My oldest sister sent me a copy of this book, because she had so enjoyed it. I was already pretty sold just from the beautifshelfnotes.com
My oldest sister sent me a copy of this book, because she had so enjoyed it. I was already pretty sold just from the beautiful cover, haha! But it took me a while to get around to this slim volume, strangely enough. I finally picked it up and flew through it, as I'd expected I would.
The story centered tightly on the lives of two neighbors, one new to the area, and one who had lived there all her life. It took me several weeks after I finished it, but I finally realized why this book didn't sit entirely well with me: it reminded me a lot of a blend of chick lit and a Mitch Albom work. I don't know. It was good, don't get me wrong. Very powerful and emotional, and told a beautiful story of unexpected but deep friendship, and it definitely made me cry a bit. But it felt sometimes too much like it was trying to be preachy about how one should be sure to appreciate the little things, the here and now, and make the most of life. How not to get trapped in unhappiness. The women were good for each other, both having suffered terrible losses and struggling to find their way back from them. I definitely liked how the story was almost exclusively focused on these two women, which worked because they lived in a pretty isolated spot. So the author was able to keep the camera lens focused narrowly on these women and their pasts, as they began to open up to each other. It was lovely the way Veronika found the mother she never had in Astrid, and ditto the daughter Astrid needed. I did love the magical way the women's lives ended up weaving together and how they learned to lean on each other.
Overall, I did like the book. I actually DO appreciate when books send me messages, give me subtle (or not-so-subtle) reminders about why and how to enjoy the little things in life. I think there was just something slightly off about the way this one was done, despite how well written it was. Oddly, though, I WOULD recommend it - particularly to other women. I don't think it would resonate so well with men; it was definitely written to reach out to the female sex.
Dear Reader, I finished this book over a week ago, but haven’t had a chance to sit down to write a review until now. That frustrates me,shelfnotes.com
Dear Reader, I finished this book over a week ago, but haven’t had a chance to sit down to write a review until now. That frustrates me, because I feel like the book has already faded enough from my mind that I am not sure my review will do it justice. However, I’ll certainly give it a stab! Because the fact that it’s not still pressingly fresh in my mind does not mean it wasn't good.
I really enjoyed this book. I was intrigued by the framing of the story: the protagonist begins her story in the 1960s, when she stumbles across a photograph which throws her suddenly and full-force back into a life she had long since left - and, until then, forgotten. From then on, the book follows the story of her adventures during the late 1930s.
And, adventures they were! Katey is the epitome of the flapper girl, in my mind: young, single, self-sufficient, adventurous, and full of gumption. She gets into adventures which at first surprised me, because of her somewhat reserved and introverted personality. However, as the character developed and took shape, I was able to see that Katey really did crave adventure, novelty, and excitement. Specifically because it was somewhat contrary to her true nature, I think. The reader could watch her force herself to step outside of her comfort zone (even while she was perhaps unconscious of this not being really her) on a regular basis. Perhaps this was partly because she was encouraged in this by her close more wild friend, Eve. Perhaps it was partly because she wanted to be like Eve, daring and (seemingly) carefree.
The relationships in this book are complex, and often unexpected the way they work out. You might think one person is a close friend of Katey’s, when in fact she barely knows them. Another shows himself to be a better person than you first expected, and someone Katey can truly count on. The complex characters are probably the heart of the book, and they truly create whatever story seems to flow around them. The characters are larger than the lives that flow around them.
I loved the setting - New York City in the late 30s - and the truly Golden Age feel of it all; I could see Art Deco abounding in my mind’s eye, and hear F. Scott Fitzgerald’s influence echoing through the city. A book that will truly stick with me for a while.
Happy reading!, Arianna
P.S. I really did love the framing of the story within the gorgeous and striking covert subway photographs of Walker Evans; what a brilliant way to develop the story. I wonder if the author saw the images (and Washington’s notes on civility) and the novel blossomed in his mind from that seed....more
I almost didn't want to admit I had just read this book - partly because it's taken me so long to get around to it, but moreshelfnotes.com
I almost didn't want to admit I had just read this book - partly because it's taken me so long to get around to it, but more because I don't even know how to write a review of this book! It's so very difficult. But...I'll give it a go:
I really enjoyed the book. Almost couldn't put it down, and I did fly through it. The reading of this story went much more easily than I thought it would. The movie was a very, very close depiction, if that helps at all. There are actually quotes in the book that I remembered from the movie, even having seen it so long ago! "Duke" and "Dr. Gonzo" tripped their way from adventure to adventure, going nuts on mescaline and handles of rum and all sorts of other lethal-sounding drug combinations. The action was pretty much non-stop, and Thompson's characters really jumped right off the page, they were so vivid. His caricatures of everyone from hotel staff to policemen to the odd stranger here and there really did a great job of showing off America in the early 1970s.
Ralph Steadman's illustrations of the craziness of the story were spot-on appropriate, and really brought things to life as you read. (My boyfriend thinks more books should be illustrated.)
I'm not sure I agree that Duke truly did find the American Dream, or if it was more that he found that there isn't really one...or, that it actually is just being out of your mind on drugs for days on end, and getting away with pretty much anything and everything. Is that what America was, or is? Very interesting thought....
