Monday, September 14, 2009

Another slew of recaps

I've been off internet for all of the month of August, which is when I did a sh!tload of reading. Now I've started up school again, which leaves me little room for pleasure reading (already I'm swamped with work). But I figured that since I'm handicapped in my ability to catch up to food posts, I should at least catch up with my book posts. So here we go:

1. Oryx and Crake. Moonrat had mentioned to me that she had hated this book, so I wasn't sure what to think going in. Then again, she hates dystopic fiction whereas I love it. In any case, I enjoyed this book. Didn't completely love it the way I did Blind Assassin, but I found myself intrigued by the predicament and trying to figure out what had happened that led up to the present situation. As with any dystopic fiction, and especially Atwood's, there's a lot to ponder in terms of the direction of our modern society, and what we're heading towards. The need for things to be more and more artificial because we want to live longer, stay more beautiful, have more things that are modified genetically to meet our desires. It's a scary place she paints, but even scarier is the idea that somebody might someday believe that we as a race are too flawed that we deserve to be completely wiped out of existence. The ending leaves you hanging, similar to the ending to Handmaid's Tale, where you hope that the better possibility occurred but you can never be sure. I enjoyed the book, though I suppose there's little room for an emotional investment into the characters.

2. Love, Rosie. A Cecelia Ahern book. Okay, yes, I know this is total fluff reading, and that she's a poor writer, and that in a way I've in some ways pretty much just picked up a chicklit novel by reading this on my sister's recommendation. But I won't apologize for liking it! The whole thing is done in notes and emails and im convos and letters. And it's a bit silly and kind of cute, and it's totally My Best Friend's Wedding meets You've Got Mail with some Serendipity thrown in. But I enjoyed it. And I thought the use of no traditional narrative (until the end, which I'll get to) worked well enough for what it was. Did it more believably than other books I've read that have tried to employ a similar device. I flew through it, felt thoroughly frustrated where I was meant to, and got happy at the end when I was meant to. It's predictable, but felt like reading a romantic comedy, and therefore I liked it. My only bone to pick was the epilogue,which suddenly got a little overly wrought in its cheese, and besides, it broke out of its device and started using regular narrative which I felt was a copout and in poor choice. There could have been a better way to show they got together without doing that. But oh well. I liked it.

3. Shadow of the Wind. Zafon's first book. He paints a great little gothic Spain in this book, setting a perfect tone and mood. What I love about the book is that it's clearly a book for book lovers. The whole thing centers around a mystery started by a single book. But the world he paints is dark and slightly sinister, with some mystical magic properties that work around the edges. I enjoy his prose, or at least as well as I can in translation. The plot is intriguing and unique, in a way where it's hard to even tell where anything is going, or what the key to unraveling the mystery is. Some reveals at the end threw me for a loop, in fact. But really, the book is less about the plot or mystery itself, but rather immersing yourself in the world he's built. My only thing that I'll note is that he does this thing where the narrative changes to tell backstory, telling in such a way that the first person narrator couldn't have known those things. Or it'll do this thing where something goes off into italics and becomes a completely different narrative backstory. As a person focused heavily on craft, it amazes me he can get away with this. But other than that, I really liked his book. Can't wait to read the next one!

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. My sister loves this book, and it was a short read, so what the heck. I enjoyed it well enough, though I don't get why she raves about it. It had a bit of a Catcher in the Rye feel -- awkward kid with intense emotions, trying to relate to a world around him in a coming of age. It was reasonably well done, though I didn't personally become heavily invested in the character. Also, the ending reveal seemed surprising to me and I'm not entirely sure I bought it...

5. Living Dead Girl. My sister (again) gave me this book to read as one of her favorites. I read it and thought it was reasonably well-done, at least prose-wise, but found it intensely disturbing. The book, about a girl who is abducted at 10 and forced to be pretty much a sex slave to a disturbed pedophile, offers little hope, little redemption opportunity, and is just a story of horror after horror. My sister is apparently morbid and finds the book fascinating the way only a teenager with angst can. I, on the other hand, find it disturbing that such a book is on the market and is so popular. Not because I'm offended by the premise, but because the book seemed to be bent on simply telling a sobering tale, and there is little complexity or hope in the end. And forgive me if I believe that fiction should serve a higher purpose than simply telling horrors. I mean, I think the content is a story that is an intriguing premise for a story, but beyond her day-to-day attempt to escape before time runs out, there's a very insular paranoia, where the girl has become a creature we can only pity, and not one we can relate to. And I don't think a writer wants her characters pitied. It's only at the very very end when we get a moment, a glimpse of something redeeming, but then it all comes crashing down before we can even explore it. There's no uplifting moment, no moral to be told, no lesson learned, no message about humanity. I got nothing from it except a feeling of bleakness about the fact that this may happen to certain girls every day of their lives and we're helpless to do anything about it. If I want depressing stories that have no rhyme or reason, I'll turn on the news, thank you very much. I don't need fiction to do it for me. Fiction, I think, exists to make meaning out of chaos. So in that vein, while I think the writing in here is good, vivid, visceral, I'm upset by the way the content was plotted out and ultimately put together.

6. The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Society. This book has gotten a lot of hype recently, so I started reading it with high expectations. Since it took place during the war, I thought I'd get another tearjerker, something that hits at that place in me where I like to cry. To be honest, while I was reasonably entertained by the book for the most part, I never felt like the book held any momentum. A lot of letters back and forth (and actually, I think Cecilia Ahern did a better job building her plot using this device), a couple of intriguing threads here and there. But it never mattered that much to me. I felt like I really was reading somebody's letters, and the thing is, in real life, most people's lives and letters are boring. Put in a compilation, they don't make an interesting story. And that's how I felt about the book. It was anecdotal, a few minor dramas here and there, but nothing that pulled at me or made me feel attached to the characters emotionally. It was a fine read for the airplane, but it lacked a plot that seized me. So while I enjoyed it well enough (no big complaints), I don't have anything overwhelmingly positive to say about it either.

7. Kushiel's Mercy. Yes, because I do read fantasy -- this is the last book in the series, and was my favorite one. Everything gets tied together at the end, which is satisfying. And what I liked about this book is that I felt Carey was tighter here. In the past, there would be these long descriptions about journeys, and talking to useless people, and exploring here and there, and whatnot, which I cared less about. But here, it was action packed, and I was constantly on-edge, wanting to know what happened at the next step and where it was going. I was rarely bored, and mostly just excited to see how things panned out. Her action scenes are still really awesome, and the way things fit together in the end (and the political stuff), works out so well, I'm impressed. I'm sad to see the series go (although she's doing a spinoff for a few generations later in the same world, though I don't know how that will work out). Laugh at me all you want for reading obscure genre fiction (well not that obscure bc it sells pretty well), but I liked it!

Wooo. Okay done for now!

2 drops:

moonrat said...

re: Oryx: that was my problem. the characters all felt like cardboard cutouts to me--especially Oryx!! she... blech. oh well. not my thing!

agmlll said...

If you love THE ROAD you should try EARTH ABIDES by George R. Stewart.

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