Excellent book, even if I'm always sad to have the POV shift from Cimorene to Mendanbar. I suspect that it's to make the series have a broader appealExcellent book, even if I'm always sad to have the POV shift from Cimorene to Mendanbar. I suspect that it's to make the series have a broader appeal but I miss her thoughts, even as he appreciates how awesome she is....more
This is still an all-time favorite book 18 years after I discovered it, at the perfect age of 12. I loved fantasy and fairy tales then, but I also hadThis is still an all-time favorite book 18 years after I discovered it, at the perfect age of 12. I loved fantasy and fairy tales then, but I also had a taste for things that played with cliche and convention, probably because I read The Hobbit instead of LotR and grew up on Douglas Adams and Monty Python quotes from my parents. This book perfectly matches a fairy tale atmosphere with clever satire and lots of very sensible characters, who know how to navigate the rules of fairy tale lands. And Cimorene is the greatest! I always feel that Wrede over-explains the plotty parts of her books, but I didn't notice that when I first read it, and I have a lot of accumulated nostalgia that makes this book a perfect read for when I need a mental break or a pick-me-up in an afternoon. I wish I could give this book to every 12 year old girl everywhere....more
Not as good as Tina Fey's book; better than Simon Pegg's. Outstrips both of those on one important front, that of actually explaining how she got fromNot as good as Tina Fey's book; better than Simon Pegg's. Outstrips both of those on one important front, that of actually explaining how she got from comedy nerd to employed comedy writer, which Fey and Pegg mysteriously skim over. Kaling's voice is delightful, and even if this book is as slight as she tells you it's going to be, it's still fun to read....more
Here I again encounter the problem with the GR rating system not having half stars -- I've given some truly mediocre books three stars for having an iHere I again encounter the problem with the GR rating system not having half stars -- I've given some truly mediocre books three stars for having an interesting premise, so I need to give this book more than that, but it's not really a great book. Its premise is much better than "interesting", and I'm probably judging more harshly because I read a lot of Murakami this year and I know what he's really capable of doing with his prose. Mostly I think the book suffers from having been written and published serially. There are some really engaging characters here, and I'm not even going to complain about the ambiguity of the plot and its resolution (see above re: reading a lot of Murakami this year), but the book is far too long and really starts to drag in its second half. A good editing pass or three would have tightened the story up and let the characters and unique details shine as they do in his other books. ...more
I loved this book when I first read it in college; coming back to it ten years later I can't help but apply the lens of critical race theory, which duI loved this book when I first read it in college; coming back to it ten years later I can't help but apply the lens of critical race theory, which dulls it a little. The story is good and the world is well-imagined, but at its heart the book is basically yet another twist on the "white person takes up the oppressed brown people's cause and turns out to be a better warrior of their school than they are with almost no training" (ie Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, Avatar, etc.) The fact that the heroine turns out to be 1/8 Damarian doesn't really help, as it brings to mind the blood laws of the American South where being 1/8 black was enough for the laws to apply, and neither does the fact that the brown hill people of course have inherent blood magic which allows the heroine to be awesome without really having to work at it. After rereading both, I still prefer the prequel, where the heroine spends years training and studying to be awesome (though she too is inexplicably pale-skinned, as if fantasy readers couldn't identify with a dark-skinned heroine of a dark-skinned people)....more
I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I'd expected less from it, and also if I hadn't just read a Murakami novel right before it. The settinI probably would have enjoyed this book more if I'd expected less from it, and also if I hadn't just read a Murakami novel right before it. The setting is vivid and unusual, but I felt weighted down by all the detail Mitchell crammed into every paragraph, and had a lot of problems with the writing style. I think he was going for a poetic Japanese effect, but having long sections of the book be single-paragraph sentences annoyed me, especially because my reading brain wants to give particular importance to a standalone sentence like that when none of the sentences were meant that way. He did a decent job with cultural sensitivity (I don't have any independent knowledge of how historically accurate his depiction of 18thc Japan is), but as is to be expected with a white author, little biases show. Would Japanese people really compare a river to "Dutch coffee" instead of something Japanese and brown, or use the term "in a Dutchman's minute" instead of their own units of time? And why did all the Japanese interpreters speak Dutch rendered by Mitchell as pidgin English, yet when the main character (who has only been studying for a few months in the sly) launches into what he knows is poor Japanese, it's rendered as flawless English? And for that matter, which is the dialogue amongst the Dutchmen full of puns which only make sense in English?
