29 December 2009

78. The Girls He Adored

The Girls He Adored - Jonathan Nasaw

This is a thriller. A very bad guy, a very capable psychiatrist, a very outside the box FBI agent. Mix it all together with some serous child abuse, sexual abuse, and a secluded area in which to hide in the mountains of Oregon. You get a very predictable, though still enjoyable jaunt through the exploits of a serial rapist/murderer with multiple personalities. There is the obligatory eventual victory of the good guys after they take their lumps from the bad guy.

At least this bad guy was believable in this book. I have read a few where the bad guy just never seemed to be real.

The book is nothing special. None of the characters are especially notable, though they were well portrayed. The story line was predictable. The little clues left around as to what would happen (there are always clues) were a bit too obvious for me.

If you are a strawberry blond, watch out for this dude.

23 December 2009

77. Good Omens

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This book was quite funny. Let's see, the Antichrist is accidentally switched at birth and is raised without demonic influence. When the time comes for the Apocalypse it does not go anywhere near what was planned.

The characters were hilarious. Stuff like the four horsemen being bikers. The disappearance of the entire core of a nuclear power plant, yet the power production continues. Atlantis rises from the sea. The "prophesies" foretold by a witch in the 1600's keep coming true, but the predictions are difficult to understand until after the fact. An angel and a demon have spent 6000 years helping people and causing disruption and become pivotal to the whole end times scenario because they find they actually like people.

It is funny. It is unlike anything else I have read so far. I really enjoyed reading it and recommend it when you have a desire for something different and funny.

19 December 2009

76. Scrap

Scrap - Lauren Stephenson
This is a novella written by a student at Wofford College. Every two years the creative writing department of the college offers this class where the students write a novel or play or poetry or something creative. Lauren Stephenson was the winner of the 2006 Benjamin Wofford Prize in Fiction for this book. The winner gets their winning book published. The copy I have is one of the 2,000 copies the college published for winning the award.
I really enjoyed the writing. It is not technically difficult or overly ambitious. I didn't expect it to be outstanding writing. I figured it is a college student learning to write fiction, so how good could it really be? I don't think it was on a level with Steinbeck, Faulkner or Vonnegut, but who would think it should be anywhere close? For a college student this was outstanding.
It is a science fiction book about a guy who works as a tester for a huge pharmaceutical company. He discovers there are behind the scenes things happening that cause him to run away and for the company to hunt for him. His exploits are very interesting and the story flows very well.
The characters are interesting. Especially Vee (the protagonist), Emmy (his best friend), Abrienda (the doctor), and the the "scrappers".
I doubt you will find this book in a store or anything, but if you do see it somewhere, grab it and read it. It was a lot of fun and is worth checking out. I hope to see more from Lauren Stephenson some time in the future. Who knows if she will be a writer or not, but she has a pretty good start with this book.

14 December 2009

75. Make Room! Make Room!

Make Room! Make Room! - Harry Harrison

This is another of those movies I remembered from back in the 70's. The film was actually called Soylent Green. This one was a Charlton Heston movie. The only thing I recall really was the scene where he was yelling "Soylent Green is people!".

I found that this book was quite good. The film I remembered is VERY loosely based on this book. It comes down to being a science fiction (dystopian) story in an seriously overpopulated New York City and the problems that creates, along with some characters that have the same names. The story is not the same. The dramatic scene at the end of the movie is nowhere to be found in the book. It is a very different story altogether.

This is one of the few times I will say this, but I loved the movie...and I loved the book.

They were so different that it is pretty easy to separate them and call them two different stories.

25 November 2009

74. Logan's Run

Logan's Run - William F. Nolan

This is one of those books I read because I remember thinking the movie was great when I was young. By today's standards the movie sucks.
The book on the other hand does not suck at all. I think it was fun and exciting. OK, maybe there were events that were a little too convenient. Maybe the story line could get a bit choppy. Things like Logan gets knocked out...when he wakes everything is OK and it is time to move to the next scene. I can overlook those things because I really liked the story. I really liked that this novel was VERY different than the movie.
I wish the movie had some of the elements of this book. The prison called "Hell". The Crazy Horse Mountain. The Thinker. The Sky Gypsys. The Baby Home. The Civil War reenactment. The whole idea the Sanctuary is not just some place with an old guy hanging out. I liked the whole twist with Francis (the other Sandman). I loved the way Logan and Jessica become a pair much better in this book than the random hookup in the movie. I liked the whole story with the cub scouts much better. Box was much more than some robot living in an ice cave. The maze.
This book has so much more to offer than the movie ever did. It makes me regret that I did not read it 20 or 30 years ago.
I have purposely avoided specifics regarding the plot line. I think that you should give it a shot, especially if you liked the movie at all.
Is it great writing? No, not really. I do recommend it because it surprised me with the joy it gave me while reading it.

20 November 2009

73. All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
I read it. It took forever because I was busier than I have ever been in my life this last five weeks or so.
So busy in fact that I don't even feel like blogging about this book.
It was very good. War sucks.

17 October 2009

72. The Boy

The Boy - Naheem Murr

This book was very dark. It was too dark. It was so dark that I didn't want to read it after I started.

There is this guy from Ireland who spends his whole life building himself up to be Prime Minister. He calculates every step. He maneuvers every action in his life to reach that goal. At some point he messes up and does some stupid stuff with a prostitute. He fathers a child with her (the boy)..

The guy has given up his dreams of running the world because he now has a big skeleton in his closet. He becomes a renowned social worker with something like CPS. When the prostitute gets killed he decides to be the foster father for this boy.

They lived together for five years. During that time his legitimate son dies, his daughter commits suicide and his wife leaves him. The boy goes to a group home. The man falls apart but maintains his job.

Time passes and he then goes in search of the boy. Now the boy is a "rent boy" outside of London. He has mastered manipulating everyone around him to achieve his goals.

It seems like every character in this book has some serious mental issues. The ex-priest running the boys home and his wife are ridiculous. The boys in the home are all nuts. The foster father is a whack-job despite being the guy at the top of the social work chain of command.

The only person I think is normal in any way is the girl who cooks at the boys home, who the foster father has a thing for because she reminds him of his ex-wife.

Oh...the end sucked.

Anyway...if you want to read something really dark (have I said it was dark?), this book was pretty well written. I liked the words used. I liked the way it flowed.

Overall, this was not terrible, but it is definitely something you have to be in the right frame of mind in order to read.

12 October 2009

71. The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

This was a very interesting book that tells a tale of a very old man after he died. He thought he lead a boring and wasted life. The five people he met when he went to heaven showed him how his actions, intentional and unintentional, had influenced their lives. He learned that his "wasted" life had actually saved hundreds upon hundreds of children's lives.

