I don't read much science fiction anymore. When it was great, it was all about man and the Big Idea, or First Contact. It was all about the discoveryI don't read much science fiction anymore. When it was great, it was all about man and the Big Idea, or First Contact. It was all about the discovery of revealing concepts and bizarre things. But after the 80s, Speculative Fiction, as 'they' preferred to call it, brought more of a social consciousness to the stories and explored political structures and how they affected whatever new world we were in. It didn't take long for me to get sick of it and abandon the genre.
What the...? Did Bill get his reviews mixed up?
No, stay with me. I know what I'm doing. The Power of the Dog has nothing to do with science fiction. This is an incredibly well researched story about Mexican drug cartels. It is fictionalized, but several reviews that I've seen from news sources have said that this book was so well researched that it could very well be non-fiction, with key names changed. It is absolutely stunning to get a grasp on what the drug trade in Mexico is all about. Once you realize how the so-called War on Drugs inter-relates the DEA, CIA, police, Governments, Colombia, El Salvatore, Left-Wing Guerrillas, the mafia, the church, it's mind boggling. There are bad guys everywhere, and a LOT of money changing hands, making good guys bad guys. So strangely enough, I was thinking about the speculative fiction I had read in the past, and the clever little political worlds that these authors had thought up. And I was thinking, sci-fi, you ain't got nothing on this. With the clusterfuck that is the War on Drugs, you simply cannot make this shit up.
The Power of the Dog takes this incredible stage and follows an obsessed DEA agent who is trying to clean up the Mexican drug cartels. 'Clean up' is a euphemism here, kids. This is a violent book. Some very nasty things happen to good and bad people. It was an excellent read and expose on what is going on down there. Having said that, I must also say that this is also a very long read and I was tiring of it with 100 pages to go. Shootout after shootout, and I just needed an ending. For this, I dock a full star. It's a solid read nonetheless and recommended as a both as a crime thriller and eye opener. ...more
Every time Kazuo Ishiguro releases a novel there's always a buzz of excitement. I'd never read him, but did see the movie Remains of the Day, and thatEvery time Kazuo Ishiguro releases a novel there's always a buzz of excitement. I'd never read him, but did see the movie Remains of the Day, and that hardly inspired any interest to check out his novels. But Never Let Me Go has been popping up on my radar a lot these days, and from the unlikeliest of places. Like the This is Horror podcast. This is when I sat up and took notice. The reason Ishiguro generates so much buzz is that apparently each of his novels are so completely different from each other. So upon learning this, I put this one on my list and read it soon after...so nice for a change to read something standalone and not part of a series.
Never Let Me Go was a very fast read for me. Ishiguro is a master of pacing and efficient descriptiveness. I was only about 20% into it when I stumbled onto the news that Robert Marasco's Burnt Offerings had been re-published and was finally available for Kindle. This was huge news for me because I had been searching for this book for decades. So as you can imagine, I really wanted to burn through this one to get to something I was so excited for. And burn through it I did, for a while. Then I started to savour it.
I can't tell you anything about it. You've probably heard generalized blurbs, such as Ishiguro explores what love and friendship are, and what it means to be who we are. This is really all you need to know. Please don't read too many reviews about this book before reading it. I couldn't turn my eyes away fast enough when I accidentally hit a GoodReads friend's spoiler which ruined the book for me.
You only have one chance to read a novel for the first time. Don't let anyone blow it for you. This book is very special, and given what I knew through it, it was a 4-star read for me. I am certain that, had I not hit that spoiler, this would have easily been a 5-star ranking, so that is what I will make it. I have started Burnt Offerings, but I'm still thinking about this one...
Station Eleven was one of the "it" books last year, and one more in a long line of end-of-the-world novels.
It's been several days since I finished it,Station Eleven was one of the "it" books last year, and one more in a long line of end-of-the-world novels.
It's been several days since I finished it, and frankly a lot of the details have slipped my mind. So, take that as you will: maybe a bit of a yawner for those of you looking for that can't-put-it-down quality.
What I do take away from the novel is this: the novel's strongest section is near the beginning when the flu epidemic strikes. I could feel the panic and my heart was beating a bit faster. Really good stuff, here.
The novel follows several characters (okay, as I'm writing this more details are coming to me), and the novel shows more strengths with the backstories leading up to the epidemic. Things have a very tidy way of coming around towards the end, and yes this is another strength to the novel: the overal structure of the story is very impressive.
All in all Station Eleven was hovering around the four star mark as I was reading it, but I think I'm more from the "I liked it" than the "I really liked it" camp. But it's a close race. At the time of this writing I'm still recommending this novel with a strong 3-star rating. ...more
You know it's time to quit a book when you start scouring reviews to find a reason to keep reading it. After going through the glowing reviews and seeiYou know it's time to quit a book when you start scouring reviews to find a reason to keep reading it. After going through the glowing reviews and seeing nothing that convinced me that the book was to become better after 100 pages, I started into the negative reviews. This is where I started to feel more vindicated on my feelings on it.
