A macabre fairy tale about a young woman who suffers much in her life time but is always persistant in fighting back against the fateful life that isA macabre fairy tale about a young woman who suffers much in her life time but is always persistant in fighting back against the fateful life that is set before her. A dwarf, cruel parents, a circus, a she-wolf, a hunter, a monster, a transformation... The book was unexpected and it turned into something I didn't expect it to, but not in an unpleasant way, in a surprising turn of events, the book takes you into the woods where stories like this have been set for thousands of years. Well worth your time. ...more
Knights, priests, Kings, Queens, orphans, demons: standard fantasy made special. Kate Elliott finds a way to make this feel fresh and intelligent. A lKnights, priests, Kings, Queens, orphans, demons: standard fantasy made special. Kate Elliott finds a way to make this feel fresh and intelligent. A less dense and more focused Wheel of Time-esque fantasy series. Filled with some fascinating Christian symbolism and religious social commentary. Two young heroes: Liath, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood who has fierce intelligence but a fear of a deep magic inside of her and Alain, a boy who hungers to be more than he comes from. Well worth your time....more
Like a breath of fresh air. This is the perfect book for when you're on the go. Each story is only 1 or 2 pages at most. Short poetic bursts of imaginLike a breath of fresh air. This is the perfect book for when you're on the go. Each story is only 1 or 2 pages at most. Short poetic bursts of imagination. One of the best books I've read all year. I consumed the entire thing in two sittings over the course of two days. I wanted them to keep on going forever. Joy Williams should be on your radar. Go out and buy this right away. ...more
I love this world. I love these characters. I dislike the way the plot unfolded. It felt too episodic and disjointed. As if it was a series of shorterI love this world. I love these characters. I dislike the way the plot unfolded. It felt too episodic and disjointed. As if it was a series of shorter works loosely linked together. That being said, I will return to this series because it has a kind of D&D/Grimdark feel to it. As if someone took Dragonlance and infused it with a bit of Joe Abercrombie. A pleasant summer distraction. I think the series will improve and based on Good Reads ratings, the second novel seems to be rated much higher than this first one. ...more
Jim Butcher has created a wonderful world filled with some very entertaining characters. And the idea of creating a "Wizard Detective" is fun. That beJim Butcher has created a wonderful world filled with some very entertaining characters. And the idea of creating a "Wizard Detective" is fun. That being said, this first book in the series didn't pull me in the way I was expecting it to. I think it is because the central mystery of this novel is weak. It takes far too long for that urgency that so many good mystery novels have to begin. I've been told by several people who are hardcore fans of Jim Butcher that this series picks up and vastly improves with the third or fourth novel, that the first two are a bit hit and miss. I'm willing to return to this universe, but maybe not right away. I think I need a bit of a break. ...more
I managed to read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed in a just under three days. The book is short, compelling, and insightful. Mr. Ronson exI managed to read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed in a just under three days. The book is short, compelling, and insightful. Mr. Ronson explores many different subjects: fame, shame, deception, social media, vanity, jealousy, anger, and more.
Mr. Ronson looks at the idea of public shame through a number of case studies: a racist joke tweet, an author caught out in a lie, a politician involved in a sex scandal. Mr. Ronson’s book is well researched and filled with some wonderful interviews.
The book has me reconsidering the ways in which I interact on social media. It will provide the reader with a moment of pause. I find myself analyzing the past ways in which I have helped shame/criticize other individuals online. How I have participated in a kind of mob-mentality, group-think, online harassment.
None of us (not just limited to those who participate in social media) are innocent. We are all of us guilty in how we judge others. It is so easy to jump on a bandwagon and participate in the public shaming of someone who has committed a perceived crime. To watch a person fall is often intoxicating. We feel better about ourselves. “I’d never do that. I could never be involved in something like that. That’s not me. I’m a better person.”
All of these thoughts have crossed my mind as I’ve watched someone fall from grace, as I’ve shared a link or RT’d a humorous observation. But the power of Mr. Ronson’s book is that it forces you (the reader) to reflect that, these same people who have fallen, they too were once like us, they too thought they knew better. A powerful book. Well worth reading. ...more
Datura by Leena Krohn is a wonderfully weird collection of inter-connected short stories. Our unnamed narrator works as an editor for a paranormal magDatura by Leena Krohn is a wonderfully weird collection of inter-connected short stories. Our unnamed narrator works as an editor for a paranormal magazine ‘The New Anomalist’. Tasked by her overbearing and eccentric boss ‘the Marquis’, a man who is obsessed with money but dislikes the very business he owns and operates, our narrator struggles to edit together various stories, interviews, news flash-bulletins, advice columns, and photographic essays, etc. The failing magazine is a hodge-podge collection of fantasy, science fiction, and madness.
