I'm amazed that it took me so long to finally get to Rebecca, as it's one that I've known I would love for a long time. I enjoy the more modern gothicI'm amazed that it took me so long to finally get to Rebecca, as it's one that I've known I would love for a long time. I enjoy the more modern gothics as long as there is good storytelling, but Rebecca is always the exemplar of the genre. I also have never seen the movie and know that it should be on my shortlist. Rebecca was a little different from what I expected it to be, and since I wanted to be surprised by all its twists, I did my best not to read up on anything written about it. I think I was expecting a more traditional ghost story, and was thrilled by its reality. The first person narrative of the second Mrs. de Winter brings the reader through all her thoughts and feelings flawlessly. There is an incredible sense of dread, a bit of foreshadowing, and several twists. It also sort of turns the classic rags to riches story on its head. I now can't wait to see Hitchcock's movie version to see Manderley as du Maurier envisioned it. ...more
I found this book to be so interesting. Not only does Dickey debunk some of the most famous ghost stories in our culture - or at least the histories wI found this book to be so interesting. Not only does Dickey debunk some of the most famous ghost stories in our culture - or at least the histories we share with each other and pass down. Who knew that the big haunted staircase in the House of the Seven Gables is nowhere near original to the house? Or that the seance room at the Winchester Mystery House was really the gardener's bedroom? Or that the KKK originally dressed as the ghosts of Confederate soldiers to intimidate people. I never knew that so many of our stories of haunted houses and cemeteries, and ghosts came from racist points of view, were based on some sort of oppression or were intended to maintain the status quo. This is an excellent cultural history exploring why ghost stories exist so universally in American culture. It is well written, entertaining and fascinating....more
I am ashamed to say that I have never before read anything of Jonathan Safran Foer, but I also can now say that I know I have not read his best. The tI am ashamed to say that I have never before read anything of Jonathan Safran Foer, but I also can now say that I know I have not read his best. The things he does best - the wittiness, the family dynamics, the at-times laugh out loud humor are all there in this one. Mostly in the first half. I loved reading about the dynamics and difficulties of the Bloch family. I loved the precocious kids and the grouchy older folks. There was really good banter. I loved Jacob's relationship with the Israeli cousins and the stupid trouble they got into throughout their lives. I snorted with laughter at Sam's Bar Mitzvah preparations, and his views of the whole process. I even went right along with watching the disintegration of a marriage. All that was well done. The second half of the book took a complete turn. There was far less focus on the Blochs, and the primary storyline focused on the earthquake in Israel that started a war and basically had the whole Middle East falling apart. All conversation changed to the safety of the Israeli relatives, Zionism, and the question about what is your home vs. what is your homeland. Do American Jews have an obligation to Israel even if they don't 100% agree with its existence and what it represents? How does one develop a sense of home? What does it mean to have multiple identities? Do they matter? These are really big questions, for sure, but the change in focus changed the book from a really great, engaging read to something far less entertaining. There is no doubt that belief, American Jewish identity, and obligation are really at the center of this book, but the political stuff left me bored. I will likely read other books of his, and will know that this will likely be my least favorite, because I can see from this one what everyone loves about his writing, and that really was only part of this book....more
Thank you to Harper for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What happened, Wally Lamb? I always have liked your books! I thought yoThank you to Harper for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What happened, Wally Lamb? I always have liked your books! I thought you wrote convincing female characters that had real inner lives. The interactions among characters were always believable.
Something happened with this book, as it came across as sloppy. Did you not do your research? There were a few things that bothered me.
1. Why have the female ghosts of film bring out the secrets of Felix's past? Why not family? It is endlessly more glamorous to have a forgotten female film director present the details of one's past, but it is also kind of goofy.
2. The thing that started bothering me the most was the constant shift from first to third person narration without any real reason, particularly when getting Verna's story. Within a few pages, Verna would start telling the story of her life, her marriage, and how she got there, full of her southern colloquialisms, and then it would shift to third person describing her thoughts and actions. It seemed that Lamb wanted Verna to tell her own story, but couldn't keep her voice going. It was distracting and really a sign of bad editing.
3. If you are going to put in a letter from Felix's daughter to her mother, who has almost no real part in the novel other than to introduce her to feminism, do your homework. The letter was sort of tacked onto the end of the novel and was intended as a thank you to the character's mother and her feminist influence, but the timeline was just plain wrong. Don't have a 20-something character talk about how she was raised on the Paper Bag Princess and Rosie Revere Engineer, since those books were only written within the last few years. If you want to write a book about feminism, pay attention to feminism and do it justice. Don't just tack it on at the end.
