With the exception of Tolkien, I haven't read a fantasy novel in a long time, but they used to form the core of my reading materials. So I was exeBook
With the exception of Tolkien, I haven't read a fantasy novel in a long time, but they used to form the core of my reading materials. So I was expecting a bit of nostalgia to infect my reading of Havemercy.
I was surprised, however, to find that this book, despite so many of the trappings of a fantasy novel (dragons, magic, adventure in imaginary lands, etc.), had little in common with the fantasy books of my youth. The book could more accurately be described as a romance mixed with a family drama, since the plot elements more typical of the average fantasy novel are little more than subplots and window dressing.
I don't mean to suggest that the book is terrible, but even aside from my disappointed expectations, I was left wanting. Both pairings were distressingly uneven, with one of the characters being notably more mature, worldly, experienced, and confident than the other, which left me with a rather sketchy feeling about both. The same-sex stuff didn't really bother me (although, again, it was not at all expected in a book with a dragon on the cover), but the fact that both Hal and Thom were just wimps who were paired off with the more interesting characters of Royston and Rook for reasons of romance of kinship made both relationships seem kind of pointless, especially given that their contributions toward the subplot of the war with the Ke-Han were so inconsequential.
Since I gather this is to be the first book in a series, I hope that future installments develop a few female characters, make Hal and Thom worthy of holding their own against Royston and Rook, and put a little more effort into describing events outside of those two relationships....more
It's hard to read this without thinking of the two PBS shows referenced on the cover, but in truth, Powell's memoir is a wildly different experience.It's hard to read this without thinking of the two PBS shows referenced on the cover, but in truth, Powell's memoir is a wildly different experience. Whereas those shows bounced back and forth between the experiences of the upper class and serving class, Below Stairs, as suggested by the title, is instead characterized by an almost complete focus on the life of a kitchen maid. And rather than the soapy operatics found on television, Powell's concerns are grounded in the realities of such a life.
This is all to the good, because her wit and sense of social justice were more than enough to hold my attention. Admittedly, there were times I wished for a more detailed account of her life, but in general, Powell tells her story in a way that draws attention to the drudgery with which she must have dealt without becoming bogged-down in the humdrum of daily life. In addition to explaining what life must really have been like for the lower classes, what really comes through is Powell's personality. The contrast between the persona she had to portray to her employers and the rich inner life seen in her writing is probably more informative that the details about the chores she was expected to perform....more
Brooks is a little nasal as a narrator, but the rest of the cast more than makes up for it. It's frustrating, however,[Audio Book] Borrowed from Karen
Brooks is a little nasal as a narrator, but the rest of the cast more than makes up for it. It's frustrating, however, that there's no unabridged version.
Given the nature of the book, it's probably no surprise that some parts work better than others, and some of the celebrity cast is a little distracting. Nevertheless, it's a solid book, surprisingly fresh and exciting, especially given that it's part of a somewhat tired and over-exploited genre.
Frankly, despite the movie coming out and despite that it started life as a regular book, World War Z seems tailor-made for an audiobook adaptation, although I suppose it could also work as a mini-series / fake documentary....more
I know I read this at least twice when I was younger, but rereading it now, I find myself remembering so much of it that twice is clearly nowhere closI know I read this at least twice when I was younger, but rereading it now, I find myself remembering so much of it that twice is clearly nowhere close to accurate. Regardless, what a rush of nostalgia. I still have a whole shelf at home devoted to this series, and there's even a small part of me that wants to revisit all the spinoffs as well.
I probably won't, though, becuase, to be perfectly frank, these are not really great books. The writing is not nearly as bad as I feared, but it's a long way from being good. There are too many characters who are not juggled effectively, with the authors focusing on a few favorites, before occasionally remembering to address the remaining members of the group. The story frequently bogs down, which is strange considering how often whole sections of the tale are completely skipped (to be filled in, I suppose, in one of the many spinoffs).
All that said, however, reading these did remind me of how obsessively I consumed the books in my youth. It felt good to be reminded of the sheer pleasure of reading. ...more
Maybe it's the title, or maybe it's just that I'm familiar with Mitchell's writing, but I kept expecting ... maybe not a twist exactly, but somethingMaybe it's the title, or maybe it's just that I'm familiar with Mitchell's writing, but I kept expecting ... maybe not a twist exactly, but something transformative. number9dream, however, never quite gets there.