It was fun to read. It was a feel good book. I doubt it was very hard for the author to write this one. Nice, but not very difficult to figure out every step of the way.

It was not what I think heaven will be like.

10 October 2009

70. Batman & Dracula: Red Rain

Batman & Dracula: Red Rain - Doug Moench, Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Les Dorscheid, Todd Klein, Eric Van Lustbader

I thought I would give one of these graphic novels a shot for a change. There are 20 something year old guys at work who talk about these graphic novels and "manga" and what look to me like comic books. They are very into them for whatever reason. So, I asked about them and a few guys said this one would probably be good for me.

What did I find? Well, this is a part of a series called "Elseworlds". "Heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places- some that have existed or might have existed, and others that can't, couldn't or shouldn't exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow."

OK...that sounds wonderful...so what did I get?
Dracula comes to Gotham City with his vampire army. They feed on the homeless. Batman must fight him to save the city. Batman wins, but he becomes a good vampire who will live forever.

What did I learn?
Nothing at all. Not a single vocabulary word. Not a single thought worth mentioning.

What did I really learn?
The guys talking about these books are not very intelligent I guess. They talk like this stuff is the best writing in the world and the stories are classic. It was just a fancy stinking comic book. It was written like a comic book and felt like a comic book as I read it. OK, they added a little sexually suggestive junk with female vampires to make the horny dorks like it more I think.

Something else I noticed. The list of credits for writing a stupid "graphic novel" is ridiculously long.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

09 October 2009

69. Chasing the Dead

Chasing the Dead - Joe Schreiber

This book is OK, but a bit to Stephen Kingish for me at this point in life. This type of horror book where some creepy guy who was killed 100's of years ago coming back and doing things in the modern world just seems too childish any more.

It was not bad, but didn't really get me wanting to read the rest of the story. It was suspenseful, but not edge of the seat suspenseful. It was puzzling trying to figure out what was happening, why, and who the "bad guy" really was, but it never really mattered to me as the reader.

06 October 2009

68. Anthem

Anthem - Ayn Rand

First I bought Atlas Shrugged because it was suggested to me. Then I heard that The Fountainhead was kind of a lead in to Atlas Shrugged, so I bought it. Then I read that Anthem was the predecessor to both these books, so I got it. I read it first because it was published first and because I wanted to see the progression the author makes with her ideas.

This book was only 105 pages long, but I think it is one of the most meaningful 105 pages I have read yet. I will come up just short of calling this book required reading. The only reason for that is because I think it is a subject people would need to find interesting to find it that good.

I can't wait to get into The Fountainhead now. :-)

05 October 2009

67. Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes - Pierre Boulle

This is the book that the 1970's movie phenomenon was based on. I expected it to be much like the movies, which I loved.

What did I discover? The movies were based VERY loosely on this novel. Yes, there were apes. Yes, there was a space traveling man. Yes, there were chimpanzees named Cornelius and Zira. Yes, there was an orangutan named Zaius. Yes, there was a mute human woman named Nova.

That is about it for the similarities. The screenplay was obviously Hollywooded up. Not that the screenplay was bad, because I loved those flicks, but it was completely different.

I am very glad that I read this. It is one of the few books that I thoroughly enjoyed while expecting something other than what it was. Usually that is a big let down. This time I think the story was so unique that it kept me wondering what would happen next.

I would recommend this to anyone who was a fan of the old Planet of the Apes movies or science fiction books in general.

One topic for discussion with a fellow book reader at work was whether Planet of the Apes could be considered a dystopian novel. I thought it could be based on my experiences with the movies and not having read the book yet. Now, I do not think so...and then again...

Read it.

30 September 2009

66. The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

This was a very interesting book about a 17 year old boy living on an island in Scotland. He is psychotic, obsessive compulsive, neurotic, and generally just a very strange dude. He killed two cousins and his younger brother and made them all look like accidents. The ways he killed are quite imaginative.

The book is told entirely through the thoughts and feelings of this young man.

There is a weird and strained relationship with his father. There is an older brother who has escaped from a mental institution and is headed home. There is a single friend to this boy who just happens to be a dwarf.

The boy spends his days rigging protective barriers to repel invasions on the island. The barriers are sticks in the ground with the heads of dead animals tied to them. He spends time using a contraption he created that uses wasps as a means of showing him the future during some strange rituals he has made up involving the skull of a dog that maimed him when he was a young child. He likes to hunt with his slingshot and goes to war with rabbits. He ends up killing them with bombs and flame throwers.

Very interesting. Very well written. It definitely got me into the man's head. It made me feel confused and empathetic toward mentally ill people.

The end of the book had a twist I never expected!

23 September 2009

65. I, Lucifer - Glen Duncan

I, Lucifer: Finally, The Other Side of the Story - Glen Duncan

God calls Satan one day and says he has a new deal for him. If you spend 30 days as a flesh and blood man I will let you back into heaven. Lucifer accepts the deal for no other reason than to go have a blast for thirty days and stir up some shit while pissing God off for the umpteenth time.

He takes possession of the body of a writer who just committed suicide. He starts writing a screenplay to tell the other side of the story of the fall of the angels from heaven, the creation of the universe, the time spent in the garden of Eden before the fall of man, and so many other interesting times.

The stories are interesting, though total blasphemy for a believer.

The language? The subject matter? The conversation? The thoughts and reflections? Well, it is the devil writing this book.

Question...if Satan is the main character of the book does that make him a protagonist? Shouldn't the devil perpetually be the antagonist for no other reason than he is the devil?

The author of this book is very good at describing the surroundings. As an angel, even a fallen angel, the devil had not experienced what men had experienced, and did not even realize it until he became one himself. The scents were overpowering. The colors were intensified. All manner of stimulation was as though he was thrown from a sensory deprivation state to the real world. The author did an excellent job relating all this.

I found it quite interesting how Duncan wrote this book from Lucifer's perspective. God exists. The Holy Trinity is real. Angels are real. The creation was true, though according to him was not quite as described in the Bible. The Christian God is real in this book, yet the words are written with disgust and sarcasm and hate...just like Satan would write it. For instance, Lucifer would HATE the crucifixion, resurrection and forgiveness of sins thanks to Jesus Christ. So he calls him Jimeny Christmas, belittles what he did, makes fun of him, points out character flaws, etc. While writing all this, Lucifer also acknowledges the truth of it all and the futility of his struggle.

