Well, studying for the bar I promised myself that I wouldn't start reading yet, but I was having trouble falling asleep so I thought some outside-legaWell, studying for the bar I promised myself that I wouldn't start reading yet, but I was having trouble falling asleep so I thought some outside-legal reading might do me some good. Not wanting to get into anything too taxing, I turned to a series that has been on my re-read list for a number of years now.
I read LW&W for the first time in the fifth grade, and remember loving every page of it. I haven't touched it since, and when I saw the movie a couple years back I thought they were adding a lot to it. It turns out, the movie and the book stay pretty close to one another, and it blew me away how such a rich story can unfold from a simply written children's story. I was knocking through about 50 pages every half hour or so, and I found myself pressing on into chapters long after I told myself I would quit.
I decided to read the books out of the order the new round of books were published in. I remembered LW&W as the first, so I'm going to stick with the more classic chronology that follows Lewis' narrative rather than the chronology of the stories. In my opinion, the publishers are stripping away some of Lewis' storytelling by re-ordering them for this generation of kids.
Anyways, I loved this book all over again, and I am looking forward to getting through the rest of them, perhaps before I take the bar. I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that I get whisked away to a magical land right before I sit for the test anyways, so I might as well have the blueprint for one in the front of my mind when that time comes.
As an aside -- I also took a small amount of pleasure knowing that Chris Van Allsburg did the illustrations for the series I am reading. He's one of my childhood favorites....more
As my other reviews have stated, I don't think I ever made it through this one as a kid when I tried to read the series. That said, I really, really eAs my other reviews have stated, I don't think I ever made it through this one as a kid when I tried to read the series. That said, I really, really enjoyed it this time around. The episodic island story was a break from other books in the series, and the ending was great.
In full disclosure, I am writing this nine months after I read it, so I don't remember a lot of particulars, but I do remember putting it down very satisfied, and charged to pick up the next one. (Then Absalom happened, and here I am...)
Anyways, five stars to the Dawn Treader. I could see myself picking this one up for a quick read at some point....more
It's hard to resist a book with such a great concept -- dog as narrator. Usually these kinds of books fall flat for me, and fade away even as I hold oIt's hard to resist a book with such a great concept -- dog as narrator. Usually these kinds of books fall flat for me, and fade away even as I hold onto them and read their last pages. I would put The Corrections and Kavalier and Clay into that category -- while not high concept or overly imaginative, they came with about as much pomp as this one did. The difference is that even looking at the cover of this book brings back a wave of emotion, and I am reminded of the connection I had with Enzo from the very first pages. Where others have failed, The Art of Racing in the Rain grabbed my reading heart and has not let go, even now three months after I turned its last page.
If you love a dog, now or ever, you have to read this book. I told my sister not to start or finish it on a commute, and I don't think she listened to me. She paid with tears in public and a fiancee who thought she was nuts. Stein is like a Nick Hornby, but with more emotional oomph, writing characters with feelings I can believe in and stories I want to follow. This book could have been double the length and I would have loved every page. As it is, it is not overburdening and it gets across a wonderful story in a clean, refreshing manner.
I could keep writing more about this book, but even thinking about it makes me want to go hang out with my pooches. I treasured them before, but a new perspective makes you cherish every day you get to spend with them, and by extension all the other loved ones in your life.
Looking back, this book played a large part in making me change my major from Biology to English in college. It was assigned as a side project with miLooking back, this book played a large part in making me change my major from Biology to English in college. It was assigned as a side project with mini-quizzes in one of the most difficult and memorization-based classes I took, and reading it was a breath of fresh air every time I sat down with it. Funny thing, though, was that even though I loved it and enjoyed reading it so much, I never finished it.
That was 1999. Based on the multiple airline ticket stubs and receipts I had stuffed in the book, I also made an attempt to finish the book sometime around 2003. When I saw it on the shelf, I remembered loving it and decided to give it one more go.
This time, I actually made it through. It's a colossal effort, as the 700 pages are packed with scientific information and reading is generally pretty slow. I've been working on this one on the side for eight months. Even though it took forever, I loved every page of it. Like eating a heavy fudge cake, it is so rich that you have to take it slowly and can't do too much of it at one time, but every bite is great and makes you want to come back soon for more. Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. Even the title is long and boring but makes me want to dive in again.
