Hey, I'm a smug 21st century reader! The bends are bad; Antarctica is a continent; coal doesn't come from volcanoes; submarines are not silent.
The end...moreHey, I'm a smug 21st century reader! The bends are bad; Antarctica is a continent; coal doesn't come from volcanoes; submarines are not silent.
The ending (like a few other episodes) was fabulously entertaining. However, there is repetitious drudgery that the reader has to get through to find those gems. Lists and catalogs of submarine flora, fauna, and minutia. Yes, they lend credibility to the scientist-protagonist's story, but they are just boring.
Also in its favor, Captain Nemo is gloriously complex - crying over dead shipmen, but murdering others in revenge; forbidding the killing of one whale then massacring a whole pod of another type. Fantastic!
Despite the rampant sexism and racism, this was a lot of fun! (I feel more than a little dirty for admitting that, btw.) But why oh why oh why did the...moreDespite the rampant sexism and racism, this was a lot of fun! (I feel more than a little dirty for admitting that, btw.) But why oh why oh why did the publishers agree to include "Allan and the Sundered Veil?" A collection of vomited adjectives, I couldn't bring myself to read more than a couple of pages of that tripe. What a shame that it tarnishes the rest of the book.(less)
I really enjoyed this exploration into our human body and how it reveals pieces of our evolutionary ancestors.
You certainly don't need a science degre...moreI really enjoyed this exploration into our human body and how it reveals pieces of our evolutionary ancestors.
You certainly don't need a science degree or much of a biology background at all to follow the steps from gills to ears or larynx. I would have appreciated more detail and a little less hand waving, but that's my inner scientist showing through.
He had a very detailed bibliography, with not just titles he drew on and others to explore, but commentary on why they might be useful. I love a scientist that's not afraid to give credit where it's due.
I still wish I could breathe underwater, though. glub glub.(less)
Normally I get really, really pissed off when previous "patrons" (a.k.a. selfish scumbags) have marked up my library books. Disrespect to the book, di...more Normally I get really, really pissed off when previous "patrons" (a.k.a. selfish scumbags) have marked up my library books. Disrespect to the book, disrespect to the future readers. It sucks. In this case, the marks ended up being quite interesting. Someone went through and circled every instance of "innocent" and variations thereof. Which is sort of the whole point of the story.
Set in the middle of the First Indochina War, also known as the Franco-Vietnamese War, a dispassionate British journalist (Fowler) meets a young, eager American diplomat (Pyle). A young Vietnamese woman comes between the two men, even as they meet and re-meet on the front lines of the war and back in the city. Fowler takes a very dim view of any foreign group interfering in the country's affairs. Pyle believes that a "third-party" should rule Vietnam instead of the French or the Vietnamese themselves.
I guess it's not surprising that even though the book was written between 1952 and 1955, Greene foreshadows the US involvement in the Vietnam War. In fact, the book can be read as having a strong anti-US sentiment. Greene himself spent three years in Saigon as a correspondent for The Times - just like Alden Fowler. In my opinion, his warnings of the naivete of foreign government's involvement in overthrowing regimes seem prophetic.
Back to my University's library book - this copy was a 1957 printing. I loved looking at all the due date stamps from the early 60s and 70s, and couldn't help but wonder what college students during the early Cold War and Vietnam War thought of this book. If only GR had existed back then!
This is both a story of war and espionage, and a love-triangle between three very different people. I think I was quite surprised that it was much more of the latter love story/triangle/struggle than the war time murder mystery. It threw me off guard when we would spend pages inside Fowler's apartment, watching his lover prepare him opium pipe after opium pipe. Somehow the short book has a languorous pacing, and yet lots of action and intrigue happens. Which I can only attribute to Greene's amazing writing.
My favorite sentence from the whole book needs a bit of set-up. (Don't worry, it's not spoiler-y.) As a part of his journalist duties, Fowler goes on a ride-along in a small bomber plane. After a days worth of repeated bombing runs, the pilot suggest to Fowler that they fly westward for a while to enjoy the sunset, over the Vietnamese countryside. "The helmeted Martian face looked wistfully out, down the golden groves, among the great humps and arches of porous stone, and the wound of murder ceased to bleed."
