I'm a sci-fi writer and reader, although, let's be honest - I'll read just about anything that moves me, regardless of the genre.
This book was odd. I picked it up, and two pages in was hooked. Apparently, if you write a story that starts on a train with a character that has received a mysterious package, I'm all in.
That being said, this book was difficult for me to finish. Told from three different view points, the story revolves around two feuding magicians (Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier) in the late 1800s in England. The narrative is told from the two magicians' points of views and the the point of view of a modern man, Andrew Borden, who is one of their descendants.
Overall all, I mostly just didn't understand why I cared. The feud seemed to have a stupid beginning (as no doubt do most feuds) and then nothing Priest wrote endeared me to either of the Borden's making my interest in their fates very low. I also didn't really get why Andrew Borden's story was necessary. The entire story is mostly told from the journal of Rupert Angier, and a book that Alfred Borden published. Andrew's story just seemed like wasted words.
As I mentioned, I found Alfred Borden's story dull, and I had to keep pushing myself to keep reading. Once I got to Angier's story, the book got much more interesting, although by that point I was a couple of hundred pages in, and just wanted to finish the book. I was, as they say, over it, at that point.
I think if the story had just mostly been from Angier's point of view, I would have found it much more engaging. He is clearly the most fleshed out character, and he is the only reason to read the book.
I am interested in seeing the movie because based on the reviews I've read, it's much better than the book. I can't really think of a reason to recommend this book, unless you're really into magic or maybe you've seen the movie and want to compare it to the book.
I'd seen this movie a few years back and figured that the book was probably worth a read. When I finally ran across a copy of this in a thrift store, I picked it up.
Over all the book was a quick read. I knew what was going to happen, and the story didn't differ too much from the movie, from what I can remember (other than the very end, which I think they did better in the movie).
What I liked: I loved Spark's ability to capture the south. The house and the trees, the rocking chairs on the porch and a deluge of rain. I have a penchant for books set in the south (read Flannery O' Connor's complete works if you too have this love.) Sparks got the setting right. He transported me to the 1940's south. I could feel a light sundress on my skin and smell the okra. I felt the humidity in my hair.
What I wasn't so much a fan of: Maybe it's because I saw the movie first, but I wasn't as enamored with the characters as I expected to be. I really expected to be inside their heads and to truly understand them. It wasn't that I walked away from this thinking I didn't get them, but I think I went into the story with a really high bar. I expected to be able to blink from their eyes, and it just didn't happen. The book isn't super long (a good thing, IMO) but as a result I just didn't get to know the characters on the level I expected.
The parallel story of the nursing home, while difficult at first to adjust to, I think in the end makes the story stronger, and I do wish that Sparks had used the ending the movie used, but it is what it is.
If you're looking for a quick read, or a read that immerses you in another time and place, I recommend this book.
I knew nothing about Divergent before reading it, other than it was Hunger Game-esq. That being said, I'm going to say right off the bat that Hunger Games is way better than Divergent, but Divergent gets four stars because I read it in a matter of hours, so good job Roth, you kept me entertained.
I'm going to make a comparison to Hunger Games, so bear with me here. I'm not going to get too bogged down in Divergent's plot. It takes place in future Chicago. When a kid turns 16 they pick a faction to become a part of, and then they are subjected to a try out where they have to prove they actually do belong in that faction. The main character, Beatrice choose the faction Dauntless, and it is at this point I started to have problems with the book.
In Hunger Games, I never really had that much of an issue suspending my disbelief. The idea of a gladiatorial arena for killing kids wasn't as hard to wrap my mind around as the idea that there is an entire faction of people who are constantly taking risks such as, but not limited to, always jumping from train cars and then breaking into a dead run upon landing.
I know what you're thinking, that's what bothered you? Yes. Have you ever jumped from a moving vehicle and tried to stand, let alone run? Unless, in the future when America falls apart, people magically evolve stronger ankles, everyone in Dauntless should have major ankle injuries. No one in that faction should be able to walk. Seriously. You jump from something moving enough times, and you know what I'm talking about. The numbers of injury opportunities vs. injuries accrued would be much higher than Roth suggests.
