This hyperbolic title reads a bit like Internet clickbait, but Anthony Holden explains in the introduction that theOriginally posted on my book blog.
This hyperbolic title reads a bit like Internet clickbait, but Anthony Holden explains in the introduction that the idea grew from discussions with his male friends of poems they couldn't recite without choking up. Whether all of the men in this book wept at their choices, I cannot say, but I feel like some of them may have just chosen their favourite sentimental poem. Poems That Grown Men Quite Like doesn't have that same punch, however.
It's an interesting project, with the taboo of men showing emotion tackled head-on. I'm not a very emotive person in public. Leave me with sad film or song (though rarely books oddly) when I'm on my own, and I'll whimper all night, but if there is anyone near me I will toss myself out the nearest window before they see the slightest quiver from my bottom lip. I'm not sure why I'm like this. I don't look down on any other male for being emotional, and I wasn't raised in a household that discouraged such things, but there you have it.
They choose 100 well-known men from around the world, though mostly British and white, to provide a poem that moves them to tears and a short explanation behind their choice. Some of the contributors include John le Carré, Sebastian Faulks, Stephen Fry, James Earl Jones, Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Hitchens, Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Salmon Rushdie, Daniel Radcliffe, Nick Cave, Colin Firth, Mark Haddon, and Ian McEwan. It's an interesting mix of people, and after each entry it provides a small biographical paragraph in case you're unfamiliar with the celebrity, which I needed quite a few times.
I'm not well-versed in poetry. Since starting this weblog five years ago, I think I've only read a few poetry collections, two of which were Bukowski. I love his poems, but he feels a bit Poetry 101, so I've been meaning to start reading more and branching out a bit. This felt like a perfect launching pad for that, with a good mix of poets and styles to try. Having the introductions made each poem feel like a personal recommendation.
I've marked my favourites from this collection, which I'll return to, and I'll maybe post some of them here in the next couple of months. Three poets I'll definitely be reading more from are W.H. Auden, Tony Harrison, and Billy Collins, and I'll be keeping an eye out for some poetry when we're at Powell's Books at the beginning of September. Recommendations are welcome!
I really enjoyed this collection. I just read a poem or two each night for a few months before reading my regular book, and I felt like that was a great way to consume poetry. It let me mull over what I'd read before moving on, whereas in the past I would occasionally fly through a collection without considering each poem. Some of these poems I loved, while others I couldn't really connect with, but overall I really liked the format of the book....more
I can't remember where I heard about this, I think this time last year it was unknown to me, but I wouldMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I can't remember where I heard about this, I think this time last year it was unknown to me, but I would like to extend an enthusiastic thank you to whoever brought this to my attention. I absolutely loved this novel.
This follows three men, and a dog, as they take a two-week holiday to travel down the Thames by boat. This was originally meant to be a serious travel guide, but it quickly become more about the humourous insights that occurred along the way. He tried to work in some history to each chapter, but the publisher, rightfully, threw most of that out. A few of those sections remain and actually feel quite out of place in this. The end result was that the trip became a framing device for hilarious anecdotes and rants. This became a novel of tangents, and for a book with essentially no plot, something that would typically annoy the hell out of me, this turned out to be a joy from start to finish.
Young Jefferson only learnt to play one tune on those bagpipes; but I never heard any complaints about the insufficiency of his repertoire — none whatever.
There are rants on food, stories of rogue boat towing, tips for tricking a tea pot to boil, meditations on the struggles of amatuer bagpipery, and hilarious insights on an endless number of other topics. For being written a century and a half ago, this feels so modern. Not just the humour, but how he writes about the current times. I found it really interesting how he kept referring to the nineteenth-century as having problems with over-crowding and being too fast-paced when that's a time we look back on as being idyllic in its simplicity.
I like to watch an old boatman rowing, especially one who has been hired by the hour. There is something so beautifully calm and restful about his method. It is so free from that fretful haste, that vehement striving, that is every day becoming more and more the bane of nineteenth-century life.
I just searched for the above quote purely for the mention of the nineteenth-century, and it happens to be hilarious in its own right. Every line in this novel is comedy gold and beautifully written. I love his turn of phrase. When speaking of not wanting to carry on due to rain, for example, he writes that "[...] to give in to the weather in a climate such as ours would be a most disastrous precedent." I wish I could commit every line of this to memory.
I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.
So, I realize this post is mainly quotes with a bit of squealing in between, but open this novel to any page and you'll find something worth quoting. It looks like he's published quite a few other novels, plays, and short stories, including a sequel to this and an autobiography, so it is now my mission to track all of these down. Steven Crossley did an amazing job narrating this, but I'd like to find a physical copy to read as well. I could see myself coming back to this often....more
**spoiler alert** More reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This wasn't part of my high school curriculum, so I finally decided to give it a try. I**spoiler alert** More reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This wasn't part of my high school curriculum, so I finally decided to give it a try. I knew going in that it's an allegory of the Russian Revolution, but I think even if you know embarrassingly little of that, like me unfortunately, the message of this and the conclusions drawn would be the same, which I suppose proves how well it was written.
This is the story of a revolt gone wrong, of a successful revolution that ends with a government more oppressive than the one that was overthrown. This happens gradually. The farm is thriving at first, after the animals drive the humans out. They have goals for the future, such as a plan to build a windmill to provide running water and electricity, and food is plentiful. A pig on the farm, Snowball, takes initiative and begins teaching some of the animals to read and write, while also establishing Animalism. This is an ideology with seven written commandments to preserve the values they hold dear, such as 'All animals are equal'.
Unfortunately, this doesn't last long, as another pig on the farm, Napoleon, vies for power. Democratic meetings are replaced with a ruling committee, extra food is set aside for all pigs to enjoy, Snowball is driven from the farm, and the other animals are manipulated, over time, to forget Snowball's achievements and the initial dreams of the revolution. By the end, the seven commandments are replaced with a singular phrase, 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others', and as the animals of the farm watch the ruling pigs interact with the humans, their original oppressors, they can hardly tell the difference between them.
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
It always feels a bit silly to read such a widely known classic as an adult, one that most high school kids in the west are forced to read, and give an opinion on something that has been analysed to death. I will hazard to say that I thought this was very well written and entertaining, half expecting the earth to shake with a resounding 'no shit' from everyone in the world who read this years ago. It's so well written that it seems almost a simple endeavour to take a revolution, pull out the key characters, turn them into anthropomorphized animals and have them play out what happened on a farm, but to do that and have it not turn out as trite nonsense is a testament to Orwell's skill as a writer.
