The idea is a nifty one - lost cave system under an Antarctic volcano turns out to contain a lost civilisation of Not!Humans - but there were numerous...moreThe idea is a nifty one - lost cave system under an Antarctic volcano turns out to contain a lost civilisation of Not!Humans - but there were numerous parts of the story that just made me want to bang my head against the table. Part of it is, I think, that one of the main characters is Australian. But, having been written by an American author, he's basically a giant ocker stereotype. Add in the fact that he has Indigenous heritage but "Luckily, diluted by generations of European blood, his blighted heritage was an easily kept secret" (p. 20) and I was on the verge of Hulking out. Yes, I'm nitpicking a tiny detail, but his Aboriginal heritage turns out to have a significant role in the story so the fact that Ben has blond hair and blue eyes and LUCKILY can hide his ew-gross-coloured-people blood pissed me off.
If you take out that nitpick and can overlook the complete instalove (complete with instababy!) plot that happens between Ben and Ashley, it's a fun, somewhat Jules Verne-ian story about exploring lost worlds, discovering lost civilisations, and running away from giant dinosaur beasties and killer fungus. (less)
This book is kind of insane. But in a good way. I think... I mean, I really like the whole idea of an archaeological thriller where there are ancient...moreThis book is kind of insane. But in a good way. I think... I mean, I really like the whole idea of an archaeological thriller where there are ancient puzzles to solve or else you die in crazy booby traps and there's a group of evil monks chasing you. That part is all Indiana Jones-esque and lots of fun. I'm on board with the mysterious gold substance that doubles as plastic explosive. The characters are fun (except for Philip, who's a douche), the plot's mostly great and it's pretty exciting stuff.
Where it loses a star for me is in two places: 1. The relationship between Henry and Joan. Sure, they're totes adorbs as the kids are saying these days. But the story tells us that they met at university, dated a little, lost touch, married other people and are now a widower and a divorcee respectively. That's all good. EXCEPT that the book explicitly tells us that Henry had his 60th birthday the previous year and that Joan is 48. Which means that when she started university, he was 30, and it's slightly implausible that they lost touch because he went to a different school to do his Masters. Plus, the idea of them dating when she's a teenager and he's a grown-ass man is kind of creep-tastic.
Anyway, it's a minor quibble but one that I couldn't quite get over this time around. My other issue is a bigger one, and that's the idea of a mysterious gold substance that (view spoiler)[responds to human thoughts and which can raise the dead and turn newborns into alien gorilla beasts (hide spoiler)]. That part was hella whack, but still kind of entertaining. So yeah. It's fun, but will sap your suspension of disbelief well quite dramatically. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Plot summary: When a mysterious cave filled with human remains and Native American objects is discovered in Utah, a young girl becomes caught up in th...morePlot summary: When a mysterious cave filled with human remains and Native American objects is discovered in Utah, a young girl becomes caught up in the death of an anthropologist. There's only one person she can call on - her uncle, Painter Crowe. But when Crowe and his Sigma team become involved, it quickly becomes apparent that there is much more to the cave and the mysterious objects inside than meets the eye. What started out as an unfortunate accident quickly becomes a race against time to save the planet from volcanic winter.
Thoughts: I've enjoyed all of the Sigma books so far, and this was no exception. The characters are fun, there's probably at least one setting you've never heard much about before, and a good dose of history thrown in for good measure. An enjoyable read that keeps you guessing right to the end. (less)
Bilbo Baggins and I go back a long way. Back, in fact, to 1994 when my mum read The Hobbit to me and my little brother as a bedtime story over the cou...moreBilbo Baggins and I go back a long way. Back, in fact, to 1994 when my mum read The Hobbit to me and my little brother as a bedtime story over the course of several weeks. I've read it maybe twice since then, but the last time I did a reread was probably in about 2009, so it's been a while.
I'm pretty sure everyone knows the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventure to the Lonely Mountain, whether it's from the book version or the two (soon to be three) movies that Peter Jackson's managed to drag out of a 350 page book. But what surprised me this time around was how obvious it is that it's a children's book. Maybe it's that I've been reading more middle-grade books since I started working in a primary school library, and so it's more obvious to me?? Whatever it is, there's something about the descriptions, about the language used, about the simplicity of much of the dialogue that just makes the intended audience incredibly obvious.
