I think I enjoyed Harry August more in concept than execution. The idea of a person living his life over and over again, but retaining his memories anI think I enjoyed Harry August more in concept than execution. The idea of a person living his life over and over again, but retaining his memories and knowledge on each go around, is one with a massive amount of scope - I just didn't find the direction the main plot took all that compelling. I would have really liked to have read more about Harry's personal life - his marriages to various linear women, his relationship with his family - than the eventual cat and mouse he got pulled into over quantum mirrors and a twisted bromance. The secondary characters never felt fully fleshed out, which is a shame as I was a lot more interested in some of them and their actions and motivations than Harry's nemesis/object of obsession Vincent. I expected to race through this, but by the time the set-up and Harry's first few lives were through and the overall direction of the plot began to emerge, my interest wavered and it became slower going. Still, a really interesting idea that I have admittedly picked over quite a bit since....more
This book is just gorgeous. When I started reading Game of Thrones this summer at the urging of a friend, I found myself peppering her with backgroundThis book is just gorgeous. When I started reading Game of Thrones this summer at the urging of a friend, I found myself peppering her with background questions. Who are the Rhoynar? What's a crannogman? Hey, tell me everything about these Children of the Forest... The World of Ice and Fire is precisely the book I hoped existed then. It's an in-depth look at the history of Westeros, and to a lesser extent, neighbouring continent Essos. The bulk of the book focuses on the many Targaryen kings, followed by a potted history of six of the seven 'kingdoms', plus the Iron Islands. We then travel over to many of the major cities in Essos, and towards the end go further afield, drifting towards the far east and mysterious Asshai.
The tone of the book is perhaps a little dry in places, but it's framed as being penned by a Maester of the Citadel, so for me that worked (although in later sections I think the editing could have been tighter, as small repetitions and spelling errors became more frequent). Certainly the histories we're presented with become vaguer, more rumour than fact, the further afield we travel, but as this is a world where few from Westeros dare to travel that far, it fit with the perspective the book took.
I think this is definitely more for the obsessive rather than casual fan, and I'd definitely recommend reading the Dunk and Egg stories first (I may or may not have got quite emotional during the history of Aegon V's reign, and had to put the book down a few times...). If you've read the history of the first Dance of Dragons, it's quite heavily condensed here, and there are other places where it definitely feels as though Martin has much longer histories waiting to be told when time permits. One of the biggest selling points of the book is the absolutely stunning artwork. I'm normally a 'nice picture, turn the page' kind of girl, but The World of Ice and Fire starts with a painting of Dragonstone so stunning you can all but taste the sea salt and hear the crash of the waves on rocks, and it only gets better from there. This is definitely a book you want to hold in your hands rather than flick through on a Kindle - the only problem being that it's so big and heavy, I did find it difficult to get comfortable with it.
I seriously, seriously love this book, and have already bought an extra copy to give as a Christmas present....more
25-30 March 2012: I think my chief weirdness with this book (and Catching Fire for that matter) is that after the experience of the 74th Hunger Games,25-30 March 2012: I think my chief weirdness with this book (and Catching Fire for that matter) is that after the experience of the 74th Hunger Games, I expected Katniss to want to be a champion for justice, not have to be wheedled and cajoled into it. Still, I really loved seeing more of the other victors in this one, and while neither the propos nor fighting felt very satisfying, I suppose the point is that war isn't very satisfying - and the way Collins ends it (sans epilogue), with Katniss so broken felt raw and honest and brave. I read all three over a few days, so I expect I'll write fuller reviews once I've re-read and taken my time with them....more
21-25 Mar 2012: I think the balance was a bit off kilter in this book. There wasn't really any need for hundreds of pages of 'woe, Peeta and Gale both21-25 Mar 2012: I think the balance was a bit off kilter in this book. There wasn't really any need for hundreds of pages of 'woe, Peeta and Gale both love me' when literally every single other thing about it was amazing. The Quarter Quell revelation literally made me put it down so I could go and rant about the unfairness of it all, but the repetition of the games procedure made it feels a bit formulaic, and the games themselves didn't really last very long. I think after book one, I got an idea in my head about where the series would go from there, and was a bit flummoxed by how wrong I was. A great book by all means, but my favourite is still the first....more
20-21 March 2012: The only reason I've given this a 4 instead of a 5 is because I don't think this is a series that needs romance at all. It's hardly20-21 March 2012: The only reason I've given this a 4 instead of a 5 is because I don't think this is a series that needs romance at all. It's hardly Twilight, but it felt as though they spent about six years in that cave, and the rest of it was just so damn good. So good. This one is definitely my favourite of the trilogy, but I'll probably save a lengthy review for after I've re-read it, which I intend to do pretty soon. I suspect this one will make its way to my all-time favourites shelf before too long....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 enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Vampires aren't really my thing - I'm definitely more of a zombie girl - but I really liked the cascadingI enjoyed this much more than I expected to. Vampires aren't really my thing - I'm definitely more of a zombie girl - but I really liked the cascading way vampirism spread through the sleepy rural village of Jerusalem's Lot. The pacing was well-judged, and while the scope seemed to have overshot the mark at first, it paid off well in the end. I was worried about how King would handle such a vast cast - he essentially created an entire community here - but I think he did a much better job than in "The Langoliers", which I had similar qualms about recently. Although there were dozens of names to remember, he did well with making them distinct and memorable. It didn't always work out, but it was near enough.
