this novel tells of the tumultuous period before elizabethan england from the point of view of one of its courtiers. rife with intrigue, sex, and betr...morethis novel tells of the tumultuous period before elizabethan england from the point of view of one of its courtiers. rife with intrigue, sex, and betrayals, 'the other boleyn girl' presents the dark, fascinating world behind the glitter and grandeur of henry VIII's court as the infamous king flits from one paramour to another, seeking a male heir, as well as for affection and love where love is forced to be pretentious and often ambitious, ultimately for the sake of claiming the throne and ruling a kingdom almost on its knees. ms gregory is a master storyteller, bringing to vivid life characters and historical events that became the impetus of the tudor dynasty.
the story highlights, among others, the insidious and overwhelming power that the women in henry's court wield as they resort to trickery (even witchcraft) and depravity. amidst the raging political conflict lying just beneath the veneer of the most powerful people in that time, readers will continue to experience the emotional battles that the 'other' boleyn girl has to go through as she is first swallowed up in the world of henry's court but later determinedly struggles to carve a life for herself and her family, as far away removed as it can be especially when her sister anne howard became obsessively bent on a destructive path to put her own stake to the throne.
a wonderful read for anyone who wishes to experience historical england in the guise of superb storytelling. never loses its momentum, and is sure to deliver until the last page...(less)
the story of a german soldier's point of view in the thick of world war I. poignant, ironic, sometimes dryly humorous, but always underlying the myria...morethe story of a german soldier's point of view in the thick of world war I. poignant, ironic, sometimes dryly humorous, but always underlying the myriad casualties in war, both physical and emotional. this is a novel that more and more people should read, if only to realize that wars are won and lost by the blood of men on both sides--the justification for which may inevitably become convoluted as to render it obscure to the soldiers themselves as the war itself seemingly endlessly rages on.
it made me realize that whenever i used to think of those world wars fought mainly against germany, i never really stopped to ascertain if my sentiments encompassed the soldiers fighting under and for that country. this changed a bit when i saw the movie Band of Brothers (albeit it's about WWII), but still, there really was never a conscious empathy on my part for the german soldiers.
reading this novel was, for me, in turns uncomfortable and illuminating. it made me aware that so much of those soldiers were just boys who came into the war with something so seemingly harmless as the hope to be glorious in battle, but instead found themselves rendered decimated, their innocence lost, and in the end, hopeless. truly one of the best novels ever written.(less)
i'll admit that i made a mistake in buying this one. the cover was simply beautiful, you see (that was the reason i had to give it one star). this is...morei'll admit that i made a mistake in buying this one. the cover was simply beautiful, you see (that was the reason i had to give it one star). this is one of the unfortunate attestations that you should never judge a book by its cover.
so, okay, he claims you for his own, you two have sex....then you fall in love? excuse me, but i dont see the "connection" on that. everything just virtually centered on the war, it was more like a war journal. and it went on and on for pages. it simply dragged. you wouldnt find romance what with all the betrayal and killings.
and the end...it was terrible. i could have tolerated the story if not for the end.
simply put, you wouldnt remember the story between the "lovers" since your head was muddled with talk of war and vengeance. so unromantic...sorry but there it is...(less)
a vivid portrayal of Tudor England with all its drama, intrigue, and grisliness presented at the fore of the tumultuous story of passion doomed from t...morea vivid portrayal of Tudor England with all its drama, intrigue, and grisliness presented at the fore of the tumultuous story of passion doomed from the start, and reincarnated for redemption. Ms Seton has quite expertly maneuvered the love-hate relationship between the seemingly staid monk, Stephen, and the in-so-many-ways-as-yet naive and seductively beautiful, young Celia amidst the raging political and religious conflict following the death of Henry VIII.
England finds itself in dangerous vacillation as the throne passes from the temperamental, protestant Edward, to the zealously catholic Mary, and then again to another protestant in the form of the wily Elizabeth--the people at turns changing their religion to suit the one reigning at court to save themselves from prosecution, and oftentimes, death.
In the center of the story is Celia, the "past self" of another Celia introduced in the beginning of the novel, set in the 1960s. The tale unfolds with the chilling narration to a group of modern-day aristocrats of an unidentified woman mercilessly walled-up alive in one of England's oldest dwellings. What follows then is the account of a dangerously alluring girl named Celia whose life in 16th century England is paved foremost with unbridled lust for a Benedictine monk, combined with hardships, despair, terror, and even witchcraft in the furor that is the Tudor dynasty. Her blind and fervent desire for Stephen has landed her often in dire straits as she becomes "fair game" for men drunk in lust at the site of her beauty, that which ultimately brings forth her demise.
