Category Archives: Reviews

Gaiman’s readers swim in masterful prose from newest publication

Photo credit: Goodreads
Photo credit: Goodreads

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

 5/5 stars

This masterful web of magic and mystery has to be one of my favorites by the famed fantasy author. Gaiman shocks and surprises once again with the 2013 publication showing readers that the child’s mind still remains the most viable and open to the unknown, even after aging long into adulthood.

The story follows a Sussex native returning to his childhood home after a funeral where he decides to visit former best friend, Lettie Hempstock. From there both he and the reader are fully immersed in flashbacks to a whirlwind battle between good, evil and the great beyond.

With a telling dedication, “For Amanda, who wanted to know,” Gaiman airs on the side of the clandestine, cloaking the novel’s overture in slowly-revealed secrets. The pacing keeps the reader engaged and entertained, making the text nearly impossible to put down.

This short story turned novel is filled with decadent description, charismatic characters and memorable quotations, an ocean for any rabid reader to devour. The work may be a quick read, but it’s one you’ll want to pick up again and again. I highly recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane to readers of all ages.

Flynn’s Gone Girl fails to measure up to best-seller praise

Photo credit: Goodreads
Photo credit: Goodreads

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 3/5 stars

With all the promises of “I just couldn’t put it down!” and “OMG, so addicting!!!” I ventured into this best-selling novel with high expectations. This dually narrated suspense story follows the lives of Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple experiencing difficulties in their relationship.

How refreshing.

The story finally sparks interest with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of Amy on their fifth wedding anniversary. Flynn’s narrative segmentation between Nick’s real-time observations and Amy’s diary nearly forces the reader to keep reading by breaking off in the middle of providing vital information. It’s just as frustrating as it is tiresome.

Flynn also struggled with inequality in character development. Where Amy, self-professed genius and master of manipulation is fleshed out to the fullest, Nick remains the inept, bumbling husband regardless of climactic stimuli. Though it’s clear by the end that Amy is the unadulterated center of the story, it doesn’t change the supremely unbalanced points of view.

Is this a plot device? Maybe, but to the average reader it comes across as sloppy writing more than an extensively crafted linguistic choice.

Overall, Flynn’s writing is strong. Strong enough that after finishing this book I pursued another one of her works Dark Places. However, the ending and the self-indulgent-Amy-show narration made the book semi-predictable and, at times, uninteresting.

Though I wouldn’t extol this book’s praises as others have before me, I would still recommend it if you’re at all interested. You may end up enjoying Flynn’s work in ways I didn’t. Colorful supportive characters and an early plot twist redeem the aforementioned flaws, so it’s not an entirely hopeless pursuit.

Gone Girl is a well-written, well-paced suspense story, but it could have been better. Venture with an open mind and low expectations and you won’t be disappointed.

The Maze Runner sends readers running in search of better writing

Photo credit: Goodreads

Photo credit: Goodreads

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

2.5/5 stars

The first of three books in James Dashner’s young-adult dystopian series, The Maze Runner follows a group of teenage boys confined to a world of gears, “grievers” and grief serum.

The concept was enticing—a post-apocalyptic future world where children are monitored in a giant, moving maze by unknown “Big Brother” figures—but dully executed. Unlike Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, the language was unimaginative, predictable and insipid.

The terrifying concepts of a self-shifting maze and “grievers,” giant, metallic worms that hunt through the maze at night for runners that haven’t made it back safely behind the walls, were diminished to a bland bedtime story with amorphous monsters. Description is clearly not Dashner’s strength.

In a last-stitch attempt to spike the plot, there appears a lone female, sent up in the metal elevator box used to send supplies to the boys once a week. However, she’s written with no personality except for the glaringly stereotypical infatuation with the main man, Thomas, and an impressively unimpressive amount of intellect.

The two can communicate telepathically as well—the origin of which Dashner hasn’t yet specified as a likely ploy to keep the reader pushing through the next few novels.

The pacing of the story flat-lined, making the only motivation to keep reading stem from an overwhelming desire to just finish the book and move on. The climax, when the characters venture into the “griever hole” at the center of the maze, was beyond predictable.

There are two other books in the Maze Runner series, however, if they’re anything like the first I have no desire to read them. Essentially, this series read like a cheap knock-off of Roth’s Divergent series or Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy.

Color me disappointed.

The Maze Runner movie, featuring Dylan O’Brien as protagonist Thomas, is scheduled to hit theaters in early September 2014. Perhaps the concept will do better on screen than it did in print.

Day 18: Favorite book-to-screen adaptation

Day 18
Day 18

Day 18: Favorite screen adaptations- The Great Gatsby, She’s the Man (Based off Twelfth Night), Macbeth ft. Patrick Stewart, and Romeo and Juliet ft. Claire Danes and Leo DiCaprio

I loved the adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Though it may not fit the plot to the letter, the similarities are striking and the presentation is ridiculously entertaining.

