Everyone I know loves this book. It's the quintessential coming-of-age narrative. I've read it four times now - first when I was 12 (and I thought itEveryone I know loves this book. It's the quintessential coming-of-age narrative. I've read it four times now - first when I was 12 (and I thought it was okay back then), then when I was 16 (thinking I would appreciate it more, since I was older...but I didn't). Then I tried it again when I was a junior in college, thinking that my life had changed a lot by then that my perspective surely would've changed for this book. But it didn't. The last time I read it, I was 26, I had just gotten married, and I just came to the realization that each time I read it, I just hated it more. Maybe it's because I don't do train of thought well. Maybe it's just that I can't relate to it. Maybe it's the style of writing. I don't know. All I know is I don't really care for this book, so I'm sorry if I've offended others out there. :-)...more
I was highly disappointed by this book, especially since it received some really good reviews. The writing style was fine, and Emma Donoghue painted aI was highly disappointed by this book, especially since it received some really good reviews. The writing style was fine, and Emma Donoghue painted a fairly accurate portrait of 18th century London. (These are the only things which made me give this novel 2 stars...otherwise, it would've been a 1-star book.) I thought the narrative's main flaw lay in its heroine, Mary Saunders. To me, she was very 2-dimensional: she was vain, vapid, egotistical, wholly unapologetic (about her thoughts/feelings/actions) that she was just completely unrelatable. I found her to be very unsympathetic, and for me, that made getting through the book very difficult. Many times, as readers, we look for something within a character which can be relatable to our own lives, but the characterization of Mary Saunders was such that I just found her intolerable and insufferable. Even in the 3rd part of the novel, when she seemingly wants to try to change her ways, she still comes off as disingenuous. ...more
I had read a couple of Geraldine Brooks' essays for my Lit Theory class while I was in grad school, and while I was never one of those ultra-feministI had read a couple of Geraldine Brooks' essays for my Lit Theory class while I was in grad school, and while I was never one of those ultra-feminist types, I liked what she wrote about women as being strong, independent and intelligent creatures without overtly politicizing femininity as a whole. So I looked forward to reading "Year of Wonders", primarily because I loved the topic, I loved the time period, I loved the location and because I thought Brooks would be able to impart something different to the story.
I was not impressed. As a whole, and academically speaking, the novel was flawless - it had strong characters, it was well-written grammatically, it had everything readers would look for in a novel. And I think that was what set me off. It followed all the rules about Writing The Novel: protagonists were good, antagonists were bad. Good people were redeemed at the end and the bad ones were punished. Scared, ignorant people did ghastly things because they didn't know any better: they reacted more than they thought. Women were strong, intelligent and outspoken, men were either enlightened or bought into the patriarchal hegemony, and in the end, the novel showed how the human spirit overcame everything bad that was thrown at it. Brooks did an excellent job with her research, so the locales were vividly described and she clung to historicity almost to a fault.
But in making the "perfect" novel, she lost something. It was not authentic at all. There were anachronisms all over the place. I found it extremely cloying that the language switched back and forth between modern and early modern (17th century) English. I found some of the characters 2-dimensional (good were good, bad were bad, when in reality, a really decent character would have both qualities - these days, everyone knows about the "flawed hero"). I thought that some of her characterizations and descriptions were better suited for a novel set a century later, not in 1666. She had a tendency to rely too much on idiomatic expressions, which made the writing awkward at times and the reading quite tedious. I had a few eye-rolling moments and honestly, I couldn't wait to finish the book - not because I wanted to know what happened, but because I had lost patience with it....more
I did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epicI did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel). But I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start; his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better. When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn't just stop reading it, but at that point, I was invested in it; I had spent all that time getting that far, that I needed to finish it, and I couldn't wait to come to the end. I kept counting down: "Only 450 pages left; only 300 to go; last 200 pages...yay, I have 50 pages left!" Those fifty pages were the toughest to get through. By the time I was at the end, I thought it was a wasted effort - both on his part and mine.
