I have been planning to read this one and off from almost a decade now but it wasn't until Coraline and The Graveyard Book that I seriously decided to...moreI have been planning to read this one and off from almost a decade now but it wasn't until Coraline and The Graveyard Book that I seriously decided to. The story itself was engaging but naturally, it's the characters that really draw you in. Shadow, far from being bland, somehow manages to be the perfect foil for the larger-than-life (and morally ambiguous) characters around him. Laura might seem to be one of those unlikable women in fiction that the male protagonists seem to be puzzlingly fascinated with but she does have layers to her personality and is ultimately, a fairly sympathetic character. Of course, it is the gods, or rather, the stories, beliefs and hopes that made them gods that are the most fascinating.
The writing is as good as any Gaiman book, equal parts witty and thoughtful. The "Coming to America" segments were interesting, even if they weren't really what you might call pleasant. However, I thought the book lost steam towards the end. Plus, the "new" gods came across as gimmicky and tacky and barely inspired the kind of magic the "old" ones did - or is this the millenia of collective memory in me speaking? Also, I'm not sure that "call no man happy until he is dead" is from Herodotus but that's a minor point. I don't know why I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. It is well written but the build-up to the climax was a little lacklustre and the plot often meandered unnecessarily.
That said, I do love the way Neil Gaiman writes about the stories in our stories but I somehow seem to find that best in his books for children.(less)
Wow this series was such an utter waste of time. While squick cranked up to eleven is pretty much par for the course in horror manga, Uzumaki doesn't...moreWow this series was such an utter waste of time. While squick cranked up to eleven is pretty much par for the course in horror manga, Uzumaki doesn't even have a decent plot to make it worth reading. It's just one chapter after another of ways to gross out the reader without much by way of a story arc. I couldn't bring myself to care for any of the characters. The ending is incredibly underwhelming. In a nutshell: unpleasant and pointless. (less)
Junji Ito ups the squick level with volume 2. There's plenty of creepiness (and not even the good kind) but not much sense. The chapter on the two lov...moreJunji Ito ups the squick level with volume 2. There's plenty of creepiness (and not even the good kind) but not much sense. The chapter on the two lovers was kind of sweet though even with the weirdness. I can only hope there's some epic reveal behind all the spirals but at this point I don't expect it. (less)
The second book in The Kingkiller Chronicles remains readable as ever but lacks the consistency of the first.
One of the weakest points in the story is...moreThe second book in The Kingkiller Chronicles remains readable as ever but lacks the consistency of the first.
One of the weakest points in the story is the whole escapade with Felurian. It was a very trite situation in which to shove a hero who already teeters on the edge of Mary Sue-dom and was done in a manner so clunky as to make it worse. I also pretty much lost my patience with the Kvothe-Denna... thing (what is it? A will-they-won't-they friendship? A classic case of unrequited love? Why do they even like each other?) I still can't see what it is about Denna that fascinates Kvothe. That she's a hot chick and skips town on a regular basis? Denna herself isn't the most likable of characters. Plus, there were so much foreshadowing that this book was practically a spoiler.
At the same time, this is still a well-written book. The subplot with the Adem mercenaries, though smacking of kung-fu movies, is interesting because of the makeup of that society, despite Kvothe's training montage. The events leading up to his rescue of the two girls was chilling but I like Kvothe even less here than I did in the previous book, I didn't see much character development - he's pretty much doing the same things the same way he did one book ago, perhaps because despite the length of the book, the time covered is barely a year. Is Rothfuss planning to squeeze in the entire tale of how Kvothe becomes the Kingkiller in the third book itself? However, the story itself is engaging and has moments of humour and wit that make it worth the read.(less)
I prefer the kind of magic-realism that transforms everyday worlds into something new and exotic to the kind of fantasy that creates whole new ones (m...moreI prefer the kind of magic-realism that transforms everyday worlds into something new and exotic to the kind of fantasy that creates whole new ones (mostly cause I'm tired of all the Tolkien expys). However, this came highly recommended by a friend and the name was intriguing enough to make me want to check it out.
