For such a quick read, "The Mountains of Mourning" is the heaviest story in the series so far (and I just finished Ethan of Athos): it drips with mess...moreFor such a quick read, "The Mountains of Mourning" is the heaviest story in the series so far (and I just finished Ethan of Athos): it drips with messages and lessons for tolerance, acceptance, and respect even more than Barrayar did.
Yes, it is a bona fide mystery, but the crime is only a pretext for exploring the implications of being different in a world that prizes above all physical perfection. This theme in itself is not new; what is new, however, is the fact that Ms. Bujold delves into the causality of this compulsion for corporeal superiority: the reason the population on Barrayar is so obsessed with perfect bodies can be found in its tumultuous history, when regular folk were not able to care of the sick and weak. The author looks with understanding at the poorer population who initially became so intolerant not from evilness but as a necessity to survive. Even Miles's final decision is a exhortation toward tolerance, if not forgetfulness.
I found this novella a wonderful, if melancholic, addition to the saga.
P.S. "The Mountains of Mourning" is not a stand-alone story: there are references to evens and characters from the previous novels that someone new to the series wouldn't grasp. (I know this for a fact since my sister started the series with this novella and she was thoroughly confused.)(less)
I always thought that boys of Miles age (his age as in "The Warrior's Apprentice," that is) are particularly chafing in their self-centeredness, in th...moreI always thought that boys of Miles age (his age as in "The Warrior's Apprentice," that is) are particularly chafing in their self-centeredness, in their self-absorption which prevents them from understanding that their inoffensive acts of "proving themselves" are in actuality harmful to the people they love. Ms. Bujold creates such a believable character that two thirds of the book, I wanted to castigate and point out to him the consequences of his "quest." He is young, consumed by self-doubts and lack of identity, frantically searching for a sense of direction, and in his search making mistake after mistake. Ms. Bujold's main character is decidedly real.
When I first pondered at the message of this novel and how to write my review, I planned in touching the fact that Miles creates a word in which he belongs, a safe harbor for "broken" people like him, in need of a second chance. But now that I'm writing it, I feel that it's more important to talk about Miles's honor.
He starts his journey a virgin, not sexually but integrity wise. His is a fool, but an innocent one, who yet has to break his word. Despite wading in a river of blunders, he somehow succeeds to hold on to that most important principle he inherited from his parents. When he finally understands that doing the right thing means favoring the loved ones' happiness over his own happiness, he is put in the distressing situation of choosing between his word (which at the time he equals with his honor) and the right thing to do. For Miles, failing to keep a promise is a rite of passage, his transition from childhood to manhood, from phantasms to reality. And in his decision, he neither fails nor loses his honor.
(view spoiler)[***** Post Scriptum: It is interesting that up to the end Ms. Bujold, through Miles's eyes, seems to believe that he forswears. However, since he bestows the mercenaries (led now by Baz Jesek) upon the Emperor, Elena's husband becomes indeed an imperial officer... Which of course means that Miles both, does the right thing by freeing Elena and keeps his word to Bothari. :) (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This series was recommended to me so wholehearted that I went out and bought the first 5 novels (all of them at the time) without wondering whether I...moreThis series was recommended to me so wholehearted that I went out and bought the first 5 novels (all of them at the time) without wondering whether I should try one before buying them all. What a mistake! Love Means... No Shame is bad, so bad that 2 stars is just my way of showing the holiday spirit. The writing is altogether horrid, at par with the first books from the Sookie Stackhouse Series. But while Ms. Harris's creativity was making up for her lack of style, Mr. Grey fashions a world that is flat, monochromatic, and thoroughly boring.
To put it simple, there is so little going on in this book that I can't even say it has a plot. The social prejudice against gay people is poorly chronicled - while reading this novella, I felt no real conflict, no apprehension, no turmoil. 60 percent of the book goes by in daily chores (recurrent dishwashing and horse-cleaning) and endless carbon-copy horseback rides; 30 percent is dedicated to sex, and the remaining 10 percent to the "plot" and a bizarre character development. The golden rule that no scene should be added to a book if it doesn't move ahead the plot or pens a character is wholly ignored: things happen for no particular reason and we are left with no extra information than when they started. For instance Eli and Geoff are riding on the side of the road when a careless driver scares Geoff's horse, then flees. If Mr Grey turned that scene into a picture of the local animosity against gay people it would have worked out but, as it is, it brings no new traits about either of the two actors and it leads to no particular boost of events.
However, the worse part of this novel is the writing. The narrator tells us over and over what the characters feel instead of blending that information into the dialog, introspection, or action, to the point that I wanted to quit reading several times. For instance: "Geoff knew he was developing feelings for the angelic, innocent young Amish man." Sometimes we witness a dialogue and right after the author tells us what it means. Moreover Mr. Grey should be nicknamed the Simile's Bane after slaughtering this wonderful figure of speech with gems like "Geoff was shocked as shit" (no this is not part of a dialog... this is the narrator talking) and "Twilight started to munch on the grass just like Kirk, happy as anything."
The only good thing I have to say about this book is to commend the good-bye letter Elli left for his lover. There is true emotion in there and if the rest of the book were half as good as that page it would have been a wonderful read. Unfortunately it is one page only.(less)
I must be the exception from the rule because I thought that this novel was more enthralling than the previous installment, Paladin of Souls. I won't...moreI must be the exception from the rule because I thought that this novel was more enthralling than the previous installment, Paladin of Souls. I won't go again over the exceptional writing technique of Ms. Bujold, which I discussed at length in my reviews of The Curse of Chalion (link) and Paladin of Souls (link). Enough to say that the author's style continues to be consistently impressive and gripping.
