Sometimes it's nice to read a small, self-contained book that's not overreaching itself. The story starts at the end, with the main character near deaSometimes it's nice to read a small, self-contained book that's not overreaching itself. The story starts at the end, with the main character near death, then slowly unwinds from a point years earlier. For an interesting twist, the story is told with two first person narrators, who often discuss the same plot points. Their memories are not so different that it becomes a question of narrator reliability, nor does it become a sillier he-said-she-said account. Instead, we learn the subtle differences in the way the halves of this couple understand the world. Overall, it turns out to be a well-balanced approach.
Still, I can't bring myself to give this more than three stars. It was enjoyable, and even unique in some ways, but I don't think it could bat with the middle of the line-up, if you know what I mean. ...more
If you were describe the only book available in hell's library (assuming Wish You Well was checked out), it would be a heartwarming story of a belovedIf you were describe the only book available in hell's library (assuming Wish You Well was checked out), it would be a heartwarming story of a beloved family pet. I didn't read more than 10 pages of this one, but alarm bells were going off at every sentence. Author finds himself hilarious and clever and believes reader will be interested in hundreds of pages of dog antics.
Maybe my super-low rating is unfair since I didn't get far and this book was tailor made to be hated by me (I almost never like personal essays, journalistic writing in long books, or stories about pets). But people keep recommending it to me, so I thought that publicly stating my objections would get them to back down. ...more
I like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (think Lord of the Rings with modern bureaucracy), but this installment was pretty light. It's good to see RI like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (think Lord of the Rings with modern bureaucracy), but this installment was pretty light. It's good to see Rincewind and the luggage again, but Eric doesn't accomplish much. The fourteen year old title character is broadly drawn (he likes girls!) and obnoxious. The plot, while occasionally clever, sputters along without ever being engaging.
Unless you're a dedicated Discworld fan, you could probably skip this one....more
I enjoyed the funny and (mostly) accurate descriptions of high school goings-on. (It made me glad that high school is an increasingly distant memory.)I enjoyed the funny and (mostly) accurate descriptions of high school goings-on. (It made me glad that high school is an increasingly distant memory.) The writing is relaxed but direct when dealing with big issues like sexual assult and depression, and I imagine teens would respond well to it. The plot itself is pretty predictable, but solid enough for a YA book.
This wasn't part of the novel, but there was a Q&A with the author in the back of my book. One thing that has shocked her, she says, is that high school boys ask her why the main character is "so upset" after being raped. They don't see "what the big deal is." That alone makes me think this should be required reading for all teenagers....more
This is the second historical mystery I've borrowed from Terzah's reading list. (Hope you don't mind!) It's a fun genre I'll probably keep exploring.
OThis is the second historical mystery I've borrowed from Terzah's reading list. (Hope you don't mind!) It's a fun genre I'll probably keep exploring.
One of the strengths of this book is how much it draws from historical events. Some references start out as chronological guide posts, but turn into important elements of the plot. The murder and its setting are fictional, but are informed and enriched by the political turmoil of the time.
And it is an interesting period in English history. I've read several books now that deal with the abrupt and total restructuring of religion under Henry VIII (and back under Mary, then back again under Elizabeth). It's hard to imagine the strain and confusion this would create for the average citizen, whose beliefs one day are held as law, and the next are punishable as treason. How to choose between your neck and your immortal soul?
The characters in this book are at different places on their spiritual journey. (Albeit a journey we'd consider pretty short today - just a brisk stroll from Catholicism to Protestantism.) Some are pure of faith, others use whichever church is in power for their own gain. Throw in the odd zealous nutball and you've got a cast that covers quite a spectrum.
For all that, I couldn't quite give this book four stars because the mystery is rather weak. A few suspects seem interchangeable and the clues are slow in coming. Not that I work at solving mysteries as I read (if forced to guess, I'm always wrong), but I like everything to click into place once the murderer is revealed. While everything is satisfactorily explained in the end, I didn't enjoy an "Aha! Of course!" moment.
So three stars for the mystery and four stars for the history average out to 3.5 stars. I'm going to round down because it was shelved in mystery, so that should have been the strongest element. But good overall, and I'd give this author another shot. ...more
Last year, in my quest to read 100 books, I wouldn't stop reading a book, no matter how bad it was. I chugged my way through some real train wrecks. SLast year, in my quest to read 100 books, I wouldn't stop reading a book, no matter how bad it was. I chugged my way through some real train wrecks. So it's rather novel (ha) that I can give up on books halfway through this year.
