It is almost unfair for me to have expected this book to be as good as its predecessor. I absolutely loved The Fifth Knight when I read it a few yearsIt is almost unfair for me to have expected this book to be as good as its predecessor. I absolutely loved The Fifth Knight when I read it a few years ago. I fell in love with the characters of Theodosia and Palmer. It was such a great book that I am afraid to read it again because it might not be as good as I remember it.
The Blood of the Fifth Knight, while entertaining, was just not as great as I found The Fifth Knight to be. There are several reasons for that, which again, are somewhat unfair, because how can I expect the author to basically rewrite the first book?
Let me just point out a few comparisons between the two books which left me disappointed in this one:
-Theodosia and Palmer's relationship has a totally different status quo in in book 2. Book 1's was very compelling, because they were getting to know each other, going from not trusting each other, even hating each other, to slowly falling in love despite their best efforts. It was a compelling, character-driven subplot. In book 2, all that is resolved and there's no conflict between them at all. While it is really the only way the story could go on for a second book, I have to say my favorite part of book 1 was their relationship, and in this book their relationship is a given that never changes.
-Book 1 seemed much less scattered in its storytelling. This has to do with Palmer and Theodosia being split up almost the entirety of book 2, and therefore having separate (while related) story-lines. In book 1, we got to see Theodosia and Palmer both from their own perspectives, and the perspectives of the other, which was very interesting to read and gave a fuller picture of their characters.
-We also occasionally go to Raoul de Faye for some important explanations of what's going on, but those are not very compelling sections because nothing happens except him thinking about his plans.
-In book 1, Fitzurse was such a great, hateable antagonist. None of the bad guys in book 2 can quite capture that level of coolness and evilness. He makes a short appearance in a flashback in book 2, and even then he outshone everyone else.
Lastly, and there is a spoiler for this book ahead, let's talk about (view spoiler)[Joan. From pretty much her first appearance, I figured she was lying and had evil intent. However, certain things in the narration made me think that the author was telling me that no, she actually was trustworthy. Not in a misdirection, oh you just read too much into it kind of way, but in that way where an author seems to say without a doubt that you shouldn't worry about this character. Of course, Joan turned out to be evil. I felt a little manipulated. Maybe I read too much into that narration that told me "don't worry about her" (not a direct quote at all). But there were no real clues, nothing in Joan's character, that could have tipped me off, or at least that would have fallen into place when she finally was revealed as evil. There was no "remember this and this and this? You thought it meant this, but it really means I'm evil." It was just her acting one way and then dropping it. And maybe I just missed it, but I'm guessing Joan killed Lady Ordell? I don't recall that being explicitly stated. How the heck did she manage that? (hide spoiler)]
OK, so there's my review. Not a bad read at all, but disappointing for me since I loved the first one so much. Maybe I just loved it for the budding romance, which is not present in book 2. I will give book 3 a try, but I will not hold out hope that it can recapture the way I felt about book 1.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm going to write a really long review for a book that probably doesn't merit one, but with all of the five-star reviews here I'd like to just pointI'm going to write a really long review for a book that probably doesn't merit one, but with all of the five-star reviews here I'd like to just point out everything that bothered me about it. Maybe see if I'm the crazy one for these things sticking out to me.
I can't say this is a terribly well-written book, but there were elements of the story and characters that were strong and kept me slogging through. For a book that isn't that long or dense it took me a long time to get through it; it simply was not super-pleasurable to read. I have not read any of the author's previous work, so I don't know if his writing style is just a choice for this novel or if this is how all of his novels are. Either way, the sentences are so short and simple that it gives The Queen's Poisoner a choppy feel that really slowed me down. I can't say with certainty but there were simply no long sentences. It was all quite straightforward and blunt, chopping up thoughts and action into so many small sentences at the expense of a good narrative flow. You could take two, three, four of his short sentences and put them into a single, flowing sentence. I get it if that's a choice to mirror the mind of our 8 year old protagonist--but even so it's a choice that got old fast for me, and made me almost feel talked down to; plus, as I'll point out later, much of the dialogue is vastly superior to the narration, which makes me think it was a purposeful choice to write in such painfully simple sentences.
The writing is often redundant too, with such dialogue descriptors like "she whispered quietly", as though we would have thought the whispering was loud? (Of course a whisper can be loud, but given the context why would anyone assume anything besides it being quiet?) The author over-describes certain actions and lines of dialogue that don't need extra clarification, making me quite often say "What else did you expect me to think?" I think there's a trick with writing where you just need to trust your writing as well as the reader, and pull back on description at the expense of beating the audience over the head with the obvious.
