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Julia W. - Reviews

1 to 20 of 33 - Page:
The 19th Wife
The 19th Wife
Author: David Ebershoff
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 130
Review Date: 11/15/2008
Helpful Score: 4


The simultaneous story of two 19th wives: Ann Eliza Young, married to Brigham Young, left Utah, divorced him after five years, went on the lecture circuit talking about the truth of polygamy, and wrote a memoir. She was instrumental in ending polygamy in LDS. Meanwhile, in the now, Jordan is surfing the web in California and sees his mother BeckyLyn on the front page of the local paper where he grew up in Utah. His father is dead and his mother has been charged, they too have a celestial marriage. Jordan, who was dumped on the side of a highway as a 14 year old, and excommunicated for holding his sister's hand, plays private eye because his mother has no one else. The historical fiction and contemporary parts of the novel are buoyed by various documents: IMs Jordan's dad was having when he was killed, flyers advertising Ann Eliza's lectures and performances as an actress, a wikipedia entry, history papers written by a BYU student.

What Ann Eliza and Jordan both say, show and write repeatedly is how very much polygamy warps, harms and limits the wives, yes, of course, but *the children*. FLDS communities continue. Texas returned all those children, including the very young wives and mothers. States, especially Utah, must enforce the law. Maybe The 19th Wife just like Wife #19 before it, can have that impact and help to end the tyranny. It's a terrible practice. But a pageturner and a terrific book!


All He Ever Wanted
All He Ever Wanted
Author: Anita Shreve
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 98
Review Date: 11/6/2009


Man, did I *hate* this book! It's not that it's not a good book, it is, I knew what Shreve was doing as I was reading it. But I didn't like reading it.

The protagonist, who tells the story in first person, is boorish, arrogant and a monster. Nicholas Van Tassel is an indifferent professor at a small New Hampshire college at the turn of the twentieth century who sees a woman during a hotel fire and cannot conceive of her not wanting him, only she never did, including after agreeing to marry him. He wants to possess her, he never attempts to know her, or understand her.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Author: Michael Chabon
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 168
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 1


7/8/08 I find myself surrounded by heroes: on television, in the movies and the heroes that Chabon invents are in every way super. Josef Kavalier is a Czech 19 year old trained as a magician and escape artist who in October of 1938 comes to live with his cousin in Brooklyn Sammy Clay. Sammy, raised on optimism and comic books convinces his bosses at a novelty toy company to let he and Joe and his friends draw the comic book hero the Escapist.

A costumed hero whose power would be that of impossible and perpetual escape He offers the hope of liberation and the promise of freedom.

In the Escapist, Joe and Sammy create a character who they and their audience believe could change the world. In drawing and writing him they transform themselves. Joe falls in love with Rosa, Sam falls in love guiltily with Bacon, the first actor to play the Escapist on radio. And they have various other adventures, as befits comic book heroes.
Having lost his mother, father, brother, and grandfather, the friends and foes of his youth, his beloved teacher Bernard Kornblum, his city, his history -- his home-- the usual charge leveled against comic book, that they offered merely an easy escape from reality, seemed to Joe actually a powerful argument on their behalf. He had escaped, in his life, from ropes, chains, boxes, bags, and crates, from handcuffs and shackles, from countries and regimes, from the arms of a woman who loved him, from crashed airplanes and an opiate addiction and from an entire continent intent on causing his death. The escape from reality was, he felt -- especially right after the war -- a worthy challenge.


Are You Alone on Purpose?
Are You Alone on Purpose?
Author: Nancy Werlin
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/19/2009


Read the stars as three and a half, please.

Harry Roth is the son of a rabbi and a bully. Alison Shandling is the twin of an autistic boy Adam. Harry abuses anyone who might come close enough to see that he is grieving his mother. When he becomes a paraplegic in a diving accident, Alison takes him on as a project, while his father the rabbi teaches Adam Hebrew.

This slight book for younger teens is surprisingly effecting. This is Werlin's first novel, my second of hers.


