Having reread books 1-4 in the months before this book came out, I was disappointed to find ADwD follows more in the footsteps of AFfC than in those o...moreHaving reread books 1-4 in the months before this book came out, I was disappointed to find ADwD follows more in the footsteps of AFfC than in those of the first 3 books. That is, it is generally well-written and takes some of the characters in interesting directions, but it is also slogging and mostly uneventful.
It also inherits some unfortunate flaws from previous books. Martin continues his overuse of weird, quasi-medieval words, which began unexpectedly in book 4 (nuncle, anyone?) and continues in full force here. Also, (and this is perhaps a result of reading the entire series in so short an amount of time), I've grown frustrated at some of GRRM's well-worn story tropes. e.g., the "end of chapter surprise cliffhanger" (could a raven arrive earlier than the last paragraph once in a while?), and the "character who appears to die a horrible death but turns out not to be dead". It's great that these books break a lot of traditional fantasy conventions, but GRRM has introduced a new set of conventions that are getting just as ridiculous.
Overall impression? The book isn't great - but it's not bad, either. The series as a whole continues to stand far above most of what's available in the fantasy genre, and those who have read all the books so far will, like me, probably continue reading in order to find out what happens. (Ultimately, I don't think any fan of the series thus far is going to come reading reviews here to figure out if they should continue!)(less)
Amusing and well-written (and a quick read, as far as 250-page treatises about Quebec politics go), this book will put you in the center of Quebec's p...moreAmusing and well-written (and a quick read, as far as 250-page treatises about Quebec politics go), this book will put you in the center of Quebec's pre-referendum political and social climate. My only complaint is that Richler spends a lot of time discussing antisemitism in Quebec, more than I believe is necessary to get the point across. It makes some sense for the context in which this book was published (e.g. the book's postscript is a long-form response to comments received about an except of the book published in The New Yorker), but someone intent on modernizing the text could probably edit it down a further 50 pages or so.
As for the content of the book, well, I fear that it has only solidified my lingering unease with Quebec as a province. Some of Richler's observations resonated with me, proving that the book's 20-year-old portrayal of Quebecois culture, nationalism, and the anglophone experience in Quebec is not as dated as it should be.
But let's back up a minute. I'm not actually an anglophone. I was born in Montreal to immigrant parents, grew up speaking French at home, and even attended a year of francophone school before we moved to Ottawa in 1992. I remember sitting on my parents' bed in 1995, watching the referendum results roll in, and seeing their relief when the status quo prevailed and the sovereignty issue faded from public view. A few years later, we were back in Montreal looking at houses, though we never did return.
As I relocated around the rest of Canada instead, I often told people that I was from Quebec (in so much as one can be "from" a place when having moved around as much as I have - my longest stint was 13 years in Ottawa, which, being more of a conglomerate of government offices than a real city, never felt much like home). What a disappointment to discover on my eventual return to la belle province that I was an outsider now, too long away to be a pure laine Quebecoise, but no anglophone either, my French too fluent (and my Montrealite prejudices too ingrained) for a move to NDG. Sadly, Richler's observation that Quebec culture is an insular and exclusive club remains true in many ways. One cannot become Quebecois merely by being born in the province, speaking the language fluently, or enjoying poutine.
Anglophones do have an easier time of it these days: no longer the targets of hostility, they get cooed over for signing up for French immersion and babbling "bonjours" in meetings. Shopkeepers are all too happy to switch to English at the slightest hint of an accent (confounding the province's continued sensitivity about losing its language). As for me, speaking French with my Canadian mutt accent, I get grilled about my parents' and my background (questions that would be considered politically incorrect if I were a visible minority) in order to ascertain precisely what type of Quebecer I am. Alas. Twenty years on, Quebec still struggles to define itself. (less)
I was given this book in Malawi, by someone who was heading home and trying to make room in her suitcase. It sat on my desk for a while, wedged undern...moreI was given this book in Malawi, by someone who was heading home and trying to make room in her suitcase. It sat on my desk for a while, wedged underneath a monitor lest my co-workers see it and think their new IT technician was also a connoisseur of romance novels.
