*SPOILER FREE* Review of Two Graves, but really my thoughts on the Helen Trilogy.
I've been a Lincoln/Child/Agent Pendergast fan since that very first...more*SPOILER FREE* Review of Two Graves, but really my thoughts on the Helen Trilogy.
I've been a Lincoln/Child/Agent Pendergast fan since that very first adventure underneath the museum all those years ago. I've liked just about every book the two have put out together, with the huge exception of the newer Gideon Crew series---those are just terrible.
So it was with great glee that I read the advanced reader copy of Two Graves that came across my desk at work. Finally, I thought, all the answers to the Helen question would be answered! And they are answered, don't worry about that.
What I liked most about this book was that it returned (for the most part) to the action/thriller/mystery solving Pendergast adventures of yore, before the Helen trilogy started. Don't get me wrong, Fever Dream was quite the adventure, but its ending left me a little befuddled. Cold Vengeance, while being as much fun as it was frustrating, in retrospect turns out to be a wheel-spinning adventure that delayed answering questions rather than developing it in any fruitful way. What I remember most about the end of that book was a conversation between Pendergast and his brother-in-law.
BIL: Pendergast, I swear I'll tell you everything, but I can't tell you right now because there's not enough time. Pendergast: We have a two hour boat ride back to dry land. Just the two of us. Alone. BIL: Everything, I promise, but there's not enough time right now! Pendergast: 2 hours, not minutes. Hours. BIL: Not enough time!
Okay, so it's not verbatim, but if you read between the lines it was telling the reader, I can't say anything now because it'll be explained in the next book. And that's frustrating as heck since it was so obvious. I don't remember feeling that way at all with the Diogenes trilogy: each one was perfect on its own but still managed to lead directly into the next one with a sense of happy anticipation. I didn't feel that with these last two books.
Now maybe it's true that I'm looking back at the earlier books through rose colored glasses, but I remember they were always logical and plausible, even with underground monsters, haunted ships, and 150 year old women. But with these final two Helen books, great holes in logic and plot began to appear, things that didn't make sense, events that in the past would have served to complicate matters are instead glossed over with laughable or no explanations. There were a couple of whoppers in Cold Vengeance that really left me scratching my head, and there's a couple more in Two Graves. I can only attribute this to undue influence from the terrible awful no good bad Gideon Crew series. Those are even worst in terms of... well, everything.
So it's with mixed feelings that I started Two Graves, and it's with mixed feelings that I finished Two Graves. Questions are answered, for sure, and the adventure is fun, for sure. But even at the breakneck speed with which I plowed through it, I still felt frustrated with the storytelling.
There are three stories told here, with only one of them being really interesting, and that one keeps getting interrupted by the other two.
Subplot 1 is about a character we've come to really like but it really doesn't involve her. It involves another character trying to find out about her, and while his adventure does take a turn for the bizarre, it felt out of place here, padding that slowed down the momentum of the A-list plot. We get a nice bit of extra information and resolution at the end, and I can see how it's important, but considering how much is glossed over with this (and other) plots, it still feels like extra padding.
Subplot 2 involves another character we've come to really like, but that story too take a left turn and goes off on its own. That story rolls along, rolls along, rolls along, and is cut off when the A-list plot takes over for the long haul to its resolution. I was afraid subplot 2 would be left hanging (much like another plot was left hanging in Cold Vengeance) but no, it was kinda sorta resolved with a throwaway line at the end of the book. After all that was put into it, that's how it ended? Maybe it will be explained more in the next book, but that just shows how out of place it is in this volume.
I don't know, I feel like I'm asking to have my cake and eat it too. I know we have the Constance Green story sort of simmering in the background for far too long now, but I hope it doesn't become a habit that storylines are started but not resolved for several books. As a huge fan of the series I can promise the authors that I'll always read the next book, you don't have to dangle the same carrot over many volumes. There's a fine line between creating anticipation and stringing the reader along.
