This was a re-read from several years ago. The plot is only slightly less convoluted on the second try (I still attribute that to the book having twoThis was a re-read from several years ago. The plot is only slightly less convoluted on the second try (I still attribute that to the book having two authors- each had plot twists they refused to surrender), but knowing what was coming allowed me to see the characters in a little more detail. As a fan of Christopher Marlowe's works, I'm a sucker for a story where he lived a longer life, especially one so full of intrigue....more
Without Will Patton narrating this, I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed it. He does a fantastic job with the various characters and caricaturesWithout Will Patton narrating this, I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed it. He does a fantastic job with the various characters and caricatures, even mastering the aging of the central character, Amos, from a young, nearly orphaned boy to a young man proving himself on the Oregon trail. As far as the story, it doesn't really take off until the second half, when Amos is rejoined with his father and starts the real coming of age portion of the book. There's a bit of a fantasy thread through out the story that doesn't add anything other than a bit of ambiance to scenes that would have been fine without them. ...more
Karr shows us the famous and infamous moments of Van Gogh's life as an artist through a 21st century filter, and creates a contemporary fiction to filKarr shows us the famous and infamous moments of Van Gogh's life as an artist through a 21st century filter, and creates a contemporary fiction to fill in the rest. The people that we know of that played a large part in Van Gogh last years come with him, and play similar roles as they did in the real story. What Karr does best in this book is creates the inner dialog of the mind that "saw" Starry Night, Night Cafe, Wheatfield with Crows and all those other magical recreations of light and color and movement. There are many theories of what was wrong with Vincent Van Gogh, what illness or disability caused his seizures and depressions. Instead of trying to explain the problem Karr allows it to be a tool, the very important tool of bringing those masterpieces to life. This is when this book is the most readable, when the "why" is forgotten and there's no attempt to make modern sense of a man who didn't do very well into his own time, let alone ours. ...more
Great sense of time and place, but extremely predictable character development and almost no plot. The book is so shallow in the fiction department thGreat sense of time and place, but extremely predictable character development and almost no plot. The book is so shallow in the fiction department that I went on line to double check that it wasn't supposed to be young adult fiction. It's not. It's a good fast read if you're looking for a quick trip to the early days of England's settlement of Australia, but don't expect to be swept up in any of the lives of the characters....more
Perfect balance of character/story/setting, this is a book that tackles a big event (Haitian slave rebellion) and brings it down to a very human size.Perfect balance of character/story/setting, this is a book that tackles a big event (Haitian slave rebellion) and brings it down to a very human size. The story is told through all the various points of view that brought about an incredibly bloody and deadly event, which in a lesser writer's hand would feel like padding. But Bell takes the time to let each character not only establish their link to history, he also makes them three dimensional enough that even the "villains" of the story have their sympathetic moments. In light of how the current nation of Haiti is so often in the news, this is a timely and very good background read....more
A book narrated by another book. That threw me off at first, as the narrating books own voice is a little on the stodgy side. But it would be, thatbooA book narrated by another book. That threw me off at first, as the narrating books own voice is a little on the stodgy side. But it would be, thatbook is over 300 years old. But it turns out that Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica is a natural born story teller, and as the story of Jennet Stearne's journey from student to world changing author progresses, so does the narrator's side story move along, slyly pointing out how books have changed the world. Jennet's family's business is witchhunting, but like so many children, she decides to fight rather than join. Her story is a bit Moll Flanders, a bit Forest Gump, and I mean that as a compliment. I think there might be some historical inaccuracy in how now matter where Jannett goes, her past is only held against her by the most evil of antagonists, but beyond that, this is a fun and intelligent look at the power of reason against an unreasonable world....more
I am truly ashamed that I had never heard of Sabatini before I went looking for a historical fiction about the French Revolution. I had no idea that "I am truly ashamed that I had never heard of Sabatini before I went looking for a historical fiction about the French Revolution. I had no idea that "The Sea Hawk" "Captain Blood" were books before they were two of the best 1)Pirate, 2)Sword Fight, and 3)Errol Flynn movies of all time. Now I have discovered that the man who came up with those ideas also wrote a book that at least equals Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" in every way.
