I am still a huge Paul Auster fan, although I think his earlier work was his best. There was a time when I blew through Leviathan, the...moreThree 1/2 stars.
I am still a huge Paul Auster fan, although I think his earlier work was his best. There was a time when I blew through Leviathan, the Music of Chance, Mr. Vertigo, In the Country of Lost Things, and couldn't get enough. The ironic thing is Auster's prose has actually gotten better. His writing is evocative, erudite and effortless and flows through the mind like silk sheets across skin. The problem to me is that it seems he falls back on his prose rather than develop engaging plots.
By now, Auster seems to be doing character studies more than anything. Sunset Park is no different. He throws a half dozen + characters into a frothy broth and lets them congeal and stew, making observations about each other through flashbacks and inner monologues. While these observations are profound and usually get to the heart of characters well, what they don't do is move the current story forward. So what we get with books like Sunset Park is more of a picturesque snapshot of characters rather than a moving film.
I liked Sunset Park because it was terse and the language was beautiful, but I wish the characters and story moved me as much as the writing. Had they gone somewhere, done something, been plunged into some deeper conflict with serious drama, they and this book would have been much better off. Since it does not, I think my affection for Sunset Park will be fleeting, but like any sort aperitif, I don't begrudge the small amount of time it took to consume. (less)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of those books that's difficult to define. it's it literature? Is it a mystery? To me, it's a little of both. I'...moreCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of those books that's difficult to define. it's it literature? Is it a mystery? To me, it's a little of both. I'm not always crazy about the literate/genre piece as they usually come across as affected, but I was pleasantly surprised by Franklin's quality of writing and how effortless his prose seemed to be. Of course, this is usually just the case with the reader. I'm sure the author put in more than his share of blood, sweat and tears to this one, but his obvious talent helped produce a novel that will stay with me for a while.
Conceptually, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter doesn't have your overly commercial hook. In fact, it's a non-linear story of two men in rural Mississippi that have to come to terms with tragedy by dissecting events of the past. Only then can they address the future and find both literal and figurative justice.
This was a book I found at the hospital waiting room while visiting a relative. I'd heard of it because of its Edgar Nomination and I'm still a bit surprise it was nominated given the fact that the mystery isn't really the focus/strength of the piece. If I had to categorize it (which I hate to do), I'd really say it's more literature than anything else. but when I came home with the book (I replaced it at the hospital with others), my wife read the end papers and decided she wanted to read it first. This is not her cup of tea, but she read it in a few settings and told he she really liked it. I followed suit a month (and several other books) later and I too really enjoyed it. for me, it was a slower process, the kind that hooks your interest and pulls you in progressively faster and faster. While the descriptions of Mississippi and the remembrances of youth are a strong draw, it's really the strength of the two lead characters that is the novel's true strength. You care about them both, share their pain and troubles, and eventually hope all will be set right.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter wasn't a revolutionary book for me. I don't see it as one I'll revisit every 5-10 years, but I did greatly enjoy it. More than anything, I look forward to reading more of the author's work as he has a strong, unique voice that is always straight and true. (less)
I was very underwhelmed by THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Maybe I'd been overhyped, but for me it felt pedantic and boring. Still, I kept hearing ov...moreI was very underwhelmed by THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Maybe I'd been overhyped, but for me it felt pedantic and boring. Still, I kept hearing over and over again how THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE and the third book in the trilogy were much better because they focused more on Lisbeth than Kalle "fucking" Blomkvist. After putting it off for a year or two, I finally got around to reading FIRE and you know what? I couldn't put it down. It's not your conventional mystery or thriller. I still has Larsson's in-depth style. but it was a taut storyline, kept the protagonists in a lot of danger, and humanized Lisbeth rather than heroicized her. For me, that's what made this one really sing. Down side, I felt Blomkvist's role in this story was a bit underwhelming. I would have liked to see the characters end up 50/50% rather than one taking all the focus per novel. Still, as I reached the end of the novel, I read the first few chapters of the next that were at the end of the book and I can't stop thinking about finishing the series off. Always a good sign. I'm told the series continues to get better in the third installment, which is what I'm hoping for now that I'm invested. (less)
For many of you Johnny-come-lately’s, the timing of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons couldn’t have been better. The first season of the HBO s...moreFor many of you Johnny-come-lately’s, the timing of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons couldn’t have been better. The first season of the HBO season has just finished airing, you’ve just finished the other four books and whamo! you get the fifth one thrown in your lap.
I hate you.
