The thing that's always creeped me out about John Saul's writing is his near-obsession with the idea of adults who prolong their lives by stealing you...moreThe thing that's always creeped me out about John Saul's writing is his near-obsession with the idea of adults who prolong their lives by stealing youth from children. Sticking to this theme, Darkness takes place in a quiet Florida town where some residents don't age and many children disappear.
In Saul's world, the Fountain of Youth is discovered -- it's within each child's thymus gland. Not only does the gland hold the elixir of youth, but it also houses the human soul. It's an interesting theory, and as good as any, but not one I expected to find in a horror novel. Saul's soul-less children live, but it's a half-life -- they don't cry, rarely laugh, have trouble fitting in, and always feel empty.
I enjoyed the theory -- and the book -- but didn't find it very different from many of Saul's other novels, especially Midnight Voices.
Men have a hard time writing romance novels that I can get behind. Chalk it up to a personal preference for female authors in this particular genre, b...moreMen have a hard time writing romance novels that I can get behind. Chalk it up to a personal preference for female authors in this particular genre, but I think it's because men have a hard enough time understanding the female psyche, let alone putting it to words. What is meant to be sensual and deep turns out sounding more like a cheesy soap opera script. ("Oh, John." "Oh, Jane.")
The contents of the actual notebook from the title is the story of soul mates Noah and Allie -- two modern star crossed lovers who, after 14 years of leading separate lives, manage to find their way back to one another. That part of the story -- the bulk of Nicholas Sparks' 213-page novel -- is the cheesy soap opera. While it is merely the characters' back story, it's not nearly as moving or interesting as their present day positions, which is where Sparks begins.
By keeping Allie's final choice between two suitors a mystery, Sparks can keep readers' attention easily enough. In the end, however, Allie's choice is predicable and left me wondering why I bothered reading the whole thing when I already knew how the story would end. (less)
Some authors have such an inviting, conversational voice that readers can't help but get absorbed in the story right away. Other authors construct com...moreSome authors have such an inviting, conversational voice that readers can't help but get absorbed in the story right away. Other authors construct complicated, awkward sentences that drone on and on and make it harder for the reader to get lost in the tale. Joyce Carol Oates' voice is somewhere between the two extremes.
This is the first book I've read by her, so I don't know whether the sentence construction is part of her style or the result of a lazy editing job, but I found the punctuation especially to be distracting, and so it took me longer to settle into the story and connect with the characters. The story also developed slowly, the first one-third of the book mentioning and hinting around the tragedy that befalls the Mulvaneys but doesn't define the events surrounding it until well into the book. I know Oates was probably either trying to build suspense or explain things the way the secretive Mulvaney family would, but it doesn't work. From the beginning, the reader understands that this family history will be brought to life by Judd, the youngest Mulvaney, who says on page 1, "I believe in uttering the truth, even if it hurts. Particularly if it hurts." So why, then, does it take him 135 pages to get to the juice of the story?
Somewhere toward the middle, though, I began connecting with the Mulvaneys -- especially the children -- and appreciating Oates' point. These people, who are all so different and yet somehow part of the same family, survived all the awful things that happened, all the awful things they did to each other out of love. Even poor Michael Mulvaney Sr. thought he was doing what was best by his children, who he loved dearly, justice-seeking "Pinch" took action because he loves his sister so much, and Judd helped out because he loves his brother. And ultimately, though separated geographically, the family held together because of the strength of that love, which never faltered.
The story did bring up a lot of questions, though, especially considering the idea of justice and Christianity's message of "turn the other cheek" to those who hurt you. Can one exist alongside the other? Can you bring a man to justice for killing someone while at the same time resisting "not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also"? And if not, which is the correct way to handle things in those situations? Should you execute the killer to be sure justice has been served -- an eye for an eye? Or is responding to violence with violence only perpetuating the very type of behavior that we frown upon as a society? Should we all "do unto others as you would have done unto you" in hopes that our examples will be enough to quell the violence in others? I don't know, but Oates provides some interesting answers. (less)
In any given day, there are an infinite number of things I would like to get away from -- phone calls, traffic, laundry, work. Who hasn't wanted to ge...moreIn any given day, there are an infinite number of things I would like to get away from -- phone calls, traffic, laundry, work. Who hasn't wanted to get away from their lives or to experience what it's like to be someone else? But the fact that I, like so many others, stay grounded and don't indulge the urge to run made it hard for me to like Jo, the main character.
Jo's a runner. Sue Miller gives a lot of examples of things she runs away from. She runs away from home when she was eight or nine years old; she leaves her first husband and her family; she leaves her grimacing husband holding the twins -- two wailing babies crying out to her -- for work, where she forgets about them; and during the day she runs away from the reality of the present to the wonders of her fantasies, especially once Eli, a roommate from her days of being Licia, comes back into her life.