On a number of occasions he pointed out that it was not a fair fight because one of the Holy Trinity got involved in some conflict between the angels or disrupted one of his "operations" in the world of man. Even then Satan knew he didn't really have the power to do a damned thing, but he considers himself the "second most powerful" thing in existence. It was very interesting to read from that point of view.

It was interesting to read that Lucifer did seem to get worried when he was told by Raphael that Hell would be destroyed during the Judgement and that all inhabitants would be placed into a "nothingness"...alone...with nothing...forever. That scared him, but did not change him.

I enjoyed the book, but I had a difficult time picking it up each day. It took a while to read because I just did not get into it like I have with some others. I have looked back at the past week and realize that there has been a lot going on that normally would not be happening. Perhaps those real life distractions were what made this book not jump up and say "Read me!"...or maybe, just maybe, Someone did not want me to enjoy it. :-)

FYI...this is not a book about religion. This is a novel involving religious beings. It's purpose is never to persuade. It was very interesting.

Blog Change

After much internal deliberation I decided to delete the huge list of books sitting on the shelf waiting to be read.
The darned thing changed too often and was too unweildy to maintain.

Nobody cares anyway. :-)

13 September 2009

64. The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

This "book" was not very long, but all the commentary was huge.

To tell you the truth, I didn't get it. It was not bad, but it was weird. Are all these people actually getting all that junk out of this story?

I just hope I don't wake up as an insect tomorrow. :-)

63. The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man - H G Wells

I expected this book to be kind of cheesy, like a 1950's monster movie.

It was actually quite good and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. The only thing I did not like was the arrogance of the invisible man. Perhaps the effects of the stuff that made him invisible also caused him to be overly confident and quick tempered.

Can you imagine the things you could do if you were invisible? I could. What I never thought about were the negatives. Things like people walking right into you because they can not see you to go around.

I liked this book more than I expected.

12 September 2009

62. The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

Some old guy goes fishing...and the book is great.

I read "A Farewell to Arms" earlier this year and was not thrilled by Hemingway's writing. I figured I would give this book and "The Sun Also Rises" a shot despite my lack of enthusiasm after A Farewell to Arms. I am glad I did that because this was an awesome book.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. Who would have thought that so much could be told in a story about a man who is catching a fish. Reading this book I felt joy and pain for the man. I felt sadness for the fish. I rooted for the fish at times hoping he might get away. Then other times I was cheering for the man and hoping he could persevere.

It was an amazing story that sucked me into the tiny world of a small fishing boat and the thoughts of an old man.

I hate the sharks!

09 September 2009

61. We

We - Yevgeny Zamyatin

Before "Nineteen-Eighty Four". Before "A Brave New World". Before "Anthem". Before "The Handmaid's Tale".
There was We.

This is considered to be the beginning of dystopian science fiction writing. It was written in 1921 by a a Russian who had lived through two revolutions and WWI. He supposedly has written this book due to his own personal experiences during those times.

The "We" world is pretty darned interesting. Mathematics and logic rule. They have conquered both the problems of hunger and love. The lives of all the citizens are controlled strictly by "The Table". The leader of OneState is called "The Benefactor" and is supreme.

Sex is for procreation only, but the offspring immediately become the property of OneState. Anyone may have a sexual relation with anyone else. They must go to the government office and request authorization. They are then given a pink ticket for that rendezvous during the allotted 15-30 minute period where they are allowed to lower the shades. LOL

Nobody has a name. All the citizens of OneState have an alpha-numeric code. The protagonist is called D-503. Men start with a consonant and women with a vowel.

This book has numerous references to Christian themes and biblical stories. Even the creation of OneState is related in a way that is similar to the biblical creation in Genesis 1-4. OneState is even called a paradise where D-503 is called Adam and I-331 is called Eve. The serpent is called S-4711 who is repeatedly described as having an S shaped body.

OneState controls everything and the citizens are "happier" for it. There is a constant theme saying that OneState has no room for I, only We. One person alone is useless and causes problems for the whole. All citizens must act as one. Doing the same things at the same times and therefore all benefit. The society is like a single organism or machine operating in it's intended capacity because all the pieces do exactly what they are supposed to do at exactly the right time. All prescribed by the Benefactor, of course.

D-503 had gotten sick early in the book. He had an incurable disease called a "soul". Doesn't that just suck for him?

When things do eventually get a little out of control, the Benefactor used propaganda to keep the problems from spreading and then prescribed a medical procedure whereby all the citizens could have their imaginations removed. Why? Well, this was the cause of the "illness" they had contracted of course. Then they lined up in droves to be cured by the Benefactor.

This was a fascinating read. No wonder it created a market for dystopian fiction novels every twenty years or so since.

05 September 2009

60. Screwball

Screwball - David Ferrell

I read this book because it is baseball season. I am a life long Red Sox fan and this book is about the Red Sox. Well, it is a novel about fictitious events, players, and characters that are supposed to be the Boston Red Sox.

This is one of those crime books that is looking to target a specific audience. Red Sox nation in this case. The story itself SUCKED! Being that it was the Red Sox is the only reason I did not throw it away. :-)

It seems that every player is a dysfunctional misfit with attitude and a total disregard for rules or normal behavior. The acting owner and general manager are way to willing to pay of huge extortion demands and cover up murders in order to win a world series. The coach is a bumbling old fool who wins by luck more than anything else. The retired player that was the greatest ever from Boston is just an egotistical ass.

Then there is Ron Kane...the rookie phenom. He can pitch, hit and play the field. He throws 112 MPH fastballs and fills the designated hitter spot on days when he is not pitching. 15-20 strikeouts per game is the norm. He is supposedly going to be the greatest player to ever put on a uniform. He has some serious personality flaws and is generally just a dick. The biggest problem is that he is a serial killer that beheads a fan in each town the club visits.

Blah blah...the cops end up catching him. Oh, and the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918 (the book was written in 2003).

I wrote what I wrote because there is no way any of you people reading this are going to pick up this stupid book.

I am only saying this one is OK because the Red Sox won the championship. If it had turned out otherwise I would have said I wasted my time. :-)

30 August 2009

59. S.

S. : A Novel About the Balkans - Slavenka Drakulic

This is a very interesting novel about events that took place during the war in Bosnia. It has nothing to do with Americans or American involvement. This book is written to expose the mass rape and torture of women by occupying forces.

I work with a man that is from Bosnia. He and his family were refugees and came to America. They are Muslim, and were the target of the genocide taking place at the time. He has told me stories of when he was in Sarajevo trying to escape with his family. Those stories of having no food or water while seeing the city was surrounded by tanks in the hills will always stay with me. He witnessed many horrifying events. I will never forget him or his stories about that time.