My one major niggle was that it was a very male-dominated book. There were no strong female characters; (view spoiler)[the one female lead blundered recklessly into the vampire's base and got herself killed before the end of Act 2. (hide spoiler)] The supporting cast of women were ineffectual, adulteresses, child-abusers... In contrast the leading men were heroic, brave and defiant. Blah. I know this was only King's second novel after Carrie, and he's talked about his struggles with connecting with the female psyche, but I don't think trying to ignore the existence of women is the best workaround.
Still, I zoomed through this one - the audio is 17.5 hours, so I thought it'd take me a couple of weeks to get through, but it actually only took a couple of days. And it deserves some kudos for the very scary origins story of the local haunted house. I listened to that part in the middle of a bright, sunny day, and it was so effective that I was pretty much convinced everyone I walked past was about to kill me. Always fun. I really need to stop using King as my go-to for lazy, no thinking required listening, but I'm pretty sure I'll be on to The Shining by tomorrow. 6/10.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was a quick and enjoyable read. It was nice to see King writing from a POV outside his usual stable of middle-aged men aThe Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was a quick and enjoyable read. It was nice to see King writing from a POV outside his usual stable of middle-aged men and instead bringing to life 9-year-old Trisha. If the sprawling geography of the woods Trisha was lost in was sometimes hard to visualise, then Trisha's response - her actions and emotions - rang very true. (The one time I got really, truly lost in the countryside, I was a crying, babbling mess within an hour, but I can readily believe Trisha would be braver, ha.) If this had solely been a book about a little girl surviving in a desperate situation, it would have been quite excellent. The religious-fantasy subplot muddied the waters though - it just didn't work for me. The ultimate conclusion (view spoiler)[that God saved Trisha in the final innings, rather than her own courage pulling her through (hide spoiler)] left me flat after an otherwise solid read....more
**spoiler alert** I picked up Dark Entries as an Ian Rankin fan, with no knowledge of the John Constantine character. I was unaware of his existence b**spoiler alert** I picked up Dark Entries as an Ian Rankin fan, with no knowledge of the John Constantine character. I was unaware of his existence beyond this book, and so the discovery that the cover lies completely - that this is a fantasy, not a crime novel - annoyed me utterly.
The premise as described in the blurb is that of an "occult detective" investigating strange goings-on in a Big Brother-style reality TV house. I count Ben Elton's Dead Famous as one of my favourite novels, so I was expecting something vaguely similar. I was sorely disappointed. Basically, half way through it turns out that all of the contestants are actually dead and in Hell, changing the entire genre of the book. I felt completely cheated. Last month, I described The Colorado Kid by Stephen King as "a bait and switch of a book". It promises hard-boiled crime and resoundingly doesn't deliver, but when all's said and done, it's still a crime novel. Dark Entries doesn't even end up in the same ball park as advertised.
I've given it 3/10. Rankin does some good things with the characters' back-stories, and his "story within a story" on Constantine's history with the cannibal Brian McArthur was something I'd happily read as a standalone. The line art is serviceable, though the artist's obsession with the lewder elements of the female form was cringeworthy, the "Hell" characters were interchangeable, and the action scenes towards the end became steadily more difficult to follow.
All-in-all, a total disappointment, and not one I'd recommend to anyone....more
The Langoliers took me a long time to get into, and to start with I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it. The premise sounded fantastic - a plane setsThe Langoliers took me a long time to get into, and to start with I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it. The premise sounded fantastic - a plane sets off, only for all but a handful of its passengers to disappear mid-flight. It's an intriguing concept that had a lot of potential, and King did some very interesting things with it. I think the biggest problem I had was distinguishing between the characters. Some of them are established early and established well, but many are introduced in a muddle towards the end of the first act, and I spent a lot of the rest of the story trying to keep who was who straight, which naturally detracted from my enjoyment. For this reason, I ended up putting the audiobook down for a few weeks, and didn't pick it up again until faced with a long walk and some silence to kill.
I'm glad I did bear it out, though. So it's not the most well-crafted story ever told. The idea behind it never stops being compelling, and those characters that are well established are easy to root for. I particularly liked Laurel, a school teacher flying to Boston to meet a man from a lonely hearts column, only to fall hard and fast for one of her fellow passengers along the way.
I'm not sure whether reading this rather than listening to it would have helped with keeping all the characters straight - I actually have an inkling that The Langoliers would be best suited to television, and if I get the opportunity I'd like to watch the miniseries adaptation. The audio itself irritated me quite often. When I first started listening to audiobooks regularly earlier in the year, I wondered why the format didn't seem to utilise background sounds or music - thanks to The Langoliers, I have an answer. It's incredibly distracting. Not to mention, the narrator made the English character sound somewhere between South African and Australian, and the girls, Dinah and Bethany, sound like they had severe head colds.
Still, though it squanders some of its potential, the central conceit of The Langoliers carries through into an overall enjoyable story....more