While the narrative seemed to move back and forth in time more than necessary, the story is very captivating, drawing the reader into what is almost a...moreWhile the narrative seemed to move back and forth in time more than necessary, the story is very captivating, drawing the reader into what is almost an apocalyptic setting: Chechnya between the mid-1990s and 2004, touching on the two Russian-Chechen wars, the time in between, and the stories of a handful of people who either survived them or do not. The characters attempt to eke out an existence on the blasted landscape, navigate the ruined cities, and live together nearly without touching, because a neighbor's could betrayal could cause you to be "disappeared". It's a unique story about a part of the world of which I was almost totally ignorant - I'll never again think of Chechnya without recalling the indifferently-committed human rights crimes and the struggles for everyday people to survive a wrecked world with some sense of human dignity and connection to their fellow humans.(less)
This is the first in a series about a female detective inspector for the Violent Crimes Unit of the Göteborg PD in Sweden's second largest city. While...moreThis is the first in a series about a female detective inspector for the Violent Crimes Unit of the Göteborg PD in Sweden's second largest city. While the author, Helene Tursten, has been compared to Britain's PD. James, I am thinking that the reviewer was either reading a later novel or taking into account the authors total output at the time of the review.
This freshman outing has a fairly intricate mystery plot line - and a few of the characters, especially Inspector Huss, are somewhat fleshed out - most of the others are barely more than quickly sketched and seem to be mere plot devices. I think that the city and the region could use some fleshing out as well - no doubt a citizen of Göteborg would be familiar with the various locations, streets and surrounding town that play a role in the crimes and their investigation...but those of us unfamiliar with the setting get little assistance in composing a mental picture.
There are ten novels so far in the Inspector Huss series - at least six of them translated to English - while I can't highly recommend this first one, I would still be willing to give a later (and hopefully more satisfying) book in the series a try.(less)
I had a hard time deciding whether this first novel in the Investigator Yashim series rated 2 or 3 stars. If I could give it 2-1/2 I would. I wanted t...moreI had a hard time deciding whether this first novel in the Investigator Yashim series rated 2 or 3 stars. If I could give it 2-1/2 I would. I wanted to like it more than I did - the premise and the setting are interesting, but I felt pretty hampered by knowing so little about the Ottoman Empire. I think it would help one to have a general overview of the history - especially the mid-nineteenth century history of the Ottomans.
The protagonist is unique in the crime fiction I know: he's a eunuch detective with ties to the palace and a good footing in daily life in Constantinople. He can navigate both worlds and their different styles of intrigue. But the narrative seemed choppy to me, with lots of characters and not a good flow from scene to scene. I may try again with another novel in the series. As an academic and a historian it seems Goodwin knows of what he writes, having penned several non-fiction books about - among other subjects - Ottoman history. I hope that subsequent offerings in the Investigator Yashim series finds the author has accomplished a more fluid narrative style and gives the non-expert reader a little more support.(less)
Loved this...Walter, a very good writer from his first novel (and long before as a journalist), is absolutely terrific here. It's a complex story with...moreLoved this...Walter, a very good writer from his first novel (and long before as a journalist), is absolutely terrific here. It's a complex story with a large cast of interesting characters and several, interconnected story lines. Not a dull moment in its 300+ pages and a resolution/denouement that positively soars.(less)
I enjoyed this early Jess Walter novel. It is pretty much in the crime fiction/police procedural genre, only better. You can see the attention played...moreI enjoyed this early Jess Walter novel. It is pretty much in the crime fiction/police procedural genre, only better. You can see the attention played to character and ideas, in addition to plotting, that comes to full fruition in his later novels in this vein - Citizen Vince and The Zero.(less)
This is another of the four books recently published by Dark Horse in their Pharos Editions. (You can see my description of a Seattle Town Hall event...moreThis is another of the four books recently published by Dark Horse in their Pharos Editions. (You can see my description of a Seattle Town Hall event I attended that describes the Pharos editions - new printings of worthy out-of-print works - and the Washington State writers who recommended them at my previous review of Land of Plenty at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...)
Sherman Alexie recommended Inside Moves and wrote the introduction to this edition. He spoke quite eloquently at the Town Hall event about his love for the book (he says he rereads it every couple of years). Describing it as THE definitive basketball novel, he also made it clear that it is about a lot more than basketball, which makes it one of his favorite novels of all time. It was made into a film, which I have not seen, and Alexie took pains to note that while he considers it one of his favorite films, it is a different experience from the novel.
I think it is a terrific novel, too. It's funny, poignant, has great characters - and is just a pleasure to read. Having read a number of Alexie's books, I can definitely see that Inside Moves had no little influence on Alexie's straightforward, plainspoken, genuine-feeling style of narrative.