As do many others like me who’ve been waiting for this book for over six years. Six years since we left those hundreds of characters in Westeros, knowing half of them won’t even be coming around for another six years from now. Since A Feast for Crows was supposed to include most of what’s in A Dance with Dragons, this is essentially 50% of the mid-portion of the tale to date. Although it is important to note, only the first 2/3rds of this book focus on the second set of characters. The last third gets us back to some of the characters from AFFC.
So was ADWD worth the long wait? Yes and no. I’ve been around long enough to know extended waits are never a good thing for a book or movie. The hope and hype leading up to its release never matches the actual product. It rarely can. That’s why the customer reviews for this book on websites like Amazon have been so middling. The general complaint is: nothing happens or not enough happens and I suppose that’s accurate to a point. But I at least understand that this is the mid-section of the entire story. Second acts are always the toughest to write and toughest to slog through because the characters are usually leaving their starting destination from a place of reaction and moving toward their end destination with an eye for preparation. This is a book about transitions, which is why so many characters are caught mid-stream. Half the crew’s headed across the sea while others are headed south for war. Few are staying put and those that are aren’t doing much. That’s not to say there isn’t action here and there. There are a few battle scenes. But no epic ones. We don’t get any Blackwater Bay battles. What we do get are dragons. In a fantasy series that has seen scant fantasy, we’re getting a little more in all four corners of the world. It’s just enough to whet our appetites and keep us coming back for more.
So is this a great read? If you’re into the series, then yes, but it won’t satisfy like the first three. It’s meant to be an appetizer leading up to the final course. That’s a surprising thing to say for a book at 1000 pages, but if you’re like me and you’ve bought into Martin’s world, then finding plenty to love in this one won’t be a problem. After all, Martin’s writing is still SO rich. The man can draw out a world like no one. How he keeps track of so many character voices and so much history is beyond me, but it's a pleasure to read.
Now we have to wait another six years for the next book. Maybe moving onto the “third act” will help Martin get his butt in gear. I’d hate to see A Song of Fire and Ice turn into a stinker like The Dark Tower series. But Martin’s voice remains clear and the focus seems to have the right momentum. We all just want to get there a little faster. (less)
**spoiler alert** IN THE NAME OF THE WIND was my favorite novel the year I read it and I fell in love with Rothfuss’ world and writing. I grew to care...more**spoiler alert** IN THE NAME OF THE WIND was my favorite novel the year I read it and I fell in love with Rothfuss’ world and writing. I grew to care about his character, Kvothe, and eagerly awaited the second and third book chronicling the adventures of his youth.
This second book in the trilogy, THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, took a little over three years to publish, which made expectations very high, not only for me, but for most readers that enjoyed the maiden title.
I knew going in, ITNOTW would be a difficult book to follow up. Any time you introduce a new world and new characters to an audience, there’s a sense of wonder. Where will the characters go? How much of the world will we see? What are the stakes? What are the rules? How does the magic operate? The politics of the civilization? The nature of the people? I had so many questions, which I hoped would be answered in the second book. Unfortunately, few of those questions were resolved.
It’s difficult to gauge the second installment in a trilogy because usually it’s a bridge meant to foster you from the beginning of a story to its resolution, but in recent fiction, we’ve seen some great authors write multi-title books in a series and populate each with its own story as well as address the main storyline of the series. Sadly that’s where I feel TWMF doesn’t live up to its predecessor.
Rothfuss seems to have two genuinely prodigious strengths as a writer. He writes prose like the devil and he enjoys creating situations where characters banter wit. Usually it’s between two people and usually it features his young protagonist coming out ahead. What Rothfuss doesn’t seem to do that well is plot. In fact, there’s very little plot in TWMF at all. Instead, we’re reintroduced to Kvothe at the beginning of a fresh term at the University where he spends 300 pages doing pretty much the same things he did in the first novel. Then, he seems to arbitrarily be sent on an adventure trip. Clearly Rothfuss wants to showcase the adventures that made Kvothe into the legend he’s become, but there is no narrative throughline through this second book. There’s nothing driving him. Most stories have your hero set out on a quest and then do everything he/she can to achieve it. But here, Kvothe wanders around the country, gets caught up in some strange situations with eccentric or fantastic characters that spread his renown, but none that move the main storyline forward. In film this latter 700 pages of TWMF would be considered the “montage phase” where we see our hero training with the mystical experts, earning skills, magical gifts, and stories to further his reputation. While they’re fun and exciting and visceral, they’re surprisingly episodic and that’s something of a disappointment.
Throughout this 997 page novel, there’s barely 5% of the tale dedicated to Kvothe’s true pursuit: finding the Chandrain and seeking revenge for his family. Outside of those rather random moments of inquiry, he traipses around without much motivation. There is no other plotline to this book. There is no new antagonist. The adventures he gets involved in usually take his sharp mind or a little luck to overcome, but he does it quietly easily. As a result, there is scant conflict, which means there’s scant drama, which means there’s a lack of stakes. And with too few of those things, you never really get drawn deeply in.