It's so much easier to explicate on what I did not like because there were so many things: - I loathed the writing style (he vacillated between pages and pages of highly complex architectural discourses to third-grade level simple sentences grouped into short paragraphs). Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, I wanted to pull my hair out. There were times when I felt the only time he came alive as an author was when he was discussing architecture, but these parts were so didactic in nature that it couldn't hold my interest for long periods of time. - I did not like the author's narrative style. He had to tie everything together (causality was so prevalent throughout the text that I wondered how he didn't work in how the killing of a fly affected events 60 years later). Every single storyline was wrapped up - too neatly for my liking, in some cases. Everyone was tied to someone else (it was like playing Six Degrees); every single character had to have a denouement; every little plot twist had to be explained; closure had to be achieved, no matter how preposterous the circumstances, over time and space. - The characterization was poor. In fact, it was appalling how two-dimensional these characters were. Good people were good. Bad people were loathsome. As time went on, the good were always suffering one thing or another; they were put upon; they were harrassed; they were constantly challenged and put to the test like Job (something Follett actually used as a sermon!). The badfolk became more oppressive over time; they were not only detestable, but they had absolutely no redeeming qualities. And to go with a typical medieval stereotype, the good were always excessively beautiful, honorable, intelligent (geniuses or savants, even!) - and if they weren't rich, they would be at the end (I half expected Havelok the Dane and his refrigerator mouth to pop up somewhere, proving once and for all that in the medieval period, to be good was to have the purest light shining out of your mouth each time you opened it). Nevertheless, the bad became uglier, became more despotic, scheming throughout life to get the better of their enemies (the goodfolk). But in the end, good always triumphed over evil; those who could, repented and were forgiven. Those who couldn't, were killed off somehow, because apparently, death is the only way an evil person gets his (or her) dues. And then everyone had a happy ending. I hate happy endings when they're so obviously contrived. And this work was so elaborately, exhaustively, thoroughly contrived. (Maybe it's not too late for me to change my mind and say I hated it. *grin*) - Historically speaking, there was so much left to be desired. Granted, this novel was written two decades ago, and there have been new discoveries about the medieval period since Follett started his research. But he got it all wrong anyhow. His idea of medieval life was so...off, that it hurt my head to continue reading sometimes. I had to pause periodically and rant to Jim about what I currently found off-putting (for example, there weren't many literate people at the time; at the time this novel was set, there was still a distinct divide between England and Wales; reading and writing were two separate skill sets, and people who knew how to read did not necessarily know how to write and vice versa; orality was a prevalent part of storytelling back then and books not so much and yet somehow, he conflated much of both; manuscript writing was either orally dictated or copied tediously by the monks - his concept of a scriptorium was incomplete, defective - and there has been so much written about this that it saddened me; he used modern translations of medieval poetical/verse works and couldn't explain even alliterative verse form effectively - I even wonder if he knew what it was; his understanding of the languages of the period - Old English, Middle English, Latin, Norman French, Old French, Middle French, etc. - and what was spoken by the aristocrats vs. the peasants vs. the growing middle classes disgusts me; he showed a lack of understanding of medieval law, medieval rights, the social classes, gender roles, even the tales and legends of the period, in both England and France; priests were quite low on the totem pole, in terms of the religious hierarchy, and were quite disparaged yet somehow, that didn't quite come across in this novel...I could go on and on, but I won't).
And the historical part of the novel I just found lacking. There are enough histories and chronicles, contemporaneously written, of the time, that he did not have to deviate much from history. There is so much written about the period between the death of Henry I through the civil wars between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen, to the time that Henry II ascended the throne (including the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett), that I don't quite understand how he couldn't have mined the chronicles for better material. I understand that this is why it's called historical fiction, and that there will always be some element of fiction interspersed with historical fact. But the fictional aspects usually have to do with surrounding characters and situations that bolster the history. The fiction is not necessarily to the history itself. Many times, when writing historical fiction, the author has to beware the pitfalls of creating a revisionist retelling, interspersing his or her own ideals or beliefs of what should have been to what was. If this novel had been marketed as a revisionary narrative, it would have been okay. But it wasn't. I'm just glad that the historical aspect of the novel just served as the background and not the real story. Because then, I probably would've stopped reading.
The premise was a good one and held a lot of promise. It could've been a great historical epic had it been handled by a more assured writer. By someone who was more of a visionary, someone who had the patience to do exhaustive research or who knew how to craft richly developed characters. It needed an author who understood the epic genre, who knew how to mold the epic, who knew how to keep the narrative going, seemlessly binding time with narration and the human condition, without resorting to stereotypes and grating drama. And most importantly, it needed someone who understood when the story had been told; that while there will always be other stories to tell, that each book has its own natural end, and that these stories may not belong in this book.
