I can count on one hand the books I've read (or attempted to read) that would be classified as genre/sci-fi fiction. Only one of those can I honestlyI can count on one hand the books I've read (or attempted to read) that would be classified as genre/sci-fi fiction. Only one of those can I honestly say was readable (so readable, in fact, that I finished it in one day and have recommended it to many friends).
I knew going into this book, that I would struggle to accept the story and that I'd probably never even get through the book. I lasted 32 pages.
In those 32 pages, the author peppered so many foreign words (presumably Taiwanese or Mandarin or something) with no definition of the word, no contextual reference to make a reasonable definition, or anything, as if the reader should simply know these words and understand his brilliance and diversity for incorporating them into his book.
In those 32 pages, I was introduced to the protagonist, an American from Iowa from what I could glean. He was simply a name. Flat.
But then, the author introduced more fucking Asian names than I care to account.
In those 32 pages I was distracted by the overuse of foreign, unpronounceable words, dozens of foreign, unpronounceable names of characters that came and went faster than commuters on the Tokyo Metro, and a myriad of foreign, unpronounceable places with brief allusions to events that may or may not have happened or will happen (I only read 32 pages).
I understand a concept of this genre is to 'world-build', use detailed description to get the reader to see this fantasy world they've cast their story in. So do that, and do with some idea of how readers read. This author just seemed to fling words and images all over the place with an occasional stop that provided a moment of clarity for this reader (like the megadont, some sort of genetically-modified worker elephant, that rampages and stomps a handler to death).
I'm giving this no stars, since I only read 32 pages. Had I read the entire book, had I suffered through drifting names and completed the Rosetta Stone-Taiwanese edition, and even cared one wit about anything this author was attempting to put into words, I would still give it no stars....more
No stars for characters. The title character is utterly wretched and the reader is mislead into thinking sI wish there was an option to give no stars.
No stars for characters. The title character is utterly wretched and the reader is mislead into thinking she comes to some sort of awakening, but 100 pages in and there remains nothing remotely likeable about her. The alcoholic father, the distantly-written sister and the adolescently-written Rebecca are all just cardboard cutouts. I had no empathy for any of them.
No stars for writing. Jesus wept; this is some of the worst writing I've read yet. Droning, repetitive, paragraphs that went on too long and said nothing. The language, the syntax, the descriptions were yawning and mind-numbing. From the moment the author decided to use 'X-ville' for the town I knew the writing would be lazy and ponderous.
No stars for plot. What plot? Again, 100 pages in and still nothing important happens, nothing that made me want to read on, by this point, I was skimming; forty pages later, I jumped to the end to see if this 'crime' was as heinous as the blurbs seemed to indicate...
No stars for shock-value. There was nothing shocking about the crime, the incest, the pedophilia. Nothing. If Moshfegh was aiming for shocking story points, she should have read Dennis Cooper.
No stars for description. I know, I'm repeating here, but I have to call out the endless references to her underwear and her 'nether regions' and her fucking bowel movements. Shut up about your bowel movements. Your book is shitty enough....more
I've known the premise of this story for as long as I can remember, as horrifying an idea as a book-lover could imagine, but I am not a fan of scienceI've known the premise of this story for as long as I can remember, as horrifying an idea as a book-lover could imagine, but I am not a fan of science fiction and I always associated this book with the genre.
It is science fiction, in the sense of a story set in some other future world, but it is a world not too far removed from the one we live in now. Television rules our lives. The media dictates what we believe or don't believe. More and more, we are confined to a reality television show. Those of us who read books, tremble at this dumbed-down future (the latest poll showed 28% of the population had not read a book in the past year, and that number is expected to continue to increase).
What really impressed me, was Bradbury's style of storytelling; repetitive phrasings, images thrust upon the reader over and over, a kind of visual cadence. It is both nuanced and in your face, here is science fiction elevated to literature.
These are the reasons this book is on so many required reading lists. As well it should be....more
Fifteen years later, the 102 minutes of terror and horror and fear that the occupants of the Twin Towers experienced on that day are as visceral and hFifteen years later, the 102 minutes of terror and horror and fear that the occupants of the Twin Towers experienced on that day are as visceral and human as the first time I read this book.
