**spoiler alert** Interesting, mostly engaging book about the storied, troubled fictional life of the survivor of an atrocity, a tragedy, poverty, neg...more**spoiler alert** Interesting, mostly engaging book about the storied, troubled fictional life of the survivor of an atrocity, a tragedy, poverty, neglect, danger and strangely enough...love. Donna Tart's "The Goldfinch" is, in a way, an epic poem...a love letter to art, to destruction, to longing and despair, to abandonment and abuse, to embracing one's nature.
Theodore Decker is, in one way, a 21st Century Holden Caulfield, and in another way...a brisk and brittle, debauchery-inclined Hunter S. Thompson. He's a young man struggling (and failing miserably) to overcome trauma-upon-trauma. Blessed with a smart, loving, cultured mother, Theo thrives in the world of art, and history, and has an appreciation of classic films, classic art, and classic furniture. Unfortunately, Theo is also cursed with a miserable, alcoholic, gambling, hustler, and not particularly lovable deadbeat Dad, whose presence and lack of presence in Theo's life colors his world to a morally questionable palate. That Theo essentially turns into a version of his father, makes his story all the more sad, and tragic.
However, Theo's tale is not entirely without comfort. He befriends a wild friend from the Ukraine, Boris, who (arguably) changed Theo's life for the better, and the worse. Boris is perhaps Theo's alter ego. He's a young man with a horrendous home life, who evolves into being a shady, hedonistic, drug-abusing criminal. His heart is in the right place, and it isn't. Boris's view of love, of life, of morality, is flimsy, excessive, and highly corruptible...just like Theo. Boris is what would have happened to Theo if he had no mother, had never experienced trauma, and had no positive influence in his life. In essence, Theo would be Boris if not for The Goldfinch.
Boris and Hobbie, Theo's two best-ever friends, were the most fascinating of characters; two men from two very opposite ends of the spectrum who both have a major impact on the life of the book's protagonist. Then of course, there's Pippa, whose connection to Theo was strong even before the their lives were forever altered by tragedy. Pipa is the only, living breathing souvenir from that fateful day...and thus, she eludes him despite all efforts.
As eloquently written in the novel, the 17th century Carel Fabritius painting "The Goldfinch" has a special place in Theo's heart, and NOT just because its a masterful, rare piece of fine art. No. "The Goldfinch" is Theo's tangible connection to that fateful day where his life changed forever. It was a day where he lost his entire world, and gained a brand new existence. "The Goldfinch" painting was his only link to his former life...the life with his mother, perhaps the only person on Earth who ever truly loved him. In his life, he is used, and abused...he is deceived, and abandoned. Yet Fabritius's painting was a constant..."immortal" as Theo so aptly puts it.
Donna Tartt is a fine writer, who does incredibly well writing about a young man's life in New York Las Vegas and Europe, considering she's a woman born and raised in Mississippi. In her intelligent, imaginative prose, Tartt gives the reader a broad range of story and characters to sink one's teeth into, along with an educated perspective on culture, and fine art. There were times where I enjoyed her acerbic wit, and her clever cadence. Other times I felt frustrated by her tendency to go into (what felt like) stream-of-conscience writing...with ideas in the clouds.
As much as I appreciated "The Goldfinch" novel, I never found myself falling in love with the story, and often found myself wondering why the book was going in this or that direction. At 771 pages, I often felt as if the tale had outstayed its welcome, and Tartt was only treading water on Theo's life...especially towards the end of the book, where Tartt has Theo going off on a philosophical rant which is beautiful in one sense, and dull and unsatisfying in another.
Reading "The Goldfinch" was not exactly a thrill, and Theodore Decker is not exactly a character (nor a story) that I liked. However, I did feel for him...and his plight, his trajectory from trauma into a scary, unstable, unforgiving world. Regardless of how I felt about the book, I can not deny that Donna Tart can be a compelling writer, and her novel "The Goldfinch" has enough curious and compelling moments to make it all worth while.
**spoiler alert** At 700-plus pages, George R.R. Martin's fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series is a mixed bag of the intriguing and the...an...more**spoiler alert** At 700-plus pages, George R.R. Martin's fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series is a mixed bag of the intriguing and the...and the not so intriguing. There are characters absent, who are sorely missed. There are new characters who have their own chapters, and older characters who have chapters for the very first time.
The absence of Tyrion was hard to take, yet thankfully Martin choose to include Cersei in her own chapters...all of which are a fast read, and filled with just the heightened drama that we always come to expect to all things Cersei Lannister. Same thing for Jaime, who has become one of the best characters in the books. His chapters continue his fascinating transformation from evil, impulsive child to mature, and dare I say...moral adult.