Ken Follett may be a bestselling author of suspense novels (and even historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth and World without End), but he is no writer of epics. Compared to writers of historical fiction such as Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Bernard Cornwell or Margaret George, Ken Follett has a long way to go....more
Ugh -- absolutely horrible! Atrocious! This series has definitely gone downhill. This didn't even have anything to do with Arthur (except maybe in theUgh -- absolutely horrible! Atrocious! This series has definitely gone downhill. This didn't even have anything to do with Arthur (except maybe in the last 2 pages!). The writing was terrible. There were anachronisms all over the place, and worse yet, there were inconsistencies throughout the book! I think Jack Whyte has definitely lost steam by this point - I understand he didn't want to villainize "Lancelot" (or Clothar) anymore than he already has, but one of Whyte's biggest downfalls is trying to make a character -- ANY character -- too sympathetic and too noble. It makes the character totally unrelatable and unbelievable. And that's been his biggest failure, the last 3 or 4 books in the series. I think I've given up on this series...I don't even want to read the last book, The Eagle. It's gotten really poor reviews....more
The only thing I can say is...she certainly tried. I laughed through most of it. She's a very dramatic writer, but oftentimes, when a writer starts wrThe only thing I can say is...she certainly tried. I laughed through most of it. She's a very dramatic writer, but oftentimes, when a writer starts writing "historical" fiction such as this, they try too hard to justify certain things. Very new agey, certainly, but Zimmer Bradley was trying to force-fit the history into the fantasy, and in some cases, it worked. In others, it really didn't. What I admired about this book, however, wasn't the historical aspect of it so much as the power of her female characters. True, she made Gwen a whimpering, sniveling little thing, but her characterization of Morgana and the other women made for a compelling read. And it certainly made me laugh when she pointed out that Lancelot was a tad gay. :-)...more
I don't even know where to start. This book -- actually, the concept of this book -- had so much promise. This could've been a great revisionist retelI don't even know where to start. This book -- actually, the concept of this book -- had so much promise. This could've been a great revisionist retelling of the Wizard of Oz. Yes, it fleshed out Oz itself - what a rich land, people by various creatures: humans, animals and everything in between. The political and religious strata of Oz was well-thought out.
But I couldn't connect to any of the characters, especially the main character of Elphaba. I felt that none of them were fleshed out. None of them were likable, either in a positive or negative way. Sometimes, you're drawn to characters who are so evil because they're interesting. You become interested in their back story (and there is always one) and what makes them tick. Of course, almost everyone is drawn to the hero of the story, be they good or flawed, regardless of whether they're the hero-type or the underdog. But in my mind, while Elphaba was the center of the story, there was just nothing about her that drew me in, nothing that made me want to know her better. Nothing tugged at my heart strings or made me go "Grrr...I can't stand her!"
Maguire proselytized. Ad nauseum. To the point where I saw no point in going further with the book. While I can see that this work would appeal to some people who revel in exposition and live and breathe religious and political polemic (there are die-hard Wicked fans out there -- of the book, I mean, which is significantly different from the musical, and that has a large fan base as well) but sad to say, I am not one of them (a fan of the book). I think there's a place for everything, and when I pick up a book that purports to be about the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I expect a fantastical backstory about her.
And that's the thing. I know very little about her. She's green, but why is she green? She's got normal parents, but how did she become this freakish green baby with shark teeth? You know about her parents' dalliances, their religious fervor, their sexual proclivities, their societal vagaries. But you don't see how this shaped Elphaba. There are so many holes in the story, so many unanswered questions, and whenever I expected to find an answer, there were one or two vague, often nebulous, non-answers.
The story meandered all over the place, dropping characters here and there into the narrative -- characters that (one hopes) will enrich the characterization of Elphaba's life. Sometimes they did; most times, they didn't.
About a quarter of the way through, I wondered where this was all heading. About halfway through, I wanted to rip my hair out and beg for something -- anything -- to happen that would make me feel connected to our heroine or the story. But there was nothing. Not even a clock dragon to crawl into.
This novel could've done so much. It held so much promise. So much. But it failed to deliver, and at least for me, it was a supreme letdown....more
Addendum, 21Aug2008: Against my better judgment, I changed my mind and decided to read it to the end. And what a silly, stupid ending!! If I could givAddendum, 21Aug2008: Against my better judgment, I changed my mind and decided to read it to the end. And what a silly, stupid ending!! If I could give this a 0, I would. It's entirely possible that I missed the point. Maybe on some level, it is brilliant and it is seminal. But I, for one, did not like it; I did not appreciate it. This is time I will never get back.
Because the movie is coming out next year, Jim said I had to read this. It was the best graphic novel ever written.
I couldn't get through it. I kind of gave up about halfway through. As bad as I thought Pillars of the Earth was, that was still more bearable to me than Watchmen. Sorry (don't even know who I'm apologizing to - maybe the world at large, since so many people did like Watchmen). Just couldn't get into it.
It wasn't that it was dated (that wasn't my issue with it; I'm a firm believer in always learning something from history). It wasn't that the story wasn't compelling (it could've been - what happens to superheroes after they "retire" or are no longer needed/wanted). It was just that I couldn't connect with any of the characters; I found they all left me cold, and maybe that was the point. I like superheroes. I really do. Just not these. To me, a superhero stands for something - they can be dark and vengeful and brooding, they may circumvent the law and turn to vigilantism, they can be arrogant and have character flaws, vices and weaknesses (and these days, they are almost expected to - after all, not everyone can be Superman). But at the end of the day, superheroes stand for something and that something is generally related to the greater good. I may be missing the point of Watchmen; I may not have given it a fair shot; I may even have been predisposed to not liking it (for whatever reason), but regardless, I just didn't get it. I just didn't like it.
