I've been reading a ton of genre stuff for the past year. Feeling like I needed a break, I decided to seek out something more "literature-ish" (TM!) aI've been reading a ton of genre stuff for the past year. Feeling like I needed a break, I decided to seek out something more "literature-ish" (TM!) and selected The Nightingale because it's one of the few books on Amazon that has a full 5-star rating despite a zillion reviews. I've never read the author before--most refer to her as a writer of "chick lit." That being said, I was intrigued by the premise of two french sisters caught up in the resistance during WWII. And, hell, even a guy like me could use a good sob read every now and then. It also helps that one of my favorite books is A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.
The book is appreciably straightforward in its storytelling. The plot isn't overly complicated, but it does possess a solid narrative drive that keeps you interested in what both sisters are doing. I expected a little more tension and suspense with the resistance subject matter, but this isn't Ludlum or LeCarre writing. It's not really about the espionage elements.
Hannah seems to have done extensive research to set the milieu. We feel like we're in Paris in the 1940s and especially the French countryside of that time. The details manage to evocatively set time and place so we're there among the hungry and scared locals as the Nazis arrive, settle in, and set in motion their final solution. There are a few scenes of violence, but the story's largely devoid of gore.
Those "chick lit" elements are present here, but not in an obtuse way. What I enjoyed about the story was its simplicity and how it attempted to give us an honest view of two women facing terrible circumstances and how they handled things differently. I've read a few reviews where people have complained that the prose is cliche, but I'd call it straightforward storytelling. Hannah doesn't seem to be trying to overwhelm us with erudite prose, but deliver a distraction free and very smooth read with few edges. I suppose that's what makes it accessible to so many people. It flows and moves quickly, but is devoid of the saccharine spattering that the aforementioned "CL genre" typically delivers. For me, it was the right kind of distraction read with just enough resonance to enjoy. And, the end does deliver a nice, but not gratuitous, call for tears. Not that I would cry. Just saying. :0...more
Reading 2001: A Space Odyssey twenty some years after watching the movie presented me with two revelations. 1.), Arthur C. Clarke is a master of the sReading 2001: A Space Odyssey twenty some years after watching the movie presented me with two revelations. 1.), Arthur C. Clarke is a master of the sci-fi genre. 2.) Stanley Kubrick was an otherworldly genius. Both novel and film were written simultaneously, but whereas Kubrick's film left many questions to be answered with its sparse dialogue and ambiguous shots, Clarke's novel is more accommodating in providing answers. I can't think of another story where I'd be okay with seeing the movie first. Normally, it ruins the book for me. Stephen King's The Stand is a particularly painful example. I watched that cruddy TV series first and try as I might - some 25 years later - I still can't read the damn book without seeing those cheesy images and overwrought characters. No such problem with 2001. Perhaps because the book and movie were written simultaneously, they almost feel like distant cousins, which is a good thing.
Having read tons of science fiction, it's always great to go back and read some of the giants' works. Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, et al -- they knew how to construct speculative narratives, build worlds, intertwine immersive science, and leave everything feeling plausible. On a few levels, 2001 might seem dated, but the ultimate proof of its excellence is that is still has the power to transport you into far away corners of the universe and the mind and leave you wanting more. This is a good quick read, but I'm glad I've finally added it to the gray canon where it belongs. ...more
Scott Lynch has written three books of his opus and it takes a few years for each of them to come out. Most readers would move on pretty quickly fromScott Lynch has written three books of his opus and it takes a few years for each of them to come out. Most readers would move on pretty quickly from an author like this, but he's got a lot of devoted followers for a reason. His $%(* is that good. He's like that restaurant that you really enjoy, but wait a while to come back to because you want to prolong the memory of the last meal and savor the one coming.
Red Seas Under Red Skies takes place after The Lies of Locke Lamora and the gentlemen bastards are back to their old scheming ways, but this time they end up spending the bulk of pages on ships at sea. Suffice to say, Lynch isn't one to shy away from research. He must have truly immersed himself in the fine art of sailing (or read every Patrick O'Brian novel back to back) because they're more details of sails, bunks, aft and baft, than you can imagine. But the prose does what it's supposed to -- supplant you right next to the protagonists so the brine smells real and the sun blisters down.
The plot is a little more complicated than Lamora and at times it feels like Lynch might lose the thread, but he brings it all together in a way that might not be as rewarding as book #1, but still leaves you wanting more. Above it all, there are great characters, snarky comments, and a bond between Locke and Jean that has us yearning for what happens next.
The Gentlemen Bastards series is quickly becoming one of my go-to faves. It's probably be a lot hard to hold off on reading number 3. ...more
I remember watching the original Dr. Who as a kid and being perplexed because it was a far cry from anything on American networks. American sci-fi wasI remember watching the original Dr. Who as a kid and being perplexed because it was a far cry from anything on American networks. American sci-fi was transparent and in-your-face, while our British counterparts preferred more sedated, intellectually challenging fare. Of course the tables turn as you get older and those visceral hunger pains for sweets often turn to an appreciation of the savory. Subtly, dry wit, cleverness become infrequent treats that delight overburdened senses in unexpected ways that deliver satisfying new rewards.