I'm 169 pages in, a whopping 17%, and I can't do this anymore for another 800 pages.
First the good points: Shantaram's description of India is fantastic. I could totally immerse myself in the chaotic streets, feel the stifling heat, and smell the exotic (and sickening at times) air. If I had read this when I was 20, I would have been inclined to drop everything and embark on my own Bombay adventure like our hero.
Which brings me to the bad points: our hero. It is with great relief that I can put this book aside and not have to endure one more cutesy philosophical turn of phrase. Usually I dig this kind of stuff, but only when it's tastefully served. See Stephen King: he's got this folksy way of getting a point across, and it's usually set nicely into the context of the story or in a character's actions or dialogue. GD Roberts, it seems, has amassed a collection of Dr Phil-isms. Here are a couple of nuggets: "The truth is a bully that everyone pretends to like." "A dream is where a wish and a fear meet. A nightmare is when the wish and fear are the same exact thing." You get these about every other page. All with the subtlety of a bag of hammers. I can imagine his fellow prisoners and guards were relieved to see his pop-psych ass go over the wall.
I also had a problem with the flow of the narrative. There are a LOT of dry spots in this story. I like descriptive prose as much as the next guy, but Robert's style made this a really hard novel to stay engaged with. 800 more pages of this? Life is too short. There's a philosophy anyone can digest. Two stars though, for the great description of Indian life.
It's been a few hours since finishing this book, and normally I would have already chosen the next one off the pile. Not so much this time.
This book dIt's been a few hours since finishing this book, and normally I would have already chosen the next one off the pile. Not so much this time.
This book did something to me, and it's not a good thing. I will never read this guy again and you know why? Because this is a 531 page book with 177 chapters. Yes, 177.
I have loved short chapter books in the past. When it's done right it can make for a very quick, suspenseful and addictive read. This format for this book left me with reader's fatigue. While Doerr does have some wonderful ways to describe things (his description of the blind girl envisioning her father by colours, depending on his activity, is brilliant), a lot of the novel was terribly bogged down with flowery and over-descriptive passages.
The middle of the book dragged terribly, and I was antsy for it to get on with things. Finally, towards the last 15% or so, things were really coming together in a big way. BUT! Even as this was happening, still the reader is made to deal with pace-killing details upon details.
Don't get me wrong here. I did not dislike this book. In fact, this is an excellent story and I am glad it was told to me. I just wish someone else would have written it. Someone who gets pacing. This is the first book I have ever read where the tiny chapters served to kill the flow of the story rather than keep it engaging. An amazing feat, if you think about it. 177 chapters. Good Lord.
So the reason I don't have another book started right now is that after finishing it, I really don't feel like reading right now. That is about the worst thing I can say about a book. (Don't worry, I think I can shake this off after dinner.)
I can't decide if I want to give this 4 stars or 1. Crazy, huh? Just a bad presentation of story, in my opinion, but a wonderful story. Middle of the road, then. 3 stars it is.
Oh, wait...before I end this there is something I need to get off my chest. At one point in the novel, Doerr describes the after effects of a bombing, where glass is falling from the sky, making "sounds both beautiful and strange, as though gemstones were raining from the sky". Okay, I let this stuff go with The Book Thief, because it was narrated by Death. However, I take great offence to a writer who is jumping on the bandwagon to find beauty in the destruction of war. Using artistic license to trivialize abject terror is an insult to those who suffered it, Punk.
It was not a sigh of good feeling when I finally finished this book, but a sigh of relief.
It feels like I had been reading this forever.
I had first heIt was not a sigh of good feeling when I finally finished this book, but a sigh of relief.
It feels like I had been reading this forever.
I had first heard about this novel from the Books on the Nightstand, and Ann, who is usually right in line with what I like, has several times touted this book as one of her favourites of all time. Well, it didn't work for me, and I'll tell you why.
See, this was a very good story, in retrospect. But bloated?! Look, I can fully appreciate great writing. The descriptiveness of time and place, of characters' feelings and mannerisms are all vital components to telling a story. But when expounding prose serves to block or circumvent the narrative, rather than enhance it, I get very frustrated with what is presented: a plodding storyline.
If something is going to be this wordy, then make it worthwhile and dazzle me. You can even make me stop and marvel at it. But don't make it something to for me to plod through for a full page while I'm waiting for a character to pick up the damn phone already and say, "Hello". This book seemed wordy for the sake of being wordy. Not once was I impressed.
The only reason I stuck with it was because I trust Ann Kingman's taste in books (and still do), and given the high ratings I expected there must be some amazing payoff in the final pages. There wasn't, really.
