Homeland was the first fantasy book I ever read, and I only read it because it was a Christmas gift and I was bored. But that first copy of this bookHomeland was the first fantasy book I ever read, and I only read it because it was a Christmas gift and I was bored. But that first copy of this book has now been read so many times, by me and everyone I ever thrust it on to read, that the spine is barely holding together and the cover is threatening to disintegrate. For a dork who really likes fantasy novels, this story was just too engrossing for me to ever stop reading. While I can't say it's a great cultural work or the kind of story everyone should read; it's my literary equivalent of comfort food. And I really love it....more
I heard once from an old English teacher that the hardest pieces to write are short stories and short films. To develop a plot and characters in a shoI heard once from an old English teacher that the hardest pieces to write are short stories and short films. To develop a plot and characters in a short and constricted time frame requires no small amount of skill. There's no room to waste words and phrases; to do so would turn your short story into a novella. Poe was great at it. And I feel Vonnegut was great at it too.
Welcome to the Monkey House has been a favorite book of mine for a long time. I may have inadvertently acquired this copy from an old girlfriend; in which case I would have to apologize to her for my theft. But I'm calling grandfather clause, and there's no way I'd give it back.
Some of these stories are fairly well known. "Harrison Bergeron," for example, is a story that gets taught in school occasionally. And it's a great short story; a better defense of individualism than any drivel Ayn Rand ever spewed out.
"Who Am I This Time?," "Thomas Edison's Shaggy Dog," "Welcome to the Monkey House," and "All the King's Horses" are fantastic stories as well. I picked this collection up again earlier this morning, and have already devoured the first four stories. I wouldn't be surprised if I finish another one or two before I leave for work in an hour.
So in case it was not already abundantly clear; I really like this book. And I tend to think other people will as well....more
An important caveat to begin: R.A. Salvatore was so influential to my early reading habits, and to my eventual love for fantasy in general, that I havAn important caveat to begin: R.A. Salvatore was so influential to my early reading habits, and to my eventual love for fantasy in general, that I have a hard time being wholly objective about his work. Having been reading his books for the past 15 years criticizing Salvatore feels like criticizing my grandfather; sure there's some validity to it, but it's a dick move.
So while I may have found authors I prefer to read now over going back and re-reading my well-worn copies of Homeland and the Cleric Quintet, Salvatore remains something of a literary sacred cow in my home. Which is why going back to Corona after a long absence and reading The Ancient was a mixed experience.
There are things Salvatore does as well as anyone else writing: his descriptions of tactics and combat are without equal in my mind, and are more exciting to read than a great deal of modern action movies are to watch (tangent: I get the impression that Salvatore would make either a great fight choreographer, or at least great source material for fight choreography). Yet his stories have started to seem lighter to me than they once did. Whether it's an over-familiarity with genre conventions or simply knowing the man's style of writing and characterization as well as I've come to there's less of an all-encompassing pull to this book. I loved the story and I read it quickly, but the characters didn't feel as deep or as rich as Artemis, Jarlaxle, Drizzt, Wulfgar, et al once did (oh who am I kidding, they still do).
So I guess what I would say is that this book is still a wonderful read, there is meatier fare to be had if you'd prefer. For me though there's still a little magic in Salvatore's pen, and I'm not sure I'll ever stop reading these books while he keeps writing them....more
-These stories are often hysterical, and I've caught myself copying the rhythm and slang of the dialog in my day-to-day speak; mostly muttering "Jaysis" under my breath - The blurb for The Van made it seem like it was about a couple of buddies following the Irish World Cup team, but it really isn't. That's not a bad thing, mind you; but it's more about a crisis of identity and purpose in a father/husband/friend than about some football. Just to be clear. -The Commitments was really hysterical and while it reminded me a ton of playing in a band in high school, and even watching my brother lip-synch to The Blues Brothers on stage in 8th grade, more than anything it made me want to tune up the bass, dust off the sax, and play a few gigs. Brilliant story.
Can't recommend it enough, even if you're not Irish. But if you are, do yourself a favor: Find a good honest pub, get yourself a nice pint, order some chips and a bit of cod maybe, and dive in. You won't regret it....more
It was about noon yesterday when I first opened my copy of Patrick Rothfuss's newest book, and now at about 12:30 in the morning I just finis36 hours.
It was about noon yesterday when I first opened my copy of Patrick Rothfuss's newest book, and now at about 12:30 in the morning I just finished the last page. 36 hours is how long it took me to read it, yes, but it's more than that. 36 hours is how long this book was able to hold me in thrall. No, to say the book accomplished it is wrong. It was the story.
There's a world of difference between brilliant writing and brilliant storytelling. The first is the stuff that English Literature classes assign. Masterful collections of words that sometimes make reading feel like trying to break down a brick wall with naughty but the steady application of your forehead. But a master storyteller weaves the threads so tightly around your mind that you can't help but follow them to the end. A truly beautiful story grips you softly but firmly, and you don't even think of breaking free until you've reached the back cover.
Pat Rothfuss is a brilliant writer. He chooses his words carefully, and rarely if ever do they feel indulgent or opulent. Instead they all carry weight and meaning, and gleam brighter for their careful choosing. But good writing is not good storytelling, and the words on the page do not add up to the whole of the tale.
