1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and dete...more There's a lot for me to love about this book:
1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and determined, a bit of a smart ass with a smart mouth. But she's no mere Mary Sue, possessing vulnerabilities and flaws that make her uniquely "Kirby" and nobody else. I found her funny and totally sympathetic. Quite honestly, the entire novel pivots around her. Without her, the intricate house of cards the author builds would collapse in on itself at the slightest shift.
2) The villain Harper is a skeevy, creepy predator, a wholly horrific construct of misogyny and homicidal tendencies. There isn't much depth or nuance to this guy -- he's just a walking talking body of hedonistic impulses and demented desires. We don't get any personal history for him or why he should have become what he's become. We know some of his twisted motivations derive from the magical qualities of "the House" -- but not all of them. You could even argue that "the House" sees the evil in him and draws Harper to itself.
3) It's about time travel in that tangly mind-fuck way that makes my brain itch, a pleasant buzz but one with bite. The mechanics of the time travel are not explained or explored in the ways they usually are in a sci-fi novel. The time travel just exists. There is a "House" that holds the magic and its door opens onto different years of the same city anywhere from the 1930s to the 1990s. It's this "House" that allows for a time traveling serial killer, and for that unique premise alone the book deserves a second look.
What can I say? This book has a lot going for it, and I liked it, I liked it a lot. But not once did I love it. I was intrigued, I played along with the mystery of the time travel, fitting pieces together where I could and trying not to get too caught up in the logic, faulty or otherwise. While Kirby stood out bright as the sun as one of "the Shining Girls", the rest of Harper's victims feel underdeveloped by comparison, almost throwaways, mere plot devices. It was hard not to get them mixed up with each other.
I also felt a tad underwhelmed by Kirby's "hunt" of her attempted killer. The uncovering and following of clues felt clunky, a cobbled together hodge-podge process where results are based more on luck and coincidence than real groundwork and actual "hunting".
This is largely a plot driven piece and if puzzles and the snake eating its own tail nature of time travel appeals to you then definitely check this out. As I was reading it, I was struck by its cinematic qualities, and won't be surprised if The Shining Girls gets optioned for the big screen.
Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously uniqu...more Patrick Ness is a magnificent storyteller and master wordsmith in possession of a vibrant imagination. His Chaos Walking trilogy is tremendously unique and exciting, and his A Monster Calls brought me to my knees with its merciless emotional elegance and purity of Truth.
More Than This shows glimpses of greatness, but never quite reaches that level of soul-satisfying, heart-stopping, mind-melting resolution for me. It's an existential tale of seeking -- the search for meaning, for Truth, for understanding and forgiveness and discovery of self -- where redemption and final destination are displaced for the all important journey. This is a story without a climax, a story which poses many questions and offers no definitive answers.
The characters are great. I loved them. Especially Tomasz. I want an entire book just of that kid. Seth's back story and his relationship with Gudmund (while taking up very few pages of the novel) burns bright, so vivid, so emotional. I quickly became astonishingly invested in their story after only a few scenes, in what they meant to each other and how they expressed their thoughts and feelings. So tenderly realized. There were times I did not want to return to the "other story" going on, I so wanted to stay with these two and find out everything about them -- everything that came before and everything to come after.
Patrick Ness, you need to write a love story. I believe you have it in you to break all of our hearts.
But this is not that book. This is something else. It defies categorization, and sometimes that's a wonderful, brilliant thing. Here, I'm left feeling a little let down and yearning for more. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomp...moreOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013 - #1
First of all, there are some fantastic four and five star reviews available that really sell the merits of this book's accomplishments in mood and story. But it's this review that most closely captures my reading experience of it.
What can I say? I like my horror to hit the lizard part of my brain, rather than the mysterious, atmospheric-laden kind that's literary and beautiful, yes, but misses my lizard brain altogether and goes right for the higher thinking part. I'm not opposed to literary horror -- some of it can be quite effective and evocative -- but it's not my favorite, it's not what I seek out, and it's not what I tend to remember. The best horror combines the elements of both, succeeding not only in a literary sense, but in attacking that primal part of our brain that feels and reacts rather than thinks and considers.
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
As a reader of horror, that's the experience I'm seeking first and foremost. I want to be made to feel on an instinctual level of 'fight or flight'. The cerebral stuff is for another time and place.
Aspects of The Sorrow King tickled my lizard brain, but like Elise's time spent in the Obscura, or Steven's long midnight walks, it's more a tale constructed out of dreams and moods, colors and sounds. Don't get me wrong -- things really do happen, frightening things accompanied by disturbing imagery -- I just feel like I spent too much time in my head while reading this one, and not enough time looking over my shoulder for the monster creeping up behind me. (less)
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't r...more
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't raise no fools.
But that hurt. A lot. You'd think I'd be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved, right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. (view spoiler)[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]
This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.
Where can the story possibly go from here? (view spoiler)[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he's told the community they're rolling over...for now, but he's obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan's camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it's going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick's group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won't there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]
I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially...more I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially back-to-back thanks to the Compendiums (which weigh a ton each and are a bitch to maneuver let me tell you).
