The Kite Runner is a good book that is unfortunately overrated. Moments of genius are mixed with often melodramatic storytelling, awkwardly paced dial...moreThe Kite Runner is a good book that is unfortunately overrated. Moments of genius are mixed with often melodramatic storytelling, awkwardly paced dialogues and sometimes clichéd character development. Nevertheless, as you close the book (or in my case, the Kindle), you will realize that this is a story that you will carry with you for a long time.
"...there is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft."
"A boy who won't stand up for himself becomes a man who can't stand up to anything."
"In the end, the world always wins."
"...but time can be a greedy thing - sometimes it steals all the details for itself."
"I'd been gone long enough to forget and be forgotten."
"And that, I believe, is what true redemption is...when guilt leads to good."
"I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night."
"Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the VOLUME knob on life. Silence is pushing the OFF button. Shutting it down. All of it."
Lord Henry is one of the most cynical figures in literature I've ever encountered. The tragedy of Dorian Gray is a tragedy of youth and beauty. With i...moreLord Henry is one of the most cynical figures in literature I've ever encountered. The tragedy of Dorian Gray is a tragedy of youth and beauty. With its play-like dialogues and philosophical proses, this is a book worth reading over and over again.(less)
A poem. An epic. A historical fiction. A fictionalized history. It's about romance. It's about war. It's about the tenderness of love against the brut...moreA poem. An epic. A historical fiction. A fictionalized history. It's about romance. It's about war. It's about the tenderness of love against the brutality of humanity. It guides the readers through a dark tunnel with no light at the end.(less)
Very often we encounter a fictional work whose story holds promising potentials that are unfortunately vandalized and mutilated by subpar writing (I a...moreVery often we encounter a fictional work whose story holds promising potentials that are unfortunately vandalized and mutilated by subpar writing (I am looking at you, The Hunger Games). Lolita is the direct opposite. The story, to most people, would seem inappropriate - a sentiment that I actually found myself disagreeing with, especially as I was coming towards the end of the book (I will elaborate on this later). But no one could deny the sheer beauty and power of Nabokov's writing. This is a completely word-driven book in which the plot plays only a secondary and servicing role - a form of literary art at its purest form. Like a Color Field painting, Lolita is a masterpiece whose brilliance shines through the wonder of the language itself. Nabokov himself called this book his love affair with the English language, and through Lolita he demonstrated how magnificent that love affair could be.
This is not to say that the story of the Lolita is bland. It is not. But neither is it "inappropriate" or "pornographic" as most people claim. The sense of inappropriate-ness and pornographic-ness only comes about if one were to examine this book in light of social conventions and conclude that the theme exemplified by the story or the idea advocated by the author somehow violates and does violence to such conventions. But to do so is to "pre-read" the book or to cage the book within one's own mental world before even opening the first page. Instead, this book should be examined as a self-contained and standalone world in and of itself, with no attached social or moral implications. Doing so will allow one to realize that the story, far from being inappropriate or pornographic, is in fact very banal, that it is nothing more than the heartaches of the beloving and the beloved as well as the journey of the aging and the aged, that it talks simply about one person's or maybe two people's or however many people's love-leeching life and desire-driven death. Because of that, Lolita is a tragic tale, but tragic in the everyday and everybody sense. Because of that, we all start to see ourselves in Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze - or more scary still, we start to see Humbert and Dolores in ourselves.(less)
Simply memorizing. An acute examination of love, death and most important, life beyond love and death.
"She could not avoid a profound feeling of ranco...moreSimply memorizing. An acute examination of love, death and most important, life beyond love and death.
"She could not avoid a profound feeling of rancor toward her husband for having left her alone in the middle of the ocean. Everything of his made her cry: his pajamas under the pillow, his slippers that had always looked to her like an invalid’s, the memory of his image in the back of the mirror as he undressed while she combed her hair before bed, the odor of his skin, which was to linger on hers for a long time after his death. She would stop in the middle of whatever she was doing and slap herself on the forehead because she suddenly remembered something she had forgotten to tell him. At every moment countless ordinary questions would come to mind that he alone could answer for her. Once he had told her something that she could not imagine: that amputees suffer pains, cramps, itches, in the leg that is no longer there. That is how she felt without him, feeling his presence where he no longer was."
