I am a 21 year old English major going to school in Georgia just waiting to move to Seattle. I love all things books and tea and I suppose you do too or something....wow this sounds boring...oh well! Enjoy!!
"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
Necrophilia Variations by Supervert
I can’t really explain what it is that draws me to things that might shock (my age, generation, blah blah), but I’m far more curious about people who aren’t drawn to such things. Those who speed up at car crash scenes. What is wrong with them? A few of the reviews here reflect such a mentality, suggesting that NV invaded a previously pure area of their brain, and would be flying that black and white flag for the rest of their now corrupted lives. But I didn’t find any shock value in NV. I found it harmonious and normalizing, a recount of corpsly love rather than an escape into the brutal possibilities of getting off with a dead body. It’s not wrapped in latent misogyny. It’s not masturbation material. In fact it is unusually elegant, consistently beautiful prose that owes more to the styles of pre-modernist era, and yet feels completely natural in the contemporary environment.
I think NV cracks open the relationship we have to death, and to a lot of things that are outside of normal range of morality. If something is within the normal range of morality, then it is deemed to be free from sex (including, weirdly, sex itself. Lots of sexless sex happening out there). But anything beyond that range, it seems, must be driven by sexual deviance. Why else would you fuck around with corpses, death, music, literature, people of your own gender, unless it was to satisfy some brute sexual urge that would otherwise become a monster. I think NV is suggesting that somewhere there’s more to it than that. Certainly in the example of homosexuality - it’s who you fall in love with, right? And if you fall in love with a corpse, then so be it. And if you fall in love with the concept of death itself, same. The characters in each of the stories tend to stay with death, before and after the fucking, and the fucking doesn’t even happen most of the time. This is a magnificent exploration of death and sensuality, two things which are unavoidable in all of our lives.
Maybe it is a form of necrophilia itself, loving a book made out of dead leaves and pulp….
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Promise of the Witch King is a book in a long line of novels that began with The Crystal Shard. That was the novel that first introduced us to the dark exile Drizzt Do’Urden and his companions. A hallmark of those novels was the introspective musings of Drizzt as he explored his place in the world and his relationships with his friends.
It was the third novel of the series, The Halfling’s Gem, that introduced us to Drizzt’s archenemy, Artemis Entreri. Entreri arrived on the scene as a cold-blooded assassin that had no conscience and to whom remorse was an alien concept. Jarlaxle, another dark elf, was introduced in a prequel trilogy. Jarlaxle is a skilled rogue in his own right and has a very unique set of morals.
In Servant of the Shard, Jarlaxle and Entreri begin their own adventure after surviving a war of sorts in the Underdark, the realm of the dark elves. Their adventures continue in Promise of the Witch King.
One of the best features of this novel is watching Entreri explore his own psyche. as previously stated, he is a cold-blooded assassin, that up ‘til now has never hesitated to kill anyone who got in his way. Throughout this novel, he begins to experience nagging feelings that aren’t necessarily remorse, but frequently blossom into restraint. Entreri sees this as a weakness, and contemplates exactly what has come over him. Entreri truly is an interesting character.
Another outstanding feature in the Jarlaxle-Entreri relationship. Entreri frequently proclaims his disdain and hatred for his companion, yet the two are frequently coming to the rescue of each other, and try as they might, they just can’t be separated. This leads to some truly excellent dialogues.
the actions in this novel is another Salvatore hallmark. few can write battle scenes as well as Salvatore. the action moves quickly, but does not suffer for detail. Few fantasy writers posses Salvatore’s gift for writing combat.
There are a few draw backs to the novel though. First, there is a history to this novel that is not found in Servant of the Shard, the previous novel in trilogy. Although the important parts of the back story are told to the reader, some events that are made out to be significant (such as the roles of certain character in the King’s service) just don’t have enough background. Second, although the purpose of this particular adventure is explained, and the reader is told that the matter is urgent, it frequently just doesn’t seem so.