One day, the power in the office went out for, well, most of the day. As I sat there in the stifling heat, my work sitting out of reach on a dead laptop, this book cried out to me. It begged to be cracked open, its mysteries perused - because, you see, I'd never read a romance novel. I'd read novels with romances in them, certainly, and 'classics' like Pride and Prejudice that some might consider romance. But those shelves labelled "romance" at the bookstore, covered in paperbacks emblazoned with buff, shirtless men and titles like "A Surprise Pregnancy"? I couldn't run away fast enough (and stumble into that aisle I often did, as it tends to be right near that other genre-fiction mainstay, "science-fiction and fantasy").
The fact that I make a beeline for sci-fi/fantasy in any new bookstore should tell you right away that, despite my gender, I'm unlikely to be in the target demographic for a book about a thirty-something stay-at-home mom and her 2 kids and the buff carpenter she falls for. As I stared at that book on my desk, though, I thought it monstrously unfair of me to write the whole genre off based simply on my surface perceptions. I thought it would be a good exercise for me, both as a critical reader and as a writer, to see what exactly romance writing was all about. I thought, judging from the size of the print and the relative thinness of the book, that it would be a quick read. It was, but it turned out not to matter, since I only made it about halfway through (about 2 hours' investment) before deciding I had enough.
From the start, I wasn't particularly impressed by the writing, but it only took 12 pages before I confirmed the reason I'd always avoided this genre. It's sentences like this:
"She got the job! If Matt Hallahan hadn't been so overwhelmingly virile, she would have kissed him, but she instinctively knew kissing Matt Hallahan would be serious stuff."
So overwhelmingly virile? Really?
In fact, the male lead is characterized by only two things throughout most of the book - his astounding good looks/sexuality, which the heroine obviously enjoys, and his lifestyle and hobbies, which the heroine almost universally looks down upon. Being more often a reader of books aimed at the male demographic, I felt like I had entered some bizarro universe where the women were the perfect do-gooders and the men were the brainless sex-toys whose interests and personalities were brought up only to be snickered at. Tee hee, he likes motorcycles? Men are such brutes. I'm pleased to note that it unsettles me just as much as when the genders are reversed. (Heh, she's crying again? Women are so emotional!)
In short, the characters aren't believable and the story is unrealistic and chock full of Mary-Sue. The heroine is average in so many ways, yet somehow, in the very first chapter, she meets the most beautiful man in the world, talks him into giving her a job she isn't remotely qualified for, and finds herself making out with him. He proclaims his love for her in chapter 3. They have sex in chapter 5, about halfway through the book. One might wonder what the remaining half of the book is for. I'm sorry to say this is where I stopped, so I have no answer.(less)
I enjoyed reading this book while I was travelling through Malawi - many of Grant's observations and insights about African culture and travel resonat...moreI enjoyed reading this book while I was travelling through Malawi - many of Grant's observations and insights about African culture and travel resonated with my experiences and with the stories I'd heard from other travellers, and I agreed with his views on aid.
I'm not a big fan of travel writing in general, though. Reading books like this usually makes me feel like I'm swapping tales with other travelers (which I do enjoy), except without being able to relate my own experience or get into deeper discussions/arguments about the issues.
I've also noticed that travel books tend to include far too many overwrought insights into the author's state of mind and emotions for my tastes - somehow I never seem to find myself having the same sorts of crises of conscience or emotion or identity while travelling. The few male travel writers I've read, this one included, also seem to spend a lot of time in bars, commenting on how beautiful the women around are - something I'm not particularly interested in reading (male readers may feel differently!). (less)
They fall in a nebulous grey area where I worry about speaking too highly of them in my review and painting them as perfect (which they aren't), without wanting to put undue emphasis on any flaws (none of which were enough to detract from my enjoyment of the books).
In short: I liked them, a lot. I'll definitely be seeking out more Glen Cook when I get home.
I like the writing style. Cook moves the story along at a steady clip, and the reader is expected to keep up and fill in a lot of blanks. I never got bored.