Another thing that bothered me is the seemingly limited vocabulary (it seems purposeful--or just unimaginative?) used by the author, as well as repeated phrases that pop up in the actions of certain characters. This is not bad in and of itself, but it really annoyed me. There are at least a dozen times that people say a line of dialogue "gruffly." Voices and people "ghost" up to others (never heard that word used as a verb before, not sure if it's real?). Almost every appearance of Ankarette includes her folding her hands in her lap, possibly multiple times in the same scene. Again, maybe I'm too sensitive to this stuff--all of the five star reviews here would indicate that nobody else really noticed or cared.
The strength of this book, I think, lies in some of the characters (not all! which I will get to), as well as, perhaps unusually, the dialogue. Characters like Evie and King Severn are perhaps the most attention-grabbing, followed possibly by Mancini. These characters all have a bit of danger to them--you're not sure what they're going to do next (of course for 8 year-old Evie, it's more about what brash and mischievous thing she will do; with Severn, it's about what is making him tick, and if he is a good or evil person; with Mancini, it's about whose side is he on, and can you trust him). On the other hand, some of the more "important" characters are way less interesting: namely--and you might laugh when I say this--Owen, our main protagonist, ostensibly whom this series will follow from childhood to adulthood; and Ankarette, who is the titular character of this novel. Neither of them seem particularly multi-dimensional, and while Owen does go through a little transformation from beginning to end (going from a tongue-tied, nervous nelly who is overwhelmed by his surroundings, to a... somewhat less-tongue-tied nervous nelly who is not so overwhelmed anymore), it's not really that satisfying and he has no mystery or unpredictability to him; likewise, Ankarette is pretty predictable once you get to know her, and sometimes seems like she's only there to dispense backstory and work behind the scenes to propel the plot.
The best thing this novel has going for it is the dialogue, which is actually quite good, and is the only reason (along with the good characters mentioned above) that I give a rating of two stars instead of one. King Severn, especially, shines through his dialogue, which shows his conflicted nature. The scenes that are dialogue heavy are easily the best, including the big scene at the end when Owen tells him his last dream. I think the dialogue has the harmful effect of making the narration look extra-poor. I really wish the narration had not been so bare-bones simple.
I'm not sure if I'll spring for book 2 in the series. I might, if the writing style becomes more grown up along with Owen. However I don't think I can make myself go through another installment of the series if it's written like The Queen's Poisoner.
Well, there you have it. You can trust me, one of maybe three people to rate this book under five stars, or all the folks who say that this is a very good book. I know who I would trust!...more
Often laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally boring, but always insightful, Paris to the Moon is a book I randomly decided to read on vacation, because IOften laugh-out-loud funny, occasionally boring, but always insightful, Paris to the Moon is a book I randomly decided to read on vacation, because I like reading travel stories. This collection of essays is most intriguing when examining the day-to-day life of an American in Paris, especially when Gopnik writes about the experiences of his very young son. Reading about the differences between French and American attitudes was very insightful, giving me a deeper understanding of the love/hate relationship between our two countries. For instance: the French generally derive value from their work, where Americans derive value from what we buy; in the ideal French world, workers would exist without having to deal with customers, whereas in the ideal American world, we could buy goods and services without ever having to interact with employees (which, at least from my American point of view, seemed fairly accurate). Another interesting example being the absence of a sporting culture in France; whereas in the USA, I can strike up a conversation with practically anyone by saying "How about that home team?"; whereas in France that conversational bridge is made by talking about politics. According to Gopnik, Anti-Americanism in Paris is generally something that is present in conversation--it's easy to beat up on McDonalds and the arrogant American imperialist--and yet this sentiment does not seem to go much deeper than words, as there is a deep love of American music and culture in Paris.
The best essays, as I mentioned before, have to do with simple, day-to-day family life, such as Gopnik's Christmas journals (apparently it's impossible to find a string of Christmas lights in Paris, they only come in "garlands"), and his account of trying to steer his son away from Barney the dinosaur. The weakest essays are the ones that go the least personal; for example, there are a couple of essays about restaurants and cooking and fresh produce in Paris, and I got to a point of boredom where I just skimmed.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you like French culture, Paris, travel, and other cultures's viewpoint of Americans. It's quite interesting and very entertaining through most of the essays....more
This is the first Grisham novel I've read, and I've been wanting to read it because I have wanted to read Grisham and I love baseball. While the storyThis is the first Grisham novel I've read, and I've been wanting to read it because I have wanted to read Grisham and I love baseball. While the story itself contained within Calico Joe was fairly good and was short and entertaining, the writing itself was not very good, leading me to assume that Grisham's other work has got to be much better for something like this to slide through.
