This book was less successful for me than the first one, because the main character is imprisoned for the greater part of the story and is acted uponThis book was less successful for me than the first one, because the main character is imprisoned for the greater part of the story and is acted upon by characters good and bad, but is unable to do anything for himself from beginning to end. That feels realistic, but it didn't lend itself to an exciting story.
Still, in the absence of a compelling central story, the minor characters really shine in this book. The villains are even more vile. The secondary characters are even more adventurous. I'm coming to love Needle the hedgehog, Sepia the squirrel, and especially Fingle the otter more and more.
The problem, I think, is that McAllister locked herself into believing Urchin is the hero of this tale, but it's not his story. Juniper, the mysterious visionary who befriends Urchin, would have made a better main character. At least he changes and grows throughout the story. Cedar, the double agent, is much more active in the adventure unfolding around Urchin -- and she's the one who gets the happiest ending. Even Queen Larch moved the story along better than its titular hero.
Even so, I was nearly reduced to tears twice at the end of the book. If I hadn't been reading it aloud to my daughter, I might have allowed myself to indulge in happy homecoming tears, but I soldiered through.
And I'm looking forward to reading the beginning of the third book to her tonight....more
I discovered the Skull-A-Day project halfway through its initial creation. When I found out I could kickstart a book collecting all of the original 36I discovered the Skull-A-Day project halfway through its initial creation. When I found out I could kickstart a book collecting all of the original 366 skulls, I had to have a copy. I just read this morning that the first print run is nearly sold out.
There's something incredibly playful about the project. Everything could become a skull, from cardboard take-out boxes to a heap of dead butterflies. Not only were the techniques unusual and fun, but I was impressed by the variations in representations of a simply bare white brain case.
I was amused by the number of people who stepped up to help Noah make his skulls, from the chefs who taught him to make sushi rolls to the owners of a shooting range to the people who sent him buttons, small toys, and let him into their shops to rearrange the contents. A whole community supported him through this endeavor.
And Noah gave back to the community, too. Over the course of the project, he designed two skull-inspired fonts. He put up templates so people could cut their own skull stencils or build their own Lego skulls or do paint-by-number skulls. I'm inspired to try some of them out myself.
In fact, the whole project is very life-affirming and inspiring. I hope the book will get a whole lot more people to commit to some similar morbid design project. I can't wait to see what they come up with. ...more
This is a strange book. It's basically an unindexed collection of random newspaper articles and unsourced photographs documenting Laurel Hill CemeteryThis is a strange book. It's basically an unindexed collection of random newspaper articles and unsourced photographs documenting Laurel Hill Cemetery, which operated in San Francisco from 1854 until it was dismantled in the 1940s (although you won't find that information in this book).
The book is illustrated with photos of curbstones from the old cemetery, labeled with names of the pioneer families. Unless you know you're looking at curbstones and who these names belong to, these uncaptioned images mean nothing. There are also random photographs of men on horseback, which one assumes were taken in the cemetery, although there are several news stories included that don't seem to relate to the cemetery at all. It's puzzling.
Still, the book contains a lot of good information that I haven't seen anywhere else. The speeches at Col. Baker's grave explain the reverence city fathers had for him. He was a state senator who left his post to fight in the Civil War. I enjoyed reading about the cemetery when it was loved and visited and a source of pride.
Other chapters describe the 11 senators, and many authors, artists, and soldiers buried at Laurel Hill. Some of these graves were moved when the cemetery was demolished to make room for housing, but most of these men were reburied in a mass grave in Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma. I suspect these chapters come from a book attempting to make a case for a Pioneer Park that would have showcased the city's illustrious forefathers, but that idea was rejected again and again by city government.