The Greyjoy chapters were a bit of a struggle to get through. Aeon "Damphair" has his own chapters, yet he still remains a mystery. We never really get to know him. I enjoyed the never-ending conflict between the Greyjoy brothers, yet still found myself lacking a connection to the stories...even though I liked where it was going.
The slowest chapters, of course, were the Brienne and Sam Tarly chapters. Yet again, despite a slow pace, Martin still leads you to an interesting point of engagement (and/or conflict). Though I was vastly disappointed that there were only hints of the newly revived, post-dead Lady Stark after Martin teased us with her shocking appearance at the end of "A Storm of Swords," I was pleased that Brienne's journey FINALLY led her back to where she started. As for Sam, well, he has grown to be not so craven after all, what with fighting singers of The Watch and having sex in boats and the lot.
As for Dorne, well, there were some very interesting story beats, such as the debacle over the kidnapping of Princess Myrcella, I found the conflict in Dorne wanting. Nonetheless, Martin saved the best for last with the revelation of what the Prince's plans REALLY are, which makes one wonders even further what will happen to the Prince's rebellious daughter, let alone the Red Viper's imprisoned brood.
The Stark sisters have the most curious stories in "A Feast for Crows," yet Sansa's new life as the "daughter" of Little Finger, and caregiver of little Robert Aryn is a bit dull, as it stands so far. Arya's new identity in Bravos has a mystery to it that I like, especially with how her story ends in the book. There's a lot of promise there, which I really hope will be fulfilled in the next few books.
As Martin so boldly put it, "A Feast for Crows" is merely the first half of a greater book, which is why he choose to leave out the Mother of Dragons, Bran and Rikkon, Tyrion, Jon Snow and all things The Wall, Stannis and Davos, and Theon Turncloak from this book. Not my favorite of the series, though "A Feast for Crows" still succeeds in wetting one's appetite for the next book, and the one after that,(less)
**spoiler alert** What an incredible book...a real page-turner if there ever was one. From page one to page 500, I found myself riveted to each and ev...more**spoiler alert** What an incredible book...a real page-turner if there ever was one. From page one to page 500, I found myself riveted to each and every page. In "True Evil," author Greg Iles turns the thriller genre on its head with an original take on what happens when greed corrupts the most brilliant of men...trading deception and murder into matters of dollars and cents. The business of murder is a complex one, and Iles takes us through a frightening yet highly realistic nightmare.
Our hero is a disgraced and disfigured FBI agent, Alexandra Morse...a top-flight hostage negotiator whose career took a nosedive once her family starting dying on her. After hearing her sister Grace's deathbed confession, Morse realizes that she's been murdered by her wealthy husband...but how, and why? Fearing for the life of her beloved nephew Jamie, Morse uses her years of investigative expertise and experience and uncovers the truth behind her sister's murder: an evil covert business that caters to husbands and wives who want to avoid a messy and costly divorce...and at any cost. If you have the guts, and the funds, brilliant yet morally bankrupt lawyer Andrew Rusk will arrange to have your problem "taken care of." His weapon is a genius sociopath with a medical degree and enough cleverness and ingenuity to orchestrate the "perfect crime" over and over again.
With the next Rusk victim on deck, Morse puts her entire life at risk in order to save Chris Shepard, a Mississippi doctor she has never met, in hope that he will help her bring down Rusk, her brother-in-law, and anyone else connected to Rusk's business of murder...especially his "weapon," the evil yet intellectually brilliant Dr. Tarver.
Works so well in "True Evil" is that you feel connected to Alexandra Morse from the get-go, even though she is a bit crazy, and uncomfortably relentless in her pursuit of her goals. Her relationship with Dr. Shepard is awkward at first...and very stalker-like, so it was fascinating to read how that relationship develops, and changes over time. In addition, Iles paints his antagonists well...with Rusk and especially Dr. Tarver. Tarver's not a psychopath like Hannibal Lecter...yet he's somehow more dangerous. Tarver's mind, ambition and ability far exceeds his sense of morality.
Even at 512 pages, Iles uses no fat in his story. Each piece is essential to the next...better still, the author places his pieces very carefully...leaving with a never-ending hunger to find out what happens next. Ninety percent of the story takes place in southern Mississippi (Natchez, near the Arkansas border)and Iles (a Mississippi native) does well in describing the many roads and rivers and surrounding area...yet unlike so many other books...Iles doesn't pound you over the head with it with his prose. Instead, he paints his picture naturally...guiding you in to a scene..and its vivid picture.
...and what startling pictures indeed. If Hollywood knew anything about anything, they would get this 2006 tome to the silver screen post haste! Even if "True Evil" never gets made into a movie...it still will remain one of the best thrillers I've ever read.