Quite a few readers complained that they didn't find the religious twist from The Hallowed Hunt as compelling as the theological system from the previous two novels of the series. Maybe it's just me, but what I consider irresistible about these novels is the investigation performed, the questions asked, not the author's discovery, and even less the religious system devised to facilitate the inquest. But if we are to discus the actual doctrine of this book, I happen to welcome the shamanic branching, as a necessary infusion of fresh energy and information after the ubiquitous interference of the Bastard God from Paladin of Souls.
Now, yes the plot slows down a lot in this novel, and in truth there isn't much going on, but the characters are wonderfully nuanced which makes up for the lack of action. Lord Ingrey, the main male character, blurs the line between good and not-so-good: I won't call him quite evil, yet he is the darkest and most ambivalent of all Chalion heroes. And unlike Lord Cazaril and Royina Ista, whom were both profoundly blighted in their prime, Lord Ingrey has fared quite well notwithstanding a difficult childhood: in fact the book starts when he is at the hight of his dignity (at least up to that point). However, IMO the character that pulls the book together, is Lord Wencel Horseriver. He remains uttermost obscure to the reader up to very late in the novel, never giving us enough clues as to decode his true nature (or when we are giving some cues, they tend to be conflicting and cluttered).
The part that I didn't care much in The Hallowed Hunt was the ending: I simply thought that the villain's motivation was weak. It's not that, if I put myself in this character's shoes, I couldn't understand it, but, as a reader, I was hoping for a more electrifying play of events. Even so, I cannot wait for the next book in the series (and I hope there will be one)!(less)
I am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony...moreI am totally in love with Louis's writing style, or better said, her voice. Because she does have a voice which is so rare nowadays: in the cacophony of writers, rarely one can recognize a unique voice, distinguishable from thousands others. And yet, I believe that's the case with her. Her pen brings words to life: if she talks about a character, I find myself inside that person's head; if she describes the environment, I'm there looking at mountains or wading barefoot through rivers. I believe her style's strongest point is the character development, although quite a few people seem to regard the introspection as a slowing in the rhythm of the story. I guess it's a personal preference: I'd rather read a few extra pages to understand the actor's behavior, than dive head-down into the story and without gulping for enough air to bring the tale to life. As I said in my review of The Curse of Chalion (link to review), I don't think anything in her stories is gratuitous.
However overall I found Paladin of Souls less captivating than The Curse of Chalion. It took me a while to realize what there seem to be the "problem" (not that it greatly affected my reading experience, as my one-day-start-to-end read proved it). Some folks complained that there isn't that much going on in the book; but I believe that's only a side effect since there are much more action numbers in Paladin of Souls than in the previous instalment. In my opinion, the novel would have done better with an extra negative character. In The Curse of Chalion we have the Chancellor dy Jiornal who plays the secondary villain next to the curse itself. But in the second novel, there is no one besides the mysterious demon-driver to bring more tension (and twists of fate) in the scene. Yes we still have a version of the positive character turned negative through a perverted quality (in The Curse of Chalion this is Roya Orico who, by being too lenient, tips the good-bad scale; here it's Lady Cattilara whose morbid love threatens the lives of all those around her). But as these characters always turn good in the end, their contribution to the angst is not the same as a true rogue.
On the other hand, I found the characters from Paladin of Souls more nuanced and multidimensional than those in The Curse of Chalion. Ista is not only torn apart by a catastrophical early life, but also between her resentment (and let's admit it, esoteric fear) of dealing with the Gods and her true divine calling. Her furtive and rather concisely described love affair is charming and much more convincing than that of Royina Iselle in The Curse of Chalion. Both male characters, Lord Arhys and Lord Illvin, although extraordinary in their military skills, are quite regular men, easily tempted by a hot-blooded beautiful woman and frighten by their portended bleak fates.
Finally, although the goods' presence is much more widespread in this second installment (the Bastard Good is a singular character), I found the pure metaphysical discourse shy away in front of the mystery with metaphysical vibe.(less)
This was such a bad book that half of the time I didn't quite get what was going on and the other half I didn't care. The characters are not bidimensi...moreThis was such a bad book that half of the time I didn't quite get what was going on and the other half I didn't care. The characters are not bidimensional... they are unidimensional. Enough to say that by the end of the book the Wrecker's motivation is at the very best "fuzzy." Accomplices are thrown in with even less rhyme and reason, and sometimes we are told about them at the very end in this fashion: this is an accomplice, no questions asked, just deal with it.
I think the main fault of this story (and I'm not even going into the writing technique) is being too rushed: it is so hurried that there seems to be no developing of events (instead we are being given tons of details about the railroad system). Moreover, half of the book falls under the mystery genre, while the other half falls under the action-and-adventure category, and none of the halves is substantial enough to allow for any tension building or reader's personal involvement.
The Wrecker is discovered half way through the story and with very little effort. Unfortunately he is revealed to the reader even quicker and with almost no effort of trying to conceal him. The second half of the story is 100 percent action-packed and it would have been fairly good it it wasn't for the reader's utter lack of enthrallment. The ending presumably attempted to tie some loose ends, but it succeeds only to bring more where-did-that-come-from moments. Throw in a wedding, some new characters, and the stew is done.