Well, that's all I can get out for now. I feel like right now I should either go get really trashed, or move into a convent and live a life away from the insanity that is Thompson's depicted drug culture. Those two extremes felt like the only real options after finishing such a nutty ride of a book.
You want to know the strangest thing? I was pretty blown away by this book, until I realized it was a reprint of a 1968 publshelfnotes.com
You want to know the strangest thing? I was pretty blown away by this book, until I realized it was a reprint of a 1968 publication. Then, for some reason, it became slightly more so-so in my mind. Is that saying something about the state of novels in this day and age? Perhaps simply that things were written in a different way back then? I can't be sure. I just really would have been extremely impressed if someone, writing now, could have written the late '60s so well. Knowing that Swados was writing it during that time period made it less...magical, I guess? Less fanciful on the part of the author, I suppose.
Despite how that happened, though, and even though this took me months and months to read (only because I was reading it as an e-book, and those tend to get lost in the shuffle from time to time!), it was still quite good. A very well-written book about a pretty quotidian story, really. I mean, there certainly wasn't serious originality in the book, I'd argue: it was the story of three brothers who return to their childhood home in order to stake their claim on a mysterious inheritance. The book examined their relationships with one another, with their loved ones, with the world at large (including several people who played large roles in their collective past). It was also a study of fatherhood, from both the point of view of the father and that of his three strikingly different sons. The sons were stories in and of themselves, and the reader got to spend a good chunk of time with each man, learning their motives and back-story. So in this way, it was a fantastic character study. And, the descriptions of the burgeoning city (suburbs somewhere outside of Chicago, I think?) in the postwar boom were wonderful. What a different time it was back then. The end of the book, however, was...pretty anticlimactic. I still am not sure what I think about it. It reminded me in a very loose and strange way of The Usual Suspects, where a big and supposedly game-changing secret is revealed only at the end. But it wasn't that mind-boggling to me, and it felt like Swados rushed the resolution of his book, choosing to leave all of the relationships (these that he had been developing as hero vs. foil throughout the novel, poised to be resolved) still entirely open-ended.
I have to say, though, I did love the double nature of the title: of course, it refers to the actual document conferring inheritance, but I believe it also speaks strongly of the intense and stubborn personalities that all three of the brothers possessed - perhaps, in its own way, their true inheritance from their father and uncle, in the end.
Fun fact: This book was published on my birthday...62 years before I was born (yes, you can do the math if you want). That'sshelfnotes.com
Fun fact: This book was published on my birthday...62 years before I was born (yes, you can do the math if you want). That's pretty neat. Apparently it was a Thursday. Not sure if that was just a random day, or if publishers released books on that day of the week regularly, like how Tuesday is the preferred day for releases these days.
In any case, to get to the book itself: it was all right. I didn't love it, perhaps because it didn't feel like any character was given enough time for me to become familiar with. This is due to it being a collection of related stories, rather than a cohesive novel. I am not much for short stories (although Short Story Thursdays has helped me overcome that!), but this book appealed to me because it connected everyone's stories - you would be reading about one townsperson's tragic history, and you'd encounter characters who you had already met (with varying levels of intimacy) earlier in the work. That was an enjoyable aspect. The particularly outstanding character, who seemed to be at least mentioned in everyone's stories, was George Willard. I think Anderson ultimately is telling George's story through examining those of his fellow townspeople, and how the character's life is affected by them in so many different ways.
Anderson particularly seems to enjoy examining how people experience loneliness and isolation, even in the midst of a (small) town. His characters almost all seem desperate and unhappy lost souls. All of the characters seem to believe that nobody else could possibly understand or connect with them, and so they give up before they even try. One wonders if that is characteristic of this small town which Anderson is writing about, or if he is indicating that this is more of a pandemic which was affecting small-town America in the early 1900s. It was especially interesting to note the time pre-industrial revolution time period, when not everyone seemed eager to move to the city. Some want to flee the small town life, but most are content (enough) with their lot.
On a different note, I did find it quaint and charming how the book actually deals quite a bit with sex, but never mentions it by name. Many women end up pregnant out of wedlock, and several of the men are Lotharios, but never once is the subject of sex broached so that people could cry indecency and ban the book. I mean, not to say Anderson kept his book proper to that end. I am guessing that was more because of the times during which it was written. But it was still interesting to read and be forced to kind of read between the lines to get the true understanding of what Anderson was trying to convey.
I know, I know. Dan Brown is a popular novelist, and people kind of either love him or hate him. I have to admit, I think I'shelfnotes.com
I know, I know. Dan Brown is a popular novelist, and people kind of either love him or hate him. I have to admit, I think I've read everything he's written - at least all 4 of the Robert Langdon novels. Not for the stellar writing (I recognize that it's not) but for the awesome amount of factoids that he stuffs into his books. It's fun to "travel" along with Langdon, seeing cities I've never visited and learning fascinating tidbits about some of the world's most famous places and pieces of art. That is what I read these books for. I love how startling some of the things Dan Brown knows about the cities he studies can be. These are things I'll remember for a long time, and thus I have to admit (a bit begrudgingly) that I am a fan of his books.
I certainly have some complaints, though. For instance: we know Dan Brown writes to the common denominator - he writes for the hoi polloi, as it were. Which means he makes everything SUPER EXPLICIT. It can be annoying to have understood what he meant to say the first time, only to have him pound a point or revelation home several times, to ensure it's gotten across to the reader.
