Good page-turner. I hadn't read a Koontz book in years and it lived up to what I expected, which was something escapist and a little bit chilling. DonGood page-turner. I hadn't read a Koontz book in years and it lived up to what I expected, which was something escapist and a little bit chilling. Don't expect a hard-core fright fest here, just a mystery with a supernatural edge. Don't think too hard about the plot or you'll probably snag a loose end and unravel it! Oh, speaking of metaphors (ahem), Koontz does tend to employ some really terrible extended metaphors in his writing -- but that's ok, we don't read Dean Koontz to experience literary finesse!...more
People compare this work to Kerouac's On The Road. Or at least, a blurb on the back cover of this book makes the comparison. I understand why. Here'People compare this work to Kerouac's On The Road. Or at least, a blurb on the back cover of this book makes the comparison. I understand why. Here's a guy who looks at the conventional expectations of our society, shrugs them off, and hits the road. In this case, he aims to be a dishwasher in all 50 states.
I really wanted to like this book. The material was probably great as presented originally, in zine articles and pieces on the NPR radio show This American Life. The book is organized into vignettes, each focusing on a particular place in Jordan's dishwashing travels. A few of the vignettes described interesting characters or incidents. The problem is that Jordan just isn't a very good writer. Nothing really comes alive. The people he meets are not vividly described and most start merging together after a while. The dishwashing itself is described in depth, which is kind of cool, but Jordan's thoughts and motivations are often muddy, and come across instead as a compulsive zig-zag from place to place. Maybe that is because his travels really were a compulsive zig-zag, but it doesn't make for much of a narrative.
Worst of all, I thought that Jordan just seemed like, well, kind of a jerk. Putting one over on "the man" is one thing, but it seemed as though he'd just as soon screw over a small, mom and pop operation as steal from a corporate commissary. As I read about him bailing on people and places, one by one, I hoped for an interesting epiphany, or at least a little bit of reflection on his experience and how he felt about it. Instead, the book lurched to an abrupt halt, and we're left with nothing substantial at all.
This isn't a bad read -- just don't expect it to live up to the hype, and don't expect an author with much to say about the interesting life he chose to lead....more
Anthony Bourdain would not like me. I'm a Billy Joel-listening vegetarian. He expresses deep disdain for vegetarians (and for Billy Joel!). Were BourdAnthony Bourdain would not like me. I'm a Billy Joel-listening vegetarian. He expresses deep disdain for vegetarians (and for Billy Joel!). Were Bourdain and I to visit a restaurant together, he'd roll his eyes in disbelief at how I choose to miss out on the dining experiences he describes in beautiful detail.
Maybe it's living vicariously, then, or perhaps it's a streak of masochism in my personality, but I love reading Bourdain's stuff. Read Kitchen Confidential first. Get to know Bourdain through the arc of his career up to that point. Then get your hands on The Nasty Bits and gobble up these smaller pieces that he has written throughout the years.
Here you will find rants against all manner of clods, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. You'll find some of the best food porn ever written (veg*ns who do not want to read about eating meat should stay far away from this book). You will learn about celebrity chefs and the dining possibilities all over the place, from Vegas to Sao Paolo.
Bourdain is a writer with personality and wit, and even when he occasionally offends, you have to admire him for staking out his position, wearing his love of being a chef on his sleeve, and sharing it all with his readers.
I recommend visiting the back of the book after each chapter. There, he briefly reflects on each piece (as some were written years ago), and adds interesting thoughts or the occasional retraction.
First, you should know where I'm coming from: I like my science fiction light on science, heavy on characterization and humanity. A tome that goes inFirst, you should know where I'm coming from: I like my science fiction light on science, heavy on characterization and humanity. A tome that goes in depth on the physics of space travel and leaves the characters shallow and unrealized is not my cup of tea.
Now that you know what kind of reader I am: I keep reading A World Out of Time. I picked up a copy in 1983 when I was 13, enjoyed it, read it again a year or two later, and have probably read it seven times altogether. Since I rarely read a book more than once, this must mean something. As I grew up, I found that I got more out of this book each time I read it. I uncovered new layers of meaning, especially about the direction in which Niven shows human civilization going over a long span of time.
But something funny happened the last time I picked up the book: I didn't like it as much. I don't care for his portrayal of female characters. Mostly they're just there as accessories to have sex with -- except for the old, ugly one, who's there to run away from. What happens at the end of the book is an interesting statement on how a woman is judged on appearance alone. Unfortunately, I don't think Niven is trying to make this statement on this: I think he's inadvertently created an example of it.