As about the writing style, I'm just going to mention one example: the account of an accident (a locomotive explodes and the train derails) is narrated from the point of view of the machinery (if that's even possible, i.e., breaks squeaked, engine screamed, and so on), not from that of the people aboard. Why would anyone choose to describe a boiler instead of the human panic is beyond my hope of understanding...(less)
I loved this book so much and for so many reasons that I wish there was a 6-star rating. I happened to listen to an audio version of this novel, but I...moreI loved this book so much and for so many reasons that I wish there was a 6-star rating. I happened to listen to an audio version of this novel, but I am considering reading it too just to take it apart and analyze under the microscope the writing style. Why? Because Ms. Lois McMaster Bujold's technique is probably as close to artistry as modern writing gets!
Let me start by saying that I read several reviews (possible some of them were from Amazon) stating that the novel is too long and it should have been edited down to at most 300 pages. I couldn't disagree more! I can't find reason to delete a single word from this book because every single detail, as meager as may be, is important for the course of action or building characters; and sometimes they are crucial in more than just one way. For instance most writers use recollection as a way of developing the characters. But for Ms. McMaster Bujold the past is not only a tactic for revealing personalities but also (and this is a mild spoiler) an intrinsic part of the mystery Lord Cazaril tries to solve. He would never have a chance against the curse if it wasn't for the past developments, which are sometimes educed deceivingly obscure.
Some other reviewers complained that the pace of the novel is too slow - but I don't believe that to be the case either. Yes, if you are looking for a book with twenty fights per hundred of pages and countless acts of instant-gratification magic, this is not the one for you. Even so - "The Curse of Chalion" isn't slow-paced but alertly introspective. It is through this inner analysis that we find its purpose.
And here I am, finally arriving to the main question: What is the purpose of this book? What is all about? It's most definitely not a wizardry book, although the word "magic" abounds in it. IMO, it could be seen as a mystery novel, a rather peculiar one since there is neither a dead body, nor a murderer, nor a detective per se. We deal instead with a few characters severely affected by a curse (the victims), a curse (the killer), and a tutor trying to solve the mystery and protect his pupil from being the next victim (the detective).
Yet, I believe that the whole murderer-detective story, donned in a fantasy attire, is just a pretext for the author's de facto mystery: her theological exploration. The Quintarian theology might seem as idiosyncratic, with its Bastard god maintaining the balance between the four established gods, but the questions Ms. McMaster Bujold raises are very universal to anyone who ever gave metaphysics any thought: free will, communicating with gods, destiny, miracles, etc.
And so it is that I believe this book is not about removing a curse, but about finding our place in the Universe.(less)
I have very mixed feelings about the third book in The Dresden Files Series: the first half let me sort of cold-in-the-rain, while the second was exce...moreI have very mixed feelings about the third book in The Dresden Files Series: the first half let me sort of cold-in-the-rain, while the second was excellent.
The reason I didn't enjoy as much the first half is related to the female characters. In my opinion their behavior ranges from irritating-like-sand-in-the-eye to thick-like-a-log, with some shades of foolishness in between. We are told that Susan is in love with Harry, but all I see is a cunning woman. Yes, she occasionally helps him, but for everything she does, she asks in return for information to further her career. For instance, when Harry tells her that he doesn't want to go to the ball because he could die, do you think she answers I would never be able to live with myself if anything happens to you? No! She says something down the lines But it would mean so much for my career. This is not love: it's seer manipulation.
The second part of the book was much better, with the focus on action rather than character growth. I would give this section a 5-star rating for the plot. The action is gripping and dark, in spite of the speckles of humor (which I thoroughly enjoyed). I loved the sections in which Harry remembers his childhood - they add quite a bit to making him likable.
I also relished the newly added characters: Michael and Thomas. They are as different as black and white, yet they find a common ground to act as partners. In fact, I think I like these two characters more than I like Harry - I believe they are more genuine, showing vulnerability and doubt, rather than believing that they have the answers to every question as the main character does.
The only thing that might have been better in the second part is the tension buildup: I felt that the pressure was so high right from the beginning that it didn't leave enough room to develop and then explode.
To conclude, this is the best book in the series so far.(less)
Once upon a time there was a handsome Viking with a great sense of humor. He was no prince like the people from the realm of HBO seem to believe – jus...moreOnce upon a time there was a handsome Viking with a great sense of humor. He was no prince like the people from the realm of HBO seem to believe – just the garden variety Northman. But where he lacked in nobility he made up in boldness, generosity, and zest.
He had a perky girlfriend who was not only openhearted but gifted above all other humans with nerve, wits, and a sixth sense. They loved each other, although not always in a conventional way, and they tried hard to make their relationship work out in spite of all obstacles. They lived in an enchanted kingdom called Northern Louisiana, where most unusual creatures roamed: werewolves, fairies, demons, shifters of all kind, and the mighty vampires – the Viking’s kin.
In the beginning their life was fascinating, with the most wondrous adventures and fortuitous turns of fate. Their stories were told around every campfire for years and years, and the good maidens from the city of GoodReads lived vicariously through them. But their happiness was not meant to last.
A terrible disease threatened their world: chronic boredomitis. The first maidens got sick during the seventh year of kingdom’s existence, but the illness was not pervasive. Then two years later, a grisly outbreak hit with merciless fury: people all over the city of GoodReads were falling off their feet yawning with ennui and, in some severe cases, were even falling asleep while listening to the stories. A petrifying dread filled everyone’s hearts when the virile Viking and his merry damsel, along with most of their friends perished, victims of the plague.
