Sonia Sotomayor won me over with her book. Not that I didn’t like her previously, but I just didn’t care about her before I read this. Although one can imagine that a Supreme Court justice is a hard worker and an extremely accomplished person, Sonia really does have an interesting story about her hard work and her accomplishments.
I was struck by her integrity. She’s the type of person who always did the right thing and her strength to follow the right and the difficult path as she did was so admirable. She did admit that somewhere along the line she might have gone over the speed limit or committed some other minor or meaningless infraction. Mainly, she seems squeaky clean! Not only did she not inhale, she never even picked it up ☺
Her intelligence was also very obvious. One of the things that stood out the most about her training and education was the importance of her being on the debate team in high school (I don’t remember the details of when it was, actually.) She mentioned it many times as a factor that influenced her education: her ability to look at both sides before making decisions, to organize her thinking, and then to write a paper in college. It was one of the methods by which Sonia moved from rote learning to critical thinking. That convinced me that debating is an important skill that more students ought to learn in school. The Great Debaters was a movie about an African American debate team in 1935 starring Denzel Washington. I came to the same conclusion then after watching that movie. Debating is great training!
Most of all I was impressed by Sonia’s determination! She was a hard worker who never gave up. She set her goals when she was young and never stopped working for them. I found it interesting that one of the influences on her desire to be a judge from an early age was watching Perry Mason shows. They were my favorites, too. Oh well, we had quite different outcomes!
It wasn’t until the last hour of listening to this book that I really connected with it. I did enjoy it before that, but somehow it seemed a little bit overly sentimentalized or over dramatized. I’m not really sure, but the “lost wife” idea seemed to be carried a little bit too far. And then at the end, I actually wanted to know more about the reunion of the couple after all these years. It was probably best to cut it off when the author did, but… here I was just really getting into it. So, I was left wanting.
The scenes regarding the holocaust were chilling, and I could tell that they must have been based on someone’s true story. This was confirmed when I listened to an interview with the author at the end.
Overall, I did like the book. It was worth reading.
This was really enjoyable crime fiction! I could hardly stop reading it, which makes it rank high in my book. I was glad to see some of the same characters and references to episodes from the last book, The Phantom. I do think this would make it harder for a newcomer to the Harry Hole series to understand or get as involved in the book as it was for a veteran of Jo Nesbo, but for me, it made it like a homecoming!
One thing that I didn’t like about the book is the way Jo Nesbo was constantly trying to build suspense by, basically, tricking the reader into thinking one thing was happening, only to reveal a little later on that it was really something else. The biggest examples of this technique had to do with Harry Hole, the main character, and whether he was alive or not. There were many smaller examples, however, that kept cropping up. These DID serve to keep me on the edge of my seat, but after a while it also seemed overdone or contrived. One example (spoiler alert) was when the reader is led to believe that the young 12-year-old girl, Aurora, is the victim of the horrible serial killer. Nesbo does this by juxtaposing the section of the book with scenes of the young victim alongside the next section where Aurora is discovered missing. Of course, the reader begins to assume that Aurora is the victim.
One other problem I had was that the first suspect, Valentin, is sort of dropped half way through, and then there is a tiny bit of evidence at the end that he might have shown up again. However, this whole tangent was too unresolved, in my opinion. It seems obvious there will be another book (yea!), but still, Nesbo needs to finish this one off in a bit more of a polished fashion.
This book is not bad but is too long and rambling. I loved Bryce’s Courtenay’s “The Power of One,” and I enjoyed “Tandia,” but now he has gone off the deep end with a long saga that tries to include too many characters. Also, his propensity to have the goodness of the main characters shine through no matter what their humble situation is, in this book, maudlin and over the top.