Also, the main character is something of a cypher. We know he had a full life before the events in the book, and perhaps Niven intentionally leaves his past vague, to emphasize that it's not relevant to his present situation -- but as a result the reader is denied much insight into the character. He becomes a bundle of reflexes -- too generic to seem completely realized.
That said, there's something that keeps me reading this book, and I'll probably read it again when I'm having my midlife crisis sometime. The pace is quick, the plot easy to follow and suspenseful, and the landscape of a future Earth intriguing.
I'd like to see Niven return to this in a sequel. Perhaps he has grown as a writer since the 1970's and he'd do a more judicious job of character development of either sex. ...more
In The Cut was a quick read. It kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what would happen. The main character intrigued me at first. And that's aboIn The Cut was a quick read. It kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what would happen. The main character intrigued me at first. And that's about as close as I can get to praise for this book.
If you can stomach gruesome, twisted violence and enjoy analyzing it on a symbolic or literary level, then you may appreciate this book more than I. I don't think this book had anywhere near enough to say, however, to justify its sickening level of brutality.
At its heart, this is a mediocre whodunit. A good mystery of this type gives us several plausible suspects, each with motive, each keeping us guessing. I guess that Susanna Moore wasn't up to the task, so instead she gives us red herrings: clues that mean nothing; characters who are under suspicion simply because they always seem to be showing up for no good reason; a revelation at the end that is disappointing in its lack of connection to what the reader already knows.
Moore apparently sees nothing good in female sexuality. It seems to me that she is portraying women as victims of their own "uncontrollable" urges, blinded by sex. Weak because of it. That's a sad perspective to take.
I don't mind violence in a book or movie when it serves a purpose. Instead, here, it is both the means and the end.
Again, I'm sure that some readers will get off on analyzing this book in terms of symbols -- the narrator symbolizes "this"; her use of language tells us "that" about the human condition. But the main character, who starts off so refreshingly different, never gets fully developed. The other characters are caricatures, there only to play out their role. As someone who prefers to read about people rather than mere cyphers, and who doesn't appreciate graphic violence without a strong story to support it, In The Cut doesn't make the cut. ...more
I was prone from the start to give this book a favorable review, because my politics are right there with Moore's. For readers like me, he's preachingI was prone from the start to give this book a favorable review, because my politics are right there with Moore's. For readers like me, he's preaching to the choir. I found the book alternately entertaining and disturbing as facts, statistics, serious rants and cheeky humor flew off the page. Some passages made me want to jump up and help change the world; others made me feel that it's all too much and that I'll soon be hopelessly watching our nation unravel. I suspect the author's own moods fluctuate in a similar way.
I'm only giving the book 3 stars despite my political and social agreement with the author. The book is frustratingly inconsistent. Moore has a tendency to pinball dizzyingly among fact, conjecture and hyperbole. He whips up his essays into a verbal froth, at times running head-on into generalizations that damaged my trust in him. Specific example: Moore's wholesale depiction of public defenders as inept bumblers, when instead he could have taken a more focused stance on the systemic problems and left the insulting generalization out. It's the equivalent of describing police officers as donut-eating fools. It earns a snicker from some of us, but we get nothing out of it.
Bottom line: Moore has important things to say. Unfortunately, the people who need to hear these things are the ones least likely to read this book. Even if they did read it, the inconsistencies in Moore's tone and authority would likely make the whole work easy to dismiss. ...more
This is a beautiful, beautiful book, brimming with emotion and rooted in the majesty and danger of nature. Although the cover proclaims Snow MountainThis is a beautiful, beautiful book, brimming with emotion and rooted in the majesty and danger of nature. Although the cover proclaims Snow Mountain Passage to be "a novel of the Donner party," that does not reflect the spirit and depth of this work.
Those of us who have heard of the Donner Party probably have a generic picture of stranded, desperate pioneers, some of whom get stranded in the mountains in the winter of 1846-7 and turn to cannibalism to survive. It's a famous story, and knowing that much isn't a spoiler in terms of reading this book. (You can get the basic Donner Party story by glancing at Wikipedia. )
But surely there is a more subtle reality -- the Donner Party was made up of real people, real families, forced apart by circumstance, trying to find each other again, trying to make a place for themselves in California or at least to survive long enough to get there. James D. Houston uses the known facts as a framework upon which he thoughtfully builds the imagined lives of the Reeds, one of the families caught up in the mountains that winter.
Only part of the story takes place with the stranded party members. Much of it centers around Jim Reed, who becomes separated from the Donner Party, forced to leave his wife and children behind. He makes it to the west coast, but all he wants is to find a way back through the snow, into the mountains, to rescue his family.
