It's nice to go back and re-read the first HP book, because this is where Rowling's strengths as a writer really show through: her imagination and lin...moreIt's nice to go back and re-read the first HP book, because this is where Rowling's strengths as a writer really show through: her imagination and line by line prose. As the series goes on, it becomes more and more about Voldemort and the issues at hand, pushing the wizarding world to the background and forcing her to rely on what she is not best at, which is character development and pacing.
I think this is Rowling at her best. There's no debating that this woman has an imagination to kill for, and she renders the things she sees in her head extremely well on the page. I think this is due to the fact that she writes these outrageous and fascinating things as common, non-noteworthy occurrences in the wizard-world (which they essentially are), which only makes them more interesting to us muggles. Especially in this book, where she is catering mostly to a child/young adult audience, her writing style is perfect. With her approach, what would ordinarily be cause a reader irritation and an inability to maintain the suspension of disbelief becomes genuinely enjoyable. My example would be the Dursleys. Written for an older audience, the things those characters do and say are so extreme and unlikely that they would normally bring about frustration in the reader, but as she writes them, they are funny if not likeable, in a strange way.
It’s that very thing, however, that gets her into trouble when the series starts to mature. Already in this book you can see her weak spot: characterization. In a children’s book, it’s easier to get away with cookie cutter characters, which is what we have here. Everyone is a predictable extreme: Malfoy, Snape and the Dursleys are about as awful as they can get, and of them, only Snape has any redeeming qualities, which are mostly drowned out and forgotten in the books to come. Hermione’s book nerd qualities are also extreme, and her statements about studying for exams 10 weeks before they happen and her “light reading” textbooks are little more than a stereotype taken to its furthest limits. Harry is a stereotypical hero, in that he is the suffering boy who’s virtue and commitment to doing the right thing prevail every time. Dumbledore, Hagrid, even McGonagall are all cutouts from the stereotypes they represent. Don't get me wrong, they are well written and enjoyable, but so is tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold Han Solo.
At this point in the series, all of these things are acceptable, even enjoyable, because children’s stories often rely and thrive on extremes and stereotypes. But these things become very big problems if they do not evolve into other things as the books mature.
But again, this book’s primary success and focus is this strange new world of wizarding, and Rowling does a beautiful job with it.
The story of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the evil One Ring of Sauron, the minion of the great Morgoth. Tolkien's gift is his ability to cre...moreThe story of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the evil One Ring of Sauron, the minion of the great Morgoth. Tolkien's gift is his ability to create a world that is more fully realized than our own. The characters and at times the plot can be archaic and two-dimensional, but he uses words like a poet, describing the landscape and kingdoms fallen into dust with a magic that defies the written word. If you're looking for action you won't necessarily get it--the power is in the world. When reading Tolkien, you are fully aware that a pebble kicked off the path by a character will come to rest in a completely different story, just as complex as the one you are reading. It's an amazing thing, but not for those unwilling to put 110% of their brainpower into the read. (less)
Dan Brown is possibly the most incompetent writer I've ever read. His ideas are interesting, but the characters, writing, and plot are so unbearable t...moreDan Brown is possibly the most incompetent writer I've ever read. His ideas are interesting, but the characters, writing, and plot are so unbearable that I only finished it so I could effectively argue with other people why it was so bad, start to finish. (less)
A surprisingly gripping and fascinating story about our evolutionary ancestors. What it took as a writer to put together such a real, vivid picture of...moreA surprisingly gripping and fascinating story about our evolutionary ancestors. What it took as a writer to put together such a real, vivid picture of these people and the land they lived on so long ago I can't even imagine. This type of project and the ability to accomplish it seems beyond me, and therefore I have a deep appreciation for the work and skill that undoubtedly went into it. A definite read. (less)
Krakauer's engrossing account of the tragic story of Chris McCandless is an example of terrific writing, something I've come to expect from the author...moreKrakauer's engrossing account of the tragic story of Chris McCandless is an example of terrific writing, something I've come to expect from the author. Regardless of where you stand when judging McCandless's actions, there is no denying the deep empathy the author feels with this young boy he never met. A couple of times this gets in the way of the narrative he is trying to tell, but on the whole it adds a very intriguing layer to an already intriguing story. Krakauer probably comes as close as it is possible to come to inhabiting the psyche of someone who is as enigmatic and unknown as McCandless.
I really enjoy books that inspire discussion, something this book definitely does. Most people when hearing the basic facts of McCandless's life and death are likely to scoff and consider him an inconsiderate fool, among other things. The challenge that Krakauer has is to present him not only in a sympathetic light, which he does extremely well, but also to challenge you to reconsider your preconceived notions. Almost as much as I was interested in the compelling, ill-fated story of this youth, I was very interested to see if Krakauer succeeded in this task. In fact for most of the book, I was fairly certain he would not, as while I did feel sympathy for McCandless I still was not inclined to change my mind. But by the end of the book, I was very pleasantly surprised and felt that Krakauer did in fact achieve that goal, despite his freely admitted bias.
