Not bad, but not my favorite by Vonnegut. Like the original Bluebeard, it's most interesting if the question "What's behind that door?" is enough to e...moreNot bad, but not my favorite by Vonnegut. Like the original Bluebeard, it's most interesting if the question "What's behind that door?" is enough to egg you on to the conclusion. (less)
A cute coming-of-age story that will be especially nostalgic for anyone who's ever participated in a fandom. It focuses on the college non-adventures...moreA cute coming-of-age story that will be especially nostalgic for anyone who's ever participated in a fandom. It focuses on the college non-adventures of Cath, an introverted fanfiction writer who's outside her comfort zone for the first time. In a more general sense it's about the feeling of having hobbies that make you an outsider -- or that you believe make you an outsider, so you don't even try to fit in.
The story is nice enough, but it doesn't have a lot of substance. It's the kind of story where all the characters are basically good, and problems only arise through lack of communication. But it deals with family and first love in a way that's realistic and sweet. My favorite parts involved Cath's relationship with her writing teacher and hesitance to move from fanfiction to "real" writing. It's likely this book is the result of a similar evolution, so it feels honest and hopeful.
One nitpick: This book features its own fictional Harry Potter-esque book series for the characters to obsess over, so I was really thrown off when one character casually mentions Harry Potter. I can believe in an alternate world where Simon Snow exists instead of Harry Potter, but I don't believe that a series with many strong similarities to Harry Potter could become a worldwide phenomenon anytime soon.(less)
This book deserves more than three stars. It's smart and knows about life. But I can't pretend it wasn't also completely boring and full of rich white...moreThis book deserves more than three stars. It's smart and knows about life. But I can't pretend it wasn't also completely boring and full of rich white people problems. (The book probably knows this about itself and did it on purpose to make a statement.)
But that's okay, I'm simultaneously impressed with this book and glad I get to read something different now. (less)
If watching characters struggle with elaborate puzzles makes you think, "wouldn't it be faster to solve that with a computer?", this may be the book f...moreIf watching characters struggle with elaborate puzzles makes you think, "wouldn't it be faster to solve that with a computer?", this may be the book for you. It's the story of an unemployed programmer who finds a job at a bookstore that barely sells any books, except to eccentric types who show up in the dead of night. When he attempts to use his tech skills to crack the secrets of the shop, things escalate quickly.
The plot relies so much on current technology trends, it will probably look more outdated with each passing year, but right now it's a fun tech-adventure for anybody who thinks nothing is impossible if you're a curious person with a computer.
The characters are relatably geeky, but in a flawless genius sort of way that's borderline irritating. They also have a real-world mentality that grounds the story a little too solidly, so situations that should have tension seem to have none. Some things you just take for granted in fiction, like that the protagonist probably can't solve their problem by getting outside help -- in this story he just calls in a favor from one of his many expert friends, or alerts the media in a way that would surely get his plans foiled by the antagonists in any other book.
But there are other appealing aspects, like the mysterious bookstore setting, the mix of old and new technology, a realistically low-key romance, and a finale that's both clever and endearingly silly. (As a graphic designer, I laughed out loud at how specifically it pandered to me.) Its tone is quite similar to Ready Player One -- maybe there will be a new genre starring young geeks whose plethora of random skills and love of fantasy quests finally lead them to excel at a real world adventure.(less)
When I read this book in high school, I hated it. The characters are self-absorbed, shallow, and thoughtless, so of course their fakey lives make them...moreWhen I read this book in high school, I hated it. The characters are self-absorbed, shallow, and thoughtless, so of course their fakey lives make them unhappy. How could it possibly be considered one of the Great American Novels if it's completely unrelatable? My English teacher seemed unsurprised by my opinion and told me to read it again in ten years, and (annoyed as I was by his dismissal of my wise teenage critique) I agreed to do it.
(Honestly I almost forgot about this promise, but I decided I need to see exactly how 3D a Great Gatsby movie could possibly be, and it would be unfair to do that without giving the book another chance first.)
Well I don't think I can say anything about this book that hasn't already been said, but short answer: my teacher was right. This time around I found it completely absorbing and yes, even relatable. There were times when the story lingered too long on a scene I found tedious, but then out of nowhere there would be a passage that chilled me to the core with how perfect and true it was.
