Spoiler alert: Anne Boleyn dies at the end. So, until then, I really liked this book. It does take a decidedly dark turn at the end, what with the hinSpoiler alert: Anne Boleyn dies at the end. So, until then, I really liked this book. It does take a decidedly dark turn at the end, what with the hints of incest and witchcraft and just the general falling out of favor. To the author's credit, she didn't drag that period out at all, and the story would, of course, have been incomplete without it. There were other times that I did feel the book dragged, but for the most part it held my interest. I liked (but didn't love) the heroine, Mary, and was fascinated by Anne and their brother George. The book is well-written and well-done historical fiction. I had some complaints (a fair amount of sex (which, given the subject matter isn't surprising), an occassional lack of explanation for Mary's sometimes confusing actions, and a very narrow focus on the Boleyns to the exclusion of most everyone else, among others), but overall this book held my attention and I found it an interesting read. It does make me curious how much was fictionalized and how much was true to the facts as known. I now want to read a non-fiction account of King Henry's life and loves....more
This is what I liked about this book: 1) The writing. It wasn't amazing, but it was good and straightforward and kept the story moving. Especially theThis is what I liked about this book: 1) The writing. It wasn't amazing, but it was good and straightforward and kept the story moving. Especially the dialogue was more believable than some. 2) The way the story was told. The story is really about this girl and how she meets this German boy while competing at the Berlin Olympics in 1930-something, and they fall in love, but of course are separated by distance and circumstances. But it's told as the mom (modern day)is relating it to her grown son. So while you get plenty of in-the-moment kind of scenes, you also have the mom's reminiscences, colored by an entire lifetime, and the son's reaction to all of this. It was an interesting way to hear a story told. 3) The story itself. It wasn't totally predictable, and when the "gotcha!" moment was revealed, I thought the author did a good job of not belaboring the point. It was a compelling story, and a touching love story. 4) I enjoyed learning more about the sport of swimming. There wasn't a ton about it in this book, but enough that I (a non-swimmer) found it interesting. 5) It reminded me of my own blissful whirlwind romances. You have an entirely different perspective on those events as the years go by, but as the mom's character shows, it can be fun to just remember how that felt at the time.
So, pretty much, I liked it. I don't have anything that I explicitly disliked about the book. I guess I hesitate giving it a higher rating because even though I (personally) enjoyed it very much, it wasn't the kind of book with significant depth or meaning that I feel like everyone would be a better person for reading it. It entertained me very well, it kind of made me think (evaluating how I feel about my youthful romances now, versus how I felt then), and it sort of made me feel, but it certainly wasn't a life-changing book, so three stars seems sufficient. My hunch is that most relatively thoughtful women would like this book....more
So, one time in college I read a book (I had to look it up, because I'd completely forgotten the title), It was Leadership and Self-Deception. It's aSo, one time in college I read a book (I had to look it up, because I'd completely forgotten the title), It was Leadership and Self-Deception. It's a type of business self-help book. What was eye-opening to me was the way the theories of the book were presented: through a story of a businessman being enlightened by a colleague. So, the whole book is a story, which makes it very readable, but the main character is just a stand-in for you, the unenlightened reader, and the colleague is, of course, the author of the book who wants to teach you this stuff. At the time I just thought that was a very clever way to make the medicine go down. Well, this book uses the same approach. I didn't find it quite so charming on the second go-around. In fact, it made me feel talked down to, and like the author assumed I was too stupid to grasp these concepts unless he had some dim-witted fictional business owner "learning" in my place. It got tedious, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more if the author had just explained his theories with some real world examples along the way. In fairness, unlike Leadership and Self-Deception, this book isn't ALL story. There is plenty of straightforward, non-fiction exposition, but I ultimately decided that the likely application of this book in my own life was limited, and I didn't want to put up with the stupid story anymore. In case you were wondering, the premise of the book is that even though it is never palatable to negotiate (i.e., give in) with someone you consider an enemy, especially when they've betrayed your trust, it can sometimes be in your best interest to do so. So you need to be rational enough to recognize when that is the case. Like I said, not a lot of potential application in my life, so I quit reading. ...more
The first chapter book we read aloud to our kids. Roald Dahl is (usually) entertaining enough for a 3-year-old to follow. I must say I like the movieThe first chapter book we read aloud to our kids. Roald Dahl is (usually) entertaining enough for a 3-year-old to follow. I must say I like the movie better, although pocket-sized Oompa Loompas are more compelling. One complaint about Dahl's writing: the dialogue is often tedious and could have been easily summarized with a "Grandpa said this" instead of the lengthy exchanges we're often called on to endure. That was the only time the enjoyability of the story waned....more