I don't know if it's the leftover biology major in me that makes me appreciate the scientific history set forth in this book (because reading a page out loud to Carrie was often her way of falling asleep quickly...), but I loved learning everything this book had to teach. Scientific theories, adventures around the world, crazy animals, amazing people, scandals throughout history... all tied up with a constant important message. There's not a lot that this book misses out on, and you feel as though you are putting pieces together and understanding more and more the farther you make it through. By the end, my understanding of island biogeography was enough that even the suggestion of different events had my head spinning with the complexity and possibilities.
Quammen did a great job with this book keeping the pace, progressing with a story, and teaching about the perils of human development around the world. He got his message across loud and clear, and did it in a very entertaining way. He didn't sacrifice any detail, and that is what I loved about the story.
Will I read it again? I don't know. Maybe. It would be very interesting to have an update to it, actually, as this book is now coming up on its fifteenth anniversary. I would pick that up in a second. I'll happily keep this one on my shelf, though, and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone I think might stay awake for more than a page at a time. ...more
Awesome. I can't review this one without spoiling it, so I'm not even going to try. I would hate for anybody to accidentally run across my review thatAwesome. I can't review this one without spoiling it, so I'm not even going to try. I would hate for anybody to accidentally run across my review that planned to read the story in the future. My favorite of the three so far....more
Perfect example of "kafkaesque inhumanity and absurdity" -- and a detailed look at my profession from outside of the circle. I imagine I'll tuck thisPerfect example of "kafkaesque inhumanity and absurdity" -- and a detailed look at my profession from outside of the circle. I imagine I'll tuck this onto my shelf at the office, once I get there....more
I have read a good number of Stephen King books in my day -- I used to be pretty obsessed, but when I look back at all the King books I have read, theI have read a good number of Stephen King books in my day -- I used to be pretty obsessed, but when I look back at all the King books I have read, the list is not as definitive as I thought it was -- The Stand, the Dark Tower series, Insomnia, Needful Things, Dreamcatcher and, of course, On Writing. My obsession apparently made me buy King books, but never read them. That list included The Shining, Misery, It, Salem's Lot, Cujo, and the Green Mile, by my count.
So, that said, I was cleaning out boxes upstairs and ran across my unread King collection. Now or never, I thought, and picked up The Shining. My copy is so old that Goodreads does not have its cover art as an option -- it was apparently published before I was born in 1978. I've seen the movie multiple times and even watched the miniseries made with Rebecca DeMornay and the guy from Wings back in the late '90's. I'm a fan even before I pick up the book.
Unlike Wicked, The Shining surpassed my expectations in every regard. I loved it. Most of my reading was in a dark room with the night noises of the house around me, Carrie and the dogs already asleep. Where I did not think that I would be creeped out since I knew the story so well, I found myself flinching at shadows from my Light Wedge or acorns falling and hitting the roof. Was that a creak in the floorboards I just heard outside the bedroom door? Even though I generally knew what was going to happen, the writing carries the perfect tone to inject the eerie mystery of the Overlook Hotel into every page.
The pacing was great -- King could have made this another 1000 pager, but it is a clean, quick 450. The detail on characters and places was just right. I think this kind of detail is where later King books have spun out of control -- I can now appreciate the distinction between King's early classics and others that balloon out of control and seem to ramble for the sake of rambling. I would not cut anything out of this one. No Vinkus here. And believe it or not, I even really liked the ending -- a rarity for me.
Just thinking back to a few of the story's scenes still give me chills -- I thought the hedge animals, Tony, and Room 217 were particularly great. Wendy was a better character than either of the movie versions (especially Olive Oyl). I always thought of Jack as Jack Nicholson -- he was the perfect actor for the role. King's foreshadowing worked especially well, lining even the happy moments in the beginning with the terror of Jack's chase through the hotel hallways. Come on and take your medicine!
Three last thoughts -- my copy of the book had chapter numbers, and simple word headings that, for some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed. Enough to make you wonder what was going to happen, not enough to give anything away. My book's chapter 33 inexplicably had no number or title. Is that how it is in every copy? Why? The randomness of it creeped me out, but fit exactly with the randomly starting elevator or the dogman. Random. Scary. REDRUM.
King used a lot of inner monologue here, which I usually see as a cheap out by a writer. Here, it worked great. It often interrupted thoughts mid sentence, adding extra meaning to what was being said, or seemed to come into the character's head from an outside party altogether. It fit perfectly with the influence of the hotel. Point of view played a big part in this story, and I cannot imagine King doing it better.