I always find it fascinating to read how entire populations of people are manipulated like this. It's easy to feel immune to this sort of exploitation, but it does seem very effective. A common approach is to cut off access to outside information, feed lies to the society, and to use their fear to manipulate them. That's how Napoleon turned the farm against Snowball, and it's the same approach Malala Yousafzai describes the Taliban using to recruit new members. With our access to uncensored Internet, you would think, and hope, that such a tactic would be ineffective in a lot of the world now, but who knows with the strange things people come to believe. Educated adults with working Internet connections have been voting for Trump and not vaccinating their children, so I suppose anything is possible.
I should mention that this is still, unsurprisingly I suppose, banned in a few communist countries around the world, as well as in the United Arab Emirates for violating Islamic values (talking piggies), but I was surprised to see that Orwell had a difficult time getting it published in the first place, due to Britain's alliance with the Soviet Union during the second world war. Four publishers refused it, one of which initially accepted it but later declined after speaking to the Ministry of Information, and it was apparently found later that the ministry agent believed to have persuaded them to reject the work was actually a Soviet spy.
As an aside, this was my first e-book! I thought a shorter novella would be a good place to start, so I borrowed my girlfriend's Kobo and tried it on there. I thought not having a physical copy with a bookmark sticking out to gauge my progress would bother me, but the chapter and overall progress percentage was quite satisfying. The estimated time to finish the chapter was handy as well. I love stats and will take any I can get. I have such a backlog of physical books, and I don't really read away from home that often, so I don't think I'll be switching any time soon, but there are a few slightly obscure novellas that I think I'll be picking up on there soon.
Great little book. I can't wait to read more from Orwell. I have my sights on Down and Out in Paris and London next, I think....more
I first came across Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which I loved, and I later picked up aMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I first came across Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which I loved, and I later picked up a copy of The Guild's first season on DVD at a signing, which was nearly a decade ago now. Not having seen the show at that point, I accidentally ignored Sandeep Parikh at the singing table. which is a shame because he was probably my favourite of the cast when I finally got around to watching it. We even all took an awkward photo together, which I made slightly more awkward by absentmindedly referring to myself as a cotton candy lumberjack, due to the bright plaid shirt I was wearing.
I haven't seen most of her latest television roles, but I do keep an eye on her YouTube empire Geek & Sundry. She has really created something cool there, and it hasn't been an easy road. She's had to deal with mental health issues and assholes on the Internet every step of the way.
Because if you can’t be your own weird self on the internet, where can you be? And what would be the point?
This autobiography doesn't go too much into her acting career, really just focusing on the experiences that relate to her Internet presence, and as much as I'd enjoy hearing stories from the set of Buffy, I think focusing the book in this way makes sense. If you're going to write an autobiography at a fairly young age, before you're winning lifetime achievement awards, there needs to be a very specific focus. Her acting career seems solid, but it's not groundbreaking, whereas she could be seen as a pioneer in successful online media.
An uncredited study she read once said, quote, “Girls become really stupid in science after they get their period, so you’d better learn as much as possible before that happens.” I had such anxiety about this “clearly proven” biological fact that I was studying calculus by the age of twelve. When I finally got my period, I cried, not because I was growing up, but because I had just learned derivatives and really enjoyed doing them.
It begins with her childhood, growing up without many friends, largely due to having been homeschooled by hippy parents. It sounds like her studies were very slack, but something seemed to work out because she managed to get a full university scholarship and graduate with degrees in both music performance and mathematics. Many of the friendships she cultivated were through online games, which kickstarted her love with the Internet. We cover her time with those games, included a very awkward meet-up between the players, her first experiences with the web in university, her addiction to World of Warcraft, the trials of making The Guild and publishing it online, and finally how she managed to create her latest Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.
Throughout this, particularly in the last few years, she struggled with depression and anxiety and developed a fairly severe thyroid issue. When she cut her hair quite short a few years ago, and people on the Internet went crazy the way they do when a celebrity does something like that (which, to be clear, is pathetic and sad), she was actually losing chunks of hair due to being ill. I imagine having legions of idiots commenting on how awful they thought her haircut was probably didn't help things, but I guess that's one of the joys of fame.
After finishing the book, she decided to add another chapter on Gamer Gate, which had just sparked up, and I really enjoyed that chapter. Gamer Gate, if you're lucky enough not to know, was a ridiculously convoluted flame war a couple of years back. From what I understand, the simplest explanation is that it was originally touted as a criticism on the integrity of gaming journalism, but really just became a guise for angry misogynists on the Internet to harass women. This included, but was not limited to, making public the addresses and phone numbers of any women who spoke out and sending them death and rape threats. The chapter was on how she was afraid to get involved, having been doxxed and threatened in the past already, and how she eventually decided to anyway, which resulted in her being immediately doxxed. That whole controversy left a horrible tarnish on the gaming industry, but hopefully it resulted in more people understanding what many women face when they jump into an online game or post a YouTube video, thanks to those who risked speaking out.
This was a fun read, despite the content described above. It's full of Felicia's quirky humour, and her narration of the audiobook was great and really added a lot. Joss Whedon also provided a nice foreword, but I found his narration really odd. It felt more like he was breathlessly narrating a harlequin romance novel. Definitely the most sensual introduction to an autobiography I've ever heard.
I enjoy reading about people following their passions and having success in personal projects, and I love a little nerdy comedy mixed with some serious issues, so this was a great read for me....more
I picked this up because I thought it would be a good audiobook to have while in Hawaii. I knew I wasn'tMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I picked this up because I thought it would be a good audiobook to have while in Hawaii. I knew I wasn't going to get a lot of time to read, so a smaller book of short stories or essays seemed like the perfect choice. Unfortunately I started it on a dog walk a couple of days before leaving and managed to finished it before we even stepped on a plane.
I like Jesse Eisenberg in his film roles, and he seems like a funny and smart guy in the few interviews I've seen, so I figured why not give this a try. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was happily surprised to find a mix between Woody Allen and David Sedaris, and it was hilarious from start to finish.
There's a wide mix of topics in this, as well as a wide mix of formats. The title story, Bream Gives Me Hiccups: Restaurant Reviews from a Privileged Nine-Year Old, follows a boy writing reviews of the restaurants his newly separated mother drags him to, and the reviews act as a journal for his life. Also written in the form of letters is My Roommate Stole my Ramen, which is a series of letters from a neurotic university freshmen to her high school Councillor, and An email exchange with my first girlfriend, which at a certain point is taken over by my older sister, a college student studying the Bosnian genocide, which is just what the title says (as with many of these stories).
