This was the first book I read when I started my new bus/train commute. But, this was not the first Dragonlance book I've ever read. It was the tenth....moreThis was the first book I read when I started my new bus/train commute. But, this was not the first Dragonlance book I've ever read. It was the tenth. Dragonlance is a gigantic moneymaking franchise that runs off the insatiable appetites of geeks, among which I count myself. It's almost besides the point for me to review the book at all, because it's so niche. Either you "get it" or you don't. But, shoot, I'll give it a try.
The original Dragonlance trilogy (which I read in high school) was about a group of friends living in a fantasy world in which a medievalesque society exists alongside magic, gods, monsters, etc. The friends become unlikely heroes who play a central part in saving the world. Time of the Twins is the first book of a follow-on trilogy that focuses on the further adventures of two (and a half) of the original adventurers: twin brothers Caramon and Raistlin. These two characters will always have a soft spot in my heart. Big-hearted, simple-minded, strong and tough Caramon; frail, sickly, brilliant, manipulative Raistlin. Caramon is one of the world's greatest fighters, and Raistlin one of it's most potent wizards. They love each other and they hate each other. In every pair of brothers, or even friends, one is usually the Raistlin and one is the Caramon. I've been both.
The "and a half" is the pint-sized thief Tasslehoff. He's a recurring character who is supposed to be comic relief, and he's hit or miss. Sometimes he's annoyng as crap, and sometimes he makes me laugh.
But mostly the story is about Caramon and Raistlin, as they begin a new adventure. They end up going back in time, where Raistlin learns the secrets of a legendary wizard and Caramon becomes an infamous gladiator (and Tasslehoff causes general mischief), just before a Cataclysm is sent by the gods to punish a prideful humanity. And set the scene for book 2! Like I said, if you're a geek, this stuff is GREAT - all action and imagination. If that's not your cup of tea, it probably all seems silly and/or needlessly complicated. I eat this stuff up.
There really is some good character development between the brothers, you just have to wade through a lot of genre tropes to get to it. But that characterization elevates the twins' story above your usual sword-n-sorcery hackwork. There's a general consensus among Dragonlance fans that "Legends" (as this trilogy about Caramon & Raistlin is known) is the best among the literally hundreds of other Dragonlance volumes, and that's probably true.(less)
It is slowly dawning on me that I have a continent-sized soft spot in my book-reading heart for Colonial/Revolutionary America. Mason & Dixon does...moreIt is slowly dawning on me that I have a continent-sized soft spot in my book-reading heart for Colonial/Revolutionary America. Mason & Dixon does a fair amount of globetrotting but spends a lot of time in mid-18th C. America, mainly along the line that the astronomer and the surveyor would lend their names to, but ranging as far north as New York and as far south as Williamsburg, VA - and I would by a lying liar who lies if I didn't admit I was delighted by the references to Raleigh Tavern and the suggestion that one of Dixon's idle toasts to "the pursuit of happiness" was very inspirational to a young W&M student named Tom. I was even more amused by the reconstruction of the First Pizza In England: a loaf of bread pounded flat, covered in ketchup, Stilson cheese, and sardines. (Sounds horrific, but the scene is pretty hilarious.) Pynchon does his crazy post-modern thing, inventing words and describing eccentric professors who teach students to fly above the Earth's ley lines, and his imaginary biography of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon doesn't always maintain strict logical cohesion, but as a portrait of a relationship it ends up as very compelling. If you like odd ideas and stories told in odd ways (and I certainly do) then it's a very fun read - hard work to get through, but fun.
If you're interested in some more thoughts on Mason & Dixon (and other almost wholly unrelated topics) check out my blog.(less)
Please don't let my lowly 2-star rating fool you into thinking that The Haunting of Hill House is a mediocre-to-bad book (or, even worse, into thinkin...morePlease don't let my lowly 2-star rating fool you into thinking that The Haunting of Hill House is a mediocre-to-bad book (or, even worse, into thinking that *I* am so presumptuous as to insist that's the case). The GoodReads stars, I reminded myself as I registered my rating, are not only highly subjective but specifically meant to measure whether or not the reader personally liked reading the book. And I am coming to the disappointing realization that Shirley Jackson is just not my cup of tea. She's an important writer, a national treasure, a hugely and deservedly influential force in the development of countless other authors (many of whom - ahem, ahem, Stephen King - I like a great deal) and she is exceptionally skilled at weaving together the trappings of gothic horror and the realities of existential dread. But that being said, what she does simply doesn't do anything for me, no matter how exquisitely well she does it. So. 2 stars. But you should probably read the book and judge for yourself. (less)
It took me longer than I expected to finish reading The Rise of Endymion. Part of it was due to the fact that the days are getting shorter and DST is...moreIt took me longer than I expected to finish reading The Rise of Endymion. Part of it was due to the fact that the days are getting shorter and DST is over, so when I'm standing at the bus stop in the evening I lose some commute reading time, because I'm standing in the dark. But part of it, I'm pretty sure, was subconscious, as I didn't want the epic Hyperion/Endymion saga to end. But end it must, and end it did, and it ended very well.