Andre-Louis, our hero in every way (and that is perhaps one of the few weaknesses of this book, as another reviewer points out, he's too perfect at everything he turns his hand to) starts life as a cynical young lawyer, raised to be a gentleman. Circumstances force him to see that the class system in late 18th century France isn't the way he wants to live, his wit and bravado put him in danger, and soon he is living a life incognito as Scaramouche, the actor (to live on forever in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", no less). The Revolution rolls on, and Andre-Louis rolls with it, now reinventing himself as a fencing teacher. A very, very good fencing teacher, which leads him back into confrontation with the one man who caused his first run from the status quo. Along each of his lives, Andre-Louis runs across a woman he thinks of as his cousin, but only someone who's never read a historical romance can't see where that's going to end up. The ending is cliche for this genre, but the path to that finish is pure fantastic escapism....more
I almost stopped reading this after the first 20 - 30 pages. The mystery set up was clunky, or maybe it was one of those things that doesn't translateI almost stopped reading this after the first 20 - 30 pages. The mystery set up was clunky, or maybe it was one of those things that doesn't translate well, However, once that part is over and the book turns to the central theme, the love of good books and all that it inspires, I couldn't put it down. ...more
Basic damned if you do, damned if you don't Christianity vs. paganism witch story. The setting is a little different than most (16th century Germany,Basic damned if you do, damned if you don't Christianity vs. paganism witch story. The setting is a little different than most (16th century Germany, with no mention of the Reformation) and the accused woman does see some pretty strange things, and just when the ending seems to be going the way most of these stories go, there's a slight twist back to the hysterics that made these events possible. The epigraphical use of the Catholic church's Malleus Maleficarum as well as having the investigating friar use the book adds some historical weight....more
The first piece, 1922, is nice piece of Rural Gothic, something I don't think I've read from King before. Of course there's some supernatural goings oThe first piece, 1922, is nice piece of Rural Gothic, something I don't think I've read from King before. Of course there's some supernatural goings on on, used for what reads more like easy story telling than good story telling, but it's far and away the best story in the book. Big Driver and A Good Marriage use exhaustive amounts of internal dialogs, so much in the former that I really began to dislike the main character. Fair Extension is short and to the point (yes, really, Stephen King! Wonder of wonders!), but lacks the kind of staying power that, in the Afterword King says is his goal. Speaking of the Afterword, that;s really the best part of the book. King excels at writing about writing, and there's a line of advice there about writing dark fiction that every writer should have on their wall:
"... if you're going into a very dark place..... then you should take a bright light, and shine it on everything. If you don't want to see it, why in God's name would you dare the dark at all?"
Glass weaves together many current political themes: ecoterrorism, illegal immigration, gay rights, and healthcare; throws in some instances of intellGlass weaves together many current political themes: ecoterrorism, illegal immigration, gay rights, and healthcare; throws in some instances of intellectual snobbery and agism; and even takes a stab at the death of hardcopy communication. That's a lot for one book, and yes, it IS too much. Just because a writer is good at writing from multiple perspectives (and Glass is, there's no arguing that, in my opinion) doesn't mean they have to see how far they can take that skill in one book. All of the plot lines are tied to the Darling family: patriarch Percy is the grounding character, and in the end everything does come back to him. However, some of the story threads are stretched pretty thin, while others are cut off and then picked up when it's convenient to tie up the loose ends. Perhaps it's simply a case of too much of a good thing, half of this book would have been better told by itself, either half. Together, it diminishes the whole....more
I expected to disappointed with this book. First, because it's being hyped to death as a great and innovative piece of writing, and secondly because II expected to disappointed with this book. First, because it's being hyped to death as a great and innovative piece of writing, and secondly because I loved Donoghue's Slammerkin and that had been presented as her best writing before this book, setting a high bar for this book. Obviously, from the stars, my expectations were not met. This is a truly amazing bit of story telling.
