The Henry plays -- and a great deal of Shakespeare's history plays -- were written prior to 1594. These are Shakespeare's early attempts and a lot of...moreThe Henry plays -- and a great deal of Shakespeare's history plays -- were written prior to 1594. These are Shakespeare's early attempts and a lot of critics have pointed out: it shows.
Henry VI, Pt 2, is definitely rough. There are a crap-ton of characters, some of whom only show up once for a couple lines and then disappear. In a production of these plays, a lot of these roles would be doubled-up. The result is a somewhat chaotic read, though I bet it's much easier to follow on stage.
All I really have to say about this play is: Early Shakespeare is Still Shakespeare!
And I think Shakespeare might've missed his true calling: dark-Kill-Bill-style comedy.
Yes, I think Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino should get together. Wait, scratch that. They'd never shut up so they'd never get anything done. Both are kind of long winded.
However! Jack Cade, the badass-but-not-too-bright leader of the rebels, who appears near the end of the play, is the epitome of a Tarantino talky-crazed bad guy. He makes decapitated heads kiss each other. He kills people for calling him the wrong name. He proclaims random laws. His scenes are straight out of Pulp Fiction. It's a good thing Shakespeare didn't have access to needles. (Or, maybe, a bad thing.)
Some of that shit was so disturbing I laughed out loud.
Do the nobles plot for an unreasonable amount of time? Yes. Is it sometimes difficult to follow characters and their motivations? Sometimes. Yes.
But I liked it way more than I thought I would. (less)
I received this book as an ARC and I got halfway through it before my son took it away from me. (I'd mentioned I was reading a book he might be intere...moreI received this book as an ARC and I got halfway through it before my son took it away from me. (I'd mentioned I was reading a book he might be interested in and he stole it right out from under my nose.)
The reason I mention this is because there were a couple moments in which I, as an adult reader, had some trouble accepting certain aspects, like CIA agents dropping in on parents and feeding them a random story about how Linc - their son - was a punk who needed boot camp...and then go on to recruit their son into a super-spy lifestyle. Kinda defies logic.
I am an adult. And nowhere was this made more clear to me than when my 10-year-old son snatched the book away and proceeded to read it cover-to-cover in the space of a day.
He came back to me and told me he loved it. I asked him what he loved about it. His answers: action, adventure, twists and turns! He liked the surprises. (Who is really the bad guy? Etc.)I wanted to ask him - what about the chickens (read the book)? Do you really believe that CIA agents would show up at a house and recruit a kid? In short, I wanted to ask him all of the adult questions that an adult reader demands of a book.
I sat back down with the book - now that I was allowed to have it. I contemplated it. I started it again and tried to imagine myself as a ten-year-old boy. Then I saw it: this book has everything kids like:
1. A smart, funny main character. Linc reminds me very much of Ash on Pokemon. (Bear with me.) Ash has left his family in search of adventure and training. He's off exploring the world on his own terms and he has a good heart. Linc leaves his family - to help them. He doesn't want his folks to suffer. The choices he makes are based on his internal compass.
2. The classic "You are chosen for something important." Every kid - I don't care who they are, where they come from or whatever - wants to be special. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Harry in Harry Potter wants to be loved and accepted. Kids live vicariously through heroes like this. Linc has been chosen to beat bad guys and right wrongs. That's fun stuff.
3. Hero's journey! I mean, come on, Luke had to leave Tatooine - Dorothy had to leave Oz - Frodo had to leave the Shire. Linc has to leave the U.S. for Paris...and kids can actually aspire to go there.
4. Twins/lookalikes. Sweet Valley High and all the spinoffs went for years. Parent Trap. Nuf said.
So, it turns out - despite my hesitant start - I really enjoyed this book. Kinda harkens me back to afternoons of cartoons. Over-the-top, just-for-fun fun.
