A tremendously entertaining book -- and tremendous is the word, it does run on. The mystery's solution is silly, but the multiple narrators have vivid...moreA tremendously entertaining book -- and tremendous is the word, it does run on. The mystery's solution is silly, but the multiple narrators have vivid and enjoyable voices, especially Betteredge, who resolves life's dilemmas with liberal applications of the wisdom of Robinson Crusoe. Miss Clack the evangelist's section could be cut quite a bit with no loss to the reader, but she is an excellent example of the unreliable narrator -- she tells us so much about herself that she doesn't mean to tell.(less)
What a terrific read, page upon page of rigging descriptions notwithstanding. Dana goes on board a brig bound for California in 1835 as a Harvard stud...moreWhat a terrific read, page upon page of rigging descriptions notwithstanding. Dana goes on board a brig bound for California in 1835 as a Harvard student recovering from a bad bout of the measles, then spends two years voyaging out and back, coasting the California shore in between picking up cowhides from the ranchos. My edition didn't gloss any of the nautical terms, so I had no idea what they were doing with all those cat's heads and capstans and martingales and marlinspikes and topgallant sails, but Dana is a great describer of the people he meets and he's also a vivid storyteller.
This must be the least romantic book about sailing ever written. (Dana points out in his forward that, at least at the time, the only books were being written by officers or passengers, not "sailors before the mast.") Life is incredibly hard, dangerous, and boring -- often all three in combination. On top of what seem to have just been the standard shipboard conditions of backbreaking labor, interrupted sleep, and lousy food, Dana has quite an onus for the captain he sailed under. And since he generally comes across as a fair-minded pleasant sort of a guy, I tended to conclude the captain must have deserved it.
But in spite of this, the book does not come across as a whine or a complaint. Dana was interested in everything, and apparently knew what would interest his readers -- even those who came along 150 years later. Of course, it has special appeal if you are familiar with modern-day California (or, probably, if you know anything at all about sailing). He seems eager to take his place with the sailors and prove himself -- the most uncomfortable part of the book is when his "friends" in Boston pull strings to get him a place on a ship headed for home ... and he finds out that someone else is going to have to take his place and stay behind, someone who wants to go home as badly as he does but does not have influential friends.
The Harvard Classics edition also includes "24 years later" -- an essay on Dana's return to the California coast after the Gold Rush has begun, and finds it almost unrecognizable and himself a celebrity because EVERYONE out there has read his book. This is particularly fascinating, and I would definitely look for a copy that includes it if you want to sample Dana's masterpiece.(less)
The first Rickman I read, Candlenight, was exceeding well-written, full of interesting and believable characters, and introduced me to a fascinating r...moreThe first Rickman I read, Candlenight, was exceeding well-written, full of interesting and believable characters, and introduced me to a fascinating regional culture -- but it really wasn't creepy or eerie at all. December has all the virtues of Candlenight, combined with a genuinely spooky storyline about a recording studio in an unholy abbey near the Welsh border. Rickman really nails rock culture in addition to giving us another well-realized small town -- I wonder whether he's been in a band himself, he really gives us a plausible mix of personalities and seems to know his way around a studio.
There are some flaws. It ends up seeming to suggest that being gay is some sort of vile perversion -- even though a throw-away comment indicates that that wasn't the intention, that's the general tenor of one plotline and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Also, one of the main characters, Davie, is such a wet smack that I couldn't wait for him to get added to the bodycount, plus it's a HUGE book and takes a good long time to get rolling. With that one exception, though, I found the characters interesting enough that I didn't mind spending time with them over the long build-up, and December packed some impressive chills, if not a lot of surprises (you know the lady who is all gung-ho about spiritualism and thinks she has a friendly ghost living in the house is asking for trouble, right?). (less)
Sacred Games is a huge, messy book. India seems to lend itself to those -- A Suitable Boy, Midnight's Children, Shantaram, A Fine Balance. Sacred Game...moreSacred Games is a huge, messy book. India seems to lend itself to those -- A Suitable Boy, Midnight's Children, Shantaram, A Fine Balance. Sacred Games is no A Suitable Boy, but I found it tremendously enjoyable -- strip away a dozen subplots, and it's a cop-and-robbers story in Bombay, told in alternating chapters about a sorta-corrupt cop and a self-aggrandizing organized crime don. It's huge, it's funny, it's sad and gruesome and surprising.
I agree with other readers that this could easily have been 500 pages shorter. But it would lose much of its unruly, sprawling, filmi charm. (less)
Tremendously entertaining and surprisingly lighthearted for such a gory book (that poor horse!). People keep comparing the narrative style to Deadwood...moreTremendously entertaining and surprisingly lighthearted for such a gory book (that poor horse!). People keep comparing the narrative style to Deadwood, and I can see that, but what it really reminded me of was True Grit. Either people actually did talk this way in the West, or else everyone who has come after owes a tremendous debt to Charles Portis. (less)
I thoroughly enjoyed The Magicians, but if you had asked me after I'd read it I would have said that the whole POINT of the book was that Quentin and...moreI thoroughly enjoyed The Magicians, but if you had asked me after I'd read it I would have said that the whole POINT of the book was that Quentin and most of his friends were perpetually whiny, detached, self-obsessed adolescents who would never grow up. The Magician King proved me wrong, as Quentin and many of the other step up and try to actually save the world. Yes, there are moments like Quentin storming a castle, thinking even in the midst of throwing some amazing magic "Wow, I look so cool doing this!" and making sure to strike a super-hero pose. But we also see him genuinely trying to do the right thing and becoming invested in a cause he cares about, instead of wandering about constantly watching himself as a fantasy book character and critiquing the plot and setting. Julia's parallel story, of seeking magic on her own without the privileged introduction Quentin got, is fascinating and moving -- as nothing at all in The Magicians was genuinely moving. The first book was peopled with adolescents; in this one, they have become young adults in spite of themselves.