Each story is only a few pages, short bursts of frenetic writing. An interview with a vampire, a lay scientist who believes that the universe is slowly collapsing, a man who only eats food based on their magnetic properties, and many other wild tales.
The stories are just short enough that you could take a five minute break from work and read one or two (though if you’re like me, you’ll likely want to keep on reading). There’s a kind of feeling of light or fancy that is underneath much of these stories, like you’re drunk but without any of the horrible hangover after-affects.
Definitely put this book on your radar. If you’re needing a break from some heavy reading and want to change up the pace of your reading, maybe get away from 400 or 500 page novels, this is just the cure. ...more
Joby Warrick provides a fascinating and engrossing history of the Rise of ISIS and one of its chief architects Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordian thug whJoby Warrick provides a fascinating and engrossing history of the Rise of ISIS and one of its chief architects Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordian thug whose career evolved from low-level criminality to world-wide terrorism.
While the subtitle of the book is ostensibly ‘The Rise of ISIS’, I felt that this was a bit of a miss. While the book does delve deep into the various political and cultural machinations that led to the rise of ISIS, in actuality the majority of this book chronicles the rise and hunt for terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The book charts his time in spent in prison, his Islamic radicalization, and eventual rise to leader of one of the most powerful and destructive terror cells on the planet.
The book is fast paced, well researched, and thorough. It is also easy to read and highly reccomended to anyone who wants a more nuanced view of the past 15 years of Middle East history.
The book features a large and varied cast: Statesmen, politicians, soldiers, generals, bureaucrats, Kings, Princes, businessmen, analysts, reporters, prisoners, terrorist sympathizers, CIA, FBI, etc. The hunt for Zarqawi is approached from many different perspectives and the book has the feel of a television serial. I read this particular book over the course of two and a half months. Pecking at it from time to time in twenty to thirty minute chunks.
A detailed and engaging book for anyone who wants to be better informed about this part of the world. ...more
One of fiction’s greatest detectives also has an older brother, his name being Mycroft. And while he might not be as well-loved as that other fictionaOne of fiction’s greatest detectives also has an older brother, his name being Mycroft. And while he might not be as well-loved as that other fictional detective, he is just as well-known and capable.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse have delivered a fascinating tale of intrigue that takes place across the world. Mycroft Holmes, accompanied by a close friend and his sometime manservant Douglas are whisked from the streets of London to Trinidad. The mystery at the heart of this novel: missing persons, dead children washed up on a beach drained of blood, and a blonde-haired woman with a mysterious past.
What I enjoyed most about this particular novel is that Mr. Jabbar and Ms. Waterhouse are not simply attempting to duplicate a Sherlock-esque adventure. Mycroft is an entirely different beast of a character. He is a rising politician, fussy by nature, and narrow-sighted. There are certainly some familial similarities between Mycroft and Sherlock, but this book is not about Sherlock. Mycroft does his fair share of “detection” but not in the same ways that Sherlock might. There is more statecraft and negotiation. Also, Sherlock is usually comfortable in all settings, Mycroft is not in his element for the majority of this novel and it’s wonderful to watch him attempt to keep his head on his shoulders as the obstacles mount up.
The heart of the novel touches upon the triangle slave-trade and the legacy of Britain’s involvement with that part of history. Side-line characters are drawn well and not merely stereotypical props. There is a sensitivity that might not be given to such characters had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle written this novel. Setting the majority of the novel in Trinidad gives this story a kind of James Bond 007 quality and that is a high compliment. I found myself engrossed from page one. The novel is fast-paced and entertaining. If you have any love for the Victorian era or anything related to the Sherlock Holmes universe, then this book is definitely worth picking up....more
I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. On the one hand: I applaud his storytelling skills, his ability toI have a somewhat complicated relationship with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. On the one hand: I applaud his storytelling skills, his ability to take something as simple as a jungle filled with talking animals and create characters that jump off the page (Disney helped in this process).
On the other hand: the stereotypes, racism, and rah rah Empire all make this collection of short stories at times difficult to wade through. Kipling is one of those writers that I am able to divorce text from author. This is not always the case and I’m not making excuses for his bigotry or his politics which I find abhorrent. But, I do recognize that he is writing from a particular time and place. It does not excuse his ideas but it does allow me to critique them in the context of the era from which he writes.
