Like a lot of people, I read this book after reading "Water for Elephants". Unlike most of them though, I wasn't impressed with "Water" at all, but de...moreLike a lot of people, I read this book after reading "Water for Elephants". Unlike most of them though, I wasn't impressed with "Water" at all, but decided to read "Ape House" anyway because of the subject of the book. I studied primatology for my physical anthro degree in college, and bonobos were my favorite great apes. Like the author, I found their intelligence and their behavior fascinating, and when I read her blurb about how she fell in love with these animals, it really resonated with me.
My interest in bonobos did not help me like this book more, however. I debated giving it 2 stars before deciding to give it a 2.5 and rounded up. I felt the book suffered from the same issues I had with "Water for Elephants", in that Gruen started with an excellent premise that was full of potential -- but then totally crashes and burns when it comes to the execution. I can't help but feel sometimes that she writes like she lives in fantasy land, or expects that the reader does. Many of the story's scenarios are over-the-top, and the characters are often ridiculous caricatures and their descriptions silly and cartoon-like. My willing suspension of disbelief can only be pushed so far. This will probably be the last Sara Gruen book I'll read.(less)
This was a departure from my usual genre (science fiction, fantasy, other types of speculative fiction, etc.) but I have to admit that my curiosity wa...moreThis was a departure from my usual genre (science fiction, fantasy, other types of speculative fiction, etc.) but I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued by the hype surrounding this book. Its synopsis, vague as it was, also interested me so that was why when my next Audible credit became available, I used it on the audiobook version of Gone Girl.
And now that I'm finished with it, I can finally understand why the all the plot summaries and reviews for this book have been so vague. It's going to be hard to describe what I liked and what I disliked without revealing any spoilers, so I doubt this review will make much sense to those who haven't read it. But I'll try my best.
The book opens with an introduction to a what appears to be an average couple, Nick and Amy. They have fallen upon some hard times in the recession, and were forced to move back to Nick's hometown in Missouri after both of them were laid off from their their jobs back in New York City. Like most couples they have their ups and downs, until one day Amy simply disappears from their home and deeper investigation reveals disturbing secrets as the layers are peeled back revealing the truth of their seemingly normal marriage.
The book begins by alternating between two points of view: Nick's narration which starts the day his wife goes missing, and Amy's part of the story which is told through diary entries starting from when the two of them first met.
Here's where my review will probably get confusing, because while I will talk about my feelings for this book I won't be able to really explain why without spoiling the story. Anyway, you will probably find that most reviewers will talk about this book referring to its three parts. The first part of this book, which deals with the circumstances behind Amy's disappearance, was incredibly addictive. You start to get to know the characters a bit more, form your opinions about them, and the way this part was written I was just riveted the entire time. Maybe this has something to do with the fact I listened to the audiobook, because the two narrators were absolutely fantastic.
The second part, however, while still good, was a bit disappointing. Here, the plot takes a turn, and basically I felt that the book lost a bit of its suspense. Some people adore this second part though, so really, it's a matter of taste and how you like your mystery stories. Regardless, this next part completely changed my perspective. You start to wonder just how reliable your narrators are, how deep the secrets really go, and just who is telling the truth.
The third and final part of the book took me through a whole bunch of emotions. Mostly, I was angry. Angry at the characters, angry at the story, angry at the ending. But taking the reader on a roller coaster ride of feelings was no doubt intentional, with the author wanting the reader to feel a certain way after reading this book, and she definitely had me. So maybe it didn't wrap up as neatly as it could have, with the ending being a bit unrealistic and the characters feeling a bit forced, but ultimately this was one hell of a fun read.(less)
The Art of Racing in the Rain begins on the eve of Enzo the dog's death, and we follow his narration back to all the joys and struggles he and his fam...moreThe Art of Racing in the Rain begins on the eve of Enzo the dog's death, and we follow his narration back to all the joys and struggles he and his family has been through, especially in the years following the death of Eve, his owner Denny's beloved wife. In the ensuing aftermath, Enzo remains by his master's side as his loyal companion, watching Denny juggle a messy custody battle for his daughter Zoe while working towards his dream of becoming a successful race car driver.
