Well, I just didn't get it. At all. I'm very new to Aylett, having only read The Crime Studio before reading this one -- I absolutely loved The CrimeWell, I just didn't get it. At all. I'm very new to Aylett, having only read The Crime Studio before reading this one -- I absolutely loved The Crime Studio, but I don't know . . . This one just didn't do it for me.
Fain the Sorcerer begins the story as Fain the Gardener -- how he becomes a sorcerer (view spoiler)[ (and time traveller and murderer and dragon slayer and etc.) (hide spoiler)] is the bulk of the tale. What Fain is, mostly, is a too-clever-for-his-own-good kinda guy, and there is a lot of pleasure in seeing him attempt to outwit fate, as well as himself.
There's a bit of a circular nature to the story, as well, which I enjoyed very much. I think my biggest problem was probably not being a fan (and so not very familiar with) these types of fantasy tales. Fans of this genre will probably get a lot more out of it than I did.
I have several other Ayelett books to read -- I've started Only an Alligator, and thought it was hysterical, so I think this was just a case of a particular book not being right for me.
If you read this, do not skip Alan Moore's introduction!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
In some ways this reminded me of The Wasp Factory -- which I didn't like. One of my biggest complaints about that book was its unrelentingly depressinIn some ways this reminded me of The Wasp Factory -- which I didn't like. One of my biggest complaints about that book was its unrelentingly depressing tone. This book also deals with an eccentric, isolated family, but Bigot Hall leans toward the absurd, which I found far more enjoyable.
I could (almost) see this as a Tim Burton film, and found myself wishing he'd taken the plunge and filmed it. About halfway through, though, I reached a plot point (view spoiler)[(sibling incest) (hide spoiler)] that made me realize even Burton probably couldn't pull this one off.
In spite of that, I liked all of the characters. There's a really wonderful British-ness to the writing -- I really don't know of an American who could utilize this type of humour effectively. (SIDE NOTE: Why is that? What is it about British humour that is so difficult for Americans to replicate?)
Here's a brief summary, for those who like that sort of thing:
Told from the point of view of Laughing Boy -- difficult to tell if that's his name or simply a perjorative which everyone uses to refer to him (most likely it's both) -- the story concerns his family: sister Adrienne; violent Uncle Snapper (so unstable, he's been banished to live in a treehouse); Nanny Jack, dead but refusing to stay buried; Father, who is calm to the point of inertia; and Mother, whose terrible cooking drives everyone into a frenzy of hunger. They are joined by various other family members, as well as several boarders, and Laughing Boy's one friend, Billy Verlag, the only boy in the village "small and spherical enough for the other kids to boot over the perimeter wall."
Here's an example of Aylett's brilliance:
"I didn't know what other circuses were like but this one was teeming with psychotics. Gabbling men in make-up riding round and round on bicycles which were evidently too small for them. Chap in a leotard, biffing along a high-tension wire. Bloke dressed as the Joker, telling us everything was dangerous and real. As if I of all people didn't know. One fool struggled into a giant cannon -- it was clear he had a deathwish and wasn't waiting for the gods to deliver. Nevertheless he gave a yell of surprise as he flew through the air. Meanwhile someone stepped into a cage with a lion. For me a lion is like any other situation -- if you're going to whip it and push it away with a chair, why get involved in the first place? In my opinion the bloke was just doing it for show.
"The true horrors, however, were the clowns. Ashen and demented, they shambled out of the wings like victims of an over-zealous bloodbank. Only the coldest of souls could watch their exploits without screaming. Car crashes, drownings, fires -- you name it. Even the laughter was exaggerated. Some of them were carried off on stretchers which collapsed. The entire affair was meaningless, the stuff of nightmares. I had to get out."
So why are you still reading this review? Go and read the book, already!
Highly recommend, especially for fans of Aylett, fans of bizarro, fans of Tim Burton, or anyone breathing who has a decent sense of humour. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm not sure what I can say about this book -- it's weird and funny, with quotable lines on every page, and I wanted to read it again the second I finI'm not sure what I can say about this book -- it's weird and funny, with quotable lines on every page, and I wanted to read it again the second I finished it. In fact, I might just do that . . .