Like I said, the story in and of itself is quite intriguing. A rookie phenom, a pitcher past his prime, the pitcher's neglected son and the tragedy that binds them for over thirty years is the book's selling point. But the characters and the writing is often lacking in depth and quality.
The book is written in an almost journalistic style, from the first person viewpoint of Paul Tracey, the son of big league pitcher Warren Tracey. The narrator goes back and forth between the 1973 season and the present, detailing the rise and fall of his father and the rookie star "Calico" Joe Castle, as well as the narrator's present day journey to bring his father and Joe together.
Characters in this book are shallow, one-note, and have very little of an arc. Paul, the narrator, is cold, bitter, and condescendingly hostile to his father. He is justified, as his father was gone for much of his childhood, and when he was around was abusive; but this one-note hostility towards his father gets old very fast. Every chapter contains a paragraph or several paragraphs that amount to "I don't love my father and never will forgive him for what he did to me." Even by the end of the book, where you would have expected at least some shift from the narrator in his feelings towards his father, he still spouts out the same anger and self-righteous lines that he did on page one. There is no complexity to this anger either, just "He was abusive and abandoned me so I have no sympathy, love, or even liking for this man, and have no desire to understand him as a human being beyond that."
Paul's one-note anger is only somewhat worse than the characterization of Warren, his father, but I will say that Warren's journey was the most interesting part of the book, as he goes through an actual transformation from a terrible SOB into a less terrible SOB with a few qualities that we may even like. Of course these developments have no effect on Paul's viewpoint towards him, which constantly frustrated me as a reader, because I expected the father/son relationship to have some kind of an arc, but it really didn't. It was the same on page 1 as it was at the end of the book.
In addition to the lack of depth in characterization, and perhaps even contributing to that, is the unbelievably wooden dialogue. I have to wonder if the dialogue in Grisham's other novels is like this, because it is so unbelievably bad in Calico Joe that I can't imagine a skilled author letting it get published.
Paul's dialogue is especially bad, and contributes to his self-righteously-indignant and condescending character being so one-note. I would say 90% of Paul's dialogue to his father includes him addressing him as "Warren," which comes across as almost comical when they are having back-and-forth conversations. It makes Paul sound so condescending that I was really, really hoping that there would be some twist in the book where Paul has some kind of revelation that he shouldn't be such an SOB himself. But that never happened.
Overall I enjoyed this book, and it was a quick read, but there is no depth of characterization here, and I feel like the only thing that will really get you through this book is if you love baseball and are intrigued by the story of two ill-fated big leaguers. Non-baseball fans will be instantly turned off by the narrator and the wooden dialogue, as there is little complexity or depth to the relationships of the characters, or their arcs....more
This is the kind of fantasy I like -- excitement and adventure and magic and great world building without people being cut in half and women getting rThis is the kind of fantasy I like -- excitement and adventure and magic and great world building without people being cut in half and women getting raped every other chapter. What really speaks well for this book is the fact that I actually read it to the end, considering its length (no joke, I stopped reading Game of Thrones 75% through). When I showed it to my brother in Barnes and Noble and said I was reading it, he looked at the sheer thickness of the book and the small typeface and said "Why would you do that to yourself?" And upon finishing it, I felt compelled to brag to my mother that I had finished a big book.
My rating of 3 stars belies how much I liked The Name of the Wind, and I now realize that the rating system in my mind is based on how much I liked the book, and how much I was frustrated when the author did not execute the book as well as he proved he could have. Such is the case with The Name of the Wind, which I would say is 80% well written, engaging, and memorable, while 20% reads like a first draft, or like the author was rushing through to get to the next part, or like he was writing beyond his abilities. Specifically, whenever Kvothe talked about Denna, his love interest, it rang really hokey to me, like adult Kvothe had no self-awareness or personal growth looking back on his 15 year-old self. I'll elaborate later.
Minor, minor spoilers ahead. Don't be a baby, just read them...
Firstly, I did not have too much trouble with the framing of the story, which was off-putting at first but I got used to it. You'll notice that the book is "Day One" of the Kingkiller Chronicles. Well, this is because Kvothe, our main character, is telling the story to Chronicler, a scribe, and each book is a day's worth of his dictation. So the book starts off with several chapters of 3rd person narration, sets up a story with demons and stuff, and then goes into Kvothe telling his life story in 1st person. We don't learn what's going on with the demons and stuff for the rest of the book, but I trust Rothfuss will develop it later on. Take it for what is it. So we begin a new story with Kvothe as a child, going through the beginning of his education at the university.