Before I say anything else, I apologize for the many comparisons I'm going to be making between this and W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose which I very much enjoyed and has many thematic similarities, and I just can't help but base a lot of my thoughts and comments on this using it as a reference point. In any case, the two are often recommended together for dog lovers, and they both have their strong points. I've enjoyed both.
However, though The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully written novel with a solid story, as a "dog book" I would have to give the upper hand to A Dog's Purpose. For starters, I would have to say this book isn't so much a "dog story" but a "human story" narrated from the point of view of the dog. While Enzo relates his feelings and insights throughout the novel, the focus is ever on Denny and Eve and Zoe, and it's what happens in the humans' lives that ultimately drives and shapes the story. Contrast that to A Dog's Purpose, where I felt the dog's life and point-of-view were always in the forefront. Its themes are also more pertinent to the topical issues regarding dogs in this country today -- puppy mills, animal shelters, working dogs, etc.
Also, quite simply, Enzo just doesn't not sound like a dog. While I understand that this is part of the author's intent, it was really difficult to truly buy into the idea of a wizened doggie narrator who can wax philosophical, but at the same time holds some very innocent and naive beliefs about the world.
Finally, even though I enjoyed this book overall, parts of it were quite heart-wrenching and difficult to read, as it's obviously and neatly designed to pull on your heart strings. On the whole, it's a feel good and inspirational read, but much of it was painfully cliched and predictable.(less)
Talk about a dysfunctional family. I swear, every character you meet in this book is a nutjob.
I recently rented the movie from Amazon Instant Video,...moreTalk about a dysfunctional family. I swear, every character you meet in this book is a nutjob.
I recently rented the movie from Amazon Instant Video, and since the service gives me 30 days to start watching it I figured that would give me plenty of time to read the book since it has been in my to-read list for a while now.
To my surprise, I really liked this. That was not what I expected when I first picked it up. The writing was so awkward, made even more jarring by the use of present tense. Not to mention the narrator, a grown man, tells his story like a child -- with short, halting sentences and a seemingly short attention span.
It took me a while to get used to it, but I did, and only after that happened was I able to start enjoying this book. Matt King, our protagonist is the heir to a lot of undeveloped land in his native home of Hawaii because his ancestor married a Hawaiian princess, and now he has to sell. However, the real story is the drama of his family life, which was what got me hooked. Matt's wife Joanie is in a coma and is taken off life support; meanwhile Matt discovers that she may have been having an affair before her accident that put her in the hospital, and together with his two troubled daughters he struggles to find closure and a way to deal with a future without the most important woman in their lives.
A very touching and heartfelt story, and at times humorous and just plain twisted. (less)
How about, extremely pretentious and incredibly gimmicky?
I see a lot of reviewers have enjoyed this book, and certainly whether you love it or hate i...moreHow about, extremely pretentious and incredibly gimmicky?
I see a lot of reviewers have enjoyed this book, and certainly whether you love it or hate it will ultimately depend on your personal taste, but it was just too contrived for me. The writing style with its "creative" typographical choices and mangling of punctuation all screamed to me, "Wow, is this guy trying way too hard, or what?"
The novel weaves two stories together -- a 9-year-old boy's grief over his father's death in the 9/11 attacks, as well as the tale of his grandparents' lamentably dysfunctional relationship and their survival of the bombing of Dresden. It all begins when Oskar finds a mysterious key in his parents' closet which belonged to his father. The question is, what does it open?