He is the reason I picked up this book. Slavenka Drakulic picked up where my friends stories left off. He would not have the first hand knowledge of what happened to women after they were taken away from the villages and put into camps. Drakulic wrote about that aspect of the war.

The story was just graphic enough to give you a thorough sense of the humiliation these people underwent. The purpose of what was happening to them was not about the pleasure for the men or to hurt the women. It was entirely about humiliating them and killing their souls. The Muslim women would be shunned for being raped. They would no longer be welcome in their own society. Public humiliation and mass rape made it clear to all who had been raped and who had not. I can only hope that the Muslim community in Bosnia has not shunned these women as Milosevic's army expected.

The characters in the book do not have names. They are called by either a title or by an initial. S. K. N. H. The Captain. Soldier. etc etc. No names for anyone. I think this is done to emphasize how the women become something other than the person whom they used to be. Once a captive, Jane Smith the school teacher from everytown USA would just be J. Why? Because she is not free. She owns nothing. She controls nothing. She can not control even her own body. She would become the property of, well, not even a person or a government. She would be the property of all the men who wish to do their bidding. Perhaps she lives. Perhaps she dies. It makes no difference because there are plenty of other "playthings" to choose from next time. It is very very sad.

One interesting aspect of this book was that S. got pregnant. She spent a lot of time reflecting on whether to give the child up for adoption or to raise it herself. For her whole pregnancy she looked at the life growing within her as a parasite or a tumor. Once the child was born she did not want anything to do with him...and at this time there was a lot of insight to her thought process.

Was it better for this boy to be raised by an adoptive family and have no idea who he was or how he was conceived? Was it better to raise him herself and make up a story about a father despite not knowing which one of many men it could have been? Was it better to raise him and tell him the truth about the rape and how she hated him while he was inside her?

There was no good solution to this problem. Lying to the child would probably make things seem better, but cause problems for him in other ways. To tell the truth might cause him to hate people he otherwise would not have...and I believe this is what influenced her decision. If he hated the Serbian people then perhaps he would seek revenge.

This book is very sad and made me angry at points. It is about war. It is about the evil things people can do to other people. I think all groups of people are capable of doing these things. Even here in America, where we like to pretend we are so noble. I think if there was an enemy right here doing some stuff to us we did not like that we would do evil things right back to them. I do not think our government would set up a situation like in Bosnia. I do think that the citizens would do many things beyond the control of our government. Maybe not to the extent of this book, but it could get pretty ugly real fast.

I am rambling now. Bed time. :-)

26 August 2009

58. Baa Baa Black Sheep

Baa Baa Black Sheep - Gregory "Pappy" Boyington

This is the autobiography of a Medal of Honor recipient, the Commanding Officer of the Black Sheep Squadron (VMA-214), a member of the Flying Tigers and a World War II ace fighter pilot.

I knew a little bit about this man due to the old 1970's television show starring Robert Conrad. That was about all I had to reference concerning the life of this man. I had heard the television show was based on this book. It probably was, but I would consider it a pretty loose interpretation of actual events. Typical Hollywood.

The book on the other hand went into so much more than a misfit squadron of fighter pilots lead by a hard-nosed Marine Major.

This book told of his days with the Flying Tigers as a member of the AVG (American Volunteer Group) in Burma and China. This was before the attack on Pearl Harbor. This group was made up of "civilians". They were actually military men who had "resigned commissions" to take part in the group. It was pretty interesting to learn of this group. I had heard the name and seen the aircraft. They are the ones with the shark teeth painted on the nose. I had no idea what the real deal was. It was fascinating.

From there it lead to the Black Sheep Squadron in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific and the fight against the Japanese. This was also very interesting, but not for the reasons I expected. I thought there would be a lot more of the defiance of authority and doing things outside of regulations. What I found was more of a man that was on the fringe of cracking up due to his admitted alcoholism. He was a problem child...who had an awesome talent to fly a fighter plane and to lead other people.

What I did not know was that Pappy Boyington was shot down and ended up a POW for almost two years. During this time he was pronounced dead and was buried. Our country was not informed of his being alive or in captivity. He was not classified as a POW, but as a "captive". Semantics can make a HUGE difference. POWs were treated better.

I really enjoyed reading this man's story. Don't go reading it for the prose. He is not a literary genius by any means, but the events that are taking place and the insights of a man who has been there are worth the read.

21 August 2009

The Firstborn

The Firstborn - Conlan Brown

I am not counting this book. I read about 50 of the 311 pages, but I won't go any further.

I picked this book because the cover looked cool. Later I read the blurbs on the back and decided to give it a shot. Then I saw that it was Christian fiction.

Well, with that in mind I would expect it to be at least biblical. It was not.

So, just because some guy wrote a story and decided to make the characters pray and have faith does not make it Christian.

Maybe the story was good. I will never know.
Lesson learned...y0u can't judge a book by it's cover...literally. :-)
Dude, I have hit a dry spell. I hope the next one does not suck.

19 August 2009

57. Notes From Underground

Notes From Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky

Uhhhh...A friend described this book as "insanity on paper". That seems about right.

I really have no idea what it was about. I do know how it made me feel. I felt despair and confusion and loneliness and anger as I read the words.

So, since I am clueless, but definitely moved I guess this book is OK.

Maybe some day I will understand what the heck I just read. LOL

17 August 2009

56. The Awakening

The Awakening - Kate Chopin

I did not like this book very much.
I feel like I wasted a few days reading a predecessor to a Harlequin romance novel or something like that. Maybe it felt like reading a soap opera.

Yes, I am sure there is something to the parts where a woman is no longer being subservient to a man, but it just didn't do much for me while I was reading it.


15 August 2009

55. Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson

This book was recommended by a friend a while ago. I decided to read it because it almost fell off the shelf and landed on my foot.

I have never read a book written by a Norwegian before.

This book was quite good for the descriptiveness of the writing. It describes the Norwegian countryside beautifully. I could picture the cottages and the rivers set amongst the trees. It must be a beautiful place.

Another thing I liked about the book was that it really never went anywhere. I have so many unanswered questions. What happened to John's father after he broke his leg? Did Trond and Lars ever discuss the past? Did Trond and his daughter ever see each other again? Did Trond's father and Jon's mother end up together? What happened between them during the war? Why did Lars's just walk away and leave the farm with Jon when he came home? Why did Trond not tell his daughters where he was going when he moved away? A million questions.....and I like that there are no answers.

Why? I will make a feeble attempt to explain.