Another issue, along that same vein, is that there are certain characters in his books: Langdon, for one, but also in this one, a genius and child prodigy named Sienna. She's got an IQ off the charts, right? And yet...she acts like an idiot at times. One of the parts that stood out for me was when Langdon was explaining a certain anagram to her, and she just could NOT seem to grasp it. -- Really? I got it, and my IQ is certainly not near hers. Again, this is an instance of Brown writing to the masses, knowing that he might be read by every level of reader, and trying to appeal to them all. I'm not saying he shouldn't do that - I am just saying that can make things difficult to read.
However, I still find all of the facts and anecdotes so interesting that the book leaves an overall favorable impression with me. I think it's a fun escapist read, and I would recommend it to anyone, really - and most especially, I'll probably recommend it to those people I know who have traveled through Italy or Turkey, because it has to be pretty cool to read and REALLY recognize those places. (The one based in Washington, D.C. was pretty fun for me because of that.)
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT BEYOND THIS POINT! (view spoiler)[I have to talk here a little bit about the overarching premise of the book now, because that was another really interesting aspect of it - the discussion of overpopulation which really was the story behind the story. It's something I struggle with a lot personally, as a woman who has the capability to plan whether or not I have children. I've always kind of waffled on the issue, because really, should I bring another person into this already strained world? Usually I'm more concerned for the state of humanity and not because it is stressing its resources to the brink of collapse, but still. It's kind of along the same lines. I want and don't want to have children, all at the same time.
Additionally, along those same lines, I kind of felt in alignment with Zobrist's ideas and EVEN his execution of releasing the "plague"! I know it sounds awful to wish sterilization on a random third of the population, but really - people deal with it all the time. And who's to say who should be allowed to reproduce and who shouldn't? I definitely don't think that it should be mandated - but, at the same time, learning today that China has decided to semi-lift its birth limitations struck real fear into me. And, I kind of agree with Sienna's view that it is just the next step in our evolution - it's where we have progressed to.
Does anyone else agree? Or do you all think I'm totally insane? Please feel free to leave comments and discuss this with me!! I'm still uncertain even where I stand. Mostly, I just think I'm not entirely AGAINST Zobrist's transhuman ideas. But neither can I say I'm entirely with him, or his methods. Hmm. (hide spoiler)]
All right, I've babbled on enough. Time to get to my next book!
I am not sure that I would have read this book had it not been available as a free audiobook through my library's Overdriveshelfnotes.com
I am not sure that I would have read this book had it not been available as a free audiobook through my library's Overdrive subscription. I often stumble across books there and will pick up ones that I might not otherwise read, which is sometimes a great thing. I chose this one only because I had read the first book in the series, years ago - right around when it first came out, because someone (my sister?) gave it to me as a gift. I thought it was all right, but pretty indistinguishable from all of the "knitting circle" books that came out around that time: chick lit, about women who bond over knitting. I thought this was an interesting series, though, because not all of the women actually knit - there was more to the story than that. In fact, it was much more about the women's lives than their knitting. So I figured this sequel would be all right for a light summer read. And, it was! I enjoyed the easy prose and relatively simple story line.
I am still kind of recovering from the final part of the audiobook--a knitting pattern and two recipes which followed the actual novel. I couldn't believe that the narrator was reading "knit two, purl five, knit two, purl five, knit two, purl five, knit two, purl five," ad nauseam! Who in the world is going to sit there pausing their audiobook every few seconds to knit or purl, then pressing "play" again?! So, that kind of threw me off when I was just beginning to consider this review.
I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I remembered the story and characters better from the first novel; I feel like there were a lot of references to the prequel which I have long since forgotten. However, I think the book stands well enough on its own, as I was still able to understand what was going on. I did like that the main characters are a range of ages, from eighteen to seventy-eight, all struggling to figure out who they are. It gave a sense of trueness to the book. However, it wouldn't have hurt to have added a male knitter into the story! I certainly know of several; they're not mythical, haha.
Some - well, one - of the stories seemed a bit implausible, but at least the author gives a nod to its unbelievability (is that a word?). And she explains it away as being a part of the magic that is the strong, female friendship that is formed over a knitting group. This is something I've sort of experienced; I still keep in contact with my lovely girls from my former Boston knitting group, and so I do feel that sometimes knitting can bring people together. This book lent a bit too much saccharine dreaminess to the idea, but hey - it's a knitting group novel, what do you expect?
Overall, this was a fun summer novel. Great to take up some time while I sat around and knit up a pair of wedding gloves for a friend, and a sweater for myself.
Dear Reader, I was thoroughly charmed by this quintessentially English book. I don’t often read books which are part of a series, parwww.shelfnotes.com
Dear Reader, I was thoroughly charmed by this quintessentially English book. I don’t often read books which are part of a series, particularly not books which are several into a series, but this mystery novel stood quite well on its own. Apart from a few allusions which I believe were inserted for the series’ loyal followers, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by starting on book six of the Charles Lenox mysteries.