Some of these can almost be thought of as short skits, particularly when listened to on audiobook. Men and Dancing is a hilarious selection of conversations throughout history of people trying to get men, who don't want to dance, to dance. This is something with which I easily relate. A bully does his research shows the devastation a bully could cause if they just did a bit of personal research before making fun of someone. Alexander Graham Bell's first five phone calls details his awkward conversations about trying to call a girl, after giving her the world's third phone.
“Hey Watson, guess who? Yeah, it’s me, it’s Aleck. How’d you know? But I was doing a voice!
There are so many stories in here that I just loved, many I haven't even mentioned. Even just the story titles in this are hilarious. Many of the pieces in this collection have been published before, in The New Yorker or McSweeney's, so I thought I'd just list the contents here and link to the articles that came up on a quick search:
Definitely give a few of the linked articles a try, and pick this up if those work for you. I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed this, and his narration on the audiobook (helped by his sister and a few others) was fantastic. I have a feeling he'll be publishing a few of these collections in the course of his career, so I'll be happily picking up the next one that's released....more
I read the first three of these a few years ago, but I never got around to this final volume. Darwyn CookMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I read the first three of these a few years ago, but I never got around to this final volume. Darwyn Cooke sadly passed away last month, in this year of startling deaths, which gave me an unfortunate reminder to pick it up.
This volume is certainly a contrast to the last Parker book, The Score, in which Parker and his team planned a heist to rob an entire town. It had a complicated Ocean's Eleven feel to it. This is a much simpler story, which is evident as soon as you get your hands on the physical book, as it's about half the size of the first three.
Parker and two of his associates rob an armoured truck but crash on the icy roads during the getaway. Parker takes the cash and escapes into a nearby amusement park, which has been closed for the winter. Two corrupt cops, with mob connections, see him retreat and decide to find him, kill him, and take the cash for themselves. It then turns into a game of stealth as Parker tries to escape while using rigged amusement park attractions to thwart his attackers. It's a set piece that has been used many, many times, particularly in children's movies and horror novels. I remember stories like this from reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels as a kid. This is adapted from Donald E. Westlake's 1971 novel of the same name, so it was probably a more original concept at the time.
It may not have the depth of the previous volumes, but it's still good fun. You get to see Parker set traps and ready himself, and even though the second half of the story is fairly predictable, it's still very satisfying, and conjures that Home Alone nostalgic feeling, to see it all play out. Cooke's illustrations and use of two-tone colour is always a joy flip through as well.
This is a fun series, and I'm sad to see it end. I might have a look up some of the work he did for DC and Marvel as well....more
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I kept hearing excellent things. I know Scott McCloud from, bMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I kept hearing excellent things. I know Scott McCloud from, but haven't yet read, his trilogy of non-fiction graphic novels on the topic of comics: Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics.
David Smith is a struggling artist who achieved minor fame early in his career and then watched it crumble away. He's broke and facing possible homelessness, feeling like he's hit rock bottom in his life, when he's presented with a deal: his life for his art. He will be given a short amount of time to live, and in that time he will be able to create anything his imagination can conjure. Most people would not make such a trade, but for a depressed, selfish, fame-obsessed artist it seems perfect - a way out and a chance for his vision to live on. Of course, he meets an impossibly cool artsy girl along the way, and it complicates things. This is a tale of finding oneself, of the plight of an artist, and of an ill-fated romance.
I thought this was fantastic. There were quite a few cliches in the storytelling, but because it was told in a whimsical way (both through the art and the plot), I found that easy to overlook. He balanced the two sides of the story, falling in love and pursuing his art, perfectly, adding tension in a way that didn't feel too contrived.
This is the sort of story where the reader really needs to completely buy in from the beginning and just go along with it. Questions will arise, and it's best to just smile and move on. Would someone willing to give their life for their art really spend what little time they have to selfishly pursue a new relationship, knowing that the best case scenario would only leave her, and his art, worse off? Would a sculptor receive the same pleasure from his art if it took no skill to create? Wouldn't more people question how quickly he was able to produce his art or why they didn't hear any hammering coming from his studio?
I also really didn't like how he romanticized bipolar disorder. Perpetuating the tortured genius 'I must suffer these lows to continue living a creative life' cliche is both lazy and unhealthy. He did have characters who who took the side of medication, but he fell back on the idea of pushing through it with love, which is just silly.
I found myself able to easily brush these issues away while reading and just enjoy the story, which is strong enough to overcome these fairly minor problems. It was paced extremely well for such a chunky graphic novel, sometimes hectic and sometimes meandering, and I absolutely loved the art - his illustrations and the art the character creates. There is something really fun in watching someone vandalize a city in such an extreme way in the name of art.
I don't know if McCloud has done much other fiction, but this has definitely given me a push to pick up his famous Understanding Comics soon....more
I was under the false impression that this was the second Allan Quatermain novel, but it's actually an enMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I was under the false impression that this was the second Allan Quatermain novel, but it's actually an entirely new set of characters. It's a novel that does scratch that same itch, however, as it's still a story of the Lost World genre in which a group of Englishmen travel to Africa (this time landing somewhere on the eastern side of the continent) to find a hidden civilization. That is simplifying it a little unfairly, but the two books do have a similar feel.
A professor at Cambridge, Horace Holly, was left a young ward, Leo Vincey, by a dying friend with a fantastical claim that links his family to a mysterious event in Africa. When Leo reaches the age of 25, he's given a chest with more information concerning his heritage and the mystery. The two, with their manservant, then travel to Africa to investigate. Upon arriving, they are quickly captured, and then spend the rest of the novel with the tribesmen as the full story unravels.
Much like King Solomon's Mines, I found the novel more intriguing before the adventurers arrived at their location, although this did hold my interest longer. I enjoy the travelogue aspect of old adventure stories. At first glance, She-who-must-be-obeyed, the woman the book was named after, looked to be an incredibly interesting character, but she was a bit of a disappointment. She has thousands of years worth of knowledge, and supernatural abilities, and yet she spent the entire time mourning the loss of her love. I suppose that's a vaguely romantic idea, but the result was that she failed to be a god among men and instead she became the worst crazy ex-girlfriend ever.
The adventure was exciting at times, and I thought some of the characters were great. Horace Holly struck me as a more rational Professor Challenger, similar in looks but less pompous. She-who-must-be-obeyed, while still a let down, did create a very eerie and tense atmosphere. Her dynamic with Holly was captivating. Billali, the leader of the tribesmen, had quite a few little hilarious remarks.
"Ah, so," he answered. "Thou seest, my son, here there is a custom that if a stranger comes into this country he may be slain by 'the pot,' and eaten."
"It is hospitality turned upside down," I answered feebly. "In our country we entertain a stranger, and give him food to eat. Here ye eat him, and are entertained."
"It is a custom," he answered, with a shrug.
