My nihilistic teenage self would have adored this novel. At 4 days shy of 50, its spare, existential prose of ennui struck me less as a Work Of GreatMy nihilistic teenage self would have adored this novel. At 4 days shy of 50, its spare, existential prose of ennui struck me less as a Work Of Great Fiction than a soporific indulgence of teen angst. Go figure: my tastes have changed....more
Should have been shorter. Insightful, but depressing. A page-turner, but ultimately I don't really know what I'll take away from it, if anything. OneShould have been shorter. Insightful, but depressing. A page-turner, but ultimately I don't really know what I'll take away from it, if anything. One of those reads that I'll probably have forgotten after not long at all, which is hardly a recommendation....more
I don't really understand the popularity of this book, unless people are feeling obligated to like it because of the subject. I found it really boringI don't really understand the popularity of this book, unless people are feeling obligated to like it because of the subject. I found it really boring, although I did like the ending.
So, to my friends and followers, if you don't already know about it, please educate yourself on what has been going on behind the scenes here at Amazon-Goodreads (A-GR). Read this free ebook, which is an excellent compilation by some of the GR community of readers who have been censored. Read the fairly balanced Salon article on the subject. Google it. Then make your own decision.
I'm not one of the in-crowd on Goodreads, not one of the 21 Goodreaders that got shut down, not a recipient of the "we've deleted your review" emails, not one of the Forbes 25. But I have been here awhile (since December '08), and I do pay attention to what's going on here (I'm an active reviewer, group participant, & volunteer librarian), and what's going on here ain't good.
I've weighed in on most of the issues that have ruffled feathers (and worse) here in the past 5+ years, and watched as GR staff ignored member feedback on all the changes. Some were merely stylistic differences of opinion (eg., implementation of the UGB); some were much more serious (authors and agents equating negative reviews with bullying), but what each issue had in common was GR's lack of responsiveness to the concerns of their most invested members.
But, as long as GR remained a site dedicated to readers, I felt that the business decisions made by management were, if not choices I would have made if in their shoes, still within the realm of what I could personally support; GR was a business that I could still put my trust in, albeit with reservations.
Then last spring GR announced the sale of the business to Amazon. This was after all the insanity of the scramble to reconstruct the database (by me and other volunteer editors) in the wake of Amazon denying access to their API. I was gobsmacked by the sale announcement.
I've been a vocal critic, both on and off GR, of Amazon and their scorched-earth business practices. And I believe in voting with my dollars, so I won't give Amazon my money, which I spend to support business who espouse values similar to my own, businesses both on and offline.
That left me in a bind even before the current controversy over censorship of reviews came up. As a reader, and a consumer, I was faced with a choice last spring: continue on as an active GR member, effectively increasing Amazon's profits by donating my free labor as a volunteer librarian and adding my data to their sales machine, or leave, hopefully for greener pastures. But let's face it: last spring when this went down, there were no greener pastures; there wasn't even a barren wasteland alternative to turn to, since LibraryThing has been sucked up by Amazon as well.
So what did I do? I became paralyzed. I didn't leave, but in staying I just...stopped. Stopped posting reviews, stopped entering ARC giveaways, and stopped volunteering my time, effort, & expertise as a GR librarian. I stopped feeding my data to the Amazon-Goodreads (A-GR) cash cow. Because I understood that GR had gone from being a site for readers, to a site for consumers; I was no longer a community member, but had become a commodity.
I believed this was, at least in the short term, a reasonable solution to my problem. Not ideal, but tenable. I would just use A-GR, without allowing A-GR to use me. So over the course of my hiatus, I rarely checked in, rarely posted, & never followed the A-GR scandal news. As a result, I completely missed the bullshit concerning review deletion that went down last fall. In my absence, A-GR went from a place where I tentatively believed that a truce could be maintained between the sometimes opposing forces of community values and business values, to a place where profit motive trumps EVERYTHING.