That said, I feel a little bad casting this one aside, especially because it started so promisingly. It opens with a young white boy living with his father and older siblings in northern Alaska. Dad is an artist who's shunned the materialism of the lower 48. He values education - the kids are taking correspondence courses - but he's not trying to keep connected to "civilization" in any other way.
Seth Kanter provides plenty of details about living off the land so far north. It's fascinating and fun (and sometimes gross) to learn about the lives the native people and white transplants lead. It reminds me of the kind of book you'd enjoy in sixth grade, like Hatchet or something.
But as the main character ages and heads off to Anchorage, the book starts plodding. Cutuk doesn't belong in either world. He feels awkward around other whites, but has never been welcomed by the Eskimo community either. The between-two-worlds theme has been explored more to my liking elsewhere. Once the interaction with animals and descriptions of the bitter cold tapered off, to be replaced by Cutuk learning to banter with his fellow mechanics, I began to lose interest and ultimately decided to move on.
It still gets three stars, though, because it started out as a fun world to get lost in....more
Yar. This book is funny, but definitely on the silly side. The jokes about pirate life (watery...and yet it smacks of ham) are amusing, thought the plYar. This book is funny, but definitely on the silly side. The jokes about pirate life (watery...and yet it smacks of ham) are amusing, thought the plot is hardly worth the effort.
Good for when you want some light entertainment but aren't in the mood for TV. ...more
This book mirrors The Devil Wears Prada, offering a glimpse into the world of Upper East Side WASPs. Like DWP, we see this opulent lifestyle through aThis book mirrors The Devil Wears Prada, offering a glimpse into the world of Upper East Side WASPs. Like DWP, we see this opulent lifestyle through a college aged woman who grudgingly agrees to work for the upper crust in hopes of improving her career outlook. But it turns out rich people are rude, inconsiderate, manipulative, and really, really bad parents.
I might have rated this book a little higher if the parents hadn't been so awful. Not once in the story did they seem more than dimly aware that their son existed. It's tiring to read about the self-absorbed (though not nearly as exhausting as working for them).
Like DWP, we expect a telling-off of the nasty employers by the end of the story. In both books, instead of feeling satisfying when the girl finally stands up for herself, it feels empty. The wealthy jerks will write off her final outburst as the ramblings of commoner. They'll just find the next gullible girl to steamroll into submission.
This book has lots of great details about work as a nanny (the preschool application process is pretty terrifying - I'm not sure at what age my parents started reading The Wall Street Journal aloud to me, but obviously it wasn't soon enough), and it is well written for its genre, but left such a yucky aftertaste that I can't recommend it....more
This book is populated by a small, sad group of people born into unfortunate circumstances. They can't boost themselves into the functioning, mainstreThis book is populated by a small, sad group of people born into unfortunate circumstances. They can't boost themselves into the functioning, mainstream society they all seem dimly aware of. Every character is trapped (sometimes literally) in a prison of their own making. If you take all the malice out of the word "pathetic," it's an accurate description of this group.
Perhaps the saddest part is that the protagonists, Jonah and Troy, both try to do better for themselves. They demonstrate at least average intelligence and skill in their respective jobs. They have plans, or at least hopes, for the future. But they're plagued by bad choices and worse luck until one of them collapses completely and the other comes close.
As a credit to the author, the characters are varied, interesting, and richly portrayed. He has a nuanced, thoughtful take on daily life of the semi-rural semi-impoverished. The story is compelling and the ending solid, if not exactly happy. I just wish I had a character I could root for, instead of several I perpetually felt sorry for - in a distant, caseworkerly way....more
The intended audience for this book - teen girls who are just getting interested in feminism - might enjoy it. Anyone who has already read much aboutThe intended audience for this book - teen girls who are just getting interested in feminism - might enjoy it. Anyone who has already read much about feminist issues will find it a rehashing of what they already know, but with more cursing.
