I am the type of person who has a hard time picking favorities, and I can honestly say that this is my favorite book of all time and introduced me to...moreI am the type of person who has a hard time picking favorities, and I can honestly say that this is my favorite book of all time and introduced me to a superb author. This book says everything without saying anything. The nature of love, hate, history, and wonder all get tangled up an explored that make this book you can read over and over again and keep realizing new things. You should read this book, seriously. No, I'm not kidding around, go. Ug!I'll watch the kids, just go the bookstore right now!(less)
A love story that didn't make me want to throw up in my mouth. Great characters combined with a clever premise makes this one a very worthy read. I ho...moreA love story that didn't make me want to throw up in my mouth. Great characters combined with a clever premise makes this one a very worthy read. I hope the upcoming movie adaptation does it justice.(less)
Another one of those books where I didn't expect much and was completely blown away. I read this in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed Rushdie's bedti...moreAnother one of those books where I didn't expect much and was completely blown away. I read this in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed Rushdie's bedtime story of a boy and his father, and the role of telling stories. It tells a great story with hints of deeper meaning that left me smiling and satisfied. Its an easy read, go get it.(less)
My sister recommended this series and I was pretty interested in it once I heard a basic summary of the plot. I must say, I was thoroughly disappointe...moreMy sister recommended this series and I was pretty interested in it once I heard a basic summary of the plot. I must say, I was thoroughly disappointed.
The concept in itself is very creative. Son of a Greek god in modern times. He is dyslexic because he is meant to read ancient greek. That's clever. The translation of Greek gods to 21st, some were pretty well done, except for a few details here and there (a greek god would sick robot spiders against his enemies? Really?) The concept had promise. I, however, find the story horribly executed.
First off, I couldn't really get into the narrative voice. The narrator, 6th grade Percy Jackson, sounds more like a 45 year old man trying to sound like a 6th grader. I guess the author thought that if he wrote short sentences that ended abruptly, he would sound right. I didn't agree.
Secondly, Percy's character development just didn't sit well with me. I just didn't like him. And he definitely overcame obstacles a little too easily. It's the first book and he already defeated several mythical beasts AND went one on one with the god of War himself and won impressively. That is quite a 6th grader. This deflated alot of the tension from the story. This kid obviously can take anything on, why should I keep reading.
Third, I just couldn't help but notice that so many elements of the this story are just down right rip offs of Harry Potter. Seriously Rick, c'mon. Here are just a few that you can't help but notice:
- Percy has two close friends, one is the know it all girl(Hermione), and the other is a bumbling guy(Ron).
- Percy attends a Half-Blood camp where other half-bloods like him train(Hogworts).
- The camps are broken in different bunks(Houses) which compete against each other in games, most famously Capture the Flag(Quittich)where the winner has their banners hung everywhere.
- One house is full of mean kids who Percy doesn't get along with(Slytherin).
- Percy and friends utilize an invisibility cap(invisibility cloak).
- At the end, it is revealed that Kronos, described as a great evil of the past, might be returning(Voldomort).
Come on Rick. I know there is no such thing as an original idea anymore, and that everything has been done at one time or another. But this series' structure is straight up cut and paste. Maybe this changes alot more in the following books, but I guess I wont find out. It's one and done for me.
O BTW, Hyperion did a horrible job editing this book. There never ever should be typos in a published book, which the book has a few of. I guess they were too busy getting the movie deal in place that they didn't have time to give it a once over. (less)
AHHH, belated review. I really really enjoyed this book. Gaiman is very imaginative and creates a story that is both truly unique and visionary. Bod w...moreAHHH, belated review. I really really enjoyed this book. Gaiman is very imaginative and creates a story that is both truly unique and visionary. Bod was an average character, but the personalities of the graveyard really brought this book to life and kept the story enticing. This was the first thing I ever read from Gaiman and it certainly wont be the last.(less)
This would have probably have gotten a better star rating from me if it wasn't just so hyped up! The story follows Katsa, tough girl graced with the a...moreThis would have probably have gotten a better star rating from me if it wasn't just so hyped up! The story follows Katsa, tough girl graced with the ability to kick massive amounts of ass in a medieval fantasy world. As a member of a secret council set to weed out evil, she embarks on an adventure to discover why her new love interest, named Po, had his grandfather kidnapped.
