Loved reading it so much, I downloaded the audiobook too. Kathleen Wilhoite's narration is great, especially when she reads Bee. She adds so much yout...moreLoved reading it so much, I downloaded the audiobook too. Kathleen Wilhoite's narration is great, especially when she reads Bee. She adds so much youthfulness, I feel like I know Bee better through her than when I read the book in hardcover.(less)
**spoiler alert** Did I gasp and lash out like all super-fans? Yes. But then I kept reading. And laughing. And I loved this book. Months later I'm stil...more**spoiler alert** Did I gasp and lash out like all super-fans? Yes. But then I kept reading. And laughing. And I loved this book. Months later I'm still amused every time I think about chicken pox or the mom from Good Luck Charlie.
I find it such a shame that Helen Fielding left such a gap in the series. I wish she had written about Bridget and Mark's married life, if only for a single novel. If she can write about child rearing, dating, working, and aging parents so cleverly, why not marriage? Not only could she have done it well, but Mark Darcy-lovers would have been endlessly satisfied to see them married and bickering. I know. I wanted this book too. But I understand where Fieldimg is coming from at the same time ( though how she thought she could get by killing off such a HUGELY popular character without a bit of a stink certainly boggles me).
There was an interview at the release of the book (NPR, I think?) wherein Fielding stated that for her, Bridget was a look at modern dating tactics... And Mad About the Boy is just that. Fieldimg jumped back in because there were new fields to be mined. Since Bridget met Mark, social media came along and changed the landscape drastically. So, while for fans Bridget Jones was a story about Bridget Jones falling in love with Mark Darcy, for Fieldimg, it's always been about Bridget Jones, and women in general, falling in love, period. And the death of Mark gave her the opportunity to explore not just MORE relationships, plus the advent of Twitter, but dating and love from a perspective of mourning, grief, motherhood, and an older age. ...and that makes sense to me.
Do I still think she needs to march back to her keyboard and type up 400 pages on life with Mark for me to wedge between this and The Edge of Reason on by book shelf? Yes. But Mad About the Boy isn't a lesser book because of the missed opportunity, and if you can get over the initial surprise, you'll find Bridget as endearing and ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny as ever. I did and already look forward to rereadings.(less)
A deceptively simple story about a group of well-intentioned winos, presented clearly, episodically and hilariously by Steinbeck. I really consider To...moreA deceptively simple story about a group of well-intentioned winos, presented clearly, episodically and hilariously by Steinbeck. I really consider Tortilla Flat a loving family portrait, and Steinbeck himself thought of it as his own Mexican Round Table. Sure they're bums and I don't actually want to be a paisano, but you can't help but see the romance of the lifestyle, even as the spend the night in drunken slumber, facedown in the dirt with only an overturned boat for shelter. They're free and, in their own way, even a bit noble.
But mostly this is just really, really funny and really, really great writing.
I know the question of racism is asked when Tortilla Flat is read. It's a book about drunk, unemployed Mexicans living in California. But Tortilla Flat isn't a work of prejudice. It's a product of its time, certainly, of the Depression Era, of the monetary struggle and malaise of the period. But it's not a story about being Mexican, it's a story about Danny and Danny's friends, who happen to be Mexican. And for me the sketch Steinbeck makes of the community of Tortilla Flat is a friendly if not loving one that shows the humor in every normal human beings tendencies toward both selfishness and selflessness and about the pursuit of life's little pleasures. Like wine. Have I mentioned the wine enough yet?
The tale ended on a surprisingly somber note for me, but the party and the parting of ways were perfect. I can't help but be reminded of one of my own friends, Anthony. He's one of those guys everybody knows and loves and, while thankfully he isn't drunk or destructive or dead... he does have Danny's magnetism. And he throws the biggest, best parties too. But you probably know him and his house.(less)
Celebrity-author phobics (I was wary too): Lauren Graham is legit. I don't know if my rating would be quite as high if I'd read rather than listened t...moreCelebrity-author phobics (I was wary too): Lauren Graham is legit. I don't know if my rating would be quite as high if I'd read rather than listened to the novel (Graham's reading is predictably great), but either way it's a solid story with honest moments of self doubt and humor. Predictable, sure, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing and isn't here.