Only hope the movie is better. Much better....more
There is a reason I hate stream-of-consciousness novels. I can't follow it. I like my novels to travel down a path - it may veer off every now and theThere is a reason I hate stream-of-consciousness novels. I can't follow it. I like my novels to travel down a path - it may veer off every now and then, and that's okay because those little detours may prove to be wonderful, terrifying, heart-stopping, mysterious or whatnot, but they are almost always revelatory. Sometimes immediately, sometimes long after the fact that you need to really remember and say "Oh yeah, I remember when that happened! Huh! That's what that meant." Either way, it doesn't matter. Because the detours had meaning, they had purpose, and you can trust that a good (read: conscientious) writer will have a reason for taking you down that path. And in the end, it will be okay. You've traveled from Point A to Point B and took a dozen turns here and there, but you got there, and there was a point to it all. And in the journey, you were entertained, bewildered, thrilled, sickened, fell in love, hated someone passionately. In other words, you were cajoled out of the quotidian confines of your life temporarily, living vicariously through some fictional character's (mis)adventures.
My problem with stream-of-consciousness works comes down to this: I get lost way too easily if I can't see how anything is connected, and when I start getting lost, I get distracted and don't care to pay attention anymore, and the work just becomes tedious because all I can think of is "Where is this going? What just happened? Crud, I have to get the clothes out of the dryer. Wait, don't I have to go to the grocery store? Phooey, I'm out of kale. Is that the phone? I need to send that bill out. Oh, sigh, the dog needs to go out again. For a walk. In the rain. And she wants to roll around in the mud. After all the worms have come out. Great!"
And before you know it, 40 pages have gone by (and yet you have the distinct feeling that nothing has happened, but the character's thought processes have brought me from Point A to Point M to Eastern Jabib and the next thing I know, I'm in the slums of Qatar and I still have no idea what's happening because of all the navel gazing going on). The worst part is, not only do I not know what happened in the last 40 pages, but I don't care. And that bothers me, because when I read, I I want to care.
And while I stick to it and hope that at some point, it will all come together and make some sense (I am not that deluded to think it will all make sense), and there will be some big reveal that will tie everything together, there is a sinking feeling within me knowing that I am too far gone and the last two days have been a loss, and I get caught up thinking of what I will say in my review.
That was how I felt reading Zone One. Exposition galore. Ruminations about everyone and everything, past and present, tediousness and ennui all rolled into one. In the middle of a zombie attack, I want to feel that my hero is in peril (and by extension, that I myself am in mortal danger). I want to know how the next few minutes will play out...within the next few minutes. I do not want to be in the middle of a zombie attack with four very hungry zombies who want to eat me, and think about how people are holed up in Chinese restaurants where no one is allowed to have fun anymore, what my high school GPA was and how average I was back then, questioning the purpose of insurance forms years ago when people weren't zombies yet, what the crazy old coot from my old neighborhood was doing, running down an empty street, talking into a headset when all communications were down. Nope. I want to know if a zombie will pierce through my armor and will get to my wonderful meaty and bloody skin and whether the zombie will get a chance to eat me and turn me into one of them.
But no, I need to slog through pages upon pages of meandering, aimless, spaghetti exposition (beautifully written spaghetti exposition...I'll give Colson Whitehead that much, albeit begrudgingly). And for what? For what? Another 20 pages of blathering on and on about things that are totally unrelated to the attack that was supposed to last five minutes. It was the longest five minutes of my life. More like two hours.
For a great review of this book, see Mark Monday's review on goodreads. It was fantastic! I wish I'd read his review before I bought the book, but I didn't. Oh well. Weekend gone. Much like our intrepid zombie hunter....more
In the end, it wasn't as bad as I thought in the beginning. Hearne obviously did his research, not only into Irish mythology, but also into other, morIn the end, it wasn't as bad as I thought in the beginning. Hearne obviously did his research, not only into Irish mythology, but also into other, more esoteric, religions/myths. So for that, I give the guy some kudos.
But man, was it corny. Corny, hackneyed, sometimes annoying, and in the end, after all that build-up to a huge battle, epically disappointing. The ending I could shrug off. The rest of the stuff? It just kept getting in the way of me enjoying what I was reading.
I'm partially curious to see what else he comes up with in the other books of the series, but the question is, how curious? Will it be worth it? Ask me the next time the moon is full....more