After the first 50 pages or so, I was really getting excited about this book. Action, intrigue, well defined characters, etc. But then I waited....an waited...and waited...and eventually the book ended. Now, I know a big draw for this book should be the love story between Katsa and Po, but I just never really got into it. It was obvious from the very beginning and I would have enjoyed a little more obstacles for them to be together. Seemed too easy. And I didn't like how much Katsa changed. She went from badass tomboy to totally in love and willing to die for Po without much evident personal struggle.
And the action stopped! After the first into fighting sequence, besides a few flirtations and one kill shot at the end, Katsa never really gets to show off her skills to us. Without this, there was little that really got me excited or interested.
My last qualm is a bit more nitpicking, but I couldn't help but be annoyed by it. There were a few sequences where the sentence structure just sucked. 6-7 sentences straight that start with "she." She did this, she did that, etc. Won't annoy many, but for some reason it pissed me off.
On the positive side, the narrative voice is very well done. Never does it seem unfit for the world the story takes place in. Also, the world itself was well crafted and I definitely wanted to know more about the history of the kingdoms and such.
I really think that if I didn't have such high expectations, this would have gotten a higher score from me. I will still definitely check out Fire, but dang Graceling, I was really ready to love you.(less)
I was a huge fan of Niffenegger's first book, Time Traveler's Wife. I loved that book so much that I avoided the movie like the plague because, from t...moreI was a huge fan of Niffenegger's first book, Time Traveler's Wife. I loved that book so much that I avoided the movie like the plague because, from the trailer, I could tell it would not due the book justice and I didn't want to spoil my feelings towards it. Needless to say, I was eager to read Niffenegger's next work, Her Fearful Symmetry. Be forewarned if you haven't read the book, this will include spoilers.
Following twins Julia and Valentina, they inherit their aunt's flat after her death under mysterious circumstances, and things just get weirder when they move in. Then the plot kicks in and hilarity ensues.
This book is terrible.
I'll get the pros out of the way since it won't take long. When it comes down to it, Neffenegger can write. Her scenes are well put together. Her descriptions always add rather than feeling unneeded. Her dialogue seems genuine for the most part. She got into the habit of putting characters thoughts in italics alot in the book, which annoyed me after awhile but it wasn't that big of a set back.
Now comes the ugly parts. Jeese, where to begin. I am a firm believer that you don't need to like the characters to like the book, but only when the plot is gripping. But wow, there were few characters in the book that I liked. First, the twins Julia and Valentina reminded me of the creeping twins from The Shining. Remember the ones? "Come play with us, Danny?" Yeah, that's totally them. They are both 21, but act like they are 12, and are completely dependent on each other. They dress to match each other. All their plans include the other one. They literally can't do anything without each other, which is one of the major elements of the plot, but more on that later.
Robert, their uncle...sorta, starts off promising, but then suffers from some confusing and and downright sick flaws. The biggest thing that jumps out is that he is a straight-up pedophile, getting romantically involved with Valentina since, like I stated above, seems more like a child. He and that entire relationship just didn't make any sense to me. Robert appears to really love his wife. And I mean really love her, asking when she comes back into the picture(which is another poorly done point to be discussed later), to kill him so he can be with her once again. But I guess that doesn't stop him from trying to seduce Valentina. At first, I thought it was because they look so alike that he is trying to fill her void. But then when he is able to talk with Elsbeth, that logic doesn't really work anymore, because she's not really gone. And while she is 21, she acts way younger than that, and Robert agrees. When Valentina begins to fight with Julia, he considers reaching out to their parents about it. The parents? Like she's just a child? So that means he agrees that she's a....so he's a.....ugh. Creeeeeep. And just when you think Robert can't can't make another mistake, he goes along with Valentina and Elsbeth's idiotic plan. No real convincing required. Again, more on that later.
