The Art of Secrets is okay, but just barely okay. It had a twist ending, for sure, but (and here's my problem with the mysteWell, that was uneventful.
The Art of Secrets is okay, but just barely okay. It had a twist ending, for sure, but (and here's my problem with the mystery genre specifically) I tend to think that if the twist ending comes right out of nowhere, with little to no explanation why this twist is happening, then I feel like I've been cheated just a little bit. I'm just speculating, but maybe the author wanted us to feel as confused and shocked as our main character, but I just didn't. Aggravated, annoyed, and hungry - more like.
The main character, Saba, was likeable enough. There's nothing particularly special or endearing about her. She's one of those main characters I feel compelled to like because...the author likes her? Maybe? She definitely had promise. A teen girl, American by birth but with immigrant parents, trying to balance her (typically more traditional) culture with the demands and desires of being a modern teenager in this current generation, typically makes for a highly engaging story. This is one of the most classic tropes in literature. However, except for the occasional reference here or there, Saba acts and speaks like any typical teenager, and...well, that's just a little bit on the boring side. She's not exactly special or memorable. The POV doesn't stay on her long enough, though; instead it bounces around to all sorts of (should be) secondary characters - fellow students at this supposedly elite Chicago private school -along with teachers, principals, and parents too. I was kind of disappointed the partridge in the pear tree didn't get a POV chapter, to be honest. And here's what's downright maddening - nearly every adult in this little book (clocking in at about 250 pages) is a walking, talking stereotype. The snobby principal. The privileged jock. The angry, bitter old PE teacher. The snobby, highbrow art teacher. The airhead mother who's also an independent, working woman. The sweet but completely sappy goodie-two-shoes. The way in which all these totally clueless buffoons expressed every thought, opinion, and judgment to the reporters/photographers/detectives was downright maddening - people do not talk like this in real life! Nobody is this one-dimensional. NOBODY. The structure of the novel is something I can't figure out, either: namely, I can't figure out if the author intended for the non-Saba chapters to read like uninterrupted monologues, but that's what they are. Picture the character perched on a stool addressing an audience of about 50 or so. You, the audience, are the empty body to whom the characters direct their monologues, but you are never a part of the action. Nor are you a part of the conversation. It was completely one-sided. If this were a play, I'd think the style was really clever. But in a novel, it just didn't work. It felt hollow and superficial. The only character I utterly loved and enjoyed was Saba's long-suffering but eternally optimistic father, Farooq Khan. THIS GUY should have been the subject of the book. Forget the materialistic daughter. Forget the multiple POV. Give me a a first-person or 3rd limited narrative of this guy and his ordinary but oh so marvelously, beautifully American story. Yet all we get are about 3 chapters from his POV. Too bad. ...more
Okay, so I admit it. My renewed interest in this book (and anything by Roald Dahl, really) is entirely because of the musical Matilda (now on BroadwayOkay, so I admit it. My renewed interest in this book (and anything by Roald Dahl, really) is entirely because of the musical Matilda (now on Broadway!). With music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and a wickedly clever script by Dennis Kelly, the musical is just as gleefully funny and witty as Dahl's original story.
Truthfully, I have always been one of those sheepish readers who "doesn't get" Roald Dahl. I always thought his books were nonsensically weird and a tad macabre. I remember reading Dahl's books as a kid and not knowing whether to find a particular passage funny or disturbing. But now that I'm solidly 'grown up,' and finding out that this story has been adapted into an award-winning musical, I wanted to read it again. And I did, and I loved it!
Yes, the adults are either negligent (Matilda's stupid and shallow parents), abusive (the Trunchbull), or sweet-but-useless (Miss Honey). But isn't it nice, every once in awhile, to read about a child hero who saves the day? The 'unlikely hero' paradigm never gets old! At least, not for me :)
Meanwhile, my suggestion is to youtube-search for "Matilda the Musical." It looks incredible. The soundtrack is great as well. On an unrelated note, it appears that the "crappy-musicals" slump on Broadway may be coming to an end. Once again, it's great and glorious London theatre to the rescue!...more
So glad to all my lit-buddies who recommended this to me. I see what you mean - The Book Thief is absolutely extraordinary and meaningful.
I needed toSo glad to all my lit-buddies who recommended this to me. I see what you mean - The Book Thief is absolutely extraordinary and meaningful.
I needed to go ahead and finish this - so I'll read it again for more detail later (possibly summer).
The Book Thief is easily the best WWII/Holocaust novel I've ever read, and I love how it focuses on a unique aspect of the time-period - what was it like to be a German youth growing up in the Reich?.
