Paul Auster is just a really great writer across the board. For me this one didn't rank up there with his absolute best, but it's still very well writPaul Auster is just a really great writer across the board. For me this one didn't rank up there with his absolute best, but it's still very well written and was satisfying to finish (the way solving a difficult problem is satisfying), if maybe not exactly entertaining.
Through a series of strange coincidences, recent college grad M.S. Fogg slowly uncovers the bizarre & twisted history of his family against the backdrop of 1969 New York, then has to figure out what it all means for his future.
Stylistically Auster tends to play a long game; if you're looking for a thrilling page turner to pass the time, you'll probably be disappointed. But if you're into turning a carefully crafted story over and over in your head and derive satisfaction from watching the pieces slide into place over hundreds of pages, he may be your guy....more
This book was not for me. (Neither was Motherless Brooklyn, actually, so maybe Jonathan Lethem is just not the author for me.) The story is clever andThis book was not for me. (Neither was Motherless Brooklyn, actually, so maybe Jonathan Lethem is just not the author for me.) The story is clever and original, but unfortunately that's not enough to make it good or interesting. If it hadn't been so short, I probably would've given up halfway. I kept wondering if the painfully bad writing was supposed to be stylistic (ie mocking cheap noir), but I think if you're going to do that, you have to in some way communicate to the reader that that's the game, or else it just comes across as...bad. Can't recommend.
Decently readable & amusing enough to keep my attention for 322 pages. Not racing to grab the next one, though. I'm a bit burned out on the wizardDecently readable & amusing enough to keep my attention for 322 pages. Not racing to grab the next one, though. I'm a bit burned out on the wizard-noir genre currently, and Harry's chewing of scenery is a bit above my threshold for it....more
Halfway in, I still had my doubts. Some of the characters are better written than others, I'm kind of over the trope of the supernatural James Dean, aHalfway in, I still had my doubts. Some of the characters are better written than others, I'm kind of over the trope of the supernatural James Dean, and the writing tends to vacillate between sharp / witty and awkward / painful. (It is an admittedly thin line to walk when you're writing about edgy, urban characters doing edgy, urban things in an edgy, urban setting...though getting beaten over the head with the HEY THIS IS EDGY & URBAN IN CASE U DIDN'T NOTICE!!! does get old after a while) The plot was handled skillfully, though, and RK wrapped things up in a creative & convincing way in the end. Ultimately entertaining enough to keep me interested in what happens next, so guessing I'll probably seek out the second one at some point....more
Because the author is so open about his atheism, I think it's easy to forget at times that the topic of this book is not the existence of God / a godBecause the author is so open about his atheism, I think it's easy to forget at times that the topic of this book is not the existence of God / a god / gods / deities, etc. Instead, the book reviews how the evolutionary psychology of humans has uniquely pre-disposed us to believe in the existence of an omniscient deity or deities that observe(s) and judge(s) our thoughts and actions and in of some form of afterlife. I actually feel like these are questions you can engage with and think about regardless of your spiritual / religious beliefs, as long as you are not in the habit of believing things just because you want to and refuting them because you don't. This is definitely a book based on scientific evidence.
That said, if you have a background in cognitive and/or social and/or evolutionary psychology, it's unlikely you'll encounter anything all that new, and you may feel like some of the more basic points are belabored. (Every time he started explaining how the theory of mind works again, I was all "Yes, I get it.". It was interesting to hear him put the literature together in slightly different ways, but by & large, my response was mostly, "Huh. That makes sense."
On the other hand, if you don't have much background in psychology, it may completely blow your mind.
In any case, it's a short, entertaining, not-too-technical, easy to read book, so not much to lose either way....more
Prior to this book, I had read Bellwether, Doomsday Book, Blackout, and All Clear by Connie Willis, in that order. In general my opinion has been thatPrior to this book, I had read Bellwether, Doomsday Book, Blackout, and All Clear by Connie Willis, in that order. In general my opinion has been that they are probably all very good books, for someone who is not me (though the last three--part of the Oxford Time Travel series--were better than the first). For whatever reason the Oxford Time Travel books came across to me as draaaaaging oooonnnn and oooonnnn without much of anything really happening in terms of plot development, and Doomsday was so bleak and depressing I kind of just wanted to shoot myself in the face halfway through & have done with it. But everyone says To Say Nothing of the Dog (another Oxford Time Travel book) is clever and hilarious, so I figured I'd give Connie Willis one more shot.
And props to them; it was definitely the best of the four that I've read. The beginning was a bit slow, still, and a quarter of the way in I was a little nervous, but after that the story began to pick up, and some of the antics of a 2057 historian trying to figure out Victorian England were entertaining. But I can't say it was laugh-out-loud, rolling on the floor hilarious as some reviews had led me to believe. It felt to me like the actual plot took a back seat to all the zany characters and goofy hijinks, so by the time I got to the end and everything was finally explained & wrapped up, I had to keep flipping back & going, "Wait, what?" & I think I would have enjoyed it more if all of that had been more foregrounded earlier in the book instead of sort of tacked on at the end.
I think in general her books just don't really speak to me--I tend to find myself finishing them & feeling like I'm not walking away with much. Still, the writing is smart & entertaining, and I can see why other people might enjoy it more than I did.
