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What Are You Reading?

This thread is now closed--it's getting too long. Click here for the 2011 What Are You Reading? thread, and here for the 2012 What Are You Reading? thread.

Have you noticed that, even with the Internet of Infinite Possibilities, it's sometimes still hard to find a decent review of the book you just finished? Or maybe you just want to talk about it with someone else who's read it, but all your friends are either troglodytes or cats?

Yeah, us too.

While we do occasional book reviews, they're not our main goal. But we love to read, and we know you do too. So we can all use this thread to talk about what we're reading, and why we love it. Or why we don't.

Do you want to see a particular book reviewed? Let us know in the suggestion box!


  1. I've just been rereading some books I last tackled in my teens. Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" was one of them, as was Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz", and Arthur C Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama". I've not reread RWR yet, but, I have to say, I was a little disappointed by "A Canticle for Leibowitz". Everyone's always banging on about it being a classic, and I did enjoy reading it first time round; but this most recent read has left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed.

    Which made me start thinking about books which meant the world to me when I was young, but somehow dwindled in importance as I got older. The most obvious culprit is Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye". In my teens, I enjoyed it immensely. I really connected with it. It felt as though it had been written for me. But a few years ago, I reread the book, and it seemed far less profound, sometimes repetitive and even, at times, boring.

    Another novel I really connected with in my teens was Stephen King's "Christine". The characters were roughly my age. It was all about loving your fiends, and then losing your friends. It really struck a chord with me. I've reread it several times since those days, and although some of the magic has worn off, I still think it's a good book.

    I wonder what changes. Do we simply get older and (God forbid) more mature? I suppose tastes must change. Or maybe the books were actually pretty crap to begin with, and we were just too young, or had too little comparative knowledge, to realise. Will the books we love today turn out to be the turkeys of tomorrow?

    I've just started Ursula Le Guin's "The Lathe of Heaven". I wonder if it stands the test of time.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Catcher in the Rye is an interesting case. I never really clicked with it as a youngster, and I still don't. But I did promise myself a few years ago never to date anyone who *still* thought that it really spoke to them: those men seemed to cling to some imaginary lost youth of never asking how my day went or which movie I wanted to see. When I made that vow, though, I might have been missing the influence of nostalgia on our book choices.

    On the other hand, I find myself gradually adding to the list of deal-breaker books the older I get.

    The books I'm most scared to revisit are Jack Kerouac's complete oeuvre, which I read at the impressionable age of 12 or 13. Along with my discovery of the kinds of music that drive parents crazy, Kerouac and all the beats were the first models of non-middle-class life that I had exposure to. They were hugely important for my development into the person I am today, but I'm sure they'll be hackneyed and silly if I revisit them.

  3. Bah! Stupid sticky touchpad. I accidentally deleted my comment. Oh well.

    Glad you emphasised the *still* part, Josie. Otherwise I'd have felt inferior... lol.

    I knew a girl once who refused to date anyone who liked the movie "Love Actually". At the time, I hadn't seen it, so I was okay. In hindsight, I wish I'd both seen it and loved it. There's ten months I'll never get back.

    It saddens me that children's books are more or less useless once you grow up. I tried to reread a Famous Five book about ten years ago. It was dreadful. A real disappointment. Yet my memories of it are stupendous. I read it a million times when I was eight. Well... five.

  4. The Chronicles of Narnia still holds up.

    But the Phantom Tollbooth? Ugh. I never should have re-read that.

  5. Saw "Love Actually". Loved it. I don't understand the whole "If you like or dislike this, then you're not worth my time" thing (which is not the same as "really speaks to me" - I get where you're coming from, Josie). I had a friend who still refuses to date a girl who's not into Transformers or, if memory serves, "doesn't know who Unicron is". Yeah, he's still single.

    I have no idea if it was ever translated in English, but one series of books from my childhood, "Le Petit Nicolas" (Little Nicolas), got even better when I read it as an adult because I suddenly got the subtext of what was motivating the adults much better and I could compare my understanding as a child, which matched the child narrator's, with my understanding today.