I quite liked this book, and was very impressed with it for being the first novel of a non-writer (by profession. She wrote a book, so obviously she'sI quite liked this book, and was very impressed with it for being the first novel of a non-writer (by profession. She wrote a book, so obviously she's a writer). The voice of the narrator, Rachel, was engaging, and she did a great job weaving the past events of her life into what was happening now. The author was also a master of showing, not telling, and you were able to get a detailed picture of relationships and personalities from very brief exchanges. I loved the setting, both of place and time period. Rachel DuPree and her family are the only black settlers for hundreds of miles. Yet her husband came from an educated family in Chicago with money to spare. He chose the life of a rancher, and Rachel worked herself to the bone alongside him because she wanted to share his life. It was fascinating to see their love story pick up where it did: seven children and many hard years after Rachel first fell in love. It reminded me of "Love Comes Softly" in the whole 'you take what's at hand and make the best of it' mentality, except this book was about a million times better in every way. Both had a lot of descriptions of making biscuits. On the personal side, this book made me appreciate the food in my kitchen and the water in my tap a whole lot more. It made my heart ache with gratitude that I will likely never see my children listless with hunger and thirst (despite their daily claims to be "starving" right before dinner), and it made me appreciate the ease of my chores and my abundant leisure time (although it never feels that way). I read this while reading a biography of my great-great-grandparents who came from the coal mines of England in 1880-ish and homesteaded in the mountains of Coalville, Utah. Nothing came easily, except for children dying. This book was set in the same time period on a homestead in the Badlands of South Dakota (wouldn't the name tip you off that it wasn't likely to be a good experience?) and while fictional, it was certainly based on reality. It was interesting to have a comparison to the experiences of my own pioneer ancestors. The ending of the book was somewhat of a disappointment, because it left things very open-ended. Whenever I find myself displeased with an ending, I inevitably ask myself how I would have done it differently, and in this case I really don't know. It would take another novel to wrap up what was introduced in the last chapters of this book, one I wouldn't mind reading, but also don't mind imagining for myself. My guess is, though, that the low average star rating for this books is due to the disatisfaction of readers with the ending. Anyway, I encourage my goodreads friends to read it. It's a quick, engaging read, and if you don't love it, you'll still probably consider it a good use of reading time....more
This was an awesome concept. I loved how the author mixed travel writing with the latest science on happiness. The whole idea of rating your own happiThis was an awesome concept. I loved how the author mixed travel writing with the latest science on happiness. The whole idea of rating your own happiness is fascinating to me. This book shows that it's impossible to pin down the things, setting, diet or climate that MAKE you happy. All we can find is correlation, really, but my take away is that happiness isn't dependent on outside influences. Aside from the happiness question, I loved "visiting" all the different places the author took us to. I credit this book with making me aware of the super wealthy (and tiny) Arab countries. Yep, I didn't know about Qatar before this. Seriously. So, that was a fun thing to learn about. I felt like the "grump" aspect of this book promised in the title was not much of a focus. Or, if it was, I wasn't interested in it and have forgotten about it in the few months since I read this book. Anyway, if you enjoy social psychology, travel, and non-fiction writing, you'll enjoy this book. ...more
Johnston's writing style may be good for a column, but it was wearing for a whole book. I didn't take much away from this, personally. I liked hearingJohnston's writing style may be good for a column, but it was wearing for a whole book. I didn't take much away from this, personally. I liked hearing the personal stories with President Hinckley, Neal A. Maxwell and President Monson. The parts about Bolivia were also nice. The parts about getting "lost" and "rescued" (which one would expect to comprise the bulk of the book) were surprisingly brief. Like, a page, each. Even so, this isn't a waste for a Sunday read, and it had the added plus for me of featuring more than one person from Brigham City that I actually know. Woot. I'm practically famous....more
I was desperate for audio books and will grab anything that looks semi-worthwhile when I have three small children terrorizing the library. I figuredI was desperate for audio books and will grab anything that looks semi-worthwhile when I have three small children terrorizing the library. I figured I should give this one up when my sister (who has read most if not all of Handler's books) said, "I'm surprised you're reading that. Yeah, it was not in the best of taste, to say the least. I liked the first few stories (childhood, which even then contained way more language than any kid should know) but it went downhill as soon as we reached young adulthood. Handler is funny, but there are more important things....more
