Could. Not. Put this book down! The description does a crap job of describing the story, butshelfnotes.com Review will post 12/16/14 4.5 / 5
Could. Not. Put this book down! The description does a crap job of describing the story, but I guess it's difficult to talk about it too much without revealing the important pieces. (I'll give it my best shot here, though.)
This book seems like it will be popular with those who embraced Gone Girl or Before I Go to Sleep; it is one of those books with a twist ending you know is coming. This book is set up from the get-go to be clearly all about one mysterious turning point, but while normally I have some sort of inkling, this time I was shocked! Add to that a fun (if you can look past a woman abandoning her life & family) story of a young woman who is entering the big city for the first time, intertwined with stories from the past, both hers and those of her loved ones. This book moves so quickly that I would forget where I was for whole stretches of hours: I read it in 2 days. When there were other, more pressing (library) books I should have been reading! But, it caught me up and I just needed to know what happened.
I can't say I liked the main character all that much, at any point, but I do think I sympathized with her. Even if I had no idea what had happened in her "former" life, I felt as if I understood her feelings of being overwhelmed and her inadequacy when it came to being a wife, or a Londoner, or a new employee. I'd like to think I wouldn't do all of the things Cat did in order to shed her old skin, but I suppose that even her most extreme actions are ultimately "explained" when the story comes out.
I love the way the author unwrapped the story one layer at a time, going back all the way in time to the birth of Emily and her twin, and including other interesting tidbits about how strained the family was, and how Emily met her husband. Those layers - while frustratingly prolonging the reveal! - gave so much more depth to how the characters were motivated and how their lives ultimately would up as they did.
One thing I would have liked to have seen was an explanation of Emily's fear of heights - it comes up both in the skydiving scene and in a scene where she gets too close to a cliff edge. The author implies that this fear may be due somehow to Caroline, but does not ever expand on that, and those unexplained mysteries always bother me a bit.
However, all in all, one of those books that I just couldn't put down - so, no matter what I thought of the writing or how the story ultimately panned out, I have to rate it highly. Besides, I did like how the book ended. I'd love for others to read it & let me know what they think!
P.S. This book was sent to me by William Morrow (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) in exchange for an honest review....more
I have had this book on my shelf for a few months, and actually partly picked it up so I would stop getting the Pushstars soshelfnotes.com
I have had this book on my shelf for a few months, and actually partly picked it up so I would stop getting the Pushstars song stuck in my head every time I saw it. Plus, my sister (whose taste is uncannily similar to my own) really enjoyed it, and knowing Diamant from The Red Tent, I looked forward to seeing her writing in a more modern setting.
I was a little disappointed though, because I think I expected more North End Boston (the one-time home of me and my sisters, at various times) and the book certainly didn't focus too much on that place, although it got its mentions. The book takes place all over Boston, which I suppose is the reason it’s not called “The North End Girl”, and the author does the entire city justice - you can see her love for its history.
I loved the conceptual notion of the main character, Addie: she was a strong, smart, independent first-generation American woman, who figured life out on her own terms. However, as much as I liked her and probably would have wanted to be her friend had I met her in real life, I felt as if there was something missing that didn't allow me to care about her as much as I would have liked. Granted, I couldn't put this book down; I sped through it in two days. But I was unable to entirely connect. Luckily, the story carries the reader along, and there is enough personality in the book from all of Addie’s family and friends that you still do grow to care to know what happens. While the point of the book is only really about the love Addie has for those she holds dear, I found myself tearing up a bit at the end. So that says something.
I found the chapter titles interesting: each was a significant sentence pulled from the following pages which embodied the spirit of what was being said. I am not quite sure how I felt about that style. Knowing how things were set up, though, I often found myself flipping back to see what sentence had been pulled from the preceding pages, and taking a moment to ponder the significance. I don’t recall if that is a Diamant idiosyncrasy or if it was just used for this book, but I do think it made me sit for a moment after every chapter to consider the important phrases. I think I liked that.
