I loved this far more while reading it than afterwards, although even while reading there were some things that rubbed me the wrong way. Eugenides has...moreI loved this far more while reading it than afterwards, although even while reading there were some things that rubbed me the wrong way. Eugenides has an engaging writing style, and the picture he draws of getting an English degree in the 80s resonated with me, as someone getting an English degree in the 2010s. His portrayal of Leonard's manic depression convinced, Mitchell grew on me later, and I enjoyed spending time with Madeleine, although she represented a generic and I think occasionally problematic brand of slightly smart, slightly witty, pretty but not too pretty woman who lacked a certain depth. I particularly loved how the ending called back to the title and to the rest of the book as well. Ultimately, though, the novel felt a bit shallow, presenting a good story but without really delving into the depths of the themes it brought up. So, a good yarn but not a masterpiece by any means.(less)
Overall a disappointment; I expected to love this, since it's a love story set during WWI, but the love story itself is overwrought and unconvincing,...moreOverall a disappointment; I expected to love this, since it's a love story set during WWI, but the love story itself is overwrought and unconvincing, more puppy love on the boy's part and a desire for escape on the woman's than some sweeping tragedy. Faulks' writing style struck me as underwhelming, a bit stilted in places. However, the war scenes in the mines have stuck with me all this time, so despite my problems with the rest of the book it does represent the war in a visceral and affecting way.(less)
Sometimes the Black London books read a bit too "this is very very very dark, and did I mention how dark this is, because I don't think I have yet," b...moreSometimes the Black London books read a bit too "this is very very very dark, and did I mention how dark this is, because I don't think I have yet," but I love the milieu regardless, and Pete is a fun heroine, made all the more so by the fact that she feels like she really is as badass as Kittredge wants us to believe she is. Her jibes are actually funny, and her attitude more convincing than in most books of this sort. Not a whole lot there beyond the character dynamics and the plot, but sometimes that's enough; I will definitely be continuing with this series.(less)
That was one of the weirdest things I've ever read, deeply ridiculous, scathing in the fun it pokes at academia and poetic criticism, hilarious in par...moreThat was one of the weirdest things I've ever read, deeply ridiculous, scathing in the fun it pokes at academia and poetic criticism, hilarious in parts, engaging, and possessed of an insanely successful unreliable narrator, in that one is never quite sure how unreliable he is meant to be (and it could be read in more than one way, certainly). Enjoyable, overall, and certainly the achievement of a master; it breathes beyond the exercise, although, I think, only just.(less)
I loved The End of the Affair more than I even thought possible, but this one failed to wow me in nearly the same way. The kind of sociopath he choose...moreI loved The End of the Affair more than I even thought possible, but this one failed to wow me in nearly the same way. The kind of sociopath he chooses to explore feels very done now, and I found myself decidedly off-put by his emphasis on the motherliness of the female characters. Will continue trying Greene's novels, but I'm a little concerned now that The End of the Affair was one of those singular masterpieces that the rest of his oeuvre could never stand up to.(less)
Well, that's how you do a YA novel right. John Green just has the most amazing voice, relatable and funny and readable, and while his prose is still s...moreWell, that's how you do a YA novel right. John Green just has the most amazing voice, relatable and funny and readable, and while his prose is still simple he doesn't shy away from using big words and more interesting sentence structure. Basically, I have no complaints on the prose score, which is essentially unheard of for a YA novel. And another thing he does so well is that, while the characters are idolized to some extent (in that, like in many novels, they are sharper and funnier and wittier than real people would actually be on a 24/7 basis), they are still deeply believable teenagers, who talk and act and think like teenagers. Which means that sometimes I wanted to punch all of them in the face, but at other times I also loved all of them.
Because John Green really hit it out of the park with character complexity here. All of the major players have multiple facets to them, good and bad - Margo, Q, Ben, Radar... Lacey in particular rang so true to me, because when Margo first describes her she seems superficial, like a sort of stock shitty popular girl, but then Green gives her all these layers - yes, she is superficial on some level, and yes she does do the undermining thing Margo talks about, but she also really cares about Margo and is a good person. Caring about and loving Margo do not necessarily lead to her always being a good friend to Margo, which is just the best kind of true.
This dedication to complexity really reinforces Green's message, that everyone is more than your imagining of them, or more than the face they choose to show to the world. Margo is more than just the "Margo" she seems, she is a girl; Lacey is more than just the superficial person, Chuck is more than just a bully, Q is not always a great friend even while he's angry at others for not being good friends either, etc. Not precisely a new message, but something that would have hit hard as a teenager - and still does, obviously.