    The same goes for Louis Pergaud's "La Guerre des boutons" (War of the Buttons), which I know was translated. I definitely recommend it to kids and adults alike.

    I'm not sure the reason we lose our connection with some children books is entirely due to the genre or quality. It might just be that we're not the same people a decade or two later (obviously). There are plenty of grownup books I used to like that I can't stand just a few years later because I'm just not the same guy... Or vice-versa: I used to hate The Great Gatsby. It's one of my favourite books today. Tomorrow... We shall see.

    Maybe the children books we dislike today will regain their meaning (or acquire different ones) when we enter new phases in our lives.

    Also, some books are more about the twists and turns than they are about quality literature. I suspect most who'll decide to revisit "Harry Potter" years from now will find the prose morbidly tedious now that the thrill of finding out what happens is gone. (I mean, how many adverbs can the woman fit in one single-clause sentence? ... A lot.)

  6. Good grief, Transformers is a bit of a low brow effort, isn't it? If you're going to get all picky about people not liking certain movies, then at least make them classics.

    Actually, from now on, if people don't like "I Know Who Killed Me", "Howard the Duck" and Basic Instinct 2", they're dead to me ;o)

  7. Transformers? Huh. Because that seems like such a bizarre choice, I must pop-psychoanalyze your friend. (Sorry, friend.)

    He must want a girlfriend who also doubles as a guy-friend. He wants someone who can enjoy "guy stuff" like movies with Megan Fox and explosions, video games, and the joy of not getting dressed up on Saturday night. He wants a male friend with breasts.

    He doesn't want to make trade-offs: he doesn't want to compromise and say "We'll watch Transformers tonight and the Sex and the City movie tomorrow."

    But he must be missing the fact that not all girls want to watch Nicholas Sparks movies--there's a vast amount of difference from one woman to another.

    He might also be missing that there's more to a real friendship/relationship than watching movies together. Or so I hear.

    I'd love to hear about more deal-breakers. I think they're fascinating.

    Dimitri, that was my beef with the Harry Potter books when I first read them, in my mid-to-late 20s. There didn't seem to be anything there for me, as an adult, to grab onto. No point of connection.

    For those who are wondering, it looks like "Le Petit Nicholas" was translated as "The Chronicles of Nicholas." There are a few sequels, too.

  8. No, no, I'm pretty sure he meant the cartoon and comics, so it wasn't about Megan Fox and loud explosions so much as the inherent poetry of two giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

    Also, in fairness, Josie, I imagine he must be well aware that all women are not the same. After all, he's still looking for one who likes Transformers. And what's with all them male stereotypes, hmm? You know, there's a vast difference between one man and the other too. =P

    Oh, and, Paul, two words: "Show Girls".

  9. What male stereotypes? He's just the one guy. :-)

    (To which I add: there are Transformers comics?!)

  10. Oh, I almost forgot (not really, I just wanted to punctuate my ravings with a clear split): Thanks for finding the proper translated title for "Le Petit Nicholas", Josie. Yeah, the sequels--in fact, the whole series--are great.

  11. My, but you reply quick! Now it all looks crooked.

    Yeah, the UK comics are known as being the bestest comics about giant alien robots who beat each other up and transform into vehicles and sometimes dinosaurs while searching for energy in the midst of a holy war in the whole of Western culture!!!

    Or so I'm told. I was more into She-Ra.

    In fact, if you don't know the name of the gree-haired girl in She-Ra with the NBC logo on her back, then you ain't getting in the back of my car, ah, ah, ah.

  12. Dimitri, I take your "Showgirls" and raise you a "Batman and Robin".

  13. Paul, Dimitri, forget Showgirls, I Know Who Killed Me, Howard the Duck, Basic Instinct 2 or Batman & Robin.

    I’ve got just one word and a number for you guys: Highlander 2.

  14. Mark, I ain't touching that one. You're on your own, buddy ;o)

  15. Currently reading:

    Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass" with footnotes to explain the satire and references.

    In the middle of Charlaine Harris's "Sookie Stackhouse" novels.

