February 2016 – Book Review

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What a marvelous book. I’m not much into science-fiction or fantasy, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Magicians. It’s a grown-up, modernized mash-up of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I loved every minute of it. Quentin Coldwater travels to Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, where he meets Alice, Eliot, Janet, Penny, and a slew of other magicians as they tackle and refine their abilities. Scattered throughout the novel is a series of books set in Fillory where the Chatwin children visit. And, just maybe, Quentin gets to visit, too. A truly great, witty, fun read. Lev Grossman’s prose is a delight to read. I’m so glad there are two more books after this because I never want to leave this world. 4/5

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Anyone who follows me on Goodreads knows that I had trouble with The Devil in the White City. I’m still really quite torn. There were elements I liked and there were elements that left me completely uninterested. The biggest problem I have is that there are two, in all reality, separate stories that don’t really go together. On the one hand, we have Chicago’s World’s Fair: it’s planning, creation, operation, and aftermath. On the other hand, we have the story of H. H. Holmes: murderer. Everything about H. H. Holmes is fascinating. Everything about the World’s Fair is generally boring; I just could not get into it. Unfortunately, nothing really clicked until the midway point, and the only reason I finished the book was because I had already invested so much time into it and so I might as well have finished it (in addition to larger sections dedicated to Holmes). There is a singular mention of Holmes attending the Fair, and that’s it. That doesn’t work for me. That’s not enough. Larson’s writing is good, but even he can’t spin the “connections” between the two stories. I would much rather have read a book just on Holmes, with the World’s Fair simply being the setting. I really don’t have any desire to ever read it again. Though, with a film adaptation coming up, I will say I’ll watch what Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio come up with. 2.5/5

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My Murakami Marathon continues with his fourth novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. This novel is wholly unlike any of the previous Murakami novels I’ve read; it truly cannot compare. There are two interlocking stories here. Hard-Boiled Wonderland follows the path of an unnamed man who meets a mystifying Professor and his granddaughter and gets caught up in the “shuffling” of information, discovers his past, and plans for the future, all wrapped around a rather unique mystery. The End of the World follows the path of an unnamed man who is stuck within a walled town, aptly named End of the World, and becomes the Dreamreader, someone who reads information-laced particles of light that emanates from skulls.

Part detective story, part post-apocalyptic utopia (though, of course, utopia it is not), wrapped in post-modern dreams and themes. It’s a truly bizarre book, but Murakami’s strength lies in his description and the juxtaposition of these two connected stories. Every page was truly interesting and captivating, mesmerizing. A seriously good read. 4/5

 

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