Now I find that authors are buying positive reviews; that reviewers posting negative reviews are being removed; and that vague rules about what constitutes a review in the first place are being systematically implemented as a tool for suppressing honest dialogue. 'Off-topic' my ass; A-GR just wants to "sanitize" this site (their policy for group moderators on Amazon), to enforce an artificially "appropriate tone" (read: palatable to the income generators, aka authors), here, just like they do on Amazon.
Don't be fooled: in buying Goodreads, Amazon bought the right to sell to you, as a captive audience. Every extra click you make in order to get to your content is another opportunity to show you an advertisement. Every listopia vote you cast here is a datapoint mined by Amazon in order to better exploit the possibility of selling you something. Every book you shelve gives Amazon another shot at niche-marketing to you. And do you think that the privacy of your reading habits, once considered sacrosanct by librarians and booksellers everywhere, means anything to A-GR?
I'm not anti-capitalism; I get that trying to sell me things is the way that all social networking sites work. The difference is, there's no conflict of interest on those sites like there is here on A-GR. This site is built on user-generated content; here, as a user-member, I am both the product and the consumer of the product. Amazon bought our reviews so they could sell us the products we are reviewing. That is the crux of the problem.
But I don't want to be part of that anymore. In the same way that I do NOT buy books from Amazon, but instead buy them from independent booksellers (which are becoming harder and harder to find, I might add, as Amazon gobbles them up), in that way I am making the sad and difficult choice to stop supporting A-GR as my book site of choice. My plan is to begin migrating my data off of A-GR to a new, smaller, independent A-GR competitor, Booklikes. As always, there is a cost to standing up for what I believe in. The cost of buying my new books from an indie seller is buying fewer of them, because they cost about twice as much as they would if I bought them from Amazon. The cost of supporting an indie book site instead of A-GR is that I will lose some of my community, my friends, my history here. And let's face it, change is hard. I don't know my way around Booklikes, and I don't know if all the features I've come to love about Goodreads (NOT A-GR) will be there.
But at least, for now anyway, I'll be welcomed on Booklikes as a reader. I won't be viewed as a commodity, or a consumer, or as someone to be exploited, sanitized, and corralled to keep me from straying 'off-topic'.
Because, really, isn't the stuff that is off-topic the most interesting bit?...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
Holy crap, this is (censored) fantastic! Best book I've read this year.
Pacing: break-neck Style: sere and un-padded Genre: thriller-cum-dystopian novel PHoly crap, this is (censored) fantastic! Best book I've read this year.
Pacing: break-neck Style: sere and un-padded Genre: thriller-cum-dystopian novel Premise: language is power
To be more specific, the train-barreling-down-the-tracks speed of the text grabbed me right out of the gate (so to speak, heh). It served the chase scenes well, and typically slowed when switching to episodes describing previous experiences of the characters.
I appreciated that it took some concentration on my part to tease out who was speaking when, & which timeline was being explicated in a given moment. It's kind of an anti-Dan Brown style, as dialogue isn't generally attributed to individual characters, & I enjoy that strategy immensely. A good writer 'tells' the reader who has the mike in a conversation through voice, not merely by pointing to the speaker.
I'm not going to give plot-points; those are available in spades here on Goodreads and elsewhere if you want/need them. Suffice it to say, the concept of words physiologically altering brain chemistry and structure (see recent research on how reading a novel changes the brain) is a powerful one that resonates with me. When words literally have the power to "make things real", and media tailor messages that cause people to "delegate the ability to make up your mind", a fictional world in which "...people are defined by what they want" doesn't seem far-fetched at all.
Some readers don't seem to care for the multiple-perspective storytelling device, but I loved it. I *did* agree with the one reviewer I've seen that complained that it degenerated into an omnia vincit amor love-fest, & there is some merit to that observation. And some of the character motivations could have been fleshed out better. But these are quibbles. (And, to the reviewer complaining of excessive profanity and explicit sex: you have GOT to be kidding. This is only true if your baseline is something written by Dr. Suess. And I don't mean this).
