Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mazes, psychopaths, terrorists, archaeologists, and Scrabble enthusiasts

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a GREAT read. I listened to it as an audiobook and the reader was fantastic. It reminded me quite a bit of LOST, in both good and bad ways. Good, because it was a really interesting story with lots of spooky, exciting action, but bad because it sometimes wanted to be bizarre just for the sake of it.

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one better than the first - 4.5 stars, and another seriously brilliant performance from the audiobook reader. Also, I read somewhere years ago that it's hardly possible to pull off a love triangle involving two women and a man. The Scorch Trials goes for it...and succeeds, to some degree. That said, I hate Teresa's guts and I hope she is eliminated in the next book. Mwahahahahahaha.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read (listened to, actually) this book because I caught an excerpt of it on This American Life a month or two ago. Turns out that excerpt was the best part. Look, I'm not stupid - I understand that a book about psychopathy, of all things, might have a bit of an edge to it. And for the most part, the author did a good job at serving up generous helpings of quirk with all the disturbing stuff. In the end, though, this book was not for me. Too disturbing in some parts.

I would recommend listening to the excerpt from the TAL episode and then reading the chapter about Rachel North. Those were the best parts.

Also, I have to say it, this book suffered greatly from the circumstances in which I read it. I listened to it in its entirety while trying to sleep on the floor of Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul and it was a looong night. So there was that, too, that influenced my opinion.

Finally, I would like to have the author's accent as my own. Thanks.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second reading.

I didn't like it as much this time. I noticed some sloppy errors and places where the research was so thin you could see through it. For example, the author mis-uses the word "hostages" several times (when he means "hostage-takers," or "prisoners," even), and the characters are not introduced evenly. Sometimes they're just thrown into the story without any background information, and then a few pages later is when we get the paragraph describing their history. Which is fine, except it's not done consciously.

Also, there were a few places in the book where the author would say something like, "the provenance of the farewell letter is unknown and has never been looked into." Well, gee, if only someone would, oh I don't know, WRITE A BOOK about these events and LOOK INTO IT.

But it sounds like I hated the book the second time. Nope. Still liked it. Just pointing out some weaknesses I didn't notice the first time around.

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I thought Word Freak would be a happy look into the lives and tournaments of Scrabble enthusiasts, said enthusiasts being gainfully employed people with a quirky, extreme interest in words. Instead, it wallows in the depressing world of people who live in their parents' basement, overdose on caffeinated herbal supplements, and fart and belch and curse loudly during competition. Oh, and they don't love words, either - they are interested only in tricks like memorizing the list of acceptable 2- and 3-word plays. Ugh. Get me out of here.

Needless to say, I did not come close to finishing this book. It's just not what I thought it would be.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading.

Replace archaeologist's wife with academic's wife, and 1930s with 2000s, and Agatha Christie's experiences in Syria are my own. It is amazing to me how her story resonated so much with me given the almost century that has passed in the meantime. It reached the point where I wanted to read every other paragraph aloud to Jeremy because it was so familiar - squalid hotels, houses falling apart, noisy construction everywhere, hilarious cultural misunderstandings, the struggles of trying to learn Arabic, the inconvenience of traveling in the region, the food, the disagreements among religions and nationalities, and the beauty of the seasons. Everything was so dear to my heart.

There's nothing special about the writing except that, you know, it's Agatha Christie so it's kind of brilliant. And I actually think it peters out a little toward the end (it's a very informal, jaunty, patchy memoir). But I love love love this book. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites.


Jeremy Palmer said...

I loved Tell Me How You Live as well. I hope we can get the Dashner books here...

Bridget said...

FYI, we own the two Dashner books on audio, almost-free, courtesy of :)

Lindsay Gunnell said...

Oooh good. I need a few great book recommendations especially on audio. Thanks!

Lark said...

I haven't read Scorch Trials yet...I better get on that! Isn't the 3rd one coming out soon, or now?


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