There are multiple plot lines that were started in this novel and Servant of the Shard that remains to be resolved in the next novel of the trilogy. Jarlaxle has created a grand scheme, and how he’ll pull it off is something a mystery. Exactly how he furthered his plans in this novel in unclear.
Salvatore fans should really enjoy this novel. As in usual with Salvatore’s novels, it is populated with excellent and unique characters. Fantasy fans should like the novel as well, but I’d suggest at least starting with Servant of the Shard or other novels that occur earlier in the overall series.
9/50 books 2010
** spoiler alert ** The Christian community today desperately needs a literary talent to convey the Christian faith in a compelling way such as C. S. Lewis or John Bunyan did for previous generations. Unfortunately Wm. Paul Young is not that man. I would normally spend more time discussing the literary quality, but I would rather focus on the theological content. Unfortunately from that standpoint the book is simply dreadful - and on so many levels that it is difficult to know where to begin.
What Young attempts is rather audacious. He presumes to put words in the mouth of God - not mere snippets that relate commonly accepted proverbial truths but whole chapters of dialogue in which God tries enlighten a modern day Job (whose name is Mack) who has experienced an awful tragedy (his young daughter has been abducted and murdered by a sexual predator) regarding the mysterious ways of God. In short, Young attempts to answer Job-like questions - something God Himself refused to do for Job in the Bible - by putting his own speculations into the book’s dialogue as Mack has weekend long encounter with God in the very shack where his daughter was murdered.
The result is rather predictable and disappointing. The god of The Shack looks far more like a wish-fulfillment of a postmodern western intellectual than the God revealed in the pages of the Bible. Politically correct sensitivities are duly observed as the trinity revealed in the Shack appears to Mack as `Papa,’ a “large beaming African American woman,” (p. 82) `Jesus’ a Jewish carpenter and `Sarayu’ a spirit-like Asian female. Other left wing sensitivities emerge. `Papa’ is clearly anti-gun holding Mack’s at arm’s length between two fingers while disposing of it (pp. 84, 88) and religiously active patriotic Christians are portrayed as sincere but sadly misguided (p. 181). Careful readers will note too that `Jesus’ informs Mack that “Marriage is not an institution. It is a relationship…. I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God.” (p. 179) Of course, if marriage is not an institution, then we are not bound by the rules of the one who instituted it and if relationship is its essence then logically it would seem that any type of relationship would qualify. Whether he intended it or not, Young’s depiction lends itself to our culture’s attempt to redefine marriage. Whatever else may be said of the god of The Shack, she is up to date - which also means that she will soon be out of date.
More importantly, Sarayu, in true postmodern fashion, is careful to inform Mack that relationships are never about exercising the will to power over others (p. 106). Indeed, `Papa’ is reticent to impose her will on anyone, repeatedly insisting to Mack that he is free to do whatever he likes (pp. 89,182) and that she will proceed on his “terms and time.” (p. 83) In fact, The Shack god takes offense when Mack asks what she expects of him (p. 201). The idea that God might have expectations is even treated as an insult. If this is the same God who spoke through the Old Testament prophets (who had just a few expectations of his people and let them know it) or of the Apostles (who commanded all men everywhere to repent in Acts 17:30) then he has undergone a radical transformation over the centuries. The Shack `Jesus’ goes so far as to inform Mack that it would be contrary to love if he were to force his will on him (p. 145) - again, a stark contrast to the Jesus of the Gospels who had no such qualms saying, “If you love me you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) In fact, biblical love is defined bluntly in terms of obedience. “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (I John 5:3; cf I John 2:3-5). But Sarayu insists that Mack has no rules to follow, is under no law and has no responsibility or expectations (p. 203). In fact, she assures Mack that “I’ve never placed an expectation on you or anyone else… And beyond that, because I have no expectations, you never disappoint me.” (p. 206) Such an all-affirming god may soothe the self-esteem of postmoderns but she bears little resemblance to the God who spoke through Jeremiah or John the Baptist.
