I liked The Eyre Affair better than the books I've read in Fforde's Nursery Crime series because it treats some serious themes as well as silly ones....moreI liked The Eyre Affair better than the books I've read in Fforde's Nursery Crime series because it treats some serious themes as well as silly ones. (In the Nursery Crime books, the humor is predominant.) The seriousness comes from the alternate history world, which I found very imaginative. I also loved the inventions. Several of the characters had depth. The time travel bits were quite interesting. The villain was very annoying (partly because I didn't like how the narrator read him).
To sum up, a lot of very good bits that don't quite make a cohesive whole.
I'm a big fan of Jane Eyre and I thought the treatment of its characters fell flat. Also there were long sections describing the plot, for the sake of readers who might not remember it, which I found tedious. I wish there were a version of this book just for people who know Jane Eyre well.(less)
Twelve journalistic essays, all originally published in The New Yorker and its ilk. My favorites are "The Chameleon," about serial imposter Frédéric B...moreTwelve journalistic essays, all originally published in The New Yorker and its ilk. My favorites are "The Chameleon," about serial imposter Frédéric Bourdin, and "City of Water," about the construction of a giant water tunnel under New York City. "Trial by Fire," about a man apparently wrongly executed for arson, was meticulously researched and very disturbing. Other stories feature quirky criminals, obsessed people, psychopaths, and organized crime. (less)
Not one of my favorite Wimsey books. I did like the law geekery. I loved Miss Climpson. But I found Wimsey's cavalier behavior annoying rather than en...moreNot one of my favorite Wimsey books. I did like the law geekery. I loved Miss Climpson. But I found Wimsey's cavalier behavior annoying rather than enjoyable, and too much of the plot proceeded by means of stupidity on the part of people who are usually smarter than that. I didn't find the character of the murderer plausible. Also the supposed murder technique wouldn't actually work, at least not as reliably as it does in the book.
There's some racism in this book -- nothing that wasn't usual for the time it was written, I'm sure, but it might bother some people.(less)
The Eye of Jade is a cross between a detective story and a family story.
Although the novel is marketed as a detective story, it doesn't have many of...moreThe Eye of Jade is a cross between a detective story and a family story.
Although the novel is marketed as a detective story, it doesn't have many of the tropes of a detective story. The investigation is mainly a way into telling the story of a particular family.
Things I liked about this book:
The narrator pronounces Chinese words and phrases with what sounds like an authentic accent. (Note that I don't know enough about the various languages in China to be any kind of expert on this. I just know the accent sounds like what I hear in Chinese restaurants...)
Strong sense of place. Settings are vividly detailed. Westerners will be able to understand various customs and food even if they are unfamiliar with Chinese culture, but the author never talks down to her audience.
Occasional bursts of poetry: "The sun had exploded into a thousand pieces of white light."
I felt like I was learning something about modern urban China (Beijing), about its recent history (beginning with the Cultural Revolution) and about the activities, beliefs, and values of different classes of people who live and work there.
The characters have clearly drawn motives for the most part. There aren't any characters who are evil for no reason.
In a story with a female P.I. I always worry there will be gratuitous violence and rape. There wasn't any of that.
There are some beginning-novelist mistakes. Some information and secrets are revealed in infodumps. This information could have been worked into the story more skillfully. (less)
Solid debut novel, capably narrated by Joe Barrett. Chercover captures the noir genre and updates it for the 21st century by leaving behind the distra...moreSolid debut novel, capably narrated by Joe Barrett. Chercover captures the noir genre and updates it for the 21st century by leaving behind the distracting sexism, racism, and homophobia of some of the original noir writers. Don't worry, you still get a full dose of weapons, skulduggery, stakeouts, conspiracies, violence, and torture. Most of the characters are well drawn and have realistic relationships with each other. Chercover's P.I. is based in Chicago and occasionally recommends his favorite local restaurants and bars (tourists take note :-)
"Mean Streets" is not a good description of what the stories are about; "paranormal suspense" is.
I liked this better than I thought I would. All of th...more"Mean Streets" is not a good description of what the stories are about; "paranormal suspense" is.
I liked this better than I thought I would. All of the writers do a good job of telling a story, and the stories go together well without being carbon copies of each other.
I thought Butcher's and Richardson's stories were less well written and less well narrated than Green's and Sniegoski's stories. I really didn't like the Mexican accent that Richardson's narrator tried to pull off, for example.
I had not read anything by Green or Sniegoski before. I'll definitely be seeking out more Sniegoski. Green's story and narrator are fun in a hyperbolic way, but I think I could get sick of it pretty easily. Sniegoski story is epic and elegant and the narration matched superbly.(less)
Fun paranormal noir mystery set in Chicago during the Depression. None of the characters is particularly original -- down on his luck reporter, privat...moreFun paranormal noir mystery set in Chicago during the Depression. None of the characters is particularly original -- down on his luck reporter, private investigator, crime lords and thugs of various descriptions, femme fatale -- but the author combines them in creative ways.
