This is possibly the greatest story arc yet in the entire Daredevil Volume 2 run. Good enough that I read 80% of it in one sitting. Good enough that I...moreThis is possibly the greatest story arc yet in the entire Daredevil Volume 2 run. Good enough that I read 80% of it in one sitting. Good enough that I placed this story arc on my "Best of the Best" shelf here on GoodReads. Good enough that I wanted to re-read it immediately, but I didn't just so I could see if Bendis & Maleev could top it.
Decalogue is a 5-part story (issues 71-75) that takes place predominately in the basement of a church. Different people of Hell's Kitchen are gathered for a community meeting to discuss Matt Murdock and Daredevil and whether or not he's beneficial to the Kitchen. It's like an AA meeting, and each of the people in the gathering offer up their own stories of why they are there and what it has to do with Murdock/Daredevil. A theme soon emerges, and it is unbelievable.
Like I said, probably my favorite arc yet. Highly recommend.(less)
Jeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear has been on my TBR pile for quite a while now. I've never read anything by the author, though his highly acclaimed no...moreJeff VanderMeer's The Third Bear has been on my TBR pile for quite a while now. I've never read anything by the author, though his highly acclaimed novel Finch has garnered a load of attention. Likewise, his collection of bizarre short stories contained in The Third Bear has collected lauds and nods from nearly every review I've read. The book has a strange type of magic that charms the reader and takes him on a journey like never before.
So I made preparations to read this book, curiosity piqued. The library purchased it on my suggestion, and then when the book arrived, I promptly forgot about it. Too many other things to read. Carl (or Stainless Steel Droppings, check out his fantastic blog) posted a review last week on this book, and his eloquence reminded me about my library request. That very day I went and picked up VanderMeer's work. I was immediately stricken.
There's really no good way to describe this book. It defies genres. It defies expectations and normal thinking, subverting tropes and typical story-telling methodology for something unique and unforgettable. There are some stories that, upon completion, I couldn't bring myself to describe coherently, even if the tale was spectacular. This holds true for many of the stories, the inability to put into words what you just read, but it only serves to make the reading experience all the better.
For this reason, there's no way I could give reviews to each story in this collection. I don't know if I could pick my favorite, as nearly all have their own speciality.
The titular tale, "The Third Bear," is a dark and somewhat familiar story. It reads like an old fairy tale, and the growing sense of dread throughout makes for an unsettling read.
"The Situation" is baffling. Part office-life, part post-apocalyptic, part Idon'thaveaclue, this story sealed the deal for me. I read it after reading "The Third Bear" (which I recommend you do as well, even though it doesn't follow the story in the layout of the book) and noticed a few coincidences that I could not ignore. I'm not sure at all how to describe what's going on in this story, but I highly recommend you read it.
"Errata" is possibly the weirdest piece of fiction I've ever read. I daresay fiction because the story is about a writer named Jeff VanderMeer and he's working on a story around Lake Baikal. The thing reads as a letter written by VanderMeer to an editor and seems to be taken as a true story. Suffice it say that this story unfolded beautifully and still lingers in my mind.
"The Surgeon's Tale" is probably the longest piece in this collection, but one of my favorites. It's reminiscent of Frankenstein, but it's also much more. This tale was emotional and beautifully written. I could smell the sea salt on the pages. I could watch the sargassum dance beneath the surface. The protagonist's longing was tragic, but his love was uncanny.
And lastly is "Appoggiatura," a story so twisted and confusing, so different, so essential, that it practically begs to be re-read immediately. Reading this was like catching glimmers of the City out of the corners of my eye, almost as if I myself were somehow involved in the rich tales collected in the book.
I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed The Third Bear so much is because Jeff VanderMeer knows his craft. His voice is strong; his imagery is top-notch; his creativity is uncapped. I'm tempted to say I've never read a work that evokes more imagery in the mind than this book (see the remarks regarding "The Surgeon's Tale"). His prose is fluid, flowing through the surreal landscapes he's created with ease, making the reader feel both comfortable and lost. He takes little-to-no time explaining himself, but instead leaves what he's told as fact and we're to accept it and go on. There's no reasoning why the rabbit can talk in "The Quickening," it just can. Once these weird truths are accepted, the stories shine like a reappearing sun after an eclipse, bright and glorious.
After finishing "Appoggiatura" and the Author's Note, I felt the desire to return to some earlier tales, though I resisted this urge. Some other day.