I will say that each of the various stories did, at times, really engage me and pull on my heartstrings. The narrator, Mole, is damaged by his war-scarred father, Tommy. Mole’s admiration for his father is heartwarming. His father’s war story is grueling and tragic, but it is really long and boring at the same time. Ugh; that could have been shortened. Mole’s adaptation to life in the bush is interesting, especially the descriptions of fire fighting in Australia. I learned a lot about forest fires in the process. The ending of Mole’s story, at the very end of the book after all those hours of listening, ironically ends up seeming too quickly wrapped up. It’s like Courtenay finally ran out of steam or the editor said ENOUGH. The brother who is in the fashion industry has an interesting story, as well. However, if I were shortening the book, I’d probably have left his part out. My favorite story was the family’s oldest daughter, Sarah, and her feminist struggle to get accepted into medical school against great odds and as a pregnant single woman in backwoods Australia. I liked that. Also the family’s friends, Sophie and Maurie SuckFizzle, have a sad but uplifting story of triumph over adversity, but again this verges into sentimentality and maudlin territory. Then there is the brother who stays around and leads the family to economic success in the trucking business. In all, there are just too many characters and too much territory for one book.
I was really glad when it was over. I may be finished with Bryce Courtenay. I had to search and search for a kindle copy of the book to go along with my audio version. Now I think I know why it was hard to find.
I enjoyed reading The Son. It had a great combination of gritty, cowboy and Indian story telling, and also a lush, nostalgic feel. I loved the descriptions by Eli, the book’s namesake, of the Texas countryside when the grasses were high and they went on forever. As Eli rides the plains with the Indians, the descriptions of the countryside seemed to evoke the now long gone beauty and purity of the natural surroundings. The Indians certainly weren’t romanticized, but one did get a feeling from reading this book that our lives now are smaller in many ways than back when the Indians ruled or roamed the plains. When Eli returns from his captivity, his life back with the whites seems so confining and almost stultifying.
Eli, although he has a good and moral side, is also a man who stops at nothing to get what he wants and stops at nothing to defend his family. His ultimate greed, violence, and excess sets up one of the novels themes of justice or payback. I love the way that justice plays out in the end. It’s like history looping back on itself as we finally find out what has happened to Jeanne McCullough, the Colonel’s (Eli’s) great -granddaughter.
I thought the ending of the book with the Colonel was perfect, too. The nine-year-old Indian boy following after the Colonel was like an echo of Eli’s earlier days and just seemed such a fitting way to end.
“When the people were finished we killed every living dog and horse. I took the chief’s bladder for a tobacco pouch; it was tanned and embroidered with beads. In his shield, stuffed between the layers, was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
WHEN THE SUN came up, we discovered a boy of nine years. We left him as a witness. At noon we reached the river and saw the boy had followed us with his bow—for twenty miles he had kept up with men on horseback—for twenty miles he had been running to his death. A child like that would be worth a thousand men today. We left him standing on the riverbank. As far as I know he is looking for me yet.”
(Kindle Locations 8290-8295).
This ending speaks to one of the major themes of the book, that of the rise and fall of empires. The empire could be the American west, the Comanche nation, OR , in this case, the McCullough family. All are doomed to fall. People are getting soft. This passage where Jeanne McCullough is thinking, states this change perfectly.
”But the slackening. By five she and her brothers were throwing loops. By ten she was at the branding fire. Her grandchildren were not good at anything and did not have much interest in anything either. She wondered if the Colonel would even recognize them as his descendants, felt briefly defensive for them, but of course it was true. Something was happening to the human race.
That is what all old people think, she decided…
When the first men arrived, she told them, there were mammoths, giant buffalo, giant horses, saber-toothed tigers, and giant bears. The American cheetah—the only animal on earth that could outrun a pronghorn antelope.
Her grandsons … went inside to watch television.”
(Kindle Locations 7882-7892).
Where the Colonel is hard and ruthless, His son, Peter, is almost the opposite. He has taken on the guilt of his father’s excesses and is compassionate and caring. I loved his character. I listened to the book and thought Peter’s voice was fantastic! What a great narrator. His voice seemed to take on the sadness and guilty burden that Peter carried with him. And I loved Peter’s story. Early on we find out the Peter has committed some act that has made him a pariah to the family. Since he seems so sensitive, moral, and thoughtful, it is hard to imagine what this act could be. That sets up a wonderful tension that carries on through the novel.
