I really didn't like the first part of the book, because the two magicians are absolutely awful. I was deeply disturbed by how the two students/contesI really didn't like the first part of the book, because the two magicians are absolutely awful. I was deeply disturbed by how the two students/contestants were treated by their teachers, particularly how Celia was treated by her own father. Just awful.
Once I got past that part, I really enjoyed the book. The atmosphere that Morgenstern created was wonderful, so descriptive and magical, and her characters were intriguing. I especially liked the twins and Bailey, and the clockmaker, Herr Thiessen.
I found the ending a little confusing, which was cleared up slightly by book group discussion. I guess it's open to a certain amount of interpretation.
I didn't care for the beginning (which dragged) or end (which was convoluted and almost silly) of this book, but it really held my interest in the midI didn't care for the beginning (which dragged) or end (which was convoluted and almost silly) of this book, but it really held my interest in the middle (which reminded me somewhat of The Da Vinci Code). If I could, I'd give it 2.5 stars, but I can't and I'm not really feeling generous at the moment.
I didn't like any of the characters, especially the main character, Lucas Corso. I just kept thinking, "This man is an ass" over and over and over again. And while some literary asses (and I suppose some real-life asses) are charming, Corso was not.
Perhaps something (variety, deeper meaning, etc.) was lost in translation, but I got really tired of the repetitive descriptions, especially the ridiculous one of a certain character smelling of "youth" and "fever." What the hell does that even mean? Is that a Spanish thing? Did she have body odor?
I read this for my book group and the general consensus was that it was not very enjoyable, although we did have a pretty good conversation...partially about the interesting changes made for the movie version (The Ninth Gate starring Johnny Depp who is very different than I pictured Corso).
I LOVED Cloud Atlas. If I could, I would give it six stars. If I ever write a novel, I would want it to be like this. If I could marry a novel, it wouI LOVED Cloud Atlas. If I could, I would give it six stars. If I ever write a novel, I would want it to be like this. If I could marry a novel, it would be this one. Considering it was published nearly a decade ago, I kept asking it, "Where have I been all your life?"
Okay, now for why I loved this book so much: There are six seemingly unrelated stories, all beautifully written in such different styles that it feels like each could have been written by a different author. Yet, they do all connect and fit together like a series of those little Russian nesting dolls. The ways in which they connect, building to a crescendo and then each wrapping up in the second half of the novel, is nothing short of genius.
Possible drawbacks, which weren't really drawbacks for me: Each of the stories is so different that it took me a little while to get into them, particularly the first two, but once I picked up the rhythm of the narrative, I was fully immersed. Sometimes Mitchell is a little heavy-handed with the connections between the stories, which some readers might find insulting. I, however, enjoyed the confirmation that I was right. Because I really like being right.
Based on my recommendation, my book group will be reading this book for May. Considering they didn't really like The Ninth Wife or The Borrower, I'm really hoping at least some of them love this book as much as I did. I'm staking my reputation on it.
Re-read: Since I just read this 6 months ago, I decided to read each story individually (so, all of Adam Ewing's diary, etc.) It's definitely more magical in the intended order, but I picked up some things I missed the first time. I'm still madly in love with this book and will definitely read it again. ...more
I plodded through the first few chapters, then skimmed through a few chapters, finally giving up entirely.
Obviously, there are exceptions to every ruI plodded through the first few chapters, then skimmed through a few chapters, finally giving up entirely.
Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, but I've struggled with multiple books written by academics recently, while thoroughly enjoying well-researched books written by journalists. I'm definitely an English major with an interest in history, with my first priority being readability.
1492 suffered from the same issues as many other professor-written titles: concentration on including every little detail, rather than building a captivating overall narrative. While I was interested in some of the information in this book, I got bogged down with name after name thrown at me, and with the clumsy use of block quotes. It was too reminiscent of research papers I wrote in college, "SAT words" and all. ...more
Originally published as a serialized novel in The Scotsman, 44 Scotland Street is written in third-person omniscient, but shifts focus amongst severalOriginally published as a serialized novel in The Scotsman, 44 Scotland Street is written in third-person omniscient, but shifts focus amongst several tenants in an apartment building at the title address. Overall, the characters were really one-dimensional. Bruce and Irene were particularly painful to read about, as their view of reality was so twisted and neither of them seemed to possess any redeeming qualities. It's as if McCall Smith was studying psychology while writing the series and decided to create textbook examples of several neuroses from his reading.