I found this book fascinating, but I bring a lot of knowledge of local history to it. I'm not sure it would make any sense at all to someone who was learning about San Francisco's shameful treatment of its pioneers for the first time. I wish it was more of a history text and less of a hodgepodge, but I'm still glad to have it as part of my collection, particularly for the list of inscriptions copied from headstones....more
Every writer should read this. There are so many ideas to feed your imagination in every chapter! I was surprised to read how quickly our pumps wouldEvery writer should read this. There are so many ideas to feed your imagination in every chapter! I was surprised to read how quickly our pumps would fail and our subways fill with water, but I loved the chapters about the abandoned cities and how long things have continued to stand in different parts of the world. Also, the chapters about how animals would fare without us fascinated me. I look forward to reading this a second time and taking notes....more
The pictures in this book were great, although their organization could have been more straightforward. The text, however, needed editing in the worstThe pictures in this book were great, although their organization could have been more straightforward. The text, however, needed editing in the worst way. Clearly the author cut-and-pasted it together because one paragraph completely repeats word for word. Things were misspelled and repetitive enough that I wondered if anyone read the book after it had been assembled and before it went to press.
In fact, it seems the author pasted in her proposal to the publishers to pad out the word count. Chapter One opens with "In chapter one, the history of North Beach and Telegraph Hill will begin with images and text describing early Native American and Spanish settlers... This chapter will carry the reader through the 1906 earthquake and fire." Really? I see how that information would sell the book to the publishers, but someone should have removed it before publication.
Without a solid familiarity with San Francisco's North Beach and Telegraph Hill, the historic pictures are so jumbled together as to be meaningless. I've lived here more than 25 years and I'm not clear about the boundaries of the two areas. Reading this book didn't help me sort it out.
It's a shame, because I think a good and useful book could be written on these neighborhoods. Too bad this wasn't it. ...more
I loved the first two books of this series, but I have to take a star off because this book didn't end as much as stop. I will read however many booksI loved the first two books of this series, but I have to take a star off because this book didn't end as much as stop. I will read however many books follow this one, but I was expecting the series to end as a trilogy. The surprise was hard to take.
Dana did a great job in this book with the side characters, particularly the Harajuku girls trapped in a shop in Tokyo (it's like they were written just for me!) and the ex-Special Forces motorcycle "club." I would love to read spin-off stories about them.
The character Griff was problematic for me, though. The scene where he corners Ashley in a corridor was triggery for me. While he later justifies his behavior and she forgives him, I could not. The creep factor was just too high.
Which actually was one of the things I liked about the book: just because the zombocalypse is going on, men don't stop playing "games" with women. Ashley can and does hold her own, but it's good to see that that world reflecting our own so clearly.
There were nit-picky things that struck me: the BDSM girl in the pub is wearing a high leather collar just before the zombies tear out her throat. Ashley & crew go out of their way to bust into a Walgreens when there's a hospital pharmacy in UCSF, directly across the street from the zombie lab. The lead-up to the San Diego Zoo really got my hopes up that there would be tigers mauling zombies, but Ashley gets cold-cocked and misses out of the whole thing.
Still, the excitement level remains high, the pace is fast, and the zombies disgusting. I guess I'm glad that I don't have to leave this world just yet, while stories remain to be told there....more
The writing was lovely, but the stories didn't strike me as very original, especially the first two. The other four were all set in an imaginary worldThe writing was lovely, but the stories didn't strike me as very original, especially the first two. The other four were all set in an imaginary world that had enough fascinating details that it didn't matter if the stories themselves were completely predictable. I'd be curious to read a novel set there, to see if the author's plotting can expand to rival his setting.
On the whole, though, I'd rather read Angela Carter's short stories....more
I keep finding reasons not to finish this, so I'm going to give up. I can't tell the characters apart. I thought the movie was brilliant and quite funI keep finding reasons not to finish this, so I'm going to give up. I can't tell the characters apart. I thought the movie was brilliant and quite fun, but the book just makes me sad....more
This book was slow-going at first. The main character is filled with self-loathing, but the back stories hinted at are so nebulous that I assumed thisThis book was slow-going at first. The main character is filled with self-loathing, but the back stories hinted at are so nebulous that I assumed this was the second or third book in a series and I was missing something crucial. Even now, I'm not clear: was she the only survivor of the Bocai massacre? Why has she been made a scapegoat for a madness that infected and killed so many people, when she was only a child and clearly not responsible for her actions or anyone else's? Why is the Bocai government still trying to prosecute her decades later?
