After being disappointed by the first few stories, which seemed repetitive of so many short stories these days at best, I encountered several storiesAfter being disappointed by the first few stories, which seemed repetitive of so many short stories these days at best, I encountered several stories that gutted me. Of course, I had already read most of them from their original source--The New Yorker. Meaning the book seemed to be New Yorker heavy whereas past editions seemed to give a more varied sampling of the American short story. There were also a few "cutesy" stories in there--ones which don't seem to affect me but are clever. A few I'll reread and reread, and for that, the book is worth it....more
Overall, I really liked this book. There's so much to love about it: Oskar's voice, all the details to notice, the associations and parallels. I loveOverall, I really liked this book. There's so much to love about it: Oskar's voice, all the details to notice, the associations and parallels. I love how Safran Foer connects 9/11 with other similar tragedies (the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, both inflicted by us). I love his characters. I love what he does with the idea of presence, with how Oskar looks for his dad's presence, how is grandparents look for the presence of a long-dead sister and lover, and how he uses reversal to try to keep this presence, even knowing this isn't possible. Perhaps because of all there is to love, the disappoints felt heavier, like Oskar's grandmother's voice, which came across as too desperate and childish (moreso because of the glimpses of her strength and insights), and a thread I thought Safran Foer could have done so much more with but seemed to have been abandoned (not mentioned here so as not to give any spoilers). Still, I'd highly recommend this book. I think it deals with the 9/11 tragedy well, particularly since it focuses on one boy's experience of losing his father rather than making it epic or broad.
Also, I read this on Kindle, and I'd recommend reading a hard/paper back. Safran Foer uses images that don't come across as well on Kindle (perhaps they work better on iPad)....more
While the writing often struck me as a high school teacher trying to make a history lesson real to her students, I found the emotional evaluation of tWhile the writing often struck me as a high school teacher trying to make a history lesson real to her students, I found the emotional evaluation of the time period and of the relationships interesting and the ending touching....more
One of my favorite books. Egan tells the story of a generation in a style reminiscent of Cubism. She gives us sketches of characters surrounding two mOne of my favorite books. Egan tells the story of a generation in a style reminiscent of Cubism. She gives us sketches of characters surrounding two main characters: Bennie and Sasha. Some of the characters brush their lives. Others are entwined. Throughout, she gives the joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and failures of a generation without nostalgia, sentimentality, or false optimism. Instead, she offers hope through the hurt and struggles. Beautifully written. I can't wait to read it again....more
Sketches of Hemingway's early career in Paris--a must-read for any writer. I loved the glimpses into his process. It was less dramatic and more straigSketches of Hemingway's early career in Paris--a must-read for any writer. I loved the glimpses into his process. It was less dramatic and more straight-forward than the fictionalized version of his and Hadley's life in The Paris Wife, and just plain enjoyable....more
Oh, this story. It worked into the sinews of my being and is now a part of me, it's power and intimacy. It's about the nation of Biafra that seceded fOh, this story. It worked into the sinews of my being and is now a part of me, it's power and intimacy. It's about the nation of Biafra that seceded from Nigeria in the late 60s. But no, it is about the people of Biafra, the rich, the middle-class, the poor, a collection of different people, and how they loved and lived and hurt and forgave and cooked and taught and learned and then how their lives were caught up in the war and changed by the war, how sometimes they were drawn together and sometimes pushed apart. This novel showed me the dignity of all people. Adichie writes with such detail and beauty and depth. She pulls you into the lives of these individuals and these communities, and though they are of a different time and different place, we are united somehow in her writing....more
So many things to love about this book: 1. Sayer's timing as she unfolded the plot; 2. How she weaved in philosophy and themes on the nature of evil (anSo many things to love about this book: 1. Sayer's timing as she unfolded the plot; 2. How she weaved in philosophy and themes on the nature of evil (and the pain yet necessity of dealing with it and issuing justice), the impact of the knowledge of good and evil, the nature of conscience (versus viewing all impulses as purely biological); 3. Her humor--so many highlighted sections because of her wit and tongue-in-cheek, how she recalled phrases in her prose in the funniest way!