Pat, who was apparently the protagonist of the novel, was more sympathetic, but horribly naive and I hated how the traumatic events of her "first gap year" were hinted at, but never revealed. I wanted to slap her multiple times because her actions were so pathetic and stupid. Seriously, if I was that dumb at 20, I hope someone would have shaken some sense in to me. I suppose that is what the two older, more worldly and experienced characters do, albeit in a much gentler way. Those two characters, Domenica and Angus, are among the most likable of the group, but they're a little too perfect. "Big Lou" -- a local coffee shop proprietress -- was another of the more likable characters, who I'd have been willing to read more about.
Most of the minor characters, especially those with money, were fairly awful as well. Maybe I just don't "get" this writing style, but I did not enjoy what is supposed to be a "joyous, charming portrait of city life and human foibles," etc. I read this for my book group and it wasn't awful, but I don't plan to read anything else by McCall Smith if this is representative of his style....more
As a series conclusion, this did not disappoint. I loved all the twists & turns that Collins threw in, exploring different interpretations of theAs a series conclusion, this did not disappoint. I loved all the twists & turns that Collins threw in, exploring different interpretations of the prophecy, etc. Gregor deals with incredible stress for a twelve-year-old -- honestly, for anyone -- and still remains true to himself. Overall, I thought he was a great protagonist. My favorite characters are still Boots, who wasn't featured enough in this last installment, but there's only so much danger a 3-year-old can be exposed to, and Ripred, who is the most bad-ass literary rat ever, with a heart of gold hidden inside that tough exterior.
I don't know if these books will ever be made into a film series -- the success of Hunger Games could bring that about -- but I think that would be great...most likely an animated series considering the difficulty of producing all these creatures, settings & battle scenes in live action....more
Fourth book in the series, with good plot & character development. At times, Gregor's self-centered, self pity gets to be a bit much, but it's reaFourth book in the series, with good plot & character development. At times, Gregor's self-centered, self pity gets to be a bit much, but it's realistic for the age. (It reminds me of Harry Potter in the 5th & 6th books. I guess it's hard to be an adolescent savior.) The parallels to the Holocaust were very clear, which I think is a great way to make history more accessible to the target audience (middle school). I really like how Gregor begins to see that the humans have also done horrible things, and are not blameless. ...more
Back in the Underland to fulfill yet another prophecy, but this time with even more at stake. I can't tell you more than that without ruining any surpBack in the Underland to fulfill yet another prophecy, but this time with even more at stake. I can't tell you more than that without ruining any surprises. There are some great new characters, in addition to the old favorites. Gregor continues to grow as a character and Boots is great as always. By this third book, I've really started to like Ripred, the crazy renegade rat. ...more
As there are five books in this series, it's pretty obvious that Gregor keeps getting called back to the Underland again...and again...and again. In tAs there are five books in this series, it's pretty obvious that Gregor keeps getting called back to the Underland again...and again...and again. In this book, he's expected to hunt and single-handedly kill a giant white rat, but of course, nothing goes as expected. My favorite character, Boots, wasn't in this story quite as much, and Gregor gets a little whinny with self-pitying, but he kind of earns that right. ...more
My only previous experience with Louise Erdrich is Shadow Tag, which was written fourteen years after this one and is at least semi-autobiographical.My only previous experience with Louise Erdrich is Shadow Tag, which was written fourteen years after this one and is at least semi-autobiographical. This one paled in comparison to her later work, which is to be expected.
One of my book group members recommended this book when she was in the midst of reading it, so I don't know how she enjoyed it overall. The premise is gripping -- in 1932, a mother simply abandons her three children: a fragile 14-year-old boy, a tough-as-nails 11-year-old girl, and an infant. The book follows the three (although mostly the daughter) as they are separated and live very different lives.
The story is told from eight different characters' perspectives, sometimes showing the same event from two or more different points-of-view. Erdrich is a skillful enough author that each had their own distinct voice, and she successfully played with the unreliable narrator concept. Every character was seriously flawed, if not actually mentally unstable (which several are), but I can't really say that any of them were likeable.
What made Erdrich's later work stand above this one for me was the level of intimacy -- heightened so much in Shadow Tag, but somehow missing in this one. The Round House is on my to-read list, so it will be interesting to see if it's growth as an author or closeness to subject matter that made the difference. ...more
Definitely not bad for a book I picked up at a library fundraiser sale.
Patchett takes on a lot with this novel: love, music, capitalism, terrorists, bDefinitely not bad for a book I picked up at a library fundraiser sale.
Patchett takes on a lot with this novel: love, music, capitalism, terrorists, both the hypocrisy and selflessness possible in religion, loyalty, etc., but she does it in such a straightforward way that it doesn't feel heavy.