Perhaps that had to do with the setting of the book, which took place largely away from Lenox’s London home. I enjoyed the English countryside mystery novel; the whole thing recalled to me the feeling I had when reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. I enjoyed the small town characters which Finch painted in vivid colors. Everyone had a strikingly unique personality, while also being quite immersed in village life.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was, oddly, the relationship which Lenox had with Sadie. Who was Sadie, you ask? Why, his cousin’s horse, of course! Seriously, though, you could tell Finch had a fondness for Sadie as he wrote quite at length about her. And she was, in many ways, one of the heroes of the story!
Learning the true identity of the murderer in the middle of the book really threw me for a loop; I am so used to detective stories which present the Big Reveal, and thus the denouement. And yet this story felt like it should have been finished halfway through! However, Finch wasn’t nearly done yet. And I thought that wonderful, because there WAS so much more to reveal - many small mysteries played themselves out during the rest of the book (and some big ones, as well!).
All in all, a very enjoyable diversion of a book. Highly recommended for those who are Sherlock Holmes fans. Oh, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, scary about this book. Not in the least. (For those who might shy from spooky murder mysteries.) It’s all quite pleasant and civil and upbeat! Despite the murder...
I LOVED this book, and I can't stop thinking about it. I waver between giving it a full 5-star rating, but I can't make up mshelfnotes.com
I LOVED this book, and I can't stop thinking about it. I waver between giving it a full 5-star rating, but I can't make up my mind.
I can't even really put my finger on why I loved it so much. Okay, I do know one reason: I read the audiobook, and the narrator was phenomenal - perhaps one of the best I've ever heard. I loved the emotion she could put into her voice; she was just like a stage actor, playing the role wholly and entirely. I've just looked her up - Morven Christie is her name, if you are interested in checking out any of her work (although it appears from Goodreads that she's only recorded two books so far!).
Outside of the narration though, what tied me so strongly to this book? It's funny, actually - at first I had a really difficult time getting past the first few pages of the physical book, which usually is not an issue for me. But the legalese seemed very dry to me, and I couldn't understand how both AmberBug and my father could recommend the book so highly! But once I got past that point (I restarted in audio form), it sucked me right in and I couldn't stop listening. I think part of the reason is that you spend almost the entire book uncertain as to whether Agnes actually is a murderer or not. It's a mystery you desperately want to resolve, because you (along with her host family) come to really care for her, and you don't want to see her executed - innocent or not. Agnes really endears herself to the reader (as well as several characters in the book), and you start to believe that she is incapable of murder - but is she? There are so many conflicting accounts to consider. The resolution of the book is pretty staggering, and I can't recommend it strongly enough. Watching the relationships develop between Agnes, her captors, and her confessor is just so real and so poignant. And what makes it even better is the Author's Note at the end, which indicates that the book was based upon a true life story which has become something of a legend in Iceland. I think that added level of a reality-based story (Kent did a lot of research, and her account could very well be close to Agnes' true story) is what really made the book so great. I think the author did an excellent job of establishing a possible and feasible background for a real-life mystery.
I find I love books which start off as if they are going to be romance novels, but then go so much further than that. Prwww.shelfnotes.com
I find I love books which start off as if they are going to be romance novels, but then go so much further than that. Probably that is because I'm not much of a he-swept-her-off-her-feet romance kind of girl. I prefer the more realistic version of life, I think.
That being said, that is exactly what Mrs. Poe was. I know the story Cullen wove wasn't 100% true-to-life, but she did quite a bit of research for the background of her story, and it showed. The book she wrote was a very plausible (at least, to me) version of how (now virtually unknown) poet Frances Osgood and Edgar Allen Poe's lives might have once intertwined. A truly tragic story all around, and despite Mrs. Poe's bearing at times, you couldn't help but feel sorry for every single person in the novel - well, almost every one. Certainly the main players. Osgood led a very disappointing life, and the outlet she found in Poe was a beautiful, but heartbreaking one. This wasn't a tale of forbidden love as much as it was a portrait of life, though. The struggles and limitations that we all face.
I was particularly enthralled by the caricatures that Cullen drew of New York's literati at the time - that was probably the most fun part of the book! I enjoyed her sprinkling in of people (P.T. Barnum, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, Astor!) and events of the time (the "flatting" of NYC, the all-destroying fires, daguerreotypes, the treatment of writers as superstars) which really brought the time period alive for me. Her connecting the story to the true history of New York, or at least a very close rendering of the city at that time, was fascinating.
I was intrigued by the small mysteries which Cullen threw in, as well, certainly making this far less of a romance - although there were certainly the moments of passion! - and much more engaging. While the story circled like a single-shot camera around Osgood in Poe's embrace, it also allowed for cut scenes into so many other smaller, related, and very engaging subplots.
The title of the book particularly interests me - does it refer to the cousin who legally married Poe when she was just a girl? Or does it allude to the role Osgood often played as "Mrs. Poe" she and Edgar were together, playing parts? It straddles that line so well, as did the story: you didn't always want to root for the woman who seemed to be tearing apart a marriage, but at the same time, her story and her character were so compelling. It was difficult not to wish Frances Osgood all the best, in the end. Whatever her true story was, I am glad this side was told.