The whole time I was reading this I kept getting annoyed at the clumsy way in which the Countess of Carnarvon was telling the story, and I really thouThe whole time I was reading this I kept getting annoyed at the clumsy way in which the Countess of Carnarvon was telling the story, and I really thought I didn't like the book. Then, after I'd finished it, I was relating some of the anecdotes to my sisters (fellow Downton Abbey fans), and I had to admit, it was pretty darn interesting! I felt the need to qualify all the the exciting stuff I was telling them by saying, "She doesn't make it sound nearly this good." But really, I'm a nitpicky reader, and if you're just interested in the story, you'll probably like this one. It's a fascinating time in history, and of course, the lives of the rich and famous always make for good entertainment. I was just annoyed that things didn't follow a very clear narrative arc, and that the author often included what I felt were irrelevant details (bogging down the story) and then left gaping holes where the good stuff should have been. (Case in point, the Count's brother literally gets a one-sentence reference as having been offered the throne of Albania in the lead-up to WWI. Really? That's all we're going to hear about that?!) I feel like I never came to know the personalities of the characters very well, and that the author vacillated between dishing the dirt on her in-law ancestors and maintaining this prim British air of upper class dignity. It annoyed me, but in the end, I still liked it, and the stories we got out of her almost made up for the fact that she really should have hired a better ghost writer....more
Four stars for being great non-fiction: entertaining and informational, with the perfect amount of the author's personal story to carry us through allFour stars for being great non-fiction: entertaining and informational, with the perfect amount of the author's personal story to carry us through all the twists and turns of this crazy ultra-running culture. I actually gave the book five stars for its personal meaning to me. I love distance running, and this book made me think of so many new things that validated my love for running that it ALMOST deserves the over-used term "mind-blowing." It all made so much sense! And I couldn't believe I had never thought about it before! And unlike some books about a healthy lifestyle that make me feel out-of-shape, environmentally cruel, and guilty about it all, this book just made me want to eat a salad and go run some nearby trails barefoot. It was a wonderful feeling (the wanting to do it. I'll report back when I actually ACT on that impulse), and the whole book made me feel happy and astounded, and impressed, and proud of my biological heritage as a runner. Even if you're not in to running, this is a fun and interesting book to read. McDougall is a great story teller, and this book is full of vicarious thrills. If you DO like running, you should definitely read this book. You will love it!...more
Reader's Choice book at the library. I read a random paragraph from the middle and knew I would enjoy this book. I was not disappointed. Especially foReader's Choice book at the library. I read a random paragraph from the middle and knew I would enjoy this book. I was not disappointed. Especially for a freshman novel, I was very impressed by Tanner. Her characters (even peripheral ones) were vibrant and believable. She didn't overplay the "dark secret", and stayed true to what was most beautiful about this story: the relationship between Vaclav and Lena. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea of soulmates, and I appreciated that Vaclav and Lena's reunion happened at age 17, which I think is the perfect age to discover that you are really, truly in love. I really enjoyed this book and read it quickly. One minor complaint (which I don't see how the author could have done any differently) was that I kind of felt guilty reading the broken English of the Russian immigrants, and hearing about eating borscht and drinking vodka. I kept thinking "Am I just being fed stereotypes here?" and I felt bad about that. But (not having a lot of personal experience with Russian immigrants to go off of here) the characters did feel very genuine, and usually stereotypes exist for a reason, so whose to say Tanner's depiction of their life wasn't accurate? Anyway, if you're looking for a quick, enjoyable read, I recommend this one....more
Ergh. John Updike has such great literary talent, so needlessly wasted on prurient themes. I really think the man didn't believe it was possible for aErgh. John Updike has such great literary talent, so needlessly wasted on prurient themes. I really think the man didn't believe it was possible for a couple to remain happily monogamous. I only got a chapter into this, but since that chapter dealt heavily with various lovers, disintegrating marriages, and future affairs (all familiar themes from Updike's short stories) I decided to give this one a pass. ...more
I read this some time in my early teens and the only things I remember about that experience are 1) governess, 2) children, 3) convoluted story line II read this some time in my early teens and the only things I remember about that experience are 1) governess, 2) children, 3) convoluted story line I didn't understand. Were there ghosts? I could never be sure. I just finished re-reading it, and it turns Teenage Danielle apparently didn't have the attention span necessary for Henry James. I had no problems with this book on the second reading. It was perfectly clear what was happening (yes, there were ghosts, Teenage Danielle. How could you be uncertain about that?) and I enjoyed the story and the telling of it. Oh, I actually chose to re-read this because the boy in it is named Miles, as is my son. Unfortunately, I don't think this is a story I want to hand over to him anytime soon and say, "See? You're just like him!" Anyway, it was a fun read and encourages me to read more of James....more
