I liked this middle grade book about two merman boys better than the author's other similar-themed book Aquamarine - it was more interesting and dramaI liked this middle grade book about two merman boys better than the author's other similar-themed book Aquamarine - it was more interesting and dramatic, with exciting things like kids running away from home and saving their town from a flood....more
A middle grade book about two 12-year-old girls who befriend a stranded mermaid and help her meet the human man of her dreams.
My daughter loved the moA middle grade book about two 12-year-old girls who befriend a stranded mermaid and help her meet the human man of her dreams.
My daughter loved the movie that was based on this (though it was a bit mature for her at age 5!) so I was curious as always to read the book. It's a nice little story, although it didn't really stand out for me particularly in any way. I'd tend to wonder if kids young enough for this book would really be interested in a story about helping older characters get together romantically. But then I'm not a kid and apparently this was popular, so what do I know! It's always kind of hard to judge what will appeal to actual kids (vs. grownup me) in middle grade fiction, since my daughter's not old enough for most of it yet and I'm decades past it ......more
A convict named Shadow is released from prison only to find out his wife is dead. And then he gets hired as errand boy to a down-at-the-mouth old NordA convict named Shadow is released from prison only to find out his wife is dead. And then he gets hired as errand boy to a down-at-the-mouth old Nordic god who gradually reveals that all the old gods from the old countries that have sent immigrants to America are facing a war with the new gods of technology and celebrity. And through this fun adventure/quest/war/fantasy story, the author explores America's nature as a blending of all cultures and peoples, as an unbelieving/believing country, the meaning of myth and deity, and all kinds of other side roads.
I wondered what all the Neil Gaiman hype was about, and now I know. This book was just relentlessly inventive and lot of fun. The constant juxtapositions of dignified and venerable old myths with the gritty, tacky realities of modern America held my interest, even though, I grant you, the story was rather bloated with too many characters and more wandering than necessary, and there is so much breadth that we lose depth. But without judging it in terms of something it wasn't trying to be, this was a terrific romp.
(Religiously conservative readers, you may want to approach this with caution - on the one hand, it'd be sad to give this one a miss because it taps so well into the Zeitgeist and collective unconscious dreamworld of myths and legends ... But on the other hand, there is vulgarity, frank sexual encounters (though I wouldn't exactly call them gratuitous), homosexuality, and so on.)
My favorite scene of the book was the homoerotic one-night-stand between a homesick Omani businessman and a male taxi-cab driving "ifrit" or djinn. It was just so unexpected and wonderful, I felt like only a very broad, generous, honest, all-embracing mind could have thought to put it there....more
Wonderfully written scary middle-grade story, with wonderfully creative twists. Though I must have read this about seventy years ago, the image of theWonderfully written scary middle-grade story, with wonderfully creative twists. Though I must have read this about seventy years ago, the image of the cold glowing gray eyeglasses has always stuck with me. Easy to see why this is a classic that would still resonate with kids today. Though it makes me sad for the days before TV and video games and crazy consumerism, when being a kid was all about exploring and reading....more
A wonderfully scary middle grade book. A girl named Coraline finds a door in the wall of her house that leads through a dark corridor into an alternatA wonderfully scary middle grade book. A girl named Coraline finds a door in the wall of her house that leads through a dark corridor into an alternate version of her house, populated by creepy versions of her own parents and neighbors, who all have shiny black buttons where their eyes should be. Coraline's "other parents" want her to stay with them "forever and always"; all she has to do is let them sew buttons onto her eyes ...
Totally engaging, imaginative, well-written, and spine-chilling. The illustrations by Dave McKean were wildly eerie and well-done. Yet the book is not gory or violent, and contains some interesting insights about what it means to be brave and the fact that even as children, we have an awareness that we may not always want what we think we want. ...more
A historical romance with paranormal elements, set in nineteenth-century England - a young woman whose formerly prosperous family has fallen on hard tA historical romance with paranormal elements, set in nineteenth-century England - a young woman whose formerly prosperous family has fallen on hard times is married off to a mysterious wealthy man of scandalous reputation - a man who wears a mask and is rumored to be a devil in disguise. Oh, and incidentally, the girl also happens to be able to start fires with the power of her mind ...
