I'm not really going to review The Great Gatsby, because I'm sure most people would either have read it already, or at least have a working knowledge...moreI'm not really going to review The Great Gatsby, because I'm sure most people would either have read it already, or at least have a working knowledge of the story. Surprisingly, this book somehow slipped past me in high school as required reading, and I'm glad it did as I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much, nor understood it as well, but when I heard about the Baz Luhrmann film production, I knew I was going to go see the movie (I love Luhrmann's films) and decided I should familiarize myself with the original. I found it on Audible (narrated by one of my favorite actors, Jake Gyllenhaal), so I downloaded it and gave it a listen. What I discovered in the story surprised me.
I didn't know what the story was about, but I wasn't entirely sure I was going to like it. I felt it was one of those books that I avoided in high school, and there was probably a reason for it. I found myself really capitvated by the story. The story of Nick Carraway as he is sucked into the extravagances of his neighbors in the Jazz Age city of New York; the story of Jay Gastby, and the mystery surrounding his impossible wealth; the love story of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, and what that love means to Daisy's family. It is all these things, and so much more, all layered together into a subtle and nuanced story that I'm certainly glad I came to in my adult years, as I was able to appreciate it more.
As for the audio production, Jake Gyllenhaal really captures Nick's semi-detachment from what's going on around him perfectly. There isn't much emotion in Gyllenhaal's performance, but it's done that way on purpose, as Nick is remembering back with some level of revulsion about what happened during that time with Gatsby. It's not an easy performance to listen to, but I don't think it's supposed to be, just like the book itself isn't the easiest story to digest. A pretty spot-on performance in my opinion.(less)
If we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, b...moreIf we could give 1/2 stars in GR, this would get a solid 2 1/2.
Well, that was fairly disappointing.
Alas, I really dislike writing reviews like this, but it is what it is. I wanted to like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, at the start of the book, I loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I did! There are fantastic characters, fantastic world-building, fantastic story-telling, everything that I like in a book seemed to be here, so I was pretty pumped. Karou, our heroine, is smart and sassy, while Brimstone and the other Chimera are great foils for her. The mystery surrounding her past is just intriguing enough to keep my attention; the errands that Brimstone has Karou running for him just as mysterious (what are the teeth for?). The banter back and forth between Karou and her best friend, Zuzana, is laugh out loud funny in parts. Even the city around Karou, Prague, takes on a life of its own and practically becomes a character unto itself. I loved it all.
And then Akiva, the love interest, is introduced into the story, and as far as I'm concerned, this is where the book falls apart completely for me.
As soon as Akiva shows, it's off to romance-trope, purple-prose land, and it was endless. Chapters and chapters of "moonlight in his eyes, starbursts in my chest" sort of writing. For me at least, it ripped me right out of the story and made the second half of the book arduous at best. I think if the entire second half of the book had been written more like the first half, I would have been fine with it. Even if it remained the same, but was at least trimmed down a little so that it didn't go on and on for chapters of pining for Akiva...
Anyway, I can see the potential of a fantastic story here. The world-building is really strong, and I think Karou is definitely a better character without Akiva (and not to spoil too much, but given the way Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends, there is a little hope for the follow up, Days of Blood and Starlight - even though that title doesn't fill me with much confidence). However, if Days of Blood and Starlight ends up like Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I'm going to be hard-pressed to continue on with the story (I'm assuming this is a trilogy, since almost all YA fantasy is a trilogy these days).
So, there it is. A fantastic book that completely loses itself in its over-the-top love story. Laini Taylor is a great writer. Her imagery is vivid and her prose is fluid, but I just feel like the second half of the book got away from her and carried her along in its excessiveness. I'll definitely give her a try again, and more than likely it'll be with the next book in this series, but I'm hoping she can rein in the purple prose a little.
And a word on the audio production. I really think this was the saving grace for me for this book. Khristine Hvam does such a bang up job with her narration. She handles all of the characters perfectly, and she is clear and easy to understand. I really think that if I had been reading this book, I would have given up well before the end, but Hvam does such an admirable job narrating the book, I was able to stick with it. I will definitely be listening to the next book in the series as opposed to reading it, as she is narrating that one as well.(less)