This is a collection of interrelated stories about the citizens of Beerlight, where apparently everyone is a criminal -- although criminal aptitude varies, of course. There is a running theme of . . . I want to say joy . . . in these stories. As often as not, these burglars and con artists have become what they are due to an appreciation of the absurd, or a desire for hilarity -- I found the combination of mayhem and glee to be irresistible.
Oddly enough, the writing reminds me very much of Catch-22, with surreal situations, wonderful wordplay, and the occasional shot to the heart.
Who among us hasn't seen a wild animal and had just a moment's thought that it would be nice to commune with it in some way, stroke its fur or play wiWho among us hasn't seen a wild animal and had just a moment's thought that it would be nice to commune with it in some way, stroke its fur or play with it . . . I think it's a normal reaction for those of us who were raised and now live in developed areas -- we've lost sight of the fact that animals, particularly wild ones, can be dangerous.
David Baron makes a compelling case for human culpability in the 1991 death of 18 year old Scott Lancaster, who was killed (and eaten) by a mountain lion. Baron doesn't lay the blame on Lancaster -- there is no evidence that he in any way played a part in his own death. Rather, he shows, step by step, how the city of Boulder, Colorado, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife worked against each other, leading to a "perfect storm" of factors that made this attack all but inevitable.
The author has done an amazing job of sorting though all of the evidence in this case -- not just the evidence in Lancaster's death, but also piecing together the various factors that led to the "nature fetishism" that played a big factor in it. He goes back to the 1970s, showing how a love of nature made vast amounts of green space a priority for the city of Boulder, also prompting a ban on hunting in those green spaces. As deer and small game became common -- and residents began encouraging the wildlife to enter areas inhabited by humans -- large carnivores followed the prey into those inhabited areas.
The problem at that point became an issue of large, dangerous creatures becoming habituated to humans. After learning that household pets were easy prey, it was only a matter of time before they moved on to an even more abundant source of food . . .
I really liked how Baron explored the area's history -- I love history, for a start, but there were so many small factors that added up to forming this problem. He goes all the way back to the settling of Colorado, the gold rush and mining that led people to move West, and the stance the early settlers had on large carnivores (which amounted to "kill them all"). He even ventures further into the past, speculating on the origins of the human/carnivore animosity and the natural fear of them that modern humans seem to have forgotten.
This one is a real page turner -- I finished it in a day, and that's while I battled the flu! Highly recommend!...more
Another brilliant addition to Defoe's Pirates! series. There's such a temptation to start quoting some of the hysterical lines in this book, but thereAnother brilliant addition to Defoe's Pirates! series. There's such a temptation to start quoting some of the hysterical lines in this book, but there are just too many, and a lot of them aren't as funny out of context. Which is a shame, because I really want to share the joy that is this book!
The fun starts in the dedication -- not sure what that's all about, but it made me laugh.
You'd be missing a lot of the humour if you skipped the stuff like the Contents, Chapter Headings, or the Index -- it's all a bit wonky, just like the Pirate Captain and his crew. You don't want to miss stuff like "Module 15: Asteroids, the vermin of the sky" , "GIRLS, remain resolutely unimpressed by pirate books, 1-944", or "SWIMMING, pirates are too embarrassed to take their shirts off, 766".
If you've never read the Pirates! books, they all revolve around the escapades of the overly confident (and incompetent) Pirate Captain, his endearingly childlike crew, and various historical figures. This book, obviously, features Napoleon, who is as self-promoting and arrogant as you might expect.
After being tricked into buying St. Helena by his nemesis, Black Bellamy, the Pirate Captain butts heads with Napoleon, each vying to become president of the St. Helena's Residents' Association.
If that sounds somewhat kooky, you're getting the point of the entire thing!
