Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Five Stars- that's right, I give this selection a full five stars. I rarely give any book a full five stars; only the ones I think are truly exceptional. This is the second time I've read this one and I loved it just as much this time as I did the first time. Now that I'm done, I think I'll read it again, only backwards this time. Seriously. I love this story so much, I intend to read it backwards- as a method of studying plot, characterization, hiding clues, and whatnot to improve my own sense of story telling.
As a writer, I am in awe of this guy's skill. He is a master craftsman. As a reader, I am captivated by this story. All 700+ pages were delicious. I went to bed each night and dreamed of the world he created, the characters he brought to life, and even though I knew the plot, my imagination took all these things and made new connections and new possibilities, new roads for the story to take.
I could spend the better part of an hour reviewing all the reasons I loved this book, but I won't. I'll just say that if you love fantasy, no- if you love reading, no- if you ever take the trouble of BREATHING, you must put down whatever mediocre collection of words you're reading now and pick up The Name of the Wind. It's possible you may not LOVE it like I do, but it will be worth your while, I promise. Books like this one are the reason I continue to plod through lesser works of fiction. Every now and then, you'll find a real diamond among all the zircons.
(FYI-there is some mild language, very mild.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

This is the second book in the Acts of Faith series. I'm not usually a huge fan of religious fiction, but I read the first one, The Centurion's Wife, for a book club and enjoyed it so much, I wanted to check out the second installment. I think the thing I find so compelling about this series is that it's not just a statement of faith, it focuses a lot on the Judean and Roman cultures during the first century. Plus, it deals with the historical factors as well. It strikes me as being a well researched, intelligent and faith promoting project. This one wasn't quite as good as the first one, but I still enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to finding out what happens with the purely fictional characters, as well as seeing how the authors present certain events for the religious and historical figures. I give this one four stars and recommend it for anyone open to a good, clean, uplifting read.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

"More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you---and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you." ~from
the summary flap in the book

What exactly is a friendship between two women for 30 years? How is it possible to be friends this long? What would it be like? This book answers these questions and gives you an insight into this type of a sustainable friendship. For one thing, it always turns out differently than I ever expected. Perception is a key part of what really happens between two friends and that's often misunderstood at one point in a lifelong friendship like this one. As related through this quote from Kate in the book:

"I guess no one stays friends for more than thirty years without a few broken hearts along the way." (pg. 442)

This is the best way to describe this book which documents the lives, careers and a 30 year friendship span between TullyandKate. In their own respect, each individual is captivating enough but for completely different reasons. Each is driven but also differently. I wondered if it was very realistic to have two people so different be friends for so long. Overall, I'd like to hope this could be the case so I bought into it and read through this book in a week. Plus, I had felt the need after a dry spell of not reading that I really needed to read something from beginning to end. Of course, there were pros and cons to reading this book and in all fairness it is my first book I've read by Kristin Hannah. She has written a lot of books and I have no idea what they are like.
Pros: I did like the characters even if they sometimes seemed to good to be true and cliche at times. I actually happened to care a bit about them, hoped for improvement as they learned from life's experiences and wanted to find out what would happen to them. It was an emotional, thought-provoking ride through the memory lane of the 70's, 80's, 90's and today. I liked the references to these time periods and felt that they were well-researched.
Cons: This is women's fiction in the modern sense so there were those sex scenes which were a bit much for me. I questioned whether the characters actually matured and learned from their mistakes. Plus, I wanted to believe that a lot of these amazing things could happen to girls like Tully and Kate but in the end my perception fell flat in many of the plot twists of this story. It was entertaining but not as realistic as I had hoped it could be even when I really wanted it to be so much more in the end. Plus, it did seem similar to other ideas I've already seen or read before.
I've had some great discussion about this book with friends already. I think there will be a few moments of endearing scenes, such as the freedom that comes from being able to ride a bike without tightly gripping the steering wheel, that were written beautifully that will stick with me.

528 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 Reprint edition (January 6, 2009)
My rating: 3 stars

You may also like these perceptions:
Stephanie's Written Word
Ashley's Library
Steamy Dreamer

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Strange Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson

There were two stories in the edition I read. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Weir of Hermiston.
They both get three stars from me. I confess I was a little disappointed with Jekyll and Hyde. I'd never read it before, but was familiar with the basic premise of the story. Stevenson could have done so much more with this concept. The whole thing was very abrupt, moving from the opening mystery to each new revelation with such rapidity that I barely had a chance to enjoy the process of discovery. He could have given it so much life and excitement throughout, but he left it limp and devoid of flavor. Pretty ironic how it could be both fast and lifeless. I know he meant it more as a commentary on the duality of man's nature than as an entertaining piece of fiction, but I was still disappointed.
The Weir of Hermiston was the piece he was working on when he died, and so it is incomplete. He did have some idea of where the story would go, which he shared with some relatives. This book included a brief synopsis of his intended plot for the story. And I think that had he lived to finish it, it could have been a really compelling story. I do have a couple issues, though. The first is that he tells the story mostly in long narratives. Not very interesting to read. The second is that when he does use dialogue, he writes it using the phonetics of the lower-class Scottish accent. I could understand 90% of it, but I think I missed a few key points along the way. Again, I think if he had lived to finish it, he might have been able to work those flaws out of the book.
With less than 200 pages combined for both stories, it took me all month to work my way through. It was interesting enough to persist, but I found I could only focus for short periods on either story.