Am I gushing? Perhaps, but The Third Bear is worthy of it. The book was so unlike anything I've ever read that it has me wanting to read the rest of VanderMeer's catalog immediately. If you're in a rut and tired of reading the same thing over and over, check this book out. Or, if you're just wanting to experience the thrill of Vandermeer's magical oddity, do yourself a favor and read The Third Bear. I can't recommend it enough.
Oh, and do check out Carl's review (here). Some of these stories are available for free online, and Carl's got all these links collected for your viewing pleasure. (less)
The Book Thief is a powerful book. It's a book that I would call beautiful and epic and unique. With personified Death as the narrator, the story is t...moreThe Book Thief is a powerful book. It's a book that I would call beautiful and epic and unique. With personified Death as the narrator, the story is told from a unique perspective that's strangely akin to a human's.
It's hard to describe how wonderful this story is. While it's set in Hitler's reign of Nazi Germany, the story is filled with humor and life. Many times I found myself laughing out loud at something that was said or done. The protagonist, a young orphan girl named Liesel, learns to live with her new foster parents, to make friends in Munich, to follow the Nazi propaganda, to learn how to get on with life during the oppressiveness of war. Her life's story is amazing and inspiring.
Death's perspective describes many things in colors and sounds, and the adjectives throughout this book are as close to realism as possible. It was as if I could reach out and touch what Death was describing. And since Death talks about his life during World War II, the descriptions are surreal and ghastly.
Liesel soon discovers that stealing makes her feel alive, that taking things is her way to stay apart. She turns to stealing books, and the book thief is born.
I liked how Death eased the burden of his tale throughout the story, by foreshadowing what was to come. This caused the novel to be tinged with tragedy everywhere, but it was not overwhelming. And even though I knew the direction the story was headed, I couldn't help but feel sad by the end of the novel. Actually, it made me feel like I should cry, but I couldn't bring myself to.
My favorite thing in the book was the relationships Liesel had with Rudy and Hans. Rudy was her best friend, and the two had a great friendship. Hans was her foster Father, and their love for one another was obvious.
There were many scenes from the book that were memorable, but I hesitate to write on them to remain spoiler free. Suffice it to say that the book was unforgettable.
The only thing I didn't like in the book was that it was marketed as a Young Adult book, targeted for teens. The author, Markus Zusak, did not write the book with a YA audience in mind, but this was decided by the publishers to market it this way (presumably because the protagonist was an adolescent/teen girl.) So if you abstain from YA books, don't let the tag scare you away, it definitely works as an adult novel.
All in all, The Book Thief was a superb novel. Its realism is phenomenal, its story is brilliant, and its characters are believable. I'm likely to remember this story for a long time, and it's one that I can see myself going back and reading again, enjoying it a second time around.
Two of my favorite quotes from the book: "You see, even Death has a heart." "'Don't get caught.' This from a man who had stolen a Jew."(less)
Last Argument of Kings is the concluding volume of Joe Abercrombie’s breathtaking debut trilogy, The First Law. There’s not a whole lot of things that...moreLast Argument of Kings is the concluding volume of Joe Abercrombie’s breathtaking debut trilogy, The First Law. There’s not a whole lot of things that I can say in this review if I wish to remain truly spoiler-free, but I shall do my best, but I make no promises. You have to be realistic about these things.
It’s been two months since I read book two, Before They Are Hanged, and picking this book up felt like a meeting between old familiar friends. All those characters that I had grown to love were returned. Split between wars on both sides, the Union looks to be in quite a mess. Scores are settled amazingly. Loose ends are all tied up neatly. When the smoke clears and the dust settles and you finally finish the book, you’ll be left as speechless as I was. (Actually, I busted out laughing in disbelief, which led to “huh.”, which led to “wow".”)
Like with the previous novels, Last Argument of Kings is a novel about characters. You feel as if you’re inside the head of Logen Ninefingers as he contemplates what to do about a dire situation. You hurt with Jezal as he struggles with his day-to-day existence. You feel your neck crack and your eye leak with Glokta and wonder with him why he does it. The plot is chiefly character driven and the experience is perfect.
If you’ve read the first two books then you know that there is a lot going on in the Circle of the World. A lot of stuff you don’t understand, but you suspect Bayaz knows more than he’s telling. A lot of mystery and lies, and sorting the truth from fiction is a thrilling activity.
Over all, and to keep my mouth shut to remain spoiler-free, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The entire series was an absolute joy to read. The ruthlessness and brutality is reminiscent of GRRM, but at the same time different and unique. Everything reads realistic, and it’s easy to relate to most of the characters. I strongly urge you to pick up these books and read them. Enjoy them. Bask in their wonder. And when you finish, you’ll know that you’ve read something like you’ve never read before. The conclusion of Last Argument of Kings was a perfect fit to the series and I strongly recommend you try this series out.
