I haven't been reading much lately and all the books I started over the last couple months really suffered for that. This one I read really slowly, whI haven't been reading much lately and all the books I started over the last couple months really suffered for that. This one I read really slowly, which was alright since it is a short story collection. I never really know what to say about short story collections. It was an entertaining, clever, books with a clear fun voice. I didn't enjoy it as much as Swamplandia! but it was her first work and was fairly impressive considering. I never really know what to say about short story collections, aside from reviewing every story which I don't really feel like doing. I would say that I didn't particularly dislike any story, and found them all enjoyable. ...more
Howl's Moving Castle is the kind of book I would have loved when I was a kid. I wish I could go back in time and give it to child me since he would apHowl's Moving Castle is the kind of book I would have loved when I was a kid. I wish I could go back in time and give it to child me since he would appreciate it more than I did. And the truth is that I'm a decade (and a bit) older than the intended audience, which doesn't hurt the book too much. This book is clever enough, with unique characters, that I think a lot of people of any ages can enjoy it.
The best part of the book are the characters, especially Howl and Sophie. There is a charm and humour that envelops the book and makes it a very entertaining read. The story is clever, and the world is interesting enough to work. But the best part is Sophie who is convincing as well as very entertaining to read about.
The plot is charming, comedic, and even occasionally surprising. It seems odd to me that most of the original, exciting fantasy being written is being written for children and not adults. This is a perfect example of that since this book plays with fantasy tropes effectively and introduces very memorable characters into an entertaining story.
I originally gave this four stars, but the story and characters have not left my mind since I read it so I'm adding one. Sophie, Calcifer, and Howl are characters who have stuck in my mind, and I am very grateful to Diana Wynne Jones for introducing me to them....more
I find reading an established author's early works to be an interesting experience. It is in many ways similar to looking at child pictures of someoneI find reading an established author's early works to be an interesting experience. It is in many ways similar to looking at child pictures of someone I know very well. The pictures are clearly of them but they aren't really the same person yet, they are still growing, changing, and becoming the person I now know. This book feels more like someone trying to write like Kazou Ishiguro than actually something by Ishiguro himself. It has a lot of his signature traits of Ishiguro but they are not employed as well and often fail.
A Pale View of Hills is about a woman who's daughter's suicide leads her to star recollecting about a particular summer in her life before she left Japan. The odd part is that it is also before her daughters were born and through most of the book seems to be entirely unrelated to the framing story. The summer seems to be significant to the protagonist because of two significant events. One of these events was that her father in law visited her that summer shortly before she had her child. The other was that she met a woman and her daughter who were planning to leave Japan with an american man. The story has an altogether uneasy feeling although I am not altogether certain why. The stronger part is the subplot in which her father in law has to learn that Japan is changing now that World War II is over. The main plot on the other hand suffers from being too ambiguous and aimless. Often the story itself never seemed to be going anywhere in particular and the protagonist seemed to often be somewhat irritatingly passive and lacking in personality. I only found her this way when she was interacting with her new friend who was planning on leaving for america. When she was interacting with her husband and father in law she seemed much more like a person.
I suppose the twist explains this problem but it doesn't do it in such a way that particularly makes sense. I am going to avoid saying what happens at the ending but suffice it to say the author attempts to change the story by having a plot twist that doesn't really successfully make sense of anything. I think I somewhat understand what he was attempting to do with this book but ultimately he fails. I think he didn't yet have the skill to successfully write this book and maybe if he wrote it now I would have liked it a lot more. But as it is it is decent at best but the vague and disappointing ending combined with an aimless story makes this a poor novel.
