A fascinating character study, and one especially ripe for any reader who appreciates having familiar (hi-)stories told in a new light. I'd been overdA fascinating character study, and one especially ripe for any reader who appreciates having familiar (hi-)stories told in a new light. I'd been overdue for meaty historical fiction, and this was certainly that. Careful, calculated pacing that allows the reader to sink into both the world and the events. Textured depictions of character, often revealed only in subtle retrospect. It's a bold author who can trust her protagonist to be inscrutable yet still hold the interest of the reader. It is precisely that confidence that makes this work so well.
This won't be for everyone -- not even everyone who appreciates more dense prose or detailed history. There are times when it can seem to be mired, but often it only takes a developing perspective to understand why the chapters play out as they do. There is an artistry that is revealed best in contemplation, and patience is rewarded.
audiobook note: Simon Slater offers a sumptuous performance. He expertly gives voice to variance of posturing, cattiness, manipulations, vulnerabilities, and issues of both state and religion. Assuming Cromwell's stoicism yet allowing peeks of humanity was the perfect partnership with Mantel's vision. ...more
Another entry in the comic/drama micro-trend centering on a 40-ish woman juggling life demands with modern workplace drama, often while lacking currenAnother entry in the comic/drama micro-trend centering on a 40-ish woman juggling life demands with modern workplace drama, often while lacking current jargon and tech familiarity and dealing with much younger coworkers. It's a niche with a ready, eager audience and one that has yet to find a smart, funny voice. This, unfortunately, leaves that need unsatisfied but not for lack of trying.
What feels like it should be a breezy read is rather a downer, and the romantic attachments aren't handled with any nuance. The men in Rory's life (of glaringly identifiable "types") seem included only to reassure both character and reader that she is still desirable at her age. However, her distractions with each show her as a woman with priorities out of sync.
No one feels like a grown-up, and the tension between longing for the freedom of youth but knowing you have to press on is certainly relatable. Still, even as Rory has to compensate for her husband's cartoon childishness, there were plenty of times when I thought she, too, needed to act like an adult. The story purports to show her actualizing in that direction, and many readers will likely feel satisfied by the ending, but it doesn't cancel out questionable choices nor the way she's rewarded for them. ...more
Back on track! After the somewhat problematic turn in vol. 2, the right balance of action, fantasy, identity, humor, and heart seems to have been regaBack on track! After the somewhat problematic turn in vol. 2, the right balance of action, fantasy, identity, humor, and heart seems to have been regained. The supernatural elements especially are better integrated and not as silly, with the exception of the misguided S.H.I.E.L.D. story included as the last chapter.
Though some have criticized the transparency or too-on-the-nose vocabulary of themes (e.g., cultural prejudice, infatuation, self-actualization, and consent), it largely works for this character, not to mention a significant portion of the audience.
A.V. Club writer Alex McCown contributed a telling characterization to a piece just this week that I couldn't cheer more:
Sure, Ms. Marvel got a lot of hype around its launch, given that Marvel was creating a book around its first female Muslim Pakistani-American superhero. But what no one could’ve known at the time is that writer G. Willow Wilson would simultaneously craft one of the richest, most nuanced teenage characters in the Marvel universe. Kamala Khan is funny and smart, but also impetuous and stupid -- in short, she’s a young person trying to figure her [stuff] out. But on top of that, she’s Ms. Marvel, New Jersey’s newest residential superhero. Not since Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways has there been such an addictive title centered around what is normally the most irritating age a human can be: an adolescent.
2.5 stars. Almost a three, with credit to the endearing art (especially the expressiveness of character Zoe) and charming start. Alas, the ending fall2.5 stars. Almost a three, with credit to the endearing art (especially the expressiveness of character Zoe) and charming start. Alas, the ending falls flat for me....more
This was pretty great, I must admit. The multiple reviews that describe it as LOL, however, are a little misleading. Entertaining? Sure! Hilarious? WeThis was pretty great, I must admit. The multiple reviews that describe it as LOL, however, are a little misleading. Entertaining? Sure! Hilarious? Well, for much of the book the protagonist is dealing with serious life crises. A more accurate way of characterizing can be found in the publisher's summary: An achingly funny story about how to be your own hero when life pulls the rug out from under your feet. "Achingly funny"? Now that I can endorse.