I applaud Ms Seton as she brings closer to home the various political struggles that the court of England went through, the effects of which trickled down to the masses, in due course defining their way of life. Yet, she managed to stray away from lengthy (and what, to some, may become boring) descriptions of far-reaching political cause and effects, whilst heaping her prose with lively, often subtly menacing, sometimes edge-of-your-seat scenes. Her characters have depth and realistic emotional conflicts they themselves have had to go through--even so far as giving the English monarchs a different dimension precluded from the history books--without overshadowing the real premise of the story, and without veering away from the main character of Celia. I dont think she could have made her novel work if it was any shorter or longer--it had the perfect take off point to set down the events that led to the violent death of the young woman. Even her approach on reincarnation was believable, and was, in fact, instrumental in adding vibrancy to the deep-seated turmoil some of the characters felt and had to overcome.
on par with philipa gregory, anya seton is definitely a master storyteller. Green Darkness is a wonderful historical fiction with a deft mix of drama, love, and suspense. a satisfying read...(less)
Eighteenth century American "high" society is shown in this often uncomfortable, at times merciless novel by Wharton. The story centers on Newland Arc...moreEighteenth century American "high" society is shown in this often uncomfortable, at times merciless novel by Wharton. The story centers on Newland Archer, a young man in the midst of his engagement to May Welland. Both come from well-to-do and respectable families making up the upper crust of New York. Everything seems headed for bliss--Archer is more than ready to settle down for married life as he finally leaves the dregs of aimless bachelorhood, and May presents the perfect wife: doting, obedient, and accomplished. Then comes the unconventional Countess Ellen Olenska, his betrothed's cousin. Suddenly Archer is forced to see life around him in a different light and feel that something within himself is about to change...
As his meetings with the Countess continues, his fiancee May, though still the "Diana" he has always believed her to be, suddenly pales in comparison next to the vibrancy of the Countess. He finds himself impatient with the seemingly ridiculousness with which young men and women are brought up into the glittering society, and who will no doubt foster the same beliefs and traditions to their sons and daughters. As his life and everything he was taught at birth ostensibly comes crashing down upon him, he discovers his attraction to the Countess grow into passionate love. But these two lovers are mired into a world that would shun their relationship: the Countess at the very least is still very much married, and Archer is still very much engaged to be so...
This novel is a veritable force to be reckoned with. Not only does it explore the many intricacies in romantic love, it sheds a blinding light on the ways society draws its defenses around itself, constructs rules and traditions to be followed by its denizens for the continuation of their existence, and in turn drowns out the very foundations of reason. There is subtlety in the way the author exposed a society so caught up in the world they have built around itself that it becomes blind to change and is still, in so many ways, innocent in its need to keep itself closeted from things both severely chaotic and beautiful that make up the inherent human experience....(less)
i'm quite unable to put exactly into words how this story provoked me. to place a young girl just striving to hold on to her innocent childhood smack-...morei'm quite unable to put exactly into words how this story provoked me. to place a young girl just striving to hold on to her innocent childhood smack-dab in the center of something so traumatic as a war that lingered is normally not something i'd care to read about--especially if that war involved one of the greatest crimes against humanity in the history of the world.
but after reading Number the Stars, i was reminded--and this may possibly sound soppy--of the enduring human spirit against loss and fear, and the always remarkable tendency of courage and selflessness to assert itself in the most unexpected times.
bittersweet and heart-wrenching, there are those today who may find this book biased against the Germans. and true--we do have to consider that those soldiers were only doing their duty by their officers and by their country, and that, under normal circumstances, they would just have been any other average people (and a fraction in our history should never be a basis for perpetual prejudice). however, the German soldiers portrayed in the book were all reprehensible--definitely it is difficult to be objective with its narrative. and the remnants of the second world war will always leave a scar on the millions of people violently persecuted by the Nazis.
this is the point, then, where we should comprehend that Lowry's book sends a message that transcends feelings of hate or racism, oppression and tyranny. instead revel in the fragile yet inspiring thread of hope that underlies the friendship of Annemarie and Ellen, the hope that made Peter's and hundreds of others' deaths all the more significant, and the hope that there would always be a God tomorrow to number the stars for us. (less)
what makes us human can be the most painful experience of all...
this novel is quite difficult to describe, its impact too ambiguous for words. to say...morewhat makes us human can be the most painful experience of all...