Listening to Lauren Graham's audiobook performance just seems like the obvious way to experience Someday Someday Maybe (her James Franklin voice drove me a bit crazy but as he's a douche bag, it's fittingly irritating). I don't know how much of the story is autobiographical, but listening to Graham read makes me believe every word, like she's reading me her diary from 1995.
I have no acting or Hollywood aspirations or abilities so I'm ignorant of acting methods and awed by the seriously talented. I couldn't deliver a single line believably to save my life, so it was interesting to get inside the head of someone who gets inside the head of so many others. I really enjoyed and was really interested to hear about acting from the perspective of 27 year old aspiring, yet-to-break-out Franny Banks, and more generally Graham just got the setting and details down right. This is show biz, this is New York in 1995, and this is the brain of a real girl, smart and talented and funny but floundering, self-doubting, sad and confused and making stupid decisions sometimes but chipping away at figuring out who she wants to be. Is it light? Yeah. Is it real and relatable and worth the listen? Yup.
PSST: Dan's Franny & Zooey connection was one of the sweetest, most poignant moments of the book for me. (less)
A lot of humor and a lotta heart. 326 pages of pure entertainment.
Like a lot of reviews I've read, Semple didn't quite stick the landing for me -- I...moreA lot of humor and a lotta heart. 326 pages of pure entertainment.
Like a lot of reviews I've read, Semple didn't quite stick the landing for me -- I didn't enjoy the longer first person narratives quite as much as the documents. To be fair though, I *loved* the docs, so that's not much of a complaint. Part of me feels Semple tied everything together too tidily, and part of me wonders what's wrong with tidy? I got the ending I wanted, afterall (though I do wonder what's to become of Soo-Lin...) and I was happy quickly flipping pages until I got there.
Something I'd gladly read again and already plan to share the crap out of.(less)
I almost feel like... what's the point of reviewing someone as good as Karen Russell? Why bother with my words when you could be reading hers? But if...moreI almost feel like... what's the point of reviewing someone as good as Karen Russell? Why bother with my words when you could be reading hers? But if I can do anything to convince you to buy one of her books, then I guess it's worth the effort.
To bother stating, at this point in her career, that Karen Russell writes beautiful, wildly creative, impossibly smart sentences is just redundant. It should be widely accepted fact. I read another review, that stated she must arrange her sentences with tweezers, and I loved that visual. I imagine it can't be too far off from what her actual writing process look like. Not that she makes it seem like work but, rather, that her stories are so expertly crafted and convincingly placed, that you can't help but acknowledge how researched they are. In Vampires in the Lemon Grove I think she (and surely this is a credit to her editor as well) has not only grown in her story telling, but vastly in her restraint. My only complaint with her excellent novel Swamplandia! was that it was so thick with artful sentences that it felt uncomfortably dense at times. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is equal in its art, and so much more confident in its easiness.
It's been a pleasure for me to watch Russell's shift from the fairy tales of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves to the subtle magical realism of Vampires (Swamplandia! sits so interestingly between these two as a meditation on the role of fairy tale in real life). There is an eeriness and poignancy to much of this new collection that lies in wondering how much of each tale is real, imagined, or metaphor. Fear, of vampires, of monstrous women, of the walking dead, or omen birds, or war or missing boys works purely for entertainment, of course, but those fears also speak to feelings of wanting and regret. It is a quietly creepy collection, but a thoughtful one. And there is humor, for sure, and not just in the story about presidents trapped inside the minds of horses (and yes that is the basis for a story.)
