This is a really good first novel about monster hunters who bond to their almost living weapons. I was impressed with this dark and intense action hor...moreThis is a really good first novel about monster hunters who bond to their almost living weapons. I was impressed with this dark and intense action horror/dark urban fantasy novel. I recommend it to fans of the series "Supernatural" or other fiction about monster hunters.
Sherry Thomas has proven herself as an author who uses the written word with a palpable love and respect for its power. I haven't had much luck with Y...moreSherry Thomas has proven herself as an author who uses the written word with a palpable love and respect for its power. I haven't had much luck with Young Adult books lately (with a few exceptions). They don't delve as deep as I would like, and rely on conventions and mechanisms that I find irritating. With "The Burning Sky", Thomas has encouraged my long held belief that young adult books can be vibrant, intelligent, thought-provoking, engaging, and have the substance I long for in a book.
The world-building in this book is careful and thorough without being too dogmatic or dragging down the narrative pace. I appreciated the manner in which Thomas layers her storytelling so that it feels as though I can delve deeper into this world, if I so choose, without the foundations falling apart or revealing nothing but wooden planks or steel girders. Instead, I felt as though this story is barely scratching the surface. At the same time, she doesn't resort to the most hated of all YA devices, the cliffhanger. Yet, this is obviously a story that promises to continue into at least a few volumes, but she concludes it in a satisfying manner that allows the reader to choose to read the next book, instead of being blackmailed into continuing the series.
I also loved the characterization. Iolanthe is a heroine who feels real. She has strengths and weaknesses. She is sympathetic, without being perfect. "The chosen one" storyline can get a little stale, but it's well handled in Thomas' hands. I root for her to find her way in a crazy reality and to be herself, but also do what is right. Titus is about the most perfect prince I've read. Perfect in the best way. He's got an edge that I love. He's flawed but also incredibly appealing. His inner vulnerabilities have been camouflaged very carefully by an arrogant, bitingly sarcastic mien. I had to remind myself that he was jailbait, because I was seriously crushing on him. He's a man with a mission, and nothing will sway him from it, not even the threat of his future demise. Even though Iolanthe has a valid reason to dislike him, I can identify with her struggles not to fall in love with him. While Titus is using Iolanthe and he knows it, it's clear he wishes he could be with her free of the rigid burden that binds them together, but also drives a wedge between them. But he's willing to do the wrong thing for right reasons. I loved that about him. Watching these two fall in love was very satisfying in a way that I crave from a good romance novel. The great thing is the love story is a viable and intrinsic part of a smart, intelligent epic-style fantasy.
The fantasy elements stand up to close scrutiny. Readers who loved the Narnia and Harry Potter series, along with fans of Howl's Moving Castle will be very happy with this novel. The concept of a mage world that borders on the mundane, human world has always appealed to me. I often wished my closet hid a doorway to a fantasy world. I freely admit it. And there is also an alluring nod to fairy tales in that Prince Titus has a book that allows him and his new protege Iolanthe to train and hone their mage skills. While Titus acts as a mentor to Iolanthe, she doesn't sacrifice any strength or identity in the process. It's clear that Titus can't help but look up to Iolanthe as a gift who can bring restoration to his world, and he is willing to take incredible risks and sacrifices for her to achieve her potential.
The action and fantastic scenes are beautifully described. I felt like I could see them on a big movie screen. The use of legendary creatures made me shriek in joy in a very ladylike fashion inside. I didn't care about being a princess, but I sure did love the Pegasus, unicorns and dragons. I would like to see this series as movies, well done, of course.
I can't say enough good things about this novel. I'm ashamed I put off reading it for so long. But it's one of those great accidents that I read this when I needed to. While I admire Thomas as a historical romance novelist, I hope she continues writing fantasy, Young Adult or otherwise, since that is my second love.
The Unwritten strikes me as being somehow 'impressive'. It's hard to clarify what I mean, but the idea of it and the execution was very well done. It...moreThe Unwritten strikes me as being somehow 'impressive'. It's hard to clarify what I mean, but the idea of it and the execution was very well done. It delves into the very fruitful literary territory of metafiction, where reality and fiction intersect. I find I truly enjoy metafiction, probably because of being such a lifelong bookworm and having my head stuck in a book for most of that life (since I was four).
In the case of Tommy Taylor, it's a painful intersection. His father is a famous novelist of children's books (in the vein of Harry Potter) who suddenly disappeared. Tommy is left depending on the uncertain income from coasting on his identity as Tommy Taylor, the eponymous character of the books his father wrote. When a lady shows up at a comic book convention and challenges his identity, the stuff hits the fan, and the adoring fans of the books become hateful, vengeance-seeking stalkers. Tommy's life implodes. But things only get worse, when he develops enemies that hail from the so-called mythical landscape of the books.
One of the things I liked the best about this graphic novel was the illustrations. It is clean and elegant. The lettering is also well done and distinctive. My eyes wanted to stay on the page and observe every detail, whereas with some graphic novels, there is too much to look at (so I pick and choose), and some aspects of the frames seem to fade into the woodwork because they are deemed less important. This book is a great midpoint where neither clarity or detail is compromised.
I also liked the prose and the storytelling. I felt sorry for Tommy. He really got a rough deal being who he was, and in effect powerless to change his life. I hope that he does gain some agency and authority in his life situation.
I do have to say I didn't care much for some aspects of one of the sections. The idea of tackling horror conventions since they were at the house at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where Mary Shelley (and apparently John Milton earlier) wrote the famous masterpiece they are known for, was a good one. I just didn't care for the gory turn of the story. I think it pricks a sore spot I have about the horror genre in general--the sacrifice of story and genuine narrative content for splatter and gore. I understood the purpose of this, but it just seemed gratuitous (although I admit it was still tastefully done).
The last section was rather odd initially. I didn't get why Rudyard Kipling was the narrator, until well into the story, and then the lightbulb came on. It ties in very well with this developing and expansive story and endows it with increased sense of threat and risk.
I still have a lot of questions, and I want to keep reading this series because it has my interest and attention. I hope that Tommy will come to understand his troublesome situation and discover the hero within.