It's a quick read, but one that grips you, and will likely hang around in the back of your thoughts for quite a while after you read it. Very much worth the read. (less)
This, along with Where the Red Fern Grows, probably impacted me the most growing up. The really good books, regardless of genre or audience, make such...moreThis, along with Where the Red Fern Grows, probably impacted me the most growing up. The really good books, regardless of genre or audience, make such an imprint on you that you can recall certain lines or moments with perfect clarity. This books so perfectly renders its characters, settings, and imagination of these two characters that it simply takes your breath away. As I recall, her prose is not flowery and ornate, but as plain and simple as Jess, and as life-changing as Leslie. It's the classic coming of age story, but whatever conventions it might rely on are washed away by the story she crafts around them. For anyone who knows what it's like not to fit in, and for everyone who doesn't, you need to read this book, or at the very least, make your children read it. (less)
This book tackles the Utopian society shockingly well, especially to the YA audience (though I wouldn't restrict its audience to that category). It ad...moreThis book tackles the Utopian society shockingly well, especially to the YA audience (though I wouldn't restrict its audience to that category). It addresses uncomfortable questions such as what it might cost us, and how far we are willing to go and what we are willing to ignore or overlook to maintain it.
It's also rendered in a very interesting way. I still remember a scene in which the main character is looking at an apple (I think), and notes all the sudden that it changes. Not shape, not size, but something about it changes, and it's only later that he realizes he was seeing it in color for the first time. Moments like that make this book one that sticks with you for a long, long time. Especially if you read it at that precious, impressionable age. =)(less)
I actually agree with the title. The title is the only reason I picked it up, and I adored every word. This stream-of-consciousness style memoir is ve...moreI actually agree with the title. The title is the only reason I picked it up, and I adored every word. This stream-of-consciousness style memoir is very engaging, and the author’s voice is fresh and unique. Granted, I don’t think others who have read it loved it as much as I did, but anyone who can write about cancer in such a way that it has a real emotional impact, and not the distant, melodramatic disconnect that you usually experience (let’s face it: something as universally devastating as cancer is nearly impossible to write about in a truly meaningful way), is someone to pay attention to. This book is hilarious, devastating, effective, and deserving of its daring title. (less)
The classic example of culpability vs. melodrama. Good writing will implicate the main character rather than make him a victim of his environment, and...moreThe classic example of culpability vs. melodrama. Good writing will implicate the main character rather than make him a victim of his environment, and when this concept gets discussed this book invariably comes up. (less)
Billie Letts definitely qualifies as a feel good writer. This is a fast read, enjoyable, though its strength lies much more in the characters than the...moreBillie Letts definitely qualifies as a feel good writer. This is a fast read, enjoyable, though its strength lies much more in the characters than the story itself. She creates vivid characters who paint a very charming, quirky picture of life in small town Oklahoma. They appear to be stronger than the plot, which is relatively predictable and optimistic, but I don't think this hurts a book that does not really pretend to be something more than it is.
The subplot with Willy Jack adds additional depth and a slightly different perspective that I welcomed, and Novalee is an interesting narrator to spend time with. All in all, it's a pleasant read when your heart needs a little pick-me-up.(less)
It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mistry weaves an intricate tale, in which nothing happens tha...moreIt took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mistry weaves an intricate tale, in which nothing happens that does not have some future consequence, be it good or bad. Through the process we are introduced to a world that is far crueler than the one we inhabit and a people that are far more resilient. The ending was far from what I expected but just perfect for the novel, one that surprises a little but forces you to think about where you find happiness in a way that feels far more significant than melodramatic.
Pardon any typos or awkward sentences in this review. My cat decided she needed to be cuddled Right Now, so I am typing this one handed! (less)
I read this book because a character in my book is a linguist, and to write him more effectively I felt I needed to know more about how language worke...moreI read this book because a character in my book is a linguist, and to write him more effectively I felt I needed to know more about how language worked, rather than just how to throw words at a page (and also because I want to be JRR Tolkien). This book was extremely readable for the average joe, not only understandable but interesting and funny. Probably not wise to take his word as gospel, but as far as a crach course in language itself, this book was awesome. (less)
Right off this book did two things I really hate, and I still thought it was brilliant. Not using quotation marks and keeping characters and places an...moreRight off this book did two things I really hate, and I still thought it was brilliant. Not using quotation marks and keeping characters and places anonymous is usually a sign to me of SnobLit, and often doesn't work as it removes the reader so forcibly from the story it's very hard to find a connection. This novel is the exception, and speaks to McCarthy's talent as despite the distance the prose mantains between you and the two main characters, you feel so deeply involved that it's hard to extricate yourself at the end. As a result it's hard on the emotions and will linger with you for days in ways you might not want it to, but those are the signs of teriffic writing.
Besides, a few days of feeling extra blessed for what you have isn't that bad of a thing. (less)
This book was tremendous, a real delight to read. Her prose is beautiful and the characters are extremely vivid with an astonishing degree of depth. I...moreThis book was tremendous, a real delight to read. Her prose is beautiful and the characters are extremely vivid with an astonishing degree of depth. I'm extremely impressed with her ability to write each of the female characters in first person with extremely distinctive voices. Combined with the painstaking detail of the Congo, the results are spellbinding.
I do think the book goes on too long after the climax; following the girls as they grow up in their seperate worlds rapidly becomes far less interesting than the gradual buildup to the terrible moment foreshadowed from the start. While the progression is necessary and important, the amount of narrative devoted to it simply doesn't hold the reader's attention as well.
That small flaw aside, this is a book that everyone who is a lover of books should read, regardless of genre or preference. This is writing at its best. (less)