The sloppiness of this book really bugged me, especially since I know that Wally Lamb can do so much better. ...more
I found this book fascinating. Didier LeFevre, a french photographer, had absolutely no business going into war-torn Afghanistan with Doctors WithoutI found this book fascinating. Didier LeFevre, a french photographer, had absolutely no business going into war-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. He naively joined the mission with the expectation that he'd simply be strolling along taking photos and not really experiencing the dangerous conditions, grueling travel and potential for harm. In reality, he had to hike through several extremely high mountain passes, often in the middle of the night, fight starving conditions, disease, bombing and land mines. The combination of drawn panels and LeFevre's photographic images fleshes out LeFevre's story (as told to a friend) and gives a complete, though maybe somewhat flawed view of what it was like to be in the remote areas of Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. It is absolutely clear that LeFevre is there primarily for the photos and not for the mission. He makes some stupid decisions as a result of this. My one complaint was the use of the contact sheets. I understand the point of these. They look just like comic panels, and tell the story through tiny shifts in movement in a linear, chronological fashion. My frustration was that I really wanted to study the images, see all the tiny details and see the specifics of their location and surroundings, but the images were too small to really see in any detail. ...more
So, I just wrote a whole review and was about to hit save, when I hit something else and lost the whole thing. Here goes again. This is by far one of mSo, I just wrote a whole review and was about to hit save, when I hit something else and lost the whole thing. Here goes again. This is by far one of my favorite books so far this year. The writing is really good, they characters are believable, but also just shy of being on the edge of caricature, it is really really funny and kept me company (and laughing) during a particularly bad week. There is family drama, video game dynamics, protests, 1960s political dissent, apathetic students, sleazy publishers, and a presidential candidate that comes across a lot like a certain orange bigot we are currently dealing with. Nathan Hill has written a book that has a similar feel to Jonathan Franzen's books in their absurdity, family dynamics, and just fun characters. It also had a little bit of an air of A.M. Homes to it too. I will be recommending this book to all my big literary book lovers, and hope to maybe make this a future book discussion book....more
This is my first experience of Helen Oyeyemi's writing and I can say that I'm really looking forward to reading Boy Snow Bird. There is a clarity to hThis is my first experience of Helen Oyeyemi's writing and I can say that I'm really looking forward to reading Boy Snow Bird. There is a clarity to her characters and her writing, even when the stories are somewhat crazy. These interconnected stories involve locks and keys, books, roses, wolves and puppets. The characters are often smart and resourceful. I did myself a bit of a disadvantage by listening to these stories before and then after a week-long vacation, so I didn't have the continuity that I probably should have, but I really enjoyed the writing....more
It was really nice to be among the characters I know and love once again, though the script format by nature made it lack a bit of the life and magicIt was really nice to be among the characters I know and love once again, though the script format by nature made it lack a bit of the life and magic of the original books. I would love to see this staged and can't imagine how this could be convincingly pulled off with its short scenes, rapid scene changes, magical interludes, characters changing appearances and lots of fighting and flying. It was a little bit depressing to know that Harry has grown up into a stressed out overworked dad. While it was a good continuation, it was definitely not on the same level of writing, emotion or world-building as the originals in the series, but still a fun worthwhile read....more
I don't think it's entirely fair for me to give this a starred rating and went a little higher than my actual experience of the book, but I think I miI don't think it's entirely fair for me to give this a starred rating and went a little higher than my actual experience of the book, but I think I missed a lot. I also think that I would have like this book a lot more had I read it rather than listened to it. There is a lot to like about this book: a naive peasant girl turned fierce witch, a dangerous forest that threatens all around it, the "Dragon," a wizard that keeps the wood at bay, and an idiotic prince. It is based on Polish fairy tales, particularly Baba Yaga. The main character grows and transforms. The problem was that this was probably the first audiobook that I have considered returning to Audible because I hated the narration so much that it completely influenced my experience of the book. The narrator had a very think Polish accent that was so extreme that she read the book in monotone and with hesitation that made it seem like she as struggling with the English. It was distracting and took all the emotion and action out of the plot. I basically dragged myself through the whole book so I could move on to something else, and I believe that it had everything to do with the audio version and not the story itself. So, Naomi Novik - next time choose a narrator more carefully!...more