I think its possible that I did not fully understand this book, and maybe I will like it more if I ever reread it. But as it is, it is a pale imitation of the other books Ishiguro has written. I didn't hate it but I did think it was a very disappointing novel, and that the author never really seemed to know what he was doing with it, nor how to end it. ...more
I read Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall because I had just finished Never Let Me Goand wanted to read more by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is aI read Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall because I had just finished Never Let Me Goand wanted to read more by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a collection of short stories all about failed musicians and young beginning musicians (except the second story for some reason). Overall they had a wistful quality except for one major flaw which was the constant attempts at humour, and not just any humour but a sort of physical and situational comedy. If you ever wondered what a wistful, sad, sitcom would be like then look no further. To be fair, I don't like this sort of humour on the best of days but here it really failed. I wouldn't say though that that was the only flaw. The stories themselves were okay but there was nothing very memorable and I would often stop thinking about them as soon as I was done. I think maybe this book would have worked if someone else wrote it. Ishiguro is a very skilled writer, and his prose remained wonderful throughout this work, but it just didn't suit the subject matter and genre he was attempting to write.
That being said, I did enjoy most of these stories and found its thoughts on fame, marriage, and music to be interesting. I think my biggest complaint would be that the second story did not belong in this volume, and the whole work would have been improved with its absence. ...more
Never Let Me Go is a beautifully written book told from the perspective of Kathy H., a young woman looking back on her days in a strange english boardNever Let Me Go is a beautifully written book told from the perspective of Kathy H., a young woman looking back on her days in a strange english boarding school. Even early on this school seems very odd, the guardians (not teachers) emphasize health, and art, and don't seem to think life skills of any sort are needed. The truth about the school (which is revealed fairly early on) is that they are all clones bred with the sole purpose of having their organs harvested some day.
I find this a hard book to express my opinion towards because there are so many things I want to say and yet I am having a lot of trouble expressing it in words. This is a story about growing up and coming of age, in a world where none of the children will ever get to be adults. Its a love story with impending death hanging over everything. Its also a metaphor for our lives. None of us get more than a life time and we are all slowly progressing toward death. There are little bits of hope and the impending question of what happens after, do we get a release or more torment? But in the end it is the same and we will all die, and so we find some kind of identity and life while we can.
The three central characters (Tommy, Kathy, and Ruth) were all well written and seemed real. In many ways it was Ruth I felt most sorry for in the end, Tommy and Kathy always had each other even though Tommy was dating Ruth for most of the book. But Ruth always seemed alone, and maybe that's why she imitated people around her so much. She didn't want to be as alone as she knew she was, she just wanted someone to care about her. Tommy had in many ways the warmest heart of the three and I think that was the reason for his temper, he could never handle the injustice of this world they lived in. And Kathy always seems to just accept these things as they come. She doesn't want to die but does not seem to think theres any use complaining.
The truth is that none of them really complain about it. They accept their fate and even sometimes seem to think it is good. Kathy is annoyed by the suggestions of conspiracies or that anything even more horrible is going on, since she does not think this is wrong precisely. I think there could be many explanations for this, maybe they've been altered somehow during the cloning process to not want to rebel, or maybe they've been brainwashed. But the real reason is the metaphor, we often just accept our situations in life. We do not fight them, or attempt to change them, and the most we do is gripe. Life is what it is and it would be futile to run, or alter it.
Never Let Me Go is a story about people trying to live their lives while very aware that very soon they will die. Its also about a world that is becoming colder, and crueller, and harsher, and leaving behind those truly important things like love, and compassion, and small quiet moments. I have more to say but I guess this will do for now. I would highly recommend this book, yet with the warning that this is not a happy read. Never Let Me Go is gorgeous, romantic, profound, thought provoking, and very depressing. ...more
NOS4A2 is too long by about 200 pages, and I think a lot of the problems within come from its bloated length. The problem was that the book didn't havNOS4A2 is too long by about 200 pages, and I think a lot of the problems within come from its bloated length. The problem was that the book didn't have the amount of content to justify its length and sometimes just seemed as though it was meandering.