It is true that the New Testament does tell us that we are no longer under the Law of Moses, but it also insists that we are “not free from God’s law but (are) under Christ’s law.” (I Cor. 9:21) And while it is certainly true that we cannot earn God’s favor by keeping rules, it is simply false to say that God has no rules or expectations of His people. A much more accurate representation is to say that when we are transformed by God’s grace, we become a people who desire to do his will, his commands are no longer `burdensome” (I John 5:3) because His law is “written on our hearts.” (Jer. 31:33) This kind of careless theology is dangerous in a culture that is all too eager to cast off any and all restraints and justify its autonomy.
It should not surprise us then to find that `hierarchy’ and `authority’ are bad words to the god of The Shack. “Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.” So the `Jesus’ of The Shack informs us (pp. 122-3). But they are words that are hard to reconcile with the real Jesus of the Bible who was not embarrassed to speak in hierarchical terms of his relationship with the Father: “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father commands.” (John 14:31) Unlike the biblical Trinity (I Cor. 11:3), there is no hierarchy among the members of The Shack’s trinity who find such a concept incomprehensible (pp. 121-122, 124). In a perfect world, we are told, “there would be no need for hierarchy.” (p. 124) Again, this flies in the face of the biblical depiction of the perfect world God created in the garden of Eden where He commanded Adam and Eve not to take of the fruit of the tree of life. In fact, the fall in Scripture is portrayed as a violation of the hierarchical order that God had established. And paradise in Scripture is only restored when “every knee will bow and ever tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:10-11) It all sounds rather `hierarchical’ to me.
This is no small error but one that goes to the very heart of true biblical faith. Salvation occurs when the heart of an individual is brought back into loving submission to its proper Master. C.S. Lewis captured the beauty of that concept well when he said that “Equality is a quantitative term and therefore love often knows nothing of it. Authority exercised with humility and obedience accepted with delight are the very lines along which our spirits live.” (Weight of Glory, p. 170) But The Shack is so enamored with postmodern fads that it cannot perceive even the most basic spiritual realities. Significantly, the biblical metaphors for God are all authority figures to whom submission is appropriate and necessary: Father, Shepherd, King, Judge, etc. It is certainly not coincidental that the god of the Shack is portrayed in far more effeminate terms.
Since authority is jettisoned as unworthy of God, the concept of sin likewise is all but absent. How can we violate the will of a God who has no expectations and is never disappointed? The book speaks much of `brokenness’ and of `horrendous and destructive choices’ (p. 190) but little about human rebellion and wickedness - even though the story revolves around a horrific crime. The Bible tells us plainly that God “hates” and “abhors” wicked men and judges them accordingly (Ps 5:5-6; 11:5-6; Prov. 3:32-33). Sinners may come to experience the grace of God, but not because they are lovable but in spite of the fact that they are not, because of the sheer greatness of God’s love, not our inherent value or worth (II Kings 17:15). Only one human has ever been truly worthy of God’s love and that is Jesus. God’s grace is dispensed freely to unworthy sinners only by virtue of the fact that they are in the Beloved One (Eph 1:6). But the god of the Shack repeatedly informs Mack that she is `especially fond of’ everyone (pp. 118-119) and that as humans, we are “deserving of respect for what you inherently are…” (p. 190) “Guilt’ll never help you find freedom in me” she tells Mack (p. 187) nor does she “do humiliation, or guilt, or condemnation.” (p. 223) She certainly doesn’t “need to punish people for sin” (p. 120 - the only reference to sin that I can remember in the book). In contrast, the God of the Bible, though “slow to anger…will not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Nahum 1:3) He is a god who “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction….” (II Thess. 1:8-9)
Since sin is marginalized, the atoning work of Christ is downplayed as well. We are informed significantly by `Papa’ that when Christ cried out on the cross `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ he was actually never forsaken at all. He only “felt” abandoned. (p. 96) This subtly drains the cross of its meaning. It implies that Jesus was not actually taking the punishment for our sin which truly does alienate us from God and required that the Father turn His back on the Savior as He bore that sin on the cross. Instead, the meaning of the cross is reduced to Christ’s own subjective spiritual growth - “He found his way through it to put himself completely in my hands. Oh what a moment that was!” says `Papa’ (p. 96). When Mack asks specifically what the significance of Christ’s death is, `Papa’s’ explanation says nothing of sin, or of God’s wrath (Rom 1:18; Eph 2:3), or of the shedding of blood as an atonement in our place (pp. 191-193). The discussion predictably emphasizes reconciliation since that has to do with relationship and relationship is where its at among postmoderns. But there is no indication that our alienation is due to our real guilt - our violation of God’s Law - i.e. - His expectations of us. The impression we get is that reconciliation is needed not because the holiness of God has been offended but because Mack is “really scared of emotions.” (p. 192) In other words the barrier to relationship is not his guilt, but his own psychological frailty and fear that keeps himself from opening himself up to God’s love.
