I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this book; it has a good story, and I wanted to finish it. It also never occurred to me, until reading this,I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this book; it has a good story, and I wanted to finish it. It also never occurred to me, until reading this, to wonder what it's like to know you might be beaten, jailed, or murdered for the smallest of perceived interracial infractions, and for forcing me to think about that, I am grateful to Kathryn Stockett.
But two major factors struck me as presumptuous and condescending: I had a hard time getting past the use of dialect, no matter how authentic or not it might be, for the maids, and I couldn't shake the feeling that this was not a white woman's story to tell, which she acknowledged in her afterword, but wen on to say, gosh, she was going to tell it on behalf of the poor sweet maid who raised her. I tried to move past that, because so much good literature is told from a perspective other than the author's, but I just couldn't....more
Not bad - this is the book I was searching for, when I started reading what I will now think of as the Survival Quartet: Deep Survival: Who Lives, WhoNot bad - this is the book I was searching for, when I started reading what I will now think of as the Survival Quartet: Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Survivor Personality, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why, and this book. I wanted something that would mix case studies with scientific analysis of personality traits and other factors that influence survival in crises and disasters. Of the four, this book and The Unthinkable are the two that fit that description. All four are worth the read, and to be honest, they have all blended together a bit in my head, which is fitting, since they all seem to quote each other too, in an Escher-style loop, but there are noteworthy differences: The Survivor Personality is actually excellent, but is more of a self-help book focused on personality traits for general living, rather than crisis-survival, with few real-life stories to illustrate its tenets; Deep Survival is more of the author's personal adventure story; and I'd say The Unthinkable is just better than this one, although this one does have some information that isn't covered in the other books (particularly on the survival of airplane crashes).
I was rather impressed with the online test promoted at the end of the book - it is in-depth, with unusual questions and an unusual format, and in spite of the fact that I thought my answers would be too broad to classify, it picked exactly the "survivor type" I would have picked for myself. But I was simultaneously annoyed that the test also seems to be a way to drive people to the web site, setting the foundation for a whole "Survivors Club" franchise (really, I don't need a printable certificate at the end of the test to proudly exclaim to the world that I'm a founding member of the Survivors Club).
So, read the book if it interests you, but I'd check out the others first....more
I finally read this - I've had it for ten years - and I liked it enough to keep it, for now. It's actually pretty cheesy, but it has a fun little adveI finally read this - I've had it for ten years - and I liked it enough to keep it, for now. It's actually pretty cheesy, but it has a fun little adventure in it*, and some words of wisdom, even if those words were a little full of themselves. It was actually exactly the right kind of easy reading I needed right now, after so much world-is-ending-peak-oil bleakness and dark fantasy.
* Slight spoiler: it did irk me that the woman was expected to wait at the oasis for her man while he went off pursuing his Personal Legend, but not enough to make me throw the whole thing out....more
I think this is one of those books that is better the second time around, but this was only my first time reading it, so I had some difficulty with thI think this is one of those books that is better the second time around, but this was only my first time reading it, so I had some difficulty with the dense, old-fashioned language. However, after a lifetime of thinking it was a classic American novel, and feeling guilty that I hadn't read it yet, I was surprised to find that, in spite of the underlying theological questions, that dense language really hid a scandal-ridden, melodramatic forerunner of a beach novel.
At the end, I liked it, though, and will read it again someday, with the hope of finding the writing style more easily digestible....more
An engrossing post-apocalyptic novel that, refreshingly, starts out with most of the main characters being totally unprepared for the situation, but tAn engrossing post-apocalyptic novel that, refreshingly, starts out with most of the main characters being totally unprepared for the situation, but there's something really irritatingly hypocritical about a main character who insists that he's insulted when someone implies that he's a communist, but who then proceeds to oversee the confiscation of food, automobiles, and medical supplies. Also, I was not a fan of the way the female mayor of the town was portrayed as indecisive and inept and, ultimately, just swept aside in favor of the man with military experience.
Otherwise, I appreciated the way the book didn't shy away from the brutality and horror that would follow an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event, from small- and large-scale violence by people trying to take advantage of others, to the effect of loss of power and personnel at a nursing home, to the longer difficulties of a town without nearly enough food to feed the populace or any way of getting more. At the very least, this novel provides food for thought; I would recommend it, but with reservations (and don't let the foreword by Newt Gingrich stop you from reading the book, if that would bother you; I just skipped it, actually, as I do with most forewords).