The cover of my copy -- the paperback edition -- is very nice as well, featuring Napoleon, bees, and even the Pirate Captain himself.
Jimmy Plush is your typical noir hardcase -- except for the fact that he's actually a down-on-his-luck writer, Charles Hatbox, who switched bodies wit
Jimmy Plush is your typical noir hardcase -- except for the fact that he's actually a down-on-his-luck writer, Charles Hatbox, who switched bodies with the vile Jimmy Plush when faced with gambling debts he couldn't pay. He's a little bit Bogart, a whole lot of Snake Plissken, and just a teensy pinch of Peter Sellers (although Plush's chauffer routinely tries to help, rather than harm, him).
This book -- divided into six parts -- started out really well. "Mr. Plush, Detective" had me laughing out loud on the first page. This is the most "noir" of the stories, with furries, a faux-Chinese mob boss, and Plush's nemesis Mittens O'Hara (who happens to be a talking cat). Garrett Cook, what the heck were you smoking when you thought this one up?! It's a lot of fun, and I think I enjoyed it the most out of the stories because it stuck fairly close to a noir-ish story line.
"Mr. Plush and the Dead Horse" explored the dynamic between Jimmy Plush and his chauffer, Chang, a bit more -- I really enjoyed the parts with Chang, although I found Plush to be more abrasive in this story. There is a great twist in this chapter, which I found interesting and thought provoking.
In "Jimmy Plush and Mittens O'Hara in Zuvembie Soiree" we find Plush and Chang reunited with Mittens O'Hara at a high society party. This is where the book started going off the rails for me -- it got a lot darker in this story, and I didn't really like the direction Jimmy was headed in.
"Mr. Plush and the Chief Inspector" pushed a bit farther into this darker direction, and, again, I wasn't prepared for it. I guess I just like my teddy bear detectives a little less violent.
The book finishes with "Jimmy Plush in the Tomb of the Martian Pharoah". As crazy as the book was up to this point, it really goes full on bizarro in this last story. I found this one to be a bit confusing, but there were a lot of other elements I really enjoyed. The characters were fun, and there were a lot of unexpected twists.
All in all, I thought this was a good book, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it for everyone. If you strongly dislike violence or don't like your bizarro too bizarre, you might want to read something else.
I really hate it when I don't like a book. I'm always tempted not to write a review of it, maybe because of that old "if youBoy oh boy oh boy oh boy.
I really hate it when I don't like a book. I'm always tempted not to write a review of it, maybe because of that old "if you don't have anything nice to say" adage. Especially when I'm in an extremely tiny minority.
But . . . you can't like everything.
This book just didn't click with me at all. I loved the idea of the book, I loved the unusual collection of narrators, I loved parts of the book . . . I just didn't love it all put together.
I found the writing to be very disjointed and confusing -- and I would point out that I'm normally a big fan of disjointed, as long as it all ties together at the end. But this book just didn't gel for me. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions -- again, I'm usually okay with stories that leave you to ponder a bit, but this one just felt unfinished and jumbled.
My biggest problem, though, was with the characters. I just didn't like any of them. Every time I'd start connecting with one, they would do or say something that put me off again.
That said, though, I'm still interested in reading more of Wensink's work (although he may prefer I didn't write any more reviews). There was a lot of potential in this book that I'm hoping will be much better realized in his other stories....more
This book was very disappointing. While the author touches on a lot of subjects, there is no depth at all to the analyses, and Nickell's source materiThis book was very disappointing. While the author touches on a lot of subjects, there is no depth at all to the analyses, and Nickell's source material most often includes his other books. I would hope THOSE books might provide more information and insight, but after reading this one I doubt I'll spend my time or money investigating them.
There were a few chapters that were particularly annoying:
Chapter 18: The Humanoids includes an illustration of the "Alien Time Line" which shows representations of aliens from 1947 through the present day. Nickell's point seems to be 1) that there are so many differences as to render all witness reports null, and 2) that there has been a trend towards a "generic" alien representation.