Elements of the Beauty and the Beast/Cupid and Psyche tropes here, which is always fun to see worked into fiction in new and different ways - here combined with the Firestarter/Carrie trope. Some steamy scenes that occasionally provoke lapses in believability ((view spoiler)[like when our masked hero takes a severe wound in a fight, then pleasures his lady extendedly in an alley, and then is discovered by our heroine to be nearly bleeding to death and in need of being stitched up by hand ... (hide spoiler)]). But on balance, not bad, fast-paced and reasonably fun for some escapist reading.["br"]>["br"]>...more
A hard-to-categorize book; what do you call quasi-historical allegorical theist semi-fantastical adult fiction? This is C.S. Lewis's inimitable retellA hard-to-categorize book; what do you call quasi-historical allegorical theist semi-fantastical adult fiction? This is C.S. Lewis's inimitable retelling of the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche - where a beautiful bride is married to a mysterious husband who forbids her ever to see his face. Half way through this, I realized I'd already read it, so many years ago I'd forgotten I had. Some of the same passages still resonated with me, but this time around, something that stuck out for me was how spare and fairy-tale-like the narrative style is; it really does read far more like some medieval or ancient allegory than a modern novel. Also, having done quite a bit of thinking about religion (and ultimately rejected religion) since I read it, the theist message hit me over the head like a two-by-four. It comes most intensely during the scenes where Psyche's sister Orual - the protagonist of the narrative - visits her for the first time after she's been left for the god of the mountain to devour, and the point seems to be: all the mystery surrounding God has important purposes, even if we don't know what they are; and: religious experience can never be understood from the outside (which I can still very much recognize as an important truth, even being on the outside now myself). Something that impressed me in Lewis's approach is that when Orual mourns that her choice not to believe felt inevitable, something she had no real choice in, Lewis seems to acknowledge that some of us can't simply choose to believe what seems untrue and fantastical, and that if we're ultimately punished for it by "the gods," the punishment isn't particular just. (Though in the end, his gods turn out to be merciful even to Orual the unbeliever.)...more
Approximately five thousand pages into the series now, the books in between have kind of started to run together in my mind, so I'll just write one reApproximately five thousand pages into the series now, the books in between have kind of started to run together in my mind, so I'll just write one review here for books 2-5.
I have thought a lot about why I got so hooked on this series, and whether it was a guilty or an unguilty pleasure.
Arguments for guilty: The writing is serviceable but not stellar, and I notice phrases he repeats too often ("much and more," "cat-quick") - in a series of this length, a writer has to be wary of creating his own cliches. The characterization is dutiful but not sophisticated or deeply insightful. In the first couple of books a number of characters were flatly evil with no particular nuance or explanation. A few thousand pages in, Martin suddenly seemed to get religion on portraying moral complexity, and the previously two-dimensional evil characters started belatedly developing more balancing sympathetic qualities. On the whole, there is so much constant and omnipresent evil, murder, gore, rape, crudeness, and meanness in this world that believability suffers. Martin seems to miss out on the simple plain truth in front of everyone's nose, that humanity is just not this bad, and 90% of people in any society will always be pretty decent ordinary folks.
The books hook the reader mainly with soap-operatic cliffhanger techniques. This is much like Days of Our Lives transposed onto a medievalesque fantasy setting. And it makes sense, since Martin spent part of his career working on television series scripts.
Arguments for nonguilty: the mix of actual factual medieval historical elements with made-up fantasy elements is so creative and smart. Throughout, you can always see how the fictional events play off of true period details from the medieval War of the Roses and legends and literature of the time. It's like getting to go back and live in that true world and experience the radical differences in worldview and culture from our own, except without all the boring stretches where nothing much happens, and with the welcome addition of magic and dragons.
