This book, described as a comic novel, is not actually all that funny. A lot of the humor is in the form of satirical descriptions of the state of pop...moreThis book, described as a comic novel, is not actually all that funny. A lot of the humor is in the form of satirical descriptions of the state of popular culture in the late 60s and 70s, as well as the portrait of Roy Vandervane, an aging leftist who chases that culture (and a 17 year old girl who epitomizes it). Unfortunately, satirical stuff has a whining tone, and perhaps I just don't share some British cultural understanding that would make Vandervane a believable character, but it ended up falling quite short of my expectations (which were high, considering that I think Amis is quite funny and like other books of his a lot). Also, the ending is a downer.(less)
this book doesn't hit quite as hard as The Things They Carried (to me, anyways). O'Brien is a good writer, in that he is very good at what he does. i...morethis book doesn't hit quite as hard as The Things They Carried (to me, anyways). O'Brien is a good writer, in that he is very good at what he does. i confess that after a book and a half, i find what he does to be somewhat narrowly constrained. but he does do it quite well. if you're interested in fear and self-doubt and the phenomenology of the individual soldier (in Vietnam), then this is a book you should read. it also plays enjoyably between fantasy and reality (in a way that reminds me of murakami, although i'm sure better read people could find more apt comparisons).(less)
Some of these stories are great! Some are ok. Almost none are bad (there are a couple I didn't really care for). A very nicely curated collection, all...moreSome of these stories are great! Some are ok. Almost none are bad (there are a couple I didn't really care for). A very nicely curated collection, all told.(less)
Maugham in his element - sexy personal drama that flouts conventional (for his time) morality. Not as great on substance as some of his longer novels;...moreMaugham in his element - sexy personal drama that flouts conventional (for his time) morality. Not as great on substance as some of his longer novels; really this read like a short story that ran on to the point where he felt like publishing it as a book. But that is to say that it, like most of his short stories, is damn good.(less)
Christie is a delight if you like detective fiction that is a clear product of its period (in this case, interwar Europe). A lot of the fun of Orient...moreChristie is a delight if you like detective fiction that is a clear product of its period (in this case, interwar Europe). A lot of the fun of Orient Express is the nationalist biases of the various characters: the British are calm, rational and dull; Americans are obnoxious and materialistic; Italians are hot-headed and stabby. But I was surprised to find that this short little mystery tale actually raises an interesting moral question at the end - one which Christie presents as rather unproblematic, which itself is one of the more intriguing things about it.(less)
This book is full of super-rich, intricately worded prose, the action unfolding at a glacial pace as Peake lays out every minute detail of the setting...moreThis book is full of super-rich, intricately worded prose, the action unfolding at a glacial pace as Peake lays out every minute detail of the setting and the reactions of the characters. Admittedly, this is not usually my thing, so this book was a struggle at times, but I did get a lot out of it. I won't have the energy to finish the trilogy in the near future, but I am compelled enough to find out what happens that I'm not sure I'll be able to avoid it.(less)
One might wonder why I bothered reading this book, given that I didn't like the first two and the third was only marginally better. I was almost convi...moreOne might wonder why I bothered reading this book, given that I didn't like the first two and the third was only marginally better. I was almost convinced of quitting until my sister (who put me up to reading the series in the first place) made me sit through the fourth movie. That got me thinking, the first three books are short and not very sophisticated (being targeted, if we take Harry's age as a metric, at 11-13 year olds). Out of fairness, it seemed like I should look at this book, which (I believe) is the longest, and much more substantial. Plus, I'll admit that about halfway deep into the storyline, I was just curious what happens. (Not that it's not obvious what, ultimately, is going to happen. But I did want to know in a bit more detail than that.)
J.K. Rowling was not a good writer when she wrote the Philosopher's Stone and I can say with confidence that she hasn't really improved much. Her writing is littered with lazy cliches, and when she tries to break that habit she just ends up spinning metaphors that make no sense. It is considered a mark of a good writer that they can show, not tell, something to the reader. Rowling generally tries first artlessly to show, then gives up and tells you anyway, with the result that her writing is not just bad but boring. Thankfully, this is more common in the earlier books, but she continues to bore in other ways. Long stretches of this book (and the series as a whole) are painfully dull to get through. Anything to do with the Dursleys, Harry's non-magical aunt and uncle, is mindlessly predictable, and I found myself eagerly awaiting his return to the magic world not end his suffering but mine. Almost as dull are the magical fight scenes, which I hadn't encountered until this book. This comes as a strange surprise because this book is basically one long building of suspense for when the forces of evil will finally show themselves, and when they do a fight is inevitable. Unfortunately, this fighting takes the form of a lot of "so-and-so cast a spell at such-and-such, which just missed him, but then he was hit by another spell thrown by whoever". (Remember the descriptions of battles in the Iliad? It's about that bad.) Another problem is that Harry and his cohort's emotional reactions often strained credibility, but of course I'm reading a book intended for adolescents some ten years too late. Part of the success of these books may well be that a 15 year old who reads this feels that it accurately reflects their emotional world. I still find their behavior hard to believe, but perhaps I'm just not the one to judge.
In spite of all these qualms, I did find things to like. I was surprisingly pleased with the way Rowling sustained the build-up throughout this book and her eventual resolution was fairly well-crafted, the fight scene notwithstanding. Also, there is one exception to the dull magical fight scenes, when Dumbledore (Harry's mentor - think Obi-Wan Kenobi) fights Voldemort (the most evil and powerful wizard - think Darth Vader crossed with Emperor Palpatine with a dash of Hitler). Basically, whenever Dumbledore uses magic it feels more like jazz improvisation. Nothing he does is presented in a way that is clear to the reader, and it's not overburdened with excessive explanation, which makes it much more enjoyable to read.
These books are not great works of literature, but like any story once this series gets going you can feel the pull of the conclusion, beckoning however many pages beyond. Unfortunately, after finishing this book I happened to be on a plane where I could watch the 6th movie for free, and I quickly discovered that at this point in the story the movies are just confusing, which more or less condemns me to finishing this series if I want to find out what happens.(less)
I would not have picked up this book had we not found it lying around a small hotel in a quiet town in Central Panama. Caroline found it dull compared...moreI would not have picked up this book had we not found it lying around a small hotel in a quiet town in Central Panama. Caroline found it dull compared to the movie, which she felt better built up the suspense. I thought it well-written, though, and other than the fact that I knew the ending that it did a good job building. Plus, great descriptions of life for a young couple living in New York in the 60s.(less)