A queer bodyswap story (!!!), which I found rather enjoyable even when it was, well, kind of stupid. Basically: Jack, the 53-year-old millionaire, swa...moreA queer bodyswap story (!!!), which I found rather enjoyable even when it was, well, kind of stupid. Basically: Jack, the 53-year-old millionaire, swaps with Corey, the 26-year-old aimless quasi-burnout, and more social awkwardness than wackiness ensues. Though slow-paced (it takes almost 200 pages for the switch to occur), there’s something about the narrative that pulls you along. The book’s biggest flaw is, I think, somewhat shaky characterization: I never felt I really got a handle on who Jack and Corey were; I had to adjust my view of them to fit whatever Rodi needed to happen in a particular scene. (This was especially apparent in a passage where Jack (as Corey) yells at and berates Corey’s friend Frida, pretty much for no reason; I finished that chapter suddenly hating him, and then had to be coaxed back into thinking of it as an aberration.) However, the end takes a fun turn, and on the most basic level, I was entertained. So: rated more for enjoyment than for quality, but I’m cool with that.(less)
Dual-purpose Sherlock Holmes reread, as I 1) wanted to try out the e-reader on my new iPhone (it hurts my eyes), and 2) desperately needed some classi...moreDual-purpose Sherlock Holmes reread, as I 1) wanted to try out the e-reader on my new iPhone (it hurts my eyes), and 2) desperately needed some classic Holmes and Watson back-and-forth (*wink wink, nudge nudge*) after being thrown into a tizzy by the fantastically ridiculous new film. I always thought of The Valley of Fear as “the other one with Moriarty in it,” though upon reread I am sad to discover/recall that he really isn’t in it at all, which is a pity. Still, the first half of this is quite fun, with a lot of good classic investigation and interaction, and Holmes and Watson having to share a hotel room. Delightful!
The second half is...largely pointless, giving us backstory that we didn’t need and a lot of stuff about Freemasons. In a way its rather reminiscent of the second half of A Study in Scarlet, which gives one backstory one doesn’t need and a lot of stuff about Mormons. Doyle was a weird writer. With Valley of Fear, you really get the sense that he wished he didn’t have to be writing Sherlock Holmes anymore—which is factually true. (I don’t know what his excuse was for Study in Scarlet, as that was the first Holmes story he wrote!)
Still, for me, Doyle’s Holmes and Watson are like pizza and sex for George Carlin—even when they’re bad, they’re pretty good.(less)
I liked this a lot more than Those Left Behind, although the art is still randomly screwy (dude. Jayne is not a blond. Jayne should NEVER be a blond)...moreI liked this a lot more than Those Left Behind, although the art is still randomly screwy (dude. Jayne is not a blond. Jayne should NEVER be a blond) and I did not get the ending—both in terms of what the hell actually happened in the climactic battle (bad art! Bad!) and in terms of the believability of Mal’s big decision. But everyone’s “I’m rich!” fantasies were fun, and, well. I miss my show. I’ll keep taking what I can get.(less)
This book took me by complete surprise. I picked it up simply because Shafak was coming to read at my store; after the first few pages, which contain...moreThis book took me by complete surprise. I picked it up simply because Shafak was coming to read at my store; after the first few pages, which contain some painfully clunky prose, I was not particularly encouraged. However, I continued to give the book a chance, and for once it paid off. There are two parallel stories in this book: that of the relationship between the poet Rumi and the mystic Shams of Tabriz, and a contemporary narrative about a Jewish housewife in a failing marriage who falls in love, through letters, with a modern Sufi. Both, to my shock, ended up moving me considerably.
I don’t generally think of myself a spiritual person, but I was genuinely touched by the lives and beliefs of the characters in this book. Shams, as Shafak presents him, is an irresistible character, both impish and wise, and his relationship with Rumi rang my EPIC FRIENDSHIP bell like crazy. So while the writing in this book, on a nuts-and-bolts level, didn’t always work for me, the characters, general atmosphere, and message definitely did. It’s inspired me to read some of Rumi’s poetry, which is quite beautiful; I’d like to learn more about Sufism as well. Book recommendations, anybody?(less)
This was such a blast. Fry has a lot of fun with the "what if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?"—or in this case, go back in time and prevent...moreThis was such a blast. Fry has a lot of fun with the "what if you could go back in time and kill Hitler?"—or in this case, go back in time and prevent Hitler from ever being born—plot. The alternate universe he creates is pretty cleverly developed and suitably creepy; it's also incredibly amusing that Michael's meddling has the first troublesome result of making him AMERICAN, oh noes. I wish there'd been a bit more about Michael and Steve's developing relationship, but mostly this was a romp in the best sense of the word, with a good dose of underlying scariness. Recommended.(less)
Imagine that Robert Johnson never died, but instead wandered the earth before winding up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in the ’90s. There he passe...moreImagine that Robert Johnson never died, but instead wandered the earth before winding up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in the ’90s. There he passes his enchanted/cursed guitar on to Thomas Builds-the-Fire, launching a series of chance meetings, assorted road trips, and an amazing explosion of music. This is the Sherman Alexie novel I’ve been wanting to read! It’s his first, but it holds together much better than the later Flight, and it’s funny and lyrical and hopeful and tragic. Alexie employs magical realism in a manner I really like, keeping the story grounded in his characters the entire time. What a wonderful, exhilarating book.(less)
A very early Neil Gaiman collection, that I think is kind of hard to get now. Most of the short stories have since been reprinted, many of them in S...moreA very early Neil Gaiman collection, that I think is kind of hard to get now. Most of the short stories have since been reprinted, many of them in Smoke and Mirrors, but what makes this volume cool is that it also contains a few examples of Gaiman's journalism, including a book review he wrote after he lost the book. He mostly ends up talking about peeing in styrofoam cups and elephant come, I believe. A treasure.(less)
The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I was kind of bummed to find this collection of short stories—the first examples of Fit...more The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I was kind of bummed to find this collection of short stories—the first examples of Fitzgerald’s short fiction I’ve read since high school—rather underwhelming. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood, but nothing in here electrified me the way Gatsby does, and I began to feel sodden from such a deluge of stories about unpleasant women. Poor Scott; your issues are showing, man.
