The Magicians focuses on Quentin Coldwater: an extremely brilliant young man who is depressed and disillusioned with the world, and desperately wants...moreThe Magicians focuses on Quentin Coldwater: an extremely brilliant young man who is depressed and disillusioned with the world, and desperately wants to visit Fillory, the magical world portrayed in his favorite book series. Then he finds out that magic is real, and he is able to attend the foremost magical college in the United States. There he meets others who are like him--intensely intelligent, but always longing for something more.
Grossman takes the traditions set out by such children's books as The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter, and treats them as if they were real--populated by real people with real problems. Grossman's characters are young adults in college, where they experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex, buoyed by their own specialness at being magicians. There's plenty of darkness at work in this book, and much of the conflict is the result of the characters' poor choices, selfishness, and pride.
Grossman has written very real, very flawed characters. Perhaps most flawed of all is the main character, Quentin. He repeatedly makes bad decisions and is incredibly pompous. He's so brilliant that the world bores him, and he looks in all the wrong places for meaning. The other characters can act equally terribly, but it's a testament to Grossman's writing that they're still compelling, and that I didn't end up utterly hating them. Still, some of the relationships grew a bit too incestuous for my personal taste toward the end of the book.
As for the plot, it was disjointed at times, but that added to the element of surprise. The details are delightfully fleshed out, and the worlds that Grossman builds are very tangible. I never knew what would come next, and it was refreshing to encounter a book that could so constantly keep me on my toes.
I did listen to the audiobook, and highly recommend it. Mark Bramhall did an incredible job narrating, breathing additional life into each of the characters, and reading with the snarkiness that the narrative so needed to really take off.
I got frustrated at the characters in this book, but I could not put it down. The language employed is hypnotic, and I constantly wanted more. Happily, the sequel has just come out, so I eagerly look forward to getting going on The Magician King.(less)
This is the story of a young girl named September, who when tired of her dull life in Omaha, is taken away on an adventure to Fairyland by the Green W...moreThis is the story of a young girl named September, who when tired of her dull life in Omaha, is taken away on an adventure to Fairyland by the Green Wind. There she meets a host of characters, from her beloved Wyverary (a Wyvern whose father was a Library), to a plucky lamp, to a trio of witches, and the wicked Marquess who rules the land. The purpose of her quest shifts as she goes along, but the real purpose is to have a great adventure in Fairyland, and to bring back happiness to the place.
It took a little while, but I grew to really enjoy and appreciate this story. I was torn about whether this is a book I could hand to my 9-year-old sister. On one hand, it’s very fun and imaginative, but on the other hand, there are a lot of really big words. I think an enterprising child could still read it and get the gist, but you may want to provide a dictionary to go along with the book.
The writing was a bit self-aware at times, as if Valente were entirely cognizant of how clever her audience must perceive this story to be, and acknowledges that fact. There are also some episodes and statements that are pretty clearly meant for an adult reader (maybe one who is reading this to a child as a bedtime story!) For example, we encounter death, who complains that people always seem to want to play chess with her, a reference to the Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal. This helps in its appeal to an adult audience as well as children.
Even though I listened to the audiobook, I am waiting to get a copy from the library just so that I can see the illustrations. I also had mixed feelings about the audiobook. Valente narrates it herself, and she doesn’t make a huge effort to do voices, or even to put much liveliness into the narration. Instead, it felt a bit like when my parents would read me a bedtime story. It’s pleasant in its own way, but I would love to re-listen to the book with somebody like Jim Dale narrating, and adding his own magical talent to the production.
Overall, this is a really compelling tale that operates along the same lines as books like Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Dorothy and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a quiet complexity to the storytelling, and the end with leave you smiling with nostalgia(less)
Thomas awakens in a box, sent by people he doesn’t know to a strange place full of boys. Nearly all of his memories are gone, and he learns that the s...moreThomas awakens in a box, sent by people he doesn’t know to a strange place full of boys. Nearly all of his memories are gone, and he learns that the same was the case for each boy that was sent there. He finds that his new home is a large expanse of space called “The Glade,” and that each day boys in The Glade go through doors into “The Maze” in the hopes that they can solve The Maze and finally go home. Nobody knows why they are there, or what any of it means, but day after day they face monsters and danger to try to solve The Maze. Then the first girl shows up, and indicates that everything their lives are is about to come to an end.
The Maze Runner is a book about what happens when a group of boys, all wiped clean of memories to become blank slates, are put together in dire and manufactured scenarios. The boys portray the entire range of human reactions, from hope to cruelty, as they work to make sense of their world. The story is told through the eyes of Thomas, and we only learn things as Thomas learns them.
I listened to the audiobook recording of this novel, and think that maybe I would have been better off reading the book instead. The narrator’s voice was rather dry, and I couldn’t tell if my lack of involvement in the story was due to the performance or the writing. The concept of the story was strong, but I just didn’t feel like I got sucked in. There was always something standing between me and an emotional connection with the plot and characters.