Five year old Jack tells the story of having had what he has been told is the world (a small room he shares with his mother, where everything their very life depends on the whims of someone he only knows as "Old Nick" very suddenly changed when they escape from what he never quite understands to have been captivity. Now there are more people than he could have ever imagined in a world that is not ran by his mother. He discovers that his window on the world, television, has been showing a real world, not a made up one, and probably worst of all, he and his mother are no longer a single unit. Through Jack's precocious language skills (which make perfect sense to me, he only had an adult to talk to, she had a laser focus on raising an intelligent child, and his father had to be reasonably intelligent to have accomplished what he did for 7 years)we see our world with very fresh eyes, eyes that might be a little quick to judge what we would have done is the same situation....more
This book is a literary example of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr's epigram, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Written in 1924, setThis book is a literary example of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr's epigram, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". Written in 1924, set in post-Civil War Iowa, the McLaughlins are a family of Scotch immigrants. The story begins with one of the oldest sons returning to the homestead for a short R&R and falling head over heals in love with a girl from a nearby farm. When the war ends, he returns to the family with dreams of starting a life with her, one just like his parent's, but things have gotten complicated while he was gone. Wully tries to do the honorable thing and discovers that the people who are important to him have different ideas about what is honorable. Wilson not only takes a story that could have been soap opera fodder and turns it into deep character study, she places the entire book against the changing economic and social structures that every generation faces....more
My first le Carré, and although I understand that it's not his typical work, I can still understand why he's not only popular but well respected. ThisMy first le Carré, and although I understand that it's not his typical work, I can still understand why he's not only popular but well respected. This is a writer who is a master of the slow but never boring reveal. The setting is incredibly detailed without ever resorting to information dump, and every character breaths. If only the satire hadn't become so predictable, this would have been a really good book....more
Not an easy read, but one that is worth the trouble. Rather than bring early 1700 London to the reader (as most HF fiction writers do), we are taken bNot an easy read, but one that is worth the trouble. Rather than bring early 1700 London to the reader (as most HF fiction writers do), we are taken back through his use of historically correct English. Nicholas Dyer is at work, designing and supervising six new churches as directed by Parliment. Dyer's personal religious convictions fall far outside of what is expected of someone given such a commision, but he finds a way to balance private with public. Meanwhile, back in our time period, some nasty murders have taken place in some very old churches, and we have a story that bridges time through the voices of two characters who are as similar as they are different. The use of two time periods is what makes a story that could have been a historic slog into a very good piece of writing. Just when you're about to give up with the archiac language, it's back to the future, so to speak, and the story whips along in it's current day ugliness. ...more
A very character driven mystery wrapped up in a whopping historical fiction. The setting what a new one for me - coastal Carolina, 1699, and once agaiA very character driven mystery wrapped up in a whopping historical fiction. The setting what a new one for me - coastal Carolina, 1699, and once again I am amazed that any Europeans survived long enough to get a firm foothold on the new world. The witch trial aspect of the story is turned into a mystery when (slightly anachronistic?) magistrate's clerk Matthew Corbett follows his instincts and his intelligence and refuses to accept that the Devil is behind murder, arson, and whatever else goes wrong in the town of Fount Royal. The story gets a little complicated as the crimes are solved, but there are always chances to get straightened out as characters must explain the twists to each other, using thier own distinct perspectives. (Side question: Is it possible to read a well written witch trial story and not see modern correlations?) ...more
