I enjoy Wickham / Kinsella's books as a nice, fun change of pace. This one, however, is the weakest of the ones of hers I've read. It feels formulaic...moreI enjoy Wickham / Kinsella's books as a nice, fun change of pace. This one, however, is the weakest of the ones of hers I've read. It feels formulaic and less well-plotted. The catalyst which drove the action was completely implausible. (SPOILER) I'm a messy desk person. But I always know what's on my desk. If I saw a memo there that I didn't remember my first thought would be "who slid this into my mess, thinking I wouldn't notice?" Because messy desk people aren't always the absent-minded twits people think we are.
I just couldn't embrace any of the central conceits of the novel. (less)
I skimmed through endless pages of an unlikable heroine traipsing around Dystopian Chicago (The Whingey City), lying to the man she...moreWhat a crap book.
I skimmed through endless pages of an unlikable heroine traipsing around Dystopian Chicago (The Whingey City), lying to the man she loves in an attempt to contrive conflict and shifting alliances between senseless factions.
The big dénouement was what I was after, since everyone told me all my complaints about the first book would be made clear once I got to the end of book two.
I don't believe any book--outside of scriptures and textbooks--should require me to read an ADDITIONAL book in order to make sense of the story. If you're writing a trilogy you drag me into subsequent volumes by creating a world I want to explore more fully. You don't just refuse to tell me half the basic information.
But anyway, here we are, me skimming this book to have my many complaints addressed. The addition of more complaints was inevitable, I suppose. What was less thrilling was the "revelation" that Roth essentially ripped off M. Night Whatever's twist for _The Village_. (less)
Sure, it was written by a person called "Veronica Roth" but the style is pure Crichton. 1. Have an intriguing What-If...moreThis is a Michael Crichton book.
Sure, it was written by a person called "Veronica Roth" but the style is pure Crichton. 1. Have an intriguing What-Iffy premise. 2. Establish some cool visual hooks that would look good on the big screen 3. Lose track of the interesting premise and turn the story into a long, drawn-out series of battle scenes where characters run around in a difficult-to-visualize landscape that the reader skims. 4. Make sure that the secondary characters lack any sort of dimension. 5. Establish a villain who lacks ANY nuance whatsoever.
That's it. That's a Michael Crichton novel, and that's what Veronica Roth has written.
PROS-- The premise of a society with separate-but-equal caste systems was interesting.
The detail about the Dauntless pit--where most of the action takes place--was atmospheric, even if it was overtly Freudian.
As a Christian I appreciated the details about the Abnegation faction, which was very similar to my own Mennonite faith tradition.
The romance was VERY well done, with the right amount of tension and resolution.
CONS--(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW)
The logic of the faction system was hollow. Humans do not have one principal characteristic. I understand that this becomes the ultimate point of the series, but it's TOO facile. Societies require stronger foundational philosophies than some childish idea about "oh, you're a nerd and I'm a nice person and she's a tomboy."
The heroine was not at all sympathetic. The only reason the reader elevates her is because the story is told in first person. Up until the very end of the book every action she chooses is the unsympathetic one.
The secondary characters were all ciphers. No dimension to any of them.
There are two boys she is friends with, who protect her and stand up for her. One she pretty much compels to kill himself and the other she shoots in the head because he's attacking her while under the influence of the villain. But then there are two boys who spend pretty much the entire book humiliating her, beating her, threatening to kill her and even trying to rape her and throw her body off a bridge. When facing them during the climax of the story she shoots to wound. What's with this "kill your friends but wing your enemies" nonsense??
What's with these YA novels where the villain is this intensely evil head of an entire government hatching plans for world domination? Even worse, what's with this busy-and-important person taking time out of their puppy-boiling schedule to have long chats with random teenage girls? Even if they're winning Hunger Games or the daughter of another politico it's just utterly stupid. I don't see Kim Jong Il taking a meeting with Taylor Swift or Chelsea Clinton to chat about nuking Alaska.