So good! My husband and I were reading this together (a sure guarantee of a slow read, since our time alone together is minimal) and I forgot that itSo good! My husband and I were reading this together (a sure guarantee of a slow read, since our time alone together is minimal) and I forgot that it had had a long wait at the library. So, we got through about half of it in three weeks and now it's on hold at the library again. Can't wait to finish it!...more
I saw this as a book on CD at the library, and thought it would be a good way to give David Foster Wallace a try before reading Infinite Jest. If I'dI saw this as a book on CD at the library, and thought it would be a good way to give David Foster Wallace a try before reading Infinite Jest. If I'd gone into this book with no expectations about the author, I would have been impressed. As it was, I found him to be a pretty good non-fiction writer. The essay topics, however, were very interesting. I thought "Consider the Lobster" was going to be metaphorical, but nope, it was all about lobster, and killing and eating them, and the various opinions on the humanity of this. I don't know if I've ever had lobster, so this one didn't cut too deeply for me. I loved his essay about 9-11. It was so fascinating to see this small-town reaction to the terrorist attacks, told by someone who experienced it, but could also really write about it well. It was both poignant and practical, and extremely moving in the heartfelt realness Wallace conveys. Probably the longest essay of the book is one about the pornography industry. A huge part of me did not want to read this, and did not enjoy reading it, but I considered it educational. Foster apparently has some ambivalent feelings about the whole thing, but what came across most clearly to me was the ridiculousness and sadness of this group of people who have dedicated their lives to gratifying the carnal desires of others. It was about as far from glamorous as you can get. So, I'm glad I read it, but it was a distasteful chore. Anyway, this was a quick read, and it confirmed for me that it's probably worth it to give Infinite Jest a try, but I wasn't blown away....more
I wanted to like this more than I did. To be fair, I didn't give it the full 100 pages I usually allow to make a keep-or-toss decision on books. HonesI wanted to like this more than I did. To be fair, I didn't give it the full 100 pages I usually allow to make a keep-or-toss decision on books. Honestly, I loved the title. The premise and historical perspective seemed interesting. It just lost me every time there was dialogue, and the heroine's story with her betrothed husband was just taking waaay too long to unfold for me to stay interested. I don't know that if I'd actually stuck with it I wouldn't have ended up liking it. I just have other stuff to read....more
The writing in this book wasn't bad. I liked the brief chapters and changes in POV. But after giving it only a page or two here and there for weeks, IThe writing in this book wasn't bad. I liked the brief chapters and changes in POV. But after giving it only a page or two here and there for weeks, I finally returned it to the library. It hadn't gripped me yet, and I just didn't care enough to stick it out....more
A conservative three stars. Things I liked about this book: 1) The setting was fantastic. Turn-of-the-century Montana. I loved the juxtaposition of theA conservative three stars. Things I liked about this book: 1) The setting was fantastic. Turn-of-the-century Montana. I loved the juxtaposition of the "modern" mining town (Butte) with the Wild West. 2) The narrator was readable. I didn't love him, but I cared enough to keep reading. 3) The secondary characters were engaging and mostly believable. 4) The plot kept things moving. There was always something happening, which is good, since I would most likely have thrown in the towel early on otherwise.
Things I did not like: 1) The writing was just so-so. Apparently the Wallace Stegnar Award (which this book earned) is won for setting a book at a certain time in the history of the American West, not for approximating that man's impressive prose. 2) The eruditeness of the hero was occasionally far-fetched and often obnoxious. I didn't mind his dialogue so much (no words I didn't understand) but his whole persona was off-putting. 3) The author had an EXTREMELY over-used plot point of making our hero believe he was about to be attacked/killed/kidnapped by thugs every time he turned a corner. If I paid off a day's library fines for every time he "wrapped his fingers around the comforting metal of the brass knuckles in his pocket" in expectation of an ambush, only to encounter the harmless landlady/librarian/cat rustling the bushes, my library account would be free and clear. Needless to say, the ACTUAL ambushes were never telecast so blatantly. 4) The plot in general was silly and not particularly believable. Also, I found myself caring much more about the miners' dispute with the mine owners than with the yawn-worthy love story between the hero and his widowed landlady.
So, for me this book was worth reading for the awesome sense of place it provided, and the mostly readable plot. I wouldn't recommend it unless you really love the American West, mining, Chicago gangsters or libraries....more