This whole ankle thing is just one of many little details that really made me have a hard time believing the story. That and I felt like the first part of the book didn't really go anywhere. I just kept waiting for whatever needed to happen to happen. It isn't to say that nothing happened, I just felt like the book was wandering from its main point - that of Divergence.
I haven't picked up the second book, yet. I probably will, but in the end, Divergent wasn't as crisp and focused as the Hunger Games. There was a lot of risky risk taking that as someone who works in a field that constantly requires risk management, I knew that such stupid risks wouldn't really be worth taking because you'd thin down your numbers so fast that you'd have an entire faction of injured people.
If you're not someone to get bogged down in physics or the reality of what Roth is saying, you will probably greatly enjoy this book. If you are someone who might have the same issues as I did, just know this book probably won't be your favorite, but you might still like it.
Given to me by a friend who has also visited to Kalaupapa, I started Moloka'i with hesitation. After visiting Kalaupapa, I'd heard from friends who work there that Brennert visited the settlement and was rather closed about his true motivations for interviewing the patients and staff of the peninsula. In Hawaii it's more than poor form to appropriate a culture that's not yours and the vibe I got was that Brennert did that in writing Moloka'i.
Still, I started Moloka', and then almost immediately put it down. It's hard to write from a child's perspective, particularly if you are a man writing about a little girl's perspective, and Brennert was doing just that. He also had a lot of, in my opinion, fluffy adjectives, and I just hate the over use of adjectives.
Encouraged by friends to keep reading, I did, and I'll be honest, I was glad I did. I don't know if I liked Moloka'i because it felt like visiting an old friend (Hawaii) or because I was just that into the story, but I read the book in a matter of days.
As I've said, I've visited Kalaupapa, and spent a fair amount of time in Oahu, so I could place a lot of the areas Brennert talked about. I've stayed in the guest quarters in the settlement, shopped at the store, hiked up the pali trail and climbed to the top of the light house. I've been to Kalawao, seen the remnants of the leprosy investigation station. It's one of the awing places I've ever been. The amount of history on that peninsula is staggering, and you can feel it. Without sounding overly cheesy, Kalaupapa is hallowed ground, and even as someone from the mainland, I could pick up on it.
Which is probably why I ended up enjoying Moloka'i so much. I have no idea if everything Brennert wrote is true, but his use of details transported me back to the peninsula, and I was happy to go.
If you're interested in Hawaii, America, or the history of people in general, you'll find Moloka'i an interesting look into an often overlooked part of the not so distant past.
My third James Patterson novel in a month, Mary Mary didn't disappoint. An Alex Cross novel set mostly in LA, Mary Mary follows a bizarre serial killer who goes after high profile Hollywood mothers.
As I've mentioned in previous reviews of Patterson, I love his work because he is able to write a wide variety of characters in a believable and realistic way. Patterson's characters are well fleshed out without being overly described, if that makes sense. You get an understanding of Patterson's characters by his use of small descriptors rather than large chunks of text. I like this.
The story of Mary Mary is also intriguing. I'll be honest, I didn't know who did it until the end, and I could not for a while, figure out how Mary Smith the woman, and the Storyteller interlaced. Patterson can spin a yarn, and it's pretty impressive.
I'm not a huge mystery fan. I tend to listen to a lot of them thanks to my mom's love for mystery audio books, and hence my getting them for free. I must say though, Patterson is an exception to my general dislike for mysteries. He writes a tight story with deep characters. As a writer myself, I love to listen to Patterson's work because he's good, and I learn a lot about the craft every time I listen.
I recommend this book.
I read Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in a single sitting. I'd not heard anything about it before going in, but once I got started, I couldn't put it down.
