Can a book be both literary and genre? Yes. Can it be both successfully? Yes, see: The Last Werewolf.
I originally heard about this book via an NPR review and it languished on my to-read list for a long while until, when in need of my next book, I reviewed the synopses of the books on my to-read list. This one finally had it's turn to be what I was in the mood for. I loved it from the word go. The Last Werewolf was, for me, a perfect fit between what I was in the mood for and what the book (and the wonderful reader since I listened to this one) delivered. Beginning this book was like slipping into a warm bath mood-lit by aromatherapy candles, perfectly steeped cup of tea in hand. Or whatever your perfect scenario might be. I'll admit that my tranquil depiction makes for a strange juxtaposition with the violence and gore of the book, but such was my satisfaction with starting The Last Werewolf.
For starters, Jake Marlowe is a werewolf. And,I don't mean a Twilight werewolf, running around with no shirt, well-oiled muscles glistening in the sunlight kind of werewolf. He is an ancient, pragmatic, animalistic, savage monster who has no delusions that he is anything else. Glen Duncan wrests the werewolf from the teeny-boppers and the romance novels, and successfully returns him to the horror category. It is Jake's acceptance that he is an evil monster that makes him so unnerving: he is neither an unthinking beast (quite the contrary in fact, since the whole book is filled with his musing and ennui) nor is he in denial of the monstrosity of his true nature. In fact, the frank tone with which Jake describes killing and sex add to the discomfort.
The potential reader should be aware that this book is graphic. I blushed more than once. There is sex in this book, but it is not the sex of romance novels; there are no corsets, or 'throbbing members' here. There are, however, multiple mentions of the c-word. Be forewarned.
A Note on the Audiobook:
I often wonder what I may have missed by listening to the book that I would have gained if I had read a physical book. e.g Would I have enjoyed that passage more if I had re-read it? Not so with this book. I believe that listening to this only enhanced my enjoyment. In fact, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it at much if I had read a physical copy.
Somehow I had made it through life without ever having read Dracula so I decided to give it a shot on a road trip to Oregon with my husband. Bad idea. Long, winding roads + Dracula = nodding off behind the wheel.
I was expecting something different (probably expectations that came through from horror movies and such), but the book was much different. Still great in its own right, but with a lot more discussion of a proper lady's marriage prospects than I had anticipated.
As for the audio, I found it odd that each actor had a different accent for Van Helsing. One made him sound Russian, another German, etc. Tim Curry got the Dutch correct for his own reading, but the inconsistency started to drive the linguist in me bonkers by the end.
I often don't quite connect with Neil Gaiman's books. I really want to like them, but when it's all said and done, I don't exactly like them. I absolutely enjoyed Neverwhere, a purely entertaining look at London Below, where lives that slip through the cracks end up. I found Richard endearing if not proactive and was entirely enchanted by Neil Gaiman's reading. I often say that authors should not read their own work unless it is biographical. Neil Gaiman is the exception. His reading brings the characters to life in subtle ways. Neil Gaiman being a wonderful reader of his own work is no fluke, either; I felt the same way about his reading of Stardust.
I listened to this while at work and it made me chuckle out loud at least 5 times in the first half hour. I kept having to tell curious coworkers what I was listening to. If Gaiman's dark charm can make me laugh during a stressful day, it must be good!
Let's start by saying this is the most humorous dystopian novel I have ever read. It is silly and poignant, and dry and witty, and slow and endearing. The best way I can describe this book is that Shades of Grey is what the result would be if Douglas Adams had attempted to write 1984. It does take a bit to get into the plot and to care about the characters, but it is worth it. I suspect part of the reason that it's a bit slow at first is that Fforde never beats the reader over the head with this society and how it works and how it differs from ours; he lets you absorb it slowly, organically, and that takes time. Time well spent.
I'm so glad that there are to be more books in this series because I'm not ready to leave this society and these characters behind. I'm willing to wait for a good long time, which is fortunate since even though this book was published years ago, there is no set publication date for the next in the series.
This full cast version has the rare distinction of something I will listen to over and over again.
I listened to the full story read by Neil Gaiman (which I would also recommend) before listening to this radio drama version because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to follow what was going on. However, this fear was unfounded as the radio drama did a wonderful job abridging the plot and yet keeping all of the important stuff in.
The casting was absolutely perfect! Dear Powers That Be, can we please have a movie version with this cast?