Finally, the only thing that bugged me about the book at all was that Danny was supposed to be five. I know he was a bright kid and all, but he seemed to speak and act at a much older level. King tried to make him seem young by having him learn to read through the book, or not understand certain words that he did not know, but even those efforts never totally sold me on the fact that he was five. Eight or even ten, not five.
That's it for this review. Like I said, I loved it. The Shining will make me turn to other early King classics to enjoy what made him such a famous writer. I could easily see reading this one again at some point. I'm keeping my 1978 yellowed paperback with no chapter 33 heading. I'm sure I'll be just as tense reading it next time, too....more
Susan, my belle mere, gave me this book a long time ago, telling me that it was not to be missed. It sat on my shelf for months, as I looked at the baSusan, my belle mere, gave me this book a long time ago, telling me that it was not to be missed. It sat on my shelf for months, as I looked at the back and saw that it took place in Nazi-Germany during World War II. Generally, historical fiction is not my cup of tea. Why I picked this one up right after Owen Meany, I may never know. Usually after I finish an Irving novel I will read something lighter and easier to get through, a "cotton candy for the mind" book. Cotton candy this book is not.
From the opening pages, I knew I would really like The Book Thief. The Death-as-narrator trick clicked with me right away, and I was hooked within the first ten pages. Carrie rolled her eyes when I told her about the narrator -- she thinks I only read depressing books. The Book Thief used the trick beautifully; it struck an interesting and eerie balance of nonchalant observation with weighty themes that served as the emotional foundation for the novel.
While Death did his best to stay disconnected from the humans he visited, there were a lot of human qualities that came through his narration, such as curiosity, compassion, nostalgia and empathy. The story itself and the characters were so compelling that Death himself took notice. Although Death wasn't the main focus -- quite the opposite, in fact -- the narration was so well done and so entwined with my memory that I cannot imagine a review without its praise. Yet, while the narration trick hooked me, it was the tale, characters, and writing that made me fall in love.
There are so many small parts of the writing that I enjoyed. For example, the book is separated into ten Parts. Each Part begins with a page of words that are often chapter headings for that Part, but when you first look at them it just seems like a jumble of phrases and words. After finishing the Part, though, I always went back to re-read the list of words to be amazed at how well the story was represented in that otherwise disconnected list. Like I said, it was a small thing, but when there are enough of those small things done well throughout a story, the end result is a finely crafted, intentionally written, and meticulously detailed work. Page after page provided a continuous stream of description, imagery, and situations that made me smile. In my mind, a single reading will not do this book justice.
"She sang a song, but it was so quiet that Liesel could not make it out. The notes were born on her breath, and they died at her lips." Words have almost a physical presence, whether written, spoken, or simply described. Words in books have power, and painted pages serve as both a repudiation of doctrine as well as a source of opportunity and hope. Outside of merely telling the story, the words weave in and out of the narrative. At one point words may apply in a macro sense to Hitler and the War and the state of the world, then suddenly the same words apply on a micro level teaching the reader about the deep and hidden emotions, memories and desires of the characters.
I can't figure out how to get across the multiple levels on which I enjoyed The Book Thief. The characters were all fantastic -- I connected with each of them individually and loved them for their own reasons. The author was able to find, and emphasize, beauty in the ordinary and everyday. (I thought a chapter named Thirteen Presents was beautiful and heartbreaking, about a child's appreciation of the everyday, and the ability to give the everyday as a gift.) 550 pages, and no Vinkus to be found (hooray!). Every page had a place. References back to earlier parts of the story connected, then added complexity and meaning. Finally, this harsh critic of endings thought this one was pitch-perfect. I won't get into the wave of emotions I felt in the last 50 pages so as not to spoil anything.
The front cover of this book has a quote from the New York Times, "BRILLIANT and hugely ambitious.... It's the kind of book that can be LIFE CHANGING." While I still find it a little unfortunate that such over-the-top praise is front and center, as those kind of quotes usually make me roll my eyes and avoid, avoid, avoid, here I kind of get what they mean, and I can't really argue with it. Was The Book Thief life changing for me? mmmm... maybe. I do know that it is a book that I identifed with and connected with emotionally, and it gives me a lot of inspiration both as a writer and as a person. I absolutely loved it. Five strong stars. ...more