And now, like with my review of Before They Are Hanged, I give you some of my favorite quotes.
"That's what war is. A lot of folk getting killed that don't deserve it." Dogman "No, it ain't ever that simple. We all got our reasons. Good men and bad men. It's all a matter of where you stand."--Logen Why do I do this?—Glokta(less)
"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Welllington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might,...more"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Welllington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never could." ----- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a fantastic work of fiction, providing an alternate take on British history circa 1807-1820. To go with this time setting, the author, Susanna Clarke, writes in a style to fit the times, somewhat like blending Charles Dickens and Jane Austen together. The story is intricate and rich. The air of mystery hangs on every page, teasing the reader from the beginning to the very end. The sudden changes in the novel throw the reader down unforeseen paths, leaving his senses constantly on guard. The subtleness of magic permeates throughout England, though there are only two practical magicians. The backdrop of the French Revolution and England's war against Napoleon set the plot in an all-too-real world.
Yes, JS & MN is an amazing work of art. The characters are very well defined and extremely complex. Mr Norrell is England's only practical magician, and he spends all his time collecting books of magic and books on magic, as well as sending his servant Childermass out to persuade theoretical magicians to forsake their studies. Jonathan Strange finds that he can do magic, and he seeks the tutelage of Mr Norrell, quickly mastering technique and rising to become England's second practical magician. Each man is connected in an intricate web of nobility and other well-to-dos, as well as a few lesser men.
Clarke did wonders in her characterization, and there were qualities that I liked and disliked in many of the characters, especially with Strange and Norrell. Of course, Childermass was well defined, as well as Lady Pole and Stephen Black. Ah, there were many folks that I really liked. The plot of the book is also compelling. The folks of England remember back when magic was more common, back in the times of the Raven King, back when magicians conversed with fairies and magic was not lost. The main plot of the book centers around Norrell and Strange deciding to try and return magic to England. Typically, the magic is not explosive and avant-garde, but instead subtle and simple, like making illusions in the rain against the Frenchmen.
Perhaps the most compelling mystery throughout the book is the many references to the Raven King. His character builds throughout the story, through footnotes and lowly folk gossiping. (Clarke uses many footnotes throughout the book to provide additional anecdotes and more info on certain subjects. This aspect seems almost like a history book, perhaps even one that Mr Norrell himself would read...) By the end of the novel, I was eager to learn all I could about the King.
I really cannot say enough about this book. It was funny, witty, suspenseful, exciting, and at times even mundane, but never really boring. There are few idle words in this tome, and I think Clarke knew exactly what she was doing when she was writing each and every part of the book. I savored every quirky story. There were many quotes that I would like to put here, but I feel that I would rob you of something if I did so.
I can't think of any negatives about this Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, besides the fact that it's so large that it's unwieldy and difficult to carry easily everywhere. I strongly urge you to read this book if you want to experience something unlike anything you've read before. While the novel does advance slowly at some points, it is not a boring read. No, it is a wonderful read. It's like taking a trip down an old familiar road, and remembering things sweetly passed. It's like eating chocolate ice cream for the first time. It is superb, and I praise Susanna Clarke for her brilliant debut.(less)
Writing a review for The Wise Man's Fear, Book Two of Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle, is a difficult task for me. First, the book is 994 page...moreWriting a review for The Wise Man's Fear, Book Two of Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle, is a difficult task for me. First, the book is 994 pages in length and covers so many plot-lines that it's hard to create a manageable review. Second, there was considerable hype leading up to the release of the book, hype that I well bought into and dabbled with. Third is the fact that this is the middle volume of a trilogy and the story, in the long run, is still unread. Finally, and probably most importantly, is my bias towards Rothfuss. If not for his genre-crushing, decade favorite Name of the Wind, I may have given up on fantasy a few years ago. Instead, the man pulled the wool from my eyes and revealed that a story is more important than magic and cliches. That said, this review is spoiler-free for Book 2, though it will contain spoilers from Book 1.
----- Review (No WMF Spoilers) It's another day for Kvothe, his student/assistant Bast, and the acclaimed scribe Devan Lochees (aka the Chronicler) at the Waystone Inn. All more than a little burdened from the recent death of Shep and the unusual circumstances surrounding it, Kvothe is pressing on to tell the true story of the man behind the legends. Times are hard for Newarre and its poor farmers, but times are hard for everyone.