The Magician King is also, like the first book, just FUN to read. Lev Grossman is obviously delighted by all the quirky and whimsical details of a proper magical fantasy, and lays them on in spades. Dragons in Venice's Grand Canal! Intelligent clockwork boats! A playground slide to Hell! The book sparkles with invention.
Wow, this is an amazingly good collection! Burns is a great anthologist -- the poems are arranged so that they reflect or comment on each other.
I boug...moreWow, this is an amazingly good collection! Burns is a great anthologist -- the poems are arranged so that they reflect or comment on each other.
I bought it for the Kindle -- I probably have a quarter or more of the poems already in various physical books, but this lets me carry them along wherever I go. I don't usually read poetry anthologies straight through, from cover to cover, but this one I did.(less)
anyone with half a brain will figure out how things will play out for Kitty -- but the characters are so entertaining that it doesn't matter. This boo...moreanyone with half a brain will figure out how things will play out for Kitty -- but the characters are so entertaining that it doesn't matter. This book is a sprightly delight.(less)
A choose-your-own adventure book for grown-ups, about superheros -- this Kindle book could easily have coasted on its high concept to suck people in,...moreA choose-your-own adventure book for grown-ups, about superheros -- this Kindle book could easily have coasted on its high concept to suck people in, then served up a half-assed sloppy experience and called it a day. Instead, Thrusts of Justice was genuinely funny and clever, and the branching plot paths are really well thought out. I'm not a super-hero fan, and even so this was really fun to play with!
We get our set up in the first segment -- we are a disgruntled unemployed journalist, commiserating with former colleagues in a bar, when super-villain mayhem breaks out right outside the door. From there we can choose three possible paths, each of which branches like crazy. Depending on our choices, we can die horribly, die horribly, die horribly, save the world, die horribly, and so on. I think there were only three or four outcomes that did NOT lead to a gruesome death -- but it's worth exploring them all, because they really are clever. Also, the universe and backstory remain the same no matter what you choose (unlike the actual Choose Your Own Adventure books, which if I remember correctly involved a lot of mutually exclusive events depending on your choices), and if you don't explore every branch you will miss information that helps to round out what is happening and why.
Youngmark manages to juggle the complex plot over all his branching storylines, which is impressive enough; but even better, the writing is good and the humor is actually humorous. I was really pleasantly surprised by how accomplished and polished the whole thing is. I definitely plan to pick up the zombie apocalypse companion volume!(less)
I just loved this book as a child, and it was a delight to revisit it. It was free for the Kindle, so I snapped it up. It was always my favorite of th...moreI just loved this book as a child, and it was a delight to revisit it. It was free for the Kindle, so I snapped it up. It was always my favorite of the trilogy, and I must have read it dozens of times, so whole passages were waiting there in my memory when I encountered them -- like Jane sucking on her paintbrush and commenting that Chinese White tastes sweet: of course it does -- it's full of lead! Don't do that!
Ahem. Anyway, as an adult I can see that it's a little heavy on social prescriptions and a little light on historical adventure, but there's still so much to enjoy -- the devious Egyptian priest, the frivolous Queen of Babylon's visit to London, and the destruction of Atlantis, which plays out in the reader's head in glorious Technicolor. And the children are always completely believable kids, no matter how unlikely their adventures.(less)
This scared me SO BADLY as a young teenager, so naturally I read it over and over again. Danny Glick floating outside the window -- eek!
Coming back to...moreThis scared me SO BADLY as a young teenager, so naturally I read it over and over again. Danny Glick floating outside the window -- eek!
Coming back to it, I'm finding it's lost a lot of its wallop (too many vampires under the bridge for me in the years since my last read, I guess), but man is it ever a fun book. In King's introduction to the edition I have now, he calls it a blend of Dracula andPeyton Place, and that exactly nails it. New England Americana, small-town tawdriness, and bloody horror -- just the thing for Halloween!
Finished; the Kindle edition also included two (!) introductions, an afterword, two Salem's Lot-related short stories (you can find them both in Night Shift), and a selection of deleted passages. What a lovely way to present the book.(less)
What distinguishes Freeman's ghost stories for me is that they're so psychologically acute. The byplay between characters, and what they are unwilling...moreWhat distinguishes Freeman's ghost stories for me is that they're so psychologically acute. The byplay between characters, and what they are unwilling to come out and say, is really sharp and beautifully observed. She also knows how to make a story damn creepy!(less)