I enjoyed this volume a little less than the first one, but overall I'm still loving this series. The characterisation here is spread a little thinnerI enjoyed this volume a little less than the first one, but overall I'm still loving this series. The characterisation here is spread a little thinner - the cast of characters widens considerably, but most detective partnerships get only a handful of pages each, so there are few deep and delving profiles such as we were treated to with Renee Montoya in volume one. One story features a rift between mother and son with all of zero backstory, another a cop with ties to the mob and a superhero never identified for the uninitiated. Sure, I could Google for deeper understanding, but as a reader I like my stories whole as presented, no research required for fundamental understanding.
The stories remain compelling, and the best are easily the ones where the Bat remains a shadowy, barely mentioned figure hovering on the periphery. The art is serviceable, and particularly shines in the first story - a delightful little character piece on administrator Stacy. It took me a lot longer to get through this volume than the first installment, and I found it easier to put down between (and even during) stories, but on the whole I'm still definitely looking forward to the next volume.
Sophie Hannah's books are endlessly frustrating to me, chiefly because she has excellent ideas and solid execution, but her characters are just dreadfSophie Hannah's books are endlessly frustrating to me, chiefly because she has excellent ideas and solid execution, but her characters are just dreadful. There's no one to like or root for, and her recurring cast is abysmal to the point that I wish painful deaths on all of them. But her plots are so compelling. At least a year has passed since I last read one of her Spilling books, so I braved another and did enjoy it on the whole. Yes the characters are a miserable, pathetic bunch, but it didn't seem quite as bad as in the last one I read (high praise!) and the plot kept me guessing right up until the end. It was a solid page turner that I finished within two days, and I'm sure that I will read more of her books in future. And I'm sure that I'll hate the characters and get frustrated all over again, because Hannah has so much potential, and squandering it on her idiotic cast is a crime in and of itself....more
This is one of those stories that I've always meant to read and never quite gotten around to, so I'm glad I finally found the time. Of course most peoThis is one of those stories that I've always meant to read and never quite gotten around to, so I'm glad I finally found the time. Of course most people are very familiar with the story, but the way it was told and unfolded wasn't quite what I expected, so it still made for a good read without feeling too obvious. It was very atmospheric and evocative, and if the impact of the ending was lessened by knowing it in advance, it was still a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours....more
I've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in beI've gotten out of the habit of having more than one book on the go at once, but when I came down sick last week, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with something by Uncle Steve. I basically played eeny meeny miny mo with the remaining shelf full of his books that I haven't read yet, and ended up picking The Regulators because I really dig the idea of a dual novel. I've never read any of the Bachman books before, and this doesn't have me in a hurry to read another, but it fulfilled its purpose and kept me company for a couple of days while I perked back up.
The Regulators follows events on an all-American suburban street one hot summer's day, when the afternoon bliss of blue skies and mellow times comes to a jarring end with a street-wide shootout. Carnage ensues, and the survivors band together to figure out why this is happening to them and how they might escape it.
For some reason, I found the narrative voice here a little harder to bed down with than usual, and ultimately I didn't care a great deal about most of the characters, who could have been lifted right out of any number of King's other books. I did really like the way each chapter opened with a different snippet though - postcards, scripts, letters etc, and I cared a lot about the fates of little Seth and Aunt Audrey. I'll definitely read the twin novel Desperation when I find the time for it, but I won't be in a huge rush to do so....more
Overall, I feel pretty disappointed with It. I tore through the first 900 pages, which was a welcome change of pace after struggling for months with TOverall, I feel pretty disappointed with It. I tore through the first 900 pages, which was a welcome change of pace after struggling for months with The Tommy-knockers, but the last 200 were... not good. The story focuses on Derry, Maine, and a group of seven children who band together against a dark being murdering the town's youngsters. After seemingly doing away with the monster, it returns twenty-seven years later in search of the revenge, and the children - now adults with no memory of their shared past - must come together again to defeat It for good.
The book feels disproportionally weighted in favour of telling the childrens' stories over the adults, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. As perhaps most famously demonstrated in The Body, King writes children the way few authors convincingly do - as though he still remembers how it really was to be one. (By children, read: boys. Girls - and indeed women - have never been his forte.) For the most part, these were characters I enjoyed spending time with and getting to know. I'm not sure I loved any of them, but they were solid as protagonists go. Where it fell apart for me was the ending. Plodding, repetitive, eyebrow raising for all the wrong reasons, it felt like an anti-climax and not a fitting cap on the events of the previous 900 pages. It's not one I'd tell people to avoid - so far, the only one of King's novels I've outright loathed was The Shining - but equally, there are many more I'd recommend ahead of it....more
I think I would have enjoyed this more had I not taken over nine months to plough through it, and had I read more of the physical copy rather than lisI think I would have enjoyed this more had I not taken over nine months to plough through it, and had I read more of the physical copy rather than listening to the audiobook. I normally like listening to King on audio because it doesn't demand my full attention - it's easy listening that I can multi-task through, which suits me perfectly. With The Tommy-knockers however, there was a lot of description that I struggled to parse - inventions and action and the like that meant, if I let my mind wander even a fraction, I got lost.