These are minor stylistic quibbles, I suppose, and don't even address the curiously lopsided plot. I can see why readers have enjoyed the overall milieu and feel of this novel, but since as I said I had just been on a Murakami kick prior to reading this, it just made me want to seek out more translated Japanese literature instead....more
Yay, what an awesome book! Excellent plot alone, I love how Butcher took the chance with a brand-new setup to have his hero really explore himself andYay, what an awesome book! Excellent plot alone, I love how Butcher took the chance with a brand-new setup to have his hero really explore himself and his choices, and grow more than he ever has....more
Still a fun read, though you can tell it's Gaiman's first full-length novel after years in comics and short stories. I don't think I've reread it sincStill a fun read, though you can tell it's Gaiman's first full-length novel after years in comics and short stories. I don't think I've reread it since I visited London, and knowing the stations and places he gives an extra twist too really elevates the fun....more
Interesting concept, though I still had a lot of questions about how the world setup worked. Dean's writing often doesn't work for me, sadly, and I feInteresting concept, though I still had a lot of questions about how the world setup worked. Dean's writing often doesn't work for me, sadly, and I felt a bit of that here -- dialogue and diction is somewhat choppy, and the characters mysterious in a way that becomes opaque. I think it's the style of fantasy writing that was popular in the '90s that I don't care so much for, very poetic but often making me wish the author would explain things better, instead of drawing pretty and ambiguous strokes....more
Weirdly lopsided book. It spends a miiiiillion years on every detail of his childhood/early teens, while jumping around in time and expecting the readWeirdly lopsided book. It spends a miiiiillion years on every detail of his childhood/early teens, while jumping around in time and expecting the reader to remember the name of every teacher, friend and crush he's had, then races through the "good stuff," ie the part where he gets to be successful and then famous in television and film. I'm not sure if that's because the book is written for a UK audience so he assumed everyone already knew all the details of his rise to fame, or if, as he hints near the end, he didn't want to dish dirt that might get him in trouble.
I wasn't looking for that kind of dirt, but even though I've been watching him here in the US since 2004 or so (starting with Spaced and Shaun) I do not know that much about his early career, so I was disappointed it got so skimmed over, whereas the crazy in-depth childhood stuff crossed the line from indulgent to feeling like I was reading a therapy transcript. (Not that his childhood was particularly traumatic; it's just hard to imagine anyone but a therapist really wanting this much mundane detail.) Also, the interstitial fiction chapters with the robot were only funny two or three times, and then I skipped them.
I liked his thoughts on Star Wars and analytical takes on pop culture (frankly, I would have preferred an entire book like that instead), and it was fun to read about all his early loves (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Romero films) and how mind-boggingly awesome it was to get to be involved in them as an adult. I just feel that Bossypants was a similarly-structured memoir (funny stories of a class clown/nerd childhood, followed by a brief skim over a rise to fame that's careful not to give dishy details), but that one was either better-written or better-edited because I never felt mired in Tina Fey's fifth grade year wishing desperately we could skip to something more interesting. ...more
Look, let's just put the obvious right out there: YIKES. And also, WTF?
I was feeling pretty happy when I started reading, because I missed everyone, bLook, let's just put the obvious right out there: YIKES. And also, WTF?
I was feeling pretty happy when I started reading, because I missed everyone, but I swear by the end of Tyrion's first chapter I was already tired of repeated phrases, over-detailed descriptions of food, clothing, and cities, and Tyrion's tiresome new fixations on his father's death and his long-lost teenage girlfriend/wife. Those feelings held good for most of the book, as it seems like the way Martin navigated himself through writing all these characters over six years (or more, if you count the sections he wrote for FFC and chopped out) was to give everyone a basic motivation and then hammer it in repeatedly during their sections.