I'd recommend this novel to lovers of books and literature in its various forms. (less)
I picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fa...moreI picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel in A Tale Dark and Grimm, and I just plain love fairy tales, so I am looking for innovative, interesting retellings of these classic stories. I'm glad my library had this on audio. It was a fun and quick read, about 3 hours (It took me longer because I listened in spurts).
Initially, I was very drawn in. The characters of Sol and Connie are captivating, their story was somewhat poignant. I definitely felt for these kids. If you're familiar with Hansel and Gretel, you can get a head start on the storyline, although McGowan throws in some novel touches that were fun. I won't say which, because that's the fun of reading it. Sol is a young genius and inventor who gets a huge blow to his confidence that he has to work through. His mischievous, free-sprited, and intuitive sister Connie carries a burden of guilt related to Sol's greatest failure. This is a pivotal element of this story, and the author does carry it through successfully to the end. The story shows what the child-eating witch is up to in the modern age, and she's definitely streamlined her operation.
The child-eating witch is truly heinous. What makes it even more harrowing is that people actually volunteer their kids to be eaten because of the manifold failings of those kids! Definitely folks who shouldn't have reproduced! It's humorous, but on one level it's really kind of disturbing that parents would set their children up to be eaten by a witch just because they misbehave or fail to live up to certain standards. I think that they are even worse than the witch, honestly.
This is one of those books that won't appeal if you don't like a dark and kind of twisted sense of humor. Let me just say that here and now. But I think readers who like the Hansel and Gretel story won't find anything here that countermands the original story. Instead, this is just a modern update with more humor.
If there was anything I was underwhelmed with, it was the use of the secondary character who happened to be a witch as well, but she's a good witch. I understand why she couldn't help the kids very much, but I still feel she was underutilized in the story. I also wished there was some sort of confrontation between her and the evil witch. Also, I feel the ending was too abrupt. I know this is supposed to be a short book, but I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending. I definitely wanted more story and more closure.
Overall, this was pretty good. It's hard to rate it higher or to perform a very intensive analysis, because it's very short. I am glad this was recommended to me because I liked A Tale Dark and Grimm. However, it doesn't live up to the excellence of that book, and that's one caveat I would give any reader who is investigating humorous, middle grade/juvenile fairy tale retellings.
As far as suitability for young readers, I think it's fine for kids who are 8-12 (or older readers who like J/MG fiction). However, this would be too scary for a younger reader. Not that much is described, but the idea of a witch eating bad kids or even worse, their parents giving them away to the witch, is pretty disturbing, even for a much older reader like myself.
If you are able to get this on audiobook, I recommend it. I liked the narrator.
This isn't horror, but has a sort of a Victorian Gothic feel. For a middle grade novel, it has kind of a dark, almost pessimistic tone. That is not to...moreThis isn't horror, but has a sort of a Victorian Gothic feel. For a middle grade novel, it has kind of a dark, almost pessimistic tone. That is not to say that good has no chance of winning out in this book, but it has some unfortunately true insights on human nature that are far from uplifting. But what I did like about it was that the ability to choose for yourself the decisions you make, even though people like the main villain thrive on manipulating peoples' weaknesses. In the end, we can make the decision not to do wrong, even if it's harder on us in the end. At the same time, we see the effects of growing up in harsh circumstances, with parents who are cruel and amoral. How can you get an idea of right and wrong under those circumstances? Some might argue that you don't, but as Ludlow shows, most of us, except for true sociopaths, are born with a conscience, or what CS Lewis call natural law. Even if it was easier to do the wrong thing, Ludlow was troubled by his actions, as many are in the small township of Pagus Parvus, which makes Joe Zabbidou's work as the Secret Pawnbroker so much more important.
Atmosphere is crucial, and the author sets it very well in this novel. Although I initially wondered where the sinister and horrific elements would be revisited after the very chilling beginning, when I realized it wasn't that kind of book, I settled in and enjoyed it for what it was. A story about human nature and the good and the bad inherent in our humanity. Even with a lousy human being like Jeremiah Ratchet, it's clear that he still has the same basic needs, although his soul seems corrupted by avarice and selfishness. But does that mean someone should take away his ability to make the choice to do right? Ludlow watches this dilemma take place as the townspeople in Pagus Parvus look to Joe as the divine avenger when that is not his role at all. Instead he urges them to be patient and let justice do its work in the end. Anyone will agree that is not a comfortable process, as justice sometimes seems very slow to come in many circumstances.
This is an interesting book. A quick read that keeps you thinking. I wonder how a younger reader would see it, and if the lessons inherent in this book will have the same exact impact on that reader as it has on a reader of my age, who has seen a lot more of humanity in its varied humanness. In the end, The Black Book of Secrets is a thoughtful read for younger readers, that will make an older reader have something to ponder as well.
12.21 was an entertaining read. I never got bored, that's for sure. I'm not big on the whole Mayan Prophecy thing, so I normally wouldn't run to read...more12.21 was an entertaining read. I never got bored, that's for sure. I'm not big on the whole Mayan Prophecy thing, so I normally wouldn't run to read this sort of thing. However, Random House offered a giveaway for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group, so I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did.
What I liked: * I love medicine, so medical dramas in various incarnations almost always appeal. The whole concept of an epidemic illness arising out of a connection to an ancient Maya tomb and civilization, and related to the Mayan Prophecy was a unique approach. I liked the characters' race to find out what the etiology of the infection was and how to combat it. There was a real sense of urgency and I felt my pulse racing as I read. History is another favorite subject, so there's a good combination here. * This was quite readable. The narrative was cohesive between modern day and flashbacks to the ancient Maya times (900AD), and there was a sense of steady progression in this story that I appreciated, especially for a suspense-driven book. *I like that the author didn't slow down the story too much with excessive explanations, but the Maya cultural elements seemed well-researched and the science was fairly credible (except one heinous element below that I must rant about). *Sadly, I knew little about the indigenous Maya descendants of Guatemala. That was very interesting to read about their thriving community in LA (assuming that it's real). Also, I wasn't aware of the situation with the indigenous people in Guatemala. It's always good to learn about different peoples and their struggles, and it will make me more sensitive about their plight.