Since sin and judgment are underplayed, conversion is not very important to the `Jesus’ of The Shack either. Those who love Christ, we are told, come from every religious system that exists including Buddhists, Mormons and Muslims and `Jesus’ has “no desire to make them Christian” though he does “want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into brothers and sisters, into my beloved.” (p. 182) We are not told how to reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements. At one point, Sophia, a personification of wisdom whom Mack encounters, seems to imply that even the murderer of Mack’s daughter is a child of God and exempt from judgment (pp. 161-2). Admittedly, the dialogue is somewhat cryptic but it implies that God is above condemning sinners. This is certainly a far cry from the clarity of Scripture which warns not to be deceived into thinking that the wicked will inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9). Sophia’s words at best open us up to just that sort of deception.
In short, the god of The Shack is a god that is very comfortable and very human (even having accidents in the kitchen!) - Mack feels right at home in their company from the start. In contrast, every human-divine encounter recorded in the Bible leaves the human recipient trembling in awesome fear. This alone should alert the reader that something is seriously amiss in Young’s presentation.
I have just scratched the surface regarding the errors that I encountered in this book but this review is too long already. I have tried to limit myself to the most egregious offenses. Time and space forbid me from addressing numerous problems with regard to his portrayal of the Trinity and the incarnation. Whatever merits the book may have are clearly overshadowed by these serious deficiencies.
Young’s aim in trying to lead the reader into an encounter with the living God is admirable. And his portrayal is no doubt appealing to people of our generation. Many hearts will be stirred by his sympathetic identification with those suffering from pain and doubts arising from tragedy. But unfortunately the god that Mack meets in The Shack is not the God of the Bible. They are two very different gods and in the end we are forced to choose whether we will submit to the authority of the one true God on His terms as expressed in the very first of the ten commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3) or cast our lot with appealing figment of Young’s imagination.
19/50 books 2011
In this novel, Sarah Rayner explores the role of friendship in three women’s lives. In one moment on one morning, their lives intersect when 40-something Karen’s husband Simon has a heart attack on the commuter train to London. Lou, a 30-something, is on the same car and witnesses it. When everyone has to get off the train, Lou and Anna — strangers — end up sharing a cab and starting a friendship.
(And don’t worry that I’m giving away the plot. This all happens in the first chapter).
This one event ties these women together. It also causes them to examine their lives in the wake of Simon’s death. Lou is struggling with coming out to her friends and family and realizes that hiding is hurting her. Anna is in her early 40’s and in a destructive relationship. Karen is reeling, but the tragedy makes her keenly aware of everything that she does have in her life.
This piece of light women’s fiction deals with the unthinkable — the sudden death of a spouse — which is a fear of most of us, but it’s worth reading for the hope and strength that Karen finds as her friends and family help her survive. Rayner’s descriptions of each of these 3 women’s inner life is right on. The interesting London setting also elevates this novel.
33/50 books 2012
Even more so than in The Silent Blade, Artemis Entreri becomes more than a simple arch villain for Drizzt Do’Urden. His character development in Servant of the Shardcombines where it left off in The Silent Blade and a true metamorphosis occurs, one in which more is revealed than changed about Entreri…he becomes more merely himself, as it were.
