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Belzhar
Belzhar

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars MEH, December 26, 2014
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This review is from: Belzhar (Kindle Edition)
This wasn't bad. I liked the set up and the writing was decent. That said, I hated the final plot twist, which raised way more questions than it answered - and I thought all the "lessons" were much too easy and not believable. Worth a read, I guess, but not nearly as interesting as other novels that have taken up Plath as a theme.


Mr. Ruins: A Thriller (Ruins Sonata Book 1)
Mr. Ruins: A Thriller (Ruins Sonata Book 1)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid Images, Intricate Story, August 7, 2014
Like other readers, I found that this story took time to get into and was a little confusing at first. But the images are vivid and compelling - a world ruined by tsunamis, where people get drunk on alcohol made on eons-old berries thrust out of Arctic ice and a man meets his nemesis in an abandoned shark-fighting arena full of dust and shadows. People plunge into others' brains and fling themselves through vast spaces on missions as a team of "chords." Like most of the author's work, it's unusual and set on a detailed, uniquely-realized world whose images will stick with you long after you're done reading.


The Invention of Wings
The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.71
278 used & new from $4.74

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars MEH, April 7, 2014
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This review is from: The Invention of Wings (Hardcover)
My family has long had the phrase "Good but not great," which actually has a harsher nuance than it sounds but basically means something that really didn't live up to expectations. Anyway, that pretty much sums up my feeling about this book. There was nothing especially WRONG with it, but that was about it. Yes, the story was interesting and it flowed along, but I never felt that any of the characters really came alive and the whole thing was pretty flat. It was a nice easy read for the train but I never got very invested in it and certainly didn't look forward to picking it up again when I was away from it.

I have the same question I had with "The Secret Life of Bees" - could characters like Hanful and her mother really have existed in that historical period? Sarah I believe in, but Handful and her mother...it seems as if they took risks that didn't match the time in which they were living, much like the revisionist history of "Bees," which also didn't ring true to me.

At least it was WAY better than "The Mermaid's Chair," which I thought was truly dreadful. It may even be better than "Bees." It just never came to life for me, that's all. Borrow from a library and don't buy. I wish I hadn't.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2014 7:10 PM PDT


Songs of Willow Frost: A Novel
Songs of Willow Frost: A Novel
by Jamie Ford
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.00
237 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mystified once again, September 10, 2013
I really do not understand Jamie Ford's popularity. Yes, this book is better than "Hotel" in that it lacks the historical anachronisms and there's less of the telling, not showing sort of explanation. But the melodrama! the purple prose! the cliched plot twists visible from miles away! I finished it, but only because it was so light that it didn't require much brainpower. The cliches and over-the-top writing were irritating, though, and once again made me question whether Ford was writing for a Young Adult audience or for adults.

What Ford still does very, very well is evoking the mood of past Seattle. This was the one part I liked about "Hotel," and the best part of this book too. I get a vivid sense of the streets and the life, can almost smell the ocean. So this part I applaud. But the rest? I hope third time's the charm, especially since I've read interviews with Ford and he really sounds like a charming guy. Of course, with a bestseller like the first one was, it almost doesn't matter what happens from here on in.


Of Love and Other Wars
Of Love and Other Wars
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, brings the past to life, September 2, 2013
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A smooth, enjoyable read. What really impressed me was the way the author was able to bring to life so many different worlds - the life of conscientious objectors working on the land, the life of diamond cutters, and the general life in London at the time of the Blitz. The confidence and authority of the scenes about the lives of the diamond cutters is especially impressive and very believable.

I was also impressed by the fact that it's still possible to have a new and interesting take on WW2, which is VERY hard given how many, many books have been written about it.

This is a great leap from the author's first book, which was good and daring - taking on the Kurdish issue - but sometimes its politics got in the way. Not true with this one, which had some really funny scenes as well as a number of phrases to enjoy and savor. I greatly look forward to her next book.


Wave
Wave
by Sonali Deraniyagala
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.71
154 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough, realistic, beautiful, July 23, 2013
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This review is from: Wave (Hardcover)
This is both an easy read and a very tough one. I found it quick and seamless to actually read, but the pain - and its naked brutality at times - could be hard to take. Still, the writing is beautiful in its simplicity, and the way the author is able to recreate her sons and family, and finally get close to them in memory as she heals, is heartwarming and inspiring.

Criticism of this book seems to focus on roughly three areas: that the author is unlikable, that there isn't enough about the tsunami and other peoples' stories, and that the book goes on too long with too much woe.

All I want to say is: what do people expect? Yes, at the start some of her responses are shocking. She is furious at survivors, angry with one boy she says survived only because he was fat, angry at people trying to help her. Well, she was in SHOCK. None of us who have survived a disaster like her can understand how we'd respond. I've never been in a tsunami - thank god - but I have experienced strong earthquakes, and the way your body and mind respond can be completely outside your control. Plus she'd seen a look of terror on her husband's face and had her son practically torn from her arms. She was in pain, both physical and psychological. While uncomfortable to see, her fury is not uncomprehensible.