    Just started a non-fiction: Rebecca Skloot's, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" - history and controversy about the origin of HeLa cells. (widely used cell-line in biology and medicine)

    Thinking about heading to Jack Keroac's, "On the Road" once I finish one of the above books.

    ALWAYS looking for good suggestions. :)

  16. Remember Fahrenheit 451 where everyone *became* a particular book so that it would never be lost? For me, that would probably be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It was very special to me when I was a kid. I know a lot of the poetry by heart. And I really need to get myself a copy of the Annotated Alice.

  17. I've become an Elizabeth George addict. Am I alone in the world?

  18. In that case, Josie, you might want to check out the BBC’s adaptation The Inspector Lynley Mysteries starring Nathaniel Parker as Lynley. Although only a few episodes are actually based on George’s books.

  19. So they're good, Mark? The little snippet reviews on Netflix made them sound awful. Every complained that the characters mumbled and the plots were hard to follow.

    I'll trust your opinion. You were right about Doctor Who.

  20. I haven’t read the original books so I can’t say how they compare but as for the series I’d say its entertaining cosy Sunday night telly. If we were rating it in terms of British detective drama, with Inspector Morse at the very top where he belongs and Midsummer Murders right at the absolute bottom, then The Inspector Lynley Mysteries would be somewhere around the middle. Not really great but not godawful either.

    At the moment I’d say the best detective drama on British television is Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh and based on books by Henning Mankell about moody Swedish detective Kurt Wallander.

  21. The Wallander shows are great. Anything with Kenneth Branagh is great. Except "Love's Labor Lost," which was abysmal and unwatchable.

    I haven't seen the Inspector Morse shows, but I'm a huge fan of the spin-off featuring Inspector Lewis.

    Over here, public television airs the BBC mysteries and mini-series based on books, and right now they're working their way through all the Agatha Christie adaptations, which I just don't enjoy. I love reading Christie, but one country house party after another gets a bit boring on-screen.

  22. Don’t forget *shudder* Wild Wild West.

    If you’re a fan of Lewis, Josie, then I think you'll definitely love Inspector Morse.

    I've been watching the Poirot series with David Suchet for over 20 years now. I love them, especially the more recent adaptations. Can’t stand Miss Marple though. Meddlesome old spinster, can never seem to mind her own business.

  23. Miss Marple is as boring on screen as she is in the books. I watched a few, and I was a little bothered by the way she seemed to always find a dashing male companion 50 years her junior.

    I love the Poirot books, but I don't like watching him on film. Too smarmy and peacockish. That's what he is, so it means the writers and actors nailed it.

  24. I have to agree with Mark about the greatness of David Suchet. He is Poirot -- though I prefer the earlier stories to the later ones. I'm rather partial to Miss Lemon, Inspector Japp and Hastings.

    And I'll second Josie liking Morse. It's the exact same template as Lewis. I love both shows.

    And this week, I'll mostly be reading "Tooth and Nail" by Ian Rankin. In fact, we should make July Detective Month.

    And Josie, have you done something with your hair? And they say men never notice these things ;o)

  25. Why, yes, Paul. I have. Dimitri gave me a makeover--check out the new outfit here: http://billiedoux.blogspot.com/2001/01/josie-kafka.html

    Aren't I adorable? (Hint: like the "Do these pants make me look fat?" question, there is only one right answer.)

  26. "No, your ass does"? I'm not sure how that applies to your intrinsic adorableness, Josie.

    I could get into Detective Month. It'd be an occasion for all of us to rave about Castle. Never could get into Agatha Christie. Great atmosphere and social portrait, but I find she often cheats in the end. On an unrelated note, I just finished Dennis Lehane's last Kenzie book a couple weeks ago. Was a'ight.

  27. As usual, Josie, you look delightful. But what's that on the end of your finger you're studying so intently?

  28. That is the raised finger of pontification that typically accompanies a "Harrumph! As I'm sure you know..."

  29. Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay!

    I just finished it last week--it was wonderful. I'd hoped to review the whole trilogy here, but I'm suffering from post-Persons Unknown exhaustion. So, instead, I'll just post this note and hope that anyone else who has read it enjoyed it as much as I did.