Some blamed the Northman’s maker, Appius Livius Ocella, for bringing the sickness. But the elders know better that it was the maker’s maker, Charlaine Harrisella who brought the boredomitis upon everyone.
Dead and Gone compares to Dead Until Dark like heavy-load work days compare to Sundays in the Caribbean: it is a dark, sorrow-haunted novel. That woul...moreDead and Gone compares to Dead Until Dark like heavy-load work days compare to Sundays in the Caribbean: it is a dark, sorrow-haunted novel. That would have been maybe all right if it wasn't for a major editing mistake that I can't ignore. The whole premise of the novel is that a rebel fraction of the fairies tries to murder Sookie, after Niall's visits made them aware of her existence. Niall himself says so in at least a couple of instances. But at the end of the book, while Sookie is tortured, her tormentors say that they knew very well of her existence, since they are the ones who killed her parents.
I simply cannot believe that such a huge mistake went through (how many versions of) editing unnoticed. Over the time, I closed my eyes to small discrepancies that other readers complained about. But I simply cannot accept when the grounds of the plot has such a colossal "hole" in it.
As far as the character development goes, Sookie's emotion feels genuine and Ms. Harris's ability to convince the reader that she suffers deserves thumbs up: each morning Sookie wakes up wishing only to be able to make it to the end of the day. I believe that if Ms. Harris were able to channel the misery into Sookie's character alone, it would have been the best novel in the series. But unfortunately the desperation ran into Eric's character too, and Sam's, and Jason's, and Calvin's, and pretty much everyone else.
The storyline is not bad at all but the plot fades completely in face of the bleakness. That Sookie is overwhelmed by the threat to her persona is understandable. But Eric is not Eric anymore: he used to be Mr. Sunshine, always enjoying life 100 percent and laughing in face of the danger. But in Dead and Gone the omnipotent Viking who made it through more than a thousand years of human wars, supes wars (which are mentioned now and then), regime changes, and so on, is mentally crushed because he has a new boss. I simply find this a very-very-hard-to-swallow pill! I do believe that characters should evolve; but when you deal with "players" like the vampires who by definition lived through so many events that became extra-tough, I believe that evolution and change should have a much more serious cause.
Same goes for Sam who lost all his vitality and charm and Claudine who lost her playfulness. This was not the follow up that I expected and hoped for.(less)
This is probably the best book in the series so far and I would give it a 5-star rating for the skillfully created plot, if it wasn't for the editing...moreThis is probably the best book in the series so far and I would give it a 5-star rating for the skillfully created plot, if it wasn't for the editing issues. So I'll give it 4.5 stars but not round it up.
There is a Southern vampire convention going on, and Sookie is asked to participate as the (Louisiana) Queen's telepath. Claudine tries hard to persuade her not to go (which granted would have been the smart think to do, but it would have made for a terrible book). So here she is, in the middle of (mostly) acrimonious undead, among whom some plot the Queen's undoing. I found it funny that it takes Sookie the entire book to realize in what danger she is, that if the queen falls, she would be in a very hot spot too as part of her entourage.
Anyhow, there are so many conspiracies going in this novel that's hard to cover them all in my review and I don't even intend to. A variety of new supernatural beings are brought in, some of them extremely interesting as for instance the intradimensional bodyguards. The political and judiciary world of the vampires is created with so much mastery that one would wonder where from does Charlaine Harris come up with all her ideas.
What I liked so much about the last books (and "All Together Dead" more than the others) was the excellent job Charlaine Harris did in developing Eric's character: he is supposed to be one of the oldest and most momentous undeads and hence very much at odds with humanity in general. However, he is depicted as confused by his own feelings, vulnerable (just enough to make him even more likeable), and, yes, even scared to some extent. In one word, he - the all-powerful undead - is more human than anyone else in this story including humans, which I believe is the reason most readers are partial to him. IMO Eric is that one character truly three-dimensional: full of genial qualities, yet with plenty of darkness underneath.
A excellent addition to the series, in spite of the gaps that other readers mentioned.(less)
I think I'm a Sookie-junkie, because in spite of how giddy these books are, I can't stop reading them. I guess I can "blame" it on how creative they a...moreI think I'm a Sookie-junkie, because in spite of how giddy these books are, I can't stop reading them. I guess I can "blame" it on how creative they are, because I have to give Ms. Harris this, she has one fervent imagination. Did you know that there is a magazine called American Vampire and a tabloid called Fang equivalent to People? :) Charlaine Harris creates an alternate reality that is so elaborately described that it feels completely real. Vampire-specific music, vampire-bands, vampire-tourism, and it goes on and on.
"Definitely Dead" felt a bit weird (which is the reason I gave it only 3.5 stars): I always got the impression that I missed something, that maybe there was another book in the series that I skipped by mistake. There are references to events which I'm pretty sure I didn't read in any of the previous installments (and since I read them all in bulk, I can hardly believe that I missed something so important).
Sookie is invited (read summoned) by the Queen of Louisiana to New Orleans to clean her cousin's, Hadley, apartment. (And this is where the weird part comes in: Hadley, recently turned as a vampire, was murdered and her killer punished in front of Sookie's eyes. I am pretty sure none of the previous books talk about this).