So my final verdict on Two Graves? It's a great Pendergast adventure and it introduces some interesting complications to his life that hold promise for future books. I might not like so much one of those complications (it could have easily been, ah, 'prevented' in the course of this book, and it feels a little too easy plotwise) but oh well.
So there you have it. If this review is too vague, well, I hate spoiling books, and this is a book worthy of not being spoiled, especially three months before it comes out.
Guy working for a 24 hour bookstore stumbles on a secret society of book readers trying to solve a possible life changing mystery?
You had me at 24 hou...moreGuy working for a 24 hour bookstore stumbles on a secret society of book readers trying to solve a possible life changing mystery?
You had me at 24 hour bookstore.
This was a really fun read about books, book culture, the internet, computing power and secret societies. And having most of it take place in the San Francisco Bay area (once upon a time I lived there) added to the fun just that much more.
But I do have to say that while I enjoyed the quirkiness of all the quirky characters, the main character's quirky humor was overdone at times. A little goes a long way and too many times was the easy and obvious quirky joke made or reiterated (with variation). And the story doesn't really get going until almost halfway through the book. That's a lot of quirkiness and setting up to get through before the ball starts rolling, almost to my breaking point in putting the book down altogether.
I'm glad I did continue and finish, though, because once the mystery is an active part of the story the plot picks up steam right on through to the end. Even though some twists and turns are set up a little too obviously, one plot point doesn't make sense if you think about it, and the solution was a little too deus ex machina (literally, almost), it's all still a fun ride.
Recommended for anyone who's looking for a quirky take on a book related mystery.(less)
**spoiler alert** I swore I would never read anything (fiction or non-fiction) about the supposed end of the world due to the end of the Mayan calenda...more**spoiler alert** I swore I would never read anything (fiction or non-fiction) about the supposed end of the world due to the end of the Mayan calendar. I’ve read 'real' books about the Maya culture and can’t even begin to entertain any half-baked notions. Just…c’mon people.
So why exactly did I read this particular novel? Because it was written by one-half of the team that wrote the really enjoyable “The Rule of Four”. That was enough for me to give the advanced reader a try when it landed on my desk.
It includes all the things that I find fun and interesting: Maya culture and especially Maya glyphs, medical intrigue (here, specifically about prions), archaeoastronomy, and even local familiar locations (the Getty Center, Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory, and many more).
And I really enjoyed the book for the first 2/3rds. That last third though…
Usually with these kinds of books (techno-thrillers, I guess?) there’s sometimes a few (or many) instances of credulity stretching incidents, whether it’s a gaping plot hole or illogical actions taken by some character or iffy science or… something, something that depending on its degree you can easily gloss over or make your eyes roll or even make you put down the book.
None of that happens here though, at least for more than half the book. Everything rolled along believably, delving into the science of the prions, the culture of the Mayas and even the city-wide quarantine stuff. There was even one character I was really rooting for, and it was when that character died suddenly that I felt the book took a turn for the strange. The death didn’t feel ‘earned’ or ‘necessary’—it just kind of happened, and it felt more plot ordained than anything else. It needed to happen to ramp the story up, I guess, but after that the story seemed to fishtail and never really find its footing again.
The story doesn’t wrap up in the usual Hollywood wrap up way, which I’m fine with, but it felt as if there were more story to tell, like maybe there’s a sequel? Even open-ended endings have a kind of finality to them. But here, there’s a kind of world-building it taps into but then kind of leaves dangling at the end. The character stories are wrapped up for the most part, but still it felt like not everything was satisfactorily tied up.
It was a fun read but it leads to an odd ending. (less)
A confession before anything else: one of the few classes I enjoyed while I was under the lash of the English department of my alma mater was one that...moreA confession before anything else: one of the few classes I enjoyed while I was under the lash of the English department of my alma mater was one that focused on the ‘Alf Laylah Wa Laylah’, which I hope is the not so terrible transliteration of ‘A Thousand Nights and One’, or ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ aka ‘The Arabian Nights’.
Now, in this class we read the Husain Haddawy translation (which is now a Norton Critical edition, why didn’t anyone tell me!?) to start with, but also stories and books that were influenced in obvious and not so obvious ways by it (like Marquez’s 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' for example).