This the vibe I got when reading Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens, the first in a homage series that features Dr. Who's estranged twin brother, Doctor How. I expected diving into this book that I would be reading a parody (or at least a cheap knock-off of the cultish favorite). What I got instead was a rich, deeply thought out ode to the classic with a few of the more commercial elements of the present day Dr. Who thrown in. The result was a buffet of sci-fi goodness that I giddily devoured over the course of two days.
What made this novel special for me is the author's ability to mix outlandish sci-fi elements into a modern day world without becoming cartoonish or bombastic. As a reader, you always want that feeling like these things are happening around the corner and had you just turned it a moment earlier you would have seen something fantastic. And that's exactly how the adventure unfolds. With a few curious incidents like a car crash and petrol robbery spiraling into something much bigger and more exciting.
Characters are always a big part of Dr. Who and in Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens, they get the same treatment. From the dry, but mercurial Dr. How to his street-saavy hacker-thief assistant Kevin to his alien spider-kitty, Trinity, the verbal slings and arrows keep us in stitches. And let's not forget the most domineering species in the galaxy, the Dolts, probably one my absolute favorite creation in the book.
You don't have to be a fan of Doctor Who or British comedy to enjoy Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens, but it has that same delightful, elevated sense of humor that makes you feel smarter for having read it. With strong prose, smart plotting, and tons of imagination, this is a series I'll be tuning in for again and again.
Really enjoyed this sprawling, powerful story centered around the cartel wars of the last decade. Winslow does a superb drama of blending actual (horrReally enjoyed this sprawling, powerful story centered around the cartel wars of the last decade. Winslow does a superb drama of blending actual (horrific events) with the fictional characters presented here. The book could be a little shorter and the narrative thoughline gets lost at times, but the subject matter is powerful, especially when it comes to the victims of this violent trade. I personally found the journalist Pablo's storyline extremely impactful. Especially in light of the dedication that listens hundreds of journalists that lost their lives to speak the truth of what was going on. One of Winslow's best. ...more
This book was recommending to me by a fellow writer friend. Neither of us our prone to reading "self-help" titles, but it's written from the perspectiThis book was recommending to me by a fellow writer friend. Neither of us our prone to reading "self-help" titles, but it's written from the perspective of a working writer (although any artist can reap the benefits inside). It focuses on how artists struggle with "resistance," a term Pressfield created to describe the force that keeps us from pursuing our work, which can be manifsted in many ways including writer's block, procrastination, fear. What most working artists know through experience is that approaching the chair or the easel is the hard part. Once you sit down to get to work, the fear is quickly overcome.
Others have suggested the voice here is flippant and the messages repetitive, but the multitude of experiences are ones I share. Self-help titles aren't for everyone, but if you struggle sometimes with doing the work, I highly recommend giving this breezy book a read. ...more
Really enjoyed this time travel novel from Wesley Chu. I've never read him before, but it was a delight to find he's the real deal as an author, constReally enjoyed this time travel novel from Wesley Chu. I've never read him before, but it was a delight to find he's the real deal as an author, constructing a realistic future world that feels both advanced and yet grounded. His prose is also rich with detail, but not overwrought. This is especially unique of any time travel story as most authors get mired in the vortex of time travel paradoxes and the reader is often inundated (read: confused) by questions of physics. Here, Chu gives us a few rules and keeps the story moving. The confusion is also mitigated by the fact that we're not returning to the same time over and over and over again so tireless attempts to track story threads is unnecessary.
I also enjoyed the characters, particularly the protagonist and his habitual adversary Levin, who reminds me of Javert from Les Miserables, who puts law above doing what's right. The story ends with some questions, which I presume will be answered in a book two. For my part, I'll be eager to check them out.
For science fiction fans that like their stories with a little more meat on the bone, this one's definitely worth your TIME....more
I'm not a regular Harlan Coben fan, but any time I pick up one of my books I'm reminded of how talent he is. The man writes excellent mystery prose thI'm not a regular Harlan Coben fan, but any time I pick up one of my books I'm reminded of how talent he is. The man writes excellent mystery prose that immerses you into the story and makes you eager to continue reading to find out what will happen next.
The Stranger is a mystery where in we spend the bulk of 400 pages wondering who the stranger is and what his role is. The problem for me is that the payoff just doesn't live up to the hype. Fans of pure mysteries might like the Stranger because it gets you asking a lot of questions with several misdirections that you can't see coming but as someone that likes their mysteries with a dash (or more of thrills), this one was a little too slow for me. I also wasn't crazy about the protagonist as he was surly most of the time, even to his kids. Lastly, there wasn't a ton of conflict, always a problem for me. My feelings for this one wouldn't dissuade me from reading Coben again, however, because his talent will hit more often than miss. ...more