And what's the deal with a feminist book using the fragmented image of a skinny white hip to promote its message? The text might suggest that a culture constantly pandering to straight white male sexuality with unrealistic beauty standards is harmful to women, but the cover says "on the other hand, it's a pretty effective advertising tool." ...more
I like Kurt Vonnegut's short stories. Many of his protagonists are ordinary blue collar workers, middling salesmen, or high school band directors whoI like Kurt Vonnegut's short stories. Many of his protagonists are ordinary blue collar workers, middling salesmen, or high school band directors who offer a glimpse into post war middle class Americas. They frequently end up brushing elbows with politicians, entertainers, and the fantastically wealthy, offering Vonnegut's commentary on the American dream. With hard work and a can-do spirit, you too can install storm glass for movie stars.
I think Mr. Helmholtz, a high school band director with a single-minded pursuit of the county's largest bass drum, is a severely underrated character. Too bad he only has one appearance in this collection - I had grown fond of him while reading Bogambo Snuffbox and was hoping he'd show up for more than a few pages.
Vonnegut's writing is sharp and funny, and I appreciate that his stories have endings. (You know how contemporary short stories often leave things purposely ambiguous? Makes me crazy.) Some of the stories - certainly the more memorable ones - have a sci-fi slant, but nothing odd enough to turn off the sci-fi averse. ...more
Hey Knox alums, remember the cafeteria card scanner who was always reading Native American romance novels? I think this book would be a step in the riHey Knox alums, remember the cafeteria card scanner who was always reading Native American romance novels? I think this book would be a step in the right direction for her. It's more literary than genre romance, but refrains from ambiguity about what happens when white ladies and "savages" share a tipi.
Overall, an engaging read, especially for fans of history-with-a-twist novels. The biggest flaw is probably the narrator/journaler May Dodd, whose tone, style, and subject matter are pretty far off base for the 1870s. I think this book could have been better if it weren't written as a series of journal entries, which call for a fidelity to the language and structure of the time that Fergus never nails down.
Okay, here come spoilers, so watch out people who have this on your to-read list (Kelsey):
I did like that this book has a disastrously unhappy ending; that much seems very true to American history. The government makes a promise to the native people, then doesn't fulfill it, then accuses them of wrongdoing for following the original agreement, then sends in the cavalry to kill everyone. That part I had no trouble believing....more
Attention authors, current and aspiring: putting your characters in a coma so they can miracously emerge at the story's climax is a wretched[spoilers]
Attention authors, current and aspiring: putting your characters in a coma so they can miracously emerge at the story's climax is a wretched plot device.
The campy ending reflects one of the book's major flaws - it lacks originality. It's disappointing that a book about a man eating a 747 could be so boring, but if you fill the pages with bland characters and stock revelations, I suppose anything can happen. Will our leading man, John Smith, discover that love can't be summed up in statistics? Can love-wary Willa learn to trust him, even after he seemingly betrays her and her town? Will Wally realize that his dream girl has been right beside him all along? Don't think too hard about the answers - the author obviously didn't.
Not that this book was a total waste of time. For example, I learned that it seems to be relatively safe to eat an entire airplane. It was also kind of interesting to learn about the records compilation process, and the kids' letters to The Book are cute. But you'll have no trouble finding a better book about either star-crossed lovers or quirky Midwesterners. Pass on this one....more
A series of fun, odd stories demonstrating the kind of imagination most of us stop cultivating around age eight. The stories I enjoyed less seem to beA series of fun, odd stories demonstrating the kind of imagination most of us stop cultivating around age eight. The stories I enjoyed less seem to be celebrating bizarreness for its own sake, but the stronger pieces showcased regular(ish) people in odd circumstances. ...more
I'm afraid my book-selection privileges will be revoked by my book club for choosing this one.
I enjoy David Sedaris, in part because of his constantI'm afraid my book-selection privileges will be revoked by my book club for choosing this one.
I enjoy David Sedaris, in part because of his constant vigilance for finding the worst in people. Exploring the darker side of man makes for funny personal essays.
But when he turns to fiction, he has absolute creative control over his subjects. Instead of reporting on someone's shortcomings, he's inventing them. Perhaps this power is too much - he can't seem to help but create the worst imaginable scenario. He has some funny premises, like a fake holiday letter and a game of benevolent brinksmanship between wealthy neighbors. But each of his "fiction" stories devolves from amusing and odd to troubling and grotesque.
My advice is to pick this book up at a book store or library and read this first piece, Santaland Diaries, about his time as an elf at Macy's. That's classic Sedaris and worth reading. Then put it back on the shelf and walk away - the rest is not worth it....more