While I certainly appreciate that this was a revolutionary book when it was written, and it's historically important, I just didn't like it very much.While I certainly appreciate that this was a revolutionary book when it was written, and it's historically important, I just didn't like it very much. I've read various other works that tackle similar themes but in a better or more entertaining way. The protagonist is okay, and written well-enough, but for various reasons I couldn't entirely connect with her. Also, the writing style was generally a bit off-putting. The pacing was often pretty strange, and in general the plot jumped around a bit more than I would have liked. There was some clever stuff with images and themes, but this isn't really enough to save it for me. Plus, the ending felt rather predictable, shocking though it may have been to the original readers. I definitely didn't hate this book, but I didn't particularly enjoy it either. I imagine I wouldn't have read it if not for it being a required text for one of my classes, and I doubt I'll be revisiting it much in the future....more
I'm glad I read a book of Murakami's short stories a little while ago, as otherwise the fact that this book is entirely realistic likely would have taI'm glad I read a book of Murakami's short stories a little while ago, as otherwise the fact that this book is entirely realistic likely would have taken me by surprise. So far, I've read only Murakami's supernaturally tinged works, but despite the lack of any fantastic elements here, I still liked this novel. I admit I don't know much about the historical context, but I was still able to find the stuff that come up interesting, and in general the setting was well described. Toru, the main character, was a fair choice of narrator. I think there were some things about him that I can relate to, but on the other hand I found him a bit passive at times. Still, it was relatively interesting to spend 300 pages in his head. I am a little disappointed that Murakami didn't do too much with the retrospective narration conceit - Toru is a much older man looking back on this time and writing about it, but it doesn't make much difference from if he were positioned as narrating it as it happens, other than a very few flash forwards to the fates of one or two characters. Naoko, on the other hand, was very interesting, and I almost wish the book had been more from her point of view. I feel like Murakami has done a good job of exploring mental illness with her, and over all, her character was great to read about. She felt very much like a real person, and somebody that I wish I was able to talk to to learn more about her view of the world. Her roommate, Reiko, was also rather interesting, though I'm not entirely sure how I feel about her in light of the backstory she reveals about herself. The sort of special mental hospital the two women attend is an interesting concept and I liked Murakami's depiction of it. I think he says a lot of interesting and important things, both about life in general and about living with mental illness specifically. The other girl Toru interacts with was also well written, and though a lot of her character is based around being quite openly sexual, there is more to her than that and her reasons for her behavior are quite delved in to. I admit I'm not sure I would have picked this up if it were from a different author, as the blurb makes it sound like the sort of novel I don't really enjoy, but I ended up really liking this book. I'm definitely glad that I read it, and I can see why it was and is so popular. Still, I think I'm glad that most of Murakami's work contains magical realism or surrealism elements, as while I liked the psychological depth of these characters, I really love the really weird stuff he does in his other works more....more
This was an excellent collection of short stories, some very weird and some just rather strange. I've read and enjoyed one of Murakami's novels, and IThis was an excellent collection of short stories, some very weird and some just rather strange. I've read and enjoyed one of Murakami's novels, and I'm glad to see he's just as enjoyable in short story form. The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday's Women was a fun read and has made me very interested in reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The Second Bakery Attack was perfectly weird and entertaining, causing me throughout to go "are the characters really doing this? really?" The Kangaroo Communique was interesting, and I liked the way Murakami took his consistent use of the first person and here used it to mean that the narrator is actually speaking to somebody else in the story rather than just to the reader. On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl was just kind of odd, as was The Fall of the Roman Empire. Sleep was excellent. It made me really happy to see Murakami write from a woman's point of view, and the idea of what somebody would do if they suddenly didn't have to sleep was handled well. The ending was strange but very thought-provoking and well done. Lederhosen is one of the stories that consists of the narrator being told a story by somebody else. It was good, though it's weird element is at the level of character psychology and nothing more. That's also true of Barn Burning, though I found the strange characters her, especially the woman, to be very engaging. The Little Green Monster was interesting because I at first felt somewhat sympathetic for the titular monster, and had fun analyzing why that was. Family Affair was another one that was mostly interesting because the characters were compelling and not necessarily because of the actual situation they were in. A Window was fun mostly because the idea of a professional pen pal service where the letters were rated was strange but interesting. TV People was one of the more fantastic stories in this collection, and while I'm still not entirely sure I fully understand it, I liked it. A Slow Boat