Even when I didn't love a story -- when I thought a setting wasn't "my thing" -- I was impressed by it. Take the final story, The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis for example: I didn't quite get why these kids kept returning to the scarecrow, why Larry was so obsessed with it. Like Larry's pals, I got tired of checking in on the damn thing after so many visits. But by the end? I'm haunted by its symbolism. My least favorite story taught me that unkindness is its own curse, that we can never undo the bad things we do to each other. Even if our victim moves on, we carry the scars of our own cruelty. My least favorite story was that successful. And my favorites? They made me question eternal love, feel the pain and confusion of losing oneself by imaging myself a monster, a slave, a horse, and scared the begeezus out of me so badly I had to pull back the shower curtain to make sure nothing was going to jump out at me in the middle of the night after reading "Proving Up."
Maybe I'll come back and note my thoughts on individual stories, but until then, know that this is an impressive collection of strange and spooky stories that will convincingly place you in new cities, time periods, even species and you will believe it all because Karen Russell does her homework.
Stand out story: Proving Up. Doubtless, this will appear in anthologies for years to come. My husband deemed it the "best American horror story since Sleepy Hollow" and I think he might be right.(less)
In a nutshell: Shane Jones is definitely screwing with you here. How intentionally is unclear... like the entirety of this novel.
Having already starte...moreIn a nutshell: Shane Jones is definitely screwing with you here. How intentionally is unclear... like the entirety of this novel.
Having already started and stopped Light Boxes by Shane Jones, I had a pretty decent hunch that Daniel Fights a Hurricane wasn't going to be my thing. And it surely wasn't. But it was my book club's reading selection, so I slogged through it.
One of the terrible things about being in a book club is reading books you don't like. But one of the great things about being in a book club is looking for redeeming factors in books you don't actually like and would otherwise throw across the room, and finding them. I'll get back to that.
While a very short book, I did not find Daniel to be a quick read. As in Light Boxes, I found Jones' style to be extremely tedious. What is being sold as "poetic language" reads as anything but to me.
1) He isn't concise or precise in his word choices; he repeats the same phrases ad nauseam. At several points while reading Daniel I swore I would scream if I read the phrase "village of underwater pipes" again. I cringe even typing it now, two weeks after having finished the book. And there were many wordy phrases like this he repeated throughout. It's like if every time I mentioned my home -- and if I mentioned it INCESSANTLY -- I referred to it by its entire street address. And then when you responded to whatever I said about my house, you would essentially just rephrase what I had already said. And this long winded banter would go on and on for 100+ pages. It's a short book, and would be shorter still if half its content wasn't repeated. As far as I can tell, such speech denotes that the speaker is either a) a weirdo b) convinced what they're saying is so clever it bears repeating. And repeating. And repeating. 2) His imagery is trite. Daniel is obsessed with hurricanes, yes. His life revolves around this fear, yes. So I get it when he refers to rain as "hurricane tears" and wind as "hurricane breathe" but how many analogies do we need, guy? One is fine; it drives your point, two is plenty, and three starts to sound amateur. 3) There is no meaning or mood. You don't need both, but you should have one.
So about those redeeming factors! This is a big one actually: while Daniel's insanity is confusing (to everyone) and tedious (to me), the shifting perspective, between Daniel's reality (which you can't trust cuz he's crazy) to Daniel's fantasy (which eventually becomes his reality and gets even more confusing) to his ex-wife's reality (the reader's only stability... until she starts talking about having a baby with him, what??), makes the reader feel like they are crazy themselves -- and not just in the "Shane Jones is a hack and I'm going to tear this book in half!!" rage kind of crazy. You don't know what's real and isn't, who's real and who isn't, and many of the books elements are just plain weird (WTF is up with all those "i <3..." tattoos and "cookie pocket"??). You become Daniel, or at least someone who is likewise mentally ill. And that Shane Jones has written a book that is an experience in and of itself is certainly something.