There are light, even borderline wacky, scenes to leaven the mood -- plus Delia herself is one you'll want to cheer. At over 500 pages, it's longer than you'd expect for this type of read, but it moves very quickly. In my opinion it isn't exactly romance, though relationship issues are certainly a focus. I think it more about self-discovery, often through mishap, which is how most of us learn about ourselves. A fresh voice in young women's fiction, and one that will make you want to run to the author's backlist for both diversion and understanding....more
Everything I liked about this book is connected to Wil Wheaton's performance.
Let's acknowledge that the brilliance of Ready Player One is a tough actEverything I liked about this book is connected to Wil Wheaton's performance.
Let's acknowledge that the brilliance of Ready Player One is a tough act to follow. Even granting that, this doesn't succeed, and that is a disheartening statement to have to write. I'll narrow my primary complaints to three:
1. Pacing -- The world may be under imminent threat, complete with a running countdown clock, but any tension is undercut by the characters' overwhelming lack of urgency. Preparations to defend the planet repeatedly take a back seat to casual conversations, sightseeing, music breaks, hookups, snacks, petty arguments, and more. There's a difference between grabbing at possibly last moments and meandering toward life-or-death confrontations as if the big event will wait until you get there.
2. Originality -- Genre fans don't mind expected elements, plot arcs, or archetypes. We do ask for variations on the theme, not merely re-runs. Missing was any surprise or freshness, and that was bewildering.
3. Allusions -- Look, we love the pop culture references, but they have to be artfully deployed. Simply rattling off lists is not effective, and when repeated it induces eye-rolling. I lost count of how many times instead of dropping one reference, the character stacked three parallel ones in a single sentence, as if to prove his sci-fi cred.
audiobook note: Wheaton doesn't simply serve the book well; he saves it. His pacing, intonation, and emotive beats increase the richness dramatically, even helping the reader to overlook cliché and utter predictability. He captures everything from giddy excitement to teen angst, and there is one scene with an important character that shimmers with multiple emotions played all at once.
A fascinating mess. [Fair warning: this runs on a bit.]
Having gone on record explaining I would take my time in an effort to read Watchman on its ownA fascinating mess. [Fair warning: this runs on a bit.]
Having gone on record explaining I would take my time in an effort to read Watchman on its own merits, tuning out the extratextual hum, I’ll freely admit that it is only possible to a certain degree. There’s a danger the other way as well; in bending over backward to be fair, it’s nearly as easy to become an apologist, and that does it no favors either. I came close to giving two stars as “okay” but caught myself. It doesn’t succeed as it is, and I was only tempted to give it that rating so as not to be perceived as casting my lot with anyone reacting without understanding what it was trying to do. The truth is I do see it; it simply doesn’t work.
First, what this isn’t: a sequel. One of the more difficult contexts to keep in mind is that GSAW wasn’t written as a follow-up but as an initial treatment. The characters we love in TKAM didn’t grow to become those in GSAW. They were reconceived, corrected, and presented anew in TKAM. That’s an important distinction.
That brings another point: TKAM is the story of one significant summer through the eyes of a young girl as told by her older self. The magic is in what she perceives (and doesn’t) as she looks out at her world. One of the stodgier problems of GSAW is the amount of navel-gazing that Jean Louise indulges. She keeps looking at how her hometown and its people appear to her, disappoint her, scandalize her, compare to her ideals, how they contrast with her more worldly experiences. It’s all about her. In TKAM Lee wisely points the camera away from Jean Louise and thus makes her observations with more artistry and appeal. Additional characters are given degrees of heft, complexity, and lightness, which provides opportunity for richer reader connection to someone/anyone other than the narrator. Not so in GSAW.
Even in TKAM, Scout had strong elements of the autobiographical about her, but the portrayal of Jean Louise in GSAW is more obviously and more crudely an example of a writer working out personal issues through her protagonist. It’s amateurish, off-putting, and pretentious. To be fair, it’s an early effort, and most authors have to work through that stage. That doesn’t mean, however, it needs to see print.
Regarding the disheartening portrayal of Atticus, how does a modern reader reconcile? I’m not claiming to enjoy the characterization, but again we have to revisit authorial intent. If GSAW is all about the disillusionment and intellectual coming of age of the protagonist, then it’s frankly understandable how unpleasant revelations about the father she idolized would be the catalyst for her crisis of faith. In some ways, contemporary readers have ready identification with this more so than if it had been published long ago. Through the iconic status of both book and film performance, Scout isn’t the only one who put this mere man on a pedestal.
