Monday, May 27, 2013

I keep reading, but can't find time to write about it (Part 2)

16.  Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl (514 Pages) - B+ - (April 15-25)
I always go to the library and keep renting all of these books, but then I realized there are many books that I own, but have never read.  In trying to read all of the books that I actually own I saw this book on my shelf.  I'm pretty sure Aubrey bought it one day, and after being sent this link by my friend AJ (who writes a better blog than this one) I saw Special Topics on this list and on my bookshelf and decided to read it.

The plot centers on a very smart high school student named Blue.  She has a habit of referencing novels by mentioning something and then saying the title of the book, the author and the year of its publication.  For example, this book had a similar feel to Secret History (Donna Tartt, 1992). Blue moves to a new town and befriends the cool clique who every Sunday meet up at their film history teacher's house and hang out.  During her Senior year, Blue deals with all of the typical High School shenanigans with prom, and jealousy, and the death of your favorite teacher and conniving parents.

It is pretty obvious that this was Marisha Pessl's virgin novel because of the writing style.  It comes across as extremely obnoxious, but after you get used to it, I really found myself to enjoy the writing and felt that it fit with the story she wrote.  Lastly, the final chapter was one of the most fun ways to end the book, and it was something that has never been done in any other novel I've ever read. She gives a multiple choice quiz about the entire story and it made me think back about the entire novel.

17.  Alex Cross, Run - James Patterson (407 Pages) - C - (April 26-April 29)
I have an addiction to these novels.  I have written about it before, but it is the truth.  I continue to read about the adventures of Alex Cross and I barely enjoy it.  The stories hardly progress and they are always pretty much the same.  This time, there are two stories going on at once.  Two killers that are working together (as the flip-side of the same coin), and another murderer that is out to get Alex Cross himself for personal reasons.
Alex has to juggle family, the two killers and trying to adopt a foster daughter all at the same time.    There is absolutely nothing more to write about this.  The Alex Cross books are fun, but you know what you're getting when you read them.

18.  The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta (355 Pages) - B- (April 30-May 6)
I read an article that the creator of Lost (Damon Littleoff) was trying to get this novel to become a new HBO television series.  Since I am a fan of HBO and Damon Littleoff, I decided to read this book before it 19came on the air so I knew the premise and to decide if it would be worthwhile.  I have also read a few of Tom Perrotta's novels and mostly enjoy his work, so I found this in the library and knocked it out.

The premise of the story is on a random day in October, approximately 2% of the population of the planet simply disappears at the same time.  They literally are there one moment and then they are gone.  The people have absolutely no connection.  Some are religious, some are not, the Pope does disappear, but many Cardinals and other religious leaders do not.  This novel centers on a small town and mostly about one family and how this phenomenon affects them.  How can students continue going to school if they could disappear tomorrow?  Will relationships continue to last?   These are some of the questions that come up.

The premise for this story was quite good, but I'm not sure about the execution.  Although this book seems to have more questions than answers, this is not a bad thing necessarily.  The book is written well and he really shows many different reactions to the situation through few characters, but the best part is how if all of these stories can come from one family and one small town, you can start to extrapolate that and realize exponentially how many stories there could be from this premise.

19. The Rules of Attraction - Brett Easton Ellis (283 Pages) - B (May 7-8)
A book about college-life that I had read when I was in college.  Since then, I have seen the movie that was made around 2002 more times that I can count, but was curious if I could still relate to this in my mid 30s, and to see if I still liked it.
The answer is: Yes.
Ellis paints the picture of a bunch of young kids that all do not know who they are or what they want out of life and out of each other.  Basically, he writes teenagers perfectly.

This book is not for the faint.  This is chock full of drugs, rape, bad decisions, lies and lies about the lies.   The staccato writing style keeps the reader feeling like they are 5 steps behind the characters, when really the characters are 10 steps behind themselves.
It is an amazing story about the excess of the 80s, that I can only imagine is pertinent today and should be required reading as tales of caution for parents of kids going to college, and read as a how-to-guide/cautionary tale for anyone about to go to college.

20. NOS4A2 - Joe Hill (692 Pages) - A- (May 9-21)
The Son of the Master of Horror is picking up where his father continues to go.  Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King and I have been looking forward to his new novel for quite some time.  This book was released on April 30th and I started reading it as soon as it was delivered to me from Amazon.

This is a large, fun, scary novel that I enjoyed from beginning to end.  The only reason I was skeptical of the book during the first 50 pages or so was from the title, i expected a typical vampire novel, and this book is not that at all.  Instead this is almost another Stephen King novel about parallel dimensions and being able to create worlds within yourself and able to draw people into those worlds.

Joe Hill is a young author who has yet to leave me unfulfilled in the three novels, Graphic Novel and his book of short stories.    This novel follows Vic McQueen through her entire life.  From 8 year old dreamer to 40 year old mother and substance abuser.  She is one of the more fleshed out characters I have read in some time and someone I am going to miss now that the book is over.

