Saturday, July 7, 2012

Books of substance? Step aside!

It's obvious to me that I have no interest in books with any sort of body to them lately.  Let's just call it a phase, ok?  I recently jumped on the lady-porn bandwagon and read the 50 Shades series by E.L.James.  I would like to write a critique of these books, but, to be utterly honest, I don't know how.  I didn't like them...but I somewhat enjoyed them.  Ahem.  The first was probably my favorite (though "favorite" seems a bit strong).  The second was terribly vapid, and the third was a skim up until the final quarter which actually became interesting.  A friend of mine was reading them as well and made comment about how many times Ms. James used the word "murmur".  I (foolishly) made a bet that "growl" was more frequent.  Sadly I lost BIG time.  I used my handy-dandy e-reader to do a search on both words in books 1 and 2.  Fifty Shades of Grey had 21instances of "growl" and 196 instances of "murmur".  Damn.  Book 2, Fifty Shades Darker had a mere 13 "growls" and a whopping 279 "murmurs".  At times the word "murmur" showed up 3 times on a page!  We collectively decided the author used "murmur" and "said" interchangeably.  I was going to count them up in book 3, Fifty Shades Freed, but I got bored.  Anyway, they're descriptive, moderately pornographic, and basically a ramped-up Harlequin.  What I found interesting about these books is that they were written as a form of fan-fiction for the Twilight books.  I guess, had there been vampires, they would have been an adult version of what might have happened... but there were quite a lot of similarities in the main characters and their utterly unhealthy relationships.  Anyway...take it for what it is...lady-porn. 
After that I was attempting to read something with more substance, but apparently I had unhealthy relationships and Twilight on the brain, so I downloaded a pdf of Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer.  This volume is unpublished and unfinished.  Ms Meyer was working on it and it was leaked, so she quit writing.  Apparently there were a number of different copies floating around, so she released one in pdf format on her webpage so that there was at least some consistency.  It's the story from the first Twilight novel, but told from Edward's perspective.  I don't really have anything to say about it other than it was very much in keeping with the others and probably would have sold like hotcakes had she finished it and published it.  Not that it was particularly good, but the twi-hards would have gone absolutely nuts for another volume. 
Somewhere in there I also took an afternoon to read Christopher Moore's The Griff, a graphic novel.  A little known fact about me: I like comics and I especially like graphic novels.  They're dandy.  I had been meaning to read this one for a while but had to order it from chapters as it is a touch too obscure to be readily available in store.  So, when it came in I spent the afternoon sitting on the deck reading.  It's a story of an alien invasion of winged lizard type creatures.  They come to earth, destroy just about everyone and everyone and a group of survivors have to manage to...well...survive.   It was a decent storyline and the artwork was well done.  Plus, it was peppered with the fun dialogue that Christopher Moore is known for.
What am I going to read next?  Hard to say...I have a number of great books at my disposal, and a number of books that I'm really interested to read...I just don't know if I'm over my "nothing but fluff" phase.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Back to Reading like a Fiend