About Spokane Indian and smart teenager, Junior, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, chronicles Junior's life as he decides to go to school in the mostly white and affluent high school 22 miles outside of the rez. Written with humor and an incredible amount of insight into what makes us human, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian worth your while.
Alexie bridges the divide between his Indian readers and everyone else in a graceful, funny, and rare way. It is a gifted writer who can broach the emotional topic of the poverty of most Indian reservations vs. the affluence of the surrounding white communities and make his readers consider everyone's view without resentment. I walked away from the book with a better understanding of not only a world that I have never seen first hand (tribal communities) but a better understanding of the human condition. As a reader, I rooted for Junior, as well as his peers and family, both Indian and white.
This is one of those books that while yes, is great for young adult readers, should not be missed by those who have aged out of that demographic. As powerful, if not more so, as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this is book worth the read. Junior's story will enrich you. Don't miss out.
I like reading, botany, orchids, and non-fiction. You would think I would love the Orchid Thief. While I didn't quite love it, I liked it well enough. Here's why.
It seems that Orlean became entranced with a newspaper blurb about a guy who stole some orchids from a state preserve in Florida. She hopped a plane from New York to Florida to learn a bit more and ended up writing a book not so much about Orchids, but more about the type of person it takes to truly love orchids. The Orchid Thief dives into the already weird world of Florida, and piles on a whole new level of odd as Orlean takes her readers through the highly specific and neurotic world that is orchid collecting.
The Orchid Thief teachers its readers about the history of orchid collecting (from a Western World perspective), the strangeness that is Florida, the personal history of the one of the odder of the odd orchid collectors, John Laroche, along with the history of the Fakahatchee Strand State Park.
When I say that the Orchid Thief teaches its readers, that's true, but not so much in a traditional sense. Reading the Orchid Thief was a bit like wading through a swamp. There was nebulous information everywhere, and sometimes, while in the middle of a chapter, I would forget what the original point of the chapter was, and have no idea where the chapter was going, or where it had come from.
This isn't to say the book was bad, rather it just lacked the traditional linear narrative that I associate with non-fiction books. The book mirrored the world that it exposed. As a reader I always felt mired in an abundance of highly specific information regarding highly complex plants. I literally felt like I was struggling through the swampy Fakachatchee Strand, mugged by bugs and humidity, with no clear understanding of which way was out, or from where I had come.
Overall, this was a good book, but I feel like it appeals to a very specific audience. I'm not sure who that audience is, exactly, other than highly neurotic and a little odd.
To begin, this is not a light book. That being said, it is a very good book, but not a light book. If you were confused about that, I just wanted to set the record straight.
Set in Vietnam during the Vietnam war, O'Brien shares a series of short war stories that link together to form a novel. At first, it's easy to accept these stories as truth and assume the book to be a work of non-fiction rather than of fiction. As the novel progresses though, O'Brien impresses upon his reader the importance of a 'war story' and why it doesn't always matter if it's true.
Blending truth and the essence of truth, O'Brien takes his readers on a journey reminiscent to Erich Maria Remarque's, All Quiet on the Western Front - a World War One novel that reads like truth. This is an anti-war book that makes no bones about how addicting warfare really is. This book isn't just about the lives of a few American soldiers during the Vietnam war. It's about the human condition and how life isn't simple enough to fit into two categories - good and evil.
I highly recommend this book, and the above mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front. You will be a better person for reading this book, no matter how hard it is to do so.
This book came recommend to me by two people, but I'm unlikely to pass on those recommendations. The People of the Book follows the Sarajevo Haggadah (an illustrated Jewish Passover text) through time. The stories vary between the modern time book conservator Hanna Heath's story, as she attempts to unravel the Haggadah's secrets and her own life's mysteries, and the stories of the people who, throughout the ages, had a hand in saving the Haggadah from destruction.
