Pretty dense and academic, but not TOTALLY out of reach for the layman. If you want to get an understanding of how much depth the works of Tolkien conPretty dense and academic, but not TOTALLY out of reach for the layman. If you want to get an understanding of how much depth the works of Tolkien contain, this book will enlighten you. It's almost as if you're taking a course from Dr. Shippey himself. ...more
This is an interesting book, but a strange one too. It's a retelling of the story of the land of Oz, centered around the character of Elphaba aka. theThis is an interesting book, but a strange one too. It's a retelling of the story of the land of Oz, centered around the character of Elphaba aka. the Wicked Witch of the West.
It's far more adult than I would have expected, which kind of jars the reader from what they know about Oz from the very beginning. I liked that Oz isn't 100% some magical, mystical land. It has geography, history, cultures, religion, myths, politics, racism, and more. It was a little strange to think of the Wicked Witch attending school and drinking coffee (but never water!) or even eating meals. That's just not something you think about when you watch the film.
One fascinating thing for me was the character of the Wicked Witch of the East, Elphaba's sister. I won't tell you anything about her, but since she had no character at all in the film, the author was free to make her into whatever he wanted.
As for Elphaba herself, I have mixed feelings. There are parts of the book where I actually really like her and want her to succeed. However, as time marches on, she gets farther and farther from her earlier character and becomes someone we don't recognize. The author doesn't very much go into detail as to why she changes so much, but maybe a second reading could explain further. I will say that focusing on Elphaba's character journey would be a great way to analyze the book.
Weak points of the book include the general weirdness of it, its failure to bring all of its lore and legend together at the end, and its refusal to answer burning questions. Things are hinted at and then dropped as if they don't matter. And there doesn't seem to be a point to the book at all (other than the nature of good vs. evil).
Also, as you can imagine, the book is held back by the reader's knowledge of the eventual arrival of Dorothy.
Would I read this again? Perhaps, but I'm not sure what new insights I would get from a second reading. ...more
**spoiler alert** Knowing that Elvis Costello is an amazing songwriter, I was not surprised that his memoirs are just as enjoyable and creative. He's**spoiler alert** Knowing that Elvis Costello is an amazing songwriter, I was not surprised that his memoirs are just as enjoyable and creative. He's an expert storyteller, making every encounter and mishap sound like the most fascinating and funny thing in the world. Admittedly, a lot of his anecdotes involve famous people, which can sound a little like bragging at times. But then, Elvis is just talking about his peers and heroes.
One thing I really valued about this book is that it's as much a story of Elvis' family as it is about him. His father, Ross MacManus, is a very important figure in the book and in Elvis' life. The glimpses we get of Ross are touching and valuable. A bit less is said about his mother, Lillian, but I got the idea that she is an incredible woman.
What's left out is as important as what's left in. Elvis doesn't give us specific details of his marriage and divorce with his first wife, Mary. He doesn't give us any insight into why he and Bruce Thomas do not get along, either. It's just simply not that kind of book. He has every right to keep things private, but the hints he does offer are insightful.
The best part of the book, and the hardest to read, is the section detailing the last years of his father. It's a heartbreaking story that Elvis tells in great, painful detail. Bring some tissues for that chapter.
If this book has a flaw, it's that the juicy parts are put in the first two-thirds of the book. The last part is reserved for Elvis' post-Attractions life and career. Things get a lot more tame, and Elvis seems to think 'Ok, I haven't talked about that album, I better get through that.' At some point, the inclusion of song lyrics gets to be tedious, no matter how good those lyrics may be. That said, he does offer very interesting thoughts on where his life and career are today.
This is essential reading if you're a Costello fan. You'll get to know him beyond the 'angry young man' persona, and learn about some very important people in his life too. ...more
A very solid, mostly entertaining, incredibly tense sci-fi work. This will be a classic in the genre for sure.
What's amazing to me is the way that WeA very solid, mostly entertaining, incredibly tense sci-fi work. This will be a classic in the genre for sure.
What's amazing to me is the way that Weir makes Mars, the Hab, the Rover and everything else Mark Watney makes use of, seem like home. Obviously Watney is trying to survive and escape, and the reader wants to see him succeed, but at no point did I get the "I need to leave here NOW" feeling. I suspect Mark even enjoyed his time as the sole inhabitant of the Red Planet.
It's technical but not so technical that a layman cannot understand what Mark is doing. This book puts the Science back in Science Fiction, and I'm very happy about that. I think we can expect to see copycat novels in the next few years....more
Quite a surprising read. The writing keeps you glued to the page, even as you tell yourself you don't want to know the next horrible little detail. ItQuite a surprising read. The writing keeps you glued to the page, even as you tell yourself you don't want to know the next horrible little detail. It's a good psychological yarn, where everything that can go wrong, does. You find yourself identifying with the narrator at the same time as you're yelling at him to stop making things worse. ...more
**spoiler alert** In case you were like me and thought it wasn't about vampires - it is.
But, thankfully, the vampire part stays mostly in the backgro**spoiler alert** In case you were like me and thought it wasn't about vampires - it is.
But, thankfully, the vampire part stays mostly in the background. What really matters is the legacy of Vlad Dracula, and finding out what happened to his body and where he is today.
The thing I liked most about this novel was that it took a quite different approach to a vampire story. Although perhaps a bit too "Da Vinci Code," it did show people fighting the evil of Dracula not just with weapons, but with scholarship. Every new discovery and development gives a thrill, and thankfully the author didn't keep us in the dark too often. The revelations come fast and keep the reader satiated.
One big flaw here is the story structure. For one thing, the novel is mostly divided into two sections, the girl's story and her father, Paul's story. This means that there comes a time in the book when we leave the girl mostly behind and focus on Paul's quest. Also, the book follows a document the contains stories, which contain letters, which sometimes contain other stories. It can be a bit too much to follow sometimes.
The characters are mostly good. Paul isn't written too well, but he does narrate most of the book. It's hard to characterize yourself. Helen, on other hand, is a very well-written character. Some may not find it believable that she and Paul fall in love, but at least these are characters you WANT to fall in love.
Overall, I found the book entertaining and even informative. It's not high literature, but it does keep you guessing and wondering and trying to put the pieces together yourself. ...more
This was my first experience with Neil Gaiman, and his writing hooked me from the very first chapter.
This is the kind of book you savor, relishing eveThis was my first experience with Neil Gaiman, and his writing hooked me from the very first chapter.
This is the kind of book you savor, relishing every vivid sentence. The characters are colorful and complex. The twists and turns in the plot will have you wanting more, and wanting to read the book again to pick up on clues that pay off later.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to further experiences with Neil Gaiman....more
A decent overview of the history of New York's underworld, poverty and vices in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries.
Although the subjectA decent overview of the history of New York's underworld, poverty and vices in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries.
Although the subject matter would seem quite interesting, I thought the author approached it in a bit of a dry manner at times. For example, making a list of names of famous gangster in the Lower East Side without telling us anything about these people is useless for the reader. Perhaps it serves as documentation, but the reader of the book will likely not need nor remember such a list of names.
In my opinion, when writing a book for the general public, as this book seems to be aimed at, even the academic author must keep in mind that a reader is best served by compelling stories and storytelling. Some parts of this book accomplished that goal, while others did not. Also, I felt some chapters were a bit short compared to the wealth of possibilities each subject could offer. I suppose that is the downside of a general overview.
To be honest, I found the afterword much more compelling than the preceding chapters. The author discusses what it was like to live in the squalor of 1970s and 80s Lower East Side Manhattan. I'd love to hear more about that....more