NOS4A2 was about a woman who could use her bike to bend space in order to find lost things, as well as a man who could use his car in order take children to a false paradise wherein he feeds off of their souls. The story itself is interesting enough, but the strength of the book lies in the protagonists. Vic McQueen is a broken, confused, and yet strong willed young woman who I found fairly convincing. Her boyfriend Lou was a tad more stereotypical yet was still an likeable character. I think that one of Joe Hill's strongest skills as a writer is his strength at creating likeable convincing protagonists which is fairly necessary if the author expects me to find anything scary.
Inversely, I find that his villains are the opposite in that they are stereotypical, annoying, and next to impossible to find convincing. This isn't always the case; I actually found the antagonist in Horns to be a fairly convincing portrayal of a psychopath. But that's the exception more than the rule. In this book we have two main antagonists, one of which is the owner of the eponymous NOS4A2 and the other is his henchman. Manx, the main antagonist, was a some stereotypical villain, but he was good enough for what the book needed. The problem was his henchman Bing, who was an annoying, pathetic, and stupid character. The character was mostly useless to the character and always the cause of the most irritating and stupid moments. An example of this would be when, during a climactic scene Bing shot a man and then farted in surprise. I think that if Bing was cut out then the book would lose over a hundred pages, and all of its more annoying and unpleasant moments.
Hill's other strength is his writing style. Stephen King has a skill at making the most mundane seem creepy, and unpleasant. Joe Hill on the other hand is very good at making the unpleasant and strange seem ordinary. He can make the most ludicrous plot line seem perfectly believable.
NOS4A2 is also constantly referencing other books, including those by Hill, King, and David Mitchell. But this is done in a way that isn't overly annoying or obvious, with a few exceptions.
Overall I would say that this is the first novel he has written that I thought was a good book, and the best of the three he has written so far. However, its length and weak antagonists really prevent it from being as good as I think it could have been. ...more
This is not a horror collection. It may be labelled as such but maybe half of the stories are horror stories. And it is not a ghost story collection eThis is not a horror collection. It may be labelled as such but maybe half of the stories are horror stories. And it is not a ghost story collection either. There are about 4 ghost stories in it but that's hardly the majority. That being said I still think that the title somewhat fit the book. There is a certain melancholic, sad and ghostly feel to many of these stories even though some of them aren't even supernatural in any way. I didn't expect much from this. I had read and enjoyed Joe Hill's comics so I thought I would check out one of his books and thought his short stories would be a good place to start. I have only ever read one Stephen Kind book so I can't really compare him to his father. But I can say that this book shows a fair amount of potential for being a first work. Some of the stories really aren't very good but I would say the good outweighed the bad. There's nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary here but there are several stories that are pretty good. I liked it and will probably try one of his novels. ...more
I read this book under the impression that it was a response to Christopher's Hitchens' book "God is not Great" when it is more 3 different books combI read this book under the impression that it was a response to Christopher's Hitchens' book "God is not Great" when it is more 3 different books combined. First its an autobiography where Hitchens talks about his atheist days and his eventual conversion back to Christianity. Its also an analysis of English history from the perspective of the abandonment of Christianity and secularization of the country. The third subject in the book is his response to his brother where he addresses Christopher Hitchens' argument a true atheist state would be better and that the soviet union was a religious state. Peter Hitchens uses his personal experience as a foreign correspondent in Russia to address this and show his evidence that Russia was very atheistic. Overall though the book is a good autobiography but if you are expecting an apologetic work it will be disappointing. ...more
I think I'm about ready to give up on Sawyer, although its possible that Ive just chosen poorly. If John Grisham tried to write a science fiction noveI think I'm about ready to give up on Sawyer, although its possible that Ive just chosen poorly. If John Grisham tried to write a science fiction novel this is probably what you would get. While the idea of an alien courtroom drama is somewhat intriguing the novel spends most of its time trying to be a metaphor for the OJ Simpson Trials. Which would be okay if the author didn't feel a need to have every character say "Hey, this reminds me of the Simpson trials". There are some interesting ideas but they are mostly tagged on at the end when the author realized he needed some kind of plot to go with all the speeches about OJ Simpson and the problems with the American legal system. The book did have some potential but unfortunately Sawyer seems to have been unable to handle that potential....more
The Man Who Could Not Shudder is about a group of friends and associates who hear about a haunted house and decide to spend a weekend there. Of coursThe Man Who Could Not Shudder is about a group of friends and associates who hear about a haunted house and decide to spend a weekend there. Of course someone swiftly dies in a way that is not immediately explainable and no one is sure what to make of it. Soon Dr. Gideon Fell (a man very clearly based off of G.K. Chesterton) arrives and investigates the mystery.
