I have no legitimate excuse to justify the fact that it's taken me 30 years to read this book. Perhaps I could blame it on the small town, backwoods high school I went to for the fact that they did not cover it within their curriculum? Or perhaps I can blame myself for going to a technical college where I spent the vast majority of the time studying the language of operating systems (which are now obsolete mind you) rather than cracking open a few classics for a required English Literature course at a "normal" school?
Regardless of where the blame is placed I finally decided that it was time to take the plunge and I'm glad that I did. I won't even attempt to write a proper review of a classic novel like this as I'll most likely just end up regurgitating what has already been said in countless other reviews over the years. In a nutshell (and a very tiny one at that) what I found most amazing about this book is that while it was written way back in 1949 it is incredibly pertinent to the world we live in today...which makes it all the more frightening.
That's all I got. So stop being a prole and read the damn book already. PaperBack Swap is watching you.
As autumn approached I thought it would be good to crack open a creepy book. You know, the kind that makes you a little hesitant to read directly before falling asleep for the night...the kind that makes you reach into a room and blindly search for the light switch before stepping through the threshold. Sadly, "Bag of Bones" does not fit this description.
I picked up my copy of "Bag of Bones" back in '98 and for one reason or another, perhaps the fact that I horde books for example, I never got around to reading it. Finally, as I hovered over my bookshelf trying to decide which to crack open (I was already sold on reading a King novel and was choosing between "It", "The Stand" and "Bag of Bones") I plucked the shortest in length (at a concise 732 pages) and thus sealed my fate. There was no turning back.
I'm really not sure what to make of this novel, which centers around a husband/writer grieving over the loss of his wife, a small town custody battle, and some angry ghosts. Perhaps the fact that I was expecting something different led to my distaste for this book, similar to all of the disgusted folks who thought M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water" would be a horror flick, as the previews seemed to insinuate. While King's name is typically synonymous with horror novels, I've come to really enjoy some of his departures from horror, such as "Under the Dome (loved it!) and "Eyes of the Dragon," so it's not that he needs to scare me out of my mind in order for me to enjoy his work. Just keep my interested Stephen! That's all I ask!
Ultimately I found the novel to be unbearably slow moving at times and probably 200 to 300 pages too long. I'm not one to shy away from a lengthy novel mind you, and typically I prefer them, however the sloth-like pace of the story attributed to my overall frustration. I found the story to be incredibly dull and uninteresting at times, with King using a few well placed creepy scenes (i.e. the very frightening basement "knocking scene") as well as a few unexpected plot twists as the glue to hold everything together.
Unfortunately by the close of the book I realized that I really didn't care as much about the outcome of the book as I did about simply completing it. Being that avid book reader that you are I'm sure you've experienced this phenomenon one too many times yourself, and it's never pretty is it?
Bottom line - Only crack this one open if you enjoy prolonged periods of boredom followed by nightmare free, sleep filled nights.
While I've never been clinically diagnosed I'm fairly certain that somewhere deep down inside of me the mysterious OCD monster hibernates...surfacing every so often to ensure all of my books are perfectly arranged on my bookshelves (in alphabetical order by each authors' last name of course), all my mp3s are within the correct format and file structure within my massive ITunes library, and that I never, ever read two books by the same author back to back.
Perhaps I relish the variety of mixing up authors & genres to keep things fresh, or perhaps I am a tad bit crazy, but for as long as I've been able to read I've refrained from reading the same author twice in a row. That is, until now.
Damn you Suzanne Collins. Surely you realized that as "Catching Fire" abruptly ended with the ultimate of all cliffhanger endings that there was no way in hell that I'd be able to keep myself from immediately reading "Mockingjay", which was already perched so perfectly alphabetically and innocently on my nearby bookshelf? Damn you....
I'll be perfectly honest, I was preparing to be disappointed by "Catching Fire", simply because I didn't think Collins would even come close to replicating the magic of "Hunger Games". "Hunger Games" was just so fresh and intriguing and fan-freaking-tastic-ible...and while "Catching Fire" may not have matched its predecessor it comes damn close.
Unlike with "Hunger Games" I found the first 100 or so pages of "Catching Fire" to be a tad bit slow as Collins recaps the life and times of Katniss since the end of the Hunger Games. This is not to say that I did not enjoy the start of this book, but rather they were not nearly as engaging as when we followed Katniss through the Games. Not to fear though...as rumors of district uprisings begin trickling into District 12 and the 75th Hunger Games begin I found myself tearing through the pages at a ravenous pace.
I'll refrain from discussing the book in greater detail for fear of giving away any of the serpentine plot twists, but suffice it to say that Collins does not disappoint when all is said and done. "Catching Fire" is an incredibly solid follow up to "Hunger Games" and I'm eager to crack open "Mockingjay" later tonight, even as the protests of my inner OCD monster continue to bubble to the surface.
A ginormous UFO appears over Mexico City broadcasting the long lost language of the Aztecs? After reading the synopsis of the book how could I not read it? As a fan of all thing odd & peculiar I was instantly intrigued. It also didn't hurt that I had recently returned from a trip to Mexico where I had obtained a new found appreciation for Mexican history & culture. With that said I cracked open "City of the Gods" and crossed my fingers, hoping my current grueling streak of reading sub-par novels would come to an end. Sadly, the streak continues.
Near the start of the novel I was pleasantly surprised with its pace and high level of intrigue. I was genuinely curious about what type of beings inhabited the ship. Why had they come? What would happen when the main characters made contact with them? My list of questions went on and on. Garone had me hooked.