The story really picks up once he gets to the university. Kvothe makes friends as well as enemies! He struggles with poverty, and gets a loan from a dangerous moneylender in town to be able to afford going to school. He plays music, and dazzles folks at the local taverns with his skill. He almost gets killed by... well I'll not spoil anything.
Here's my problem with the book. At about 75-80% through (I'm reading on the Kindle so don't have page numbers), Kvothe hears about a wedding that ended in tragedy, and he suspects it's the Chandrian, evil mythical creatures that seem to be forming as the overall antagonists of the series. It's made up to be this big huge deal, and he goes through all this trouble to go 70 miles up the road to investigate. Once he's there, he meets his love interest Denna, and they find a Draccus (like a dragon who eats firewood instead of people?) who might endanger a nearby city. So from like the 80% mark to the 90% mark is this side excursion of them trying to kill this draccus, all the while forgetting about the Chandrian entirely (the whole reason he was there!). To make it more unbearable, Kvothe goes on and on about how much he was infatuated with Denna, and we get lines like "It was the best moment of my life when she touched my arm" (not an exact quote, but it's close).
Now Kvothe as he's telling this story is supposed to be like 25-30 years old, reflecting back on when he was 15 or so. Yet he never makes fun of himself or comments on his past behavior, almost as though he has not grown as a human being in over ten years. I can tell you if I were to tell a story about myself even five years ago I'd be criticizing myself and making light of things I took seriously left and right. But Kvothe seems stuck as a 15 year old when it comes to women, and that didn't ring true to me.
Perhaps it's a bigger issue with the book's handling of female characters in general. You'll notice in The Name of the Wind that any female character of note is young, attractive, and usually waifish or pixie-like in their appearance. Denna is the flighty, unattainable beauty who goes around with every guy but lights up around Kvothe. Fela is the helpless but intelligent (and beautiful!) girl who needs to be rescued by Kvothe. Auri is the gentle waif who lost her mind and needs Kvothe's companionship. Etcetera. I'm not here to make a huge deal about it but it stood out to me. Not that these characters are badly written, or that it is wrong to write about young, beautiful women, but what I'm saying is that all the women who appear for more than two pages in this book are young, lithe, and attractive. Perhaps this is just an element of the genre that I should get used to.
At any rate, once the whole draccus detour is wrapped up, there's a kind of quick, "Oh, right, the Chandrian!" ... but then it's back to the University.
However, Rothfuss regained my attention with the stunning climactic scenes at the end. I was glued to the book at the end, and thought it was really well written. It's a shame you have to go through several chapters of low-stakes, unexciting side-adventure to get back to the good stuff.
So I bought book 2, and I'm going to read it. Rothfuss, despite his few shortcomings in book one, has won my trust and has hooked me into this world of Kvothe. I can't wait to see what lies in book two.
Overall I recommend it, it's a great fantasy book and is worth it!...more
This is an excellent book; I can't believe I stopped reading it about 30% of the way in and left it for two years. (minor spoiler in the next sentenceThis is an excellent book; I can't believe I stopped reading it about 30% of the way in and left it for two years. (minor spoiler in the next sentence, and a few more throughout I guess?) The book was a little depressing for me when I left off, which is right when Theo leaves New York for Las Vegas with his father and Xandra, and maybe I wasn't emotionally in the right place for it. For that first 30-40% of the book, Donna Tartt crafts such a feeling of rootlessness, of having nowhere to feel safe and at home, that I guess two years ago I just couldn't take reading a book that was going to exist in that world for too long. I know, I'm a wimp.
Since I picked it up again a week or two ago, I have been consuming it ravenously. I realized that despite such a long break, I remembered pretty much every major event that had happened up to that point, and most of the minor details; I think that speaks to how much this book will get under your skin.
It's such an exciting, engrossing book. For about the first half, it feels loosely plotted: it's very difficult to see how different actions are influencing each other or how they are important to the story; but then the threads all start to come back, and you realize that everything that happened at the beginning was essential to the huge events that would happen later. The last third of the book is so thrilling I found it hard to put down--and I'm the kind of person who doesn't feel that way often about a book.
And yet, though The Goldfinch's second half has thrills and tight plotting, it still takes its time to be thoughtful and explore the inner workings of the narrator, Theo. I think this is what sets The Goldfinch apart--the action isn't the point of the book, the action isn't manufactured for the purposes of keeping the reader excited--it's just the consequence of what Theo has done for the past fourteen years, the inevitable result of his choices and how they have shaped his character. Which is starting to sound like an English 101 explanation of what literary fiction is... I guess I am just struck by how expansive the book is, yet at the same time how tightly it is written. It's hard to understand without reading it yourself. Donna Tartt's writing is so effortless and flowing that it is incredible. It's really not surprising that The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer.