Overall, it left me both wanting to track down more of Barry's work, & green that I'm not one of the BookRiot Quarterly box recipients who apparently received this in their January shipment. Happily, I *did* get my copy as an ARC from my local indie bookseller - thanks, Dante! But Lexicon is so good, I'd read it even if I had to pay for it....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.).
"Billy Ridgeway walks into a bar with a banana in his hand."
That's the first line of this weird and hilarious debut novel from Jeremy Bushnell, and th"Billy Ridgeway walks into a bar with a banana in his hand."
That's the first line of this weird and hilarious debut novel from Jeremy Bushnell, and that's about all I'm going to tell you about it because almost anything else would be spoiler-filled. So I'll just leave you with this: it's one of my top 3 reads this year, and I can't wait to see what comes out of this author's head next!
This title was provided to me via my indie bookseller Northtown Books by the publisher, Melville House, in exchange for an honest review; no money or other remuneration was exchanged.
What an unusual, charming, baffling story! I loved it, and hated it, and ultimately recommend it (with caveats). Before I tell you what I liked and diWhat an unusual, charming, baffling story! I loved it, and hated it, and ultimately recommend it (with caveats). Before I tell you what I liked and disliked, this line from early in the book expresses the best and worst of how I experienced On Such a Full Sea, and possibly what Chang-rae Lee was attempting in it:
"A tale, like the universe, they tell us, expands ceaselessly each time you examine it, until there's finally no telling exactly where it begins, or ends, or where it places you now."
Akin to a hero(ine)'s (or maybe a-hero(ine)'s) journey, it is a travelogue of one young woman's path from...what? to...what? I'm not sure. But Fan, the protagonist, is definitely on the move from beginning to end, in search of...something. Maybe another quote will help:
"..it's perhaps more laudable simply to keep heading out into the world than always tilting to leave one's mark on it."
Fan is continually "heading out into the world", for sure, and indeed seems unconcerned about her impression upon it. Her journey is the thing.
So, likes: page-turner, thought-provoker, sometimes lyrical, suggestive of the need to re-read. And, dislikes: intrusive narrator, preachy in a tell-don't-show way, vague. But overall, interesting, relatable, likable.
It reads like a fairy tale, and if you like puzzling out "exactly where it begins, or ends, or where it places you now", you'll surely enjoy reading On Such a Full Sea....more
This re-imagining of the classic H. Beam Piper Little Fuzzy reads like a short story (I read all 355 pages in one sitting), tackling the question: "WhThis re-imagining of the classic H. Beam Piper Little Fuzzy reads like a short story (I read all 355 pages in one sitting), tackling the question: "What constitutes sentience?". Delving into the Theory of Mind, quantification of language, and the ethics of resource extraction, it covers a lot of ground. Despite the overtly moralizing themes (with which I tend to agree), Fuzzy Nation is a fun read.
My favorite aspect of this morality play is the motivational ambiguity of the (anti)hero protagonist, Jack Holloway. After just reading Ready Player One, written by another Ohioan, Ernest Cline, the complexity of Holloway was a welcome antidote to the binary portrayal of good & evil represented by Cline's protagonist, Wade/Parzival, who was unambiguously a 'good guy'. In contrast, Jack's behavior vacillates back and forth between self-serving me-first-ness and altruistic good-of-the-many, and even at the conclusion it isn't clear where Jack lands, ethically. This is much more interesting in a character. Reviewers who complain about Jack's equivocal personality just don't get it; that, I believe, is Cline's point: morals aren't static.