We were also taught the long and fractious history of the ‘Nights’, from their beginnings in Persia and thereabouts to their introduction to the West via usually terrible and censorious butchering or the opposite (but just as terrible) overly padded sensuous versions (I’m looking at YOU Mr. Burton).
Every facet of this history fascinates me, as do the tales themselves, so when the advanced reader for this book magically appeared on my desk (see what I did there?) I just about freaked out. Here was the perfect tome to rekindle (renook?) my once piqued interest in the all too often ignored or parodied Thousand and One Nights, and boy what a job it did!
Now you can read a summary of the book elsewhere but I’ll give the gist of the plot here: in a modern day unnamed Middle Eastern country, a young computer hacker with a copy of the Thousand and One Days (the opposite of the Nights) finds himself getting mixed up with vampires, jinns, an iron-fisted government, and accidently sparks a revolution. Enough said, I hope.
What I like the most is that the fantastical world of genies and magic isn’t just smoke and mirrors, used for effect only to hide any weaknesses in the story. No, the story here is a fun action/adventure tale, with characters you enjoy spending time with and come to care about. In fact, I wish more time had been spent in the hidden world and more time exploring the different beings that inhabit it. I don’t know if this is going to be a series but I’d really enjoy more stories set in this world, even if it follows other characters.
As well, the book does what good books do: it shows that the differences between cultures are just as defining as the similarities, but it takes a keen mind to see the positive in both.
Though computers and hacking are involved, it stays more firmly in fantasy than it does science fiction---not a complaint, just an observation. One or two things did fall a little flat for me: a couple of would-be red herrings were too obviously red herrings, and the ‘love story’ and its resolution wasn’t much of a surprise, so it made it more of a how-would-they rather than a will-they-or-won’t-they. And even though I would consider this an action/adventure, the climax of the book feels a little too boxed in (even for a revolution). Plenty happens but it didn’t quite have that extra oomph I was expecting.
All in all though, this book has fun characters (especially Dina and Vikram), a fun story, and a great locale. A plus for me were all the non-English words peppered throughout the text (I’m a word geek, what can I say?). I don’t know if there will be a glossary in the final version of the book (there wasn’t any in the advanced reader I read), but I’m a sucker for looking things up and the Internet helped out with that immensely. I figure there’s about 50 words or so, some meanings which are explained by their context, others not so much.
So yeah, I can positively recommend this to anyone with a hankering for a good old fashioned action adventure. Forgive me the obvious comparison, but it’s almost like an updated Aladdin story: you know from the first it's going to be a fun ride.(less)
Amped proves to be an interesting idea wrapped in the broad strokes of stock characters, not too complicated storyline, and some interesting action se...moreAmped proves to be an interesting idea wrapped in the broad strokes of stock characters, not too complicated storyline, and some interesting action sequences.
Robopocalypse was fairly robust in the number of first person point of view characters and the epic worldwide scope of the narrative. Unfortunately, even the fun action sequences weren’t enough to overcome the problems of all the characters sounding the same and a story that didn’t do anything new for the robots-coming-alive scenario.
Amped, though, has only one narrator (the main character) who proves to be a fairly bland guy. This isn’t always a negative if there are interesting supporting characters, but in this case they’re all about the same: nothing surprising or original. The story starts excitingly enough but then quickly accumulates little gaps in credibility until it’s just a by-the-numbers action movie, without that much action.
Most characters are sketched out just enough to fulfill their plot point importance, none more so than the main character’s love interest. Considering she’s the only female in the book (well, apart from the one that dies in the first chapter), she comes off less as her character Lucy and more as the Main Character’s Female Love Interest. That’s her role and, by gum, that’s all she’s going to be! I mean, really, she and the main character interact twice (two times!) and exchange less than 200 words (between the two of them!) before she’s telling him, after he makes a mistake, “You were supposed to be different.” They kiss and make up but, ah! now he has Someone To Fight For! This is the level of character development the book delivers.