Though I give it five stars, I can't say it's perfect, just mostly perfect. The ending left me wanting more direct resolution with certain characters (mostly Pippa), and by "direct resolution" I mean another scene with them where a more developed "ending" would happen; though I understand Tartt's choice to resolve these things in the indirect, from-afar way that she did--I just wished she hadn't. But is that a fault of the book or just a choice I don't like?
I can't recommend The Goldfinch enough. I am going to re-read the first 30% again to see what I forgot. Maybe I'll read the whole thing again.
But I recommend you reading it without a two-year break in the middle....more
Like many other reviewers have said, this book might not be the most interesting for life-long baseball fans, but even so, I think a seasoned fan willLike many other reviewers have said, this book might not be the most interesting for life-long baseball fans, but even so, I think a seasoned fan will pick up a few interesting tid-bits here and there.
I am not exactly new to baseball, but I never watched it regularly until this season. Some chapters in this book were skimmable for me, since I knew a lot of the things he was talking about, but sometimes they are still worth a read because of the humor Hample interjects.
The real great thing about this book are the interesting facts that might not be obvious from watching the game, and perhaps not even a regular fan would know. For example, if the catcher gets hit with a pitch, the umpire will dust off the plate to give him time to recover. Inversely, if the ump gets hit with a pitch, the catcher will go to the mound for a moment to give him time to recover.
I recommend it to all baseball fans. It's short enough and funny enough to be worth the read, even if you don't get much new info from it. ...more
I didn't actually finish this book, but I got tired of it and stopped reading. It is occasionally funny, but the sarcastic style got old with me afterI didn't actually finish this book, but I got tired of it and stopped reading. It is occasionally funny, but the sarcastic style got old with me after a while. ...more
Disturbing, engaging, and provocative, this novel is a first-person account of a sheriff's deputy in a small town in Texas, who kills for seemingly noDisturbing, engaging, and provocative, this novel is a first-person account of a sheriff's deputy in a small town in Texas, who kills for seemingly no reason. He takes pleasure in evading the authorities (ironically his employer), and playing a character that nobody could believe would kill anyone.
This book is not for the faint-of-heart. The murders that Lou Ford, the narrator, commit in this novel are so brutal that you'll likely not forget them soon. His victims trust him (or even love him) so much, and his method of murder (beating them to death with his bare hands) is so awful, that by the time you get halfway through the book, you hate his guts and are hoping he'll die in a wood-chipper or something.
That makes it very satisfying towards the end of the book, when in the narration Ford continually says things to the effect that he isn't scared, or isn't bothered by the police tracking him down, but you can tell that he's lying and is actually in fear of his life.
One thing that's a little difficult about this book is that there really isn't anyone that is sympathetic. The only character who comes close is Jeff Plummer, who figures out Ford's game and coolly works to trap him. Other than that, everyone is either despicable, unlikeable, or not developed enough to like them.
Then again, this genre of novel isn't really about heroes. It's about getting into the mind of a sociopath killer, and watching the traditional murder mystery genre from the other side of things.
It's a fun book, but it could occasionally get tiring; while a great deal of the book is good story telling, another good chunk of it is randomness, aIt's a fun book, but it could occasionally get tiring; while a great deal of the book is good story telling, another good chunk of it is randomness, and I almost felt like the point of those chapters was to appreciate how imaginative Douglas Adams could be, stringing together as many arbitrary images as possible. And while I suppose I was impressed, it did nothing to improve the story. This book is at its best when it's actually telling a story, rather than going into elaborate descriptions of random things. Also, Adams has a great way of writing hilariously dry one-liners, such as (not exact quote) "A look of amazement failed to cross anyone's face," and the part where he talks about avoiding any kind of suspense by revealing that in a certain life-or-death scene, the only injuries sustained by any of the characters is one of them getting a bruised arm. Doesn't sound funny when I talk about it, but it's funny on paper, trust me.
Full disclosure: I didn't "read" the book, but listened to it on CD, which was extra fun because Douglas Adams himself narrated it. He reads his book well, I must say, and brings a great deal of energy to it, perhaps more than I've ever heard in an audio book before.
What an exciting book. The narrative voice is interesting, the plot is tight without the novel feeling like a formulaic plot-driven novel, the charactWhat an exciting book. The narrative voice is interesting, the plot is tight without the novel feeling like a formulaic plot-driven novel, the characters are well-developed. This book is simply exciting and it was one of the few books I've read recently that was hard to put down. This is the first McEwan book I've read, and I plan to read more by him. Recommended....more