This book exceeds in some areas and falls very short in others, making it an average book that wasn't painful to read. Not much of an endorsement, eh?This book exceeds in some areas and falls very short in others, making it an average book that wasn't painful to read. Not much of an endorsement, eh? The setting and most of the plot is the business side of the art world. Galleries, collectors, auction houses and even the FBI art squad are all players in this book. There's a lot that goes on in that world beyond the press releases that tell the public that another record has been broken at a Sothoby's or Christie's auction of a Picasso or a Warhol. Collecting art isn't primarily about collecting beautiful things for the people who play at that level, it's money first, appreciation second, or maybe third behind bragging rights. Fascinating stuff, and seen through the eyes of a narrator who witnesses his friend's (and our protagonist's)journey through that world. I found it easiest to forget that there was supposed to be an actual person penning this story, because to think that they had access to everything that Lacey (the friend and protagonist) did and thought borders on fantasy. Sure, there's a bit of terrible self referencing at the end when the narrator talks about writing the book and I suppose we're to take that as his admission that he made a lot of stuff up, but that seems more as a justification from Mr. Martin that he realizes the narration is flawed, not actual story telling. As a tacked on ending, it too can be ignored. The other major weakness of the plot is the odd bit of intrigue that pops up almost at the end of the book. There is a hint of it earlier, but if it's so important that it causes major events to happen to our main character, maybe there should have been a little foreshadowing? As it reads in the book, it happened, it was forgotten, and then, oh yeah - it's a big deal. Or was it? ...more
The first few pages in I thought I was going to hate this book. I didn't think that the story would support the second person POV, I thought that theThe first few pages in I thought I was going to hate this book. I didn't think that the story would support the second person POV, I thought that the main character wouldn't hold my interest, and I expected the supporting characters to be one dimensional because that's what usually happens in second person POV. I was wrong on all accounts. Fifteen year old Kyle has failed on so many of the levels that he others have set for him that he has almost failed himself. It is the "almost" that provides an opportunity for the intriquing new kid in school to open a window (literally and metaphorically) for Kyle to escape his downward spiral. To say any more would spoil a tremendously good dark story....more
I read this entirely because I've heard some buzz about the movie being made from it, supposedly using 3D because it enhances the story, not just theI read this entirely because I've heard some buzz about the movie being made from it, supposedly using 3D because it enhances the story, not just the box office. I wondered how a story set in 1931 Paris, about an orphan who lives in a train station and keeps busy setting the old-fashioned clocks while trying to restore something as archaic as an automatron could possibly need the flash and zoom of 3D filmmaking. What I didn't know is that this is also the story of the birth of films made to entertainment and it interweaves some of the classic scenes of the very first movies. There is a connection between the mechanics of Hugo's life and the dream of telling stories through moving pictures, and I now fully understand why the newest technology will work its own kind of magic with this story.
About the book itself, it's a graphic novel that knows there's a reason graphic is the first word in the genre. The choice to border all the pages of the book in black lends to the time period feel of the etching style illustrations as well as making this a very unique looking book. The characters are classic children's book characters, there are the helpful adults, the evil adults, and the adults that must learn through the eyes of a child. No, that's not very original, but this is a kid's book, and there's a reason that sort of story is told over and over - it needs to be told! ...more
**spoiler alert** The writing is every bit as good as "Rebecca", and until the last few pages, the story is every bit is good. The back and forth betw**spoiler alert** The writing is every bit as good as "Rebecca", and until the last few pages, the story is every bit is good. The back and forth between Dick's trips (a truly accurate word, in this case) to the past and the unravelling of his personal life in the present (here's the spoiler part) are so well entwined that you probably won't notice it any sooner than he does. But sadly, then comes the ending, which undoes so much of the good that has come before it. First there is a supporting character acts so far out of character that you'll wonder where he came from, and then there's what's possibly meant as a dénouement but reads as one of the weakest horror endings ever....more
This is not a whore-with-a-heart-of-gold story. In two years time, fourteen year old Mary Saunders goes from a life of poverty with her family to theThis is not a whore-with-a-heart-of-gold story. In two years time, fourteen year old Mary Saunders goes from a life of poverty with her family to the very grown up world of the Courts of Assize. There's a lot of messages to this story - what options were available to women in Mary's time period, how did class determine a person's future and even a look at the shades of gray that lay between servitude and slavery. But Donoghue puts her characters before her statement, so that you've read the whole book before you realized you've just been schooled in women's emancipation, 1748 style. Once you've read this story, you'll never be able to say that kids are forced to grow up too fast in our time. (Side note for anyone who likes stories that pay a lot of attention to clothing of the period, Mary's life is defined not only by what she wears,first as a school girl, then a prostitute, then as a servant, but also the clothing of others, and Donoghue doesn't skimp on descriptions.)...more