I've been meaning to read this book for years & finally finished it. Extremely well written & enjoyable, though it is hard to explain why, orI've been meaning to read this book for years & finally finished it. Extremely well written & enjoyable, though it is hard to explain why, or even describe much of what it's about without giving spoilers. Ah well....more
In this version of B&B, "Beauty" is Rosalind (get it? Rose?) Hawkins, a doctoral student in history/class
Beauty and the Beast modern retelling #2:
In this version of B&B, "Beauty" is Rosalind (get it? Rose?) Hawkins, a doctoral student in history/classics in 1905 Chicago whose father has fallen into financial ruin & then died, leaving her destitute & unable to afford to complete her degree; "the beast" is Jason Cameron, an elemental master of fire-cum-disgustingly wealthy railroad baron in San Francisco who has been transformed into a half-man-half-wolf monster via a spell gone horribly wrong. Through no small amount of deception, Cameron hires the scholarly Rosalind as a research assistant to help him search for the right spell to change him back into a proper human; meanwhile, his devious rival plots to destroy him with the aid of Cameron's charming yet duplicitous secretary/apprentice, who himself has designs on Rosalind. Things play out more or less the way you'd predict.
This is only the second Mercedes Lackey I've ever read & I'm starting to get what people mean by "hair drier" reading. If you need to pass the time, this is a pretty easy book to pick up and read a few pages, and few more, and a few more, until suddenly you're 100 pages in without even realizing it; that said, I would definitely categorize it as good-but-not-great.
The plot itself is rather slow-moving, the climax & resolution rather underwhelming and, well, anticlimactic, and judging by the massive blocks of internal monologue that insist on spelling out every relevant plot point/bit of characterization/etc., Lackey doesn't seem to have much faith in her readers' abilities to pick up on inference or figure things out for themselves. But the two main characters are interesting, and she sets up an interesting dynamic between the two of them.
Had the villains been a little less cartoonish and the elemental magic aspect of the storyline developed further, I feel like this actually could have been a pretty fantastic book. As it is, it'll get you through a plane ride without wanting to shoot yourself.
This book is interesting because it's written by the same woman, Robin McKinley, who wrote Beauty (the first
Beauty and the Beast modern retelling #3:
This book is interesting because it's written by the same woman, Robin McKinley, who wrote Beauty (the first retelling of this story that I red a few weeks back) twenty years prior. In the afterword, McKinley explains that Beauty & the Beast has always been hear favorite fairy tale, & she wrote Beauty "almost by accident," as more of a writing exercise that she never expected to be able to sell to anyone precisely because it was so straightforward & followed the traditional tale so closely. Feeling strongly that authors shouldn't recycle plots, she said for years she'd never write another "Beauty & The Beast," but it turns out that between 26 and 46 a lot of life happens, and with 20 years of additional maturity & experience under her belt, McKinley realized that maybe she hadn't said everything she had to say about this particular story.
There are definitely similarities between the two. Many of the traditional elements of the fairy tale are intact--wealthy, widowed merchant of three daughters faces financial ruin & moves the family to the country, is unexpectedly called back to deal with a lingering business matter, gets lost in a winter storm while riding back, & is put up & fed overnight at a seemingly empty yet enchanted estate. Upon taking a rose from the estate to give to his youngest daughter, he is accosted by the eponymous Beast who issues the familiar ultimatum, "Your daughter or your life."
This time, though, the story is significantly richer and more nuanced, both in terms of the characters and their emotional depth as well as the back story surrounding just how the Beast got himself into this situation & what it will take to get him out. The magic is spooky, disorienting, and a bit malicious, and in fact that combined with the somewhat schizophrenic storytelling give the whole thing a rather dream-like, disorienting feel that makes parts of it difficult to follow (though I actually thought this worked & added to the ambience).
It only gets three stars from me, though, because a) the first 2/3 to 3/4 were soooooo slow & it felt like there were long stretches where nothing much happened or where what happened could have been seriously edited down for the sake of pacing; by that point in the narrative arc I really felt like I should have some idea where the story was going and some vague sense of how things would be resolved (or, at the very least, what there was to resolve). Then, suddenly, things take off & I spent the last quarter-to-a-third of the book trying to hold on & keep up as she threw critical revelation after critical revelation at me in a way that felt a bit tacked-on & not really tied into everything that came before. I am not even kidding that the last 20 pages contained enough richness and new material for an entire other book. If McKinley could have tightened up the middle of the book, spent some time hinting/alluding to some of the stuff you find out only at the end & connecting it to those middle chapters, then expanded the last 20 pages into, say, 100 or so, I think it could have been a really fantastic book.
Still, it was worth reading on a plane just to compare to Beauty and see how the story had morphed in her mind during those intervening two decades.
This book was just not for me. The main character is annoying & gross, and the plot (if you can call it that) was dumb. Robbins certainly has a knThis book was just not for me. The main character is annoying & gross, and the plot (if you can call it that) was dumb. Robbins certainly has a knack for a quirky turn of phrase ("You could fit all my virtues in Minnie Mouse's belly button and still have room for Mickey's tongue and their prenuptial agreement.") but I gotta be honest; that's just not enough to get me through. (Okay, I guess technically it DID get me through, but just barely.) It got a little better towards the end, but I'm trying to think of anyone I know who I would recommend it to and I can't think of anyone. I have Jitterbug Perfume sitting in my stack of things to read & if it doesn't prove dramatically different within the first 50 pages I may be done with Tom Robbins....more