A bit of a side note, but Haggard was super into beards. He was hipster-level in love with beards. Every beard was long, beautiful, and magnificent. Whenever Billali was mentioned, we got an update on his white beard, always being stroked or dragged across something. My favourite beard quote, of which there were many options to choose from, was:
[...] since we had started from England I had allowed my naturally luxuriant beard to grow at its own sweet will.
I too have allowed my naturally luxuriant beard to grow at its own sweet will, and I plan to use this phrase as often as I can. This novel is beard porn, and that is not a complaint.
Haggard wrote a sequel to this, nearly twenty years after the original, which does pique my curiosity. With both novels I felt like I should have loved them more than I did, and was left a bit unsatisfied, but I did still enjoy them, so I'll likely keep an eye out for both the sequel to this and the next Allan Quartermain novel. The next She novel, I believe, follows Leo rather than Horace, which might not be as interesting. In this he is young and boring (and beardless), so I'm hoping by the next book he will be older and more interesting (and have allowed his naturally luxuriant beard to grow at its own sweet will).
If anyone has read these, I'd be interested to hear if you thought his later books got better or worse....more
I was hesitant to pick this up, as I usually stay away from self-help books unless they really come highlMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I was hesitant to pick this up, as I usually stay away from self-help books unless they really come highly recommended, but I'm glad I did. I bought this right at the beginning of January while going through a minor New Year New Me moment. As it turns out, this isn't so much a self-help book as it is an exploration into how habits affect our day-to-day lives. It's actually very reminiscent of a Mary Roach book, particularly in how the case studies are presented, but without most of the humour she usually adds.
This is full of interesting case studies - how Target started tracking customer purchases to create targeted advertising based on their habits, why the arrest of Rosa Parks struck a chord with the community in a way that previous arrests did not, how Febreze spray went from a failure to a success by studying and marketing to the habits of test customers, how the routines within Rhode Island Hospital lead to an unsafe and toxic work environment, as well as many others. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Claude C. Hopkins, who was an early pioneer in American advertising and also slightly evil. The descriptions of his tactics and how he manipulated people in ways that changed marketing forever and essentially started the modern study of habits were fascinating.
As time goes on, I'm starting to understand that the answer to most of what bothers me in life is just mindfulness, and the forming and changing of habits is no exception. Duhigg wasn't necessarily trying to provide self-help advice in this, but he does describe The Habit Loop to give some insight on how to identify your habits and work to change them. It feels self-evident, but it is useful to keep in mind.
Each habit is basically made of three parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward. It's suggested that before someone even tries to change a routine, they first keep track of whenever they experience the cue. In an example from the book, a person who wanted to stop biting their nails was asked to put a mark in a notebook whenever the urge struck them for an entire week. They were still allowed to bite their nails if they wanted, but whether it was five times a day or forty-five, they had to mark it down. This accomplishes two things: it trains you to easily identify your habit's cue, and the act of breaking the cycle temporarily to open the notebook apparently allows someone to better recall both the urge and the resulting feeling (the reward) when looking back.
Once the cue is understood, it's time to analyse the reward. What are you getting out of the habit? If it's snacking in the afternoon, is your satisfied hunger the reward? Is it that you got up from your desk and took a ten minute break, or that you chat to a co-worker for a few minutes in the break room? Once you understand the reward, you can use that information to replace the routine with something that gives the same reward - an already made healthy snack or maybe a fifteen minute walk outside. In the case of the nail-biting, even just something as simple as rubbing her hands together for quick physical stimulation was enough to help circumvent her previous routine.
It seems simple because it is. We are habit-based creatures, and the very act of being mindful of that can help control that in both ourselves and in others. This is how marketers work their magic on us. Toothpaste, for example, doesn't naturally foam up while brushing, and nothing medicinal in it causes minty-fresh breath, but marketing teams know that they need identifiable results to solidify the routine.
This was an interesting read, more of a popular science or sociology book than anything, and I think it works well in that regard. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in how habits can support change in both a personal sense and in the workplace, but keep in mind there won't be a magical guide here that will allow you to quit eating cake for dinner....more
I actually read this over the Christmas holiday, which I admit is not the best time to read a novel aboutMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I actually read this over the Christmas holiday, which I admit is not the best time to read a novel about a man turned insect ruining his family's life, but I managed to enjoyed this despite the incompatible festivities.
This was my first time reading Kafka, and I really didn't know what to expect. I was mainly excited about now being able to use the term 'Kafkaesque' with some legitimacy, but I was happy to find I enjoyed his writing as well. As with any translation, it's hard to know how much of that is Kafka and how much is due to the translation, in this case by Susan Bernofsky, but whatever the formula, the final product was a pleasure to read.
When Gregor Samsa woke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed right there in his bed into some sort of monstrous insect.
Gregor Samsa is a travelling salesman, working to provide for his sister and parents, when he awakes one morning to find he's transformed into a giant insect. The beginning of this novella is actually quite funny in how absurd it all is. Finding himself suddenly an insect is the very first sentence, and an explanation of how this came to happen is never hinted at or even speculated upon. Once he realizes the state he's in, he acts as if he's woken up with a common cold. It's more of an inconvenience than a horrific curse. He even still wants to go to work, if only he could manage to flip over after waking up on his carapace and get these many legs to work in unison. It's not until he sees the fear and disgust in others that he begins to understand that his life is forever changed. Whether it's delusion or just the clinging habit of day-to-day life, it's hard to say.
His family is disgusted by him, although they still accept what's happened with surprising ease, and he is confined to his room to live as a shameful family secret. They open the door only to feed him, never to interact with him in any meaningful way, and always regard him with contempt. His mother is the only one who still wants to treat him well, but she faints when she finally manages to see him. His sister and father both have to take up jobs in order to support the family now that Gregor can no longer work, his sister also acts as his caretaker, and they both resent him for this.
The story gets quite dark and heartbreaking by the end, as he is more and more alienated and discouraged. I don't know Kafka's intentions, whether there was a particular analogy in all of this or if the lack of one was actually the point, but it's hard not to draw comparisons between what Gregor is experiencing and what someone with a debilitating illness, and their family, may have to go through. The alienation he feels, as well as the inability to come to terms at the beginning. The way it changes the lives of everyone in the family, and how they grow to resent that. Gregor's family was almost comically awful, but there's no denying that such an event will change everyone's lives, and over a long period of time it may begin to wear.
I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.
Even the beginning of the story mimics how cruel the universe can be. How someone can be healthy one day and then suddenly not, and search as you might for an answer or explanation, there may never be one. This is unfortunately an unfair world, and no matter how you live your life, you may one day wake up in a body that feels alien to you. One that you can't control, and that others may look upon with unease.
