This is the first time I've read anything by Connie Willis, courtesy of my book club's pick for the month, although I'd heard good things about her wrThis is the first time I've read anything by Connie Willis, courtesy of my book club's pick for the month, although I'd heard good things about her writing, making me quite intrigued. I'm not sure how well you can judge an author overall by a short story collection, but despite all the short stories in here being Hugo or Nebula award winners (some both), they were kinda hit and miss for me. Some I really enjoyed, while others fell flat.
A Letter from the Clearys
This story started off the collection on a weak note and really didn't make me all that excited to read on. It was written rather simply, probably due to the narrator still being a child, and instead of feeling intrigued by what was going on and why, I was rather uninterested. The story seemed to lack tension, and even when the narrator kept announcing she'd picked up a letter from the Clearys at the Post Office, I didn't ultimately care about what the letter said or why it was such a big deal.
At the Rialto
The second story in here was much stronger and quite different from the first. In it, the narrator goes to Los Angeles for a science conference and ends up dealing with all sorts of scatterbrained locals who are all aspiring actresses/models/whatever. I liked the zaniness of the story and how the author took stereotypes of people in L.A. and turned them into funny characters and completely bizarre situations. The only thing I didn't get about this story were the various science-oriented quotes sprinkled in throughout... maybe I missed something, but it was still entertaining to read.
Death on the Nile
Another engaging story. A woman heads to Egypt with her husband and two other couples and the entire journey there, and their journey once they land, is just off. I read it, unsure how things were unfolding the way they did (they leave their luggage at the airport to go see the pyramids and decide they'll return later to pick it up!). The entire story, I couldn't figure out what was really going on, and the ending wrapped it all up so perfectly. Disarming and thought-provoking, plus incredibly timely.
The Soul Selects Her Own Society
Probably my least favorite story of the entire collection. I couldn't get into this story at all. It's written in the form of someone's dissertation, explaining how Emily Dickinson was actually involved with an alien invasion. I didn't like the way the story was framed (although I do think it's clever for the author to have tried framing this as a scholarly paper) and I couldn't get into the story. My eyes kept glazing over, and I don't even remember all the details.
An interesting story, although I don't think I understood the full thing. In it, a man is sent back in time to St. Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz, keeping a fire watch there. There was some backstory to what was really going on, sprinkled throughout the story, but I felt like it wasn't developed quite enough for me to fully enjoy it overall. I liked this one but didn't love it. Perhaps this could have been stronger as a full-length novel.
My favorite of the collection! The narrator works at a skeptic's magazine, dedicating his time to debunking psychics, channelers, and others. His employee suggests they check out a new channeler, whose show starts off with the usual theatrics and then suddenly a new being is channeled mid-show, someone who's skeptical of the entire channeler community and is insulting the audience. The narrator can't figure out the channeler's end game - trying to get him to endorse the channeler as legitimate? This story was clever, entertaining, and perfectly wrapped up. This was also one of the longer stories of the collection, which was great because I wanted to stay in the story for a long while!
Even the Queen
A weird but ultimately enjoyable story about a future when women are different from today and the narrator's daughter decides to join a cult called the Cyclists. This was a little odd, but the story ended up being entertaining and thoughtful, with questions of how feminism and patriarchy are compatible and what makes a woman herself. Strange but clever.
The Winds of the Marble Arch
Set in London, where a couple has gone for a conference, the wife refuses to ride the subway while the husband takes it all around town, feeling weird winds at certain stops that no one else seems to notice. The interactions between the main couple felt kind of stilted, especially at the beginning, but the story was interesting. Not my favorite but not bad.
All Seated on the Ground
A clever story about an alien invasion, where the aliens don't seem to be intent on attacking humans or communicating with them but are simply here, not doing anything - until the one day when they suddenly sit down. The narrator then tries to figure out what they respond to and why they obey certain commands (such as the command to sit). I liked both the characters and the storyline. It was different from other "alien invasion" stories out there and fun.
The Last of the Winnebagos
Kind of a weird story to end the collection. Another story set in the future, where most RVs and dogs are gone and there's only one Winnebago left. The narrator is a reporter sent to cover an event where a couple shows off the last Winnebago in existence. On the way there, the narrator sees a jackal that'd been hit by a car, which brings back memories of times when dogs still existed. I'm not sure what to make of this story. It wasn't enjoyable per se, but it wasn't bad. I think this is something that might have been better had more been fleshed out, but perhaps it just isn't a setting that I particularly care to read....more
This is the first Jackie Collins novel I've ever read, although I have of course heard her name many times. My book club picked this to read this montThis is the first Jackie Collins novel I've ever read, although I have of course heard her name many times. My book club picked this to read this month, and I had no clue what I was getting into based on the title, the author, or even the book's description. The book jumped all over the place, with probably a dozen "main" characters in Hollywood living their own dramatic, crazy life: Jack, the famous talk show host who's currently tied to the actress Clarissa; Manny, an actor who's on his second wife, Melanie-Shanna, but still in love with his first wife, Whitney; Howard, a producer who's addicted to cocaine, has a number of kids and ex-wives plus a current social status-happy wife, Poppy; Jade, a new hot model who Jack starts pursuing; Silver, an older model and actress (and Jack's estranged sister) who's making an amazing professional comeback and is on top of the world; Heaven, Silver's estranged teenaged daughter who wants to be a singer; Wes, a bar man who does whatever it takes to get by until he meets Silver at a party.... and there are probably lots of other characters I'm forgetting to mention!!