I just now saw a McCullough family tree diagram in the front of the Kindle edition! Seeing that earlier would have saved me a lot of initial confusion. The story sprawls out over many generations and flips back and forth a lot. I was listening to the book most of the time and was a bit confused until about 200 pages in as to who the characters were and how they fit together. It all fell into place, and I enjoyed putting together the puzzle pieces, but I think referring to the family tree in the beginning would have been great, too.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The beautiful descriptions of the magic were enchanting. I could really visualize all the intricate tents in The Night Circus. The two main characters, as well as Bailey and the twins, were really interesting. I was drawn to figure out what was behind the mystery of the Night Circus and what was behind the contest that kept the two main characters embroiled for their entire lives. All of that I did enjoy.
SPOILER ALERT: In the end when it is revealed, however, the whole premise seems so shallow and disappointing. It just seemed so arbitrary. Two old men decide to totally manipulate the lives of two people in order to satisfy their own egos. It came down to so little. There seemed no real explanation of how the men came to initiate this challenge or the ones that came before. Without any background, I simply did not care about the actual contest. And without caring about the contest, the framework of the book seemed to be missing. There was a lot of magic and beautiful description, but the heart of the book wasn’t really there.
This book is enchanting and beautiful! It ranks as one of my favorites of the year. The only other one that comes close is Beautiful Ruins. I feel like I’ve been wrapped in a different world and it is really hard to disentangle myself! I didn’t want it to end.
The book is like a magical fairy tale. At first I thought the element of magic was meant only as a way to make Jack and Mabel, the older couple in the story, happy again. However, as the book progressed, I could see that it was not only for this purpose but to help Mabel, and the reader, appreciate and love the absolute beauty and truth inherent in nature. Mabel goes from hardly leaving her cabin in Alaska to appreciating in an almost worshipful way the beauty, wildness, and freedom of their life in Alaska.
Faina, the fairy-like girl in this book, represents nature in all its beauty and wildness. Faina, and nature, essentially can’t be tamed, controlled, or changed. Her essence is wild; that’s who she is. Mabel, and the reader, come to understand and appreciate that as the book moves along.
The author does a fantastic job of examining the relationship of the main couple, Jack and Mabel. That part is totally realistic, well-written and nuanced and is a great balance to the other-worldly nature of Faina and her story. I love the scene in the beginning when they are so estranged and yet they find an intimate time together out in the snow.
“Wait,” she said. “Let’s make a snowman.”
“A snowman. It’s perfect. Perfect snow for a snowman.” He hesitated. He was tired. It was late. They were too old for such nonsense. There were a dozen reasons not to, Mabel knew, but instead he set the lantern back in the snow.
“All right,” he said. There was reluctance in the hang of his head, but he pulled off his leather work gloves. He took her cheek in his bare hand, and with his thumb wiped melted snow from beneath her eye. “All right.”
Just the description of brushing the melted snow from his wife’s cheek actually had me tearing up with the intimacy of the gesture. That’s when I started appreciating her writing.
I love the way the author weaves her book in and around an old Russian fairy tale. The book was just the right combination of magical suggestion and reality. Reading about how Eowyn, the author, came upon the story and just knew that this old story would inhabit her new novel was magical in itself. I could hardly believe this was her first novel. When I see her picture, she looks so young and innocent. It is so fitting that she lives in Alaska and has experienced some of the wild life that Faina represents. Her wedding picture on Facebook made me think of Faina a little bit ☺
Is Faina real? What a marvelous ambivalence is drawn around this question. The story can be read literally to say that Faina is human and flesh and blood. However, there are so many magical references and so much symbolism relating to her close relationship with the snow, the cold, and the wild creatures, that the reader is never entirely sure of just where Faina stands. The ending, too, has some slight ambivalence. I was left wanting to know more about what happened to Faina, even as I understood it at a deeper level.
I’ve read several books in the Harry Hole series, and so I was interested in finally reading this, the first in the series. I was always curious as to why it hadn’t yet been translated into English.
Perhaps the reason it took so long to bring this to the English speaking public is because it’s not as good as his other books? I might not have wanted to continue the series if I’d started with this book, BUT since I’d become acquainted with Harry Hole, I wanted to know more about his history and his beginnings. I did get to know a lot more about him and why his personality is as dark as it is.
I didn’t think the plot was as exciting or as good as the other books I’ve read by Nesbo. I also wasn’t very interested in all the philosophical asides that he threw in. A couple of them were interesting, but I started to get tired of them, and they started to seem like filler.