    (By the way, because the book just came out, let's keep the major spoilers--death, romance--out of the thread.)

  30. Dimitri, I'm working my way through the Kenzie/Gennaro books right now. So far, I love them, although I keep picturing Casey Affleck as Kenzie, which just doesn't work.

    Have you read The Given Day yet? I stalled out about 75 pages in, although it's still on my "books to read" shelf.

  31. Hi Josie, I haven't got round to it. I've been distracted by my sudden need to revisit some Amy Tan and Beverly Cleary, of all things.

    While I thought he was very good in Gone Baby Gone, I agree that Casey Affleck doesn't feel quite right when you read the books.
    Luckily, years of comic book reading has trained my mind to accept different visual interpretations of a same character as artists kept changing in mid storyline. Now, Kenzie looks different every chapter.

  32. I'm going to assume that the Beverly Cleary reading was brought on by the new Ramona movie, right? I read her books when I was a kid--have they updated them yet? The versions I read called the couch a "davenport," and the girls washing their hair was a big event.

    "Now, Kenzie looks different in every chapter." But at least he always has his cape on.

  33. Actually, as a little French Canadian, I got started with French and Belgian comics (smurfs, Asterix, etc.), so no capes. Just big noses.

    Yes, indirectly, my Henry Huggins revisit is probably due to the movie. The books are all over the bargain and promotional bins. Having said that, I did see the movie. It's super cute and has real heart to it, but, as an adaptation, it does sort of miss the point. Everything in the film is filtered through Ramona's eyes, when really Ramona should be filtered through everyone else's. At least that's what I used to find charming.

    But kids need to know what a davenport is, or at least ask their parents, thus creating a dialogue that becomes part of the awesome experience of reading! Davenport questions pass them on. A message from the Foundation for Better Reading.

    Actually, my understanding is Cleary updates her language and references with each new book (she's still writing at 90 years old!), but the old books remain a product of their time. I think that's the right approach. Otherwise, you'd have to update every six years or so: Henry and Beezus are playing checkers, then Connect 4, then Pong, then Donkey Kong, then Mario, then Guitar Hero, etc. It does lead to the oddness of Henry having been a pre-teen for twenty years or so, though.

  34. I just finished "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It was complex and un-put-down-able and went in a direction I wasn't expecting. And the "girl," the female lead character, is extraordinary. I want the second and third books, and I want them now.

  35. Billie. I read all three books in one week. Absolutely cracking stuff. The next two books are a little darker, but equally un put-down-able.

    I'm currently reading Jane Eyre (a quid from the supermarket) and Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Tally Ho!

  36. They're fabulous, aren't they, Billie?

    Paul, I just re-read a few Poirot/Hastings stories. Such fun.

  37. I’m deep into A Game of Thrones and I’m loving it. I’m kicking myself for holding off reading this book for so long.

    I just watched Master and Commander the other night and I really enjoyed it and so I’m thinking of getting into Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books. Anyone know if they’re worth reading?

  38. Isn't it great, Mark? It only gets better. And then you reach the end of the books that have been written and become a desperate crazy person when you think about how long we'll have to wait for the next one.

    After watching M&C I had the same thought, and bought the first O'Brian book. I did not enjoy it much; I only got about 20 pages into it before I put it down. But I've heard many people love them. I just do not know those people.

  39. The Song of Ice and Fire series is definitely an engrossing page turner. And a fine example of "Maybe I shouldn't start the series until its complete."

    I wondering what's going to happen on the book front if the TV series turns out to be a hit. I think they're planning to do a book per season, but there are still what? Three books left to go? Even if he gets the next one done soon, at the rate he's been going we'll have to wait another 10 years to get the finished series.

    I guess we should consider ourselves lucky if the series proves popular enough to run up against a lack of material from GRRM!

  40. Bah... I've just snapped and bought A Game of Thrones for my Kindle. I hope everyone's satisfied! You all made me buy it.

