Paper Towns takes on the same themes that the more popular Looking for Alaska but in my opinion, does a much better job of it. Part of the reason is tPaper Towns takes on the same themes that the more popular Looking for Alaska but in my opinion, does a much better job of it. Part of the reason is that while the latter merely explores the perspective of a boy who chooses to fall in love with the idea of a girl, this book actually explores the feelings of a girl herself as well.
Another reason why I liked this story was that the characters here were far more engaging. Q makes for a likeable protagonist - he retains the normalcy and mundaneness of Miles and his infatuation with the idea of a girl, with a sense of level-headedness that was severely lacking in the latter. The journey of his feelings for Margo, from fascination to realization is bittersweet and real: “And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made—and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make—was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.”
I liked the other characters too. While still the token minority, Radar is a step up from Takumi and Ben is the slightly disgusting but ultimately loyal friend that I can completely imagine having in real life (and do). I also liked that almost everyone, particularly Becca, has different layers that the book takes the trouble to show. I found the writing to be funnier than Looking for Alaska and I particularly liked the road trip.
John Green's pop poetry is everywhere here and I confess I do like it, despite the feeling like it was craftily tailored for Tumblr reblogs and Facebook status updates: “When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
But like I said, my favourite part of the book was the exploration of Margo's own feelings; the manic pixie dream girl turning into just a girl. I couldn't relate to Margo - I have never been that kind of a social queen bee - until I got to the part where she asserts that the closer people get to her, the less attractive she becomes. And most of all, when she talks of feeling like a "paper girl". So even if I am nothing like her on the surface, I can perfectly understand a lot of things she feels.
I always say that I don't like works that are solely concerned with human relationships but I did like this one; if for nothing else than for the relief of meeting characters that I can relate to. ...more
Another great find from TV Tropes. I stumbled upon this while looking at the trope page for star-crossed lovers, I think, (no, I do not remember how IAnother great find from TV Tropes. I stumbled upon this while looking at the trope page for star-crossed lovers, I think, (no, I do not remember how I got there - TV Tropes is a total rabbit hole) and the idea of a colour-coded society where your worth is determined by the colours you can see was something I knew I would like.
My favourite part of the book, obviously, was all the colour. Just the names - East Carmine, Jade-Under-Lime, Oxblood, Cinnabar, High Saffron - were a delight. I felt like I was sampling my way through a box of bright jellybeans every time I saw a new name. The writing was rich and vivid and I could really understand the characters' reactions to colour - such as that deafening red door or the mural in Rusty Hill - despite the fact that they're fundamentally alien creatures.
The writing felt like some sort of strange P.G. Wodehouse/ sci-fi mashup. Perhaps it's the 1950s English boarding school feel of Chromatacia, or the fact that Eddie, pleasant, ordinary and often clueless, makes me think of Bertie Wooster. In any case, Fforde's writing is smooth and readable. I also liked Jane - she manages to be the fiery tsundere sci-fi heroine without getting on your nerves because the author isn't trying too hard to get the reader as well as the protagonist to fall in love with her. I also liked the Apocryphal Man, and the Yellows - especially Courtland Gamboge - were wonderfully detestable. I loved the humour of the book - it was an interesting contrast to the more obvious dystopian elements. The witty writing and colourful (no pun intended, honest) characters almost make you forget that this is about a ruthless totalitarian regime.
At the same time, Chromatacia isn't your typical dystopia. The Greys, while clearly at the bottom of the food chain, are nevertheless accorded certain rights (such as the privacy of their homes) and privileges (the Vermeer in the Grey sector). And more interestingly, greys can ascend - they aren't the usual downtrodden slave race you see in such fiction. The subservience of lower colours to higher ones reminded me more of the waiting on seniors in Enid Blyton boarding school stories than of class hierarchies. I also liked the intriguing references to human society, which make this a double layered science fiction story actually - there are two societies here; the Eloi-like Chromatics and the humans that came before them, both of them quite unlike what we are now. (Why indeed, are Mr. Simply Red and the legend of Chuck Naurice lost to time? :P)
On the other hand, I thought the writing lost track of the plot at times, trying to balance post-apocalyptic sci-fi with romantic comedy, A good part of the book is spent on world building and infodumps and as a result, the ending seems rushed and incomplete. The reveal about High Saffron has been overdone in this genre and thus fails to shock. I wish the book spoke more about the Riff Raff and the Apocryphal men, as well as how and why Chromatacia was formed. I'm assuming these will be saved for the sequels, but the missing information makes for an unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise fascinating book. I am looking forward to the two sequels and I hope they will be worth the wait.