Maybe that explains why I've seen several people claiming their favorite character is the dog. Sigh....more
Following so closely on the heels of my reading the redoubtable Possession, Stewart's Merlin tale was bound to come up short in comparison. Not that tFollowing so closely on the heels of my reading the redoubtable Possession, Stewart's Merlin tale was bound to come up short in comparison. Not that there's anything wrong with The Crystal Cave, mind you. It just pales in comparison to the subtler, richer world-building and language skills of Byatt. I'm sure if I'd read this (as I suspect many, if not most, do) when I was younger and a bit more naive to superior writing and themes, I'd have jolly well enjoyed the hell out of it. As it stands, reading it at such an (ahem) late date, and after already reading what I consider to be superior treatments of the Arthurian saga, I found The Crystal Cave to be merely adequate. But there is, after all, something to be said for a pleasant, albeit only satisfactory, summer read, isn't there?...more
I expected to like this book. I wanted to like this book. But I just didn't, couldn't like this book.
Time travel? Check. Literary allusions? HistoricaI expected to like this book. I wanted to like this book. But I just didn't, couldn't like this book.
Time travel? Check. Literary allusions? Historical references? Check. Tongue-in-cheek humor? Check. Four of my favorite things. Add them to the book's near cult following, & inclusion on the NPR reader poll on the top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books, I completely expected to love The Eyre Affair. Problem is, I just never cared about the story or any of the characters. All in all, an intriguing premise for a novel, but a lackluster execution.
Some of my criticisms are my standard complaints: it could have used a stronger editing hand; there were too many internal inconsistencies; and, surprisingly, a less-than-adequate handle on the underlying material, in this case Bronte's Jane Eyre, which I thought was annoyingly misunderstood by Fforde.
But my biggest complaint: it all seemed too cutesy-wootsy to me. Too contrived by half. Cliche-ridden and banal. I dunno, it just didn't work for me.
Go figure; most everyone else seems to love it. Oh well, it's a quick read & I picked it up at a charity shop for $1.50, so no skin off my nose. I've never much put much store in being part of the herd anyway....more
Don't believe what you've heard: this isn't a zombie story, it's a war story. And a pretty good one at that. But it's too military-rah rah for me (thiDon't believe what you've heard: this isn't a zombie story, it's a war story. And a pretty good one at that. But it's too military-rah rah for me (think Starship Troopers) without the sophistication and stomach-in-throat-ness of The Passage. Maybe it works better as a Brad Pitt vehicle....more
This book just didn't work for me the way its predecessor did, although I haven't put my finger on exactly why. If I come up with anything, I'll writeThis book just didn't work for me the way its predecessor did, although I haven't put my finger on exactly why. If I come up with anything, I'll write a review....more
I don't have the usual complaints expressed by Heinlein nay-sayers (at least, not that I've run across). My beef isn't with what he advocates in StarsI don't have the usual complaints expressed by Heinlein nay-sayers (at least, not that I've run across). My beef isn't with what he advocates in Starship Troopers(view spoiler)[neo-con militaristic ideology, selective franchise, corporal punishment, unrealistic utopism, etc.) (hide spoiler)] -- (it is, after all, his novel to put forth any and all of his ideas, whether I agree with them or not.) No, what I disliked about Troopers is how Heinlein presented his proposed solutions to what he characterized as the wreck and ruin of 20th century modern democracy. In a nutshell, Starship Troopers is possibly the best example I've run across of the TELL don't SHOW genre.
While every admonition to writers I've ever seen or heard exhorts just the opposite, the only showing that occurs in this polemic on war occurs in the first and last chapters, in the form of virtually the only action sequences of the novel. The bulk of the novel is a lengthy diatribe concerning Heinlein's political views. I would have enjoyed learning about his beliefs, good or bad, if I'd felt less lectured to as if I'm incapable of drawing my own conclusions through interpretation.
I can't imagine that the film version could rely so heavily on the didactic elements of analysis and summarization that comprise the bulk of Heinlein's "story"-telling in the written version, so I'm hopeful that I'll enjoy Verhoeven's cinematic treatment (and what I expect to be a heavier reliance on action over theory) more than this book, which makes much more sense as the required-reading of proto-Marines that it is.