It shows through too in the fact that much of the violence of the story - and it IS a violent story. There's a dragon, trolls, giant spiders, and an enormous battle for starters! - takes place quickly and in very brief terms. The Battle of the Five Armies takes place over the course of seven pages, and at least one of those pages is basically Bilbo going "Oh shit, we're all going to die" and then getting knocked unconscious. Smaug being defeated takes about a page to describe, and the dwarfs have no idea it even happened until days after the event. It's all surprisingly low-key when compared to the story that Peter Jackson tells us.
I loved the story, as I always have. But what I loved most this time around were Tolkien's illustrations. Despite being simple, black and white line drawings, they really bring the story to life. Especially when it's apparent how much the illustrations have influenced the set designs in the films. All you have to do is look at Tolkien's drawing of the front hall at Bag End to see the similarities! (Seriously, Google it)
All in all, I love the somewhat childish story Tolkien weaves. It gives you this warm fuzzy sense of nostalgia while still being full of action. And I'll be very interested to see how Peter Jackson handles the remaining chunk of the book (I mean, he inserted that ridiculous dip-the-dragon-in-melted-gold scene to The Desolation of Smaug, so......) when the final film comes out at the end of the year.
In short, there's a reason this book is a children's classic and remains on bestseller lists across the globe - it's really freaking good.(less)
I first read Anna Karenina in year 11 literature, and we had a pretty rough time together, Anna and I. Still, with the exception of the big train stat...moreI first read Anna Karenina in year 11 literature, and we had a pretty rough time together, Anna and I. Still, with the exception of the big train station scene, I'd forgotten practically everything about the story and managed to convince myself that my vaguely remembered dislike was just because I didn't enjoy the assignments I had to write on it. Unfortunately, my vaguely remembered dislike proved to still apply 15 years after the fact.
I...did not enjoy this. There were elements of it that I enjoyed, to be sure. But for the most part, this was a long hard slog. I found myself tuning out and reading the same page over and over again, and had to force myself to pay attention to read it in 30 page blocks to actually get through it.
I think the main problem for me was that I didn't find any of the major characters engaging. I didn't like Anna or Vronsky at all, Oblonsky drove me nuts, Dolly was kind of a wet blanket, and the most interesting of the lot - Levin and Kitty - became dull as dishwater once Kitty had their first child. I mean, I get that Anna was miserably trapped in a loveless marriage. But her story felt, to me, like the epitome of #firstworldproblems. And while Levin's proposal to Kitty was pretty much the most adorable thing ever, all the tangents about Russian peasants and their ties to the land or politics or horses or election processes reminded me far too much of Victor Hugo's hundred page tangents in Les Miserables: probably fascinating to people at the time, but not even remotely of interest to me.
I honestly think the thing that annoyed me most about Levin's character was the last 50-odd pages in which he's clearly suffering from depression, but everything is made right when he finds religion. Because uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. SERIOUSLY??? I know Levin is clearly the counterpoint to Anna's character - they both love passionately, have serious trust issues, struggle to bond with their children, and have mental health problems - but did we HAVE to have a "JESUS FIXES EVERYTHING!!" storyline?! Blurgh.
I did appreciate the complexity of his characters - there's no villain, no hero. They all inhabit the moral grey areas, they all experience jealousy and hatred and humility and kindness. But ultimately, I didn't care about any of them and wasn't engaged in their stories.
One thing I *did* find interesting was all the ideas about giving additional power to the peasant classes, and making them invested in the land and their work. One line only pages from the end made me flip to the front to check what year the book was first published because I felt sure it must have been not long before the Russian Revolution: "Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but to-day the voice of the Russian people is heard, ready to rise up as one man and sacrifice themselves for their oppressed brethren."
In that little speech, Koznyshev is talking specifically about Russia going to fight for the freedom of Christians in Serbia, but it could easily be applied to the workers uniting to free themselves from the rule of the elite in 1917. In all honesty, though, I was desperately hoping for the Revolution to happen 50 years ahead of schedule during this book just so that there would be something worth paying attention to in the story...
I know I'm well and truly in the minority in not loving this book. But I was firmly on the "HOW MUCH MORE??" train from start to finish. And no, the irony of being on the "kill me now" train is not lost on me. Final verdict? 2.5 stars, and the half star is for the adorableness of Levin's proposal...(less)