I did, however, plow through this novel as I did the first one. Not with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, but a melancholy of what could have been. With some of these missing elements (and a little more focus on the Chandrian), this title and this series could have been epic. Had anyone other than Rothfuss written it, I would have given it three stars, but his ability to create beauty with words is inspiring.
And I still love Kvothe and his world.
Now I have to wait at least three more years for the third and final installment in this series, but right now I feel like I’m waiting for the exact same thing I was hoping would be in this one.
Still, I’ll be there, eager to make the pre-order, and willing to read through the night to finish every delicious word. I have a good feeling THE DOORS OF STONE (the early title of book 3) will be more fulfilling as Rothfuss ties up his strings, but, man, what could have been…. (less)
The only book I've read of Orson Scott Card's was ENDER'S GAME because of its seminal status in the genre. I really enjoyed it, bu...moreThree and 1/2 stars.
The only book I've read of Orson Scott Card's was ENDER'S GAME because of its seminal status in the genre. I really enjoyed it, but never got around to its follow-ups.
THE LOST GATE was a surprise departure in that it feels like a young adult title along the lines of the HARRY POTTERS and the PERCY JACKSONS, but Card mixes in a couple other genres and creates his own magic system and mythology for a surprisingly entertaining read. There isn't much in the way of action or adventure, but the story focuses on a teenager from a rival world who grew up thinking he was the one member of his family clan without powers only to discover he's the most powerful one of all. He has the ability to open gates (portals) and go anywhere he wants, but his user manual never showed up, so he spends most of his time on the run looking for answers. While the story does spend too much time focusing on characters talking about inane things and going over the very complex magic system, there is a charm and origianlity to the story as well. A sub-plot features another boy on another world going through similiar themes, but doing so in a magic-world medevial land. The fusion of the two stories and the lack of clear plot would probably make a lot of writing professors cringe, but Card gets away with it because he's just a good storyteller.
This one isn't for everyone. It's not as fully developed as HARRY POTTER, but it's better than PERCY JACKSON. Card doesn't pander to kids, which is nice, but I do wish sometimes he had more action in his stories. The lack of an antagonist and conflict leave a dearth in drama here, but I'm interested enough to turn in for the next volume. (less)
Earth Abides is one of the earliest post-apocalypse novels, written in 1949, and centers on a young protagonist who awakes from a sn...more3 & 1/2 stars.
Earth Abides is one of the earliest post-apocalypse novels, written in 1949, and centers on a young protagonist who awakes from a snake bite only to find 99% of the population has been wiped out by a virus. He traverses the country looking for people, but finds he's always been a loner and heads back to San Francisco to live alone. There, he meets a woman, eventually starts a tribe with a few others, and lives to keep history and society alive despite the world beginning anew around him.
I'm a huge fan of the post-apocalypse genre, having read most of the notable titles, although this one slipped by at some point. It's lighter on plot than many of commrades, written instead with a focus on philosophy of how life survives and changes. While I would have liked a little more plot and a lot more conflict, I did like this infinitely better than A Canticle For Liebowitz, which was very cold and lacked any semblence of narrative throughline.
I gave this story three 3 1/2 stars largely because it's well-written, but not the kind of thing everyone will love. There are scenes and themes that resonate strongly after putting the book down. I just wish the character and some of the stuff he went through was more defined. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it's definitely a title for older readers as the philosophical themes are what's most important. I don't put it anywhere near Robinson Crusoe's class despite the many other comparisons.(less)
Sucessful follow-up to the excellent Hunger Games, CATCHING FIRE isn't as strong as its predecessor, largely because the world and Katniss' situation...moreSucessful follow-up to the excellent Hunger Games, CATCHING FIRE isn't as strong as its predecessor, largely because the world and Katniss' situation are no longer new to us or come as a shock, but also because she spends a lot of time building up to the second hunger games and not enough time actually in them. That being said, the story and characters are still engrossing and you can't not enjoy going along for the ride. Will be reading the third and final book in the trilogy, MOCKINGJAY, asap. (less)
I love reading the Reacher series from Lee Child, they're just good, smart, tough fun. I don't think Child will ever reinvent the mystery genre and he...moreI love reading the Reacher series from Lee Child, they're just good, smart, tough fun. I don't think Child will ever reinvent the mystery genre and he's certainly not a florid writer like James Lee Burke, but his voice is always solid and rarely if ever does he delve into melodrama or fill his story with contrivances. I kind of what to say Child is a guilty pleasure, but with writing this solid, there's nothing to feel better about. While I think he has a similiar style as Michael Connelly, I respond to his protagonist on a deeper level. I'm 7 or 8 books in the series and enjoy taking my time to read around two a year.(less)