My biggest disappointment with the book, though, is the legal premise that sets everything in motion. The year is never explicitly stated, but from context clues (120th congress + 10 years) I guessed it’s around 2040, only 30 years from now. I don’t have issues with the implants and exoskeleton aspects (the ideas of brain implants are as old as Michael Crichton’s 1972 The Terminal Man, and the news lately showed a lady in London walking a marathon on her robotic assisted paralyzed legs, not to mention another paralyzed lady was able to manipulate a mechanical arm with her mind!) but the big legal conceit of amped folks not being considered people is really really hard to believe, not because that sort of thing hasn’t happened in the past, but precisely because it has happened already and the fact that it happens so easily, and the ramifications are so quickly felt (the very same day as the ruling the main character is thrown out of his apartment) is quite unbelievable.
I know that suspension of disbelief is a given with a science fiction story, but this book works very hard to show up all the parallels of past government and social actions predicated on prejudice (internments camps, Jim Crow laws, etc) so that this new situation can be seen as the next possible extension of past transgressions. The problem is that there isn’t nearly enough world building in this novel to convincingly pull it off. The story skips, jumps, and hops from one plot point to the next, the mystery is not so mysterious, and the characters not so defined.
The book tries to be two things at once but doesn’t really succeed on either count, or as a whole. It hovers in the middle between trying to explore the sociological and legal consequences of a world in which people are neurally and mechanically enhanced on the one hand, and trying to be a riveting action thriller set in a world in which people are neurally and mechanically enhanced on the other. The Ooh-What If depth of laying out the book’s scenario isn’t really developed or explored to any satisfying degree, and the action scenes are for the most part lukewarm. The action never really escalates, and the promised super-enhanced powers of the main character don’t really deliver the kind of punch you’ve been waiting for. For all the talking-up his souped-up amp is given, being just a teeny-weeny bit quicker than the bad guy is important, but it fizzles as a climax to the book, especially since it is written in the same kind of dispassionate minimalistic style as the rest of the book.
I do like the writing style: its matter-of-factness is vivid in its own way and turns of phrases can be clever and witty. But characters are sketched out and not really developed. The plot could stand to be more complex, especially for the philosophical questions the book raises---but maybe that’s more about what I wish the book was than what it is trying to be.
My final judgement: The book tries to be two things at once and doesn’t really succeed at doing either one very well. It shimmers between evoking a thought provoking possible future and an action oriented technological thriller. It doesn’t evoke or provoke quite enough for the questions that are raised and it doesn’t have enough action or thrills to be a proper action adventure novel. This is a quintessential beach read… I guess I just wish there was more to it than that. (less)
In 1491 Mann explored the newest findings about what the Americas were actually like before the "Old World" set foot on it (as opposed to the dated pe...moreIn 1491 Mann explored the newest findings about what the Americas were actually like before the "Old World" set foot on it (as opposed to the dated perceptions that we can't seem to easily shake loose). Now Mann explores how the world reacted, and was affected, by this meeting.
I can't even begin to summarize what information is covered here, but here is a list of things that are discussed: potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, sugar, rubber, gum, rum, Madeira, mosquitoes, malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, silver, guano, Africans, Indians, the Chinese, Spaniards, Basque miners, slavery, pirates, and a lot more. We may know a little about each of these subjects but here their connections are explained and, even better, the consequences and results of those connections are fully explored.
To say this is exceptionally interesting would be an understatement. A lot of the information presented here is new to me, or at least new in the sense that what I learned as separate histories is shown here to have connections that were never explicitly pointed out (and I never would have guessed at). (Case in point, everyone is taught that the Spanish mined South America for its silver, but who ever pointed out that half of that silver ended up in China? And the reasons why it ended up there? And the impact it had there? Etc.) The author does reference this book, but I'm pretty sure he expands on the original idea rather than simply rehashing it(and if I ever read that book, I'll insert an update about that here).