Overall, the book was a lovely little portrait of a young Jewish girl finding her way in early 1900s Boston. I thought it was a charming story about family and independence. Certainly a great summer read for the beach or a long trip.
Augh, another too-hyped book that I found to be a letdown! I have to stop getting myself so excited for these books! Ninety-shelfnotes.com
Augh, another too-hyped book that I found to be a letdown! I have to stop getting myself so excited for these books! Ninety-nine percent of the time, they don't live up to their accolades. (But at least there are those who do, and they often make up for the others.)
Don't get me wrong - Troy can attest, I couldn't put this book down all weekend, nor could I stop talking about it. But! I felt like the "big reveal" was rather predictable much earlier on, and that the whole rest of the book was kind of...pointless. I didn't need to know that much about how everything wrapped up. I just needed to know the how & the why.
I loved the premise of this book - hearing about it on a webinar last November, I was eager to pick it up, imagining a modern-day Rear Window (one of my favorite Jimmy Stewarts). And it started off with a ton of promise, as the reader got to know Rachel's sad life (and indulge in a little schadenfreude). We could understand the frustration & helplessness she felt (especially those of us who had been through that situation, in one form or another). We sympathized with the situation she found herself in, and could see why she would want to allow herself the escape of becoming a bit too nosy about the life of another couple ("the perfect couple"). That she didn't know them at all just made it easier for her to invent perfection. So when things go downhill quickly for "Jess & Jason", it makes sense that Rachel feels a connection to them, a responsibility to help out where she can.
I enjoyed how the book flipped between the narration of three women, all of whom were tied together through Rachel. Their unique voices helped shape the story, and seeing things from their perspectives really changed my sympathies and alignments as time went on. I was solidly pro-Rachel the whole book, but felt various amounts of sympathy for the other two.
I think this book is great for those who enjoyed Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep and other similar thrillers; it certainly is engrossing and a great weekend read! I just...wasn't all that won over by it, in the end. Unfortunately!
Don’t mistake my rating - I did enjoy reading this book. It just wasn’t up to par with Ready Player One for me, wwww.shelfnotes.com 3.5 / 5
Don’t mistake my rating - I did enjoy reading this book. It just wasn’t up to par with Ready Player One for me, which I was just absolutely smitten with. I think part of it had to do with how promisingly Armada began, but then it quickly became war games, full of epic battles which I just kind of glazed over while listening to. (Seriously - I think I missed a few rather turning-point moments during fight scenes because I would drift off!) While the book still has the wonderful, pop culture-y, nostalgic ring to it that RPO does, it just isn’t quite the same.
To that end, I’ve developed a theory: the RPGers vs the FSPs. It is my belief that those who love adventure video games like King’s Quest (have you played the new one yet?! - if not, hop to it!) really enjoyed Ready Player One, and those who prefer more of the Call of Duty/Doom-type games will gravitate more towards Armada. What do you think, Readers? Do you agree? Have some arguments to disprove my hypothesis? Please! By all means, share away. I’d love to discuss further.
In any case, reading the book is well worth it for Wil Wheaton’s incredible voice-acting range. You won’t regret having picked the book up when you hear his Morgan Freeman impression! And the characters are fun: you get a great mix of jumping-off-the-page personalities (even if many of them are endearing tropes) in every chapter. Zack Lightman and his family and friends (both old and new) are people you want to hang out with. I just wish there had been puzzle-solving a la RPO, and less being thrown from one battle scene to another. Granted, that would certainly have changed the entire story! And I liked the concept, as a whole. And of course all the references thrown in. But just know, going into Armada, that you shouldn’t expect RPO. Which I suppose wasn’t fair of me, in the first place. (Apologies, Ernest Cline!) My husband read Armada in a day or two and really enjoyed it. He hasn’t yet cracked RPO. I look forward to seeing his reactions once he’s consumed both.
Until then, I was to underline that I did enjoy reading this book, and I am not trying to warn anyone away from it! I just want a reader’s expectations to be where they should be. Which means: already pretty high, since Cline is a lot of fun and you won’t be disappointed, I don’t think.