After I finished the book, I watched the 2002 movie - the second adaptation from the book - starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser. (Thanks Netflix streaming for the instant gratification!) If you're curious, the movie holds very close to the story line, with some minor differences that I assume were changed to affect the pacing of storytelling in a different medium. My husband, who hadn't read the book, really enjoyed the film, despite the Encino Man having a leading role. ;)(less)
If you want some spaceships, wormholes, planetary conflicts, plasma guns, shenanigans and mercenaries,...moreFun! Just good, unadulterated, space-faring fun.
If you want some spaceships, wormholes, planetary conflicts, plasma guns, shenanigans and mercenaries, then this is totally for you! It's one of those books that I could just escape into - entertainment to avoid the world. But when I wasn't reading the book, I wasn't thinking about it at all. The writing is simple and straightforward.
Although this is the 3rd book in a long series, it more or less stands on its own. However, there are many allusions to the pre-history and other happenings in the universe, I can't help but wonder if they are just a set-up for the rest of the series, or if I'm missing out on some information from the first two books? There were a few moments that felt like they were supposed to be "Da-da" reveals, that were lost on me.
So, here's the awesome thing: Baen offers this book as a free (and DRM-free) ebook download, so thank you muchly to Baen and their awesome services. (less)
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemi...moreO Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!
This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.
Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?
I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book!
--------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk:
* probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.(less)
33 years 855 pages (not including index) 9 presidents 12 states admitted to the Union 13.58 million people added to US 1563 references to slave/s 173 refere...more33 years 855 pages (not including index) 9 presidents 12 states admitted to the Union 13.58 million people added to US 1563 references to slave/s 173 references to Mormon/s/ism 30,000 soldiers killed in the Mexican-American War (approx.) 1 month of reading 20 chapters 1 preface 1 afterword 200+ footnotes (approximately) 19 glorious maps
This is one huge historical review article about a period in U.S. history I knew little about.
I sadly have to downgrade this a star after my initial assessment. I talked it over with friends who are also reading this, and I think Howe gets overly repetitious in parts. My theory: he mentions in the footnotes that he reuses parts from his own previously published articles. Perhaps after the cut & paste, add in some more text, he wasn't as good at seeing those repetitions? I'm being kind of harsh, I guess. It wasn't that bad. But to ask a reader to slog through 900-ish pages, terseness is a virtue.(less)
I've spent a few days hoping that my thoughts and feelings about Dune will solidify into one coherent and brilliant essay. There's a lot going on in t...more I've spent a few days hoping that my thoughts and feelings about Dune will solidify into one coherent and brilliant essay. There's a lot going on in the book, and there's been a lot going on in my life, so coherency might not be forthcoming.
Dune is intricate, at times confusing, allegorical and meticulously researched story. Even though I didn't fall in love with the characters, I fell in love with the book. It's easy to see how Dune is a classic, often imitated.
I loved this book, but at least one of my GR friends who I greatly respect hated this book. Which is fine, because, hey, we all have different tastes. (And thank Odin we've got diverse authors and genres for all types!) But I couldn't help ponder which attributes might make Dune so disliked. Sure, it's long, it's complicated, and has a pretty big cast of characters. And despite the Reverend Mothers and their power, the book has that overall masculine appeal - testosterone in overdrive. I don't mind that, but I can see how it could bother some readers.
But I think there might be other factors that would cause people to not just dislike, but really hate Dune. My hypothesis, (which I admit is most likely completely wrong, but I'll put it out there anyhow): Dune will only be loved by hard-core science fiction fans. I don't mean this in any derogatory way, since science fiction doesn't and can't appeal to all tastes. And that's quite all right by me.
A year ago, Jo Walton wrote about a concept that she attributes to Samuel R. Delany, specifically from his book The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction. The thesis is that science-fiction has it's own language and protocols. From Walton's essay: "He then went on to say that one of the ways of approaching SF is to look at the way people read it—that those of us who read it have built up a set of skills for reading SF which let us enjoy it, where people who don’t have this approach to reading are left confused."