Anyone looking for a good, fun, scary summertime read needs to read this book.  It is often intense and difficult to put down, much like any great book.   With this, book, two new Stephen King novels, and an Neil Gaiman novel ready for release, there will be a lot more reading that I hope to accomplish this year.

I keep reading, but can't find time to write about it (Part 1)

11.  Veronica Decides to Die - Paulo Coelho (210 Pages) - B- (March 14-18)
Obviously anyone that knows me knows I enjoy to read.  Since I only read on the subway on my way to work, my co-workers are always quick with a suggestion on things that I should read.  If a co-worker gives me a book, I make it a point to read it as quickly as possible.  Being someone that often loans out my books to others , I know what it's like when someone may want it back after loaning it out.  I feel if someone feels the need to give me a book and I accept it, it is my duty to read it, give it back and give that person an assessment of the book.  In this case, my co-worker Val gave me Paulo Coelho's book about living in a psychiatric ward and the story of of the fictitious Veronika.

Veronika tries to kill herself by taking too many pills.  She fails, but the pills have taken their toll on her heart and now the doctors expect her to die within 2 weeks.  How does she feel about life now knowing that there is a definite expiration date?    That is the story of this book.  Paulo Coelho's most famous book is The Alchemist which was a book club suggestion a few years ago.  I feel similar to this book as I did with that.  The ideas that are presented in the book are great (I can understand why someone may read this book and find it "deep"), however I find the writing to be formulaic and obvious.  This may have a great deal to do with the fact hat the book was originally written in Portuguese and some of the nuance may have been lost in translation, but it doesn't change my opinion.    However, anyone having a crisis of faith and feeling depressed, I could recommend this book.  As long as that person is not an English teacher.

12.  American Pastoral - Philip Roth (~432 Pages) - C - (March 19-April 3)
The latest book club pick by my friend Ed.  In trying to not spend my entire paycheck on books, someone gave me a PDF of this book and I was able to read it on my iPad.  The biggest problem is this PDF as a lot of typos, spacing issues and no chapter breaks.  This made reading quite a chore and definitely contributed greatly to my lack of enjoyment.

However, even with a clean copy, I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed this book.  It is obvious that Philip Roth is able to write, but like many authors in their later years, he would benefit from a good editor.  There was a lot of repetition of ideas, plot points and scenes replayed again and again.  Also, the story was kind of all over the place.

It starts with an old man going back to his High School Reunion and remembering the coolest guy/best athlete in his home town before WWII.   The story eventually changes narrators to that athlete, named The Swede in the late 60s.  The book follows his life and after his daughter blows up the local general store in protest of the Vietnam War.   The Swede's life spirals out of control from this and it takes its toll on his family.

In comparison to Jonathan Frazen's Freedom, these stories are quite similar, but this shows how writing style, and editing can make a reader feel very different about very similar novels.

13.  Slowness - Milan Kundera (155 Pages) - C- - (April 4-5)
A forgettable novel, by a great author.   Kundera literally takes a chapter in the book to break narration and to write as himself about how it would be funny to write a novel where the entire book is 100% nonsense.  I think that was him telling the reader to just go along for the ride.    All of the narrations are quite sexual in nature (it is Kundera after all), and I did laugh out lout at two scenes in the book, but for the most part I barely remember reading this just two months later.

This was another short book that I saw in the library and decided to read because of this challenge I have given myself.  I'm glad I read it since it only took 2 days, but otherwise anyone reading this can skip this book and read Unbearable Lightness of Being instead.

14.  Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore (303 Pages) - C - (April 6-11)
I have read a number of Christopher Moore's books and the last one I read (Sacre Bleu) was quite good.  So when I was over my friend Bridget's upstate house and saw another of his books just sitting in her mostly-empty house, I just started to read it during a quiet weekend upstate.
There is nothing good or bad about this book.  It is just another of his style of quirky books this time mostly about Native American culture.  In this book a young man had left the reservation some time ago, and now a Native American spirit-god has come to find him to help him find happiness.
Christopher Moore is a fun writer who has a similar vibe to Tom Robbins.  His books are always fun, and this one does not disappoint in the fun department, it just wasn't his best and in the end was quite forgettable.

15.  Femme - Bill Pronzini (175 Pages) -D+ - (April 12-14)
Once again, my way of cheating with the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.  I saw a short book in the library and rented it.  This book looked like a typical detective noir book, and it didn't disappoint, but it didn't add anything.
This is a straight up detective story whose twist isn't much of a twist.  It's written in the old Sam Spade - style of short sentences and even shorter plot.  The dame is evil.  Or is she?
Not much to write about here.  It was a quick, fun read, but the third forgettable novel in a row.