(On a side note, there is absolutely no excuse for a college professor to repeatedly write "could of" instead of "could have." That's not some ethereal level of grammar that only grammar snobs would know, or a matter of opinion; that's basic English, and it could have and should have been caught by a good editor.)...more
T.S. Spivet, an obsessive and nerdy 12-year-old cartographer who maps everything in his life and is too mature in the way of really smart kids, somehoT.S. Spivet, an obsessive and nerdy 12-year-old cartographer who maps everything in his life and is too mature in the way of really smart kids, somehow manages to flatly and critically describe his surroundings and his family members, even while, almost as if he is unaware of it, he conveys an striking amount of compassion and love for his family. It's that subtle emotion - that humanity - that gives this book its charm, even as T.S. heads out on an inexplicable adventure that left me baffled as often as it left me wanting to jump on a train carrying Winnebagos (although I think I would have had more food with me, since I take a granola bar with me to the grocery store) and go on my own adventure.
Baffling and inexplicable because... well, I think you just have to read it to understand what I mean. This is not a book that can be easily summed up or described. It is far from perfect. It is both enchanting and disconcerting. It isn't tidy. It is often vague. The supporting characters, for all that they are thrown together in unique ways and are clearly supposed to be offbeat, often come across as so eccentric that they come full circle to stereotypical. And I was unsatisfied with the ending, which arrived abruptly and jarringly, and left too many questions unanswered.
But the book is filled with a spirit of discovery that makes even the strangest, the saddest, the most unsettling events that happen as T.S. makes his way through his story seem somehow magical. Add to that the illustrations - intriguing maps and diagrams and charts and little asides that add a final dimension of wonder - and this book, for all its flaws and strengths and humanness, is a true marvel....more
This book does not offer tips on how to spark your creativity, but instead offers a new perspective on the path to success for creative people. I readThis book does not offer tips on how to spark your creativity, but instead offers a new perspective on the path to success for creative people. I read this book as a download from the author's website a few years ago, and found it to be harsh and discouraging, because at first glance it seems like the author is saying, "Give up on your dreams, because you'll never succeed at them anyway." This time around, after having received the book as a gift, I liked it much better. What I first saw as harsh discouragement, I see this time as refreshing directness. I think he's actually trying to say is to put the creativity first, to indulge in creativity for the sake of being creative. If success comes, that's great, but if success is your main goal, you'll end up disappointed.
(As a little side note, this book is definitely PG 13, thanks to the author's cartoons; I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone starting out on their creative journey, either. It's more suitable for someone who is already a little bit down the creative path, and strong enough to take the author's matter-of-fact approach to success.)...more
A heartbreaking tragedy of a story with few bright spots, but still worth reading, particularly on a rainy day with a cup of tea.
I read mixed reviewsA heartbreaking tragedy of a story with few bright spots, but still worth reading, particularly on a rainy day with a cup of tea.
I read mixed reviews of Her Fearful Symmetry before I finally decided to take the risk and read it. The negative reviews ultimately helped my appreciation of the book, because I wasn't expecting the perfect execution of The Time Traveler's Wife - so I wasn't disappointed by that lack.
I was surprised to find that I actually liked it. It's not a badly written book, just not at all like The Time Traveler's Wife in style or plot. In fact, if I hadn't know the author's name while reading, I would have guessed that it was a book by Tracy Chevalier or Joanne Harris, due to the dreamlike pace, the strong feminine issues, the weight of the past, and the identity issues at the heart of the book.
It took me a while to really get into it, though. The book starts out vaguely and slowly, weighed down by heavy hints of darkness and drama to come, and an introduction of the twins Julia and Valentina that was so detailed it felt contrived, like a frozen Victorian painting, rather than a story moving forward. In fact, all of the characters felt cardboard-like at first, and I didn't feel sympathy for them at all until I was well into the book.
About halfway through, however, the book picked up pace and started speeding up, with a few different surprising twists and turns before it finally ended almost abruptly.
I wish the first half had been condensed and the second half expanded, but that's my only real complaint. The darkness and tragedy in the book and the lack of what we might think of as happy endings (I don't think that's a spoiler) aren't flaws, and the sadness I felt at the end, tinged with a hint of sweetness, is evidence of the way I finally connected with the story.
