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, mor...moreIn 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.(less)
I probably shouldn't start a letter to you with such a strong statement (or sentiment), but I just couldn't help it.
I do; I just do. Not just because of your outwardly cool, debonair demeanor when you're in full-on Confidence Man mode. Not because of your jaw-dropping irreverence or your sharply honed wit or your striking intelligence (you take "thinking outside the box" one step further...maybe thinking outside the box and tossing whatever's inside or outside over a cliff, perhaps?). Not because you've proven that you don't have to be a man's man, all grrr-argh-foooood!-wooomaaaaan!-football-chug-a-lug-a-lug!-urgh-agh and whatnot, to prove that you are all man.
No, I love you because of how much you love others: blindly and loyally and foolishly and completely and utterly and stupidly and...and...and darn it, I've run out of appropriate adjectives, good and bad.
Your relationship with Jean has always been the truest, the deepest, eclipsing any of your other relationships. How I wish I had what you two have. I don't even feel that way towards my BFF, much as I love her, and she's been my BFF for a quarter of a century. I'm glad you have Jean and he has you. You're the yin to his yang, or vice versa, depending on the day. You complete each other.
Your devotion to and respect for long-gone friends---Calo and Galdo and Chains and even Bug---is something one only hopes for, because in the end, most of us only wish to be remembered, and you do that splendidly. (I do miss the twins horribly!)
And Sabetha. I don't even know where to start with your utter devotion and constancy toward Sabetha. I wanted to wring her neck, the way how she treated you. How she keeps treating you. And despite all that...despite all that she's done and continues to do, you not only hold her in the highest esteem, but you listen to her and you know her, you know her heart and her needs and you give her space. You give her a reason to come back. Not many men are worth that.
Oh, Locke Lamora, if only you were real...
Dear Jean Tannen,
I love you.
Now, don't think me inconstant to Locke, because it's not like that. Not at all. I love you for all different reasons. Well...okay, maybe one reason is the same: Locke will always be your true north, your one and only, your soulmate, the lid to your pot, all this, in spite of how many other women come into your lives (or Sabetha, for him).
It's a friendship, just about as solid and real as it can get: rocky, loyal, tempestuous, faithful, cutting, caring. I don't know how many times you've suffered at Locke's hands, how many times you've nursed him back to health when he's given up time and again, how many times you've saved his life, both physically and emotionally (only someone who cares so much would try to knock that much sense back into someone as stubborn as him). I think if one of you dies, the other would be beyond bereft and would have no reason to go on. You'd be like an amputee, feeling ghost pains, hearing ghost voices. It's so sad. And I'm jealous.
But I love you for other reasons, too. For one thing, you are a study in opposites. You're a well-read, highly educated intelligent bruiser. Your brain is as sharp as your axes, and you're as likely to pulverize someone with your brains and your brawn. You are a gentle giant, built like a boulder but all soft and warm and fuzzy on the inside. I like to think of you as a buckyball with a warm custard center that oozes out every so often. Yummy!
Oh, Jean Tannen, if only you were real...
Dear Scott Lynch,
I love you. You are officially one of my favorite authors now. You've created a set of characters so richly drawn, so infinitely layered that with each book, it's like peeling away at an onion: we learn more about each of these people you've created, and sometimes it hurts and it stings, but sometimes it's pleasant and sweet, and always, always surprising.
And your writing. I have nothing to complain about. You were blessed by all thirteen gods, and if I were a betting person, I'd say you'd be an Eldren yourself. Who has that much talent? Why aren't you better known? You need a better publicist.
Now here's the thing. How you ended this book? Killer.
It got me right here (jabbing at my heart) and left me with palpitations, a few tears, and definitely, definitely, some sweaty palms and a feeling of abject dread.
I was not a happy camper. Oh, believe me, I loved the book. Loved it. Loved the play within the story (quite Shakespearean of you), loved the Carl Sandberg snippets, loved the back and forth in time. I have nothing to complain about, as far as all that goes.
But that ending? My God. That ending. Now, all I can think of is that you are going to kill off Locke and Jean in the most miserable, most despicable, most horrific way possible. And I can't wait until the fourth book comes out. (Word to the wise: do not leave us hanging for as long as you did with Republic of Thieves! That was brutal!) I want it to come out and I don't. I'm very torn. But I want it to come out more...because you made me need to know what's going to happen to Locke and Jean.
