Saturday, August 31, 2013

Haven't Posted in MONTHS...

I apologize to my constant reader since I have not had the time to write in the past few months.  But just because I haven't been writing, does not mean I haven't been reading.  So without much further ado, I will try to recap my reading, and I will try and keep it short because there were a lot.

21.  Oracle Night - Paul Auster (256 Pages) - B- (May 22-May 28)
Another book club selection by our newest member.  I have read a few Paul Auster books in the past and they are all good, but for some reason they are not memorable.  I think it has something to do with having that dream-like quality that Murakami books have, but with less substance behind them.
This novel is a writer's novel.  By that, I mean it is about writers and about the process of writing.  It makes sense that Paul Auster is known for his short stories and novellas, because this book almost feels like a bunch of short stories put together into one cohesive novel. Because of that, it is sometimes disjointed and goes from one scene to the next with some of the stories not having a true ending, but that is all incorporated decently into the story.   The book in the end is about happiness with oneself and your relationship.

22.  Downtown Owl - Chuck Klosterman (275 Pages) - C (May 29-June 5)
This is a difficult book to review.  I have read every book Chuck Klosterman has written now (although he has a new non-fiction book out that I have not read yet).  He is mostly known for his non-fiction work discussing pop-culture, or some sort of world issue comparing them to pop-culture.  He has written stories about the real meaning behind Saved By the Bell or which album tells the story of 9/11 the best (he feels it is Kid A even though Kid A came out a few weeks before September 11).
But that is the thing about this novel (and Klosterman's writing) that gets kind of annoying.  He is prone to seemingly-profound statements like "Life is rarely about what happened, it's mostly about what we think happened".  He seems to always write a sentence that will negate itself by the end of that sentence, and this is supposed to make his comments seem deep.  After 6 books, I think I'm getting tired of this type of writing and his insistence of what things are "important".
This book was a novel focusing mostly on 3 very different characters:  A high school football player, an teacher in his school and an old man that has lived in this same small town his entire life.  This follows them from Summer until Winter and their lives in this small town.  Klosterman has some great ideas, but I think his execution has become tired.  The only problem is, I often think like him too, so I keep coming back to reading his books even though I can recognize and see his writing patterns from a mile away.  I actually have started getting angry when he uses one of his over-used "opposite sentences" because I have started to notice how lazy that writing is.  I'll let you know since I'm sure I'll read his next book sometime.  Probably sooner rather than later.

23.  Bossypants - Tina Fey (267 Pages) - C (June 6- June 8)
This book did very little for me.  I know it got great reviews and I really love Tina Fey, but as a book I found it just boring.  I guess that was kind of the point.   Tina Fey has become popular and famous from playing the "every-woman".  This book solidifies just that:  She is a normal girl, who grew up in a normal family.  She just decided that she wanted to have a different career as a comedian.  She worked really hard at it and through a series of luck an being smart and funny, she succeeded.
I think this book was almost too sheepishly written.  Tina Fey's biggest career move was playing Sarah Palin which elevated her career from SNL cast member/actress for 30 Rock.  Instead of Tina really flaunting it, she writes how since she had dark hair too, and could put on glasses and a wig to look like Sarah Palin, she was lucky to be in a position to parody her.
Instead of giving herself credit as a writer of a clever, funny show like 30 Rock, she gives a lot of the credit to Alec Baldwin simply being in it because he was a star.    The book has very few laughs, but it does show that hard work and perseverance sometimes actually pays off.

24.  Joyland -  Stephen King (283 Pages) - A- (June 9-June 12)
Everyone knows I'm  a Stephen King fan.  This is true.  But I can be very fair in reviewing his writing, I think (as a few books later will show).  I think everything King has written is very good, but I grade them on a scale against each other.  Even a bad Stephen King book is fun to read, but I can recognize if they aren't so good sometimes.  This is why I can honestly say Joyland is a great book!
About 10 years ago, Stephen King retired.  Then he wrote a silly, pulpy novel about a dead body that washes ashore a small beach town called The Colorado Kid.  It wasn't his best, but it because a TV show called Haven.  His retirement has not stuck, and every now and again he writes another pulp novel.  Joyland was the second one published this year.
The story follows a high school kid that is working at a carnival during the summer.  It is more of a coming-of-age story like Stand By Me (aka The Body) and without giving anything away, it is really good. In my opinion, King really can write some of the best characters and Devin is a great every-man that has a touching story to tell.  
Like many of King's books, his ending isn't great but it is still a worth-while ride any reader would enjoy, even non-King fans.

25.  Salem's Lot - Stephen King (653 Pages) - B- (June 13-June 27)
I told you I can be objective when reviewing Stephen King.  This book is just not his best.  I read Salem's Lot years ago in college or high school.  Even back then, I didn't think it was very good.  But I wanted to re-read it because I read recently that Stephen King loves it.  Also, since I'm kind of in the middle of a re-read of the Dark Tower, and have just re-read book 4, this is where Salem's Lot kind of fits into that story.
On the second read, I realized what the problem with this book is.  The first half is actually really, really good.  Ben Mears comes home to the small town he grew up in to write a novel using inspiration from the scary, haunted house he remembers on the top of the hill.   How King establishes the characters is a little hokey, but still strong considering this is his second novel.  I loved how there were chapters told from the perspective of the town itself, as if Salem's Lot is a character in the story.
The problems arise when the vampires come more to the forefront and the ending of storming the house is a by-the-numbers horror/action story.  However, an amazing thing is happening.  As I'm writing this review on the last day of August and trying to make it seem hokey and silly and not that good (which is all true), I am having fond memories of this story that I read back in June.

26.  Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh - (200 Pages) - D (June 28-Jul 3)
This was a book club selection that I have absolutely nothing to say about it.  Not even anything good or bad.  Just nothing at all.  The book followed a weak character that went through his life very passively even going to prison for something he did not do.
The book is supposed to be a comedy, but it didn't do much for me.

(...To be Continued...)