Martin was the only real character I liked, but he really didn't play a major part in the plot, although I felt that the story was indicating he was going to. My only qualm with him was what happened to him was too unrealistic. He is so OCD and agoraphobic that he blocks out the windows and hasn't left the house in years. It's so bad that his wife, who obviously loves him with all her heart, leaves him. So while he refuses to take meds for his condition when his family asks him to, he goes along with it when Julia tricks him into taking them? And while he can't get himself to leave the house to go to Valentina's "funeral," a few days later he's ready to cross country lines and find his wife? No baby steps like get to the mailbox and back required? Love is powerful, but it can't undo that kind of phobia that quickly. Its completely unrealistic, but then again what else in this book makes sense.
Now how can we make a book with bad characters worse? A terrible plot! Brilliant! For the first 200 pages, I kept asking myself, "Ok, I'm ready for something to happen now." I should have just shut myself up. Elsbeth's returning as a ghost was nice start, but the rules of being a ghost confuse me.So she learns to write in dust and such to communicate, and she can go through the walls and objects, but she can't leave the house except if she hides in someone's mouth? What?
Once she finds a way to communicate with the twins and Robert, it seems like they have a new pet rather than a loved one coming back from the dead. She's a ghost! Act appropriately! But no, this is not a huge event, for the characters go on with life as usual. There are no frantic calls. No long emotional outpourings from Robert to his lost lover. Elsbeth really just felt like a new pet that they could play with when they got home.
I also can't wrap my head around how she isn't more against her Robert's seduction of her niece/daughter. She is definitely upset with it when it starts, but it seems more like she's more jealous than disturbed that her man, a year removed from her death, is becoming romantically involved with Valentina, even after they are able to talk to each other again, and even after he finds out she is Elsbeth's daughter! He's practically her step-father! How are none of the characters grossed out about this?
When Valentina is struggling to separate herself from Julia and Elsbeth figures out how to pull souls from bodies, things off the deep end. No, Valentina decides. I can't free myself from her with some serious conversations and therapy. I need Elsbeth to rip my soul out so everyone thinks I'm dead, and then put it back so I can run away with Robert! Yep, that makes sense. And what also ticks me off was the conversation with the "adults" about this go as follows:
Valentina: I need to have my soul ripped out because I'm too scared to tell my sister that I don't want to do everything with her anymore. Obviously, just being normal sisters for us isn't an option.
Elsbeth and Robert: ABSOLUTELY NOT! IT'S TOO DANGEROUS!
Valentina: C'mon. Please?
Elsbeth and Robert: Well ok.
What?!!!!!! How does this make sense?! "Well, she might kill herself," Elsbeth rationalizes, "so she's gonna die either way." I-M-B-E-C-I-L-E-S. Have the two girls sit with a psychologist and vent their feelings. There! Case closed! No soul ripping required.
Last notes, the Elsbeth-Edie swap, that Jack knew about apparently, was confusing (which even Jack noted when trying to talk about it with Robert) and added nothing to the plot. All it shows is that Elsbeth and Edie were just as delusional as Valentina and Julia. At the end, Valentina gets shafted, Elsbeth gets shafted, Robert proves that he really didn't love his wife as much as it appeared(lots of sense), and Julia is capable of being normal(good thing Valentina didn't think this was an option). Whatever, I was just glad the book was over.
While I would love the time I wasted on this book back, the real victim of this hot piece of garbage is Simon & Schuster, who dropped 5 million on the advance to Niffenegger for this. After only being out for a month and a half or so, its already off the NY best sellers list, so thankfully people, even if they aren't as critical as I am, realize that this book isn't very good.