    Please, nobody mention any more good books. I'm a weak man with a backlog of unread books as long as my arm ;o)

  41. Jess, I’ve also wondered what would happen if the production of the series eventually overtook the publication of the novels. But a pessimistic part of me thinks that even if the series is a ratings and critical hit A Games of Thrones will be consigned to the same fate as Rome, Deadwood and Carnivale, cancelled after two or three seasons due to high production cost.

  42. While we're throwing the soft cushions of blame around: this darned thread has got me reading Game of Thrones again.

    Part of me wonders if GRRM is just going to let the TV series tell the rest of the story. He seems to be more into the idea of being a writer than actually writing. (I don't mean for that to sound as resentful as it does. Books, TV--as long as it's done well, I'm okay with either one in this case.)

  43. You'd never guess in a million years what I'm reading. The Hardy Boys! I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my new Kindle (Amazon say five weeks... I say two, or everyone's going to die). So I don't want to buy any more paperback novels, and the "The Arctic Patrol Mystery" all I have that's unread. It's sure to be deep and fulfilling. Right?

  44. Paul, you'll have to share what the Kindle is like. I'm still so attached to the paper experience when it comes to novels: the smell, the feel of the page, the satisfaction you get from seeing your bookmark approach the back cover at an accelerated rate...

    On another note, I couldn't resist. I picked up "Heat Wave", the Nikki Heat novel by, yes, *the* alleged Richard Castle. So far, it's quite a bit of fun in a tongue-in-cheek "the joke is in the fourth wall" kind of way. For fans of the show, the fabled sex scene in chapter ten is indeed there and gloriously over the top.

  45. Dimitri, thanks for your comment on "Heat Wave." I'm currently watching season two of Castle on DVD, and I was wondering about that title. I might just have to pick it up.

    Just fyi, for Captain Mal fans -- at the beginning of the Halloween episode, Nathan Fillion is wearing his Firefly costume. His daughter tells him it's been five years and he should just get over it. :)

  46. Just reread The Graveyard Book and I still loved absolutely every single page of it. Although I’m probably extremely biased since I adore everything Neil Gaiman has ever written. Well, except for that episode of Babylon 5 he wrote. That was just rubbish.

  47. I took Josie's recommendation and bought a copy of The Hunger Games. Wow. Terrific. And I just got books two and three; starting two tonight. Thank you, Josie.

  48. You might wind up finishing three tonight, too.

  49. Hi Billie and everybody- I have Nook- similar to the Kindle- and I started The Hunger Games and read all 3 in 2 days. The best trilogy I read in a very long time. The main character Katniss is one amazing female character if not the best, right up ther with Lisbeth Salander. I cried a few times as well. I just finished and I'm depressed because I want to still be in their lives. Would love to know how you feel since you like strong female characters like Buffy, Nikita, Sydney Bristow etc. Thanks. I had to post when I seen you mention The Hunger Games.

  50. Hi, Jeff: I'm in the middle of book two and I'd probably read all night but Smallville and Supernatural are on. :) I'll post a longer comment when I'm finished the trilogy, for sure.

  51. Hey Dimitri. My Kindle 3 arrived a few days ago and, overall, I'm impressed. I used to have a Kindle 2, but the contrast between page and text wasn't great, and reading it used to give me headaches. (I have rather sensitive eyes... so that likely wouldn't be an problem with everyone. In fact, I may be the only person in the world).

    It doesn't smell like a book... which might not be such a problem as some books (particularly borrowed or second hand books) can smell like the inside of the smelly kid's pencil case. There is a progress meter at the bottom of the page, however, so you do get that feeling of satisfaction as you're reading.

    On the plus side there are thousands of free books online... so there's always plenty to read without having to spend a penny. (And I don't mean going to the toilet.) And, currently, ebooks are cheaper than books (some just costing a few pounds). But, mainly, ebooks don't take up space in your house - a real plus when it comes to one-shot novels.

    I'll still buy reference books, and novels I'll likely reread again. But, mostly, I'm just hoping to stop the never ending clutter. And, with the amount of novels I read in a year, I'll probably make back my money within 12 months.