I really liked Patchett's writing style -- how she began rather distanced and objective, just as the party guests (who soon become the hostages) are all strangers in the beginning. As their captivity wears on, the third-person narrator delves deeper into the characters' backgrounds and thoughts. And I really liked her characters, who were written in a sympathetic, multidimensional way -- captives and captors alike.
I wasn't crazy about the ending, but it is what it is. Other possible endings could have been much worse. That's all I'll say about that. ...more
I "read" this book as much as you can read what is essentially a cook book with a lot of fascinating and hilarious introductions and clarification.
FinI "read" this book as much as you can read what is essentially a cook book with a lot of fascinating and hilarious introductions and clarification.
Finding herself without a job, Reese decided to try making a whole lot of stuff that we typically buy at the grocery store: bread and butter, as the title suggests, along with a whole slew of other items like cheese, corn dogs, cured meats, salad dressing, jams, etc. Based on the cost, taste, and work involved, this book contains her recommendations of what is worth making and what you should just buy pre-made, along with recipes for those things worth making, or at least attempting to make.
Her accounts of raising chickens (which I have done, although not to the same scale) and bees (which my husband wants to do) are hilarious.
I tried her "apple crisp pie" recipe this weekend (although I did not make my own pie crust as she recommends, because I had a pre-made crust in the refrigerator) and it was delicious.
I picked this book out of the new book section of the library, but will probably buy my own copy. ...more
A very original answer to the "what happens when you die?" question. Liz never made it to her 16th birthday, instead she was killed by a hit-and-run dA very original answer to the "what happens when you die?" question. Liz never made it to her 16th birthday, instead she was killed by a hit-and-run driver and ended up in Elsewhere. Zevin does a great job of creating this parallel world where the dead reverse-age until they're ready to be born again, with lots of fun little details.
I didn't find Elsewhere religious or sacrilegious, but I'm sure some people might find some of this book offensive, because everything seems to offend someone. In general, it was a nice PG treatment of death and the afterlife. ...more
This book was on the YA shelf, right next to The Scorch Trials and I've always loved Roald Dahl (who wrote this book, not "Ronald" as it's currently mThis book was on the YA shelf, right next to The Scorch Trials and I've always loved Roald Dahl (who wrote this book, not "Ronald" as it's currently mislabeled). I love that Dahl leaves out the really horrifying parts of these creepy little stories, leaving the worst to the reader's imagination. A few of the stories were rather forgettable, but most were pretty good. Overall, not my favorite Dahl, but decent....more
I really enjoyed Michael Pollan's rambling essays about human relationships with four plants (apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes). All containedI really enjoyed Michael Pollan's rambling essays about human relationships with four plants (apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes). All contained some really interesting historical and botanical factoids, but sometimes he rambled a little too much. I occasionally felt like I was rereading the same information explained in a slightly different way, perhaps in his attempt to make connections overly clear. ...more
In The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends were confined to the Glade and the Maze. In The Scorch Trials, they were let out into the world, but had aIn The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends were confined to the Glade and the Maze. In The Scorch Trials, they were let out into the world, but had a very specific path from Point A to Point B. In The Death Cure, Thomas and the few other survivors are loose in the world. After all the awful "tests" that WICKED has put them through, it's understandable that Thomas is ready to take the organization down.
From the reviews I've read, a lot of readers seem to be disappointed by this third installment. I actually liked it more than the second book. The first book was so different from anything I've read before. The second book was similarly action-packed, but the apocalyptic setting was more familiar, and the constant betrayals got old. This book at least had some hope and the "lab rats" escaped the maze.
This series has been interesting, but a bit exhausting. It's just one awful thing after another happening to Thomas and the ever-dwindling group of test subjects. The people currently complaining about the violence of The Hunger Games would have an absolute fit about this series.
Since I'm comparing the two YA dystopian series, I'll say that this series, written by a male author, seems to be aimed more at an adolescent male audience, whereas Suzanne Collins appeals more to female readers. Both feature a strong, complex protagonist (of the same gender as the author), a love-triangle, and an on-going battle to survive against a seemingly all-powerful organization....more
This second book in the Maze Runner series is no less addictive than the first. The survivors from The Maze Runner now find themselves in an even worsThis second book in the Maze Runner series is no less addictive than the first. The survivors from The Maze Runner now find themselves in an even worse situation than the first book. Instead of trying to find their way through a seemingly unsolvable maze, they have to make their way 100 miles across a scorched landscape populated by people who are slowly losing their minds. This is just another way that WICKED is using them, but to what end?
