I've read this 2x now (just re-read both The Passage and The Twelve in anticipation of the May 2016 publication of the final installment in the trilogI've read this 2x now (just re-read both The Passage and The Twelve in anticipation of the May 2016 publication of the final installment in the trilogy, The City of Mirrors), and since I failed to write a review the first time I'm sharing my thoughts on it now.
The Twelve isn't really a stand-alone title, although Cronin does provide a prologue that lays out the plot points in a thorough synopsis of its predecessor, The Passage, but I can't imagine readers really enjoying it on its own.
But I think most readers who enjoyed The Passage will also like The Twelve, for the same reasons. That said, I also think that if you found The Passage too be a bit too literary for genre fiction, with too many characters and timelines to keep track of, then by all means stay away from The Twelve, which not only carries on in that vein but embraces those strategies even more. Personally, that is much of what I loved about The Passage: it was not only a manic page-turning apocalypse story, but it was told in a very sophisticated, complex way using language and ideas that challenged the reader at every turn, not something I've come to expect in your average zombie book. The themes Cronin visited in The Passage are really the point here in The Twelve, the zombies are just the medium. You know, literature.
I received an ARC of Justin Cronin's The City of Mirrors, the third and final volume in his Passage Trilogy, but because it has been so long (5 years)I received an ARC of Justin Cronin's The City of Mirrors, the third and final volume in his Passage Trilogy, but because it has been so long (5 years) since I read the first two installments, I am re-reading them first in order to re-familiarize myself with the storylines.
I INHALED The Passage in my first reading of it, loving every heart-pounding page (you can read my original review here, and my second experience of it is no different: 60 hours of breathless reading later, and I'm right back in the thick of it.
I continued to devour this series in this final installment, reading it in around 36 hours. I liked that it deals with big issues, and I loved that feI continued to devour this series in this final installment, reading it in around 36 hours. I liked that it deals with big issues, and I loved that female characters are as strong as or stronger than male characters. One of the best modern Young Adult offerings I've read. (See my reviews of vols 1 and 2 for more specific, and thoughtful, critiques.)...more
In The Ask and the Answer, Ness continues his page-turning pace, questions concerning privacy, the nature of power, and fear of the 'other' (gender, tIn The Ask and the Answer, Ness continues his page-turning pace, questions concerning privacy, the nature of power, and fear of the 'other' (gender, tribe, species) that he started in The Knife of Never Letting Go. Presented in a dystopic, other world setting (to make it more palatable, one presumes), it deals with slavery, inter- and intra-necine war, mind control, despotism, and the ever popular Star Trek trope of weighing the good of the one vs. the many; heady stuff for YA lit. But I continue to enjoy the hell out of this series, even though the gooey romantic stuff between the two co-protagonists is ramping up. Oh, and I forgot to mention how great it is seeing a kick-ass girl lead, particularly in fiction written by a dude. Maybe Ness (and his publisher, Candlewick, with whom I am unfamiliar) is an indication that folks are starting to get it, not a stretch when you consider how central gender is to this series....more
Hmmmmm. I probably wouldn't have picked this up if not for the author. Like many other readers, I wanted to see how her adult fiction stacked up to heHmmmmm. I probably wouldn't have picked this up if not for the author. Like many other readers, I wanted to see how her adult fiction stacked up to her series for children (despite the fact that I read HP as an adult, and contrary to my belief in the words of JRR Tolkien, that there is no such thing as a children's story). But I'm not going to compare this to Harry Potter, because Casual Vacancy stands on its own quite well.
The things that stood out for me are Rowling's social commentary and her believable characters. And there are a lot of the latter. Now, I said "believable", not "likeable"; Rowling has drawn some pretty accurate personifications of some very nasty human traits here. While most of the people that populate the small town of the story don't fit the black-or-white, good/bad binary but are more complex gray figures (read: human), they are in general very un-likeable. That was the main thing I disliked about the story; I am an incorrigible optimist, and I tend to believe the best of people and their intentions and motivations, so a book chock-full of self-serving, mean-spirited, beastly people goes down sideways in my reader craw. But I was heartened by the realization that what Rowling appears to be reminding me by drawing so many characters oblivious to the needs and inner workings of others is the adage (of which I am a staunch proponent) that in life, it's not about you - nothing is about you. All of the characters in Casual Vacancy needed to learn that lesson (most did not, of course).