P.S. Be sure you read the Author's Note at the end of the story - Cullen discusses her inspiration, her process, and most importantly, the rest of the tragic history....more
Dear Reader, This is definitely one of those books that only true bibliophiles will love. I couldn’t get into it myself much for thewww.shelfnotes.com
Dear Reader, This is definitely one of those books that only true bibliophiles will love. I couldn’t get into it myself much for the first section, even though it talked all about rare books and those who love them. I felt like, honestly, the story didn’t really pick up until like the last third of the novel, but you really did have to go through all of the earlier stuff in order to get anything out of the later happenings. You just wish you had known that at the time you had to slog through some of the early material….
However, I did, all-in-all, like the book and how it circled around a lost-to-history book which examined the nature of the devil and centered around nine engravings. I also really loved the Dumas connection, although I’d highly recommend to anyone who was planning to read this book that they ought to read or re-read at least The Three Musketeers (if not others of Dumas’ work, as well) before diving into this adventure, because SO much of the action and content revolves around at least the 3Ms. I am certain I missed many of the references and allusions to Dumas works, as I read the Musketeers when I was something like 14, and even The Count of Monte Cristo (a true favorite of mine) was several years ago, and while easier for me to remember, still only a more distant memory.
The main character was not terribly likable either, although I’m certain that’s what the author meant to do there. And his relationship that developed mid-book did not seem all that believable, but hey - generally the people who fall in love with each other are just as surprised as the outsiders are. So it wasn’t that the story wasn’t believable that bothered me, but something felt slightly off the whole time...although, I suppose that was largely because the entire book was very “meta”, with the protagonist recognizing how things would go were he the main character in a novel. That was probably my favorite part: his omniscient understanding of his role and his place in the story as a character, written in by another. The author did great with that little bit.
Overall, an enjoyable book for a book-lover, that is for sure. I definitely enjoyed the ride, especially when things actually started moving. But, looking back on the book as a whole, I do understand how it all fell together now, and needed to be presented how it was.
Okay, I'll admit it: I have a soft spot for pop science books. Gladwell reminds me often of another favorite, Oliver Sacks.shelfnotes.com
Okay, I'll admit it: I have a soft spot for pop science books. Gladwell reminds me often of another favorite, Oliver Sacks. Both get me wanting to discuss everything I've read, share tidbits I've gleaned, recount odd phenomena which I've encountered in their works. I love the accessibility of these authors and those of their ilk, who find ways to engage the general layperson public. It's been years since I've taken a biology or psychology class; I wouldn't be able to relate to a dense textbook-like book. But these publications are great ways to get me thinking and questioning the world around me again. And I love it.
This book was particularly surprising to me because I didn't really have any interest in reading it! I'd enjoyed others of Gladwell's works, but I only picked this one up because it was the required reading for a library instruction class I was to teach, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the material. I'm glad I did, though: I ended up discussing the book so much with my boyfriend. I even made him read a chapter that I found particularly interesting; it discussed the different ways people respond to aggression, based upon what region of the United States they are from. The reasoning behind this finding fascinated me! I found the same to be true of the chapter which discussed why Korean airline pilots had such a high rate of accidents in the 90s - so many, in fact, that there was a point where Korean Air was close to being shut down for good. And the introductory chapter, about one of the reasons why some people become sports stars. -- Really, every chapter in the book had parts which surprised me. And that takes me back to the reason I really enjoy reading these kinds of books: while every "reveal" shocks me a bit, it then begins to really make sense, and helps to explain human nature just a little bit better, in my mind. I love it. (Did I mention that already? Haha.)
One thing I love about Gladwell's writing is that if you've ever heard him speak (or audiobooked any of his works), you can really hear him speaking his words as you read along. Usually I think I have some sort of generic man or woman relating the story to me in my head while I read. But with Gladwell, it's definitely his voice I hear. I don't know why, but that does help me get into the pace of his works more.
Whether you read or audiobook this one, I definitely recommend it. At the very least, it gives you plenty of interesting conversation topics for your next dinner party!
A very thorough interpretation of how the world might react to and handle a zombie apocalypse. Clearly Brooks knows his stuff (I'm sure writing the HaA very thorough interpretation of how the world might react to and handle a zombie apocalypse. Clearly Brooks knows his stuff (I'm sure writing the Handbook beforehand helped him prepare for this book). It was also a great idea to approach the book through oral histories - which actually made the audiobook experience feel much more vivid). All in all, I thought it was really well done....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook, although part of it may have been because it was awesome to listen to the comforting and familiar-since-childhoodI thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook, although part of it may have been because it was awesome to listen to the comforting and familiar-since-childhood voice of Molly Ringwald. However, I think she is also a very good writer. She chose words which sometimes surprised me, and I always find that delightful. I enjoyed the interwoven stories (I was a bit wary of "a novel told in stories" when I first checked it out) and the ultimate way they were all braided together, intimate stories all overlapping and merging as life is wont to do. I think Ringwald wrote human nature beautifully, and I loved how she showed both sides of each relationship, insinuating that really when things fall apart (or even when they come together) no one thing or person is really to blame. We each react in our own ways to things, and that makes us both who we are and where we go in life.