Expect another wild ride with another cliff-hanged leading into the third and final (?) book. ...more
Thomas wakes up with no idea of who he is, where he's from or where he is now, just vague recollections of how the world is supposed to be. He finds hThomas wakes up with no idea of who he is, where he's from or where he is now, just vague recollections of how the world is supposed to be. He finds himself in "The Glade" with about four dozen other teenage boys, none of whom remember their lives before they arrived.
Probably this type of plot device has been used before, but for me, this book was very original. The questions of who these boys are, where they come from, who put them there and why, are all entangled in with the boys struggle to survive. Oh, did I mention that there's a maze surrounding the glade; a maze that the boys keep trying to solve despite the fact they've never found an exit? Oh, and there are monsters in the maze...and then a girl shows up and everything changes.
Fast-paced and suspenseful, this book kept me reading two nights in a row until it was done. And then you know what? It's a cliff-hanger leading to the second book. So just be warned...you will be pissed when you get to the end of this book. But it's definitely worth the ride....more
This sequel focused more on Moose and less on Natalie, as she was away at school for part of the book. I really liked how Moose's character and motivaThis sequel focused more on Moose and less on Natalie, as she was away at school for part of the book. I really liked how Moose's character and motivation were more deeply explored -- why he's such a nice guy and how being a people-pleaser doesn't always work out. The plot was more focused and action-driven than the first book, which worked for me and probably works well for the target audience....more
I was telling one of my knitting buddies (who works at the library) that I've been reading a lot of YA dystopian sci-fi recently, i.e. Hunger Games, aI was telling one of my knitting buddies (who works at the library) that I've been reading a lot of YA dystopian sci-fi recently, i.e. Hunger Games, and she recommended this one. I picked it up the very next day and am so glad I did.
Set somewhere in the not-so-distant future where iPods are sold in antique shops but very little else has changed technologically, this book is pretty light on the sci-fi, but heavy on the dystopia. A second civil war has been fought over abortion with an, er, interesting compromise as the result. Children may not be aborted in utero, but can be "unwound" (broken down into their individual parts, which are then transplanted into others) between the ages of 13 and 18. Both sides have justified this because all parts of the teenager's body "live on" as part of someone else. The story of how this compromise was proposed (given in the middle of the book) is pure literary genius.
Obviously, most teenagers are not going to greet their own death with open arms and many try to escape. (If they survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can be imprisoned, but not killed.) Among these are the three main characters of the book, all from different backgrounds. Connor's parents signed the unwind order because he got into too much trouble. Risa is an orphan who just wasn't talented enough to justify the government continuing to foot the bill for her upkeep. Lev has known his entire life that he's being given to God as a tithe. All three end up on the run from the police. What follows is a fascinating story about human nature with some "what if" thrown in.
The sequel comes out later this year, with a third installment sometime after that. And, of course, a film adaptation is in the works. ...more
Recommended by a friend with two children on the autism spectrum, after I told her about Mockingbird, this was much lighter fare. (The book summary doRecommended by a friend with two children on the autism spectrum, after I told her about Mockingbird, this was much lighter fare. (The book summary does a much better job of explaining the plot than I could.) Well written, humorous yet realistic. This book didn't disappoint. I especially loved the ending....more
Dorothy is back in this third installment, along with the lighter, more straightforward style of writing. The only thing I didn't like about the writiDorothy is back in this third installment, along with the lighter, more straightforward style of writing. The only thing I didn't like about the writing, is that Dorothy has suddenly (since the first book, where she pronounced everything correctly) started mispronouncing words, skipping letters or just saying them altogether incorrectly.
I loved Bill(ina) the level-headed talking chicken, loved the morally conflicted Hungry Tiger, even loved that tricky Nome King, from whom Dorothy, Ozma, and the rest of the crew must rescue the Queen of Ev (another magical kingdom where most of this novel takes place) and her ten children. The Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion are back to assist, along with the Sawhorse from Book 2, but luckily the more annoying characters from that book (Jack Pumpkinhead and the Wogglebug) have been left at home.
I liked this book, but didn't love it as much as the first or third (which I actually finished before this one) installments. I started out reading thI liked this book, but didn't love it as much as the first or third (which I actually finished before this one) installments. I started out reading this one aloud to my two little boys, as I did the first one, but they lost interest pretty quickly. This book has a different feel to the language: stiffer, wordier, something I can't quite put my finger on. I wasn't crazy about the rather sexist portrayal of girls via General Jinjur's Army. And the ending, (view spoiler)[wherein Tip is suddenly transformed from a rough-and-tumble boy into a girl...a princess, no less...was very strange, especially considering that when s/he appears again in the third book, there's no trace of Tip left, as if he never existed. (hide spoiler)]...more
I read this to my sons, ages 3.5 & 5.5, who loved it. As always, I had a lot of fun creating voices for different characters.