Trilogies and tetralogies and so on can be tricky things because the author gets a pass on the endings of every book except the last, as the reader gives the author the benefit of the doubt to see where the whole thing is going. The last page of part one does not have to be monumentally satisfying, but the longer the series goes, the more satisfying the last page of the last volume needs to be.
I'm happy to report that The Rise of Endymion succeeds in meeting that particular need. The last 100 or so pages of this fourth and final installment consist of one payoff after another, some from situations that arose in volume three, some which had been lingering since the first twists in the very first volume. There were payoffs for things which I didn't even realize needed payoffs until I was taking them in.
If I had any complaint, it was that the book had enough plot to justify two novels, easily. I would not have complained at all if the saga had been five volumes. The Rise of Endymion didn't feel rushed or overstuffed, but it did cover a lot of ground quickly, and I would have enjoyed lingering in some places a bit longer. Still, it's a four and a half star book and I would not hesitate to recommend the entire four-part series to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, philosophy and love stories.(less)
So here's a book that my wife recommended which was also read and enjoyed by her parents - and not just because of an affinity created by the fact tha...moreSo here's a book that my wife recommended which was also read and enjoyed by her parents - and not just because of an affinity created by the fact that the McCaffrey family often has their name misheard, mispronounced and mistranscribed as McCarthy. More likely it's simply that they've all been to and loved Ireland, and this book is a funny, self-deprecating travelogue covering most of the island. It also introduced me to a fundamental rule of travel: if you encounter a bar with your own name over the door, you MUST go inside for a drink. Obviously this happens far more often to Pete McCarthy in Ireland than it ever has or will happen to me, BUT, it has steeled my resolve to be on the lookout for any Dale's Cantina or Glaser Festbrauhaus I might stumble across, into, and eventually out of.(less)
This is one of those books that really causes you to sit back and scratch your head and wonder, "Do we really know anything about anything? Is there a...moreThis is one of those books that really causes you to sit back and scratch your head and wonder, "Do we really know anything about anything? Is there an objective reality, and if so, do any of us know the capital-T Truth at the heart of it?" It details the misunderstandings and clashes between shamanistic animists and medical scientists, over the battleground of a very young epileptic girl. Going into the book, I would have identified 100% as a believer in medical science, and while I think interpretations of natural phenomena as the handiwork of good and evil spirits is fascinating, that's not really real.
But ... sometimes people get sick, and all they do is pray to the ancestors or the spirit world or the like, and sometimes they get better and sometimes they don't. Sometimes people get sick and get treated with medicine or surgery, and sometimes they get better and sometimes they don't. We tend to believe that the people who got western medicine had the better chance either way, but that's based on a whole raft of assumptions which we very often don't challenge or even really think about. So I was grateful to Ms. Fadiman for at least nudging me outside my comfort zone to really examine what it means to believe in science.
This is really a book about two tragedies, one affecting the life of a sick little girl and her family, the other affecting an entire culture. It's an almost unresolvable debate to try to figure out who failed Lia Lee when doctors decided she needed to be constantly medicated and her parents were completely unprepared to wrap their heads around that concept. What's not debatable is how badly the U.S. government treated the Hmong people during and after the Quiet War in Laos of the 1960's. Another aspect of American history which was new to me and a rueful lesson to learn.
I haven't read many case history books like The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, but I'll still throw a couple more books on the shelves with tenuous connections to girls and hospitals, because hey, that's what I do.(less)
To go alongside A Prayer For Owen Meany, here is another novel about a tragic misunderstood Christ-figure. You had to assume Stephen King would get ar...moreTo go alongside A Prayer For Owen Meany, here is another novel about a tragic misunderstood Christ-figure. You had to assume Stephen King would get around to one of these eventually. It's not a horror story, though, just a fantasy of the Old South.(less)
I find myself very appreciative of GoodReads right now, because when I finished reading this fourth volume of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers saga I w...moreI find myself very appreciative of GoodReads right now, because when I finished reading this fourth volume of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers saga I was left with conflicting feelings: enjoying what I had read but gripped with a nagging certainty that I was missing a lot of the connections between the pieces, because it had been a while since I read the three previous installments. I couldn't remember exactly how long it had been, but how convenient! That information is recorded in my personal bookshelves here! So I looked it up, and sure enough: I read volume one in November of 2010, volume two in January of 2011, and volume three in September of 2011. So it took me nearly two years to finally make time to take in the conclusion. I guess I've been busy!
At any rate, Grant Morriojns can do very little wrong in my eyes, particularly when he's playing around with obscure superheroes and notions of how the entire universe of human existence fits together as filtered through various fantasy traditions. It's trippy and fun pop art, which means I have no doubt that at some point I will sit down and reread all four volumes in something much closer to a long continuous sitting, and like them even better the second time as a single experience. (less)