Kindling #3

This post is from a series of review posts - for the whole list, see my Kindling page.

There's a bit of a short lull while I work out how to write the next few posts and what exactly they should be about, but I've been doing a lot of reading recently due to travel/leaving work; as I was about to clear some books off my Kindle I figured it worth reviving an earlier trend of mine and captured notes for what I made it through recently for those interested now or in the future. So, to summarize my thoughts for the novels just removed:

Dark Places (Gillian Flynn) - Having seen Gone Girl and immediately thinking it'd be awesome if it were a Palahniuk book focussed on Amy, it seemed a good idea to read another from the same author. Dark Places is Flynn's second novel (before Gone Girl) and already is being turned into a movie, which surprised me a bit as it's a lot less marketable than first movie. The characters are certainly strange enough to be from a Palahniuk novel (extreme family history, unusual behaviour in normal situations, add some kleptomania and money issues) but the underlying plot seems fairly...sane. Not to say it's bad, and probably much more approachable for those not used to the Damned/Doomed-style absurdity, but not quite what I was after. Hey, at least I get emails from Amazon titled 'Sharp Objects' :)

Endgame: The Calling (James Frey) - This is the first in a trilogy of YA fiction around a teenage battle royal; nothing new there, after hunger games, divergent etc this genre is really being done to death, but in the case of Endgame, it includes a real-world puzzle solving and cash prize component, along the lines of Ready Player One (which I enjoyed). Endgame is certainly airport fiction - not for invoking any deep contemplation of challenging ideas, but still easily consumable. The writing style I found pretty weird (third person present, Patrick says) and the characters are too well-trained and super-human-y plus the Endgame rules too unclear to make much sense out of why anyone is doing what they are, so perhaps skip it unless you've read all the other good YA or want to compete.

Thief of Time (Terry Pratchett) - RIP Terry! After March 12, I felt I had to read a new Discworld novel, and a time-related one seemed ideal; I'll keep this short, and just say that if you haven't read Discworld, you should! If you have, you'll probably like this, or know enough to figure out yourself if you'll want to read it.

The Gemini Effect (Chuck Grossart) - Amazon recommended this one, as it was a finalist in their 2014 Breakthrough Novel award. Usually the recommendations are pretty good, but this seems to have really missed the mark. The premise sounds like a Crichton novel I'd enjoy: some old army biological weapon gets into the public, infects animals, and humans try to fight back to contain it. Except every character is some genius-attractive-caring-gritty-scientist-general-leader who is in love with / attracted to / falling for all the other genius-attractive-caring-gritty-scientist-general-leaders around them. The clich├ęs galore removes all the actual interest in how these people will respond to the situation and makes much of it fairly predictable. Unfortunately, I was reading mostly to figure out how they'd resolve everything (I couldn't think of how to do it, and my internal bet was some Deus-ex-machina like Signs or War of the Worlds) but no, not really any satisfying ending. So I'd suggest avoid this, unless you're looking for how to write stereotypes.

The Buried Giant (Kazuo Ishiguro) - another recommendation, probably after reading previous Murakami or Fantasy novels. Certainly a pleasant book to read, but maybe more in the style of watching some arty short movie where I feel I should be enjoying the craft moreso than the content. The idea of memories being removed, and how much you'd want to get them back, is really interesting, but the slow pacing means a lot of the characters and world can't be explored - perhaps I'm supposed to fill in those parts myself? The fantasy setting itself was unusual too - I couldn't tell if it's capitalising on a middle-ages fiction revival, but that didn't seem to add much, it could have been set anywhere with low population density (like...Iceland is also popular? or space?) and have worked; but as with Endgame, I found I didn't learn enough about the rules of the land or time to know why the characters were deciding to do what they were. Still, enjoyable nevertheless, and it was nice to change pace from the stuff like Endgame or Gemini Effect I was reading while travelling.

Revival, and Mr. Mercedes (Stephen King) - Two of the more recent releases by King, I think the former is a lot closer to the style of writing that I read him for (other than Dark Tower): a New England setting that is always clearly on the dark side of normal, you know bad stuff will happen (or is happening, off-page somewhere) but the pacing keeps leading you on until everything is revealed much later. Mercedes is a bit like that too, but more on the crime-dark rather than fantasy/mystery-dark. It's still quite good as a crime novel, and the characters end up rather interesting and likeable, although for I prefer my bad guys a bit more...psychologically adept (Hannibal-style). Still, it looks like there's a new one coming out with the same protagonist and two support characters, so that's on my list.

Currently reading: 

In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) - on my list of good novels to read for a while, it's still pretty early but I'm appreciating his story telling style. Still in the character-development phase but there's been enough plot to be interested in what happens, but also random back story to explain it when it does - plus, generous comma usage, which matches how the voice in my head reads things as you can probably tell from my blog posts too, and even this sentence...

I hope that helps someone! Note: These are just the ones I was clearing off the device, there's a big gap back to the last post which included some interesting stories too: The City & The City, The Circle (lol!), A Song of Ice and Fire #3-#5, The Luminaries, Amnesia, ... If anyone wants to know about these, let me know too, but otherwise, I should probably just do this more often.

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