After finishing the Hunger Games trilogy I swooped onto J. Maarten Troost's second book Getting Stoned with Savages.  I was hoping for some more laugh-out-loud Sex Lives but, well, MORE.  I was, sadly, disappointed. Getting Stoned was funny, and Troost's writing had the same tongue-in-cheek-sort-of-ironic tone that I so enjoyed, but the stories just didn't strike me in the same way.  I don't know that I would recommend it, either.  I tried his third book, Lost on Planet China and I remain halfway through.  I'm not sure that I will get past the halfway through marker.Once I finished Getting Stoned  and gave up on Planet China, I picked up a much anticipated book.  Jenny Lawson's (aka, the Bloggess) Let's Pretend this Never Happened.  This book was literally the funniest book I've read in...well....a really really long time.  I haven't laughed out loud that hard and long since reading Sh*t My Dad Says,  and, frankly, I think Let's Pretend is funnier.  I tried reading some of it to Brad and found myself laughing so hard I couldn't finish the sentences.  Her outlook on life is so amazingly offbeat and her writing style make me want to be her best friend.  (seriously, Jenny, if you read this, call me!). 
I was sad to finish Let's Pretend, so I moved on to some teen fiction.  I started Maggie Steifvater's Lament on Wednesday, Finished it on Friday, started the sequel Ballad on Friday and finished it today (Sunday). 
These stories, about musical genius teens who are able to see and interact with the Faerie world.  Obviously, the fey are troublesome and manipulative and the teens have to be brave and save themselves while getting really tangled in love affairs with members of the faerie community.  Granted, this is definitely teen fiction, but I've really enjoyed the stories.
Finally I read The Giver by Lois Lowry.  This is actually a book I read in grade 9 (yikes) but my friends and I were talking about books we liked in highschool and I remembered enjoying it but I couldn't remember much about it, so I took it out from the library online and read it today.  Still just as good as I remembered.   The book is about a 12 year old in a futuristic world who is given his "assignment" for the rest of his life to be the "receiver" of the memories of all of the world so the society doesn't need to know or deal with them. 
Moving on...well, I'm not sure what I'll move on to next!  Thinking maybe the fifty Shades of Grey series.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Catching Up on my Books

Blogger was giving me troubles before Christmas so I put the updates on my book blog on hold (and fought it out with my personal blog to get some minor updates posted).  Now that it seems to be working fine again, I can finally catch up on my book review blogging.  The only problem is that I can't recall which order I read these books in!  So, I guess I'll just throw them out there with the thoughts I remember.
The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowpa was a well written story.  It follows the story of an adopted Indian girl, the family that adopts her and the family that gave her up.  Definitely emotional, and I was fascinated by the culture and that the timeline was current.  While I know many cultures still value male children over females, it's still somewhat shocking to read about that scenario in a
present-day story.
I also picked up The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.  I have read a couple of Dan Brown's books and have been happy with them.  I didn't care for Angels and Demons though (and didn't finish it, to be honest), so I wasn't entirely sure about trying a third Robert Langdon book, but this was very good.  I enjoyed it as much as the Da Vinci Code.  Several times I found myself sitting up late at night just trying to find a place that wasn't gripping so I could put it down and go to bed.  Gripping and very interesting.  Excellent story telling, thrilling plot, exciting conclusion and fascinating topic.
The last of the three books i read in 2011 (though not necessarily in that order) was the Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.  This is the story of the two grown children of a pair of performance artists who stage events that send those around them into chaos.  The two kids, often referred to as Child A and Child B are (obviously) dysfunctional and the story centers around the two trying to figure out their parents' mysterious disappearance.  Each chapter ends with a description of event that the group has done in the past.  It was very very odd, but I entirely enjoyed it.
I attempted to read the Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon; the latest of the Lord John Grey books...but to be honest,  I lost interest and just don't care.  I want her to finish the Outlander series.  Then write more Lord John books, if she must, but let's finish one thing at a time.
This year on vacation I ripped through three books.
My reading started with a recommendation from a friend of mine; The Sex Lives of Cannibals I  by J. Maarten Troost.  Absolutely the funniest book I've read in a long time.  The story is based on a portion of the author's life in which he moves wit hhis girlfriend to Kiribati, a small atoll in the equatorial Pacific.  The culture shock (the locals love the Macarena), environmental shock ("did I mention it's hot?"), and societal shock are written in such a fantastically entertaining way, I repeatedly was reading out loud to Brad - without asking if he was actually interested in me reading to him, but he seemed entertained, so that's always a good sign, right?  Absolutely a recommend for me1
I moved on to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  In case you have been living under a rock with your fingers in your ears, humming to yourself, you have probably heard about the Hunger Games.  The trilogy takes place in a post apocalyptic country where the Capitol (read: evil dictatorship) punishes the people of the 12 Districts for their uprising 74 years ago by sending 24 teens to an arena once a year to fight to the death.  Pretty gruesome topic for teen literature, if you ask me.  I did enjoy the first one and read it in about a day.  The second book, Catching Fire follows the main characters as the districts start to revolt against the Capitol, and the third, Mockingjay, finishes off the revolution.  While it only took me a day to finish, I found book 2 to be fairly predictable and somewhat contrived.  The third book was just plain old boring for the first two thirds and took me just about a week to read.  The final third, however, became so utterly exciting though that I stayed up until 1 in the morning finishing it; literally huddled under the covers with a book light so that Brad, who was sleeping, wouldn't wake up, look at the clock and tell me to go to sleep (party pooper).  I found a lot of the imagery to be disturbing, though this could be because I have a pretty decent imagination.  I'm actually on the fence about whether i would recommend these books or not. I  think because they;re such an easy read, I would say yes.  Also, because the movies are coming out and I have a feeling that those who saw the first one without reading the book missed out on a lot of the subtler details and things that just couldn't be included.  But I suppose that's basically always the case with a book-to-movie transition.
Next on the list is another book by J. Maarten Troost, Getting Stoned with Savages.  VERY excited!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On a reading kick...thank you summer!!

