I really like reading short stories. They're generally weird and wonderful and do things a novel can't, or at least shouldn't, because of their brevitI really like reading short stories. They're generally weird and wonderful and do things a novel can't, or at least shouldn't, because of their brevity. In this collection, Lahiri created a set of characters whose inner monologues are almost always more powerful and more interesting than the events of their lives. Lately I've been reading some contemporary short, short stories (like 1-2 pages on average) that made these feel a little staid and predictable in form and plot, but I was never disappointed with the characters. However, I doubt that I'll reread this book; however, it did make me want to reread "Interpreter of Maladies" in order to compare the two works....more
When I was a kid (and by that I mean last week) I loved to do those matrix logic puzzles. The ones that give you several clues and then ask you to dedWhen I was a kid (and by that I mean last week) I loved to do those matrix logic puzzles. The ones that give you several clues and then ask you to deduce who drove to the bake sale in what car bringing what kind of baked good and afterward watched which Bruce Willis film while enjoying what kind of movie theater treat...for example. I could fill in those Xs and Os until my eraser and eyesight were both worn out from the effort. And the point is not to understand Clarissa better by knowing that she drove to that bake sale in her Sebring convertible with a German chocolate cake on the front seat before kicking back with Hudson Hawk and some Goobers. The point is to know that she didn't watch Twelve Monkeys, Fifth Element, Death Becomes Her or Grindhouse. The point, in short, is to win. And the faster I win, the better.
Where was I? Right. Dan Brown. Dan Brown books are a lot like those puzzles for me. I don't need to read lyrical dialogue that deepens my understanding of the main characters and perhaps humanity itself while riffing on a motif of drowning or flying or whatever. I need the characters to say overly explicative things to each other so I can figure out what's on the Capitol Rotunda's ceiling and how it relates to WHAT IS IN THE BOX. After that, Robert Langdon, you may leave quietly. Your job is done here. And I like these books exactly as they are. I like not getting invested in the characters. I like figuring out the secret identity of the villain 300 pages before it's revealed. I like being able to say that all the Latin I know I learned in choir and from Dan Brown.
Speaking of choir, when I was in high school, several students decided to remain silent during a performance of Mariah Carey's "There's A Hero" (I know.) because they felt that the song encouraged people to turn to themselves instead of God for inspiration and strength. Yeah. Those people? Are not going to like this book. I'm not sure if this book is going to zigzag its way through the fundamentalist ranks anyway, but if it does, they are not going to appreciate Brown's take on Biblical literalism at all. Which kind of made me like it more....more
I loved reading this book. Richard Yates can make me snicker with superiority and squirm with shameful self-recognition inside the same sentence. RevoI loved reading this book. Richard Yates can make me snicker with superiority and squirm with shameful self-recognition inside the same sentence. Revolutionary Road is the story of an almost archetypal 20th century American couple, April and Frank Wheeler. They believe themselves to be disaffected and on the edge of consumerist, capitalist culture, looking in pityingly as they unconsciously take part in it (which could describe nearly anyone with a liberal arts education at some point in their 20s or 30s). But that is the only thing they do unconsciously. Yates' characters watch themselves have conversations, strike the right tone, move their facial muscles to create the appropriate look and even watch themselves grieve (and comment on whether or not they're doing it right) as they wait for others to stop talking so they can take another turn. And Yates sketches this faux self-awareness with such a deft hand that the plot itself rides along effortlessly on the backs of these people who are so very, very pleased with themselves, so contemptuous of others and so extremely concerned with presenting the right image. Which all makes them so very human....more
It seems somewhat inappropriate to give this book five stars, given the subject matter, but this is an excellent book and a riveting read. ComparisonsIt seems somewhat inappropriate to give this book five stars, given the subject matter, but this is an excellent book and a riveting read. Comparisons made to Capote's In Cold Blood are appropriate but perhaps don't go far enough. This is a book that simultaneously reads like a novel and as the most complete report possible (given the numerous sources) of the events at Columbine High School. People become characters and those who had become characters in the media (especially the killers) become people again at Cullen's hand. Frightening, cruel and tragic people. This is just as much a story about those outside the building as those that were inside on that day, and the explanation of the FBI's involvement, the Jefferson County sheriff's role and the media's part to play are just as captivating as the stories of the high school students.