this novel is quite difficult to describe, its impact too ambiguous for words. to say that it's a "good" read is not quite cutting it. it touched upon many themes: from discovering one's true self by embracing one's sexuality, standing up for what one believes in despite the probability of derision, holding on to fragile hopes of a future free of tyranny in all forms, to electing modes of "escape" from the world at large and oneself in particular, and more.
the interactions/dialogues between the characters were what i found very enjoyable rather than the descriptions and explanations of what they were doing. also, chabon refrained from being overly serious, contemplative, or even expansive. somehow what i got was the impression of "lightness"--but not the ha-ha kind of funny. certainly the intimations about the Jews in Europe, the view of homosexuals in the 1940s, and such were very heartwrenching.
for me it was a bit of a struggle to begin this book, but halfway through, i suddenly found myself eating up the pages and wanting to know what will become of Joe and Sam, with their definitive life's work, and their struggle to to emancipate even just a handful of Jews, starting with Joe's family.
whether you're a comic books nut or otherwise, this novel will stay with you for a long while. i expected blatantly daring-do's from the duo, and yet what i got was an intensely emotional and human experience during one of the darkest times of our history.(less)
This is certainly a provocative novel. From the gargantuan appetite of Bonaparte for chickens, the ethereal mystery that is the Empress Josephine, the...moreThis is certainly a provocative novel. From the gargantuan appetite of Bonaparte for chickens, the ethereal mystery that is the Empress Josephine, the transience of Venice (recall Calvino's Invisible Cities [and no it's not because he's Italian...but hey...]), to the fantastical experiences of Henri and Villanelle, Winterson's novel reveals an incredible world in every chapter. In a way, it made me wonder if such things were indeed experienced in the Napoleonic years--in the back of my mind, I know that Patrick's eagle-eye (with its apparently helpless tendency to zone in on naked bodies), and Villanelle's webbed feet and her once-literally-taken-then-rescued heart are flights of fancy. But even so, Winterson's narrative has that indecipherable mesh of fact and unrealism that a reader can actually think, why not?.
If one were to place emphasis on the themes of physical and emotional casualties brought by war for both the conqueror and the conquered, the intricacies of romantic love, the dialectics of power and blind submission, and the propensity of humans to take refuge in myriad disguises (to the extent they inevitably fall for it themselves), it is evident that this novel, for all its fanciful undertones, touches on very real human issues that would long remain contemporary.
Despite the obvious literary bent of The Passion though, I thought that Winterson sometimes tried a bit too hard in being allegorical. In addition, some parts became overly contemplative and/or philosophical for me that it was at times discomfiting, at most, exasperating. Hence, the 3 stars. But that's just me. In fairness, however, I can readily say that I enjoyed the interactions of, and the dialogues between, the characters. Those were certainly stimulating. All in all, this was a memorable novel, not that great but hardly ignominious. Rather than discourage, I'm hoping to read another of her novels and have a more positive reaction to it.(less)
..just so you know...I hated this book for making me cry...
I knew enough to be ready for it. Certainly I don't recall reading any novel about WWII and...more..just so you know...I hated this book for making me cry...
I knew enough to be ready for it. Certainly I don't recall reading any novel about WWII and the Holocaust without me crying (case in point: Number the Stars, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). And still...there I was by the end of the story, reaching for Kleenexes.
First off, The Book Thief is not that different from countless works done about WWII, Hitler, and the Jews (nonfiction or otherwise, descriptive or propagandist). And yet, Zusak was still able to make his story thought-provoking. True, the blatant metaphorical prose of “Death” becomes a bit tiring after a while, what with all the reference to “colors” denoting a soul or the event of death. Also, the curtailing and foreshadowing of events, the shift from future to past to present events, clearly were not an original way of writing. However, the author, in my opinion, ably endeared the characters of Liesel, Hans Hubermann, Rudy, and Max to the readers. The tragedy that befell Himmel Street is exactly what it is—a tragedy. In spite of the heaps of premonitions by the author, I don't think anyone (who cares enough to care) will ever be truly able to ready himself for that scene.
For me, the best parts of the novel were those that showed the depth of Hans' inner strength and compassion, both as a father to a traumatized orphaned girl, and a German seething against the bonds of growing Nazi Germany, and the depiction of Max's lyrical side as he finds succor and friendship for a Jew under a German roof. These two characters carry the weight of the story. I dare anyone not to be touched by them.
For a story mostly focused on the viewpoint of a young girl and her antics as a book thief, this can hardly be considered a novel for children (unless one were to censor and paraphrase some parts). It deals with a heavy subject matter, and is even intermittently graphic. Despite the attempt of “Death” to make light and symbolic his travail as a collector of souls, his sporadic quips on the oddity and wonder of humans, this novel is grave at the least; depressing at most. Still...I highly recommend it.(less)
Halfway through this book, I found myself with eyes full of dark circles. That's when I realized that I haven'...morea larger-than-life, fascinating novel...