Then something changed. I'm not sure if my lack of expertise in Mexico's history and deep rooted mythology is to blame, but as Quetzalcoatl awoke from his slumber I began losing interest in the story. I found myself having a hard time following (and in turn remaining interested) in some of the lengthier passages that attempted to explain Mexico's history and mythological philosophies. It's clear that Garone has an extensive level of knowledge in these areas and I think he could have done a better job of translating this material into a format that would make sense to someone with little to no knowledge in the subject matter.
Despite this, I continued on as I'm not one to leave a book half finished. As the book continued to progress I began to become more and more aware of a ridiculous amount of grammatical errors. Now, I don't claim to have completely mastered the English language and I'm certain if you comb through this review you could point out numerous errors of my own, but I'm also not publishing a novel. By the look of the book's cover and binding it was most likely published on a low budget, which I can appreciate. With that said, that's still no excuse for the amount of errors present on these pages. Have your family and friends proofread it. Read it over and over again yourself. Do everything you can to expose the errors prior to publication...because (and perhaps this is just my anal-ness coming through) as I noticed each error I had a harder time taking the novel seriously. I imagined myself a school teacher reading through a student's book report, shaking my head at what should have been obvious errors.
Nevertheless, I soldiered on and finished the book. I felt the fighting between Quetzalcoatl and the visitors came to a somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic end, although I did enjoy the interesting twist that takes place with Samantha. I won't say any more in fear of ruining the story for those who decide to read the book.
All in all I realize I sounded rather harsh in this review, but there is a silver lining my friends. The book is a relatively quick read and sheds some light on the history of Mexico that many people may not be aware of. Upon completion, it's also prompted me to do some additional research of my own to become more familiar with the complexities of Mexican mythology. I think Garone has some potential and while I wouldn't necessary recommend this book to anyone, I am curious to see what he comes up with next.
Quite an oddly interesting read. The bizarre nature of the novel's subject matter, a village whose inhabitants switch sexes every year until the age of 20, is what initially piqued my interest. This is not to say that I've ever had the urge to alter my own sex mind you, but rather I was curious to see how the author would pull off such a feat.
How weird would it be to change your sex on a yearly basis. Seriously, think about that for a second. To wake up one morning and find your body completely altered? To have vague recollections of your past year living as a man, but now finding yourself in a woman's body, feeling a woman's thoughts and desires. This is what the natives of Tober Cove deal with every year until the age of 20, when they finally need to make a choice as to which sex they would like to live out their remaining years as; male, female, or hermaphrodite (or as the locals call it, "Neut"). In order to ensure that each inhabitant has experienced every possible aspect of each sex prior to their "Commitment Day", the day they choose their final sex, each citizen is impregnated in their late teen years so that they can even experience the child birthing process. Yep, you read that correctly, and oddly enough, it makes sense considering the circumstances.
To make this tale even a bit more odd is the fact that the locals of neighboring cities and villages do not experience this same sex shifting phenomenon. What exactly is going on in Tober Cove? A well renowned scientist travels to the village to answer this very question, and thus all hell breaks loose as he begins unraveling the mystery.
In addition to the inquisitive scientist, the story focuses on the discrimination towards those who chose to become hermaphrodites ("Neuts") as well as the twisted story of two locals that are facing their "Commitment Day." They also happen to be lovers with two children of their own, which of course adds some additional intrigue. What happens if they both choose to commit as the same sex?? Yes my friends, drama ensues.
In my earlier days I used to devour Science Fiction novels at a rather rapid pace, but nowadays my tastes have typically shifted away from this genre. That being said, I did find this novel to be oddly entertaining and I'm glad I decided to crack it open. While the story did seem to drag on at times (the entire novel takes place over the course of one day) I think James Alan Garner did an admirable job of portraying the world through the eyes of characters who are faced with a very different type of lifestyle. The added mystery surrounding why the annual sex shifting occurs in the first place also helped keep me interested until the book's final pages. This definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you go into it with an open mind you may just enjoy it.
I freaking despise public speaking. Like the time I had to give the Best Man's speech at my brother's wedding. I knew about 6 months beforehand that I would be giving that darn speech and it was like a black cloud hovering above me the entire time, until D-Day, when he got hitched, I got semi-drunk, and delivered what surely was one of the greatest Wedding PowerPoint Presentations of all time. Or the time I dressed up as Forrest Gump for Halloween in Fifth Grade, stumbling through my lines about life and its stunning correlation to boxes of chocolates. Yes my friends, I have issues.
Fast forward to present day, where I have a job that requires me to conduct meetings all of the time. Heck, I don't even enjoy talking to most people in real life...imagine having to do it as part of your job. Now of course I could simply get another job if it really bothered me that much, but I actually really enjoy my job! Can you see the conundrum I'm presented with?
With that said, imagine my surprise when I received an inter-office package one day with this book inside. No note, no return address. Nothing but the book. Of course I instantly began wondering if my presentation skills were so bad that someone would anonymously send me this in hopes that I'd read it and improve my skills so that they'd never have to suffer through another one of my meetings. My conspiracy theory was quickly squashed however when I inquired with my manager about the mysterious package. It turns out that everyone in my department received one as a method for us to improve our presentation skills. Phew!
The book sat on my shelf for months collecting dust before I came to the realization that even though I despise public speaking, I do enjoy my job and would like to increase my comfort level with delivering presentations and running meetings. Plus, who knows, I figured that it may even help me connect on a deeper level with friends, family, and those random strangers I run into from time to time, but always pretend not to see. Acting like you're talking on your cell phone works wonders in avoiding unwanted conversations, in case you were curious.