We see this most resourceful of humans take on nemeses that no other mortal can hope to challenge, much less persevere against. Entreri becomes much more than Drizzt’s foil, a dark mirror…Entreri truly comes into his own in this novel and asserts his status not only as Drizzt’s equal in battle, but also as a unique individual who has a life beyond his rivalry (now dead) with Drizzt.
At the same time, we, the readers, can start to fully appreciate the circumstances which created such a cold, ruthless man who can best the long-lived, intrigue-loving drow at their own game. Wee also see a validation, to a certain degree, of Entreri’s way of life—a justification, at the very least, of why this man walks alone. To do this, R.A. Salvatoresets Jarlaxle, the wily mercenary leader, opposite Entreri in this novel. “who is the stronger, Jarlaxle the partner or Entreri the loner?” To which Entreri’s response is an empathetic, “I am.”
Even as R.A. Salvatore shows what is wrong with Entreri’s lifestyle, he also examines what brought the man, as supremely-talented, intelligent, and iron-willed a human as had ever lived, to such a state, and why the choices he made at the time seemed right. Entreri’s tribulations and triumphs evidence both.
Besides Entreri, other favorites are also revealed more fully, such as Jarlaxle. This, in fact, is the work that truly deals with Jarlaxle—he is on the cover, after all, and in the title…but it is through Entreri’s eyes. At long last, that impenetrable facade of Jarlaxle is lifted, just for a moment, to give us a glimpse of the mortality behind the calm and collected opportunist.
Plot-wise, this is also one of R.A. Salvatore’s best…deliberate and masterful, he winds his way through a story that, I think, he has long wanted to tell…to himself! No haphazard jabs into the dark for this work—Salvatore is the master bard, fully in control of the tale from beginning to end.
8/50 books 2010
Charles Dickens once said, “In the little world in which children have their existence, whoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only a small injustice. It may be only a small injustice the child can be exposed to; but the child is small; and its world is small.” Angela’s Ashesamounts to a brilliant recollection of childhood injustice which is indeed…LARGE! As I read the book, I was appalled at the depth of poverty that Frank McCourt and his family endured, and yet, I can’t count the number of times I actually laughed out loud at the “way” in which the story is told. I’ve never read anything so simultaneously light and weighty. McCourt is witty, and is always in character is the child who was an eye-witness to every event. (An intriguing, fiercely narrative writing style is consistent throughout the book, i.e., there are never any quotation marks).
The story is a powerfully moving disclosure of the perils of alcoholism. If it wasn’t for the fact that Frank’s father could not walk PAST a pub, the family would not have been so destitute. What little money Malachy McCourt earns is forever spent on alcohol, and the amazing thing is that it is spent shamelessly. Mother and children practically starve while dad staggers home in a drunken stupor night after night. Frank says of his father’s false promises…”He’ll give us a nickel for ice cream if we promise to die for Ireland and we promise, but we never get the nickel.” Injustice.
In my opinion, the redeeming majesty of this memoir is that through it we learn a wondrous fact…that shamelessness, irresponsibility, and stupidity do not necessarily have to be handed down to the next generation. Frank broke the mold, and chose self-awareness as his aspiration. I believe that the crucial turning point in his life came when, at the age of eleven he was convalescing at a hospital and came to the conclusion that “it’s lovely to know the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.” As readers of Angela’s Ashes, we become the grateful recipients of this precocious revelation.
McCourt has received much recognition for his book, and all of it is deserved. I have no idea what he has gained monetarily from its publication, but somehow I think it’s a bit more than his aforementioned promised nickel. Way to go. You are an inspiration to the world.
18/50 books 2011
If there were ever to be a book written about my life (my life’s not book-worthy in any way, but go with me for a minute), I definitely think it would’ve been called The Perks of Being a Wallflower (you know if things like copyright and patents weren’t in the way). Wallflower. That’s how everyone describes me. They’re constantly moaning and groaning about how I let life pass me by and don’t “participate” in it (can you tell the people telling me this are so not readers?). This is sort of what Charlie’s going through (plus a whole lot of other angsty things), so right from the beginning, I sympathized with the narrator.
