I appreciate Thompson's efforts to show the world that there's more to vacationing than the Caribbean and that tReally enjoyed this quick little read.
I appreciate Thompson's efforts to show the world that there's more to vacationing than the Caribbean and that travel writing should probably exist on more than an endless stream of cliches ("the charming cheese-maker and his rosy-faced wife invited us in, where we dined on the freshest mozzarella and the ripest tomatoes in their rustic home as the sun went down across the Tuscan hills"). I totally made that up, by the way, but I bet you thought you read it in Gourmet.
Had I not agreed with Thompson on so many fronts, I probably would have grown a little tired of his cynicism and arrogance--both of which there were plenty--but instead I laughed out loud to his stories and breezed happily through the book.
Word of caution...in the first few pages, I was worried I had signed up to read a book about how if you're traveling and you DON'T wind up in a crack den/get high with locals/get mugged, you're not really getting the most mileage in your travels. Don't be fooled: Thompson just wants to show that real travel can be ugly...just because you're in Paris or Tokyo or Phuket* doesn't mean that your days will be filled with glorious perfection. Life can beat you up in France just as much as it can in the U.S. of A.
Into Thin Air is an immensely readable account of the 1996 Everest disaster that left a number of people dead and even more scarred--physically or psyInto Thin Air is an immensely readable account of the 1996 Everest disaster that left a number of people dead and even more scarred--physically or psychologically--for life. It's a quick read--I read it in day--but it's an incredible story and nail-biting to the end, for sure.
Quite a bit of controversy surrounded this book. Written only a year after it happened, the book clearly struck a nerve with a lot of people--particularly relatives/friends of the deceased. Krakauer offered his opinion on what went wrong, but he's not here to pin blame; rather, he's interested in sharing what went wrong so others can learn from it. He also makes it clear that everyone on the mountain knew the risks--no one person was responsible for what happened.
"What happened" also raises some moral/ethical questions...if you all know the risks up there, does that mean you should be in it just for yourself? In one standout passage, we learn about a group of Indian climbers who had reached their limit and literally lay dying near the top of the mountain when another group came and, rather than help, continued up towards the summit. In their mind, they were so close to their goal, and at 29,000 feet, it's every man for himself. It's a tough call--I certainly don't think the "every man for himself" rule is the one to live by in normal circumstances, but it's precarious enough to summit Everest--trying to drag a half-conscious person down the mountain with you is a pretty good way to get yourself killed, particularly when you need as much speed as possible to get to breathable air/your next oxygen canister. Still, not being a climber--to say the least--I can't imagine being in the mindset of seeing or knowing of someone who needs help and just not acting.
Would recommend this to anyone...it's just a fantastic (true) story--terrifying, tragic and acutely heart-wrenching....more
Born in India and Oxford-educated, Adiga--as a reviewer states on the cover--"grew up angry," and much of White Tiger comeWhat a voice this one has...
Born in India and Oxford-educated, Adiga--as a reviewer states on the cover--"grew up angry," and much of White Tiger comes across as a scathing critique of life on both ends of the economic spectrum in India. Adiga manages this critique without the book coming across as one giant dump on India, though I understand why it caused the uproar it did. Still, I believe Adiga sees the myriad positives in India (he did choose to return to live there after getting a world-class education that easily could have led him to places like New York or London), and with this book shows that a country straddling two worlds doesn't really fit in either.
At first, I thought this book was going to focus on the juxtaposition between the India marketed to the rest of the world--the India of entrepreneurs, MIT wizards and a Bend-it-like-Beckham mesh of celebrations, colorful saris and awesome food--and the "real" India, which of course includes the above stereotypes but doesn't hide the poor and impoverished. I was wrong--the book doesn't flatter or glorify either; rather, corruption is an equal-opportunity employer in Adiga's word.
I don't think I've ever read anything written like White Tiger, and I do mean that as a compliment. I love the unconventional formatting, I love the narrator's asides, I love the convoluted relationships.... The narrator isn't exactly lovable, but he is endearing--I wanted him to do the right thing, I wanted the best for him, even while knowing that he's fighting low and dirty. That raises a great question: can it ever be so dog-eat-dog that you have to put yourself before everything and everyone, or should the Golden Rule apply under all circumstances? Interestingly, I just read Into Thin Air and had to consider the same question...
Immensely readable--and a quick read to boot--the book draws you in from page one and will have you reading through the night to finish it. Great for book clubs/discussion groups.
True History of the Kelly Gang falls into the category of books I likely never would have picked up had it not been a book club selection. The cover iTrue History of the Kelly Gang falls into the category of books I likely never would have picked up had it not been a book club selection. The cover image may have something to do with it--I know, I know, we don't judge books by their covers, but pictures of wild horses cantering makes me think Misty of Chincoteague, not "SO putting this on my must-read list!"