**spoiler alert** Engaging yet fundamentally flawed political thriller by Jeffery Archer. There were times where I was bored with both Archer's prose...more**spoiler alert** Engaging yet fundamentally flawed political thriller by Jeffery Archer. There were times where I was bored with both Archer's prose and his story...and other times where I was enthralled with the twists and turns Archer had to offer. Yet in the end, the story does not pay off as it should...and Archer drops the ball where he should have played it through.
In "The Eleventh Commandment," a political assassination in Columbia sparks a cover-up trail that ends with the Director of the CIA. The hired assassin is a veteran CIA agent/war hero/family man named Connor Fitzgerald. With the President of the United States on her back, the CIA Director hatches a complex plan to get rid of Fitzgerald...and remove any and all traces of the CIA's involvement with the assassination. Complications ensue...
The idea of "The Eleventh Commandment" isn't a bad one...and in fact a portion of the book is quite good. The problem is that too much of the book doesn't make sense. Is Connor Fitzgerald a cold-blooded assassin...or a hero? Archer goes out of his way to proclaim that he is both an assassin AND a hero...beloved by all. Towards the end of the book, Archer has characters preaching the gospel of Connor Fitzgerald without any explanation as to why he should deserve such an honor.
Then you have the idea of a female CIA Director who dislikes the President's politics so much that she is willing to stage political assassinations in order to get him off her back and destroy a disarmament bill the President had been pushing. Worse, she stages a second political assassination (in Russia) only as a ruse to trap and eliminate one of her own employees (Connor Fitzgerald)...and cover up the first assassination? And the Deputy Director of the CIA takes it upon himself to stage the murder of Connor Fitzgerald's longtime secretary...for fear that she had discovered the truth about what happened to her boss.
Even when you buy into Archer's premise...and allow the suspension of disbelief to guide you through the illogical pitfalls, you still have to suffer through where the author takes you in the end. This is where Archer really fumbles. He sets up an exciting climax in a football stadium, and sets the reader up for a big finish...which never happens. Instead, Archer only indicates what happens next...without actually showing it...eventually jumping to a predictably happy ending...which was far from satisfying.
**spoiler alert** Two words: RED WEDDING. If you are a fan of either the books or the popular HBO series, once you've experienced the RED WEDDING, you...more**spoiler alert** Two words: RED WEDDING. If you are a fan of either the books or the popular HBO series, once you've experienced the RED WEDDING, you'll never be the same again. "A Storm of Swords," George R.R. Martin's third book in the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, is filled with shocks and surprises...yet the Red Wedding takes the cake...to oblivion. Unfortunately, at 1216 pages..."A Storm of Swords" takes a VERY long time to get there.
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy reading tales of Stark, Lannister, Greyjoy, Martel, Aryn, Baratheon, Targaryen, Davos the Onion Knight, Sam the Slayer and more...yet eventually the hefty length takes its toll on the story's momentum. Sure, there IS a payoff for almost everybody and everything...yet getting there requires a lot of time and patience. At times "A Storm of Swords" can be a riveting page-turner, at other times...a struggle through endless pages and repetitious scene settings.
The Sansa, Arya, Bran, Sam and Jon Snow chapters tend to be the slowest, while the Tyrion, Jaime, Davos, and Catelyn chapters move at a swift pace with more engaging story beats. Any and all chapters regarding The Wall, and the war with Mance Rayder move at a snail's pace. Thankfully Brienne's appearance gave Jon Snow's chapters the spark they needed...at least for a while. Sam the Slayer's chapters lean on the dull side, and rarely pay off. Jon Snow's fate is an interesting one...and I am curious where Martin takes it in the next book.
Daenerys' story has some incredible moments...especially her growth as a leader, and the way she outmaneuvers her enemies. Yet after three books, its frustrating that the Mother of Dragons has yet to encounter a single character from the other chapters...ever. Her story is filled with promise that has yet been remotely fulfilled. Daenerys is growing stronger, yet her chapters still feel like a disconnect from the other tales.
Despite my frustrations with the book's pacing, I did enjoy many aspects of the book. Jaime Lannister's chapters were fascinating...and his growth and maturity and change makes for a very compelling read. Davos's trajectory is also interesting...from corpse, to prisoner, to Hand of The King...his chapters always are entertaining...and give the reader a key perspective on King Stannis and his Red Priest Mellisandre.
Arya's story did pick up quite a bit in the book...particularly her captivity with the seemingly immortal Beric Dondarrion, and his Red Priest. Dondarrion's battle with The Hound was fantastic...as was the surprising result. Her pairing with Sandor Clegane was very interesting indeed...creating a strange bond and partnership between two people who despised each other...or so it seemed.