Also, the ending is basically perfection, the whole road trip and (view spoiler)[what happens when they find Margo (hide spoiler)]. I don't think this book could have been better, honestly, and that is a rare thing to be able to say of a book.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I still there's a fundamental disconnect between me and Japanese prose in translation, but this novel was deeply moving nonetheless. Worth reading, de...moreI still there's a fundamental disconnect between me and Japanese prose in translation, but this novel was deeply moving nonetheless. Worth reading, despite the fact that I was never quite comfortable with the prose.(less)
For the first 200 pages I thought this was one of the best books I'd ever read - amazing prose, great voice, unusual subject matter in which I am part...moreFor the first 200 pages I thought this was one of the best books I'd ever read - amazing prose, great voice, unusual subject matter in which I am particularly interested (although not so unusual when you think about it, since the bulk of the novel is taken up more by Cal's parents and grandparents and the cultural milieus of the 3 generations than by Cal's transformation). But around page 300 I lost all momentum, and had to skim large chunks of the rest to finish it. The prose no longer allowed me to ignore how little I actually liked most of the characters; oh, I sympathized, but I had no interest in their personalities and found them all annoying in the little prickly ways that people I'm generally not interested in seeing immortalized in deathless works of fiction are. And I really freaking hate children, birth to about 17, so instead of finding the sections about Callie's childhood fascinating, I couldn't wait for them and stupid horrible uncomfortable so-wrong-it's-flashing-WRONG-in-red-letters-so-bright-you-can-see-them-from-outer-space decisions to go away.
It still made me cry, though, more than once, and I kind of wanted to marry the Cal / Julie storyline. It just ultimately didn't do what I want books to do, regardless of the fineness of the prose, so I didn't enjoy it as well as I might have. Will definitely read more Eugenides though.(less)
OK. So Jones and Bennett's writing has heaping spoonfuls of charm, which is what has kept me reading all four books even though I have serious problem...moreOK. So Jones and Bennett's writing has heaping spoonfuls of charm, which is what has kept me reading all four books even though I have serious problems with basically everything else about them. But they're delightfully witty and often hilarious, their characters are fairly endearing, and they're quite skilled at writing set-pieces; individual scenes work very well.
Unfortunately, the scenes don't knit together into much of a plot. So much padding is spent on unnecessary levels of introspection and explanation that it takes forever to get to anything, and that's because the plot here is so very thin on the ground. I think Jones and Bennett would be better served focusing on characterization and situation/setting than on plot, because it's not their strong suit. Particularly exacerbating in this book was the choice of Toverre as one of the four narrators; I liked him well enough (although I have problems with his character type, as I'll get to shortly), but he had barely any effect on the plot at all, and what effect he did have could easily be covered in Laure's sections. Antoinette, for example, would've been a much better and frankly more interesting narrator than Toverre.
Which speaks to another very serious problem that Jones and Bennett have, which is with characters. Namely, with the inclusion of female characters. This book feels very much as if their editor said, "You know, you've had almost no female narrators or even significant characters in this series, maybe you should fix that," and instead of attempting to depict a more nuanced and interesting female character (like, I don't know, Antoinette) they went with the stock blunt-tomboy stereotype. I have no problem with tomboys or blunt characters, but in a series with as many pervasive gender issues as this one it drives me absolutely insane that this is the best they can bring themselves to do. They also have an over-fondness for the stereotypical foppish gay man, a character they continue to use again and again with slight variation; in fact, many of their characters can be easily placed into a few stock molds. While they do make the characters convincing, I would also appreciate a bit more variation of type amongst them.
Despite my problems I still plan to read more by these authors, because I like their voice, but in all other respects their novels are deeply flawed.(less)
Idea fiction 100% - it's not about setting or characters, it's about philosophy and thought and the scenario and trying to figure out what the fuck is...moreIdea fiction 100% - it's not about setting or characters, it's about philosophy and thought and the scenario and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. I'm not sure I did, to be honest, but there were enough moments that blew my brains out my ears that I'm not sure I care, exactly. It's also quite funny in places.
Fascinating, and well worth reading.
(view spoiler)[This book contains the most perfect definition of postmodernism that I've ever read - "the mad cow disease of a culture forced to feed on its own powdered bones." Worth the price of admission alone for how that crystallized postmodernism for me. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Ambitious, but flawed and ultimately unsatisfying.
McDermott has created a compelling and original world rife with conflict, some of which he mines in...moreAmbitious, but flawed and ultimately unsatisfying.
McDermott has created a compelling and original world rife with conflict, some of which he mines in this book; I'm of the opinion that he could have written one long book rather than a trilogy, considering how short this volume was and how void of anything resembling a solid conclusion. The narrative arc just stops, at an almost arbitrary moment it feels like. I honestly don't know why he separated this into three books, but perhaps the next two volumes will make sense of it.
McDermott's real strength is his prose, though. I don't always like all of his sentences, and he has an unfortunate habit of repetition that drives me up a wall, but that's made up for by the rhythm of his prose, the way the sentences flow together in a deeply evocative way. And there are some simply devastating sentences, truly beautiful turns of phrase that reminded me what words can really do. Unfortunately, this book's copyeditor - if it had one - should be ashamed of himself, because there were so many errors left in, especially egregious with McDermott's poetic sort of prose. The cover is beautiful, but the volume of mistakes makes me question the production values somewhat.