P.S. Every year my son's school allows Halloween costumes...if the costume is of a character in a book. My kiddo has chosen to go as Linc. I've told him he's not allowed on field trips for that day. (less)
I began this book with a certain hesitation - time travel books tend to read repetitively and there's always the 'paradox' question that comes with it...moreI began this book with a certain hesitation - time travel books tend to read repetitively and there's always the 'paradox' question that comes with it. For me, these shortfalls are generally frustrating rather than fascinating. Also, I'm not big on the Kennedy conspiracies and, again, find movies/novels about the subject tedious. I love Stephen King, but I meant to avoid reading this one because of the motifs. Two strikes and I hadn't even picked the book up yet.
Then the reviews started pouring in. "Tour de force!" "King's best!" Etc.
So I said, "Dammit, I'm gonna have to read this one."
Yes, Kennedy is in it. So is Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby and a lot of the potential 'conspirators'. There are bookies. There's racism (Which seemed rather shuffled to the side in a Southern state in 60s, in my opinion. A couple times I did wonder what it would be like to if Jake, the main character, had been black...you wanna talk about the past being 'obdurate'?). Lots of guns. A nod or two to It. There's the mystery of who did what, when. There's a big, climatic scene in Dallas.
But, at its heart, this story is a love story. And love stories, as basic as they may be, are never simple. The main character, Jake-Epping-turned-George-Amberson, has nothing to lose when his friend, Al, tells him about the 'rabbit hole' that takes you back to the same time and place: "two minutes of twelve on September ninth of 1958." His alcoholic wife is gone. He's teaching adult English GED classes. And no one will seem to miss him. (Kinda sad all around if you think about it.)
So this 'little guy' is encouraged to go do something BIG, something EPIC: stop John F. Kennedy's assassination. After a couple test runs to the past, and the death of his friend, Jake decides to take on the monsterous task. Even though he's discovered that the past doesn't want to be changed.
Here is where I think King dodges the repetitiveness of time travel stories. There are repetitions, certainly, but Jake is a free agent within those repeats. Every time, he does something different and, therefore, the scenes are different, the character reactions different. Plus King adds a new twist: the past itself is the biggest antagonist. In order to protect itself, it will throw flat tires, physical sickness, injury, and all kinds of trouble at you. And, to make it worse, the bigger the event a person tries to change, the stronger the past's reaction to the interloper. For example, Al, the guy who told Jake about the rabbit hole died of lung cancer trying to stop the assassination.
King also avoids feeling too repetitive because Jake's timeline is always straight. Once he enters the rabbit hole for the big event, the book flows straight for five years worth of time.
And now the story becomes: English teacher falling for a librarian - Sadie. Only King could possibly make that interesting. The constant question below it all: Is Jake screwing up her life? Sure, on the surface everyone's happy and they have to deal with Sadie's psycho ex-husband, the Puritanical attitudes floating around in the early 1960s, and the fact that Jake can't even tell Sadie his real first name. Still, Jake gives Sadie her first orgasm (this cannot be bad, right?), he listens to her, he treats her right, and man can they dance.
But there's something more beneath it - how much is he changing? And is it really for the better?
Then comes the big day...and you'll have to read the book to find out what happens. But don't worry. Even though this is an 800 page tome, you'll fly through it.
Looking at the page count of this, the previous novel Game of Thrones, and the novels that follow I tried to think of a way to review this that wouldn...moreLooking at the page count of this, the previous novel Game of Thrones, and the novels that follow I tried to think of a way to review this that wouldn't take equally as long. There are a ton and a half of characters and each has their own unique arch so I wasn't sure how to keep them organized.
First, a quick summation: The previous king of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon, has died. The heir apparent, Joffery, isn't his biological son and his two brothers Stannis (Robert's older younger brother) and Renly (Robert's younger younger brother) have both claimed the throne for themselves. That's three kings so far. Then we add in Robb, who has been claimed King in the North because the northmen are unimpressed with any of the other three choices. That makes four. Then we have Daenarys Targaryan, the heir of the royal family that was ousted by King Robert. That's five. And there are various other lords who get it into their heads that they should be in charge. All of these people (with the exception of Daenarys) go to war. Hence the kings clashing in the title.
Even though that sounds very basic, I'm not trying to be cute. There is so much intrigue and infighting and incest that if you lose track of the clashing premise...you're gonna be lost.
