I enjoyed Johannes Cabal the Necromancer so much that I didn't want it to end. I would stop reading and sigh at the realization that the number of rem...moreI enjoyed Johannes Cabal the Necromancer so much that I didn't want it to end. I would stop reading and sigh at the realization that the number of remaining pages was slowly shrinking. Usually these pauses occurred after laughing uproariously at Cabal's adventures.
This is a wicked little book in the best sense of the word. Cabal (the necromancer) discovers to his annoyance that he shouldn't have traded his soul to Satan because he needs it after all and goes back to Hell to get it. Satan proposes a wager, and Cabal goes off to collect souls. Cabal plows right through moral conundrums with single-minded focus on his goal, much to the dismay of his less ethically-challenged brother.
Cabal and the narrative itself employ a hilarious dry wit that kept me, er, giggling. I often tracked down my husband to read to him the more humorous parts (such as the mob of insane asylum escapees singing a song about Cthulu as they march down the road).
My only complaint is that it made terrible bedtime reading because my frequent laughing earned me the stink-eye.
It reminds me a bit of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because of the wit, but it is of course considerably darker than Hitchhiker's. (less)
**spoiler alert** Anne Rice's mythmaking shines in The Wolf Gift, but that's about the only redeeming factor.
The protagonist, Reuben, is a trust-fund...more**spoiler alert** Anne Rice's mythmaking shines in The Wolf Gift, but that's about the only redeeming factor.
The protagonist, Reuben, is a trust-fund baby who drives a Porsche and can buy a mansion at the ripe old age of twenty-three. I would expect this sort of set-up in comic books, not from Anne Rice. It's too easy, having all that money to toss around, and he is thoroughly spoiled by his creator in other regards as well.
I noticed parallels between Reuben's beginning as a werewolf and the circumstances of Louis and Lestat in the first two novels of the Vampire Chronicles. Rice apparently likes to leave her heroes without suitable mentors (which is a theme I enjoy), but she wraps it all up in a bow for Reuben at the end of the Wolf Gift. The last chapters also reminded me of the meeting of the elder vampires at the end of The Queen of the Damned.
The moral struggles of being a vigilante seem thin and inconsequential set in Reuben's posh world, especially since the ability to unfailingly detect evil is already worked out for him.
I think Reuben's elder brother would make a more compelling protagonist - a priest born with a silver spoon in his mouth who gives it all up for the priesthood and then has to cope with his brother's supernatural secret. His mother also sounds like an interesting character with some juicy internal conflicts to mine. Reuben? Not so much. Prior to becoming a supernatural being, his major conflict is that everyone babies him.
Perhaps my biggest complaint is a failure to understand why in the world two older women hook up with Reuben within hours of meeting him. The first one, well, OK, I guess that could happen. (But then she wills him a house! What?!) The second one wrecked my suspension of disbelief. What kind of woman has sex with a wolf man who just happens to show up in her yard one night? That would be some interesting psychology to explore in fiction. But Rice doesn't go there, she leaves that unexplained and puzzling.
The Wolf Gift definitely counts as a fantasy book, but it lacks the depth and complexity I enjoy in Rice's prior books.(less)
Natalia is a doctor, the granddaughter of a respected doctor. The Tiger’s Wife traces the story of her grandfather’s life as she puts together experie...moreNatalia is a doctor, the granddaughter of a respected doctor. The Tiger’s Wife traces the story of her grandfather’s life as she puts together experiences she remembers, stories he told her, and information she was inspired to seek after his death.
The plot often involves the consequences of one war or another that has raged through a land that is an imaginary analogue of the Balkans.
As she navigates a post-war world without her grandfather, Natalia recalls the stories he’s told her about his life and becomes inspired to seek more information. She encounters superstition in the present just as her grandfather did at her age, and folklore is woven throughout the fabric of the novel.
The novel has a non-linear plot that often leaves connections unstated, things that tickle the edges of the reader’s mind and then snap into place as satisfying insights. The entire novel is framed by Natalia telling the story of herself and her grandfather.
Obreht’s characters are fantastically rendered. She is able to bring an entire lifetime of personality and motivations to life in a single chapter, and then integrate these focused chapters seamlessly through the main narrative. Some of these stories are quite haunting, and tend to linger in the mind like the spirits Natalia is told linger at crossroads.
The Tiger’s Wife is just the kind of book I enjoy, and I now consider myself a fan of Tea Obreht. I would love to know when her next book is released!(less)
**spoiler alert** I read this book as part of the 2012 Tournament of Books.
I read the first chapter of Swamplandia online months ago, in the NYT Book...more**spoiler alert** I read this book as part of the 2012 Tournament of Books.
I read the first chapter of Swamplandia online months ago, in the NYT Book Review, I believe. I was charmed, and added the book to my "to-read" list.
While reading the actual book beyond the first chapter, the charm wore off for me and I realized that I was reading it because it's like the proverbial train wreck - the characters were victims of a disaster and I couldn't look away. Ava, Ossie, and Kiwi are teenagers who grow up on an island that is gator wrestling theme park run by their parents. The park goes bankrupt after their mother dies and a new theme park pops up on the mainland. Their island is only accessible by ferry, and until their theme park starts to decline, they've never interacted with "the real world" beyond their island.
The engine that kept my curiosity going was Ossie and her ghosts. The situation is presented so mysteriously from Ava's inconsistent (doubting, then believing) viewpoint, and I found myself thinking "OK, I'm not putting this book down until I find out if there really are ghosts!"
Ossie's ghost stories evolved into Ava's adventures with the Bird Man in the swamp, which were far creepier than the ghosts. Creepy, creepy, creepy! *shudder*
Admittedly, most of my dislike of the book has to do with its uncomfortable story, but I have two critiques of a more technical nature.
I was a bit put off by the addition of a second point of view halfway through the book. Most of the book is first person with Ava narrating. Then the story branches off into a third person PoV focused on Kiwi. These two divergent PoVs are never reconciled. (There's no frame that captures Ava's story as a part of a third person PoV, or there's no bridge in Ava's narration that explains "When Kiwi and I talked about this years later he told me he felt ..." So what's the perspective that binds the two PoVs together? It became more like two separate stories interlaced.)
My other technical complaint is that the ending seemed contrived. It just doesn't seem likely that everyone would find each other again all on the same day. Really?! It was like trying to plant one shiny, happy thing into the dark morass that the story had become.
After thinking about the book a bit more overnight, I think that my biggest disappointment with it is that it didn't turn out to be the zany, plucky, magical-realistic book that I expected it to be. In a lot of ways, it was actually overly realistic.(less)
**spoiler alert** Plan B pretty much nailed my demographic. I enjoyed all the references to 80s pop culture. The characters are believably well-descri...more**spoiler alert** Plan B pretty much nailed my demographic. I enjoyed all the references to 80s pop culture. The characters are believably well-described (although they are a bit caricatured), and I enjoyed reading about their escapades.
Everything was coming up roses for me and this book until around the last 75 pages. I think the ending was too "Hollywood." When the FBI agent shows up, it goes downhill. It's all tied up with a nice bow; everyone's problems are resolved. That's not very Gen-X.
I like Tropper's style, and I'll check out some of his other books, but the ending really tainted my impression of this one. (less)
I wasn't so into the style of this book - I prefer more character-driven stories, it seems - but the weird setting hooked me and I had to know how it...moreI wasn't so into the style of this book - I prefer more character-driven stories, it seems - but the weird setting hooked me and I had to know how it all turned out. (less)