I don't know why I keep ending up reading books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, even though the dude is not my favorite author. Ishelfnotes.com
I don't know why I keep ending up reading books about F. Scott Fitzgerald, even though the dude is not my favorite author. I am not a huge fan of The Great Gatsby or anything (although I did love The Beautiful and Damned!). I suppose I am just fascinated by the man's roller coaster of a life story. Especially for being such a cherished American author. But the time during which he lived allowed him to taste fame and fortune, yet also destitution and despair (and ordinariness).
Plus, there's the whole Stuart O'Nan thing. I thought I had read more of this amazing author, but apparently I have to jump on that bandwagon more often! I remember loving reading The Circus Fire when I was a teenager; of course, it was quite intriguing because it was about Hartford, the capital of my home state. And this book, too, was so well written. I think Salon is onto something there when they brand O'Nan with the title of "possibly our best working novelist" today. Granted, I have many other favorites who I think are equivalent in talent. But O'Nan is just so good.
What I think really hooked me into this book once I'd started it was that it was almost the perfect follow-up piece for Z by Therese Anne Fowler, which I read last August. Opening West of Sunset felt like picking up the thread of an old friend's storyline, albeit from a different perspective. (Apparently for a true Fitzgerald-phile, there are a lot of books about the passionate and strained love between the two; there is also Zelda's novel as well as the letters the two exchanged. Phew! One could read - or watch - on this subject indefinitely!)
In any case, the story drew me back in like I was reading a sequel, and I was fascinated to see how the last several years of the Fitzgeralds' marriage played out. I had not known about Sheilah Graham, Scott's Hollywood lover. I hadn't known that he tried so hard to juggle his budding romance with taking care of his unstable wife, and struggled dearly between both. I hadn't known he and Humphrey Bogart were such good friends! I was intrigued by the glamour and glitz of 1930s Hollywood, with all of its caricature-like characters.
I also loved learning that (how did I not know this?!) Scottie Fitzgerald attended Vassar, at the urging and encouragement of her father. (Recently, too, her papers were donated to the school - I am eager to explore the collection!) What's even niftier is she also attended the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT, which is just a town away from where AmberBug & I both grew up!
So, clearly, I felt quite a connection to this book, in so many different ways. Luckily, it did not disappoint my high hopes: O'Nan wrote the struggled of Scott intimately and sympathetically: the man and his entire life had tumbled from apex into chasm, and he kept trying to find himself a foothold from which to push his way back out. He was humbled in his own time, and unlucky enough not to see the honor and recognition we now give such a great author. He is fortunate, however, that we as a country mostly manage to overlook his rough time in California at the end of his life, when he worked against deadlines to doctor terrible movie scripts just to pay his debt, when he had to step carefully around his wife and daughter (and force these remnants of their family together), when he fell in love and engaged in an affair with someone who wasn't his wife. These were his low times, and unfortunately he never managed to find a way out. O'Nan's novel was tragic and heartbreaking. But oh so good.
This book took a little while for me to get into. However, knowing I’ve enjoyed a couple other of the author’s books in theshelfnotes.com
This book took a little while for me to get into. However, knowing I’ve enjoyed a couple other of the author’s books in the past, I figured I’d give this one a bit more time. And I am glad I did - the story played out nicely, portraying a young woman caught up in strange madness during WWII. No, not really anything to do with the war, surprisingly! Rather, Maddie’s husband and his friend set off on a mad caper to Scotland, on a hunt for the elusive Loch Ness monster. Whew, I didn’t think this one could end well! I figured the author would either have to refute or “prove” the monster’s existence in order for the book to complete, but that was luckily not the case (you’ll see).
The story started off very promising, it being that of a young newlywed couple going a bit overboard during 1945 New Year’s Eve celebrations. I loved all of the characters presented at the start: the carefree trio of best friends, the staid and snooty parental figures, and the backstories of how everyone interconnected. As in Water for Elephants, Gruen is great at painting vivid personalities while also keeping her characters grounded.
