First off, let me just say: not the movie. I loved the movie, I loved the book, but they are two separate entities. They have almost nothing in commonFirst off, let me just say: not the movie. I loved the movie, I loved the book, but they are two separate entities. They have almost nothing in common but the title and the fact that they both center on a worldwide war against zombies (you don't say?).
I thought the book was incredibly well done; it's very hard to write action, period, and Brooks chose a series of difficult tasks to tackle: multiple points of view, first person, action, horror, all in dialogue...that's no joke. His decision to recount the book as oral histories of survivors was a big risk, and I think it paid off. One of the book jacket reviews called it "compulsively readable," which I thought was some hyperbole, but I definitely stayed up well past my bedtime every time rushing through. This a hard genre to do with talent, taste and restraint, and I think he did a great job....more
Prior to reading this book, if you'd asked me about the Galveston Hurricane, I would have said that there was one. If asked about the date, I would haPrior to reading this book, if you'd asked me about the Galveston Hurricane, I would have said that there was one. If asked about the date, I would have replied, "Look over there! Something shiny!" while I ran in the opposite direction. I picked this up not for the content, but because I enjoyed The Devil in the White City so much. This definitely didn't disappoint; it had the same fast-paced, couldn't put it down feel. It reads almost like a novel, but you wouldn't believe a novel like this; truth really is stranger than fiction. I think there could have been a little more emotional depth for the stories; even when they were recounting the deaths of children, I didn't really get invested in it, because I was more focused on "what next, what next, what next?" Also, he mentioned that there were some photographs from the time that still exist, so I wish he'd reproduced them in the book. Minor nits in a fascinating story!...more
Shadow of the Line has three authors, each of whom apparently brought their own cast of characters to the book. There are over a dozen main charactersShadow of the Line has three authors, each of whom apparently brought their own cast of characters to the book. There are over a dozen main characters, and probably twice that many supporting characters that are still important enough to have names, back stories, and plot lines of their own. While I was trying to keep track of everyone, I had the voice of a baseball game crier in my head: "Get a scorecard, can't tell the players without a scorecard!" They could have eliminated half the characters and a handful of the plots and had a better, tighter book that was a joy to read instead of a confusing mess. The other alternative would have been to split it into one of Lackey's famous trilogies, with only two or three plots per book. But trying to do it all at once was too ambitious, and though there were a few good points and enjoyable scenes, for the most part trying to keep everything straight was only a headache. A book that has to include a prologue, an epilogue, maps, a timeline, a cast of characters and a glossary clearly as too much going on. ...more
Lackey's latest fairy tale/mythology update, this time on Andromeda and Perseus (which later became Saint George and the Dragon). Using The TraditionLackey's latest fairy tale/mythology update, this time on Andromeda and Perseus (which later became Saint George and the Dragon). Using The Tradition is the hook that makes the 500 Kingdom books interesting, and the first one ( Fairy Godmother) was really good. Now, though, the books are starting to feel like an excuse to trot out old cliches, because they're "traditional." As is becoming more common with her recent books, the plot moves along at a fairly decent pace (this one spent more time at the beginning instead of rushing, which was nice), until it reaches the end, and then goes headfirst into the climatic battle that is over before it's become, and an epilogue to tie up all the loose ends. You reach the last few pages of a feeling of "....that's it? I've gotten this far and that's it?? Are you SERIOUS?" Lackey seems to be getting bored when "all" she has left is the ending, so she goes straight to it without bothering to hold up the rest of the plot. Shaky on the dismount, but other than that, not bad. ...more
My least favorite of the Arrows series, one that I couldn't find, and therefore skipped and didn't miss, for several years after I read the other two.My least favorite of the Arrows series, one that I couldn't find, and therefore skipped and didn't miss, for several years after I read the other two. It kind of drags in several places, and seems to retread the same ground several times. Lackey lays several hints and bits of information that are paid off in the third book, and carries forward plot threads that were started in the first book but not tied off until the third. That's not a problem; what is a problem is the several bits of information and random throwaway scenes that are never paid off, in this book or any other; they're planted in a way that clearly flags them for followup, but they're never seen or heard from again. Either she ran out of time or space, forgot them, or they got left on the cutting room floor. That happens, and it's possible there were things that she meant to go back to later that she never got to, but some of them should have been fixed by the editors. Editing was clearly a problem with at least my edition, as there were an embarrassing number of typos that may not have been anyone's fault by the type-setters, but somebody should still have caught them.