Wow, I just looked and there are quite a few I’d need to read to get to the one I started with, The Snowman. Also, it looks like #2 in the series, The Cockroaches, still hasn’t been translated. I’ll take a break from Harry Hole and see if #2 comes around in English, and then perhaps I’ll try again. Hopefully, Nesbo gets better with each book!
• In The Bat (1997), Hole is sent to Sydney, Australia to investigate the murder of a B-list celebrity.
• In The Cockroaches (1998), Hole is sent to Thailand to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador.
• In The Redbreast (2000), Hole is promoted to inspector in the Oslo Police District and tracks an insane assassin with a vendetta against the Norwegian Royal Family.
• In Nemesis (2002), Hole investigates a fatal bank robbery and becomes implicated in the apparent murder of an ex-girlfriend.
• In The Devil's Star (2003), Hole suspects another detective, Tom Waaler, of being a murderous arms smuggler responsible for the death of Hole's former partner.
• In The Redeemer (2005), Hole is on the trail of a Croat hitman who kills a Salvation Army officer during a Christmas street concert.
• In The Snowman (2007), Hole struggles to identify Norway's first serial killer.
• In The Leopard (2009), Hole returns from a self-imposed exile in Hong Kong and unofficially investigates a serial killer.
• In Phantom (2011), Hole again returns from Hong Kong to look into a murder apparently committed by his would-be son, Oleg. His investigation draws him into Oslo's drug scene.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was certainly well written, and, in general, the plot held my attention. I enjoyed the main story line. The problem is that the author goes off in so many directions with the plot. And there were so many characters! Also, I was not familiar with the names for many of the various geographical locations. For example, Batavia: I looked it up and am STILL not sure. I think it’s the old name for Jakarta. And there is Prince of Wales Island. I had to look that one up, too. The main location of the book is Dejima. Turns out it’s a man made island off the coast of Japan that was built as a base for foreign trade and to constrain that trade. All of this (plot, names, geography) was very distracting, hard to follow, and often boring. I don’t like having to stop reading to look things up. I’d prefer that the author give a few more obvious explanations! The reader had to infer much about the plot, as well, but this was more understandable and is an enjoyable part of reading that doesn’t stop the flow. So it was really an inconsistent read, I’d say.
The first part has Jacob de Zoet as an honest clerk who, in the end, gets screwed over after all his honorable actions. Another plot line which gets introduced early on has to do with the young midwife with the burned face who is studying medicine, Orito Aibagawa. For the rest of the book Jacob is in love with her. I really didn’t see how or why this happens. It seems to come out of the blue, but I suppose that is sometimes how love happens. It just seemed that there should be a little more behind his infatuation.
Then the next part has to do with Orito and how she is taken to the shrine of Mount Shiranui. This part, although it was interesting, was a tad over the top in its cheesiness. It was like a well-written Rosemary’s Baby or Exorcist. The plot in this section just didn’t seem to match up with the dignity or intellectualism of all the other parts. (Of course, the dignified, intellectual parts sometimes got damn boring, so this part was a welcome relief, in many ways. )
Then the book takes off onto a completely different direction with an attack on Dejima by a British ship. That was the least interesting and most boring part of the book. And, in the end, it seems like the whole part could have been left out and the overall plot wouldn’t have been much different. The British ship ends up just sailing off anyway, and there is no explanation of WHY they gave up the fight. The book was SOOO LOOOONG; the author should have come up with SOME part to leave out, and this part is a candidate.
The ending was ok – sad and dignified. In a way there were two endings. First the ending had to do with Abbot Enomoto and Magistrate Shiroyama. Then there is the ending to the tale of both Jacob de Zoet and Orito Aibigawa. After Jacob returns to the Netherlands and is on his deathbed, it seems that he sees the girl one more time in the shadows. I believe this is a dream or a sort of death vision, but I’d like to confirm this with another reader to make sure. I liked the way it was written ambiguously so the possibility of their final reunion is left in your mind, even if you pretty much know it can’t be real.