to China felt a bit off somehow, and I think I would rather have read more about the girl the protagonist puts on the wrong train than the protagonist himself. The Dancing Dwarf was particularly odd due to being disassociated from the Tokyo setting of the other stories. It was almost like a twisted fairy tale in a way. I especially loved the concept of an elephant factory. The Last Lawn of the Afternoon was interesting for the details that the narrator goes into about how he cut lawns and why he had the job, as well as because I think I picked up on the subtext as to what's going on with his final client. The Silence was an absolutely excellent story with a powerful condemnation of bystanders. The final story, The Elephant Vanishes, was honestly a little disappointing given that the collection is named for it. There is a fantastic weird element to it, but it's somewhat subtle and the protagonist isn't as interesting as many of the others in this collection. Still, I had a really good time reading this book, and I'm glad I've finally gotten around to reading some more of Murakami's work....more
The story is generally quite good and well worth reading. Both Carmilla and Laura are fascinating characters, and their interactions are very interestThe story is generally quite good and well worth reading. Both Carmilla and Laura are fascinating characters, and their interactions are very interesting from a LGBT+ point of view. The narrative is generally quite creepy, and manages to keep up a mysterious atmosphere and good momentum for the first two thirds of the story. Sadly, around the start of the last third, a bunch of male character come in and basically take over the narrative, which makes it much less interesting. Still, this book is well worth reading, both for its influence on subsequent vampire fiction and for the fact that it's a lesbian vampire narrative.
This particular edition also includes a variety of supplemental materials. The introduction traces how Carmilla combines various early vampire traditions and also discuss how Le Fanu's Irishness effected the text, which was especially fascinating. There's also the prologue from Carmilla's later republication in a collection of Le Fanu's stories, various works relating to Irish Nationalism, and some interesting vampire stories from both before and after Carmilla. All in all, this is an excellent edition both for those who want to read the book for the first time and for those who want to get more in-depth with the details and history of the text and 19th vampire narratives as a whole....more
Pudd'nhead Wilson is an excellent book. Twain has many powerful points to make about the arbitrariness of race and the way it's socially constructed nPudd'nhead Wilson is an excellent book. Twain has many powerful points to make about the arbitrariness of race and the way it's socially constructed nature often interacted with slavery in very strange ways. The characters are generally all fascinating, even if they aren't very likeable. Roxy is a really great character who has to deal with the strange paradox of being considered black and a slave even though she appears white. Her actions throughout are not always full upstanding, but they are admirable. Her son, Tom, who she puts in place of her master's child, is also a fascinating character. He's not very sympathetic on a personal level, but his situation in much of the novel is fairly awful. The titular Pudd'nhead Wilson is also well developed. He's smart and interested in various strange hobbies, but he also buys into the same views on race that the rest of the townspeople do, which makes him somewhat less heroic in an interesting way. The plot is enjoyable, and while in some ways it's a bit simple and has many moments of parodying melodrama, it's also very effective and made me want to keep going to find out what happens next, which is always good. Plus, the story is interspersed with Twain's witty humor, which is always a nice addition.
Those Extraordinary Twins, on the other hand, is somewhat disappointing in comparison. It's certainly not bad, but it's also not particularly good. The characters are much more one-dimensional and generally only have one note to their actions. The titular twins provide most of the humor, as they are conjoined twins with opposite personalities, but even this grows stale before the story is over. I definitely recommend reading Pudd'nhead Wilson, but I can't really recommend this unless you're curious about the story that Pudd'nhead Wilson grew out of....more
**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this, and as I was reading I was planning to give this at least three stars, but the more I think about it, the mor**spoiler alert** I wanted to like this, and as I was reading I was planning to give this at least three stars, but the more I think about it, the more it falls flat. The basic premise is pretty fun - it's the relatively standard urban fantasy concept of a magic-powered protagonist who fights crime, but with the twist that the world is an Earth where magic creatures have always been around and known of. The resultant world-building is kinda cool, as long as you're willing to suspend your disbelief at the idea that there'd still be a recognizable Georgia in such a radically different universe. The protagonist, Michelle, works as a consultant for various police departments. She has a few minor cases in the story, like dealing with magical artifacts gone awry or helping to save the life of a mermaid, but the main case is tracking down some escaped trolls. This is one of the issues I had with the book. The troll plot is supposed to be the central issue, and it does end up occupying a large chunk of time, but I was never really sold on it being a huge problem that was Michelle's sole, driving focus in these events. It's not like the Dresden Files - she has multiple clients, and her decision by the end to throw herself into terrible danger to fix everything single-handedly just doesn't really work for me.
