This is a deeply ugly, ugly book, bordering on the sadistic. Horrible characters pile on and return again and again, and the two young protagonists are repeatedly brutalized.
Unlike, say, The Hunger Games, where the world is richly detailed, the characters nuanced (I'm talking only about the first book) and the violence driven by a compelling challenge, in this book the world is poorly imagined (it's an alien planet, but it appears to be identical to Earth, with a few Dr. Seuss creatures thrown in), the characters are dull and either noble or evil or incidental, and there's barely a plot line.
The novel is one long chase, without clear goals, seemingly plotted by a game of 52 pickup. Characters pop up, disappear, return, disappear, on and on, without any sense of a building narrative -- indeed, without any sense at all, much of the time. A lot of it's just unbelievable nonsense. (How did this long missing person get to this geographic point? Don't ask.) The author withholds and withholds explanation so long that when it comes, it's a huge letdown. Either you've long figured it out, or it's just kinda cartoonish and uninteresting. All of the above, actually.
This isn't just dystopia, it's a frighteningly pathetic world, where sadists are all powerful and good people largely inert, including the annoying, self-destructively indecisive narrator. Even the sad sacks of Orwell's 1984 stood a better chance. So why would anyone -- especially a young reader -- want to submit to this shallowly imagined torture?
Oh, because there are two more books, and good guys will, in all likelihood, prevail in the end. What that means for this book is that it has no ending -- unlike, say, any Twilight installment or The Hunger Ganes or, really, any other first novel in a series. Things so badly and badly and badly and it's over. Buy the next book to continue your misery.
No, thanks. I might look up the synopsis on Wikipedia, just to put an end to it, but I have no masochistic desire to submit to more meandering prose, random plotting, infuriating characters and ugly violence on this barely imagined alien world. I'm letting go now and forever.
This is a well-performed story with vividly drawn characters, and its portrait of a family misshapen by one member with Asperger's syndrome is detailed, interesting and largely credible. (Some of the narration in the voice of the person with Asperger's isn't believable, but dramatic license allows.) Alas, the novel turns on a crime, and as a mystery the book is amateurish and annoying. There's one witness who could clear up the mystery in a heartbeat, but the police nor the lawyer nor the family ever bother to ask the simple questions necessary to do so, instead believing presumptions that any sophisticated reader knows from the start to be false. There's even a dramatic interview toward the end where you expect someone finally to uncover the truth, but no. The characters continue to act like questions that have never been asked have in fact been answered, even though the reader knows better. The solution is, then, very unsatisfying. Family drama: B. Mystery novel: F.
Perhaps the most overrated book in years. The author has skill with language and character but no talent at all for storytelling. The tale drags forward: There are a few spirited chapters but more often it's bogged down in endlessly excessive descriptions of woods or dog breeding or dog training--or dog thinking--that, in the end, add up to nothing except an opportunity for the writer to show off his MFA chops. He sets up many compelling situations that cry out for confrontation and resolution, yet the confrontations and resolutions never come. The most enjoyable section, near the end, is an idyll with a man named Henry, and a ghost in a barn, and it all finally has nothing to do with anything else in the book, although at least Henry shows some growth that few other characters do. The author has borrowed the bones of a classic story but exhibits no understanding of what made that story rich and satisfying. The interactions among the characters in the original, all the catastrophic calculations and confrontations, are here thrown out. Instead of building to an anguished climax offering either tragedy or victory, the story withers slowly to a close, wrapped, as always, in purple prose that drones on and on, mesmerized by its own craftiness. The writing throughout begs to be admired for its poetic flow and descriptive sharpness, yet it musters little emotional power and no talent for narrative flow. Rather than being a story that builds from solid foundations and rises to reveal a carefully planned, absorbing structure, it meanders like an aimless creek, sometimes pooling, sometimes rushing, then suddenly simply terminating, the journey ended without a destination ever having been designated or reached. That said, if you especially love dogs, descriptions of dogs, philosophizing about dogs, pretending to think like dogs, maybe this is a book for you. If you love indulgent, faux-philosophical prose like MFA programs churn out, enjoy. For a good story, look elsewhere.
