A modern retelling of Hamlet, narrated by the infant prince from inside his mother's womb. It is every bit as insufferable as that sounds.
Ian McEwan iA modern retelling of Hamlet, narrated by the infant prince from inside his mother's womb. It is every bit as insufferable as that sounds.
Ian McEwan is one of those writers who, having been crowned an author of literature, thinks he can write any piece of cracked-out nonsense and know it will be treated as a serious work. Is he taking the piss? Who knows. What I do know is: this book is a joke. I've liked other works of McEwan's, although even my favorite, Sweet Tooth, contained elements that were highly problematic -- gotta love that nasty streak of British misogyny! But really he just writes hammy melodrama, often punctuated by a "twist," and dresses them up with pretentious prose. At his worst -- which this is -- he is absolutely the M. Night Shyamalan of authors.
I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the clock on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall. The clock once belonged to my great-grandmother (a woman called Alice) and its tired chime counts me into the world. I'm begun on the first stroke and finished on the last when my father rolls off my mother and is plunged into a dreamless sleep, thanks to the five pints of John Smith's Best Bitter he has drunk in the Punch Bowl with his friends, Walter and Bernard Belling. At the moment at which I moved from nothingness into being my mother was pretending to be asleep -- as she often does at such moments. My father, however, is made of stern stuff and he didn't let that put him off.
Energy! Verve! Humor!
In contrast, here's the opening paragraph to Nutshell:
So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting and wondering who I'm in, what I'm in for. My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow-motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise. That was in my careless youth. Now, fully inverted, not an inch of space to myself, knees crammed against belly, my thoughts as well as my head are fully engaged. I've no choice, my ear is pressed all day and night against bloody walls. I listen, make mental notes, and I'm troubled. I'm hearing pillow talk of deadly intent and I'm terrified by what awaits me, by what might draw me in.
Oh my god. Where's Laertes to put him out of his misery already?
There are only 197 pages of this solipsistic shit, but it feels like a thousand. I'll admit it: I knew I would loathe this book by the time I had finished the above paragraph, but I hate-read it all the way to the end. I wanted to be thorough and complete in my disdain. But I can save you the trouble. In a nutshell: what a piece of crap....more
I know this is just the warm-up for Rag and Bone, but it felt really rushed, almost to the point of sloppiness. Fortunately, I am 99.9% positive Rag aI know this is just the warm-up for Rag and Bone, but it felt really rushed, almost to the point of sloppiness. Fortunately, I am 99.9% positive Rag and Bone will be better....more
This is set in the Charm of Magpies universe, but frankly I find Ben and Jonah a much more engaging couple than Crane and Stephen (who I liked more inThis is set in the Charm of Magpies universe, but frankly I find Ben and Jonah a much more engaging couple than Crane and Stephen (who I liked more individually than as a pair). Their shared backstory is full of angst and betrayal, but there's something so sweet about them! This was just a joy to read. Plus there was the added pleasure of getting to see Crane and Stephen from an outside perspective. What a clever way for Charles to continue, and freshen, this series. ...more
So Warner Brothers (the studio producing the movie) has forced Scholastic (the books' publisher) to pull all copies of the original book in advance ofSo Warner Brothers (the studio producing the movie) has forced Scholastic (the books' publisher) to pull all copies of the original book in advance of the film. This is baffling to me: what secrets could possibly lurk within its pages that WB would feel the need to have it suppressed?
Reading it (which I actually had never done before) did not answer this question for me. As I'd been already made aware, it does not have a plot -- it's just a brief (for reals, Harry -- or possibly Ron, see below) introduction to the history of the classification of Beasts, and then an alphabetical list of examples. All of which is very charmingly presented: Rowling is, with some recent exceptions (and I do not mean Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, excellent at world-building. The only thing that strikes me as remotely spoileriffic is the fact that Newt's bio at the end of the book reveals (view spoiler)[who he marries (hide spoiler)]. But that's hardly reason to banish it from the shelves. What is Warner Brothers up to? SOUND THE CONSPIRACY ALARM PLEASE.