I consider this a far more historically dense book than 1491 since the cultural and biological exchanges between the Old and New Worlds, as can be guessed, was (and continues to be) very complicated. This is just as much a worthy sequel to 1491 as 1491 is a worthy 'prequel' to this book.(less)
I have to admit, I didn’t like the movie Memento very much because as the film rolled along, the character’s inability to remember become too much a c...moreI have to admit, I didn’t like the movie Memento very much because as the film rolled along, the character’s inability to remember become too much a convenient gimmick---always interesting but too easy at times. Maybe it warrants another viewing.
In this novel, however, the forgetting is a result of the main character’s advancing Alzheimer’s. The first person point of view of this devastating disease is what really makes this narrative a powerful read since you get a taste of just how awful and scary this progressively debilitating disease is to someone going through it.
The first person POV is what this novel gets right---it’s the rest of it that gets in the way. The style becomes frustrating after a while (small paragraph after small paragraph, mimicking the kind of reduced attention, memory problems, and confusion that the disease causes). It conveys well the thought processes that someone with Alzheimer’s may have but it does eventually make for a monotonous kind of reading.
The murder mystery stays mysterious for most of the book with pieces here and there filling in the necessary back story before the “big reveal”. None of the characters are very likeable so the plot is all we have moving the story forward, and since we only have the main character’s POV, anything important to the overall story has to happen in front of her so that she can at least take it in and observe it (even if she doesn’t fully understand it). It makes for a slightly clunky narrative at times.
When all was said and done, I can’t say I was wowed by the story or the mystery. Nobody portrayed here was remotely likable. The main character’s illness and its affects on her and her loved ones were sad and eventually tragic, but it felt more reported to the reader rather than really making us feel it. Those who put themselves in the narrator’s shoes, or have personal experience with Alzheimer’s in some way, may feel more strongly about the book.
Five stars for getting across what it may be like having Alzheimer’s, one star for a lackluster story and unlikable (unreachable?) characters, averaging out to 3 stars. (less)
What I really liked about this book is its ability to convey how reading can be an asset in your life, rather than something that takes away time (fro...moreWhat I really liked about this book is its ability to convey how reading can be an asset in your life, rather than something that takes away time (from what---watching TV?) or is a waste of invested effort.
In this case the author sets forth a goal of reading one book a day for a year in an effort to come to terms with her sister's death. While she doesn't talk about every book she reads (that would be impossible, not to mention cumbersome to the narrative) she does manage to find a narrative balance between her life and her books, thinking critically about both and showing us how one informs the other in this or that situation.
Also, it hints at but doesn't quite state that while books are a helpful additive to life, they can only be an asset if you have a life to live (meaning a book a day for a year is quite an artificial construct that only has meaning to the author because she has an entire lived life in which to place her reading into context---reading is a complement to life, not a substitution).
I read an advanced reader copy of this book so I don't know how the final copy will read. I understand that this is what the book is about but unfortunately the further you get into the book the more repetitive the chapters become (in format, not content) because in each chapter she finds some moment in her life that connects to whatever the current book is and wraps up with a sometimes too long summary about it all. Her descriptions are sometimes a bit too purple, and she has a Walt Whitman-esque ability to list many synonyms for the one thing she wants to convey, making some passages feel padded out.
Still, this is a worthwhile read about how books can help augment, but not take the place of, your life.(less)
I did "really like" this book (which is what a 4-star rating means) but with some reservations. I did plunge into this book not only because I work fo...moreI did "really like" this book (which is what a 4-star rating means) but with some reservations. I did plunge into this book not only because I work for a library but also with the intention of finding out how successfully an "accidental kidnapping" could be pulled off (since it has a kind of icky aura about it anyway, whether or not there's a somewhat plausible good intention behind it), but I forgot all about that when I got swept up with the low-key quirkiness of the characters and the fun literary riffs that echo throughout the story. The premise might not be 100% believable but the humor of the book places this story in a kind of screwball comedy, suspension of disbelief twilight zone.
What I liked: Lucy and her family are fun to watch and listen to. She (and therefore the book as a whole) has an offbeat sense of humor informed by her Russian heritage, job as a children's librarian, and a love of books.