Halfway through this book, I found myself with eyes full of dark circles. That's when I realized that I haven't had a full night's sleep since picking up this novel. Which in turn made me wonder at my reluctance towards reading another Colleen McCullough book (my previous book by her was, unfortunately, less than memorable). Suffice to say, after reading The First Man in Rome, I am now more than willing to eat my words and bow at the brilliance of McCullough's writing.
In an attempt to be objective, though, not every part of this story was that engrossing. Some accounts of warfare or political intrigues were too protracted that I just had to skim through it. And the latter part about Saturninus' and Glaucia's machinations just felt like a last-ditch effort by the author to maintain the drama right up to the end. Rome with Marius at the helm of power, proved the most riveting part of the book.
Other than that, I have only good things to say about this novel. The depiction of the Roman Republic was so vivid and gripping. The people, their stories, and the interactions among them were so relatable they can be material for today's soap operas: from the live organism that is the Senate, with all its peculiarities, to the women behind the men, and even the State's enemies – every character of note was given life under the author's succinct prose and witty dialogues. I don't know how she did it, but this gargantuan scope of a lifelike historical fiction is a guaranteed page-tuner.(less)
Lest I get carried away with verbose praise, I just want to say that this is superb storytelling by Donn...moreOne of the most engrossing fictions I've read…
Lest I get carried away with verbose praise, I just want to say that this is superb storytelling by Donnelly. Admittedly, I had no knowledge of the real murder of a Grace Brown. And though her letters were indeed heartbreaking, and at turns, horrific to read, I was more fascinated with the lives of Mattie and Weaver – two of the strongest characters I've ever encountered. After reading this novel, I found myself grateful that I, as yet, have not gone through the kind of back-breaking, and, dare I say it, near soul-defeating hardships the people in this novel had. But it takes masterful narration like that of Donnelly's to infuse hope, laughter, and spirit in the stories of those living in Eagle Bay.
Mattie is as real a person as one could get – loves her family so much yet still aware of all of their flaws, including her own, torn between making right by her loved ones as well as yearning to break free of a suffocating way of life, so young still in so many ways yet mature enough to realize the kind of dreams she can have. And Weaver makes me envious as well for his fearlessness and strength.
A Northern Light will take you to heights of teasing glimpses of a happy-ending for all, as well as to the downs of heartrending drama and seemingly endless trials in a small, simple town. Very provocative. Intensely memorable. A must read for all.(less)
With “Steven Pressfield” on the cover, it took less than a heartbeat for me to grab this book—after Gates of...moreAn imagination of dazzling and epic scope.
With “Steven Pressfield” on the cover, it took less than a heartbeat for me to grab this book—after Gates of Fire, I was more than eager to be caught up again in the author’s enthralling prose of storytelling.
Even with the author’s Note on the Reader expressly stating this as a work of fiction, I soon found myself actually believing that it really was Alexander speaking his own thoughts—as he tasted the first of his numerous victories, received the adoration of his men, and found himself later possessed of an empire that demanded too much for the price of an ambition.
For that alone, I stand in awe yet again of this author’s skill.
Every chapter is vivid with imagery and every conflict a real human drama. The king’s moments of anguish were brutal, eerily honest, and, sometimes, understandable, as he becomes torn between love for his army and the desire to conquer the world beyond India. Indeed, Alexander was thrown in a surreal mix of otherworldliness for his exceptional military prowess and glaring human frailty for succumbing to the snare of arrogance and pride.
There were times when Pressfield’s narration seemed like it was being apologetic of Alexander’s actions towards his men and their growing disquiet, but then I suddenly remember that this book ostensibly echoed only Alexander’s voice; so I suppose it couldn’t help but have that biased feel.
I only wished the book imagined a little bit more outside of the battlefield. Like his relations with his mother during his youth, with his wives (or even just with Roxanne), and with the other soldiers (besides his “dear mates”) who trekked with him across the plains of Asia. There were some parts as well that felt hurried, while others felt too protracted. And, in some instances I was on the verge of becoming almost bored whenever the book took the tone of becoming more of a manual for warfare, what with the winded accounts of the number of infantry, cavalry, archers, etc. But, I suppose you really cannot get to being an exalted commander without being anal about these things...
All-in-all, The Virtues of War is still a highly-recommended read—epic, artistic, and an honest-to-goodness page-turner...(less)