I really like that the main characters are a group of morally-ambiguous, self-serving mercenaries. Dare I say, it spoke to me. They don't take sides, they just try to lead honorable lives and make the best of things that come their way - but they aren't the now-archetypal 'anti-hero with a heart of gold' types. They do some horrible things, but somehow I never ended up entirely hating anyone.
I also like that the author treated the main female characters with respect, not making a big deal out of them but also not ignoring their gender completely.
Perhaps the only complaint I have is that, since a member of the Black Company provides the narration, we get a somewhat narrow view of the story and world. We see battle and behind-the-scenes politicking among higher-ups, but little indication of what was happening in the wider world and the effects of the war.(less)
Enjoyable, but could have been so much better. I'd be far more annoyed if I were a slower reader, because I think this duology (part 1: All Clear) cou...moreEnjoyable, but could have been so much better. I'd be far more annoyed if I were a slower reader, because I think this duology (part 1: All Clear) could have, and would be better, fit into one 500-600 page volume.
This book does offer a well-written and vivid portrait of England during the Blitz, which I found very interesting to read about and see the "modern" characters experiencing, but I wish they had spent more time exploring that world instead of running around dealing with their own trivial problems or panicking about their own circumstances.
Writing-wise, the author is repetitive and overly detailed, often violating the 'show don't tell' rule by both showing and telling. Our time-travelling historians spend a great deal of time narrating their thoughts to us, over and over, in elaborate detail. "I must catch this bus! If I don't make it, then I won't make it to the town in time, which means I won't be there in time to catch the guy, and if don't catch the guy, there'll be a time paradox, which means that something bad will happen to me." (Not a quote. :) The first time, sure. The twentieth time we're dealing with a similar crisis, couldn't we just have someone run for the bus in a panic and draw our own conclusions as readers? We've only spent hundreds of pages and countless words in earlier chapters setting up these ideas.
The good? These shenanigans are mostly present in the middle of the story (end of book 1, start of book 2). I got hooked at the the beginning of the story, disliked the middle the more and more I read, then couldn't put the book down for the last 100-200 pages. If more of the book were like those last pages, I'd have given this 4 stars easily.
In brief, if you're very interested in the time period/setting (WW2 in England), or, like me, you just read a lot and aren't daunted by undertaking a >1000-page story (the first and second book really do need to be read together), give these books a look.(less)
In truth, book 2 had already soured me somewhat on this series (enough that I had set this final book asid...moreI was so disappointed with this conclusion.
In truth, book 2 had already soured me somewhat on this series (enough that I had set this final book aside for almost a year before reading it).
I do appreciate that Collins is trying to depict the reality of war and the emotional and psychological consequences of the situation Katniss is placed in. This book is grim and dark and every central character in this trilogy ends up broken in some way by the end. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I spent a few days after finishing this book still thinking (and feeling emotionally crappy) about it.
Ultimately, though, it just wasn't an interesting read, and I hated every character's conclusion. (view spoiler)[Katniss degenerating into a shell of herself, Gale disappearing at the end, Finnick's sudden death, Peeta... it's just not what I expected. (hide spoiler)] And the fact that we hardly see any action all book because Katniss is either being kept out of harm's way or having a breakdown or injured... also a letdown.
The last few chapters in particular felt rushed and written to serve a conclusion, rather than flowing organically from the characters and the story thus far. (view spoiler)[I had looked forward to two things in the conclusion - seeing how Katniss handled the love triangle, and seeing how she handled the realization that all governments are corrupt. What a disappointment there, too, as both topics are hastily written off with about a half-page each of description. (hide spoiler)]
Disappointing all around.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Once in a while, I'll read one of these books of the atheism canon. Not too often, though, because I don't need to: I don't believe. I haven't believe...moreOnce in a while, I'll read one of these books of the atheism canon. Not too often, though, because I don't need to: I don't believe. I haven't believed in a long time. My parents don't believe. I don't need convincing. If I had an "Obvious things that are obvious" shelf, this book would be sitting there, right next to "Candy is Delicious" (Candy, unlike god, is always capitalized). Reading this is a guilty pleasure, a chance to sit in the choir and be preached to, an excuse to read something safe and comforting and have my worldview confirmed rather than challenged. For a few hours, I can read along in peace, nod my head, and go "Yes! I agree completely." And then, "Why are we still talking about it?".