And your little prophecy? Aaaggghhh...why, Scott Lynch, why? You didn't have to be such a cruel man. Actually, you don't. You can still turn it around.
Now, I'm not saying you can't kill Locke or Jean or give either of them a worthy death (cf. -Mark Lawrence's Emperor of Thorns: fantastic ending to the series, my only other 5-star book this year), if you are so inclined to kill him or Jean off. I get it; some characters need to die and die in such a glorious, jaw-dropping way (Good old Ned Stark comes to mind) to send a message. I was heartbroken when Jorg died because...well, because the lout grew on me. Couldn't stand the kid in the first half of Prince of Thorns but as the story progressed, I got to know him better and I understood why he was the way he was. And I respected the fact that he was so unapologetic about how and why he did things. (view spoiler)[And Mark Lawrence was unapologetic about killing Jorg too, but he did it for the right reasons. It made sense, it saved the world. (hide spoiler)]
If you decide to off with Jean's or Locke's head(s), I will understand. I just ask that you make it worthy. That you don't cheapen it and kill either (or both) off just for the heck of it (take that, Veronica Roth, for your silly ending to Allegiant). That if they have to suffer, let them suffer but also offer them succor, offer them something worthy and worthwhile (I know, I know, you can't bring Ezri back for Jean...but how about a Sabetha and Locke reunion...a bittersweet reunion?) so that the rest of us can breathe easier, maybe feel a bit better about the inevitable.
And please, can you pull back a bit on your crazed and maimed fiend? Man, I have never met such an antagonist that gave me the willies as much as this monstrosity you've created. I re-read your Epilogue thrice, not for pleasure certainly, but to convince myself that you've created a thoroughly bone-chillingly Evil, with a capital 'e'. Consider me convinced. And scared.
I so fear for Locke and Jean's future, and for that, I hate you Scott Lynch. Just a smidgeon. An infinitesimal smidgeon. You can barely even feel it, really, but I just wanted to let you know.
I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, m...moreOh, Augustus Waters.
I wish you were real.
I wish someone could bottle you up, so that each person in the world could have a little bit of you. (Okay, maybe not bottling you up, per se, but your essence, maybe...but only because bottling you up would not only be cruel but gross. And you're not real, so it would be impossible.)
But if you were real, then you would be pretty close to perfect.
You are absolutely yummy (your words), infinitely interesting, grotesquely irreverent (which makes you even yummier despite your 1.4 legs), and just so darned multidimensional that if it were possible, I'd want to travel the multiverses just to get a chance to meet you. And maybe hang out for a day...or an afternoon. Heck, even an hour, even if it were in the Literal Heart of Jesus.
Is it wrong that I like you so much?
Is it? Because it doesn't feel wrong.
I have no idea how Hazel held out for as long as she did, but thank goodness that girl came to her senses. Because you are, quite intolerably, just plain wonderful.
Because you did more in your short (fictional) life than most (real) people ever do...or try.
Because you look at life, at the universe, and you thumb your nose at it, with a smirk. I wish I could do that, instead of getting bogged down by...everything.
Because you put into words your fear of oblivion, so succinctly, so simply, that I teared up when you first uttered those words. That most everyone has that fear is a given. But very few could even string together the right words to voice that fear, much less share it with the world at large and make it mean something. So bravo to you, Augustus Waters (and by default, you, John Green, as well). Bravo.
Oh, how I wish you were real, because...
Well, because we'd all be just a smidgeon better for having known you. For having had the chance to catch a twinkle or two of your starlight.
Oh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. N...moreOh, this was so beautiful. Beautiful and painful. Painful and real. Real, so real, it left my insides raw.
I had a difficult time with the beginning. Not because it was unreadable, not well-written or hard to muddle through. On the contrary, it was a well-written book, evenly paced. The child-speak didn't bother me (I know it bothered some readers). I really couldn't find anything wrong with the book, technically.
No, I found it difficult because I was feeling too much and I didn't want to get too entangled in the story, in the characters.
After all, this was a story that was meant to be disturbing. It is not a subject matter many people are comfortable with. And yet...
And yet I felt so attuned to Jack, from the very beginning, that it hurt to go on. I didn't want him to hurt or be scared. I didn't want him to worry, didn't want him cold or hungry. I didn't want him sleeping in a wardrobe. Didn't want him obsessively counting each time Old Nick came by.
The problem was that Jack had become real, for me. And his fears, his life, his needs made me uncomfortable. That's why it was difficult.