The narration style is deadpan, which works OK for the protagonist's voice, but doesn't work very well for some of the other characters' voices, especially the PI, who is supposed to have an English accent and, well, doesn't.(less)
Narrated in a pretty deadpan style by Elliott Gould. I would have preferred a narration that did a better job of distinguishing the characters' voices...moreNarrated in a pretty deadpan style by Elliott Gould. I would have preferred a narration that did a better job of distinguishing the characters' voices, but it worked OK.
It's racist (which I found especially off-putting at the beginning of the book) and sexist (which I expect from early hard-boiled-PI novels).
And the language is so, so beautiful. And most of the characters are smart, and clearly drawn, and their motivations make sense. And Chandler requires you to draw inferences and work at figuring out what's going on. I sometimes listen to audio books while doing other things, but I wasn't able to do that with this book because it's so information-dense.(less)
**spoiler alert** The audiobook is well narrated by Glen McCready.
Bangkok Haunts is a mystery/police novel set in Thailand. It's part of a series fea...more**spoiler alert** The audiobook is well narrated by Glen McCready.
Bangkok Haunts is a mystery/police novel set in Thailand. It's part of a series featuring a Buddhist detective who is half farang (white Westerner) and half Thai. The series is written by a white Englishman who spent a long time in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
The detective narrates the book and addresses the reader as "farang," which gives him the excuse to deliver big expository lumps about Thai culture. A very big deal is made throughout the book about the ineffable differences between Western culture and Eastern/Thai culture. I know very little about Thailand so I have no idea whether the picture painted about the culture is accurate. Based on the picture painted of Western culture, it seems plausible but stereotyped/exaggerated.
I enjoyed this book and might read more of this series, but I would consider it a guilty pleasure, because this book includes such offensive stereotypes as:
"Revengeful suicidal prostitute who is so good at what she does that she makes every man she touches fall in love with her"
"Kathoey (transsexual) cop with a heart of gold"
"Homicidal Buddhist monk with multiple personalities"
"Pregnant wife who does nothing but stay home and cook"
Along with such stupid stereotypes as:
"Multiple rich powerful men fighting over prostitute"
"Rich powerful Thai banker politely and indirectly negotiating with police chief about how much the police chief is going to blackmail him for"(less)
My friend Piglet said that the Jack Reacher series is "like a feminist James Bond" and that's a pretty good description, although Bond is more upscale...moreMy friend Piglet said that the Jack Reacher series is "like a feminist James Bond" and that's a pretty good description, although Bond is more upscale and camp, based on this novel. This is the first of the Reacher series I've read, and I'll be reading more. I liked this especially because it emphasized a team approach to solving a crime, rather than being all about the Lone Hero(tm), and because most of the characters are smart and competent (I dislike thrillers where the plot is driven by stupidity), and because Child takes a geeky delight in details, and the details actually make sense.(less)
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, Jay Snyder, and Victor Bevine. All the narration was competent-t...moreI listened to the audiobook narrated by Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, Jay Snyder, and Victor Bevine. All the narration was competent-to-good, except for Allyson Johnson, whose narration annoyed me.
I have one major beef with this book, which is that the ending doesn't really wrap up the story. (Apparently the sequel, Fall of Hyperion, provides a proper ending.)
Hyperion is a set of six tales wrapped in a larger plotline about seven pilgrims making a journey. Toward the end of the book all the stories start to converge into one complex story. That's what's best about the book, in my opinion.
In this book and the other one I've read (Children of the Night), Dan Simmons does a really good job of creating "cranky, cynical old men" characters. This book has six major such characters and a few secondary ones, and they are all very distinctive. Simmons does less well at creating female characters. This book has one female character who has her own narrative, but her personality and motives don't feel as distinctive to me as those of the male characters, and neither do the personalities of the secondary female characters.
Simmons is well-read in literature and mythology and he does a good job of integrating this knowledge into the book.
Simmons's writing makes use of horror tropes designed to evoke strong emotional reactions. Those tropes don't work particularly well for me for some reason.
I also think Simmons sometimes doesn't do a very good job writing about romantic relationships. (He does better writing about primarily sexual relationships.) Sometimes the characters' motives for getting involved or staying involved aren't clear; in this book, I especially felt that way about the tale with a female protagonist.(less)
The Investigation is beautifully written, even in translation. Scenes are described with a clarity that I can almost touch. Lighting is especially des...moreThe Investigation is beautifully written, even in translation. Scenes are described with a clarity that I can almost touch. Lighting is especially described vividly.
I put this on my detective/mystery shelf, because those are the genre tropes Lem is playing in, but it's not really a genre book. Specifically, many people read detective/mystery because they like that the mystery is solved in a tidy package at the end, and that doesn't happen here. It's more of a commentary on the human condition, especially the conditions of emotional isolation, uncertainty, and inability to connect/communicate with other people.
It took me forever to read this book because I figured out early on that the resolution that makes me enjoy a genre book wasn't going to be there.
So I only gave the book 3 stars because I didn't enjoy it that much, but as a work of literature it probably deserves 4 stars at least.
It's been a long time since I read Stanisław Lem's other famous book, Solaris, but my impression is that Lem's themes worked better for me in that book, because I am used to those themes being played with in the science fiction genre.(less)