Like many, I remember what I was doing on April 20, 1999 and remember the reports in the weeks that followed. What this book provides is the years that followed and came before the murders and goes far beyond the major network coverage of the incident and the case. The author's pacing and organization of the book are brilliant: chapters alternate between the aftermath and the year that preceded the Columbine shootings, as Harris and Klebold made their preparations. I knew exactly how it was going to turn out; the actual shooting is documented early on in the book, but I was still nervous and anxious and unable to put it down as I waited (again) for the denouement. This was not an easy book to read, but it was impossible not to read it....more
I have some prejudices that I hold dear. One of them is that I hate books about the South and Southern writers in general. I know; it's stupid. That'sI have some prejudices that I hold dear. One of them is that I hate books about the South and Southern writers in general. I know; it's stupid. That's why it's a prejudice. But it's mine and I like it. I blame The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. So I was both intrigued and confronted when I saw all the 5-star reviews for this book on both amazon and goodreads. How could it be such a great book AND be about Mississippi? Then I read it. In about 3 days. I could not stop reading this book and I am lonely and sad now that it has ended, even though it ended perfectly. Honestly, the whole thing was nearly perfect. The plot, which was much more suspenseful than I had anticipated, the backdrop of the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, and the characters who seem so almost casually sketched but are ingrained within your mind the moment they open their mouths.
It even had written out dialect and I didn't mind! It actually worked for me and flowed beautifully.
Seriously, this book is something of a miracle. I can't wait to see what Stockett writes next. If it's more about Jackson, Mississippi, I might even be first in line....more
**spoiler alert** This is one of those books that uses a (maybe?) post-narrative structure to forward its plot, characters and theme. It seems to be t**spoiler alert** This is one of those books that uses a (maybe?) post-narrative structure to forward its plot, characters and theme. It seems to be trendy as of late for fiction to include emails, text messages, letters, replicas of invitations, signs and assignments (at least when your characters are high school students) as part of the text. Sometimes this is done well; sometimes it bombs. Both occur in this book. It riffs off of The Great Gatsby. It plays fast and loose with the chronology of the narrative. Also, it does that whole story-within-a-story thing, although in this case it's actually a reality-show-within-a-story-within-a-story. And then-- BOOM!-- at the end, the reader realizes that the book which has been commenting on but not participating in metafictional devices is, in fact, metafiction. It might even be meta-metafiction. Or post-postmodern. Or kind of a headache to weed out, frankly.
However, I didn't feel any of that while actually reading the book. The plot and characters moved along nicely, I was interested to see what was going to happen and how characters were going to evolve. It wasn't difficult to keep track of, thanks to the bold use of Courier every time the story within took over. I liked the satirical skewering of the university writing program and its students. I was sad when the author intended for me to be sad.
But after I finished the book, my first thought was, "Damn. That was kind of a mess." I think if you're going to comment on or attempt to deconstruct metafiction/postmodern fiction or the writing process, you'd better be really, really good at it. I don't think Ms. Gibson is quite up to the task. Just as her main character wished for a story without all the "meta-stuff" in it, at the end, so did I...but then wondered what would be left if we stripped it down. Not much, is my guess. And yet there's something to be said for a book that's fun and enjoyable to read in the moment, even if it's not one you'll remember for years to come. Hence the 3 stars....more
I'm not going to click the box that says "contains spoilers," because if this book is spoiled for you, it wasn't by me. You should blame the author foI'm not going to click the box that says "contains spoilers," because if this book is spoiled for you, it wasn't by me. You should blame the author for that. But I will talk briefly about the plot below, so if you think you might be disappointed by any revelations, then avert thine eyes.
OK, seriously. I want to know the algorithm that Evanovich uses to write the Stephanie Plum series. She must have something that allows her to outline the skeleton of a new plot and then cobble it together with sentences and characters yanked out of the previous 13 books. There are story lines that never get resolved, conversations that never end and instead devolve into narration, which goes unnoticed unless you're watching quotation marks very carefully. And really. If the whole point of the book is "what is the identity of the 4th bank robbery partner/inside man?" it's good form to have introduced that character, oh, at least ONCE before he's revealed as the bad guy.