I loved the central themes of the book. I'm particularly interested in stories that talk about other stories, about how myths and legends are born and this is a fine book for that. I enjoyed reading about the folklore of that world, its heroes and villains, and its songs. The magic system in the book is an interesting take on sympathetic magic, and I enjoyed reading about it, despite the info-dumps.
I think Kvothe was made to be a deconstruction of the fairytale hero but he's just too damn talented and too damn lucky. If Rothfuss wanted to show how pride and overconfidence can get in the way of native talent, he doesn't really succeed because Kvothe ends up looking like an insufferable Mary Sue instead. I am also not sure about Denna and why exactly Kvothe is so fascinated with her. I liked Elodin, despite the tired Cloudcuckoolander stereotype and Auri; Kvothe's other friends are pleasant but forgettable.
The best part of the book was in its humour and readability, though, and for that alone, I look forward to the next in the series.(less)
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 b...moreI 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. (less)
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 cert...moreI 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. (less)
I'm starting to think YA tags aren't necessarily a codeword for sappy romances. Not that A Certain Slant of Light is necessarily free of melodrama and...moreI'm starting to think YA tags aren't necessarily a codeword for sappy romances. Not that A Certain Slant of Light is necessarily free of melodrama and angst, but it is still a moving and intense exploration of what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead.
I liked the writing; even though it gets a little mawkish in parts, it still has a charm to it. Like this part: "Dear sir: twelve hours is as twelve years to me. I imagine you in your home, smiling, thinking of me. That I am your heart's secret fills me with song. I wish I could sing of you here in my cage. You are my heart's hidden poem. I reread you, memorize you, every moment we're apart."
On the whole, the book is darkly beautiful and striking. (less)
For some time now, I had been intrigued by what I read of this book on Goodreads, but didn't get around to it until I discovered the Strange Geographi...moreFor some time now, I had been intrigued by what I read of this book on Goodreads, but didn't get around to it until I discovered the Strange Geographies column on Mental Floss and was surprised to find that the author was Ransom Riggs.
Despite the fact that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is highly reminiscent of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - among others - I did like the premise of this book, at least in the beginning. Towards the end, however, I rather lost interest. This was partly because I had little sympathy for Jacob. He's a rich kid whose parents display a believable amount of skepticism - any parent would, if their son claimed to have seen tentacle mouthed monsters. I don't see why he should whine and want to run away from his life. Besides, his narration sounds awkwardly out of tune with his age. He goes from making jokes about his friend's mother servicing truckers to quoting Dante's Inferno. I'm not saying that adolescents can't be well-read but what 15 year old says things like "Sisyphean suicide cult"?
For me, the best parts of the book were the found photos and even if Riggs can't always meld them smoothly to his storyline, they add atmosphere and a dark charm to the book.(less)
The Historian requires a good investment of time, not just because of its length but also because of the plodding writing that makes up the first part...moreThe Historian requires a good investment of time, not just because of its length but also because of the plodding writing that makes up the first part. And yet the rewards yielded after 700 odd pages of Vlad the Impaler, travels through the Iron Curtain and academic research are rather disappointing.
The problem, I think, is that Elizabeth Kostova simply doesn't understand what makes fantasy and horror so much fun. It's the low-brow aspects: the blood and the gore, the flights of imagination. I laud Ms. Kostova's research and the book is full of snippets of historical information. However, reams of data without interesting writing to back it up is a research paper, not a novel. As I read the book, I couldn't help but be reminded of the scintillating Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell that I read some months ago. That book had its share of information dumps as well (even if they were all completely made up), but I vastly preferred Susanna Clarke's mile long footnotes to the mind-numbingly boring academic paper on the Chronicle of Zachariahs that Kostova shoved into the narrative.