It's busy, to be sure, with dream sequences and sequences so surreal that it seems they must be dreams, but in the end, I found myself lost as to what it's all supposed to mean. I enjoyed Eiji's struggles, whether prosaic, romantic, or absurd, but I mostly found myself waiting, looking for a resolution that Mitchell does not seem interested in providing. The book ends with a number of plot threads dangling -- intentionally, I'm sure, but I can't help thinking that this was a mistake, that this weird book should have found its way to a more conventional place....more
Whenever I read this book, I find myself wishing I'd read it before seeing the movie. No matter how hard I try, I find that I just can't shake those vWhenever I read this book, I find myself wishing I'd read it before seeing the movie. No matter how hard I try, I find that I just can't shake those visuals, and I'd like to try to read the book on its own terms.
Having said that, I love both the book and the movie, for reasons I'm not sure I can explain. The movie was actually one of the first DVDs I ever bought, at a time when DVDs were still kind of magical, and I watched it backwards and forwards. I listened to the commentary tracks; I watched the documentaries. Nowadays, who has time for that kind of investment in a flimsy plastic disc?
But the book. Four different narrators, each distinct and fully realized. The back of the book describes it as a "morality play," but the book lacks the obviousness suggested by such a label. Morality, of course, is an issue in the book, but it's not presented in stark right-or-wrong terms. My judgements of each of the characters changes with each read. Is Mitchell Stephens a crusader or a lawyer? Is Nicholl courageous or naive? Is Billy capable of seeing the world clearly, or are his decisions invalidated by the grief which has destroyed him?
All in all, it's a lovely book, translated into an equally lovely movie. I can't recommend either highly enough, and I wish I could find the eloquence to explain why....more
"Until you guys own your own souls you don't own mine. Until you guys can be trusted every time and always, in all times and conditions, to seek the t"Until you guys own your own souls you don't own mine. Until you guys can be trusted every time and always, in all times and conditions, to seek the truth out and find it and let the chips fall where they may -- until that time comes, I have a right to listen to my conscience, and protect my client the best way I can. Until I'm sure you won't do him more harm then you'll do the truth good. Or until I'm hauled before somebody that can make me talk." (pg. 120)
So often, the private detective is a jerk to the cops, but it isn't always clear why. So I got a real kick out of Marlowe making his case for his own silence, even if I'm not entirely sure I should believe a word of it.
Not my favorite Marlowe story, but it's always fun to listen to him crack wise. This one just felt a little predictable, with the suicide that was clearly a murder, and a coin just aching to be counterfeited. I did like seeing Marlowe paired up with another private investigator, even if he was an idiot; it would have been fun to see that relationship play out for a while longer. ...more
I enjoyed this, but at the same time, it felt like a bit much. Jones seems to have adopted an anything-and-everything approach to this story, which keI enjoyed this, but at the same time, it felt like a bit much. Jones seems to have adopted an anything-and-everything approach to this story, which keeps the story moving at a good clip, but I found myself wishing she'd chosen just a few ideas and spent more time with them.
Instead, we're given characters who seem self-aware of their role in a fairy tale, the sudden and unexpected intrusion of the "real world", and abstract magical prophesies, but little comes of any of it. Jones' ideas are great: fallen stars as fire demons, a castle that both moves and exists in multiple places at once, a strong female character who spends most of the book trapped in the body of an old woman. Yet I found myself frustrated by how little she seems to explore them.
That's not to say that I disliked the book. On the contrary, it was exciting, charming, and compelling; I just wanted something a little different than what I got....more
I picked up the book due to my recent obsession with the new show based on Raylan Givens, and it was interesting to think about the ways the characterI picked up the book due to my recent obsession with the new show based on Raylan Givens, and it was interesting to think about the ways the character was changed for television. I don't know if the book's version of Raylan would work in a different medium.