Some may like this better, and it's a good book if you're a fan of Kris as a character (I can take him or leave him). For me, it's a part of the puzzle and so I read it every time I read through, but it's just really just a pit stop on the road to where I want to go. ...more
This reminded me of The Turn of the Screw in many ways; not because the books themselves are that similar, but because of the eerie, atmospheric tensiThis reminded me of The Turn of the Screw in many ways; not because the books themselves are that similar, but because of the eerie, atmospheric tension, and the brilliance of the writers by allowing scenes where nothing happens at all to be terrifying. The similar thread I did find between them was the question of the narrator's sanity and stability, and the sense of unreality. What did happen? What didn't? What was psychosomatic and what was external? There are no answers.
I really wonder about Eleanor's sanity, not just at the end of the book when the house had clearly subsumed her, but from the first moment we met her. She was "off" from the beginning, her mental health worn down by stress and weakness, and that left her easy prey for Hill House. Was she ever sane? And what does that mean for the rest of the book? I have to wonder how differently the story would have read if the narrator had been Dr. Montague, or even Theo. I don't think Luke has enough personality to carry the entire story himself, but Theo--especially because she is the most maligned by the house and/or Eleanor--probably had a much different take on the events. Very quickly after the second night, I stopped believing anything that Eleanor told me at all, because I couldn't trust her perception. I would have questioned even more than I did if the other characters had not also been reacting the what happened around them, otherwise I might have decided the Eleanor was something else entirely, maybe in an insane asylum.
I would recommend seeing the 1963 movie version, The Haunting (NOT to be confused with the 1999 version), which follows the book surprising well. Of course, as a visual medium it can't adequately convey Eleanor's increasingly unstrung internal dialogue, but it's a fair adaption....more
**spoiler alert** There are some books that are so bad that they're almost beyond your like or dislike. They're just so terrible that they're not even**spoiler alert** There are some books that are so bad that they're almost beyond your like or dislike. They're just so terrible that they're not even really offensive, and you're almost not annoyed that you spent that much time reading them, but then you forget about it.
The ones that are really annoying, really infuriating, are the ones that could have been good, but that instead fell flat. This is one of those. The plot, the basic kernel of the plot, was very interesting, and I followed it to the end, really needing to know what he was going to do with it, until the end, when it all fall apart.
I had problems with the writing from the beginning. Writing in present tense is a cheap trick, and one that no decent editor should allow. Plus, moving back and forth from present to past tense for flashbacks, and then changing to past tense again in the end, was confusing, and nonsense. It was a gimmick, and gimmicks are only necessary to serve as a distraction for having no talent. When there is actually some underlying talent, then gimmicks are ridiculous, and downright offensive.
The next big problem was the characters. They were flat as pancakes, and were moved clumsily around the plot like cardboard cutouts being shuffled around stage. I had trouble keeping track of who was who, and there was nothing in their speech patterns that made it possible to tell who was speaking without tags. We had the rich one, the smart one, the black one, the narrator, and the girlfriend. Also, the definite villain and the maybe-villain. That's the limit of the characterization. I did not care what happened to the main players; if the whole thing had ended with "rocks fall, everyone dies" (which it nearly did), the only emotion I would have felt would have been annoyance for wasting that much of my life reading something that stupid.
Oh wait, I already feel that way, so I guess no loss there.
Also, the plotting and pacing. Dear God in heaven. Stop in the middle of the climax in order to have a fancy-dress ball and talk about tuxedos and costumes? Are you kidding me? Yes, going to the ball sets the stage for the last confrontation, but the way it was handled was gummy and slow-moving. It ground the entire book to a halt. Then the actual ending was incoherent. All I could think was, "Dude, I saw this movie when it was called National Treasure, and it was better plotted and made more sense."
Well....wow. I'm not really sure what you say about a book that has "no unifying theme," other than "wow." And, I can see why this book is consistentlWell....wow. I'm not really sure what you say about a book that has "no unifying theme," other than "wow." And, I can see why this book is consistently on all the most influential/most important/best non-fiction books. The writing itself was good but not outstanding, but it made what could be esoteric information accessible and understandable--and really interesting. I will say that I had to back myself down from being upset a couple of times, when his data "proved" things I didn't really agree with. But he makes the point himself that the book isn't about the way things should be but the way things are. Now this is a book to start some conversations over....more
The first thing I have to say is that all my college professors should get down on their knees and thank the deity of their choice that I did not haveThe first thing I have to say is that all my college professors should get down on their knees and thank the deity of their choice that I did not have this book while I was in their classes. I wrecked plenty of havoc as it was; with this for ammunition, I probably would have been shown the door of the university.