I think I would have found this book much more interesting had I actually an interest in religion. Brook's story creates a timeline where people of all faiths - Jews, Christians and Muslims - take an active part in preserving/creating the Haggadah, despite the political/religious climates at the time. While human interest stories usually do enthrall me, this one didn't. I found Brook's descriptions of the past to be brutal and un-redeeming (which it could have been) and overall mostly depressing. I realize that yes, the story is one of triumph because the Haggadah survives against all odds, but at what cost? It was pretty much ruining lives from its inception, and I guess I just don't want to spend my free time reading about such dark topics. Rape, murder, genocide - they all happen in this book.
I also found Heath's story to be rather dramatic too. I couldn't imagine living her life, and it was hard to find silver linings. This book took me quite a while to get through, mostly because I just wasn't motivated to pick it up.
Overall, Brook's writing is solid, it was just the topic that I didn't really enjoy. If you don't mind depressing stories, or if you are into religion, you might like this book. If you're looking for an upbeat story to get you through the week, this probably isn't it.
This is the third Patterson book I've listened to, and I greatly enjoyed it. The Women's Murder Club was pretty intriguing to me, minus the court room stuff (which I've previously stated I don't really enjoy). I also liked the dual story lines in this book.
Patterson is a pretty interesting author to me because he is able to write from a wide variety of view points, and he pulls it off pretty well (Alex Cross - black male) (Women's Murder Club - women of varying races). I can't recall ever stopping and thinking, "No woman would say/think that". I give Patterson major credit to be able to write characters who aren't like him. I'm not saying he's perfect at it, but he is better than most.
He's also good at the intrigue thing. He's able to weave stories together that are complex and detailed. The 5th Horseman is rarely slow (other than the court stuff), and overall it keeps you guessing.
I listened to this book while driving, and will actively seek out more Women's Murder Club books.
I'm not a huge fan of books that take place in a court room, and the first part of this book mostly takes place in a court room. That isn't to say it's not engaging, because it is. I listened to it all the way through (the flat lands of Northern Nevada couldn't compete) and that says something. All the same, I didn't find it to be one of Patterson's better books.
Judge and Jury follows the trail of a notorious mob boss and his diabolical plan to stop at nothing to get out of his sentencing. Murder, explosions, and global travel all ensue as the plot thickens and the stakes rise. A team of unlikely heros tag up and go to the ends of the earth in order to do what no one else can - bring justice to a man more deserving of it than most.
As I said, this isn't my favorite Patterson, but if you find yourself in Northern Nevada with nothing else to do, you will be entertained enough.
The House on Mango Street is a collection of short, poetry like stories, that together give an overall picture of an adolescent, inner city girl's life. I realize that 'poetry like stories' may not make a lot of sense to you, so I'll do my best to explain.
Cineros is a poet, so to me it makes sense to me that she would write a novel like this one. The book is divided into really short sections. The sections are usually not more than a few pages, and they aren't your typical linear plot. They are instead snippets and details of a girl's - Esperanza's - life. They are lyrical bursts of writing that, to me, are pretty much poetry with a point. I think one of the things that people get upset about in this book is that it isn't a traditional narrative. If that's something you, as a reader, need you probably won't enjoy The House on Mango Street. I personally felt like Cineros did a great job at telling a story through details. I walked away from the book (only a few hours after I started it) with a vibrant picture of Esperanza's life. I thought it was great, and it is short. So, if you're considering if you want to take the time to read this book, I say do it because you can literally read it in a matter of hours (at most). It's very different from most novels, it isn't a huge time investment and it'll make you think when you're done no matter if you liked it or not, and isn't that why you read?
*Also, don't get discouraged when I say poetry. It is straight forward and easy to understand. You're not reading Beowulf here.
I, probably like most people who have ever considered reading Dune, never did because I'd seen part of the movie and was positively weirded out by it. Let me begin this review by saying DO NOT JUDGE THIS BOOK BY THE MOVIE. The book is AMAZING, and the movie, well, it's a literal travesty that it was so poorly made and hence scared off so many potential readers.