Truth be told, it took me a few pages to get used to the writing. Death is the narrator (imagine Sherlock saying "obviously" with typical deadpan delivery) and his voice was a bit hard to read at the very beginning. Plus, I thought he had a tendency to ramble in his commentary, but I found out this was due to the fact that I'd just finished Ender's Game, which is a very concise narrative style.
I'll have to write more later, but I can recognize the literary genius of this novel. So many books are all show and no substance (which, in my opinion, accounts for about 60% of the Young Adult market and 85% of the adult market)...so it's a nice change to encounter a book that is truly deserving.
I love finding books I can recommend to friends and students, and now I'm going to try and figure out how to incorporate this into my units but it's so long!...more
Coming soon: An actual review of the entire series.
*shakes head* Rick Riordan, my fellow Texan. You have gone from one of my favorite writers to oneComing soon: An actual review of the entire series.
*shakes head* Rick Riordan, my fellow Texan. You have gone from one of my favorite writers to one of my least favorite. And you know why? It's because you just can't quit while you're ahead.
I have watched now, for the last 3 years, as this new spinoff series has progressively (yes, pun intended) gotten worse and worse, losing the charm of the *original* series that I found so endearing. As a sidenote, maybe this is why my favorite authors are Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. There's no way any of them can disappoint me with new material. But beginning with The Lost Hero, I've seen less and less of the things that endeared me to the original Percy Jackson series.
Yes, this is more of an assessment of the entire series, but House of Hades was the final straw. I have now lost all interest in this spinoff series. Thanks, Riordan. You took a great concept and you killed it.
Basically, it comes down to this: - POV doesn't work for me. In my opinion, the PJ series' greatest asset was Percy's 1st person narrative. Getting to read his thoughts was, for me, where most of the enjoyment came from. And now...this series is written in 3rd person. DOESN'T WORK. AT ALL. - TOO MANY CHARACTERS. This just...arrggh! This is primarily the reason I can't take these books seriously. I mean, honestly? I know Riordan was a teacher before he became a full-time writer, but that doesn't mean he needs to recreate his classroom in his books! I mean, the HEROES OF OLYMPUS series has more characters than some school districts have students! Leo, Jason, Piper, Hazel, Reyna, Nico (well at least he was in the original series)...the story is spread too thin. I can't even say whether they all have separate identities because I simply DON'T CARE about any of them. And now, with this book, Riordan has indeed sunk to the depths of creating stock characters. Well, actually he did that back in The Lost Hero with Piper... Too many characters scattered throughout the story when really I only care about two: Percy and Annabeth. - BATCRAP CRAZY STORY. So...are these Greek gods schizophrenic or something, that they respond to both Greek and Roman names? Is there any coherent explanation for this?
Maybe I've just grown up since I first read the first PJ book. But this series just seems like another grab at more money. (view spoiler)[I mean, dude. You live in San Antonio. Get over yourself, the cost of living isn't that high. (hide spoiler)]. If not that...then what? I just don't understand the point of this series. Heroes of Olympus is silly, it's sophomoric, and it holds none of the charm of the original series for me. Even the subplots are sophomoric: so much attention to who likes who, and so forth. Too over-the-top cutesy. The one single romantic subplot of Percy and Annabeth carried the entire 5-book series. Now...it's like reading the transcript of a Disney Channel series
But...just for old time's sake, I can't give one of my former favorite authors less than a 3. ...more
I read this book over two years ago, so it's definitely been awhile. What made me remember Here Lies Arthur was a conversation I overheard ye3.5 stars
I read this book over two years ago, so it's definitely been awhile. What made me remember Here Lies Arthur was a conversation I overheard yesterday in which a mother was looking for more Arthurian tales to recommend to her 13-year-old, who "just loved 'The Mists of Avalon.'" When my eyes uncrossed themselves at the madness of a 13-year-old reading that piece of crap clearly adult novel or watching the miniseries (which I did - accidentally - at 13 and was incredibly disturbed/scarred by it)...I remembered Here Lies Arthur, and how I would have offered it up as a suggestion just to be cheeky.
First, though, a confession: I have not had the best of luck with Philip Reeve books. I tried and ultimately gave up on that steampunk novel of his a few years ago. (view spoiler)[Frankly, I think his books are weird as hell, kinda like Garth Nix's books. (hide spoiler)] However, I remember liking Here Lies Arthur enough, and actually finding it rather interesting and entertaining, which brings me to my next confession: I have a deep loathing of King Arthur stories. Seriously, I hate them with every fiber of my being. The only non-gag-worthy King Arthur story or rendition, in my opinion, is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Ah, for the saving grace of humor. But like most people in the US, I'd reckon, I had to read the King Arthur legends in high school. For us, we compared/contrasted Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur with White's The Once and Future King. I am still waiting on someone to explain to me where "virtue" and "chivalry" come into the mix with these stories, because I've always seen Arthur - and his knights (except Galahad) - as wanton, misogynistic, and somewhat authoritarian. I've never understood the "great truth" that these stories supposedly represent. Like I'm waiting for someone to come up and pull the wool over my eyes, too, so I'll see what everybody else sees.
