I read about Ernest Gann in a magazine article and decided to give one of his novels a try. Band of Brothers was one of the few titles available throuI read about Ernest Gann in a magazine article and decided to give one of his novels a try. Band of Brothers was one of the few titles available through my library, so picked it up. Through the first half of the story, I found Gann's characters and storyline intriguing. The writing itself is pretty pedestrian, but not bad. However, in the second half of the book, Gann's story really becomes disjointed. The actions of the characters don't mesh together and the conclusion is nearly invisible even though it was very predictable. Band of Brothers is more than 40 years old at this point and unfortunately it hasn't held up very well. I found it very interesting that the copy my library had hadn't been checked out in almost ten years before I did. I guess there was a reason for that....more
Well written look under the hood of the 21st century stock market. It repeats itself in spots. Also, it feels unfinished as it was written before anyWell written look under the hood of the 21st century stock market. It repeats itself in spots. Also, it feels unfinished as it was written before any sort of conclusion to the events was reached....more
As Roland Nair contemplates his future, sitting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he wonders why he let himself beMore reviews at The Story Within The Story
As Roland Nair contemplates his future, sitting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he wonders why he let himself be drawn back to such a hopeless place. Meeting up with self-styled African soldier-of-fortune Michael Adriko and his fiancée Davidia, Nair journeys across the desolate African landscape in pursuit of one last money-making scheme. But between the Ghanaian army, American Green Berets and packs of mercenaries, Nair will be lucky to make it out of Africa with his life.
“In an instant the day ended, night came down, and the many voices around us, for the space of ten seconds, went quiet. A few hundred meters away the buildings began, but not a single light shone from the powerless city, and the outcry coming from the void wasn’t so much from horns and engines but rather more from humans and their despairing animals.”
Denis Johnson has written many successful novels – Train Dreams and Jesus’ Son among them – and has won many awards. Unfortunately for me, The Laughing Monsters is my first exposure to his writing. There is simply no way to sugarcoat this – this story is a complete mess. It bills itself as high-suspense espionage. It isn’t. Not even a little bit. The main character, Nair, literally wonders around Africa aimlessly, with no agenda at all, hoping that his unreliable friend might come through with a scheme to make him rich. He supposedly is spying for the government. But which government? It doesn’t matter because he doesn’t care himself. Even when captured, Nair just sits around until they let him go and he wonders off to the next scene so he can be captured again, do nothing, and be let go again. High-suspense spy novel? Not even by a longshot.
So Nair is an unreliable narrator? Possibly. Unreliable is good. Uninteresting is not. Unreadable is even worse. The narrative flow is…well…there just isn’t any. It’s as if Johnson ran the draft of The Laughing Monsters through a shredder and handed it to a 5-year-old to paste back together. The writing isn’t avant-garde. It isn’t ethereal. It isn’t gritty. It is just bad. Twisting the writing rules to create something unique is a quality I like. Not caring enough to give the reader something remotely resembling a plot or a point is inexcusable, especially from an award winning author.
The only positive commentary I can give The Laughing Monsters is that it was mercifully short. I can’t help but feel like Johnson mailed in his first draft and the editor was out sick that day so they just said “to hell with it – he’s good – print it.” I hope that is the case, because the alternative is that they actually wanted this book to turn out like this. Don’t waste your time on The Laughing Monsters, unless you want the laugh to be on you. ...more
Of the first three Gabriel Allon books that I have read (and loved all of them) The English Assassin is my favorite. There is a certain nuance to theOf the first three Gabriel Allon books that I have read (and loved all of them) The English Assassin is my favorite. There is a certain nuance to the storytelling where everything ultimately makes complete sense, but the twists and turns are completely unexpected. Gabriel's spycraft is as much intellectual as it is physical - and this is what makes these stories so gripping. He isn't just another superhero. He makes mistakes and he doesn't win every fight. But he perseveres and ultimately makes it through, but not always in the way we would expect. In addition, the artistic eye Silva brings to his storytelling is as beautiful as the art pieces he mentions. I have this entire series on my self and I expect I'm going to saver every single installment. The English Assassin is a book - and a series - everyone should give a try....more
One of the original hard boiled private detectives, Chandler's Philip Marlowe epitomizes the early twentieth century gritty gumshoe. One of the firstOne of the original hard boiled private detectives, Chandler's Philip Marlowe epitomizes the early twentieth century gritty gumshoe. One of the first - and certainly best - of the noir style, The Big Sleep provides a look into the thinking, language and culture of that time period as well. This was cutting-edge story telling in its time, and it has held up better than most in the eighty years since it publication. Definitely worth reading for any crime reader. It give a great perspective on where thousands of writers found their inspiration. Looking forward to reading more....more
There is a certain beauty in the descriptions La Seur evokes in The Home Place and the coming home story is always one that can deliver competing emotThere is a certain beauty in the descriptions La Seur evokes in The Home Place and the coming home story is always one that can deliver competing emotions in a reader. The trouble is La Seur both overreaches and overwrites this story.