Still, a guilty pleasure. And this is one of the guiltiest, because Hitchens is a wonderful writer.(less)
I love these sorts of "behind the scenes" looks at things I care about. I loved reading not only about the dancers but also the stagehands, costumers,...moreI love these sorts of "behind the scenes" looks at things I care about. I loved reading not only about the dancers but also the stagehands, costumers, musicians, administrators, teachers, and everyone else involved in putting a show together, and I loved finding out how musicians audition, how budgets are balanced, how much unions control daily life in a company, etc.
Too bad this book is just so damn long, and unnecessarily so. Between the snippets of insight into lighting design or ballet training philosophies, Manes spends a LOT of time describing rehearsals - interesting the first few times, to see the process, but halfway through I started skimming most of these passages, each so very similar to the previous (here, let me try writing one: James runs the piece, and the stager shakes her head. He looks puzzled as she gives her feedback, but does it again perfectly a moment later and grins. "Great!" she shouts, "I love it." Repeat ad nauseam.) Ballet classes and rehearsals just aren't that exciting most of the time, and they are what ballet companies spend most of their time on. Props to Manes for trying to depict an entire year with a ballet company, excitement and nitty-gritty alike, but I'd rather have read a tighter book. 3-400 pages shorter and this is exactly the sort of book I'd be recommending to friends going out to their first ballet performance or enrolling their 5-year-old in pre-ballet classes. As it is, I'd only recommend reading this cover-to-cover if you're a ballet fan or dancer. (less)
Rothfuss is a good writer. Shame about his Gary Stu-esque main character, Kvothe. He's an amazing musician! He's a great wizard! All his friends aren'...moreRothfuss is a good writer. Shame about his Gary Stu-esque main character, Kvothe. He's an amazing musician! He's a great wizard! All his friends aren't quite as smart or worldy as him! All the women want to sleep with him! The only weaknesses he struggles against are external: not having enough money, or being disliked by others for reasons that aren't entirely his fault. I was disappointed that the start of Wise Man's Fear seems to rehash those same themes already covered in Name of the Wind.
Again, Rothfuss crafts good prose - for a while, he actually made it interesting to read about Kvothe getting up, going to school, hanging out with his friends, having dinner, etc. Ultimately though, I made it to chapter 7 and thought, "nothing interesting has happened yet and Kvothe's POV is annoyingly self-centered and I don't relate to him." Were this book 500 pages long I might have kept going, but with another 1000+ pages in front of me, screw that. I skimmed ahead to some of the later chapters, which did little to make me want to continue (the end of chapter 107, after Kvothe's return from Felurian, reads like a teenage boy's fantasy... ugh).
So, what a shame, but this is being abandoned. Maybe if the final book comes out and wraps everything up with good reviews, I'll give it a shot (because it sure seems like I didn't miss much in this one, other than Kvothe learning the ways of love).(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by how readable this was. I cracked it open expecting a tedious political/historical text, and instead found an honest firs...moreI was pleasantly surprised by how readable this was. I cracked it open expecting a tedious political/historical text, and instead found an honest first-person account of what it was like to be commander of the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda. After briefing us on his childhood and career in the army up to the early 90s, Dallaire takes us almost moment-to-moment through his experience, from the initial launch of the UN peacekeeping mission in New York to the grubby details of day-to-day life in war-torn Rwanda.
This book will at times frustrate you (caution: you will hate the UN by the end), inspire you (you will want to join the military), bore you (they run out of water supplies every chapter it seems), anger you (how can people do this to each other?), and depress you (how could the world stand by and let this happen?). It is well worth reading.(less)
Sex is never just sex, it's a chance for someone to break the shackles of her past. A ruined house is never a plot point, it'...moreI don't like literature.
Sex is never just sex, it's a chance for someone to break the shackles of her past. A ruined house is never a plot point, it's an opportunity to weigh up forgotten memories and new beginnings. A stolen item of food is always significant, well beyond its value - surely it represents what truly matters in life, or perhaps another chance to wax nostalgic about one's childhood.