So what do I do with a novel that imagines legendary, "heroic" King Arthur as a brute and a bully? I devour it. In the caes of Here Lies Arthur, Reeve goes in the direction of realism, trying to portray a 5th/6th century England as it probably was: grim, gritty and violent. Yeah, okay. Frankly, the work of any fiction author is, at the end of the day, just guesswork, no matter how much research they say was undertaken. I don't actively seek out realism in the books I read, mainly because I get enough of the "real world" and all its amorality/existentialism in real life, so I actively seek out fantasy. So while I'm not one to usually like stories in which humanity-in-general is devoid of goodness or virtue, I do think that it worked in this story. Why? Because like I said, I didn't think the original source material had any of these positive qualities, either. In my opinion, "huzzah" to Reeve for showing Arthur as I've always seen him: a brutish brigand who manages to achieve renown not by his own efforts, but by the ensemble cast working around him.
You can read other reviews to get the 411 on the general premise of this book. A servant girl named Gwyna is drawn in by the bard Myrddin ("Merlin," seen here as the ultimate Spin Doctor) to create a legendary king out of a warlord thug. In order to observe the action, girl-Gwyna spends most of the story in disguise as a boy (*yawn*). I do remember thinking that most of the characters fell a bit flat - but then again, one does not read Here Lies Arthur for the character exposition. Rather, I'd say that the worth of this novel comes from the overall idea of taking a legendary premise and flipping it around. The best part of the story, for me, was in reading the portrayal of the Mordred character (he goes by a different, more Welsh-sounding name in this novel). But I've always been intrigued by Mordred's character (since I can't stand Arthur, see). (view spoiler)[In fact, The Once and Future King cycle is one of few times in fiction when I all-out root for the "bad guy." The Da Vinci Code is another time - go, creepy albino monk, go! (hide spoiler)]. I have always had a "thing" for Mordred and though he only plays a supporting role in this story, I still thought that his scenes were among the best.
I do agree with many other reviewers who question the appropriateness of this book in the "young adult" label. The violence is pretty excessive (and I have a pretty high threshold for war violence), and some of the themes here are pretty mature (yeah, Gwenhyfar still has an affair with Whosit, though she's thankfully given more sympathetic treatment here, from what I remember - (view spoiler)[that always bothered me, by the way. Arthur and his knights get to sleep with anyone they want, on account of their renown, but when Guinevere does it, she's given the total pariah treatment. Not cool (hide spoiler)]. The weirdest thing about the story, though, was the boy-who-dresses-like-a-girl character. My WTF-o-meter was off the charts with that one. But still, Here Lies Arthur is much, much more suitable to young adults than The Mists of Avalon (although frankly, I wouldn't give either to a young reader. Instead, I'd refer them to the first and second season of the BBC's "Merlin." Good stuff, even if the writing is a little simplistic).
I always knew Garth Nix books were weird, but now they're starting to get weird in a bad way. It's like Nix just said, "I'm gonna take the nastiest, mI always knew Garth Nix books were weird, but now they're starting to get weird in a bad way. It's like Nix just said, "I'm gonna take the nastiest, most godawful wretch of an antihero from George Martin's series and throw him in space." To be honest, it's a bit disturbing that there aren't more 2-and-3 star reviews. Did you folks miss the bit about mind-controlled thralls? Gross. Not for me. ...more
Hmm, I was just lamenting the style of modern high fantasies a few hours earlier, and look what I just found! A high fantasy I'm actually looking forwHmm, I was just lamenting the style of modern high fantasies a few hours earlier, and look what I just found! A high fantasy I'm actually looking forward to reading! What sold me is the fact that it's published by Shadow Mountain, one of the only publishing houses I (view spoiler)[still have respect for. If I ever submit my manuscript for publication, their house would be the one I'd be most comfortable with. (hide spoiler)]...more
ohh, que lastima. (view spoiler)[I knew this day would come. Deep in the Misty Mountains of my closet, I have an 86k unfinished manuscript from 2008. Wohh, que lastima. (view spoiler)[I knew this day would come. Deep in the Misty Mountains of my closet, I have an 86k unfinished manuscript from 2008. What is it? A fairy retelling of Hoffmann's The Nutcracker...well, there's another story I can never publish. However, MY manuscript at least had a Mouse King... :P (hide spoiler)]...more