Monthly Archives: December 2013

KayKay #CRB5 Review #56 The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

sisters-brothers

Minute Review

I picked this book up based on a comment from I read on Cannonball (maybe Jen K?), read the sample and was intrigued by the writing style.  The story moves quickly, two assassins (brothers whose last name is Sisters) are heading to California to execute a job.  They have several interesting interactions on the way, and even more when they arrive.  Not only is this a story of the physical journey the brothers take, but the emotional/spiritual journey that Eli takes.  I found it to be very enjoyable ended up giving this book 4 stars.

Here’s a breakdown…

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

World Building

This story takes place in the old west, during the California gold rush.  I normally don’t read Westerns (or historical fiction), but the setting was a perfect back drop to this book.  The time period was captured brilliantly, for example, Eli’s introduction to a toothbrush and toothpaste was a beautiful touch.

World Building Score: 4/5

Plot

Eli and Charlie Sisters are assassins for The Commodore who has commissioned them to kill Hermann Warm, who is in California.  The brothers are notorious (no matter how far they travel, people know of them).  The deal in death: “‘There are many kinds of death.’ I counted them off on my fingers: ‘Quick Death, slow death.  Early death, late death.  Brave death, cowardly death.'”

The brothers head out for the mission and have several interesting adventures on the way.  When they arrive, they find Morris (who the Commodore hired to find Hermann Warm and keep an eye on him until the brothers arrive) has defected to the side of Warm and his gold-finding invention.  Unfortunately, the solution that finds the gold also kills both Morris and Warm and costs Charlie his hand.

Interesting plot points:

-The run in with the dentist.  After introducing taking care of Eli, introducing him to toothbrush and toothpaste, he gets robbed by the brothers (for his numbing medicine)

-Eli’s soft spot for his horse Tub.  After being trapped in a house with a curse on the door (and being too fat to escape through the window) he runs out to save his horse from a bear.  The horse loses his eye, but Eli keeps him to the end.  What’s interesting here is that Charlie would not cross the threshold when he thought his brother was in danger, but Eli crossed it for his horse (that he did not even want).

-Charlie’s story of how Eli got his freckles.  He was basically badly sun burned after Charlie leaves him in the sun all day to take his mother to the hospital after his father breaks her arm.

Plot Score: 4/5 

Characters

Eli- the younger brother, I hesitate to call him the tender hearted one, but compared to his brother, he is pretty sensitive.  As much as this book is about the brothers making their way to California to kill Hermann, it’s also about Eli figuring out who he is, and who he wants to be.  And he no longer wants to be a killer.  Despite his desire for ‘normalcy’ and to be loved (which is seen in his relationship with two women who are nice to him), he has a hard time feeling emotions.  He also admits to finding amusement in things that a normal man would not (like being crushed to death by a horse).

Charlie- the older brother, also the mean one.  As children, his dad breaks his moms arm so Charlie kills his dad.  This starts him on a path of violence.  Despite the violence, he is always tight with his brother.  Once he loses his hand (his main shooting hand) some of the fight goes out of him.  At the end of the book, we do not see how he recovers from the loss of his hand, and I wonder whether he finds trouble.

Characters Score: 4/5

Style

I have several times wondered whether I loved the book because the simplicity in the writing, or whether I thought the writing was too simple.  My final conclusion is that the writing style suited the main character (Eli).

I felt the prose was lyrical.  It was beautiful in it’s simplicity.  The phrase construction was superb.  Some of my favorite lines:

“The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know.”

“..but the good was there in such measly quantities you had to keep a sharp watch lest you miss it entirely.”

Style Score : 4/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

I’m not sure how much of a lesson you can take from a pair of assassins, but I think there is something to the journey of self discovery Eli takes.

Life Lessons Score:  2/5 

Final Thoughts?

-I really wish all the best for Eli, and I hope he gets his trading post.

-I wonder about the beads the witch left on the door of the house.  Eli ran across them, and could have been cursed, but it doesn’t seem to change his luck.  Perhaps the curse is just in the fear of it.

-Eli’s diet- when he decides he wants to find someone to love (and someone who loves him), he tries to cut down on his food and eat carrots and such.  His brother Charlie gave him a hard time about it “My brother is fasting in the name of love”.  It was a ‘murderers are just like us- they want to lose weight too!’ moment.

-I would get nervous anytime these brothers came across someone, I knew death would soon follow.

– I loved it when Eli said “My name is Eli Sisters, you son of a whore, and I will kill you dead where you stand if you don’t hurry up and serve me what I asked for.”  Eli is normally very tolerant, so when he said this I knew he was at the end of his line.

+1 bonus point for the awesome cover!

Total Score and Recommendation

19/25- An easy to read, enjoyable story.

KayKay #CRB5 Review #55 Why we get fat: and what to do about it by Gary Taubes

WhyWeGetFat

After reading Lollygagger’s review of Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories, I decided to read his newer book.  Last year I did the Dukan Diet, which is a carb restricted diet and I lost 30 lbs, but gained it back this year when I went back to my carbs (I have a deep love for Jeni’s ice cream).  This book is a tedious read, as it’s 99% Why we get fat and 1% what to do about it (I guess I should have known that judging by the size of the font on the cover)  It reads like a dissertation page with random and various facts put together to prove his point.  However, based on my experience last year, I found that a lot of his conclusions rang true:

Usually the strenuous physical exercise slows the rate of [weight] loss – While doing Dukan, I weighed myself daily, and I noticed on days I exercised, I actually gained.  Taubes’ explanation is that exercising makes you hungry, so the amount of extra food you eat after working out, negates the few calories that you burn while working out.