This book is not about the story. The "plot" as I see it is within the old man himself. He has lived to be 67 years old, has lost his wife and mother, and has gone to a remote cabin to seek solitude. He finds that solitude, and the thoughts on his life that come along with looking inward when one is alone.

This book is about the old man coping with his new surroundings while reflecting on the memories of his youth. He did not have all the answers. He only had the knowledge from his own experiences and the book did not go beyond that knowledge. This book was about the man, and not the story.

After I read Falkner's book my sister-in-law said something to the effect of letting the words wash over you rather than reading for the story. I tried to do that with this book. I let the words move me and got into the man's world rather than wondering what would happen next. It worked very well and was quite enjoyable. This was easy to do with this book because even when the past was "reenacted" it was done within the framework of Trond, the old man, remembering the events rather than zipping the reader back to that time and living through it again. The old dude's recollection of the events as they unfolded even had gaps because he did not understand some things. He was only fifteen years old during the events being recalled. He also only had his own perspective to draw upon.

It was quite interesting to read and a very well written book. I am glad someone took the time to translate and publish it in English.

08 August 2009

54. Dirty White Boys

Dirty White Boys - Stephen Hunter

What can I say other than this book was a waste of my time? I will give you a few reasons.

1. This book had one of the most predictable plot line I have ever read. No surprises. I hate that.

2. The characters were not believable to me. They all had flaws that didn't seem to fit my image of who they were.

3. Odell, a cousin of the antagonist and fellow criminal, was retarded. He reminded me of Benjy from The Sound and the Fury. He could not speak or think for himself in almost every situation...yet he was in a maximum security federal prison in the general population. He was even the room mate with his cousin, his criminal accomplice. Right! A man this retarded would not be in that prison. It was ridiculous.

4. These types of books are supposed to get you hating the bad guys, loving the good guys despite their being the underdogs due to the situation, etc. This book never did it for me.
Yes, the bad guys were bad. I did not like them all that much. I also felt like they could have been a lot badder. This guy Lamar was supposed to be the baddest dude in the prison. He tried to act like it, but it fell short for me.
Then there were the good guys. The protagonist was a State Trooper named Bud. He had a wife and two sons and was an all around super guy that everyone loved. This is the dude that is supposed to get us rooting for him. He is also the guy who was having an affair with the wife of a rookie officer he had trained. That rookie happened to be assigned as his partner. Still knocking boots with his wife. That rookie then got killed by the bad guys and Bud had these recurring nightmares and visions about it forever...but still banged the guys wife as often as he could lie to his family and slip away or meet her in some far away town.
Sorry, but this is not the guy I see as a hero. He is just some sneaky piece of shit who happens to be lucky a LOT in this book.

5. The coincidences are ridiculous. Nobody can find Lamar and his gang for months. So, how does Bud Pewtie repeatedly stumble upon him and keep getting into gun fights? Bud and Lamar must have some kind of attraction or something that wills them to being in the same place at the same time. It was stupid.

6. The first line of the book set up the tone. I knew immediately I was in for some writing that was supposed to act tough but actually be crappy. The opening paragraph is as follows:

"Three men at McAlester State penitentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye, but all were black and therefore, by Lamar's own figuring, hardly human at all. His was the largest penis ever seen on a white man in that prison or any of the others in which Lamar had spent so much of his adult life. It was a monster, a snake, a ropey, veiny thing that hardly looked at all like what it was but rather like some form of rubber tubing."

It went down hill from there.

03 August 2009

53. Nineteen Eighty-four

Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell

I have finally read this book. I liked it very much, though it was not exactly what I expected. I kept waiting for a twist. There never was one like I expected. How sad.

I am amazed that someone was able to organize their thoughts enough to write this book. The explanations for how and why the world was the way it was is beyond my ability to imagine. I get it when it is explained, but to make it up, to be the one to think it all through and tie it together...not me.

The guys at work saw me reading this and were making all kinds of analogies to the US government today. Sorry, I think it is a real stretch to say we are anything like the government of Big Brother.

Should be read by everyone at some point in their lives.

I am not going to write any more because everyone has already read it. Who cares. I am going to read Dirty White Boys (something where I don't have to think for a few days).

30 July 2009

52. The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

This was a fascinating book to read and is probably the best writing I have ever read concerning the Vietnam War. Yes, the subject matter is the war, and therefore it can be quite disturbing at times, but that is not what the guts of this book is about.

This is written to inform the reader about how the war affected the author and his friends. What were they thinking? What were they feeling? Why did they react the way they did in given situations? What were the reasons for the soldiers having problems in life afterward?

It gets into the head of the soldier in a way I have never experienced. It shows how the defense mechanisms in a man's mind that are used for survival can be seen as making them hard, uncaring, and without feeling. The people who are not in the same position could never understand what happened in that war. They could not feel the depth of fear and confusion and how life becomes a moment to moment survival on a physical, psychological and emotional level.

Writing this blog is difficult. I can't describe the writing without giving examples of why I liked it so much. I don't want to give examples because it will detract from the future readers experience. That is a good word for it. I did not READ this book. I EXPERIENCED this book.

It is an amazing book. I loved it. I recommend it to all.
Mike, it will be in the mail soon. It is definitely worth the time to read.

26 July 2009

51. Chernobyl

Chernobyl - Frederik Pohl

This novel took a real world event and fictionalized it. Is fictionalized a word?
I have read a lot about what happened at Chernobyl. This book kept the facts straight for the most part. Things like the dates, the timeline, the causes, the reactions, all seemed to be on par with what actually happened in those days that grabbed the worlds attention.

That was all key to the story, but it was not the story. This book was about the people. Granted, they were fictional people, but what they were doing was actually done by real living breathing human beings.
The main characters in this book are the deputy director of the power plant and his family, an engineer who works with the water systems in the plant and his family, a few power plant operators, a fireman, an army private, and the Government of the USSR.
We follow all these characters as the disaster unfolds. Some turn out to be heroes. Some end up being chumps. Some live. Some die. We get to know their families, their motivations for doing what they do, and their shortcomings. They end up seeming like they could be real people.

Aftasia Smin was one of my favorite characters. She was an 86 year old woman, born in 1900. She was a hero of the first world war. She was a wounded combat veteran, and a generally feisty old lady with power and respect even all those years later. She told stories of the Stalin days a few times. On one occasion there was a side trip she took some relatives on to the Babi Yar site in Kiev. This is a location where the Nazis murdered 100,000 Ukrainian Jews (and others) during WWII. There was a lengthy speech given by her that explained the history of the place. This has nothing to do with the Chernobyl story, but I am glad it was there. It seems that Babi Yar gets overlooked when looking at atrocities around the globe. This brought it to my attention again, and then I can blog about it and bring it to yours. It happened.