I'm not going to give a review, just know that if you truly want to remember 9/11, remember the people who died, remember their names, remember they were once here....more
I love dystopian settings, worlds set at an angle following some catastrophic event. I suppose it's the reason I love disaster movies, those apocalyptI love dystopian settings, worlds set at an angle following some catastrophic event. I suppose it's the reason I love disaster movies, those apocalyptic visions of mass destruction, millions of lives lost and a handful of survivors trying to navigate a new reality.
I'd been aware of Frank Perrotta as a contemporary author and have two of his other books in my to-read pile. A chance reading of a short synopsis of 'The Leftovers' determined my first experience with Perrotta's work.
The premise is a great one: a Rapture-like event which millions of people simply vanish in a puff of mist, an event that is not quite as the Christians had hoped with many of the faithful left behind to puzzle what comes next. The first 1/3 of 'The Leftovers' explores this 'new reality' as we learn about the lives of a handful of leftovers: the mother who lost her entire family, the mayor who's family is intact, but ultimately dissolves as his wife joins a freakish cult, his son runs off to follow a megalomaniac religious leader, and his daughter who drifts into teenage wild abandon.
All of this is very real, very easy to accept as a possible reality following such a horrific event. So too, is the sense of bewilderment several months post-Rapture when nothing else happens, when the media stop the endless coverage (think 9/11) and the leftovers are suddenly expected to go on with 'the world'. I thoroughly enjoyed these explorations into character behavior and often found myself thinking back on the story.
Then the book simply drifts off into nothingness, as if Perrotta had finished exploring the most fascinating aspects of this plot, but then had nowhere to go to keep the reader on edge (yes, you expect something else to happen). The wayward son leaves his cult, the wife commits an act of faith for her cult (by far the most interesting part of the book, the 'Guilty Remnants'), the mayor attempts to find a girlfriend in the woman who lost her whole family, and the whole story falls apart.
This isn't to say Perrotta isn't a good writer. I enjoyed his style and will read the other books in my stack. There seems to be a dearth of good, contemporary male authors these days and I'm relieved to know I can fall back on Perrotta when I can't find anything better to read....more
I gave it my best college effort and finally at page 200, with nothing still happening, I let this one go. A rare occurrence for this reader. I'd putI gave it my best college effort and finally at page 200, with nothing still happening, I let this one go. A rare occurrence for this reader. I'd put this one down a few weeks ago, then came back to it, and there is nothing charming, enchanting, riveting or readable about this first novel, despite what all the glowing blurbs say on the back cover.
I'm not sure why I didn't like it, beyond the dreadfully slow pace of nothingness. Maybe it was the god-awful character names, some of them simply too contrived to lend realism to a character. Maybe it was the tedium of baseball training, or baseball itself. Maybe it was the weird gay love affair between a mysterious student and the college president (who wasn't gay before). Maybe it was the often clunky dialogue, the too-delicate attempts at description, or the lack of any rhythm to the prose.
I give you fair warning, I shall remain obdurate in this review.
As a young man, I loved Stephen King and still cherish the thrill of reading 'Carrie'I give you fair warning, I shall remain obdurate in this review.
As a young man, I loved Stephen King and still cherish the thrill of reading 'Carrie' in 1976, the story taking place in 1979 (the same year I would graduate high school), and imagining the torching of my school prom. 'The Shining' remains a terrifying read that inspired one of the most frightening movies to date. I was a dedicated fan until he wrote 'The Tommyknockers'. I quit King. But I went back to him, I read 'Gerald's Game' (and it has its merits). A few years ago, he wrote 'Under The Dome' and the premise seemed interesting, but the book was anything but.
And now my book club has selected '11/22/63'. I had bought a copy a few months prior in a thrift store, remembering a few vague reviews upon its release that said it was a departure for King and a tremendous feat of story-telling. I know now, that was something his press agents generated to spur sales of an 800+ page book.
In typical King fashion, the story starts out with an intriguing premise, a sort of wormhole in a diner basement that allows you to go back to 1958. Everyone's fantasy. And had King stayed with the simple ripples of altering time, the book might have rated more stars.