Rothfuss wastes no time getting into the meat of the story. By Chapter Three, Kvothe is recalling the familiar story that began in Name of the Wind. In fact, if physical evidence didn't say otherwise, the transition between Book One and Book Two is flawless enough that it feels like I'm reading one book, carrying over the same tone and voice the first one did so well.
If one considers The Wise Man's Fear on its own, problems arise. In its 994 pages a lot of stuff happens, and on the other hand, nothing happens. The reader gets plenty of insight to the Four Corners of Civilization, from language lessons in Ademre to lessons of the court in Severen, as well as more lore and history of all manner of folks between. There is enough world building that one would be tempted to say Rothfuss is wasting too much time with supplemental information, putting off the more important elements of the story. And, if one considers WMF on its own apart from the trilogy as a whole, I would agree.
There is not enough action and the story is not tight enough for this book to fit the normal molds and expectations readers have. But, just as Rothfuss is not interested in telling a normal story with normal cliches, this book rises above the normal expectations. I cannot see how anyone can take a single volume of a story instead of the whole and weigh it and judge it, not fairly, but it happens. For myself, taking everything I learned in NotW and adding it to WMF, I see one beautiful tale, written in prose and verse sweet enough to charm anyone interested in a good story.
And that's what Wise Man's Fear is. Better, even, than "good." It's complex, elegant, hilarious, devastating, tense, dark, mysterious, and many more adjectives. It's not a book that stands on its own, but its the middle piece to a three-piece puzzle. The story is the most important thing, and Rothfuss is spinning a wonderful yarn.
All of this is not to say that I didn't have problems with WMF. Do I feel like there was a lot of extraneous stuff? Maybe, but is that necessarily a bad thing? How often do we fall in love with things (book series, tv shows, video games, etc.) and wish we had more? We long for special features and extended scenes. Why else would there be a Saw VI and two video games to boot? Could plenty of this stuff have been edited out and the story still be the same? Yes. But did I enjoy it all? Absolutely.
I'm willing to wade through lots of boring stuff if the story's good, and Rothfuss's extra scenes are not boring. In the end, what I can say about Wise Man's Fear is that its long, and if you get frustrated at a story that likes to simmer and slow-boil instead of splash out on the stove, then you may be irked, but you'll be entertained, as well. If you liked The Name of the Wind you'll like this book. I know I did.
(If you would like to read a more in-depth analysis, as well as some specific things I liked from the book, click here to go to my blog's review.)(less)
From my blog on 5/22/09... A series review ------------------------------------------------------- I do not remember who recommended the Mistborn series...moreFrom my blog on 5/22/09... A series review ------------------------------------------------------- I do not remember who recommended the Mistborn series to me, but I am glad they did. After finishing the third and final volume of the series, The Hero of Ages, I feel the urge to recommend this series.
Mistborn was written by Brandon Sanderson, a relatively new author to the fantasy world. Sanderson’s series received wonderful praise by many colleagues and reviewers, and I want to join my voice with them. Mistborn was a powerful story, one I could visualize with every paragraph. Sanderson’s portrayal of the world and its workings is completely believable, and I found myself riveted by the story.
The series begins with Mistborn: The Final Empire. In this book the world is ruled by a cruel emperor called the Lord Ruler. He is the God of the people and of the lands. He is the result of what happens when a Hero takes the power at the Well of Ascension and uses it for himself. The world is eradicated of culture, religion, happiness, and basic humanity.
In the Final Empire, there are two classes of people: nobility and skaa. Skaa live lives worse than slaves of old, and they are the ones that do the daily labor of cleaning the Empire.
In the Final Empire, ash falls continually, piling onto the streets and fields daily. Skaa must clean the ash before they can begin their work. And then at night, the mists come out. There are things in the mists that skaa and nobility fear, and so no one goes out into them. No one, that is, except for Kelsier, the Survivor of Hathsin.
Kelsier’s fame spreads throughout the skaa, and he preaches a message of rebellion. He hates the Lord Ruler and wishes to free the skaa. And the things he can do is supernatural. He can fly through the sky, play on people’s emotions, move with incredible speed and resilience, and many other things. Kelsier is Mistborn.
The system of “magic” developed for this series is very well thought out, and quite simple to understand rather quickly. I’ll admit, at first I was slightly confused about what was going on (and even a little unsure whether or not I liked it), but I overcame those thoughts rapidly.
The story, beginning with The Final Empire, becomes more and more exciting with each passage. I found myself reading whenever I had the opportunity.