While reading this book I constantly thought of Elena Filitova and the documentary films she has made in the restricted zone. She has visited the Chernobyl power plant, the town of Pripyat. Visit this website for more info. Thanks for sending it to me so many years ago Mike. http://www.kiddofspeed.com/ Make sure you check out the link called Elena Revisits Chernobyl and watch the Ghost Town video.

The Chernobyl power plant, reactor number 4.The town of Pripyat, Ukraine. It has been abandoned since 1986.

22 July 2009

50. A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

I, your Humble Somnambulist, viddied this keeno in the sinny many years ago, my brothers. :-)

I remember Alex and his buddies being a bunch of gang bangers, getting in trouble, and that Alex was forced to watch movies to correct his problem. I do not remember all the details of that film. I do remember it making an impression on me, probably because of the ultra-violence. I am pretty sure we did not see much of that stuff in those days.

I never read the book. I had picked it up a few times, read a few lines, said to myself, "oh yeah, the weird slang language." I then put it back on the shelf. I have been carrying this book around for probably two decades. This time I picked it up, read a few lines, and understood it. I realized the slang (Nadsat or teenagers language) was using anglicized words from the Russian language. Well, isn't that interesting. I learned enough Russian to hold basic conversations since we adopted our daughters from Ukraine. While reading this book I got it. I knew that Moloko was milk, klooch is key, britva is razor, chelloveck is a person, devotchka is a girl, etc etc etc. Burgess used this throughout the book. Just about every line written uses some for of Russian language in the English text.

I even understood when Burgess was taking Russian words and altering them to use as slang. Like "horrorshow" meaning "good" in the Nadsat language. The Russian word for good is Harasho (with a guttural sounding H), but it made sense to say horrorshow and twist it back tho the Russian word for good.

Is this why I liked this book so much? Could it be that I was able to just let the words flow through me like Sandy said? Could it be that I felt a secret connection that others don't have because I knew these words in their native tongue. I know, that is not reality, but my mind had that fantasy thought. You would not have to know Russian to enjoy this book and knowing it did not reveal any secret truths that are unobservable to the non-Russian reader.

I did see some themes in this book that I did not expect.

The anti-big government sentiment was blatant throughout. The book begins in a world where teens run rampant at night committing senseless acts of violence. There is no real explanation as to how the world got this way, but there are allusions to it. Mom and Dad had to let Alex sleep all day because he had a hangover after being out all night committing crimes and abusing drugs. Why did they have to let him stay home rather than get to school? Because there is a law, made by the government, that says all people must work (except children, those carrying children, and the ill). There was no choice. They had to leave for work or break the law. That left Alex on his own, along with all the other children who were out of control.
Then the government sends Alex to jail and to fix the problem of the bad kids and crime they will "cure" the criminal. This government program is what Alex participates in. He is forced to watch all manner of evil and nastiness on film while under the influence of some drug that helps him relearn morals. Well, this program gets Alex into a huge mess and he ends up trying to kill himself.
The government even decided to clean up the street gang problem by making gang-bangers into policemen. That's just great. Now the gangs officially ran the streets with real authority and power, which they abused religiously because they were criminals anyway.
The common theme as far as government was concerned was that they were too involved in peoples lives. They were trying to fix so much and control so much that the people had given up all their liberties. The people were no longer free. The government programs all had unforeseen and unexpected consequences. These developments then required further intervention by the government to correct the problems it created. It snowballed until the people were all oppressed and dependant upon the government for life itself.
I have a die hard belief that the bigger the government is the more it is going to make mistakes. the more mistakes it makes means it will try to regulate stuff so it won't happen again. All the while these laws and regulations and programs restrict my ability to be free. My liberty, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, gets taken away, bit by bit, with every new Government program. I could relate to Alex's world!

The other theme I noticed concerned free will. God gave all men free will. The ability to choose in any situation. The ability to make a distinction between right and wrong and to make a decision as to which path to follow. This government program that Alex took part in took away his ability to choose. it took away his free will. The prison Chaplain and F. Alexander both made comments on this. Alex was no longer a man, a human being. He was a thing. Just like a toy programmed to do whatever the buyer wanted. He could not make a decision for himself.

Hey, I just realized, this was actually a government program to control and regulate morality. Yes, Alex may have been bad. They corrected it. It worked, at Alex's expense. So, what if the government decided it was immoral to vote against the ruling party, or so many other situations? Hmmm.

Anyway, if Alex no longer had free will and could not make choices he would actually be a defenseless robot. Not a thing. Not the human being made int he image of God. No longer able to choose to love or to hate. He defaulted to love in order to avoid pain and sickness. He did not choose...and therefore would never really love anything or anyone again.

There are probably other things that I am missing. Those two themes jumped out at me and said "blog about that!"

So, here is Alex, self proclaimed rapist, thug, murderer, and generally all around evil shithead ... and I feel bad for him. I want him to win. I want him to get his "soul" back and be able to choose to do violence. That makes this book outstanding.

18 July 2009

17 July 2009

48. The Sound and The Fury

The Sound and The Fury - William Faulkner

This is supposed to be one of the greatest American novels. Faulkner is supposed to be one of the greatest American authors. So, what was I missing?

I absolutely hated this book for the first 100 pages or so. Each day I would read some and say to myself that I would tolerate it for one more day. Eventually it just got really interesting and I wanted to read more. It was a shame that I had to hate it at first.

Thee are four chapters. The first narrated by Benjy. I almost quit. It was all over the place. Then narrated by Quentin. It got better, but the guy had some pretty serious head problems. It was still full of randomness, but the story started taking shape. Then reading the part narrated by Jason, I really liked the book. From there on out it was very good.

My observations and comments:
Mom was an idiot.

Caddy was wild, but not evil. OK, maybe the incest was pretty bad, but it is forgivable.

Caddy and Quentin's daughter, also Quentin, was wild and a very bad child. Probably because Jason was a lousy father figure and grandmother was too self absorbed to care.

Jason was a bitter bitter young fellow who deserved to get his ass whipped.

Luster, you mean little boy!

I don't think I will be reading any more Faulkner for quite some time. It took a lot of effort just to understand the plot and the relationships of the people in the story.
I will say this one is OK. The beginning stunk. The last half was pretty darned good. Average that out and it is just OK for me.

11 July 2009

47. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale - Holly Black

This book was written by the author of Spiderwick Chronicles. I thought the cover was nice looking and the blurbs were interesting. "Welcome to the realm of very scary faeries!" "Debauchery, despair, deceit, and grisly death--what more could you ask for from a fairy tale?...A luscious treat for fans of urban fantasy and romantic horror." That was enough for me to give it a shot.