Yet it is Tyrion's story that lies at the heart of the drama of "A Storm of Swords." For this book, Martin turned up the heat on "The Imp" to full throttle, unfolding terrific conflict between Tyrion and...well...everyone...Cersei, Lord Tywin, Varys the Spider, his miserable nephew King Joffrey, and later even his brother Jaime. Do we love Tyrion because he is the ultimate underdog...or do we love him because he is smart, cunning, and has a nobler heart than anyone else in the Lannister family? It's probably a bit of both. In terms of Tyrion at least...Martin really delivers the goods. I mean, that battle between The Mountain and the Red Viper? Awesome, not to mention Tyrion's revenge.
Though there are some shocking things after, I still have recovered from the Red Wedding...the most shocking piece of fiction I have read since I read Shakespeare's "Othello" in college. The vengeance of Frey pulled the rug right out from under me...and I didn't see it coming. The Red Wedding made me react physically...I felt torn apart reading Martin's prose describing the brutal end (?) of our friends Lady Catelyn, Robb and his direwolf. If anything, it's the Red Wedding (and his aftermath) that really makes "A Storm of Swords" worth the read...and inspiring me to read on, and continue further with the next two books...if I can make it through another two thousand pages in one piece.(less)
Excellent mystery crime-thriller written by the author who thrives in that genre...Harlan Coben. "The Innocent" was not only a joy to read, it was als...moreExcellent mystery crime-thriller written by the author who thrives in that genre...Harlan Coben. "The Innocent" was not only a joy to read, it was also a true page-turner. I could not put the book down. Why, you ask? Because when you're reading a good book, an exceptionally good book...you find yourself held hostage by it...unable to escape from its twists and turns...unable to turn away from the book's story because you have to...you MUST found out what happens next.
Leave it to Coben to throw you off balance right in the very beginning. In the Prologue, we find out immediately that the novel's main character (Matt Hunter) is a murderer...granted an accidental murderer, yet a murderer just the same. Hunter is convicted murder who served no less than four years in jail...and this is just the Prologue! So everything that happens after that is forever tainted by the fact that our main character is not innocent...at least not in the conventional manner.
When the main plot begins, things get complicated fast...yet never so complex that the reader can't follow it. Wives and business partners, and hookers, and private investigators and the police and the FBI all come into the picture...along with mysterious phone calls, photos and videos. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Coben throws another curve ball at you...reminding you that you don't know a damned thing...so just sit back, relax, and let Harlan Coben reveal the story to you...step by careful step, making sure to keep you engaged and entertained through each and every chapter.
One of the great things about a Harlan Coben book, is that they are so very accessible, and easy to read. Some authors dwell too much in the heavy or mundane, and stray far enough from the story to challenge even the most focused of readers. Yet with a Coben book, the pages fly by so fast and easy....that you barely notice your progress...you're too busy having a good time.
Don't get me wrong, "The Innocent" is not a "good time" book. It has too much death, violence and murder for it to qualify as simple fun, light reading. But the fact of the matter is, it IS fun...It's fun to read a book like "The Innocent"...because its smart (with a wicked sense of humor), very well structured and tight. Coben's books have zero fat in them...no dumb sub-plots, no unnecessary flashbacks...just the story at hand...one simple story, with many complexities to keep you guessing...and of course, enjoy. (less)
Engaging take on the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Though well-researched, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's "Killing Jesus" suffers from a tra...moreEngaging take on the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Though well-researched, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's "Killing Jesus" suffers from a transparency of its own formula, mixed with a overtly conservative bent that leans heavily on the Gospels as its key source. Normally this would not be an issue, yet as a book offering a historical, factual take on Jesus of Nazareth...its hard not to feel let down by the result.
It's Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's fault, really. They instituted a winning formula beginning with their first book "Killing Lincoln"...an excellent book that was historically sound, and fiercely insightful and entertaining. Last year's "Killing Kennedy" was not half as good as its predecessor, yet still provided some interesting insight into the events that led up to the horrific assassination of a US President. "Killing Jesus" sticks with the same formula as is processors...in terms of chapter structure, perspective, writing style, as well providing maps and other illustrations to further enhance the narrative. Yet this time around, the formula no longer works as well.