So, despite the hard depiction of how sad, banal, and hurtful people can behave, I thought ultimately that the book ended on a positive note of sacrifice and love. (All rather vague, I know, but I hate spoilers.)...more
When I stumbled across Ken Liu's short stories in 2013, I enjoyed reading them so much that when I heard his debut novel was due to be released in 201When I stumbled across Ken Liu's short stories in 2013, I enjoyed reading them so much that when I heard his debut novel was due to be released in 2015 I reached out to him here on GR and requested a review copy. I was pleasantly surprised that he responded with a quick & friendly 'yes'. I've had this weighty tome (literally, it weighs a couple of pounds, but I like big butts books) sitting around since pre-publication, but after a couple of false starts I set it down & waited for inspiration.
Picked it up once again and third time's the charm. It took me awhile to really get 'into' it (say, 250 pages or so), so I suppose by rights I should say it was a slow starter. But it started to grow on me about 1/3 of the way in - so if you are readingGrace of Kings, and you're in early days, page-wise, and are considering bailing, hang in there, it gets more compelling. The final 200 or so pages were by far the most engaging, and if the whole novel had more in common with that last third of the book, it might have garnered a 'really liked' or a 'loved' rating from me.
I enjoyed the creation of a fantasy world inspired by (I believe) Chinese history and mythology, which is new to me. (I'm tempted, in fact, to seek out some original texts to see for myself how true this might be.) The characters are interesting (and myriad), and for readers who find keeping track of a large cast difficult a cheat sheet of major players is provided, as is a glossary of terms, pronunciation guide, and - most important - a map.
I also enjoyed the story itself, which can be summed up as: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I liked that there was ambiguity in the characters; most were neither good nor bad, but (as all real people do, it's the human condition) exhibited both characteristics. I like gray characters, not white and black hats.
However, I was troubled by the lack of strong female characters through almost 500 pages, and while one was finally introduced toward the end that was both original and interesting (and integral), it felt a bit too-little-too-late to me. I got the impression Liu made a conscious effort to be inclusive and diverse in creating his cast of characters. (There is, for example a gay character that doesn't feel tacked on for the sake of having a gay guy appear; it's really only an aside to who he is, like hair color or height, rather than some kind of political statement.) So the otherwise eclectic cast, heterogeneous in terms of age, race, and sexual orientation, seems by contrast to be ridiculously dude-centric. Maybe this sausage fest is a result of deriving material from traditional Chinese cultural norms, but in an otherwise mixed population of characters I found the lack of convincing women to be almost a deal breaker in this day and age.
The other complaint I have I've had no luck articulating even to myself; I just can't put my finger on why I didn't love this book more. The closest I can get seems to be a feeling that Grace of Kings might find a more sympathetic audience in tweens and fans of YA lit (which I, in general, am not). It struck me as a Bildungsroman that would appeal to those adolescents (particularly of the male persuasion) that enjoyed Eragon and How to Train Your Dragon, which is why I passed my copy on to my 13-year old friend Alder. A voracious reader of fantasy, I can't wait to hear what he thinks of it.
-------------------- I received an advance reader's copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review....more
I wrote a hilarious review that got sucked into the internets by gremlins and I don't have the energy to recreate it. Suffice to say it had fart jokesI wrote a hilarious review that got sucked into the internets by gremlins and I don't have the energy to recreate it. Suffice to say it had fart jokes and social commentary about transgressive writing and a paean to the '70s. But since I rarely get feedback on my reviews anyway, you'll have to make do with this: my inner 13 year-old boy loved Dreamcatcher/I>....more
This second in Stewart's Arthurian Saga trilogy suffers even more than its predecessor, The Crystal Cave, from a slow pace and rather more misogyny thThis second in Stewart's Arthurian Saga trilogy suffers even more than its predecessor, The Crystal Cave, from a slow pace and rather more misogyny than I care for (I'm always surprised when women authors write poor female characters). I do like, however, that Stewart continued to follow the mainly historical Geoffrey of Monmouth version of the Arthurian legend, and that she attributes the bulk of Merlin's power to human (rather than supernatural) forces. I'm intrigued by Merlin, more than Arthur, mainly in his role as liminal figure; he (Merlin) embodies the transition between Pagan and Christian....more
Re-read this after reading Stewart's The Crystal Cave trilogy, for a comparison. Although I enjoyed MoA much more than CC, I didn't enjoy it this timeRe-read this after reading Stewart's The Crystal Cave trilogy, for a comparison. Although I enjoyed MoA much more than CC, I didn't enjoy it this time around nearly as much as the first time I read it about 15 years ago. It is very repetitive (I think MZB could have easily told the same story in under 600 pages, chopping it by about 1/3). I quite like the re-telling from the perspective of female characters, & don't really understand the criticism on that basis; I guess the Arthurian pantheon is too sacrosanct for a re-imagining to appeal to everyone. My last comment is addressed to the reviewers who complain of an anti-Christian bias in the book and use Pagan-bashing to make their point: I think you're both unknowingly validating MZB's premise AND hypocritically engaging in the hateful speech you are decrying. You can't have it both ways, simultaneously bashing another person's beliefs while complaining that your religion is being attacked. That isn't really so hard to understand, is it? Aren't you supposed to be the 'glass-houses-first-stone' people? Sheesh....more
Reading Possession, or at least doing justice to reading Possession, is a commitment. This is not a breezy, summer read by any means. The effort thougReading Possession, or at least doing justice to reading Possession, is a commitment. This is not a breezy, summer read by any means. The effort though, for me anyway, is well worth it.