Anyway, that weirdness aside, my real complaint with this book is that the cute idea of having Harry, Ron, and Hermione's notes sprinkled through the text is ruined by making all three of them appear to have near-identical handwriting. Maybe I am just the worst handwriting analyst ever (possible) but I found each of their scrawls to be practically indistinguishable. Scholastic couldn't have sprung for different colored inks? Huh -- maybe someone at WB was super offended, and that's why they pulled this book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Eminently readable history of the English obsession with murder from the early 19th century to the mid-20th; I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting. WoEminently readable history of the English obsession with murder from the early 19th century to the mid-20th; I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting. Worsley makes connections between real-life cases and the fictional depictions of crime from the same era that I found fascinating. She's occasionally sidetracked by biographical detail (we delve, for example, into the personal lives of Thomas de Quincey, Wilkie Collins, and Dorothy L. Sayers) but all of that is interesting, too, with Worsley's voice lively throughout. As is often the case with popular nonfiction, I was left wanting more -- more analysis, some grander statement -- but it's possible that I am just yearning for life (and death) to make more sense in general. ...more
Still quite delightful, if less surprising in its delightfulness than The Magpie Lord. Poor K.J. Charles: now I Expect Things from her!
I continue to nStill quite delightful, if less surprising in its delightfulness than The Magpie Lord. Poor K.J. Charles: now I Expect Things from her!
I continue to not be enamored of the romance (although it was quite sweet here), but once again the magical mystery was suspenseful and scary. I enjoyed this take on the Giant Rat of Sumatra. Esther (the badass Jewish magic practitioner lady) was suitably awesome, and I'm looking forward to more of the other justiciars, particularly Jenny Saint.
Will probably gobble down the next one posthaste....more
No, seriously: as a romance novel, this did very little for me, even though both main characters are wonderful -- distinct persI read it for the plot.
No, seriously: as a romance novel, this did very little for me, even though both main characters are wonderful -- distinct personalities with rich, angsty backstories. I think their relationship would have worked better for me as a slow burn, though, especially since Stephen gets over projecting his hatred for Crane's family onto Crane very quickly. (As is sensible and therefore I suppose surprising for a romance novel -- but I still would have liked more build up.)
However, the magical thriller aspects of this book were fantastic: imaginative, suspenseful, genuinely exciting. Charles' world-building makes me eager for more in the best way; I can't wait to read the next installment, not simply because I want to know what happens to Crane and Stephen -- in fact, I primarily want to read it because I am curious to learn more about how magic works in her universe, and to get more of her side characters like Merrick and Esther. (Gosh, do I ever want to meet Esther! Give me this badass Jewish magic practitioner lady!)
I don't mean that as an insult at all. I love fanfic; I have, in fact, read many fics that I've liked bet**spoiler alert** Well that was a fun fanfic!
I don't mean that as an insult at all. I love fanfic; I have, in fact, read many fics that I've liked better than the original work -- and I've certainly read better post-series Harry Potter fics than this. Still, The Cursed Child does a lot of what I like a good fic to do, namely take the characters in an unexpected new direction and evolve the relationships in ways the original narrative seems unwilling to. It's also tropey as fuck.
Time travel? Check! Alternate universes? Check! Redemption of villain? Check! Character who is (hitherto) the non-canonical offspring of a main character? Check! Slash pairing as main characters? Check!
Okay: check-minus -- Rowling & Co. wussed out and didn't make Albus/Scorpius canon, even though this was in every way an Albus/Scorpius fic. I never read that pairing, but folks who did: come on, this is almost note for note, right? But again, I'm not mad at it, mostly because Scorpius is the cutest character ever. I think about 85% of the problems I may have had with the adult trio's characterizations in this were reduced to twitches because I just loved Scorpius so much. Draco went and had an adorable nerd-baby. In fact Draco, almost in spite of himself, seems to have been a much better father than his father and Astoria (RIP) appears to have been retroactively awesome. Yay!
Draco and Harry, and -- even more, in a way -- Draco and Hermione coming to terms and perhaps even some mutual affection also made me really happy. I guess I'm easy sometimes? But I never expected this of Rowling, who I thought hated Draco. Here was the character development I wanted in Half-Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows. Is it too little too late? Maybe, but I still enjoyed it.
Overall, I bought into this much more than I expected to -- perhaps because my investment was rather low. I've always liked Harry Potter, but I was never a HUGE FAN. I don't feel the need to be particularly nitpicky about this.
Was it amazingly well-written? No. Did the plot make total sense? No. Was this how I would have characterized the series' main characters twenty or so years later? NOPE. (Could I in any way picture how the hell this was staged? Not in the least, yo.)