  52. Re: Master & Commander and Patrick O'Brian

    I loved the film (in my opinion it was one of the most underrated films of the decade) and then became fan of the books. The first one is probably the toughest to slog through - there is too much nautical detail and terminology. It's worth reading b/c it introduces the Aubrey/Maturin characters and how they met but not for much more.

    The rest of the books, starting with the second, are brilliant - erudite, good historical detail (but not to excess), great prose, great humour (there are a few running jokes through the series that get better and better w/ time, such as Aubrey's constantly mixing of proverbs and metaphors and Maturin's constitutional inability to distinguish between port and starboard - not that I can, but then I've never set foot on a ship), great plots and characters (especially Diana Villiers and Pullings). Definitely worth reading.

    I just finished Hilary Mantell's Wolf Hall and thought it was excellent - very well-written and gives an interesting perspective on Cromwell, More & Henry VIII. I know a fair amount about that time period but the book made me look in a new way at the religious politics and especially at More (who comes out definitely worse off) and Cromwell (better off). It's a poignant reading especially when you know what happens to those people (Cromwell, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour).

    I am reading John Lanchester's IOU (he writes fiction but this is a non-fiction account of the financial crisis) and am about to start Dan Simmons' The Rise of Endymion (the last in a quarter of sci-fi with a literary bend - think Chaucer and Keats in space).

  53. Thanks to Irina and Josie for the feedback on the Aubrey/Maturin books. I think I’ll give them a try once I’ve finished with both George RR Martin and Stephen King. Right now I’m reading Wolves of the Calla and I’m already enjoying it a lot more than Wizard and Glass. With any luck I’ll have the entire series finished by Christmas.

  54. I finished The Hunger Games trilogy last night. Very powerful and disturbing story. Couldn't put it down.

  55. Thanks, Paul, for the Kindle 3 info. I had the same problem with the background-text contrast when I borrowed one of these devices (I don't remember which) from a friend, so you're definitely not the only one in the world.

  56. The entire Hunger Games trilogy was on 3 for 2 in Waterstones today so I bought the whole lot. Even the guy on the till was gushing about them, saying they were a fantastic series so I hope they live up to all the hype.

  57. Mark,

    Please share what you think about George RR Martin's The Song of Ice & Fire (maybe there could be a separate topic to avoid spoiling readers who are have not finished yet?) when you're done reading. I'd love a discussion of the series to while away the time until the next installment (or the TV series, whichever comes first).

    Meanwhile, I'm finishing Endymion and a book on music theory. I'm waiting for the new Iain M. Banks's Culture novel to get published later this month (/tapping foot impatiently and checking calendar).

    Any Iain M. Banks fans here?

  58. I just finished Dennis Lehane's new Kenzie/Gennaro novel, Moonlight Mile It's good.

    The best part? He sneaks in a mean-spirited dig at FlashForward on p. 231.

  59. Ooh, thanks, Josie! I didn't realise it was out. I'm always between 5 and 75 years behind with my reading list. I just heard of this really popular series called "The Lord of the Rings"...

  60. It just came out yesterday, so you're almost in the vanguard!

  61. Just finished Iain M. Banks' new Culture novel, Surface Detail. It was a satisfying read for two main reasons: 1) lots and lots of Culture stuff (unlike the last Culture novel, Matter, where the Culture was peripheral) and 2) lots of things happen (unlike Transition where as far as I recall, nothing much happened at all). A few other observations:

    - The first three chapters introduce the three main plot lines and are confusing at first, until one gathers what's going on where;

    - I liked the Culture/Lededje plot line the most; the mercenary plot was OK - it had some fantastic locales (the ice-core water planet springs to mind) and a good not even a twist but rather a wrinkle in the epilogue; the Pavulean Hell plot line seemed the least interesting but I thought it had a good resolution.

    - There are some nods to events from other Culture novels such as Look to Winward and Excession, which long-term readers will probably appreciate (I certainly did).

    - The Abominator-class warship was a good Ship character with lots of swearing and appropriately atrocious behaviour (in its own words, it's a "borderline eccentric and very slightly psychotic Abominator-class picket ship").