What I didn't like: The non-ending ending (aka the “you decide” or “you don’t get always get closure in real life” ending). Sure, Lucy’s story “ends” but considering the reader is just as involved with Ian’s fate, it’s a kick in the ribs not to know how that situation turns out. Also, the kind of clichéd characters that make up the world (Lucy as an NPR-listening, organic-food eating idealistic younger adult; Tim as the flamboyantly gay theater person; Lucy's gay friend from high school who has killed himself; the strict religious disciplinarian mother)---it would have been nice if more had been done with these familiar character types.
What Gave Me Pause: The narrator reminding us about unreliable narrators and this-may-or-may-not-be-happening soliloquies. Was it just more literary riffing or a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to the reader about how to gauge the “truthfulness” of the story being told?
The best parts of the book were the interactions between characters (even if some of them were superfluous---Glenn the piano player just kind of gets in the way; Rocky's story cries out for more development but goes nowhere); less successful as the book went along were the self-evaluation and pondering that Lisa does about herself, the situation, her family. It keeps the book grounded but towards the end it slows the momentum of the story a little too much.
It may seem like I disliked the book more than I liked it, but I can only point out the not-so-great stuff because they stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the fun stuff. The small pieces of what can be seen as liberal stabs at conservative foibles are tiresome since they're overly familiar: a lot of the points made about society are made with a hammer when it could've been done with a lot more finesse considering much of the humor in the book is made subtly and lightly.
Read it for the fun stuff; debate it for the serious points it (unsubtly) makes. (less)
I read an advanced reader of the English-language version of this book, and I have to say I wish I had a time machine to warn myself not to read it......moreI read an advanced reader of the English-language version of this book, and I have to say I wish I had a time machine to warn myself not to read it... or at least to warn myself it's not exactly what I was expecting.
It's not that it wasn't fun (it was) but with the three interlocking stories, you really have to wait until the third one for the kind of fun you expected from the beginning. The first and second parts are both pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you kinds of stories, with interesting bits and characters (the hole into the fourth dimension; H.G. Wells meeting John Merrick, the Elephant Man? Now THAT was good), but I really didn't come to care about any of the characters (besides Wells), and that's important once all is said and done story-wise.
Some complaints: the overly intrusive narrator; it took about 100 pages before time traveling was even mentioned; interesting situations happened to uninteresting and unlikable people; the final "action" sequence is kind of split in two: one is described in a long long letter that kind of takes the steam out of the action, and the next happens so quickly it just kind of evaporates too quickly.
Clever but not quite delivering what I thought it was going to deliver, I give this a solid YES to those who love anything Victoriana with some time-travel hocus-pocus thrown in, a solid MAYBE if you love time-travel in general.
I guess my search for a more time-travel infused Victorian-era action/adventure continues!(less)
Original review lost, apparently computer sentience already working against me.
To summarize, I read an advanced reader copy of this since Steven Spiel...moreOriginal review lost, apparently computer sentience already working against me.
To summarize, I read an advanced reader copy of this since Steven Spielberg has his eye on making this into a movie. The movie might be interesting if they can add to or redo the story in the novel.
This book does nothing new for someone who is already familiar with robots becoming sentient and running amok (and that includes anyone who has seen The Terminator movies, the (newer) Battlestar Galactica series, the I, Robot movie, A.I, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Westworld, or hell, even Short Circuit!).
It's a quick, mostly painless read. The oral-history style I guess made it easy to write everything from the "I" point of view but, aside from obvious character differences, they all end up sounding the same: a mix between plausible dialogue and novelistic description. (One character, I very roughly remember, uncharacteristically noticed the 'cascading waters of the rain' or something like that---nobody really thinks or talks like this and since it happens with almost every chapter it made everyone sound the same.)
For a pulp adventure novel, which this most certainly is, it's diverting enough for a few hours. This is my first book in the robot apocalypse genre but I'm pretty sure there's better fare than this (even if it is written by a robotic expert).(less)
I remember while taking a chemistry class not too lon...moreIf you enjoyed The Disappearing Spoon as much as I did, than this book is a no-brainer must-read.