For certain books, as a reader, it is inevitable that at some point, you will insinuate yourself into the story. You recognize part of yourself in a character (or three). You identify with one or two or a few, see things from their perspective, feel things even though it's not your story, not your journey.
And when you can lose yourself in a story like that, lose yourself in a character, that's when a book and its narrative truly succeeds. But it's not always easy.
I don't want to give too much away because I don't want to take away from other readers' experience. I will say this, however: as I kept reading, I realized I had created two distinct time frames for the events in the story. Before The Plan (BP) and After The Plan (AP).
I found things more heartbreaking BP. And while the heartbreak is still there AP, it was more heartwarming also.
Five things that hit me, BP: - the wonder in seeing and hearing everything from a five year old's perspective - the joys of empty cans, tissue paper rolls, five crayons and a child's limitless imagination - the strength a mother achieves to keep her child whole and alive - the strength of a child who only wants to please his mother - this is a twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful, complex world we live in
Five things that hit me, AP: - how terrifying real reality can be - yes, it is possible to go through childhood without Legos! - Steppa and crocs - how resilient children are, when adults around them are falling, failing, flailing - how twisted, cruel, ugly, beautiful and complex people are
I wasn't a huge fan of Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin, but after Room, I'm certainly a fan now.(less)
I'm a sucker for the kinds of stories that are, on the surface, idyllic, but with a little bit more digging, are really disturbing and/or heartbreakin...moreI'm a sucker for the kinds of stories that are, on the surface, idyllic, but with a little bit more digging, are really disturbing and/or heartbreaking. Especially when kids and/or animals are involved. Stories like those in Radio Flyer, Shiloh or Bastard Out of Carolina, among many others.
I don't read/watch these kinds of books/movies often, usually because it makes me uncomfortable, and mostly because I just don't like going there. I'm not a fan of seeing kids and animals hurt. In spite of this discomfort however, I'm drawn to them. In the cases of the movies I mentioned above, I was always aware of them. I would see the ads, read the reviews, watch the previews or listen to other people talking about them. I knew I desperately wanted to see them but I almost always waited months (or even years) after they came out. But once I rented the video, that was it. I was committed to it wholeheartedly, allowing myself to be drawn into the early "happy", Arcadian phase, knowing full well that at any moment, something violent, something earth-shattering was going to happen that would turn that bucolic world into a nightmare. That at some point, that kid or puppy who'd tugged at my heartstrings would undergo some horrible experience that would set my mind and pulse racing, and I would sit there, aghast, just waiting for it to end, waiting for the inevitable escape or the death to happen, all the while wondering how adults could be so blind and so...powerless.
Sure, I've read (and enjoyed) stories that are all about brutality to and by kids. I've read and enjoyed The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies and Ender's Game, but these books didn't hide the abuse, didn't hide the cruelty. If anything, the darkness---the abuse of and by children---is integral and central to the narrative. In these cases, the novels' notoriety was specifically borne out of that darkness.
I guess this was what I was expecting with Jeanette Walls' The Silver Star. I'm not sure why I thought it would be closer to Bastard Out of Carolina, but it wasn't. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed this book -- the narrator, Bean, is funny, smart, engaging, ballsy and adorable. And she's strong as anything. Her idolization of Liz, her older sister, is palpable and apparent from the very first line: "My sister saved my life when I was a baby." Liz was her sister, but because they had an unstable, irresponsible, flighty mother, Liz filled that maternal role as well, and one of her main responsibilities was taking care of Bean.
So from the outset, Walls establishes that whatever misery, whatever heartbreak was going to happen would be happening to Liz. Liz was Bean's hero, her guardian, her champion. Bean was a spectator, the younger sister, unable to do much. And that would have been an awesome tale to tell: how, in the face of adversity, two sisters would go through all these trials together, and the younger, weaker one would turn out to be the stronger, would turn the tables and protect the older.
Well, that happened. Sorta.
I guess this is what frustrated me with the book. Walls built such an idyllic world in the beginning---I loved Bean's and Liz's world, the language they shared, their distinct worldview, their survival skills. I loved that they took care of each other, that they knew how to take care of each other after their mother left them. And I loved their Uncle Tinsley---but when she tried to break that world down and introduce the Big Bad, she washed out.
Largely because the Big Bad...well, the Big Bad just wasn't bad enough.