I loved Incarceron, but wasn't sure where the author was planning on going for book two. Like most follow-ups, Sapphique isn't as riveting as its prec...moreI loved Incarceron, but wasn't sure where the author was planning on going for book two. Like most follow-ups, Sapphique isn't as riveting as its precedessor largely because the setup isn't as organic. Fisher is trying to duplicate much of what the first book did well and on the page it's a little less involving, a little less frenetic, and the structure isn't as clean. That is no way makes it a bad or even average book. I still enjoyed the characters and the plot, but it was like Incarceron Lite. Or "lighter." Fisher's strength is the ease and skill of her prose. She really has a deft hand for it as well as for editing herself. The description is florid without being overbearing. The irony is that when things coalesce at the end, we're not entirely sure what's happening and how all these characters and plotlines really come together. But she paints it in such a terse, colorful way that you go along for the fun of it. I'll say Incarceron made me a fan of Fisher's writing and Sapphique did nothing to dissuade me of that opinion.(less)
With so many trilogy out and in the works, I've started putting off reading the most popular until the final book is out or about to be released. that...moreWith so many trilogy out and in the works, I've started putting off reading the most popular until the final book is out or about to be released. that way I know the author isn't going to die and leave me hanging. I worried about that with Stephen King's Gunslinger series (and was still disappointed) and now hope George R. R. Martin's blood pressure remains low for the next 40 years of writing the final 3 books.
But on to THE HUNGER GAMES, a wildly popular trilogy set in a post apocalypse America decades from now. The genre's become packed with tons of books and series, but this one remains one of the most succesful. In my opinion, it is deservedly so.
I'm never surprised to see young adult novels written in the first person these days. It's the status quo. I think for most writers, it's just easier. You only have to come up with one voice and one point of view. When it's done well, you end up caring about the character and the journey they embark on. When it's not, you feel like you've wasted your time.
The Hunger Games tells the story of a teenage girl forced into a match to the death with similiarly young kids from other "districts." Throughout the preceding events and the competition itself, you really grow to care about her. I won't delve into too much about the story. It is what it is. But what I liked about it was the simplicity of the writing. Collins doesn't seem to be interested in impressing anyone. There are few words over three syllables and scant florid description. The dialogue is curt, the plot moves fast, and the action is engaging. Ultimately with novels like this, you either care about the protagonist or you don't. I cared for this one, largely because she wasn't whiney, sacchrine, or superhuman. she was strong in the right places, vulnerable in others, but always real. Some might find the violence too strong for younger teens, but older ones should be able to handle it well. Overall, a fun, moving piece, which will prompt me to read the next in the series soon enough. (less)
I'm a fan of Thomas Perry's. Met him a couple times at the local bookstore and he's a great guy. Loved the Jane Whitefield series, but even he will te...moreI'm a fan of Thomas Perry's. Met him a couple times at the local bookstore and he's a great guy. Loved the Jane Whitefield series, but even he will tell you he pushed the last one out for the readers. This was a fun book, but more of an afternoon snack rather than a full meal. The story centers on a varied cast of largely troubled crime characters loosely connected through a couple crimes. I like the unpredictability of the story and enjoyed a lot of the quirky characters, but the story lacks genuine emotional depth and will doublessly not reasonate long after I'm done. Perry's style is quick and fun, but I sometimes wonder why even his dumbest characters sound just as smart and introspective as the clever ones. Still, I read it in a couple quick settings and enjoyed it overall.(less)
Replay was on the forefront of the fantasy/time travel movement, so in the decades since it was published, we've seen countless TV shows, novels, movi...moreReplay was on the forefront of the fantasy/time travel movement, so in the decades since it was published, we've seen countless TV shows, novels, movies, comics, etc. about this subject matter. This one tells the story of a man who dies at 43, only to wake up in his own body in college in the 60s with his memory intact. He goes through "replay" after "replay" trying to figure out why this is happening to him while also experience love, making and losing fortunes, etc. I really enjoyed the read for a number of reasons. One, I like the concept and though the author had a lot of fun with it, but also some poignant commentary on the human experience. Two, I feared the plot would get episodic, but the author smartly continued to move his characters forward and one would never really guess where it would go. Finally, the prose was rich and intelligent, but not overwritten. I enjoyed the author's voice and went along with the journey whole-heartedly. Read it in a couple days. If you have the time and like the genre, def. give it a read. One last thought, the author predicts some of the things that will happen in the character's future and it was interesting to see some of the parallels to what's happened in the real world in our time. (less)