What could have been better: *Okay, I have a mini rant. The scene with the slaughterhouse/meat processing factory is so unrealistic it's insulting and laughable. The things that occur in that facility would never happen. I know for certain. They had serious food safety issues going on, including commingling of meat ingredients and use of products that definitely are not approved for meat production or use in the United States. Then the author made a point of saying that kids eat that product. A lot of inspectors work very hard to make sure that products safe for consumption make it on the shelves, and that was offensive to the hard work they put in and the many safety checks that meat plants have to follow in their food safety system. One could argue that maybe that facility was not under government oversight, but the author made a point of mentioning the USDA, so I know it was. And let's be clear that is not going to happen in a federally inspected facility. I don't mind the line between fiction and reality blurring in appropriate settings. This wasn't one. For a medical science drama, I expect more realistic and credible use of information in a story. Fortunately, I was able to get over my disgust with this and keep reading the book, but it affected my rating without a doubt. *I didn't feel a heavy sense of connection to any of the main characters. The storyline itself was more interesting to me. Towards the end, the sense of urgency for their situation did hit me, but I can't say I fell in love with anyone in this novel.
Overall Thoughts: *A pretty good, readable, suspenseful novel. I liked the mix of ancient civilizations and treasure hunting with modern medical science. There were a couple of pitfalls that lowered my rating, but overall, it was a worthwhile read, especially for those interested in the Endtime Mayan Prophecy and Meso-American ancient civilizations. For a quick-read medical suspense story with some ancient connections, this is a pretty good one to pick up.
Overall Rating: 3.75/5.0 stars.
A special thanks to Random House for the opportunity for members of the Action/Adventure Aficionados to read this novel. (less)
Among Others is kind of like a love letter to bibliophiles, especially those who fell in love with books as a youngster, finding solace and comfort be...moreAmong Others is kind of like a love letter to bibliophiles, especially those who fell in love with books as a youngster, finding solace and comfort between the pages of so many different stories. In some ways, Mor's character tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me of myself as a preteen. I went through some physical problems that made life very difficult for me. In fact, (view spoiler)[ I had a hip problem that caused me to walk funny and had to use crutches before and after surgery, and people accused me of faking, as if you'd fake an injury so you could have attention you really didn't want. I also remember sitting in the library during gym hour (which was awesome since gym was always my least favorite class because all the bullies seemed to be in gym class). It was one of the few things I liked about having my hip problem, that and having a couple months out of school. I hated school, not the books but the system. But most of all, being in one of my favorite places in the world for an uninterrupted hour of reading. Whatever good books I could find in the school library. The possibilities were great, if not exactly endless, because I did eventually run out of books that I wanted to read. (hide spoiler)] I also identified with how Mor saw her life through the lens of fiction. I think that people who spend so much time reading do tend to analyze life and books in that manner.
I found myself wanting to write down all the book titles, and even looked some up on my Kindle Fire as I read. I am not a heavy science fiction reader, but I did read tons of fantasy and some sci-fi when I was younger. This book makes me want to investigate sci-fi with a renewed interest. It seems to have much to offer Mor, and perhaps I will find the same appeal with further reading. As Mor did, I read all the ones my library had, and then some of the adult books at that point. I remember that joy, which I still have, of going to the library and bookstores and finding what new books I could read. There never seemed to be enough books. The identification factor was very strong with Mor in this regard. Also having divorced parents, and how that opens a wound inside you that doesn't ever seem to heal. Lastly, a sister I love dearly. Now, my mom wasn't an evil witch. Nor was I gifted with magic powers and the abilities to see fairies (although I would love to see fairies, to be honest. I guess I'm on the wrong side of the ocean for that).
In some ways, this book has a surreal flavor. Many times I wondered how much of Mor's magic-sensing abilities and magical frame of reference was just part of her imagination's way of dealing with some events that a young person doesn't know how to handle. But, then, I think that there is too much reality to the magic here to come to that conclusion, ultimately. At any rate, I liked how at times you couldn't tell.
This lovely book is a piece of fiction that feels so intimate and personal to me. I can only believe that the author poured her own love of books and some of her own experiences with books into this book. That kind of intense realness cannot be faked. Books are such a pleasure, one that never pales. You can find so much joy and pathos in a book that it literally is like opening a door to another world, where you can escape from your own little problems enough to gain courage to face another day. Whether that's a school full of mean girls, or parents who fight more than they show affection. Or physical problems, loss, loneliness, you name it. As an adult, that allure of books hasn't palled for me. I like to think that a grown up Mor finds just as much joy and solace in her books. And I can't fault her for it. I'm the same way.
I finally finished this, and I am very glad I did. While some parts did not appeal to me, the memoirs of Justine and Richard's grandmother, Gabriele w...moreI finally finished this, and I am very glad I did. While some parts did not appeal to me, the memoirs of Justine and Richard's grandmother, Gabriele were very moving and at times heartbreaking.
I can't quite give this four stars because it was too slow moving initially, but it's definitely worth 3.5 stars, just for the WW2 narrative.
I'd give this 3.5/5.0 stars because I liked it and the characters. Kayla and Quinn were good kids, and their adventure was kind of a novel idea. I can...moreI'd give this 3.5/5.0 stars because I liked it and the characters. Kayla and Quinn were good kids, and their adventure was kind of a novel idea. I can't rate it higher because some parts were slow moving for me, and the story felt unfinished, unpolished, and maybe a little too simple in the overall narrative style. The 3.5 stars also indicates that it's a clever book in a lot of ways, with a good deal of promise. I'd like to read the next book in the series to see how things progress and what Kayla and Quinn are up to next. Let's keep this very short and sweet, so I'll end this review here.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an excellent selection for audiobook. The narrator does a great job of immersing the listener in the world. She...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was an excellent selection for audiobook. The narrator does a great job of immersing the listener in the world. She brings Myfanwy to life and makes her thoroughly lovable. I loved experiencing how Myfanwy processes her world as a newly born personality, a complete amnesiac who relies on the extensive note-taking and letters that her prior personality had prepared. Myfanwy is a closet bad*ss, and it was awesome that she kept everyone guessing at her hidden depths. She more than proves the adage, "It's always the quiet ones."