Anyway, that's why God invented book clubs--so you read things you may never have considered otherwise. Prior to reading THKG, I had never read Peter Carey, and I wasn't entirely familiar with Ned Kelly beyond having some vague recollection of him being like the Australian Jesse James, but now that I'm finished with the book, I want more of both.
Most impressive about THKG is that the writing is stunningly beautiful, despite the fact that the book is told in first-person through Kelly's grammatically-inept letters. Run-on sentences abound (fortunately, we weren't subjected to phonetic spelling/misspellings), but the voice is clear, strong, consistent throughout. You get into a rhythm reading Carey's language, and the story hums on like a lullaby--lyrical and spellbinding.
That said, the story doesn't simply get by on writing (as a book I either LOVE or HATE [not sure which], Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale*, tends to do). Carey can certainly lure you in with his prose, but Ned Kelly, Australian bushranger, lived a life that makes what Carey writes as captivating as how he writes. Don't expect a constant stream of murders and robberies, though--Kelly isn't that kind of outlaw.
A book about the power of words, THKG doesn't help us determine fact from fiction about the character of our hero/anti-hero. As a portrayal of Kelly by Kelly himself, we hear no "True History", but it does open an interesting series of questions about unreliable narrators: If we can't trust Kelly, can we trust the corrupt police? Was he as bad as they say? Is it true that all he wanted was to farm on his own land, but that the injustice of the justice system abused him and his family until he one day lived up to their murderous expectations? Or was he a low-life criminal from the start--only a criminal with enough sense (in his words, a "clever ignoramus") to try to clear his name with an ultra-flattering rendition of his actions?
Like any great book, this one's going to make you do a little work, but it's absolutely worth it.
*Please read this book. It absolutely torments me...in a good way. ...more
Very much enjoyed this book, as I do any book written by someone who changed the way Americans (the world?) view food.
I wish Jones had spent a bit moVery much enjoyed this book, as I do any book written by someone who changed the way Americans (the world?) view food.
I wish Jones had spent a bit more time on the actual editing process rather than on food's role in society, but I suppose that's because I come from publishing. Reading about how these cookbook authors - the fabulous Julia Child being the catalyst - introduced America to a whole bevy of new foods and flavors and tastes was fascinating - I realized, but only half-heartedly, just how much grocery stores have changed in the past 20, 30, 50 years and how much our nation's collective tastebuds have changed, as well. Foods I take for granted (in my case, mainly ethnic foods: Ethiopian, Indian, Malaysian) simply weren't eaten in America when Jones started her career at Knopf. Amazing...I owe a lot to her. I'd be miserable if all that was on my plate was an overcooked piece of meat, a baked potato and a side of cooked-beyond-recognition vegetables. Ugh.
At times, I did feel like I'd read this book before, and with all the attention food books have been getting lately (My Life in France, Omnivore's Dilemma, United States of Arugula, etc.), I probably have read the same theme in a different book. Still, Jones has an elegant writing voice, and her first-hand experience with food and America's palate makes this a more than worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in food....more
Lame. Cheesy, happily-ever-after ending, not a lot of page-turning moments, and the crappiness of Edward surfaced completely in this abominable "conclLame. Cheesy, happily-ever-after ending, not a lot of page-turning moments, and the crappiness of Edward surfaced completely in this abominable "conclusion" to the "saga" that is Twilight. I say "conclusion" because it was totally set up in a way that it could be over, but it could not. You're either done or you're not, Stephenie.
If you've read any of my other reviews on this "saga" (I LOVE calling it that; it's so...powerful), it's quite obvious that I wasn't a huge fan of Bella and her little vampire world, but they had to be read; they're a pop culture phenom, for some reason unbeknownst to me. Still, if I hear one more HP comparison, I'm going to suck out that person's blood and then throw it up all over their vampire-loving face.
It's interesting...I completely fell into Rowling's wizarding world - she's hardly the next Ian McEwan, but her books were incredibly successful (as books/stories, not just financially). Her plots were yarn balls, her characters were appealing and sympathetic (except Vold..., of course). Meyer simply can't compete with her in winding an intricate tale and making non-supernatural/sci-fi/what-have-you lovers eat all the fantasy elements up. Wizards and giants and broomsticks and invisible flying dragon-horses? Sure, sign me up...but every time I read about Edward's icy skin (um, sexy?) or that Jacob was in wolf-form, panting in the corner, I would just laugh and question the sanity of anyone who'd want to be around these people. Maybe I'm too far removed from being a stupid love-obsessed teenager to enjoy this....more
I've decided the only reason I like Edward is because the guy who plays him in the movie is so super hot. He's actually really lame, just like everyonI've decided the only reason I like Edward is because the guy who plays him in the movie is so super hot. He's actually really lame, just like everyone else in this series. I'm tired of Edward moping about all the time - "I can't touch you, Bella, don't you understand??? There's so much you don't know..." - and Bella being the most pathetic creation in the history of fiction - "I was paralyzed with fear; I tripped and fell; I could stare into Edward's eyes for an eternity; I'm so c-c-c-cold..." Ugh. Seriously. Edward should just put her out of her misery and kill her, and then the werewolves should kill Edward.