This volume -- A Larger World -- is where Compendium 2 leaves off, a bit of a cliff-hanger you might say. I decided to re-read it in preparation of getting to Vol. 17: Something to Fear. I'm all caught up now, and forced to get my dose of Walking Dead shenanigans doled out piecemeal like the rest of you suckers. But maybe that's a good thing, because too much of this world at any one time can really mess with your head.
I get the feeling Kirkman is setting us up to really put the hurt on this time. Hasn't he already? Hells yeah, but something tells me he's just getting started and that makes me both weary and wary. Everything in this issue is glossy with optimism:
(view spoiler)[ the new guy Paul Monroe (a.k.a Jesus) turns out not to be a Charles Manson-esque kook. He's got a normal, functioning community behind him with almost 200 members called Hilltop. They are farming and thriving. What's not to appreciate? Rick goes through his usual "I can't trust you get the fuck out of my face or I'll bite it off" routine, but eventually learns to relax (even after he's forced to kill one of their people in self-defense -- it really was self-defense this time). Glenn is smitten with the community, and Rick is forced to admit it's time to start living again, rather than merely surviving. In the Hilltop he sees that as not just a possibility but a reality, a reachable goal. (hide spoiler)]
BUT... cause there's always a but right? There's a new baddy in the neighborhood -- Negan. After what we've been through with the Governor, the idea of upping the ante some more makes me very uneasy. Rick can talk all he wants about building a new life with meaning and getting back to raising their children, but I can't imagine he's going to get his people to the promised land any time soon, if at all. I've called this story bleak and nihilistic before and I still stand by that. Kirkman wants to show us the very worst of humanity it seems, and I don't think he's finished doing that yet. And that makes me very afraid. Very afraid indeed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, Why you never see bright colors on my back, And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone. Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on. "The Man In Black", Johnny Cash
Marvel's ambitious undertaking to adapt King's magnum opus has been hit or miss for me. The first five volumes (essentially a re-telling of Book IV - Wizard and Glass) did not work for me, most likely because Wizard and Glass is my least favorite of the series. While I eventually grew to appreciate the story for what it is, young Roland will never beat out long, tall and ugly Roland. So I actually skipped over Volumes 3-5 and didn't pick up the graphic novel series again until Volume 6 The Journey Begins.
I was so relieved and super-psyched to resume the story as it's finally reached The Gunslinger. Roland’s young battles are behind him, all has been lost, and he is now on the road to the Dark Tower as a solitary traveler, embittered, battle-weary, with no tears left to shed. This is the Roland I adore. This is who I want to read about and see captured in the panels of graphic novel.
In the previous volume, Roland finally meets up with Jake, and I loved how the Way Station encounter is handled. This volume focuses on the slow mutants attack and ends with Roland's palaver with the Man in Black himself.
I did not hate this volume by any stretch, but the series is now venturing into sacred territory and I didn't cotton to several of the storyline alterations. Not to mention, most of the art was just...not good. Inconsistent shall we say. I didn't like how in some panels Jake and Roland are very chiseled and there while in other panels they're barely there at all, kind of just shadowy impressions, blurry lines and all.
While I wanted to love the prolonged and "extra" interactions between Jake and Roland, something seemed not quite right about how they were speaking to each other. I can't put my finger on it really. But my gut just wouldn't leave it alone. And the climatic "go then, there are other worlds than these" scene fell flat for me. I didn't feel the punch or the emotionality I should have.
The last section capturing Roland's fireside conversation with The Man In Black is well executed. It strays little, if at all, from the original source material, a lot of the text lifted right from King's novel. Still, there are gaps even in this pivotal scene that I wish weren't there.
It's probably a mistake to read these graphic novels and judge them against King's books. Different format and all that, but I can't help it. And while I'm desperate for more Dark Tower, I'm probably much better off to just go and read the novels again rather than trying to find solace and satisfaction in the colored panels of a comic. A re-read is definitely on the table, but I will stick it out with the graphic novels too. When and where they've worked, I've been extremely pleased. (less)
I'm going to tell you two things that made me want to read this book:
1) The cover - I mean, c'mon...how kick-ass creepy is this?
2) The first sentence...more I'm going to tell you two things that made me want to read this book:
1) The cover - I mean, c'mon...how kick-ass creepy is this?
2) The first sentence of the book jacket description: "A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother's neck and fires."
Creepy, evil kids doing creepy evil things is usually a win for me. So it was a foregone conclusion that I would dive into this book with abandon.
First of all -- it isn't horror, despite the cover and the book jacket description. It's more a mash-up of mystery sci-fi with a philosophical bent to it. There are creepy parts, but those are almost incidental to the book's defined purpose. And what is that purpose?