The versions of Macbeth and R &J are both highly symbolic and I really enjoyed the gritty and unique way they were produced.

Gatsby made the list purely because it was SO close to the book that I had almost no complaints. Other than the neglect for color symbolism, which was so apparent in the text, the movie followed the plot-line to the letter. I was impressed, entertained and fulfilled as a reader.

 

Babes, bombs and bullet holes: check out what I’ve been reading lately

I’ve had a lot of extra time to read lately, and I wanted to catch you all  up with some quick reviews of the texts I’ve finished.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson 

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The second book in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, this fast-paced novel covers the exploits of Bloomkvist and Salander and their various compatriots as they attempt to uncover a horrendous human-trafficking scandal.

The pacing of this novel was far superior to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Larsson spent the majority of Part One catching readers up with Salander in the aftermath of the Wennerström affair, placating them with some small conflicts in the beginning until the real bombs are dropped in the center and end sections.

Bombs? Absolutely. I won’t tell you when, but The Girl Who Played With Fire definitely reveals a huge shocker alongside the explanation of “All the Evil.”

This was my favorite of the Larsson trilogy. It was engaging, well-paced, vivid and, at points, shocking.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

The final installment of the Millennium Trilogy, regrettably, starts out slow. Finishing off the jaw-dropping cliffhanger from The Girl Who Played With Fire, this book spends too much of its first half stretching out details and dialogue that’s definitely not as interesting as the action and adventure of its predecessor.

However, once you make it to the end of Part Two a few new characters, and even some old favorites, return to make the story much more interesting. At points, it seemed like Larsson was struggling to round out the ending of book three by adding in Berger’s stalker scandal.

A common theme to all Larsson’s books is the empowerment and strength of women. Because of that over-arching archetype, Berger’s story fits, but it still feels forced.

Overall, the book did a decent job of wrapping up the trilogy, but it was clearly the weakest of the three.

Generation Kill by Evan Wright

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

This journalistic account of First Recon Marines written by former Rolling Stone journalist, Evan Wright, details the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Later adapted by HBO into a TV show, the account follows the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion from the view of Wright as he remained embedded with them for  two months.

The text is gritty, vivid, raunchy and haunting. Wright’s words transport the reader far from their comfort zone, challenging them to accept the truth behind the writing– a feat that should never be taken lightly.

Retelling instances of death, destruction, manipulation and ignorance, the book stays true to Lt. Nathaniel Fick’s words “Write this as you see it. I’m not here to stop you.”

The book is extremely well written, descriptive and unadulterated in its actuality.  There were several times when I had to put it down and take a break for a bit as the details can really weigh on you.

Read the book. Be prepared for some internal turmoil, but read it all the same.

I hope you enjoyed my mini reviews! Feel free to let me know how you feel in the comments below, and check out my profile on Goodreads! 

Write on!

See what your favorite celebs are reading and recommending on Twitter

BookVibe is a new website created by Parakweet that uses your Twitter handle to tell you what books the people you’re following are talking about.

Said to be “streets ahead of Amazon” by The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, this site processes the entirety of your Twitter feed into a singular list of reading recommendations.

The site offers a preview option, where you can insert your Twitter handle and see what your “Book Stream” would look like. By making an actual account, the user can create a reading list, explore what other celebrities and users are reading and see what’s trending.

BookVibe shows a general grade for each book out of five stars as well as the level of “social buzz,” or how much the book is being talked about. The trending option allows users to choose a week and see the top trending or top discussed books for that week.  The trending option also allows the user to narrow down the list by category, including genres like “Food & Wine,” “Romance” “Technology” and “Science Fiction.”

The site has great potential as long as its popularity continues to increase. The more celebrities that participate and add bookshelves, the more appeal the site will have. If people went crazy over celebrities with Twitter and Instagram, it’s fair to say BookVibe could have the same appeal.

You can like BookVibe on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Give it a shot! Making an account is quick and takes very little commitment. It’s a small risk with a potentially large reward.

Book Selfie Challenge Days 3-5!

Day 3: Your favorite chapter book as a kid
Day 3: Your favorite chapter book as a kid

Day 3: Your favorite chapter book as a kid

I loved this book and still do. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine is the story of two sisters, best friends but complete opposites.  When strong, courageous Meryl gets sick, Addie must go on a journey of mythical proportions to save her sister and herself.

Honorable mentions include:The Junie B. Jones series by Barbra Park, A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket, the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and Eragon by Christopher Paolini Continue reading Book Selfie Challenge Days 3-5!