To keep this simple, I will say nothing of books two or three, save that they were phenomenal. After finishing the first volume, I immediately bought the second, Mistborn: The Well of Ascension, and started on it; and, hungrily I moved on to the concluding work, Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, after finishing book two.
The story is interwoven and grandiose. Themes of love and trust and betrayal dominate the characters.
My final offering of praise and recommendation goes like this: if you enjoyed The Name of the Wind by Pat Rothfuss, then you will love Mistborn. Both of these authors have found a way to transcend the typical fantasy mold and create a masterpiece. In fact, Pat put in a word for it back when he was doing the Heifer Project.
Finally, after finishing the series, I started thinking about a movie. Wow, this series would make for an excellent movie, be it Hollywood or the Sci-Fi channel.
So, friends, take this series and read it when you get a chance. It ranks as one of the best series’ I’ve read in a long time. Give it a try, you won't regret it.(less)
The Lord of the Rings is arguably the most important work in fantasy. Tolkien's masterpiece is generally considered the foundation for so many aspects...moreThe Lord of the Rings is arguably the most important work in fantasy. Tolkien's masterpiece is generally considered the foundation for so many aspects of modern fantasy that it's beyond the scope of this reviewer to even consider. His works inspired countless carbon copies, some good, many terrible, but not a one as wonderful as The Lord of the Rings.
I first read The Fellowship of the Ring in 2000. I was graduating junior high and just discovering fantasy. A friend bought the entire trilogy, plus The Hobbit, and once he'd read them he loaned them to me. As an eighth grader, my understanding of the book was rudimentary at best, picking up on the obvious, but losing much of the beauty. I was concerned with The Quest, to see Frodo and Sam make it to Mt. Doom and destroy the Ring and free Middle Earth. The importance of the journey, though, I mostly missed out on. Now, years later, I've finally began re-reading the series.
I imagine nearly everyone knows what The Lord of the Rings is about, but for the sake of normalcy, I'll give a brief summation. In short, the Dark Lord Sauron is searching for his lost Ring of Power and a group of heroes is trying to destroy it before the Shadow can rise again. While this may sound trite, I offer that it is far from it, that Tolkien was deliberate in his story and that he was the originator* of the cliche.
As I mentioned before, I didn't fully enjoy the journey on my first read-through of The Fellowship of the Ring. This time, however, I relished in it. The quirky songs that seemed to erupt at any given time. The odd and ancient Tom Bombadil and his beautiful Goldberry. The dreams of Boromir for Gondor. The longing in Aragorn's voice. The mystery behind Gandalf. The omnipresent optimistic hobbits and their desire for food and comfort. And this only scratches the surface. While some say that Tolkien used too many words (do trees really deserve that much description?), I think that without the lengthy prose the tale would not be what it is.
Another thing I became fascinated with while re-reading this was the mythology of Middle Earth. Tolkien's worldbuilding is so enormous and vast that some colleges offer courses on it. He created many races, each with their own language or languages. Many had their own histories and legends as well, not to mention architecture style and culture. Tolkien was a renown philologist, and his creation of the many languages adds to the "reality" of Middle Earth. I loved hearing old Elven tales or Dwarven history. I even enjoyed the bits of hobbit history, though it was scarce.
It's impossible to not compare the book to Peter Jackson's superb 2002 movie. Some fans do not like the omissions the film makes, and to an extent I agree. Would I liked to have seen Tom Bombadil or Farmer Maggot? Could Lothlorien or Moria have been better done? Yes. But do I dislike the movie? A resounding no I say. I love it. I think Jackson did a heck of a job making his trilogy and it's atop my list of favorite films. Still, reading the books offers plenty of surprises and differences from the movies, and this re-read helped me see a few of the things I had forgotten.
There is absolutely nothing I dislike about The Fellowship of the Ring. The characters develop nicely through the plot, growing as they transform from rubes to world-weary travelers. There is a quote somewhere in the book about Middle Earth's history being filled with sad tales, and reading The Fellowship of the Ring certainly carries a heavy, tragic tone. Yet, through it all, there is a glimmer of hope, of defeating Sauron and destroying the Ring, and this chance keeps the reader glued to the pages.
If you've never read The Lord of the Rings, then I easily recommend you do so. Tolkien's command of the writing done masterfully, such that there are few dull moments in the book. The story is epic and genre-setting, as evidenced by nearly every run-of-the-mill fantasy book from 1955 until recently. You may think watching the movies are good enough, but I urge you to explore deeper into Tolkien's genius and see the wonderful world he has made.
------- *I realize Tolkien got his inspiration from surrounding myths, but that's beside the point.(less)