not a whole heck of a lot new and original going on in this book. a trio of kids go with their parents and mysterious uncle to a rented house at the snot a whole heck of a lot new and original going on in this book. a trio of kids go with their parents and mysterious uncle to a rented house at the seaside for vacation, and find a crumbling old treasure map in the house. the map leads to a mythical object that the forces of good and evil both want very much. the story never goes much deeper than that: good is assumed to be good because, hey, he's their beloved fun uncle. bad is assumed to be bad because he says they are "the forces of dark." nothing particularly evil happens, other than some non-violent breaking & entering.
the author manages to avoid any of the children's lit condescension that's even more obnoxious to adult readers. i've been told that this first book of the series is more like a prologue than an actual beginning to the tale, so i'll be giving the 2nd book a chance....more
an incredibly elegantly-written book (Beagle turns beautiful metaphors over and over), 'a fine and private place' has infintely more poise than you'dan incredibly elegantly-written book (Beagle turns beautiful metaphors over and over), 'a fine and private place' has infintely more poise than you'd expect from a first work of anyone's, let alone an author so young when he wrote it. it's a gently funny, gently sad musing on withdrawing from life and letting the world pass you by until it's time to be of the living again. if you're in the mood for something this delicate, it's very likely a 5-star read. if you end up appreciating it only for technical accomplishment, though, without a connection to the characters or story, I can't love it. ...more
the plot synopsis up there is pretty straight on: a crazy nobleman calls up his country cousin to attend him in the bright lights of t3.5 stars, even.
the plot synopsis up there is pretty straight on: a crazy nobleman calls up his country cousin to attend him in the bright lights of the big city as his swashbuckler. though this is all kinds of abhorrent to a properly brought up young lady, she agrees to his terms because her family is about out of money and crazy uncle has plenty of it. a fun, fast-paced story ensues, wherein she learns to deal with wearing breeches instead of chemises, attempts to ignore her uncle's legendary debauches, and gets trained by the absolute best to be a top-notch swordswoman.
what the synopsis doesn't tell you, though, is that it's a sequel of sorts to another novel, 'swordspoint'. though this one stands alone fine on its own, you're clearly missing the background story and knotty relationships of the background characters. when political intrigue gets this twisty, it would have been nice to know who all these other people are and why they hate each other so much. without that background, the scheming parts feel like just a distraction from the swashbuckling....more
a changer (a rare, humanoid race that can alter features and body type to impersonate others) James Bonds his way across several galaxies on a missiona changer (a rare, humanoid race that can alter features and body type to impersonate others) James Bonds his way across several galaxies on a mission for his non-humanoid employers; numerous adventures ensue. the story careens from one high-tension escape to another, many of which are cinematically flashy, but frustratingly few of them actually move the plot forward. while many of the supporting characters are engaging, the changer is a rather unlikable ass, so when awful things happen to him (and this book isn't for the faint of heart, Banks gruesomely puts him through the grinder) you notice a lot more shock value than sympathy.
Banks has a lot of really cool ideas, and if you enjoy immersive worldbuilding, this will be right up your alley. the rest of the culture universe sounds well worth exploring. ...more
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marria2.5 stars
if you've seen the lovely 2006 movie version, you've pretty much read this book: an indian couple settle in the US shortly after their marriage, and proceed to raise their kids in america; despite all their attempts to infuse their kids' lives with bengali heritage, these kids are americans, with a very western approach to life & love. the story meanders through 30 years by skipping through them as snapshots - it's a slim book, with an intimate scope. by spending a good bit of time with each of the principal characters, everyone's desires are touched on. the mother's desire for a sense of community is just as reasonable as the son's wish for the same thing, even though they both mean very different things by the concept. neither rebelling against tradition or embracing it automatically results in happiness for anyone, so that by the end, the story isn't a morality play on whether or not people need to follow their ancestor's lifestyles. instead, it's as untidy as real life, which is both its strength and flaw.
having seen the movie version several years ago probably ruined this book for me. i'd easily give that movie 4 stars, and the book probably deserves the same - the former is a very faithful adaptation of the latter. reading the book after seeing the movie feels like wandering through an extended plot synopsis, and my mental images of the written word are all from that film. the director's vision, sharpened the focus of Lahiri's words and brought out a few emotional highlights by making it clearly a book about the son rather than the family's diverse experience. in this version, his parents' lives are the bookends and foundation to his own. it's a less egalitarian (and possibly less honest) version of this story, but it's definitely more emotionally engaging. ...more
the "kitty" books are thusfar definitely closer to urban fantasy than paranormal romance territory, so if you prefer your creatures of the night to hathe "kitty" books are thusfar definitely closer to urban fantasy than paranormal romance territory, so if you prefer your creatures of the night to have more angsty love & sex than angsty plot development, move along. those of us on the other side of the equation, though, will enjoy these adventures. a fast-paced, quick read, perfect for spending a lazy morning late in bed....more
initially somewhat confusing as the book shifts from narrator to narrator, it all works marvelously when you give up trying to figure out identities oinitially somewhat confusing as the book shifts from narrator to narrator, it all works marvelously when you give up trying to figure out identities of who's speaking and just bathe in the stream-of-consciousness. once you just let it wash over you, all of a sudden, the shifts are perfectly reasonable, and each narrator has their own "voice" anyway. it should scare the hell out of me that doctorow has won a faulkner award being as how i absolutely despised the faulkner i was bashed over the head with in grade school. apparently, this stuff is better when done well.