Alas, King pads the story with 500 pages too many delving far too deeply in the Kennedy assassination and more stultifying, trolling after Lee Harvey Oswald. I started skimming pages (an easy thing with King, because he repeats himself endlessly; if I ever read the word 'obdurate' again it will be too soon. Same for 'the past harmonizes'. Jesus, man find some new clichés.
Which brings me to what I really dislike about King's post-1985 writing, it all sounds like something I've read before. Not the story necessarily (although, if you want to read a great, quick book about time-travel, try 'Replay' by Ken Grimwood), but his actual writing: the sentences, the words, the phrasings, even the characters. In '11/22/63', none of the characters feels particularly fleshed out, including our protagonist. Only Oswald feels remotely real, and that's simply because we know so much about him from our history. Many of the auxiliary characters are as flat as the pages they appear on and are generally dismissed within a few more pages. Some reappear, like Harry the janitor, 600 pages later and I had no idea who 'Harry' was by then until King did the thing of reminding the reader that this guy hasn't been heard from in two-thirds of the book.
I want to say this time, 'I'm done with you Mr. King,' but maybe he's like an abusive spouse and much as you want to quit him, you still come back because he tells you some story and you want to believe this time he'll be good....more
This is my fourth read from the extensive catalog of O'Nan's books; it's a slim novel, just 179 pages, and though it did not impress me as much as 'ThThis is my fourth read from the extensive catalog of O'Nan's books; it's a slim novel, just 179 pages, and though it did not impress me as much as 'The Night Country' or 'A Prayer For The Dying', it was reminiscent of 'Last Night At The Lobster'...an up-close inspection of individual motivations among a small group of people wrestling with personal issues, in this case, a husband and wife on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce spending Valentine's Day weekend at Niagara Falls with the intent of winning enough at the roulette tables to stave off financial ruin.
Both characters are deeply flawed, but what O'Nan is a master in his writing, is allowing the reader to see these flaws as nothing any one of us might have, and mostly do have, whether we like to admit it or not.
Of late, I've been lamenting the dirth of good books reflecting the contemporary male viewpoint as many books seem to be written by women authors and justifiably do not appeal to the male reader. O'Nan is the guy doing this the best, reminding middle-aged men that we are rife with problems and doubts, but we are still good men. ...more
'The Handmaid's Tale' has been on my reading list for more than 20 years and I was glad to have it come up as my book club's March selection. It did n'The Handmaid's Tale' has been on my reading list for more than 20 years and I was glad to have it come up as my book club's March selection. It did not disappoint.
I had long known of its dystopian storyline, the comparison's to Orwell's '1984'. Published in 1985, the book feels and reads as if it was just written in recent years, and frighteningly so. With the current rise of conservatism and religious zealotry coming from the fringe right, 'The Handmaid's Tale' has made me swear to oppose any political candidate who thrusts his or her religious views like a sword to cut down others and profess their way as the right way; all others be damned (as Atwood's story demonstrates with a fearful nuance).
Atwood's style for telling Offred's story is in first person, a diary, we discover later in the epilogue. Like a secret diary, the voice is chopped, staccato, almost whispered, the fear of discovery always present in Offred's mind; a mind that exists on the very edge of sanity. The first time she describes the 'Ceremony', Atwood unveils the moment in such tiny degrees that the reader is compelled to continue on despite a feeling of utter horror at the concept.
Atwood gives the reader just enough detail about the world beyond Offred's perfunctory room in the Commander's house, a police state where fertility is a commodity to be owned by the wealthy, where no one is to be trusted, but subterfuge is everywhere and fraught with danger. Atwood allows the reader to fill in the details, to let the horror of one's own imagination give the story the bulk of its power.
Like '1984', 'The Handmaid's Tale' feels prophetic, and we would be wise to recommend everyone read it. Sadly, not everyone will....more
Sound the alarm! Code Red! Code Red! Holy Shit! We're using up all of the earth's resources by wiping our asses and blowing our noses and reading theSound the alarm! Code Red! Code Red! Holy Shit! We're using up all of the earth's resources by wiping our asses and blowing our noses and reading the newspaper and drinking coffee and ordering pizzas and riding in cars and buses and taxis! Blah, blah, fucking blah.
