I’ve never been into this genre of mystery/thriller/true crime, but I thought I’d give it a shot since I am deeply in love with John Connolly’s The Bo I’ve never been into this genre of mystery/thriller/true crime, but I thought I’d give it a shot since I am deeply in love with John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. I knew Connolly’s “Charlie Parker” investigator novels were where he got his start as an author. Sadly, I probably won’t be following this particular series (but will continue to recommend TBoLT to any and everyone). Every Dead Thing is too ambitious. It feels like two novels needlessly crammed into one, and despite the occasional tense action sequence, I felt myself plodding through the book trying to make it to the end so I could know who the killer was and put the book down for good.
Random nitpicks: Connolly has an obsession of detailing the oddest things. You read exactly what every character is wearing every single time they’re introduced (“She was wearing dark blue jeans, white sneakers and a red-and-white Polo Sport top….Louis in a cream double-breasted suit with a snow white dress shirt open at the neck, Angel in jeans, battered Reebok high-tops, and a green check shirt…” I LITERALLY just flipped open the book and pulled that quote out. This drove me insane. Like, I get it! Characters are different and dress accordingly!). Parker, the narrator, is also constantly drudging up backstory after backstory, character bios, historical facts, life lessons, memories, crime statistics, family histories, and countless trivial details. Whole paragraphs detailing what veggies were for sale from a street vendor no one cares about. Sorry, now I’m ranting. (I love you, John Connolly, truly I do.)
I’m also going to put my feminist hat on and say the book reeked of gender stereotypes which got annoying fast. Every woman introduced is either “attractive” with a “nice figure” or “once attractive” but had “let her looks go.” Let’s not forget the older women who “preserved” their figures. The entire novel is drenched in males, anyone doing anything of importance is male (with the exception of Rachel, who sucked in her own ways). Any wives of a cop, detective, criminal, or mobster were always just sort of fluttering around the edges, bringing the men tea or coffee and giving knowing looks and quiet, gentle affirmation for their battle-weary men. I honestly had to check what year the novel was written and looked for clues as to what year it was set. I think Connolly tried to make Rachel a character of some substance but any of her edge quickly went out the window when she rapidly became Parker’s innocent, sensitive, feminine balm to heal the wounds left by the deaths of his wife and daughter (whose deaths were pretty dang fresh when he really started noticing how ~attractive~ Rachel was…).
This whole “manly man” thing and “gentle, sweet-lovin’ woman” thing is probably really common in this genre, so I’m most likely expecting too much, but this is all pretty new to me. Also, it’s obvious that Connolly has grown a lot as an author since writing this (his first novel?). I gave EDT three stars because Connolly does occasionally whip out some really beautiful language and turns of phrase (which are all over the place in TBoLT—a good thing!). Plus, the average rating is 4 stars, so this book is obviously a hit with regular crime readers. And despite the bogged down detailing, I can definitely appreciate how much effort obviously went into plotting this very complex storyline. Connolly clearly wanted the story and characters to be very distinctive and real, and despite my eye-rolling, I did learn quite a bit about crime! (I think.) ...more
This Cabal sequel did not fail in making me want to quote every line (much like the first). The writing is so perfect I almost want to fault it for th This Cabal sequel did not fail in making me want to quote every line (much like the first). The writing is so perfect I almost want to fault it for that.
Cabal is back and he’s got his soul with him (which only factors in occasionally, thank goodness, we don’t want Cabal shedding any tears or feeling for humanity), now if only people would stop trying to murder him!
To be honest, I was expecting this book to best the first and receive 5 stars instead of 4, but alas, it did not. After much deliberation (and deep discussion with a fellow Cabal-lover) I decided it was because that no matter how pitch-perfect I find the humor, or how despicably (and deliciously) Cabal behaves, in the end I don’t find myself emotionally invested in the book itself. That is sometimes the difference between 4 stars (4.5?) and a perfect 5 stars. The hint of emotional depth in the first book (Horst! The ending!) had me excited for more in Detective, but I think there was even less here to be found. (I could be wrong...reread?)
Some praises! Howard definitely turned it around in the female character department. The number of noteworthy male secondary characters in the first novel seems to have switched to a similar number of noteworthy female characters in this one. I nice change, and I’m glad that Howard has it in him for the most part.
Also, after discovering that Howard wrote short stories previously (and currently! Try and find the two or so Cabal shorts floating around the internet somewhere…), the “faults” of the novels make more sense. I found the plot of Detective to drag a little in the middle, but immediately fell in love with the short story that served as the epilogue. The entire opening sequence in Mirkarvia was also brilliant and one of the best openings to a novel I’ve read in awhile.
My dearest wish is that this be not a trilogy but a continuing legacy (Sherlock Holmes if he were a Necromancer of some little infamy and briefly soulless?). One can hope, eh?...more
Talking bunnies. I know. Most people seem to have seen the film, thankfully, but I realized while I wPsych understands me: http://youtu.be/xdF0GuwSKAw
Talking bunnies. I know. Most people seem to have seen the film, thankfully, but I realized while I was reading the book that you’re put in a bit of an awkward position when the person questioning you about what you’re reading has never watched the movie (And if they’re not even a reader, then you’re even more screwed. You’re basically ensuring the non-reader’s previous assumption that readers are super lame).