but what is it about? well, life, NYC, and everything, pretty much. the blurb on the cover tells you it's all about a cross stolen off the top of a run-down church that somehow ends up on a newly-started synagogue, but that's really just a small starting point for a tale that rolls back into the past (and will on into the future past the events described). possibly my favorite holocaust book ever, though it's not really about the holocaust; also possibly one of my favorite discussions on loosing one's religion, though it's not completely about religion or loosing it.
not a perfect book in the least - you don't get to jump around with perception and tone and narrator so swiftly and not come off just a little gimmicky, and it doesn't help if one of those speakers is overly dull - but a lyrically beautiful one, and well worth the time....more
James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon was an amazing author that makes me want to heap descriptions with hyperbolic metaphor: "prose burning like a star" or "raJames Tiptree/Alice Sheldon was an amazing author that makes me want to heap descriptions with hyperbolic metaphor: "prose burning like a star" or "rage as quiet and inescapable as the tide". the short story was her master form, and this definitive collection is a must-read for any sci-fi aficionado, and for anyone even dabbling into feminist or gender-provocative ideas in fiction.
the stories here were like a bit of a bell curve for me - a few early ones were good but not great, and the last few were softer cries of despair rather than the slow-burn explosions of the middle section. when she was firing on all cylinders, this woman's storytelling power just destroyed me. "with delicate mad hands" is one of the most brutally beautiful things I've ever read, but it's not a solo, "best song on the cd" sort of piece.
it took me over 6 months to finally finish this whole volume, because i was just not up to being wrung out so thoroughly, so often. happy endings here are never traditional "riding off into the sunset in peaceful content" moments, and more than once, getting your heart's desire means dying horribly. and yet, not a single one of these is melodramatic or overwrought or gratuitous - each one is a slow build up to its natural conclusion, which feels inevitable by the time the last period strikes the page....more
like so many YA books, 'glass houses' is all about a special snowflake finding her place in the world. claire is bookishly nerdy to such an e2.5 stars
like so many YA books, 'glass houses' is all about a special snowflake finding her place in the world. claire is bookishly nerdy to such an extreme that she's tested out of HS and into college at 16, but her overprotective parents won't let her go to any far-off ivy league school. thusly stuck in the closest U that's not a junior college, she resignedly tries to give it a go at texas prairie university, but the freshman hazing here has a more than usually brutal edge to it. turns out (just like the subtitle tells you) that the entire town of morganville, tx is rife with vampires, and you're either in a "protected" agreement with them, or you're just a snack.
claire has more than a couple TSTL moments, but at least some are forgivable for her being so shelteredly naïve (prime example: uh, how about just skipping town??). on the sliding scale from sparkly to demonic, the vampires are much closer to the latter, so bonus points for people that like their bloodsuckers to be actual fiends. the story careens around confusedly as claire slowly figures out what's going on in this town, a situation that's ever so much more realistic than a shotgun-quick actioner, but can be a snooze as you wish they would just get ON with it all. hidden vampire politics and mystic magics become apparent by the very end, hinting at something much more interesting going on by book 2....more
picked this up on a very strong recommendation from a friend i trust about such things, so i was expecting a wonderful read. what we get instead is mepicked this up on a very strong recommendation from a friend i trust about such things, so i was expecting a wonderful read. what we get instead is merely promising; this first book in the series isn't quite up to speed.
like the blurb up top will tell you, this series focuses on an ordinary teenage high schooler who's suddenly marked to be a "vampyre" and thrust into that strange new world. right from the get-go, vamp high school smacks of derivation from the 'harry potter' universe, from the odd classes to the looser-but-awesome cadre of friends. gratingly, the book is heavily written in teen-speak dialogue, to the point of caricature - our narrator sounds like the modern version of an 80s valley girl. the most annoying flaw, however, is the preachy, guilt-driven attitudes that crop up any time sexuality rears it's apparently ugly head. since this is a *vampire* high school peopled with amazingly beautiful *teenagers*, it comes up a lot. even relatively innocent budding flirtations get smacked down pretty harshly - a kiss from the hottie upperclassman (the cedric diggory character, natch) sends our heroine off into an internal monologue along the lines of 'OMG! i'm such a slut now! no boy will be safe around me!'