In "Definitely Dead" Sookie has a new boyfriend, Quinn. I didn't think the chemistry between the two characters was really that great (and he was definitely not Eric), but of course that can be blamed on poor Sookie who just learned that she meant nothing for boring-traitor Bill. I would lie to say that I'm not hoping Quinn is "just a phase" (although as I write this review, I've already completed the next book in the series, and they were still sort-of together).
There are some insightful scenes in this novel, in which some of the undead, including the Queen, tell their stories of how they became vampires. I found exquisite the fact that the author gives such a large range of reactions to being transformed in something entirely alien, reactions that range from contentment, to tantrum, to indifference.
There is a(n apparent) conclusion to the Debbie-story which I welcomed. I was never too interested in that twist of the narration, but I do believe that it added a new face of the main character: even as an act of self-defense, I always perceived Debbie's killing as a rather wicked deed.
Anyhow, I don't want to talk too much about the plot, because I don't want to spoil anyone's surprise of reading the novel. In the end what sets these books apart from the rest of the vampire-bundle is the highly original setting of the story. (less)
We borrowed this book because of the entire controversy. No, I'm not going to write what the story is about or describe the controversy - there are pl...moreWe borrowed this book because of the entire controversy. No, I'm not going to write what the story is about or describe the controversy - there are plenty of reviewers who did that.
I'm only going to say that this is such a sweet little story with pretty drawings. And to all those critics who believe that this innocent story is going to spoil their kids I'm going to say this: I'm pretty sure the children will not see anything unusual about Roy and Silo's behavior. And in the end, there isn't anything unnatural or perverted about the poor animals.(less)
Here I am writing another review about these books and I can't even explain why they are so addictive. They are SILLY - there is no better word for th...moreHere I am writing another review about these books and I can't even explain why they are so addictive. They are SILLY - there is no better word for them - but in the same time, they seem not to take themselves too serious.
This slice of Sookie's life was (just) a bit of a disgruntlement. I didn't think the plot was bad, but there are so many men that try to woo her (Bill, Eric, Sam, Calvin Norris, Alcide Herveaux, AND the newcomer Quinn) that it gets a bit faux. She goes from one's arms to another with no idea even who's in top 3 (and without sleeping with anyone of them for that reason) and by the end of the book she's still single.
Plotwise, there are a series of shootings directed toward the shifters and Sam (one of the victims) must to take some time off to recover. Hence, Sookie is forced to ask Eric to loan Merlotte's one of his bartenders. One would think that hosting another vampire in her house (pirate Charles) would keep her out of trouble, but that wouldn't be Sookie. Luckily, Claudine is there to save the day and she is such a sweetheart that everyone loves her. I thought that Alcide turned very annoying (if not a bit manipulative), while Eric's appearances are rather incidental and unmemorable.
Stylistically, Ms. Harris writing seemed to be stagnant about where Dead to the World left, although I didn't encounter any more idioms (HURRAY!). I think overall this was more of a 3.5 star book, but that didn't stop be from grabbing Definitely Dead as soon as I finished this one.(less)
This series is addictive! "Dead to the World" starts with Sookie's New Year resolution: she wants not to get beat up anymore. Given that during the fi...moreThis series is addictive! "Dead to the World" starts with Sookie's New Year resolution: she wants not to get beat up anymore. Given that during the first three books from the Southern Mysteries series, the poor girl takes such a serious bashing that a regular person would need extended plastic surgery, I must say, no physical assault is a good resolution, particularly when one has no medical insurance. :)
And the good things keep coming: amnesic Eric ends up as an extended guest in Sookie's house. I really hope Sookie and he will become a permanent item: Ms. Harris pens him as the perfect man - sensitive, supportive, ridiculously good looking, and oh, so very good in bed. Yes, in this forth book, even the sex scenes are getting much better along with the overall writing.
Charlaine Harris brings some serious character development, even for the less-important individuals. There are layers of emotions that add to the main protagonists' personalities, bits and pieces of history, and reason for every little action. Sookie is getting more and more interesting, while still remaining genuine and funny.
Last but not least, "Dead to the World" brings up the witches to the supernatural world, while deepening the details of the weres society. There is a war brewing between a group of rogue witches and the rest of supernatural beings and Mr. Harris creates some very compelling tension scenes.
This is the "don't judge me" series of choice for this summer (and fall, if I keep being as busy as I've been recently). I'm by no means into vampire...moreThis is the "don't judge me" series of choice for this summer (and fall, if I keep being as busy as I've been recently). I'm by no means into vampire stories, but Charlaine Harris has a ton of imagination, which makes me wonder how many of the recent tiredly-written vampire novels had been influenced by her books. Given the time-frame when the first installments from the Sookie-Stackhouse series were published, I would guess, quite a few of them.
To add to the fresh ideas, if Ms. Harris' writing style from Dead until Dark and Living Dead in Dallas was agonizing, "Club Dead" brings with it a HUGE improvement. I was in fact able to immerse myself into the story without being rudely awaken every paragraph by awkward phrasing and typos. Yes, these books are not going to be quoted at any creative writing workshop, but compared to how the series started, I believe the author deserves kudos.
"Club Dead" brings to the readers attention the werewolf-society. As a rule, I'm even less interested in werewolves than in vampires, but the author succeeds to create a interweaving supernatural world. There is angst between the two species, with vampires using rather than accepting weres as equals, and weres accepting this situation in spite of their dislike of the undead.