Gregor may have transformed, but his family also went through their own transformation. This struggle brought them together as never before, and while it was something they would never wish to endure again, they were left stronger, both as a family and as individuals. Tragedy has a way of bringing people together.
Much like Christmas!
(Okay, trying to tie that in was not as successful as I would have liked.)...more
Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors, and it's a shame it's been so long since I've read one of herMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors, and it's a shame it's been so long since I've read one of her novels. I lost the will to go on after finishing the first two books in her Soldier Son trilogy. I still loved her writing in those, but I just really grew to hate the plot. The whole story was ridiculous and painful to get through. After deciding to abandon that series (a decision that took years), I unfortunately stopped reading her completely, despite having the Liveship Traders and Rain Wild Chronicles books to still read.
When I saw another Fitz-centric series was released, I had to pick up the first book. I really should have read a synopsis before starting this, because I apparently forgot a lot of what happened in the previous two trilogies. The first two hundred pages of this was a journey of discovery for me. I was constantly going 'oh, right' at things I really, really should have remembered, but to be fair it has been nearly a decade since I picked up one of these books.
Fitz is living his life away from the scheming of the royal court, and is trying desperately to keep that distance, fighting against the constant pull to return. In his own life, crazy things are happening, and he has to balance new responsibilities with those from his past. I don't want to give anything away, as I went into this blind and really think that's the way to do it, but I'll just say that I loved this. Hobb had me hooked immediately, and even though not a lot of action was happening, as with all of her books, she brings these characters alive in a way that most authors can't quite achieve.
You really feel everything they go through, the joy of every success and the pain of every setback. It's amazing how she pulls this off. I've read other novels where the protagonist is beaten within an inch of his or her life, and I'm somewhat saddened by this, but in Hobb's books someone can subtly speak behind the protagonist back in an unfair way, and it cuts me deep in my soul. It's impossible not to care for these characters.
I'm currently awaiting for the paperback release for the next book, Fool's Quest, but we'll see if I last that long....more
I started reading this nearly two and a half years ago, just after my dad passed away, because The CremaMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I started reading this nearly two and a half years ago, just after my dad passed away, because The Cremation of Sam McGee was a poem he used to recite in his youth at his Masonic meetings. I really enjoyed that one, but then put it on my shelf after only reading half the poems in the book, forgetting about it entirely. It wasn't until recently when I happened to notice the bookmark in it that I remembered never having actually finished it.
Robert Service was born in England to a Scottish father, and at the age of five moved back to his father's hometown of Kilwinning. When he was twenty-one, he moved to southern Vancouver Island with dreams of becoming a cowboy. After travelling over much of western North America, he eventually took a job in Victoria at the Canadian Bank of Commerce. A year later, he was transferred to Kamloops, my hometown, for six months before heading to the Yukon. It actually makes me wonder now if my dad knew Service's history and if that came to his mind while deciding to emigrate from Scotland to western Canada.
Service seemed to love the gold rush. I don't know if all of his poetry centered on that, or if it was just this collection, but I think every poem in this had to do with the people of the gold rush and the northern landscape. There are many snow-capped peaks to be had in this little book. Some of this just felt like the sort of poetry you might find embroidered and hung on a kitchen wall. To be fair, though, I'm not sure I gave it a fair chance, as my natural reaction to encountering anything bordering on Canadiana is to immediately lose consciousness.
Some of these I did actually genuinely enjoy, and flipping through now I feel like I might have enjoyed more than I originally thought. The two-year break I took in the middle of this, combined with a few of the poems that really bored me, is probably tainting my memory of the collection as a whole. The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Man From Eldorado, and The Men That Don't Fit In are a few that stick out as being quite good. I start to drift when he begins to go on too much about snow, but he also writes about killers and the desperate and lost.
I'd like to find a copy of his autobiography, Ploughman of the Moon, An Adventure Into Memory. He lived an exciting life full of travel, and that would be fun to read about. I think I might revisit these poems soon as well. Just reading through a bit while writing this has piqued my interest again on a couple of the poems....more
**spoiler alert** More reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I went into this knowing absolutely nothing. The sequel to this, Golden Son, won the Go**spoiler alert** More reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I went into this knowing absolutely nothing. The sequel to this, Golden Son, won the Goodreads award for science fiction novel of 2015, so I thought I should check the series out. The Goodreads awards are a little silly, because the people voting haven't read all of the novels nominated, but it at least meant that it was enjoyed by a lot of readers. I'm glad I did pick this up, because it turned out to be my favourite novel of the last year (or at least one of them...I have commitment issues).
This takes place on Mars and follows a sixteen-year-old named Darrow. Darrow is a Red, the lowest class in human society, who works under the surface of the planet to gather helium-3, a gas that humanity uses for its terraforming efforts. He works as a Helldiver, which is the incredibly difficult and dangerous job of maintaining the drills in the helium-3 mine. The Reds are born under the surface and eventually die there, never seeing the sky. This is their sacrifice for future Reds, for once humans have terraformed other planets, their people are promised prosperous lives.
On Mars there is not much gravity, so you have to pull the feet to break the neck. They let the loved ones do it.
Darrow faces a moment of true injustice, even above and beyond what he lives with every day, and this eventually tears him from the life he knows and leads him to join an uprising, somewhat against his will. Once he has joined, we're treated to interesting war tactics and mind games as he tries to integrate with, and eventually battle, higher class citizens, in a way that is reminiscent of Ender's Game, except on a much larger scale. Instead of just a squad leader, in a way he's learning to be a king. It's a fun mix of a coming-of-age story with dystopian science fiction and medieval castle siege warfare.
(view spoiler)[My only minor issue with the novel was how the plot was structured in this first book. This has a Hunger Games feel to it, in that Darrow, with all of the students in the school he infiltrates, are put into an arena to battle. It's not for entertainment, but rather education, and it's not necessarily to the death. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but the way it was executed made it feel as if you were reading a side plot for 70% of the novel, which made the overarching story that had been introduced up until that point feel weak.
The games were the focus in the first Hunger Games novel from the beginning, and (I'm assuming, as I only read the first) the larger story was built off that base and developed in the next two sequels. In this, we have an introduction that is about a greater problem, and then we suddenly find ourselves in these games and everything has changed. I loved that the games were a surprise, and thoroughly enjoyed that portion of the novel, but when it finishes you're suddenly reminded that surviving the games wasn't the ultimate goal.
