First of all, to Mr. Kraus if he should ever read this review: I love your work. Super love it. Scowler is one of my favorite books. I just didn't likFirst of all, to Mr. Kraus if he should ever read this review: I love your work. Super love it. Scowler is one of my favorite books. I just didn't like this one.
Second, this was an advance readers copy obtained at a convention by a friend.
Third, I'll avoid them as much as I can, but I may describe some minor spoilers here.
I began reading this book back in July. I have not read any books in between, and I'm both mortified and angry (at myself and it) for not having either finished or given up on this 600+-page tome earlier. But by gød (← a convention in the book; please, no angry letters), I finished it on Christmas. And I'll keep it, because Daniel Kraus is one of my favorite authors and my friend got it signed for me and I think it's hilarious that the one autographed book I have from him is a book I pretty much hated. Irony is good; irony is for keeps.
Zebulon is not likable, and he's not supposed to be. Unlikable characters are fine, and they're interesting. And Zebulon is interesting; he has a great background and lives through some crazy, interesting, historical things. But Zebulon is writing this memoir from present-ish day, and for the most part he seems unremorseful for the things he's done, short of somewhat feeling sorry for himself. Treading through over six hundred pages of this, and especially in light of the fact that Zebulon really doesn't grow or change as a character (he tries a couple of times but fails, shrugs his shoulders, and moves on) is a slog.
The book also jumps forward in time far too quickly and confusingly. I often thought he'd lived through a time span of maybe a few months, when it had in fact magically been seven years or more. Surprise; the other characters are now much older than our protagonist/antagonist, and I didn't have this image in my mind. I wanted to feel the movement of time, whether it was quickly or slowly for Zebulon, and it's fine if this varies for him. Sometimes it's okay for him to think, oh! of course she's no longer a child, I've been here six years. But when Zebulon knows the passage of time but we're caught off guard by it; or when he and we are surprised in different ways... we're jolted out of the reality of the story. It also took me half of the book to realize la silenziosità was not figurative but literal. That was jarring, but I'll concede it was possibly due to my own lack of attention to detail.
The language, however, is beautiful, and in my opinion is the one saving grace for the book. Zebulon is eloquent and his language reflects what you would expect from an educated, well-read, 19th-century teenager, and he maintains this, no matter what he's describing. It serves as a great contrast to the forward movement of time, and I imagine it will be even greater in Volume Two, which presumably will start where this book ends in 1941. I'm also over-the-top impressed by an author who can sustain that type of language for so long, not to mention make it believable.
Several things, though, were not believable, and they may be what ruined the book for me. (Here I'll be brief to avoid as many spoilers as possible.) A few examples:
Zebulon lives through a few too many exciting events. And even with all of these happenings, his brain may be eternally "stuck" at seventeen, but it is unreasonable how little he seems to learn from them or to grow any real compassion. There were a few instances of things just simply not lining up. (E.g., he is stabbed in the shoulder during a fight while wearing a jacket, and moments later he describes how the jacket is unscathed. Was the assailant so kind as to pull aside his jacket first, without ripping it and without Zebulon even noticing?) It seems obvious from whence his immortality might have sprung, but he never thinks of it, and he's an intelligent enough kid. At several points in the book he tries very hard to keep a particular object inside his dead innards; but at another point he empties his stomach's contents, and not once is the object mentioned (either as remaining inside or exiting). And I'll just cryptically say that I don't think rigor mortis works that way.
I don't know what the intended audience is, but there is some language, sex, violence, and drugs. None is too much for a high schooler probably, but some of it is a little disturbing. I wouldn't particularly recommend this book, but I'd absolutely recommend Scowler and Rotters by the same author to almost anyone!...more
I really loved this book. The shifting points of view confused me in the beginning, but I adjusted to it after a short while. Beloved herself continueI really loved this book. The shifting points of view confused me in the beginning, but I adjusted to it after a short while. Beloved herself continued to be confusing, but I think that has to be intentional, and it didn't take me out of the story.
I haven't read any historical fiction for a while, and maybe that's partly why I enjoyed this so much. Without being too focused on details, it's an intimate look at slavery and its effects on human beings (sociological, physical, and psychological) and what it would have been like to survive it. I can't say that I've seen or read anything else that put me right in the middle of this time period and really made me think and feel what slavery was like (though 12 Years a Slave does come close). Nothing was overdramatized, which would have been easy to do. The reader has to deal with the events as they happen or are brought to light, right along with the book's characters. Nothing is drawn out for the sake of forcing or emphasizing how the reader should react.
This book somewhat reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, except that here every character was fleshed out enough to make them very real, even ones we never meet. And each one of the characters' viewpoints are made relatable. (Nothing against Castle; the townsfolk not seeming particularly real worked to develop the main character in that book; here, it works better to have each person made very real.)
Due to the somewhat difficult writing style and some of the topics covered (rape, sex, death), I would recommend for high school and above. ...more
The Last Policeman series is officially one of my favorites now. This last installment was just as good as the first two.