Jo's also a very hard character to know. One of her daughters calls her elusive, and it's true. She's led a double life, she has secrets from her daughters and mother, she keeps things from her husband (and when she does share with him, it seems to be all the wrong things -- the things that will hurt him), and even though Miller tells the story from Jo's perspective, from the first person, as a reader you don't really know who she is either. Because Jo doesn't know who she is.
My favorite scene was Daniel's sermon -- it was so beautifully written and delivered. For me, he was an easier character to like because he seems genuinely happy with his life and sure of who he is.
But despite my issues with the main character, the book was really, really good.(less)
My eyesight has never been that great -- I started wearing glasses in the second grade, and my vision has steadily declined since then. So reading was...moreMy eyesight has never been that great -- I started wearing glasses in the second grade, and my vision has steadily declined since then. So reading was never fun for me when I was younger. If I read too long, I would get a headache or eye ache from the strain, but it was books like this that kept me from completely giving up on reading.
It's been at least three years since the last time I visited Narnia -- too long! -- and not only am I still reading (voraciously), but I'm also making my living as an editor. If I had never read Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, who knows what my career would've been, not to mention all the wonderful stories I would've missed.
Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund's story is a definite classic, and it will continue to inspire readers young and old for many years to come. (less)
In the book world, Agatha Christie is to mystery what Stephen King is to horror. It’s simply not possible to discuss good mystery stories without brin...moreIn the book world, Agatha Christie is to mystery what Stephen King is to horror. It’s simply not possible to discuss good mystery stories without bringing her name into the conversation, and chances are some of her memorable characters, such as Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple, also would be mentioned. But And Then There Were None -- also published as Ten Little Indians -- was Christie’s masterpiece.
When I was in middle school, I bought a copy of And Then There Were None from a library fundraising drive. It was yellow, dog-eared, and some of the pages had come loose because most of the spine’s glue had lost its stickiness, but the words were still legible, and the book’s decrepit state certainly didn’t take anything away from the story’s genius. I read it three times in a row, cover to cover, determined to figure out who the murderer was, who had killed those people on Indian Island.
I had all kinds of theories, one I was absolutely certain of, but always thought Christie gave it the best ending by giving it no ending at all. Of course, the reason I never knew who the killer was is because my copy, with the deteriorating spine and loose pages, lacked the final chapter! So, nine years later, I read a different copy, whose pages are all accounted for and whose spine still has its integrity, only to learn that the theory I spent so many years refining, what I thought was as good as fact ... couldn’t be further from the truth.
I agree: Definitely not as good as his political satires, though Al Franken does manage to get in a few jabs at Bush, Madonna, and even Oprah (I'm gla...moreI agree: Definitely not as good as his political satires, though Al Franken does manage to get in a few jabs at Bush, Madonna, and even Oprah (I'm glad this was published before "the car episode," or there might've been many, many more references to her). The "advice" he gives is consistently amusing, while the summaries that follow each chapter get stranger as the pages turn.
My favorite chapter actually isn't even a chapter. I'm not sure when I started reading books' afterwords and acknowledgements, but I'm glad I didn't miss Franken's "Oh, the Acknowledgements" and even "Oh, About the Typeface!", as both had me laughing out loud.
This was an extremely easy read, and if I've learned nothing else from Franken, I've learned that we should all feel bad for his wife, Franni. That poor, poor woman. (less)
Lydia Millet has put together a highly amusing story with an entertaining (though scary) cast. Rosemary is an ex-c...moreI will never look at "G.B" the same.
Lydia Millet has put together a highly amusing story with an entertaining (though scary) cast. Rosemary is an ex-con with no luck, a heavy drinking habit, and an obsession with geriatric men. Her boyfriend is a crotchety veteran with a big house and a cocaine habit to match, and though this is the part where I normally would make an Anna Nicole Smith reference, our Rosemary deserves better. I don't think she got with Russell because of his money and obvious proximity to death. No, as part of the "L.B.," I think this woman has a serious problem -- she is uncontrollably attracted to older... much older... men. Including, George H.W. Bush.
Through Rosemary's growing devotion to G.B. and rabid attention to all things political, Millet makes some interesting points about America's policies and programs under President No. 41. I wish Millet had gone into a little more detail about those political observations, but I suppose that kind of unabashed commentary would've been too much for this short trip into the heart and soul of America's "Dark Prince of Love."
Perhaps she'll do that in her next book, "George Bush, Son of the Dark Prince of Love"? (less)
Terry Kay has a wonderful way of making readers truly sympathize with his characters. I felt awful for Sam Peek -- Neelie nagged me just as much as sh...moreTerry Kay has a wonderful way of making readers truly sympathize with his characters. I felt awful for Sam Peek -- Neelie nagged me just as much as she nagged him; his meddlesome daughters unnerved me with their stupid antics; and I wished I could've seen him with his wife, Cora, just as much as he wished she were still living.