Reading Snow Mountain Passage, it's easy to feel the connection the author feels to the people, the history, the place. Houston takes his time creating a picture of the political and social turmoil of the 1840s West. Mexicans, Native Americans, Californians and new immigrants from the States all struggled to define their place in a changing world of shifting power and alliances. Sometimes I felt as though a better grasp of California history would have served me well as I read this book, and every so often I wished the passages in which characters debated about which side to take were a bit shorter.
Still, none of this took away from the power of the central story, and the breathtaking ability of Houston's prose to make it come alive. This one is a real gem. I hope you won't miss it.
This was a powerful book. Gripping would be a good way to describe it, since I was up until almost 3am finishing it last night. It was not always easyThis was a powerful book. Gripping would be a good way to describe it, since I was up until almost 3am finishing it last night. It was not always easy to take, with a few intense, disturbing scenes, but also with much tenderness and depth.
My admiration for this book isn't completely unqualified. Occasionally I thought it strayed into melodrama, and I did get annoyed with the author's clumsy use of foreshadowing. He kept using devices such as "little did I know, this was the last time I would see him." That was overdone.
But I am giving this book five stars because my complaints pale in comparison to all that I found praiseworthy. The story moved me, and I learned a lot about a country and a culture (Afghanistan), and how it has been destroyed from within and without. The characters felt real, and at times I had trouble believing they didn't exist somewhere out there in the world.
If you've read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books before, then throw away your usual expectations and track down a copy of The Catch Trap. If you arIf you've read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books before, then throw away your usual expectations and track down a copy of The Catch Trap. If you aren't normally interested in Bradley's books, then you might consider making an exception. This is nothing like her other works -- not like the one's I've read, anyway. I won't write a detailed review here, because I read this book quite a few years ago, and my memories of it aren't fresh enough. But I wanted to share the fact that this is one read that has stayed with me over the years: the characters, the setting, even certain scenes. This is an unusual, and an unusually good read, especially coming from Bradley, whose offerings are wildly uneven. This one's a keeper, and it's worth tracking down a copy. ...more
This book disappointed me. I'd already read and enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits. I thought I would find A Cook's Tour to be a similarlThis book disappointed me. I'd already read and enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits. I thought I would find A Cook's Tour to be a similarly spirited and opinionated trip through Bourdain's brain, this time in the framework of amazing meals from all over the world. It let me down. Don't get me wrong: there are some great moments in this book, but as a whole it didn't work, and actually irritated me.
Bourdain wrote this book as the Food Network sent him around the world in search of the "perfect meal," or more realistically, to try unusual and sometimes scary (to Western tastes) cuisine. The book felt disjointed and mostly flat, as though Bourdain's heart wasn't in it. And it probably wasn't: he seemed unhappy about being paraded around by a television network, expected to cooperate with the camera crew, and to pursue places and dishes not necessarily on his own "to do" list.
So, while some passages are vivid and enticing, others slog along, a decent but not exciting mixture of food and travel writing. And I really didn't warm up to his hypocritical bashing of other celebrity chefs and complaints about filming, when I knew that he was increasing his own fame and fortune in the process.
For the first time, I started to lose patience with and respect for Bourdain. After three books, his grouchy, tough-but-soft persona starts to wear a little thin. Just how real is it? And his biases -- he hates vegetarians, The Grateful Dead, Jamie Oliver, etc., etc. -- start to become grating, since he wastes no opportunity to remind us of them in his every book.
It's odd, because as a vegetarian myself, I was never offended before at his rants against herbivores. Whatever. I understand that veg-heads miss out on all this great food and won't eat the cuisine he takes such pride in preparing and enjoying. I get that some vegans are self-righteous and dogmatic and try to impose their dietary practices on others. What went over the top in this book, though, was that Bourdain had a vegan meal -- but the venue he chose was clearly intended to bolster his hatred for all things vegan. He went looking for a disappointing meal and got what he was looking for. He made some nasty insinuations about the psychological problems of people who won't eat meat. And he never mentioned -- and interestingly, never visited -- cultures where vegetarianism is the norm.
Somehow, over the course of this book, I went from admiring Bourdain to being irritated by him. I still recommend Kitchen Confidential for sure... it's great stuff... but once you've gone there, and had a taste of The Nasty Bits as well, this one is a big step backwards....more
Miles Halter is sixteen years old, and in his first year away at Culver Creek, a boarding school in central Alabama. A lot of what happens to Miles as
Miles Halter is sixteen years old, and in his first year away at Culver Creek, a boarding school in central Alabama. A lot of what happens to Miles as he adjusts to dorm life feels very real -- it reminds me of my first year away at college. Intense friendships form, conflicts simmer, and things that seem small to adults seem so important in the moment to these newly independent teens.