Actually, I'm not entirely sure he works in this one, because I spent most of the book scratching my head over why Raylan is so invested in helping Harry. I can understand why he'd want to protect him, but Harry's such a loathsome character that his relationship with Raylan serves primarily to diminish the man.
Nevertheless, aside from this one quibble, I enjoyed the book. Leonard seems to have a talent for seamlessly blending genres, as Pronto jumps between comedy, drama, suspense, and action as easily as its characters seem to jump between Miami and Italy. It's a slight read, but enjoyable....more
I'm a lifelong Cubs fan, which means that I can't really be objective here, but that clearly didn't stop Bissinger, so why should I let it stop me? HeI'm a lifelong Cubs fan, which means that I can't really be objective here, but that clearly didn't stop Bissinger, so why should I let it stop me? He's obviously in the bag for LaRussa, which ... well, it is LaRussa's book, so I can't really fault him too much. And yet. It's almost as though Bissinger is throwing his bias in the reader's face, daring us to call him on it. The players he doesn't like, be they Cubs, or just lazy slacker spoiled athletes, are drawn with all the subtlety of Snidely Whiplash. LaRussa's managerial choices are all brilliant, regardless of whether or not they work. When a Cardinal player manages to get a hit off of a great pitch, it's a magnificent piece of hitting, but with the roles reversed fifty pages later, it's just a cruel twist of fate.
Frankly, the problem here isn't that Bissinger is an unabashed Tony LaRussa fan; the man is a great and interesting manager, well deserving of Bissinger's praise. The problem is that Bissinger, granted the great opportunity of unfettered access to a major league ball club, showed up with his story all but written. His conclusions precede his evidence. Steroids bad; big contracts bad; LaRussa good; old-school humble ball players good. Honestly, if you're trying to write the story of the Cardinals' 2003 series, why focus on a relatively meaningless series against the Cubs in August, when the two teams would play a far more pivotal five-game series in September? If you want to write about LaRussa's genius, why focus on one series -- a limitation that Bissinger fights against throughout the book?
The truth is that I don't much care about Bissinger's anti-Cubs bias (well, maybe a little). Mostly, I'm tired of the sanctimony surrounding baseball. There's a certain amount of charm to baseball writers' love of nostalgia, but after a while it turns into a creepy S&M thing; nostalgia, after all, is a form of pain. The fact that some players use performance-enhancing drugs, while others are overpaid and under-performing, doesn't really bother me. Baseball had never been the idealized version of itself that everyone remembers from their childhood. Sure, when we were kids, the ballparks were cathedrals, the players were giants, and the game was holy writ, but I also believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I cherish my memories of the baseball of my youth, but I also recognize that they lack the insight granted by age and experience. Bissinger and LaRussa don't seem to have the same recognition, instead misremembering the history of baseball to suit their own needs and desires.
Also, why is "hit-and-run" always italicized?
All of that aside, I did like (but not love) the book. Baseball always manages to have a real sense of drama, and Bissinger captures that. None of his insight is really revolutionary, but it is put forth clearly and eloquently. His section about the death of Darryl Kile, especially, captured the emotion and the shock of his death. I'm not sure that I really feel as though I were getting an unobstructed view into the mind of a baseball man, but this comes relatively close, albeit in a sanitized fashion. ...more
Alas, that I've never taken the time to read Ulysses with this by my side. It seems pretty comprehensive, and it's worth the price of admission for thAlas, that I've never taken the time to read Ulysses with this by my side. It seems pretty comprehensive, and it's worth the price of admission for the maps alone....more
I feel bad giving this only three stars, but as a whole, this collection left me a little cold. This may just be a result of having read it so soon afI feel bad giving this only three stars, but as a whole, this collection left me a little cold. This may just be a result of having read it so soon after the much more adult and mature stories in Russell Banks' collection The Angel on the Roof, but this McSweeney's books feels unnaturally light and weightless.
The focus seems to be on children's stories told with a mixture of whimsy and darkness, and while I'm not opposed to the idea, I could have dealt with more meat. The authors seem to want to have it both ways, dipping their toes in the waters of the darkness of childhood, without allowing things to get too scary. You can't write a half-scary story and expect it to be a success. Or maybe these are just scary stories for children, and I'm not the recommended audience....more