This is an excellent whodonnit as the reader goes through the list of suspects of who would want to kill Myfanwy Thomas and why. The cast of characters (and their various powers) is wacky and out there enough to make the introduction of each character an adventure in itself. And the mix of espionage with the weird and strange is excellently done. I found myself laughing like crazy as I listened. Not only did I laugh, but I also had some vocal 'ugh' and 'wow' moments, seeing as how the Chequy deals with some very strange threats to the British Citizenry, and the Chequy itself is pretty darn strange.
This book also reminded me of one of my favorite shows of all time, The Venture Bros., with its cast of quite bizarrely-talented folks and the odd humor. I eat that show up and so I did with this book!
I hope I can get a copy of this when it comes out in paper to enjoy again in a different format. I think this will definitely go on my favorites list for its mix of quirky humor, bizarre characters, and even more bizarre and dangerous situations that our newly intrepid heroine has to handle.
I would definitely love this to be an ongoing series, and I hope that BBC snaps this up for a potential mini-series. The British humor is excellent, sometimes wry, sometimes laugh out loud, but always funny.
Highly recommended for readers who like a weird twist on the secret spy agency theme.(less)
The antiquated language and over-wrought prose on offer here will likely turn off some readers. I don’t necessarily prefer this sort of writing, and I...moreThe antiquated language and over-wrought prose on offer here will likely turn off some readers. I don’t necessarily prefer this sort of writing, and I don’t care to read it terribly often (despite my enchantment with classic horror and speculative fiction). However, part of me enjoys these elements at the same time as finding them hard to tolerate when I am not in the mood for them. Rather a contradiction, but there you have it. There’s something about the way this taste of antiquity takes me back in history, so that I can experience life as those who lived during these times experienced it. Nathanael is a broken man. The horrific events of his past have destroyed him in the most fundamental of ways. He is not free to be a happy, joy-filled man, content with the love of a good woman and the friendships of those around him. He is haunted by the dark memories and the malevolent figure of Coppelius, who murdered his father. This figure became intertwined in the imaginings of a childhood dark fable about the Sandman, who will punish bad children who don’t go to bed in a timely fashion.
Years later, the memory of that diabolical man taints everything, even his relationship with Clara, his beloved. Nathanael goes back to University and starts falling in love with Olimpia, the daughter of his physics professor. She is literally the perfect woman: an exquisitely correct danger, a pianist without flaw, and beautifully mannered. She listens carefully to everything he says, not dismissing him as Clara does when he goes off on a melancholy bent. He adores and is obsessed with her, even though his friends and acquaintances find her repellent in her lack of animation. Unfortunately, his beloved is not as she seems.
The Sandman is a study in psychological horror. Like many good horror stories, this one is laced with ambiguity. Is the malevolent figure continuing to haunt Nathanael, or has he lost his sanity, stricken by hallucinations and mental malaise; his mind broken by those terrifying events in his childhood? I wasn’t quite sure because there was evidence to suggest that it was not completely a figment of Nathanael’s imagination.
The Sandman is an important short story because it is one of the first works of fiction to include an artificial human, the precursor to the robot of later fiction and scientific reality today. I have wanted to read this story for a while, and I enjoyed it more than not. Despite the author’s penchant for using five words when one would suffice, and the somewhat disjointed narrative structure, I found myself becoming very enthralled as I read this story. Mr. Hoffman shows a vivid imagination, and his prose caused me to become involved in the story to a level in which I was quite worried about how the story would conclude. Although this won’t be to all tastes, I recommend that admirers of classic fantasy and horrors read this one at least one, because it does have something of merit to offer to the literary world. (less)
This is my second read of this story, and I gave it four stars this time. It's a very well-written story. Ms. Gilmore crafted this tale in such a way...moreThis is my second read of this story, and I gave it four stars this time. It's a very well-written story. Ms. Gilmore crafted this tale in such a way that you feel as twisted as the narrator does. It's clear that mental illness plays a major role in the mindset of the narrator. But, there is a little shred of doubt (at least in my mind) that there might be some otherworldly component. It's hard to tell, because we are seeing things through her perceptions, which are clearly not rational.
I think there is a powerful message here. Husbands often had way too much control over their wives. Probably still the case. The husband in this story treated his wife like she was a child. He dismissed her thoughts and needs, and constantly told her what was best for her. He didn't treat her like a partner. I think that his treatment of her played a role in her deterioration.
I read about the author, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, on Wikipedia. She was a feminist who crusaded to help women in the time period in which she lived. I could see how she masterfully threaded some real-life themes into this story. It would give any reader something to think about, and I imagine it made a few people, particularly men, angry at the time in which it was published.
This is considered a feminist work. I don't think that you have to be a feminist to appreciate this message. As an egalitarian, I definitely felt this message. I felt sympathy for this woman. I think that she felt caged in and didn't have her needs met, and something inside of her twisted until she left sanity behind. It's quite a sad thing that the people who loved her contributed by their gentle neglect. If she had been listened to, and really heard, maybe things would have gone differently.
This is just my perception of this story. No doubt, a different reader will glean a dissimilar meaning from this work. In my opinion, The Yellow Wallpaper is a story that should be read more than one time. I feel I encountered more subtext and layers upon the second read. I'll keep it on my Kindle, because it's one I would like to revisit.(less)
I will freely admit that part of why I read this book was that I enjoyed what I have seen of the movie so much. I actually didn't get to watch all of...moreI will freely admit that part of why I read this book was that I enjoyed what I have seen of the movie so much. I actually didn't get to watch all of it, as I caught it on Turner Classic Movies after it started and wasn't able to watch the whole movie. I made a note that I wanted to read the book and get the whole movie set on DVD at some point. Additionally, I am interested in the roots of the detective novel. You can't explore detective fiction without reading Dashiell Hammett. So here we go....
