Unlike most of NG's novels, this one starts off slow and ends perfectly. I had a hard time warming up to Fat Charlie, mostly because he's so awkward t...moreUnlike most of NG's novels, this one starts off slow and ends perfectly. I had a hard time warming up to Fat Charlie, mostly because he's so awkward that I wanted to leap into the whitespace between the printed words and pull him out of every situation. But, like most awkward situations in your twenties, there's a reason for them. Things kind of evened out once Spider entered the mix, and their dichotomy anchored the book. Once all the other supporting characters got going, especially Daisy and Maeve, this might have turned into one of my favorite novels. It at least gave me enough inspiration to get back to writing, which is a feat in and of itself.
As with all Gaiman novels, I love the style (if not the haphazard comma placement). Almost no other author can step out from the wings, give a little monologue, then gracefully retreat in quite the same way. His non sequiturs and asides are probably my favorite parts of the book, along with the mountains at the beginning and end of the world (depending on your direction).
In the end, I devoured this book. If you haven't read any of his work yet, what's wrong with you?(less)
I loved the beginning of "On Writing", the part that was largely a memoir. Once he started to discuss the nitty gritty "you should write this much, ea...moreI loved the beginning of "On Writing", the part that was largely a memoir. Once he started to discuss the nitty gritty "you should write this much, each day" advice I lost interest. Writing is different from person to person, and if Stephen King is your model go for it. I'm more of a Gaiman girl myself.(less)
"Guns, Germs and Steel" reminded me why I buy some nonfiction books: it's to keep them on hand, not necessarily to pore over them. Fascinating subject...more"Guns, Germs and Steel" reminded me why I buy some nonfiction books: it's to keep them on hand, not necessarily to pore over them. Fascinating subject matter, but not enough to make me finish the book. I will try to pick it up again in the future!(less)
I was cautious at the beginning of "The Night Circus". On the surface it seemed more style than substance, which all the reviews I had read before pur...moreI was cautious at the beginning of "The Night Circus". On the surface it seemed more style than substance, which all the reviews I had read before purchasing seemed to assert. But, I read the first few pages in the bookstore and was hooked. A few weeks later I picked it up, intent on what lay ahead.
My first disappointment was really short chapters. On the list of things that will take your reader out of the story, too many breaks is definitely up there. I wanted to spend more time with Celia and Prospero, with Marco in his Tom Riddle-esque orphanage. The book could have benefited from someone at least willing to say "no" to any proposition of any character's, not just the two leads struggling against the bonds of their mentors. I would have loved an outside character whose mission was to destroy the Night Circus, some pissed off investor that gives everyone a common cause. "The Night Circus" needed a villain, is what I'm saying. I understand the point at the end, about true stories being more complicated, but I would have preferred a concrete villain to the terrible, fatalistic storyline.
I wanted the characters to stand on their own and be more than ciphers, which is a want that was never really fulfilled. Even the Murray twins (L'Engle reference?) names contribute to the idea that this was all a dream, meant to stand in for something else: they're referred to as Poppet and Widget. The handful of characters I really liked were all supporting cast, which doesn't make sense. Shouldn't I have adored Marco and Celia? They felt so one-dimensional that is was hard to care for them beyond the fact that I always want to root for young love.
Maybe the reason this story felt so empty and one-dimensional is because the set pieces and scenery are startlingly vivid. This is downright lush writing, beautifully vivid and complex and fantastical. I loved it... for a while. By the time I reached the end and we were still describing the various tents (with the exception of the tent that had the jars, that was AWESOME) and performers, I was skimming. I *hate* skimming, because I know how much work goes into writing those passages. But part of being a writer is arranging pieces to the best effect, and the continuous descriptions became monotonous despite their beauty.
TL:DR? There was enough in "The Night Circus" to keep me entertained, but not enough to bring me back again.(less)
Entranced by the cover and the description, I made my boyfriend buy this for me when we were out Christmas shopping. On the one day I had to recuperat...moreEntranced by the cover and the description, I made my boyfriend buy this for me when we were out Christmas shopping. On the one day I had to recuperate from the holidays I read "A Discovery of Witches" cover to cover and loved it. While I have some problems with the writing on a stylistic and plot level (see spoilers below) I found it engaging on many levels.