The thing about Charlie is that he’s sensitive. He’s one of those kids that doesn’t speak much, but is always looking, so much that people constantly ask them “What the hell are you looking at?” If we aren’t particularly that person (all you extroverts out there!), then you at least know who I’m talking about because they’re the person sitting next to you on a bus or across from you at the coffee shop. Sure, Charlie cries a little too much (he cried more in the span of 218 pages than I’ve cried my whole entire life), but he’s a sweetie pie. You just want to hug him tight and say “Everything will be all right”, even if it is a tremendous lie.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is angst supreme. Everything you or your friends have ever been through in high school is described in this book: drugs, sex, dating, homosexuality, trying to find who you are, it’s all there. So much of that is in here that, a few years ago, some idiot tried to ban it saying it wasn’t appropriate for middle school and high school students (the chances that he actually read the book are slim to nil, but anyway…). I, of course, disagree just on principle (I’m so against the banning of books), but also having read the book, I honestly don’t see how anyone would want to ban it. Here we have a brutally honest account of what it’s like to be in high school. Sure, some students high school lives are probably not as dramatic as Charlie’s, but there are others who have gone through some of the things mentioned in the book. And The Perks of Being a Wallflower doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant.
Anyway, I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I thought it was a thoughtful and engaging read. But also the fact that I really identified with Charlie was what really turned this book into one of my favorite reads. This is just the perfect book for all of us socially awkward introverts who maybe don’t break out of our shells as much as other people wish us to.
32/50 books 2012
At first, I believed this book to be a little dull (especially because Drizzt wasn’t in it!), but I was very intrigued nonetheless, as R.A. Salvatore incorporated a dramatic love story into the book—a story that seemed totally separate from Wulfgar’s struggle with his past. It seemed as if Salvatore was telling two completely different stories within the same book. Although I do not always care for romance books, I was still interested to see where Salvatore was going with the self-loathing alcoholic Wulfgar.
Needless to say, Salvatore brilliantly combined the two strikingly different stories into one, making the whole love story essential for Wulfgar’s redemption. The ending was without a doubt the happiest (and probably the best) ending I have ever read (giving me the biggest smile I’ve had on my face after completing a book, too!). And although he didn’t have to, since the ending was already delightful as is, Salvatore ends off the book with obvious evidence that there will be a crazy awesome sequel to follow in the future!
7/50 books 2010
I love a good mystery—and this was one of the best I’ve read—with all the added suspense of hidden clues, secret societies, and people who are not what they appear to be. The writing was fast-paced, intriguing, and had me breathlessly turning the pages hoping to discover what our hero and heroine were trying to discover—the Holy Grail. Beginning with a grisly murder at the Louvre Museum, the reader is tantalized by clues hidden in poems, numbers, and various designs. Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu are never fully developed as characters, but its all right because in this book, the chase is everything. The chase to find the Holy Grail and to discover its secret is paramount.
My only complaint with the book is that it fictionalizes real people and real events and rewrites history in such a way to attempt to undermine Christianity. While most readers are discerning enough to distinguish between fact and fiction, this does place a lot of innuendo, legend, and rumor masquerading as fact. My advice is to take it for what it’s worth…an exceptionally good thriller…and not to take too seriously it’s rewriting of historical and Biblical fact. On the upside, this book had me searching websites for factual information more so than any book I’ve ever read. I have also learned more about the works of DaVinci than I ever knew before and finally think I know why the Mona Lisa is smiling.
17/50 books 2011
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway.
The Last Kind Words tells the story of Terrier Rand and his family of thieves as they cope with one of their own falling into the underneath and going on an eight victim killing spree. The Rand’s grip on the life they once lived where family goes before anything else is slowly spiraling out of control.
For such a harsh tale, the writing is both soft and beautiful. I found myself genuinely caring for these characters despite their sins and transgressions. Although this really isn’t the type of book I normally read, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I can’t wait for the next installment featuring Terrier.