I remember while taking a chemistry class not too long ago that though the nitty gritty details were sometimes daunting, boring, or downright frustrating, it was always the stories about the elements or their discoverers that helped put everything in context, making it a richer learning experience. Seeing as how the history behind the elements wasn't the point of taking the chemistry class I sought out books that would help fill the gap.
Now almost 2 years later there are two books that fit the bill (not to say that this book and this book are lacking anything, but the dictionary-style formats aren't quite as organic in presenting the information as are 'Spoon' and 'Tales').
Both books are similar in style and cover the same elements (there are only a finite amount of them!) but do so in completely different and interesting ways. It might be due to the time between reading both books but I didn't notice any overlap in information or anecdotes. If something was familiar it was more like getting the other side of the story than a repeat of the same details.
I recommend 'Tales' (and 'Spoon') to anyone interested in science, science history, or chemistry. I think reading one or both of these books will help demystify the elements and make learning chemistry that much easier.(less)
I read Vonnegut's previous memoir (The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity) some years ago and I remember really liking that book. My memory may be haz...moreI read Vonnegut's previous memoir (The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity) some years ago and I remember really liking that book. My memory may be hazy since it has been a while, but I found his new memoir interesting but not as interesting as his first. He relates incidents from his life before, during, and after his breakdowns, along with some philosophizing about life, mental illness, and being a pediatrician here and overseas.
There's nothing in particular that makes this book stand out---anyone hoping for some Kurt Vonnegut insight may be disappointed since he only comes up in a handful of pages---but it may be of interest for anyone who reads books about (or by) those who are mentally ill.(less)
I love any book that rhapsodizes about books, and this one fits the bill. Add in Pat Conroy's verbal acrobats and unique sense of humor and you have a...moreI love any book that rhapsodizes about books, and this one fits the bill. Add in Pat Conroy's verbal acrobats and unique sense of humor and you have a book that I will read again when the actual book comes out (I read an advanced reader).
Anyone who knows Conroy's terrible childhood will know how important his mother was to shaping his life, and by extension the books she (and he) cherished. He covers everything book related in his life, from his mother to teachers to booksellers, to writing his books, books he read in school, as adults, and while he was writing his books. He tackles Gone With The Wind, Thomas Hardy, James Dickey, and he even relates a story from his Daufuskie Island days (covered in his The Water is Wide).
A great book for lovers of books, for those who like Pat Conroy, or both.
This is a heartwarming and heartbreaking graphic novel about the author's experience in tending to her aging parents. Their health slowly deteriorates...moreThis is a heartwarming and heartbreaking graphic novel about the author's experience in tending to her aging parents. Their health slowly deteriorates over a few years, one faster than the other, and Farmer chronicles the difficult choices not only she has to make, but also the choices her parents have to make, accepting or rejecting help whether or not it's in their best interest.
Poignant, and very sad at points, but honest and engrossing.(less)
Another reviewer on here has a more detailed but similar opinion than what I'll put down, but I'll drop my two cents worth anyhow. I don't read too ma...moreAnother reviewer on here has a more detailed but similar opinion than what I'll put down, but I'll drop my two cents worth anyhow. I don't read too many books aimed at the YA crowd, but this one struck me as different than the usual type of YA fiction that passes through my hands at work (vampires, fairies, girls with summer boy troubles, boys with summer girl problems, or even ones with weightier issues like anorexia, drug abuse, or teen pregnancy). At first glance this a "gay" story but really it's a murder mystery with a straight protagonist trying to figure out who killed his friend.
I don't know the audience this book is intended for but the issues brought up with homosexuality versus religion gets covered pretty well even if at times it seems to both be preaching to the choir and running down a checklist of talking points. Characters sometimes tend to become a mouthpiece for a certain point of view or important plot point before they go back to being themselves.
This is a murder mystery after all, so maybe due to some genre constraints and the size of the novel there wasn't enough room to expand the characters or plot as much as I would've liked. The characters are all interesting, but the plot does take some serious suspension of disbelief at times. All in all an interesting quick read.(less)