So first off, this book is a frank and unabashed teen romance. What I found remarkable was that by being unabashed and frank, Rowell was able to accoSo first off, this book is a frank and unabashed teen romance. What I found remarkable was that by being unabashed and frank, Rowell was able to accomplish some serious and powerful stuff outside of the nucleus of the romance conceit. It paints the families, peers, and really the entire environment the star-crossed lovers are breathing and striving in in a harsher and more unvarnished light. It reminds us of how hard things were, how powerless and constrained we were, how contingent our survival felt on the whims and idiosyncrasies of those factors when we were teens. Not just factually, either. Eleanor & Park makes us walk a mile in those Chuck Taylors and sleep uneasy nights in that twin-sized bed.
In that sense, Eleanor & Park is much like Romeo & Juliet, a reference it holds up self-consciously, and, in fact, explicitly invokes: though the romance may be more fabulous than natural, the light it casts draws the world around the lovers in sharp and vivid clarity, characterization, cruelty. Do all unabashed teen romances achieve this kind of brutal and intimate portraiture of two teens' worlds? I doubt it, but I haven't read enough in this sector to say.
Oh, and it's set in the late eighties--damn close enough to my own time to make all the references entirely enjoyable.
Finally, I consumed Eleanor & Park as an audio book and, seriously, the two voice actors were superb and truly brought the text to life. This was a knock-out, heartfelt performance on their parts. ...more
This was some pretty good Batman. Although, ironically, without Bruce Wayne himself. If you're looking for a good dose of Batman comics, I'd recommendThis was some pretty good Batman. Although, ironically, without Bruce Wayne himself. If you're looking for a good dose of Batman comics, I'd recommend this one, though perhaps it doesn't stand up among the (Frank Miller, etc.) pinnacles of the genre. Or maybe I'm just cranky and old.
I'll probably find Vol 2 at some point and get another dose myself....more
Oh no, I'm now up to date and can't devour any more! Still greatly enjoying this series, although the child's narration, which is quite strong in VolOh no, I'm now up to date and can't devour any more! Still greatly enjoying this series, although the child's narration, which is quite strong in Vol 1, in later books sometimes meanders into forced or corny territory. I think it's a narrative conceit that might not have been worth carrying forward. ...more
An entirely enjoyable, fantastical YA novel with a ribbon of sci-fi & surrealism running through it. You could sum it up as Cloud Atlas meets ThAn entirely enjoyable, fantastical YA novel with a ribbon of sci-fi & surrealism running through it. You could sum it up as Cloud Atlas meets The Book Thief, although I don't think it quite measures up to those two remarkable novels, which are some of my favorite from the last decade or so.
Something that I think especially deserves praise about this book is its unmistakable effort to put the reader (who is most likely a comfortable, suburban American) into the shoes and head of someone from outside that first-world, suburban setting. Through humor and the afore-mentioned scifi and absurdism, I think it fairly well pulls it off. I can't quite decide, however, if one dark, graphic moment about two thirds of the way through the novel was "earned" or teetered onto cheap literary trick grounds. The rest of the novel earns the benefit of my doubt, though, so I'm content to leave it at that.
Read this as an audiobook. The reader was quite good and managed the full roster of voices quite well.
As of this book, I'm discontinuing star ratings. And high time, if you ask me....more
It was a somewhat startling discovery when I realized that this was a straight up and unadorned coming of age story. And on the startling realizationIt was a somewhat startling discovery when I realized that this was a straight up and unadorned coming of age story. And on the startling realization that such a thing was startling, it occurred to me how many of the Young Adult books that have crossed my eyes in the last years have been something else--genre, surrealist, wrapped around a clever conceit or a notable gimmick. I hadn't noticed it, but suddenly it was clear how we, as an entire literary cohort, have become enamored--have become convinced that we must break from reality and the humble station of everyday human existence to tell a tale worth hearing. And don't get me wrong, I love the way genre and magical realist and absurdist tropes have been spilling into the broader trough of fiction. And magic and wonder are pretty shiny, when you come right down to it. But every once in a while it's worth our time to take a break and tell a story straight--to find one really worth telling, unadorned by and large and with the ring of truth to it.