I'm very sensitive to the feelings of the elderly. Each time I see or read of their loneliness, helplessness, or depression, I get choked up. I don't look forward to that when I grow old, nor do I want my parents to experience that. Hopefully I won't be annoyingly patronizing like Kate and Carrie. Hopefully we'll all have a "White Dog" to keep us happy until the end comes. And hopefully it will come as swiftly, painlessly, as Cora Peek's. (less)
Although I wasn't blown away, this book did keep me entertained. I guess I expected to like Joey, the main character, more than I did. But rather than...moreAlthough I wasn't blown away, this book did keep me entertained. I guess I expected to like Joey, the main character, more than I did. But rather than seeing her as a strong, female force to be reckoned with, I saw her as an annoying damsel in distress. Karl Rolvaag and "Tool," surprisingly, became my favorite characters, and I found myself much more interested in what happened with Tool and Maureen and whether Rolvaag would ever really make it to Minnesota than I was in whether Joey got her revenge and Chaz got what was coming to him.
It's rare that I'm more entertained by subplots than main story lines, but I enjoyed these a lot. I also enjoyed learning a bit about the state of the Everglades. I've been to Florida many times, but have never been to the 'glades. (less)
This is the first Jonathan Kellerman novel I've ever read, and I enjoyed it a lot. The story was different; the characters were unique, human; and the...moreThis is the first Jonathan Kellerman novel I've ever read, and I enjoyed it a lot. The story was different; the characters were unique, human; and the ending wasn't the all-the-loose-ends-are-tied-up-and-things-have-gone-back-to-normal ending typical of books in this genre.
The whodunit aspect was revealed slowly, and even though Dr. Alex Delaware is a psychologist, Kellerman didn't write him as a mind reader (a common trait in the cop genre that usually has me rolling my eyes, even when I'm just beach reading). And there were so many possibilities with the information provided that the reader can piece things together along with the main characters.
Honestly, The Murder Book caught my eye because the main character's last name is Delaware, my home state. But now that I've had a taste of Kellerman's style of writing and Delaware and Sturgis' style of detective work, I'll be looking for more. (less)
Well, it took me two years, but I finally was able to bring myself to look back at the 2000 election and read this book.
It's so hard to read a book li...moreWell, it took me two years, but I finally was able to bring myself to look back at the 2000 election and read this book.
It's so hard to read a book like this when you know the ending; harder still when you know you don't like the ending. I tried to start reading this several times, but the first chapter, titled The Rise and Fall of Mr. Nice Guy Al Gore, made me cringe, and I never got more than a few pages into it before running for another book — usually some mindless chick-lit. :)
I'm glad I was able to get over this hump, though, as Milbank presented a side of presidential elections that has always made me curious: What is it like for those who are closest to the action? And not just Gore and George W. Bush, but the non-contenders, too. Milbank gave readers information on everyone from crazy Alan Keyes to aloof Ralph Nader, and spent quite a bit of time on Arizona Sen. John McCain and Bill Bradley, the Republican and Democrat runners up, respectively.
There was just so much covered here that never made the 'papers, which is great in some respects and disappointing in others. Do political journalists focus on "the numbers" (polls) in their articles so they can sell book publishers all the human interest stories surrounding the candidates? Because it certainly seems that way.
Milbanks even covers the campaign crews, which had me in stitches — particularly the stories about Chris Lehane, Gore's press secretary. His pranks (hiding random objects, such as bananas, in other campaign members' luggage) and especially "press bingo" (whereby he would pick a strange word and see how long it would take him to get the press to print it in a story) had me in tears — the good kind!
Milbank's humor definitely made this touchy subject a little easier to digest, but one quote from the book stays with me: "Though large numbers of Americans are ill informed, ill mannered and ill prepared to choose a leader, when you add them up something magical happens. Individuals are transformed into a wise and noble creature: the American electorate." Wise. Heh. Noble. Right. (less)
In the beginning, I was drawn in by the complexity of the stories and the narrators telling them. Things were interestin...moreEmotionally Weird is... weird.
In the beginning, I was drawn in by the complexity of the stories and the narrators telling them. Things were interesting and progressed steadily enough so that before I knew it I had reached the middle of the story. At that point, if you count the stories being told by Effie's classmates, I think there were about seven plots going at once. I was lost, and I'm pretty sure my brain nearly exploded, but I continued on, having already invested so much in the story.
And I'm glad I did, because though the middle was muddled by the distracting sub-stories, the ending was well worth the wait. Effie and Nora are extremely intriguing characters, and I often found myself wondering whether Nora was merely an imagined literature critique that lived in Effie's mind, her only purpose to make funny asides and interjections. Thankfully, Kate Atkinson answered that for me. Now the only question that remains is this: Which version of Effie's college story is the real one? (less)