Like most books of this genre, I found it to be rather dry, however it was a very quick read and offered some very helpful tips and tricks. Koegel walks us through the entire life cycle of a presentation, starting with the initial meeting preparation (agenda, handouts, participants), learning your audience so that you can position your message accordingly, structuring your speech to ensure your most important messages are absorbed and remembered afterwards, proper use of eye contact, body language, and voice tone while presenting, gauging your audience's reaction, conducting a Q& A session, closing a presentation, etc.
While I found a lot of this information valuable, I also found that quite a bit of it was not applicable to my current role, as I telecommute and conduct the vast majority of my meetings via conference calls. A more "modern" version would be appreciated. Also, did Koegel really need to use the word "exceptional" so much??? Yes, I get that the book's title is "The Exceptional Presenter" and I get that Koegel's goal is to make us all exceptional speakers, but this book has to hold the all time literary record for the use of the word within one body of text. You know that weird feeling you get when you're watching a movie and one of the characters says the name of the movie while they're talking to someone? That's how I felt every time the word "exceptional" popped up in this book. Am I the only one bothered by this? Probably. Sigh.
Anyway, when all is said and done I'd recommend this book for anyone looking to improve their presentation skills, especially those that perform them in front of live audiences. You're certain to find many helpful hints throughout the book. Besides, Koegel used to coach Bill Clinton on his presentation skills back in the day, and we all know how that turned out.
Hmm. Typically when I finish reading a book I have a very strong opinion one way or the other, but after finishing "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" I was left feeling lonely and confused. Confused because I wanted to love the book but didn't. Lonely because, well, I was traveling for work and was cooped up in a tiny hotel room overlooking a vacant parking garage on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. And it was raining. Go figure.
Anyway, this is the first Foer novel that I've read, mainly because a very good friend of mine, who happens to be an author, attempted reading "Everything Is Illuminated" years ago and despised it. He felt that Foer's style was pretentious and gimmicky. This feedback stuck with me over the years, but after enjoying the film version of "Everything is Illuminated" I decided to go against my better judgement and give this one a try. I mean, the story's about a young kid pining away over his father's death which occurred during the 9/11 attacks....How could I not like it??
And that my friends, is what I'm currently struggling with. Have I no soul? How could a story that's so deeply rooted in one of America's greatest tragedies not resonate within me? The only logical answer that I can come up with is Foer's style of writing, specifically his decision to alternate narrators between chapters, each having their very own different style of writing. Now, I completely understand why Foer did this, but damn if it didn't grow tedious after a while.
Another huge issue for me was Oskar Schell's character. Plain and simple, the vast majority of nine year old kids do not talk or act like Oskar does throughout this book. Nine year old kids do not spend months venturing alone or with complete strangers around New York City without something bad eventually happening to them. Nine year old kids pick their noses, play video games, and speak in grammatically incorrect English. Oddly enough, reading this book reminded me of "Dawson's Creek"...you know, that show that we were all hooked on in the late 90's. It wasn't the type of show that I typically watched, but damn I grew fixated on the trials and tribulations of the Dawson/Joey/Pacey love triangle. How could you let her go Dawson? How?
Anyway, my point is, those high school kids from Capeside, Massachusetts did not talk like high schoolers, but rather like pretentious English professors. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the show's content needed to be dumbed down for its viewers, but with each seventeen syllable word that Dawson blurted out the show began loosing some of it's plausibility...and that's exactly the problem with Foer's portrayal of Oskar. Kids like Oskar are not normal, and thus difficult to relate to.
With all of that said, all is not lost with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." I found the excerpts discussing the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the profound impacts on Oskar's life incredibly moving. Damn those answering machine messages were haunting weren't they? The world hasn't been the same since that dark day and all of us can relate to the disaster in one way or another. On a personal level, I almost lost my father in a car crash a few years ago and I can completely relate to Oskar's struggle in coping with the loss of his father.
When all was said and done though I was left wanting more. I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to care about Oskar and the outcome of his journey. I wanted to believe that nine year old kids like Oskar really exist...nine year olds that talk like young adults and have the ability to adeptly travel unaided through the most populous city in the United States. Sadly, while I may have been able to suspend my disbelief in order to thoroughly enjoy "Dawson's Creek", I wasn't able to do so for this novel.
You drive to work as cars speed by you, the vast majority of their drivers texting their friends or reading their work emails on their PDAs to get a jump start on a busy workday. The radio never plays much music anymore and you're forced to listen to commercial after commercial as you breeze down a highway that is peppered with a variety of electronic billboards. You arrive at work, sit in your cubicle, and waste a vast majority of your day surfing the web; reading the latest news headlines (Global Warming, Corporate greed, Warring Nations, etc), updating your Facebook status, and searching for great bargains on those hot new must have items that you really don't need. Your day ends, you drive home, eat dinner, and enjoy some TV before bed (Damn those incessant commercials!). As soon as your head hits the pillow your alarm goes off. Repeat. This is the world we live in.
Fast forward to an undetermined year in the future where Titus, the main character in "Feed", lives. A world ravaged by global warming and pollution. A world in which humans are fitted with "feeds" that attach to their brains and keep them connected to the Web 24/7. A world in which humans can "chat" with their friends via their feeds without every having to open their mouth and mutter a syllable. A world in which humans no longer know how to read (why would you need to when you're force fed everything through your feed?) and the thought of writing anything is considered outlandish by the masses.
Crazy right? That was my initial thought as I began to read this book however the deeper I got into it the more startled I was by the similarities to our present day. Think about it - When is the last time you've sat down and wrote a letter to someone with a pen & paper? As cell phones advance haven't you been talking to people over the phone less and less...to the point where actually talking to someone can seem a bit tiresome when texting is do darn simple? Can you remember the last day that you didn't once log online or use your cell phone? And on that horrendous day did you feel completely disconnected from everything?