I flew through this book, and there were no points where I was bored or disinterested. A solid, bite-sized, very accessible read. Very true, very real, very good. ...more
I have just begun watching the TV series that is based on this book, so I won't be discussing much about that. AmberBug gaveshelfnotes.com
I have just begun watching the TV series that is based on this book, so I won't be discussing much about that. AmberBug gave me this audiobook a few years ago, having received it from a publisher friend. This was well before the show had been made, and so while I was interested in reading it, it wasn't until everyone was talking about the show that I really started to push it up towards the front of my queue. I'm glad I did; it was certainly interesting! A very unique story, really. Piper Kerman is unfortunately forced to pay for a small mistake she made over a decade ago, and must serve time in prison. She is sentenced to 15 months at the Danbury FCI - this also interested me greatly, since until a few weeks ago, I worked at Western Connecticut State University, which is located in the same city. (And, WCSU does get a brief mention! That made me smile.) Kerman is a typical upper-middle-class white woman, which made her experiences so enthralling to me because I would often think about how I might have handled the same situations she encountered while on the inside. Some things she dealt with the way I probably would have; others, she went an entirely unexpected direction, but things always seemed to work out all right. (Which sometimes surprised me!)
What I liked best about the book was how the author concluded by realizing that, ultimately, our American correctional system is broken. People are incarcerated and simply left to their own devices; there is no help to minimize recidivism. I've been seeing this for years with my past work in the Prison Book Program: training programs for convicts are abysmal, for the most part. They don't help prisoners prepare the necessary skills (technology they've missed out on being a big one that Kerman mentions) that they'll need for when they are released, and therefore find it much easier to go back to a life of crime. I think that part is what will stick with me most after having read this book.
The author herself sometimes bothered me, but she kept the book moving with anecdote after anecdote, and managed to make it one cohesive story. Her interactions with the woman who put her behind bars in the first place was the most interesting part to me: I don't know if I could have reacted the same way Kerman did. However, you never do know until you are in that sort of a situation - and I hope to goodness that I never am!
I think I would have just loved this book when I was 8 years old. Or maybe even 12, since that is the age of the charactersshelfnotes.com
I think I would have just loved this book when I was 8 years old. Or maybe even 12, since that is the age of the characters in this book. I did not realize it was a YA book until I had it in my hands (well, technically, on my Kindle). I checked it out from our local library because I mean, c'mon, what librarian doesn't want to read a book about library adventures?! And it was definitely an ode to libraries, which I did love. Clearly the author is a fan.
As the description above confirms, my impression was that this was a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory homage, with a bit of The Westing Game thrown in (if I am recalling that old favorite correctly). It was a fun romp through literature and knowledge that spanned the Dewey Decimal system, and I certainly didn't hate it - it was pretty exciting, for a novel meant for children. If the puzzles had not been made so clear-cut for the young'uns, I probably would have LOVED it. Not that I blame Mr. Grabenstein, of course! I'm just saying.
The main character wasn't my favorite - he was kind of bland - but I did love how he came full-circle to realize the value (and fun!) of the library. I wish all libraries could be so well designed (and so well funded)! I loved the kooky character of Mr. Lemoncello, whose rags-to-riches story, a Carnegie nod of course, was made possible by his local library. He became a famous game designer (of both the board and video types), which is why games are central part of this adventure novel. And there were definitely some other characters who I just wanted to be friends with, such as Akimi and Sienna, the two whip-smart, book-loving girls. Of course. (Am I totally predictable? Yeah...probably.)
I would definitely recommend this book to kids I know, and I might even buy a copy for my nieces or nephew in a few years. It certainly strives to make the library a place that children would still want to visit in this day and age of Google and home entertainment, so I certainly loved its intent. I really wanted to give it more stars, but I guess that my not 100% adoring it is the price I have to pay for being an adult. Le sigh.
I love historic novels, because I feel like they stick with me much more so than simple history texts. If I can connect with the way people are feelinI love historic novels, because I feel like they stick with me much more so than simple history texts. If I can connect with the way people are feeling, and remember what the time was like to live in, I am much more apt to recall the period and its histories. I had never delved into Rome's Borgian era, and it truly was a wicked and wild time period. Lawless, for those who could get away with it. And boy, the Borgias could! They could dispatch those they didn't like with complete immunity! And even though it was established right away, I could not get over how everyone simply took the Pope having children - children he favored, and put forward in the public eye as his own - without batting an eye. It just seems inconceivable these days - what would people say if some illegitimate child of Pope John Paul II came forward next month? He would most certainly lose his sainthood, don't you think?
And yet, this was Rome in those days. I enjoyed learning about the high-born, privileged class, but next time I'd love to read how the OTHER half (well, more like 99%) lived. It was a MUCH different Rome for those who had to endure the squalor and lawlessness and disease. Not to mention those who had to put up with the Borgia clan, either directly as servants, or indirectly as the populace! What crazy times those must have been, indeed....more
I'll give a book a high rating if it kept me engaged, even if it wasn't written extremely well. And I couldn't put this one down. Sure, I thought I'dI'll give a book a high rating if it kept me engaged, even if it wasn't written extremely well. And I couldn't put this one down. Sure, I thought I'd already read this one, not once but twice: first, in The Hunger Games, and then later in Matched (of which I only got through the first book). Future dystopian society, organized the way some nameless leaders thought best for the survival of humanity. Strong female lead character, a teenager who has never really been tested until now, but proves to be The Special One.
And of course, she Must Save Humanity.