The adventure truly begins when the footloose and fancy-free trio set off for an overseas adventure - to prove the existence of Nessie! (Marshall would be thrilled.) Perhaps she should have seen it coming when she was coerced into traveling to Scotland during the height of the war, but this is also when things begin to go downhill for Maddie, as the true nature of her husband and his best friend are slowly revealed. While all of that story seemed plausible enough, I have to say there was another romance which I just did not see happening until I was bludgeoned over the head with it. Ultimately, they seemed perfect for each other, but I felt as if a bit more build up - more of a connection developed between the two - would have been better.
Overall, this book was not Gruen’s best (I’d put it on equal ground with Ape House), but I did get drawn into the story, and I certainly cried at the end! And that always says something to me, when a book can make me feel like that. Read this with a book club (there is plenty to discuss!) or as a summer read, especially if you love historical fiction. This will not disappoint.
This book was so much more than I expected. I went in to it anticipating a somewhat dry (if layperson) look at numbers and hshelfnotes.com
This book was so much more than I expected. I went in to it anticipating a somewhat dry (if layperson) look at numbers and how they came to be a part of our world. I expected chapters to be organized by history, or by theory. Instead, this book read much more like a memoir. It began with the author's adventures as a young boy as the son of a ship captain, and how he became interested in seeking out the source of our Arabic numerals. There were parts that were kind of slow and there were parts which I just wanted to get through, but by the end I was almost on the edge of my seat! Aczel isn't a great writer - you can tell he is more of a math-minded person than a literature one - but he really did capture my attention and got me joining him during his triumphs and missteps as he traveled the world seeking that elusive first zero. I will admit the book took some getting used to, and as I said there were certainly parts which had me questioning whether I wanted to go on, but I am so glad that I did. The story as a whole was really worth it. And, I learned so much more than I thought I would along the way!
Going back to Dr. Aczel being more of an academic, there were certain points of the book which frustrated me, mostly relating to him skimming over concepts which I either didn't fully grasp from his glazed-over explanations, or ideas or references which I would have liked him to delve into further. For instance, on page 24 he mentions Maxwell's equations in physics as a good example of the important role the zero can play in other fields outside of mathematics - but never actually tells me what those are. Granted, they could be well beyond my understanding, I get that. But I'd have loved at least a footnote that gave me further reading or some sort of basic idea of the concept. I don't like having to pull myself away from a book just to Wikipedia something to get the gist of it. Another thing he mentions a page earlier is that "the double-entry bookkeeping system used in accounting today was developed in Europe in the thirteenth century in part to avoid using negative numbers." Okay, but I am not an account, and that intrigued me - I wanted to know more. I think I am familiar with the idea, but I'd have loved an example. In yet another point in the book, he examines logic and looks at syllogisms, using shorthand "A" and "O" which I am guessing to mean "assumption" and "observation" but...I don't know, and that bothers me. It was just those little tidbits which I would have liked to have given to me, the lay reader. He is clearly not writing to the mathematician. (NB: This was an ARC, and explanatory text may have been added during the final editing stages - I'd love to see a finished copy to check.)
On the flip side, Aczel did a wonderful job of throwing in lots of little extras - from photos of his father and many of the other people he encountered there, to fascinating little histories that he scattered throughout the book which really made it the gem it turned out to be. Outside of his own quest, he shared those of fellow zero seekers, and short histories of many of the places he visited. While, for example, I had always been vaguely aware of the Khmer Rouge, I learned so much more about that awful era and what it did to Cambodia's history. It makes me eager to learn more - and I do so love books which can do that.
Okay, I know that a lot of people are talking this book down because it's written very casually, but I loved it. C'mon,www.shelfnotes.com
Okay, I know that a lot of people are talking this book down because it's written very casually, but I loved it. C'mon, it's a book about video games! It is supposed to be fun, not dry. I appreciate that the author took some liberties and tried to make the stories more entertaining by sometimes dreaming up conversations. Sure, sometimes the "witty banter" got a little old, but overall, Harris made the book a ton of fun to read. And considering it is a book about business at its heart, I'm impressed by what he was able to do!