Ultimately though, the reason Shades of Grey works is because it avoids a very common pitfall of books with unique concepts - it manages to be original without sacrificing likeable characters and readability....more
Apart from the Latin phrases preceding each part of the book, there was little here that I could connect with Rowling (well okay, I imagine Strike toApart from the Latin phrases preceding each part of the book, there was little here that I could connect with Rowling (well okay, I imagine Strike to look something like Hagrid). I have always thought that once the Harry Potter series was over, detective fiction would have been the natural next step for her, and I was surprised that she went ahead instead with a book like The Casual Vacancy.
The Cuckoo's Calling is not wildly original but is a pleasantly written book. If you're one of those annoying readers, like me, who loves guessing who did it, you might be a little disappointed at how obvious it is. But like all good mysteries, it is the investigation that matters more than the reveal. The modern, multicultural London of the book is as interesting a setting as Chicago or LA. I liked Cormoran Strike, despite his name. And his dynamic with Robin is far more engaging than the whole Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton thing he seems to have going on with Charlotte. In fact, I wish that entire subplot had been removed - it took away from the storyline and it did not have the chance to be developed enough to add another layer to Strike.
The writing is readable but lacks the spark and magic of Harry Potter, that almost addictive power of her words - by which I mean that I did not read this book at a stretch without sacrificing food, water and sleep :P. It's still pretty well written enough to keep the story moving smoothly forward.
I loved all the lines from Virgil and it reminded me of my plan to start reading classical texts again (I pretty much gave them up after good St Augustine last year). While this isn't exactly from the story itself, but "Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit" is such a lovely thing to remember. And fitting, for a book where memories, harsh and pleasant play an important role. Memories were why I read this book in the first place myself. I got this from one of the pavement booksellers at King's Circle on a trip to eat South Indian food with friends. I hadn't bought any from them in years and I remember that my first Harry Potter was bought from a similar bookseller, a badly printed copy that was probably pirated from an original. It's good to go back to old friends. ...more
I'm rather tired of Agatha Christie now but I liked this one, mainly for turning around two things I found most tiresome about her books - the whole tI'm rather tired of Agatha Christie now but I liked this one, mainly for turning around two things I found most tiresome about her books - the whole terribly-virile-man and feisty-brunette combo and the embarrassing values dissonance. The reveal is a little clumsy but I've honestly read worse. ...more
I read this on a visit to a local manga library because I'd watched the live action adaptation of Uzumaki 10 years ago when a friend and I were just bI read this on a visit to a local manga library because I'd watched the live action adaptation of Uzumaki 10 years ago when a friend and I were just beginning to discover J-Horror. The first volume is just about okay. The mangaka seems to be going in for disgust-induced horror, rather than psychological fear and I'm not really a fan of that. ...more
I really must stop reading random Agatha Christie mysteries as a diversion while trying to read heavier books. They're always fun and don't really insI really must stop reading random Agatha Christie mysteries as a diversion while trying to read heavier books. They're always fun and don't really insult the reader's intelligence but they do tend to get a little repetitive. And I know this values dissonance is just a reflection of how different things were in Christie's time, but the xenophobia is really grating. Especially when you're supposed to sympathise with a woman who is willing to disown members of her family simply because their father is Greek! Really?! It can be argued that Dr Tanios is slightly redeemed towards the end but it's tiresome to read the kind of statements that are spouted in the beginning. ...more
Saw the reveal coming halfway through the book - Christie drops some pretty giant hints. It's a pretty typical Christie mystery; big, wealthy, crazy fSaw the reveal coming halfway through the book - Christie drops some pretty giant hints. It's a pretty typical Christie mystery; big, wealthy, crazy family, earnestly English suitor, a touch of xenophobia and a very readable story. The ending however, and the justification for it was downright bizarre. ...more
What is it with Christie and jingoistic gorilla heroes? The whole kiss-kiss-slap-slap dynamic with their suitably fiery heroines? It starts getting tiWhat is it with Christie and jingoistic gorilla heroes? The whole kiss-kiss-slap-slap dynamic with their suitably fiery heroines? It starts getting tiresome after oh, the 200th time. Luke and Bridget's relationship was more rapey than romantic and I was tired of both of them by the fifth page.
