You wouldn't necessarily realize it when watching him on television, but Craig Ferguson is quite a writer. His novel, Between the Bridge and the River...moreYou wouldn't necessarily realize it when watching him on television, but Craig Ferguson is quite a writer. His novel, Between the Bridge and the River, is one of my favorite books, and American on Purpose is just as funny, well-written, and surprisingly poignant as the former.
Like Russell Brand's My Booky Wook, Ferguson's memoir tells (sometimes horrifying) tales of his drunken exploits as a punk rock drummer and a drug-addled stand-up comic (under the moniker "Bing Hitler"), but Brand's Booky Wook doesn't have the same self-reflective awareness that Ferguson shows in his effort. Ferguson is older and further removed from his drinking years, but he's also a better writer and storyteller than Brand, and his memoir is genuinely moving at times.
In short, while Ferguson moves quickly through his forty-some years, I found American on Purpose a fascinating read, and had trouble putting it down, even to go to sleep. Best of all, it's the journey of a man who overcame adversity (much of which he created himself) to find success and--if not happiness--contentment. And isn't that the most American of tales?(less)
**spoiler alert** Don't get me wrong, I like Pride and Prejudice variations as much as the next person--maybe more. But.
BUT you cannot pick up the...more**spoiler alert** Don't get me wrong, I like Pride and Prejudice variations as much as the next person--maybe more. But.
BUT you cannot pick up the story on Elizabeth's wedding day and insist that Mr. Darcy was a vampire FOR ALL OF P&P and we JUST DIDN'T NOTICE. Not okay, not plausible, not happening. I felt that Elizabeth was poorly characterized for much of the book, losing her quick wit and strong will within pages of tying the knot. Meanwhile, Edward Cullen Mr. Darcy spends much of his time putting a lot of physical space between himself and Elizabeth for fear of turning her into a vampire with sex. Worst of all, the book is written in third-person limited from Elizabeth's point of view, but there are moments (when Darcy is watching her sleep, like a Cullen creeper) when Amanda Grange clues us into Darcy's thoughts, which are all about how beautiful and pristine Elizabeth is. However, since Elizabeth is the reader proxy, and she doesn't know what's going on for 80% of the book, I spent much of my time wanting to shout "HE'S A VAMPIRE, YOU MORON, NOW CAN WE PLEASE HAVE SOME PLOT?"
By the time the plot shows up, it's too late. There's very little driving the story by the time the cop-out ending turns up -- which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me anyway. Darcy gets un-vamped by the magical mystical power of Elizabeth's true love, but he's still over a hundred years old; wouldn't taking away his vampire immortality make him super-ancient, like when The Master takes away The Doctor's regeneration ability on Doctor Who? I'm just saying.
Skip this one. Not worth the time or energy.(less)
I picked this up while on a book-buying spree recently because I've been watching the FlashForward TV show that premiered recently. While the adaptati...moreI picked this up while on a book-buying spree recently because I've been watching the FlashForward TV show that premiered recently. While the adaptation and the source material were bound to differ quite a bit (the biggest difference being the show's focus on FBI agents in L.A. rather than physicists at CERN), I found myself not enjoying the book as much as I might have had I not seen the show first. There's a lot of science in there, most of which goes straight over my head, and much of the immediacy we get on TV is lacking in the book, only because the flashforward visions written by Sawyer take place 21 years in the future, rather than a mere six months.
What I did like was the debate about the nature of the future: if you see a flash of your life months or years from now, is that the only possible future? Or can the future be changed, for better or worse?
One interesting note: the book was published in 1999 and set in 2009. Sawyer missed the mark with some of his predictions about the future (the continued widespread use of VCRs, for example), but got the name of the pope (Benedict XVI) right, among a few other small details. Trivial, but amusing nonetheless.(less)
**spoiler alert** Maybe I've seen too many crime shows at this point (very, very likely), but this one just wasn't as fun as the previous books. I saw...more**spoiler alert** Maybe I've seen too many crime shows at this point (very, very likely), but this one just wasn't as fun as the previous books. I saw the bomb plot coming from a mile away ("Come pick up this extra suitcase" and "Come pick up this extra coffin"? COME ON) and I have a hard time believing that at a vampire summit where everyone is paranoid enough to bring telepathic humans and bodyguards from another dimension, no one would pay attention to Sookie's uneasy feeling about the spare luggage? Between that and the Quinn/Eric/Bill/Sookie drama, I won't be re-reading this one anytime soon.(less)
Very fast read, but very entertaining, too. It reads like a prose version of a Castle episode, starring thinly-veiled versions of the characters on th...moreVery fast read, but very entertaining, too. It reads like a prose version of a Castle episode, starring thinly-veiled versions of the characters on the TV show. Interesting mystery, fun characters, great comic interaction and romantic tension between Det. Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, the reporter shadowing her for research.