All of that is secondary to the plot unfolding in front of her, but the mystery is full of dislikable people that she dislikes. She's investigating two murders, but she's not much interested in what she's doing or who she's talking to. And then the murderer attacks her -- and Andrea wakes up. She becomes determined to solve the crimes and confront the AIs who run the world she's now part of.
I found the omnipresent AIs themselves very interesting. The set-up of the Diplomatic Corps with its ranks of indentured workers absolutely fascinated me. The cylinked couple, now one person sharing two bodies, was one of the best science fiction characters I've read in a long time.
I'm curious to read the second book in the series now, to see if Andrea becomes a more rounded character, or if she continues to be the blank spot in a unique and compelling universe.
I would give this book 3.5 stars, if that were possible. ...more
Despite the back cover promises, I didn't find the humor in a scared, broken woman caring for her abusive dying mother. I wondered more than once whyDespite the back cover promises, I didn't find the humor in a scared, broken woman caring for her abusive dying mother. I wondered more than once why Ariel didn't just walk away long before Eve was diagnosed with lung cancer, as everyone else in Eve's life did.
I understand that Ariel is trying to behave in such a way that she can be proud of herself -- and maybe she finds pride at the end, but damn this book is harrowing to read. About the halfway point, I skipped ahead to make sure that Eve really did snuff it. Finding out that she does finally die gave me the courage to read the rest of the book.
There are some beautiful moments here. I liked when Ariel carries around scraps of paper with random words written on them. The words drop out of her purse from time to time, like fortunes. I was glad when she starts dating the nameless chef. The details about the seasons in Santa Fe were lovely.
I liked the Sherwin Nuland quote, too: "Death, he writes, is all too frequently a series of destructive events that involve by their very nature the disintegration of the dying person's humanity." Ariel doesn't follow that thought out to wonder what a person loses when she doesn't behave humanely in the first place....more
I read this in high school and it changed everything for me, as a writer and as a reader. The book is even better decades later.
The first time I readI read this in high school and it changed everything for me, as a writer and as a reader. The book is even better decades later.
The first time I read A Clockwork Orange, the edition came with a glossary and I spent a lot of time looking up everything Alex says. This time, without a glossary, I just let the language flow over me -- and didn't have any trouble with it. The context makes things clear after you struggle a brief while.
It was fascinating to reread the story now that I'm so familiar with Kubrick's movie. Malcolm McDowell is wonderful as Alex, but he was 28 when the movie came out in 1971. In the book, Alex is 15 after he's charged with murder. I find it much more frightening when he's a feral child who doesn't know how to take responsibility for his actions.
The movie also lost the breadth of Alex's love for music. For a boy who's bounced between schools and has no adult role models, he's educated himself on classical music. That detail hints at his potential. I was glad to read in the final chapter that Alex has been rewarded for that musical knowledge with a job that he enjoys.
I'm not sure that the restored final chapter entirely worked for me. It was chilling when the book ended (as the movie does) with "I was cured all right." I understand that Burgess wanted to show that Alex could change and grow up, but his numerological explanation (he wrote 21 chapters because 21 is the age of adulthood) falls apart when Alex is only 18 as the book ends. It's hard for me to believe an 18-year-old craves a son of his own. Alex doesn't have any sort of epiphany where he suddenly discovers empathy for others. He just grows bored of the violence. Fair enough, but I don't see how that leads to I'd better meet girls so I can have a son....more
Although in some respects this book is closer to a memoir than pure guidebook, every tale in this ghostly guide to New Orleans made me wish more and mAlthough in some respects this book is closer to a memoir than pure guidebook, every tale in this ghostly guide to New Orleans made me wish more and more that I had plans to get back to the Crescent City. You've been warned.
I've collected up a number of local ghost story collections, but this one stands out because Caskey takes great pains to document the reality behind the stories. In the process, he debunks some of the better-known houses of horrors, especially the LaLaurie Mansion and the Sultan's Palace. His commitment to historical truth makes the spooky things that happen to him personally that much scarier.