It was interesting to read “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in light of the movie coming out soon. The story is one of the least romantic things I’ve ever read—anti-romantic, possibly. Somehow I don’t think the film will be sticking too close to the original…(less)
I have a weird love/hate relationship with Margaret Atwood. She has the capacity to intrigue and delight me, then rapidly switch to annoying the crap...moreI have a weird love/hate relationship with Margaret Atwood. She has the capacity to intrigue and delight me, then rapidly switch to annoying the crap out of me, often in a matter of pages—maybe even paragraphs. There’s a certain…smugness, I guess, to her prose style that crops up sometimes and it makes me want to beat her monotonously-voiced narrators about the head with the particular volume I’m in the middle of. Luckily for them, this book is quite small—and all the stories in it are quite short, which meant my opinions vacillated even more rapidly than usual.
I just spent a moment trying to think if there are any other authors who provoke this reaction in me. The answer: Chuck Klosterman. Now I kind of want to make Chuck and Margaret have tea and, let’s see, listen to the musical stylings of KISS together. Yes. Yes, I need this now.(less)
Just to give you an idea of where I’m coming from here, allow me to confess: I am not a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Didn’t like it when I...moreJust to give you an idea of where I’m coming from here, allow me to confess: I am not a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Didn’t like it when I was a kid, wasn’t fond of it when I reread it for a class in college. (I bet you can guess how AWESOME it is listening to a bunch of over-eager English majors start insisting that Alice is really a metaphor for post-colonial blah blah blah.) I do dig me some whimsy (not to mention some Wimsey), and as my recent Murakami marathon has made clear, I can be a big fan of Japanese surrealism, too. But I feel there needs to be a sense of balance, so when a story tips you head over heels down the rabbit hole to a place where there’s no logic, no plot, and no characters, it’s just too much for me. My eyes glaze over and I end up bored and annoyed.
Kobo Abe’s Kangaroo Notebook epitomized all the potential pitfalls one could imagine popping up in surrealist literature. At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist discovers radish sprouts (which are referred to throughout the whole book as “radish sprouts”—why the quotes?) growing from his calves. This initial unexplained weird event sets him on a path that catapults him from one unexplained weird event to the next. Everything that happens is related in one of those flat, unemotional first person POVs—possibly my least favorite narrative technique ever. The people he encounters are devices, not human beings. And while the cover copy claims that the book is supposed to be a biting satire of modern Japanese life, I really did not get that from the text at all. This may be in part my failing as an ignorant Westerner, but nothing in this book felt astutely realized; it was all either very very generic (bureaucracy? Dehumanizing and annoying!) or incredibly obscure.
It also just wasn’t very well-written—or anyway, well-translated. On the most basic level, Abe (or Abe’s translator) couldn’t seem to figure out if he was writing in the present or the past tense, so he settled for swapping back and forth repeatedly. And unlike in even Murakami’s most confounding work, there wasn’t a single beautiful—or even a distinct—piece of imagery to be found. It was all a muddle.
Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes is supposed to be a classic, one of the things you MUST READ if you are cultivating an interest in Japanese literature. I am now, however, disinclined to.(less)
This is quite possibly my Favorite Book Ever, because it combines Neil Gaiman's wonderfully witty writing style with my OTP (One True Plot *g*)—an or...moreThis is quite possibly my Favorite Book Ever, because it combines Neil Gaiman's wonderfully witty writing style with my OTP (One True Plot *g*)—an ordinary person is thrust into an extraordinary situation. Perfect from cover to cover.
"I thought I wanted a nice, normal life. I mean, maybe I am crazy...But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane. You know?"(less)
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I've complained before about my increasing frustration and even anger with the last few Tales...moreI was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I've complained before about my increasing frustration and even anger with the last few Tales of the City novels, in which all the female characters had to completely renounce their hetero- or bisexuality or instead become HIDEOUS HOME-DESTROYING BITCHES; however, I couldn't resist reading this new, seventh installment, because, well, I'm a completist. (Or an addict. Call it what you will.) But like I said: I was pleasantly surprised. This seventh volume finds Michael Tolliver, the gardener formerly known as Mouse, still alive in the present day despite having been HIV positive since the '80s. This book is much less wacky than its predecessors—there are no plotlines about child pornography rings or Jim Jones or the Bohemian Grove. Instead, most of the plot revolves around making peace with the past. Michael takes his new lover with him to Florida to visit his dying mother, and there's a lot of stuff about family (both the one you're born with and the one you make) that seemed very real to me. Maupin even managed to rehumanize Mary Ann a little bit; of course, he also had Michael use "my little spunk bucket" as a term of endearment. Um. It's a step up from "All straight women are EVIL!", anyway.(less)
Coupland juxtaposes a city's quest for identity with the twentysomething's personal quest: it's all muddled and confused now, and sometimes it's even...moreCoupland juxtaposes a city's quest for identity with the twentysomething's personal quest: it's all muddled and confused now, and sometimes it's even awful, but there's SO MUCH hope for the future. I really like seeing Vancouver (where I've never been, sadly) through Coupland's eyes. This is not a guidebook, but a personal tour by a somewhat funky (and therefore, awesome) friend who shows you patchwork pieces of the place which can then be made into the tapestry of your choosing. Mine has a lot of dangling threads, but I like it anyway.(less)