This novel is the reason that I enter giveaways for books that I would normally never pick up in a store; I would hate to think that I could have missed this gem of a novel.
31/50 books 2012
The Silent Blade, the eleventh Drizzt book, begins a fresh new adventure for the Companions of the Hall. As Drizzt and company head out to Spirit Soaring to have Cadderly destroy the (same old) Crystal Shard, monsters hound them at every turn. Wulfgar struggles with inner demons until he finds a place as a bouncer for a rough tavern in Luskan, where he has a great time bashing heads and drinking booze. Artemis Entreri travels back to his roots in Calimport to begin reestablishing his name and fortune. Jarlaxle has ventured out of Menzoberranzan in the search for power and wealth and coaxes Entreri to join his cause.
The story is fun and exciting in the normal R.A. Salvatore style. The many fight scenes are told with unmatched skill and clarity and are interspersed throughout the book so that you never have a dull moment. Character development is the primary thing that stands out in this book. Wulfgar, Entreri, and Jarlaxle especially grow as characters. Drizzt and Catti-brie continue to slowly develop a somewhat bizarre relationship in which neither really knows what they want. The book ends with most of the characters being at peace with their place in life, but also with a feel of danger on the horizon that makes you look forward to the next in the series
6/50 books 2010
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress does exactly what this type of book should do. It offers us a brief window into a part of the world, and a style of life, of which we will never be able to encounter first hand. It allows us to walk a few steps in the shoes of a different kind of citizen of life, and thus empathize with their experience. It also provides a moving allegory for the power of fiction, and lets us appreciate something that is so readily available to us, yet so rare for others. The escape of fiction allows for dreams, and is a powerful force.
Being almost ignorant of the Chinese re-education system, this book was educational historically as well. I had known of it in theory, but not details such as the banning of all books other than those written by Mao, or the process behind re-education. I do want to learn more about this chapter in history, of which the world is still feeling the repercussions.
The book itself is gentle, with moving imagery and a quiet sense of humor. The characters in it do not rage against the political machine, but instead make do with what life has forced upon them. There is love, of course, because humans will love in the most desperate of circumstances. To highlight the playfulness of the book, one of my favorite scenes is when the tailor, influenced by the tale of the Count of Monte Cristo, begins to dress the village in fanciful pirate clothes and nautical emblems.
Charming all the way through, and small enough to be a quick read.
16/50 books 2011
I loved the first two books in the series and certainly enjoyed this one too, with the reservation that some elements seemed to be rushed through. While there were plot developments I had completely failed to expect and the return of characters I had been pleased to see the back of, by the time we got to the final scenes they seemed glossed over when some quite significant events were occurring Perhaps this trilogy ought to have been a quartet?
30/50 books 2012
The novel opens with the suicide of the last Lisbon daughter, and only after revealing the ending does it go back to the beginning and explore the journey through each of the five suicides. The narrators, now grown neighbors of the sisters, speak across the distance of time and a suburban street. They’ve pieced the story together through memories, interviews, and mementos collected from the Lisbon house. Needless to say, The Virgin Suicides is an unusual novel from the onset, but these unusual aspects are all strengths. The uncommon first person plural of narrators, which stand at a distance even as they watch the sisters in the privacy of their joint bathroom, captures the reader right away, moving swiftly through the plot yet pausing for intimate detail that brings the characters to life. It creates a surreal and almost haunting atmosphere which maintains a sense of mystery despite the blunt introduction of the suicides. The intriguing journey back to the suicide which opens the text keeps the book interesting through the last page. As such, the novel’s ingenious storytelling makes it hard to put down.
The text is swiftly readable but never disintegrates into a cheap thrill; instead, it is an intelligent, thoughtful book. The suicides serve as both hook and climax to the story, but the book itself is a journey to and between the suicides. There are a dozen possibilities, but neither the narration nor the author ever pinpoints what drives Cecelia, Therese, Mary, Bonnie, and Lux to kill themselves.At some level, this unanswered question is frustrating and makes the end of the book almost teasingly brief. However, the cause of the suicides is essential—yet, somehow irrelevant What matters is the Lisbon sisters: their life as fractioned representations of modern suburban adolescence, smothered under the protective care of their parents, left forever unfinished by their untimely deaths. The Virgin Suicides is exploration without judgement, opening a world to the reader for them to think on it themselves.