The book leaves you hanging a bit at the end, so I’ll probably pick up the next in the series, The Scorch Trials, just because I want to know where it goes from here. Maybe since I’m familiar with the cast of characters, it will make it easier to get into the book from the beginning.(less)
In the aftermath of the Robot War, a soldier on the front lines makes a discovery that allows him to create a history of the events that changed the w...moreIn the aftermath of the Robot War, a soldier on the front lines makes a discovery that allows him to create a history of the events that changed the world forever. Robopocalypse recounts the first creation of the robot mind Archos, and intelligence that decides that life is amazing, and humans destroy life, so humans must be destroyed. The events unfold as more robots are infected by Archos, and heroes, both human and robot, rise to try to stop Archos from taking over the world.
While reading Robopocalypse, I constantly found myself comparing it to Max Brooks’ World War Z. One of my first thoughts about the book was: are robots the new zombies? Creatures that can somehow pass on an infection that changes the hardwiring to want to kill humans, while remaining nearly unstoppable? Another similarity was the way that the story was told through past events that chronicled how it all went down. While not as global in scope as Brooks’ book, that kind of storytelling was still effective here.
This book is a war story, pure and simple. There is exposition about the nature of the enemy, its tactics, and the defensive strategy of the humans. Parts of the book take place in Afghanistan, where there is a much more familiar war already happening. Other characters must arm themselves to stand up to the much stronger machines. There was something kind of macho about this book: it’s all about robots at war, and there is almost no romance at play. It was actually refreshing for me to read something that was so unapologetically masculine.
Heavy on the action, and jumping from narrator to narrator, Robopocalypse kept me highly entertained, and would probably transfer well to the big screen. I recommend it to fans of the zombie genre who want to branch out and read something a bit different, but not too different.(less)
Okay, you kind of need to be living under a rock to not have heard of Stephen King’s The Shining. And there was a super scary movie made of it by Stan...moreOkay, you kind of need to be living under a rock to not have heard of Stephen King’s The Shining. And there was a super scary movie made of it by Stanley Kubrick. Plus, who doesn’t know that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? The Shining was originally written in 1977, so how could we not all know how it goes? Well, I had never read the book, and although I’ve seen the movie a dozen times or more, I have realized that I didn’t really know The Shining after all.
I picked up the audiobook after my mom kept insisting I read it. She absolutely loved the book, and told me over and over again that it was so scary she couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have that problem, personally, but I did start thinking I was seeing stuff out of the corner of my eye while thinking about the story. Showers were definitely more interesting, thinking I was seeing a person–maybe with a roque mallet?–outside the shower curtain.
Jack’s alcoholism is really put on display in the book. We get an insider’s look at what it’s like to be a recovering alcoholic. He’s been sober for two years since alcohol helped to ruin his life, yet Jack still yearns for a drink every single day. We learn much more of his and Wendy’s back stories, and the family histories that lead to their dysfunctions. King’s insights into the human condition are often striking, and I don’t think his critics give him enough credit where that is concerned.
As for the audiobook, Campbell Scott does a great job narrating. He doesn’t try to copy Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack, even though that seems like it would be really easy to do. Instead, he treats each character as the person they are in the book, rather than in the movie, and does justice to King’s prose.
The bottom line is this: if you have seen the movie and liked it, but haven’t read the book, you should read the book. The book and the movie are VERY different, and you will not know how the book ends. Danny is a different character, as is Jack, and the hotel is much more of an actual character in the book. What’s better? It’s a toss up. As lame as it sounds, the book is very effective as a book, and the movie is effective as a movie, and they should be judged separately because they’re so different from each other. But really, read the book.(less)
When she was 10 years old, Alice was stolen away from everybody she knew by Ray. He made her change her name to Alice and abused her, threatening to k...moreWhen she was 10 years old, Alice was stolen away from everybody she knew by Ray. He made her change her name to Alice and abused her, threatening to kill her family if she told anybody. She’s now 15 and he starves her to keep her as childlike as possible, but it is no longer enough. He now wants another little girl to replace her, just as he replaced the Alice before her. Alice isn’t sure how far she’ll go to escape the torture of her life and to keep her family safe, but she’ll find out soon.
Living Dead Girl is a gritty, raw story told from the 1st person perspective of an abducted and abused girl. She no longer has an identity, because everything has been stolen from her through years of abuse. She describes in stark detail the various assaults she must endure each and every day. We see the effect this has had, and how Alice feels like she isn’t really even alive anymore. We also, sadly, see how everybody around her is oblivious to what is really going on, and how hopeless her situation is.
I’m not going to lie, I found this book to be extremely painful to listen to. However, that is the point. It is effective because it hurts, and it helps open our minds to what others in the world face to live it through fictional characters. And while the storytelling is raw, it is also truthful and poetic. Living Dead Girl is by no means a happy book, but it is a good book, and one I’m glad was written.(less)