It didn't ruin anything for me, and we are still shown briefly how this has put Darrow in a much greater position to do what he originally set out to do, but it was a bit jarring. (hide spoiler)]
This is full of clever ideas, and it's beautifully written, particularly for a first novel. Tim Gerard Reynolds' narration was spectacular. He has to do quite a mixture of accents and characters, and he pulled it off brilliantly. He's a new favourite of mine now. This is the first in a trilogy, and the final book is released next month, so this is the perfect time to start these. I'm going on holiday in a couple of weeks, and I don't think I'll have much time for audiobooks, so I plan to start the next book in a month or so....more
I've been getting more and more into science fiction these last few years, and I had a craving for a techMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I've been getting more and more into science fiction these last few years, and I had a craving for a technological thriller of the computer security variety. I usually have a backlog in my head for every genre, taken from book blogs or interviews or just natural progressions from what I recently read, but I couldn't think of what to pick up for this. Daemon seemed to be at the top of many random Reddit recommendation threads, though, so I decided to grab the audio book.
A billionaire computer game designer passes away, and when his obituary is posted online it triggers a chain of events that threatens the world economy and millions of lives. This begins as a fairly typical crime novel, there's a death and a detective is trying to find the culprit, but it quickly turns from a who-done-it to a why-did-they-do-it-and-WTF-is-happening. I don't really want to go into the plot here too much, as I went in blind and think that's really the best way to approach this. I was consistently desperate to find out what was happening, and while it was overall very fast-paced, I felt like the flow of information was perfect. Answers spawned more questions, but it never felt like information was being withheld unnaturally to drive you to read on. It really held my attention from the beginning and kept me in suspense.
The writing was serviceable, but it's not the main draw of the novel. There were an unacceptable amount of 'deafening silences' in this. The dialogue got cheesy at times, the characters fall a bit flat, and Suarez got carried away with action scenes, especially at the end, which just aren't the novel's strong point. There were also a couple of chapters set in an MMO game, which were just excruciating to read, and I love video games. I can only imagine how painful those sections (only a couple, to be fair) would be for someone who isn't as excited by video games as I am.
Those gaming chapters were probably made a little worse by this being an audiobook, but I feel like the dialogue was probably made a little better, so it evens out. I've seen a few quotes of dialogue that had an awful lot of ellipses, which we are thankfully spared from in audio. Jeff Gurner seems like he could be a great narrator, but some of the choices he made for character voices were so hammy it was pulling me right out of the story. The detective sounded like Tom Waits with a particularly bad hangover, and I think he was in his mid-30's, which just seemed odd.
The story also doesn't actually end, and I don't mean that in a snarky way. Literally not a single sub-plot concludes. The novel just finishes. I understand he had this planned as a trilogy, but after 600 pages you should be able to tie up something.
I work as a software developer, so I have a love/hate relationship with books and movies that feature hackers or system cracking. It's typically handled in a cartoonish manner, and for good reason I think. I personally find it excited to read or watch console commands being typed in, but I realize that's not everyone's idea of thrilling narrative. This book doesn't take too much time to explain technology, and seems to be targeted at people with some understanding of computers, which I actually really appreciated. Characters will type in a network SSID without stopping to explain networking basics. At one point a character exploits a website with SQL injection, and he also doesn't explain what that is. It's done in a way that readers can pick up what's happening from the context, even if they don't understand the specifics. I'm sure overall he explains things more than I'm remembering, but it's certainly less than usual, enough that I noticed.
This turned a lot more negative than I expected. If I look at any individual piece of this, I can see so many flaws, but put it all together and the book worked really well for me. It turned a little bizarre at the end, but I still have high hopes for the sequel, which I plan to pick up in the next couple of months. This was his first novel, and it was originally self-published, so I'm hoping his later books have more input from an editor. I'm curious to see how his writing improves. I feel like he could eventually be a favourite of mine if he keeps improving. He's written four novels now, and the third book in this series will be released this year, so maybe he's already miles better....more
I'm actually not sure how many of the Narnia books I read when I was a kid. I had a collection that I stoMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I'm actually not sure how many of the Narnia books I read when I was a kid. I had a collection that I stole from my sister, and I think I read through most of them, but I remember so little from any of them. If only I had been writing down my thoughts on books back then. Oh, the insights I would have now. I imagine I'd mainly be comparing them with The Hardy Boys and punctuating my thoughts with 'psych!' and 'not!'. So really, not that far off from what I have now.
I decided to start re-reading with The Magician's Nephew. It's technically the sixth book in the publication order, which is the order I'd normally go by, but it's the first novel chronologically. Random people on the Internet recommend the publication order, because the introduction to Aslan isn't quite as good in this one as it is in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I figure since I definitely at least read that novel and am partially familiar with the series, that doesn't matter.
My main reason for starting this way was that on Audible each book has its own narrator and Kenneth Branagh narrates this one. I've really enjoyed his narration on other audiobooks, so it made sense to pick this up. I'll choose between audio and physical for each of the next books in the series as I come to them. Patrick Stewart and Derek Jacobi both narrated a book, so I'll likely go with the audio versions for those.
Pooh! Grown-ups are always thinking of uninteresting explanations.
This is a bit of an oddity in the series, a prequel that he apparently started writing right after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but didn't publish until five years, and four books, later. It follows childhood neighbours Digory and Polly as they're thrust into another world by Digory's cowardly uncle Andrew. We're introduced to the White Witch, are shown how she escaped her world, how the wardrobe eventually came to be, how the lamppost originated, and we also witness the creation of Narnia. I'm still not sure whether their arrival to Narnia was the catalyst that spurred its birth or if it was just a fantastic coincidence, but either way we get to see Aslan gift some of the animals with speech and see the world come to life.
I had heard a lot of the religious allegory in Narnia, which went right over my head when I read these as a kid, and it's very much present in this first/sixth novel. I was a little surprised with just how explicit it was. I've heard people describe it as being hit over the head with religion while reading, but I never felt like he was trying to persuade the reader in any way. I got the feeling he just loved the stories of Christianity and wanted to mirror them in his own fantasy world. Yes, obeying Aslan without question will lead to everything being awesome, but if you ignore the obvious parallels then most of the lessons and morals are universal and not really a problem.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
It's an entertaining and quick read, and it's both funny at times and heartwarming. What Digory was going through with his mother and how it played out was really touching. I look forward to re-reading the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe next. I'm not sure if I'll go through the entire series or not right now. Patrick Stewart's narration is on the final book, so that might keep me motivated to continue....more
This is a collection of three novellas set a century before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. House TMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This is a collection of three novellas set a century before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. House Targaryen are still in power, eventually to be overthrown by Robert Baratheon's rebellion, and people can still remember the last of the dragons. While these are prequels, and some names will be familiar to those who have read the main novels, the stories are fairly self-contained.