I've taken half a star off because the text occasionally becomes more enthusiastic than coherent. (An editor could have smoothed those spots.) Another half a star comes off because Stephen Davis's cartoony illustrations undercut the serious tone of the text. The photographs, when included, are good enough that I wish there had been more of them.
In the beginning, I didn't care for the author's narrative, but it grew on me as I read deeper into the book. In the end, I'm not sure one could separate the teller from the tales. This book is such an enjoyable read that I'm eager to hunt up the author's guides to Savannah and Charleston, two cities I haven't yet had the opportunity to explore. ...more
My 10-year-old loved this series so much that she read it twice, then asked me to read it to her at bedtime. It's got old-fashioned heroes and a trulyMy 10-year-old loved this series so much that she read it twice, then asked me to read it to her at bedtime. It's got old-fashioned heroes and a truly evil villain, but she was so caught up in the story that she started naming her stuffed animals after the characters in the book. I have to admit: it's pretty darn good for a book about talking squirrels and otters.
That said, the villainy will be too intense for younger children. As it was, I had to explain what culling is -- it's being used by the bad guy on the slightly misshapen or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary baby animals. My daughter completely missed that the queen was being poisoned by her sinister lady-in-waiting. No one in the book ever identifies the continual application of the special medicine as poisoning, even after the lady-in-waiting is forced to take her own medicine and doesn't survive.
I think the upshot of this is that adults could enjoy the book on one level, while older kids could see something else in it. I'm glad we got the chance to read it together, so we could talk about the bad things that happen.
It also made getting her to bed easy, since she was eager to share the next installment with me....more
Wow, I like this one so much more than the first in the series. The structure of the book -- switching back and forth between Quentin and his reasonabWow, I like this one so much more than the first in the series. The structure of the book -- switching back and forth between Quentin and his reasonably straightforward quest and Julia's struggle to learn magic after being rejected from Brakebills -- was perfect. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to see what would happen next.
I was fascinated by the character of Julia and her attempts to master magic. I loved the sense that she was teaching herself, feeling her way forward blindly. I was relieved that there wasn't an ascended master or gnarly dude in a cave to oversee her education. Her "coming of age" hit me much harder than Quentin's did in the previous book, since her sacrifices were so personal.
When the end came for Quentin's story, it hit me much harder than I expected. I thought, for a moment, that Quentin might survive the multiverse-spanning quest relatively unscathed. He took his sacrifice better than I did.
Wow. This book was more predictable than the earlier ones in the series, but that wasn't unsatisfying. Once Quentin discovered what his discipline wasWow. This book was more predictable than the earlier ones in the series, but that wasn't unsatisfying. Once Quentin discovered what his discipline was, the ending was obvious. Still, hooray for happy endings. And the robed ninjas with the glowing hands? Please. I was surprised Quentin didn't clock them at once.
Like the earlier books, this one contains several emotional gut punches. Quentin facing his father's death wrecked me and I had to actually put the book down in order to recover.
Traveling as a blue whale completely made up for it, though. In fact, the ragtag band of magician/thieves entertained me so thoroughly that I'd read a whole book of their adventures. Just as I expected, the depth of the characters' development in this book, the sharp differences in their voices, and the wild inventiveness of Grossman's imaginary creatures caused me so much joy that I tore through the book in record time. Everything else in my life got put on hold until I turned the final page.
I join the others here on Goodreads hoping for a new book set in Quentin's new land.
In the meantime, I think I will start reading the trilogy again from the beginning just to savor writing like this: "It was funny about magic, how messy and imperfect it was...even with the things it could do, it didn't always do them right. And it always, always cost something. And it was inefficient. The system was never airtight, it always leaked. Magic was always throwing off extra energy, wasting it in the form of sound, and heat, and light, and wind. It was always buzzing and singing and glowing and sparking to no particular purpose. Magic was decidedly imperfect. But the read funny thing, she thought, was that if it were perfect, it wouldn't be so beautiful."...more