"... they no longer felt like newlyweds, and even less like belated lovers. It was as if they had leapt over the arduous calvary of conjugal life and gone straight to the heart of love. They were together in silence like an old married couple wary of life, beyond the pitfalls of disillusion: beyond love. For they had lived together long enough to know that love was always love, anytime and anyplace, but it was more solid the closer it came to death."(less)
Despite my general dislike towards fictions, I actually enjoyed reading The Book Thief. The story telling was certainly better than the story told. Th...moreDespite my general dislike towards fictions, I actually enjoyed reading The Book Thief. The story telling was certainly better than the story told. The author delivers the content of the book in a truly creative and experimental style, which helped me overlook some of the deficiencies of the content itself. The ending was unfortunately a let-down. But then again, the ending of a fictional work is always a tricky business. Not only does the author need to help the reader come to terms with the inevitable fact that the story has ended, he or she also needs to convince the reader that the story should end. The elaborate world that the author and reader carefully constructed together through hundreds of pages should not simply crumble in the end, but should instead be crystallized into one single essence that can be forever etched into the reader's mind and heart, allowing the reader to go back to that world whenever he or she wants. Fictional works that do provide this kind of closure and invitation to the readers usually end up being true classics. The Book Thief, as great as it is, is not one of such works.(less)
This is probably as good as a young adult fiction can be - a simple but compelling premise that is infused with some surprisingly complex and profound...moreThis is probably as good as a young adult fiction can be - a simple but compelling premise that is infused with some surprisingly complex and profound discussions on issues of society and humanity. But all the moments of brilliance are unfortunately undermined by cliched young-adult-fiction mawkishness and predictable story-telling. The last one fifth of the book, in particular, is unbearably unimaginative. The author wasted many opportunities to steer the book away from the kind of unnecessary sentimentality that plagues a lot of similar books. Instead of provoking our thinking and opening our mind - which are usually the hallmarks of a true masterpiece (fiction and non-fiction alike), this book degenerates into a bottomless pit of cheesiness. And I am being overly critical here only because I firmly believe in the potential that this book and story have. That's why despite my slight disappointment, I still look forward to reading the remaining two books of the series.(less)
This is a much more solid and convincing attempt than the first book to construct a world that is fantastical yet relatable and to develop some charac...moreThis is a much more solid and convincing attempt than the first book to construct a world that is fantastical yet relatable and to develop some characters who are flawed yet respectable. Young-adult cheesiness still permeates the book, unfortunately. But Collins did tone down the sentimentality a little bit. My biggest complaint remains - that Collins does not know how to end a book. The last ten pages of the book are so miserably written that my desire to finish the series almost diminished completely. It seems that the world that Collins constructed has become so enormous and the story that she weaved so complex that she has lost her authorial ability to control and contain them, which paradoxically is a testament to both the success of the series and the failure of the author. Let's hope that in the third and last book, Collins can at least end the series in a satisfactory manner.(less)
The last book of The Hunger Games is unquestionably the strongest one in the series, as it morphs from a mawkish young-adult fiction with a promising...moreThe last book of The Hunger Games is unquestionably the strongest one in the series, as it morphs from a mawkish young-adult fiction with a promising premise (the first book) into a soulful story that finally recognizes its own potential and no longer shies away from the brutality of the world it is embedded within. Actions are packed. Emotions are raw. Violence is not censored. And for the first time, reading the book actually gave me a restless, nightmare-filled evening.
Nevertheless, there are still flaws with this book and the series in general. One, as I finished the last few pages, I was left with the impression that this would have been a much better series if it wasn't cloaked in the banality of young-adult fiction. Two, as great as the story is, it is not one that I would read a second time. Most of the "twists and turns" in the story are so predictable and cliched, and for those that are not, none of them left me aghast. My page-turning was driven more by the desire to finish the book than by the plot of the story itself. Yes, Collins did not shy away from the violence that is so crucial to the world she constructed, but stripped of the violence, the story underneath felt really bland.