I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical about "Feed" before starting to read it. Many reviews on here have noted readers' frustration with the jargon used in this book. Yes, the book is told through the eyes of a teenager, and yes some of the jargon can be a bit confusing at first, but the simple use of context clues resolves this concern. Additionally I don't typically read Young Adult books (I'm 30...sigh) but I believe the subject matter is pertinent and translates well for us old-timers. So put down your iPhone, turn off Fox News, log out of Twitter, and give "Feed" a chance.
I'll start out by saying that when I crack open a Preston & Child novel I don't expect to be blown away by literary genius, but rather to remain entertained with a somewhat outlandish (yet interesting) adventure story, complete with creepy evil villains, unexpected plot twists and a dashing hero that always manages to escape, regardless of how heavily the odds weigh against him.
With stories deeply rooted in scientific theory, history, and the supernatural, I've remained a fan over all of these years, ever since I cracked open "Relic" back in 1996. While my life has changed considerably since then, sadly Preston & Child's Pendergast series has not. As the years pass by I've found myself growing tired of the same old regurgitated plot line, which goes something like this:
- Someone dies in some really bizarre way
- Pengergast mysteriously arrives
- Pendergast quickly realizes that something peculiar has occurred and decides to investigate further
- D'Agosta is pulled in, even though he knows it's a bad idea.
- 300 pages of murders & near death experiences occur.
- D'Agosta loses his job, girlfriend, or both.
- The evil villain is ID'd, only after you're lead to believe a handful of other folks were the bad guy first.
- Evil villain is manhandled by Pendergast
- Setup for next book in series is inserted
- The End
The funny thing is, even though I realize what I'm about to get myself into each and every time, I still come back for me. This is not to say that I have not remained entertained throughout the series, but rather that as the amount of Pendergast novels increases my enjoyment level has continued to decrease...
And then we come to "Fever Dream"...the first Pendergast novel that I can honestly say I did not enjoy. While at first I found the mystery surrounding Pendergast's wife's death and its mysterious links to Audubon intriguing, the allure quickly wore off. I found the story to be rather slow moving in comparison to their previous efforts and by the close of the book I was simply pleased that it was over so that I could move on to something different.
Interestingly enough, before closing the book I noticed a note from the authors indicating that they were moving away from the Pendergast series for a bit to focus on their new project, "Gideon Sword", which apparently introduces a new set of characters. Hmm...perhaps they too have grown tired of writing the same thing over and over and over again?
With all of that said, should you read this book? Yes. Let's face it, if you've read all the other Pendergast novels there's no way you won't crack this one open too. That's just how it works with folks like us. Will you be disappointed if you do? Perhaps, but then again you already know what you're getting yourself into.
I really really wanted to like this book. In fact I wanted to love it. I wanted it to be one of those special books that keep you up late at night, struggling against sleep to devour as many pages as possible with no concern whatsoever for how large the bags under your eyes will be the next morning. The critics reviews were shimmering, folks on Goodreads seemed to enjoy it, and well, maybe that's the problem with reviews...regardless of how much of the human population enjoys something there is still a good chance that you will not. Take "Glee" for example...sorry folks but I just don't get the allure of that show.
The book started out promisingly enough and early on I was genuinely interested in finding out what lie ahead in the ridiculously absurd lives of Jasper & Martin Dean. Their stories were bizarre, quirky, odd, and darkly humorous. Being a somewhat pessimistic person myself I initially loved their pessimism for their lives and everything around them. I think everyone can relate at times to the ridiculousness of some of the situations that life confronts us with and I really appreciated Toltz's unique perspective on these events.
Then an odd thing happened...After reading countless pages of incoherent philosophical ramblings, most of which dealt with Martin & Jasper's general disdain for life itself, the allure began to wear off. I found my decreasing like for the characters (and the book itself for that matter) to be proportional to the increase in the amount of cynical diatribes I was forced to endure. I get I get it...Life sucks and then you die and all that jazz, but do I need to be reminded of this for 561 straight pages? That dead horse was beaten one too many times by page 67 or so. Now I don't need what I read to be all cheery and filled with blooming flowers, hopping bunnies and cute bird couples chirping playfully in a cool spring breeze, but I do need to care about the main characters at least a bit to maintain my attention. The problem was that Jasper & Martin's cynicism for life itself just grew incredibly tiresome and I stopped caring about them completely. After all, what's the point of a story if you could care less what happens to the characters by the end of it?
All is not lost though as Toltz really does write beautifully. There were many times throughout the book where specific lines were written so wonderfully that I needed to stop and reread them multiple times so that I could fully adsorb the full spectrum of their amazingness. I mean seriously, the line "To have a child is to be impaled daily on the spike of responsibility" really resonates with a 30 year old single guy like myself...Do I want kids one day? Yep, but not now! Who will watch him/her when I go to a coffee shop and read for an hour while enjoying a cup of joe? A selfish thought for sure but it was as if Toltz had scraped this thought directly from my brain and converted it into text in a much more eloquent manner than I would ever be able to. In fact, I was certain to reread that particular quote to my girlfriend instantly after I absorbed it. Thanks for the support Mr. Toltz!
When all was said and done however I really struggled to get through this book. The length had nothing to do with this, as I love reading massive tomes, but the somewhat inconceivable storyline coupled with the aforementioned philosophical mumbo jumbo grew to be too much for me to swallow by about halfway though. I'm not one to leave a book unfinished however and thus I soldiered on to its severely anti-climatic conclusion. All in all I think Toltz has a promising career ahead of himself and I wouldn't hesitate to check out his next novel. I'd just ask that it be less bloated with pages of pointless material and just a tad bit less pretentious. Just a tad.