So although I'd definitely agree that this book belongs high on the list of the Great American Novels, there were still aspects that I didn't feel as if I appreciated fully. I'll come back in another ten years to see if it ripens into that 5th star. (less)
The story of Carrie's prom night, like the identity of Luke Skywalker's father and the origin of Soylent Green, exists in my brain as part of a prepac...moreThe story of Carrie's prom night, like the identity of Luke Skywalker's father and the origin of Soylent Green, exists in my brain as part of a prepackaged set of pop cultural facts I've always known but never remember learning about. So finally reading this book felt more like reading a retelling of a well-known fairy tale than an original novel that launched Stephen King's career.
In this case, foreknowledge of the plot didn't ruin the book for me. The story's iconic scene happens halfway through the book, so there was more to the plot before and after that than what I knew about. Also, scattered throughout the story are news articles, interviews, and excerpts from other sources that were all written after prom night, which means you're told about every major event before it happens. So the point of the main story is just to fill in the details and show you how it happened from the main characters' points of view.
Even after overcoming all that, I still thought the story was mediocre. Maybe it was a fresh concept when it came out, but now it's a pretty formulaic revenge fantasy. I was pleased to find that there were a few students besides Carrie with some depth, although more of them are the standard jeering bullies that you'd expect to see in this kind of story. The tone is dated, and although that's gives the story a quaint small-town feel at times, the dialogue here doesn't sound like anything a high schooler in any time would say. Also, does every Stephen King book have a crazy religious zealot for an antagonist, or have I randomly only read those ones?
I'm glad I could fill in this pop cultural gap, but I wouldn't say this is one of the better Stephen King books I've read. Certainly it's high of the list of scary coming-of-age stories, though. (less)
Although this book is a sci-fi classic that effectively explores genetics, race, and gender roles, I didn't quite connect with it on the level that I...moreAlthough this book is a sci-fi classic that effectively explores genetics, race, and gender roles, I didn't quite connect with it on the level that I think I was meant to. The core of the story is the dynamic between two near-immortals who are constantly shifting from lovers to adversaries. But Doro, the antagonist, clearly has all the power in the relationship, and forces Anyanwu to obey his commands and tolerate his own heartless behavior so he can achieve his dream of breeding the perfect colony of super-humans. Anyanwu's only power over him is basically that her abilities would allow her to run away and stay hidden from him, if she chose to do so, which would leave him to live out his long life alone.
I guess I was upset that although the characters haven't changed many of their beliefs or behaviors even after all those years, the ending (view spoiler)[is mostly happy and redemptive for them, without any suggestion that maybe Doro deserves to be alone after all the shitty things that he did, or that Anyanwu is smart enough to recognize that he probably won't be able to change his behavior, since it's all based on attitudes that he's never questioned or shown remorse for. I wouldn't have such a problem with that if it was depicted as the next stage of an ultimately negative cycle, or if they decided that being with a person they couldn't get along with was better than being alone, but instead it felt like I'm supposed to be happy that Anyanwu was finally able to change Doro and now they can be happy together. (hide spoiler)]
But I don't think I'm giving the good parts of the story enough credit by staying focused on this one aspect I didn't like, so I'd probably still recommend this as an engaging sci-fi story with an otherwise-strong protagonist and some (dated, but) interesting observations about race and gender.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This several-novel-length, ongoing fanfiction asks the question: what if instead of being raised by the cruel Dursleys, Harry Potter was raised by lov...moreThis several-novel-length, ongoing fanfiction asks the question: what if instead of being raised by the cruel Dursleys, Harry Potter was raised by loving foster parents who encouraged him to hone his intellect and solve his problems with science and reason? His excitement about learning that magic is real (once he even decides that it's true) is immediately overwhelmed by his need to discover how and why it works, and his exploration of these concepts is what makes this story so entertaining.
But the other characters have undergone changes too, and many of them have a deep level of moral ambiguity that makes you question all over again whether Quirrel, Snape, Draco Malfoy, and Dumbledore should be trusted. It's even on the fence whether Harry himself is growing up to be a hero or a villain. It's unclear yet whether the plot is branching off into an entirely different story, (there have already been some significant deviations and suggestions that certain future events have been averted) or whether it's just taking a different path to follow the same loose framework, and going into a more realistic level of detail about how conflicting it can be to make hard decisions and know whether or not you're doing the right thing.
Although it's much better than any fanfiction I've ever read, it still has its moments of meta silliness and pop culture homage, and it sometimes diverts into side-stories that are entertaining enough, but take the focus away from the analytical moments that made me interested in the story to begin with. The well-researched concepts are better than the quality of writing, and it's not good enough to stand on its own as a novel. But in this post-Harry Potter world, it feels good to return to the story and characters in a way that has genuinely taught me new things and made me question my own ways of thinking.