Using the literary conceit of a frame narrative to tell a story within a story (within a story), and communicating it through prose, poetry, and epistolary missives makes for a rich, dense and at times daunting novel set in both contemporary (c1988) London, Yorkshire, & Brittany and their 19th century historical counterparts. In Possession, Byatt evokes an opulent, layered Victorian era and the post-70s intellectual world of academia. In scenes dealing with the former, Byatt's writing is rife with imagery plucked from sources as wide-ranging as the language of flowers; Cornish & Breton mythology; Pre-Raphaelite art; scientists & natural historians like Darwin, Lyell, & Michell; mesmerism; & Romantic poetry (LOTS of Romantic poetry). For the later and latter scenes, gender politics, academic politics, and interpersonal politics are the predominant topics. But all are woven into a complex whole that draws repeated parallels between the characters of a bygone age and their intellectual, emotional, and in some cases familial descendants.
The themes Byatt incorporates into Possession are equally grandiose, as befits an epic tale of the magnitude she has written: identity, power, mutability, time, loss of faith, memory. If I've understood with any decree of clarity the messages contained within, Possession is about how everything changes and everything stays the same, as well as the madness of love & obsession and its inevitability; there lies metamorphosis.
So, if you're up to a read where you'll want (and most certainly need) to keep your dictionary and other resources to hand, to brush up on your poetry analysis skills, and to be prepared to slow down your usual book consumption pace, Possession might just be a good choice for your next read....more
I didn't like this book, but I'm not going to bother with a review because Leslie already wrote one that captured all my complaints; read it here to sI didn't like this book, but I'm not going to bother with a review because Leslie already wrote one that captured all my complaints; read it here to see what I think, too....more
Am I the only reader who didn't find this book difficult? Does that imply that I missed the subtext? I don't think so, but who cares; I quite like TheAm I the only reader who didn't find this book difficult? Does that imply that I missed the subtext? I don't think so, but who cares; I quite like The Luminaries.
Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't recommend it to most of my reading friends; it's long, it's populated with a huge number of characters, it sometimes strains credulity in it's interwoven subplots. But it's funny, and innovative, and rewards those who stick with it to the (very remote) end of the line.
If, as one 2015 prize adjudicator claimed, this year's Man Booker was awarded to the title that best illustrates a new form for the novel, then I concur, because this does that, in spades.
My main disappointment with The Luminaries is that although I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, stylistically, and the fast-paced storytelling, I never really felt invested in the outcome, or found that I cared deeply for the characters. I don't think a year from now I'll have strong feelings about the book; this is not a title I'll be proselytizing about.
But it was a fun read for a week, that got me through two 12-hour trips on Greyhound and a family visit in between!
How I managed to make it almost to the half-century mark before reading this, I do not know, but now that I have - I love it! BUT, why bother with a rHow I managed to make it almost to the half-century mark before reading this, I do not know, but now that I have - I love it! BUT, why bother with a review? It has been reviewed unto death, both better than I could achieve and not so much. Instead, some thoughts...
According to Michael Mason, editor of the Penguin edition I read, Jane Eyre is the most-read novel of all time. Although I could find no evidence to support this, it is apparently one of the most beloved books ever written. Which left me with a question: Why is it still so popular today, almost 170 years later?
My theory is this: the pith and point of Jane Eyre is NOT a romantic love story. Nope, it's about integrity. To thine own self be true would be a great subtitle for this book, in fact. Here, Charlotte Brontë said it better herself:
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
I think that in our modern world of following the trends and opinions of others like sheep, even the least independent thinkers among us wish for something more, that they know a unique and valuable individual resides inside each one of us, and long to give her wing (see what I did there, using CB's penchant for bird imagery in my analysis? Clever me.).