A truly great story seeps into your mind and your bones. It leeches into your dreams while you read it; it echoes in your thoughts when you set the book down to rest your eyes. And the truly great ones ring of truth, like the sound of a grandparent's voice from when you were younger. Reading The Wise Man's Fear doesn't really feel like reading; it feels like having a storyteller whisper lines in your head.
If you read this and think I sound a bit full of myself, I wouldn't hold it against you. I don't claim to have the skill to give proper shrift to this book. All I can do is try to assure you that there is no hyperbole here, just a sorry attempt to show appreciation for something wonderful. This is a book I will keep for years, and a story I want to see passed on. It's a thing of beauty, and worth more than the time it takes to read. It only took 36 hours to read this one, but it will stay with me for a great deal longer than that....more
I came across this book while wandering around in a B&N in Annapolis, and noticed it on one of those "Employee Recommendation" shelves. Skimming tI came across this book while wandering around in a B&N in Annapolis, and noticed it on one of those "Employee Recommendation" shelves. Skimming the back of it I noticed two interesting things: first, that it was a mystery novel written entirely from a dog's point of view; and second, that it had the Stephen King stamp of approval (not literally, just a nice blurb).
Now, a dog narrator seemed like a potentially cheesy conceit, so I sat down in the cafe for a minute to read a few pages and see how it went. When I realized I'd been sitting there for half an hour and was already on the fourth chapter, I got up and just paid for the damn thing already. Quinn does a really commendable job capturing a voice that definitely feels canine, but doesn't overshadow the story itself. Often times a narrative trick like this one can negatively impact the rest of the book, but in this case it did exactly what it should: namely, enhancing the plot and providing a neat hook.
So if you like a good mystery (and/or love dogs) I definitely recommend giving this one a thumb-through. If I weren't broke and lazy, I'd go out and buy the sequel right now instead of laying on the couch....more
Just picked up my second Chet & Bernie whodunit this afternoon, and just finished it a few minutes ago. I have to admit that I've developed a realJust picked up my second Chet & Bernie whodunit this afternoon, and just finished it a few minutes ago. I have to admit that I've developed a real fondness for both of those characters, and Spencer Quinn's writing strikes a tone I find quite soothing. Spinning a good mystery yarn helps quite a bit, but his conceit of having Chet the Jet be the narrator is quite the useful literary device in and of itself. Since he's a dog, Chet doesn't always pick up all the conversation around him, and so you as the reader aren't always immediately clued in to what Bernie or the other human characters may have found out. Conversely, you get the tension that arises from things Chet knows or sees and can't communicate, which provides the opportunity to try piecing the puzzle together yourself ahead of Bernie and the cops.
Thereby Hangs a Tail is hardly the best mystery I've ever read; in fact the end result of the case seemed a bit obvious early on, though the details and connecting threads only reveal themselves as you go along. But I still picked it up and finished it in less than 12 hours, which is saying something. Maybe growing up with a German Shepard and an Alaskan Malamute has made me a sucker for dog stories in general, but Chet is one of the more appealing characters I've found out there.
So, again, mystery lovers and dog lovers alike would probably enjoy Quinn's work. Go read Dog On It first, and then Thereby, but definitely do read them....more
Tokyo Vice is the best piece of non-fiction I've read in a long time. It is 2:54 AM, Friday, January 1st, 2010. I purchased this book around noon on WTokyo Vice is the best piece of non-fiction I've read in a long time. It is 2:54 AM, Friday, January 1st, 2010. I purchased this book around noon on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009. And while I did not intend to spend my New Year's Eve reading an ex-journalist's account of how he pissed off the Yakuza, that's exactly what happened.
The stories of the underbelly of Japan, and of the author's own wounds from the years he spent at the Yoimuri Newspaper, are told exquisitely. He manages to cut what are some abhorrent, horrific tales with a black humor that makes them palatable without dulling their impact. And above all else, it's a compelling read, and a hugely informative one as well.
Now, reading about human trafficking, organized crime, brutal murders, the impotence of Justice Systems, and the sex trade of Japan might not sound all that awesome to read to some of you, and I can certainly understand why. But I would urge you to give this book a shot anyway. And if all that stuff sounds exactly like something you want to read, well, then just do so. I don't think you'll regret it....more
After finding out (way too late, frankly) that Philip K Dick has been making hollywood a crapload of money from beyond the veil, I finally picked up sAfter finding out (way too late, frankly) that Philip K Dick has been making hollywood a crapload of money from beyond the veil, I finally picked up some of his work. I started with The Man in the High Castle, and since it was pretty damn good, I picked up this collection of short stories from the library.
While it was cool to read the source work for such films as The Adjustment Bureau & Minority Report, it doesn't take long to figure out the man was a bit schizophrenic and had some mental health issues. Which is not to say the stories aren't good, because they certainly are. Rather that there's a theme going on with nearly all of them about not being able to separate reality from fantasy and questioning ones own perceptions. It's a cool read, and I always like well-written short story collections for summer anyway (e.g., Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House). Worth reading, for sure....more