The story is about a 16 year old girl named Kaye who lives with her mother. Mom is the lead singer for numerous failed rock and roll bands and big on freedom. Stuff happens and Kaye and her mom must move back to New Jersey to live with Grandma. This was Kaye's childhood home. As a child she had many "imaginary" friends who were faeries.

The faeries are real. Kaye herself finds out she is not human and is in fact a pixie. She was planted in the human world in disguise as an infant. The faerie world has three factions. A "good" group, a "bad" group, and a group that are allied with no one. The unallied group is always in servitude to one group or the other. Every seven years a ritual is performed to enslave the "free" faeries...and that is what this story is about.

The faeries in this book are not like tinker bell. They don't flutter around sprinkling dust on people and picking flowers. They are mean, vindictive and downright cruel.

I didn't hate the book. I can't say I loved it either. The story was interesting, but it seemed way too simplified. This could have been much better had the author drew it out, brought in more characters in depth, and not been in such a rush to get from one thing to the next. It read just fine, but I kept waiting for the detail that would draw me into the story deeper.

The book is young adult fiction. Maybe that explains the simplification of the story. I don't like it though. All those Harry Potter books, Aragon, and countless others that teens love are not simple. This could have been better, even for a young adult.

09 July 2009

46. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander SolzhenitsynОдин день Ивана Денисовича

This has become one of my favorite books. It was a fascinating story and very well written. I understood and empathized with the characters. I could feel the frustrations and sadness within their souls. It made me want to reach out to them, despite their being fictional characters from a half century ago. Silly me.

The story is set in a Soviet prison camp (Gulag) in the 1950's. Ivan Denisovich Shukov is serving a 10 year sentence for being a German spy, which is a confession made to avoid his own execution. There are many men serving the same types of sentences.

This story is set in the Stalin era. The abuses of the Soviet people at that time were numerous. For one, the Ukrainian Holodomyr of the 1930's, is something I have learned quite a bit about.

This book is quite dramatic and is a testament to the abuses and repression perpetrated on the Soviet people by Stalin. This being the case, it is amazing that it was ever published within the Soviet Union. Why did that occur? Kruschev was in power at the time. He personally approved the publication of this story because he wanted to show the evils of the Stalin regime. He wanted the people to back his new government leaders (the politburo, etc). So, Kruschev allowed this story to be published in "Novy Mir" (New World), a Soviet literary magazine known to be progressive. The book includes a forward written by the editor of Novy Mir that warns the readers of the political volatility and the nature of what they were about to read. To us Americans, the story would be no big deal. To the Soviets, this type of story was unheard of.

The entire story takes place in one average day Ivan Denisovich spends in a prison camp somewhere in Siberia. This day is exactly like any other. There is nothing special on this day. That is what is so moving about the story. This exact same thing happens every day for ten years. There is nothing special. Just doing time and trying to survive each day as best you can.

The last few paragraphs of this book summed up the simplicity that takes over life when one is just trying to survive. I would imagine this is what it would be like to hope you can keep hope alive within your life.

"Shukov went to sleep fully content. He'd had many strokes of luck that day: they hadn't put him in the cells; they hadn't sent his squad to the settlement; he'd swiped a bowl of kasha at dinner; the squad leader had fixed the rates well; he'd built a wall and enjoyed doing it; he'd smuggled that bit of hacksaw blade through; he'd earned favor from Tsezar that evening; he'd bought that tobacco. And he hadn't fallen ill. He'd got over it.
A day without a dark cloud. Almost a happy day.
There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch. From the first clang of the rail to the last clang of the rail.
Three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days.
The three extra days were for leap years."

Almost a HAPPY day? That is how far down the hole these men are. I felt sorrow for their daily plight and I truly felt like rejoicing at the smallest of "victories" during Ivan's day.

Read it!

06 July 2009

45. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon is a creative writing teacher who lives in England. He has written children's books and television screenplays. This book is not a children's book, though young adults would understand and enjoy it. Mr. Haddon worked with autistic individuals when he was a young man.

This book is about a 15 year old boy named Christopher Boone. It is written in a first person perspective as though Christopher is the one doing the story telling. What is interesting is that Christopher is autistic. What type of autism is never mentioned, but the books summary assumes it to be Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism, or savant syndrome.

Christopher finds his neighbor's dog has been killed with a pitch fork. He decides to solve the crime like his hero Sherlock Holmes would do. He begins and investigation into the crime and finds out much more than he ever bargained for.

Seeing this story told from the perspective of someone with autism was very interesting. The thought process and the explanations as to why Christopher was making the decisions he made explained a lot to me as to how autism affects people.

I enjoyed this story and I especially liked the insight into the mind of an autistic individual. My wife will be reading this book now. She was intrigued by some of what I read to her. Our son has been diagnosed with a possible mild for of Aspergers...and I saw flashes of him in Christopher's behavior. Some of it was dead on accurate as to what our son would say or do in a given situation.

I liked the touch Haddon chose to use concerning numbering the chapters. Christopher likes prime numbers more than cardinal numbers. He chose to number the chapters using only prime numbers, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 all the way up to chapter 233. It was a nice touch. Christopher even devoted part of the book to explaining why he chose to do this and how to find prime numbers.

I recommend this book to anyone who knows someone with any form of autism. It opened my eyes to quite a bit. Maybe it stirred a little empathy because the problem autism creates becomes more understandable after reading this book.

Reading this reminded me of 8th or 9th grade English class. Mr. Mag read "Charlie" (AKA, Flowers For Algernon) in class. He read it like he thought Charlie would speak. It made a huge impression on me at the time. I never looked at retarded people the same. After reading this book, I think it could have that same kind of lasting impression.

02 July 2009

Age Of Reason

Age Of Reason - Jean-Paul Sartre

I read the first two chapters of this book and set it aside. I will finish it some other time and blog about it then. The book was just too depressing. I will have to be in the right mood to read it and not just plod my way through the words.

01 July 2009

44. Naked

Naked by David Sedaris

This is a collection of 17 short stories written by a very funny guy. The stories all are autobiographical. All are about things the author has done, experienced while growing up, his relationships with other people, his adventures, his feelings and his quite hilarious view of all those things.

I truly enjoyed reading these stories. Some I could picture the scenes perfectly.

"A Plague of Tics" was about his OCD and his neurosis' while growing from a small child to a young adult. His mother's way of dealing with things like licking light switches and rolling his eyes back in his head were very funny.