Me: “It’s about these bunnies—rabbits! rabbits—and they have to leave their warren—you know, their home or whatever—because of human land development that’s going to destroy it, and they’re on the run trying to find a new home…and it’s really dangerous…er, it’s an adventure…really good…”
Doesn’t that sound lame? BUT THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL AND FANTASTIC. It’s an epic adventure story that happens to feature rabbits, and there is nothing wrong with that! Its chock-full of honor and bravery and guts and daring and death and destiny! It’s beautifully written and moving, colored with some of the most fantastic characters. Hazel is like the baddest bunny who ever lived and should be our next president, Bigwig is a boss with a heart of gold, and Pipkin is my personal favorite. Thanks to urbandictionary, I discovered a new term: hossbunny. Freaking Pipkin is a hossbunny.
I’ll be honest and divulge that I almost gave it 4 stars for the underlying misogynistic tones*, but decided against it the end because The Princess Bride is also a 5 stars/favorites book for me and it’s pretty pathetic when it comes to female characters as well.
I probably still haven’t convinced a single new person to read this book, so if you need better convincing, then read some of the other classier reviews by the people who draw allusions to ancient epic poems and legends and mythology. They’re right on the money, but you should know that this book is also plenty enjoyable on a very basic level of WILL THEY MAKE IT and you might also need some Kleenex.
*Adams tried to brush it off with the ol’ “well, they’re rabbits, it’s just how their social structures are as animals blah blah blah…” I call BS. If rabbits can have beat poets, then I think the girl bunnies can have a bigger role than pure baby-making machines. Hyzenthlay was a teeny tiny ray of light in the dark, but still, her only point in the end was to have babies (which she did! Hooray! She isn’t worthless!). I think the part I cringed at the most was when the does escaped and got to do all the grunt work and digging at the new warren and were like, “Oh! We think this is the only reason we were unhappy at the old warren—we couldn’t dig!” Yeah, does, it wasn’t all the rape, overcrowding, torture, fear, and imprisonment. Not that. ...more
I just need to buck down and write my stellar review for The Book of Lost Things to make up for my two “letdown” ratings of the other John Connolly no I just need to buck down and write my stellar review for The Book of Lost Things to make up for my two “letdown” ratings of the other John Connolly novels I’ve now read, The Gates included. The problem with The Gates is that it was beyond obvious that Connolly was trying something completely new. Gone was the self-serious tone of Every Dead Thing (and presumably every Charlie Parker novel) and gone was the magic and heartbreak of TBoLT. The Gates is trying very desperately hard to be a Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett imitation, and because of Connolly’s sheer newbie status, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I laughed at times, sure, but an author can’t just randomly adopt a completely different storytelling style and expect it to work on the first try.
I struggled to finish the book, not because it was awful, but because I could be reading Good Omens. You know? But Connolly shouldn’t take offense to that, because aloof British wit is Pratchett’s thing, and I bet he couldn’t write something as beautiful as The Book of Lost Things. ...more
Sickly sweet and perfectly witty, this book felt like a summer “beach read” (whatever those are), except I didn’t have to be embarrassed about it (youSickly sweet and perfectly witty, this book felt like a summer “beach read” (whatever those are), except I didn’t have to be embarrassed about it (you know what I mean, right?). It wasn’t cheesy bad, just a little too…too…fluffy?
I liked this book. I did. It was easy & breezy and made me laugh. It was an interesting look into a mostly unheard of Nazi occupation on a small little island. I just think the wittiness worked against the story sometimes. Like, it’s possible to be too witty and snarky and twee. The characters, who from afar seemed very diverse, sort of began to run together by the end which is especially not good in a novel in epistolary form that is only as strong as its characters. Why did I give it 3 stars? Well, it’s really more like 3.5, but I decided to round down, because I’m feeling a little cynical.
You’re supposed to fall in love with Juliet, and the people of Guernsey who are all quirky and adorable, and the spunky Elizabeth. Oh, that Elizabeth. The first time she was mentioned I kind of inwardly groaned, because I knew that the reader would be sweetly hit over the head constantly by how goshdarn feisty and forward she was. (And her name was ‘Elizabeth’? Come onnnnn). I just hate it when a character's “flaws” are, like, she cares too much! and she speaks her mind! Juliet and Elizabeth both suffer these devastating character defects.
It sucks because I struggle to put my finger on why exactly these characters who are so desperately trying to emulate the Anne Shirleys and Elizabeth Bennets of the book world fail to live up to them. Like, Elizabeth Bennett is snarky and witty, but she’s so much more than that, and Anne Shirley is passionate and independent, but she’s not a Mary-Sue. In Guernsey, Juliet and Elizabeth seem like a modern take on Anne/Elizabeth, but instead of putting them in the modern world, they’re kept in the past and then they stick out even more because what makes them so unique is so extreme. (view spoiler)[ Elizabeth has a lovechild! Juliet’s best friend is gay! They both curse and drink! (hide spoiler)]
But ok, despite its cutesy perfectness, this book did have some great lines and language. When taken on their own they are sweet and genuine, but in the over-the-top world of the book they get lost in the witty clutter. Here’s some good examples:
I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with.
‘Life goes on.’ What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn't. It's death that goes on.
Think of it! We could have gone on longing for one another and pretending not to notice forever. This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it.
The book also heavily emphasizes a love of the written word, the beauty of language and words that have been crafted together seamlessly by the great poets and writers of our time. Classic works of literature are quoted and discussed and loved by the characters. If I could say something overhwhelmingly positive about this book it's that its intentions were good, the female characters were strong (if a little unbelievable), and it was all about the power of good literature in bringing people together! Hoorah for that.
And in honor of my below-average rating, I leave you with this ironic quote that, as I said, on its own is amazing and truthful, but in context of Guernsey is a little sad:
Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.
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