Still, this one was definitely done differently from the others, which made it a still very engaging story. And I have to admit, it probably helps that I'm a girl and I love seeing girls kick some ass! The characters were painted well, as were their interpersonal relations. The plot left you always wondering who was going to make it, although of course you always knew the Strong Female Lead would. And there was, of course, a sweet love story, but at least it played out differently, too.
Overall, I'd say it was another fun summer read, and I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games, for sure. It's certainly different enough, while still being similar in overarching ideals, to be enjoyed by a Katniss fan. ...more
Apparently, I have a thing for books about books. I find I've been reading a LOT of them recently, and I've got a few more qshelfnotes.com
Apparently, I have a thing for books about books. I find I've been reading a LOT of them recently, and I've got a few more queued up, as well! I don't know what it is - perhaps I just really enjoy the feeling of reading about something I love so much. And seeing how much others love books, too. The authors pour so much of themselves into these novels.
This one was especially good: evidenced by the fact that I stayed up FAR too late on a school night (technically, a work night, but I do work at a university, so...) to finish it up. While it was an intriguing story right from the get-go, the action really picked up towards the end, and I could not put it down without resolving the mystery. I have to admit, the last bit of the book reminded me quite a bit of a Robert Langdon novel, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because I did just finish reading one. Also, I have a very limited knowledge of adventure-mystery books (what genre are they, really?) and therefore, that's really one of the few "detective" stories to which I can relate this book - due to my own narrow experience, though, and perhaps not that it was truly Dan Brown-esque in nature.
This story begins with that of a very recent widower named Peter, who is struggling to live again after the blow of losing his one true love, his college sweetheart. Peter has social anxiety, and Amanda used to be his rock, the one who could make everything out in the world all right. So his loss is manyfold: he must struggle not only to recover from losing Amanda, but also to return to the world at large, one that he would much prefer to hide from. Peter is a rare book dealer, so luckily he can lose himself between the pages of an ancient text - usually. However, he is startled from his quiet existence when he stumbles across an image of his dead wife...that was painted hundreds of years ago.
Desperate to solve the mysery of the painting, Peter begins a hunt which brings him in contact with a special rare book, one which may hold the answer to whether Shakespeare actually wrote the many plays attributed to him (an academic argument that has had scholars taking sides for years). As he delves deeper into the mystery, he begins to see how the book and painting tie together - and how they might both be very, very dangerous items to possess.
Overall, a very interesting and engaging book. The novel goes back and forth between Peter's present and the story of how he met Amanda, and the reader sees as the book progresses that many things which once seemed disparate are in fact woven closely together. You won't want to stop reading until you figure out what the real story is!
Found this to be comforting in a lot of ways, because I too suffer from anxiety, although not to the degree that the author does. However, I felt thatFound this to be comforting in a lot of ways, because I too suffer from anxiety, although not to the degree that the author does. However, I felt that the whole book was leading up to the real story, which never actually happened. It was ultimately an adorable love story, though.
I found myself recognizing the narrator's voice immediately, although it took a bit of research to remember why: it was the same man who had read Pygmy by Palahniuk, which I audiobooked in December of 2009 (hence the initial uncertainty). I mostly enjoy that narrator, but I do find him frustrating at times because it sometimes sounds like he is taking something too lightly or making too much fun of a character he is portraying. I do believe, though, that is because I first encountered him in Pygmy, where Palahniuk consistently satirizes most of his characters, making them over-emote for comic effect. Overall, though, the narrator really worked for this piece and I enjoyed listening to it, once I got used to the pacing (which always takes a little while with any book). ...more
This was a beautiful story about friendship, love, family - but mostly friendship. It was definitely what I call a "beach read," in that I flew througThis was a beautiful story about friendship, love, family - but mostly friendship. It was definitely what I call a "beach read," in that I flew through it: it was quick and easy to read, and didn't have much depth. But still, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was my first encounter with Kristin Hannah and I don't know if I'll pursue any other of her works, but on the other hand I wouldn't be desperate if I were stranded on a desert island with nothing to read but her books. Is that praise? I guess so, hah. I don't think I am interested in her oeuvre, though - this one just appealed to me because it was about girlfriends growing up in the 80s and 90s. I enjoyed the smattering of cultural references, and the story of how Tully's character rose to fame, at the expense of all else in her life. I am not a big fan of the "should I or shouldn't I have?" struggle women face between whether they should choose a career or mothering, but I do completely understand that it is a struggle women still face, despite being told we can "have it all."
Some if it felt unrealistic and I wasn't sure if I felt that Kate and Johnny's story was terribly believable, but it worked with the story and made for a bit of mystery, because Hannah built up a bit of suspense by starting the book in medias res, and then throwing clues in to the ultimate reason for the friends' rift throughout the book. That made it something I wanted to keep reading, so it worked.
Again, not really a big fan of this genre, but I enjoyed the respite (especially after having just finished Crime & Punishment!). It was like watching a chick flick, which I'll admit, certainly sometimes appeals to me. We all need a little bit of lightness in our lives at times, that's for sure....more
This was a really interesting book, because the entire time I was reading it, it felt quite a bit like "chick lit", but it rshelfnotes.com
This was a really interesting book, because the entire time I was reading it, it felt quite a bit like "chick lit", but it really was quite far from that light-hearted, utopian genre. Maybe that's because the premise is that of a young woman living in New York City, who finds herself pregnant by a man she believes she loves. The book had a lot of those moments where you felt as if maybe she'd realize that the pensive, kind man with whom she works is actually the right one for her, but the book doesn't turn out as perfectly packaged as most of those sorts of girly books do, so I ended up enjoying it more - because of how real it felt. It wasn't a princess and fairy tale book, really. It was about real life, and how imperfect it often ends up being, but how you can find joy and love even when things don't turn out how you expect.