I liked the book enough to plow through to the end. I liked it enough to check the sequel out of the library for a skim. But I'm just disappointed that so many of the books that are popular now are so...adequate.(less)
This book was written out of the author's fevered desperation for money. His home was destroyed by fire in February, 1968. He wrote the three novellas...moreThis book was written out of the author's fevered desperation for money. His home was destroyed by fire in February, 1968. He wrote the three novellas-- gathered here in one volume-- for a science fiction magazine.
This is very much a relic of the Science Fiction of the time, focusing on philosophical utopia and the transcendence of difference and conflict.
At its most basic level it is a retelling of the birth of Christianity.
It is undeniably a strong story, but it is also very much a piece of its time. The over emphasis on psychedelic transformation seems quaint and underdeveloped from the standpoint of a post-millennial reader. I enjoyed the anthropology of the story, but could honestly have done without all the "We are star-stuff" magicoscience that forms the story's conclusion.
I'm giving it 4.5 stars because it is a good, compelling read. I'm docking the half-star because it is far from timeless. The obvious aura of 1968 detracts from the story's power. (less)
I like medical historical fiction a lot. Unfortunately that's not really what this book was. Sure, there was some medicine in...moreWell that was different.
I like medical historical fiction a lot. Unfortunately that's not really what this book was. Sure, there was some medicine involved, but there was more Indian mysticism and India travelogue.
The book starts off by explaining that George Darcy (uncle of the fatally overexposed Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice) is the bestest doctor that ever hatched. There's some gooey exposition at the outset that tells us that he's basically saved the lives of everyone in the environs of Pemberly in his teen years. Now that he's done with medical school he's off on a contract with the East India Company to practice medicine in Bombay.
Then all of a sudden he's in Bombay, better than the hack doctor he works for. See a theme? Enter The Magical Indian...an Ayurvedic specialist named Kshitij (prounounced "KShetty", but really ?!? You named your character a word containing the word s h I t?) Ullas.
Darcy then spends decades becoming the best best doctor--East Meets West!!!--and then there's the typical romance.
The part of medical historical fiction I tend to enjoy is watching the doctor learn and grow. When you start off with an arrogant character who knows everything and show his arrogance to be justified because he does know everything then there is no enjoyable growth.
All of the interesting journeys are narrated in throwaway paragraphs; the sea crossing from England merits two pages of journal entry.
Effectively every interesting part I look for in this type of book is tabled in favour of the drawing room confrontations that are a staple of Austenian fiction. (less)
Yeah, I know it's fiction and it's meant to be light and escapist.
I was especially excited because it isn't often that childfree-by-choice characters...moreYeah, I know it's fiction and it's meant to be light and escapist.
I was especially excited because it isn't often that childfree-by-choice characters show up in chick lit. When the heroine talks about meeting her boyfriend at a childfree meeting I thought "hmmm...at last a book for us single-gen families.*"
(*the term "childfree" has negative connotations for those with children. The term "childless" likewise has negative connotations for folks like me who are not parents. I tend to prefer the designation "single-generation family" as it describes my family without a harsh subtext. I use the term "childfree by choice" in this review because that is the way the character refers to herself.)
I suppose my two-star review is in itself a spoiler for the fact that by the end of the book our plucky heroine declares that she DOES want kids...she was just afraid to let herself want them in case she couldn't have them!
Because you know, secretly everyone wants a child or two or five.
It's kind of insulting, really.
Had it not been for that bit of nonsense I'd most likely have given the book 2.5 stars rounded up to three. All of the secondary characters were annoying, there was no comeuppance for antagonists and bratty kids' vandalism of leased property was treated as a punch line with no consequences befalling them.
And of course the heroine has an unrealistic "career" that gives her oodles of free time to swan around being eccentric.
It just wasn't as fun to read as it thought it should be.(less)
This is a bargain Kindle read for the month of July. It may be worth the $2 I gave for it. Maybe.
I didn't read the book when it first came out becaus...moreThis is a bargain Kindle read for the month of July. It may be worth the $2 I gave for it. Maybe.