Somehow in this world of extraordinary, Sookie finds herself trapped between her good-heart that tells her to help the cheating boyfriend and her feelings of betrayal. But where there is a boyfriend-less pretty girl there are always contenders to her favors: Eric and Alcide in this case. I was really getting tired of boring-never-appreciative Bill, so I couldn't welcome more the foreplay-foreromance with Eric.
"Club Dead" was categorically the best book in the series so far.(less)
I am so behind writing my reviews that I hope you won't mind if I don't remember names and small details anymore. Unfortunately after so long from rea...moreI am so behind writing my reviews that I hope you won't mind if I don't remember names and small details anymore. Unfortunately after so long from reading the books, some factors start to blend in.
Going back to this review, this is the second time when I write it, partly because the first time I was a bit harsh. Yes, the third and (unfortunately) last book of this trilogy was a bit of a letdown. It was still fast paced, but the plot was not nearly as interesting as the first two installments and extremely previsible. Yet, after giving it more thought, I realized that I still enjoyed this book probably twice as much as most other books that I read this year.
So once again: what is so special about them? It took me a while to realize that if The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was initially titled "The Men who Hate Women," Stieg Larsson should have been nicknamed "The Man who Loves Women." I don't think I have ever read another author who is so positive about women, so much that if the writer was a female she would have been accused of bias.
Everyone, of course, is in love with Lisbeth - the anti-heroine who brings justice in spite of all odds. But if you pay a little bit more attention, you notice that there are absolutely no negative female characters. Not only that, but all of Larsson's women are exceptional in one way or another: at the very least, they are hard working and extremely competent in what they are doing, but more often they are a head above the men around them, professionally, physically, and morally. The only time when Larsson's women are wrong about something is when they are mislead into their conclusion or judgement.
But it's not only about the females' features that makes me say the author loves women: it's about the way he talks about them. I remember one instance in which Stieg Larsson was describing a secondary female character: he starts by saying that she was good looking, elegant, and some other (all nice) physical attributes, only to keep for the very end the last detail: that the lady was in her 60's. I have to admit that after reading a plethora of American authors, who tend to give extra weight to a woman's age, Larsson's voice comes like a spring breeze, fresh and unexpected.
What I didn't like anymore about this novel was the very slim plot. Everyone expects that Lisbeth would finally win her independence, but if you strip down the plot to the core, there isn't much going on and almost no unexpected twists. On the contrary - there were a few twists that started well, but ended nowhere (as for instance, the little community of hackers that is so strepitous, yet it does almost nothing to help Lisbeth). Most of the mystery, if there is anything like that, is solved in the first pages of the novel. Moreover, the newly added negative characters are rather deficient and give the impression of amateurism.
Instead, there are a few secondary stories (Erika's stalker) that rather than bringing new information to the main plot, simply reinforce the background of a misogynistic sub-society.
Overall this is a good, if not terribly satisfying, ending of the trilogy.
P.S. If you wonder why so many reviewers mention the sandwiches: it is because every other page someone makes sandwiches, which are described with a cookbook-like affluence of details. (less)
Unfortunately I had to return this book to the library before finishing it and when I tried to check it out again it was missing. Therefore, my review...moreUnfortunately I had to return this book to the library before finishing it and when I tried to check it out again it was missing. Therefore, my review will regard only the first three chapters which I completed.
The first chapter is a rather philosophical view of science vs. arts. I found it interesting, puzzling at times, and far from your average high school manual (not that I'm in high school anymore, but at first I thought that A Preface to Literary Analysis was geared toward these readers). It wasn't an easy literary article: I fond myself going through a couple of pages, then putting it aside for a few days in order to ponder about the authors' opinions.
The next two chapters are exactly what the title suggests: an introduction to belletristic genres. They were a much quicker read and accessible to a larger mass of readers, if not a bit more basic that I was looking for.
I'm not sure why this book never went in reprint because from what I read so far, it is an arresting literary exercise.(less)
4.5 stars. I won't get into details about the subject of the story, but I'll just say that the very interesting part about this plot is that, from Lis...more4.5 stars. I won't get into details about the subject of the story, but I'll just say that the very interesting part about this plot is that, from Lisbeth's perspective, there isn't any mystery as who is responsible for the crimes. However, the reader follows Mikael's struggle to solve the puzzle.
Let's start with the bad: the first 170 pages read as an impersonal report. There are a lot of facts and very little feeling - just like a newspaper article, which may be understandable, given that Mr. Larsson used to be a reporter. And unlike The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the 170-page "prologue" seems quite slow and (I'm sad to say it) boring.
Once you pass the "prologue" the story does get very excited. I pondered quite a bit over what is the secret to such an extreme fast-paced plot and I think I found it. Not only that there is only substance (once Lisbeth is regarded as first suspect in the series of murders, the story has absolutely no superfluous material), but the sub-chapters are kept as short as possible. Implicitly the point of view changes sometimes three times within four or five paragraphs.
Finally, I have to say that there was a part that irked me a little bit (also found in the "prologue"): we are told that as soon as Lisbeth gets rich, she starts changing her appearance and she becomes a little bit more extroverted. I'm not sure that this matches her image from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even from the remaining part of the book. Lisbeth's social handicap and (related to this) dressing style had such deep roots in her early life that I seriously doubt that getting some extra cash would have changed her attitude. And of course the part where the first thing that she does is to get a breast implant had male fantasy written all over it.(less)
I thought that the second book from the Dresden Files was better from certain perspectives (particularly, certain aspects of the story and t...more3.5 stars.