Review of Characters: Davos: Kings starts by introducing a series of new characters that were not in Game of Thrones. This was frustrating for me because, even though I read the first one and immediately followed with this sequel, I didn't want to sink into new people right off the bat. So perhaps my irritation spilled over to these new characters who I hope all die. (I know, that's mean...but they're pretentious.)
The main focus is on a smuggler-turned-pirate named Davos. He's got an interesting backstory that I won't ruin for you here...but his present is pretty boring throughout the book and he is my biggest issue with this particular novel. Mostly, Davos seems to be the POV character whose duty is to watch the other characters do interesting things. He himself doesn't do much at all. He watches the new witch/priestess Melisandre manipulate Stannis, who is the most legitimate claimant to the throne. Davos is there for most of the things that Melisandre does...and I really wish that those scenes were in her POV because she was a busier, creepier character and that way, as a reader, I could get her motivation.
Arya: After the prologue, we go to Arya. And this character arc is awesome. She is faced with a lot of live or die confrontations. Since she seems to represent the scrappy orphan character, the ways that she chooses to live makes the reader concerned for her, and the reader also wants to be her personal cheering section. (Or I did, anyway.) She is carted away by Yoren, a member of the Night's Watch, who dresses her as a boy to protect her on the long road north.
The road home is a long one.
Sansa: I imagine that a lot of readers are annoyed by this character, but I am less so. She provides the pivotal POV for the royal house - King Joffrey's court - and she also adds a bit of whimsy that, while certainly grating, is a part of the real world. Not everyone is a warrior and there are multiple ways to survive. And that is what Sansa is doing: surviving a very bad situation. She's trying to do it gracefully and comes off stupid.
The appeal that Sansa has for me is her potential for growth. She's got a lot to learn and she's learning the manipulations slowly, but I sure hope she learns the tricks. I'll be very interested to see the wolf come out of her when she realizes the people around her are full of BS and the only person she should rely on is herself. It'll be a good moment. (And - as Martin is inclined to kill POV characters - if this doesn't happen...don't let me know.)
Tyrion: I have one word for him: clever. By far my fave, so I'll keep this brief or I'll start gushing. Reading Tyrion's chapters is always a tightrope -- who is he going to manipulate? Who is going to manipulate him? Is he a puppet or a puppet master? In this novel, Tyrion takes over. His maneuvers drive a lot of the story. Perhaps not directly, but his decisions send reverberations throughout the book.
Bran: Like Sansa, I think that when this character comes into his own it'll be awesome to behold. (I haven't read any of the other three books, but I'm verrry excited to see when he flies one of the dragons.) Martin handles Bran's chapters very well. These feel the most childlike to me. You get the right information, but Bran doesn't process it the way adults do. So the reader gets the info, but Bran is free to misinterperet or not quite grasp the direness of some things. It makes it more heartbreaking when the betrayals happen.
Jon: This character is in the midst of coming into his own and it is fun to watch. I think what makes me happy about Jon is that he doesn't seem to make the dumb mistakes everyone else does. Everything he does reads textbook Hero. He's not slutty or manipulative. He's innocent, sure, but he's growing up quick.
Catelyn: Of ALL the characters, I find her the most frustrating. Like Davos she seems to bounce to the section that needs narrating, which results in a bipolar feel. This is true in the first book too: Bran falls, she has to stay by Bran's side until he wakes up, only to leave the comatose child when an 'important message' needs to be delivered. She kidnaps Tyrion, she loses Tyrion. In this book the psycho back and fort continues. Send this message, go back, do this, leave that but take it with you. Go to Renly, go to your father. "I have to be there for my son!" but we don't see Robb at all in this book. She gives me whiplash. And she's capable of such cruelty too.
Theon: He's a jerk. And a slut. The sections where his is POV makes my skin crawl. Martin did a good job on him. He's just the right amount of needy and cocky. I just don't like spending time with characters like that.
Daenarys: She's fascinating. Naive and lucky not to be dead, but fascinating. She seems to parallel Jon Snow's development. Both are young, both are coming into their own and figuring out how the world works. (And through figuring out how the world works now, they'll figure out how the world should work.)
