have the book-within-a-book thing going on, and it takes a little while for the "main plot" (ie, the one involving the Master and Margarita) to get going, but when I finished what I liked most about the novel (and what made me almost a little uncomfortable) was the ambiguity of what/who is "good" and what/who is "evil." So yeah, I did really enjoy this book.
It is hard to say what had ultimately led Ivan Nikolayevich astray--the descriptive power of his pen, or his complete ignorance of the subject matter, but the Jesus whom he portrayed emerged as a, well, totally life-like figure, a Jesus who had once existed, although, admittedly, a Jesus provided with all sorts of negative traits. ...The poet, for whom everything the editor said was a novelty, stared at Mikhail Alexandrovich with his sharp green eyes and listened to him attentively, hiccuping only occasionally and cursing the apricot juice under his breath.(less)
Okay, I sure did learn a lot about the lives of Chinese immigrants in Vancouver! I got this out at the same time as "A Map of Home", and I think I kin...moreOkay, I sure did learn a lot about the lives of Chinese immigrants in Vancouver! I got this out at the same time as "A Map of Home", and I think I kind of thought they would be like peas in a pod - but that book was so, so much better. Don't get me wrong - I did enjoy reading the parts of "The End of East" that were about the protagonist's grandfather and parents - they were well-written and fascinating. But the portions about her life in the present? "Oh, hello, bartender who I've only met once. Please, rape me again and I'll pretend I'll enjoy it." Ugh. Get back to Vancouver in the early 1900s!(less)
I picked this up one Saturday morning to read over breakfast, and ended up being completely blown away. It's the story of a family who lives in Kuwait...moreI picked this up one Saturday morning to read over breakfast, and ended up being completely blown away. It's the story of a family who lives in Kuwait and has to move a number of times, with the plot mainly following their daughter as she grows up. The author has such a strong literary voice; I must have dogeared every other page for the first fifty or so. The details are great, the characters are interesting - I highly recommend it. The only thing that did let me down a little bit - the reason I'm not giving the book five stars - is that the formal voice kind of breaks down toward the end, as the protagonist enters her teen years.
Why had Baba assumed, no, hoped, that I was a boy? Because before his birth, his mother had had six daughters whose births all went uncelebrated. He'd watched his sisters grow up and go away, each one more miserable than the last, and didn't want to have to be a spectator to such misery ever again: to witness his own girl's growing and going.(less)
So I borrowed this from the hotel I stayed at on my most recent vacation (yes, I know I am damn lucky and I love my life). I was really pleasantly sur...moreSo I borrowed this from the hotel I stayed at on my most recent vacation (yes, I know I am damn lucky and I love my life). I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I got into it. Her writing style is engrossing and I really cared about the characters (including some damn strong women). Usually I could care less about the Crusades, apart from scoffing at the imperialistic hubris, but this makes me wonder if there's a lot more to them that I should be checking out. I'd certainly like to read more from this author.
Milord Boniface had alerted me that Byzantine battle training leans toward group action rather than individual feats of valor, so I expected that a group of them would be something fearsome--but they were, rather, fearful. They were shocked by our audacity and fled (with womanly cowardice but admirable coordination), deserting their tents, their provisions, and many mules and horses.(less)
A short-story collection! Very interesting, and occasionally moving. Doesn't answer the question, "Why?" It's almost like AMcCS got bored one day and...moreA short-story collection! Very interesting, and occasionally moving. Doesn't answer the question, "Why?" It's almost like AMcCS got bored one day and jotted these all down, and then decided to have them published, and could, because he's, y'know, AMcCS. The title I think is a little misleading; the overall theme has more to do with examining relationships than flirting or dating, although each story does involve a date of one sort or another. Of course, I tend not to really enjoy short story collections.(less)
Wow. Out of all the books I've ever read that have been called "Dickensian," this one is by far the most legit and truly Dickensian. It weaves togethe...moreWow. Out of all the books I've ever read that have been called "Dickensian," this one is by far the most legit and truly Dickensian. It weaves together the lives of a number of Indians in the late 70s, four in particular. It's kind of heartbreaking, but therefore important? It's really kind of about everything - it's a novel with an enormous scope, that only emphasizes how little I know about India. Wow.
Gazing at the bier, Maneck wondered if Avinash's parents had started his funeral procession from the morgue. Or was it permitted to take the body home for prayers? Probably depended on the state of decomposition, and how long it would keep at room temperature. In the unrefrigerated world. Where everything ended badly.(less)
My last borrowed vacation book, and Banks's latest. I've been a fan of his since thoughtlessly buying "The Wasp Factory" while visiting England in hig...moreMy last borrowed vacation book, and Banks's latest. I've been a fan of his since thoughtlessly buying "The Wasp Factory" while visiting England in high school. That was Banks's short, debut novel, with a "whoa, nellie!" twist ending. I've read a number of his other works, and after a little while I was worried he was heading down the early Chuck Palaniuk, every-book-is-a similar-mind-fuck route. And his last novel, "Dead Air," was just not that great. English radio shock jock reacting to 9/11?! What??!!! "Garbadale" decisively pulls away from post-modern mind-fuck mode, but is his most solid, novelly novel I've read so far. A family history, about a family-run board game business and family politics - what it most reminded me of was those Barbara Taylor Bradford books, just not as explicitly gendered. A great read, but a poor introduction to Iain Banks.(less)