First of all, Booklist says this book is appropriate for 7th-12th grade kids. I'd put it way closer to 7th than 12th, and maybe even younger. The stor...moreFirst of all, Booklist says this book is appropriate for 7th-12th grade kids. I'd put it way closer to 7th than 12th, and maybe even younger. The story is disturbing, but historically accurate, and the writing is very simple and clear with no complexities. In fact, that's my main gripe about the book. I'm fine with it appealing to younger readers, and I'm also able to accept the fact that I'm older than the target audience, but there's no need to write down to young adults. Most young readers, especially young readers who would purposefully seek out a book about gulags, or be interested in the book jacket, can understand more complex language.
My other gripe with the book is very technical; there were at least ten editing/publishing issues in my copy of the book. At one point, there was even a sentence that was repeated from the bottom of one page to the top of the next. I don't know if it's just my copy, but it's annoying that a book would be released without those problems being fixed.
Obviously, as I rated the book a 4/5, these problems were not so distracting that I couldn't overlook them. They only slightly detracted from how enjoyable the book was.
I read a lot about this time period, particularly in YA books, but I've never read a YA novel about gulags, so this was an interesting first. There are definitely parallels between some of the Holocaust fiction I've read, mostly because they both speak to difficult topics in the same time period and they're aimed for young readers, so if you liked books like The Devil's Arithmetic and you're interested in learning a little about gulags, I'd highly recommend Between Shades of Gray.
This book has an interesting structure--very, very short chapters and lots of 1-2 page flashbacks written in italics. (I'm not a fan of big blocks of text written in italics, but I'll let that good for now.) For me, the flashbacks are mostly distracting and serve to take away from the action, although they do give the reader a break from the terrors of the gulags, and they do give some much needed background information about the characters. I'd like to have a little more of that information up front, and most of it gone because it's not at all relevant.
The characters are all pretty flat, with only a small handful standing out as rounded. However, characters you wouldn't suspect become multi-dimensional, which gives this book points in my opinion. And, while Lina's obsession with art is a little overplayed, I generally liked her as a character and stayed interested in her and her family.
Mostly, what I liked about this book was its ability to teach the reader something without reverting to sensationalism. Sepetys also creates believable characters who, while the often appear shallow, cause he care for them and worry about their survival. (less)
I'd like to give this book 3.5 stars, but since that's not possible, I'll help it out rather than take away from it. The writing in this book is very...moreI'd like to give this book 3.5 stars, but since that's not possible, I'll help it out rather than take away from it. The writing in this book is very solid--the characters are believable (if not a little ridiculous at times, but who isn't?) and the plot isn't over-the-top or extreme. It's excellent as a first person narrative and really gets to the root of all of Sydney, the narrator's, problems and thoughts and feelings.
It's not a great novel of literary merit, but it does rise above the typical chick lit about best friends and boys (although there's plenty of that here) that I'm used to reading.
However, I still found myself bothered by the stupid phrase "my pregnancy" on every single page at least once. I read the phrase "my pregnancy" so many times that I began to hate the word pregnancy. If that was the intention of the author, well, kudos, but the last thing I want from a book is to become so disgusted with some part of it (however small) that it makes me want to put it down in frustration.
All in all, despite my tendency to nitpick, I liked "Every Little Thing In The World."(less)
I was warned that this book starts out slow, and with that information I pushed through the first section (although, I'd argue that it wasn't so much...moreI was warned that this book starts out slow, and with that information I pushed through the first section (although, I'd argue that it wasn't so much slow as just confusing and annoying getting used to the narrator's word choice and environment). After getting through the first fifty pages or so, this book had me hooked. I don't think the plot is particularly brilliant (I mean, it's not something that happens all the time, but similar things have certainly happened, and it's based on them) but it's a book filled with tension. You read just to find out how in the Hell it could possibly ever be resolved. The characters are interesting and more three-dimensional than I anticipated, and the book gave me plenty to think about. (less)
I wasn't crazy about Goodbye, Columbus. I like Roth's writing style but I wasn't overly attached to any of the characters. Brenda and her entire famil...moreI wasn't crazy about Goodbye, Columbus. I like Roth's writing style but I wasn't overly attached to any of the characters. Brenda and her entire family rubbed me the wrong way (too competitive?) and Neil himself was annoying to me because he kept doing things to screw up his own life and never even reflected on it (which is one of my pet peeves, for some reason--I blame authors, not their characters, for wasting some potential there). I do love his language, especially his beautiful descriptions of everyday things, but this is not a novella that I'll want to read and re-read. Once was certainly enough. (Although, Neil's poor aunt was so adorable and annoying that she almost made me love it at a few points.)(less)
I agree with one of the reviews on the cover of my copy that says Tartt and "The Secret History" owe more to the 19th century than the 20th. The writi...moreI agree with one of the reviews on the cover of my copy that says Tartt and "The Secret History" owe more to the 19th century than the 20th. The writing is very ornate and there is so much detail in the book that each character becomes real and three-dimensional.