I'm rating this 2 stars (It was OK) because despite my grievances, it was a very good story and it did keep me interested and curious as to where it was going to go. But very overwritten. (See A Fine Balance for how wordy can be marvelous). ...more
I read a lot of different genres. My only goal is to be entertained. I'll read horror in the hope that there is an author out there who can still shocI read a lot of different genres. My only goal is to be entertained. I'll read horror in the hope that there is an author out there who can still shock me. I'll read fantasy or science fiction in the hope that some author will blow my mind with an incredible world or amazing life forms. I'll read suspense thrillers in the hope that there is still an author that will break the mould and twist a plot line so unexpectedly that it will keep me awake at night. Those are the things I look for, and the things that will make me rate a book five stars. But underlining all of this, is the most important thing of all. Keep me engaged with a great story with great characters. Well, obviously you can see the five star rating here, so you know what the deal is.
The Prince of Tides is one of the best novels I've read in a long time. It's not horror or otherworldly or has an urgent hunt on for a homicidal lunatic. This is simply a family drama, about a South Carolina man whose twin sister has attempted suicide. The story follows Tom as he travels to New York City to discuss his sister's state with her psychologist and he relates their childhood to her in the hopes that she can better understand her patient.
My kindle edition had this listed as 647 pages, but I would imagine the print edition had the words densely packed as this seemed longer than that. Not to say this was a slog, because the story was very difficult to put down. This is simply a big book!
Pat Conroy is a master storyteller. His dysfunctional southern hick family has all the quirkiness you would want, and all the sensitivities you would expect from close knit siblings. The quality of writing and sheer engaging quality of the narrative is something you would expect from Stephen King if he was a straight fiction writer. The best thing I can say about any novel is that I am sorry it is finished. I loved being into it.
An easy five stars and highly recommended to anyone....more
So, a few weeks ago I slapped it back on my to-read list, and shortly after that, loaded it onto my Kindle.
This was top notch writing for the most part. It's the story of a baseball phenom who goes to college. I can see where people could find the book bloated. There are aspects of the story that are rather drawn out, particularly towards the end, but I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading it because of that.
At one point, the writing was just a little too good: You see, I don't enjoy reading scenes involving gay sex. But there it was, and I was stuck there reading through it. I wish I could have simply said, “Okay! Well, I'll leave you fellas to it”, and leave the room. And yes, I do get that it was important to the story. Doesn't mean I enjoy experiencing the romantic details. It's just the way I'm wired, folks. As it was, the book didn't entirely focus on this, and it was aptly character and story driven.
I still cannot get out of my head something I learned from this story. There is a very real and bizarre phenomenon that has affected pro baseball players through history. I won't divulge it here, you can find out for yourself, but it was this part of the story that had me absolutely riveted. For that reason alone, I highly recommend you check out this book if you're considering it at all. ...more
The only other Picoult book I read was My Sister's Keeper, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Nineteen Minutes is a favorite among most people, so I had thThe only other Picoult book I read was My Sister's Keeper, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Nineteen Minutes is a favorite among most people, so I had this one slated to read whenever I wanted a quick summer read.
For the last 100 or so pages, I could hardly put it down. Her formula for keeping the reader engaged works very well. But I had some issues with this book that annoyed the hell out of me. Firstly, I have never come across so many stupid and needless analogies. Or are they similes? Whatever...
Here are a few:
This is from a funeral scene: Loud, noisy sobs - the kind that splattered against the walls of the church like paint. I wonder how long it took her to think that one up.
Or this one: If you were uncertain in the decisions you made as a father, could you patch over your insecurities with the confidence you had as a professional? Or would the fix always be flimsy, a paper wall that couldn't bear weight?
Or this Picasso: Bruises bloomed on her skin where he held her fast, as if she were a canvas and he was determined to leave his mark.
How about this gem? and the way the stars were pricking at her skin, like inoculations for a terminal disease
I could go on and on, but I'll stop with one more: In the upper right-hand corner were the lunch ladies, slopping food onto plastic trays as students came through the line one by one, like drops through an intravenous tube. Yes! Exactly like that!
Ugh. You know, for the most part, this was a pretty solid read, formula-wise. But every time I came upon one of these ridiculous analogies, it took me out of the story and I'd think, why the hell was that needed?? Okay, Let's do one more for the description of Alex's eyes: Hers were the pale gray that made you think of nightfall and silver bullets and the edge of winter. O-Kaay.
This is a writer that is trying way too hard.
Furthermore: (view spoiler)[ The whole Josie thing was nothing more than a twist for the sake of a twist and did not ring true to me one bit. Oh, she loves him, no, she hates him, no, she loves him, no, she shoots him, no, she loves him again. And, how could Peter's attorney possibly think that a difference circumstance with his TENTH murder after his rampage would have a significant impact on his sentence? Give me a break. Really. (hide spoiler)]
Alright, so that's it for Jodi Picoult. See ya...["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"]>...more
I'm sure that if I had created the universe and was looking down on Earth to check up on what my humans were up to, the minute I saw slavery in actionI'm sure that if I had created the universe and was looking down on Earth to check up on what my humans were up to, the minute I saw slavery in action, I'd wipe the bastards off the face of the planet and start it over again.
