gwendydd

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El talento de Mr Ripley

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This book is a lot like a Hitchcock movie - the main character is slimy and cruel, yet we get deep enough into his head to see his powers of self-deception, to understand why he does the nasty thing he does, and to almost sympathize with him in his moments of insecurity. Almost. As much as the inner workings of Tom Ripley's mind are fascinating, and as much as Highsmith has created him in vivid and believable detail, ultimately he's not a likable character, and as a reader it's hard to know whether to root for him or not.All in all, the book is entertaining, although it does move slowly at times. At the end I felt a little empty or unfulfilled though.I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was good.
The Passage (Abridged): A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)

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I was hesitant to read this, because it's not the kind of book I normally read, and I really don't like vampires. However, these aren't your normal Anne Rice/Stephanie Meyer sexy vampires - they are victims of disease, and the disease strips them of their intelligence.The first part of the book is the story of how the vampire apocalypse happens, in the present day. I enjoyed this thoroughly - the characters were engaging, and the story was suspenseful. I was initially disappointed when the book then jumped ahead a hundred years to tell the story of how people lived in this post-apocalyptic world, but soon found myself thoroughly interested in the characters and their mysterious quest.There's nothing tremendously profound here, but it's a good, engaging, suspenseful story, and the characters are engaging, if a little flat or predictable. All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable escape - good beach reading.I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed it. Scott Brick's narration is very good.
Angelmaker

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I had really high hopes for this book, and for the first hundred pages or so, I was sure they would be fulfilled and even exceeded. I absolutely loved Goneaway World, and Angelmaker has the same zany, edgy, creative humor. The writing in Angelmaker is much more mature than Goneaway World. The characters are great, the story is fun and funny, and I was having a great time.Until.... [mild spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph] the middle of the book got really bogged down. The plot stalled for a while, and so did the sub-plots. The big idea behind the book also fell a little flat. The device that is supposed to bring about the end of the world does so by removing subjectivity from the world - the bees of doom somehow make everyone always know and tell the truth. The book never really explains how that will end the world, or explores the implications of truth. So the thing that drives the entire plot never entirely made sense to me. Then, there were several torture scenes. I'm not so prudish as to be offended by torture per se, but if I'm going to have to sit through many many pages of really horrific torture, I want it to be for a good reason. I never felt like the torture drove the plot or enhanced the story in any way - it was horrible and nightmarish, and didn't seem worth it to me. Ostensibly, the point of the torture is that it turns mild-mannered Joe Spork into Crazy Joe, but the transformation felt very false. Joe spends the whole book struggling with the tension between following in the footsteps of his gangster father, or his law-abiding clockmaker grandfather. This tension felt false, and it didn't seem genuine that choosing the gangster path was the right one. Clearly, Harkaway wants us to root for the gangster side of Crazy Joe, but it's never really clear why.The end of the book was lots of fun, and had a good, all-out, explosive climax. But I the character development didn't make much sense, and parts of the plot just didn't fit in very well.
Border Songs

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The characters are what makes this book really enjoyable. The storyline is quirky and a bit absurd, but the characters are even quirkier, very interesting, and very engaging.
Double Cross: The True Story of The D-Day Spies

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This is a fascinating look at the double agents in World War II who ultimately helped to convince Germany that the D-Day landing was going to be at a different place and different time than it actually was. This is very much a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story. The spies are a strange group of people, many of them strangely dysfunctional or delusional or utterly brilliant. It's amazing that Great Britain managed to capture or turn all of Germany's spies, and amazing that the Germans were convinced that the double agents were actually working for them.The book does give the Nazis short shrift - it makes all of the Nazis look like fools, when actually their reasons for believing the spies were more complex. Nonetheless, this is a fun and fascinating story, and Macintyre tells it well.
Lavinia

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This is the story of the Aeneid, told from the point of view of Lavinia, Aeneas' last wife. Lavinia is a minor character in the Aeneid, which gives Le Guin free rein to create her character. It is easy to sympathize with Lavinia, because she reacts to the events of the Aeneid the same way a lot of modern readers do - the warfare and bloodshed are tedious and painful to her, and she doesn't understand why men insist on so much violence. Instead, she focuses on serving her gods and fulfilling her destiny. Lavinia is also interesting because she is aware that she is a fictional character. She has visions in which she meets Virgil, and she questions her own nature as a fictional being. She also seems to have the understanding that her story is dying, since the story is read less and less these days.All in all, an interesting take on a classic.
The Unspoken

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I don't have any specific criticisms of this, but it wasn't really my thing. It was amusing, and a good take on the Gothic theme of "girl meets house." But to me the characters seemed fairly stereotypical, and although the story was clever, I didn't find any of it terribly surprising.
Dodger

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A fun romp through Victorian London, full of Pratchett's typical lovable and plucky characters. Pratchett readily admits that he has sugar-coated the seedy underside of London where Dodger flourishes. This is a fun homage to Dickens - Charles Dickens is a character in the book, and a lot of his most famous characters/titles/moments are inspired by Dodger.
Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land

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Crowley imagines what Byron would have written if Byron had written a novel. It's a semi-autobiographical story, full of Romantic and Gothic conventions. The novel is entirely convincing - it reads just like a novel of the period. There is also a frame story. Actually, two frame stories: at the end of each chapter, there are notes attributed to Ada Lovelace, who encrypted the novel in her last painful months while she was dying of cancer in an attempt to hide the novel from her mother. Meanwhile, we also read a series of emails sent to and from the woman who discovered the novel and who relies on her girlfriend to unencrypt it and her estranged father (a Byron expert) to explain its significance and help her understand the book.The frame story works very well to fully expose the genius of Crowley's hypothetical Byron novel. To fully appreciate the novel, you really have to know a lot about Byron himself, and about the controversy over whether his personality was misunderstood or not. The frame stories also add another theme to the novel that would not be there otherwise - the theme of relationships between fathers and daughters. Ada Lovelace was a child when Byron died, and her mother tried to keep him away from her, so for her, reading and encrypting the novel is a way of getting to know her father and finding his qualities in herself. Smith, the woman who discovers the novel, gets in touch with her estranged father to understand it, and ends up learning about him and reconciling with him. In some ways this theme was a little underdeveloped - the daughters have a respect and love for their fathers, and a capacity to forgive them, that I'm not sure the fathers deserve.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet jumps back and forth between the 1980s and the 1940s, telling the story of a Chinese boy who grew up in Seattle during WWII, and now as an aging widower is revisiting his childhood memories. In particular, he focuses on a forbidden romance between himself and a Japanese girl, who was sent to an internment camp.I feel bad criticizing this book, because it is a good book... but in some ways, its very goodness is what bothers me about it. It's good in a very academic way, in that it obeys the checklist of all the things that can make book good (character development - check; story has a strong relationship to its setting - check; historical accuracy - check; believable dialog - check; immigrant child struggling to cope with relationship between traditional family culture and American culture - check). But because of this academic goodness, I felt like everything about it fell a little flat. It was missing some intangible, indescribable thing that I guess I'll call "soul." I have some specific criticisms too - mostly that the relationship between Henry and Keiko did not feel at all like a first romance between 13-year-olds, but like a much more mature relationship between older teenagers. Yes, I know kids grew up faster then, but their devotion to each other did not feel convincing to me. I also found Henry decisions towards the end to be totally inexplicable.I'm glad I read the book, but if I didn't live in Seattle I'm not sure I would be glad I read it. The parts of the book that relate to Seattle's history are very interesting and very well done.I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was quite good.
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