The entire book revolves around the friendships formed between Classics students, and each of them has their own, distinct personality and their own idiosyncrasies. Unfortunately for me, they became so real at points that they were completely detestable. (Luckily, I like hating characters more than I like liking them.)
Although the mystery of the book is given away in its opening pages, the story is far more psychological. Because the narrator (Richard) is more of a bystander in all of the events than an active participant (for the most part), it's an interesting perspective. He admits to being an unreliable narrator, occasionally skewing the audience's view of a particular character because of his own biases, but, knowing that, a truer picture is painted.
The plot of this book may be exciting to some--not so much for me--but the study in character development, language, and details is far too rich and interesting to pass on reading this book. (less)
I've read a few of Halse Anderson's books and have enjoyed all of them. Her writing style is simplistic, which makes it very easy to keep turning the...moreI've read a few of Halse Anderson's books and have enjoyed all of them. Her writing style is simplistic, which makes it very easy to keep turning the pages rapidly. Her sentences are each perfectly paced, and the chapters are so short that it makes it easy to rapidly read through an entire novel in a couple of hours. She is also talented in creating teenagers on the page who seem authentic and even lovable.
I don't think Wintergirls is any great work of art, or any amazing work of YA Fiction, but I can see where it would be a useful fiction piece for understanding and/or overcoming anorexia (and particularly teenage anorexia). I can also see, however, how the book might be likely to trigger some who have been struggling with an eating disorder, so be warned.
It's an interesting, entertaining, dark, quick read for people who are tired of teenage romance but can't get enough of YA books--particularly those about the darker elements of youth.
I did really enjoy the way Halse Anderson portrays relationships between the characters. Lia, the narrator, has complex relationships with her parents, her step-mom, her sister, and her dead ex-best friend, Cassie. Trying to juggle all of those things and her tendencies toward self-harm and starvation makes this a very difficult book to read, emotionally, but will keep you reading in suspense until the end. (less)
**spoiler alert** If you don’t throw in the word “cock” a couple of times, it’s not a book for adults. Which is mainly why I stick to reviewing books...more**spoiler alert** If you don’t throw in the word “cock” a couple of times, it’s not a book for adults. Which is mainly why I stick to reviewing books for younger audiences – people throwing out the word just to fill an obligation doesn’t make me think a book’s worth my time. But that’s a completely different rant.
All in all, Water for Elephants is a drama-filled, decently written novel. I don’t understand how it gained all of the hype it did, but I will admit that it kept me pretty interested throughout and that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Despite other reviewers who claimed to have loved the mix of old-Jacob and young-Jacob pieces of the film, I thought the old-Jacob was a distraction that kept pulling me out of the main thread of the story. I don’t know that it would have worked to just bookend it with old-Jacob, but it probably would’ve worked better for me if he wasn’t there at all.
The most interesting part of the book was not the romance – it was the tension between husband, wife, and elephant. There’s nothing more entertaining than drama, so the romance was a little too sweet to be true and the fights were too juicy to pass up. Would probably be an excellent summer read. (less)
Both times I’ve tried to read Anna Karenina it’s been for class, and both times my teachers have tried to rush us through the novel like we were in so...moreBoth times I’ve tried to read Anna Karenina it’s been for class, and both times my teachers have tried to rush us through the novel like we were in some sort of Russian literature race. I’m no professor, but I’ve tried to get through the book twice and I have some advice: Don’t rush Anna Karenina. Tolstoy’s writing is so much better if you take your time and actually try to take it all in before you rush on to the next section.
The first time I tried reading Anna Karenina I got about 100 pages from the end of the novel and threw in the towel. Half of that was because of how quickly we were forcing ourselves through it, and the other half was from how stiff and uninspiring I found the language. That was with the Norton Critical Edition, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude. Norton’s translations are normally pretty good – accurate, intelligent and succinct word choice. However, the second time I tried Anna Karenina I tried the Larissa Volokhonskaya/Richard Pevear translation, and it was much, much easier. You can say what you want to about the Maude translation being closer to what Tolstoy intended because it used more sophisticated language, but I’m here to tell you that from what I know about Tolstoy, he would’ve wanted the simplest, most reachable language possible, and that’s what the Volokhonskaya translation will give you.
