Sometimes books that become wildly popular through word of mouth set me up for disappointment. I suppose that could be the result of unrealistically e...moreSometimes books that become wildly popular through word of mouth set me up for disappointment. I suppose that could be the result of unrealistically elevated expectations, though sometimes its just because the book doesn't ring the same way for me as it does for other people. Hunger Games is an exception because it is a spectacular read about a really despicable scenario. I am impressed by a publisher who predicted that a book about kids killing each other would gain popular acclaim. While that is the basis of the book, it is about so much more than the brutal premise. Friendship, loyalty, love, honor, survival, family, reputation, politics, rebellion...and the list continues.
I really enjoy reading about great characters in novels. Sometimes characters are developed more through prose than action and I tend to like those books less (Pride and Prejudice comes to mind). Hunger Games tells the story of its characters by placing them in repeated situations where they have to make hard choices. We come to understand who they are by what they do, rather than by the author telling us who they are and then seeing what they do. I prefer this brand of writing because it can come as a surprise when the character makes an unexpected choice. The great thing here though is that the choices are never inconsistent with their previous actions when context is revealed.
Wonderful story telling, imaginative and disturbing setting, and fast paced action makes this book a must read.(less)
I just finished reading this book in two sittings, running through half of the book each time. It isn't so much that the story compelled me to continu...moreI just finished reading this book in two sittings, running through half of the book each time. It isn't so much that the story compelled me to continue, it is just such simple language that it reads easily and quickly. Still, I found myself skimming so much of the book without actually missing any plot developments that it almost felt like reading Cliffs Notes.
Plainsong is a snapshot of a rural town, complete with the necessary lives intersecting to weave a community story fabric. The problem with the novel is that the story just isn't all that interesting. When the story isn't interesting, the characters need to be fascinating, and that is strike two. Of the 6-8 main characters, only three are complex and rich enough to care about. The antagonists are so one dimensional and pure evil it is impossible to take them seriously. And the women in the story exist solely as sexual objects to be used and discarded as the men see fit (with the exception of the McPheron brothers, every male character in the story is a blatant misogynist, and that includes Guthrie). There are far too many easy stereotypes of small town characters here to really give it any credibility as a slice of Americana.
Because of this bizarre treatment of women, the story feels like it probably took place at the same time as Leave it to Beaver but plot and detail elements place it in a much more recent time. This only adds to the lack of credibility to the whole story. Strike three. Dull plot, one dimensional characters, anachronistic setting.
I give this book two stars simply because it does the best with what it is. The pacing works, what there is of a plot moves forward as you expect it, and the McPheron brothers are really good characters. It is almost worth reading just for them and the great things they say and do. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast around them just doesn't stack up to be worth very much. (less)
Cutting for Stone is a supremely original piece of fiction, despite a meandering writing style that sometimes left me wondering if Abraham Verghese wa...moreCutting for Stone is a supremely original piece of fiction, despite a meandering writing style that sometimes left me wondering if Abraham Verghese was completely sure of where he was headed. This is a novel that could have done with a parsimonious editor over Verghese's shoulder. I kept picturing Tom Skerrit in A River Runs Through It giving Norman's paper back to him saying "Again. Half as long."
Aside from that, the majority of the characters are interesting, engaging, and believable for me. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Shiva and Marion and felt like some of the most poignant moments of the novel occurred between the twins. The story is compelling and keeps the reader going through some of the previously mentioned writing roadblocks. There are some tough moments in the book that left me scratching my head at Marion's choices. Ultimately, without giving too much away, I think he acts consistently from his experience and suffering, even if his actions aren't admirable. The book really turns on a couple of moments in the novel and the narrative thread is consistent.(less)
There are many adjectives to describe this book, but I'll stick with one for now-disturbing. The entire novel feels like a patchwork of dysfunctional...moreThere are many adjectives to describe this book, but I'll stick with one for now-disturbing. The entire novel feels like a patchwork of dysfunctional families and problems. In that, I suppose it is pretty true to life as we all know that things are rarely perfect. The book is written from the perspective of four different women/girls each tied to one boy in their own way. Inevitably, each of the four has some issue in their personal life that is central to the story.
The story is compelling and keeps you turning the pages despite the inexorable feeling in your gut as you read that tells you all will not be ok in the end. It is very difficult to write a review without giving away the book so suffice it to say that this is a novel that will stay with you after you've turned the final page.