The plot and charactI read this to my sons, ages 3.5 & 5.5, who loved it. As always, I had a lot of fun creating voices for different characters.
The plot and characters are completely loopy, but there's some substance there. The smartest people aren't always the ones who think they're smart. Ditto for kindness and bravery. I especially love that Dorothy is a female protagonist, but this isn't a "girl book." She's strong and feisty, while still being a genuinely good person. ...more
Despite its billing, this is not a true mystery, nor a gothic tale. (If you want a mystery involving a too-tightly knit group of friends, try The LikeDespite its billing, this is not a true mystery, nor a gothic tale. (If you want a mystery involving a too-tightly knit group of friends, try The Likeness. If you want to read an actual, extremely well-written modern gothic tale, try The Thirteenth Tale.)
This book is a lengthy, meandering tale of a group of narcissistic college friends now in their late 20s, clinging to their hedonistic youth, regardless of the consequences. The narrator, Joanna, is the epitome of this, refusing to take responsibility for the fact that she has made no real progress in her chosen career, obliterating reality with alcohol when she doesn't want to deal with it, letting the men in her life define her, whilst considering herself a feminist. She's almost too pathetic to be unlikeable.
I'm actually surprised this book is only 320 pages, because it seemed much longer. It dragged on and on and on, through one ridiculous twist after another, one drunken screaming match after another. Things do happen, there's just so much narrative in between. Long, drawn-out passages about evil intentions of the house, which Joanna blames for the self-destructive tendencies of her friends. In my opinion, if the author didn't convince me that the house was actually evil, then it wasn't.
Despite all this, I somehow couldn't put the book down, which is why I had to give it more than one star. In the end, I was very disappointed, which is why I could only give it two. ...more
I opened this book thinking that it was a work of historical fiction. I may have developed that misconception due to the liberal amount of wine I consI opened this book thinking that it was a work of historical fiction. I may have developed that misconception due to the liberal amount of wine I consumed at the holiday book exchange where I viciously usurped the book. (Actually, I was following the exchange rules, but it sounds much more Ptolemaic the other way.) At any rate, somehow I missed the fact that this is a carefully researched biography.
I think I would have had a difficult time getting into the book, even without that misconception. The first few chapters are slow and, honestly, kind of boring. Schiff tries to recreate the world into which Cleopatra was born, but gets bogged down in the details. It also took a chapter or two to become accustomed to Schiff's often overly wordy, academic writing style. (Again, it doesn't help that I was expecting fiction, and have been reading quite a bit of light fiction lately.)
Schiff picks up steam in the middle chapters with Cleopatra's visit to Rome and Caesar's assassination, continuing with Cleopatra's relationship with Antony, etc. The end lagged a bit, too. I was interested in finding out what happened to Cleopatra's children, but then she just kept going on and on, I suppose in an attempt to wrap it all up.
Overall, it was a good book, especially enjoyable if you're interested in how history has often been rewritten by the victors (and men). ...more
Although it's been many years since I read it, this book most reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time. Both books concern a family with a missing scientist fAlthough it's been many years since I read it, this book most reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time. Both books concern a family with a missing scientist father (Gregor's father is a Science teacher), but instead of exploring space, Gregor and his toddler sister fall down a chute into a world beneath our own. This world is inhabited by giant bats, rats, spiders, and cockroaches, as well as humans who have lived below ground for many generations. Gregor just wants to get back home, but the Underlanders are convinced he is the hero from an old prophecy and that his father is being held captive elsewhere underground.
I picked up this book because it was the first novel written by the author now famous for The Hunger Games. This series is written for a younger audience, and although I suppose both civilizations (Panem & Underland) could be considered dystopias, Underland is a fantasy land beneath our own contemporary world.
Gregor is a likeable character, but my favorite is his little sister "Boots" (actual name Margaret). She's a feisty, fearless little two-year-old who is portrayed very realistically, dialogue, tantrums & all.
I really don't understand why I haven't heard of this series before, since I think it's fantastic. ...more
This second installation focuses more on the entire dystopian society known as Panem, which is unraveling quickly. It was just as addictive as the firThis second installation focuses more on the entire dystopian society known as Panem, which is unraveling quickly. It was just as addictive as the first. ...more
Some of this series conclusion was satisfying, some was completely surprising to me, and a few things disappointed me. Overall, it was a great littleSome of this series conclusion was satisfying, some was completely surprising to me, and a few things disappointed me. Overall, it was a great little trilogy that I recommend to anyone who enjoys YA sci-fi. (I was so anxious to see reach the end of this series, that I read this last book in less than 24 hours.)...more