People have been asking "what's the meaning of life?" ever since...life. But I think that other question is at the roo...moreHow do you make peace with life?
People have been asking "what's the meaning of life?" ever since...life. But I think that other question is at the root of this one. When you try to come up with a visual picture of someone asking these questions, you might think of a person who's angsty. Unsmiling. Moody.
That's why the character of Siddharta is so appealing. Well-behaved, serene in temper, pleasant in feature, Siddharta is the picture-perfect Brahmin's son with a stable, comfortable life in a sixth century Indian village. He has never questioned the truths his religious teachers have passed down to him.
And then he does. When he is in his late teens, Siddharta wonders if there's more to know about God than he can learn with the Brahmins in his village. So he leaves. And we follow him on his quest for the next few decades.
We experience life with him through Hesse's beautiful words. Experience through the senses: the very thing that Siddharta has been shying away from as unclean becomes the thing that leads him to his revelations. He becomes newly mesmerized by "the stars in the sky in their fixed positions and the crescent of the moon floating like a boat in the blue." He sees and appreciates how the courtesan Kamala has 'lips like a cracked fig."
And these sensual experiences start to lead him deeper into his quest:
Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun's melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.
When you're done with this book, you don't just appreciate his quest, you realize that life is suffering. And that it's also the opposite of suffering. I guess that's how you make peace with it.
How far do you go for your passion? There's that old story about blues musician Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for genius. W...moreHow far do you go for your passion? There's that old story about blues musician Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for genius. With The Invisible Man, we have science instead of music. And there's no devil-at least in the horned man with pitchfork sense. But there is a scientist with, um...questionable ethics.
I've always loved the questions about life and ethics that HG Wells makes you think about in his writings. The problem is, his books always seem to lose steam in the middle. Questions are posed, but not examined fully. Like here.
We have the "mad scientist" who is using his skills to--- see title. It's perfectly okay to have a character who is unlikable, but a problem arises when we can't understand the inner workings of this character. The only workings we see of the scientist's mind shows up in his 'conversations' with people. I use the quotes because he's so condescending and rude that a lot of his sentences contain little explanation and feeling. Oh, and a chunk of the book consists of the other characters just physically chasing him. That's it. I felt like I was reading a screenplay of a bad Western.
If you want a book that really makes you think about the ethics of science, look elsewhere. The only reason I gave this three stars is because of the author's name. (less)
What if our future holds robots that surpass humans in being human?
What if a robot- a beautiful man made of silver metal and gears- becomes your gr...moreWhat if our future holds robots that surpass humans in being human?
What if a robot- a beautiful man made of silver metal and gears- becomes your greatest love teacher?
Welcome to Jane's world. Human Jane. Sixteen years old, with a well-meaning but distant and very rich mother, no father, and a group of friends that makes your enemies look like valentines, she lacks two of the biggest factors that give life value: love, and a sense of identity.
Until she sees Silver singing and playing his guitar on the street. They have instant chemistry, and soon, a companionship that brings Jane the first joy she's known. But Silver is a robot. A robot rock star. Part of a line of robots so superior to humans in creativity that human artists are threatened to become obsolete. Silver isn't just an amazing musician. He gives Jane the kind of compassion and unconditional love that only great spiritual teachers are capable of. And in a way, he does become that for her. What happens though, when real men become threatened by the Silvers popping up? Who wins in the struggle between compassion and cruelty?
Bob Dylan recently said that the point of a song is to make listeners feel their emotions. What I love about Tanith Lee is that not only do the concepts in her stories stay with you long after the book's back on the shelf, but her sentences move in a way that makes you look inside yourself while you're reading the words on the page. I WAS Jane when I read this. Falling in love with a musician man robot.
Then why not five stars instead of four? I was tempted- but there were some things I couldn't get past. The unevenness, for example. This book has dialogue that will make you laugh and then break your heart. But some of it also sounds like a bad soap opera. Lee uses some futuristic terms that aren't properly explained, and we don't get a clearly detailed city that the characters are inhabiting. It's as if we're walking around in a haze, hearing about this city but not being able to see it.
But after I'd wiped away all my tears after finishing this book (you will need Kleenex- trust me), I thought, "Will humans and robots really become soul mates in the future?" And if an author can seriously make you wonder about this, she is brilliant.
I can't resist fairy tale retellings- and this one is dark, juicy, and deep.
Reading Tanith Lee is like walking into a deserted but gorgeous park whe...more
I can't resist fairy tale retellings- and this one is dark, juicy, and deep.
Reading Tanith Lee is like walking into a deserted but gorgeous park when the sun's going. You're simultaneously taking in the surroundings and battling fear because it's going to be too dark soon to see the garter snakes crawling on the ground.
And with Lee- this fear (and awe) comes not just because she's a master of mood, but because of the questions that come into your mind after reading her.
