06 June 2012

JUNE 2012

Top Ten Literary Quotes from The Simpsons
Drunk Texts from Famous Authors
Books To Annoy Your Conservative Friends :
Summer Reading List for College Freshmen

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ~ Jonathan Safran Foer


Noooooo ... I can't do it
Not going to finish this

It became an act of perseverance.  Then not even skimming helped.  Not even jumping to the end and reading backwards (to see if it gets any better).

Just awful. Blerk. Yukky.

And the surprising thing is that it was recommended by a friend who also recommended Year of Wonders and Madonnas of Leningrad ... both awesomely spectacular wonderful favourite reads.

Precocious doesn't come close to an apt description for the voice of the main character ... I'll go for obnoxious instead.  His repetitive behaviours which are meant to be both cute and indicative of deep trauma are simply ... repetitive ... they are "heavy boots" in fact ... or even "What the?"... or "Jose" ... let's have a bit of artificial swearing because it is pretentiously cute!!!

05 June 2012

The Orphan Master's Son ~ Adam Johnson

***** FAVOURITE *****

Winner : Pulitzer Prize 2013
Finalist : National Book Circle Critics Award 2012 
Tournament of the Books : 2013 (winner) 

Wow! North Korea is another world entirely
Almost like sci-fi!

This book held me captive ... which would sound like a cute take on the book, except for the true horror that goes with being captive in North Korea.

While the setting and the narrative are extremely depressing, the book is not.  There is resilience, hope and humanity underlying the heavy cover of violence and deprivation.  This is a world where it pays to be paranoid.  This is a world where you belong to the State and you only survive by accepting the propaganda.  The people are unceasingly fed a version of the "truth", to the point where group mentality is accepted as normal and where they express distress for foreigners who are not so well cared for by their governments and have to pay for goods and make their own decisions.

This is a riveting read.  The cruel edge cuts right through.  The narrative is a patchwork, jumping back and forth on a timeline but I think I relished this as a foil to the compartmentalised prescriptive lives that the characters led.  There was a bit of everything - romance, adventure, drama, torture, innocence, depravity.

04 June 2012

Pearl Of China ~ Anchee Mee

 < OK >

"Willow of China" would have been more appropriate
Just used Pearl to make a buck

This piece of historical fiction supposedly "brings new color to the remarkable life of Pearl S. Buck, illuminated by the sweep of history and an intimate, unforgettable friendship".  But that was NOT the case.  There was a sweep of history that was revealed through Pearl's "friend" Willow but the friendship was a mere contrivance to provide this sweep of history.

There was little in-depth revelation of Pearl S Buck; she was a mere character to frame Willow's story against.  The author obviously has an insight into the history of Mao's China but I was looking for Pearl to come to life, and for me this didn't happen.

The history itself was choppy with some parts, for example the Boxer Rebellion or the Japanese invasion, given little depth while the evils of Mao and Communist China consumed so much of the storyline.  There were a few moments of WTF with characters that refused to die ... the author subjected them to  labour camps, deprivation, torture, poverty and extreme old age and they just lived on, and on.

03 June 2012

Canada ~ Richard Ford

 * LIKE *

What an odd read!!!
The antithesis of a thriller!

There are no surprises in this.  You know from the opening sentence that is parents are going to rob a bank.  You know that his mother is going to commit suicide in jail. You know that there are going to be murders.  You know in advance that his sister is going to run away.  You know that he is going to Canada. 

 Maybe some books are like a river tumbling down from the mountains - face paced, gathering speed, sweeping all along on its rush to the sea.  But this is a book like a lazy stretch of water on the coastal plain - meandering, backtracking, some parts stagnant, some parts eddying around obstacles, languid.   I can't even say this narrative is a "slow reveal" because it is all there, teasing the reader to dip their toes in the water to find the depths of the narrative. 

There were many times when I wanted to shake Dell and have him take a more active role in his own life.  To me it wasn't a coming-of-age story because Dell never took this responsibility.  It had a stronger flavour of we-are-who-we-are and the impact of parenting.  Dell seemed to be just an observer ... too remote from his feelings to even be described as melancholy ... maybe pathologically innocent would be the closest.

It is calm, detailed, teasingly repetitive, bleak, engrossing and annoying!

02 June 2012

101 Things ... about the Titanic ~ Tim Maltin


101 Things You Thought You Knew 

About The Titanic But Didn't

Not for me
101 Things I didn't really want to know

 It was the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic ... and I thought there might be some interesting trivia ... but this was one for Titanic philes ... a lot of humdrum information with excerpts from the inquiries.  And maybe giving it the cutesy title meant that he had to think up 101 things so there was a bit of repetition that didn't add anything to the interest level.

The good thing about it was that the information was arranged under bold headings styled as questions.  This made skimming really easy ... just flip though to the next question.  And the questions were answered firstly with a Yes/No before the more detailed trivial minutiae that followed.

01 June 2012

Blackout ~ Mira Grant

~ OK ~

Enjoyed #1, hated #2,
This was between the two of them

I thought #1 in the trilogy, Feed, was a great concept with political and moral themes. Deadline, # 2 in the trilogy, was appalling.  (See previous reviews) So I was worried before I even started!

However, while this didn't measure up to Feed, it was waaaaay better than Deadline.   This one was told from the points of view of Shaun and Georgia.  As with Deadline there is an extreme amount of unnecessary repetition.  But it is not as extreme-extreme and I found that whenever I was at a Shaun-narrated part of the story I was able to simply skim and avoid his constant references to Coke and the ohhhh-Georgia's-voice-in-his-head loopiness.

I have just removed the * LIKE * rating ... as I wrote this I figured that I had initially given it that rating simply because it was as repellent as Deadline!  BUT ... it was a good wrap up to the series and it is a shame that it wasn't a neater package of two books that made use of the clever ideas introduced in Feed.