You lose fat because you cut out the foods that make you fat- the carbohydrates- I’ve tried several diets (Weight Watchers, exercise alone, organics, etc. etc.) and the Dukan Diet (carbohydrate restricted) and I did lose weight with that diet.  I actually felt my body stop craving the carbs.  I actually felt better not eating carbs.  (Obviously not as good as I fell eating Jeni’s Ice Cream)

Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are addictive in the same way that drugs are- I have a deep love for sugar and when I stop eating it, I have withdraw symptoms, but if I stay off for a while, I do feel free of it.  BUT, as soon as I have even a little bit, I’m right back on it…AHHH!! I know we will one day find that sugar is our generations cigarettes.  I need a sugar patch.

Entire point of the book

  • We don’t get fat because we overeat, we overeat because we are fat.  (The importance here is that we have to treat the reason we get fat, and not the results of becoming fat)

Still a problem…even though I agree with Taubes explanation and reasoning, but it is hard to stick to a carbohydrate restrictive diet when so much of our food is laden with carbs.  There were no tips about how do live carb free in a carb focused world.  He left that sort of advice (in my opinion- the ‘what to do about it’) to Atkins, which he recommends.

Recommendation- if you interested in combating common societal dietary opinions, Taubes’ includes many compelling arguments and facts.  Or if you haven’t already read about a carb restricted diet (and you’re thinking of doing this), this is probably a fine book to read.  I recommend Dukan’s book.

KayKay #CRB5 Review #54 The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

LiesofLockeLamora

Snap Judgment

Based on all the raving reviews, I had purchased The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  I started the book, but could never get past the first chapter, so I shelved it.  After being thoroughly disappointed with Into the Fire, I didn’t want to invest in another book, so I decided to pull Locke Lamora off the shelf.  There were some sections that I felt were too descriptive, but the strategy involved with Locke’s thievery made for an interesting read- I did purchase the second book.  I hope some of the more wordy passages get tightened up.  If you’re willing to skim read some of the longer descriptions, or you’re into a lot of descriptions, this is a good book to pick up.

Here’s a breakdown…

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

Plot

There is a lot in this book that I can’t cover in a summary, instead of trying to cover all my notes, I’m going to (attempt to) keep this brief so I can get started on the next book…

Locke Lamora (origins unknown) is an orphan who ends up landing in the Gentleman Bastards thief guild.  It’s a small group of thieves who pull off more elaborate crimes (for example, their garrista (leader)- Father Chains was posing as a blind priest collecting money).  They “don’t believe in hard work when a false face and a good line of bullshit can do so much more.” When Father Chains dies (old age), Locke takes over and continues robbing from several nobles in the area (through elaborate schemes).  At the same time The Gray King is making a move on the current Capa (the top Garrista for all The Right People (thieves)- Barsavi.  Locke becomes a pawn in the Gray Kings game, and we see the birth of a bitter rivalry.

Plot Score: 4/5 

Characters

Locke- the brains of the operation.  “Locke Lamora’s Rule of thumb was this: a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever.”  The great thing about this character is that he isn’t perfect.  He isn’t the best fighter, and he ends up taking several beatings.

Jean- The fighter of the group.  He’s a bit chunky, but he’s got quite a temper and handles The Wicked Sisters (his twin axes) expertly.  I probably like him even more than Locke.

The twins- The comedy relief of the group.  They are necessary for the elaborate set ups that Lock comes up with, and they can handle themselves in a fight.

Bug- The newest little initiate into the Gentleman Bastards.  He’s fearless.

One of the most interesting things about the Gentleman Bastards is that they have enough money stockpiled that they don’t have to thieve, but it’s about the game.  At the end of the book, Locke and Jean now have more driving them, than just ‘the game’, so it’ll be interesting to see how they act when the stakes are higher.

Characters Score: 4/5

World Building

This is a really well constructed world.  There is a lot of history and background.  This is definitely an “iceberg book”- one where we are seeing just a tip of the iceburg that Lynch has built.

Setting-  prior to humans taking over the land, there are remanents of another race that lived there previously.  It is unknown what happened to the previous inhabitants, but they have left a city and elderglass.  There is also Wraithstone, a chunky white substance that burns out the personality of whoever (or whatever breathes it).

Government- there is a Duke, who we really don’t see much of, as all the thieves report up to Capa Barsavi.

Culture- There are games that are played between humans and sharks, death marks (the OK from the Capa to kill someone).  There are also distinct groups/races of people.  I’m wondering if the next book will take the Gentleman Bastards out of Camorr.

Religion- There are twelve commonly accepted gods (The Twelve).  However, the thieves believe their is a 13th god- the Nameless Thirteenth- the Thiefwatcher, the Crooked Warden, the Benefactor, the Father of Necessary Pretexts.

World Building Score: 5/5

Style

As previously mentioned, I felt there were several passages that were unnecessary or could be shortened.

I *really* wished this book could have been in first person.  Locke is such an interesting character, I would love for the story to be from his perspective, and perhaps alternate with Jean.

Style Score : 3/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Words of Wisdom:
There are only three people in life you can never fool- pawnbrokers, whores and your mother.

Life Lessons Score:  1/5 

Final Thoughts?

-I’m really hoping that this is the beginning of a great fantasy series.  There are so many unanswered questions and Lynch has set up a great long game between Locke and The Gray King.

-One of my biggest pet peeves is when there is a lack of communication that allows for conflict, I feel it is a cheap plot trick.  I was delighted in this book when Locke tells everything to his friends and they attack their problems together.

-I loved the relationship between the Gentleman Bastards, I was broken hearted at the ending.

Total Score and Recommendation

17/25- At first I was going to read book 2 before making any recommendation, but after writing this review, I would recommend reading this.