Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quarterly Book Post

My last post was in August and I have been too busy working at my actual job and not reading as much, but here is the update of the books I've been reading:

1) The Life of Pi - Yann Martel (318 pages) - B-
I read this book a few years ago and was completely blown away by it.  I absolutely loved it, and this book was even one of those books that was talked about so much that it helped me and a few friends to decide to start a book club.
I decided to re-read it because of the new movie version that is coming out and I had also found my copy somewhere randomly.  So, I read the book in under a week and as much as I loved it the first time I read it, the second time I was a a little underwhelmed.
Maybe it's because of knowing the ending and that not being as much of a HOLYSHIT moment the second time, but for some reason it felt much more cold on a second read-through.
I would love to discuss this with someone else, but after reading it this second time I have less excitement about seeing the movie version (also because I don't really love anything Ang Lee has ever done except The Ice Storm).
I also got Yann Martel's second novel on audio book, and reading this a second time made me decide that I probably won't be listening to it anytime soon, especially since the reviews for that book are pretty terrible.

2) The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan (782 pages) - C-
The Wheel of Time is one of the most well-loved fantasy series ever written.  People talk about it like a better version of Lord of the Rings.  Now, surprisingly, I'm not a HUGE fantasy fan.  But, when I read The Song of Ice and Fire series last year, I absolutely loved it and thought maybe I like fantasy more than I originally thought.  One thing that has kept me away from this series is that it is 15 books long, and each one being about 1,000 pages each, so it is a little intimidating. (It also doens't help things that the author died before finishing, and they had to get someone to ghost-write the ending)
I had a good friend start this series and he was on book five last I talked to him and he was enjoying it, and then while in Arizona my soon-to-be mother-in-law had the book lying around.  She gave it to me to read, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.    The book had its moments of fun, but for the most part I was disappointed.  The characters weren't that fleshed out and the story was more childish than I was expecting.  I hear the books get better, and I will probably at least try book two eventually, but so far I'm not sure if this series is for me.
I am very excited to write that last line and post it here, just in case this series becomes my favorite and I end up going to Wheel of Time conventions, this will be etched on the internets.

3) The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters (316 Pages) - B
This was our latest Book Club book chosen by my friend Michael.  This book has become pretty popular and the best part is the author is Michael's Brother-In-Law.  Since the reviews were good, we chose to read this book.
This book has an honor of being one of the 10 or so books that I read in one day.  I had gotten the book right before we were supposed to meet for our book club and I only had a little bit of time to knock it out before and Aubrey had to read it too.  After my trip to work and reading over lunch then coming home, I was on page 180.  Aubrey was going out that night so I opened the book and just kept reading.   It's a lot of fun reading an entire book in one sitting.  It is a different experience, and this book was a very simple story, told in a conversational tone that I was able to keep reading.  Also, since it's a mystery, it makes you want to keep reading.
The story takes place in the near future and NASA has found out that there is a comet heading towards earth and will hit within the next year and they are preparing for all life on earth to be killed.  As a result, all of society has changed and broken down.  Some people are killing themselves to go out on their terms, while  others are looking to live out their last days to the fullest.
The main character is a cop who is the policeman called in on a suicide.  But he starts investigating this suicide because something doesn't add up and he thinks it may be murder.  The bigger question is: So what? Even if it is murder, who cares?  The world is ending soon anyway.  Those are the questions that plague Hank and us as readers.
The best thing about this, is the author actually Skyped into our book club meeting to join our discussion for about a half-hour since he is married to Michael's sister.  He was a super-nice guy and very personable and excited that we were reading and discussing his book.  This book is the first in a trilogy that I'm sure I'll be reading when they come out.

4) 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami (925 pages) - A-
I was so excited to read this book and it did not disappoint.  I've read a bunch of Murakami books and they are always so strange and visceral that I get excited whenever I start a new one.  Hearing that this book was a smash in Japan and knowing it employs all his usual themes and the fact that it was about 1000 pages of insanity made me even more excited to read it, but had to find the right time.
I went to the library a week before my birthday wanting to have an awesome book ready for that time.  My only problem is I didn't anticipate not only the page count, but the weight of the book.  There were times that I wanted to read more of the book, but it was not an easy read.
Describing the plot is pretty much impossible, but the book follows two seemingly unconnected stories throughout, with two unconnected narrators: Tengo and Aomame.  These two characters are living completely separate lives and the chapters flip back and forth between what's going on with both of them.  As you keep reading, you recognize some small parallels between them and as you keep reading the lines of the stories are on a path that seem like an eventual convergence.  Both stories deal with the mundane and the weird at the exact same time.  I had times when I looked more forward to one character than the other, but in the end this entire novel was an amazing example of slow build up with great writing that I almost never wanted it to end.  There was a large section of this book where a character literally does nothing but sit in an apartment alone, and I was completely absorbed.  I love Murakmi's writing (I've probably written that a few times in these past few paragraphs, but it's true) that it takes all my will power to not run out and buy all his books and just read him.  But I still have a good amount of his books still to read, and on top of that, there is the fact that the man is still alive and writing and I'm hopeful that we can expect more of these strange dream-novels in the future.

5) Sacre Bleu - Christopher Moore (403 pages) - B+
Christopher Moore is hit or miss for me, but even his bad novels have some elements of fun attached to them.  He is a fun writer that actually has some thoughts behind his idiocity.  The back of this book called Christopher Moore the "Impatient reader's Tom Robbins" and I think that is one of the best descriptions of his writing I could come up with.
This book is a little different than his normal modern day tale, but it still has his stamp of humor included.   Sacre Bleu takes place in the late 1800s Paris and it starts with the murder of Vincent Van Gogh (not the suicide).   From there we meet some of his peers including Degas, Monet, Manet and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
The main character is a fictitious baker that wants to be a painter named Lucien.  The book is kind of all over the place, but Moore is able to take some facts and shoe-horn them into this story of the color blue and its importance in history.  It also explains why all the great impressionists died of syphilis in a very comical way.
I am not a huge art fan, but this was a fun book that even a novice like me could understand.  He also interspersed some pictures of the artwork in question which helped explain some of what was being described in the book.

6) Ransom - Jay McInerney (279 pages) - B (NOTE: this is not the version I read)
While walking my dog last week I cam upon a bunch of boxes filled with books outside someone's home.  Naturally, I stopped and went through these boxes and pulled out about five books that I decided I needed.  Besides The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,  this is the first I have read of that group.
I had read a few other Jay McInerney books and have liked most that I have read (and I still have the theory that him and Brett Easton Ellis are actually the same person, but that's besides the point).
This novel follows a 20 year oldish guy named Christopher Ransom.  Ransom lives in Japan after fleeing America and his family after having some major disagreements with his father.  He comes to Japan eventually and we learn he has a high moral code and is seriously training in Karate.  He is very dedicated and rarely does anything but train.
The story is intercut with stories of Ransom back in the states and with a character defining trip he took in Pakistan and Afghanistan before making his way to Japan around 1975.  Now it's 1977 and he's training and it seems like he's changed his life in penance for something in his past.  Along with the Yakuza and a few other Americans that Ransom is friends with along with a Vietnam refugee and his Karate class mates, this book really was strange and fun and sad all at once.  Not bad for other people's garbage.