This book was significantly better than New Moon, but honestly, that's a low bar, and I don't really remember what happens in either of them. Vampires attacking, maybe? I think the most interesting/worthwhile storyline is Jacob's since that plays into the whole third-wheel, "the love of my life loves someone else" theme - not to mention he's the only one who actually seems capable of feeling anything, but please don't mistake that to mean anything here is clever writing. It's pseudo kind of book: pseudo-dark, pseudo-romantic, pseudo-sexual, pseudo-etc. Bottom line, the whole series is YA crap.
It angers me that Stephenie (really, why is the second vowel in her name not an A??) Meyer is sitting on millions after churning this out. I totally admit that it's a brilliant idea - "vegetarian" vampires - but really, the execution? Awful.
Revolutionary Road is similar in theme to American Pastoral in that they both examine a life that doesn't quite fit into the 1960s archetypal domesticRevolutionary Road is similar in theme to American Pastoral in that they both examine a life that doesn't quite fit into the 1960s archetypal domestic-goddess everyone-is-happy-all-the-time land, but I had such a problem with hating the characters in RR that it put a serious damper on my time with them.
There's April, the dreadful wannabe, and her husband Frank, who's so unclear as to who he is and what he wants that I don't really know how to help him. I understand their initial problem with the question, "Is this all there is?" which they ask as they look around their average little suburban life: April stays at home with their two children, Frank has an average job, they have friends with similar lives and similar homes in their cookie-cutter neighborhood... It's fine not to be happy with suburban life, just as it's fine not to be happy with city life or country life or life on Mars or whatever and wherever it is your life is, but I couldn't stand how April and Frank thought they were better than everyone who was living a life like theirs and that they deserved better. Ugh. I know too many people who think that living in New York makes them superior to, well, everybody else, and it's such a repulsive way of viewing yourself. I won't go into the storyline - that's not what I'm here for - but suffice it to say, this couple's self-absorption leads to their demise.
I can see writing a review of this book as a tragedy, and I suppose it is, but I can't because I refuse to feel sorry for these people. I don't feel that April is unhappy because she doesn't like being confined to 1960s domesticity, and I don't think Frank is unhappy because he's in a mind-numbing 9-5 job. I just think they're people who are always seeking. Wanting more isn't a flaw in itself, but these people don't actually want anything more; they're just bored, miserable people who like to delude themselves into thinking that their superiority will bring an end to the rut they've found themselves in.
Now...I think the reason I feel so strongly in my dislike for the wretched characters is the fact that Yates produced a fantastic novel. I hate them because they're real, they're well-developed and they make me feel something. Thus, 3 stars.*
*Or 2, after downgrading upon further review. This book just left me feeling vacant and miserable for like a week....more
At first I was opposed to this series because I thought it was a total HP knockoff (just with vampires instead of wizards)...but then I decided to givAt first I was opposed to this series because I thought it was a total HP knockoff (just with vampires instead of wizards)...but then I decided to give it a shot anyway because of what an enormo pop culture phenomenon it is. Um...where to begin...
I hate Bella; she just comes across as desperate, needy, whiny, pathetically helpless, etc. Way too damsel-in-distress-y. Then there's Edward, who's for some reason attracted to this little loser despite the fact that they never really spoke except for "you should stay away from me...IF YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU!!" Lamesville. Oh - and the author's Mormon, so there isn't even any hot and heavy action. It's super preachy and moralizing...total 100% pure YA crap through and through....
It got better once the action happened, although Bella's lameness never dissipated. Still, I suppose the 14-year-old in me sort of is in love with Edward (uh can I please be a mortal in danger with a vampire lover to save me....please?)....
I think the story actually works better as a movie...the movie was still totally ridiculous, but Cedric Diggory is a total babe...and I didn't have to put up with Bella's non-stop inner monologue.
I should probably also admit that I'm now on the third book. It's NOT because of the amazingness of the story, I assure you...this is no HP. It's strictly because I heart Rob Pattinson, so now that I have this amazing mental image of him in my head from the movie, I'm finishing out the series just so my mind can have some fun with him.
Still, I can't recommend this book to real people (aka not teenagers). Sorry, Stephenie Meyer. ...more