I liked this book. It starts out very well. I was instantly drawn into the story from the first sentence. The writing is crisp and ripe with that heady atmosphere of the early 20th Century (1930s). There is a cynicism apparent in the characterization and the dialogue that speaks of its noir tone. That makes sense in light of the fact that it takes place during The Great Depression and right at the end of the Prohibition years. I was quite surprised at the frank elements of sex, drug/alcohol abuse, and crime, and a hint of police corruption (clearly I haven't read much pulp/noir classic fiction). Sadly, the 'n' word was used, which I could have done without. I have to say I appreciated the unsympathetic portrayal of human nature more than the actual mystery. Hammett's lens of humanity (via Nick) is not at all rose colored, but it's very astute and the characters were well-drawn. Overall, this was very good. While it did have some good twists and turns, it was rather anticlimactic in the end.
Nick Charles is a suitably amiable narrator. He seems experienced and wise to the ways of the world, nobody's fool. Yet he isn't completely jaded or lacking in integrity and honor. People seems to like him and open up to him, but he's not a man to take advantage of. While Nick is now retired from private investigation, his acquaintances draw him into a case unwillingly. I think Nick's nose for a mystery leads him the rest of the way. Nick proves that his investigative skills have not weakened in his retirement. I must say that I enjoyed the fact that Nora's a very perceptive woman with a good brain for investigation as well, even though she serves in the capacity of a part-time sidekick to Nick. Available to give a helping hand and a word to point him in the right direction. Hammett teaches me how to write a novel in which the mystery is tag-teamed by two instead of where the main character works alone and always knows more than anyone else.
This novel had me laughing a lot initially. Hammett's writing was quite witty, albeit cynical. Nick and Nora definitely like their booze, and have strong opinions on good quality alcohol. Their constant drinking was a source of humor to me, although I did wonder what effects it had on their liver.
Not one of the characters in this book is what I would consider well-adjusted, outside of Nora, and possibly Nick. Nora as seen through Nick's eyes doesn't reveal a whole lot about her except that she is very observant and has a nurturing nature (shown in the way she cared for and fussed over Dorothy). She also seems to lack patience for gossipy types, considering her dislike of Tip, a hostess in their social circle. She clearly loves Nick and feels comfortable with him to say what she thinks. She doesn't coddle him, although she does see to his comfort and is affectionate. She keeps things real with him and tells him the truth when he needs to hear it. I enjoyed their banter. Nora seems like a woman of her times, but is neither overly submissive or dominant in a way that would be unlikely for her times. In comparison to other women in the book, she comes off as the ideal mate to a seasoned man of the world--attractive, accepting, intelligent, socially graced, and fun-loving. I found it amusing how captivated the police detective, Guild was with Nora.
Mimi, the ex-wife of the missing man that starts the case that this novel revolves around, is a negative contrast. She is calculating and emotionally unstable. Her cruelty towards her daughter and her tendency to manipulate others cancels out her clearly considerable beauty and physical charms. Nick's narrative suggests that she is envious of her daughter (who is described as gorgeous and beautiful for her young years by few of the male characters). Despite these negative traits, she's not quite the quintessential femme fatale one expects to encounter in noir fiction. Dorothy herself was hard to read. She seems to lack emotional stability, but that makes sense in light of the abuse she suffers with her mother, and the fact that she probably gets far too much and unwanted attention from men for her young age. She latches onto Nick and Nora as a substitute parental unit, as they represent stability that she has lacked in her family life. Other characters also have a rather vivid life, despite the shorter length of this novel. As any good mystery writer, Hammett gives the reader a healthy list of suspects from which to choose the culprit, and I didn't guess who it was until Nick reveals the murderer.
As I said earlier, I found the denouement rather lacking in tension, which did dim my enjoyment a bit. Additionally, this book falls into periods of expansive dialogue towards the end that felt a bit tedious. Despite those shortcomings, this was still an enjoyable book. I would have to agree that this book is quite different in feel from the movie. I wonder if that is because of the Movie Codes. I don't think they could have gotten away with putting some of the more frank elements in this novel in the movie version, so they played up the witty banter and humorous elements from the novel.
All in all, I enjoyed my first exposure to Dashiell Hammett. I felt truly immersed in this time period and I liked Nick and Nora as main detectives. I like reading about main characters who are married, and this is definitely one to recommend to readers who enjoy this theme. I will be reading The Maltese Falcon in the near future.(less)
For this pleasure reader, there wasn't much pleasure in reading this book. Even still, I was compelled and drawn in. Octavia Butler was a very good wr...moreFor this pleasure reader, there wasn't much pleasure in reading this book. Even still, I was compelled and drawn in. Octavia Butler was a very good writer, and I am glad I did get a chance to finally read one of her books. The narrator, the actress Lynne Thigpen, did an incredible job. Now, when I think of Lauren, I will picture her voice, feminine but strong and rich. I also liked the way she varied her voice to reflect the different characters speaking.
Lauren was a protagonist that rubbed me the wrong way at times (as she did those who knew her in this book). And yet, her strength and the powerful humanity of her won me over. I love reading about strong women, and that is definitely Lauren. For her young age, what she accomplished, despite the odds, must be recognized. She is a true leader, and she is the kind you want to follow, because they ask no more of you than they demand of themselves. I loved the way she brought a small group of survivors together, empowering them, and encouraging them to protect each other and themselves.
The world was bleak, depressing, disturbing, disheartening. Any joy was fleeting, any laughs and 'happy' moments as I listened were greatly appreciated. Hearing of the atrocities that were normal in this post-apocalyptic California setting was not an easy thing for me. At times, I had to remind myself that it wasn't truly the reality (although the way thing are going, this story seems like prophecy). When I got out of my car, I had to pull back out of this book and get back to my normal reality. And I am grateful that this was just a book, even though my senses didn't seem to accept that at times. This book has a powerful message in it that is very timely. The society that we know and love is on the brink, and if we don't stand up, we might find ourselves working as wage slaves, having police and government who hurt us more than they protect us. Politics are not something I go on about in reviews, but this is something that struck me as real about this story, so I have to talk about that in this review. This scary message definitely gets me thinking, and hoping that the United States doesn't end up like this. Not destroyed by some catastrophic event that you might usually find precipitating societal collapse, but chipped away and slowly eroded into a horrible future like a nightmarish dream. More scary because it is so very plausible.