I can't believe I'm complaining about this, but I suppose I expected something worse to happen. I wanted something consequential, something more substantial to happen to Liz. In my mind, Liz's breakdown was understandable, but it felt forced, it felt contrived. It just didn't fit what happened to her especially after she got out of what could've been a horrible situation relatively unscathed. For a character who, earlier in the story, dealt with an unstable absentee mother, who took on more mature problems while caring for her baby sister, what happened to Liz later in Byler seemed fairly inconsequential to make her spiral downwards so quickly and so completely. It made her seem weak, so much weaker than how she'd initially been drawn. It was so incongruous, so out of whack, with how Walls had initially developed her that honestly, Liz's breakdown was such a let-down.
Still, I enjoyed the novel. I breezed through the book, largely because I loved Bean and her newly discovered family: Tinsley and all the Wyatts. I enjoyed watching Bean come into her own. I laughed and cheered her on as she found a place where, while not quite belonging, she was able to carve out a niche for herself. And I was right up there with her when she told her mom to vamoose. These were the parts of the story I enjoyed. Had the Liz part been meatier, been more realistic, I would have easily given this 4-stars. (less)
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee...more
What. In. The. World. Was That?!?!
What just happened?
Okay, so towards the end of Insurgent, I sat there for a few moments and thought, "Gee, did Veronica Roth just write herself into a corner? That was probably one of the craziest endings, and not in a good way. Now how is she going to write herself out of it?"
Did she write her way out of her conundrum? Did she come up with a creative solution to the ending of Insurgent? Did she turn the tables on us? Make us sit up? Stand up? Raise our fists? Cheer?
Ummm, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any of the above. There were inklings, sure, scattered here and there. But did any of it truly get me excited, as excited as I was after Divergent? No, not really, which left me sad. Annoyed. And frustrated.
I had looked forward to this book, darn it! I looked forward to seeing what Four and Tris would do, where the story took them. What creative way Roth would come up with during this third act.
In reality, there were so many plot holes and head-scratching moments during Allegiant that I had to put it down multiple times and walk away. Sure, I liked parts of it: getting Tobias' POV, how Tris and Four finally understood what being in a relationship meant, Tris and Caleb playing Candor, the expansion of Cara's, Christina's and Uriah's characters, the transformation of O'Hare into a bureaucratic facility. There were some things that were worthwhile and made me want to continue reading.
But the parts that left me going "Huh?!?" were more numerous: - The GD vs. GP war (really, we're going to go there?) - How gullible everyone was, buying into genetic purity (made me think of Khan and his eugenics war) - How self-righteous and smug Tris could be - How Tobias could end up so wrong, so unsure of himself, so unlike the Four from the previous books - How one-dimensional Tobias' parents were - How stupid Tris' plan was...and how crazy it was that everyone went along with her - How biological warfare has been in existence for so long, especially in our time, that it boggles the mind that this novel, set centuries in the future, still hasn't gotten it right
I'm also not convinced that Tris' fate was really all that necessary. (view spoiler)[I've read two books this year where the main character sacrificed his or her life to save their loved ones/humanity: Mark Lawrence's uber-fantastic-still-gives-me-chills-and-brings-a-tear-to-my-eye-each-time-I-think-about-it Emperor of Thorns and this one. Jorg's death left me crying out "Nooooo!" It left me dumbfounded and for a long while, I sat there, stunned, knowing there was no other possible way he could have ended it. And that made it worthwhile.
I didn't feel that at all. If anything, I saw it a mile away, and it left me with some pretty tired eyes from all the eye rolling.
I felt that Tris' death was another way to get an extra fifty pages out of the novel. It was a way to extend a story that had gone on too long. And worse, it was a way to add drama where it wasn't needed. There was already so much going on, that when it came, it seemed so pointless. I'm not sure that her death actually pushed the story forward. Roth could have accomplished the same ending without killing Tris off. (hide spoiler)]
I thought what Roth did was self-indulgent. Could she have accomplished a similar ending without making Tris go through all that? Yes, absolutely, especially since Tobias still had to maneuver around what was happening in Chicago.
Was Roth trying to make a point about Tris' intrinsic selflessness, her comprehension of what it meant to be Abnegation? To be the person she felt her parents would approve of? Sure.
Was Roth trying to show how people's spirits hurt, grieve, move on, heal over time? That each person you love becomes a part of you, and can never be torn from you (except if you take memory serum)? Yes. The characters mirrored Chicago: broken, hurting, on their last legs. But is rebirth possible? Yes, to a degree.