    - The Unfallen Bulbitian (there are Fallen ones as well) was one of the best bizarre new characters/places, although I probably will have to reread parts of the book to figure out what exactly happened there.

    - There is a change of tone in Ships and Culture institutions: the Ship names are more wordy and less witty and there are several new Contact sections with vaguely Latinate names (Quietus, Restoria, Numina) which act and sound more bureaucratic than the original Special Circumstances (Contact's dirty tricks and espionage section); one of them even has a sort of uniform and expects monkish devotion from its members, which struck me as very un-Culture-like (I liked the unofficial nicknames for those sections, though - Quietus deals with the dead and is also know as Probate; Restoria deals with hegemonising swarms and is a/k/a Pest Control and Numina deals with Sublimed civilisations and is a/k/a the Department Of What the F**k?)

    All in all, a great read and definitely worth revisiting. It got me thinking about other Banks' books that I've read but this has turned out to be a monster-length post (apologies!) so other books'll have to wait.

  62. My year long quest is finally at an end as I have finished the Dark Tower series. In many ways the final book pretty much summed up my feelings on the series as a whole; there were a lot of things that I loved, a lot that I was disappointed, with but nothing that I really hated. And as for the ending... still processing but I kinda like it.

    Was going to read the prequel comics but I think I’ll skip them for the foreseeable future although if King ever does write that 8th book he promised I will certainly read it.

    Hope you do get around to reviewing the remaining books someday, Josie. I loved your reviews of the earlier books (they are what got me to read the series in the first place) and am curious to know what you thought of how it all ended.

  63. Mark, you're not exactly encouraging me to pick up WaG. I've just busted my way through a stonking 850 pages of Brandon Sanderson's simply marvellous Towers of Midnight and was considering going back to the DT series. Is it going to be worth my while? The text in my volume seven is so small it looks like a spiders wandered across a blank page with inky foot syndrome. Is that final volume going to take me to happy Lala-land?

    I'm currently a few pages into Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars. Since the mad weather started I've hardly moved off my arse. Hurrah!

  64. Paul, I get what you mean about the size of the text, it’s the main reason I struggled with the 7th book.

    Wizard and Glass is a slog and I think getting through it and finishing the series really depends on how strongly you’re invested in the characters. Over the first three books I grew to love Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy so despite my problems with the 4th book I wanted to finish the series and find out what happened to these people and whether or not they all made it to Roland’s fabled Tower. That said, much as I enjoyed the final three books they are not without their flaws. Wolves of the Calla is 700 pages of backstory and build-up for only a few pages of action (but still a much easier read than WaG) while Song of Susannah felt more like an extended prologue for the final book than a separate novel. And the ending is a definite audience splitter; you’ll either love it or hate it.

    On the subject of The Wheel of Time series I take it the new books are actually quite good? I was hesitant to get into the series after Robert Jordan’s death seemingly left it unfinished and someone at work told me not to bother even though Brandon Sanderson was finishing the series. Should I ignore them and pick up a copy of The Eye of the World? They’ve had it on special in Waterstones for a while now and I’m thiiisss close to buying it.

  65. Arrrrrgh! Mark, it's too hard a question. Can I pass?

    If you'd have asked me the question a year ago I'd have said no. Despite reaching incredible heights, two thirds in, the story becomes slow to the point of tedium. Tertiary characters start to take centre stage, whilst main characters seem hardly to feature. The problem, I think, is that Jordan had no end point in mind. He had an endgame, but seemingly no specific time frame in which to bring it home. So many of the characters were just sat around waiting for Tarmon Gai'don (the last battle) to start, their stories seemingly told.

    Volumes 8-10 are undeniably slow. Not enough happens. The books have virtually no internal arc and all seem to serve the main story – slowly building up a massive mythology – but never really doing much in themselves. The mythology of the series is unquestionably immense. Jordan has a spectacular imagination and has created a world which, despite conforming to the usual fantasy mould, has a feel all of its own. There's stuff in this series I just haven't seen elsewhere.

