This novel is utterly delicious! Like a long, five course meal I found it delightful on several different levels and its length only served to prolong...moreThis novel is utterly delicious! Like a long, five course meal I found it delightful on several different levels and its length only served to prolong the enjoyment. Now that I've finished it, I'm tempted to start it again.
I especially love the way Eliot built her characters and the town of Middlemarch. Even the side characters have loud personalities who contribute in their own unique way to the movement of the story. The main characters I felt like I knew from the first few pages. Eliot was clearly, above all, a student of human behavior and personality. Her characters act as you would expect real people to and she never lets them off the hook for their actions. The ending, while mostly happy, isn't naively detached from the choices and personalities of each character.
The way Eliot puts you into the mind of two different characters, the way the plot hinges on the circumstance of one life affecting another, the way she shows you how sometimes we human beings just miss one another completely - it was at turns painful and depressing and humorous. Any author would do well to write a book half as in-tune with the human experience as Middlemarch.
Classic Nouwen - thought-provoking, raw, extremely personal. The chapter on embracing death still has me thinking. Invitations and ideas for spiritual...moreClassic Nouwen - thought-provoking, raw, extremely personal. The chapter on embracing death still has me thinking. Invitations and ideas for spiritual practices at the end of each chapter were especially helpful in digging deeper into yourself and each topic. (less)
Good fiction should draw you into the minds of the characters, cause you to identify with them - struggling, rejoicing, pondering, sweating as if you...moreGood fiction should draw you into the minds of the characters, cause you to identify with them - struggling, rejoicing, pondering, sweating as if you ARE them. Molly Ringwald takes that aim of fiction and uses it to its extreme. Moving with compassion and thoughtfulness through the lives of several characters in the most difficult circumstances one can imagine, Ringwald leaves each at their moment of crisis, of decision. You're left to ask "when it happens to you, what will you do?" When your marriage falls apart, when your son comes out as gay, when you fall in love with another woman while trying to save your marriage... what would you do?
It felt a little heavy-handed in places (trying to get me to identify with each character instead of letting it happen naturally through good writing), but overall Ringwald did a good job of reminding me this could happen to anybody - including you!(less)
Excellent, excellent book. Deals with servanthood in the context of the cross-cultural life, but the principles relate to any context. Elmer grounds e...moreExcellent, excellent book. Deals with servanthood in the context of the cross-cultural life, but the principles relate to any context. Elmer grounds every principle of practically serving others in the nature of God and how He works in the lives of human beings. The chapters on "the servant and leadership" and "the servant and mystery" are worth the entire book themselves. I'm currently doing a chapter-by-chapter walk through on my blog because I found it such a good book.(less)
A collection of Henri Nouwen's writings arranged by two scholars of his work, this is meant to be a book that reads like interacting with a spiritual...moreA collection of Henri Nouwen's writings arranged by two scholars of his work, this is meant to be a book that reads like interacting with a spiritual director. It's classic Nouwen, pairing personal insight with theological observation. Read slowly and with a journal nearby.(less)
We read the "Children's Classic" version of this when I was a kid, so I thought I knew the basic outline of the story. Wow am I glad I went back and r...moreWe read the "Children's Classic" version of this when I was a kid, so I thought I knew the basic outline of the story. Wow am I glad I went back and read the adult version! The story is such a rich exploration of the vengeance of God, human nature, enduring hardship, and man trying to take God's place. The transformation of Edmund Dantes and his struggle with his own humanity when he prefers to see himself as an emotionless agent of God was an amazing journey. This is definitely a book I will go back to read again!(less)
Not quite as intricate as the first in this series, "Wolf Hall", Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies" is no less engaging and enthralling. She says this boo...moreNot quite as intricate as the first in this series, "Wolf Hall", Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies" is no less engaging and enthralling. She says this book can be read on its own, without reading the first in what will be a trilogy, but I don't agree. While, sure, a stand-alone retelling of the last days of Anne Boleyn, this book's delight is the deepening of the characters we came to know and love-or-hate through the first book. It seemed like Mantel took to heart some of the critiques of the first book - the character list is much reduced here and she often clarifies the "he" she is speaking of (see my review of the first book). This makes for an easier read, but not quite as time transporting. After the first book, I felt as though I'd had the opportunity to meet Cromwell, Henry VIII, Anne, and the rest of the cast of these moments of history. After her second, it seems they've become old friends. I absolutely cannot wait for the third.