The cover of Dune states it is a sci-fi master piece, and while I find I don't often agree with the reviews on the covers of books, in this case I do. This is a book that isn't lacking in any theme. There is political intrigue, mysticism, religion, love, violence, adventure, alien planets, awesome technology, giant man eating worms, and a really cool freaking planet.
The story follows Paul Atreides, as he, his father (the Duke) and his mother (the Duke's concubine) move to a desert planet. There's a violent power shift and Paul and his mother (Jessica) are forced to flee into the desert, which is believed to be inhospitable. Turns out one group of people, the Fremen live in the desert, and won't you believe it, they have religious prophecies that Paul and his mother factor into.
Dune is really fun and chilling. I love watching characters grow into positions of impossible power, and Paul does that. The pieces click into place as the plot grinds forward, and there are a lot of pieces. Herbert has crafted an incredible book, and for you sci-fi aficionados, it is not to be missed.
*Also, for anyone who's read the Wheel of Time books, there are an incredible amount of similarities between the Aiel (the people of the Waste) and the Fremen. If you're a Wheel of Time fan who has ever wondered where Jordan got some of his ideas, read Dune.
**Also, ever seen Tremors with Kevin Bacon? Pretty sure they just took the Dune worms and made a move about them involving Kevin Bacon in cowboy boots and tight jeans. I can't believe Tremors wasn't totally original :P
Today is my friend Stacey's birthday. Happy birthday Stacey. In honor of your birthday, I thought I'd do a post on a topic we've often discussed - liminal spaces.
What did I like about this book? The punctuation and grammar were well done. The chapters were pretty short, so that was nice. Also, the chapters revolved around a different person each time, so that was nice because there is no way I could have endured any of these characters for an entire book...
Let me tell you what ticked me off the most, oh wait. I have to get my normal warning out there:
THE DOG DOESN'T DIE, someone kills it.
Okay, let me get back to what ticked me off the most. Rachman as clearly never had a real relationship (friendship or loveship) with a woman. All of his female characters are lying cheating, unfaithful, uninspired, hot messes, bitches or frumps, depending on their physical appearance. One or two of these types of characters I could have endured (after all they do exist) but he didn't have a single redeeming female character.
Well, what about the men characters, you ask? I'll grant you that, they were pretty uninspiring as well, but at least some of those character's stories existed without a woman character to prop them up. All of his female character's stories revolved around some sort of failed/terrible/upsetting relationship with a man. I hate to have to tell such a successful author this, but WE WOMENFOLK DO THINGS AND HAVE STORIES THAT DON'T JUST REVOLVE AROUND MEN AND CHILDREN. Whoa. Did i just break the Internet by typing that?
In the end, I just found myself not caring. It infuriated me that the female characters were so badly done, and after a while, I just couldn't see past that.
I don't recommend this book.
After I read McCarthy's Blood Meridian, I swore never to read another McCarthy book again. Then I saw No Country for Old Men and thought, I'll read that book. I liked the movie better - the cinematography was great - and once again I swore off McCarthy books. Then there I was, and All the Pretty Horses shined at me from a 25 cent shelf. I thought, 25 cents? I guess.
Well, this was the best McCarthy book I've ever read, and I can tell you why. The characters weren't sociopaths. In fact, I liked the characters! I found them worthwhile and engaging human beings, and I wanted them to get what they desired. I actually cared about them because they weren't sociopaths.
This is going to sound crazy, but All the Pretty Horses is a love story! Who would have thought McCarthy capable of imagining a world where love existed and cold, calculating, murdering, rapists were only a side note? You want bloody and violent? McCarthy's mid-nineteenth century Mexico certainly qualifies, but still, it's a love story. What a weird world he must have been living in to write this book.
Overall, this book is beautiful and even funny at times. Don't think though that it's got a Disney ending. It certainly doesn't. People die and get maimed and lives are ruined, but still, for McCarthy, its practically a book of rainbows and sunshine.
I recommend this book, but only if your version of sunshine and rainbows involves Mexican prisons and desert executions.