Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: Love Anthony by Lisa Genova


Fiction.  I really enjoy Lisa Genova's books, you know you are reading the words of a medical authority and an excellent writer, not an easy combination to find in fiction.  I was a little worried I would not enjoy this, since the reviews I read had people stating their disappointment, or often their love for it because they have a child with autism.  I do not have a child with autism and I was not disappointed with the book; however, I do agree that Still Alice and Left Neglected were better books.  

I still would recommend reading this book, but I would be remiss if I did not state that the other novels were better.  Part of this, I think, is the glowing humor she had in her last book, Left Neglected, and that is not present in this work.  The writing in Love Anthony is still stellar though, you have no problem picturing everything she describes, but I did find the coincidences between the woman writing the novel about a boy with autism (Beth) and the woman whose son died a little hokey (Olivia).  The whole question if he was speaking through her or random coincidence just did not ring true.  Overall though, I would recommend this book.

And so it goes...

Book Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


Fiction.  Similar to Gone Girl, it is fairly hard to say something without revealing anything, but like Gone Girl it is completely worth your time, and you will just keep guessing, all the way to the end.  The main character is Libby Day, whose family was massacred when she was seven years-old (her mother and two sisters were murdered).  She is now in her thirties, with her brother is in jail for those murders, and the rest of the story revolves around her hunting down fragments of what actually happened that day, from her father, brother, and other characters.  It is an off-putting crime but an enigmatic book, definitely worth your time.  I completely recommend it!

And so it goes...

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


There is really no way to review this without throwing something into the mix that might ruin reading it.  So, I will simply say read it, there is a reason why so many people have read it!  I am not usually a crime-thriller person for my reading choices, but it was worth it.  I definitely thought I figured things out about a dozen times or so but I and never actually did, she is good.  Flynn is an excellent writer, compels you to read more, and makes it so you never figure everything out and in a way that does not make you feel stupid.  I got a good deal on all three of her works for Nook from B&N as a package ($19 for the three books) so I am marathoning through each of them.  If you are looking for a great fiction read this is it, I completely recommend it and the author!

And so it goes...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Revival by Stephen King


Fiction.  This is a fairly short one for Stephen King, only a few hundred pages.  The last couple of books he has written were all pretty short for his normal "by-the-pound" style as some have called it, even himself.  I am not sure why: publisher? attention span of the public? less time to write as he gets older? writing something else massive on the side over a long period of time (I hope)?  

He does follow his usual style though and makes this one about people, about what it means to be a human being, as all good books and writers ultimately do with their works.  Unlike Mr. Mercedes, this one is back at including something a little off, a little supernatural, but you do not hear too much about that until the end of the work, and I do believe he is tying it back to the Dark Tower series.  He said before that all of his works do tie to that series in some way, and it is his magnum opus after all.  King also refers back to Joyland in this one too, a fun little nod for avid readers of his work, and let's face it, those who read Stephen King are all avid readers in the end, as long as they make it past one work and especially if they read the Dark Tower series.

This one follows the life of Jamie Morton, starting first in his childhood, and then jumping forward to his adult years where he faces a life on the road as a backup guitarist and struggles with addiction.  There is also some interesting plot elements having to do with a preacher and his obsession with electricity and lightning, but I won't say too much, less I ruin it for other readers.  I enjoyed this book and thought the price for the eBook version at $11 for a new release was pretty reasonable, thanks B&N!  I also believe this would be a good one for those who are new to Stephen King because it is not too long, it is not too gruesome, and it has some wonderfully quotable lines too.  So grab a copy and enjoy!

And so it goes...

Book Review: Witch & Wizard series by James Patterson (and others)


Fiction.  This is the first book in the series my son chose for our impromptu book club, formed after I read The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (earlier review).  I have read the first three completely and have started the fourth book.  I can say that they improve as they go along, but I have no idea why they wrote past the third installment (Patterson always lists another author with him for these books).  Like most young adult fiction these days there is an evil totalitarian regime and kids are the great hope for stomping them out.  In this series it is a brother and sister team and the chapters alternate between them (Whit and Wisty Allgood).  I do like the series, it's O.K., but only O.K., it is definitely not one for the ages.  I sincerely hope they do not make them into films for several reasons: (1) since we are reading them all we might be forced into watching them, (2) books are always better than the movies, and (3) the fact we do not need one more young adult series poorly translated into films.  We have had quite enough of those lately, thank you very much.

My first  issue with this series is the writing style not switching between the narrators.  They have the exact same voice.  Despite writing things like "then my sister gave me a look," I still cannot tell them apart.  I more often than not have to keep flipping back to the first page of a chapter to remember who is supposed to be narrating it.  I have read many books that have more than one narrator, some that do so well and others that fail, and while I do not think the series completely fails at it, it comes pretty close, D- close.  There is little to no difference between the voice of the two characters, although I will say that I do believe Wisty is written better, they should have stuck to one voice and made it hers.