    Probably in responses to fan criticism, volume eleven was faster paced, and somewhat of a return to form (despite having much to make up for). Then Jordan took ill. He promised to wrap up the story in one gigantic last book. Unfortunately he died early in the writing process.

    So Brandon Sanderson took over. By this point I just wanted to see the story done. I was slightly pissed off when, instead of one last book (as promised), the decision was made to finish the story in a further three volumes. Sanderson couldn't pull together all the loose threads in just one book. But I'd invested so much time in the series (almost 20 years), that I decided to stick it out.

    And I'm so glad I did. The Gathering Storm (Sanderson's first effort), is a brilliant novel. The story lines Jordan spent nearly twenty years setting up, suddenly start paying off. The story-lines are epic. The primary characters are back. I'd even go as far as saying I enjoyed The Gathering Storm more than any of the other books in the series. At this point in the game the stakes are massive, the disasters huge, the intrigue mind shattering. Sanderson totally delivers.

    Similarly, Towers of Midnight is another mind blowing entry into the WoT canon. Sanderson doesn't waste a paragraph. Every chapter is focussed on bringing the story home. There's no fat to his writing. The plotting is tight. The twists and turns are as glorious as we all hoped they'd be. And the story just keeps getting bigger and better.

    The next volume's the last in the series, and is scheduled for release early in 2012 (more than enough time for you to catch up). For me, book eleven onwards more than make up for the flabbyness of volumes 8-10. Since you're used to trawling through the odd slow volume with King's DT, this should be a breeze for you. There's so much good stuff to devour. Volumes 1-7 are really rather excellent. And I can't say enough good things about volumes 11-13.

    If you expect a solid but unspectacular start, a gradual book by book improvement, followed by a slight lull in the middle, and then a stonking finale, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Obviously, the last volume's not been released yet so I can't promise it'll all pay off. But if the last three books are anything to go by, there's no reason why it shouldn't. The series is in fine hands. It needs to be. The armies of the world are marching towards Shayol Ghul.

    What we gonna do, Mark? What we gonna do?

  66. While I think on, I should maybe point out that not everybody finds the middle volumes slow going. If you're the type of reader who obsesses over detail and revels in the political machinations of other worlds, you may well enjoy them.

    My buddy thinks they're superb. But he fell off his bike when he was young and bonked his head on the curb. He's not been the same since.

  67. Okay, I’m gonna buy it. But you’re being optimistic if you think I’ll be all caught up by 2012. At the rate I go through books I’ll be lucky to be even half way through by 2018. For god’s sake man I still haven’t finished A Game of Thrones yet! Not that there’s any urgent rush to catch up. If Martin can take his sweet time writing them I can do the same reading them.

  68. News Flash: Josie Feels Better About Ron Howard Directing The Dark Tower!

    Okay, I didn't think my emotional status warranted an entire post. (And that, in a nutshell, is why I'm not on facebook.) But this is a great article about Howard's view of The Dark Tower adaptations:


  69. I haven't changed my mind. I hate Ron Howard and he's the worst mainstream director in Hollywood. Even when he has a very good story, he manages to blow it (A Beautiful Mind, e.g.) He's done two things I really, really like: the narration in Arrested Development, one of the best part of an outstanding series; and Bryce Dallas Howard, his daughter, a very good actress, and currently nÂș2 in my personal most beautiful women alive list.

    On the other hand, Frost/Nixon was well directed. Maybe he has it in him, but I wouldn't count on it.

    Now more related to the post, I'just finished reading Slaughterhouse 5. What a beautiful and sad book! I loved it!

    I'm reading Capote's In Cold Blood and Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses now. ICB doesn't fit in my pocket, so a I take LLD to read on the subway.

  70. Hey Josie, you we're on Facebook once though, right? Or am I having a senior moment? (*grins and then forgets why*)

  71. Yeah, for a bit. I felt completely out of control of my own privacy--I couldn't get the settings the way I wanted them, and the last straw was when Facebook imported a bunch of info from my blogger profile without any warning. I started to feel like I was being stalked by my own page.

    Actually canceling my account, by the way, took over a month.


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