The Book Thief
The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 77
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 8


8/13/08 The story takes place in a small town outside of Munich, during WWII. The narrator of the story is death, first introduced to us as nine year old Liesel Meminger witnesses the death of her younger brother, as they are sent to live with foster parents. Liesel is illiterate, but after she witnesses the death of her brother she picks up a book, "The Gravedigger's Handbook", and winds up hiding it under her mattress at her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa. Ultimately, we see the relationship of Hans and Liesel develop as he spends nights reading with her and teaching her to read. Liesel's love of books is kindled and shortly later, she begins her book "thievery" starting at a Nazi book burning and continuing with a relationship she develops with the mayor's wife, who has a private library. Which develops into a love of storytelling and writing, which ultimately, saves her life.

While I won't go into much more detail about the plot, there are several things that endeared this book to me. The first is the well-rounded and developed characters that Zusak creates - from Liesel, to her best friend Rudy and the young Jewish man Max that Rosa and Hans hide in their basement. Second, Zusak re-creates wartime suburban Munich with such detail in the day to day life of Germans as they attempted to survive this war and this time. Finally, Zusak's use of death as the narrator was a master stroke for this book. However, it is not just his use of death as the narrator, but attributes of death. Death is not a vengeful, mean, evil force in "The Book Thief", but a removed, dispassionate observer - even aghast at what is happening in this terrible time and place.


Breaking Dawn (Twilight, Bk 4)
Breaking Dawn (Twilight, Bk 4)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 3535
Review Date: 12/21/2008
Helpful Score: 3


My opinion is my own, but this was dreck!

Bella whines and is a super-vampire!
Edward is cool and detached.
Jacob is in love. And it's sorta yucky...
The rest of the Cullen family were cyphers.
Stuff happened, but I didn't care about who it was happening to and the why it was happening was rarely made clear.

There are so many good books, even great ones out there, why is this one getting so much attention?


A CASE OF CONSCIENCE
A CASE OF CONSCIENCE
Author: James Blish
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/15/2009


I read this book because I reread the similarly setup The Sparrow & Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, some of my favorite books. Russell wrote a lot more about Jesuits in general and the Jesuits she sent into space. Russell's Jesuits' trips to Rakhat were very similar to Isaac Jogues (sp) trips to the New World. In fact, it could be said that Russell was writing historical fiction as well as science fiction. If you are interested I strongly recommend The Sparrow. My recommendation for A Case of Conscience is more tepid.

But you're reading this to find out about Blish. Blish writing in 1958 was understandably writing very much pre- Vatican 2. His priest does not question God. Or the Pope. Ever. This is a static book. It's a lot of talk, it's about ideas, they are very big ideas, but that has to be a kind of (science)fiction you are interested in. It's worth reading, but don't let this be the only sf you read.


Dangerous Visions #2
Dangerous Visions #2
Author: Harlan Ellison
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 10/3/2008


This classic book of science fiction from 1967, Harlan Ellison likes what he writes, edits (in this case) and reads called speculative fiction, changed the genre forever. With short stories by Philip Dick, "The Faith of Our Fathers," Fritz Liber" gonna Roll the Bones," and Carol Emshwiller "Sex And/Or Mr. Morrison," and eight others.


Dingo
Dingo
Author: Charles de Lint
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 9/17/2008


~6/15/08 Miguel was working in his father's vintage record and comic book shop when a beautiful red head named Lainey and her strange dog walk into his life and change it forever.

Dingo, while well-crafted, is not as transporting as de Lint typically is. The pacing is fairly quick, in fact, I would call this slight book a novella. The Blue Girl is a more preferable entry to de Lint's YA Newford- based fiction.

Something I particularly enjoyed about this book is the Australian folklore, for Lainey and her twin are weredingoes. Making this fit right in with Justine Larbalestier's Magic and Madness books and Sandra McDonald's science fiction with Australian mysticism.