I think that in order to truly enjoy this book, readers must forget The Time Travelers Wife and let Her Fearful Symmetry stand on its own. And I highly recommend that rainy day and cup of tea....more
A must-read for every parent today. Well-researched, well-organized, and well-documented. The only significant flaw is the author's never-ending asideA must-read for every parent today. Well-researched, well-organized, and well-documented. The only significant flaw is the author's never-ending asides and jokes, which are actually often funny, but so abundant as to be seriously distracting. But after a few chapters, I got used to them....more
I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed The Happiness Project. It's a cross between memoir and self-help book, but unlike so many self-help booksI'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed The Happiness Project. It's a cross between memoir and self-help book, but unlike so many self-help books, the author's intention isn't to fix any huge problems but rather just to make life more enjoyable. I actually finished the book just feeling happier, even without trying any of the steps inside. I am unlikely to start my own year-long regimented happiness project, but I've already found myself making a few changes in my own life, such as making an effort to send more birthday cards, and am at least thinking about spending a little more money to make life a little easier. The main lesson that I took from the book is that life is always going to be full of problems and complications, big and small, and we can't sit around waiting for it all to get better before we can be happy; it's up to us to learn how to enjoy life in spite of all that. I also very much liked the author's point that we must be ourselves, and stop trying to make ourselves happy doing activities that we think should make us happy. In other words, if you like museums and classical music, then indulge those interests. If not, then don't. If you like demolition derbies instead, then go to those. It's not perfect (the author does have an annoying tendency to point out that she's not suffering financially), and almost everything in the book is something we've all heard before, but presented in a new, fresh take-it-to-heart kind of way....more
Disappointing. For a book that starts with a lightning strike, Remarkable Creatures has surprisingly little spark.
I could not quite connect with anyDisappointing. For a book that starts with a lightning strike, Remarkable Creatures has surprisingly little spark.
I could not quite connect with any of the characters. I felt as if I were looking at them through a window, unable to really see them or hear them, instead of being immersed in their story.
Also, Tracy Chevalier, whose previous books I've very much enjoyed, tries to pack so much into this book - religious and philosophical questions at a time when general beliefs were being upheaved, historical events, romance and the lack thereof, and class- and gender-based prejudices - that all of it feels bland and dull. Even a life-threatening experience on the beach passes by quickly and off-handedly.
Last, I can't decide if the use of patois for Mary Anning is useful or irritating; the difference in language styles between Mary and Elizabeth Philpot does effectively communicate their nearly unbridgeable class differences, but I do think the author could have better spent that effort she spent on language giving the characters and their experiences more definition.
Perhaps this will now sound contradictory, but the book's saving grace is Chevalier's ability to make characters and their environs seem real. They might be dull and bland, and I might not have connected with them, but they still feel real, and not only because they were actually historical characters. That is what kept me reading....more
Excellent book. The Freakonomics of Childhood. Fascinating statistics-based upending of many long-held beliefs about child-rearing and child behavior.Excellent book. The Freakonomics of Childhood. Fascinating statistics-based upending of many long-held beliefs about child-rearing and child behavior. A should-read for all parents, teachers, and former children.
Updated 2/9/11: I've demoted this book a star after reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell and realizing how heavily Po Bronson relied on the 10,000 rule chapter of that book when discussing the same concept in his own book. I don't have the books side by side for comparison, but I would have preferred that Bronson find his own anecdotes to further illustrate the concept, because when I read Gladwell's book, which came first, I experienced a major sense of deja vu. I still recommend NurtureShock, though....more
Even better than the first book: better pace and more sustained suspense. And Larsson is (was) a master at twists. I'm very much looking forward to reEven better than the first book: better pace and more sustained suspense. And Larsson is (was) a master at twists. I'm very much looking forward to reading the third book....more
Was a lot more readable than I expected, based on my first impression of the plot as gimmicky, and had a lot of promise, but ultimately the book justWas a lot more readable than I expected, based on my first impression of the plot as gimmicky, and had a lot of promise, but ultimately the book just sort of drifted away with no resolutions and surprisingly little magic, considering how magical it could have been. It was also very sad, but in a more prosaic than meaningful way. I don't regret reading it, but I wouldn't run out and recommend it to everyone I know. I will, however, read more of Ms. Bender's work, as I have a feeling she will create something marvelous....more