Esme Garland is an English expatriate who is doing her graduate work at Columbia, focusing her studies on fine art. She is an intelligent, very independent young woman who yes, sometimes makes mistakes. The book felt so very intellectual (often mentioning books and artists who I'd never heard of), which was a bit jarring to me, beacuse it also did feel like chick lit. I found this to be especially the case when Esme and the father of her child are planning to make a go at it, and you can see that they are just not a good fit for each other. It made me feel frustrated, because you could really tell that she didn't in fact love Mitchell, but she was forcing herself to feel those feelings because she wanted to make things work. Mitchell was the classic asshole boyfriend who thought only of himself. His selfishness was apparent right from the get-go, and you'd have thought Esme would have seen right through it - and would not want to raise a child in that sort of environment. But, I suppose that is also true to life: sometimes even the smartest girls end up trying to find the knight in shining armor, even when we know that's not how reality works. Esme just kept gamely trying to make things work, but the reader could really tell that it was a losing battle. Mitchell did seem to try at times, enough to make Esme feel special and as if she perhaps was choosing the right person to start a family with, but he often tempered his kindness with cruelty, most likely to protect himself. Again, very real, very true to life. Nobody is perfect, for sure, but it was clear that whoever Mitchell was perfect for, it certainly wasn't Esme. He could never have been happy in a relationship where someone else gets the glory sometimes. He needed to be the center of his world.
My favorite parts of the book were, fittingly, those that took place in the bookstore. The rag-tag cast of characters that made up the employees and regulars of the shop were a wonderful mixture, and again felt very real. The author herself actually worked in a bookstore, and said she drew heavily on the characters she encountered there. Esme finds a kind of family, which is important to someone who feels so alone and so far from home. The others rush to take care of her, each in their own ways, and I think without them she might have been lost, overwhelmed. I also of course loved the smattering of book discussions, and the feeling of actually being inside that ecclectic shop, piled high with books and strange knick-knacks.
Overall, I do think I enjoyed this book. I still can't get over that it felt like it was written specifically for women, which is why I can't rate it more highly (I like a book the transcends that sort of thing), but I do think I will recommend it to others, especially those who enjoy the "chick lit" genre. I think it is a nice, more intellectual departure from the normal fare found there, but would still be enjoyed by someone who loves those kinds of female-oriented books.
I just finished and am writing with the book fresh in my mind, which has gotten more rare for me these days. I hope that will make for a better review, though. Even though I am itching to get on to another book...! :)
Let's see - well, this book is certainly a librarian's dream! I think it was like a guilty-pleasure librarian book, because Hanagarne drops so many book references in, after each which I would go "oh, I know that one, too!" and grin all goofily. Yup, I'm certainly a book geek.
Hanagarne is also just so passionate about libraries, which is another reason I enjoyed the book. Here are some quotes which I particularly enjoyed:
p. 3: "I...work here because I love books, because I'm inveterately curious, and because, like most librarians, I'm not well suited to anything else. As a breed, we're the ultimate generalists. I'll never know everything about anything, but I'll know something about almost everything and that's how I like to live." -- I say this ALL THE TIME. Okay, maybe not in those exact words, but the part about knowing a little bit about everything I possibly can, because I know enough to know I can't know everything about anything?! I love it.
p. 4: Libraries are "a breeding ground for curiosity."
There were plenty more scattered throughout the book, but I got caught up in it & forgot to note more down, I'm sorry! But, I guess that just means you'll have to read the book for more!
I also want to remind you, Dear Reader, that my first experience with Mr. Hanagarne was when he came to speak at the Hartford Public Library; Amber and I attended his talk. It was, coincidentally (and, I didn't realize HOW importantly, at the time) the same weekend as Stephen King's talk at the Bushnell, which meant Hanagarne got to meet his idol and favorite author. I included the photo below, because my guess is, it was taken shortly after his talk at the HPL:
As you can see, Hanagarne is fun and irreverent, and yet also serious and a great pleasure to read. The heartwarming stories he tells of his childhood with a loving - if charmingly imperfect - family, and of his continual battles with and acceptance of Tourette Syndrome were both moving and inspiring. He writes with a friendly voice, and you often feel as if he is sitting beside you, relating what happened to him last week. I am sure I loved the memoir even more because Hanagarne ultimately became a librarian - which seems like a shocking choice for someone with what many consider a disruptive disorder, although his love affair with books and the order found in libraries from a young age does certainly help explain how he found his calling.
I don't think I would have picked this book up had it not been about a librarian, but I feel I learned so much about the Mormon faith (which plays a huge part in the book, but don't let that put you off if you are not generally interested in religious books) and the ability to live with this extra ghost always hovering over your shoulder. Hanagarne handles the funny and the difficult with wit and aplomb. I highly recommend this one.