The Good: I love the idea of four distinct species (or are they? dun dun dunnnn), observable at DNA level. I found the history of these species, as well as their interactions, fascinating. The daemons in particular were my favorites: they're whimsical and insane at the same time, which honestly is just most human nature magnified. I enjoyed the love story between Diana and Matthew, but I have some problems...
The Bad: Everyone switched opinions quickly in this book. For example, Diana's Aunt Sarah is a hardcore speciesist (she doesn't like daemons or vampires) but she's totally okay with Matthew after speaking with him a few times on the phone. There's something to be said for witchy intution, but come on. I have the same problem with the section at the end, where everyone packs their bags and moves to Connecticut. We are talking years of interracial conflict, solved with cookies and wine. Has no one thought of this in Gaza yet? Maybe it's moot, since Islam prohibits drinking spirits. (Haha, please tell me the next book is called "Drinking Spirits". Oh, I just had a story idea.)I think it needed to be expressly stated that Diana provokes the best in people, or there is something about her that promotes cooperation, in order for these swift changes to make sense.
The Ugly: Withholding - the one thing I distinctly remember from my writing classes is that withholding is cheap. There are easy ways to spin mystery within the course of a story, the main one being pay attention to plot structure and drop clues at appropriate intervals. It can be difficult with shifts in point of view, but careful re-writing and editing can eliminate hasty conclusions and the feeling that the author is dangling information out of the reach of the audience. Harkness did this on several occassions where it was totally unwarranted and could have been solved with some quick edits - why? Why would you pay that little attention to your first novel, but spend so much time on (what I assume to be) fictional alchemical texts?
The Bottom Line: Oh I'm totally reading the rest of this series. I want to see how crazy Christopher Marlowe is (as much as I love "Dr. Faustus", that shit is ridiculous) and find out how the Clermonts and their allies plan to take down the Confederation. Also, better vampire sex please! This whole book was a lot of foreplay, I want to get down to the good stuff in the next book.(less)
"The Magician King" is one of the rare cases where the sequel is better than the original. Grossman fixed any pacing problems he had with "The Magicia...more"The Magician King" is one of the rare cases where the sequel is better than the original. Grossman fixed any pacing problems he had with "The Magicians" (the end, when they *spoiler* go to Fillory seemed really rushed to me). My only problem lies with how Julia, whose mind and inner workings feature prominently in a wonderfully interwoven narrative, comes to gain her powers. [begin rant] Why is it that any powerful woman in a story must be in some way subjugated by her man? Answer: because men are writing the stories. [end rant] Other than that, happy to see Quentin grow some nuts and become the magician he was always meant to be. Now if we only knew what his specialization was...(less)
Yes, I devoured this book in basically one sitting, stretching from 7:00 pm to about 4:00 am. It's a long book with very distinct parts, "Harry Potter...moreYes, I devoured this book in basically one sitting, stretching from 7:00 pm to about 4:00 am. It's a long book with very distinct parts, "Harry Potter" and "Narnia" all wrapped into one. Grossman is especially good at world-building, his descriptions are phenomenal.
Although it took me so long to read, I was still left feeling there should have been more. Disciplines are vaguely mentioned then never discussed again. Characters disappear for a while or don't get mentioned often enough, so when they suddenly appear in the scene it's off-putting. "The Magicians" is the first book in a series, though, so maybe some of my questions will be answered in "The Magician King."
I do have one, very large bone to pick with the fantasy world in general. Why is every main male character Arthur Dent? Quentin Coldwater (what a name!) is probably not as hapless as Dent, but he expects his situations to resolve his problems instead of looking for answers in himself. His lack of self-awareness, or awareness, is probably a defining characteristic and definitely helped move the plot along, but more often than not it pissed me off. I think I'm just tired of the cowardly Everyman who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances, so I really hope this one learns from his mistakes and grows some backbone.
If you're a prude, don't read this book. People get drunk and have sex, a lot, and frequently swear or tell lewd stories. It's almost as far from Hogwarts as a fictional magical institution can get, right down to the almost never-present teaching staff and the believable teenage behaviors.