Of course, an undertone of sadness pervades this book, felt especially keenly when reading about Oskar's attempts to make sense of his father's death and understand the effects that it has had on him. It should have been powerful and overwhelmingly emotional, and yet I couldn't help but get distracted and irritated by how unbelievable the story and the characters were, or how much their voices reeked of artificiality. This should have been a great story, and yet I can't help but feel that it was ruined by a self-indulgent author who got carried away with trying to be unique and clever.(less)
4.5 stars. It has long been a shameful secret of mine that I've never read a Neil Gaiman novel. Sure, I've read his Sandman comics and a few of his sh...more4.5 stars. It has long been a shameful secret of mine that I've never read a Neil Gaiman novel. Sure, I've read his Sandman comics and a few of his short stories, but somehow, the opportunity to read a full-length novel of his has never come up, despite the fact that books like American Gods and Neverwhere have been sitting in my Kindle gathering metaphorical dust for like, oh, I don't know...the past two or three years.
That's why this summer I made it a point to lose my Neil Gaiman virginity, and decided to give the honor to American Gods first of all because it is considered one of his "classics", and second of all because the Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book I owned also had the added benefit of an audiobook Whispersync bundle deal, which I'd picked up as well. As it turned out, this worked out for the best.
And now I have the hefty task of actually trying to describe what American Gods is about. The book begins with the introduction of Shadow, a man coming up on the end of his three-year prison sentence and looking forward to get back to his life. Days before his release, however, he gets news that his beloved wife was killed in a car accident, along with his best friend. Freed from prison now but with his life in tatters, Shadow agrees to work for a mysterious stranger he meets on the way home, a man who calls himself "Mr. Wednesday".
Shadow travels across America with Wednesday, meeting his new boss' unusual friends and colleagues, and here's where things start to get cryptic and mystical. Wednesday and his peers turn out to be incarnations of the Old Gods of ancient mythology, whose powers are waned since the rise of modern life and the technological era, these aspects themselves manifesting as the American "New Gods". Everything Shadow thought he knew has been turned upside down. Nothing is as it seems; legends and myths are real, secrets are everywhere, everything is connected...and war is coming.
You ever read a book where you know very early on that it's not the kind for you, but you end up enjoying it a lot anyway, because it's just so beautifully written and profound? This was definitely one of those for me. I'd known what I was in for, of course; like I said, I've had some experience with Neil Gaiman's style of writing and know that his stuff is often allusive and metaphysical, surreal and abstract in nature.
In other words, totally not my thing at all. And thematically, the book turned out to be exactly as I'd expected. By all rights, I shouldn't have liked it, but I did. Wow. And now I finally understand the reason it's considered a contemporary masterpiece, and why Mr. Gaiman has so many fans.
Recall how I said I also had an Audible copy of American Gods, and that's actually how I read this novel, going back and forth between the ebook and the audiobook. I wanted to bring this up because I feel the excellent production quality of the latter definitely bears mentioning. Sometimes, great voice actors can bring the words to life, and that can also certainly make me enjoy a book much more than I normally would. The Tenth Anniversary version I had included a full cast featuring excellent narrators, which made it all the more engrossing, not to mention Neil Gaiman himself narrated some sections of the novel as well as the foreword, afterword, and other extras.
This edition is also the newly updated and expanded version with the author’s preferred text, so I definitely appreciated the chance to read this book in a state that's closer to what it's meant to be. One thing I think everyone agrees about Neil Gaiman is that you can count on him to be original and innovative, and the uniqueness of the themes and ideas in American Gods unquestionably reflects that. The extras included in this version really tied everything together and provided a lot of insight into this intellectual work of art -- because yes, after having experienced this book, I definitely consider it art.
Interesting novel, an impulse buy which I knew very little about but turned out to be pretty good. Has a bit of a "Crash" feel to it, in the way the n...moreInteresting novel, an impulse buy which I knew very little about but turned out to be pretty good. Has a bit of a "Crash" feel to it, in the way the narratives of multiple characters actually end up fitting into a larger story as a whole.
Given the title, it's not surprising that psychological disorders play a major role in this book, and questions and themes about what is normal and expected/accepted of us in society. There are some controversial topics and most of the characters are not your usual protagonists, which made this book a fun but sometimes difficult read.(less)