Like Nazism, I still find it hard to accept what human beings are capable of.
I guess that's why at times I'm drawn to stories where terrible things happen to people, in as much an effort to somehow understand it as to root for the oppressed.
This novel delivered somewhat as far as reveals into the human aspect of slavery, but mostly it was an entertaining read because I could not wait to see how Butler was going to resolve the story. I love time travel stories (my favorite still goes to Replay), and the inexplicable circumstance that Dana finds herself stuck in was fascinating.
I must say that I was left mildly unimpressed with the resolution of the book. And, I was quite annoyed with Dana's and Kevin's matter-of-fact, kind of casual attitude over their predicaments. It just seemed rather wooden to me.
I'm giving this one 3 stars because I liked that it had me very much hooked, but I could have used a little more realistic emotional involvement from the main characters.
(view spoiler)[ I still cannot figure out why Kevin left the plantation after Dana went back home without him. If my love was gone, AND she is my only way of getting back to 1976, I would be sticking to Rufus like glue no matter how many years it took. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This isn't my favorite Vonnegut, but it was still worth the read.
As with most of what I've read by him, Vonnegut's story centers on the insanity of waThis isn't my favorite Vonnegut, but it was still worth the read.
As with most of what I've read by him, Vonnegut's story centers on the insanity of war, racism and Nazism. Howard W. Campbell is awaiting his trial for war crimes. In his jail cell, he relates his life as an American living in Germany as a radio broadcaster of Nazi propaganda.
Vonnegut explores moral ambiguity, accountability, and, as is his genius, manages to lace it with some laugh out loud humour.
So, again, not my favorite, but I'm glad I read it and will continue on my quest to read all of him....more
I don't know if it's my middle-age sensitivities ramping up or if King is just resonating with me more and more, but I'm becoming very emotionally invI don't know if it's my middle-age sensitivities ramping up or if King is just resonating with me more and more, but I'm becoming very emotionally involved in most of the things he's written.
Joyland is no exception, and he came very close yesterday to making me bawl my eyes out. Heck, I'll admit it: I'm an absolute wreck when it comes to (view spoiler)[ sick kids getting their dream of a lifetime. Every time I see a story on the news of sick kids on their way to Disneyworld, with such unbridled excitement on their faces, it's all I can do to not cry. Well, King did this to me, with those sweet pages of Devin taking Mike to Joyland. I had to take a break through it before something embarrassing happened to me. (hide spoiler)].
King pours a little of everything into this one: nostalgia, a ghost, a mystery (this is hard case crime, so...), but the best part of the story is his time and place setting, an amusement park in 1973. It was just really, really nice to be there. The rest was good, but all the other ingredients seemed rushed in, to appease the genre this book is slated into. For those looking for bona fide Hard Case Crime content, you may be disappointed (I only have Lawrence Block's Grifter's Game to compare with, and that was hard core!), but for those hungry for King's nostalgia, you're in for nice treat here.
I made a rule long ago that any novel that can strongly move me deserves my highest rating. Maybe I'm just a softy, but what the fuck.
Five stars again for Uncle Stevie.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wilbur Smith is one of those names you see taking up three to four shelves in used bookstores, with weathered spines and yellowed pages. Jeffrey ArcheWilbur Smith is one of those names you see taking up three to four shelves in used bookstores, with weathered spines and yellowed pages. Jeffrey Archer is another one. I only bother to mention Jeffrey Archer because I found these two to be very similar in writing styles as well. The fact that the only books I've read by these fellas have been their first may be the reason this is so.
When the Lion Feeds is something I needed at the time (and what do you know, this is exactly how I started my review for Archer's Kane and Abel), and that is simply a good story. You know, just a good story as if someone were to stop you on the street and tell you what happened. For 30 hours or so...
Anyways, what I'm getting at is that like Archer, it's a rather thinly told story for the most part. There isn't a whole lot of ink spent on lavish descriptions or overly complex characterization. Rather you're focused on things that are happening in the here and now (and, thankfully, he totally glossed over any battle details when the time came. I HATE reading battle scenes!).
Smith did pleasantly surprise me a few times with his characters, though. It didn't happen a lot, but when it did I could see a lot of potential to come with subsequent novels. He also surprised me nicely with some of the turns the plot took.
This is very good storytelling. It was recommended by a friend who has read the entire Courtney series, and when I bought it at the used book store, the guy there told me "Oh, I loved that series years ago!". So, I'm giving this one a firm 3.5 stars, with the assurance of a good series to fall back on when I just need a good story.
It's also worth noting that this is the first time ever that reading about 1880s stock exchange action got my heart racing. Very nice! ...more
This was an unknown book to me. My girlfriend discovered it and figured I would like it because of the quirky characters. She says this because, well,This was an unknown book to me. My girlfriend discovered it and figured I would like it because of the quirky characters. She says this because, well, apparently I have some quirks...