That's what this is. It's the story about a kid. A kid who is neither exceptional nor a hero--rather the opposite or anything. But it's a good story and very well told, and yes, it's got that ring of truth. Even if you were smart or athletic or generally, well, ept as a kid, you probably felt like a loser at some point. Or looked back at yourself years later and shook your head at what you thought and did back then. If so, you'll find yourself in this book and you'll remember things, and if you're like me, the memory will feel at once sober and charming and important. You'll be glad you took the time on this one. I know I was.
Audiobook note: I listened to this read by, if you can believe it, Steve Buscemi. As you might imagine, he does an excellent job. I can hardly imagine this book not in his voice. It was pretty much exactly the right voice....more
Here's what you need to know in order to decide if you want to read this book: The Reapers Are the Angels is a powerful and unusual take on the zombiHere's what you need to know in order to decide if you want to read this book: The Reapers Are the Angels is a powerful and unusual take on the zombie genre reminiscent of The Walking Dead. If you liked that, you'll like this. I thought the author did a remarkable job of breathing life into a protagonist who was both believably a 15 year old girl and somehow had all the swagger, implacability, and badassery of Mad Max or Dirty Harry. I think it might technically be YA, given the teenage heroine, but it's also got sex and sexual assault, cussing, nudity, substance abuse, high-falutin' poetical language, and, naturally, moments of postapocalyptic zombie world violence. It might go a little loose with post-apocolyptic science--car gas works years after the collapse, as an example--but I found that entirely forgivable. (Also, I listened to this as an audio book and the reader, Tai Sammons, did an excellent job.)
Now here's what I really want to say about this book: I want to call it a Cubist Sound and the Fury Meets Gulliver's Travels Zombie Teengirl Bildungsroman. Maybe mostly because I like stringing highbrow words and referenes together, but maybe also because I spent the entire enjoyable span of this book fascinated by these correspondences. It is a road adventure and a great philosophical musing and a genre adaptation and a simple, wondrous expression of at least one beautifully realized character. Still, maybe it's overpraising to compare The Reapers are the Angels to Faulkner--among many other things, the author of Reapers forgot sometimes in a way I think Faulkner never did that a story in the South where all the foreground faces are white is not a true and full telling--but it's a comparison the book itself seems to ask for. The act of naming an "idiot" character Maury makes that nigh-on unequivocal. It is easy, too, to imagine the heroine a sort of (reclaimed) Miss Quentin, and you could go on, I'm sure, if you had a mind to. All in all, the tale is both entirely unexpected and bent half over with the weight of inevitability. It is a discovery and a familiar face. It's a bit of opera and a bit of ballgame.
The book, in short, has a lot going for it. From the first sentences on the very first page it will grab your hand and pull you in; just don't expect it to slow its pace or use simpler words on your behalf, or explain itself particularly, or pull any punches at all, right up until the very end....more
Wow. I hardly know how to begin so I will begin by telling you what this book is: it is a memoir in the form of an open letter to his son about beingWow. I hardly know how to begin so I will begin by telling you what this book is: it is a memoir in the form of an open letter to his son about being black and an intellectual in America today. All of those things separately and together. What this book is not is a carefully laid out primer to explain to what the author refers to as "people who think they are white" how institutional racism is a real thing and how we should be taking seriously what black voices, especially since events in Ferguson last year, have been trying to tell us about what it's like. It is written, after all, non-rhetorically and I think ingenuously to his son and not to us at all, and his son certainly doesn't need those truths broken down for him.