While it's true that there is a more standard depiction of aliens now, I don't believe that proves anything other than cultural awareness of the phenomenon. In answer to the first point, it seems incredible to believe that if other worlds had achieved interstellar or intergalactic travel, there would be only one type of creature represented. Nickell also includes on his list at least two "aliens" -- the Flatwoods Monster and West Virginia's Mothman -- that he believes were actually owl sightings misconstrued as aliens or monsters. In that case, why are they included on the timeline?
In the same chapter, Nickell discusses -- briefly -- the "Alien Autopsy" film. The tone here is bizarre, with Nickell seeming to feel that the hoax "fooled the world". Well, everyone except the great minds at Skeptical Inquirer magazine, which he apparently writes for.
In the Appendix, the author discusses "The North American Bigfoot", but, again, there is such a superfical examination as to be completely worthless.
Here is a quote from the Appendix:
"As even these few examples begin to suggest, if a single type of creature is represented by the myriad sightings, it is truly chameleonesque."
If I were to describe an animal as being four-legged, ranging from between 18 inches to over 6 feet at the shoulder, being of various colours and hair textures and lengths, with some examples being spotted, blotched or striped, some having small ears, some long ears, etc, I wouldn't be describing an impossible creature -- I would be describing the equine family. One could use dogs, cats, birds, or human beings as a similar examples. It seems difficult to believe that a professional investigator would use such superficial and inaccurate arguments.
My 9 year old daughter, who is also intrigued by the unknown, decided to pass on this one after only a few pages. Even at such a young age, she felt there wasn't enough information presented. All in all, probably worthwhile only for those with the most passing interest in the subject matter....more
This book is frustratingly difficult to write a review for -- it's either a one star book, or a four star book, depending on which chapter you're readThis book is frustratingly difficult to write a review for -- it's either a one star book, or a four star book, depending on which chapter you're reading.
There are so many really wonderful ideas here, but they were just so awkwardly executed it was hard to enjoy them. I kept feeling that the author had some meaning or message that I wasn't quite getting, so I wasn't able to enjoy it as a fable. The writing wasn't as polished as I like, so I didn't enjoy it simply as a fictional story. It was unnecessarily dark in many places, so I'm not sure it really worked as a kids' book ( I read this aloud to my children, which I'll discuss in a moment.)
Perhaps it was due to the story being translated from German, but the writing seemed very disjointed to me. There seemed to be a lot of wandering throughout the story, which didn't always seem to be necessary for the characters' progression through the tale (I felt the same way about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.") Bastian, the main character, makes odd choices -- I suppose some of those can be explained by the events in the book, but others seemed strange and out of character. Some of the book is simply ugly, as are many of the character names. And much of the story seems unresolved, which the author brushes aside with a signature phrase:
"But that's another story and shall be told another time."
In my opinion, the author had a perfect opportunity at the end of the book to return to those unfinished stories and to let the reader know the fates of those involved, but that part was also glossed over (although not with the author's pet phrase).
Okay, so it was awful, right? Well . . . no. There were so many truly charming and unusual characters that I know will remain with me for the rest of my life, as well Bastian Balthazar Bux, his friend Atreyu, and the luckdragon Falkor. And my girls will have these new friends now, too.
For much of the book, my daughters seemed conflicted with the story -- one chapter they would beg for me to continue the story and to read more, while other times they were angered or saddened (sometimes both) by the action and wanted nothing more to do with the book. There were many times I had to be very firm about sitting for "story time", as they didn't want to listen to the story anymore.
In fact, as we reached the end of the book and had only two chapters left, I decided to read the final chapter after we'd finished our one chapter for the day, and the girls were not interested in the extra chapter. But when we reached the end, my youngest daughter said how much she loved the ending -- for her it made up for the entire rest of the book (which she wasn't keen on at all up to that point). She loved it so much, she ran to tell her dad all about it, then she came back to talk with me about it some more.
I also should comment on the cover of our edition -- it's a beautiful swirl of pattern and colour which depicts many elements and characters in the story. We had a lot of fun working our way through the book and figuring out who each character was.