I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up this book. I was aware of it’s success and intrigued by the unusual concept, but wasn’t quite sure how the latter could lead to the former. Now having read it, I’m impressed by the connection Eugenides writes an extreme scenario into the most mundane setting, and so by exaggerating reality he in fact explores it. The sisters are real personalities and also archetypes images of adolescence which are contrained even as they begin to blossom. The Virgin Suicides is quite brilliant, haunting, readable, intelligent, and thought-provoking. I’m impressed, and glad I had the chance to read it.
5/50 books 2010
Putting my thoughts about this book into words is quite difficult, but suffice to say that this a riveting, beautifully written story that I did not want to stop reading. Her prose is very compelling, and amazingly economical- I don’t know if she normally writes this way, but I found the economy of words to also help transport me to the barrenness of the desert in which the story takes place. as a book this is just plain wonderful writing that anyone would greatly enjoy experiencing.
However, since this is a story of Dinah, a Biblical character, one must rate this book as a part of the religious tradition, and in that regard, I feel that it works beautifully. Dinah is mentioned but once in the long story of Jacob in Genesis, and her story deserves to be taken as canonical. Dinah’s story comes so alive, though, and fills in so much of what is missing from the Bible story ( and what is missing in the Bible is the story of the women- interesting how their stories seemingly disappeared over time…). Obviously, also, the religious zealots out there will take issues with anything that may challenge their thoughts and cause them to think differently about what might have happened 3500 years ago. While I am sure the Bible is a fairly accurate record of many things that happened, I am sure that in the small details, it has been embellished (or changed through copying errors) in the 3500 years this story has been passed on. Diamant’s representation of Jacob and his sons as very human with very human with very human needs/foibles was a welcome take on the typical superman-like representations of these guys. I don’t think that Diamant has re-written the Biblical story, but she has taken all those holes and unsaid things, and filled them in with narrative of what might have been, and certainly could have been.
What is so compelling for me in the story, besides my absolute fascination with lives in Canaanite and pre-Canaanite times, is the story of what it was like to be a woman in that era, when countless gods were worshiped, when nature was something to pay attention to, when childbirth was more dangerous and natural, in a fairly nomadic and earth-based style of living. In the red tent, the gathering place of Rachel, Leah, and all the other women were passed from one generation to the next; the women were free to be truly female, and to talk about their own fears and joys as they celebrate together the constant ebb and flow of life/death/rebirth. Dinah becomes a mid-wife, and a darn good one, and Diamant has gorgeous writing about the delivering of babies, the pain, the mess, the screaming, the joy of new babies, and the sorrow of babies delivered dead, and of mothers who die in childbirth. And yet life goes on, as it always does, and people move on. The red tent, in the book, becomes of the symbol (for us) of what can happen if women have a place to share and be safe, and celebrate their bodies with one another—directly opposed to what we have today, I believe, in which women don’t have the chance or are not allowed or simply don’t feel like sharing, caring, and celebrating the gift of life-giving which they carry in them. I hope this book will serve to drive a new direction, perhaps especially within the church, in which women can be free to truly talk about and celebrate and not have to be ashamed about their menstruation, and in which, perhaps, the lives of girls can be celebrated as they enter into womanhood.
I also love all the twists and turns that the plot takes- the book concentrates on Dinah, of course, but after she leaves Jacob’s tribe, her life comes into contact with the tribe of people she knew before. So we get Dinah’s story for a while, and then a retelling of a situation that is in the biblical story. I hope that we will have more books about the lives of the women in the Bible. Certainly their stories were told at one time and it would be nice to reclaim them from the male-dominated society that slowly wiped those stories out, or didn’t feel them sufficiently important to include.
15/50 books 2011