It was a fast and fun read. Sayer worked in theology in thoughtful ways that were never heavy-handed, soliloquies, or preachy asides. I will definitely read more of her fiction....more
Though it took me some time to find the rhythm of the book (the prose was more formal than my usual fare), the beauty of the story drew me in. Leila AThough it took me some time to find the rhythm of the book (the prose was more formal than my usual fare), the beauty of the story drew me in. Leila Aboulela tells the story of a family dealing with the paralysis of its wunderkind son, the one who displayed athleticism, intellect, and commitment to hard work. He was expected to marry his childhood sweetheart and take over the family business. But an accident has changed all that. Aboulela writes to answer the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" She answers from her Muslim faith and weaves in several story lines to work through the question. At times, her Muslim faith shares commonalities with my Christian faith: we serve a compassionate God (for her, Allah, and for me, Yaweh) who does not waste anything but in his sovereignty uses every suffering to draw the sufferer nearer to him. Her writing brought to mind the tune of Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," though her rhythm differed from mine. Other times, her Muslim faith reflected ideas I might call karma or even a yin-yang notion. Suffering in this life alleviates suffering one might have to experience in the afterlife to cleanse them. Or we live in the balance of trial and pleasure, of burden and joy. Sometimes this belief led to neat bows: this suffering happened so that this better thing could happen, etc. This may have worked in her book, but as a Christian, I believe that while God is sovereign, he's also given free will. The Fall and the Curse leave this world messy, though being redeemed by God. And Job teaches that we may never fully understand what is going on behind the scenes (at least in this life, if not for eternity). Aboulela's characters are round, flawed, struggling, and (mostly) loveable (one character I generally wanted to slap). I grew and developed with them as they work through the suffering that has touched all of them in different ways. She also portrays Sudan in the 1950s, with its struggle with independence from Britain and from Egypt and its sometimes disparity and sometimes embrace between modernism and traditionalism. She gives a wide range of beliefs within the Muslim faith and from political stances without making the book about either the Muslim faith or politics. She also shows the struggle for women. I appreciated learning about these aspects indirectly through the story. I highly recommend this book as a haunting and sensitive family narrative....more
This is the kind of book that when you're not reading it, you're thinking about it and thinking about reading it and trying to get back to it. The chaThis is the kind of book that when you're not reading it, you're thinking about it and thinking about reading it and trying to get back to it. The characters become as close to you as they do to each other, and you expect to run into them at the bookstore or coffeeshop. Sixteen-year-old Jill lost her father and doesn't know how to be Jill without him. Eighteen-year-old Mandy wants to give her unborn daughter what she never had--love, acceptance, and a family. Through their stories, Zarr deals with loss, grief, family, belonging, and life. It's a beautiful story with prose that flows perfectly from these characters. I highly recommend this book. I guess it's technically considered YA, but I think it's a wonderful story for any age....more
Simplicity of voice betrays the complexity of emotion and character. Beautiful stories (only one I didn't really love) that explore ideas of home andSimplicity of voice betrays the complexity of emotion and character. Beautiful stories (only one I didn't really love) that explore ideas of home and belonging, mostly through Indian immigrants and second-generations....more
Powerful book that looks first at traditional theories of atonement and brings them together to show how they address sin to bring us into relationshiPowerful book that looks first at traditional theories of atonement and brings them together to show how they address sin to bring us into relationship with God, self and others, then second looks at atonement as praxis, or as the mission of the church, a community commissioned by God to love one another in a unifying fellowship and to joining God in his reconciling work of atoning the world and thereby bringing justice.