Miles and his friends are by turns funny, introspective and overwrought, which is to say that they are like real people. This is not a cleaned-up wonderland -- our characters smoke, drink and explore their sexuality -- and this makes Looking for Alaska all the more believable, even if it makes some adult readers squirm. Miles feels like a real kid, and his friends feel like living, breathing human beings, not caricatures. This is the core of the book and what makes the first part so successful.
Yes, Looking for Alaska is divided into two parts: before and after. I won't give away the event that serves as a pivot point here, but it's a powerful moment and it gives us a window on Miles and his friends as they process what has changed. The "after" section of the book is not as good as the "before": it begins with all the power of the pivotal moment, but falters under the weight of some unnecessary repetition as Miles becomes obsessed with figuring out just what happened and grapples with mixed emotions and an urge to rationalize them away. Some of the dialogue in the "after" section tends to sound way too much like prose instead of talk, and threatens to sink Looking for Alaska under its own philosophical weight.
Still, this ship never completely sinks, and I stayed up way too late to spend time with Miles and his friends as they process what has happened in their lives. Our characters' relationships fracture and heal, and there's some beautiful rumination about life, and free choice, and consequences.
This isn't a perfect book, and John Green's writing technically improves in his later works (better dialogue, for one thing) -- but that didn't stop Alaska from being a good read, and my favorite Green book thus far.
Wow. I had put off reading this book because of the decidedly mixed reviews it had received. I wish I hadn't waited. I just tore through this book inWow. I had put off reading this book because of the decidedly mixed reviews it had received. I wish I hadn't waited. I just tore through this book in a few hours' time, and when I reached the end, it left me with that weird teary feeling that comes on when I really connect with a story.
The narrator of this book, Wayne, finds out that his ex-girlfriend has committed suicide. Over the course of the book, every decision he makes, each path he carves out is somehow colored by the horrible news he has received.
This is, in some sense, a road novel combined with A. J. Jacob's The Know-It-All, which, coincidentally, I just finished reading a couple of weeks ago. Wayne's narrative is populated with definitions of words and the history of places, inventions and ideas. It is not clear as you read that these devices are directly tied to the narrative. I understand that some readers become impatient with this. I think perhaps The Know-It-All conditioned me for this -- but for whatever reason, it worked for me.
By the end, I understood exactly what why these passages and digressions were there, and when I soaked up the last word of the last page, I experienced a moment of clarity about the narrator and his trajectory that startled me.
This review may sound fairly vague, but I'd hate to get more specific about the "message" of this book and color your own interpretation or ruin your own experience reading it. I am guessing that this is the kind of book that will mean different things to different people, and resonate with their own life experiences in different ways.
I recommend it to all, especially those who feel they can adapt to a somewhat experimental narrative form. I also wonder if this book will resonate more with men than women, but being a guy myself, I can't tell you that!
Having read and enjoyed Lamb and A Dirty Job, I was disappointed by this one. The humor was at times too obvious -- I was occasionally pulled out of tHaving read and enjoyed Lamb and A Dirty Job, I was disappointed by this one. The humor was at times too obvious -- I was occasionally pulled out of the narrative with the feeling that the author was winking at his readers instead of telling a story. The plot moved along at a good clip but came to an unsatisfying, too-easy resolution. The "bad guy" was an incomplete picture, someone whose motives and goals were never clear to me. And yet, despite these complaints, it was a fun read and easy to breeze through in a short time. I laughed out loud once or twice. I'm glad I read Bloodsucking Fiends, but I hope that the next Christopher Moore book I read is a better example of his work!...more
What happens when a person with an essentially secular upbringing decides to follow the prescriptions of the Bible as literally as possible for one yeWhat happens when a person with an essentially secular upbringing decides to follow the prescriptions of the Bible as literally as possible for one year? A. J. Jacobs tackled just such a project. He writes with a conversational, personable tone, and it's fascinating to journey with him. This book is not an exposé, although Jacobs is not afraid to point out contradictions and hypocrisies when he finds them. He's also unafraid to share that some of his biblical lifestyle choices have had a profoundly positive effect on him.
In some of the more fascinating sections of the book, Jacobs seeks out people who endeavor to live a literal interpretation of the Bible, or people who obey a literal interpretation of some specific passage. It's a colorful supporting cast, each one helping to shape the author’s experience.
I see that the Publishers Weekly review calls this book "hilarious." I found it gently humorous, smile-inducing, and occasionally provocative. Fortunately, it never descends into guffaws at the expense of his subject matter.
I highly recommend this book, which will be available in October 2007 (I read an advance reader's copy). ...more