Michelle's character arc also falls flat when it comes to the revelation of her true father. This occurs about 1/3rd of the way through the book, and really falls flat both because Michelle doesn't react to it enough, and because it's too soon to shake up her life like this and have me actually really care. If it came as a third act reveal relevant to the plot of this novel, or as a major aspect of a sequel, it would work a lot better. Plus, Michelle's willingness to only get some of the truth from her parents really frustrates me.
The way the book is structured is also odd. It's told mostly from Michelle's point of view, which is fine, but from time to time she's interrupted by an elf character named Elron. (No, I am not kidding. That is really his name. To make it worse, his late wife is named Sylvia, which really doesn't fit as an elven name.) The problem is that Elron isn't given equal screen time, so to speak, and he has basically no impact on the plot. He seems to exist solely to be a dick to Michelle for no reason, until it's revealed at the very end that he's developed a crush on her. After Here Be Sexist Vampires, I've had more than enough of male characters who show their affections through being assholes, and so the fact that I get the feeling this romance is eventually going to work out makes me disinclined to pursue this series further.
This book also suffers from some editing issues and rather clunky dialogue that often failed my "would a real person talk like this?" test. Plus, there's one point where Michelle has dinner twice in the same day, each time after hours of research, which suggests some major oversights on the part of the author. I'm not at all saying she's untalented, since I think she does have a fair bit of potential, but this really could have used another pass or two through the editing process.
Over all, this was kinda fun, and it didn't commit any deadly writing sins, but a variety of lesser problems add up to make me fairly disinterested in reading more of this series. I admit I could be convinced to change my mind if the next few books show major improvement, but for now, I didn't find this appealing enough to want to go further....more
Du Bois' writing is overall very good. I like how he mixes general overviews of the situation of African Americans at the start of the 20th century wiDu Bois' writing is overall very good. I like how he mixes general overviews of the situation of African Americans at the start of the 20th century with accounts of his personal experiences traveling and teaching in the South. It's hard to say that this was an enjoyable read, however, since a lot of what he talks about is rather depressing, especially since there are a number of situations that really haven't changed much or at all between when he wrote this and the present day. (A mention he makes of a white police officer killing a black man for being loud in the street was especially disturbing in how relevant it still is.) Despite that, it's a well-written and compelling book, and I'm glad I read it....more
This was a fairly good collection of vampire stories. The introduction was excellent, and I learned some new and interesting things, especially aboutThis was a fairly good collection of vampire stories. The introduction was excellent, and I learned some new and interesting things, especially about the origins of folklore beliefs in vampires. The collection of stories includes a few folkloric and otherwise "nonfiction" accounts, which was nice, as I've previously encountered references to these things but never actually read them. The fiction stories were generally good. Some were complex and well written, some were actually fairly scary, and some were just fun. The biographical notes that preceded each story were generally pretty interesting, and in some cases have made me want to seek out more works by these authors. I do disagree with the editor and feel that he should have included Carmilla, and perhaps also some of the significant vampire poetry, because though this is a good selection of stories, I can't really consider it a definitive collection of Victorian vampire literature with those absences. Still, I liked this collection and had fun reading the stories it contained. It would be nice to have a companion volume by this or another editor of a similar selection of 20th century vampire fiction, both obscure and popular. The last section of this book does start into the 1900s, but only slightly. Still, if you're looking for a nice selection of vampire stories, this book is a good choice....more
This was generally an interesting collection of stories. It was a lot of fun to follow various themes and motifs across the whole text, and to see howThis was generally an interesting collection of stories. It was a lot of fun to follow various themes and motifs across the whole text, and to see how Joyce plays with language at various points. I think my favorite story is probably still The Dead, but they were all generally enjoyable in one way or another. Whereas I still have mixed feelings about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I definitely enjoyed reading this. The breadth of themes and characters was nice. I feel like I didn't always fully get the stories, but I still enjoyed reading them and I generally got something out of them. All in all, I'm glad that my Irish Literature class got me to finally read this....more