While I know the book was written fast, I was disappointed to see that it was 1) very slim (the hardcover comes in at 198 pages, including acknowledgements) and 2) stayed with Nikki Heat on every single page. If you've read any books in this genre not authored by fictional characters, you know that at least a brief chapter or two tends to hop over to the third-person limited perspective of another character -- the love interest also involved in the investigation or the faceless, nameless killer, keeping an eye on the police investigation while covering his/her tracks. Here, we're limited to Nikki's view on everything, which makes it difficult to understand why we, the readers, who have been inside her head from page one, don't know what's going on once she's solved the case and is purposefully keeping reporter Rook in the dark. It would have made more sense to write this section, at least, from Rook's perspective, so that the reader experiences Rook's struggle to figure out what Heat knows from Rook's perspective, since he and the reader are working from the same information at that point in the book. Instead, we're given Nikki's amusement at Rook's frustration and failure to figure it out, which just feels mean.
Apart from that writerly criticism, it's a well-plotted, fun read that I finished in about a day. If you're looking for something fast and fun, this fits the bill, though I'd advise checking this one out from the library rather than dropping your hard-earned pennies on it.(less)
I'd been eagerly anticipating having a spare few days to read this book since it arrived in the mail from the First Reads giveaway a few months back,...moreI'd been eagerly anticipating having a spare few days to read this book since it arrived in the mail from the First Reads giveaway a few months back, and when I finally got the time, it didn't disappoint.
Jennifer Cody Epstein's fictionalized account of the life of Chinese painter Pan Yuliang begins at the end of the road--where Yuliang ended up, living and working in Paris--before stepping back to examine how she got there. From the abrupt end to her childhood when she is sold to a brothel at age fourteen to her discovery of art and the controversy that surrounds her and her work as an artist, we follow her through a vivid depiction of China's changing face and politics in the early twentieth century. Yuliang struggles to find her place, both as a woman and an artist, in a hostile moral climate that would rather condemn her for her past as a prostitute than acknowledge her skill as a "Western-style woman painter."
Epstein skillfully guides us through a complicated and fascinating life in a novel full of subtle emotion, lovely imagery, and a view of China's tumultuous political and cultural history through the eyes of a truly unique heroine. Highly recommended!(less)
I picked this book up off the new paperbacks table at Barnes & Noble mostly because I had read a glowing review in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune-...moreI picked this book up off the new paperbacks table at Barnes & Noble mostly because I had read a glowing review in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune--and because Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single takes place in my hometown. How often do you come across a smart, sassy chick-lit piece with a cast full of Minnesotans?
Jennifer is a witty and sarcastic narrator/protagonist, if a little destructive (self- and otherwise), barely dealing with a disappointing job, a seemingly hopeless love life, and her sister's out-of-control wedding, all in the midst of a below-zero Minnesota winter. The majority of the book is a fun, fast read. Following Jennifer's bull-in-a-china-shop approach to life made me laugh and cringe in equal measures, but there's some genuinely fantastic dialogue in the mix as she finds herself getting everything she ever wanted. But, as the back cover warns, this is Heather McElhatton's "cautionary tale about getting what you want--and how it can be the worst thing for you."
My verdict: The story is painfully realistic at times, but well worth the read.(less)
I love this Darcy mystery series more with each book. Darcy and Elizabeth are made of ideal private investigator material--quick-witted, reasonable, a...moreI love this Darcy mystery series more with each book. Darcy and Elizabeth are made of ideal private investigator material--quick-witted, reasonable, and trustworthy enough that everyone around them asks them to look into things that may be amiss. There's an element of the supernatural in Carrie Bebris's take on the Darcys' married life, which draws Lizzy into the mystery, but brings out the skeptic in her husband.
The second of the Darcy mysteries was more entertaining than the first, mostly because I despise Caroline Bingley, and she figured prominently in Pride and Prescience Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged. This focuses on the Dashwood family of Sense and Sensibility and Lizzy's sister, Kitty Bennet, who hopes to find a suitable husband during the London season. Intrigue, bad behavior, a visit to the Dashwood family home, and a hint of supernatural goings-on make it a very interesting time for the Darcys.