After thoroughly enjoying "The Corrections" a few years ago, I was extremely excited to read "Freedom", even if I had grown rather tired of how many times I had to hear about the fact that Oprah recommended it to the masses before I was actually able to crack it open. Like one of those bands that you discover when they're relatively unknown (Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Death Cab for Cutie...the list goes on and on...sigh), fall in love with their stuff, and greedily clutch their secret close to your chest (They're all mine damn it!), I was unnerved that Oprah's massive horde of followers had been unleashed upon my Jonathan Franzen (or "Jonny Boy" as I affectionately refer to him). Rather pretentious thoughts such as "Could "Freedom" really be THAT good if Oprah enjoyed it?" swirled through my head and as a result the book became a dust collector on my bookshelf for about a year before I realized that I needed to get over myself, peel the "Oprah Book Club" sticker off of the dust jacket, and spend some quality time with Jonny Boy.
As with "The Corrections", I was pleased to find that "Freedom" also focuses on a severely dysfunctional family and the general "fucked-up-ness" of their lives. What's always amazed me about Jonny Boy is his ability to dissect the deepest, darkest thoughts and actions of his characters and regurgitate them in such a beautiful and darkly humorous manner. With "Freedom", Jonny Boy tackles the trials and tribulations of marriage, aging, sex, depression, overpopulation, infidelity, guilt, regret, deforestation, parenting, death, and (oddly enough) the feline species and their insatiable appetite for songbirds, amongst other things.
Focusing primarily on Walter & Patty's deteriorating marriage, Patty's associated bouts with depression, and the downstream impacts to their family, I had a tough time remaining fully intrigued throughout the novel. The characters were somewhat unlikeable, the story was slow moving, and let's face it, hundreds of pages about a woman's battle with depression, can be, well depressing.
With that said, Johnny Boy did his best to keep me entertained by delving deep into the dark side of human nature, capturing the incredibly fucked up thoughts of each main character and laying them out in the open for the reader to digest. Regardless of your age, race, financial standing, political preference, etc we all have these thoughts from time to time and I'm always amazed (and rather startled) by how close some of these hit home for me.
When all was said and done I found that while I did enjoy "Freedom", I was a little disappointed in the end result. Simply put, it's a beautifully written novel by an incredibly talented writer that is unfortunately bogged down by a rather slow moving story filled with many bland, unlikable characters. If you've never had the pleasure of cracking open one of Jonny Boy's novels, and only have the chance to read one of his books before you kick the bucket, I'd suggest reading "The Corrections", which I feel is far superior to "Freedom". In this particular instance, the grass IS greener on the other side.
Ok, so after witnessing seemingly 95% of the Earth's literate population reading this book over the past few years I finally caved in and read it during a recent vacation to Mexico. After finishing the final page a few minutes ago I'm honestly surprised at how much worldwide hype this book has received. Perhaps the fact that a recently deceased Swedish writer penned it was enough to get people talking about it? Or maybe it was a matter of perfect timing? A book partially about corporate greed released in the U.S. during the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression?
With all that said I'll start by saying that I did enjoy the book, and was able to finish it in a relatively short amount of time, however I can see why many folks were bored with it. The first 200 or so pages are incredibly dry at times, as Larsson bombards us with tons of information as he builds the foundation for the rest of the novel. I completely understand the need for this, considering the many moving parts of the story, however at times it felt as though I was being spoon fed much more information than was absolutely necessary.
If you're able to get through the aforementioned pages you'll find that the pace of the story does pick up considerably. At this point I found my interest in the mystery of Harriet's disappearance increase as new clues were presented and new suspects were introduced. I thoroughly enjoyed Blomkvist and Salander's characters and as they continued to dig deeper into the mystery I found myself not wanting to put the book down. Perhaps that's the greatest mystery of all. How in the world was Larsson able to captivate the masses with a novel filled with such a large amount of incredibly dry subject matter?
As mentioned earlier I just finished the book today and while I did enjoy it I'm stunned at the worldwide acclaim it has received. I mean, we're talking about a planet populated with people whom over the years have grown infatuated with the likes of the Spice Girls, Beanie Babies, Creed, and Nickleback. Thankfully "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" does not fit into their category and is definitely enjoyable, but extremely overrated in my opinion.
Will I read the sequel,"The Girl Who Played With Fire"? You bet your bottom dollar I will! I'm intrigued by the characters and really am curious to see where Larsson decides to go from here. I can only hope that that it starts out a more blistering pace than this one.
On a sidenote, did anyone notice how much coffee the main characters gulped down? Don't get me wrong, I love coffee and drink a few cups every day but the amounts consumed by Blomkvist and Salander made me feel like an amateur. I mean, is it even possible to consume that much coffee?
For starters, what a great freaking book! I'll admit that I am very late in joining the "Hunger Games" bandwagon, mainly due to the completely erroneous assumption that I would not enjoy it simply because it was categorized as a "Young Adult" book. I'm really not sure why I felt this way (since I'm 30 and generally act like I'm 16) but after reading one too many good reviews and receiving an abundance of suggestions from my real life and cyber friends I decided to give it a chance.
By now you should be familiar with the storyline (this is the 25,601st review after all) so I'll spare you the monotony of reading through yet another synopsis. I've always been a big fan of dystopic fiction and was pleasantly surprised by how intriguing this book was. Maybe I'm a sick and twisted individual but I couldn't get enough of the fight to the death battles that ensued once the Hunger Games began. Hell, if I was a citizen of Panem I'd be glued to the TV throughout the entire duration of the games, even if the Capitol didn't mandate the population to watch it.