Though I wanted to see more oThe Last Policeman series is officially one of my favorites now. This last installment was just as good as the first two.
Though I wanted to see more of the doomed Earth in the second book, I actually liked how this one took place mostly in one location. It made sense, and the progression from the first book's wider view of the world to this one's much narrower one was nice.
The author is great at writing heartbreaking scenes, which again in this book brought me to tears. And the ending... you couldn't ask for a better ending to this series. It is beautiful. And Hank is a beautiful person, in the face of tragedy and the unknown, both personal and shared, in how he reacts so honestly and cares so deeply. People think he's weird, and he knows it and doesn't entirely understand it (which almost seems like autism), and I think that's a very relatable trait that many readers will understand, and that they don't get to see very often. There's not much else I can say without spoiling anything, but I will say that each character is unique and realistic, and they act and react both predictably and unpredictably... just like real people, with logic and reason twisted in the face imminent death.
I do wish the chapter headings had included, instead of just the date, something like "2 months ago," so that it was easier to tell when it was a flashback. It wasn't terribly difficult to understand, but I'm a forgetful reader and wouldn't remember the current date, so I'd have to flip back to another chapter to see where I was at time-wise. Not a big deal though; I still loved the flow of the book.
Like the rest of the series, I'd recommend it for high school and older. And I'm sad that the series is over, but I look forward to more writing from Ben Winters....more
"He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms."
Skilley the cat finds a sweet new gig for himself at the Cheshire Cheese tavern, where the finest"He was the best of toms. He was the worst of toms."
Skilley the cat finds a sweet new gig for himself at the Cheshire Cheese tavern, where the finest cheese in all of England is made... and where they have a real problem with mice. Unfortunately for the Cheese's employees and patrons (a cadre that includes Charles Dickens himself), Skilley secretly hates the taste of mice. In fact... he prefers cheese. Through some unusual friendships and not-so-unusual rivalries, Skilley and others learn about themselves, learn how to get along, learn what's important, and save the day (and even meet the Queen) in this smartly written young adult novel.
If you enjoy adding to your vocabulary (or your kids' vocabularies) in an easy-to-read manner a la Lemony Snicket, you should check out this book. It's a quick and entertaining read, even for adults. The occasional artwork is nice too, and this could be a great introduction to Dickensian stories for a younger audience.
I loved book #1, and this did not disappoint as a sequel. It didn't feel as urgent as #1, but it didn't particularly need to be; the urgency from theI loved book #1, and this did not disappoint as a sequel. It didn't feel as urgent as #1, but it didn't particularly need to be; the urgency from the first book carried over to the second, which probably says a lot for the author's world-building. (And his/Palace's insight into the human condition and the description thereof... faaaantastic.) It also didn't feel quite as dark as the first book, but I took that to be purposeful. The people who are left are mostly deciding to hang in there until the bitter end, rather than just hanging themselves. Maybe those who have stuck around have a little more hope.
But that's not to say there isn't plenty of death and despair, and things are definitely getting worse. There are sad moments, but at least I was already privy to Palace's childhood at this point and didn't cry at any revelations. His promise to his sister is very sweet, but not tear-worthy, and that's fine.
I wish we'd seen more of the outside world though. Even though Palace travels to several locations, and it makes sense that he really can't travel very far at this point with the general infrastructure of everything having fallen apart, I still felt stuck in a microcosm while reading, even though the entire world is falling into chaos. And maybe that's the point; Palace, and everyone else, probably feels that way too, cut off from the world at large compared to the recently-ended, hyper-information age. I still hope though that in book #3 we get to see more of what's happening to at least other regions of the country, if not the world. If only for curiosity's sake.
Overall, great book, probably good for high school and older....more
Color me immensely disappointed. Though I really enjoyed the first two, this fifth installment of the Road to Perdition graphic novel series felt unedColor me immensely disappointed. Though I really enjoyed the first two, this fifth installment of the Road to Perdition graphic novel series felt unedited and possibly rushed (similar to the first one, but much worse; Michael's girlfriend calls him by her uncle's name at one point for goodness sake, and it's not the character's mistake). There was nothing very unique about the story, though I was surprised by something near the end and probably shouldn't have been, and I did appreciate that fact. Some parts were rushed through in only a few frames when they should have been much more detailed, and other parts dragged on. I admit I got bored but did finish it, since it isn't terribly long. Some sections appeared to be an excuse to draw naked women, which can be fine if there's a good story to go with it; but when there's not, it comes across as a 13-year-old's pornographic fantasy. Having this one take place in the '70s would have been fine too, even though I really liked the Prohibition-era setting of the first two; but all this felt like was a watered-down version of a '70s gangster film.
The artwork wasn't badly done, and I did appreciate the part that surprised me, so I at least gave it two stars. This book doesn't lessen my love for the second book of the series or the movie based on the first, but I have no desire to go back and read numbers 3 and 4 (Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise). ...more