Also, no one achieved these motivations. When rereading the series this year, I had to stop in the middle of the fourth book because I couldn't take the futility anymore, when I knew perfectly well this time through that Asha would lose to her uncles, Arianne was going to get an innocent man killed because her father neglected to fill her in on his plans, and Brienne was not going to find anyone at the ass-end of nowhere. So I imagine it would be with this book, if I had any plans to reread it fully instead of skimming the good bits. No one achieves their goals, some people (Jon, Asha) end up worse off, and some people (Tyrion, Dany) have about exactly the same resources as when they started.
More irritatingly, no one grew as characters and in some cases they regressed. The sidetrip into Dany is a Horny Teenage Girl I reeeeally could have done without, and Tyrion just got more bitter as the book went on. Jon's storyline was one of the few that felt interesting to me, if somewhat stationary and again full of unnecessary details, but any lessons he learned are apparently being saved for the next book. For the first time ever I was interested in Bran's storyline, and that one was left dangling halfway through the book, as I recall.
And oh my god, don't even get me started on how half of Westeros is hiding out on the eastern continent in disguise, or how the civilizations over there seem really ancient and advanced but are presented as degenerate, brown, and rotting-decadent (they eat dogs! they have pleasure slaves! everyone is ebony!), or how I am 100% certain Martin doesn't know how to write fully-realized female characters. I know the series was conceived in the '90s, when no one questioned why every fantasy had to replicate western medieval patriarchy, but the language the characters use when discussing the female characters or women in general is just fucking awful. I imagine his argument would be that women like Dany or Arianne or Asha are supposed to repudiate that language just by existing, a) not when they are constantly tricked or fucked over by men, and b) not when you have a WHOLE GODDAMN CHAPTER about how disgusting Cersei's post-childbirth body is and how anyone who's ever seen her naked can't possibly respect her. Yes, I'm SURE that's how she was ruling a kingdom from bed in the last book, with her disgusting body everyone apparently wanted to fuck.
OK. There were some things I liked. Bran's storyline was cool and when it became clear that the woman was a child of the forest I got a legit thrill. I loved Tyrion's river cruise through quasi-Egypt and the city of the stone men. Dany taking off on a dragon was awesome, despite the idiocy before and after. I liked getting Melisandre's POV, even if it was shallow and brief, and Arya's storyline redeemed itself somewhat. If she's training to be a Faceless assassin, I am in. Everyone I've talked to IRL thinks Barristan's stuff was the best and I tend to agree; I especially liked filling in the details of what happened 15-20 years ago and even earlier (Arys wanted Tywin's wife??) because of how all those events are still affecting the present day. I smiled at the Mance reveal because at that point I wasn't tired of "surprise! X isn't dead!" yet and I like Mance. Theon's storyline was interesting until it got boring. Jaime and Brienne whaaaa? And if it had been cut by 50-70%, I would have enjoyed the descriptions of the eastern continent because Martin has a genuine eye for detail; he just doesn't know when to cut it out.
I even have some sympathy for him, because I saw a lot of writer's block tricks I recognized in the book -- start writing a chapter, make up some fun background world-building detail until you know what you're doing with your characters, then just write whatever conversation works until the plot steps in. Unfortunately he skipped the part where you go back and clean up all the extraneous words you had to write to get the good stuff flowing. It isn't his fault that the book got away from him, the deadline was pressing, and the publisher didn't bother with heavy editing because they knew it would sell regardless. But I feel like the book is so ponderous and full of dead ends (WHAT WAS THE POINT OF QUENTYN MARTELL?), not to mention riddled with kneejerk racial and gender stereotyping that's too lazy and endemic even to cross the line into bigotry, that it's hard to get excited about the rest of the series. Maybe this was his Order of the Phoenix (except with more uses of the word "cunny") and Winds of Winter will surprise us by being shorter, tighter, and kicking the plot into high gear. But I think in the meantime I will stop actively waiting for more ASOIAF and retire into other fantasy worlds. ...more