Enjoyable read but feel that, for a YA/Children's book, its language is a bit too literary for younguns today. We are just becoming dumber as a people...moreEnjoyable read but feel that, for a YA/Children's book, its language is a bit too literary for younguns today. We are just becoming dumber as a people. (less)
As I plowed through the last 100 pages of this book or so, I was left with the same comment over and over in my head. "Dude, you should be enjoying th...moreAs I plowed through the last 100 pages of this book or so, I was left with the same comment over and over in my head. "Dude, you should be enjoying this book more." I should. The voice is phenomenal and there is plenty of action to keep my boyish brain satisfied. But I have so many things that just aren't sitting well and the book ended! Please comment. Are my complaints justified? Did I miss something?
"The Knife of Never Letting Go" begins the epic tale of Todd Hewitt, a boy on a new world were all the thoughts of every male are projected in the air to be heard. Very cool. But after finding a hole in the "Noise" he is suddenly sent off by his guardians as the townspeople rally to find him and seemingly kill him for some unknown reason. With his trusty dog, Manchee, and the first girl he ever remembers seeing named Viola, they run from the army of Prentisstown. Overall, the world and plot are very creative and easy to fall into.
As I mentioned above, the best thing about this book is the voice. Todd, a boy on the cusp of manhood recounts the story in an authentic narrative that really get you inside in his head. Grammar nazis might get annoyed by the run-ons and misspellings, but chill man! It makes the tale and more importantly, Todd, feel legit and worthy of our concern. Machee and Viola are also both well done characters, and Aaron is really creepy and serves as an awesome villain.
Before reading this book, it was described to me as "tense." After reading it...yeah, tense is appropriate. There are numerous scenes where you will be on the edge of your seat, dying to get to the next sentence. Some might be turned off by the abundance of violence, but I don't think it goes out of line. I teach at a middle school and my kids mention stuff worse than what happens here.
Now, I know what your thinking: Mark, I'm confused. You seem to have liked this book. Why only three stars? Well here it is: I just don't understand why things turned out the way they did.
When the book opens up, Prentisstown is given the vibe of being a small hick town. With no women, the town's population is dropping and Todd considers this when he starts thinking about the sheep he and his guardians will inherit and how things were done and such. When he starts running and a sudden army pops out of Prentisstown, I was on board. But after town and town takes in Todd and Viola, only to get wiped out when the army gets there, I started getting skeptical. How the hell is an army from this little hick town kicking so much ass and still marching on? They don't seem to have any special weapons, just what all the other towns have - guns and horses. Even if they are all skilled, they lose so few that the next town goes down just as fast? I thought when they reached Haven, the "biggest city" on the new world, surely these country bumpkins won't be able to top a place with hundreds of buildings. BUT NO! Its already overrun when they get there at the end. Are they all impossible to kill like Aaron? If they are, could there be just a hint of that. Just some guy running from Farbranch who mentions, "Damn, those bums just don't die." It just didn't seem plausible.
Another complaint I had was the "big reveal" that Cillan gives is kinda obvious. Of course, the men killed all the women at Prentisstown. Duh! The minute that Spackle came, it was clear that they were not aggressors. It was the only logical reason with the men of Prentisstown seeming like a bunch of jerks.
The last thing that just took the wind out of my sails was the motivations of the men of Prentisstown. I understand their motto "One falls, we all fall," etc. but I just don't understand why they are dying to find Todd. Aaron is giving himself up as a sacrifice so Todd can become one of them, but why is it so important that Todd kills someone? Why MUST he become just like the men of Prentisstown? Guess that Spackle he offs doesn't count as a kill?
All the mayor wants to be the ruler of this new world it seems by the ending, which is a tall order itself. What part does Todd play in all this? If its all symbolic and they just want to end the one last innocent from Prentisstown, it feels unnecessary to worry about chasing Todd when you have such lofty goals like global takeover.