I get all that.
But again, what she did didn't leave this reader convinced that what happened to Tris was the only rational way to end the story. That it was the only true course left to her, that there was no other possible way around it. And because I wasn't convinced of these things, I felt that it was a cheap ending.
A cheap ending that went on too long.
It wasn't a bad book, but it certainly wasn't what I was hoping it would be. Nevertheless, I don't regret reading it. I enjoyed the first two, and while this one left me wanting, maybe that's okay. Maybe it's enough. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Oh, this was such an utterly beautiful and lyrical little tale. This is Gaiman at one of his most whimsical, and yet the darkness, the strangeness, th...moreOh, this was such an utterly beautiful and lyrical little tale. This is Gaiman at one of his most whimsical, and yet the darkness, the strangeness, the otherworldness is still there, lurking right around the corner.
Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one in the whole world.
To me, this story brought back wonderful memories of my own childhood, both good and bad. Those wondrous never-ending days during school breaks, of just losing myself in book after book after book, of reading late into the night and getting caught up in my imaginings (and sometimes, letting my imagination run away with me into deep, dark, magical places, sometimes scaring myself half-to-death by conjuring up things that terrified me yet made me feel...I don't know...so alive). Of being terrified of the dark, of wanting to keep the door of my bedroom open, of having just a wee bit more light. Of loving the sound of the rain and the wind.
Gaiman evoked that feeling I used to have as a child, where, if I closed my eyes real tight, held my breath, counted to ten, and wished really, really hard, then opened my eyes, I would find myself in a different world, some place I could escape to, a safe place, where my usual problems didn't follow me around. That was when I used to believe in magic...
I found myself imagining a valley filled with dinosaurs, millions of years ago, who had died in battle, or of disease: imagining first the carcasses of the rotting thunder-lizards, bigger than buses, and then the vultures of that aeon: gray-black, naked, winged but featherless; faces from nightmares---beak-like snouts filled with needle-sharp teeth, made for rending and tearing and devouring, and hungry red eyes. These creatures would have descended on the corpses of the great thunder-lizards and left nothing but bones. Huge, they were, and sleek, and ancient, and it hurt my eyes to look at them.
Gaiman dealt with the feelings of loneliness and alienation and not quite fitting in so well that a number of us go through, in childhood. There are those of us who know what it's like, not having anyone come to your birthday party, of not having any friends, of having a sibling who was more personable than you, of learning how to become invisible because it was easier. Of connecting better with animals than people because...well, they knew what it was like not to be understood by those around you.
I have a theory why Gaiman didn't name his narrator -- in doing so, this story easily became any child's story, provided that child was a loner, a misfit, someone who just didn't quite fit in with others. It's the kind of thing many of us bring into adulthood, and while we may learn how to become more social, more adept at joining the rest of the world, that part of us remains, to a certain degree, and that shyness and trepidation lurks in the background, peeking out every so often.
Ursula Monkton smiled and the lightnings wreathed and writhed about here. She was power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty. She winked at me.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, to me, was a love story. A love story between a child and his books, of his love for books, of the way how books became an escape, how books saved him, how books gave him something that no one else did or could --- for books, in this world, offered him refuge and solace and protection, something none of the regular adults could do.
My favorite characters in the book: the Hempstock women. I'd have loved to meet and spend time with them (and I'd probably have begged them to adopt me!). At times, they reminded me of the Fates -- Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos -- not only in their actions and words, but in their powers. Then at others, they just brought back memories of the myriad Enid Blyton books I devoured as a child. The world that the Hempstocks lived in, both here and not here, brought back so many memories of days spent reading and losing myself in The Magic Faraway Treeand with The Secret Seven, for the boy in this book lived for both adventure and fantasy.
My one major gripe about this story, and really, it's not even a big one in retrospect, is Gaiman infused some real-worldliness in what could have been a true flight of fantasy. His Ursula Monkton, the evil baddie, was too much of the "money makes the world go round" sort. I understand that this was probably Gaiman's way of saying "Hey, capitalism isn't good!" but that part of the story seemed forced. There was enough evil in Ursula that I felt he didn't need to keep shoving the "money will make them happy" and "I'm giving them what they want!" diatribes down my throat.
Despite all that, I think this one is definitely one of my faves of the year. I'd read this again if I wanted a nice little escape.(less)