The fact that she didn't warn her parents bothers many people. Yes, it's an uncomfortable fact. But I'd bet that she and her husband were in an almost animal survival mode by then. Besides, they had two small children to care for; they may have thought that her parents, being adult, could take care of themselves. And clearly the fact that they didn't do this haunts Sonali herself.

Her pain and anger, the harassment of the family in her parents' house, are all uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable because it's real. We'd like to know that somebody who suffers a loss like this won't suffer for too long - it means that when we, too, suffer losses, they won't hurt. But some pain doesn't heal, ever. It would be nice to think that she'd reach out to others in her situation, but not everybody responds like that.

This is also a book about one woman and one family, not about the tsunami as a whole. The people who criticise this book for not paying enough attention to the tsunami probably came hoping for lots of gory details about the tsunami itself, not one woman's attempt to rebuild her life. It's like watching a fire - sort of a vicarious thrill. Human pain is harder to take.

I thought this book was beautifully written. The slow crawl from the agony to her embracing the memories of her family, and the pictures she painted of her wonderful little boys, are sweet and vivid. Ultimately, this book IS hopeful. It's not an easy, storybook kind of hope - no remarriage, no new family - but Sonali comes back to life again, and it's good to see.


Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians
by Kevin Kwan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.09
110 used & new from $0.18

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How did this get published?, June 30, 2013
This review is from: Crazy Rich Asians (Hardcover)
I finished this book only because it had a certain horrific fascination for me and I suspected a lot of the scenes depicted were real.

That said, I do wonder why this got published. The characters were flat, the plot was lame, and "trite" is being kind. The writing was labored and needed a very good editor; it was a real novice effort, and heavy-handed. "'I am outraged,' she said angrily" is typical. This got tired within about three pages.

Would the New York Times have given such a good review to an equivalently trashy book if it had been written by a woman - or reviewed it at all? I also thought that despite being written by an Asian, it was borderline if not openly offensive and perpetuated stereotypes. If Kwan has real knowledge of this world, as he seems to, he could have used it to produce a truly interesting, incisive, wickedly funny piece of satire. This isn't it.


Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness (P.S.)
Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness (P.S.)
by Loung Ung
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $23.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the others, but still interesting, June 27, 2013
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This book isn't nearly as good as Ung's other two. There's big clumps of Cambodian history that haven't been worked into the text so there are clumsy info-dumps throughout, and I have a sense that it may have been pulled together more because her publisher asked for it than really having a story to tell. At least, it probably could have been told about 30 percent shorter, which would have kept it a lot sharper.

That said, it's still nice to hear how Ung grew up and overcame some very serious issues to get married. Her husband, Mark, is a saint - certainly one of the world's most patient boyfriends. It's a good lesson in how horribly long the shadows cast by this kind of trauma can be, and not many authors would be courageous enough to share this.


A Tale for the Time Being (Ala Notable Books for Adults)
A Tale for the Time Being (Ala Notable Books for Adults)
by Ruth L. Ozeki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.09
111 used & new from $3.87

42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but..., April 1, 2013
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I really wanted to like this book. The New York Times review suggested the book has everything I want in it: character over plot, Japanese things and a reference to the 3/11 disaster. (Not that I want that, but as somebody who survived it, I'm interested.) I love the Japanese genre of the "I-novel" and am interested in intricate stories.

Well. While I was more charmed than I'd expected by Nao's story, I thought the Ruth parts of the story really didn't hold up. I also had trouble with the time scale. At one point it's after 3/11, then it's back at 9/11, then...? I do realize this is part of what the author's trying to get at - time's fluidity - and fine, though it's a stretch. Then, though, there was the mushy mysticism of one part of the conclusion. Ultimately I ended up feeling cheated.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2015 4:04 PM PST


The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize - Fiction)
The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize - Fiction)
by Adam Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.83
155 used & new from $0.35

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blew me away, January 30, 2012
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I've read some pretty good books lately, but I can't remember when I read a book that blew me away the way this one did. It's hard to say why, because a lot of it is very grim. Somehow it's the character of Jun Do, who I was rooting for from very early on despite the fact that he was doing a lot of despicable things -- which is one sign of a masterful writer. But it was also the satire, the irony, and the dark, dark humor, that helped keep the story from being too depressing.

I was also astonished by Johnson's audacity at believing he could conjure up the society of North Korea vividly enough to write a whole novel set there -- and even more by the fact that he achieved it. I went in to the book totally skeptical, but almost immediately I was caught up in the story and totally believing it. The insanity that is the real North Korea made possible the magic realist touches of total nuttiness that somehow I find harder to buy in different settings.

In a totally geeky way, I was also impressed by Johnson's "propaganda broadcasts," which contained enough of the quality of real North Korean propaganda to make anybody who knows about North Korean propaganda laugh out loud. Just brilliantly, brilliantly done. I want to read it all over again now!


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