Similarly, I don’t buy that the Jean Louise of TKAM would grow into the woman at the center of GSAW. As I observed earlier, though, that’s not how these two iterations came into existence.
There are other quibbles about which I won’t go into (yet more) detail: clumsy pacing, bits of comic relief and/or sentiment that fail, paper-thin characters that exist only as straw men and women for Scout to level, a smothering sense of self-righteousness and indignation, mistaking speeches (oh, the speeches) as the bludgeon with which to communicate theme.
Where the book does light up is in the flashback interactions with Jem and Dill. Three cheers for whoever advised Lee to delve deeper into childhood adventures as a juxtaposition for serious issues and troubled perspectives. Ditto, perhaps even to a greater degree, to Lee for courageously taking that constructive criticism and crafting an infinitely superior work.
P.S. For someone claiming to assess GSAW on its own, I've clearly referred to TKAM many, many times, but that was grudgingly intentional. Like it or not, the works are intertwined, and my references were to provide identifiable points of contrast. ...more
3.5 stars. Inventive and charming, though with a dry, postmodern edge. Enjoyable characters that neatly sidestep most stereotype. Nimona herself is a3.5 stars. Inventive and charming, though with a dry, postmodern edge. Enjoyable characters that neatly sidestep most stereotype. Nimona herself is a true original, so much so that we don't really mind (view spoiler)[the overplayed "was experimented on earlier in life" (hide spoiler)] as part of her mysterious backstory.
Interesting to see the artistic style evolve throughout the narrative. Strong use of frame to increase or decrease the pace, as well as to underscore emotion and tone. Engaging and vibrant color palette, with some muted sequences to provide contrast. Though the choice to use raw lettering fits well, the size is distractingly small -- not only difficult to read with ease, but also seeming out of proportion with the composition.["br"]>["br"]>...more
A fascinating book, both in execution and in impact. It takes remarkable craft to balance this level of technical specificity with barrier-shatteringA fascinating book, both in execution and in impact. It takes remarkable craft to balance this level of technical specificity with barrier-shattering appeal, but that is what Weir achieves.
audiobook note: R.C. Bray is a master. I doubted at first, wondering if I could endure an entire work in an intentionally gravel-voiced speaker, but it quickly proved to be both the right choice for Mark as well as effectively counterbalanced by the differentiation of other characters. The dry humor is brought to life without a single misstep, and the occasions when Watney loses his cool -- either in excitement or in frustration -- are played to ultimate effect. A brilliant production....more
Some wonderful strategies, and the balance of big-picture thinking with item-by-item examination is inspiring. Especially freeing was the instructionSome wonderful strategies, and the balance of big-picture thinking with item-by-item examination is inspiring. Especially freeing was the instruction to consider if something has served its good purpose, no matter how long it has been owned or how it came into one's possession. Many readers are responding to the question of whether something sparks joy, which is also invigorating, though there are a few practical considerations that weren't acknowledged.
audiobook note: Emily Woo Zeller reads with studied poise and good humor, much as you would expect the voice of the author to be. Very successful collaboration.
Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That's just how it is. Anyone who doesn't agree needs their head examined. That's what Elsa's granny says,Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That's just how it is. Anyone who doesn't agree needs their head examined. That's what Elsa's granny says, at least.
What a magical beginning, yet rooted in humor, compassion, and the hint of surmounting difficulties -- which means it is a thumbnail preview of what this book will portray. This isn't a story of escaping reality through storytelling; it's an example of how embracing story can provide the strength, inspiration, and perspective needed to cope with life's hardships. Granny's character certainly incorporates the wacky (perhaps a new manifestation of manic-pixie-elder-dreamgirl?), but we see glimpses that she outsizes her natural free spirit tendencies to counter the worries, fears, and precision of an extraordinary yet struggling little girl. Even if some of the crossover between fantasy kingdom and real life seems a tad disjointed or strains even generous license with credibility, no soft-hearted reader will dare complain. ...more
A real disappointment, both in story and in narrator performance. The first book was such an unexpected delight that it makes it all the sadder to seeA real disappointment, both in story and in narrator performance. The first book was such an unexpected delight that it makes it all the sadder to see reader goodwill squandered. Stick with the first and let the frothy diversion stay intact.
audiobook note: Lydia Look doesn't do a poor job, but she isn't nearly as deft as Lynn Chen, who voiced Crazy Rich Asians. Especially distracting was the low, breathy manner in which Look uttered the many footnotes, which only served to add to the choppiness of the narrative. ...more