If the bridge between you and that premise does not need crossing, however, then this book really is required reading, in my opinion, as a powerful and sweeping meditation on what race is and how it functions in America today. Some phrases reoccur and reoccur throughout the book: black bodies and their violability, their plunder; dreamers, which rather than a complimentary term is how he refers to the majority who prefer to get to be (paraphrasing here) "prince Aragorns and Luke Skywalkers" ignorant of the redlining, police brutality, gerrymandering, profiling, whitewashing, sidelining, and other savageries that have maintained the bubble of power and comfort that separates the many from the not-so-few; the Mecca, which is Howard University but is also the symbol of his own intellectual awakening. And with each repetition of these phrases, for me at least, the picture he was working to paint grew richer and pulled me deeper into it. Ultimately, Ta-Nehisi Coates reaches for the universal in his own experience, portraying how race--as a concept, as a Foucaultian paradigm--functions in our world, and he pulls it aside to try and show it for the artificial construction that it is, and I love him for that. But what I loved this book for even more was its earnest emphasis on searching and struggling and continuing to struggle to find the really, truly right answers (and because he's speaking to his son, the importance of going through this struggle for yourself), never mind the fact that he has grasped so many of those answers with startling lucidity, already.
So yes, maybe this is a book everyone should read, at least every intellectual, even if it isn't the very first word you should read on the subject....more
Really enjoyed this book. Modern readers might think of it as in the vein of David Mitchel or some of the literary sense-of-wonder writers, like ChaReally enjoyed this book. Modern readers might think of it as in the vein of David Mitchel or some of the literary sense-of-wonder writers, like Chabon, but in truth it is just as much the rightful daughter (or granddaughter?) of A Canticle for Leibowitz. Indeed, the books have a great deal in common, in terms of their treatment of time and history and art. Station Eleven is both better written, in the literary sense, and smaller fries than the epochal scope and ambitions of Canticle, which might be a minor demerit to sci-fi books-as-ideas enthusiasts, and an improvement to lovers of good prose, compelling characters, and stories well-told.
Among other things, Station Eleven wins at furnishing a diverse cast of characters (along nearly every axis) without seeming to force or photoshop or self-congratulate. I was also amused at a fairly large number of pop culture references that were somehow tossed in naturally, believably, and, I think, in a way that won't date the book horribly after a few years' time.
Station Eleven also forms the third leg of my unintentional apocalypse book jaunt. It was better than Age of Miracles in nearly every way (except maybe for simply not even trying to be a romance story), and very well pitted against The Dog Stars... although so very different in every way I don't think it would be fair to say more than that. The fact that they are both well-told renditions of plausible near human apocalypses makes that point all the more fascinating. Why not read both, just to see the contrast for yourself? These are not downers, by far, as post-apocalyptic lit goes. You could down them both over a long weekend in one very pleasant escape from the present day....more
I got what I was expected from this book--an excellent overview of the extinction event that modern humanity is in the process of inflicting on the plI got what I was expected from this book--an excellent overview of the extinction event that modern humanity is in the process of inflicting on the planet. What took me by surprise was how good a writer Ms Kolbert is, and how compelling she made such difficult material. The book is structured like a college lecture travelogue, where the author visits various locations around the globe as a way of telling the history of extinctions on our planet, the history of humans' understandings of those events, and what we know and have reason to fear for time to come.
This isn't a must read in the sense that there are probably more introductory and revelatory books and films covering the basics of climate change. But if you're curious about the exact breadth, nature, and toll of the oncoming environmental disaster on life on this planet, I highly recommend this book.
A lot of fun. Reminds me of those quirky oddball comics from decades ago, but with excellent art and some sharp, witty dialogue.
The premise (stated oA lot of fun. Reminds me of those quirky oddball comics from decades ago, but with excellent art and some sharp, witty dialogue.
The premise (stated on the opening pages) is that Tony Chu is a cibopath: eating something fills him with psychic understanding of its life and origin. This and a weird near-future dystopian setting are tossed onto the rails of the cop detective genre and allowed to ring out all the logical permutations that the pairing affords...more
Devoured this book and plan to read it again as soon as I have a moment. File under the kind of fiction that plays with genre, breathing fresh life inDevoured this book and plan to read it again as soon as I have a moment. File under the kind of fiction that plays with genre, breathing fresh life into tired roles and tropes. Full of character, original, imaginative, and over the top in the best of senses. ...more