I think the books do what fantasy at its best is meant to do: not just to provide an escape from reality and transport us to another time and place, but to open the mind to new conceptions of what reality could be....more
A book like no other - a charming, memorable, unbounded modern fairy tale for adults. Set in an indeterminate time and place (vaguely Slavic, vaguelyA book like no other - a charming, memorable, unbounded modern fairy tale for adults. Set in an indeterminate time and place (vaguely Slavic, vaguely Belle Epoque, with some medieval elements), it's the story of a good-hearted but widely despised magic shape-shifting dwarf ... a beautiful maiden strong as an ox who pretends to be stupid and weak so men will adore her ... and a prince who'd rather play the violin than joust. When they all decide to go up to the Suicide Mountains to end their lives, they meet each other, and storytelling and adventures ensue.
I had read this book many years ago, but it always stuck in my mind, and one day for someone reason I was trying to explain to my boyfriend how cool it was, and ended up wanting to re-read it. I had also forgotten how much I liked the illustrations. (This was part of the conversation where the book came up - more books for grown-ups should have illustrations! More books should have pictures!)
Gardner intersperses very traditional Brothers Grimm-esque fairy tales within an original, cleverly nontraditional framing narrative, laced with moments of very modern philosophical musings and humor. It's a quick read, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I guarantee it will leave you with a lot to think about....more
I'd almost forgotten about this really charming book about a princess who befriends a river dragon, set in a kind of mythical version of medieval FranI'd almost forgotten about this really charming book about a princess who befriends a river dragon, set in a kind of mythical version of medieval France - I remember really enjoying it. (The reason I chose to read it will be obvious to anyone who knows me very well.)...more
I was kind of disappointed in this one. It irked me how (view spoiler)[the heroine switched her romantic loyalties and then rationalized it by sayingI was kind of disappointed in this one. It irked me how (view spoiler)[the heroine switched her romantic loyalties and then rationalized it by saying Finn (the jilted hot dude) was too dutiful and should have "fought for her." What the ...? So she's dissing him because he put duty over his hormones, unlike her? Because he had integrity and tried to be honest? (hide spoiler)] No, that did not work for me at all. (view spoiler)[And playboy Loki, the guy she ends up with, is never all that convincing as the faithful-devoted-husband type he supposedly turns out to be. (hide spoiler)] I just wasn't buying it. ...more
These books are just so much fun. The prose style is nothing special, but the pacing is great. This second book was better than the first because therThese books are just so much fun. The prose style is nothing special, but the pacing is great. This second book was better than the first because there's more consistency in and development of the characters. It's hard even to put my finger on why I'm enjoying the series so much - it just feels light and engaging, charming, suspenseful, and dreamy. (I have to say, I also really like the cover designs.)...more
Like the other books in the series, it held my attention and entertained me through a few long drives (in audiobook format). I got a bit annoyed withLike the other books in the series, it held my attention and entertained me through a few long drives (in audiobook format). I got a bit annoyed with this one though, because I felt some of it dragged, particularly the fight scenes, particularly (view spoiler)[the Murtagh/Eragon standoff in front of Galbatorix (hide spoiler)]. I also felt like the ending, where Eragon goes around meticulously tying up all the loose ends in the story, was too pat. And after finishing the series, I was really struck by how much it recycled so many elements of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and that irked me a bit too....more
This is a young adult fantasy book about trolls. Not the kind of trolls you're thinking. As the novel Twilight is to vampires, this book is to trolls.This is a young adult fantasy book about trolls. Not the kind of trolls you're thinking. As the novel Twilight is to vampires, this book is to trolls. The trolls aren't sparkly, but being a troll basically means you're rich, good-looking, better than other people, and possibly have special powers. The big downside to being a troll/vampire is having to deal with not being human, and there are conflicts with the occasional baddie clan of morally inferior trolls/vampires.
Now lest you think from that introduction that I didn't like the book - I actually ended up liking it quite a lot. (Granted, I also liked the Twilight novels!) However, it got off to a bad start for me because I felt the writing was a little rocky in the first couple of chapters - to the point where I almost didn't want to go any further. But I persevered, and I'm glad I did, because I quickly got drawn into the story - it's a pretty original premise, and the characters are fun. The romance provided some nice steamy tension, and the pacing was quick. I'm eager to read the next two books in the series as soon as possible.
