A talented artist can paint a picture that evokes an emotion. The viewer looks at the painting and feels nothing but what the artist strives to commun...moreA talented artist can paint a picture that evokes an emotion. The viewer looks at the painting and feels nothing but what the artist strives to communicate. The viewer doesn't notice the brushstrokes, the colors, or any of the physical aspects of the painting -- only the essense of the painting. Jennifer Egan is the artist and A Visit From the Goon Squad is the painting.
You know how sometimes you'll notice something, like the shoes a stranger is wearing, or a purse across the room and it'll remind you of something and you'll end up staring into space, lost in that memory? A Visit From the Goon Squad is kind of like that. The funny thing is, I've never worn safety pins in my clothes, I've never had some 40 year old guy do coke off my bare butt, and I've never dived into a polluted river, but A Visit From the Goon Squad made me nostalgic for those events.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is hard to describe as a book. It's narrative fiction, but it's not just one story and it's not only a collection of short stories. It's a collection of short stories connected through some shared characters and a strong central theme that I didn't really understand until halfway through the book. It's not preachy, it's not too-hip-for-thou, and it's not difficult to read. It's wonderfuly written with amazingly seemless transitions between the past and the present.
I can see it as a book that won't appeal to everyone. I had doubts about liking it because of its title and cover (I know, I know), but even I have to admit that it's one of the best written books I've read.(less)
Another wonderful short story from Ted Chiang. I was hesitant to read it because it involves time travel and I hate reading things about time travel b...moreAnother wonderful short story from Ted Chiang. I was hesitant to read it because it involves time travel and I hate reading things about time travel because there's usually so many bad plot holes but I needn't have worried! Ted Chiang does it again -- a mind-bending short story about history, the future, the present, and life, all without being too preachy. Like his other short stories, this is life-changing.
What I really love about Ted Chiang's writing is that it's simple, yet effective. He's like the Ernest Hemingway of sci-fi!(less)
Radio Shangri-La was a quick, entertaining read but had some faults. The parts about the newly-emerging democracy was informative but boring and read...moreRadio Shangri-La was a quick, entertaining read but had some faults. The parts about the newly-emerging democracy was informative but boring and read like a newspaper article. I felt like the book didn't know what to be and oscillated between being a "finding yourself" novel and a memoir about an exotic country.
Despite its shortcomings, I would still recommend this to anyone who likes reading about foreign countries. I love reading about everyday, non-tourist life in countries like Bhutan.(less)
What a whimsical, fantastical read. I'm sad that I'm so late to the party with Diana Wynne Jones. Her books would have definitely been up t...more(4.5 stars)
What a whimsical, fantastical read. I'm sad that I'm so late to the party with Diana Wynne Jones. Her books would have definitely been up there with the BFG and Charlotte's Web as my favorite books as a child.
I watched the Studio Ghibli movie a few years ago but didn't remember much of it, so I came into this book with a relatively new set of eyes. The plot is a little darker than I would have thought a children's book should have, especially in the end and I could imagine even being scared of the Witch of the Waste if I were 10.(less)
I sped through the last quarter of this book not because I wanted to know what happened, but because the story was trash and I just wanted to get it o...moreI sped through the last quarter of this book not because I wanted to know what happened, but because the story was trash and I just wanted to get it over with. I guess it says something that I actually finished the book, but I'm not sure what.
Dust takes place on a giant multi-generation space ship that's stranded in space. In case you haven't been reading my reviews, don't ever ever go into space. Bad stuff ALWAYS happens in space. And the "bad stuff" in Dust is mostly the storytelling.
Heavy-handed religious symbolism? Check! (Self-aware computer programs called angels that are oh yeah, also named after angels)
Gratuitous sexualty? Check! (Why do programs have to kiss to transfer data again? If they're all so powerful, shouldn't they have wireless or something that doesn't require physical contact, devouring each other, sex, kissing, or any of this nonsense?)
Nonsensical world-building? Check! (I know it's sci-fi and all, but the emphasis in this book is *not* on science)
Undeveloped characters? Check! (The characters were so bland, I wasn't even bothered by the rampant incest going on because they were just cardboard cut-outs of real people)
I also got annoyed by the author's tone and writing at the end. It seemed like she fell too in love with her own words and couldn't bear to have an editor trim it down.