The key feature to note in this book is the very clear way the author breaks his narration down: fact, analysis, opinion. This leaves the reader free to disagree with the opinion, or draw a different analysis, both of which I sometimes did. You don't simply have to take his word for it. I will say that, as the author points out, this was not intended to be a textbook or a foundation-level treatment of any of the subjects it covers. The author assumes base knowledge about the major parts of American history, which, given the state of education today, may be a major error....more
I'll admit that I have a fascination with scholarly books on exorcism and abnormal psych. I like to read them from the skeptic's or the scholar's poinI'll admit that I have a fascination with scholarly books on exorcism and abnormal psych. I like to read them from the skeptic's or the scholar's point of view, because they're going to approach and document the entire process differently than someone who approaches it from a purely religious standpoint. I appreciate that he started out from the position that he was trying to prove that there wasn't a devil and there is no such thing as possession, and became convinced otherwise. I think he talked a lot about science but relied a lot on his emotions and experiences, but then, in a field as scientifically reviled as demonology (or whatever you'd like to call it), I guess there aren't a lot of text books he could reference.
When it comes to a field as--borderline--as possession, I prefer to echo Hamlet: there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. A concept of some sort of possession has been a part of cultures and religions throughout human history. I'm sure most of it was mental illness or just an excuse for evil behavior, but we may have out-smarted ourselves by denying it completely. If it exists I am sure that 99% of the cases that are "diagnosed" are in fact something else, and I think especially the religious community is too quick to diagnosis possession to explain "the banality of evil." Peck makes an attempt to strike the middle ground between "demons, demons everywhere, demons moved my cheese!" and "there is no such thing." Is he right? I can't say. Is he worth a read and some consideration? Why not? At least having the conversation doesn't hurt anyone, and this seems like a good enough place to start. ...more
Punchline for the people who only read the first paragraph: I wanted to like this book, and I'm glad I read it. There are some good parts to it, and sPunchline for the people who only read the first paragraph: I wanted to like this book, and I'm glad I read it. There are some good parts to it, and some insights, but for the most part it was poorly written (or maybe just poorly edited), weirdly disconnected, and based almost entirely on experientialism and emotionalism. My friend X had Y happen to him, so it must be true. Experiences can help us understand the truth, but they don't necessarily make the truth. In the end, I was just frustrated because I sensed that there was more he could have done with this, but he gave up and went for the easy sell.
Okay, now for the longer version. This came out in 2003, when I was in undergrad. There was no particular reason why, I just didn't get to it. It's kind of too bad, because I would have really eaten this up back then; it would have been helpful to me to know that I wasn't the only person trying to be a Christian who somehow gotten crossed up with the Establishment. On the other hand, I think it would have given me an excuse to disengage and not try to have a dialogue with the sections I didn't agree with, and I think it would have ultimately been worse for me.
There were good parts to the book, some good insights, but for the most part I felt like it was buried in the self-indulgent blathering. I liked it at the start, I felt like it had the capability of being really profound, but then he backed away by telling stories of friends he has or guys he knows, as if the individual experiences of random people he knows are more meaningful than anything else. Again, I don't have a problem with using experiences as a framework or a filter to our understanding, but they aren't all there is. He seemed addicted to a kind of cheap emotionalism that he used in place of facing anything deeper. "Simplistic" is how I would describe most of it, and he treats things that have been known and part of real church doctrine for years, centuries, as if he just now discovered them. The egocentrism was appalling and amusing, all at the same time. Some of his stories are hilarious, but then he takes them too far, and he may still think he's being funny, but there's a point where it's just a turn-off. It just makes me sad because it could have been so much better, but it wasn't.
Also, for someone with a tagline about "nonreligious thoughts" about spirituality, he could be pretty damn preachy....more
I was very torn on how to rate this--I was that goodreads let us rate by half stars, because I think this is a solid 3.5. In the end I marked down toI was very torn on how to rate this--I was that goodreads let us rate by half stars, because I think this is a solid 3.5. In the end I marked down to 3, because damn, Paris was annoying, and Helen needed to be slapped upside her head. It's hard to read 600+ pages from the limited first-person perspective of someone you don't care for. I liked her better than I expected to, so there's that, and at times I could almost (almost) feel sorry for her. My love of the Trojan War saga has always been of the "supporting cast," like Hector and Aeneas, and that was true here too; I found the side characters interesting, but the on-and-on about Paris and Helen's great "love affair," inspired and controlled by the gods, just wore me out. I enjoyed the story telling and the writing itself (although, again, 600 pages--surely we could have cut 100 or so out and not hurt anything?), but I struggled with being stuck with Helen.