A test for a great story is a second read. Would the reader still be moved by the story, knowing exactly what lies ahead? Unfortunately, The Hunger Games will not pass this test.(less)
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this odd mixture of literature and baseball, of adrenaline and art. The story was slow-moving but well-p...moreI was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this odd mixture of literature and baseball, of adrenaline and art. The story was slow-moving but well-paced. The writing was melodic but occasionally pretentious. The book constantly exudes the calculation and patience of a Gabriel García Márquez story mixed with the romance and anguish of a Haruki Murakami novel. It's a contemporary story with a classical soul.
But what attracted me the most was the characters. I saw so much of myself in those characters that I felt uneasy, despite how different the characters are from each other and how different they are from me. I can't remember when was the last time I felt so close and attached to characters in a fictional work. A good book becomes great only when you read it at the right time. And I could not have read The Art of Fielding at a better time.
Memorable quotes: "It astonished and humbled him to think that a mind could grow so rich that its every gesture would come to seem profound."
"That was what made the story epic: the player, the hero, had to suffer mightily en route to his final triumph."
"This was the dreamy, paradisiacal side of domestic ritual: when all the days were possessed of the same minutiae precisely because you wanted them to be."
"For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we're alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not."
"You could only try so hard not to try too hard before you were right back around to trying too hard."
"It had been forty-two years since he'd lost his virginity. He'd never thought then that he would lose it again. He felt a touch of sadness now that it had happened, now that he knew what it was like. Not because it wasn't enjoyable, or wouldn't be repeated, but because one more of life's mysteries had been revealed."
"The dream of every day the same. Every day was like the day before but a little better."
"The only life worth living was the unfree life, the life Schwartz had taught him, the life in which you were chained to your one true wish, the wish to be simple and perfect." (less)
The biggest complaint I have heard about this book is that it's too "pretentious". But it's a book about three university students in their final year...moreThe biggest complaint I have heard about this book is that it's too "pretentious". But it's a book about three university students in their final year of college and in the year right after they graduate. So saying the book is "pretentious", in my opinion, is the same as saying the book is authentic, which I guess must be a compliment.
In fact, there is so much authenticity in the book that sometimes I start seeing people around me going into the book as characters. The way that the characters converse with each other is the same way that my friends and I converse with each other. The worries that the characters have are the same worries that my friends and I have. My friends and I, as students in their final year of college, are just like the characters in the book, who assume just because you have learned something, you must also know that something; and just because you know that something, that something must therefore be true, until life dumps the biggest bucket of cold water onto your head and tells you that no amount of knowledge or "truths" can prepare you for the surprises that life has for you.
Taking me more than a month to finish, this 1000-page-long tome by Murakami is surprisingly not a tedious read. Given the sheer length of the book, th...moreTaking me more than a month to finish, this 1000-page-long tome by Murakami is surprisingly not a tedious read. Given the sheer length of the book, there were certainly moments when I wished the pace of the story was a tad quicker. Nevertheless, the author had managed to keep me interested from cover to cover and even drew a tear or two out of me toward the very end.
This is not a book preaching high morals or provoking deep thoughts. Instead, it is a philosophical examination into aspects of life that we often take for granted - in other words, a distinctively Murakami piece of work. With it Murakami did what he always does and did it well, mixing fantastical realities with realistic fantasies, and focusing on the existential concerns of the most common and bizarre characters. It is a tribute that Murakami pays to himself.
"Reality was utterly cool-headed and utterly lonely."
"And the body is not the only target of rape. Violence does not always take visible form, and not all wounds gush blood."
"If you can't understand it without an explanation, you can't understand it with an explanation."
"Nobody's easier to fool...than the person who is convinced that he is right."
"...the kind of laugh that you could laugh forever but never end up happy."
"The pursuer's blind spot is that he never thinks he's being pursued."
"Totally isolated, yet the one place not tainted with loneliness." (less)
The first half of the book is an absolute bore, but the second half is an amazing spectacle. The last chapter has so much heart and soul in it that it...moreThe first half of the book is an absolute bore, but the second half is an amazing spectacle. The last chapter has so much heart and soul in it that it alone redeems the book. This is Heart of Darkness meeting My Sister's Keeper, primitive rawness meeting modern ethics. There are some characters in the book about whom I cared deeply, but there are also many about whom I couldn't care less (one of which is unfortunately the heroine of the story). Overall, a memorable read.(less)