This has got to be some of the best historical fiction out there!(less)
I have met Thomas Cromwell. I've had long conversations with King Henry VIII. I have watched Queen Anne scheme her way onto the throne.
At least that's...moreI have met Thomas Cromwell. I've had long conversations with King Henry VIII. I have watched Queen Anne scheme her way onto the throne.
At least that's how it feels after finishing Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall". As all good historical fiction should do, Wolf Hall pushed me onto Google to learn about the real history behind Mantel's story. I found myself nodding and squealing over names and events that Mantel's book had explored. It felt like a reunion of friends to find that the people populating "Wolf Hall" were strongly based on the people who had really lived. It's abundantly clear that Mantel did her homework thoroughly and passionately before beginning to write. At times, this felt more like a political thriller than an historical novel because Mantel's writing so sucked you into the world of Henry VIII you didn't notice the time travel.
"Wolf Hall" opens with Cromwell's early life as the son of a physically abusive father, but moves quickly to the beginning of his rise to become King Henry VIII's most trusted adviser. The driving force of the plot is Anne Boleyn's schemes to get rid of Queen Catherine and ultimate rise to the throne as Henry's second queen. Interwoven throughout that plot, however, are scenes from Cromwell's early life as a soldier for France and businessman in Italy, pictures of his home life - including the death of his two daughters and wife to the plague, and dozens of other characters who were driving forces behind the religious instability that became the Protestant and English Reformations.
Only two possible problems with this book that are worth mentioning: There are a lot of characters. And sometimes it seems like there are more than there actually are because in one sentence he's the "Duke of such-and-such" and in the next sentence he's referred to by his first name, sometimes without notice of whose first name was now being used. It didn't necessarily bother me that I couldn't keep some of the secondary character's story lines straight - but if it would bother you, then keep a notebook nearby to diagram all the relationships. Second issue is related to the first - Mantel, throughout the book, uses "he" consistently to refer to Cromwell. The entire book is from his point-of-view and so we're often left to understand that "he" means Cromwell. This is fine when it's Cromwell brooding alone or speaking with a lady and in some ways makes you feel closer to Cromwell. It does get confusing, however, when he's with another "he" (which is is a lot). In a group setting, especially, I had to re-read several paragraphs to figure out who'd said or thought what. You simply have to make a default setting change in your mind that the majority of the time "he"=Cromwell.
Oh, one more problem I forgot to mention - this book kept me up much too late multiple nights and when it was over, I bought the sequel "Bring Up the Bodies" right away. :-)(less)
The first several chapters, when Sacks is talking about patients of his, was incredibly interesting. It was a great look at how the human mind can mis...moreThe first several chapters, when Sacks is talking about patients of his, was incredibly interesting. It was a great look at how the human mind can misfire and fail, as well as the resilience of people in dealing with some pretty crippling conditions. Midway through, however, Sacks chronicles his experience with a severe eye problem which leads to a certain amount of blindness. It felt much too long to me and was more his journal than a cohesive, informative story. This was my first Sacks' book and I fully expected to go through several more, but I'm reluctant to pick up another one...(less)
Already a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's from his first three books, I couldn't wait to dig into "What the Dog Saw" - a collection of his past essays. In t...moreAlready a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's from his first three books, I couldn't wait to dig into "What the Dog Saw" - a collection of his past essays. In the introduction, he says he's chosen what he considers his best and most interesting essays and I couldn't agree more. With humor, insight, and compassion he made me reconsider everything from the use of birth control to how we scout out talent. I always feel smarter after reading Gladwell!(less)
I was delightfully surprised by this book! While definitely a character-driven story, I was swept up in the story and carried along - my senses filled...moreI was delightfully surprised by this book! While definitely a character-driven story, I was swept up in the story and carried along - my senses filled by Wharton's description of old New York's social elite and by her character's inner life. There's a wonderful sensuality to her writing - so many passages that are beautiful examples of "show, don't tell". In the good fashion of her social setting - there's much that she leaves implied and up to inference. As the story moved along, you confront choices of duty versus desire and the struggle against the status quo. It's all told in a very understated way, but by the end you're left wrestling with the choices made and the paths taken.(less)