Overall, I’m pretty in love with Tolstoy’s writing. Sure, he’s pretty verbose. Sure, he rambles a lot about political issues of the time. But he creates his characters with such care and so many details that they feel real and the social issues of the text still ring true today. That’s what makes a book a classic. Anna Karenina makes you hate some of its characters passionately, and then feel sorry for them and love them on the next page. It makes you actively think and wonder about Russia at the time. It makes you create connections with other novels (classics or no, Russian or no). Overall, it’s a wonderful book to read for class, but it’s a wonderful book to read just because you enjoy reading. Just make sure you pick your translation carefully. Compare some first pages before you settle on one, because there are plenty of translations out there and one might be better than another for you. (less)
Written January 1st, 2011: Reading Mockingjay wasn’t a rollercoaster. It was a steady, yet dizzying, hurtle to the bottom of an endless pit. In some w...moreWritten January 1st, 2011: Reading Mockingjay wasn’t a rollercoaster. It was a steady, yet dizzying, hurtle to the bottom of an endless pit. In some ways, that means that I feel like despite all of the traveling, and all of anxiety, and all of the pondering I did about the end I came out with nothing – no result – no satisfactory end. In other ways, I feel like Suzanne Collins achieved exactly what she meant to. I just don’t particularly like it. I mean, kudos to her for accurately (haha) depicting what a war is like – with not favoring the side her audience is rooting for when it comes to casualties and fortune, but I feel as if Collins either drastically underestimated or overestimated her audience.
See, she either assumed that the audience would be heartbroken and decimated at the end of the book, thinking, “This is what war does to people!” and, “This is the cost of revolution!”
Or she assumed that people would think, “This is the terrible cost of what we must do to achieve independence and freedom, but despite the cost, we have to risk it.”
Perhaps, in a moment while she was writing this, she forgot that her book was marketed for ages twelve and up. It’s not an age where parents read books to their children – twelve year olds are old enough to almost completely understand things as adults do. And I think a lot of twelve-year-old hearts were broken after finishing this book. Because, to a twelve-year-old, an author being hell-bent on delivering a message doesn’t come out as clearly as, “My favorite characters are ruined beyond repair, and while I see why, I don’t see why it matters beyond the characters" does.
(I particularly abhor the lack of reflection on the death of certain characters, who would have impacted me if only we'd had a little time to let it sink in, which is something JK Rowling disappointed me in, as well, in The Deathly Hallows, in what I assume was a misguided attempt to display the rapidity and brutality of war.)
That, to me, is the book’s greatest failing. (Don't get me wrong, I think 12-year-olds are able to understand a great deal of subtext and anguish and anything else, but this is not a book I would have completely understood as a 12-year-old.) Although I understand the reasons behind everything, I think Collins met her agenda, but didn’t do her characters and her audience justice. There are other “children’s” books that end in war and decimation in their characters, but there’s a difference between these other books and this – Mockingjay leaves you with a sense that everything is physically all right, but never mentally will be, no matter what good is presented. It leaves you with the sense that none of the characters have changed beyond who they were at the beginning of the very first book – only physically. And mental changes, mental changes that can cope with the decimation and hurt, are what make characters grow and change and become people as much as the audience is. And that’s what Collins fell short of.
What’s the point of an agenda if it doesn’t matter to anyone at the end?
That said, I do have to note that it was an addictive (yet draining) book all the way to the end, and although I didn’t like what I read for the past 100 or so pages, and felt no release that signals an ending, I thought it was a suspenseful read. It just lacked the strongest depth the rest of the series had for me by making the characters shallower rather than deeper.
Update, April 4th, 2012: I wish I could've been Collins's editor. I hate present tense, and reading this book after reading Catching Fire just makes it so much worse. It's so much easier to read past tense because there's no need for shifts from present to past. There's more fluidity, something that Mockingjay sorely lacks.
I also would have told Collins to take her time and write an actual novel. Instead, this reads like half of a novel (the first half is long and slow, which I actually appreciated, and the second half reads like a rushed outline of what Collins would have written if she'd had the time/energy/willingness). I just want everything to be much slower, to be drawn out longer, and to have some real emotion attached. Instead, we see the coldness and desperation of not yet experiencing or feeling an emotion, and never get the release of the feeling. It's particularly hard because we've been so close to Katniss for almost three books, and then we're cut off from her.