As informative as this book is, I'm still not 100% sure how to poison a person and get away with it...so I guess the "Handbook" isn't as handy as it's...moreAs informative as this book is, I'm still not 100% sure how to poison a person and get away with it...so I guess the "Handbook" isn't as handy as it's cracked up to be....
However, if you wanna know all about hunting bad guys with beakers and bunson burners in 1920s/1930s New York you will not find a better book anywhere than this one. I LOVED it.
Blum has an excellent way of guiding the reader through a multitude of areas that can get confusing in their 'high-context'-ness. Stuff like history if you're not familiar with the era or place; stuff like chemistry in any form; stuff like political science all get enough attention so, as a reader, you don't get lost lost and you're not bored to tears either. It's a fine balance and she handles it swimmingly.
This book also handles the intricately knotted tendrils of chemistry, crime, politics, and psychology in the best possible way. Cause and consequence - including the ever-irritating law of unintended consequences - are beautifully illustrated.
My favorite portions of the book were the sections that handled Prohibition's effects:
"So it was that as Prohibition moved toward reality - Wyoming had become the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment on January 16, 1919 - Gettler and his small staff returned to the idea that wood alcohol was about to increase in popularity. THe Eighteenth Amendment, now that it had attained full ratification, was scheduled to go into effect in 1920. Already, though, the medical examiner's office was charting a rise in alcohol poisoning, as New Yorkers hurried to find alternative supplies."
We're always looking for alternative supplies, aren't we?
The increase in drinking deaths, the government participation in poisoning its citizens (the government officials defending themselves with the all-too-common blustering defense: "They broke the law, they deserve to die!"...as if *abiding the law* and *life* have ever been synonymous), and the necessity of capturing real violent criminals (the kind who poison dozens of bakery patrons), all helped drive Charles Norris, New York's first medical examiner, and his crew to work round-the-clock to discover the make-ups of several poisons.
It's a great read. Really quick, to the point, and guarunteed to up your answer quotient on Jeopardy!. But, even more than that, I think that way Blum interweaves all of the seemingly disparate elements of the Prohibition period is helpful as a medium for looking at today's issues of concern like the economy, oil, immigration, and the reactions to Wall Street. These things, like the issues pressing in the 1930s, do not exist in a vacuum - and a good many of the problems Blum touches upon (corporation oversight, for example) are still with us today. I really think this is an entertaining and important book.
The Premise: Reporter Wendy Tynes operates a Dateline-esque sting of a probable pedophile named Dan Mercer. He insists he's being set up. When the cas...moreThe Premise: Reporter Wendy Tynes operates a Dateline-esque sting of a probable pedophile named Dan Mercer. He insists he's being set up. When the case against him is thrown out, she questions her conclusions. When she witnesses Mercer's murder...she's not sure what the hell is going on. Of course, as she digs deepers, the troubles (job loss, death threats, etc.) mount up.
The Big Issue: This is one convaluted story, with subplots within subplots within subplots. While Coben walks a fine line here, I think he basically pulls it off. Any of the plots/subplots separately would've made an interesting book - after all, most of them have graced the headlines of national newspapers. And, in my opinion, that's the weakness of the story. I can buy Wall Street traders ripping retirees out of their retirement. I can buy a reporter questioning her headlining pedophile story. I can buy shadowy figures out to seek revenge for any of the following: a child who has been abused, a man falsely accused, or kidnapping a teenager. I can buy a schizophrenic man holding the clues to everything in his broken psyche.
Way harder to buy all of that in one novel. And, oh yes, the above situations are all in there, plus some that I haven't mentioned....But I'm not giving anything away. I'd have to rewrite the book in order for anyone reading here to understand the different levels going on.
In the book's defense, however, the various layers - which make the story rather incoherent when you try to explain it to a stranger - do not let you put the book down. The pages keep turning. I finished this book in a one-page-turn-after-another day. But, if you're anything like me, you'll be left with a little tinge of: Really?
Lesser Issues (a.k.a. My Personal Pet Peeves): The way technology is presented. For example, I don't buy for one iota of a second that any reporter - local, national, international, or alien - worth their salt (as main character Wendy is portrayed) does not have a Facebook account...or that they would not know, at the very least, how to use the world's largest networking site. And I'll leave it at that.