She was right, I did enjoy this book. However, it did tend to drag somewhat towards the end. The first half of the story was great. It featured some very quirky characters, and the story was told in the form of narrative, mixed with emails and notes. This made the story move like gangbusters. Unfortunately, when the time came to narrow this down to a longish narrative, the story lost its momentum, in my opinion.
Regardless, it was still a fun read and I do enjoy those characters with quirks... ...more
This book was exactly what I needed at the time. Just a good story.
I loved the parallel storylines of two boys born on the same day on opposite ends oThis book was exactly what I needed at the time. Just a good story.
I loved the parallel storylines of two boys born on the same day on opposite ends of the earth, and anticipating the convergence of them. These are usually my favorite types of novels.
It's not the perfect read, though. As I was getting through the first 30 pages or so, I was struck by the feeling I was reading this extended prologue: you don't quite have that embedded feeling with the characters, you're just getting the lay of the land; a high level telling of story. The unfortunate thing is, the entire novel seemed this way. Sure there were points where I was empathizing with the characters, but at no point did I really feel as though I knew them intimately. Stephen King is by far my favorite author, and the reason for this is not only can he tell a story, you are also walking the miles in his characters' shoes. You know exactly what they are feeling, and why. Every novel I read comes up to this scrutiny. I need to know and care about (and sometimes hate) characters.
Now, don't think that this novel is not worth reading, It certainly is. It is a fantastic story and I could hardly put it down. This is one of the few times I can let my rich characterization criteria fall by the side and simply enjoy where this story is going. There are surprises to be had, and the pacing of the plotlines was expertly done. I will absolutely, definitely, read more Jeffrey Archer! I wish I could give it four and a half stars, so let's say it is that. Very enjoyable, read it! ...more
I had heard of this novel through the Books on the Nightstand podcast. I believe both Ann and Michael were highly recommending it.
I finished it last nI had heard of this novel through the Books on the Nightstand podcast. I believe both Ann and Michael were highly recommending it.
I finished it last night, and as I sit here pondering what to write about it, I'm also torn between giving it one or five stars. Yeah, you read that right. I can't decide if I didn't like it or if was it amazing.
Well, I can't give it one star. This is a book that will stay with me a very long time. In my world, that criteria ranks five stars.
Here's where things get complicated. On the plus side, this is a pretty heartwrenching story of love set against the backdrop of England and France during the horrors of World War I. There was a long stretch where I felt for Tristan and what he was going through. See, I am a live and let live kind of guy, and even though I am not wired as Tristan is, I can still empathize what love can do to a young man. But. (view spoiler)[ How Tristan can possibly think that kissing Peter as he is going on about how he is so in love with a girl could be anything but disasterous is beyond me. What the hell did you expect, man? WTF? (hide spoiler)] Granted, Tristan was little more than a boy at that point, so raging hormones indeed rule....okay...but still... Tristan, Tristan, Tristan. Yes I empathized with you, but at the same time, and this screamed in my head a couple of times, "Oh my God! GET OVER YOURSELF!!!"
I could go back and forth forever on this. There are several novels that I absolutely hated just because the characters were idiots. Perhaps I should qualify that a bit. It wasn't so much that they were idiots, but the author made them do totally unrealistic things. This author, on the other hand, created a character who, I think, behaved like a idiot. But, you place this behaviour inside a lovesick teen and, well, yeah, this can be realistic. So I've talked myself into five stars because this was a great story, and towards the end of the novel, (view spoiler)[I realized that Tristan getting over himself was certainly an unreasonable expectation. (hide spoiler)] Any novel that I can't shake out of my head gets a high rating. And I just resolved a major issue at work today so I'm in a great mood. Five stars it is. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It was one of the very rare occurrences where I finish a book in bed without another one to pick up right away. You seeI didn't sleep well last night.
It was one of the very rare occurrences where I finish a book in bed without another one to pick up right away. You see, I hate being between books. When I finish one, I immediately choose another and begin it right away. But last night was an anomaly. Just the way things worked out.
So. Turning out the light immediately after finishing this left me thinking about the whole thing for much of the night. I kept going over what it was that Franklin did that made me care for these characters so much. He has an understated style of writing, but what was there really resonated. Larry Ott. Oh man. How I felt for this guy. A boy after my own heart, lonely but finding refuge in Stephen King's novels. In adulthood, a man who is ostracized by an entire town amid suspicions that he killed a girl 25 years ago.
Now, another girl is missing, and "Scary Larry" is, of course, suspected.
Did he or didn't he?