For SF fans, it's fun to read a story and not fully understand the language, the technology, the aliens, or what have you. And Dune is extremely challenging in this regard. The desert dwellers, the Fremen, have a culture that can be shocking and overly practical to us Earth-dwellers. There is a whole language and terminology invented, complete with a glossary included with the book. Herbert drops facts about a pre-history into the readers lap as if the reader already has knowledge of those events. It's a challenge to read, and not all readers would find those challenges "fun."
Other fun things in Dune: Huge sandworms! Blue eyeballs! "Do as she says, you wormfaced, crawling, sand-brained piece of lizard turd!" Prophesies! Water-reclamation technologies!
OK, now that I've thoroughly pissed off my non-sci-fi-loving friends, let's totally shift gears here. In my 40th Anniversary Edition, there is a afterword written by Frank Herbert's son, Brian Herbert, who has written many of the Dune sequels. Here's a few of the more fascinating revelations in his essay: * "When he was a boy, eight of [Frank Herbert's] Irish Catholic aunts tried to force Catholocism on him, but he resisted. Instead, this became the genesis of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood." * Herbert researched over a 4-year period, 1957-1961, then wrote the book between 1961-1965. The book was rejected by all the major publishing houses, but was finally picked up by Chilton, the publisher of all those car-repair manuals. * Sometimes Herbert would write passages first in poetry, before he expanded and converted them to prose. * Herbert took some inspiration of the Paul Maud'dib character from Lawrence of Arabia - the outsider who helped lead a desert revolt in Turkey in WWI.(less)
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely re...moreA Review in Three Parts:
I. The Analytical Analysis
II. The Review
Here's the thing that surprised me the most about War & Peace: it's extremely readable. It's not filled with difficult or outdated language. (At least in the P&V translation.) It doesn't have long, hard to parse sentences. The action and dialogue is fairly straight-forward. The characters become easy to follow. If you are freaked out by War & Peace because you think it's hard, it's not. Although you will have to power though the utterly dull and overly-populated intro party scene. Gah.
However, War & Peace is filled with endless diversions, especially history primers and theological discussions of death and minutia of battles. Tolstoy goes off on tangents, and it can take a while to get back to the story. I know some people love those tangents - I didn't. Tolstoy failed to reel me in, and make me care about the logistics of war, or his philosophies of physics in the social sciences.
One quick note on the P&V translation - they left in the original French and German with translations in footnotes/endnotes. I found their annotation style to be clunky at best. In retrospect, I would have chosen the Briggs translation, even though it's not available in ebook format.
What's sad is that for the first half of the book, I read slowly, deliberately, and researched stuff outside of the book. I wanted War & Peace to be a rich experience. I was reading this with quite a few people in a group, and thought I could really appreciate why people call this The Great Novel Evar! But after 650-odd pages and 6 weeks, I still wasn't engaged with the characters, the story, or the history. So I started to read faster just to get through it.
I'm not saying it's a horrible book, though. The characters are well defined, and they grow and change over the years of war, struggle and collective bourgeoisie. Quite a few people in the group read-along fell in love with some of the major protagonists. Certainly for me the "home-front" story was more compelling than any other aspect of the story.
Here's one way I can tell whether a book is rising above an average read for me. Do I think about the characters, the story, or the issues outside of reading the book? For War & Peace, except for our group discussions, this was a resounding No. Discussions of ladies' facial hair was the most thrilling aspect.
I had a hard time getting War & Peace to rise about a "meh" for me, even considering it's proper historical literary provenance.
III. Some Russian* Things I Learned
*Not all of these things are Russian. But they are in War & Peace.(less)
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile finding...moreOctober 1, 2011, Big Read selection.
For any of you who have yet to read The Count of Monte Cristo, I wanted to point out that it's worthwhile finding the Buss translation. Two reasons:
1) There have not been many (any?) modern translations, and the older (read: free) translations are bowlderized. There is infanticide, lesbianism, suicides, transvestism, drug-fueled dreams and more. Don't deny yourself that kind of fun.
2) Since most of the translations are old, the word from Buss and from smart friends who know (and speak French) is that the typical English translation sounds way more antiquated than the original French does to a French speaker. This was and is a popular novel, so go for the modern translation that tries to keep that mood intact.