Staggering story following the building of a cathedral through two centuries. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Follett is a master...moreStaggering story following the building of a cathedral through two centuries. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Follett is a master at creating characters who make you want to keep reading to find out what happens to them. You'll find yourself invested in their story and curious to see how it will unfold. I lived in France for a few years and was struck by how much work and genius went in to building cathedrals through the middle ages when tools and resources were crude in comparison by today's standards. The effort, expense, and dedication to these buildings is impressive. This book does a wonderful job of narrating that process in a very entertaining story. The sequel, World Without End is also fantastic. (less)
Another novel from the author of High Fidelity (A Cosby Sweater!), though certainly not of the laugh out loud style of that story. All of the characte...moreAnother novel from the author of High Fidelity (A Cosby Sweater!), though certainly not of the laugh out loud style of that story. All of the characters in this fiction are broken in some way and are contemplating suicide. Yes, it is as depressing as it sounds so you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it. There are some terrific lines scattered throughout the book that kept me reading when I wanted to give up in despair and find my own roof in England. Definitely not a feel good book, though it is thought provoking. A very quick read that can be great on a dreary day to remind you that it is almost never as bad as it seems. (less)
Hilarious movie, hilarious book. If you've seen the movie, there isn't much point in picking up the book though because they are almost exactly the sa...moreHilarious movie, hilarious book. If you've seen the movie, there isn't much point in picking up the book though because they are almost exactly the same. This is one of the rare instances that I actually prefer the movie to the book. (less)
An extreme example of how much impact a secret can have in people's lives. The title is excellent and does a great job of framing the book in a very f...moreAn extreme example of how much impact a secret can have in people's lives. The title is excellent and does a great job of framing the book in a very few words. While I think the plot is interesting, you really have to buy into some assumed premises of the author to stay with it. I found that difficult at times, particularly because the characters are not well developed and seem two dimensional. However, it is an interesting story and worth reading when your bookshelf gets close to empty.(less)
After reading The Book Thief several years ago, scenes and phrases will still come to my mind randomly. That is how much that book has stayed with me....moreAfter reading The Book Thief several years ago, scenes and phrases will still come to my mind randomly. That is how much that book has stayed with me. So when I saw that Markus Zusak had another novel out, I had to read it. I went in with high, even unreasonable expectations.
Comparing this to The Book Thief isn't fair and I've struggled to judge it on its own merits. Still, I Am the Messenger is a good read and well worth the short time needed to sit down with it. The novel follows the adventures of a seemingly aimless, ordinary young man. He doesn't come across as exceptional in any way and you may wonder why the story is following his life. Keep reading.
In my opinion, Zusak is an exceptional writer. His characters are well written and the narratives align with them perfectly. They speak, act, and react in consistent, almost predictable ways. To my mind, that is genius storytelling because the plot never feels forced. I think these characters live in Zusak's mind so completely that they become real to me as the reader and they stay with me like old friends. The Messenger is no exception.(less)
**spoiler alert** Why in the world did this book win the Pulitzer Prize? It is horrendous. Actually, I think it won the Pulitzer because of one good l...more**spoiler alert** Why in the world did this book win the Pulitzer Prize? It is horrendous. Actually, I think it won the Pulitzer because of one good line 'each the other's world entire.' That line is the reason I read the book, hoping there would be more writing like that. There wasn't. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that it is over very, very quickly. The type is so large and the sentences so abbreivated that, if they would have rhymed, I could have been reading Dr. Seuss. Yes this review contains some spoilers, so if you actually want to read the book, stop reading this review right now because I am going to sum up this whole book in five short sentences.
Some cataclysmic event has reduced the human population to almost nothing. A boy and his father survive. They walk a lot. The dad dies. The kid goes with a new guy who finds him on the beach.
Yep folks, that's it. And believe you me, my version has as much depth and pathos as the novel entire!(less)
This book is currently enjoying a near Perfect Storm of characteristics pushing it to the top of the pile in the bookstores. It has a name that is eas...moreThis book is currently enjoying a near Perfect Storm of characteristics pushing it to the top of the pile in the bookstores. It has a name that is easily confused with Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men that just won multiple Oscars and it has thematic elements similar to The Kite Runner. I have not seen the movie or read the McCarthy book (I did read The Road which was awful. I'll get a review of that one soon) so I can't comment there. I did read and love The Kite Runner though and I can safely say that this book will leave you disapointed if you were hoping for a similar story.
I harp on this all of the time, but I love books with great characters. I'm probably more interested in character development and consistency than I am with plot in most novels. Country left me wanting on both accounts. The premise is great about Muammar Qaddafi's Libya and the police state that was created. Unfortunately, the book only skims at the surface of trying to elaborate the effect the political enviornment had on everyday citizens and then rushes to end the novel as quickly as possible. All in all, a good idea, but poor execution.(less)
Absolutely a page turner. From start to finish this is impossible to put down. The characters continue to develop through the events of the book rathe...moreAbsolutely a page turner. From start to finish this is impossible to put down. The characters continue to develop through the events of the book rather than through long descriptive passages. I'm hooked.(less)