Following my werewolf kick I swapped into some general fiction, picking up The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The novel is about a Chinese boy growing up in Seattle during World War II who befriends a Japanese girl. She and her family are sent away to concentration camps along with all of the Japanese Americans living in the city. It's a time period that has always interested me and a perspective I've never read from before: the persecution of Americans by Americans based simply on fear. the Hotel was a beautiful story and I would recommend it for sure.
I then picked up When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. The book is divided into two parts, the first when the main character, Elly, is a young girl in 1968, and the second in 1995 after Elly has grown up. I really enjoyed the first part with a number of laugh out loud moments, but the second was much more serious and less enjoyable for me. I did like the book on the whole, but it became much more poignant in the second half.
Finally I tore through the Help by Kathryn Stockett. Typically I don't read a book before seeing the movie (most often I'm just terribly disappointed by the movie if I read the book first, so I'll see the movie and read the book afterwards), but I was really interested in reading this one, so I went for it. I absolutely loved this book! The protagonists were likable and the antagonist was awful. I'm really looking forward to the film now...and I desperately hope I won't be disappointed...
On a side note, Brad and I went into Coles bookstore yesterday and I looked around and saw all of the books that I've read recently in physical form. It was odd to see the tangible copies when I've just known them on my kobo. I was looking at them, thinking "that looks like a book I'd like to read" when I have already read them...weird.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

There Be Wolves!

Recently I went through a little kick of reading teen fiction (which has been made acceptable by the Twilight phenomenon, I tell myself). It never hurts to have something lite when camping and that's exactly what I went for. I started off with finally reading Shiver by Maggie Steifvater. The long and short of it is that it's very much a Twilight type book written for fans of Team Jacob; girl watches wolves out her back window and becomes possessive of one with funky eyes, girl meets boy with same eyes, puts two and two together and discovers that boy is a werewolf, boy and girl begin intense relationship (far too intense for 17 year olds). All in all though, I'm not going to lie, I really enjoyed it. The second (Linger) and third (Forever) book in the series were also good, though not quite as much. It was definitely an easy read, but sometimes that's just what a girl needs.
I finished Shiver while camping and didn't have book two and three yet, so I swapped into another bit of teen fiction, also wolf related, that I had been wanting to read; Red Riding Hood by ...I have no idea. I had bought it without doing proper research, apparently. I knew it had sometime to do with the movie and thought that it was what the new movie was based on. How wrong, I was. Turned out, it was the book based on the movie. From a very early age I learned that books based on movies are TERRIBLE and this one was no exception. It's like the writer watches the movie and transcibes the scenes, making terrible attempts at filling in the internal dialogue. The most common sentence in the book was "Valerie felt...". It was just horrible. The plot was the only thing that kept me going whatsoever, not to mention it was a really really easy read. Regardless, it was one of the worst written books I've picked up in more than a decade. PASS.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Range of Topics