So . . . my rating. I'm going with three stars, which I figure as an average between the "didn't like it" chapters and the "really liked it" chapters. I'm not sure I would recommend it for children -- there are several parts that are very sad, and some that are frightening. The characters -- even the heros -- aren't always likable, and there are many unresolved story lines that may frustrate smaller readers (okay, older ones too!).
How to even describe this book . . . I don't think I've ever read anything like it before.
It's the story of Jacob, young man who has grown up listeniHow to even describe this book . . . I don't think I've ever read anything like it before.
It's the story of Jacob, young man who has grown up listening to his grandfather's tales of living in an orphanage on an enchanted island, surrounded by children with special abilities -- one girl can fly, a boy has bees living inside him, another boy can lift boulders effortlessly . . . Jacob finds the stories enthralling -- until he's old enough to question the truth of the stories.
And this is all in the prologue!
After his grandfather's horrific death, Jacob travels to find this island, searching for answers and a measure of peace. What he finds is much different than what he expects, and it will change his life forever.
I didn't realize this was a YA novel when I bought it. Reading it, it does feel young adult, but not in a bad way. There is a bit of teen angst, particularly in Jacob's relationship with his parents, but it's tempered by his concern for them, especially towards the end of the book.
As a narrator, Jacob really comes across as a young teen -- although he has a lot of insight into himself, and is somewhat savvy about human nature, he's also a kid who is nervous about kissing the girl he likes. He makes some judgement related mistakes, but he's also smart enough to figure out how to clean up the mess.
I think this would be a great read for teens who are tired of the typical YA fiction, especially if they're interested in things that are really "different". There's a lot of romance in the YA books these days -- as the mom of a teen who isn't into all that, I appreciate finding a book that isn't all about finding a boyfriend/girlfriend or dealing with a breakup, etc. I'm not sure whether these books reflect the interests of teens, or whether they prompt those interests, but it's nice to have alternatives.
The very best part of this book, though, are the illustrations. Ransom Riggs has incorporated many found photographs into the story, pulling various details from the pictures into the tale. It's surprising and unique, and I'd love to see more books like this.
This book is apparently the first in a series -- there are unresolved issues at the end, and Jacob's fate is uncertain. I just hope that Riggs is a fast writer, and that he's hard at work on the next book!
I can't write. My artistic gifts are in other areas, and usually I'm okay with that. But every now and again I'll read a book that makes me grind my
I can't write. My artistic gifts are in other areas, and usually I'm okay with that. But every now and again I'll read a book that makes me grind my teeth in frustration -- why oh why oh WHY can't I write like this?!
If I COULD write, I could explain how elegant the writing is, how the author weaves together various stories and viewpoints to gradually build the tale of the Circus Tresaulti, never coming right out and saying "this happened, then this happened, then this happened", but conveying the necessary information with just a word or a phrase.
It's amazing and magical and beautiful, and it makes me seethe with envy.
I absolutely adore steampunk, but so far I've found the writing to be . . . lacking. It's funny how some genres are like that. I've found every Bizarro title I've read so far to be extremely well written, intelligent and challenging. I haven't had the same experience with steampunk. I keep hoping, but so far I just haven't found that consistency of quality within the genre. Genevieve Valentine has raised the bar -- I mean, raised it so far that it's almost out of sight.
Please please please, someone make a movie out of this book. Sure, some parts might be difficult to render on film, but not impossible -- and this is a story I would pay to see again and again.
Absolutely wonderful, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone....more
I liked a lot about this book -- I think it does have some really good ideas, although a lot of the information is pretty basic. James Swan writes inI liked a lot about this book -- I think it does have some really good ideas, although a lot of the information is pretty basic. James Swan writes in a very humourous tone, and I laughed at quite a few of his comments. I wanted to love the illustrations, but I really didn't like the style of them at all, and a few of them don't seem to relate to the information being presented. Probably not a big deal to most people, though! ...more