illynew’s #CBR5 Review #4 Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things

Does a collection of short stories count? I read Neverwhere and American Gods, the latter which I love, love, loved, so I wanted to find out how his stories read in shortened versions.

The stories are quite varied. There are poems and funny stories and sad stories, but they almost all of them take place outside this realm. My favorite, of course, was “The Monarch of the Glen”, an American Gods story. Shadow is such a delicious character. The Sherlock Holmes story was spot on for the Holmes canon, but fit with Gaiman’s style, too.

I finished it a few weeks ago and every once in a while one of the stories pops into my mind and clouds over my day a little bit, but in a good way. Namely, “Keepsakes and Treasures”, a story about rich people always getting what they want and getting away with it, and “Other People/Afterlife”, basically, hell. The former seems like something that could be happening right now somewhere in the world.  Some of the stories read like drafts of thoughts. Others are like unfinished dreams that are barely remembered. I had nightmares every night I read a story in the collection.

If you like Neil Gaiman’s writing, you’ll probably like most of the stories. Like, not love. If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s short stories, you’ll definitely like a few of these stories.

illynew’s #CBR5 Review #3 A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

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***SPOILER ALERT*** ***SPOILER ALERT***  ***SPOILER ALERT***  ***SPOILER ALERT***

Book four and book five are supposed to have concurrent timelines, so I made the dumb decision to read them at the same time – a few chapters in one then a few chapters in the other. Don’t do this. It’s confusing.

A Feast for Crows is basically the day-to-day drudgery of war: strategizing, traveling, miscommunications, horrible conditions, betrayals, attacks, etc. However, the day-to-day drudgery in Westeros is more entertaining than any other kind of drudgery one can experience or imagine.

This is a Cersei, Jon Snow, Arya heavy book and I enjoy all of those characters. Cersei’s back story is revealed, but a bit too much in my opinion. She went to a fortune teller when she was young who foretold her marrying Robert, Robert having umpteen illegitimate children, and her having three incest babies. The fortune teller also revealed that she would see all of her children die and be overthrown by someone younger and more beautiful. If true, that’s beyond foreshadowing. That’s a spoiler in the story.  She thinks it’s Margaery, widowed bride of Joffrey and Renly and current bride of Tommen, but that seems unlikely. I think it foretold of Daenerys coming back, but who knows.

After finishing the fourth book and starting the fifth, I think all of Westeros is falling apart just so Jon and Arya could fulfill their potential. Jon is now commander at the Wall, which may have happened if his dad and Robert had lived and the lands weren’t plunged into war. However, I doubt it. And Arya! No way would this be her life: an apprentice at the most mystical monastery? She would’ve been wed to a lesser son of a decent house, most likely against her will. No way would she be allowed to fight and study such things. They’re my favorite characters, so I’m quite pleased.

However, can anyone tell me why Arya didn’t ask Sam about Jon? She knew he was from the Watch, but didn’t ask about her favorite sibling (probably)? Sam wouldn’t know who she was. She could’ve just asked general questions. It really, really bothered me. [Seriously, if anyone wants to book club this, drop me a line: thisisatesttiat@gmail.com. I’m not so much about theme and symbolism, but I need to talk (gossip) about Arya and Sansa and House Stark!]

Jamie gets more interesting with each book. Time away from Cersei has caused him to grow in amazing ways and for the scales to fall from his eyes. He finally realized what his true love really is: An ambitious sociopath who will use any means (including her lady bits) to get what she wants. The only things she wants are for her children to be protected, power, and Jamie. Jamie seems to have shunned her completely and her power seems to be more illusion than real. Karma’s a bitch to bitches, too. I’m digging it.

That’s all I can really remember. Honestly, I don’t recognize most of the characters or how they fit into the war, but it’s still great.

Something interesting: there were fewer shocking deaths and some false death alarms. I think Mr. Martin is growing fond of his characters. We’ll see . . .

Enjoyable quotes:

“Every man should lose a battle in his youth, so he does not lose a war when he is old.”

“Too stupid to learn and too stupid to give up.”

illynew’s #CBR5 Review #2 Broken Harbor by Tana French

What a bloated, cliched, overwrought mess. I don’t understand how this happened. Her first three crime novels were layered with well-developed, multidimensional characters.

This novel orbited around Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, a peripheral character in her three previous novels. I was looking forward to getting to know more about him, but he turned out to be what everyone else judged him to be in the previous novels: rigid, narrow-minded, cold.

A family gets murdered, with the mother surviving, in the town where his family used to holiday. This brings up all sorts of emotional baggage – his mother killed herself there. I understand that such an event is traumatic and fundamentally affects a person and continues to do so for the rest of their life, but the way it kept being brought up, it was like a broken record. Nothing new was revealed, emotionally, just harped on. His need for control and success are rooted in that event. I get it. How about some growth?

It just didn’t make sense. The ham-handed foreshadowing that led to a reveal about his partner and the reveal about what actually took place. Everyone in the story was crazy and it made me feel crazy reading it. I hated all of the characters. None of them were believable. The good friend who turns into a well-meaning stalking creeper? What? I don’t recommend this book. I still recommend all three of her other novels.

illynew’s #CBR5 Review #1 Faithful Place by Tana French

Faithful Place

A detective has to go back to the place where he grew up when belongings of his ex-girlfriend who disappeared 20 years ago are found by a construction crew. He also disappeared on the same night and hasn’t kept in touch with his family because his home life was a fucking horror show. He has to deal with them, his ex-wife, his daughter, and everything he’s been trying so hard not to deal with, but with good reason.

All of Tana French’s novels take place in Dublin, but, other than a few non-American English words, the reader would be hard pressed to know that it’s a “foreign” writer or novel. The people and their stories are universal, which is kind of an odd way to describe really intense crime novels.

I read Tana French’s first book, In the Woods, and loved it. All of her stories seem the same and, even if you know the formula and figure out the ending 5 pages in, you still can’t put them down. This book felt the most intense. Maybe it was just the story, but I know about physical abuse in the home and trying to protect siblings and what that does to everyone. I haven’t come across a book that shows it so well.

If you like the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly, you will definitely like Tana French’s writing. Fewer clichés and more intensity. The characters are all from the same police force, but the novels stand alone. I’ve liked each one better than the last.