I have to say that I liked that Lauren founded a spiritual movement that kept her small band of compadres together. But, on the other hand, I deeply disagreed with the mantra that "God is change." I was taught (and believe) that God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. My mind and heart won't accept that God is malleable and that we shape God. I can understand that Lauren is about empowering and allowing oneself to be shaped, and to shape back by the forces around them; to survive no matter what, to grow stronger. I just don't think that we have to make God into some concept that is far from the truth to feel strong. In my mind, what I believe is that God is our rock--although we are buffeted by the harsh things we suffer, we can stand on His never-changing promises. Anyway, I don't mean to preach in this review, I am just saying what I feel about the Earthseed religion that Lauren founded. If I was in this story, I would be on board with her mission of creating a home and a community, but I could never accept her concept of God as change. I am glad that she found strength in it and was able to inspire her friends and companions though.
One other thing that I liked about this story is that more than half of the main characters are non-Causcasian. Not that I don't like reading about white characters. I am totally fine reading about any character of any ethnicity. However, it is good to see a main character who is black, who embodies many traits that I love and respect in a protagonist. To see people of color finding their way through some horrible circumstances, seeing the strength from within that compels them forward. Diversity is important to me, and I loved that Lauren's band was diverse, ethnically. And for all their diversity, they were a found family, helping, standing for and with each other, protecting their unit against all threats.
This is not the kind of book I will read often, because I like to read stories that take my mind off the ugliness of life, and that empower me by giving me hope and enjoyment. There is both empowerment, and a tentative hope in this story. But it's a long, hard journey to reap the harvest of those kernels, those small seeds, in my consciousness. Ms. Butler did such a good job of sowing that seed in the tough, unfertile ground of this story, and for that I commend her.
When I eat my Wheaties, I will try more of her stories.(less)
I am so glad I found this on audiobook at the library. It turned out to be a very good medium for this story. I have to say that for a slow starter, I...moreI am so glad I found this on audiobook at the library. It turned out to be a very good medium for this story. I have to say that for a slow starter, I really got drawn into this book, and when it ended, I had separation anxiety!
Two things kept me from giving this a five star rating:
1. The slow, meandering start. I was initially thinking, uh-oh, this might turn out to be a real snoozer. Boy was I wrong! 2. The ending was a cliffie that really got my blood pressure up! I didn't like the way this novel concluded at all. I hate feeling like I'm being manipulated to read the next book in a series, and it felt that way. I'd rather read a book series that has books that begin and conclude in a natural way. Some resolution, but threads that encourage me to pick up the next book. That was so not the case here. I would have kept reading anyway, but now I feel like my arm is being twisted to read the next book.
Things I loved about this book:
1. The scholarly tone wouldn't work for everyone, but since I am a bookworm nerd who likes to research topics that are of interest, I could really get into the angelologists and their penchant for delving deeply into subjects in their field. And their subject knowledge.. .Wow! Most of the main characters were in one way or another scholars or people who really knew their stuff. They spent their lives reading and immersing themselves in the past. That spoke to me. 2. I loved the epistolary format, a significant portion of the book written as parts of journal entries and book excerpts. It was executed very well. One would think that this would make the book dry, but it didn’t. 3. The narrator was fantastic. She did a gorgeous French accent (and believe me, most of the book is in various French viewpoints), and she made each of the characters sound very different. With the male viewpoints, her voice was lower and conveyed a male speaking. She really brought them to life, and brought a vivid image of the story to life, and I could get an idea of what each character was like based on the way she spoke their parts. 4. Ms. Trussoni gets the duality of angels. They are so beautiful they are irresistible, but there are so powerful and dangerous that one never truly forgets (or shouldn’t to their regret) their celestial nature, so far above humans. And then, there are the nephilim. Oh my goodness. They were so evil! I had hopes that creatures of a once divine origin, so beautiful to look at, would have some goodness inside. Not at all! I was continually surprised at how sinister and even corrupt they were. They thought absolutely nothing about humans, or God, or their celestial origins. They were all about obtaining and keeping power on earth. 5. Angelology itself as the focus of this book. Who knew? Wow! It’s more than just being an angel scholar. It’s your life, and there is no sacrifice too great, as I learned as I read. It’s all for a purpose, to prepare for the battle against very powerful foes, the nephilim. The people in this avocation that we become acquaintances with in this book suffer so greatly, and as I listened, it was clear why. Their foes were such that it took all their energies to fight them, and losing one’s life could be a given at any time. 6. Ms. Trussoni did such a good job of tying all the various narrators together. The story spans over a thousand years (well actually goes back to biblical times), but it all plays a part, and each narrator took my attention and held it hostage as I listened. 7. Percival Grigori was a fascinating villain. There were times I felt really sorry for him, and other times I hated him. His highly complicated relationship with Gabriella Levy-French Valco made for some good reading! The societies that the nephilim had built and how they became the ones controlling all the power and money in the modern world felt so plausible, part of me wonders if this is truly possible. It kind of makes sense! Final Thoughts: Although the ending was a buzz kill, I was very impressed overall with this book. The angel parts were surreally intoxicating. I found I cared about the characters, and I was so engaged with their struggles. This book found my angel love and pulled me tight to the narrative. The unreal beauty of the angels, the black hearts of the nephilim, the intense struggle of the frail humans against unimaginably strong (but strangely frail in some ways) celestial creatures. But then, those angelologists have some serious tricks up their sleeve. If you are a reader who loves angels, you should add this to the reading list.
Somehow Mr. Yancey managed to make this book even more disturbing than the first book. Beautiful prose, even when the images evoked were sickening. No...moreSomehow Mr. Yancey managed to make this book even more disturbing than the first book. Beautiful prose, even when the images evoked were sickening. No choice but to give it five stars even though this book freaked me out! Loved the Algernon Blackwood nod!
I am so glad that I found out about this book. It was just what I was looking for. This book is an excellent journey into the heart of darkness in the...moreI am so glad that I found out about this book. It was just what I was looking for. This book is an excellent journey into the heart of darkness in the American West, with a supernatural twist. And to top it off, the protagonist is a woman of unquenchable will and determination.