The outtakes included in the end had me in hysterics. Particularly, the cast doing a Gregorian chant/beat box alphabet is hilarious.
Absolutely worth it!
The writing is terrible. I could stop there and feel that I'm justified in my review, but I won't! I knew going into this book that it was most likely going to be terrible, and I chose to read it anyway. So in a way, I am solely responsible for this negative review and not the author who is the source of the terrible writing because I chose to read something I was pretty sure I wouldn't like. I knew upfront that this was glorified fanfic. That's a problem for me. I know that there is nothing new under the sun, but it's going too far to import another author's characters whole. So based on that alone, I had grudge against this book from the outset. Additionally, I had heard from plenty of reliable sources that, unlike other popular young adult series, this one held no appeal for actual adults. I read it anyway. You see, a friend and I had gone to see the movie. It wasn't really planned; we didn't specifically intend to see that particular movie. She and I go to dinner and a movie every few weeks and the Mortal Instruments happened to be playing at an agreeable time, so we went. It was bad (but that's a different review). After seeing the movie, though, I had the idea that the book could be good, that the movie could have been good if it had done a better job following the book. Turns out, the movie's plot was disjointed and unmotivated precisely because it followed the book closely.
The book's plot is generally unmotivated. So much so that I came up with the following advertisement for The Cassandra Clare Method of Writing Good: Stuck as to how to move the plot forward? Invent something new! A gadget that does the precise, specific thing the characters need to accomplish (avoid the pesky temptation to have the characters problem solve!), introduce an as yet unheard of character to give the next bit of minor information (no need to round out the characters you already have!, or fill the gap with some more unnecessary similes until you think of something to have your characters do next. It's like magic! The characters in this book just wander around aimlessly from one place to the next until some minor character gives them in the information that they need or they otherwise stumble upon the next thing to do.
Clare gives the impression that she doesn't pay any attention to what came before the word she is writing now. Early in the book, Clary 'inexplicably' knew that someone was following someone else by the way he walked. Sounds pretty explicable to me. Later, Simon saves the day by letting in light from the skylight. How come the light he would have just let in from the front door had no affect? Later, a character was given a knife, ran around as a man and as a wolf for a while, showed up at the werewolf camp still in possession of the knife. Where did he keep it while he was a wolf? Some might say I'm nitpicking, and I am, a bit. And if there were one or two of these examples, I wouldn't care; not everything has to be planned out in great detail. But there are a lot of examples and it makes her plot sloppy.
On the other hand, leaving out all of these things makes room for all the other crap that should have been edited out. Characters are constantly answering questions no one asked and giving information the characters already know. At one point, Hodge even points out to Jace that a name in a list he's rattling off is Jace's dad. I'm pretty sure he knows that without being told! Now, I can understand that at this point the reader has only heard Jace's surname one time and might need a reminder of the significance. However, Clary is in the room when this takes place. As the outsider to this world, it would make sense if Hodge directed the information at Clary who might not know instead of Jace who is sure to know. Is Clare even listening to herself?
I think I've made my point that the writing is bad, but I can forgive bad writing if the plot is good and if the characters are interesting. I've touched a bit on the plot above, but there isn't much more to say. It's ok. Nothing is super engaging about Clare's world; it's just there. It's not exactly boring, either, though.
As for the characters there is a lot to be said, but I just don't have the energy to do it justice. This whole book reads like wish fulfillment on the part of the author. Clare writes about a red-headed character named Clary who is plain, but also so very special that the really cute guy likes her, the boys fight over her, and she shows that the plain girl can be really interesting. Even though she has the personality of wet cardboard. She's Bella from Twilight all over again. Blech. Isabel also bothered me, not in an of herself exactly, but in how she and Clary interact. Isabel's entire personality is based on the stereotype that the pretty girl is a bitch. Isabel even describes herself as a bitch toward the end of the book and Clary agrees that she had been. The thing is, none of Isabel's behavior is all that bitchy throughout the book. Clare is perpetuating the girl on girl hate. Jace is supposed to be super hot and we're told that he's super hot and cool, but we're never shown anything that makes him all that attractive. That's about all I'll say on the Jace subject because it's really strange to wanting the teenage guy to be hotter. It makes me feel like a perv. All the character development (and that's a generous description) is done blatantly through dialog and description. We are told what the characters are like and what they are feeling, but we're never shown.