I feel like this book was written specifically for my 15 year old self, whose goals in life were to be an artist, travel the world, have a secret magi...moreI feel like this book was written specifically for my 15 year old self, whose goals in life were to be an artist, travel the world, have a secret magical double life, and fall in love with a guy who carries a sword around. So in that sense, this starts like a basic fantasy wish fulfillment story, and I was expecting to enjoy it on a sort of guilty pleasure level. But I was surprised to find how compelling and clever the plot and worldbuilding turned out to be. The style has a sense of realistic teenage stream of consciousness combined with the whimsical, gothic, and exotic, which takes a romance that could be typical or silly and gives it a real sense of lush intensity. And even though the romance plays a pivotal role in the plot, there's much more to the story than just that.
There are a few elements that I wasn't totally on board with -- the chemistry between the main couple is described beautifully enough that it feels authentic, but the fact is that they barely know each other, even after all their secrets are revealed. It makes some of their infatuation-inspired decisions look a little ridiculous. But I'd say the quality of the story overwhelms these issues a lot more than in other lesser fantasy romances I've read, and this isn't the kind of story where "love conquers all" gets characters out of facing consequences for their actions.
Overall it's a beautiful and gripping story that I was compelled to finish in less than 24 hours. Maybe if you're not a fan of YA fantasy romance this won't change your mind, but if you only avoid them because they tend to disappoint you, this may be the extra-good one you've been looking for. (less)
I'd consider this book on the high end of the "teen gothic romance" spectrum, as well as a modern take on Nancy Drew-style girl detective stories. The...moreI'd consider this book on the high end of the "teen gothic romance" spectrum, as well as a modern take on Nancy Drew-style girl detective stories. The protagonist, Kami, is clever and driven, her friends have fun personalities and play important roles in the plot, and although her love interests are broody and mysterious, they still become part of the group and act like regular teen guys. Relationships evolve in a realistic way, and even at times when I thought a big overemotional moment was called for, the characters remained grounded and angsted with thoughtfulness.
The level of quippy banter flying around in this book is sheer madness. How are you supposed to achieve a gothic tone when you know the characters are just going to make sarcastic jabs at the next mysterious thing they encounter? There was a lot of potential for an uneasy spooky atmosphere that never quite came together. I did enjoy watching the central mystery of the town unfold, and it raises some interesting possibilities for future stories.
This book seems well-loved among the YA crowd, and unlike your average Twilight, I think it deserves praise. But for me the romance was just okay, and the mystery concluded at a point that didn't exactly whet my appetite for a sequel. I'd still check out the next book in the series if I was in the mood for a light paranormal mystery, and I'd definitely pick up this book for a young reader instead of letting them take their chances with the sea of generic YA books currently available. (less)
This book seems universally loved, but I'm feeling exhausted with epic fantasy these days and this one didn't really do anything that piqued my intere...moreThis book seems universally loved, but I'm feeling exhausted with epic fantasy these days and this one didn't really do anything that piqued my interest. It features a typical fantasy world, a someday-infamous warrior who's currently a frustrated kid, and a story focused on military, political, and religious happenings.
People are comparing it to Name of the Wind, but aside from the "Let me tell you what REALLY happened" structure, I don't see that at all -- I think you'll like this book if you liked the Farseer or Night Angel trilogies, both which are also about guys stuck in rigidly structured lives of killing people and becoming increasingly depressed. (less)
This potentially-epic sci-fi story starts out small, with two soldiers running away from their opposing sides of a cross-species war to carry their ne...moreThis potentially-epic sci-fi story starts out small, with two soldiers running away from their opposing sides of a cross-species war to carry their newborn baby to safety. The baby provides a nice emotional core to the story (and I'm guessing she grows up to be the true focus of this saga) but her parents are too busy fighting for survival for the story to become overly sentimental.
The universe here is colorful and bizarre, full of unique creatures including robotic politicians, lie-detecting cats, and spider-bodied bounty hunters. Several side characters are shaping up to have interesting plots of their own, and I'm excited see how all of their stories will come together in the future.
I'm a fan of Brian K. Vaughan's style, but here in a futuristic setting his casual, overly-hip dialogue feels out of place and ruins some of the immersion -- I want to imagine this crazy future full of all these interesting characters, but I don't want to imagine that any of them would still be saying "whatevs". At least let them have some dumb slang of their own.
Overall this is a great beginning for a sci-fi saga, and from the way the various pieces have been moved into place, I'm guessing it will get even better in the issues to come. (less)