I didn't read the book when it first came out because 1. I don't trust books based on blogs as so many of them merely compile the free-to-read blog entries and sell them to people too lazy to click through the blog archives.
2. When I had read the blog in the past it struck me as alternating between smug pretension and snarky whining.
3. If I want to hear waitstaff grumble about tips I can go to Reddit or LiveJournal.
Well, so far the book is at least safe on #1...there is actually some semblance of new material. Unfortunately that "new" material hurts the #2 category in a big way. Because now The Waiter takes anecdotes from the blog and weaves them into the most tiresome story device ever...the "here is the deeper life meaning revealed by this little story." Knowing that the author went to seminary should be a warning. The book is indeed so far a series of secularised homilies. It's a sermon collection for people who worship food.
I'm writing this review while I'm only halfway through the book because I'm honestly not sure if I'll finish the book itself. The voice he writes with just does NOT make me want to root for him. He's snottily making snap judgements on the diners whose patronage kept him fed, clothed, housed and patronizing lap dancers for the better part of a decade. I like how a guy who can't get it together in his own life decides that he can automatically declare a person a villain for leaving him a $7 tip instead of the more mathematically correct $9.50.
I tip well for a variety of reasons, mostly because I know what it's like to have a hard job and I appreciate having someone else carry my plate and bring me sodas. But the difference between a bad tip --10%-- and a good tip of 15-20% is often only a couple of dollars. I err on the side of generosity unless the service has been a huge failure. But I can understand the reasoning behind some folks' decision to tip the lower amount and I don't think it's particularly fair for someone like The Waiter to be so rude about it. Yes, I know servers don't make minimum wage. But he himself repeats endlessly that he stays in the job largely because he's addicted to the lifestyle and has little financial discipline. With these confessions out in the open it hardly seems sensible for him to complain about the people whose whims underwrite his drunken strip club crawls.
---- Any amount of patience I had for this guy went out the window when he told the story about giving espresso to a woman who was annoying him with her repeated requests for a very hot cup of decaf. I understand being upset about not getting paid what you deserve. (Try being an executive assistant for a couple years and then come crying. They're always underpaid and don't get free food and booze). I understand wanting an outlet for the various gripes that come with any job.
But when you begin medicating people against their explicit requests, that crosses a major line. Caffeine is a drug that many people cannot have due to medicatons for heart disease, migraine, autoimmune disease, Type 2 diabetes and many other common ailments. When a person says "decaf" fifty times it's obviously important. In what may come as a shocking twist, Mr. The Waiter, the world does NOT revolve around you so the lady's request for decaf is most likely not some plot cooked up in an underground bunker to annoy your precious self. The fact that you'd go ahead and give her not only caffeine but a highly-concentrated dose of the stuff is proof of what a self-absorbed twit you really are.
I think I'm officially done spending time in your world. (less)
I have read _Crossroad Cafe_ five times. It's one of my favourite escapist reads of the last three years. I loved it enough to send Deborah Smith a "t...moreI have read _Crossroad Cafe_ five times. It's one of my favourite escapist reads of the last three years. I loved it enough to send Deborah Smith a "thank you" note for having written such a wonderful novel.
In the wake of reading (and loving) _Crossroad Cafe_ I bought as much of Ms. Smith's backlist as I could track down and read it all.
Naturally I was thrilled beyond measure to see Smith leave her "Leigh Bridger" persona and paranormal romance series behind and return to this wonderful Appalachian story land.
Have you ever eaten Lucky Charms cereal? You know how there are all the crunchy oat bits and the occasional sweetness of marshmallow? Well, _The Biscuit Witch_ is the fiction version of a bowl of Lucky Charms marshmallows. Since the book is a novella, the crunchy oats of setup and character growth are gone. Instead it's all the sweet high points of a Deborah Smith novel, crammed in an awkward way into this thing that passes for story.