All the characters have the same sense of humor which makes them blend into one another throughout the book. Clare seems to be able to one write one way and thus it applies to all her characters. The humor actually works with Simon's character and occasionally with Jace's, but on the whole it just serves to make all her characters indistinguishable.
All I ask of books, usually, is that they entertain me, and in a way, this book did entertain me. I took a great and perverse pleasure in cataloging all of the things I hated. So, I can't really call that a recommendation, but you might be entertained in the same way.
The thing that I would change can't be changed and have the book be the same book. The first part of this book was very slow and then part 2 is absolutely explosive. So, I might be tempted to say that part one should be trimmed down or something, but then part 2 wouldn't be as explosive.
I found the very end just a bit dissatisfying, but still definitely worth the read.
I didn't really care about either protagonist. Then again, I don't think the reader is supposed to 'like' the characters. They are created to be pretty unlikeable people.
I don't think that what made this book awesome (namely the plot twist the different points of view of the two main characters) could be conveyed very well in a visual format. I'd still probably see it anyway.
I've read so many reviews that said it got better halfway through. I was expecting it to slightly improve and then it would dawn on me that it had gotten better. Not the case. This book got suddenly and instantaneously awesome. I had just gotten to that point when I pulled into the driveway on my way home. Can I drive around the block for an hour?
Let me just say: this book was amazing. I have not read the Fables graphic novels because graphic novels aren't really my thing, but this book was truly able to stand alone. I loved everything about it. The characters are interesting, if a little one-sided (it is a fable after all). I was completely immersed in the story from the very beginning and actually couldn't wait to go back to work so that I could listen to this in the car. Let's put it this way, I enjoyed this book so thoroughly that I'm reconsidering my stance on graphic novels, that's how eager I am to be back in the Fables mythos.
A Note on the Audiobook:
Wil Wheaton was a great reader. Archaic dialog is perilous for narrators because it's hard to read without sounding stilted. Wheaton did an excellent job and actually enhanced the story rather than just reading it. Bravo, Wheaton.
First and foremost: I promise not to ruin the mystery by reviewing this book. As such, I won't really mention the plot (not that I do often in my reviews because I take it for granted that anyone reading my review who would like to know about the plot can easily find a synopsis).
I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I picked it up solely on the weight of recommendations by listeners on Audible. I'm so glad I did. I would never have listened to this book based on the synopsis; it just doesn't sound like a 'me' type of book. Even now, after having listened to the book and loved it, the synopsis just doesn't do anything for me, and it certainly doesn't do any justice to the book.
The book centers on Nate Tucker and an apartment building in Los Angeles that is full of oddness. And it just gets better from there. A lot of reviewers draw comparisons between this book and the tv series LOST due to the myriad mysteries to be unraveled. I can see where they're coming from, but I actually enjoyed this book unlike LOST after season 1. And yes, some of the plot points are far-fetched and a few are a bit tired. So while none of this book is really new territory, the story was a wonderful exercise in immersion. If you want a novel that will absorb you in the story and maybe creep you out a bit, this is the book for you. Give it a chance.
The plot twist! This book has the best kind of plot twist: the kind where you could have picked up on it if only you'd been paying enough attention.
Maybe to the Shadow of the Wind by Miguel Ruiz Zafon. Not for any similarities in the plot or setting, but because of the feeling one gets having finished them. I was so wrapped up in both stories and amazed in how each author ties together so many loose ends at the conclusion of the book and multiple, disparate plot lines come together in the end. I also had a bit of trouble getting into both books; it takes a while to set up so satisfying an ending.
Jill Tanner: in a heartbeat. She was absolutely amazing as Vida Winter.
Bianca Amato: possibly. She wasn't a poor narrator, but she pales in comparison to Jill Tanner.
Vida Winter. She is the enigmatic protagonist and unreliable narrator in her own right. To say more, would be to spoil the discovery for future readers.
At first, I was afraid that I had made a mistake in choosing this book. I'm not a big fan of gothic novels. I've never been able to get into Jane Eyre or Rebecca, and when this book started out slow and focusing on a wishy-washy, overly sentimental narrator, I thought I was in big trouble.
But I kept reading. And then I became engrossed in the story of Vida Winter and forgot all about my dislike of Margaret and her story. I'm not entirely sure if that's because Margaret's story improved or because I was so enthralled with Vida's story that I endured Margaret's to get back to it.
The twist for this story was so good that I want to listen to it again just to follow along all the clues that foreshadowed it
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