Dreamweaver's Dilemma (Miles Vorkosigan)
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 1


8/5/08 Up until now I thought I *loved* everything Lois McMaster Bujold has written (well, there was Spirit Ring that didn't fall into that category), but I didn't love this. But being a completist, I'm glad I read it and own it. I liked some of the essays about how she came to write, or why readers should read speculative fiction. I enjoyed reading 'Mountains of Mourning' again, but no surprise there.


The Dubious Hills
The Dubious Hills
Author: Pamela Dean
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 10/3/2008


and re-imagined fairy tales for adults (or YA), but this writer doesn't work for me. Hopefully, YMMV, because most others *love* this writer and this book.

Here's a snippet from my review I wrote for myself seven years ago when I read this book: "This [novel] started as a riff on _The Giver_: an utopian society where everyone has a job, a knowledge, but it quickly, and uselessly to my mind, got sidetracked into being about werewolves."


Endless Blue
Endless Blue
Author: Wen Spencer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 1


8/21/08 In the far future, Captain Mikhail Volkhov of the Svoboda, his brother Turk who is and commands the Reds on the ship, -- people designed as super- warriors, but Mikhail is the clone of Peter the Great and will be Tsar of New Russia -- are ordered to discover what happened to the ship Fenrir, which disappeared, and has reappeared encased in coral. They wind up in Saragasso, a sea without a planet, where ships go when they cant or dont make their jump.

Time, physics and many other things dont obey the laws we know. Turk meets Paige who runs a fishing boat with many family members and is an amazing linguist and translator. She makes Turk feel like the man he is. Mikhail, whos lost a lot of ship, his crew, he thinks Turk, was never terribly sane and takes a bad turn. Turk and Mikhail are re- united and together are able to complete their mission.

A very unusual first contact novel, space exploration, military sf, with some romance included and character-driven hard science fiction. A mix of things that are rarely successfully mixed, but this is a keeper.


Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington, Bk 4)
Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington, Bk 4)
Author: David Weber
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 73
Review Date: 9/17/2008


Read 9/5/98 Recommended by folks on my Babylon 5 list as a heroine I'd like if I liked Bujold's Cordelia in Shards of Honor. I'm going to stick with Bujold. Like Cordelia, Honor Harrington is not a young woman who is captain of her ship; in fact she is quite elevated in society on two planets as a War Heroine.

(In fact, I think she's more similar to Richard Sharpe --Bernard Cornwell's hero of the world war between England and France against Napolean-- than Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan.)

This heroine is too perfect; she's beautiful, very intelligent and a great soldier. She has no flaws, and I find that boring writing. But as I found out when I had nearly completed this book that this is the fourth of five books (so far) about her. And they all have the same embodiment of evil cowardly antagonist.
Bleccch!!!


If I Pay Thee Not In Gold
If I Pay Thee Not In Gold
Author: Piers Anthony, Mercedes Lackey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 85
Review Date: 1/15/2009
Helpful Score: 2


Im with Erin, in that I didn't like this book or spending time with its characters. It's dated and not in a good way. This is a book about slavery and in the world of this book men are slaves to women, who have all the magic. If Lackey wrote this book now (or perhaps then, but by herself) then a man would be the narrator. Well, a woman is the narrator. She doesn't learn nearly as much as I'd have her learn. No one does. Not my cuppa, though many here like do like it, so...


The Jane Austen Book Club
The Jane Austen Book Club
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 78
Review Date: 1/15/2009


Five women and one man in Sacramento meet every other month to discuss the novels of Jane Austen. But--- while I didn't care for their discussions of the novels, I haven't read Jane Austen myself. In the new year, among other reading goals, I'm going to read me some Jane Austen. This was a lousy, uninvolving novel, with shallow uninteresting characters. But if it shames me into finally reading Jane Austen, then that's a good thing, right?


Little Brother (Little Brother, Bk 1)
Little Brother (Little Brother, Bk 1)
Author: Cory Doctorow
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 53
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 3


~9/3/08 A YA, very hip version of 1984, Marcus, who is also called w1n5t0n and M1k3y, is 17 years old and in the Tenderloin with three friends ARGing (its a game) when a bomb blows up the Bay Bridge. They go the Powell Street BART station, but they dont stay there.