The characters' quirky lives are setup in a few tossed off opening paragraphs; what should be the first act of the novel is missing entirely. Instead we dive right into the meet-cute involving a bear, a bronco and a batch of banana cupcakes. The male love interest falls immediately in love with Tallulah Bankhead MacBride--have I mentioned how utterly PRECIOUS everything is?--and she reciprocates. Twelve hours (!) later they're sharing a house. Twenty hours after their INITIAL MEETING the neighbours phone Tal to take care of her love interest after a cute-sick head injury. Yes...after less than one day she is the emergency contact for this man.
There's the usual bit about how food=love and Tal bakes the best biscuits. Three more days, maybe four, Tal's little girl is calling THE MAN THEY JUST MET "daddy". And the book ends and they live happily until the sequel, which is coming in a couple of months.
I normally love the escapist worlds of Smith's work. But this is all phoned in and feels like an attempt to cash in on the first book's popularity.
I'm trying to resist the urge to give this 1 star. Because it's a fine story on one level that works for what it is. But knowing how much better Smith can do makes this review hard to distill into a star rating system. I'll go with three--rounded up from 2.5. Anything else is grade inflation out of a fondness for Smith's other work.(less)
This book takes three of my favourite topics--horror, history and post-apocalyptic fiction--and performs the sort of literary alchemy that is too rare...moreThis book takes three of my favourite topics--horror, history and post-apocalyptic fiction--and performs the sort of literary alchemy that is too rare and almost too delightful for words.
I read it reluctantly because I hate HATE HATE Zombies. Like, really hate. I can't imagine anything stupider, frankly. So I ignored this book for years. Then when the movie was slated for release and everyone talked about how the novel was unfilmable and the movie was so different...I was intrigued.
I'm glad I'm old enough to set some prejudice aside.
First off, to those who say this book is unfilmable I say "hah! That's BS!" Because this book _is_ filmable. It should have been made into a miniseries structured like a Ken Burns documentary. Because that is what this book is...an oral history splendidly crafted.
I have read hundreds of books on WWII, WWI, the United States Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, and Vietnam. Apparently so has Max Brooks because he deftly made this book into one of those accounts. By the midpoint of the book I had to begin reminding myself that this was fiction, that I couldn't Google the various names for more background information.
I am thoroughly delighted with every aspect of this book, including the fact that the Zombie business is actually NOT a big part of the story. The actual narrative is how the world--from Australia to Zambia--is affected by a 'Zombie Apocalypse' and how that world slowly rights itself.
The book owes deep debts to WWII oral accounts and, oddly enough, to the film _The Longest Day_. The Zombies are the Macguffin that allows Brooks to write a splendid War History.
I completely love this book and am now setting about to beg everyone I know who has even the slightest interest in history to give it a read. (less)
I initially reviewed this on Amazon, and much of the review here is what you would find over there. But I'm added some material upfront because I thin...moreI initially reviewed this on Amazon, and much of the review here is what you would find over there. But I'm added some material upfront because I think I went a little too obscure with some of what I said. It may be a bit too LitCrit for a review. So let me start by saying this is a fun story that can be easily read in one sitting and has more substance than a lot of what you find in the current Paranormal reads. ----- It is not usual for horror shorts to be written from the female point of view...unless there's a lot of sweaty paranormal boomchickapowpow going on. I mean, if you want fun sexytime books that fill in the gaps left behind when True Blood is off the air you can pretty much go anywhere.
But if you're looking for a unique story that reinterprets the female biological clock and familial relationship dynamics as a genre speculative tale, those just aren't really thick on the ground, you know.
It's a shame, too, because once you read this short story by Heckenbach you'll wish there were more like it. It's very interesting to see how a woman's ordinary relationships become, ironically, not-so-ordinary when put through the crucible of Wereism.
In fact, it's a great service to the title because one sees the deep irony in it, but also the truth. Janey isn't ordinary. Her situation isn't ordinary. But in a way....it is. Because not all women are werewolves, but all women go through changes and meet obstacles--like Janey did--that they must choose not only if they will move past them but HOW they will move past them. This story works on two levels, as all good folklore should.(less)