Sunday, September 1, 2013

Catching up on all of my books

27.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman (181 Pages) - B- (July 4-July 9)
I love Neil Gaiman, but this newest book of his fell flat for me.  The book is more of a myth/fable than anything else and it reminded me a lot of his older novel, Coraline.
The biggest problem for me in this book is that I didn't quite understand the villain in the story.  I didn't quite know her motivation.
But as much as I didn't enjoy this, it is still writeen like a Neil Gaiman book, which means the prose is beautiful, and it has some great images and some of his recurring motifs like the ever-present mother/maiden/crone triad which is so present in Sandman
On top of all of that, the final chapter was a beautiful, touching close to this world where Gaiman reflects back.  I may not read this book again, but I will definitely re-read that final chapter.

28.  Christine - Stephen King (503 Pages) - C+ (Jul 10-Jul 22)
I have been trying to read all of Stephen King's novels for years.  I knew it would eventually happen, and no I have done it (although I didn't finish The Tommyknockers, but that is a story for another day).  Christine was the last one on my list of King's book, and I think the reason why I slept on it was because I felt it was too long to tell this story.  After reading it, I agree with my assessment.  The book is good, and well written but it is obvious King was trying to change his voice with this one.  Besides not being set in his typical Maine small town, I don't feel like King knew what he wanted this book to be really.  Was it a ghost story?  Was it a story about the troubles of growing up as an outsider?  An allegory for addiction? (since King was dealing with his troubles pretty strongly around this time)
Obviously it is all of these, but because of this and the changing narrator, this book had some problems for me.  Much like Salem's Lot, the characters had a very soap opera feel to them.
I feel the book would have worked better if it didn't use the previous owner's ghost as much as just let the car have the evil soul.  The explanation and the imagery of Roland LeBay's rotting corpse in the car didn't read well to me.  
But my long endeavor is now over, so that means I can now look forward to re-reading my favorite Stephen King books and continue reading his new novels as they come out (Dr. Sleep comes out at the end of the month!!!)

29.  This is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz (213 Pages) - D (July 24-July 31)
I loved Diaz's previous novel A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I read a few years ago and heard this book was a loose sequel focusing on some of the fringe characters from that book.  But I absolutely hated this book.  I hated the writing style how each chapter you did not know who the narrator was for a long time, or what time frame of their lives this was.
The structure is a character tells a story about a lover they had and how/why they broke up.  This is fine, but no one really ever learned anything from the relationships.  The execution felt flat, and it doesn't help that the main character, Yunior, is really not likable at all.  Diaz continued his trademark "spanglish" writing style and pop-culture references, but neither added much to the story this time.   I was highly disappointed in this book and it made me question why I enjoyed his previous novel so much.

30.  Countdown City: The Last Policeman Volume II - Ben H.Winters (320 Pages) - C- (Aug 4-Aug 14)
Another book club selection:  This time as the sequel to a new trilogy that is being released (which happens to be written by one of our member's family members).  This book continues the story of Henry who is a policeman in a near-future world where NASA knows an asteroid is due to hit earth in about 45 days.
As society continues to fall apart with people deciding to drink, drug and screw their way until the apocalypse, this one man seems to be one of the few people that cares about other people and doing the right thing.  So when an old friend asks him to find her husband who didn't come home one night, he decides to try to find this man which leads to bigger issues.
The premise of this story is much better than the execution.  The author seems to focus this story around his main character Henry, but the biggest issue is that Henry is not a likable, or interesting character.  Almost everyone else in the story is more interesting than him which is this book's greatest flaw.
The reader wants to know a lot more about what is happening to society and the bigger scale, but the author decides to keep everything focused on Henry and his minor problems.  I will continue to finish this trilogy, and he is setting up some really great questions.
In my opinion there is a great premise that he is not telling but he could in a future trilogy:  Assume everyone thinks the world is going to end in 6 months and people leave their spouses, drink, do drugs, stop paying their credit, use up all of our resources etc, and then the asteroid DOESN'T hit.  How does a world rebuild a society?  Society seems to have broken down so much in this world that it seems like it is unfixable, and things may be better off if the world really does come to an end.

31.  Inferno - Dan Brown (590 Pages) - B (Aug 15-Aug 23)
This is the latest book starring Robert Langdon from The Davinci Code and Angels and Demons.  In this book, Langdon uses his knowledge of Italian art and the writings of Dante to try and save the world from a mad man.
Dan Brown has a very hokey way of writing and all of his books do follow a structure, but damn if they aren't fun books.
What also impresses me is how the author is able to put in some really serious issues in his book and tell a fun story around it so you do not realize you have just digested a pretty strong "fact".
In DaVinci Code he famously put a new spin on the church and some of its basic teachings that had The Vatican very angry at him.    This book warns the reader about the very real problem that is threatening the human race of overpopulation and how we are consuming far too many resources than we have.
But he tells this story in such a fun caper that most people will think it is not as threatening as I feel it actually is.
Also, this novel did not have the typical "happy ending" that you would expect which surprised me and made me wonder how he's going to continue in this series.

32.  The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta (260 Pages) - B (Aug 24-Aug 29)
About a month ago, my neighbors were having an estate sale and I saw this book.  I have read most of Perrotta's other novels and couldn't pass up the $1 price tag this novel had.  I just finished it and I feel very similar to this book as I have to Perrotta's other novels:  It was quite good, but a little heavy handed at times.
This novel tells the story of a small town health teacher that is very liberal in her teachings, trying to preach safe sex who is forced to install a new policy of abstinence due to a strong Christian minority who has gotten the school board to change their itinerary.
The story also follows a born again soccer coach who she battles with our main character because he wants to have prayer after games which she is against.
I love Perrotta's writing style, and he is able to suck you into these characters problems and fears and hopes better than many.  And although I (obviously) agree with Perrotta's opinion on this subject, I felt it was heavily forced down the reader's throat which turned me off.    But this is a very good book and I think it strongly shows both sides of the argument.
Much like another book by Tom Perrotta that I recently read, The Leftovers, this book has a weak ending, but does leave the reader hoping for more with these characters which I guess is a good thing, as frustrating as it might be.

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