Also, just a pet peeve. This book was written in 2008. One of the characters is using a laptop and connecting wirelessly in order to play what seems to be an MMORPG. Then, at the same location, the main character says, "Don't email me that file. I'm not at my apartment. I'm at Morelli's house. Email it to him." Then she "opens Morelli's email program" and "clicks the button 'get mail'". Wouldn't it be nice if we could access that darn email ANYWHERE? Janet Evanovich, it's called the internet. And people are talking smack about you on it.
Why do I keep reading these books? I keep hoping for them to get better. While the first few books were certainly nothing like great literature, they were entertaining and fun. Things have been downhill from there, but I hate being left out, and I don't want the series to take an upswing and miss out on it. Also, there's something satisfying about being able to start and finish a book in less than 24 hours. Which is about 23 hours more attention than this novel actually deserves....more
I'm going to echo Mary's thought about PATC: it was an amazing book and I didn't like reading it, so I guess the average between 1 and 5 stars is 3. AI'm going to echo Mary's thought about PATC: it was an amazing book and I didn't like reading it, so I guess the average between 1 and 5 stars is 3. Also, I might be willing to give the first half of the book 1 star and the second half of the book 5 stars, so again we average out to 3 stars.
I spent the first 150 pages of this book practically bouncing up and down, trying to get through it. If there were any muskrats around me, they would not have made themselves known. So on a metacognitive level, it's interesting to note my inability to quiet my internal voice that kept saying, "I'm bored. I don't like this. What else could I be reading? What did I just read? I'm sleepy. Suck it, Annie Dillard" and just be present with the book. On the other hand, in my humble opinion, horsehair worms and other assorted insects do not make for scintillating characters and for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY could we please stop talking about the waterbug that sucked the frog dry? I can still conjure up an image of its little eyes the moment its soul left the body. And no, Annie, that is not exactly a compliment. It is also not exactly NOT a compliment.
The second half of the book is where one of three things happened: Annie got her groove going, I got my groove going, or I just got out of my own way and read the book without talking to myself about it after every third word. Something happened around the chapter entitled, "Fecundity." I felt like the author became more of a character in the book. This might have been during the muskrat chapter where she casually mentions that she's stalking muskrats and keeping her body very still (not freezing! not not moving! just quieting herself!) while, oh, smoking a cigarette. Annie. I know it's 1974 and doctors are probably holding a cigarette in one hand and forceps in the other while babies are being born, but seriously. Now I have to re-imagine all of those scenes with you watching bluegills, patting the puppy, seeing the vision of the tree with a Virginia Slims between your fingers? Oh, sorry...she would totally smoke Parliaments. Anyway, this made her a lot more human and way more funny and we seemed to get along fine from then on.
My favorite line: "I wonder if we do not waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves." Indeed we do. Though I didn't like reading it, this book is a great look at what it means to be present in your life, what it means to be human in the universe, and what it means if it doesn't mean anything....more
I finished this book today and gave it to my husband so he could read it while on a business trip. I am already regretting that decision because I wonI finished this book today and gave it to my husband so he could read it while on a business trip. I am already regretting that decision because I won't have Hungry Monkey in my hands again for 6 whole days. As soon as I read the last page I wanted to start over again with some little sticky flags in my hand to mark recipes I wanted to try and passages where Amster-Burton says specifically that kaiten sushi is ideal baby food. But no, I was all, "This book is hilarious. It's about cooking and kids and Seattle. You're going to love it. Why don't you take it to LA with you?" And now I can't make dumplings or cornmeal pizza crust until Friday. If you know me at all, and you might not, you'll understand why these four reasons alone merited my five-star rating of Hungry Monkey:
-Amster-Burton writes about Seattle and makes me feel like an insider, even though I live in Bellevue; -he references Bread and Jam For Frances multiple times, which is possibly the best book ever written; -he got a 5 on my humor rating scale, meaning I was laughing out loud to myself AND making my husband listen as I read funny parts aloud; -the way he talks about food and feeding his family is equal parts Anthony Bourdain and M.F.K. Fisher, which is no easy feat.