As soon as one recognizes that there is a formula at all, especially with non-fiction books, the authors lose control. For example, a countdown-style narrative towards the end of say...Abraham Lincoln, or John F. Kennedy, fits well within the subject matter...as both Lincoln and Kennedy are relatively contemporary. Yet for the life and death of a man who existed over 2000 years ago, it felt strange reading sentences like "Jesus of Nazareth has less than a year to live." In addition, the use of maps and illustrations were useful in both "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Kennedy." Yet in "Killing Jesus," though some maps were useful, too many of the maps and illustrations were unnecessary...especially in the earlier chapters in the book describing the life and death of Julius Caesar. The point is, the book would have benefited by a new approach to the material, rather than stick with the tried and true formula.
"Killing Jesus" also suffers by comparison to Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" which also was published this year. Free from any formula, Aslan takes a good hard look at the true historical history of Jesus, relying on a wide variety of sources in addition to the Gospels. While Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard claim that Jesus was a learned man who could read from scripture, Aslan states that it is more likely that Jesus was an illiterate peasant, like every person who resided in Galilee at the time. "Killing Jesus"'s Jesus was a gentle, peaceful, and fairly apolitical prophet...Aslan's Jesus was more complex, and certainly more political. Whereas Aslan leaves the door open to all possibilities of what did and what did not happen, Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard state their story as fact...which does no favor to the book's validity.
Another issue, is that as much as I enjoyed reading about the history of the Roman Empire...and learning about the relationship between Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Marc Antony, I did not feel it was necessary to include these stories in a book about the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. I would rather have read more chapters about who Jesus was, and learned more details about what happened in his life.
"Killing Jesus" is not a bad book at all, its just that it tries too hard to appeal to the widest audience possible...the popular sect, the same audience who bought millions of copies of "Killing Kennedy" and Killing Lincoln." Far from being controversial, "Killing Jesus" sticks to the program...and caters to those who already know the majority of the book's narrative.(less)
Heartfelt and very insightful autobiography by Doors drummer John Densmore. A must-read for any Doors fan, yet would also be of interest to those who...moreHeartfelt and very insightful autobiography by Doors drummer John Densmore. A must-read for any Doors fan, yet would also be of interest to those who are curious about the 60's...the culture that emerged from it, and the casualties left along the way.
The core of Densmore's book is coping with loss, and trauma. The author makes great pains to discuss his personal life...of his two troubled marriages, of his mentally unstable brother...yet its his relationship and mixed feelings about his old band mate Jim Morrison that lies at the heart of "Riders On The Storm."
As Densmore makes it clear, being in The Doors was a fantastic, positive experience...yet it also traumatized him...making it difficult for him to recover from the band's demise...and specifically the death of the singer who brought both joy and utter misery to his life...James Douglas Morrison. As much as he loved his pal "Jimbo," he also disliked him...disliked his booze-filled self-destruction, disliked how his reckless behavior would throw the Doors' career into a tailspin, and even disliked being around him towards the end. While Densmore was a fairly peaceful man, enlightened by the teaching of eastern meditation and hallucinogens, Morrison favored instability, revolt, and alcoholism. These men were more probably more different than they were alike...yet their musical bond was without question.
John Densmore writes with a refreshing honesty as he chronicles his six years in The Doors with Jim Morrison, and thereafter. He admits to purposely skipping gigs, and walking off stage if Morrison was too out of it to perform properly. Most poignantly, Densmore discusses in detail his final conversation with his friend/adversary in 1971...with his faith in Morrison down to the lowest ebb. Even before Jim Morrison's passing in July 1971, Densmore was more than ready to move on without him.
Yet Morrison's ghost has haunted Densmore ever since, compounded by an immense feeling of survivor's guilt...wishing he could have done more to save him. "Riders On The Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and The Doors" serves as Densmore's therapy...as he confesses his deepest feelings on the matter...and learns to forgive and let go.
In addition Densmore's confession, there are also fun nuggets of revealing information that I had never heard before...such as Jim Morrison taking a tab of acid before the 1968 Hollywood Bowl show, thus dampening the entire performance, and how well they played in January 1969 at Madison Square Garden, yet were lifeless at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Also surprising to learn that Marianne Faithful was among the people who helped Morrison's girlfriend (Pamela) handle her boyfriend's corpse in the bathtub during that fateful day in 1971.
As interesting and touching as the book was, I found myself frustrated by John Densmore's insistence on constantly using a large variety of song lyrics and other quotations to enhance his story. I don't mind a quote or a lyric used to illustrate a point...yet Densmore goes way past overkill in his quotations...quoting not just Jim Morrison lyrics, yet also Beatles, Traffic and Billy Joel. Worse, in some cases...the placement of a quote is confusing...as he fails to explain its presence/intrusion in his story. Densmore is a fine writer. It's a shame he allowed other people's words take up a very large chunk of his book.