I received this book from the generous Dey Street Publishers, and alternated between reading that physical copy and listening to the audiobook I'd checked out from my local library - but the reader was so great, I ended up listening to most of it! (I can't pin who his voice reminds me of, but it was reminiscent of an '80s actor all grown up, which made it a really enjoyable listen.)
When I was a little pre-teen, I used to go over one of my best friends ever's house after school (hi, Marsha!) and we'd play Sonic the Hedgehog. This book brought a bunch of nostalgia for the early '90s along with it, which I think was part of the point and certainly part of the draw. The reader got thrown full-force back into the feel of the time, and I was especially struck by memories of certain commercials and ad campaigns that I had forgotten all about, but recalled with fondness.
There isn't much I can say about this book specifically, but I really did like its (largely) fun take on the gaming industry, the competition between Nintendo and Sega, and the story of a console company's rise and fall. I would recommend it to anyone who feels pangs of nostalgia for the 1980s and enjoys their historical fiction written in a novel-type format.
This is a charming little fairy tale of a book. I can't tell if it had a moral to the story (and I very much dislike that it made thwww.shelfnotes.com
This is a charming little fairy tale of a book. I can't tell if it had a moral to the story (and I very much dislike that it made the protagonist never want to return to his library!), but it was cute and entertaining and very endearing. Pretty much what one might expect from Murakami. I was intrigued by the artwork on almost every facing page in the book - it appeared to illustrate the story, but in a sort of abstract way. A truly beautiful book, though (also entirely what I've come to expect from Chip Kidd). The setup itself is so interesting: the reader folds back vertical cover flaps to get to the story. I found it odd to hold and somewhat difficult to read that way, but the concept was great.
The book is so short that I don't want to speak too much about it for fear of giving away the entire thing! But I encourage anyone to go read it - it'll take you no time at all. I'd suggest it as a bedtime story, but...I worry it might deter children from going to the library ever again! And that is NOT something I want. (I wonder if Murakami had a bad experience in his own local library, and this is his retribution...?)
I fell in love with this book fast & hard (much like the two main characters did), although it's certainly not myshelfnotes.com review
I fell in love with this book fast & hard (much like the two main characters did), although it's certainly not my usual fare. I fell in love with its nostalgic feel that brought me back to the '90s and the passion and irrationality of first love. So I couldn't put the book down (400 pages in a few days, while also juggling other stuff like my job) because I felt the draw of the electricity that connected Shan and Quinn. However, in some ways, this often felt like a romance novel to me, despite how much other content is in the book. Ultimately, it's ALL about the love between the two main characters, although the story also revolves around a bunch of their friends and loved ones, so certainly has more to it. You can tell how much the author loves music, and I was surprised to read that she actually doesn't have any real musical experience, herself! I would never have guessed, from the way she sounds completely in her element when discussing the instruments, the shows, the lifestyle. (She's actually a fellow librarian - yay!) Amber & I met her at the BEA this year, and really liked her - she is clearly passionate about her writing. And I think she is very good at it - she writes people, feelings, connections really well.
Rock Angel is a book I would have DIED to read when I was in high school, when this kind of rock n' roll world thoroughly attracted me. However, the book IS quite adult, including many references to (what else?) sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. It recalls a bit of Kurt & Courtney, a bit of Sid & Nancy. The larger-than-life personalities that the band produces are often at odds, and their egos regularly jockey for top position. At the same time, there exist love, and passion, and many strong & true relationships that form over the years.
Sometimes I hated Quinn, and sometimes I wanted to shake Shan for what he let him put her through - but then I remember that I've been there. I know what it is like to let someone you love hurt you again and again, and not be able to extricate yourself from the situation. (Luckily, I've moved well beyond that particular relationship, but it's not a feeling I'll ever forget.) I think that might have been part of what drew me to the book - first, the reminder of that excited feeling when two people connect in a special way, and then as you watched Quinn & Shan grow up together and face the realities of life together, the feeling of what it is to be an adult and deal with heartbreak, love, loss, and joy - sometimes all at once.