But I have another qualm. While it's exciting to think "ah, the power of books! To transport and transform!" and the credit for reminding the reader of that power is due the author... the execution is so haphazard I'm left to wonder if Jones had any goals other than to confuse. He's strung together such a bat shit series of events and characters that you can't help but feel crazy. None of it makes sense. None of it adds up to anything. Is it just bullshit? It isn't beautiful or surreal enough to be an ode to the creative qualities of madness, it offers no real stance on mental illness or medication at all. The only hint that we ought to feel sorry for Daniel is when we see him standing naked and emaciated in the woods, from the perspective of his ex-wife Karen Suppleton. But Karen is also the woman who pacifies him by pretending to be a therapist, even scheduling "appointments" with him -- a kind of funny thing. Is this serious or is this comical? Or if the hurricane is a symbol of fear, can we at least glean something of Jone's thoughts on that? I'm confused not just by Daniel's instability but by Jone's lack of direction for his novel. If this is just a dream then who cares?
There are nuggets here though. I have no trouble believing that Jones is an idea man, if nothing else. I very much liked the idea of Light Boxes as well. But the execution didn't work for me then either. There are delightful elements littered throughout Daniel that I can see Jones jotting down excitedly in a notebook when struck by inspiration. Iamso, the traveling poet cum fortune teller who has the ability to tell you how you feel, is an endearing character and a really comical companion to join you on a quest. I like him very much. I like the most handsome man in the world with the worst teeth as well. He's a great, if gruesome image. The scenes where he appears in reality as well as crazy town, are interesting ones and I'm amused thinking about how many teeth this man must have that he can afford to lose so many of them all the time.
But the thing is, Daniel Fights a Hurricane reads like someone at Penguin got hold of that great "IDEAS" notebook of Jones' and accidentally published it before he ever got the chance to write a story.
It does make for very animated book club discussion though ;)(less)
A perfectly entertaining crime drama (says the girl with the distaste for crime drama) with far more discussion points than the average episode of CSI...moreA perfectly entertaining crime drama (says the girl with the distaste for crime drama) with far more discussion points than the average episode of CSI. Told from the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife at odds, Gone Girl releases key information in the disappearance of Amy Dunne and the couple's turbulent marriage in doses small and well-timed enough to keep you wondering, if not who dunnit? than certainly what next? and how much deeper can Nick Dunne dig his own grave?.
Gone Girl's most obvious and focused theme is marriage, and the question of how well you can ever really known someone, but Flynn rounds the whole thing out with commentary on the state of publishing (both Amy and Nick are out-of-work writers) and loose ties to Tom Sawyer to make it standout from more generic genre fare. Gone Girl takes a strange (and for me, unsatisfying) turn at the end, making it feel more like an open-ended horror story than a closed-cased mystery as the door to their Hannibal, MO home slows closes on a couple that, in the end, really deserves each other.
Three stars from me, though bigger crime/mystery fans will love it, as it's unending stay on the best sellers list proves. This might sound like a jab, but I recommend it for in-flight reading. Page-turners are great for bored brains.(less)
I loved this. L-o-v-e-d it. And I don't do mysteries. The ending was a bit "and now Dumbledore will explain whodunit/the entire plot of the book while...moreI loved this. L-o-v-e-d it. And I don't do mysteries. The ending was a bit "and now Dumbledore will explain whodunit/the entire plot of the book while Harry sits in his office...", which is the only thing keeping me from labeling it perfect. It's not a bad way to end a book, of course, it's just not the best way.
But this woman's voice. Her style, her humor. She knows her history so well it enables her to make quips so naturally you'd think she lived through it... I think I've found one of My Authors in Julia Stuart. You know, someone to add to my list of favorites, someone I just want to read no matter what they write. This reminded me of a more mature Wolves Chronicles, and I can really give no higher praise than to compare a book to that, my favorite series by Joan Aiken.
Subtle, quirky, hilarious. Will definitely be reading more from Julia Stuart.
NPR, I love you for bringing this book to my attention.(less)