That said, "Riders On The Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and The Doors" was a fascinating read, and gave me interesting insight behind the door of The Doors.(less)
Excellent look at the life and death of Jim Morrison...the great poet and vocalist from The Doors. Authors Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman waste no t...moreExcellent look at the life and death of Jim Morrison...the great poet and vocalist from The Doors. Authors Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman waste no time in the telling of Morrison's tale. Unlike several biographies I've seen, "No One Here Gets Out Alive" tells it straight...without the need of overindulgent filler. No, this book stays focused on its main subject (whose story could have easily taken up several volumes with plenty of room for more...) and at the same time keeps it interesting, inspiring the reader not only to read further, yet also to make steps to explore further the world of Jim Morrison...especially the fantastic music he made with The Doors.
"No One Here Gets Out Alive" does a great job exploring the questions that people to tend to ask about Jim Morrison. Who was Jim Morrison really? How did he become who he was? What made him tick? The answers to these questions are rarely simple...yet the book makes a few things clear. Morrison was a breed unto his own...existing in a radically different plane than most people. As he grew older, and transformed into a free-spirited, artistic hedonist bent on creation and self-destruction, Morrison felt stifled by the conservative values and lifestyle that his parents insisted upon...so by age 21, Morrison cut ties with his parents completely...declaring then dead, refusing to ever see them again. It was more than just a symbolic break from whence he came...it was also a practical one. Jim Morrison was thin-skinned by nature...and was adverse to criticism, or anything else that might bring him down. Needless to say, his parents must have brought him down often...without them ever realizing it.
Jim Morrison was the first, truly reluctant, accidental rock star. His passion was poetry, and books, as well as film...music was not the prime mover in his life. Through chance, Morrison joined a band...as a further way to express himself, his poetry, his artistic side. Unlike every other rock and roll singer of his generation...Jim Morrison never learned how to play an instrument, and was reluctant to learn. No, Morrison's music resided exclusively in his soul, and poured out only through his vocal chords. It was a talent he stumbled into, yet his initial passions never subsided.
The fact that the Doors were successful gave Morrison further opportunity to explore the edge of existence that spiked his fancy. His fame brought him a certain amount of freedom...giving him wide access to women, drugs, and massive amounts of alcohol. His money allowed him to live the life of his poetic heroes...the life of excess, joy and violence....a life of little possessions, and few places to call home. Morrison was a vagabond by choice...crashing where he saw fit...a bar, a couch, his girlfriend's house, his other girlfriend's apartment, The Doors' West Hollywood office.
Yet with fame, and freedom came a heavy price...imprisonment by one's one image...painted into a corner by an iconoclastic image that weighed him down, and bored him, and made it difficult for Jim Morrison to get out of. He never wanted to be a rock star, and live the rock star life. Money was of little to no concern for him, nor were material possessions. Morrison just wanted to write his poetry, have fun, and get wildly drunk...and often.
It is more than ironic that a man so filled with life could also be consumed with death, too often placing himself in front of death's door, waiting/willing to be brought on through to the other side. The fact the Jim Morrison embraced both sides of the coin...life AND death, was perhaps his biggest flaw...that, and his horrendous alcoholism. Alcohol became so much a part of Jim Morrison's existence that he no longer understood that there could be a life without it. Looking deeper though, the addiction to booze has a beginning, and arguably...a concrete cause. When one reads "No One Here Gets Out Alive"...one gets a full picture of what that cause might have been.
If you are a Doors fan, "No One Here Gets Out Alive" is a must-read. As a Doors fan, I can't believe it has taken me THIS long read it. Yet even if you are not a fan of Jim Morrison, or The Doors, I would still recommend reading "No One Here Gets Out Alive" if you want to educate yourself on one of the great artists of the 20th century...and the wild, yet sad short life that he led.(less)
**spoiler alert** Engaging 21st century nightmare about the ever-increasing power of the social media machine...and what happens when it goes too far...more**spoiler alert** Engaging 21st century nightmare about the ever-increasing power of the social media machine...and what happens when it goes too far in quest for total "transparency." In "The Circle," author Dave Eggers allows his realistic yet fictional tale bring up many questions as to the extent of what should be made public, and what should be kept private...and what price should humanity pay in its effort to make the world a better and safer place...with a wealth of unlimited knowledge available to all?
Through Eggers' prose, one soon finds oneself enveloped in the book's cautionary tale...of young men and women caught up in an idealistic society where great things happen every day, where innovation is key, though its life's blood is participation. Work and play no longer have the same barriers they once had in the past. Work is part of an all-inclusive community...where "sharing is caring," and anything contrary to that is an insult...an act of selfishness.