Irish nun, Sister Eileen, is small, but her spirit is tremendous. She has made it her mission to track and end a vicious werewolf disguised as a man, Jack. She's followed his trail of rampage and blood over several continents. Never giving up, never relenting. Until her mission has been accomplished.
This book is told in three parts, each with a different sort of narrative that effectively tells the story. I couldn't hardly stop reading this book. I was enthralled. The final showdown in the middle of the desert in a town on the Texas-Mexican border held me breathless. This is the kind of horror that sneaks up on you. You don't see scene after scene of rampage and gore. Instead, you come to feel for the narrators, with no guarantee of their survival. And when some don't make it, you feel the loss with the same enormity that Sister Eileen feels.
Ms. Priest could not have created a better protagonist. This tiny, fierce woman of God couldn't have endeared herself more to me. She's real. Her faith might be shaken, but never broken. This endless hunt has hardened her in the ways that makes her even more of a weapon against a creature of cruel, soulless evil. This quote shows some of her mettle:
"I've heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal.
We'd see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman." Enough said.
Werewolf fiction has become one of my favorite genres. I continue to search for good stories that provide a new vista to this arena of supernatural fiction. Coupled with a tale in the Old West, I was overjoyed with this novel. This setting fits so well with this tale of the hunter and the hunted. Even more powerful a touch is the fact that the hunter is a seemingly frail and mild-mannered woman, a nun of all things. But the prey will realize that he should not have underestimated this woman hunting him so relentlessly. This powerful story is told via a distinctive narrative that consists of various narrators speaking in some parts, and written letters and diary entries in others; and it has a realism and gritty vitality that spoke to me.
Short, yet powerful beyond words, I cannot recommend this story enough to readers who are looking for a horror story in an atypical, and underutilized setting. Actually, it's difficult to classify it as a horror story. Truly it's a story about humanity, and the force of will that drives people to fight unwinnable battles. Because our natures as humans don't allow us to easily give in. We fight because we must. When it ended, I took a deep breath and savored the experience. Highly recommended.(less)
Mary W. Shelley explored themes that still resonate today in her proto-science fiction work, Frankenstein. Themes of the relentless drive and search f...moreMary W. Shelley explored themes that still resonate today in her proto-science fiction work, Frankenstein. Themes of the relentless drive and search for ultimate (even forbidden) knowledge; intellectual arrogance; the desire to create something enduring; the need for love and recognition; and a study in how bitterness, hatred and rage can destroy a person. What separates men from God? What separates man from monster? Can a so-called monster have the heart (the humanity) and the accompanying needs and desires of a man? Does beauty or ugliness penetrate deeper than the skin? Can one expect good to come from an act of utter selfishness?
Frankenstein is very much a philosophical work. Although there are some primordial science fiction elements, they are merely the impetus--the laying of the groundwork for this story. For it is not about how Frankenstein makes his creation. It’s about the aftermath of that act. This is a moving work of fiction that skirts the edges of horror, but the horror is more of a psychological sort. The horror is that a man would take knowledge to create a man from unliving flesh. A man so hideous in visage that people turn away in horror. This man chases after his creator, demands his love and tender regard, to merely be noticed and acknowledged by his creator; and if not that, at least the right to have a companion in his lonely life. Many times, I was deeply affected emotionally by this story. I felt so much sympathy for the creature. To be brought to life and abandoned by his creator seemed so cruel. He couldn’t help that his external appearance was ugly and a constant reminder of the unspeakable act his maker had perpetrated. He had not been given the opportunity to prove that he was something more, something worthwhile; that he was capable of deep emotions, an ability to appreciate beauty in life, to love and to give to others. This made me so very sad. There were times when I truly felt disdain towards Frankenstein. For his arrogance, for his selfishness. Although Shelley couldn’t have known about the capabilities of science now, the caution about science and its ethical considerations couldn’t be more timely. Should we create something just because we have the knowledge and skill to do so? And how often do we truly count the cost of such an action before it’s too late? Although I felt great enmity towards Frankenstein at times, I certainly didn’t condone the creature’s actions. I felt a profound sense of horror when the created man committed acts of violence to innocents around him in vengeance against his creator. I was still angry at Frankenstein for bringing it on himself, but I also felt sad for him to lose everyone he valued in his life. Surely, he couldn’t have known how horrible the results his creation act would result in. When he is given the ultimatum to create a mate for the creature, I could understand his terrible dilemma, and I still question whether his final actions were the right ones. Finally, I was back to feeling pity for the creature, deeply empathizing with him in his loneliness, how his desire for love and understanding turned into selfish rage that he truly regretted and repented for in the end.
Mary Shelley doesn’t give the answers to these moral dilemmas. She merely presents these profound queries in this narrative. Where does it place the reader in the end? Deeply entrenched within this tumultuous, roiling cauldron of emotions—fear, love, rage, regret, hope, and despair. One simply cannot be detached when reading this book.
I found this to be very readable despite the fact that it was written about two hundred years ago. I only found my interest wavering in the moments of the somewhat excessive travelogues of the natural surroundings. In my opinion, this took up too prominent a role in the narrative, and it was distracting. Despite that small shortcoming, this was powerful reading, not comfortable, but deeply involving. No easy answers, but lots of questions for each reader to process and come up with their own conclusions. I won’t forget this book.
The Monstrumologist was an unforgettable read. I can't even imagine how Rick Yancey came up with this idea. I was completely horrified many times, as...moreThe Monstrumologist was an unforgettable read. I can't even imagine how Rick Yancey came up with this idea. I was completely horrified many times, as I read this book. This is a young adult book, but it's not one I'd recommend lightly to just any teen, or adult for that matter. Mr. Yancey doesn't hesitate to make this story gruesome and downright stomach-churning. Due to my biological/medical background, I have a strong stomach. It came in handy when I read this book. There were scenes that I would not want to watch in a movie. Sadly, I think this would be a fantastic movie, as it's very vivid and dynamic; but I would be afraid to watch it, and I think it would have to be R-rated for some of the scenes of extreme violence and gore, which is probably not ideal, since it's a young adult book.