Like it's predecessor, this is a fun book. Percy continues to be an interesting character. He's generally a pretty average kid, and I appreciate thatLike it's predecessor, this is a fun book. Percy continues to be an interesting character. He's generally a pretty average kid, and I appreciate that he doesn't know too much about Greek myths, because otherwise things would get too easy. His voice works quite well, and once again a fair bit of my enjoyment comes from the narration. I also appreciate that he's not willing to just let the gods keep important plot details from him, but instead tries to find out the secrets that are being hidden from him. Annabeth is also a good character, though she reminds me a bit of Hermione. That's not a bad thing, though, and she has some nice emotional stuff to deal with in this book as more of her backstory is revealed. Tyson, the new character, is interesting. As a Cyclops, he's not too bright, but he's strong and a clever with machines. He makes a fun contrast to the satyr companion Grover from the previous book. With the setting established in book one, Sea of Monsters can spend more time on going straight into the action. The quest is an interesting one, as the magic seal around Camp Half-Blood is failing, and Percy and co. must find a way to fix it. Of course, this is still a quest to fetch some magic object, but after all, that's what many Greek heroic quests are. There are some clever twists once again, especially towards the end, and Riordan shows he's willing to shake up the status quo, which is nice to see. However, much of the plot consists of retreading the highlights of the Odyssey, which is somewhat less inventive than the previous novel. On the other hand, the idea that the monster infested sea has moved to the Bermuda Triangle is pretty clever. Over all, this was a fun quick read, and I look forward to seeing where the story goes in the next installment....more
This was a pretty great book, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I stayed up way later than I should have to finish itThis was a pretty great book, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time in quite a while, I stayed up way later than I should have to finish it. The plot is in some ways kinda simple - a young boy is bored of his normal life and leaps at the chance to go to a magical place that seems nice but has creepy undertones to it. Generally though there are twists, none of them were all that surprising to me. Barker does some fun things with it, and I appreciate that he throws in some philosophical musings at various points, even if I feel like they'd often go over the head of the target audience. The characters are quite well done. Harvey is a good protagonist. His boredom with February is totally understandable, and he has a realistic reaction to what happens to him in the house. Furthermore, he's very clever, and it was fun to see how he faced down and tricked the various monsters he fights. Wendell was a bit more generic - he's sort of the male friend, who isn't as strong willed or courageous as the protagonist but is likeable nonetheless. Lulu was pretty cool, and there was a nice mysterious vibe to her that I wish had been expanded on more. The villains were a great lot, from persuasive Rictus to the monstrous Carna. I just wish that some of them had been developed more, since often they appear once or twice and then are destroyed. Hood was quite well done, and is very creepy - especially once his true form is revealed. Overall, this was a fun, quick read. I think it's unfortunately one of those books that I wish I had read as a child, because while it's a nice enough book as an adult, I feel like it could have been a mindblowing favorite as a kid....more
I've already read and reviewed this twice before in the past few years, so I'm not sure I have much in the way of new stuff to say. The introduction tI've already read and reviewed this twice before in the past few years, so I'm not sure I have much in the way of new stuff to say. The introduction to this particular edition is pretty cool, and I learned some pretty cool stuff from it. The notes were also useful. It's still fun to see just how much Mina is really the one who actually does useful stuff, while the men are often useless when they're doing intellectual things rather than staking vampires. A fair number of the scary scenes are still surprisingly creepy and disturbing as long as you're in the right frame of mind for them. I was surprised at how long it took me to get through the book, though it makes sense since it spends a while bouncing back and forth between various genres before settling down as horror. Over all, I once again had a good time reading this, and I look forward to delving into the details of particular scenes as part of my thesis project....more
This was a fair bit better than the novel featuring the same protagonist, but not quite as good as the original three short stories. Peter Crossman coThis was a fair bit better than the novel featuring the same protagonist, but not quite as good as the original three short stories. Peter Crossman continues to be a fun character and a good narrator, though I was disappointed by the lack of noirish elements in this story. The use of the Voynich Manuscript was a nice touch. The plot was generally entertaining, but I feel like it suffers from not quite explaining enough. The bad guys are named, but not much detail is given beyond that, and a few other things end up kinda vague. Over all, this was a fun little story, and I'd happy buy more if the authors ever write some, but as it is, I can't say I'm that disappointed that there isn't more with Peter Crossman, given the wide variety of other urban fantasy out there....more