The tales covered and Lee's titles:
1. The Pied Piper/The Paid Piper 2. Snow White/Red as Blood 3. Rapunzel/The Golden Rope 4. The Frog Prince/The Princess and her Future 5. Sleeping Beauty/Thorns 6. Cinderella/ When the Clock Strikes 7. Little Red Riding Hood/ Wolfland 8. Black as Ink/ Swan Lake 9. Beauty and the Beast/Beauty
I really admired how how Lee used chronology in setting these stories. The Paid Piper is set in pagan times, Red as Blood during early Christianity, the stories in the middle from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries, and Beauty in the future. And a couple in Asia instead of Europe.
I'm only going to talk about the three stories that really stayed with me. Almost all the stories were excellent. Her Rapunzel and Snow White just couldn't hold my attention span though- since there was so MUCH imagery that it washed out all plot.
The Paid Piper- this makes you wonder...What if god is vulnerable? And what if humans can kill him by denying his existence? I still think about this story. Set in pagan times, the story is about Cleci, a fourteen-year-old girl who's trying to keep her sense of passion and romance living among tired, bored villagers whose concerns are money, money, money. Oh, and money. But when a forgotten god visits the town playing his soul-lifting music, Cleci begins to entertain real hope that her life will turn out differently from those around her. Will it?
Beauty- This is Beauty and the Beast set in an era of spaceships and colonized planets. Beast is an alien. The human/alien love connection might sound like a cheesy C-grade sci-if flick, but this story made me more emotional than a lot of human love stories have. What does sacrifice really mean when it comes to love? And what happens if you don't know who you really are when making that sacrifice?
Cinderella. What if the most helpless damsel of distress of all time...wasn't? What if the things we say to ourselves about the nature of good and evil are false?
Sadly, this book is out of print. I managed to find mine in a university library. But if you ever do get your hands on a copy, please please don't let it go. (less)
I feel bad not finishing something by Tanith Lee. As you'll see by my other reviews of her work, I think she's pretty amazing. But sometimes...plot d...more
I feel bad not finishing something by Tanith Lee. As you'll see by my other reviews of her work, I think she's pretty amazing. But sometimes...plot doesn't seem to be important to her at all. She's always a master of imagery. But if I want only that, I'll look at some nice photos. (less)
Actually, I would add a half a star if it was possible just for Hoffman's style. Every page has odes to the natural world that would make Walt Whitman...moreActually, I would add a half a star if it was possible just for Hoffman's style. Every page has odes to the natural world that would make Walt Whitman proud. And I would personally crown her Queen of Metaphors if the title existed. Maybe it's not fair of me, but whenever I read a novel, I compare it to the works of my favorite nineteenth-century authors...Brontes, Hardy, Eliot, etc. My observation is this: the reason I like these authors so much is because their writing hits near perfection in ALL aspects of storytelling. Along with style, a TIGHTLY woven story existed together with complex characters. But I feel with modern authors, particularly a lot of "literary novelists," their novels are like unfinished paintings, or lovely quilts with lots of loose threads taking your eye away from the design. I'm not sure what the reason for this is (I don't find the same to be true for some young adult authors, particularly in the fantasy genre).
My problem with this book is that NONE of the characters ever behaved rationally. I know it's magical realism, but even I couldn't suspend disbelief that much. The thing is, in older books, even when you have insane characters driven only by their passions (aka Heathcliff and Cathy), there are always other cast members balancing things out. Here, no chance. I felt that the sisters Sally and Gillian were too stereotypical- the "straight-laced v. rebel." Additionally, I couldn't understand the characters' motivations for doing some things, which is never a good thing in a story. As an example, the protagonists always fall in love with their significant others at first sight, and they realize they're meant to be together forever after looking into each others' eyes for a total of three seconds (there's that suspension of disbelief that doesn't work again). Finally, the ending felt too slapdash, and just left me feeling dissatisfied.
So, I hope I haven't torn apart Ms. Hoffman too much- because her writing really is beautiful. I wonder if perhaps her short stories (and poems, if she writes them) would be more satisfying. (less)
Okay- this is really bothering me. I have only fifty pages left and can't seem to get through them! The language has kept me going, like seeing a favo...moreOkay- this is really bothering me. I have only fifty pages left and can't seem to get through them! The language has kept me going, like seeing a favorite work of art turned into black and white print. Plot's fine, if not spectacular. Characters too. I think it's this: Meggie almost exclusively interacts with adults.This adds originality to the novel, since it's kind of rare. But I realize that part of the charm of children's and young adult fiction is reading the interactions and exploits of a circle of young friends. Without companions her of age, the story seems to lack juice. (less)
Jane Eyre on the shelf, my fingers hesitating to pull it out... bad memories of eighth-grade English class mixed in with adolescent angst flashing thr...moreJane Eyre on the shelf, my fingers hesitating to pull it out... bad memories of eighth-grade English class mixed in with adolescent angst flashing through my head. But I'm a Brontephile! Had to reread this one. Great decision. Being obsessed with Wuthering Heights, I kept - for better or worse- comparing the two books. Both stay with you for a long time. With Wuthering Heights, I felt it was by showing you how NOT to behave in order to be a good human being. But in Jane, her creator gave us a character who provides an example of how to live a life of integrity in a way that even women in our century can relate to. Rochester didn't particularly impress me as a teen. Although I still wouldn't necessarily want him as my boyfriend, he pulled me in this time with his love for Jane.
