The Austere Academy is usually the point at which I give up trying to re-read the ASoUE series, not because it's a bad book - certainly not - but becaThe Austere Academy is usually the point at which I give up trying to re-read the ASoUE series, not because it's a bad book - certainly not - but because I think it's the point at which the original formula stretches too far. There are only so many times the Baudelaires can be transferred to a new guardian, pursued by a disguised Olaf and narrowly thwart his schemes before it becomes as tiring as forcing orphans to run laps around a luminous track night after night. This time I was absolutely determined to power through it though (a task far easier than with The Miserable Mill), and there is a lot to like here. The introduction of the Quagmires, the very first mention of V.F.D., not to mention the absurdly sublime Carmelita Spats. If you've ever wanted to read about a rude little girl poking a child in the back with a stick and whispering "Orphan," this book is for you. You monster.
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
I first read The Poet a good few years ago, and have re-read it over the past week or so in anticipation of attending a talk by Michael Connelly, whicI first read The Poet a good few years ago, and have re-read it over the past week or so in anticipation of attending a talk by Michael Connelly, which I'm very much looking forward to. I love the partnership of Jack and Rachel, and although I obviously knew 'whodunnit' this time around, it didn't detract from my enjoyment, because there was a lot I didn't remember too. It's fast paced, and I didn't want to stop turning the pages. (view spoiler)[I found the end lacking, though - it made the difference between and 3 and 4 star review. The ease with which Jack believes Rachel was The Poet is pretty bizarre this time around, whereas on first read I recall it being nothing short of jaw-dropping. The lack of explanation re: Backus' motivations is frustrating, but I assume that's sketched out in The Narrows, which I've also read but forgotten most of. (hide spoiler)] Despite the flaws in the ending, it's left me itching to re-read The Narrows....more
Important upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the onlImportant upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the only King tale I've ever rated a solitary 1 out of 5, and as such I wasn't that excited about its sequel, Doctor Sleep. That said, some of his recent works have been really, truly excellent (11/22/63, Joyland) and so of course I still had it in my hands on publication day. While it's not one of my favourites, nor do I think it will prove to be especially memorable, it was still a serviceable 500 pages that I had fun delving through.
We meet up with Dan Torrence - The Shining's five-year-old protagonist and possessor of multiple supernatural abilities - several decades down the line. Now an alcoholic and all-round waste-of-space, Dan almost immediately hits rock bottom and spends the next several hundred pages engaged in a redemption arc I was initially dubious about, but which King ultimately managed to pull off.
Any quibbles I had with the novel are largely the same I have with many of King's works - chiefly that for a while, the whole thing turned into a bit of a boys-club romp (when there's a thirteen-year-old girl with her life on the line, it's not really excusable to cut her mother out for a hundred pages at a time while her dad, family doctor, psychic-shining-friend and random-train-driver have all the fun). Abra (said thirteen-year-old) lacked authenticity to me, and scenes in which she swapped bodies with Dan were especially bizarre.
There's a fairly substantial "twist" towards the home stretch which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and while King repeatedly has Dan brush aside the coincidence of it all, it felt unfortunately contrived to me. However, all this aside it was still a fast, well-paced read with villains as heinous as their backstory was complex. I enjoyed reading it despite my dislike of The Shining, and while the climax seemed over a little too swiftly, I was overall satisfied with the way things panned out.
(My biggest gripe is mainly that the US cover is way cooler than the UK one. Unfair!)...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
As far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantlyAs far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantly crafted gems, and his on-going Lincoln Rhyme series has more stings in the tale than a rattlesnake. So I was excited to see what he'd do with The October List, a thriller told quite literally backwards. We open on chapter 36, with a frantic mother awaiting news of her kidnapped daughter. The door opens, revealing not her rescuers but the kidnapper himself, wielding a gun and a deranged grin. How did it come to this? We're about to find out, in reverse.
Although it takes a long time for the full picture to become clear (the game changes constantly, and the kaleidoscope doesn't come to rest as a fully-formed image until you've read all the way through to chapter one), the pace is never anything less than frenetic. I finished the book in around a day, and kept reading for several hours after I really should have been sleeping (when you physically can't hold the book open in bed, it's probably time to call it a night.)
Does the gimmick produce satisfying results? Yes and... hmm. The format does lend itself to some difficulties. You know the piece of proofreading advice, that if you read a document backwards you're more likely to catch mistakes? While there aren't mistakes here as such (ultimately, everything ties together beautifully), I think the problem with starting from a place of complete bewilderment is that I never really fully trusted anyone, nor took any information at face value. When the revelations come, they're more of the 'ah, that makes sense of that!' variety than the sudden sharp shock of being completely surprised.