The three included novellas are:
The Hedge Knight (1998)
The Sworn Sword (2003)
The Mystery Knight (2010)
I thought it might be a strange experience reading these back to back like this, since they were written so far apart, but Martin remained impressively consistent throughout. I would never have guessed there was a twelve-year span between two of them.
The stories follow a young hedge knight named Dunk and his squire Egg, a boy who is not exactly what he seems. In The Hedge Knight, the two meet on the way to a jousting tournament. Dunk was knighted by his old master, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, just before he passed away, and this is his first public appearance as Ser Duncan the Tall. He sets out to prove himself as a knight, but finds himself in much more peril than he intended. In The Sworn Sword, they are caught in the sour politics of land-ownership between a neighbouring lord and lady. The Mystery Knight finds them at another tournament, by chance, where a conspiracy is unveiled.
It's interesting reading novella-length stories by George R.R. Martin, a man who typically takes his time with a story. At first it felt almost jarringly simple, but he's amazing at connecting the reader with his characters. I loved Dunk and Egg by the end of the first novella, just as much as I would have if they'd been main characters in one of his thousand-page epics. He does seem to assume the reader knows the basics of the world, he doesn't waste time explaining the significance of places like King's Landing for example, so we are able to get right to the meat of the story.
I listened to this on audiobook, narrated by Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen from the television show), and he did a great job. Apparently the physical copy is full of beautiful illustrations that people on Goodreads seem to be raving about, so if I'd known that I probably would have picked up that edition, but I still really enjoyed this. He hinted at the end that there'll be more of these stories, which I'll be sure to buy. For now, this was a nice stop-gap until The Winds of Winter comes out....more
This is the first novel in The Culture series, and the first novel published under Iain M. Banks (as oppoMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This is the first novel in The Culture series, and the first novel published under Iain M. Banks (as opposed to his regular fiction, which is published without the middle initial). I've heard from multiple sources that the place to start in the series is with the second novel, The Player of Games, because this one is considered a weaker entry in the series. I guess each novel is set in the same universe but has a different cast of characters, so they can be read out of order. I decided against doing this because it just feels wrong somehow, and I figured I'd rather just get it out of the way. I've read a couple of his novels now, and know I like his style, so I'll go on to read The Player of Games regardless of my opinion on this one.
Thankfully, it's not an issue, because I was pleasantly surprised by this. My expectations were quite low going in, to be fair, which always helps. This wasn't amazing by any means, but I did enjoy it, and it left me excited to read further. The universe is quite interesting, and his humour and love for the grotesque are definitely well present here. The plot in this was all over the place, though, and I was mainly left with the feeling that he really wanted to write about space battles and explosions. The characters and plot turns often felt like nothing more than tools to facilitate that. A large portion of this book could have been skipped without any effect on the plot or character development. But even with its flaws, it's easy to see that there's so much potential here for the rest of the series.
There are two warring faction in this universe. The first is the Culture, a hedonistic society consisting of a mix of humanoids, aliens and cognitive computers. Their advanced computers manage the society's economy, so the people are left to their own desires, to pursue their hobbies and passions as they see fit without having to do work they don't enjoy. There wasn't too much of a glimpse inside the Culture in this book, but I imagine the rest of the series deals with the advantages and problems that such a society could bring. The other faction is the Idirans, a militaristic and highly religious race. Their aggressive expansion in the universe is the cause of the Idiran-Culture War.
Many other races have been pulled into both sides of the war. The main character in this book is Horza, a Changer that can slowly transform his body, from outward appearance to the muscle structure and bones, over the course of days. Changers also have full control over how their body functions, feeling pain and producing sweat for example, and can administer poison through their spittle and nails. I'm not sure if they're a throw-away race for this novel or not, but they were pretty interesting. Horza has been hired by the Idirans to retrieve a Culture Mind, one of their super-intelligent sentient computers. I heard an interview where Banks described the plot as a group of pirates travelling to a far-off land to retrieve a buried treasure, which is really what it boils down to.
It's interesting that he wrote this from the viewpoint of an outside character, neither Culture nor Idiran, and then went on to apparently write the rest of the series from the Culture's side. I feel like coming back to this novel, after having read the others, would really feel out of place. It seems most people feel this is a bad place to start, since it gives a false impression of the series. It may in terms of quality, I don't know as I haven't read on yet, but I think as an introduction to the universe it works quite well. The setting, the races, the politics, and the technology are full of really interesting ideas, so I'll be looking to see if that creativity makes its way into the plot in the next of the series....more
I described the last volume as having a teen-drama vibe, in an annoying way, but this got right back intoMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
I described the last volume as having a teen-drama vibe, in an annoying way, but this got right back into the adventure.
The team is still split up, which I'm actually finding a little annoying. I was really enjoying their story together, and while that's still the underlying theme, it was more interesting overall for me when that was the focus - watching the relationships grow between a group of people on the run. This volume felt a little scattered compared to the first few, with three main groups of characters in completely different physical locations. I like that it's complicated and bizarre, but I think it loses a bit of magic when you stretch the plot out in so many ways.
The juvenile humour is still here in all its glory. There's a hilariously disgusting two-page spread that took me off guard, which I always appreciate. Fiona Staples art is still also going strong. A whole slew of new characters were introduced in this, and she's still coming up with creative character designs for each.
My interest was starting to wane a bit with that fourth volume, but this one brought me back. It's still not on the same level as the first three volumes, but it's on the right track. There will always be dips in the comic series, I suppose, but I think overall this is still going to turn out to be one of my favourite comics of all time. This is definitely worth picking up if you're at all interested in the medium and a fun mix of science fiction, fantasy, and humour....more
This is the second novel in Doyle's Professor Challenger series, the first of which being The Lost WorldMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This is the second novel in Doyle's Professor Challenger series, the first of which being The Lost World, which I really enjoyed. I loved the Professor character, so I figured I'd carry on with the lesser-known sequels. I heard that the quality of this series took a steep drop after the first, and while I do think the plot was a lot weaker than The Lost World, the characters were just as great.
The story begins with Professor Challenger having summoned everyone from the previous adventure to his home. When they arrive, Challenger explains his recent discovery that the earth is about to pass through a "poison belt" of aether that is going to kill every living being on earth. They have no time to contact family, to make any plans, because this is all going to happen that same night. He has rigged an enclosed room with oxygen, so they plan to spend the night in there and see how long they can stay alive or even if they can outlast the catastrophe.
The plot is definitely a bit silly, but I did find how it played out to be quite interesting. As they sit in the room, they discuss all of the natural questions that might arise in such a situation. Why even try to postpone death? What was the purpose of their lives? If they survive and no one else does, how will they continue exploring their passions? Professor Challenger is almost excited at that prospect, as it's an unusual chance to observe life rebuilding itself, but our narrator Edward Malone is a journalist. What would be left for him?