This is a fairly basic mystery set up but it is very well set up. The strength of novel is how intelligent and well thought out the central mystery is. The case is clever, unpredictable, and actually makes sense.
The problem is that the characters are only as interesting as they have to be. They feel like stock characters although they work well enough for the show's purposes. The exception is Fell who is a fairly interesting character, but that's probably because he's based off G.K. Chesterton.
This is alright though, since the book does what it's supposed to do. It's an entertaining story with a good mystery with characters with just as much character as they have to have. Overall I quite liked it. ...more
A couple years ago I read a delightful little book called On Tremendous Trifles. Upon revisiting the book I discovered that it was in fact a shortenedA couple years ago I read a delightful little book called On Tremendous Trifles. Upon revisiting the book I discovered that it was in fact a shortened version that was missing about half the essays of the original. See the difference? This book doesn't have the "on". On the one hand I was a trifle annoyed when I had discovered this since they could have been more clear about the omission of over half of the original's contents, but on the other hand I was excited since it meant that there was a longer version of this book which I had not read.
Tremendous Trifles is Chesterton's celebration of the mundane, ordinary, and unexciting. It serves as a challenge to find wonder in all things and to be moved to wonder and joy by life. Chesterton's three strongest traits are very present and clear in these pages. First, he was a cheerful person who loved life. He had that sort of cheerfulness that one sees in someone who has been depressed and knows how hard life can be. He finds joy in simple little things and tries to actively notice it in all places. Secondly, he was a very wise and intelligent man. It is pretty much inarguable that Chesterton was very intelligent, which does not mean that I agree with everything he says, but simply that he says almost everything well. He argues with a skill and wit that leads me to be impressed even when I think he is mistaken. Thirdly, and I think this is closely related to the first two points, he was hilarious. Almost every single page of this book is funny. Chesterton can make you laugh as he argues with you, teaches you, and merely entertains you.
There are many gems in this book. I was going to quote some of the great lines but I after awhile i wanted to quote entire essays. Some highlights for me were "The Orthodox Barber", "The Twelve Men", "The Red Angel", "The Dragon's Grandmother", "A Piece of Chalk", "On Lying in Bed" and "A Cab Ride Across The Country", although that is not to say that those were the only good ones, just that those are the ones I most often want to reread.
The one flaw of this book is that many of these essays were speaking of contemporary issues, and many of these are now antiquated issues. But even these essays are not only interesting from a historical perspective, since there is still the general conceit that runs through all these books which is the wonder of the ordinary.