But I enjoyed it for what it was. A fun Albus/Scorpius, Draco redemption fic with time travel. That J.K. Rowling wrote. WOW....more
The title unfortunately describes the way this book is plotted. Things happen, and they are sort of loosely slung-together, with very little sense ofThe title unfortunately describes the way this book is plotted. Things happen, and they are sort of loosely slung-together, with very little sense of time passing (at one point the protagonist notes she's known another character for five years, and I genuinely thought only a single year had passed since their meeting at the beginning of the novel) and with absolutely no character development. No characters at all, really: Taylor's creations seem to turn on a dime, depending on whatever the plot ("plot"?) dictates. Out of nowhere, one character is suddenly revealed to be a sexual predator, because Taylor needs the reader to hate him now. The love interest up and screams at the protagonist, also out of nowhere, for...angst I guess? Oh and some rando background character suddenly calls the protagonist a slut and...sexually attacks her. Of course. I see more of a pattern here than to the plot and it's gross.
The main character has no personality except to be perfect at everything and drive evil people to fits of revealing rage -- classic Mary Sue stuff. I get annoyed with the overuse and misuse of that term, but it really applies here. Max feels like a self-insert. She, her love interest, and the innumerable interchangeable secondary characters are all amazingly under-characterized and flatly written: I couldn't describe a single one of them to you, nor could I tell them apart much of the time. (Which one was Markham and which was Murdoch again?) Early in the book, Max notes that she often does not react to things in a "normal" way, but this is never used to make a point about her history or to develop her character as the story progresses; instead, it feels like Taylor simply did not know how to write realistic reactions to situations and was using this as an excuse.
And nothing else makes sense either! You have a secret -- but not all that secret if it's known by a major university and receives "assignments" -- time travel organization, which for some reason is severely understaffed. At one point they only have four historians (a.k.a. time travelers) working for them, and don't hire more -- but no real qualification seems necessary? Like Max makes a big deal about how rigorous the training is, but without actually conveying that in any way, and it's also not explained why they can't just recruit more people for the training in the first place. Max's "specialty" as a historian is brought up, but then she never works on anything related to it. They send her back to study dinosaurs when her speciality was ancient Greek and Roman civ. You guys couldn't recruit some paleontologists?
As a time travel book, this novel makes poor use of its subject. In fact, nearly no use: the main conceit of historians using time travel in their studies was done better many times over by Connie Willis; the big "twist" is the starting point for many other time travel narratives, and seemed so obvious that the characters not figuring it out sooner just makes them look dumb. On the most basic level, St. Mary's does not seem like a fun or exciting organization to work for, so why would I want to read about it? This book was baffling for me from start to finish; I kept waiting for it to get going, then to get better. It didn't. Now I wish I could go back in time and not bother....more
"Mature" is not a word one would usually apply to Lydia Bennet, but this was a surprisingly mature and imaginative take on Lydia's part of Pride and P"Mature" is not a word one would usually apply to Lydia Bennet, but this was a surprisingly mature and imaginative take on Lydia's part of Pride and Prejudice. That Farrant manages to accomplish this while staying true to the original story and creating her own lively, engaging narrative voice is truly impressive -- I picked this up while ordering, intending to do my due diligence by reading a few pages, and found I couldn't stop. Farrant finds depth in Lydia while still acknowledging her childishness and silliness. It helps to be a modern reader, aware that Lydia is a teenage girl who's likely extremely bored, but I don't think Farrant hammers in that point, or any other, too harshly. This book doesn't exactly provide Lydia with the happy ending one might want, nor does it (view spoiler)[fully redeem Wickham, much to my relief -- I'm not sure there would be a way to do that without going deeply OOC or soppy (hide spoiler)]. But this is a more positive spin on her fate, and her character. Plus: it's fun....more
What pretentious garbage. I've yet to tackle Wolf Hall, but this short story collection makes me think that I should permanently let myself off the hoWhat pretentious garbage. I've yet to tackle Wolf Hall, but this short story collection makes me think that I should permanently let myself off the hook, because if they're anything to go by, Mantel is desperately overrated. ...more
A restaurant novel with a terrific narrative voice, or really three: the main storyteller is a wannabe writer/newbie chef with an English lit degree,A restaurant novel with a terrific narrative voice, or really three: the main storyteller is a wannabe writer/newbie chef with an English lit degree, nicknamed "Monocle"; his somewhat pretentious (but not entirely un-self-aware) reminiscences are joined by commentary from his fellow chefs, Racist Dave and Ramilov. I feel like I would love to sit in these guys' after-work pub and listen to them shoot the shit (as long as I got to escape at the end of the night). The kitchen detail is all great, the pacing bouncy and lively, but the plot didn't entirely hang together for me. (I was also uncomfortable with the novel's embodiment of evil being a character who's described only as The Fat Man.) Still, Wroe is clearly a talented writer, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what he does next....more