I liked the lush description of Eastern Europe and especially the village towards the end. However, the two narratives - the narrator's and her father's - don't always go together; the former is often left sparse at the expense of the latter. So basically, while this wasn't altogether a bad book, I can't say I liked it too much. Ms. Kostova manages to make the undead boring and only partly because she believes that a 500 year old vampire's most burning desire is the Dewey Decimal System.(less)
I really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell so when I found out that Susanna Clarke has a collection of stories set in the same alternate Britain,...moreI really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell so when I found out that Susanna Clarke has a collection of stories set in the same alternate Britain, I was curious to see whether the magic would work the second time round. I think it does.
The titular story is a good mix of feminism and magic and is the one most directly connected to the novel. I do wish it had been longer though. On Lickerish Hill is a delightful retelling of Rumpelstiltskin: familiar and fun (especially with Miranda's idiosyncratic descriptions of everyone and everything and the lovely quaint language) yet strangely creepy. The fairytale nature of the stories extends to Mrs. Mabb which as the title suggests involves fairies but also a good dose of Austen-style wit: "... he smiled at Venetia as if inviting her to fall in love with him on the spot.". I liked the familiar footnotes and tidbits of information on fairies in Tom Brightwind, or How the Fairy Bridge was Built at Thoresby but the story itself dragged a little. I did love the bit about Tom's social visit to the trees though. My favourite story in the book was Mr Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower. It had a likable and interesting protagonist and I liked the analogies between being a fairy and being a racial "outsider".
I loved Charles Vess' illustrations: they were magical without being too infantile and some of them were powerfully atmospheric such as the ones in The Ladies of Grace Adieu which depicts the ladies meeting Strange and the forest creatures in On Lickerish Hill.
Ms. Clarke has proved again that it is possible to write an intelligent yet absorbingly readable book and I can't wait for her next work.(less)
Okay, I tried the second tankoboun but I have to say I'm still undecided. The mystery of the Sohmas deepens on the one hand, but on the other Yuki dre...moreOkay, I tried the second tankoboun but I have to say I'm still undecided. The mystery of the Sohmas deepens on the one hand, but on the other Yuki dresses up in what looks like one of Julie Andrew's costumes from Sound of Music all for increasing sales at the class onigiri stand. I've realised that I may have been a little hard on shoujo manga because at least (sometimes) you're spared the kind of hentai and fan service found in seinen or shounen. I just don't see why they can't be both clean and intelligent.
Apart from that, I liked Hatori and Momiji with the random German bursting out, and I really am curious to find out more about Akito.(less)
I think I've mellowed down quite a bit in the last couple of years, where reading is concerned. If I can read Twilight, why not Fruits Basket? Besides...moreI think I've mellowed down quite a bit in the last couple of years, where reading is concerned. If I can read Twilight, why not Fruits Basket? Besides, Nodame Cantabile wasn't so bad.
Fruits Basket puts a zoological spin on Ranma 1/2 and manga madness ensues. My favourite character was Shigure, he seems like lots of fun. Tohru is sweet without being annoying but her friends, the gangsta Uotani and the psychic Hanajime are more interesting. Yuki is too generic and his constant fights with Kyo get tedious after the first one. The artwork is of the usual romantic shoujo variety but more or less well-executed. However, Yuki's dramatic depictions are off-putting. He looks like a deranged pixie every time he smiles.
I don't know if I'll be continuing reading this series but I'll give the second volume a try before deciding. (less)
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is what you get when you mix together Jane Austen, Harry Potter and the good bits from War and Peace. That is not to...moreJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is what you get when you mix together Jane Austen, Harry Potter and the good bits from War and Peace. That is not to say, however, that it's a mere pastiche. Susanna Clarke takes something familiar and adds her own touch to it.
First of all, I loved her depiction of the fairies, it was the perfect mix of magic and horror, depicted sometimes with behaviour (basically anything the gentleman with the thistle-down hair does), sometimes by setting (the Castle of the Plucked Eye and Heart and its Champion), sometimes even with name (Cold Henry -I don't know why but I find the name strangely fascinating). While the fairies here are clearly based on the ambiguous creatures of traditional folklore, I also like how they are depicted as a parallel to human beings: magic is their intrinsic trait, just like reasoning is the humans'.