The story at its centre had a lot of promise. Alcoholic, suicidal poet Jim Gardner delays his own demise to come to the aid of his best friend and erstwhile lover Bobbi Anderson, who has turned distinctly odd since tumbling over the lip of a long-buried ship in the woods. It's easy to tell this is early King. Here, there's little of the finesse of his later world-building novels. We spend hundreds of pages with individual characters, to the point that it's easy to tire of them before the scope flitters onto another individual, then another, then another. By the time the whole town comes together under the force of encroaching invasion from within, it's maybe halfway through the novel, and for me, the whole thing became an exercise in forcing myself to keep going and hoping it would all pay off. I'm not sure it did, not satisfactorily enough anyway, but again, I might feel differently had I actually read it and not kept half an ear on it.
I think it comes down to this: I loved Gard. I loved Bobbi. I loved Ev Hillman, David and Hilly Brown, and I loved Ruth McCausland. But the story itself? Eh... not so much....more
I love sting-in-the-tale short stories with twists with a passion, and this book was pretty darn good. IIRC, I only guessed one twist ahead of time. AI love sting-in-the-tale short stories with twists with a passion, and this book was pretty darn good. IIRC, I only guessed one twist ahead of time. Alas, a lot were thematically similar - cheating spouses and contract killers - so more variety would have been good. But it made a pretty satisfying read, and reminded me that one day I really must check out the Lincoln Rhyme series. (view spoiler)[The best one was definitely the story that gives the impression a husband is out to murder his wife's lover, then reveals at the end that the narrator was a minor all along, and in fact murdered his mother's boyfriend. Definitely got me! (hide spoiler)]...more
This was a stupid book, full of stupid characters. Except Martin.
All right. Days later, after the initial irritation has abated, Her Fearful SymmetryThis was a stupid book, full of stupid characters. Except Martin.
All right. Days later, after the initial irritation has abated, Her Fearful Symmetry wasn't necessarily stupid. It was clearly meticulously researched, but was that really to its merit? I read that Niffenegger spent a year working in Highgate Cemetery before writing, but I honestly found her descriptions of it dry and flat. They had me itching to turn the page and move on. And once I'd finished, I Googled pictures of the Cemetery and wasn't surprised to find that it looks nothing like the images her descriptions conveyed to me.
As for the characters - with the exception of Martin, as noted above - roundly unlikable. Julia wasn't so bad, but given that this book was Valentina Valentina Valentina, that didn't help much. There were hardly any points of merit to cling to, so instead I spent most of the book frustrated with and creeped out by everyone. The third act resolution was painfully obvious from the moment it was first mooted. I also read that Niffenegger's original idea for this novel was just a man afraid to leave his flat. I cannot begin to express how much I wish she'd written a novel about Martin instead of this, admittedly well-written, disappointment.
All that said, after months spent immersed in Stephen Kings and Harry Potters, it was a breath of fresh air (at least to start with) just to read a plot I didn't know in advance. Not much in its credit, but something....more
I really enjoyed this whole book, save for "The Library Policemen", but I've reviewed audio copies of the first three tales separately. I picked up anI really enjoyed this whole book, save for "The Library Policemen", but I've reviewed audio copies of the first three tales separately. I picked up an old, battered copy of Four Past Midnight from a charity shop just for "The Sun Dog", which is the story for which my audio copy was broken. And it was genuinely scary! I'm not too bad with dogs - my brother is comparatively petrified of them - but the gradual progression of the dog in the Polaroids, as each shot brings it a little closer, a little more ferocious, was delightfully horrible to read in the early hours. The segment where Pop Merrill tries to sell the camera on dragged a bit - none of the potential buyers he visited held my attention much - but he was a good, memorable character, and I'm looking forward to delving into Needful Things in the near future....more
This is probably not really a four-star book. As crime fiction goes, it's fairly bog-standard, albeit with a protagonist different to most I'm used toThis is probably not really a four-star book. As crime fiction goes, it's fairly bog-standard, albeit with a protagonist different to most I'm used to (at times, I could practically feel the testosterone wafting out of the pages). But it got me. It well and truly got me - I did not see the ending coming, and while it seems completely obvious in retrospect, it makes sense of a lot of my early niggles with the book, and in a few years time might even bear a repeat reading. For easily two-thirds of the book I'd written it off as 'decent-ish, but probably wouldn't bother with another'. But that feeling of having the rug pulled out from under me is rather marvellous, and if Mr. Billingham is as clever as I hope he is (easier to hope he's clever than wonder if I'm getting more dim-witted) then I'll more than likely try another should I come across one. Hurrah....more
I think Hotel World would do best as a one-sitting book. At just shy of 240 pages, it's certainly short enough, but it's also one that demands a lot oI think Hotel World would do best as a one-sitting book. At just shy of 240 pages, it's certainly short enough, but it's also one that demands a lot of attention. I gave it a few solid hours back in May, then set it aside and just never got around to picking it up again until today. I definitely enjoyed it - I'd call it a 7/10 book - but if it hadn't been for the long gap, it might have been an 8/10.
It's broken into five sections, each focusing on a different woman whose life in some way intersects with a horrible accident at a Global Hotel. One such section consists of thirty pages of unpunctuated stream of consciousness. It's definitely an experimental novel, and a few times towards the end I found myself flicking ahead to see how much there was left to plough through. That's probably more to do with my own attention span than the writing, which is often beautiful. Challenging in places, but lovely.
I liked this just a shade less than The First Person and Other Stories, the only other Ali Smith I've read, but I'll definitely read her again. I'll just have to be in the right frame of mind for it....more