My one qualm: in his introduction and a bit throughout, McKnight can use terms and language that seems to stereotype generations of Christians and in so doing, compartmentalize and separate them. I think this distracts from his message in his book. I know this book is from Abingdon Press' Emergent Village series, and indeed, it follows a lot of postmodern approach to theology, but to say even this, I believe, presents false dichotomies of approaches to theology and church practices. I found that so much of what I agree with comes from my upbringing by what postmodernists would call modernist theologies. I fear that these types of categories gets in the way of helpful theological dialogue.
I don't suppose I need to review it since I'm the last person in the US to read it. Good social commentary on how our desires for entertainment can coI don't suppose I need to review it since I'm the last person in the US to read it. Good social commentary on how our desires for entertainment can corrupt us, on our wealth (and its corrupting effect), and somewhat on our relationships with poorer nations. A fast read--perfect for the beach. ...more
Warning: though this review has no official spoilers, it does discuss the tone and mood of conclusion. Collins deals with sophisticated subject matter:Warning: though this review has no official spoilers, it does discuss the tone and mood of conclusion. Collins deals with sophisticated subject matter: the ethics of war. The violence and darkness at times made me forget I was reading a young adult novel. Then Katniss would start whining, and I'd remember. I had a hard time getting into this book, but after the initial few chapters, Collins pulled me into the plot, emotions, and themes. She doesn't go easy on her characters. She makes them face the corruption and pain in the world and in themselves. This book delves into the depravity of humanity. But it offers little hope, little redemption. It's a world without the Savior, and any peace is necessarily short-lived. In this way, the book is honest about the nature of humans....more
Detective Roland March has moved from police corruption (Back on Murder) to serial murder (Pattern of Wounds) to international conspiracy, or somethinDetective Roland March has moved from police corruption (Back on Murder) to serial murder (Pattern of Wounds) to international conspiracy, or something like that (Nothing to Hide). And this latest is his darkest book yet. As Bertrand did with Pattern of Wounds (where March argues in the book that serial killers don't happen like the TV shows even while solving a serial killer case), he neatly gets around the really?-international-conspiracy? question by noting that only crazies believe in conspiracy and this doesn't really happen, yet it's staring us in the face. But no matter. We all enjoy a good thriller anyway.
In this case, March and his partner have a decapitated body with a de-skinned hand pointing to something. This body guides March into the undercover worlds of FBI and Mexican cartels, albeit with less finesse than Virgil's guidance through the underworld. Bertrand excels at clean, fast-paced prose fitting for a no-nonsense detective who knows his way around guns.
Amazingly enough, he brings this classic detective novel genre together with medieval literature, especially Dante's Divine Comedy. While we play detective along with March, what makes this book notable is Bertrand's exposition on sin (especially hubris, what some might consider the basis for all other sin), the fall, and our place in a fallen world. For March, the messiness of fighting for right in a twisted world is embodied in a bum leg resulting from a fall on the first page of the book (Nobody's Fool, anyone?): "The pain I've been fighting since the fall. The blade goes in deep and starts twisting. It saws back and forth in my vertebrae, slices down the back of my left thigh. Whatever I do to ease the pain only makes it sharper." And sometimes it seems that whatever we do in this world to ease its pain only worsens it. As March reflects, "The world had long since fallen into the ditch, but that didn't mean we belonged there, caked in mud." How do we fight for justice, playing the hero, without our own hubris getting in the way? We fight the sin and corruption in the world alongside the sin and corruption in us.
I highly recommend this series (and I recommend starting at book one: Nothing to Hide resurrects story lines and characters from Back on Murder, which I sometimes had a hard time keeping up with since, you know, I've had a child since reading the first book two years ago). The books are entertaining and engaging on all levels....more
A lot of good stuff here, but it got a bit Freudian for my tastes. Good reminders for tight writing, motivations, and the necessity of the premise inA lot of good stuff here, but it got a bit Freudian for my tastes. Good reminders for tight writing, motivations, and the necessity of the premise in every scene. Also agree with his entwining of plot and character....more