"The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder." ...more
Frank Miller's long awaited sequel to his popular Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is possibly the worst comic I have ever read. Its a terrible sequelFrank Miller's long awaited sequel to his popular Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is possibly the worst comic I have ever read. Its a terrible sequel but that barely covers how terrible it is itself. Throughout Dark Knight Returns there was a commentary on events done by the media. This worked as both a satire of mass media, as well as providing plot exposition. It also was a small subplot that didn't take up too much space. In The Dark Knight Strikes Again the media satire takes up most of the book and has little to nothing to do with the plot. It makes the story incredibly difficult to follow and is just plain stupid as well. The art is retched, the writing is terrible, and the narrative is as confusing as possible. There will be constant conversations where it doesn't show who is talking and the bubbles are unconnected to anything and uncoloured making it incredibly difficult to tell who's talking. Almost every superhero except Batman is portrayed as being terrible so that Batman will look better. Superman is the worst though. At the beginning we learn that Superman was willing to compromise his principles and work for Lex Luther, and then later we learn that he is dating Wonder Woman and convinced her to date him when he "threw her to the ground and took [her] as his rightful prize." So either Superman raped Wonder Woman, or he just beat her up until she agreed to "be his". That is terrible. Not to mention that later in the book Batman yells at Superman and tells him to take over the world and make it his. The book implies that this would be good and that Superman will. So here we have Miller's misogyny, and fascism displayed very nicely. I could go on about how awful this is but I think that sums it up enough for now. This is the worst comic I ever read and I have read some pretty bad ones. ...more
Horror and fear are fairly subjective and personal, which is why I do not really consider "not scary" to be a completely fair complaint about a book.Horror and fear are fairly subjective and personal, which is why I do not really consider "not scary" to be a completely fair complaint about a book. That being said, I did not find this book scary. I was often just bored and disinterested. And thats the thing too, some horror really can still intrigue and interest me even if I don't find it precisely horrifying but Heart Shaped Box did not really have much beyond the horror. Most of the book was spent in attempts to scare me and it just didn't work. I think the problem was that I never really found the characters especially interesting and never became that invested in their story. Overall it is well written, and I'm sure many people may like it far more than I did, but I personally didn't really like it very much....more
My problem with some of these "comics for adults" books is that they seem like just that. Its as though a child wanted to prove how adult he was so heMy problem with some of these "comics for adults" books is that they seem like just that. Its as though a child wanted to prove how adult he was so he filled his book full of sex and swearing and crude jokes so everyone would know he was really mature. And so, as I have found with a lot of these adult comic books, it ends up feeling more juvenile than many of the ones that do not attempt to be labeled as adult. I really wanted to like this book. I had heard it was funny and thought provoking but found it was neither. It tried really hard to be funny, almost as hard as it tried to be shocking. The main purpose of this book though is to shock. But it even fails there since it starts to all feel so juvenile that I can be no more shocked than I could be from a junior high kid who is trying to sound tough.
Demons and angels having sex, rapists, congregations exploding, and a kid trying to kill himself but ending up with an "ass face" make up just some of the events in this book put in merely in order to shock.
If you want an intelligent funny story with religious, and moral commentary and compelling characters than don't read Preacher. If you want a comic for adults don't read Preacher since it clearly was not meant for adults.If you want obscenity and violence put in for the sake of obscenity and violence, as well as constant attempts to offend, then Preacher is for you.
I'm starting to think I don't like Garth Ennis. I shall now put him in the same category as Frank Miller and Mark Millar. As in popular comic book authors that I am not interested in wasting any more time and money on.
I am honestly confused by the great popularity of this particular book series. ...more
Parker Pyne is not a detective. He occasionally detects, and even solves a couple murders, but most of these stories are not detective stories. He isParker Pyne is not a detective. He occasionally detects, and even solves a couple murders, but most of these stories are not detective stories. He is a former government employee who had a somewhat vague unclear job. In this way he is somewhat reminiscent of Mycroft Holmes; a genius who has a vague job in the British Government who appears to have had a lot of power due to general respect for his own intelligence. Now he is retired and has dedicated himself to making people happy. He runs an advertisement in the newspaper that simple says; "Are you happy? If not, call Parker Pyne." Few people answer, but some do and he attempts to make them happy and often succeeds. The interesting aspect comes in what is considered to make people happy, and this is where the book really starts to reveal a lot about Agatha Christie's worldview. But that's not necessarily bad in this case. Parker Pyne is an interesting person, and the stories are light hearted and amusing. Halfway through the book Parker Pyne goes on vacation and the stories become actual mysteries, but they keep that light hearted amusing self aware tone that made the first half good. ...more