and yet, despite the deep flaws, this book ends up being a lot of fun. about halfway through, it really starts to hit its stride and move on into the meat of the plot. at this point, though we're still getting preached at occasionally about the evils of vice, it manages to become un-put-down-able and all kinds of interesting. importantly, don't pick up this book on it's own, as the ending is somewhat unsatisfying. set it down when you're done, and jump right on into the 2nd one....more
Kate is a fairly talented magic wielder, working as a free-lance supernatural exterminator/all around problem solver. a family friend has been killed,Kate is a fairly talented magic wielder, working as a free-lance supernatural exterminator/all around problem solver. a family friend has been killed, and she quickly finds herself in over her head in his murder investigation.
andrews' worldbuilding is absolutely killer - in this future(?) atlanta, magic comes in unpredictable waves, alternating with periods where standard technology works instead. there seems to be plenty of different ways & methods of manipulating magical energy, and it's clear that there's a whole lot more story to tell than fits into this first book. i'm intrigued to check out the rest of this world.
the downside to it all is the unfortunately predictable been-there, done-that bits. Kate is your standard-issue mid-range talent with a huge mouth, so you gotta know from the get-go that part of the future installments will be about her sass getting her into trouble (again and again), and that her magic powers will be getting boosts now & then until she's a super-badass. there's also an epically hawt manbeast that's so far out of her league they shouldn't even glance sideways at each other, and yet you know he exists solely be her love interest later on....more
my library had this book marked as YA, and apart from the spare, straightforward language, i'd disagree. Donoghue has woven together most all of the cmy library had this book marked as YA, and apart from the spare, straightforward language, i'd disagree. Donoghue has woven together most all of the classic heroine-driven fairy tales (cinderella, snow white, sleeping beauty...) into a series of nested/linked retellings. some of the "new skins" these tales are wearing are looking at the same events from a different perspective, while others take off on a completely different and very feminist slant. the women in these stories are witches and innocents and victims and dreamers, and none of them have as simple or gentle an outcome as "happily ever after"....more
'blindsight' starts off very strong: it's the best parts of the haunted-house-on-a-spaceship story, leavened thickly with a whole bunch of p2.5 stars.
'blindsight' starts off very strong: it's the best parts of the haunted-house-on-a-spaceship story, leavened thickly with a whole bunch of post-modern thought experiments. an alien species does a presumed fly-by of the planet, and their (its?) foreignness is so outside our human way of thinking that we can't even figure out what just happened. clearly, the answer is to assemble an expert team of transhuman scientists to try and solve that mystery. each of these people isn't an off-the-shelf body, and in getting to know these characters, we're exploring a lot of very interesting concepts. in a reality where any physical/mental defects can be corrected, how far past "standard" is a good idea? and then, therefore, when everybody is some flavor of superhuman and physical interaction with the world is no longer strictly necessary, where does that leave human consciousness and simple human touch?
unfortunately, the storytelling gets vastly bogged down after about halfway through, sacrificing clarity of narrative for discussions of the weaponization of sentience. when a main character has an epiphany that goes something like: "so, you mean...?" "yes" "ah." well, i'm still a but muzzy on what he figured out. dark, brooding, and most definitely thought-provoking, i just wish i knew what the point was by the end....more
'spin state' leaps out of the gate as a military mission gone wrong, then shifts into a far more densely complex and thinky mystery, where the whodunn'spin state' leaps out of the gate as a military mission gone wrong, then shifts into a far more densely complex and thinky mystery, where the whodunnit is far secondary to the world it's wrapped up in. oh, Moriarty (and if that's her real name, +100 awesome points), wow can you craft a future. it's a post-human world full of illegal genetic surgeons, emergent AIs, and travel and communications fueled by quantum mechanics and bose-einstein condensates (yes, this one had me taking a few trips to the university de wikipedia). i would have almost been fine with the story that was making me linger in this universe being only incidental, except that the characters stumbling through the smoke & mirrors were equally fascinating to spend time with.
i've heard it said that the fun part of mystery novels is trying to solve the crime before the main character does, and that if the author withholds clues so that this isn't possible, it's all a big cheat. if you're a firm believer in this concept, well, you might need to brush up on quantum theory possibility to play along with the mystery game (i.e., the density of the central mystery flirts with opacity in a few places, and that slows the pacing down some). if, however, you're ok with just letting the story zip on by, while balancing a wide batch of characters with shifting loyalties, dive right in....more