The writing is great. Liz Jensen knows what to do with words. Hesketh Lock is a remarkable character study of a person living with Asperger's Syndrome. I'm no expert by any means (and maybe it's a terribly erroneous portrait), nevertheless I appreciated the attention to detail. I found Hesketh's way of looking at the world and interacting with it endlessly fascinating.
The book opens with Hesketh being sent to different countries on various continents to investigate cases of industrial sabotage. It's not entirely clear how these financially devastating actions by valued employees are even related to the other disturbing cases occurring at the same time of children murdering their caregivers. Hence the mystery. But Hesketh is on the case and with his very unusual brain and the aid of Venn diagrams moves closer to the truth with each passing day.
Even up to the three-quarter mark I was still chomping at the bit to uncover what the hell was really going on. I needed to know. Things were going from bad to worse. What could be behind it all? Demons? Aliens? Time-traveling scientists? So many cryptic clues, hinting at something universally "big" in a space-time-evolutionary way.
I was ready for it. I believed in the author. It felt like she had a plan. I trusted her. Even with a mere 10 pages left and no definitive climax or resolution in sight, I was only slightly worried and concerned.
Ever watch an overwrought, existential and confused piece of French cinema replete with embedded themes and imagery and allegory that you were supposed to "get" but didn't, and then the end title comes up and looks like this:
And then you shout at the screen and shake your fist: What the bleep?! You fume and even cry real tears. Because you realize no one's going to tell you the answer. Oh no. You will have to guess, extrapolate, surmise and theorize, with your friends, or worse still, with the obnoxious douche you have to work with every day.
Well piss on that. If that's what I wanted to spend my time doing I would have gotten my PhD in goddam philosophy. I can tolerate some ambiguity, but by and large I don't like it. It aggravates me. I'm reading for answers and resolution, not for more questions and uncertainty. Ambiguity stinks. Ambiguity is not my friend. Which is also probably why David Lynch movies make me want to stab somebody, him mostly.
So for a horror novel, that turned out to be a mysterious sci-fi piece that turned out to be an exercise in pointless philosophy showcasing an excruciatingly ambiguous ending -- two stars. (less)
The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast en...more The Goldfinch is a doorstopper, weighing in at over 700 densely written pages. Yet, I found myself tearing through it as if I couldn't read it fast enough. I don't know what the secret is to Ms. Tartt's prose, but I dig it. I dig it a lot. Maybe it's due to sheer deprivation (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that jazz), because this lady, while her talent goes undisputed, has only managed to pen three novels in three decades -- the very antithesis of James Patterson (whom I wish would just go away -- how many trees have to die for you, Jim? HOW MANY?)
I can be a real sucker for a sense of place. Tartt writes New York in such a way that I was able to feel the thrum of traffic and smell the bakeries (and the sewers). Taxis, doormen, park benches, museums, lunch counters -- all swirling together in a portrait that's as carefully rendered as any artist's painting. When she moves her story to the west coast for awhile, transplanting readers to Las Vegas, I became just as enthralled by the startling contrast between bustling city and dry desert.
There's really not much to say here other than I became totally immersed in this book while I was reading it. It's a character-driven piece in the sense that it's without an intricate plot, or Big Reveals. But oh, what characters! All the feels! It was just such a heartening experience to get to know them all and watch them hurl through life together, for better and for worse. It's the characters from which we draw the tension and the pace of the story and it's all so deftly handled by Ms. Tartt that I'm actually left floundering for ways to adequately describe it.
So I won't. Let her take you on this journey and I'll get the hell out of the way. (less)
I don't get it. Were my expectations just too unreasonable? An okay premise with promise that's all too simplistically delivered. The twists aren't re...more I don't get it. Were my expectations just too unreasonable? An okay premise with promise that's all too simplistically delivered. The twists aren't really twists. The setup and foreshadowing is so heavy-handed nothing felt truly out of left field (like every M. Night movie since The Sixth Sense). (view spoiler)[And do I really have to buy into the gob-smacking coincidence that THE Ben Parrish -- Cassie's unrequited crush from high school -- becomes her baby brother's protector in the alien military complex that's the most important one on the continent? (hide spoiler)]
Eh. Just couldn't do it my friends. My cup of cynicism runneth over. But I swear it's not entirely my fault. It's true I do find it difficult to love pure plot-driven books. I harbor a reader need to love and care about the characters (or at least find them interesting should they be vile). That just wasn't happening here. All the characters are unfortunately pretty bland and uninspiring, and running around doing and saying the oddest things at the most head-scratching of times. I also didn't buy into the romance angle. The chemistry (there wasn't any) just fizzled and epically failed. Once you've seen it done well elsewhere, it becomes impossible to settle for anything less.
For an 'aliens/trust no one' invasion type story, this did not carry any of the gravity and sophistication of a classic sci-fi tale. This is no Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The War of the Worlds. And I'm not letting it off the hook for this just because it's written for teens: some of the best books I've ever read have been written for teens. I never lower my standards or my expectations just because what I happen to be reading has been classified as Young Adult.
Maybe I'm just cranky. Maybe I just wished I was reading about zombies instead. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)