The Department of Homeland Security arrests them, puts them first in Alcatraz, then at Treasure Island, where they are interrogated, tortured, humiliated as enemy aliens. Marcus and two of his friends are released after five days. They are told by the DHS that if they tell anyone what happened they will be arrested again and put somewhere much worse.

So, Marcus doesnt tell his parents, other friends, and he fights the DHS using his Xbox. Meanwhile, the DHS presence is becoming omnipresent: all to keep people safe.

You cant get anything done by doing nothing. Its our country. Theyve taken it away from us. The terrorists who attack us are still free -- but were not. I cant go underground for a year, ten years, my whole life, waiting for freedom to be handed to me. Freedom is something you have to take for yourself.

I am 35 years too old to be the intended audience for this book, I dont understand most of the technology Marcus fights or uses as weapons, but I recognize that its an amazing thesis. And I hope it is as popular with bright young geeks as it should and needs to be. I want thousands of adolescents to view it as a manual.


My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
Author: Jess Winfield
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 2


8/15/08 This delightful novel has two Shakespeares narrating: UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg in 1982 who is attempting to do everything but write his Master's Thesis on the Bard. And-- 18 year old William Shakespeare of Stratford- upon- Avon in 1582 who is stuck teaching Latin and trying to avoid those who would hurt him for being a secret Catholic. Greenberg gets the odd chapters and Shakespeare the even, until their lives come together.

''You perform here, amongst this company, with seeming passion.'
'Seeming is our trade. And there's profit in it, too. There is an insatiable hunger in England for theater. In London especially. A man may make a pretty penny on the stage, if he will but commit to London nine months a year.' (Shakespeare & Burbage)

'Shakespeare' helped create the modern man, didn't he, his influence is that pervasive. He held the mirror up to nature, but he also created that mirror: so the image he created is the very one we hold ourselves up to. It's almost like a time- travel paradox, isn't it?' (Greenberg's professor)

A thoroughly fun, fun, fun book, that had me laughing out loud and anxious to know if the characters would be okay.


The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Author: Michael Chabon
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 84
Review Date: 7/20/2009
Helpful Score: 2


Sure, because it's Chabon it's beautifully, gorgeously overwritten...

But...

I don't like his characters when he's not writing genre fiction. Yiddish Policemen, Kavalier & Clay, even Final Solution, Summerland and Gentlemen of the Road all had characters I wanted to read about, people I wanted to spend time with, people whose lives enriched mine. In this book and Wonder Boys -- admittedly, the books that made Chabon Chabon, for most people, he writes about whiners, losers, men who can't make up their minds, men who don't act, or when they finally act, choose wrongly. In genre books it's all about action, so those characters I love.

Your mileage will probably differ from mine, and you may love this book. Enjoy!

For me, I hope he continues to get awards and get on the bestseller lists for his genre fiction, so he continues to write it!


Or Give Me Death : A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family (Great Episodes)
Or Give Me Death : A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family (Great Episodes)
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 1/31/2009
Helpful Score: 2


According to this historical novel, Patrick Henry was quoting his wife with his most famous line. The first half of the novel is told by Patsy, the oldest daughter of Patrick Henry, the second half is told by the second oldest sister, the rebellious Ann. Their mother is mentally ill. She tried to drown their baby sister, she ran off into a snowstorm with a toddler, she has convinced her family she has the Sight. She spends four years locked in their cellar. In this YA story their mother asks Patrick Henry, 'give me my freedom, or let me go to my death!'


Promises to Keep
Promises to Keep
Author: Charles de Lint
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 9/17/2008
Helpful Score: 1


9/15/08 Treads familiar (yet I never tire of it) ground in telling the story of young Jilly kicking drugs, leaving the streets, getting straight, going to high school, then college, and meeting the friends who will become her family of choice in Newford. Then an old friend Donna, from the Home for Wayward Girls and Tyson appears and takes her somewhere else she's happy. Then Jilly's got a decision to make.
If you've read Widdershins and Onion Skin and all the other Newford books you need to read this, too.


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