This seemed to me to be a fair and overwhelmingly positive portrait of Schulz. I'm not sure what his kids are upset about--so Dad was generally melancholy and a bit removed. What do they think made him a cartoon genius? And his love for them and for his wives is also quite palpable. The stories about where all the ideas and characters for Peanuts came from are quite entertaining. The story of A Charlie Brown Christmas alone is quite revealing. I was rather disappointed not to hear a bit more about the business end of things--how Peanuts became an industry and how Schultz's characters wound up selling snack cakes and life insurance and all that. There's an amazing business story that's not told here, and the author suggests that that's because Schultz himself sort of let it happen via his surrogates rather than directing it himself. But that seems a bit of a copout. On the other hand, the book is quite long enough, there's no real dross here, so I can't complain too much. Recommended.
I'm a Clapton fan and was glad to have the details of his life's course opened up to me. I listened to this entire book in just a few days, despite also working for a living, so it is somewhat compelling. But once Clapton's career's in full swing, the focus changes from music to substance abuse and recovery, and the second half of the book is really about nothing except recovery (including the recovery from grief at the death of his young son). That's OK, that's Eric's THING, and it's less didactic and self-aggrandizing than many recovery memoirs. But as a music fan, I wanted more details about the songs, the records. And the author gets his own facts wrong--he claims "Tears in Heaven" was a hit from the "Rush" soundtrack, when in fact it went largely unheard until his "Unplugged" CD came out--you know his mind is elsewhere. Still a good listen for fans, and certainly an essential text for artistic folks in recovery. Besides, how can you not love Clapton? Clapton is God, right?
Move over Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, there's a new girl on the block. Beautifully conceived and written as a series of documents (diaries, letters, legal documents, etc.), the novel is here wonderfully recreated by a diverse cast of voices. You have to get used to the idea that the book will flow from place to place, rather like most people's lives, rather than setting up a singular plot and resolving it, and you will have to tolerate a n aggravating excess of infant mortality, but if you can get past those hazards you'll find a wonderful portrait of a certain time and place, with rich characters and powerful emotions. Ought to be in college literature classes, and on teenage girls' nightstands, both.
...or watch HGTV and have no intention of either buying a house or renovating the one you're in, this book is for you. It's basically a series of really well researched and written magazine articles about real estate-related topics, and anyone who's ever been amused or fascinated by real estate, home improvement, and related topics should thoroughly enjoy this book.
As you will quickly discover, the movie may have been inspired by this book, and borrowed its premise and a few of its characters, but beyond that the two have little in common. The book goes into much more detail about the scheme, contains a raft of more interesting characters, is much more ambiguous about the morality of everyone involved, and does a much better job of explaining how it all ends up going downhill. It's likely more "reconstructed" than actual reportage: the scenic detail and quoted conversations are clearly manufactured from bits and pieces of reality, reconstructed into neater, more vivid people, images and events. But the conceit that this is all true does short-circuit any idea that the book will have clear heroes and villains, or that it will reach of Hollywood conclusion. I liked that about the book, frankly. It's well performed and thoroughly engaging. Credible? Well, part of the fun is guessing what's fact and what's embellishment. Kind of like gambling itself.
I found this book completely involving, informative and often eye-opening. The authors take mounds of facts and figures and analyze them to come to some unexpected conclusions--or sometimes to expected conclusions that have not previously been based on actual data. The reviewers who did not like this book, I would guess, were likely put off by one of two things: The mathematical component (each subject is assessed by crunching lots of survey data and other detailed records), or the rejection of the "common sense" approach to social conundrums like abortion, crime, drug sales, school cheating, and the like. The authors avoid all moral judgment and simply assess these issues according to actual verifiable facts, and the results often do not agree with so-called conventional wisdom or moral imperatives. But each is entertainingly presented and fascinating. Someone other than the journalist half of the team should have done the reading--he should keep his day job--but one gets used to it.
It's one hour of tragedy, six hours of grief and misery and people mistreating one another (and claiming they simply can't help themselves), and then an hour of not-quite resolution. The audio performances are all strong, but the book is overwritten, repetitious and largely stagnant. A sample: "I paused, like falling into a bottomless pool of sadness." Now imagine 1,000 variations on that sentence. And what do we learn? Loss messes people up, but they may retain just enough humanity to avert complete self-destruction. Grief is presented in endless explication and iteration--all of which may ring true, but that's not reason enough to want to hear it, however impressed the author is with his own language skills. This story could have made a terrific short story--it ends like a short story--but instead it's bloated and glacial. I listened to the whole thing in a few days, expecting always that the plot would kick in at any moment. Finally it does...and then sputters and ends abruptly.
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