I loved reading that within 3 years of the first publication, there was already a parody, Le Comte de Monte-Fiasco. Personally, I kept referring to it either as The Sandwich Book, or Moldy Crisco.(less)
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I r...moreJuly 1, 2011 Big Read selection.
5-stars for the first third, 3-stars for the middle section, then 4-stars for the end bits. In all, a 4-star read. I really liked the writing in particular. Helen is a fantastic, interesting character, and despite my 3-stars for the middle section, I loved seeing her grow and change into the woman she becomes.
I'm still trying to figure out why in a culture where visiting with friends, staying at their houses for long periods of time was normal, those same friends wouldn't travel the distance to attend weddings?(less)
A story of family and friends coming to grips with who they are and redefining their lives in the process.
These have to be some of the most real, vivi...moreA story of family and friends coming to grips with who they are and redefining their lives in the process.
These have to be some of the most real, vivid characters I've ever encountered in a novel. Really incredible. So why didn't I give the book 5-stars? I just wasn't compelled or all that interested in the story until about 2/3 of the way through the book.
If you love great, interesting, complex and evolving characters, this is the book for you. If you need a bit more plot, maybe not.
I also wonder if some of my inability to latch-on to the story was that it was set in Manhattan? I've always found the ways of New York life to be foreign, and I never quite 'get' it.
I really loved how the book captured the mid-eighties, like a little time-capsule. There were quite a few pop-culture references, which was nostalgic. I was also fascinated by the discussions of AIDS and how it was impacting the gay community in those early days.(less)
I feel so guilty giving this book 2-stars. If I were a bookseller or a librarian or someone who is suggesting books to other folks, it would easily be...moreI feel so guilty giving this book 2-stars. If I were a bookseller or a librarian or someone who is suggesting books to other folks, it would easily be a 4-star recommendation for people who love fantasy, mythology and strong female storylines. But this is Goodreads, and my ratings are reviews are mostly for me and my handful of friends here.
I just didn't connect with the protagonist, Yaine, nor her predicament. I really can't pin down exactly why this was even though I've been mulling it over for a while. She didn't feel real. Her predicaments felt detached, even though 'on paper' she wasn't. I get that there are in-world explanations why those two things might be like this -- even so, it prevented me from connecting with her. Ultimately, I just didn't care much about her fate.
My reaction was so strong (if disconnect be strong?), that when the climax, big reveal, twist, whatever-you-want-to-call it happened, I closed the book with a sigh. It took a lot of energy just to finish the last 10%.
I feel so sad about this, because the book was otherwise well written! There are some fascinating, vivid scenes that are colorful and imaginative. There are really clever god characters who are dynamic and unpredictable. Trust me, my problems with the book are not the fault of the writing.
The best part of the book is the mythology that Jemisin sets up - these gods and demigods that fight and are enslaved. It's a fascinating premise - I loved that the dark chaotic god wasn't as evil as I was expecting and the benevolent skygod has some dark secrets. Nifty!
I read a short interview with the author who admitted that her favorite characters in the book are the various gods in descending order. And, oh yeah, Yeine. Perhaps I just felt the conflicting emotions of the author barreling through the text... her nifty mythology was like fun, loving children, but the protagonist was only a vehicle for the story.
There is one other possible explanation as to why I wasn't connecting to the story: I'm not a huge fantasy fan - just an occasional dabbler. Perhaps I just don't possess the fantasy reader's toolkit necessary to parse and resolve the story line? Maybe I'm just not as forgiving or accepting of throw-away explanations when there is magic involved. Sometimes it's a little too deux-ex-machina for me, and I find it frustrating. The system of magic in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms wasn't fully clear - it took a long time with tiny hints to understand what was going on. What's key is that not everyone can wield the magic. Anyhow, it's highly probable that my disconnect is my own failing as a relatively inexperienced fantasy reader.
Whatever the reason, it just wasn't my thing. But it might well be your thing! Like I said, I'd heartily recommend it to fans who like strong female characters, epic fantasy, and new mythologies.(less)