Sparse, lovely and engaging. I absolutely loved this book. Proulx's economical use of language was as much a character in the novel as the small-townSparse, lovely and engaging. I absolutely loved this book. Proulx's economical use of language was as much a character in the novel as the small-town Newfoundland setting.
Many have told me they couldn't get into this book, but I recommend pushing through the first 100 pages if you can. If that doesn't do it, put it down. But maybe you'll get into the rhythm....more
Over-written in places, with repetitive descriptive language and some too-tidy twists in the end, South of Broad was still a thoroughly enjoyable readOver-written in places, with repetitive descriptive language and some too-tidy twists in the end, South of Broad was still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A Big-Chill-esque tale of high school friends who go to hell and back together over twenty years in Charleston, SC, South of Broad comes with a most lovable protagonist in Leo King. His closest of friends could easily be seen as predictable typecasts or even cliches, but they're well-written ones.
This book didn't change my life and I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for life-changing. But it's an excellent summer read if you enjoy the hallmarks of Pat Conroy's signature themes: family dysfunction, uncensored emotion, and the American South....more
Hey, when you were a kid, did you ever feel compelled to seek legal advice? Or play golf?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
So you can imagine my confusion over why international bestselling author of legal thrillers John Grisham‘s new foray into kid lit has so far scored 3.35 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Half his book, aimed at eight- to twelve-year-olds, is about things like how to avoid foreclosure, which lawyer in town to phone when your brother-in-law is picked up on a DUI, and what a mistrial is. Oh, and golf.
I’m a grown-up who has sought legal advice, and I was bored to tears. And not just because I’m inclined to prefer kid-lit books like, say, Coraline.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is about Theo, a thirteen-year-old only child whose parents are a tax lawyer (father) and a divorce lawyer (mother). Theo is so obsessed with the law that his major concern, more than the tough time his female best friend who appears on only a handful of pages is going through, is whether he wants to be a brilliant trial lawyer when he grows up, or a sage judge.
Know what would have made this book great? A good caper. Theo getting caught up with his friends in some mystery or another, that would be solved only when he’s able to put his out-of-the-ordinary legal knowledge to good use.
Unfortunately, the caper in this novel was… not a good one. Theo’s mid-size town is experiencing its first murder trial in recent memory, and though everyone thinks the accused is guilty of murdering his wife, the prosecution has a thin case based only on circumstantial evidence (oh yes, no worries, Theo defines that for us). Mid-story, Theo becomes privy to evidence that’s sure to sway the verdict, and he has to figure out what to do.
No investigations with his motley crew of friends (he doesn’t have one). No snooping around dark offices. No surprises. At all.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a kids’ book that so completely failed to engage my imagination. And as you know, I have a very vivid imagination. My imagination will engage at the merest hint of inspiration. And I just don’t think I’d be alone amongst ten-year-olds in not being remotely interested in court reporting or golf.
So, okay. That’s the plot. I haven’t left much out in my short description. Now the rest of it.
Go read what Charlotte Abbott wrote over on her Book Maven blog about how important it is for an author to show, not tell*. Oh my gods, kids, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is about 250 out of 263 pages of telling. I felt like I was slogging through half this book. I was so bored.
The characters were barely caricatures, so thin and so poorly developed I didn’t care much about them at all. Including Theo. I kinda wanted to punch Theo in the face, but then I realized it’s Grisham I wanted to punch in the face. He’s created the dullest kid character I’ve ever encountered. Rather than creating a likable precocious protagonist, he created a shallow know-it-all. He could have done so much better. He could have made Theo, oh I don’t know, laugh. And interact with his peers in important ways. You know, experience believable conflicts. But he didn’t.
In fact, I got the impression Grisham doesn’t really understand kids. His strategy for writing a kids book seemed to be to dilute, simplify, and sometimes outright dumb down a story he might otherwise write very well for adults. Throughout the book, I had the distinct impression the author was smirking at the ten-year-old me, implying, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand this, so we’ll just cut it out or gloss over it.” Too bad he didn’t solve that problem by writing about things the ten-year-old me would understand. If he’d done that, this book might have seemed thick and creamy instead of runny and bland.
It seemed to me Grisham’s goal wasn’t so much to write a good story as it was to write a legal primer for the pre-teen set. Why on earth he thinks this is needed is beyond me. But I couldn’t shake the impression that’s what his goal was. So no surprise that I felt at times like I was reading a text book – a text book that was talking down to me.
Here’s a note I jotted down in a fit of pique: “A better lesson would be to not call women ‘ladies’.” Grisham totally calls all the women in the book ladies. He also casts them in antediluvian roles – court reporter, secretary, receptionist, file clerk, housekeeper, and the one female lawyer (Theo’s mother) is a divorce lawyer who frequently has crying women in her office.
For a master of legal thrillers, Grisham seems to have decided kids can’t handle suspense. He sets the pace in this book like a bad television show tries desperately to create a sense of drama through orchestration when its writers and actors can’t quite pull it off. The one bit of foreshadowing I noticed came out of the blue at the end of a section describing a part of the murder trial. Apropos of nothing, he narrates, “There was something missing in the case, and based on what had already been said in court, Theo suspected that the mystery might never be solved.” People, there was no mention of mystery before this.
Grisham also seems uncomfortable handling race and poverty issues in this book, which is surprising considering his adeptness at treating both those topics in his books for grown-ups. He actually refers to the poorer part of town as “the lesser part.” Sigh.
I read A Time to Kill, Grisham’s first novel and the one some argue to be his best, when I was in high school. My recommendation for anyone thinking of buying Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer for the tween in their life is to wait till they’re fifteen and give them some of Grisham‘s better work instead.