The Sherlock stories contained grounded investigation techniques that would go on to actually inspire real-life detective practices, whereas these Challenger stories are a little more fantastical. The magical poison aether is treated as if scientific, but it's really just nonsense. I imagine it was at the time as well. I'm in these stories for the characters, though, and even if the science is silly it does still raise some interesting discussion points, which was a lot of fun.
Some of this was actually quite funny as well, something I don't think comes out as much in his Sherlock stories. Before we, the reader or the characters, knew about the poisonous aether, it had already begun affecting people in quite odd ways. This resulted in some absurdly funny moments that had me wondering if Doyle had gone off the deep end when writing this. We had one character crying, another showing off his animal calls, and another biting a maid, and I really didn't know what was happening for a bit there. I thought he paced it really well. It was subtle enough that I didn't completely catch on to what was happening, and it ended just as I was beginning to wonder why this novel was so ridiculous compared to his others.
This was narrated by the same man who narrated The Lost World, Glen McCready, and he is fantastic. He really brings Professor Challenger to life in his full grumbling and arrogant glory. I think these are worth reading, and I'll be picking up the next in the series, The Land of Mist, when I next come across it....more
This is the sequel to Moore's A Dirty job, which is a fantastic book about a beta male finding himself inMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
This is the sequel to Moore's A Dirty job, which is a fantastic book about a beta male finding himself in the role of a Death Merchant, tasked with retrieving and protecting the souls of the dead. I read it nearly a decade ago, so it took me a little while to figure out what as going on in this sequel. I really should have glanced at a synopsis before starting, because I apparently blocked out the last quarter of that book. This lead to some happy, if unintentional, surprises, but Moore does take some time to remind the reader on the finer points of the last book. I could have used a bit more reminding, but if you aren't me and have a moderately functional memory, it will be just fine.
This takes place about a year after the last novel. Due to varying circumstances, not all of the death merchants have been able to perform their duties over the last year, and the souls that they were meant to watch over have been disappearing. Beta male Charlie Asher, trapped inside the body of a 14-inch-tall meat figure with a giant penis, has to find a new body and figure out what to do about the rise of supernatural activity they're witnessing in San Francisco, with the help of another death merchant Minty Fresh, ex-cop Alphonse Rivera, his former goth employee Lily, his Tibetan monk girlfriend Audrey, and The Emperor of San Francisco.
Christopher Moore is always hilarious, in a perfectly juvenile way, and this continues to be true in this novel as well. This wasn't his strongest plot, but his characters are what really make his novels, and he has some great ones in this. I particularly enjoyed his foul-mouthed nine-year-old daughter Sophie, although she didn't feature as much as I'd hoped. There's just something about hearing a child swear that is fun when you aren't a parent. His black characters were a little awkwardly blaxploitation-esque, and while he does acknowledge that in the story, it doesn't make it any less painful to read. They really feel transparently like black characters written by a white guy, the same way his English characters feel written by an American.
The pacing of the plot also felt a little strange. The main conflict was only hinted at for the longest time, and when they finally neared the confrontation, at the very end of the novel, all of the subplots were neatly tied up. It made the story feel a little disjointed to me, like it was meandering and speeding along all at once. The climax of the novel didn't really hit that hard, because I wasn't as invested in that part of the story (arguably, the main part).
I bought a signed copy of this, like I did with Sacré Bleu, and my dog ate the corner of the book. It wasn't signed in person, though, so I'm not too heartbroken. If the value of his signature suddenly sky rockets with collectors in the future, however, the price of my edition is probably going to suffer. My only hope now is for my dog to somehow become famous.
I should also add that the book cover glows in the dark, as should be the case for all fine literature, and for this I have awarded bonus points. If you can't love a book that glows in the dark, you're dead inside. ...more
It will be news to basically no one that To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing novel. I'm just learning thaMore reviews can be found on my book blog. ---
It will be news to basically no one that To Kill a Mockingbird is an amazing novel. I'm just learning that now, though, as this wasn't offered as part of my high school curriculum, and that's a shame. It would be a great book to read in your early teens. Not only would it have led to some interesting discussion around race issues, but Atticus Finch would be such a great role model to have in one's life growing up, even if just in fiction.
Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
This is the story of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch who prefers to go by the name of Scout. She lives in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama with her brother Jem and widowed father Atticus. The first half of the book is composed of scenes from her childhood as she and her brother attend school, puzzle over their reclusive neighbour Boo Radley, and enjoy the long summers. It really felt like a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn story at parts, in a great way - pure innocent childhood adventures.
The second half of the book has more of a central plot in which Atticus Finch, a lawyer by trade, has been tasked with defending a local black man accused of molesting a white girl. At the time, a black man accused of such a thing was essentially guilty before the trial had even begun, and to defend him with any sort of earnestness was to subject yourself to a lot of anger from the community. Atticus Finch believes the man to be innocent, however, and he's truthful and kind to the core, so he fights what most people consider a futile fight. Over the course of the trial, and during its aftermath, the seemingly inconsequential events from the first half of the book all tie together nicely as the children start to grow up.
As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.
I really loved everything about this and every character in it. The narrator Scout is fantastic, but everyone else in the book is so vivid on the page as well. Atticus Finch is one of my new favourite fictional characters, I think. In a way he almost comes across as somewhat one-dimensional. He's established as the wise and calm father from the beginning and stays that way throughout the novel, but I thought it was really interesting how the children's views of him changed. His depth and character arc comes out through the eyes of Scout and Jem. They see him at the beginning of the novel as a completely different person than they do at the end. I love how they come to realize how principled a man he is as the novel progresses, how some of his decisions they had assumed were made from fear were actually made with patience and humility, and how you could see his attitude quietly affect them in ways that would change the adults they eventually become.
I'm not sure I'll read Go Set a Watchman. Everything seems off about the publication of that, and I think I'd rather not overshadow this story with an apparently mediocre prequel. Obviously I've just read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, so I don't have any sacred nostalgia tied to it, but even so I'm happy with it as it is. I have no idea if Harper Lee is being taken advantage of by her publisher, but I hate the idea of an author's work being published without their permission, especially if it may in any way tarnish his or her existing work.
Harper Lee is going to publish a sequel after 55 years...
and you people think I write slow.
This is one of those novels that I probably wouldn't have gotten around to reading if I hadn't started this blog. More and more of what I read these days fall under that same category, and it's worth acknowledging. Sometimes it seems silly to write about every book I read and take part in challenges to read more classics, but there's no doubting that it's changed my reading for the better....more