Filled with great characters, a twisted storyline, and a ruling government that makes the George Bush era seem like a walk in the park, I found myself devouring the pages. This is an incredibly quick read and is a great start to what promises to be a really solid trilogy. I'd be really surprised if we do not see this made into a movie in the near future. Hopefully Hollywood doesn't F it up.
While I've never been one to read books about war, I was intrigued by all of the glowing reviews for "Matterhorn" and decided to give it a try. The fact that my scant knowledge of the history of the Vietnam War didn't extend far beyond the knowledge that it was basically a bloodbath also served as a catalyst to crack this open. I'm really happy that I did because not only did I learn quite a bit about the war but this also happens to be one of the best books I've read in quite some time.
Upon reading the Matterhorn's first few sentences you are immediately thrust into the middle of battle, chopping through 6 foot tall jungle, fearful of what horrors lie ahead. You can sense the inner turmoil each of your fellow soldiers feels as they try and remain focused on the task at hand despite the overwhelming trepidation welling up within them...Thinking about their families anxiously awaiting their return home...Listening intently for the faintest of sounds that may signal the enemy's approach...Wondering what they're fighting for in the first place. Remember that amazing opening scene in "Saving Private Ryan" where you see through the eyes of a soldier storming the beach at Normandy? Now imagine reliving the Vietnam War in a similar fashion, over the course of nearly 600 brutally honest, gripping, tension filled pages.
Marlantes, a Vietnam vet who to this day suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his experiences, has managed to write what feels to me to be an incredibly authentic tale of Bravo Company's experiences during the war. Severely graphic at times, I found myself cringing at the brutal and terrifying accounts of battle. While this story is a work of fiction, Marlantes does indicate in a 2010 interview with the London Times that many of the events described were based off of his own experiences, which makes the stories all that more frightening.
Not only does Marlantes manage to tell an amazing tale of war, but he adeptly tells the story from many points of view. We see war through the eyes of African American soldiers who find themselves fighting not only the Northern Vietnamese Army, but also intense racism from within their own Company. We experience what it was like to be a field nurse, running from victim to victim, having to choose which soldiers to save vs. which to let die, due to the limited medical supplies on hand. We feel the intense pressure of leading a Company of men to battle despite not agreeing with decisions made by their superiors. We listen in on meetings as commanders determine the fate of their troops while also keeping in mind how each decision will enhance or hurt their chances of advancement within the ranks. And finally, we see through the eyes of the troops as they witness their friends being brutally murdered before their eyes.
Having never fought in a war I realize that I can never truly comprehend what Marlantes went through, however I am very thankful that he took the time to write this novel, which must have been an incredibly painful task. "Matterhorn" is a tense and thrilling must read for those looking to learn more about the Vietnam War and what our troops experienced in defense of our country.
I'll leave you now with a powerful quote that sums up the novel very nicely:
"It was all absurd, without reason or meaning. People who didn't know each other were going to kill each other over a hill none of them cared about."
"Everyone had taken their places, when I excused myself to visit the bathroom, and there, in the toilet, was the absolute biggest turd I have ever seen in my life - no toilet paper or anything, just this long and coiled specimen, as thick as a burrito."
Yes my friends, everyone poops (some more than others) and I'm pretty sure we've all found ourselves in a similar situation at one time or another, entering an empty bathroom only to find the toilet clogged or filled with the most putrid pile of feces you've ever seen. Immediately, thoughts such as the following cross your mind: Should I flush it? What if it clogs the toilet and causes it to overflow? What in god's name did he eat for dinner last night? If I don't flush it can I escape the bathroom without anyone seeing me flee the scene of the crime? The list goes on and on...and thankfully for us David Sedaris decided to write about his similar experience in the hilarious chapter titled "Big Boy", which turned out to be my favorite short story within this novel.
Now, it must be said that I do have a somewhat sick and twisted sense of humor, and there's a really good chance that this type of subject matter may not be considered humorous by others. What impressed me more than anything else however was not the size of the turd being discussed, but rather Sedaris's ability to accurately and honestly capture the types of thoughts that race through our minds during such awkward and uncomfortable moments in our lives.
I've never been one for short stories, as I tend to gravitate towards meaty tomes that threaten the stability of even the sturdiest of bookshelves, however I decided to give Sedaris a try after years and years of hearing everyone and their brother praise his work. Based off of a friend's suggestion I cracked open "Me Talk Pretty One Day" and after all was said and done I found it to be an easy read, peppered with amusing stories that ooze wit, honesty, and humor from each and every sentence. Sedaris manages to portray even the most mundane situations in an amusing manner, which I found to be incredibly entertaining.
With all of that said however, I wasn't exactly blown away by this book either. Perhaps my general distaste for short stories was to blame, but I found myself growing bored at times. I found the latter half of the book, which focuses primarily on his struggle to learn French while living overseas, to be a bit dry at times. Maybe I'm just a big mean jerk, but I really was not that intrigued to find out if he ever managed to master the language.
All in all though, I did enjoy this book and would consider reading more Sedaris novels in the future. He has a very unique and interesting way at looking at life and is not afraid to blurt out those commonly unspoken thoughts that swirl through our heads on a daily basis. One word of caution though, if you happen to read this book while sitting atop the good ole' porcelain throne, don't forget to flush. Because, well, if you don't it will just make things weird for the next person.
*** PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. PROCEED WITH THE UTMOST LEVEL OF CAUTION!*****
It's always an odd feeling for me when I come to the end of a series of books like this. The world I'd spent so much time in is gone as soon as the spine closes and the book is placed on the dusty bookshelf...The characters I'd bonded with, those I'd grown to love, admire, and in some cases despise, are gone for good, off to delight other eager readers. And I move on to another book and before long forget about 95% of what I'd read.
