My first thought about this book was: The commas are all wrong.
There were many parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The scenery and western f...moreMy first thought about this book was: The commas are all wrong.
There were many parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The scenery and western feel to the book were done well; I truly felt as if I were reading a true account of 1850s California. (though the parts in San Francisco seemed unusually relevant to our own time...) The plot moved mostly quick enough, and the book's length was quite appropriate.
The part of the book you notice, though, is the tone. The main character's first-person narrative is written in such a reserved, unemotional, deadpan manner that it really takes some adjusting to get used to it. Once you do, though, it almost forces you to explore those feelings yourself, and to try to figure out what you think the character should be emoting. I have some thoughts that perhaps the main character fits somewhere on the autism scale, and that adds a new depth to the story; at times, it reminded me of Of Mice and Men.
Really, I just felt it was a very strong book; not one I would call a "favorite", but still one I was happy to have read. The first western I've read in a very long time.(less)
Since my only other experience with Pynchon was his epic Against the Day, something like five times as long as this, I was unsure what to expect from...moreSince my only other experience with Pynchon was his epic Against the Day, something like five times as long as this, I was unsure what to expect from this book. While not having the same sprawling scope or historical fascination as that novel, there is still plenty of mystery, humor, and paranoia. Even though it required more concentration than many of the novels I've recently read, it was a beguiling tale that I was eager to dive into.
If you're a fan of Pynchon, mid-century contemporary literature, conspiratorial mysteries, or (especially!) stream-of-consciousness novels, you should check this out.
There's also a whole separate topic about how I really need to read more mid-century literature (50s, 60s, 70s). I was shocked at the use of "groovy" in a completely serious context. But that's a discussion for another day...(less)
I wanted to like this book so much -- highly recommended, great subject matter, well-written, etc. The subject matter itself was great. It just skirte...moreI wanted to like this book so much -- highly recommended, great subject matter, well-written, etc. The subject matter itself was great. It just skirted a little too far from its map roots for my taste.
What doomed it in the end was what it wasn't. There were few maps; none worth looking at. Instead, it was a series of vignettes about various geographic topics. I had expected this, I know, but I still found most of the book rather dull. I enjoyed doing my own research to expand upon the trivia and anecdotes more than reading the book itself. In fact, that's why it took so long to finish -- I'd leave and look something up, and never return. (Though I think this says more about me than it does about the book.)
I think I'm also losing my taste for a lot of "string of anecdotes around a particular topic" non-fiction... I think I need to head back toward the more research-based works I abandoned during college. This, instead, just felt like fluff.(less)
This book is about as pop-history as you can get. It's kind of like the reality show equivalent of a true historical/cultural book. No citations, lots...moreThis book is about as pop-history as you can get. It's kind of like the reality show equivalent of a true historical/cultural book. No citations, lots of throwaway facts, lots of feelings and random observations that I did not care for. I don't think the book was poorly researched -- quite the opposite -- but I think it could have been written with a little more serious audience in mind.
At the same time, the topic is so fascinating, that it would be hard for me to not read this book. London is an intriguing city, I love history, and urban archaeology is a growing interest of mine, so this book absolutely piqued my interest. There were so many fascinating facts and stories about the past -- did you know there are fully forty-four unused tube stations?? -- I learned something random and new on every page.
Could have been even better, but still a fun read regardless.(less)
I often worry about the health of my favorite authors. If Douglas Adams hadn't died at the age of 49, just think of what he could have done! Of living...moreI often worry about the health of my favorite authors. If Douglas Adams hadn't died at the age of 49, just think of what he could have done! Of living authors, Terry Pratchett perhaps concerns me the most, with his posterior cortical atrophy (related to Alzheimer's). It's upsetting to think about what will happen when he can no longer produce a new book once a year, right on schedule, for infinity. A sad day for comedic and fantasy literature, and really for book fans everywhere.
In any case, the reason we care so much is just because of how good the work is that he turns out. Perhaps "good" isn't the right word here, since it's more like a homecoming. The familiar stories, with their familiar characters, themes, style, and humor make every Discworld book a pleasure to read, like a favorite armchair or wine.
This installment is perhaps a bit more tired than others -- the story follows many similar themes, and has quite a few callbacks, to the previous Vimes book, Thud! -- but in the end, the story is more localized, more character-driven, and is less unfollowable than the ending of Thud!
So, yes, much familiar ground, almost all familiar characters, and a complete lack of stalwart Pratchett favorites such as Death, but still a great book. With an inevitably-dwindling number of Discword novels left, it's always fun to spend some more time with the City Watch.(less)
That said, the big payoff was Chapter 3. Here is where the DOM interaction comes into play, and the ideas of repainting and reflowing the page were examined. There are also some interesting parts in Ch 5 (regexes) and 6 (timers) if you're not already familiar with the performance aspects of those features.