These aren't observations limited to this book, no. And I didn't dislike it (it earned 3 stars from me, didn't it?). It was well-written, and I learned about a conflict I knew nothing about: the Biafran secession and ensuing Nigerian civil war. I dare say this was one of the more enjoyable way to learn about it; I don't see myself having sought out a Nigerian history book to read unless I was travelling to the country (no plans for that in the near future).
Still, I find myself fondly returning to genre fiction every time I try to read these prize-winning pieces of literature. The authors are always trying so hard to infuse meaning into what are, in the end, stories of everyday life and everyday relationships. A 100-page story is padded out with 200 pages of inner emotional monologues and crying, and I find myself longing for the simplicity of a nice plot-driven fantasy epic. More fodder for my boyfriend's accusations that I'm a robot, I suppose.
Fearful that I might instead be uncultured, I give these great works of modern literature a shot anyway. Reading them, I always end up feeling like I'm back in grade 12 English class, trying to compose a 2000-word essay on theme in some obscure Canadian novel, while secretly wishing I could take the non-university-track English class where they got to read Jurassic Park instead. (less)
Wow, this was awesome. Parts 1-3 in particular each had me gaping at the end. The series does suffer from a decline in quality as it progresses, a phe...moreWow, this was awesome. Parts 1-3 in particular each had me gaping at the end. The series does suffer from a decline in quality as it progresses, a phenomenon I've noticed in other series as more and more detail is added and the original concept and world building starts to falter. Still, well worth reading, and if you make it to the end of part 3, you probably won't want to stop until the end anyway. (less)
I'm not even sure how to review this book. It was short and sweet, cleverly-written, amusing, honest, with a great sense of place. Months after readin...moreI'm not even sure how to review this book. It was short and sweet, cleverly-written, amusing, honest, with a great sense of place. Months after reading the book, I can still conjure up that cramped, sweaty, apartment on rue St-Denis. I don't know what the English translation is like, but I highly recommend the French original to those fluent enough to pick up on its nuance and sly humour. (less)
Un aperçu lisible de l'état actuel de notre système de santé au Québec et une condamnation efficace aux appels pour augmenter le rôle du privé dans la...moreUn aperçu lisible de l'état actuel de notre système de santé au Québec et une condamnation efficace aux appels pour augmenter le rôle du privé dans la livraison des soins. Ainsi, je le recommande fortement à tous citoyens et citoyennes du Québec, ainsi que tous Canadiens et Canadiennes intéressés aux débat entre le public et le privé dans la santé.(less)
I appreciate the honesty and grit of Bukowski's writing, and I like reading well-told stories about the absurdity and...moreHm, where to begin with this one?
I appreciate the honesty and grit of Bukowski's writing, and I like reading well-told stories about the absurdity and banality of everyday life. There's no romance here, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned - I'm tired of reading literary-prize-winning fiction where the main character can't take a dump without it being symbolic of his liberation from the burden of his upbringing.
On the other hand, an atmosphere of underlying squalor and despair permeates this story, and I don't like that. Don't get me wrong, I like drinking and living in squalor and working terrible jobs that pay far less than I could probably earn if I cared to be more ambitious. Still, I like fantasy. When I imagine quitting a shitty job, it's to go to a better one (or maybe because I won the lottery or something) - I don't imagine myself sitting at home afterwards, unemployed, dodging rent payments, drowning myself in scotch.
I suppose this means I'm not the target audience.(less)
I was surprised by how much I liked this. Literary award winners aren't usually my bag (see: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). Maybe it's bec...moreI was surprised by how much I liked this. Literary award winners aren't usually my bag (see: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). Maybe it's because this book was written from a 12-year-old's perspective, but it was delightfully light on the emotional introspection. Instead, we're told a story (in the best sense of the word) of a girl growing up on the streets of Montreal, and as we grow to care about her, the plot appears, to our adult eyes, nothing so much as a slow-motion car wreck. The ending leaves off at just the right point, too - not at a climactic end, but at just another turn in Baby's story, one that we hope (but can't know for sure) will lead to a better place than earlier ones.(less)