It's even an odder feeling for me when the series ends on a flat note, as I feel was the case with "Mockingjay". Perhaps Collins had set the bar too high with her first two books. I freaking loved "The Hunger Games" and while I was not blown away by "Catching Fire" I still thoroughly enjoyed it. As "Catching Fire" rumbled to its chaotic, cliffhanger ending I was certain that "Mockingjay" would be the proverbial icing on the cake, finishing out the trilogy in a spectacular, mind blowing finale. My friends, the cake was not iced and my mind was unfortunately not blown.
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy "Mockingjay." I did, although it was as flat as that open can of soda you placed in the fridge simply not to waste it, only to drink it the next day and immediately spill the rest of it out because it was...well...flat. Sigh. Anyway, you get the point.
A few things that bothered me:
- Gale's quick departure at the end of the book - After all of the build up around who Katniss would end up with it seemed odd to me that he was just simply removed altogether in the manner in which he was. I'm not one for sappy love stories but after reading 1,100 or so pages peppered with the Peeta vs. Gabe conundrum it just felt way too abrupt, as if even Collins herself got tired of waiting for Katniss to make up her damn mind.
- The Portrayal of Finnick's Death - I completely understand that Collins was trying to paint a picture of the horrors of war throughout the book...and honestly I think she did a great job of it. Hell, we saw a good deal of characters meet their demise in "Mockingjay." With that said, the manner in which Finnick's death was described, almost as if it was an afterthought really irked me. He'd become a rather important character, had finally been reunited with the love of his life, was awesome at tying cool knots, had saved the lives of Peeta and Katniss multiple times, and all we get is something to the effect of "Oh, and by the way, back there in the sewer Finnick's head was just ripped off by one of those rose scented lizard mutts. Carry On." I'm not saying I needed him to live (even if he was the Fabio of Panem)...it is war after all...but damn, let the guy die in honor.
- The Pearl - Am I the only one who thought that Katniss should have given Peeta the pearl to try and break him out out of his tracker jacker induced hysteria?
- The Propos - Didn't they get tiresome after a while? After reading two books filled with the tense fight to the death Games it grew rather monotonous reading about them acting like they were engaging in actual combat. I understand the rebels' need for the propos but this didn't necessary lend itself to thoroughly engaging reading.
- The Lack of another Hunger Games - Ha! Ok, I understand that there was no way in hell another Hunger Games could be held during this book. I honestly think though that what I found most engaging during the previous two novels was what unfolded during the Games. I'm not really sure what that says about me...enjoying all of the gory details of 12-18 year old boys and girls fighting to the death in the most deviously conceived environments, but there you have it. While Collins tried to equate the mission through the booby trapped Capitol to the previous Games it was not nearly as exciting or entertaining.
When all is said and done though this really wasn't a bad book. As I said earlier, I did enjoy it however I think my error was simply expecting way too much after the spectacular foundation that Collins built with the first two. The trilogy as as a whole was ridiculously entertaining and I'm thankful Collins took the time to create this world for us...even if she did rush a little through the last book.
With all of Nederland's glowing reviews I was certain this would be the novel to break me out of my 2011 funk, which basically consists of myself making poor reading choices again & again & again. Sadly, when all is said and done I'll be adding this to the growing list of unremarkable books I've read thus far this year.
I wanted to like this, I really did, but I could only take so many pages of monotonous stories about the sport of cricket before I began losing interest. Being a major fan of baseball I was initially intrigued to learn the history of cricket and how the sport is played, however after seemingly endless pages discussing the soil & grass consistency of the perfect cricket playing field, I've come to to determination that cricket has to be the most boring sport known to man...yes, even more boring than golf.
Worse still is the fact that Hans van den Brock may also be the most boring lead character in any book I've ever read. Having moved around quite a bit in my life, once for a girl who at the time I believed was the "love of my life", I can appreciate the overwhelming sense of loss and loneliness that one feels when their relationship crumbles and you find yourself alone in an unfamiliar city. I can also relate to Hans's need to cling to something familiar in an attempt to find happiness in dark times (in his case cricket, in my case a coffee shop). I completely get it. I do.
With that said however, this doesn't necessarily equate to a compelling read. I found Nederland to be incredibly dry and tedious, filled with a bunch of boring characters living out a boring existence, playing a boring sport and thinking about boring stuff. Plain and simple. This isn't to say that all is lost. I found the passages describing the lifestyle of New York's large immigrant population extremely interesting. Additionally, O'Neill's writing style is beautiful at times, especially when he describes his characters' views of the world around them. It's for this reason that I've decided to give O'Neill one more chance with one of his future novels, provided that he writes about something a tad more intriguing than basket weaving or paint drying.
I've had a soft spot for Crichton ever since he blew my freaking mind with "Jurassic Park" when I was a wee lad. At that time I was an aspiring paleontologist and in my spare time I'd love sitting on my bedroom floor playing with fossils, reading stuff about dinosaurs and tracing dinosaur bone diagrams on wax paper. Needless to say I wasn't coolest kid around and "Jurassic Park" was pretty much my biggest wet dream come to life.
Over the years my interest in Crichton has waned quite a bit, but every once in a while I crack open one of his works and remember why I enjoy his stuff front time to time. "The Andromeda Strain" was great, "Congo" was entertaining, and "Next" was if nothing else thought provoking. Unfortunately as you most likely are aware, in 2008 Crichton passed away after a long battle with cancer. After his death a copy of "Pirate Latitudes" was discovered on his computer and luckily for us all it was published.