I'm not really sure why I forced myself to finish this. The characters were so mutated, so far from being human that it was hard to care about what happened to them. Even when the big reveal happened, I didn't care. The book reminds me of Neon Genesis Evangelion in the way that it did *not* make sense.(less)
Completing this book is like coming up from a dream. The layered storytelling is done really well here. What you see on the cover with the person in a...moreCompleting this book is like coming up from a dream. The layered storytelling is done really well here. What you see on the cover with the person in a wolfskin is the outer layer of the story. It's hard to describe the book without giving too much away. I guess I could say it's about demons and demon children and the sense of isolation they feel from the rest of society.
The world is so rich that even though I was fully invested in some of the character (Rachel and Djoss, for example), I still felt like I was missing a lot of the action in town. I suppose the other books in the series will fill in those holes. In addition to being a fully-realized world, it was also a very grimy, dirty, and smelly world.
I knocked off one star because the ending felt rushed. It wasn't a real ending, but the reveal was completely out of the blue. I kind of forgot what the real plot was because I was so entrenched inside another frame of the story.
The prose is beautiful, the tone is bleak. I can't wait for the next book.(less)
As gripping as ever. A lot of hot steamy scenes. This third book was more soap-opera drama than actual story even though the main conflict...more(3.5 stars)
As gripping as ever. A lot of hot steamy scenes. This third book was more soap-opera drama than actual story even though the main conflict in The Otherworld was very major. I'm glad it didn't end in a super cliff-hanger.
(view spoiler)[Eugenie's a strong character and does make her own choices, but it seems like she keeps getting deceived and led around by men she cares about. I'm not one to cheer infidelity, but I'm glad to see that in Mead's books, it's the women who are doing the cheating and not the ones being cheated on. Go us. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Flashman was picked as the February book for the NeoGAF bookclub. I thought I would like the adventures of Flashy based on the first few pages. Who wo...moreFlashman was picked as the February book for the NeoGAF bookclub. I thought I would like the adventures of Flashy based on the first few pages. Who wouldn't like a story that starts off with being expelled from Rugby school for drunkenness?
Unfortunately, after reading 1/3 of the book, I can't continue. Flashy is an unapologetic ass! I'm usually fine with antiheros, but this one takes it too far. Flashy's treatment of women is awful and while this could be the norm for his time and his class, it doesn't seem realistic that women would just throw themselves at his feet like that.
My main gripe with Flashman is not that he's a liar, a coward, a cheat, and misogynist. It's that he never gets his comeuppance. Things always seem to go for the worse, but then turn for the better for him. Considering this is only one book in a series of his exploits, my wish that he gets beaten to a pulp and dies will never come true.
My low opinion of the book isn't that it's written poorly. The prose is wonderful and I have to admit the first couple of mini-adventures gave me a chuckle or two, but I'm afraid the subject matter just isn't to my tastes. It reads more like male-fantasy. It reminds me of that asshole you always meet at parties who's always loudly bragging about his last lay.(less)
A little predictable in hindsight, but man what a great ride. A wonderfully moody, brooding, gothic tale of suspense and romance. The beginning remind...moreA little predictable in hindsight, but man what a great ride. A wonderfully moody, brooding, gothic tale of suspense and romance. The beginning reminded me a little of Casablanca for some reason and the last quarter reminded me of a twisted Jane Eyre. I was on the edge of my seat for pretty much the last 100 pages.(less)
This one definitely had a Bronte vibe to it. A little bit of Wuthering Heights, and a little bit of Jane Eyre. Very gothic and moorish. Unlike the oth...moreThis one definitely had a Bronte vibe to it. A little bit of Wuthering Heights, and a little bit of Jane Eyre. Very gothic and moorish. Unlike the other two books, I think the relationship between Julia and Brisbane is the main story here and the mystery is only secondary. At least, that's what it felt like while I was reading it.
I'm glad some of the tension that was established in the first book finally got resolved here. Even though the ending was predictable, it was still satisfying. I'm confused that there's a fourth book in the series, because if the series ended here, I think it would be a very neatly-tied-together trilogy. I did see some hints leading into the next book though, so I'm most likely going to read it anyway.(less)
Silent in the Sanctuary is much better paced than the previous Lady Julia Grey book. The story, a sort-of locked-room mystery, is engaging and has a l...moreSilent in the Sanctuary is much better paced than the previous Lady Julia Grey book. The story, a sort-of locked-room mystery, is engaging and has a lot of potential suspects that are equally as likely to be the murderer.
Brisbane isn't as annoying and jack-of-all-trades this time, so I'm finally warming up to him.