The story moves along in present day, and also flashing back to the past (a formula I never tire of), and explores life in small town Mississippi, and Larry's friendship with a Silas (a dirt-poor black boy). I was totally immersed. Part of the reason I didn't have another book ready to read after this one is because this is the only book that mattered while I was reading it. I've noticed some reviewers have made comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird, which is inevitable given the Mississippi setting and race relations. A pretty high standard there, but I feel it's warranted. I wish I had the eloquence to describe how Franklin touched on life in Mississippi and how human kindness struggles to rise to the surface, and does it, really? Gosh, I loved being into this story and I'm so sorry it's over. I'm still thinking about it and I'm having a tough time selecting the next book to read. Any book that keeps buzzing in my head like this did deserves the highest rating. ...more
Knockemstiff is Donald Ray Pollock's first publication, comprising of several vignettes of the residents of Knockemstiff, Ohio. ThisI'm glad it's over.
Knockemstiff is Donald Ray Pollock's first publication, comprising of several vignettes of the residents of Knockemstiff, Ohio. This is a sad place, populated by what can only be described as white trash hillbillies.
Drug use is rampant, as is deviant sexuality, and while I am in no way a prude or naive in the ways of various intoxicants, by the time I finished this collection I couldn't take any more. The best thing about this reading experience was being able to put it down and appreciate the richness of the life I have. But, admittedly, the book is a series of train wrecks that you can hardly look away from. I mean, my God, Bactine??? Where does he get this stuff? Pollock's method of engagement is by making the reader wonder what the hell he's going to come up with on the next page. This collection is a tough one to recommend. It's very bleak, with little to no hope for these troubled souls. If you're prone to depression, or your life is in a tailspin, I'd say avoid it. If not, then dive in and vicariously live some lives of depravity and be thankful that you can pop back in to the real world at your leisure.
Personally speaking, I did enjoy the trips enough to give this four stars. But I highly recommend reading The Devil All the Time first. This is also set in the same town, and with the same level of depravity, but brilliantly conceived. I'm so glad that my first visit to Knockemstiff was with that book: my depravity meter would have been burned out otherwise. ...more
I could just leave my review with that one word and it would suffice. Considering I barely slept last night due to my stubbornness of refusiFantastic.
I could just leave my review with that one word and it would suffice. Considering I barely slept last night due to my stubbornness of refusing to turn on my air conditioner in March, a one-word review would suit my sleepy mind just fine. But one of King's finest novels deserves more than that.
Yeah, this is one of his best, if not the best novel he's written. There are many people who like to turn their noses up at King, as they are wont to do with most other insanely successful bestseller novelists, but most of these folks will concede that he is one heck of a storyteller.
It's no secret I'm a big fan. But the reason for that is not strictly his storytelling ability (in fact I disliked the action-driven Under the Dome) that I like, but it's his character development that really does it for me.
So, combine a finely crafted character like our hero Jake Epping, and a story (gosh, can this guy tell a story) that can't have you turning the pages fast enough, you've got one fun reading experience. He's straying away from the horror here, and I feel that when he does this he's at his best. This a book you can give to anyone who has never read him because they don't like horror and have written him off has just a horror writer.
This book, well, my Kindle edition anyways, is over 850 pages. For me this almost always seems too long, but there was not one page that was not important to the story. I did not want the story to end. I finished it last night and today I feel a bit empty that it's gone now and I have to move on to something else. This is extremely rare for me.
I'm going out on a limb here and proclaiming this as my best read of the year. Damn, it was good, yeah, FANTASTIC, and would make an outstanding movie. Steve, you're getting better with age. Keep 'em coming. ...more
Well, I can see why this novel is so popular. Now that I have finished it and can look back at all that had happened to these charFinally finished it.
Well, I can see why this novel is so popular. Now that I have finished it and can look back at all that had happened to these characters and what their fates had in store them, I agree that this definitely was a standout story. A day later, and I'm still thinking about Gus, Call, Newt, Lorie, Dish, Clara, heck, dern near all of em.
This book had a very slow start. In fact, if it hadn't been for the tons of five-star reviews, I don't think I would have stuck with it. Some reviewers said that it took the novel 60 pages to set the hook. Some said 100. One fella said 300. Me? It took 400 pages for it to really start to interest me. I read this novel over my vacation and there is a part of me that resents the time commitment to finish this. I usually like to knock down at least 2 books over my downtime. If this had been as consistently gripping as King's 11/22/63, a novel at least as long as this, it wouldn't have been a problem. But for the first half of the novel I really had to push through it, with the hope of a payoff keeping me going.
Now I'm in the minority here. Most folks absolutely loved the entire reading experience. I won't say I disliked any part of it, but for a lot of it I found McMurtry's narrative to be rambling and repetitive. The point at which I decided I enjoyed the novel was when I finished it and let the whole saga of the cattle drive settle into my head. Looking back, I truly felt engaged in these characters' travels, their heartaches (hey, wait a second, cowboys don't cry.), their dreams. I'm very happy to have read it...and just as happy to have finished it. A very strong 4+ stars. ...more
I guess by now everyone knows that this is a story written from the perspective of a five year-old boy, and that the boy is a product of the rape of hisI guess by now everyone knows that this is a story written from the perspective of a five year-old boy, and that the boy is a product of the rape of his young mother by their captor.
