Need to give this some time to settle in. Didn't like it nearly as much as The Brothers Karamazov. But Dostoyevsky is brilliant in his crafting of cha...moreNeed to give this some time to settle in. Didn't like it nearly as much as The Brothers Karamazov. But Dostoyevsky is brilliant in his crafting of characters.(less)
Perhaps it was intentional because of the nature of Joe's personality disorders, but I found it very, very diff...moreWanted to give this 3.5 stars, really.
Perhaps it was intentional because of the nature of Joe's personality disorders, but I found it very, very difficult to identify with or feel much for him, or care much about what happened. I did love Nel! And I found the story to be intriguing, although at the same time, the main story point was kind of obvious to me from the start, and I just read waiting for the reveal (and maybe to learn if there was anything more to it, a bigger secret). I felt like I loved and hated alternating characters - loved Willem, hated Emmie. I guess I am kind of glad it didn't turn into a traditional romance, at least. The book had some great moments, and was written quite well. One of my favorite things was when Joe self-analyzed and realized things like "they could only drive him mad with his permission." (It makes more sense in the context, but it was an important moment for me.) I think there are some wonderful truths in this book and some beautiful imagery, but I wanted more from this book and I think it fell a little short. I do hope to see more from this author, though! I look forward to her future endeavors. (less)
Very Palahniuk. I enjoyed this. Gosh, he writes so well. Both his word choice and his story-weaving skills. Always so engaging. You kind of want to ha...moreVery Palahniuk. I enjoyed this. Gosh, he writes so well. Both his word choice and his story-weaving skills. Always so engaging. You kind of want to hate the main character for being a horrible person, but then you also kind of understand where they are coming from. (I started to write this about Phoenix specifically, but then realized that's pretty much EVERY Palahniuk novel I've ever read, haha!) (less)
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...moreshelfnotes.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 find I love books which start off as if they are going to be romance novels, but then go so much further than that. Pr...morewww.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.(less)
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 publ...moreshelfnotes.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.
This was a Netgalley offering which I selected because I thought it looked like it had promise as a good, relatable YA novel...moreshelfnotes.com
This was a Netgalley offering which I selected because I thought it looked like it had promise as a good, relatable YA novel. And it was! Ultimately a very cute story about coming of age. It was a quick, summery sort of read. I think I would have enjoyed it more were I a pre-teen, but it definitely had its merits, and brought me back to those idyllic, endless summer days of my adolescence.
The book's title is very apt: while it ostensibly refers to eponymous Three Bird Lake, where twelve-year-old Adam spends the summer before eighth grade, it also of course speaks of the three females with whom Adam interacts during this life-changing summer. Used to a cabin filled with relatives and particularly rambunctious teenage boy cousins, this quiet summer is entirely new to Adam. His parents have recently separated, which means that he is to spend his vacation with only his mother and his grandmother. The third female doesn't come along right away, but she is perhaps the most life-altering: Alice, who becomes Adam's best friend and begrudged love interest as the season runs its course.
At first, I had a difficult time liking the main character, largely because he felt very distant and emotionless. He lumped all girls his age into one enigmatic group that he would never figure out, and left it at that. Meanwhile, while he didn't exactly sound lonely, he didn't seem to have many friends to speak of, either. So I was a little lost from the start. However, I got the feeling over the book, as the reader became more and more familiar with Adam, that he was in fact a bit autistic. I think he had to categorize people in order to deal with them, and I could see him begin to discern people from groups as he got to know his new friend, and even his mother and grandmother, better.
There were some cute touches in the book; the friendship that develops between Adam and Alice is endearing. While it's sometimes difficult to understand Alice's point of view, as the book focuses solely on Adam, you can begin to see why their relationship works as well as it does. It's not just because they were thrown together as the only kids their own age in a remote lake setting.
I also enjoyed the way Adam began to know and understand his grandmother throughout the summer. It seems he begins to see her as a separate and whole person, which is a true milestone of maturation. At the same time, as he starts to recognize her personality and her frailties, he also learns more about who he is and what he is capable of. While I thought it a bit weird that the kid couldn't paddle a canoe by himself at first, I think maybe that was more a prejudice of my own than poor writing: I grew up going canoeing with my family, and therefore feel like I always knew how to paddle. But it was another metaphor for Adam's developing independence and his growth into an adult. I think there were many things in this book which were well-written. I enjoyed all of the subtle metaphors and the rather odd but strong personalities. One of my favorite touches was the carved animals on the mantelpiece in the cabin, which perhaps made me relate to Adam even more: it was also his favorite!
I think this is a good YA novel. It deals with some issues and gives a great example of growing up. While it was a bit on the light side for me, I can understand that is because I lean much more towards "adult" fiction. Like I said before -- if I were twelve, I think I really would have gotten something out of this book.