More of a fun beach read/guilty pleasure book than great literature, and definitely requires some suspension of disbelief - in particular, I found it hard to reconcile the main character's seeming decency and reasonableness with the background portrayal of her as having been an antisocial troublemaker who was kicked out of every school she'd ever been in.
(Mormon reader friends and others concerned with decency: This seemed like a pretty clean read, PG rating.)
I received an ARC copy of the book through a First-Reads giveaway here on Goodreads. ...more
This is a zombie novel, but a very original twist on the genre. The narration is film-documentary style, switching back and forth between the differenThis is a zombie novel, but a very original twist on the genre. The narration is film-documentary style, switching back and forth between the different characters. The characters are group of seemingly incongruous friends: A waiter and his artist girlfriend, the 17-year-old daughter of their neighbors, an AWOL military guy, and a 60-something bearded professor. In the aftermath of a zombie uprising that has disturbed the country and shut down the economy 9/11-style, they wander through the Eastern US. Strangely, the zombies are totally harmless and defenseless for the most part ... until one day, they're not.
I got hooked on the story pretty early on, when I realized some parts of the book were actually funny, and it's such a different thing from any other zombie story imaginable....more
Oh my gosh, this was so much fun to read. It's an alternate history crime story - set in an England in the mid 1980s where literature is taken *very*Oh my gosh, this was so much fun to read. It's an alternate history crime story - set in an England in the mid 1980s where literature is taken *very* seriously and there are fights in the street about who really authored Shakespeare's plays. An evil villain kidnaps Jane Eyre right out of the pages of Bronte's novel, and our fearless heroine, Miss Thursday Next, has to save the day.
Just totally brilliant, hilarious, and fun for anyone who loves literature. Perfect light reading.
(Also: safe reading for my conservative religious reader friends.)...more
I'd forgotten how wonderful this book is. Sometimes the long strings of incessant metaphors go on to the point of silliness, but that's just the voiceI'd forgotten how wonderful this book is. Sometimes the long strings of incessant metaphors go on to the point of silliness, but that's just the voice of the book and the kind of flaw that gives it its delightful character. I love the mixing of medieval and modern details throughout (the prince who flips through a magazine while his princess tries to call a unicorn, the bandit who offers the magician a taco). So completely creative and original. Truly a classic....more
The author does a nice job of keeping up the magical, fairy-tale-like atmosphere throughout, making this a good book to read if you are looking to beThe author does a nice job of keeping up the magical, fairy-tale-like atmosphere throughout, making this a good book to read if you are looking to be transported and escape to a prettier, more mystical world outside of gritty history and reality. Some of the "twists" on the "classic tale" are also clever, and in many passages the writing was engaging and deftly woven. Granted, every now and then there'd come a spot where I felt the voice slipped into something too modern or out-of-place, or something in the diction didn't work so well, but on the whole, the writing was definitely better than I've met with in a lot of fantasy writing, and comparable with other upscale, aiming-to-be-literary, book-club-selection type books.
I think this could be a good book for Christian readers, because without being overt or preachy, there are a number of references to Christian-sounding ideas about the soul, God, heaven, and salvation. (Enough to make me think the author was coming from a Christian standpoint, yet not so much that an I as an unbeliever/humanist reader felt overly excluded by it.) My more conservative (e.g. LDS/Mormon) reader friends might like to know in advance that there is some out-of-wedlock sex in the book, but not too graphic as these things go (no tumescent manhoods or anything like that!).
I definitely think the story will tend to appeal more to female readers. From a feminist standpoint, well, there are some nice female friendships and bonding, and some attempt to show strongish female characters, but there was also more chick-lit-style boy-craziness than I expected. The romances are not super nuanced or profound, and the male characters are all pretty two-dimensional.
Still, on the whole, a nice, light, quick read, and some interesting, smart variations on the ever-popular mermaid theme....more