I got the Junior Illustrated edition- these always bring back such lovely library memories for me. Though the pictures in these books are beautiful, they really don't capture the essence of Jane Eyre at all. Reading Jane Eyre is like walking through a gorgeous and frightening jungle. These illustrations are too clean and belong in a lighter read. Not to mention that Jane's not supposed to look like Anne Hathaway. And the woman in the attic wasn't white- and she most DEFINITELY would not be dressed like she's going to a cotillion after months in an attic. Perhaps one of the graphic novels out there do a better job with the visuals.(less)
It's always thrilling to get your hands on a classic British mystery. Sometimes though, the dialogue and plot trump the poetry of the language. But I'...moreIt's always thrilling to get your hands on a classic British mystery. Sometimes though, the dialogue and plot trump the poetry of the language. But I'm happy to say that in this novel, I was able to savor her lovely descriptions of thought and place in addition to reading the unfolding of events. To others less patient with language for the sake of language, Waters may seem wordy sometimes.
But this is a very unique and more modern take on a classic ghost story. You definitely have to read carefully and be astute to understand the ending.(less)
Just like streaks of fire on the page,in ecstasy over the natural world and sensuality. One of my favorites, recalling the story of Persephone and Had...moreJust like streaks of fire on the page,in ecstasy over the natural world and sensuality. One of my favorites, recalling the story of Persephone and Hades (a small portion below):
And in Sicily, on the meadows of Enna, She thought she had left him; But opened around her purple anemones,
Caverns, Little hells of colour, caves of darkness, Hell, risen in pursuit of her; royal, sumptuous Pit-falls...
And the opening to "The Wild Common":
The quick sparks on the gorse bushes are leaping, Little jets of sunlight texture imitating flame; Above them, exultant, the peewits are sweeping: They are lords of the desolate wastes of sadness their screaming proclaim
Some of them didn't really speak to me, like his poems about mosquitoes and peaches. But the ones that did stayed in my head like favorite songs. (less)
I hate to give bad reviews, but there is absolutely no way I can bring myself to give this book a good one. It's a ghost story, but without the story....moreI hate to give bad reviews, but there is absolutely no way I can bring myself to give this book a good one. It's a ghost story, but without the story. Just pages and pages (and pages) of description. Of the air, the grass, the trees.The creepy noises that the narrator hears (which aren't that creepy). Did I mention, for pages and pages? If I wanted pretty words strung together, I'd read bad poetry instead of a novel. And at least bad poems are short.
Plot summary- um, go to any old Halloween story you read as a kid, and it'll have way more story than this one.
I think what stung was unfulfilled expectation- this was on a Goodreads list of best novels ever written in the "Gothic" style. What? And apparently some people liked it enough to make it into a play. Again...what??
I've heard of Guy de Mauppasant for so long, but this was the first book I picked up by him. Lucky for me, since I rarely see the English version in b...moreI've heard of Guy de Mauppasant for so long, but this was the first book I picked up by him. Lucky for me, since I rarely see the English version in bookstores.
The story is very simple. Taking place around the mid 1800s France, we meet Jeanne de Lamare at age 17, when she's fresh out of school. The title pretty much says it all- we watch Jean's downward spiral from a happy schoolgirl to a broken, sad grandmother thirty years later. The saddest part is- it is one simple decision made in haste that causes tragedy in Jeanne's life for the next few decades.
As far as story, A Life definitely veers toward melodrama at times, a bit like a soap opera on paper. Characters are somewhat black and white. I was surprised though that a nineteenth-century male author (and one who was apparently such a blatant womanizer as Guy de Maupassant) could write a female character with such compassion and empathy.
As far as prose is concerned, I have never read such beautiful writing in my life. The following paragraph is one such example, from the book's first few pages:
The sun had set; church bells tolled in the distance. In one little village they were lighting the lamps; and the sky began to shine with a swarm of stars. Here and there, the lights from a house would pierce the darkness like pinpricks of fire; and all at once, from behind the hillside, through branches of fir, the moon rose, red and huge, like a bleary eye rose from sleep.
One thing the reader notices is that nature is more of a trustworthy companion for Jeanne throughout life's ups and downs (mostly downs- a happy book this is not) than her human companions. In fact, it appears that it is the sea, the trees, and summer breezes that helps Jeanne to move on with her life, however hobbled she is by tragedy. Perhaps this is one of the author's messages; that when all relationships fail and leave one disillusioned, there is always Mother Earth for solace.