When working with a regular chronology, Deaver is fully adept at misdirection and sleight of hand, techniques that I think this format fundamentally makes more difficult. I'm definitely not saying I guessed the resolution in advance, but I also wouldn't say I was miles from the ballpark. There are times Deaver's caught me from another continent entirely, so this wasn't necessarily in the same league.
That said, I think this will definitely bear a repeat reading, perhaps in reverse this time, to really catch all the subtle clues laid throughout. It's probably only a shade over half the length of most of his other books, so it wouldn't surprise me if this was the intention. I've quickly re-read the first (last?) chapter, and the additional depth and nuance once you know what's really going on is brilliant. As is the contents list at the back - I actually laughed out loud at how clever he'd been in places with the chapter illustrations.
Overall, while I wasn't completely blown away by The October List, I do think Deaver's writing here is very, very clever, and I'm looking forward to going through it again when it's not quite so fresh. For readers unfamiliar with JD, it does take a while to get in to - it was probably sixty pages or so before I stopped being completely bewildered, and maybe as much as another hundred before I was really rolling along - because of course, telling a story backwards does run the risk of making it choppy, disjointed and frustrating. My advice would be just to trust that he knows full-well what he's doing and that it will all pay off eventually. And enjoy!...more
This was my least favourite Sherlock Holmes read to date. It was the first of the novels that I've read, having stuck to the short story collections bThis was my least favourite Sherlock Holmes read to date. It was the first of the novels that I've read, having stuck to the short story collections before, and while it wasn't particularly bad, I can't be any more enthusiastic than 'okay'.
Holmes and Watson are employed on behalf of Sir Henry Baskerville, who recently inherited the family estate from his uncle. Since the death of their ancestor Hugo Baskerville - commonly believed among moor-folk to have been murdered by a demonic dog - fears and superstition have surrounded the family, so when Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead with fright, yards away from the prints of a giant hound, the game is truly afoot.
I've never been a big fan of ghost stories - I like good ones well enough, but I think they're very hard to tell without rousing buckets of scepticism or descending into silliness. Given that this is Sherlock Holmes, it's pretty obvious before you even open the book that the solution isn't really going to be the work of the Devil.
I think the sheer length of it is problematic - it's not much over 200 pages, but given how much punch the short stories pack in 20 pages, it was always going to be a stretch to maintain. The clues build up and up, but the eventual solution feels anticlimactic. Everything rather falls into place, and there are few shining 'oh' moments at Holmes's cleverness. The few things that did take me somewhat by surprise had nothing to do with Sherlock at all, actually.
Holmes's presence is another puzzling thing. The Hound of the Baskervilles was written 8 years after Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in The Final Solution. This tale is set before that one, so chronologically there's no issue... it's just odd that, for his grand revival, Sherlock is hardly there. A great chunk of the book consists of Watson accompanying Henry Baskerville to Dartmoor, and keeping Holmes up-to-date through regular telegrams. To my mind, a modern day equivalent would be JK Rowling waiting eight years before writing a new Harry Potter book, then spending one to two thirds of it focussed on Ron. Not necessarily bad, but... not what you were hoping to read.
I'm sure I'll read the other Holmes novels in time, I'll just have considerably lower hopes for them when I do....more
This was my first Sherlock in nearly a year, and a pleasure to dip back into. Not every story was a gem, but the majority made for a very good read. AThis was my first Sherlock in nearly a year, and a pleasure to dip back into. Not every story was a gem, but the majority made for a very good read. Among my favourites were "The Norwood Builder" (a young man unexpectedly becomes the heir of a benefactor previously unknown to him, only to be implicated in the man's death that night), "The Dancing Men" (a fellow and his wife are menaced by messages in the coded form of dancing men - with an ending a little darker and more chilling than most of the Holmes canon), and "The Second Stain" (in which Holmes is hired by the Prime Minister himself to retrieve a document which could begin a European war).
The weaker, I feel, were "Charles Augustus Milverton" (a departure from the standard format, in which Holmes commits burglary to retrieve a letter from a blackmailer, going so far as to become engaged to the fellow's maid in order to learn her master's habits. This one gave rather a poor impression of his character, all told), "The Six Napoleons" (obvious to the point that the police seemed staggeringly incompetent for failing to deduce the criminal's motive) and "The Abbey Grange" (not as glaring as the former, but rather too obvious for my liking).
One oddity worth noting is that apparently Watson's wife died somewhere in the interlude between "The Final Solution" and the first story in this collection, "The Empty House". It's mentioned in a single line, and given so little significance that I didn't even realise until two-thirds of the way in, after spending far too long wondering why he and Holmes were living together again.
I've yet to read one of the longer Holmes stories, but am planning on reading Hound of the Baskervilles before the new BBC adaptation airs next week. I'm not quite ready to leave 221B behind just yet, but after that I'll probably wait a while before picking up His Last Bow, because the prospect of having no more Holmes shorts to read is a sad one indeed....more