I read a spoiler in someone's review of the fourth book for the next book, but I thought it occurred in this book, so now I'm dying to read the next one too.(less)
When I was in first or second grade, one of my homework assignments was to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since the my previous goal...moreWhen I was in first or second grade, one of my homework assignments was to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since the my previous goal of being a police-person was shot down and laughed at, I had already been thinking on this subject for a lengthy (for a first grader) amount of time. I thought and I thought and finally, I got a great idea. I thought of something that would be fascinating to me a well as praise-worthy to my parents. When I let my parents read my essay entitled "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up," I thought they'd be thrilled and pat my head at having such high aspirations. To my surprise, their faces darkened and my mother turned to me and said, "No! You cannot be this!"
I had wanted to be an astronomer, but my English in first grade wasn't very good at all, so instead of 'astronomer' I wrote 'astrologer.' My parents had to look this word up in their Chinese-English dictionary. They asked me what I expected to do as an 'astrologer.' Still thinking I would be an astronomer, but having a vague, six-year-old understanding of the occupation, I said I would look at the stars and planets and tell people stuff. This, to their horrified minds was exactly what an astrologer of the "call me at 1800-PSYCHIC" kind did. So they forbade me from taking on this occupation and that's how my short-lived life as a future-astronomer ended.
Luckily, Mike Brown didn't have the same experience and not only is he a famous astronomer, but he's a pretty good story-teller too. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is a humorous look into the chaotic years surrounding the Pluto controversy -- whether it's a planet or not. Before reading the book, I still had an almost six-year-old level of understanding of what an astronomer did. I'm now properly awed at all that scientists have discovered from looking at the sky.
When I think of planets, I think of pretty pictures taken from outer-space devices of colorful round things. What I didn't realize was that a lot of what astronomers of Brown's kind do is look at tons of pictures, keeping an eye out for almost untraceable movements of things that look like stars from one picture to the next. It's amazing how much can be figured out using simple geometry and some not so simple math. I never really thought of it this way, but looking up at the sky and trying to find planets and other moving masses is kind of like an ant on the floor trying to figure out what that thing way up in the ceiling is. Except with way more distance.
How I killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is by no means an astronomy textbook, even an introductory one. But it is a pretty readable, layman's version of what an astronomer probably does in his day to day life. I appreciated the personal stories of his growing family that Brown weaved in between his astronomical discoveries, but I wasn't that interested in them at the end and really wanted to just read about the Pluto drama. I had no idea there were such heated feelings around whether Pluto should still be considered a planet or not.
Before reading the book, I never really questioned what exactly was a planet and even now I'm still a little hazy. But at least now, I feel a little more comfortable saying that no, Pluto is not a planet.(less)
Chances are, if you're Chinese American, or even Asian American, you've probably heard about the uproar Amy Chua's article in the Wall Street Journal...moreChances are, if you're Chinese American, or even Asian American, you've probably heard about the uproar Amy Chua's article in the Wall Street Journal caused. With an incendiary title like "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior", it's hard not to get all riled up. Unlike most people who just read the article, or skim it, choosing to form their opinions on what an editor left out, I decided to read Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother before commenting too much about it.
Although the newspaper article was written tongue in cheek (something a lot of people seemed to have gloss over), it left out some important elements that are present in the book. First, there's humor. The article was funny, especially to one who has been on the daughter's end of things, but the book is laugh-out-loud funny. Funny in the "oh god, this same thing happened to me" funny. Sure, it was frustrating and painful while my own mother did some of the things Chua writes about, but I have to laugh when I think back about how we pitted against each other back then.
Another thing missing in the article is her conclusion. If you've read the book, you'll know that Chua isn't saying that the Chinese way is superior. I don't want to get into spoilers, but there's a whole lot that the Wall Street Journal leaves unsaid and it's no use getting your panties in a rutt about it if you don't bother reading the entire book.
The book is a breeze to read through (or maybe it's because I have super-human reading speed thanks to my Chinese mother forcing me to read the dictionary 5x every night before going to bed?) and Chua captures the every day battles of raising two children in a warm, almost nostalgic way. While reading this book, I found myself rooting for every success the daughters earned through their hard work and practice. I also found myself laughing at some of the things Chua forced them to do. I only wish there was more about Jed, her husband, who seemed to be just on the sidelines but as she noted, that may be for another book.
Chua's story of setting an ideal of how to raise her children, the difficulties she faced from within her family as well as from living in a culturally different country made me think of my own mother and the fights that we had. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother should be necessary reading for anyone who has a Chinese mother.(less)