I managed to read all but the last 40 pages of this bloated blog entry about a man who coerces his wife to allow him to reduce the family's carbon footprint to nearly zero. First, he analyzes a week's worth of trash and realizes that all those disposable diapers (yes, they have a baby) are going to be an issue. On the first day of his social experiment, he wakes up and blows his nose on part of a paper towel and suffers immediate guilt at failing his experiment within seconds of waking up (the solution here is simple, cloth handkerchiefs, just like the crusty fucking things my father uses to this day and grossing me out every time he pulls it from his back pocket).
Sure it's easy to limit the amount of trash we generate; less take-out, less processed food and its excessive packaging, less consumerism, and I think we could all do a better job at this, and I do a fairly good job with it already by shunning most processed food. But I will never give up toilet paper, or Kleenex, and don't try to take away my NYT Sunday crossword puzzle. I'll cut a bitch!
The author tries to keep things light, occasionally making the reader chuckle at his predicament, but then he goes into flights of New Age, feel-good bullshit, evoking some Zen wisdom along the way and then overdosing the reader with statistics and projections about how fucked we are as a planet if we don't get our shit together.
Don't get me wrong, I believe in finding more sustainable sources for fuel. In the summer, I'm a total locavore. I recycle anything I think I can and I believe that wasting food is the biggest sin you can commit. But if you think I'm wiping my butt with anything other than Angel Soft tissue, then the shit's going to hit the fan....more
Let's pity poor Piper Kerman who was once sent to prison for over a year and suffered very little beyond the expected lack of freedom.
I wanted to likeLet's pity poor Piper Kerman who was once sent to prison for over a year and suffered very little beyond the expected lack of freedom.
I wanted to like this book, and I'll grant it was an easy read with some small moments of nice, but overall, it reads like a memoir written by a privileged white girl who found herself in less-than-privileged white girl circumstances and must endure ill-fitting clothes, clunky shoes, the occasional hard-ass prison guard, weekly visitations from her fiancé and hundreds of other family and friends, all the while maintaining a rigid schedule of yoga, exercise, playing supportive counselor to her inmate friends, and imagining how all of this would make a great memoir and how someone would find a way to make it into a more entertaining cable television series (which I've never seen, but having viewed clips from the show, it is more lively and broad and deliciously bitchy than the book ever managed).
Kerman writes a functional sentence, but she's no literary wiz, and honestly, this was the second self-indulgent memoir I've read in so many months and I pray it's the last one. ...more
There are few things so disheartening as to begin a book, by an author whose previous work you adore, and get midway into that book and find the storyThere are few things so disheartening as to begin a book, by an author whose previous work you adore, and get midway into that book and find the story quickly unraveling, drifting often into misplaced sentimentality, and finishing with a couple of maudlin and unnecessary chapters.
Stein opens his story with a mansion and family fortune in the final stages of decline. The young teenage narrator is the great great-grandson of the founder and builder of both mansion and fortune and he soon discovers there are many secrets, and a couple of ghosts, hiding in the halls and woodwork of the mansion, including one tragic story of his great uncle's love for another man. Our teenage narrator is visited by dreams and glimpses of the ghosts and undertakes the mission to right the family wrongs.
So there is the first half of the book, not particularly inventive, but certainly a good gothic mystery.
Sadly, Stein's story devolves into the treachery of his crazy aunt who harbors an incestuous romantic crush on her brother (our narrator's forlorn father), of course, this is 'crush' is revealed later in the story, like some afterthought and little beforehand indicated more than sibling closeness.
And then there is the nauseating New Age 'wisdom' distilled by our ghosts, by John Muir and the trees and forests and 'how all things must return to the soil' and there's a big fire and some people die and our ghosts find peace and then our teenage narrator is a man, 23 years later, with his own family, visiting the site of the family estate and he's been telling his daughter's of the fateful visit he had those many years ago and blah, blah, fucking blah....more