My problem with the story is this: It's a fascinating world, a compelling plot, and a fabulous non-linear storytelling conceit, but none of it quite works in this form. There's a note that rings false to me, partly to do with the flaws of the otherwise gorgeous prose, partly with characters who don't quite ring true, partly with the honest absurdity of calling this a complete story. Maybe it is a koan, as Felix Gilman says in the cover blurb, but it fails to feel like a fully-formed one. I'm going to keep reading, I think, because, despite the dissatisfaction I felt by the end of the tale, I feel like McDermott has ambitions and takes risks, which I appreciate.
He wanted this to be a great book, and though it's not I'm hopeful that he might one day write one (or have written, as I've not read his first novel yet).(less)
In another slump, at least for the moment. This wasn't a bad book, per say, but I read about 70 pages and did not want to go on. There was something s...moreIn another slump, at least for the moment. This wasn't a bad book, per say, but I read about 70 pages and did not want to go on. There was something subtly off about the voice, I think, and knowing what was going to happen made me less interested rather than the reverse. The constantly shifting tenses - past and then present and then past again - had no pattern I could discern and really distracted me; the opening I thought over-dramatic, and not made less so by Sally's acknowledgment of it. Essentially, I couldn't bring myself to keep reading. I think maybe I don't much like fiction that treats with real characters specifically and attempts to do it as accurately as this; why, then, not read non-fiction on the subject instead? I don't know, though, I can't quite get a grip on why I didn't like this much.(less)
A good zombie thriller that doesn't hold together as well as it should, but entertains regardless.
Grant is fabulous at character creation in a short a...moreA good zombie thriller that doesn't hold together as well as it should, but entertains regardless.
Grant is fabulous at character creation in a short amount of time; you get instantly attached to pretty much everyone, so when the inevitable death toll starts racking up - because Grant doesn't skimp on the killing - it's actually quite affecting. She doesn't always hit the right notes where characters are concerned, though. Kelly, for example, is more a plot device than a real person, holding back information not for any believable reasons of her own but because Grant needs the information revealed at a specific moment. I also thought some of the manifestations of Shaun's grief, in particular his constant hitting of things, seemed more suited to a 15-year-old's fanfic than to a piece of professional fiction, but otherwise Shaun's character is quite strong.
(view spoiler)[I was particularly impressed by the ballsiness of the so-heavily-implied-it's-basically-stated-without-being-stated not-really-subtext-anymore romantic relationship between Shaun and George. They're not biological siblings, so it isn't quite as squicky as it could be, but I'm quite curious to see how she's going to resolve that in the next book. And I'm also curious how I totally missed it in the first book, because I'm usually on this kind of stuff like nobody's business. So, waiting to see what she does with it in the third book. (hide spoiler)]
Voice, too, is a strength. Though Grant is not the most inventive prose stylist, she has an engaging style that drags you along despite the fact that some sentences are lackluster. The blog posts between each chapter showcase her talent with voice to good effect, and really enhance the narrative.
The thing is that Deadline is billed as a thriller, and on a superficial level it works as one. However, the plot lacked any semblance of structure; instead, it felt like they were all running around like chickens with their heads cut off, each stop on the headless-chicken-train chosen because it was the right time for Grant to give out the information she wanted. It's very middle book, and fairly frustrating, so I lost a lot of my drive to keep reading in the middle. The climax gets its mojo back, but that's not quite enough unfortunately. Grant is great at individual set-pieces, each scene on its own feeling real and vivid and involving, but not so great at tying the set-pieces together, or forming them into a coherent whole. I don't recall that bothering me in the first book, so either I've become a cannier reader (possible) or Grant has simply succumbed to middle-book syndrome (equally possible).
Still, I loved the characters enough to keep reading, and I'm interested in how Grant's going to bring it all together at the end, despite my petty annoyances.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Too self-consciously literary for my taste. No need to tell me the philosophical underpinnings of your text flat-out in narration. It was well-written...moreToo self-consciously literary for my taste. No need to tell me the philosophical underpinnings of your text flat-out in narration. It was well-written enough, but it just didn't grab me.(less)
A deeply disturbing vampire novel, whose most disturbing moments had nothing to do with vampires but with the cruelty of "regular" humans. Which I ima...moreA deeply disturbing vampire novel, whose most disturbing moments had nothing to do with vampires but with the cruelty of "regular" humans. Which I imagine was part of the point, and well done there. The writing is about average - which could be the fault of the translator as easily as Lindqvist - but it works regardless, because the writing style isn't really the point here. The story is, and Lindqvist pulls that off far better than most people who try to write vampire novels. People's reactions to the supernatural actually make sense, and the characterization, while somewhat thin, does its job. So, ultimately a worthwhile read that does what it set out to do quite well.(less)