The Good Stuff: The side characters rocked my world. I loved the "Fathers Club." I'm probably with the vast majority of the music business when I say that I don't think middle-aged white men should be trying to break into the rap sector, but as a reader I appreciated that Ten-a-Fly made the effort. (Yeah, I didn't list it above, but middle-aged-white-man-rapping is in this book too! Huzzah!)
Some of the other reviewers have mentioned Win. Only a few pages, but he's there and he makes an impression.
I adored the cartoony lawyers: Flair Hickory and the Judge Judy-esque Hester Crimstein. (Though I do have an issue with how Crimstein is portrayed as rather 'brilliant'. Mostly she was like a bulldog - any police department would've pushed charges with the evidence stacked against her client...so it struck me as strange that her questionable arguments had the cops in awe.)
Overall: Enjoyed this one. It's a good, quick read with (literally) a million points of interest. Definitely worth your time if you're in the market for an entertaining weekend.
Waaaaay before Orwell thought of pigs ruling the farm, Leigh Hunt (buddy of Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, and the credited author for this br...moreWaaaaay before Orwell thought of pigs ruling the farm, Leigh Hunt (buddy of Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, and the credited author for this brief 1825 novel) imagined a world in which all the animals took over...and like humans, the animals put a donkey in charge.
The basic idea is that a guy drinks a special potion and learns to speak to the beasts on the eve of the Rebellion. Inspired and touched by the beasts' burdens, John Sprat, stands by and bears witness to the slaughter of humans and the rising of the animals.
And he also witnesses the animals being as ridiculous and frivolous as the humans ever were. In spite of calls for equality, the Ass King's favorites gain power and dominate the 'lower orders' of brutes. Elephants command the religious sector and dominate as much as the Donkey.
This was a super-interesting read, with some excellent touches. After all, who can resist descriptions of the animals' court behavior? They have kissing ass down to an art:
"The first day in every month there was a grand lick-tail, or levy, held in the palace, at which all the dignified elephants and noblemen attended. There were several gradations of licking pointed out to the animals; the nearer the root of the tail you licked, the higher were you in dignity; the high-priest and the royal family had a lick at the very top; a commoner could not approach within several inches. the tail was always held up on the lick-tail-days, by an elephant dressed in full pontificals."
Oh yeah, it's literal here.
And while that is certainly disturbing, it's also the best illustration of the heart of Hunt's argument: these kinds of rituals are ridiculous, partial, and unhealthy to the state of the world. The animals, who have taken over in the interest of equality are just as corrupt and hypocritical as the men they've routed.
"I gripped my right ear and twisted, which is how I tune out idiots."
Unfortunately, it's apparent that...moreAh...sarcastic narrators. This book's got one.
"I gripped my right ear and twisted, which is how I tune out idiots."
Unfortunately, it's apparent that everyone except John Corey (our fearless, convalescing-from-getting-shot-on-the-job narrator/hero) is an idiot. I sorta wish that his ear had been turned off for some larger chunks of the book -- because the reader has to wade through a lot of red herrings and schtuff to get to the meat of the book.
For example, getting a tour of Plum Island, the spot where world-threatening viruses are studied and possibly stolen, shouldn't be so long and tedious. For an example of that: there are numerous mentions of the ospreys -- but don't get all excited. It's not a clue. Apparently the bird has nothing more to do with the story than a narrative motif, which doesn't quite come off for me. The tour of Plum Island takes 100 pages and by the time you reach the end, witty repartee like
"I had to ask, 'But is the female screwworm fulfilled?' 'She must be,' Zollner replied. 'She never mates again.' Beth offered, 'There's another way to look at that.'"
is just a little frustrating. You want INFORMATION, not wit, by that point.
That being said, the characters are certainly likeable (you know, except for the ones you're not supposed to like)
And even the false leads are intriguing. Pirate treasure, virus hunting, international intrigue, historical implications, etc. You just can't get much better than that. The whole thing is an adventurer's wet dream. It's fun to go and figure stuff out along with Corey -- though the turn might be a little to easy to catch. I mean, I got the gist before they left Plum Island...which might explain why a lot of the copious detail felt, well, copious.