The novel's protagonist, Mae, experiences a radical transformation. A result of naivete, isolation, neediness, with a dose of brainwashing thrown in. As later mentioned in "The Circle," Mae was the perfect candidate for what The Circle was looking for...a young mind filled with insecurity...intelligent yet far from wise...easily bored, and frustrated with her small-minded family and friends from her hometown. Mae was ripe for the picking...a creature due for an unorthodox metamorphosis. Unlike her parents and her ex-boyfriend Mercer, Mae was not set in her ways. Unlike her best pal Annie, Mae had few successes in the past...and thus had nowhere to go but up.
Mae's transition from newbee to powerful, transparent "believer" runs parallel with the increasing power of The Circle...as it slowly takes control over of each and every aspect of a person's life...work, social life, private life, consumer products, romantic encounters, education, health and government. Worse, the transformations are made possible through the "will of the people"...or as Ty/Kalden later points out..."Mob Rule."
Yet as much "The Circle" makes good on its promise to envision the possibility of technology and social media outlets transforming the world into an oppressive world of fierce and ugly totalitarianism, it fails in its quest to tell a three-dimensional story. Instead, too much of "The Circle"'s storytelling is myopic as The Circle itself.
Per Eggers' story, Mae has only Annie...and no other friends whatsoever. Mercer is an ex-boyfriend who shows up now and then, yet does not come off as a friend...otherwise I found it hard to buy that Mae had no other friends...no other people she could turn to before she became The Circle's shining mascot. Mae's relationship with Francis seemed absurd and very unrealistic, especially as her power increased...why would she stay with such a dysfunctional creep? Eggers mentioned Mae's affection for him...yet never reveals anything that Francis had to offer her.
Eggers has some great set-ups throughout the novel, yet each resolve was unsatisfying. The increased tension and ambiguity of Mae's relationship with Annie never reaches climax...instead Eggers pulls the plug just when the going gets rough. Mercer's presence in the story felt empty...as did his self-righteous speeches to Mae about how evil The Circle is. If his character, and relationship with Annie was more developed, Mercer's words would mean a lot more than they actually did...ditto Mae's parents. The Kalden/Ty arch was weak...leaving more questions than answers. I knew who Kalden was fairly early on...so his big "reveal" was not so shocking. Worse, Kalden/Ty's desperate plea at the end of the book was way too little too late. After all of that build-up/mystery about who Kalden is...the final moments with him were a letdown.
Sure, "The Circle" was indeed worth the read, as I enjoyed the questions and possibilities it brought to light. The novel certainly gives one enough material to think about long after the last page is turned. I only wish Dave Eggers had not, like The Circle itself, made sacrifices (in the story) in order bring about a greater good. (less)
**spoiler alert** Disturbing yet well-written George Orwell classic. This is the first time I had read the novel in full, and though I appreciated muc...more**spoiler alert** Disturbing yet well-written George Orwell classic. This is the first time I had read the novel in full, and though I appreciated much of what Orwell had written, I can not say that the actual reading of 1984 was a pleasant experience. Reading Orwell's novel was pleasurable at times, yet too often it felt like work...and I was left with no choice but to read on...and hope for the best.
Surely at least part of the message of 1984 is the condemnation of Totalitarianism in its extreme form. The reach of the Ingsoc Party (led by the omnipotent yet absent Big Brother) of Oceania is both confounding and terrifying. What's fascinating (in theory at least) is the battle between the oppressive, manipulative rule of Ingsoc versus the last vestige of humanity...represented by the dour yet spirited Winston Smith.
Winston has an innate sense of what humanity is...which runs contrary to his own personal experience. Winston does not know why its wrong to live a life filled with paranoia, lies, corrupt power and an utter feeling of helplessness...yet somehow he knows that it is wrong...that to be human and alive is to live free, and think free...and be truthful to one's self, as well as to others. Yet still, Winston is a victim of the system that has run his life since the beginning.
It is then only ironical that with the arrival of Julia, Winston affirms his true humanity for the very first time...and having finally reached a point of love and joy...it is this very arrival that brings about his downfall...at least in terms of his humanity and individuality.
Yet as much as I enjoyed the basic idea of one an against a corrupt and violent system....1984 was hard to get through....especially towards the later half of the novel. The book's strength is also its weakness. For example, the language of Newspeak was a brilliant idea...in that the Party controlled a new form of language in the effort to limit thought...yet in practice, getting through certain passages involving Newspeak was quite difficult. I also struggled when the book's story all together stopped...so we could read what Winston is reading out of Goldstein's manifesto....the contents of which was very confusing, and near-impossible to get through.