Despite all this griping, I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel and see what happens next.(less)
I read "The Wilder Life" in about six hours - it was incredibly easy to read - and I loved every minute of it. The author's voice was so relatable, he...moreI read "The Wilder Life" in about six hours - it was incredibly easy to read - and I loved every minute of it. The author's voice was so relatable, her humor so spot-on, that I could not put it down! Unlike some other nonfiction books I read, this book was a perfect blend of historical fact and personal opinion. There was no ponderous tome that was over-quoted, we weren't fussed with details about how *exactly* they grew corn in the 1860s: in short, everything felt relevant.
The thing that I was most interested in, and what the primary concern of "The Wilder Life" essentially was, is how so many different people relate to the one story that this lady in Missouri wrote during her dotage, when her bratty kid was traveling the world living the free life (that I'd secretly always hoped spunky, smart, brave Laura would do in the end, instead of getting married). McClure was clearly most interested in the Laura that lived behind her eyes, so to speak - the friendly narrator who she wanted to show around the 1970s and explain cars and planes to. I'm a little more interested in the woman that Laura became: the deprived woman who scrimped and saved to build a dream house in the Ozarks, who never had any nieces or nephews, and who saw the world change rapidly around her. The woman who reminds me of my own Grandma Frederick, who was born in 1906 and remembered when cars and radios were newfangled (I wonder what she'd make of smartphones if she were alive today!). That's kind of the person that McClure was searching for, too. She was searching for the afterward, to be inside Laura's head the way we were in the (often fictitious) recounts of her childhood.
McClure's whole obsession with the "Little House" books was a sort of grieving process, and I'm glad that such a beautiful, charming, and real book came out of it. Definitely read AND buy this one!(less)
I should preface this review by saying that I love Neil Gaiman's work. He manages to create compellingly human stories in impossible situations, which...moreI should preface this review by saying that I love Neil Gaiman's work. He manages to create compellingly human stories in impossible situations, which to me is the business of good fantasy writing. It also contains *spoilers*, so please stick to the first paragraph if you haven't read it yet.
"American Gods" is perhaps his most famous work after "Sandman," and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. There are several plots at work in the novel: an ex-con's search for new life, the evolution of American consciousness, and the power of belief. The novel concerns a mythical battle for the soul of America, between the gods and monsters that our ancestors brought with them and the ones we have created in the digital age. That alone is a great way to address the changing face of American life, but it also questions what it means to be human. People used to bargain with the gods for what they want, now they bargain with faceless corporations. The human, or rather divine, element is absent from much of modern life.
There is only one criticism I ever have for Gaiman's work, and that is that the endings never satisfy me. He puts a lot of work into building up a great story, and the denouement always falls a little flat. The question the novel does not address is how to return ancient sacredness to modern life, it seems more concerned with the fact that it has been lost and isn't that sad. Shadow at the end has been changed - he hung from Yggdrasil for nine days and journeyed the underworld - but he's in Iceland, and we're not sure why. Wednesday is gone, and Nancy and Czernobog have gone off into the bright sunset; what are we left with? Perhaps the ending is supposed to be ambiguous, but he's carried us through so many revelations that dropping the reader at the end is a little jarring.
Overall, I loved this book and cannot wait to read it again. It's a wonderful inspiration for a novice writer like myself, both in its good points and its flaws. Read this if you haven't already!(less)
The best word to describe "The King of Elfland's Daughter" is poetic. It takes a problem, what happens after the happy ending, and really explores the...moreThe best word to describe "The King of Elfland's Daughter" is poetic. It takes a problem, what happens after the happy ending, and really explores the implications of a human marrying (and luring away) the daughter of a fairy king. The answer? The world gets turned upside down, magic is everywhere (especially where it wasn't before) and the men of the parliament of Erl find that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. I especially loved the irreverent trolls and will-o'-the-wisps because they were so inhuman in their frivolity. This characterization made a nice contrast to the seriousness of the Freer and the sorrow of Lirazel. If you're at all into fantasy, you should read this book. (less)
I really enjoyed the environmental angle of "Dune". I know that environmentalism was close to Frank Herbert's heart, and you can see that in his caref...moreI really enjoyed the environmental angle of "Dune". I know that environmentalism was close to Frank Herbert's heart, and you can see that in his careful attention to detail in the study of planetology. The Bene Gesserit fascinated me with their parsing and selection of different religions and political ideologies. It's so strange to think that in thousands of years the line between Greek democracy and Russian communism might appear very thin.(less)