I thought that the second book from the Dresden Files was better from certain perspectives (particularly, certain aspects of the story and the use of magic) and worse from other perspectives (more exactly, the characters).
IMO, the story is very similar in structure to the one from Storm Front, with the benefit of an undoubted improvement: it is more realistic, if a story like this can ever be called realistic. There are no more dancing brooms and much less instant-gratification acts of magic, which I always found over-the-top. Jim Butchers brings in the original idea of various kinds of werewolves (four to be more exact) fighting among themselves and even wolves that turn into humans. Of course Harry Dresden is there to sort things out and once more he gets himself in a lot of spiky situations.
The part that bothered me (and which resulted in de-rating the book) was Murphy's character. If I were Harry Dresden I would pack my stuff and leave dear officer Murphy to figure out the murders all by herself. She is infinitely obnoxious: she always behaves as if Harry is her personal slave who has to give her everything (information for instance), without her giving him anything in return, not even the smallest scrap of intelligence. For instance she questions him why is he at a certain warehouse without prior calling her, but it doesn't even cross her mind to consider that she could have also let him know that someone was following them and she intended to pursue that lead.
Likewise she shows repeatedly signs of severe stupidity. Now, just imagine that she has a series of murders to solve, no significant lead, and only one charitable wizard to offer his help. Because she isn't able to figure out who the criminal is, she attempts to arrest the helping wizard... several times!
If you think that because of this, the wizard were at least a little bit annoyed, you'd be wrong. Mr. Good-Wizard Dresden decides that everything that's wrong under the stars is his fault, even when he doesn't have the most inconsequential involvement in the matter.
I hear that the books from this series get increasingly better as they advance and I'm looking forward for that magical moment (no pun intended).(less)
I heard about this book after reading the reviews from Furies of Calderon. In my opinion that series was better, if not much better. It is true that I...moreI heard about this book after reading the reviews from Furies of Calderon. In my opinion that series was better, if not much better. It is true that I started listening to an audio version of "Storm Front" so awfully produced that half way through I put it aside and and looked for a physical copy to finish reading it. Hence it may be that my underwhelmed opinion is due to that terrible production and not the book itself.
The premise of "Storm Front" is quite interesting: Harry Dresden is an old-school wizard who decided to go public with his profession and make money out of it by working for both the Police and regular folks. When he is shown the crime scene of what looks like an abuse of magic, the problems start flowing. Over the course of the story, he gets himself into so much trouble that both humans and the supernatural community want to get rid of him. The novel is written in the first voice, from Dresden's point of view, which, if not too elaborated, makes for an approachable and very fast read.
I think the main complaint I have with this story is that it gets to a point when instead of refining the supernatural world that we already know, the reader is gived even more new material. There is such an overabundance of magic and magical creatures that it gets too much after a while. The rule seems to be "more is better" not "deepen what you know." The mystery is good and I must admit that I didn't guessed who the criminal was till I was told.
As a character, Harry is not very complicated, although we are told that he has a dark side. I think this was my other problem: we kept being told that there is something dark about him, but I almost never saw it, not even in the end. He is a tad naive, honest to a fault, extremely powerful, hard working, and courteous (and no, I didn't think the book was misogynistic at all as some reviewers said). I really think if the fight between his good and dark side was more intense, the story would have benefit greatly.
Finally, the writing style is stripped down to basics - a surprise after the Furies of Calderon which is written in a much more sophisticated and complex voice.(less)
The third installment in the Fargo Adventures was a little bit of a disappointment and not because of the writing issues, which I wrote about in my re...moreThe third installment in the Fargo Adventures was a little bit of a disappointment and not because of the writing issues, which I wrote about in my reviews for Spartan Gold and Lost Empire. No - in fact the writing style had gotten increasingly better from the first book. The useless details are almost gone and we are starting to see even some mild character development. It's true, we still don't know what Remi and Sam think, but occasionally Remi cries and Sam gets angry, which, if you read the first book, you know it is a great gain.
The broken part with "The Kingdom" is something that worked quite well in the first two novels, namely, the plot. Here are a few comments regarding the story issues:
1) The instances of unbelievable coincidences are increasing, to the point that, like Sam, I started exclaiming "Oh, come on!!" I can take one or two coincidences, but the Fargos seemed to have been born under a lucky star, so easy the author makes their search. Also, the entire knowledge brought in by Jake is utterly too much: he basically knows more about the artifacts than the Sentinels themselves.
2) The main discovery presented in The Kingdom is very far-fetched to be even remotely likely. If in the previous novels, the "discoveries" were believable, this time it is a concept that quite a few people today deny, in spite of the scientific proof. That in 1400, some remote folks were able to understand the meaning of their "discovery" is hard, very hard to swallow. I found salutary that the author attempts to portrait them so enlightened, but it is totally improbable.
3) Something must have hit Sam hard in the head during one of the previous books, because his actions at times don't make absolutely any sense. For instance, after an attempted attack, King (the bad guy) believes that they are dead. Now, what would a smart person do? I personally would try to keep it that way... but not Sam. Without any reason, he calls King to let him know that they are alive. He even pours gasoline over the fire and tries to stir the man's anger. And no, he didn't gain any intelligence from that discussion.