This was definitely a soap opera!! The book was over 500 pages, and every page was filled with drama: affairs, sex, drugs, social climbing, etc. etc. It took me a while to get into everyone's lives, since there are just SO MANY characters to keep straight, especially since everyone's lives overlap from time to time. There wasn't a big plot in here moving the story along, but there was just so much drama that the story just kept rolling forward.
I can see why Jackie Collins is so popular: this was incredibly engaging. Originally published in 1986, the majority of this book seemed like it could still take place today - and I had to remind myself on occasion that it didn't. A few things were dated (biggest is that the internet today would change some of the stories...), but the story itself was fairly timeless. The writing wasn't astounding, but it flowed and kept me wanting to read on, just to find out what would happen next with all these crazy rich people. I think part of the appeal in this book is reading about the "real" lives of stars and how life gets even more complicated and crazy when fame is added.
I didn't expect to like this book because of how trashy it was, yet I couldn't help it. This was indeed trashy and I was occasionally embarrassed to be reading it (especially in public....) when I came across parts that were exceptionally smutty. But, it was entertaining and made me understand Jackie Collins' appeal. So many people are fascinated by celebrities, and this seems to give a glimpse into the scandalous "real" lives of Hollywood superstars, letting the reader watch as the focus revolves from one star to the next, all of them engaged in some sort of outrageous behavior. It reminded me of why tabloids are popular; this was a whole book filled with tabloid-worthy stories, without the "filter" of tabloids but watching the action directly as it unfolded. ...more
There was a LOT of buzz about this book when it first came out and now that a movie was made from it, I decided to finally pick it up. It's the 5th waThere was a LOT of buzz about this book when it first came out and now that a movie was made from it, I decided to finally pick it up. It's the 5th wave of an alien invasion, where all the aliens (or "the Others", as they're often called) seem to be set on killing the rest of the humans. Cassie is one of the few human survivors, searching for her brother and unsure if there's anyone she can trust.
This story jumped around a lot, which was fine as a method of storytelling - it opens with Cassie thinking she might be the only human left on the planet and then jumps back a few times to show what had happened before this 5th wave of the attack. I never loved Cassie's narration, however, and there seemed to be a lack of excitement or tension. I think this stems from the book being filled with a lot of action and not much character development, so I never truly cared about Cassie or the other characters all that much. They were simply the characters who went through the motions for the plot to move forward.
The narration also threw me off. Cassie narrated the first section. When the second section began, I had no clue what was going on and had to reread a few times before realizing that it was being narrated by someone else, someone nameless, someone I hadn't yet been introduced to. The point of view switches (there were multiple switches) were jarring and while they did help give a more rounded sense of what was going on, they also prevented me from getting into any to the characters. On a few occasions, I felt like I was finally getting into the story - only for it to switch to someone else's perspective, losing me.
Parts of the story were interesting. I liked the whole idea of trying to figure out the difference between humans and the Others and whether there were any non-humans that could be trusted or if it was truly an aliens vs. humans game completely. I also liked the way the author depicted the brainwashing that the Others were doing and how tricky everything was. Parts of this were quite clever! But other parts were just confusing.... one section opened with every character having nicknames. Instead of being cute or entertaining, it just made it that much harder to care about the people.
There was also a love story in here that seemed forced. Perhaps this is due to me not being swayed by the characters themselves, but the whole thing seemed like insta-love and included for plot purposes only, not because of any real chemistry.
I didn't hate this book and I finished it to see what would happen in the end, but it was really underwhelming and I just didn't care about a lot of it. Based on other reviews I've seen, it looks like people either loved this book or read it and, like me, were confused about the hype. Not bad, just nothing that particularly stands out....more
3.5 stars. I can't remember how I heard of this book, but I've been meaning to read it for a few years and only not got around to doing so. The story3.5 stars. I can't remember how I heard of this book, but I've been meaning to read it for a few years and only not got around to doing so. The story in here sounded enchanting: near the end of WWII, Jack is sent to a boarding school for boys in Maine, a place he finds foreign and where he doesn't quite fit in. There, he learns about rowing and about searching for a holy grail - a teacher tells them about someone whose holy grail is to prove that Pi eventually comes to an end - and he also meets a boy named Early. Early doesn't always come to class and isn't the most social, but he's quite smart and teaches Jack a lot about life. Over school break, Early tells Jack he's going to set off on his own "holy grail" quest down the Appalachian Trail, and Jack joins him for the journey.
The author did a nice job with the setting in this book. The school came to life, and I could easily picture the group of boys in the school. Jack's motivations were understandable, and I liked the friendship that developed between Jack and Early. I also liked the underlying story that they were both searching for something. While the book started out slow, I did enjoy the build. Once their journey on the trail got underway, the situations they found themselves in weren't always the most believable (for me, anyway), nor did they seem as magical as I wanted them to. For example, they run into "pirates" on the river, and that whole storyline kinda underwhelmed me. But when their journey was coming to a close, the author wrapped things up really well. Their internal journeys were wonderful.
There were mini-chapters in this book that told a story about a boy named Pi, a boy whose journey mirrored the numbers in the number Pi, and these parts of the story kinda threw me - especially the first few times these chapters appeared. This was a story that Early was telling to Jack in parts, but the story of Pi didn't interest me much, even though the telling was supposed to mirror their own journey. It seemed to border on filler material for me, but perhaps others loved it. I also wasn't super crazy about the actual adventures they had while on the trail, although there were moments (particularly how some of the people they met had their stories intertwined with each other) that were touching.
Overall, this wasn't a book that I loved, but it was very thoughtful. It did have its moments that stayed with me, things I thought about after finishing the book, so that was nice. Not necessarily a "happy" book (nor a sad one, for that matter), but the general mood of this book was a little more somber than many other books out there....more