Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date read: August 16 to October 22, 2013
Read count: 1

If British humor, especially British apocalyptic humor, is not something you enjoy, then look elsewhere.

I like the concept, I like the writing, and I like the story overall; however there were certain time periods that dragged on for a couple chapters too long and a couple subplots that stayed past their welcome. The characters were fun though, and the dialogue was clever, witty (without being punny), and hilarious at times (again, without being punny). All of these things appeal to me because I enjoy British humor and a chatty meandering narration. If neither of these things interest you, then I would imagine you’d have a hard time getting through this book.

That’s also to say I had a hard time getting through this book (notice the date read) even though I liked almost everything about it. The sequences following the opening “baby switching debacle” were most difficult for me. I found Adam’s formative years to be quite a drag, not because this subplot was poorly written or too British for my understanding, but because I just don’t like reading about overly precocious children in general and often find many of stories about clever children to be a bore, regardless of the strength of prose or story. Once I got through Adam’s childhood and adolescent years, the story picked up speed and I couldn’t wait to get to “the end of times.” And what a ride that way.

This book is the first Neil Gaiman book that does not have a disappointing ending, imo. I think Terry Pratchett must have helped a lot on this front.

* * * * *

Still as good and as satisfying as I remembered.

It’s not often I say this, but the audiobook is really good and a joy to listen to. The narrator, Martin Jarvis, really gets much of the book’s humor and you can tell he fully embraced its zany, over-the-top-ness, so listening to him read was almost like watching the book come to life. And I really like the way he portrayed Crowley and Aziraphale, esp during their mad sprint to stop the apocalypse.

The only thing that I still quibble about is the ending. Seems somewhat lacking considering this is a story about the end of the world and all. I just wish there’d been more to the inevitable showdown, instead of an ending that leaves room for a possible–wishful?–sequel.

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Review: The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date read: October 10 to 14, 2013
Read count: 5

Still as good as ever and each story is still as chilling as when I first read it, especially “The Lottery.” I’ve read this short story collection from cover to cover at least five times and reread individual stories within this collection countless times, and they still get to me every time I come back to them.

Jackson has a way of turning every day life events into something memorable at the end of the story. Although many of these stories aren’t quite as haunting as “The Lottery,” they’re disturbing in their own rights.

Jackson also has a way of turning mundane situations into something chilling, and that’s what I love most about the stories in this collection. They’re my favorite for one reason and one reason only: they can get to you when you least expect it. A story can start out as calm and dull as any other story about every day life in middle America, but then somewhere along, the narration takes a quick turn and the mundane becomes disorienting. That’s when the fun really begins.

From experience, I find Jackson’s short stories more interesting than her full-length novels because psychological turns in narrative work better in short form, for Jackson.

Review: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: October 11 to 18, 2013
Read count: 1

Good and quite enjoyable if you buy into the whole “strangers hitting it off and over-sharing life stories in public” premise, but not so good or enjoyable if you find all of that unbelievable. Unfortunately, I fall into the latter group.

While I enjoyed Highsmith’s prose, clever social commentary, and turns of phrases, I could not buy into the premise nor circumstances of this story. I find both hard to believe and even harder to believe that one of these two strangers just happen to be a cunning sociopath with a penchant for mind games and the other stranger just happen to be stuck in an inconvenient life situation, which the former stranger thinks he can solve. And these two characters just happen to run into each other. It’s all too coincidental for me and requires too much of a leap (or reach) to grasp. I expect there to be more from noir fiction than a required leap of faith, and I expect more from Highsmith because The Talented Mr. Ripley was such a well-crafted adventure.

However, if you do buy into all of the coincidences presented in this book and like noir fiction in general, then you would probably find this book highly enjoyable. Highsmith’s prose adds depth and strength to an otherwise tepid story. The way in which she handles minor revelations is what I like most about this story. She also brings up a few interesting questions regarding social decorum and getting away with murder.