Hopefully, some of these will make more sense in book two, which I will certainly read. But there are just waaaaaay too many loose ends for my taste that make motivations and actions in this one too confusing. While you don't need to solve everything, a great book has all the main parts of the plot making logical sense. This didn't fall into that category for me. Or did I just miss something?(less)
Life As We Knew It tells the story of a catastrophic meteor strike that sends the moon into a closer orbit to Earth which, in turn, sets off huge tsun...moreLife As We Knew It tells the story of a catastrophic meteor strike that sends the moon into a closer orbit to Earth which, in turn, sets off huge tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. In these desolate times, we follow Miranda, an average girl, and her family as they try to make it through and survive.
The most immediate and truly best thing about this book is there is never for a second where the events and voices don't seem possible. If this all really did go down, it's not a stretch to assume that things would go down exactly like this book details. It's tense and engrossing and you really want, nay, need to find out if Miranda and her family make it through ok. I felt legitimately attached to all the characters and was biting my nails in nerves when crap just kept getting worse.
The only thing that bugged me a bit, and this is very minor, was Pfeffer's political beliefs came through a bit and left a kinda bitter taste in my mouth in a few scenes. Now, these things are such a small part of the book that it really isn't a big deal, but as a staunch moderate, I always get annoyed when authors nudge political feelings into a non political book. It was nothing major, but whenever the unnamed president from Texas says something on the radio, the mother must remind everyone that he's an idiot, even if this said president didn't really do anything to warrant the name calling...at least in the book. Also, the only religious characters are portrayed as either wackos or hypocrites, and Miranda is left confident that she wants nothing to do with God and that a belief in him/her is useless. While its not unrealistic, especially in the life or death times the book takes place in, that people would use religion to benefit their own ends, there isn't a single character or mention of anyone who might actually benefit from the hope that believing could provide, which I think is just as plausible. All the religious just seemed pathetic and fooling themselves. If you're going to go down that road, could it just be at least a balanced one? Just my opinion though.
Overall though, like I said, these things are minor and the book is an awesome read. I can't wait to read the next one!
After mentioning my admiration for the Harry Potter series, this was recommended to my by a fellow teacher who thought that the Bartimaeus trilogy was...moreAfter mentioning my admiration for the Harry Potter series, this was recommended to my by a fellow teacher who thought that the Bartimaeus trilogy was far the superior. Oh really? After reading, this 1st installment was enjoyable but definitely not on the same level as the legendary HP.
The Amulet of Samarkand follows Nathanial, a young wizard who, because of being mocked and ridiculed at a younger age, dedicates himself to getting back at the evil wizard who made him feel crappy and summons Bartimaeus. Together the two get wrapped in a plot much bigger than either expected and have to save London and the entire wizarding world from a takeover.
The biggest and best aspect of this book is Bartimaeus, who is sarcastic and hilarious. He narrates half the story and I found myself always looking forward to his sections. He includes footnotes, which is what he is thinking on one of the other 7 planes, and adds another nice level of back story and humor. If only there were more of him.
Sadly, Nathanial's segments take a step down from Bartimaeus'. While the djinni's parts are told in 1st person, Nathanial's are told in 3rd, which makes him feel so much more disjointed and detached. I really didn't connect with Nathanial. While they are still well written, the stark contrast just broke the flow. While I was pulling for him, his character just couldn't compete with Batimaeus in the end. I think it would have really helped if the author wrote his parts in 1st too, but what do I know.
The plot is solid without being outstanding. Its clear it was meant to be a series all along, so there are a lot of loose ends that are never tied. I was really interested with the story in the beginning, but got a little bored with it towards the middle and was never able to recover.