George Orwell is classic novelist, of course, and his dark and depressing vision of 1984 is very creative, and thought-provoking. Yet I only wish that the experience of reading 1984 was as interesting and as engaging as the ideas presented in the book. That said, I am very glad to finally have read it in full...(less)
Loved this book...my first Harlan Coben read. After plowing through some fairly heavy and depressing material this year (i.e. "Crime and Punishment,"...moreLoved this book...my first Harlan Coben read. After plowing through some fairly heavy and depressing material this year (i.e. "Crime and Punishment," "Tender Is The Night," "Life After Life," etc...) DEAL BREAKER was a welcome relief. The book is just fun, a real pleasure to read and experience.
So, what's so great about DEAL BREAKER? Well, to start off with, the novel features a fierce and compelling murder mystery involving a young woman's disappearance, the murder of her father, and a wide variety of clues and suspects. If this alone doesn't keep you glued to the book, there's more...
Former college basketball star, turned Fed, turned sports agent Myron Bolitar is such a great character to follow as the story's lead. He's smart, humble, charming, and a bit of a wise-ass. Picture Bruce Willis in the 1980's...or 90's, THAT'S Myron Bolitar. You can't help but like him, and root for him. Better still, the "Myron Bolitar package" also includes his partner in crime...a wealthy, suave yet lethal playboy named (symbolically enough) "Win." Myron Bolitar does fine on his own, yet it helps to have a 800 pound gorilla in your pocket...and Win is one of the best. Think Matthew McConaughey circa DAZED AND CONFUSED and MAGIC MIKE and you have Win. In addition, DEAL BREAKER is filled with fun supporting characters like Myron's sarcastic secretary Esperanza, and a sheriff named Jake who has that great, Samuel L. Jackson cutting-edge wisdom mixed with brute force attitude.
Harlan Coben's writing is so free, and effortless...without a smidgen of pretension. Humor is a big part of his writing, yet DEAL BREAKER is by no means a comedy. It's just a good, old-fashioned, storytelling...simple, easy to follow, without an overabundance of "artistry" to cloud up the story's trajectory. There is not a single wasted beat in the novel...no crazy tangents, no off-balanced character portraits...just the story, with characters emerging as the story is told.
"Deal Breaker" is a dessert that continuously nourishes one's desire for fun, suspense, entertainment and joy. Experiencing "Deal Breaker" truly fit the expression "reading for pleasure...and what a pleasure it was.(less)
**spoiler alert** Exhaustive second book in George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series. At times fun to read, at other times difficult, dull a...more**spoiler alert** Exhaustive second book in George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series. At times fun to read, at other times difficult, dull and very, very slow..."A Clash of Kings" was a mixed bag for me from beginning to end. The only reason I give this book three stars instead of two is because I do like reading about most of the characters in the novel...and when the book is good, its very good. Otherwise, my reading experience as a whole was more at the two-to-one-star level.
Very much in the middle of a grand, epic tale, "A Clash of Kings" feels like the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the series...and not in a good way. Like the famous 1980 film, the story is a continuation of another tale ("Game of Thrones"), and introduces new and interesting characters and adversaries for our Stark heroes (and Tyrion Lannister, of course). Like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, "A Clash of Kings" does not really have an ending...just a series of various finales for the likes of Catelyn, Jon Snow, Bran, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys, Anya, Sansa as well as new chapter stars Theon Greyjoy and Davos. Unlike EMPIRE STRIKES BACK though, not all of the beats of the story are interesting, and some of them drag on forever.
Of particular note are the tediously slow chapters involving Sansa, Anya, Daenerys, Bran, and Jon Snow. As much as I admire George R.R. Martin's prose, I too often felt that his indulgence into meticulous detail went way too far off the rails to sustain my interest. Thus I struggled at times to get through all of its 900-plus pages. Was the story worthy of such an epic length? Probably...yet as written, the epic tale does not sustain itself admits meanderings about stone and boiled leather.
On a positive note, I did love when the going got good...and by "good," I mean progressive, and engaging. Favorite chapter by far is Catelyn's, as she FINALLY confronts Jaime the Kingslayer in the Tully dungeon...and questions him about his evil deeds. The scene was a long time coming, especially since Jaime had virtually disappeared from the books the second Robb had captured him in battle. I loved Tyrion's verbal duels with his evil Queen Cersei...never a dull moment there. Plus Theon's first encounter with his older sister Asha is priceless. The Red Witch Melisandre posed a formidable threat no doubt, yet aside from the creepy killer shadows she gives evil birth to, her threat felt like a promise unfulfilled...ditto Stannis. Then again, who knows where there stories may lead in the next book (which I suppose I will have to read "A Storm of Swords").
Don't get me wrong, "A Clash of Kings" is not a bad book, its just long and plodding...making long for the slightly faster pace (and arguably more engaging) previous book "A Game of Thrones".(less)