It's a shame the book has been out-of-print...this edition should provide a welcome renewed interest for the novel. It's not to be missed.(less)
A few weeks ago I attended a Town Hall event in Seattle. The occasion was the publication by local publishing house, Dark Horse Press, of four novels...moreA few weeks ago I attended a Town Hall event in Seattle. The occasion was the publication by local publishing house, Dark Horse Press, of four novels in their new Pharos Editions imprint. From the Pharos website:
"Pharos Editions is dedicated to bringing to light out-of-print, lost or rare books of distinction. A carefully curated list of beautifully produced books, Pharos titles are hand-picked and introduced by some of today’s most exciting authors, creators, and artists."
On this occasion three of the four Northwest writers recommending/curating the initial list titles were present in a forum-style event. The attendees were Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, All About Lulu; Jess Walter ( The Zero, Citizen Vince, Beautiful Ruins, We Live in Water, The Financial Lives of the Poets); and Sherman Alexie (Blasphemy, Indian Killer, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, etc.)
The Land of Plenty was Jess Walter's selection. I actually found Walter's introduction to the book more interesting than the novel itself. He put Robert Cantwell's work in historical and literary perspective, praising the honest, naturalistic style, noting how Cantwell gained the admiration of Hemingway and other writers of the day, and making positive comparisons to Dos Passos and other writers who championed the workers and helped bring labor issues into the public.
But for me the prose style was ponderous and repetitive. Each chapter is narrated from the point of view of a different character - and some of the characters voices were more readable than others: the sawmill foreman, several workers at the mill, the manager, the owner, etc. Certainly the conditions in the mill are rendered in a way that is realistic and appalling, from a worker/safety point of view. Everyone struggles to make ends meet on the low wages and long, hard workdays and nights. As the story unfolds you can feel that the frustrations and grievances of the workers is coming to a head. The strike - when it does come - seems almost an anticlimax, and it's obvious that it's success is anything but assured. The desperation of nearly all the characters hangs like a pall over the entire novel, and the sense of hopelessness never really dissipates.
If you like gritty, hyper-realistic tales of downtrodden workers trying to survive and barely succeeding - you will probably like this book. I admire Cantwell for writing it - and wish he had stuck with novel writing to produce more and better books. Land of Plenty deserves to be brought out of the archive and reprinted. But I can't really recommend it as it was just too bleak for me to enjoy.(less)
The title describes the plot of this Swedish comic novel in a nutshell. After escaping from his retirement home, the novel's hero experiences many adv...moreThe title describes the plot of this Swedish comic novel in a nutshell. After escaping from his retirement home, the novel's hero experiences many adventures in the present - while relating events from his life to his traveling companions. He in pops up, Zelig-like (or Forrest Gump-ly) in many iconic moments in history, interacting with such historical personages as Harry Truman, Josef Stalin, Robert Oppenheimer, and Albert Einstein's intellect-challenged half-brother. One of my favorite episodes involves a hilarious crossing of North Korea, and a misadventure with Kim Il-Sung and a ten-year-old Kim Jong-Il.
The book is enjoyable and funny - but I didn't think it quite lives up to the hype I've seen in reviews (not to mention the book blurbs, but no surprise there.) My book club read this and I don't think I would recommend as a book club selection - there is really not much to discuss- but it's an amusing summer read.(less)
It's funnier than I expected, with slightly more sophisticated satire and more plotting than I had expected as well. Pretty much a fun read - and not...moreIt's funnier than I expected, with slightly more sophisticated satire and more plotting than I had expected as well. Pretty much a fun read - and not as cattily critical of Seattle as I might have thought from the reviews and from seeing an extended interview with the author by Nancy Pearl on local cable. Let's face it - Seattle and the Northwest deserve a lot of the ribbing anyway!(less)
I did not enjoy this as much as I had hoped - interesting, yes. Enjoyed the exposure to English history in the time of the Tudor, certainly.
My quibbl...moreI did not enjoy this as much as I had hoped - interesting, yes. Enjoyed the exposure to English history in the time of the Tudor, certainly.
My quibbles with the book are mostly stylistic and navigational ones. Since Mantel writes totally from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, she does not seem to feel the need to identify him as the speaker (or thinker) a good percentage of the time, using "he" as if we should know that means Cromwell, even when there are four other men in the conversation.
The list of players in the front of the volume are helpful, but it would have been even more helpful to have an alphabetical character list as well. In that list the author would make sure to include all the different names each of the characters has(many of them have several names/titles)as well as each characters significant relationships with the others.
If I could give it 2-1/2 stars, that would be my choice. It has a lot to recommend it (and I know it has appeared on "best book" lists by critics and readers I respect, I frankly found it a bit of a slog. The next volume, "Bring up the Bodies" is considerably shorter - and now that I know the characters, I think it will be more fun.(less)