The characters are all interesting in their own way, even when they're not very likable. Norrell and Strange are the protagonists, but like the silver-haired fairy, they are offset by sometimes more engaging characters. Vinculus, for one, was a total riot, stealing cream cheese and delivering prophecies. The gentleman with the thistle-down hair is a fascinating antagonist and the scene where Strange tries to prevent him from bewitching the King is creepy, atmospheric and magical all at the same time. The Raven King's history, his contrast with the two modern magicians, his parallels with Stephen Black and his all-pervading presence make him the best possible character to (almost) never actually appear in a story. My favourite character though, without a doubt is Childermass, mainly because he shows far more admirable qualities than either of the two magicians. He seems to have almost as much latent talent as either Norrell or Strange, with a great deal more of compassion than the former and insight than the latter. That, with his independence makes him a total badass worth respecting. For the first few chapters, I was almost convinced he was a fairy himself. Plus he gets to be in all the awesome situations, whether it's making the most significant discovery in the book or seeing visions of Faerie side by side with the real world right before Mr. Norrell - the thankless old b*****d - receives a little shock. That was one of my favourite chapters of the book: it was pure magic and not least because there's a curious feeling of déjà-vu in it.
I liked the "Englishness" that permeates the book. Whether because of linguistic or political conquests, England feels familiar and even common-place but the book makes it unique once more, as if it were as exotic and distinct a land to read about as any in Africa or Asia. There's a particular scene, where a group of native Americans is inducted into the Duke of Wellington's Army when Belgium is temporarily relocated to North America. They are called "savages" which I presume is an attempt at authenticity by depicting traditional 19th century prejudice. However, the attempts to anglicize them through tea was hilarious: "presumably with the idea that once a man had learnt to drink tea, the other habits and qualities that make up a Briton would naturally follow". The Italians, the French and Scotland are not spared either, but this too with humour: "Stephen had never seen a landscape so calculated to reduce the onlooker to utter despair in an instant. "This is one of your kingdoms, I suppose, sir?" he said. "My kingdoms?" exclaimed the gentleman in surprize. "Oh, no! This is Scotland!" But in all fairness, even the English aren't spared: "... his attention was given to the argument he was conducting with his neighbor as to whether the English magician had gone mad because he was a magician, or because he was English." There's also a direct homage to Jane Austen, in particular Mansfield Park - how would Maria Rushworth have avenged herself on Henry Crawford if magic existed? Footnotes that stretch across two pages would be a bad idea in any book but this - they were full of interesting tidbits and I looked forward to each one.
The subplot with Stephen and Lady Pole provided an interesting interlude between the Napoleonic wars and the The Prestige-like rivalry between the two magicians. It was refreshing to read about Stephen. He isn't a gimmicky, token black character either and I like Ms. Clarke's attempts to point out that society, even European society, wasn't as homogeneous as period films make it out to be. At times, though, Stephen left me confused. He seemed sometimes to be the perfect content with his station and then all of a sudden, feels belated anger at its unjustness; but think his emotion of apathy that arose before his final fate was believable. What happens to Strange and Norrell though seems a little inconsistent with Stephen's fate since the source of both was the same person. Strange's sojourn into Italy dragged on a little and it was only Ms. Clarke's addictive storytelling that kept me going on. The end, however, made everything worth it. It was absolutely spell-binding, whether it was Childermass's revelation, Strange and Norrell's enchantment, Stephen's freedom or John Uskglass' return.
I was very grateful for the artwork: why shouldn't books for grown-ups be illustrated like children's books? I liked many of Portia Rosenberg's illustrations - particularly the first appearance of the silver-haired gentleman, Childermass' vision and Norrell at the inn - and they complement the text for the most part. However, they often look a little unfinished and disinterested.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a brilliant first novel and I look forward to Ms. Clarke's next, especially if it is going to be about Childermass and Vinculus.(less)