The language of the book was lovely most of the time. The author wrote very poetically. There was one section at the end that evokes many scenes from Japan as Magistrate Shiroyama contemplates suicide, and it was in the form of a rhyming list that was beautiful, especially when listening to the book as I did. It is from the very beginning of Chapter 39. ( I won't include it here since it's so long, but I did use it in my Goodreads review. )
Often the author juxtaposed an event that was taking place with a scene from nature or at least from the setting of the book at that moment. There are so many examples of this pattern. Here is one from page 499 where first Jacob speaks about his son, and then the author comments on a minute detail from the setting:
“ ‘… Much as I long for a ship to arrive from Batavia for Dejima’s benefit, I dread the prospect of leaving him, also…’
An invisible woodpecker works in short bursts on a nearby trunk.”
Here is another example from the same page where Jacob is speaking and thinking:
“ ….’Knowledge exists only when it is given’…Like love, Jacob would like to add. ‘Marinus was a cynical dreamer.’
Halfway down, they hear and see the foaming coffee-brown river.”
I wonder if each and every one of these examples has a specific significance or if the examples are meant to somehow keep the readers attention on some other plane or in the ambience of the moment that is taking place?
This example is particularly confusing since it juxtaposes beauty with extreme crassness or ugliness:
“ A man in the heads, a few feet down and a few feet forward, groans.
’The Japanese, I read,’ says Talbot, ‘give florid names to their kingdom …’
The unseen sailor issues an almighty orgasmic bellow of relief …
‘ “The Land of a Thousand Autumns” or “The Root of the Sun.” ‘
… and a turd hits the water like a cannonball. Wetz rings three bells.
‘Seeing Japan,’ says Talbot, ‘such poetic names seem precise.’ “
(Kindle Locations 6892-6894)
I would really like to know why the author wrote this passage this way. It is interesting, but I don’t understand it. In a way it seems to denigrate the beauty of the names for Japan, and the name of the book, to put them in such close proximity with a turd! Oh well.
The Orphan Master’s Son was fascinating and compelling. However, if you don't like graphic violence or the depiction of really depressing situations, then this book won't be for you. (I'm now reading a Stephen King book, and it seems like cotton candy compared to this.)
The structure of the book was interesting, even if a bit confusing. The first half was a twisted adventure story – picaresque, like Don Quixote where it moves from one adventure to the next. The second half was a love story, basically. The second half was really confusing for quite a while. It finally became clear that the story was really being told in three versions – Korean propaganda version, Ga version, and interrogator version. Also, it finally becomes clear that the interrogator character’s whole story line occurs AFTER the ending of the story of Ga and Sun Moon (trying not to give too much away about that ending.)
The characters were so well drawn. The growth and change of Commander Ga (Pak Jun Do) from beginning to end was very moving. In the beginning Ga’s name is Jun Do, and the author mentions how this is like John Doe, a nameless character. I presume he is telling us that Jun Do/Ga is like an Everyman character for North Korea. His various adventures demonstrate so much of what must be going on in North Korea.
Ga’s change at the end represents a hope for lifting North Korea out of the dark ages. I had no idea that North Korea was THAT horrible before reading this book. Shame on me, but it’s true. I credit Adam Johnson for bringing this horror to the eyes of many readers who, like myself, were unaware. Change could result from this exposure; one can only hope.
I found many parts of the book to be extremely disturbing – perhaps more disturbing than any other book I’ve read. The worst parts were those narrated by the interrogator character and having to do with the extreme torture. The depth of horror in the North Korean society seemed to be most represented by him. When he described his parents and it became obvious that even they were afraid of him it was done so chillingly. And when he goes through a change toward the end, well, I suppose that is part of the “redemption” in the book, if you could call it that.
I felt the book was too long. I’m not sure where I’d cut it, but perhaps some of Commander Ga’s various transformations could have been left out or shortened. Another possibility would be to somehow leave out some of the torture scenes which were so graphic and disturbing.
Joyland was really a sweet coming of age & mystery story with a slight supernatural twist - short and enjoyable. It wasn’t my favorite Stephen King book. What was lacking was a build up of tension or suspense. It didn’t really get exciting until the last ¼ or so of the book. That would be ok if there were some other element of the novel to make up for it. Although it’s well crafted, I would say that the language is not spectacular enough to make up for this lack of excitement in the plot.
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