To put it simply, the title is exactly what this story is about -- the cards on the table. Christie lays out all of the suspects, lays out all of the...moreTo put it simply, the title is exactly what this story is about -- the cards on the table. Christie lays out all of the suspects, lays out all of the sleuths, and lays out the crime scene. Christie tells the reader flat out in the Foreward: "There are only four starters, and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime." Everything in the story hinges on figuring out what the true circumstances of the murderous night are...and then you can figure out the whodunit.
The story opens up with the Mephestophelian character of Mr. Shaitana inviting Hercule Poirot to a dinner party, to which he's also invited four murderers who have never been caught and three other 'detectives': Police Superintendent Battle, maybe-Secret-Service Colonel Race, and mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver. At the party there's some Bridge (Bridge being the conceit of the whole book) and the murder of the host, Mr. Shaitana.
After that, it's up to who can play their hand the best--the murderer or the sleuths on the case. Battle, Race, Oliver, and Poirot have different methods which are quite entertaining to watch play against one another. Though the one thing all the interrogators have in common is different ways of playing ignorant. Battle plays the 'fake memory' game: "Oh, yeah, that was back in...?" he asks "1932," answers the suspect. Race digs into their backgrounds via paper. Ariadne Oliver misdirects each suspect toward the others: "Obviously the doctor did it, so you can talk about you, dear...." And Poirot hands them Bridge score sheets and asks them to list items in the room.
In some cases it's out-and-out hilarious. Especially the character of Ariadne Oliver--popularly considered Christie's mouthpiece.
There is a lot of reversing and re-reversing in this story, and there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Every one of the suspects has killed someone and there are witnesses and victims for each one of those side-stories. I admit to getting mixed up, especially with military titles thrown in there. Major Despard is a suspect and Colonel Race is a sleuth and I kept twisting them up for some reason.
In the Foreward, Christie mentions this being one of Poirot's favorite cases though his buddy Hastings "when Poirot described it to him, considered it very dull!" And there is a risk that some readers would find this not-as-exciting as some other Christie books. After all, it is about the psychology of the characters, and to gather the necessary information on the suspects' respective backgrounds can get tedious. But readers who are entertained by the concept of 'profiling' (like me!) will have a good time here.
Kathleen Kent is the master of historical description. Very often, writers don't create a strong sense of period because there isn't enough laser-eyed...moreKathleen Kent is the master of historical description. Very often, writers don't create a strong sense of period because there isn't enough laser-eyed precision in the language of the story. Take, for example, the 'laser-eye' of the previous sentence. Definitely places my life in the late-twentieth/early twenty-first century, right?
From the beginning, Kent doesn't allow the reader to forget that they are immersing themselves into a different time period. Take for example: "He heard his name being called from somewhere inside the chamber, faintly but desperately, sounding like a drowning man calling out for a line of hemp." (pgs x-xi) or "The man in the wagon was small and as hard-set as a dried persimmon." (pg 3)
The references to hemp and persimmon in these examples (a very small sampling from a book chock-full of these kinds of details) bring the reader to a time of hard work and nature-based living. Kent enforces the hardships and the trials through language that the characters would understand, and that extends to the reader's understanding of the period.
Because of this talent, the cut-aways during some of tenser moments of the stories--like a letter will give the aftermath of an important event, instead of letting the reader experience the scene--are frustrating. On the one hand, I can see that the letters and diary reflections add an air of historical authenticity, but I think it does so to the detriment of the storytelling in general...especially since Kent so elegantly placed the reader in a historical context through her language.
Overall, I think the story is engaging. The bad guys may be a little too inept for Super Spies, but the protagonists' travails in simply living the colonial life more than make up for the questionable danger from overseas. Martha Allen is a wonderfully drawn portrait, as is Thomas Carrier/Morgan, Martha's regicidal, rigid suitor. The supporting cast in the colonies is equally interesting. You've Patience, the less-than-patient wife and her truly patient husband, Daniel--who has secrets of his own.
The descriptions of everyday life make me glad to be a twenty-first century kinda gal.