The 11x11 Room is all the boy has ever known. His mother has been confined to Room for the past seven years.
I'm giving this book 4 stars. The first half of the story (including the harrowing climax of that half) earned a solid 5 stars. I totally devoured that part of the book in no time flat.
I found the second half of the book to be not quite as gripping. While it was quite interesting to experience Jack's experiences, it was beginning to get a little old for me; not a whole lot happening, and where the combination of story and Jack's perspective set a breakneck pace earlier on, take away the story development and it became more of a text on new perspectives from a little tyke.
But I wouldn't let that dissuade anyone from reading it. It really is well done, and despite some grammatical inconsistencies (how many 5 year-olds have used the word 'sarcasm'?), seeing the world through Jack's eyes is a refreshing treat. And, despite the obvious horror of their circumstance, Jack's perspective gives a light depiction of the events, making this a palatable read for those who would otherwise be upset by it. ...more
It's been two days since I finished this one. I am 30% of the way through another novel now, and I still can't get The Devil All the Time out of my mindIt's been two days since I finished this one. I am 30% of the way through another novel now, and I still can't get The Devil All the Time out of my mind.
Wow, where to start? This is an incredibly fast read, just over 260 pages, but there are so many turns to the plotlines that, at one point late in the novel, I was reminded of one development that seemed so long ago that I thought it was from another book!
Donald Ray Pollock has done what I envy in only a few authors' skills (Ruth Rendell's A Sight for Sore Eyes and Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply to name a couple), and that is the ability to manage several plotlines that will ultimately converge and round out a story. I don't know about you, but this just smacks of brilliance for me. Pollock has superbly constructed a story, but buyer beware: this is rife with degenerate lowlifes. Almost all of the characters can be hated, but this train wreck of a tale is impossible to turn away from. As vile and dirty as some of these characters were, I was invested in them emotionally. Not that I cared for them, but I cared for their fates. I cared for retribution, I cared for justice.
Pollock has just soared to the top of my list of must-read authors. I will read Knockemstiff very soon, and will wait very impatiently for his next novel. Good Lord man, what were you doing wasting 30-odd years in a paper mill? Here's hoping those creative juices have been building up over the years and we can expect more novels from this guy.
I picked this one up because a few of my Goodreads friends loved it. Unfortunately, it didn't do a whole lot for me. What it boils down to is that I'm nI picked this one up because a few of my Goodreads friends loved it. Unfortunately, it didn't do a whole lot for me. What it boils down to is that I'm not all that keen on Garland's writing here. For some reason, he failed to engage me in the narrative. It's hard to put my finger on it as to why that is.
For example, there was one point where he was describing (view spoiler)[ Zeph and Sammy getting beaten by the guards, and I felt very detached to the action. (hide spoiler)] But it was more than that. I also didn't feel particularly close to any of the characters. I don't know, there was just kind of a vague feel to the whole thing, including the visual I have of the lagoon and the cliffs. When I think I have a good idea of how it's all laid out, I read something else that makes me adjust that.
Just a vague detachment is what I felt throughout the entire story, really, as if I was as stoned as Richard was throughout most of the story. I guess Garland's writing just doesn't jibe with me. I'm in the vast minority here though, so don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself. At least my curiosity about the novel is satisfied, so I can move on.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I'm sure this continues to be a very good book, if this type of thing is what you're after. But I'm tiring of it after 170 pages: I really don't dig reI'm sure this continues to be a very good book, if this type of thing is what you're after. But I'm tiring of it after 170 pages: I really don't dig reading battle scenes. It's not that I'm squeamish or over-sensitive, it's just that reading about strategies, combat manoevers, even actual fighting, makes my eyes glaze over and I get bored. I was under the impression that this was a broader story of the Vietnam war. What this is (or what it is seeming to me, after what I've read, and peeking at the beginning of the rest of the chapters), is just more of the same trudging through the jungle and encountering NVAs. I know that a lot of the accolades heaped on this novel praised the focus on character intervention among the platoons, but that aspect just read a little flat to me. So leaving that, I can't stay engaged with page after page of jungle warfare. In movies, yes.
For those who like this sort of thing, I guess it is a fantastic read....more
If I was looking for one book to persuade a non-reader to give reading a shot, The Hunger Games would hit the top of the list.
It's an incredibly fastIf I was looking for one book to persuade a non-reader to give reading a shot, The Hunger Games would hit the top of the list.
It's an incredibly fast read. Suzanne Collins has it. "It" is the ability to hook a reader with an economy of words yet still manages to give the reader a visual sense of place, and draw suspense out with every page. This is one of the very few novels that actually raised my heart rate as I was reading it.