— * I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the Millennium trilogy – if I’m tolerant of Stieg Larsson doing so much telling and not so much showing, you can imagine how little showing there is in Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.
Penguin Canada sent me a review copy of this book, gratis....more
I'm so glad this book is the first in a trilogy. About 7/8ths of it is setup for the real dramatic problem that's only presented at the end of the booI'm so glad this book is the first in a trilogy. About 7/8ths of it is setup for the real dramatic problem that's only presented at the end of the book. So I'm itching for more.
And I'm surprised I made it through those first 7/8ths. I usually get twitchy when I read a novel (especially a sci-fi novel) that's too heavy on detail and too thin on plot. I found myself muttering sometimes, "There isn't even much foreshadowing. What on earth is this book about?"
I suppose the saving grace of Starfish for me was that the details Watts focuses on are character development, not science. I love the science, and his science is creepy and good, but the characters are what kept me turning pages. They're interesting. And it seemed realistic that it would take a whole novel for me to get to know them well enough to be fully invested in what they'll experience now that I know the big, dramatic problem. This novel is like a 300-page prologue. (I hope.)
If you're a fan of good stories, in general, I'd put this high on your list. If you're a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, put it firstIf you're a fan of good stories, in general, I'd put this high on your list. If you're a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, put it first on your list.
The Passage is not a vampire story. It is, however, what I was hoping for when I started reading The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro. The Strain, however, was a total disappointment. The characters were flat, the story contrived, the writing ham-fisted.
The Passage is filled with fleshed-out characters, the not-very-original premise is made up for by outstanding storytelling and great writing – and the epic scope of the tale....more
An uncomfortable, riveting, beautifully written novel about a schizophrenic teenager named Will, his mother, and the detective looking for him after hAn uncomfortable, riveting, beautifully written novel about a schizophrenic teenager named Will, his mother, and the detective looking for him after he went off his meds and went on the lam in the New York City subway system.
I consider myself to be a mildly enlightened person when it comes to mental illness, but I can't say whether the portrayal of schizophrenia in this book is realistic or fair. What I can say, though, is that it *seems* realistic and not at all unfair. And disturbing. And beautiful. And confounding.
As we get to know Will, his mother and the detective better, it's as if we're on a journey of consciousness and sanity, dipping and weaving in and out of both and around and around until we get to the end.
This is the best book I've read in quite a while. The writing is perfect. The story is subtle and rich and vivid and vague.
If you're interested in mental illness, in character studies, in New York City or subways or teenagers or adults, I highly recommend this book....more
Just a flat, flat story. The plot was far too dull to warrant the length of the book – maybe it could have been a compelling short story – and the chaJust a flat, flat story. The plot was far too dull to warrant the length of the book – maybe it could have been a compelling short story – and the characters were caricatures. I gained nothing from reading this....more
I'm amazes I got through this book. After absolutely loving Pattern Recognition, I'm surprised I found this follow-up so disappointing. The charactersI'm amazes I got through this book. After absolutely loving Pattern Recognition, I'm surprised I found this follow-up so disappointing. The characters were flat and shallow, the plot was flat and shallow. Wholly uninteresting in almost every way, with further points deducted for Gibson's contrived descriptions of Vancouver....more
A quite, intensely stunning thriller in the ice of Denmark and Greenland. Hoeg's descriptions, not only of ice and snow but also of people's innermostA quite, intensely stunning thriller in the ice of Denmark and Greenland. Hoeg's descriptions, not only of ice and snow but also of people's innermost truths, are among the most efficiently artful I can recall. Read it....more
Maybe it's because I read this on the heels of The Hunger Games trilogy, but I think most of my frustrations with the book stand on their own.
The charMaybe it's because I read this on the heels of The Hunger Games trilogy, but I think most of my frustrations with the book stand on their own.
The characters are shallow, the writing is unsophisticated and the story has great potential that just isn't met. Westerfeld could have advanced the whole plot of this novel in several chapters and really upped the pace and suspense. But he didn't. So it was a slow slog through forced drama, with every nuance a frying pan banged on your head.
I won't be moving on in the trilogy, and I might not read the first of his Uglies books, though the concept really appeals to me. What do you think? Should I give Uglies a shot, or, given what I thought of The Secret Hour, do you think I'll be disappointed again?
*Edited to add*: Also and importantly, "POLYMATH" DOESN'T MEAN THAT. Misuse of this otherwise useful and interesting word may or may not have been the two-by-four that broke the camel's back for me....more
For me, The Book of Fires was a surprise hit. After plodding through the first 25 pages or so, I ended up falling quite deeply in love with the protagFor me, The Book of Fires was a surprise hit. After plodding through the first 25 pages or so, I ended up falling quite deeply in love with the protagonist, Agnes Trussel, and with her view of her 1750s London world. I wrote a full review at http://www.kimwerker.com/2010/04/14/b......more
The art of this graphic novel is stunning, and at times even breathtaking. I wasn't as wowed, though, by the story. It was lauded as brilliant, but IThe art of this graphic novel is stunning, and at times even breathtaking. I wasn't as wowed, though, by the story. It was lauded as brilliant, but I found it to be pretty much run-of-the-mill adolescent angst, with an unexplained STD and 70s haircuts.
Still, I'll look for more work by Charles Burns, in hopes his verbal storytelling begins to approach the poignancy of his drawings....more
If you're totally uninterested in stupid zombie stories, you should read this. I only read it because a few people whose opinions I trust recommendedIf you're totally uninterested in stupid zombie stories, you should read this. I only read it because a few people whose opinions I trust recommended it, and I'm glad I took their advice. This book is smart and well-written. It's a high-level portrait of a worldwide zombie invasion/epidemic, told through interviews with people who survived the eventual world war....more