I'm not going to lie, the thought of Crichton writing a pirate story that takes place in the 1600s seemed a bit odd to me (What no time machines??), and perhaps he had no aspiration to ever actually publish it(apparently he completed it in '06), but much to my surprise he pulled it off masterfully. Complete with angry savages, corrupt politicians, sea monsters, witchcraft, Spanish treasure, an unsavory yet extremely likable crew of pirates, and a tough as nails Captain that would bitch slap Jack Sparrow to Davey Jones' Locker in a heartbeat, what more could you really ask for?
You know that song by the Flight of the Conchords, "Robots"? You know, the song with heartfelt lyrics such as "We used poisonous gases, And we poisoned their asses. The humans are dead." and "Come on sucker, lick my battery." Well, this book kind of reminds me of that song, but the bloodier R Rated version, with much meaner robots lacking any semblance of a robotic sense of humor.
We've seen it all before, robots are developed to such a sophisticated level that they begin thinking for themselves and decide to wreak havoc on the fragile human race. In this particular instance, one robot in particular (Archos) believes has a pretty severe superiority complex and begins controlling machines from every corner of the globe, instructing them to do his dirty work, with the ultimate goal of ridding the planet of human life, thus returning it back to nature. Not exactly the most original plot line, but I really was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Sadly, I wasn't.
My biggest qualm with Robopocalypse was in the method Wilson used to tell the story. You see, we are being told the story after the robot uprising and "New War" are all said and done. Each chapter is told by the narrator, Cormac Wallace, who is piecing together the history of the uprising from data contained within a small black cube that was unearthed after the war. Specially the story focuses on key human characters from around the world, all fighting to survive.
Now, while I can appreciate Wilson's approach, I felt this ultimately lead to a rather jumbled mess, as each chapter felt disjointed from the next. I imagine that writing a novel about a robot uprising impacting the entire planet would be difficult, considering the broad scope, however I really would have like to have seen Wilson take his time and fill in the gaps more cohesively. Massive chunks of time seemed to be lost from chapter to chapter and ultimately the entire effort felt rushed and erratic. What bothered me most of all those was the short excerpts at the end of each chapter which either included completely unnecessary foreshadowing of events to come or a few sentences laced together that quickly told the outcome of specific plot lines, as if Wilson simply grew lazy and felt that these brief passages would suffice over actually taking the time to tell the story. Sigh.
Sorry one second, I feel the need to belt out a binary solo.
Phew ok. Now that that's out of my system, I didn't exactly dislike the book either. I found the chapters discussing the details of the uprising intriguing and downright creepy. Who doesn't get creeped out by talking robotic dolls or driver-less cars mowing down anyone crazy enough to leave the shelter of their homes? Wilson, who has a Ph.D. in robotics, definitely showed off his knowledge on the subject by creating some incredibly frightening mechanical creatures, especially once the robots began evolving...like the "Pluggers" which were small spherical machines that would embed themselves within human flesh, working their way to the heart where they would explode, causing instant death. Kinda reminds us of those crazy flying spheres in the 70's horror film classic, Phantasm.
I also enjoyed the fact Wilson touched on how nature began reclaiming its territory as time passed, with moss and vines taking over streets and buildings and all forms of wildlife growing more abundant, living in areas once populated by humans. Oh, and robots setting up floating biological research stations to study flora and fauna?! Good stuff, but I wish this had played a larger role throughout the novel.
All in all I feel that Wilson squandered what could have been a great book. While exciting at times, it was simply too rushed and incoherent. As I understand it, Steven Spielberg will be making this into a movie in the near future, which will likely end up being one of those rare instances in which a movie is markedly better than the book it's based upon.
For years "The Stand" has mocked me, weighing down my bookshelves with its massive girth, visions of Gary Sinise, cornfields, and the Holland Tunnel littered with corpse filled cars dancing through my mind whenever I glanced upon its creased spine. I was a rather sheltered lad of 14 years old when the TV mini-series came out, and sadly other than a few commercials advertising the series, I never got around to watching it.
For years and years this book followed me around, from bookshelf to bookshelf, from apartment to apartment, from state to state, yearning to be cracked open and spew its plethora of dystopian fiction all over me. Finally, on a crisp October evening, around that one and only time of the year that I always get an itch to read a Stephen King novel, I dragged the book out of the grooves it had worn into the wooden bookshelf and began what would turn out to be a three month long odyssey into a world ravaged by a plague unlike any other the human race has ever encountered.
As the plague began terrorizing the planet, with early symptoms akin to that of the common cold, a funny thing started happening to me. I began noticing myself becoming alarmed when those around me began sneezing or sniffling. I'd catch myself in the act and think about how ridiculous it was for me to be having such reactions, but then I'd encounter another sneeze and react the same way. Can you imagine my reaction when I caught myself sneezing? You see, the beauty of "Captain Tripps", as the plague is referred to throughout the book, is just how frighteningly plausible the whole thing is, especially in the times we live in today.
Having only a vague knowledge of the The Stand's plot, I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the story focused on the plague's aftermath and the survivors' attempts to rebuild society in its wake. I've always been a fan of novels with expansive lists of characters and King did not disappoint me, as I was introduced to tons of characters, some good and some evil, all of whom are fighting to survive in a bleak new world.
Oddly enough I began reading this book at a time in my life when I found myself busier than ever, and as such it took me much longer to read than I would have liked. Because of this, I began to forget some of the details of less important plot lines, who some of the more minor characters were, etc. As you can imagine, this became somewhat of a problem as I had to piece through 1,100 + pages to find that one key detail that I'd forgotten. I can't blame King though for my apparent lack of cognitive skills. The Stand really is a damn good book and thankfully lived up to the lofty expectations that I had for it.