The stories themselves are entertaining though and worth reading. And a younger reader is less likely to notice the subtle (and at times not so subtle) racism that creeps into the text. The younger reader will likely focus on the fact that wolves, panthers, bears, snakes, monkeys, and man-cab have some rip-roaring adventures.
That being said, it’s understandable that Disney found much of the source material to be too dark for their film. The stories are entertaining and sure to retain the reader’s focus but there is a sinister quality underneath all of these adventures. There is blood, pain, suffering, and death in the jungle. It is a place where ‘jungle law’ is paramount and ‘man’s law’ is ignored and/or fails.
Reading these stories as a child, I found myself thinking: “Is this how my friends see me? This is not what it’s like to be an Indian.” It was one of my first real exposures at feeling ‘different’. I realize that it describes a specific group of people from a particular time-period but Kipling writes some rather vitriolic stereotypical characters. It is one of the many things that makes reading him under current political context and sensibilities complicated.
I think it’s important to read these kinds of stories, to confront these ideas from our past. It would be too easy to simply push Rudyard Kipling aside and not deal with our history. Literature is a fascinating lens through which to examine our society and culture. It says so much about where we came from, who we are, and who we might some day be. ...more
John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a novel of novels. It is America encapsulated. Everything you need to know about literature, Literature in the grandeJohn Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a novel of novels. It is America encapsulated. Everything you need to know about literature, Literature in the grandest sense with a capital L. Good versus evil, triumph and failure, joy and sorrow, Biblical and secular. I read this novel in a gulp. Like a thirsty man who drinks too much water, it threatens to overwhelm and drown, but the thirst is powerful and not to be denied.
Like many teenagers, my first encounter with Steinbeck was in high school reading Of Mice and Men. And while I enjoyed the novel and what it has to say about capitalism, industry, commerce, the nature of work, etc. The timing of that exposure sort of takes a way from the enjoyment that I might have had if I had approached Steinbeck on my own.
The novel is about the nature of (hu)man. It is set in the lush farmlands of the California Salinas Valley, Steinbeck charts the genealogy of two families: the Hamiltons and the Trasks. All of humanity is contained and explored within these two families. Every type of character and personality is represented. And that is one of the most powerful and beautiful achievements of this grand novel. That Steinbeck manages to examine all of humanity (both the micro and the macro) in the space of 601 pages.
For as much as I love this novel, it is not without its faults. It is at times melodramatic and soap opera-esque. The Biblical allusions are heavy-handed, but intentionally so. At times, Steinbeck seems to not so much lead as bludgeon the reader with his morality. “Look here, see what is contained in man, oh the horror, oh the beauty of it all.” It can be tiresome.
That being said, I still think that everyone should read this book. I am glad that I did not attempt the reading of this novel at a younger age. I am a firm believer in reading certain books at certain times in our lives. Some novels are read too early or too late. East of Eden arrived at just the right moment in my life. ...more
After reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I found myself in need of something much lighter. And Pratchett was just what the doctor ordered. SomAfter reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I found myself in need of something much lighter. And Pratchett was just what the doctor ordered. Some laughter, some groaning (because even Pratchett knows the pleasure in a bad pun or two), and a little bit of fantasy all mixed in. DEATH needs an apprentice and hires young Mort. Mort is a decent fellow, but the problem is that he thinks too much and in Discworld, that is a very dangerous thing to do. This is also the first of the 'Death novels'. So if you've never read any Terry Pratchett and you want a good starting place, this is a great one. His ouevre can be a bit daunting but trust me, you'll enjoy yourself. You don't even have to be a fan of fantasy, you just need to be a fan of humour, satire, and intelligence. Good readings. ...more
I quite enjoyed A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It's an interesting examination of friendship, romance, and adulthood. Four friends over the courseI quite enjoyed A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It's an interesting examination of friendship, romance, and adulthood. Four friends over the course of their lives as they navigate their jobs, their various relationships, etc. And at the heart of the novel is a story of sexual/physical abuse, mental health, post-traumatic stress, depression, phew...it's not an easy story. In fact, it's a bit heavy-handed but I still think this book is worth reading because of that heavy handedness. There's something kind of beautiful in how she does not look away from something that could easily be glossed over or hidden. Ms. Yanagihara instead turns her focus inward and looks at the ugly side of this kind of abuse, the legacy that it leaves, and forces the reader to confront uncomfortable subject matters. It's a book that will stay with you for some while. It's not for everyone but if you can give yourself the time to read its 800+ pages, you will be rewarded with a tender story. ...more