It is also a novel that should definitely break the stigma of reading a book marketed for young adults. I recommend this book for ALL adults who are not snobbish on what they read, and to anyone who has hit a reading slump. The Hunger Games makes reading fun. Way fun. Read it. Then drag your kids off the XBOX and make them read it. ...more
I have finally finished this 1000 page novel and I am more than ready to move on. If you have recently read Pillars of the Earth, and liked it, I wouldI have finally finished this 1000 page novel and I am more than ready to move on. If you have recently read Pillars of the Earth, and liked it, I would strongly recommend you take some time before diving into this one, because it's a long haul. It is very much the same pacing, and a similar setting as its predecessor, so unless you're a very fast reader (I'm not), 2000+ pages of 1100-1369AD England may wear very thin for you.
I waited about ten years, and so was very ready to revisit the town of Kingsbridge. Like Pillars of the Earth, World Without End centers on a cast of characters and their lives set against the rule of the Church, Earls and knights. Unlike Pillars, the cast seems smaller than I remembered...the story follows two pairs of siblings, and their lives over thirty years or so, so this was great. Follett had less characters to spread out, and characterization was very nicely fleshed out.
Although this novel for some reason took me a month to read (I read it on my Kindle, but I seem to remember looking at the book a while back and noticed it was 1000 pages of very small print. I guess that's why), in no way did the story drag. This is Follett's talent. He can sure draw out a story and make you care about these people. I felt their joy, I was outraged at the injustices they were forced to endure, and I was hopeful of things to turn out for the best for everyone and the town, and for the evil ones to get what was coming to them. Add in a dash of engineering lessons in building bridges and other structures and this makes for a fantastic read. The only issue I had was that for the last 80 pages or so it seemed to me that Follett was stalling to end it. Clearly he was vested in these characters. But it could very well be that after a month it was more a case of me getting antsy to move on to something else. When I started writing this review, I was set on rating it a solid 4. But, I am very impressed with his ability to maintain the fast pace of story for a thousand pages. So, really 4 and a bit, but I think I'll round up to 5 stars. ...more
This was quite a good novel, and I'm glad I read it. But it really wasn't what I was expecting.
It was published back in 1962, the year I was born. I oThis was quite a good novel, and I'm glad I read it. But it really wasn't what I was expecting.
It was published back in 1962, the year I was born. I only point this out because in my lifetime, I have seen the development of open understanding towards mental illness. What a breakthrough book this must have been. Back in 62, I can only imagine that for a lot of ignorant people, conditions such as agoraphobia and OCD were all swept under the rug and collectively stored away as simple craziness. Thankfully, mental illnesses are discussed openly these days, and therefore this book can be read much more intelligently by everyone than I imagine it was during its published year.
This is a very quick read, and it held my attention very tightly throughout, because (view spoiler)[ I just knew there had to be some huge reveal or twist at the end. Are they ghosts? (hide spoiler)] But no, I was wrong. But I guess in that way, the novel did hold some surprise for me.
So I'm glad I read it, but I just 'liked' it, so three stars it is.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
One of my favorite podcasts these days, The Enthusiasticast, features a couple of guys who talk about TV, movies, and each week they are enthusiastic aOne of my favorite podcasts these days, The Enthusiasticast, features a couple of guys who talk about TV, movies, and each week they are enthusiastic about one book they want you to read. This is one that they were very enthusiastic about, and ranked one of their top recommendations last year.
The concept of the novel sounds like typical chick-lit. A young man and woman meet one night, July 15, 1988, and the following chapters take place on July 15 for the following twenty years or so. Sort of a Same Time Next Year scenerio, but minus the whiny Alan Alda. I had bought this book for my girlfriend with the intention of reading it myself whenever the mood struck me. She liked it well enough, but surprisingly I enjoyed it much more than she did. I loved it.
I was so vested into these characters that I couldn't wait until the next chapter to see where their lives would be in the next year. I couldn't whip through it fast enough, and I was so sorry when it was over. Some of the accolades for One Day call the novel hilarious, and compare David Nicholls to Nick Hornby. Well, Nick Hornby can only wish he could create genuine characters like Dexter and Emma and make the reader care about them like I did. I have read Hornby's much lauded High Fidelity and didn't care for it much at all. And, I wouldn't describe One Day as hilarious, either. There were plenty of witty remarks, but there were no laugh out loud moments for me.
It was just a brilliantly paced story, a fantastic premise, and fully realized characters. One Day is one of the best novels I've read in a while. I recommend this to anyone who cares about people and the dynamics of relationships. Seemingly chick-lit, but this guy liked it a lot. ...more
While idly surfing GoodReads I came upon this and realized it was not included in my books.
I read this sometime in the late 80s, I think. It was freakWhile idly surfing GoodReads I came upon this and realized it was not included in my books.
I read this sometime in the late 80s, I think. It was freaking amazing. Being so long ago, I can barely remember most of the details, but I can sure remember feeling totally immersed in this Stranger in a Strange Land tale. I absolutely loved it.
So, a very short review for a very long novel, and worth every minute spent with it.