"True Detective" related his mother's and sister's obsession with 1970's detective TV shows with how he was going to solve petty crimes around the house. Problem: real life crept in.

"Planet of the Apes", "The Incomplete Quad", "C O G" and "Something For Everyone" were all stories where the author was traveling after graduating college. Much like Kerouac and Mewshaw, he had troubles along with his conquests in each of these stories.

I loved "Get Your Ya-Ya's Out" and "Ashes".

I read this book because I found it at a yard sale for a quarter. I knew the author's name because I have another David Sedaris novel, "Me Talk Pretty One Day", on my list of books to purchase (found it at Goodwill this past week).

I like the author's humor. It is blunt and raw, but not crude or mean. It comes across in a way that relays how people really are. Not always loving relationships between siblings, but they still love each other.

I think my favorite story was "Cyclops". Dad keeps telling the kids these nightmare scenarios where people lose a foot or are blinded while doing everyday chores. This happens so often during Sedaris' formative years that he is scared to do many things. He never drives a car. He moved to Chicago and New York because they had superior public transportation and he would not need to use a lawn mower. I can picture the stories he was told. I can also picture the father's reaction when many years later he is asked about them and has no recollection of ever telling the story. The story was probably made up and told to teach some little life lesson...one that Sedaris took a little too serious.

It is funny and made me laugh out loud a number of times. I am definitely smiling inside just thinking about the stories.

26 June 2009

43. Man In Motion

Man In Motion - Michael Mewshaw

This is one of those male coming of age, trying to find oneself, type of books. It was published in 1971 and written by a guy who was an English teacher at UMass after getting his PhD from UVA. (I felt like using a lot of acronyms) This was his first novel.

The main dude is a 26 year old male. He has graduated from UVA and is thinking of becoming a writer. He wrote a short story that was published in a campus collection of short stories. That was his claim to fame. Other than that the guy has done nothing at all with his life. He still lives with his mother and step-father. He works at Safeway as a cashier. He doesn't pay rent. He set up the attic as his living space and a place for him to write, yet he has written nothing at all.

He is so full of excuses for not doing anything that it is ridiculous. His sister thinks he is a free loading piece of crap. His mother is angry at him. His step-dad is accepting of him as a buddy would be, but still wishes he would do something.

The first 130 pages or so of this book are nothing but this guy, Walker Hawley, talking to people. He talks to his mother. He talks to his sister. He talks to his step-father. He talks to his grand-mother. He talks to his girl-friend. He talks to his brother-in-law. He talks to some guy he met at a friends house. He talks to his mother again. He talks and talks and talks...and always the conversation is centered around one thing. Walker wants to go to California and be inspired. He wants to go where the artists live and get rid of his writer's block. All the conversations, for 130 pages, are about this subject and what the others think and want and blah blah.

Finally, Walker does something. His mother is in the institution for an emotional breakdown. He told his girl-friend he was leaving and "kind of" broke off the relationship. After Thanksgiving dinner his step-father got drunk and fell down the stairs and died...and then Walker just took off. He called the funeral home on the way out of town and told them where the body was. He didn't call anyone else. He just left.

He had taken out an ad in the paper for someone to travel with him. He was driving to California and wanted someone to share expenses. So, Lila Caine answered the ad. She is a student at The University of Maryland, but wants to quit. She wants to go to California and become an actress.

So, they meet and they drive away in his TR3. The first night in the hotel they have sex. For the next 100 pages they drive from one town to the next, get a hotel, have sex, sleep. Do again. And again.

The last eighty pages were my favorite part of the book. When Walker and Lila stop having so much sex and realize that they really don't like each other as much as they originally hoped, then things got interesting.

It is a decent book, but it seems like it took so long to define the relationships in super-depth that it was irritating. Then the sex here there and everywhere saga was getting irritating. If they did something other than drive and bang it might have been more interesting. Yeah yeah yeah, can you please describe Lila's body one more time. Maybe the way the moonlight reflected off a puddle and cast a shadow on her breasts deserves half a page? I exaggerate, but that is how it felt.

Much like Kerouac's "On The Road", "Man In Motion" got interesting when they crossed the Mexican border. I wonder if Mewshaw was attempting to write the next generation's "On The Road". Walker was not as much of a jerk, but he was just as lost and stupid. There are definite similarities between the stories, though I much preferred Mewshaw's writing style and story to Kerouac's. Chosing between the two, I liked this one more in just about every way.

In the end Walker made some better decisions and "found" himself. That was good.

Oh, a funny line... Walker to Lila... "Let's play "Peace and Quiet". You be quiet, and I'll get a piece."

I am wondering why I have picked up so many books that ended up being first novels for different authors.

22 June 2009

42. Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

A young reporter, Camille Preaker, works at a small Chicago paper and is assigned to write about the nasty murders of two children in her home town. A small town in Missouri. There is a strange cluster of people living in this town. Throw in a few neurotic people and numerous psychiatric problems...and you get this book.

Camille is a reformed cutter. She cut words into her skin. The words formed scars in her flesh. The words heat up when events make her feel whatever way the word describes. She can "feel" the words. Oh, and she is an alcoholic. And a slut. And has a problem with authority. And has deep seeded feelings about her mother. And has big problems with her childhood "friends" in her home town of Wind Gap. In other words, Camille is a mess.

The murders of the two young girls are definitely not the ugliest part of this book. The Preaker family is far nastier. The dead sister, died almost 20 years prior, is probably the luckiest one. The 13 year old sister who still lives in Wind Gap is nuts. About as nuts as Camille, but at a far younger age.

I liked the book. It was a fascinating to read the thought process of the woman as she wrestles with her past, and recovery, and a trying to do her job. I found it interesting how she fell right back into old habits with her mother rather than just telling her to bite the big one. I also found it interesting that the little sister was able to exert control over the close to 30 year old Camille. Little Amma, by no means an innocent, was able to talk her adult sister into going for a ride with her friends in the drug dealers Camaro, heading to a party full of teens, taking Extasy during a disgusting version of "spin the bottle", and generally doing all kinds of stupid stuff. Was Camille acting like an adult? Heck no. She was so weak as a person she couldn't even tell a 13 year old no.

I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed the plot. I enjoyed the relationships. I enjoyed the characters and all their problems. I did think the end, the solution to the crime, was rushed. Build, build, build and...wham...that was it. I don't want to say she should have drug it out, but it seemed like it was written to just tie up the loose ends and get the book to the publisher. The end did not flow like the rest of the book. other than that, it was pretty enjoyable. Well, as enjoyable as reading about peoples multiple psychological problems can be.