Boy, am I behind on my reviews! Part of that I blame on BEA, but I can't really be mad at such an amazing experience (plus,...moreshelfnotes.com
Boy, am I behind on my reviews! Part of that I blame on BEA, but I can't really be mad at such an amazing experience (plus, how does one express anger at an experience?), so I'll just do my best to catch up quickly!
This book took me AGES to get through, which does not mean it was terrible. It just means that *I* am terrible - at reading ebooks! It honestly took me forever because I would only rarely pick up my Kindle (in any form) to read a few pages before being called away to other obligations. For some reason, I find it much easier to get caught up in a physical book, still!
In any case, Rachel Joyce is a wonderful writer. This story had me intrigued from the start, as it is something I myself would speculate on. What WOULD happen if two seconds were added to the clock? Would everything be thrown off, much like the effect of flapping butterfly wings? That is what Joyce argues, and she splendidly details how these minute two seconds could diverge and be experienced by two people very differently indeed. While time itself doesn't fall apart, we do see lives slowly begin to do so in response. Byron Hemmings experiences an accident which is his mother's fault, but she is strangely unaware of the incident. Despite this, Byron soon convinces Diana of the truth, and the two begin to develop an unlikely relationship with the family who was affected, a family who is poor and trashy in striking contrast to the wealthy and reserved Hemmingses. Life begins to turn upside-down for Byron's family and their new "friends," Beverley and Jeanie. The Guardian review put it so well: "Guilty, rich and lonely, Diana showers Beverley and daughter Jeanie with gifts, and hosts afternoons during which the two women paint each other's nails and exchange confidences. But Beverley is envious and as their intimacy grows, so does the risk." That really is the crux of the book, and through this creeping wariness, you begin to understand how the two alternating voices (that of young Byron and an older, mysterious man named "Jim") are related.
Jim is a troubled man who has lost most of himself to years of electroshock therapy in a mental institution. He is a loner and full of quirks, but the reader watches as he begins to interact more with the outside world, and then open up to his new friends. Once the connection between the two main characters is established, the reader may still be thrown for a loop by the ending of the book! I was smugly certain I had it all figured out, but Joyce easily reminded me of why we shouldn't ever make assumptions.
All in all, beautiful writing and a very interesting story. I know that if I had been reading this as a book or audiobook, I would certainly have raced through it. I look forward to reading other works by this author.
Okay, did anyone else notice how completely self-absorbed the main character, Claire, is in this novel?! It's so annoying. S...moreshelfnotes.com
Okay, did anyone else notice how completely self-absorbed the main character, Claire, is in this novel?! It's so annoying. She couldn't care one whit about her friends, never asks about their lives, but uses them to her advantage whenever she needs to. And they seem to be okay with this! So I guess it's not a problem in her world...
For those who haven't yet read this book, it is about a woman who is asked to make a forgery of one of the famous paintings which was stolen in the Gardner heist of 1990. Of course, the minute the painting was named, I went online to see it for myself - I like to know what is being discussed when it comes to famous artwork. However, I it turns out that Shapiro actually invented a fifth version of Degas' "After the Bath" for her story, one which does not actually exist. It was a pretty good idea, since the whole story is simply a fiction based on the author's idea of what might have happened to that one missing painting - she does not speculate on the disappearance of the others that were taken.
Interestingly, I am reading another book right now which discusses the Gardner art heist, which is odd since I haven't really encountered the famous and intriguing story since I read Stealing Rembrandts several years ago. (The other book I am reading, Wally Lamb's We Are Water, doesn't talk about it too much, but it was funny how they both coincided in my life at exactly the same time.) In any case, like many others, I've been fascinated with this story since I heard about it. I cannot wait until the paintings resurface, so the world can know how the strange robbery took place.
Shapiro's book, though, at least takes a very good stab at a story behind one of the pieces - you'll never see the ending coming! I did really enjoy reading about the process of art forgery, which many reviewers say is truly the way these things are currently done: the materials and processes that Claire uses in the book, and the people she learns from, are real and have produced paintings which have fooled many an authenticator. Very neat stuff. The science behind it is amazing, too.
The story itself, Claire's experiences as she paints the fogery and as she recalls other problems in her career as an artist, is interesting enough, although as I pointed out above, she is not a great friend. Luckily, her pals don't seem to mind. They get caught up in her adventure, too, and this really was one story that had me totally uncertain of what was going to happen next - I like mysteries like that.
I read the book because it took place in Boston, and I do love all the Bostonian details that Shapiro throws in here and there. I also read it because my sister graduated from the Museum of Fine Arts school, just like Claire does in the novel. I think I'd recommend this most to people who are interested in art, Boston, or the Gardner Museum heist. Otherwise, it's a mystery novel that won't really appeal outside those catgeories, I think. Still, a very fun and engaging book!