What I was drawn to most in this book is the author's respect for both his daughter and the food they make together. Their relationship as depicted in the book is really quite lovely and illustrates that one does not have to dumb down conversations, expectations, ideas or flavors just because one lives with someone who happens to be a toddler.
And, on a personal note, as I sat in a nearly empty restaurant today and waited for our order that I could SEE on the warming tray for over 15 minutes (including one child's order of mini hamburgers and grapes...yawn) while my own toddler got increasingly flappy and bouncy in her high chair, I thought about our last visit to our favorite sushi place where she happily ate her fill of tamago sushi and edamame as soon as we sat down. Then I thought about Hungry Monkey and realized that I'm glad to have its message, its spirit and its recipes to guide me through these next several years of eating, cooking and throwing food on the floor....more
My interest in Japanese crime fiction seems to be waning, which is probably a good thing. It's summer: I should be outside blowing bubbles, or at leasMy interest in Japanese crime fiction seems to be waning, which is probably a good thing. It's summer: I should be outside blowing bubbles, or at least be outside rereading Harry Potter or something, instead of slumming metaphorically in Japan's slums. But man, I would read 10 more of Kirino's books (I don't think there are that many...available in English, at least) just for the endings. She kills with endings. Creepy, jarring, wrenching and generally awesome. This one was no exception, although Grotesque wasn't as enjoyable (not exactly the right word...) reading through it as the other two were and I'm not sure the punch of the ending quite justified the long, multiple narrator-filled middle....more
This book is extremely disturbing and you are not going to like it. I do not recommend that you read it. (Is this becoming a pattern with my book choiThis book is extremely disturbing and you are not going to like it. I do not recommend that you read it. (Is this becoming a pattern with my book choices?) It is filled with things I hate: graphic murder, rape, dismemberment, hopelessness, manual labor night shift jobs and living just below the poverty level in modern-day Japan. With that said, I couldn't stop reading it and had to know how it ended. And the ending kind of blew my mind. Not necessarily in a good way, but any kind of mind-blowing is a step up from an ending that's a mundane, foregone conclusion. The characters are well-defined, diverse and realistic-- realistic to the point that it can be uncomfortable to find yourself identifying with certain characters and their motivations. I'm going to read more by Kirino-- none of her other novels can possibly test the strength of my stomach as much as this did, and I'm fascinated with her characters and eager to read more. And yes, I said "her". The fact that a woman writes this stuff is very intriguing to me and has me putting more of her books on hold from the library...because I don't want to own them. I don't think I'd be able to sleep at night....more
This is a fascinating story on its own, complete with a lot of unanswered questions about what it means to be an American, a world citizen, a mixed-raThis is a fascinating story on its own, complete with a lot of unanswered questions about what it means to be an American, a world citizen, a mixed-race individual and a Black American growing up in the civil rights and post-civil rights era. (The idea that we might actually live in a post-civil rights era is laughable to me, too, but here I mean the post-1960's Parks/King/MalcolmX/ era.) _Dreams_ works on a lot of levels, not the least of which probes at the idea: what does it mean to be someone's child? Someone's parent? What does one inherit from parents who were none-too-present during one's childhood? This idea of a person's identity being an amalgam of his parents', paired with Obama's search for his racial identity as a biracial child of a white mother and an (absent) black father...well, it's complicated. I don't even know how else to end that sentence. It's complicated and current and important. I learned more about poverty, race, hope and history from this book than I have in any other in a long time.
And lest you forget, this is OUR PRESIDENT who wrote this book. A PRESIDENT who can WRITE a WHOLE BOOK. Without even resorting to capitals for emphasis. Remember the last guy? The first 8 years of the 21st century? Remember cringing every time he said the word "nuclear" or relied on a mantra-ish sound byte to explain and defend a military engagement? Exactly. Now go read this book and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS that its author is in the Oval Office, thinking about our country, its people and its concerns deeply and with empathy and intelligence....more