It's been a while since my last book update and while I haven't had heaps of time for reading, I have been plugging away at several volumes. The first I polished off was Garbo Laughs by Elizabeth Hay. I absolutely loved Late Nights on Air and thought I would try another of her stories. Sadly, this one fell flat with me. The "jacket" described it as "a funny sad-eyed deliciously entertaining novel about a woman caught in a tug of war between real life and the films of the past. Inflamed by the movies she was deprived of as a child Harriet Browning forms a Friday-night movie club with three companions-of-the-screen: a boy who loves Frank Sinatra a girl with Bette Davis eyes and an earthy sidekick named after Dinah Shore". Sounds great, right? Not so much. It was very poignant but I didn't find much of it "funny" at all. Just sad. It didn't help that I really have never seen any of the movies that were referenced (though I'd love to) so I missed out on all of the references. Very ho-hum as far as I was concerned. Not writing off Elizabeth Hay though. I may try something else by her in the future.
After the disappointment of Garbo, I moved on to the next book in the "Earth's Children" series; The Shelters of Stone. I was nervous going into it after the Plains of Passage was so terribly disappointing and DREADFULLY boring. But Shelters provided at least a great deal more interaction with other characters. Still, for such a long book, very little actually happens. I think it can be summed up by this passage I read on a book review blog "Ayla is introduced to someone new. New person is wary about being so near to a wolf. Ayla explains they have to let Wolf smell their hand so they can be introduced. They do, and are charmed when Wolf licks their hand. Ayla explains the process of domestication. Then there's a good 3-4 pages about limestone rock formations or leather making or the habits of the woolly rhinoceros, then Ayla is introduced to someone else. Lather, rinse, repeat". That's more or less the jist of it. If you've read the first 5 books, go ahead and delve into this one, but don't expect miracles (even though it is a marked improvement over the last book in the series).
Finally, I launched myself (somewhat nervously) into Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I remember buying a copy in my tween years and wanting to read the epic romance of Heathcliff and Catherine. Not going to lie, it was probably a good thing that I got bored with the language back then. I was grossly misinformed as to the content of this novel. It is not a romantic story of tortured love ala Rome and Juliet. Well, I suppose it sort of is... Heathcliff falls in love with Cathy who, not knowing he is listening to her conversation with a friend, says she could never marry him but loves him with all her heart. He only hears the bit about not being able to marry him and runs off for several years. She, in the meantime, being a fickle silly girl, marries some other guy. Heathcliff returns and is a fairly terrible person. He starts spending time with her again and she somehow goes utterly mad and dies. But not before having a baby. He also marries Cathy's husband's sister and she has a baby and runs off from evil Heathcliff. Heathcliff is horrible and cruel and tries to make everyone's lives miserable for the rest of the book until he goes insane and dies. That's about it. That being said, it was fairly entertaining, all the madness notwithstanding.
Mare sent me my next book for my Birthday (which hasn't come yet, but I opened the package early. Whoops!). Clinton Kelly's Oh No She Didn't. It's a style guide chronicling the 100 biggest style mistakes women make. The book was like a written version of What Not To Wear, which I always enjoy and filled with a much sassier side of Clinton than he lets out in the show. Definitely an entertaining read.
Following that I read Hide and Seek by Shayna Krishnasamy. This was a short story, which I typically don't read because I prefer something to really get into. I also don't know how to review short was short and well written, I'd say. Fairly dark and a little unnerving. I think it was for adolescents, but whatever. Every now and again everyone needs something simple, right?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's been rather a while, but it took me quite a long time time get through the Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. I've read two of his other epic stories, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, both of which were excellent, so I had high hopes for Giants. The story follows several individuals around the world in the lead up to World War 1, through the war, the Russian Revolution, and the aftermath of the whole mess. Two families in Wales, another in Russia, one in Germany, and one in the United States. All of the story lines were intertwined and it was fascinating to read about the war from the fictional perspective. It was a gigantic book (my kobo showed 42 chapters at an average of about 90 pages, though the pages are a bit smaller than a printed page) but I never once found myself bored or wondering when things would move on. I'm looking forward to the next in the trilogy, though I have no idea when that will come out.