I mostly stand by my previous review. Although I tried to like this a lot more the second time, I found myself in the same situation as I was at first: I liked the first half, even though it was slow, and I disliked the second half because it was so quick. (less)
This is the second time I've read this novel, and Garcia's way with words is just as pronounced the second time around, although the book seems to mov...moreThis is the second time I've read this novel, and Garcia's way with words is just as pronounced the second time around, although the book seems to move more quickly than it has to, not drawing out scenes as much as I would like and playing too much in time. But Garcia's writing is so lovely that it almost doesn't matter.(less)
A lot of people are immediately turned off of Faulkner because of the unbearably long sentences and the racism you’ll hear so much about if you even b...moreA lot of people are immediately turned off of Faulkner because of the unbearably long sentences and the racism you’ll hear so much about if you even begin to read about the man. But I’ve found that you quickly fall into the habit of reading the long sentences until it hardly seems to phase you anymore at all. You can read a paragraph that lasts an entire chapter and not bat an eyelash by the time you finish Absalom, Absalom! As for the racism, there’s some truth to it. Faulkner didn’t mince words, and with this novel racism is a huge issue. But I’d argue that Faulkner uses racism in a way that is even milder than what it probably was at the time the book takes place, and perhaps even milder than when Faulkner himself was writing. It’s still disgusting, the way the characters speak of other human beings, and although it was just as disgusting at the time, I don’t feel as if Faulkner made it any more so.
Absalom, Absalom! is a book that delights in revealing one tiny morsel of information at a time. It will go over huge chunks of the story in one single line, but in a way that leaves you so confused you don’t know you’ve already gotten the entire plot. Then Faulkner leads you back through the same details, more and more minutely, until the big picture begins to come into focus. Absalom, Absalom! is expertly written. (less)
The Rape of Nanking tries a little hard. Technically, it’s more journalistic than anything, and there’s no one anywhere, if they’re honest, who will t...moreThe Rape of Nanking tries a little hard. Technically, it’s more journalistic than anything, and there’s no one anywhere, if they’re honest, who will try to convince you that journalism is meant to have no opinions – only fact. But The Rape of Nanking is so full of opinions that it’s almost difficult to get to the horrifying facts underneath. The atrocities the book covers are so horrible it’s actually difficult to read them at times. Especially when they’re accompanied with pictures. I almost had to force myself to keep turning the pages, and I have a hard heart and a steel stomach. An excellent book in introducing a reader to the topic, and I never once doubted Chang’s research (although other reviewers have noted some discrepancies, I’m not willing to look into those because I am simply not so interested in the book that I want to devote hours to re-doing research). Her writing is also excellent, if not a little loaded at times and overly preachy – the facts are horrible enough without so much commentary. (less)
Because of the subject matter and the exhaustive research that went into this, and that’s written into this book’s pages, reading Bitter Road to Freed...moreBecause of the subject matter and the exhaustive research that went into this, and that’s written into this book’s pages, reading Bitter Road to Freedom can be like running a mental marathon at times. It’s difficult to read large chunks of it without needing a break because of how dense the book really is. It does help, though, that Hitchcock’s writing is a joy to read. He writes simply, but clearly, and does well in varying his sentence lengths and structures to make reading a book less of a chore than most historians (for some reason) think it has to be.
If you haven’t thought much about liberation, and you can stomach huge doses of atrocity, I highly recommend reading this book. It goes from country to country discussing each liberation, but also picks certain topics (like, for example, the liberation of death/concentration camps). If you are interested, at all, in World War II, this is an excellent read. (less)
The first time I read this I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to finish it. I kept falling asleep. The second time, however, I couldn’t pull my...moreThe first time I read this I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to finish it. I kept falling asleep. The second time, however, I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the page.
This “play” is really a beautiful poem. All of the stories are intriguing. Some are joyous, most are sad, a few are angry and confused. From a symbolic perspective, it’s really cool that the women and their colors correlate with the different stories. The lady in red tells a story about a prostitute, the lady in yellow tells a story about youth and innocence and joy in sex.
This shouldn’t take anyone more than an hour to read and it’s so beautiful, there is so much emotion packed into every single line…it’s gorgeous.(less)
This book was something different, kind of a treat for me, because it’s about World War I – not my comfort zone – but also about Russia, which is some...moreThis book was something different, kind of a treat for me, because it’s about World War I – not my comfort zone – but also about Russia, which is something I’ve been interested in lately.
It’s meant for children, as per usual, but the shallowness of this book was not a problem for me, really. I felt like the length was suitable for the story. I would’ve liked a little more of a follow up – checking in on Misha, especially, because he was so important to Katya, and, thus, to you as the reader. But I like the way it ended, overall.
I really love the conflict between whether or not the Tsar & Empress were good or bad people – in the right or in the wrong.(less)