Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

Tag: Book review

A brutal and yet elegant takedown (or the art of the negative review)

I have been in a bit of a reading funk of late.  Can’t seem to find a book that really hooks me and allows to get to that place where you just want to read and are able to shut out the world.  Which stinks because 1) I love to read obviously and 2) reading is usually how I relax but for whatever reason it hasn’t been working of late.  I am attempting to shake it up and read some different stuff to see if I can break out of this rut/funk.

In the meantime, allow me to point out a paragraph I truly wish I had written.  As I noted on Tumblr and Twitter, this is the best first paragraph of a book review I have read in a long, long time – maybe ever.  The unfortunate part is that it is an absolutely brutal critique despite its elegance:

It’s unfortunate for Caleb Carr that the craft of writing so often disobeys a beloved American maxim: Hard work pays off. The colossal effort Carr has exerted to produce his latest book, “The Legend of Broken,” weighs distressingly on each of the novel’s 734 pages, including nearly 80 pages of endnotes. This is a fantasy epic — the tale of a fabled Germanic kingdom that rose and fell during the Dark Ages — but with its convoluted prose, its trudging plot and its onslaught of unsurprising period detail, it’s a perverted one. Sweat drips from the pages. Magic does not rise.

A tip o’ the hat to you Mike Peed for that wonderful paragraph.

What do you think? An effective and fair critique or an over-the-top slam better left unsaid?

To give both sides, the Washington Post saw it somewhat differently:

All of this post-modern folderol makes for a rather contorted opening to what quickly turns out to be an excellent and old-fashioned entertainment that evolves into a clever discourse on the history and development of modern warfare.

At its best, “The Legend of Broken” seamlessly blends epic adventure with serious research and asks questions that men and women grappled with in the Dark Ages and still do today.

Personally, I would have to really believe in an author to take on a 750 page read …

Niche blogging this ain't

Statistical meaning of The Long Tail

Image via Wikipedia

Excuse the colloquial and inartful title, but it seems to capture my perspective on this subject.

And what exactly is the subject here? Well, my inability to stick to any particular genre or subject or age group, etc.  It seems to me that basic strategy when it comes to building an audience online is know your audience and give them what they want. Pick what you know, or want to know, and cover it well.  Unfortunately for me, I seem unable to do either. Heck, I can’t even settle on a theme or design for this blog for very long.

(I take that back. My audience is Google and I give them what they want by leaving these review for them to find in their searches. My strategy is bet the house on the long tail …)

But the more specific point I wish to make is that if any one is reading this blog on a regular basis – as opposed to surfing in from search engines (when you have a book report due or when you are looking for reviews in preparation for writing your own, trying to decide whether to read said book, or look for reactions to a book you just read) – then I want to warn you about the book reviews headed your way in the days and weeks to come.

You might already have noted that there has been a higher ratio of non-fiction of late and with a spiritual or theological flavor. This will continue. I am not really sure why but I have gotten onto a theological kick of late and so have been reading books in that realm. I have both more time on my hands and less information to process these days so non-fiction is something I am able to read more of. Right now it’s theology and spirituality but there is sure to be history, culture and politics thrown in as well.

And since I review fiction faster than I do non, I end up with a large backlog of non-fiction books to post on. I tend to post these then as I am able and am in the mood. So in reducing this backlog, I will be foisting more reviews that touch on theology and Christianity.

But as soon as those who enjoy such reviews get comfortable, I am sure I will switch back to reading young adult fantasy or literary fiction or some other genre or focus. But to be fair, the title of the blog is Collected Miscellany. Eclecticism and unpredictability is the name of the game around here.

Hence the title of this post …

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