Anyway, decent mystery. I was hoping for an interesting supernatural element since Luke was supposed to be researching witchcraft after all. The reveal is slightly predictable though and embarrassingly soap-operatic but to be honest, I don't really have any serious expectations from a book like this to begin with so I'm satisfied with a semi-interesting denouement, which this one had. ...more
Fun and light. Frankie and Bobby could both get a little annoying but I kind of liked them. I thought the plot got a little unnecessarily drawn out thFun and light. Frankie and Bobby could both get a little annoying but I kind of liked them. I thought the plot got a little unnecessarily drawn out though. ...more
It is true then, that sequels are almost always disappointing. I can't bring myself to really love any other books in this series after the first one.It is true then, that sequels are almost always disappointing. I can't bring myself to really love any other books in this series after the first one. I found the theme about aboriginal China interesting - it was something I hadn't really read much about before. But the writing was disinterested, it lacked the snap and spirit of the original. The plot felt indifferent and almost formulaic. Apart from being an interesting look at an ancient culture, I couldn't find much to enjoy here. ...more
I was expecting far too much from this book, I guess, because I loved The Bridge of Birds so much. It was readable enough, but I felt it lacked a certI was expecting far too much from this book, I guess, because I loved The Bridge of Birds so much. It was readable enough, but I felt it lacked a certain something, perhaps the epic scale of its predecessor. Master Li and Ox's trip into hell was interesting but I honestly found some parts, such as the one about the lizard man, downright disgusting. I think the characters of Moon Boy and Grief of Dawn could have been better developed. The reveal in the end did not have the smoothness of the previous book in this series, it seemed convoluted and forced. ...more
The Bridge of Birds is one of those utterly magical books that make you feel the way fairytales did when you were a kid.
It has colourful characters wThe Bridge of Birds is one of those utterly magical books that make you feel the way fairytales did when you were a kid.
It has colourful characters with just the right touch of quirk and other-ness that establishes heroes in a fairytale. It has humour that manages to be witty and bawdy, even a tad slapstick at times but in the best tradition of an old beloved yarn. And it has a pleasantly convoluted plot that ends in one of the best denouements I've read since Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I had an idea of the ending but it still left me amazed. It could only be described as epic. I could almost hear the click of the puzzle coming together, and as soon as I finished, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing over again, and watch out for the little hints everywhere.
Definitely a new favourite and one that lends itself perfectly to multiple reads. ...more
I love reading Agatha Christie for the same reasons I like eating junk food - it's fast, easy and enjoyable when I want a change from more sensible stI love reading Agatha Christie for the same reasons I like eating junk food - it's fast, easy and enjoyable when I want a change from more sensible stuff. And like junk food, there's often a not-so-pleasant aftertaste to it. In this case, it's the values dissonance I experience while reading some of her books. The old timey racism and imperialist attitudes are difficult to digest, especially when they come from characters you're supposed to root for. I just can't sympathize with her pukka sahibs, nor with statements that imply that being English means hating on every foreigner you meet.
However, the plot in this book was entertaining as usual, and I did like the second twist towards the end. ...more
I read this mostly out of curiosity (you have to admit, the title has an epic sound to it :P) and a hope to get back into the world of Jane Austen's bI read this mostly out of curiosity (you have to admit, the title has an epic sound to it :P) and a hope to get back into the world of Jane Austen's books. The "mystery" is actually incredibly dull and most of the book consists of awkwardly insistent references to Pride and Prejudice, my least favourite Austen work. Maybe if I cared for Elizabeth and D'Arcy, I'd have enjoyed this book more, but the plodding writing makes me doubt that. Honestly, my favourite part of the book was probably the cover. ...more
The novel started off well, with the Listening Woman of the title hearing prophecies on the wind while murders take place around her, and even the petThe novel started off well, with the Listening Woman of the title hearing prophecies on the wind while murders take place around her, and even the petty thief Begay pointing out a sunset to Leaphorn.
However, as the book progressed there was just too much going on. I liked the individual subplots, whether it was the murders Margaret Cigaret was 'witness' to, or the Buffalo Society or Leaphorn's mysterious assailant (also the Father Tso story, although Theodora Adams was a pain to read about). All these different threads just didn't tie up together very well. Plus, the last couple of chapters with Leaphorn in the caves were rather dull. I think the book could have done with some tightening-up....more