The setting was another thing that could have been better. While the alternative wizarding reality was mostly believable, there were just a few details that stuck out for me and ruined my overall mental picture of this world.There are mentions of computers and other forms of very modern technology which, while not a big deal by themselves, bring up questions. If Nathanial's master has a computer, why doesn't he have a cell phone? After the attack on Parliament, why are there no security cameras leaving the wizards rushing to find witnesses? I hate to compare it to HP, but that was a world of magic done well. We get a feel that it takes place in a modern world, but the lines are clearly defined while this book has two worlds(Wizarding and normal) which don't sit well together.
Overall, The Amulet of Samarkand is a solid read, but could have been alot better with some different stylistic choices and details. I went into this thinking I would read the whole trilogy, but I've been told that this is the best one in the series. If that is true and its downhill from here, I think I'll pass.(less)
The second part of the Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer takes off where the first left off, with Todd and Viola in the clutches of the Pre...moreThe second part of the Chaos Walking series, The Ask and the Answer takes off where the first left off, with Todd and Viola in the clutches of the President. My main hope from this book was that it would clear up some of the plot ambiguities created in the first, which really really kept me from loving this series. Thankfully, I Asked and this book Answered (haha - see what I did there? I'm clever, I know).
The thing that stuck out from Ness' first book was how strong the voice is and that doesn't change here. Now, switching from Todd's and Viola's alternating perspectives, the story always feels real and tense and I was engrossed from the very beginning. All the characters were well done and I was thoroughly impressed by the evolutions some of them took. I could never imagine myself liking Davey after his douchey 1st run through, but slowly and steadily he changed before my eyes and I ended up really feeling for him by the end. It's not an easy thing to develop side characters fully with them getting less face time, but this book is just chock-filled with deep characters that blossom before your eyes.
The story, which was a strong part of the first one (minus my personal beefs - check my review of The Knife of Never Letting Go for more detail) is just as good here and remains as tense as ever. However, I couldn't help but feel that Ness and his editor were trying to milk the suspenseful parts of the story for all they were worth, dragging scenes and breaking up sections to try and increase the suspense, but just coming off seeming like they were trying too hard. This book is filled with repeating lines, like "I can do this. I CAN do this. I can do this." I get it Todd, you can do this. I understand that's part of his present tense voice (which is very well done btw) but it gets old after awhile. This book could literally be 20 or 30 pages shorter if the second and third and fourth reiterations of a thought or line were deleted. Also, some scenes just get draaaaaaaged out to the point where I just wanted to start skimming until something new happened, and it happens more than once. A mysterious knock on the door? Let's think about who it could be for a few pages. The last thing that caused me to squirm...
the page break.
There are alot of them.
It definitely builds suspense, but after the first 10 or so, it got old. There were also some times when it just broke the flow of the story rather than heighten the experience. Overall, these are just little qualms I had, but they were worth nothing.
In the end, this book is better from the first and (most importantly) I am now dying to read the next one. If you enjoyed the first, this is a no brainer. If you were on the fence like me, despite some questionable structure choices, this will sell you on the chaos walking series.(less)
I'm one of the few people out there who somehow missed the entire Alice in Wonderland story. I never read any version of the story until now and I hav...moreI'm one of the few people out there who somehow missed the entire Alice in Wonderland story. I never read any version of the story until now and I have never seen any adaptation of the movie. I found this one on the shelf at a B&N and was really intrigued by the gothic fantasy art style so I figured it's about time I found our who this Alice chick was and how many drugs did she take. I feel better having read it but, for the life of me, I have no idea why this story is such a classic. Didn't enjoy it all.
The story boils down to Alice falling into some tripped out LSD world and going from random character to character and having a prissy English conversation that makes no sense. Alot much of the dialogue was tongue in cheek banter and never really roped me in. Also, this is probably a result of me reading so much YA, but I felt like her reactions to the events as they unfolded were just too unrealistic. She never seems put off or questions how any of this is happening. I know its a classic fantasy and that's the wrong way to look at it, but that's just how I felt going through it.
In the end, like I said earlier, I'm glad I read it to just say that I have. But, egad I am I glad it's over.(less)