4) (This could be part of the previous bullet) It takes our main characters - treasure hunters, anthropologists - a couple of days to recognize that the wood they were using for the fire is in fact part of a priceless historical artifact. And let's not forget that earlier they used tens-of-thousand-year-old fossils as makeshift projectiles.
Additionally there are a few minor issues that irked me a little bit, and one (I'll save it for the last) that irked me a lot:
1) No matter how rich Sam's engineering invention made them years ago, trashing out cars, boats, helicopters, and planes every 40 pages must have put a serious dent in the couple's fortune. :)
2) In every third world country I ever stepped in, it is expected to tip the museum guides, even if a entrance pass was paid. In fact, if you take any city tour in any U.S. city, or pretty much any city on this planet, you are expected to tip the guide. Yet, not one single time, our very rich and generous couple thinks fit to part ways with a few dollars.
And the worse of all...
3) The author seem to believe that grave robbery is perfectly acceptable! The Fargos congratulate themselves in how great they are because, in spite of the temptation, they didn't steal artifacts form a museum, but stress out that it was just peachy to take whatever they liked from a grave. (It's true that they took items from graves in Spartan Gold, but in that case it was with the relatives' consent, so I consider that OK.) I do realize that I'm in minority when it comes to considering theft from a grave (nicknamed or not "archeological research") a crime, but these characters are supposed to be role models... Well, at least in my opinion, this helped with the character development by giving the couple some (very nasty) negative attributes: arrogance (to believe that they have any right to do that) and disrespect. (less)
There are quite a few issues I see with this novel, but overall, The Lost Empire is a serious improvement compared with Spartan Gold, the first book i...moreThere are quite a few issues I see with this novel, but overall, The Lost Empire is a serious improvement compared with Spartan Gold, the first book in this series. I'm torn apart between giving it credit for the changes in good or penalizing it for the remaining issues.
The good: 1) The kind of details that abounded in Spartan Gold (see my review) are gone and most of the remaining details are relevant or at least interesting. Since this was the most irritating issue that I found with the previous book, I believe the largest part of the improvement comes from here. 2) Although Sam and Remi still have a nonchalant attitude about the whole adventure, there are no more near-death experiences followed immediately by spa treatments or other completely unrealistic form of relaxation. In fact the ending has quite a bit of suspense which is completely missing in Spartan Gold. 3) Maybe I should have listed this comment first: this novel made me dream (even more), if not about treasure-hunting, at least about exploring the world.
The bad: 1) The characters are most definitely bi-dimensional: the good are wonderful (skilled in tens of domains, warmhearted, charitable, learnt), and the bad are terrible (cold-blooded, ugly, and quite stupid too). There is absolutely nobody in between, no angst, not fight between some good and bad options. The character descriptions are very impersonal, very... engineering-like, as if turning a person into an equation. Nonetheless, I see some improvement here too compared to the first book and Mr. Cussler is getting closer in succeeding to pen a character using dialog and action only. 2) Sam and Remi still have that careless attitude, as if their life is a continuous vacation and they are not running a step ahead of professional killers. These books have all the elements of a thriller, yet, I would never call them thrillers.
The others (there are my comments about facts which might or might not be an issue depending on the reader): 1) Pretty much every person in the third world is willing to help them, some complete strangers, for free and at the risk of being killed by the bad guys. As far as I'm concerned this is not that bad. True, it's highly unrealistic, but in the end, I read and see all around me enough ugliness to enjoy reading about decent people who'd help a stranger. 2) There are A LOT of coincidences, even if right at the beginning the author suggests (using dialog) that he doesn't believe in coincidences.
To end, I have to give this book credit for what it is: an enjoyable adventure novel that made me muse where should I spend my next vacation.(less)
"Men Who Hate Women" is the best novel I have read in the last ten years! Period.
I haven't stayed up till late in the night to read a book since I was...more"Men Who Hate Women" is the best novel I have read in the last ten years! Period.
I haven't stayed up till late in the night to read a book since I was a child... at least, until this one. For years I didn't want to read it, after misunderstanding that it would be really depressing. So here I am, the last person in the universe to read it (or at least my GoodReads rating is #158500).
I don't know what is the gold dust that covers this book: the striped down facts would indicate anything but such a catchy read. There isn't almost anything that can be labeled as "action" (I would estimate maybe five pages). Much of the book is dedicated to reviewing a family tree: if anyone told me that before reading it, I would have said "boring." The romance is almost imperceptible and there is no sex.
And yet, this is the most addictive mystery I have ever read. I must start by saying that the graphical violence is really not as bad as some people want to make it sound. Yes, it's horrible what those men did to women, but those sections are minimal at the very least (usually one paragraph per crime) and it doesn't get into gory descriptions. Personally I believe that, compared to James Patterson's violence, this book looks like a child's play.
So what in the book hold my fascination? Lisbeth Salander is one of the best female characters I encountered. She's strong, out-of-charts intelligent (although most people think of her as mentally deficient), yet socially handicapped. She is the image of a repeatedly abused woman (she is twice raped in the book and some of the dialogues hint to her being raped as a child), who has retreated within herself, severed most of her connections with society, and just kept fighting on her own.
What I believe is gruesome about this novel is the psychological implications of the men' sadism. And this one is described with chilling details. Yes, Lisbeth is an remarkably strong person, but every second that she's with us in the story is a testimony of the disastrous effects of emotional and physical abuse. And to me, that was the hook of "Men Who Hate Women."(less)