I'd recommend intermediate and some advanced JS folks to skim certain chapters; just watch out for the speed tests -- use jsperf.com instead!(less)
Still one of my favorite and most up-to-date JS books, and I recommend everyone read it, and if you read the old edition, read the new chapters!
(I did read the new paperback edition, sorry I am lazy and did not create a new edition for it, though it shares this cover...)(less)
This was one of the must fun books I have read in a long time! Mark Forsyth offers up an incredible number of anecdotes and stories about the origins...moreThis was one of the must fun books I have read in a long time! Mark Forsyth offers up an incredible number of anecdotes and stories about the origins of the words and phrases we use in everyday life. Thoroughly enjoyable, whether reading just a few pages, or a longer section. Even if you aren't a big word buff, the historical tales were amusing and enjoyable to read.
The only reason this drops a star is because it's just a little too un-serious for me. There's a lot of wordplay in the text (I guess that's to be expected), and he plays fast and loose with the sourcing (he admits as much in the back, but still). It's not a serious, scholarly work, but I imagine that's a plus for most people.
Regardless, I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone who speaks English -- that's you! -- but you don't even have to read the whole thing. The book is formatted in small pieces (typically 2-3 pages) which make it a great book to pick up during lunch or a break. I guarantee you'll learn something new! (i.e., "Guarantee" and "Warranty" came from the same origin word, because in Medieval times, the "g" and "w" sounds were often confused!)(less)
This is a beautiful book. Even in translation, the skill and care that went into every sentence is obvious. The book was able to wring out so many emo...moreThis is a beautiful book. Even in translation, the skill and care that went into every sentence is obvious. The book was able to wring out so many emotions that it could be hard to continue at times. There was so much to savor and explore in this book.
The story being told here is a traditional one, but it had the feeling of a story that can be told again and again and retain the magic that made is so special the first time. There were a few times when it descended to cliché, but those didn't really detract from the storytelling. The book also tended to tie itself up in knots with extended backstory, but I found that it didn't interfere with the story either. I'm sure there were some plot holes, too, if you looked hard enough, but I decided not to. I very much enjoyed losing myself in post-war Barcelona.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a powerhouse of Spanish literature, and I can see why. This is a book I could have read straight through, and I very nearly did. Highly recommended for fans of historical novels, love stories, and everyone in between.(less)
This book was recommended to me from a whole bunch of people, so I couldn't not read it eventually.
I'm impressed how fresh the series seems, despite...moreThis book was recommended to me from a whole bunch of people, so I couldn't not read it eventually.
I'm impressed how fresh the series seems, despite treading over incredibly familiar territories. That said, it had its fair share of clichés and predictable outcomes. They were a few places where it delved into territory that made me think, "Oh, that's Harry Potter" or "Oh, that's Wheel of Time", but it wasn't too bad. The writing was great, and it had a nice mix of action and world-building.
What was odd, though, was that I found myself caring more about the framing story than about the flashbacks that make up most of the novel. While I was excited about the story, perhaps I was excited too much about the wrong parts. There's no guarantee we'll get any substantial additions to the framing story. As I neared the end of the book, I thought to myself, "I can't wait to get this trilogy(!) out of the way so I can find out what actually happens next!" I guess I look at the three books planned as a prequel trilogy to a main story. In any case, I'm not sure I have the right attitude here.
In any case, a very strong high fantasy title that I would recommend to anyone looking for a new read in that genre. Nothing ground-breaking, but a very solid novel.(less)
I was pretty hesitant going into The Magicians; the main selling point. "It's a grittier Harry Potter!" falls flat with me. That premise alone was the...moreI was pretty hesitant going into The Magicians; the main selling point. "It's a grittier Harry Potter!" falls flat with me. That premise alone was the source of much of its popularity, and that worried me. Sadly, the first part of the book never did more than live up to the sales pitch. A secret school, classmates, a perfunctory mention of Quidditch, just a wink and a nod, and that's it.
The later parts, however, redeem the storytelling, and the book starts to stand on its own. This is especially apparent when it starts to explore the nature of depression and the poignant sadness of living in a world where the extraordinary only happens in the books you read. (view spoiler)[For much of the story, Quentin is given everything he could want, just for him to take and discard. Nothing ever is quite enough. The narrative doesn't provide resolution for Quentin's condition -- certainly doesn't put Quentin through the therapy that everyone acknowledges would help -- but leaves us with a lot of questions. (hide spoiler)]
Since we are stuck with Quentin's attitude and depression, at least the questions around it are raised, acknowledged, and discussed. Here is where the book is truly at its heart, and it also exposes a not-yet-tired metaphor for the post-college doldrums that have recently become such a popular topic. What do you do when the world can't match your expectations? What if college really was as good as it was going to get? How do you reclaim the happiness that's always been just out of reach?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)