Thankfully, there is a strong story with a compelling set of characters to balance out the unsettling, distasteful scenes. Our protagonist is young Will Henry, an orphan who works as the assistant to an eccentric scientist. His father worked for the doctor before him, and died with his mother in a horrible fire that Will survived. Will says to himself that he never loved the Monstrumologist, but he will never leave him. It's an interesting aspect to this story, Will's devotion to this man, who barely shows him kindness or regard. For the doctor is a cold man, completely devoted to his work as a scientist who studies monsters. His skills come in handy when a group of monsters from any person's worst nightmare begin to wreak havoc on the sleepy New England town of New Jerusalem (I wondered if there was a deliberate reference to Jerusalem's Lot when I read this book). The doctor and Will embark on a quest to seek and destroy these monsters that makes for harrowing reading.
I have to admit that this book had some moments that were hard to read. The anthropophagi are vicious predatory creatures, who view humans as a food source, and they are not sentimental in any way. What they did to the minister's family was just awful. I wanted these monsters found and destroyed, all the while fearing for the lives of Will, the doctor, and his companions.
Gross, gory parts aside, I loved the writing in this story. Mr. Yancey establishes himself very credibly in the historical narrative of this novel. I was immersed in this world, a dark one, set in the late 19th century. In the background, one can see the significant events that would have shaped the characters, such as Darwin's work in evolution, scientific studies in eugenics, and the aftermath of the War Between the States. This is all seen through the eyes of the twelve-year-old narrator, who witnesses things that would cause a grown man to lose sleep. I could not admire Will more. He made my hero to die shelf, because this was one heck of a young man. He goes into the lion's den and into the pit of Hell numerous times to face these horrifying monsters. I could only cheer him along, my heart racing, when he comes face to face with the incredibly vicious matriarch of the group of monsters who have made New Jerusalem their preying grounds.
In reading this book, one has to fortify herself. There are views of human nature that are just as unsettling as the monsters themselves. In fact, the man that the doctor summons to help to hunt and to kill the anthropophagi might be considered a human version of a monster himself. I admit that I found Kearns to be an interesting character. He was very lively, making me laugh a few times. However, he had absolutely no moral center, which made him a very dicey ally. He even has a line where he states that "the only morality is the morality of this moment." Yeah, that makes him a very dangerous man. Good to have against the anthropophage, but not so good if you happen to be standing in the way of his objective. Doctor Warthrop (Will's boss) was a flawed, complicated character. He came off as arrogant and uncaring in many moments, but deeply principled at his core. In fact, Kearns turns out to be a good foil to reveal the positive aspects of his character. I think the doctor cared very much for Will, but was unable to show it in the ways that we would consider most demonstrative of affection. He had so many issues with his own father, that it warped him emotionally. However, it was apparent that Will was very important to him--his companion, and the only person who cared for and about the doctor. This made their relationship very complex, and in my opinion, the core of this story.
The Monstrumologist is a book that is quite hard to categorize and to explain in a few words. There is so much to this story. Yet, it's not one that the casual reader will enjoy. It's too dark and gruesome for that. But for an intrepid reader, there is much to admire and to appreciate in this book. After this book gets started, it doesn't wind down until it's over. It was a fascinating, powerful read, one I won't forget. Even now, it is lurking in the back of my mind like a shadow.(less)
Z for Zachariah was a very suspenseful book. From the moment I started it, I had a knot in my stomach. For most of my life, I lived with my fear of nu...moreZ for Zachariah was a very suspenseful book. From the moment I started it, I had a knot in my stomach. For most of my life, I lived with my fear of nuclear war and its aftermath. As a child of the 80s, I remember that Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. Were the Soviets going to push the button, or the Americans? Either way, we'd both lose. I remember everyone in school was watching "The Day After Tomorrow," and I was afraid to watch it, but I heard all the ugly details. I inadvertently watched the other nuclear war movie, "Testament," and I still remember how utterly hopeless and depressing it was. I didn't want to die slowly and painfully from radiation poison, nor did I want to be instantly incinerated in the first blast, or have to survive a nuclear winter. It was a very ugly thought that I've tried to push way to the back of my mind. Well, this book brought it all back for me. So, I could deeply sympathize with Ann, the protagonist of this story.
And it turns out that her worst threat is not the aftermath of the nuclear war. It's the fact that the only other apparent survivor of the holocaust is dangerously insane. Ann showed a lot of fortitude and intelligence, in my opinion. I didn't really consider her overly naive, considering she grew up in a sheltered world. I think she did an admirable job of keeping herself alive. How on earth could she be prepared to do deal with a crazy man who decided that everything left in the world belonged to him, and was not hesitant about using violence or ugly methods to make sure it remained in his possession? It was a tough road to travel for this young woman. She had a choice to let this man succumb to radiation poisoning, or to nurse him through it, even knowing he was possibly a murderer. She did what she thought was right, although that action contributed to the destruction of her small, safe world. I appreciate the ethical dilemma that the author presents in this story. Do we abandon all the qualities that make humanity worthwhile, because the civilized world as we know it has gone away? Should we embrace violence as the best solution, because it's the most expedient one? These are all very pertinent issues to Ann in this book, and I had to work through them as I read.
I was literally on the edge of my seat, as I saw how things were unfolding. I felt a rage at Mr. Loomis, who came to Ann's valley, availed himself of her generosity and good heart, and decided that he was entitled to all of it, and he could take control of everything. Oh, I definitely understand that battle that Ann faced. People controlling others is a real problem for me. I felt her pain as she decided that she would have to leave everything was familiar and she'd worked hard for, because she refused to be enslaved to another person, not for any reason.
I found Z for Zachariah to be a powerful read. It did resonate with me, and that wasn't always a comfortable feeling. The issues of isolation, fear for the future, defining who one is when the world is no longer the same, and having control of one's life and destiny were very well-handled here. I think Ann could be a metaphor for any young woman who is facing choices in her life that will define her present and future. I would recommend this book to young adults and to adults, because it has a very timely message, and it was good, albeit nerve-racking at times, entertainment. Also, readers who enjoy stories in which the characters have to use their wits and energies (physical and mental) to survive on the land, and in a hostile environment, will enjoy this story. I'm very glad I got the opportunity to read Z for Zachariah.(less)