The saddest thing about it all, though? Many more people will watch the movie Troy than will read this book (or, God forbid, the original sagas), and they will think that that's the story of the Trojan War. I don't want to live on this planet anymore. ...more
Although this is 4th in Lackey's Elemental Masters series, it really is more of a prologue, if it's anything at all--it doesn't seem to really fit witAlthough this is 4th in Lackey's Elemental Masters series, it really is more of a prologue, if it's anything at all--it doesn't seem to really fit with the 3 books written before it. One of the characters if the same, but it explains more of his backstory. The rest is decent enough (although not as engaging as Phoenix and Ashes or The Serpent's Shadow), but I kept getting distracted by its lack of cohesion with the rest of the series....more
There are very few books that are this hyped that actually deserve it. This, however, was well worth every accolade it got. I read it in just over twoThere are very few books that are this hyped that actually deserve it. This, however, was well worth every accolade it got. I read it in just over two days because I just couldn't put it down. On a side note, the movie was surprisingly close to the book, and very respectfully done. I must now search out the rest of the Hannibal Lector books, and hope they don't suck as much as the other movies did. ...more
So there's being offensive to make a point (Chris Rock's "N's v. Black People" sketches).
There's being offensive to be funny. (South Park's Trapped inSo there's being offensive to make a point (Chris Rock's "N's v. Black People" sketches).
There's being offensive to be funny. (South Park's Trapped in the Closet episode, which will probably send me to hell but I can't stop laughing at it.)
And there's being offensive just to be offensive.
Sadly, this book is the last kind--so much so that I want to hang a disclaimer of "I'M NOT WITH HIM" over anywhere this book appears on my profile. The only reason I made it through the whole thing is that once I start a book, I always finish it; I've never given up on anything once I've started, although I almost threw this one down several times.
I have no problem with pointing out areas where you disagree with someone, but Mr. Savage refers to public figures as "Coffee Cup Annan," "Madeline Halfbright," and "Mayor Any Twosome-Noosem." I thought that it stopped being acceptable to use people's names to makes fun of them in junior high. Or, another gem, any Muslim country is referred to in his book by the generic label "Krapistan," defined in his glossary as "any Turd-World dustbowl still stuck in the Middle Ages."
The list goes on, with Mr. Savage insulting both his opponents and his supporters alike using playground language. His tendency to refer to "spokeschick" and "newschick," for example, or to say to people who agree with him that they're too stupid to know what he's talking about. No, literally, it's in there. This is how you talk to your allies? Really? We move on from, past badly drawn stereotype into examples of his "ignnerce." (Those from the South will know that being "ignorant" means you don't know something, and being "ignnert" means you're stupid, racist and/or sexist on purpose.) Mr. Savage displays the type of rabid attack-dog mentality that makes it embarrassing to say that you're conservative; even when I agree with his basic points, I was disgusted by the way he expressed them, especially since he couldn't seem to resist taking back-handed digs at his supports as well. His refusal to acknowledge actual facts (from other conservative sources, no less, not solely from the "Taliban News Network") if they don't fit his ideas of "Hitlers in dirty nightshirts" or "Headcutters in Headscarfs."
Really? You expect to win converts by calling us sheeple, and saying we don't "know the difference between Mussolini, Tortellini, or Linguine." Unfortunately, after you wade through Mr. Savage's hatemongering and offensiveness for the sake of offensiveness (which he despises in other people, but seems to find perfectly acceptable in himself), you can't find any actual substance to his arguments. If you want actual, substantive conservative arguments that you can use for ammunition in debates, or even to bolster your own beliefs, try Dinesh D'Souza, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter (who knows how to be offensive to make a point or be fun, and then stop there). Try just about anyone else; just don't let this be your only face of conservative talk radio. ...more
My recommendation and review is enthusiastic--and cautious. I'm not sure that it would be appropriate to say that I "liked" a book dealing with murderMy recommendation and review is enthusiastic--and cautious. I'm not sure that it would be appropriate to say that I "liked" a book dealing with murder, torture and rape. I'm not a sadist and don't enjoy reading about other people's pain, but I am a great believer in studying the evil of history and forcing it into the light, to talk about it and bring it to account. Even I struggled with sections of the book, detailing not only that the Japanese tortured and raped the citizens of Nanking, but how they tortured and wiped. There's a section of photographs that aren't for the faint of heart or the squeamish. I almost threw up when reading one of the chapters, but I forced myself through it--if the women can survive what happened to them, surely I can read about it and stand as a (60 years too late and a hemisphere away) witness.
I did find it odd how fast the book went. It was very clipped and quick, and it seemed like it was...hitting the high points? If that's even the phrase? But a work on something that massive, with that much primary source material, I would normally expect to be several hundred pages long, rather than under 300, even with notes. But really, I don't think this purpose of this was to a definitive, scholarly treatise on all facets of the Rape, but rather an overview to get the topic out and into discussion. The average person won't pick up a 700 page tome and read it for curiosity, but 225 pages plus notes? Not a bad way to get the conversation started. ...more