My second issue is the shortness of the chapters.  It is young adult fiction, surely if these kids can read thousands of pages from Tolkien, Harry PotterThe Hunger Games, Divergent, and so on, then they can surely read chapters that are longer than three to ten pages, no?  Why must there be one-hundred chapters?  Usually an author makes another chapter for some sort of reason or purpose, and here you might think it is because the author/s are switching voices, but that is usually not the case: Wisty will have a two-page chapter and then the next chapter is three pages and it is still her, at the same time, at the same place, and still in the midst of the same events.  Totally not necessary to switch to another chapter, it is annoying.

Out of all of them the third installment is the best, but I was disappointed by the ending.  You have a tremendous amount of action, description, and culminating events, then the main thing just "poof!" happens in less than a paragraph.  Not sure what they were thinking there.  I will list the titles and dates released below, the fifth is due out next month (December 2014).

1. Witch & Wizard (2009)
2. The Gift (2010)
3. The Fire (2011)
4. The Kiss (2013)
5. The Lost Ones (Dec. 15th, 2014)

And so it goes...

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


Fiction, originally in French, translated by Alison Anderson.  This is one of the best books I have read in a long time!  I enjoyed every minute of reading this book, even when I had to re-read lines occasionally to make sure I grasped the complicated philosophy the main characters were debating and explaining.  The setting is an expensive French apartment building with some very well-to-do and very bourgeois occupants.  The chapters alternate between two characters narrating, the first is Renee, the 54-year-old concierge who takes care of the building and who does not want anybody to know how intelligent she is (loves Tolstoy), feeling it is her duty to fulfill everybody's preconceived notions of what her role is in society.  The other narrating voice is that of Paloma, a 12-year-old girl who is a genius and a resident of the building, who hates the hypocrisy she sees all around here, and who feels she has learned everything there is to know about life.  So, she declares she will kill herself on her thirteenth birthday and set her parents' apartment on fire.  She has planned it out logically, her reasons seem to have sense, and she is going to make certain nobody is hurt in the process.  In the meantime, she will start two journals to see if there is anything she missed that would make continuing to live have some point or meaning or something else for her to learn.

The best way I can explain the feel of this book is the film Amelie.  It is quirky, funny, deeply serious, and yet it feels light and you cannot put it down or turn away from the work.  The plot description makes it sound dark and depressing, but it really is filled with wonderful philosophy in a way that is approachable, with tons of wonderful nuggets and quotations about life and what it means to be human, and ultimately displays hope even with elements of great sadness and loneliness.  I knew I loved Renee the moment she put Structuralism in its place and called it out for its nonsense!  She also happens to love some of my other favorite things: Japanese culture (particularly the Tea Ceremony), good films, and Dutch still-lifes.  So, I am probably pretty biased with this character since we have several interests in common, except Tolstoy, I am still dealing with War and Peace and I am none too sure I will ever finish it.

I won't say too much more because I would not want to ruin it for others.  But I will say read it, the book is quite worth your time!  One of my favorite quotations from the work is: “What we know of the world is only the idea that our consciousness forms of it.”

And so it goes...

Book Review: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe


Non-fiction.  I read this for the CLPL Real World Reads non-fiction book club for November 2014.  This book would be worth the read just for the list of books at the end!  This is a narrative non-fiction account of a book club that developed between Will Schwalbe and his mother when she found out she had stage four pancreatic cancer.  She had an amazing background, helping refugees all over the world, so it was not uncommon for her to come home with varying infections, so they thought she had contracted hepatitis on her last trip.  Eventually they figure it out and begin treatment, to make her life last as long as it can in the way she wanted: she was very concerned with her quality of life, not just prolonging it as long as possible.

Will Schwalbe was in the book publishing industry at the time, always an avid reader, and from a family of avid readers.  He and his mother spent much time at the hospital for her chemo treatments, and decided to use the time to discuss one of their favorite things, books.  They covered new works, classics, and used their discussions to learn more about each other and life as a human being.

If you are a reader you will connect to many of the ideas in this book.  It is not sugary-sweet, it does delve into some terrible issues and frustrating struggles, but he somehow manages to keep it contemplative and not depressing.  It is a wonderful idea to have this kind of connection with your parents or children, in fact I am trying it out myself.  I told my son he can pick the books, and we are currently reading through a young adult series, it has been pretty fun so far!

Needless to say, I recommend this book to those who love to read, those thinking about loosing a loved one, and those who want a list of some really great books to read!  I already finished one, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and it was one of the best books I have read in a very long time.

And so it goes...

Blog Awards

Here are a few awards this blog has received thanks to some kind folks!

Friends and Favorites Award

Friends and Favorites Award
given 05/20/2009 by SquirrelQueen (http://squirrelqueen2.blogspot.com/)

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award
given on 07/23/2009 by Juanita (http://juanitaharris.blogspot.com/)