Overreaches because she loads up every stereotypical family malady she can come up with and douses the Terrebonne family with every single one of them - to the point where you just don't care about any of them. The story is so focused on everyone's foibles, that we never develop any feelings to hold on to. In addition, all of her characters sound like the same person and fail to show very much emotional depth.
Overwrites because La Seur simply can't go even three lines into a conversation without diverging into a multi-page flashback that invariably has little to do with what her character is currently experiencing. The use of flashbacks to fill back-story is so hackneyed that I had difficulty continuing past the first 100 pages.
When I did, I was very disappointed that the fertile ground of the life of a gay man in such a conservative place and the serious impact of mining on rural America are both introduced and then glossed over in favor of the cliche-riddled mystery that truly misses the mark as well.
Unfortunately, there is little about The Home Place that I can recommend. ...more
A good detective thriller based in Iceland. The story is the best part of the book, with many twists and turns along with a very interesting ending. IA good detective thriller based in Iceland. The story is the best part of the book, with many twists and turns along with a very interesting ending. Inspector Erlendur is a solid main character, but there is something lacking in all of the characters Indridason create - a lack of real depth that would take this story to another level. While Jar City was an enjoyable story, it was missing that intangible quality that would lead me to continue the series. Solid but not engrossing. ...more
A great follow-up to Only Time Will Tell. Archer loses none of the momentum of the first installment and builds on the lives of the characters. I wasA great follow-up to Only Time Will Tell. Archer loses none of the momentum of the first installment and builds on the lives of the characters. I was engrossed from start to finish. This is a series that is impossible to put down. Already ordered the next two in the series and can't wait to read them....more
I really enjoyed both the writing and characters in All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr took an unusual route with this depiction of World War II in EuI really enjoyed both the writing and characters in All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr took an unusual route with this depiction of World War II in Europe, and that really took this artful book to another level. The intertwined lives of Doerr's characters is so well done, and he never stoops to cliche. I'm not going to go so far as to say it was perfect. Not every piece fit together and it was a bit longer than it needed to be. That said, All the Light We Cannot See holds that quality that so few books can lay claim to - it is unique. Well worth a read....more
Young antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly grieves for his beloved wife, continuing to see and hear her all aMore reviews at The Story Within The Story
Young antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly grieves for his beloved wife, continuing to see and hear her all around him as he tries to avoid the world in a secluded English town. When he comes upon a tiny watercolor portrait inserted between the pages of an eighteenth-century book, he is startled to see Amanda’s face looking back at him. As Peter desperately tries to solve the mystery of the portrait, he unknowingly uncovers a link to potentially the most important discovery in literature – proof that William Shakespeare of Stratford was the true author of the Shakespeare plays. But someone doesn’t want Peter to succeed – and is willing to commit murder to keep it that way.
“What about the most valuable relic in the history of English Literature—would that be worth killing for?”
The Bookman's Tale really has me split. For starters, anything centered on books, book collecting, bibliophiles...it is going to have my instant attention, as long as it gets it right. Lovett gets it right. I can tell that he has a passion for books just by the way he writes about them and understands the book-lover's mindset. For me, the best part of The Bookman's Tale is how Lovett creates his main character of Peter as the embodiment of the book-lover trapped inside of so many of us. In addition, he surrounds Peter with such a clever piece of literary history - the ongoing search for the proof of who William Shakespeare really is - that drives the plot forward. Left to just this, The Bookman's Tale would have been one of my favorite stories of the year.
So what happened? Why only three stars? Frankly, it really should be two stars and Lovett is only catching a break because of my love of any story set in the book world. For some reason, Lovett decides to drop a murder-mystery/thriller plot right in the middle of the story. Unfortunately, Lovett is not David Baldacci. The action is hackneyed and cliche. There are too many coincidences and too many convenient things falling in the characters' laps to make it feel at all realistic.
The Bookman's Tale really is two stories folded on top of each other. Unfortunately, one is very well done and one is amateurish. If it is possible to enjoy a book and be annoyed by it at the same time, this is the one that does it. I want to praise it and lambaste it at the same time. In the end, a split 4-star/2-star rating ends up with a 3-star average...but The Bookman's Tale only avoids a lower rating because of my passion for book collecting. Nothing more....more