Went back and gave this four stars instead of five. Still enjoyed it.
I picked up Havemercy because one of its coauthors also cowrote The Shoebox Project, a hilarious, poignant coming-of-age novel that happens to be Harry Potter fan fiction. She is scandalously talented, and her first published novel did not disappoint!
This was a beautiful, compelling pageturner of a novel, largely because of the fantastic characters. They were complex, charming, and deeply flawed, and watching their collisions and connections was simply a treat. It helps that the authors write love stories in what I shall call the George Eliot Tradition of Tormented Romance, where each scene is bursting with tension and nothing is ever resolved and if there weren't interludes about other characters, they would probably have to wheel you away to the emergency room, or possibly the psych ward.
The worldbuilding was also very good, and it was beautifully written (although occasionally a bit overwritten for my tastes.) The plot itself was possibly the weak point; it was rather simple and I didn't buy a couple things, although it was all nicely executed. Also, the fact that the first half of the novel is pretty much only driven by character interactions, while the second half had plot all of a sudden, made it feel slightly disjointed. I did think the ending clarified the themes nicely, though - it was a story about exile and belonging, but it was also a meditation on the wartime experience, a theme you don't often read about in fantasy novels even though most are about war. We really got a sense of what had been lost, and what it meant to survive.
Generally I liked it so much that these issues didn't bother me so much. Overall, a fantastic debut by two very talented authors!
Definitely a compelling and moving novel. The writing wasn't exactly my cup of tea; it was certainly well-written, but long conjunction-heavy sentences are not what I look for in a novel. I'm not sure the author ever justified his selective use of apostrophes either. Still, I liked it, and it was a very quick read.
This novel was not entirely devoid of merit. The worldbuilding was almost good, the main character was, in theory, almost interesting, and the writing was, at times, almost competent. And the twist at the end would have actually been clever if anything that had come before it had been in any way compelling.
However, the whole thing failed because it was not actually a novel. Novels have plots; they move forward. This was a tour of the author's urban fantasy universe, clumsily overlayed with a plot that was more like a Chutes and Ladders game than a logical narrative. Tours of universes can work if the universes are deep and vivid enough to warrant them; this universe was not. It was in many ways, flat and repetitive. Nor was the main character's constant monologues to the woman he's with about everything they see a good way to make me like him.
The novel is also supposed to be funny, I think. If this was so, then almost everything would be forgiven, because it definitely has a film noir pastiche thing going on. However, it is not really that funny.
I think I can also safely say that this novel has the worst love scene I have ever read. Alas, even this was not funny.
There really was some interesting raw material in here; it was just so badly executed, and insubstantial on its own, that it didn't redeem the whole.
According to the cover of the book, this guy was on the New York Times bestseller's list. LAME.
This book gets points for being a murder mystery about Oscar Wilde; I enjoyed the setting and writing. However, it didn't totally live up to its premise. Particularly, I thought the large cast of characters was established clunkily, the first-person Watson-like narrator was rather irritatingly non-present in his own life, and the murder mystery itself not particularly elegant. It also really bothered me that none of the characters, including Wilde, were particularly proactive about what appeared to be a serial killer on the loose, and kept chalking things up to coincidence.
It's possible that some of the problems I had with the characters are due to the fac that I couldn't get hold of the first book in the series; mystery novels are usually meant to stand alone, but possibly we got to know the narrator, for instance, better in the first volume.
I really liked some of the stories from this collection (particularly "Reports Of Certain Events In London," which convinced me to check it out in the first place.) Mieville is an elegant writer and interesting worldbuilder.
However, the collection as a whole was lackluster because the stories began to follow an obvious narrative pattern. Nearly all of them had very passive narrators who either witnessed something horrific or fantastic happening and ended the story feeling haunted by it, or witnessed something horrific and fantastic happening and decided at the end to do something about it - but we never find out whether they are successful. There's lots of good set-up, but Mieville dodges the work of following through to a conclusion.
There are obviously billions of ways to write short stories, and not every story needs to end with the protagonist accomplishing a goal, learning something about himself, and living happily every after. However, the atmosphere of horror, mystery, and uncertainty that Mieville accomplishes through writing about passive protagonists becomes a bit stale with repetition. I'm not particularly judging him as an author; this is his first collection of short stories and it makes sense that his magazine publications have used a formula that works for him. Nevertheless, I hope his longer works are a bit more full in their execution!
This is my second time reading Wuthering Heights, and it is undeniably a Great Literary Work (i.e., fun to analyze.) I gave it four stars because it was an interesting read and because I would feel guilty otherwise.
Nevertheless, something still doesn't click with me and Wuthering Heights. It's a novel that is supremely disinterested in my approval, which is cool, but not very satisfying from a readerly point-of-view. I am puzzled by its characters, and intrigued by them, but at the end of the day I cannot persuade myself to care about them very much.
It's still a neat novel - just not one that rests in the deepest cockles of my heart. Oh well.
(Also, the Broadview Edition is *terrible* - all of the footnotes assume this really ridiculous narrow historical reading of the novel, and let you know every time Emily Bronte uses a word that Shakespeare used in Othello in a completely different context. Because OBVIOUSLY she did that on purpose.)
I liked this novel. It had some strong characters, an engaging plot, and an absolutely fantastic setting. John Irving is one of the only contemporary realistic novelists that I go out of my way to read.
However, I think I have to take issue with the reviewers whose opinions were pasted on the back cover, insisting that this is "clearly" John Irving's best novel. I am inclined to disagree. What mainly troubled me was the protagonist, Homer Wells. Homer Wells is not an absolutely horrible main character; he has a personality and an interesting life, but he totally fails to jump off the page. When I think of him, the first thing that comes to mind is his favorite response, "Right." I guess John Irving is intentionally writing about someone whose whole schtick is to be as accommodating as possible to those around him, but he doesn't give Homer enough of an inner life to compensate, and what we get is someone who is basically "a receptacle for plot" (to quote, I think, my creative writing prof.) Irving can write memorable characters; there are a couple in Cider House Rules, but Homer Wells isn't one of them. It's like if Homer wrote the Iliad all about Menelaus. Sure, stuff happened to him, but he's not the one you care about.
In contrast, my favorite Irving novel, A Prayer For Owen Meany, also has a main character who is not quite as interesting as, well, Owen Meany himself, but he is still really interesting. He has nuances, he has a thought process, and he has an absolutely crucial friendship with Owen Meany. He is not Holmes, but he's Watson. While Homer is... well, Homer is Frodo. I like Frodo okay, but I am really glad that most of the Mordor bits of Lord of the Rings were narrated by Sam. Okay, I'll stop using weird literary metaphors.
Related to this are my mixed feelings about the ending. I didn't strongly dislike the ending, but it didn't move me the way the ending to such a big story should. I was mostly like, "Oh. Okay." It was clever, but I needed more than clever.
It was still a very good novel, prettily written (occasionally the omniscient narration was a little distancing, but generally it was pulled off), and worth reading just for the rich setting. But I still like both Owen Meany and the World According to Garp more. (And the Goodreads ratings agree with me!)