There is something here, I just don't know what it is. I wasn't planning on reading Ban En Banlieue for this year's (2016) Tournament of Books (ToB) There is something here, I just don't know what it is. I wasn't planning on reading Ban En Banlieue for this year's (2016) Tournament of Books (ToB) -- it just seemed too strange (just read that blurb above!) and was largely unavailable (no Kindle version, out of stock at most retailers), but alas I did find it and I figured what the heck, I can get through about 100 pages of pretty much anything, right?!? And that's what I got, 100 pages of pretty much anything. Literally.
It was pretty much everything in an artistic sense that is totally outside my comfort zone. The type of experience where I may see others standing in front of splotched-soaked painting or watching a person strip naked and rub themselves in charcoal (which I think(?) occurs here in Ban) and they have these very thoughtful looks on their faces while having these very deep conversations about the very deep meaning of the piece and all I am thinking is "What the f&ck?!"
On top of that, it's all very spiritual, new-age-y, hippy mother earth (the end notes actually contain the phrase "unicorn chrysalis")... which (wait for it) is also not my thing. Again, I am not denying that there is something here and I do "get" some of what Kapil is trying to accomplish here. It is not not interesting, which is the highest compliment that I can pay it and what did earn it an additional star in my rating.
So thanks to ToB for giving me the opportunity to try out an experimental read. It's good to test one's limits and boundaries every now and then. And now that that's out of the way...
Alison Bechdel's Fun Home has been on my radar pretty much ever since it published over 8 years ago. Despite having good, but still quite limited, exp Alison Bechdel's Fun Home has been on my radar pretty much ever since it published over 8 years ago. Despite having good, but still quite limited, experiences with graphic novels/works it still feels like a bit of self-induced barrier, somehow not "real" reading. But with the work's recent re-invention and smashing success as a Broadway musical, it finally felt time to pick it up.
It is quite an extraordinary work, a lesbian coming-of-age memoir but also -- or even more so -- the story of her father -- a closeted gay man who is killed (suicide?) shortly after Bechdel comes out. So the story is interesting enough, but the artwork (done by Bechdel herself) elevates it even further. This generational tilting point where her father's true self still had to live in the shadows vs. Bechdel's generation has seen extraordinary progress is a fascinating contrast. While the father's death haunts the entire work, it is still very humorous and quirky as the Bechdel's are a family of artists and intellectuals living (stuck?) in rural Pennsylvania.
Unofficially 4.5 stars with a near perfect combination of the story and truly a piece of art in the graphic novel format. For someone who considers himself to be fairly well-read, ironically the half-star comes off (and the round down to 4 stars for Goodreads) is that there were so many literary references (Homer, Joyce, Shakespeare, Hemingway, and many many more!) plus enough "big" words that it hindered my enjoyment and understanding just enough -- that I kind of felt I was missing some important subtext, meaning. Of course, this is no fault of the Bechdel's but alas just my experience. But still a great reading/visual treat!
I am a latecomer to the Haruki Murakami bandwagon, but I was a fan of his last two books, 1Q84 and Colorless Tsukuru so it was with little hesitation I am a latecomer to the Haruki Murakami bandwagon, but I was a fan of his last two books, 1Q84 and Colorless Tsukuru so it was with little hesitation that I picked up The Strange Library and physical copy of it no less!
And the best thing I can say about is that -- the physical book. Perhaps this is the point? A lot of cool artwork, clasping cover/bookmark (tho unneeded for the latter purpose given its length), colored text, odd juxtaposition of pages, etc. -- far more interesting than the story...
...which I did not get. At all. It seems like it is a child's fable, but I couldn't glean any lesson from it. It has the creepiness that often is part of fairy tales, but again not sure what the point.
As always, impressed with Murakami's imagination and dreamlike/surreal feel, but ultimately it just felt like the equivalent of eating a potato chip. Got thru it quickly (basically one sitting) -- a nice snack, but not very satisfying.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Nick Hornby had a new of collection of his Believer Magazine essays about books and reading. I admit I've never seenI was pleasantly surprised to see Nick Hornby had a new of collection of his Believer Magazine essays about books and reading. I admit I've never seen or held an issue of Believer, so was unaware that Hornby was back writing this column after a few/couple (?) years break. I may have sensed a bit of fatigue in his last collection (Shakespeare Wrote For Money), but he is back in strong form here.
To really enjoy these essays, you have to be a major league book geek and it further helps if you are just a tad snooty about the types of books you read. Check and check, on both accounts for me! Though it is kind of funny/ironic, since Hornby's fiction (a favorite author of mine there as well) is quite accessible and unpretentious.
I think how I tend to "talk" about books here on Goodreads and elsewhere has ben influenced by these now 4 Hornby collections. He rarely getting deeply into plot or details, but speaking of the circumstances that brought him to a particular book or how it interacts with his life and with a healthy dose of wit/snark. The one difference may be that he tends to shy away from being too (negatively) critical of a book. It's easy for me to do since I am not an author, nor do I have the talent/skill to ever become one. That said, his one-sentence-ish dismissal of Huckleberry Finn was pretty hilarious.
I hope Hornby continues on with these columns. He is a kindred spirit! Now, onto my next read......more
I am always interested in books about far away destinations, particularly if I am going or have been there, so stumbling upon Donna Leon's Guido BruneI am always interested in books about far away destinations, particularly if I am going or have been there, so stumbling upon Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti series -- thanks to a book cover catching my eye from one of my Goodreads friends (Hi Nina!) -- was great news as I was fortunate enough to visit Venice last year and, quite unexpectedly, am likely going back later this year!
Despite Leon just recently publishing the 20th installment in this series, I have to admit I was not aware of it. Likewise, I was a bit wary of starting a new series (my to-be-read list is never lacking in quantity), but I just couldn't pass it up, particularly since the death takes place at a place I visited while there, La Fenice. Giving the theater's history of bad luck -- it's burned down 3 times (I think, including after this book was published) -- it seems like the perfect place to kick off a mystery series.
Overall, this was a quick, readable, and harmless novel. Charming lead detective (commissario!). Check. Interesting cast of supporting players. Check. It is not a complex book, I kinda sorta guessed what happened about halfway thru, not something I feel compelled to do so while reading mysteries. Nor is it a great work of literature (so don't go comparing this rating vs. what I give say a Franzen or Kingsolver -- apples and oranges, folks!), but it certainly fills the role of literary palette cleanser/fun diversion after some recent "serious" reading.
Leon does not clobber the reader over the head with Venetian references and landmarks, but just enough to evoke specific memories or, if not familiar with a specific "campo," fill it in with my own imagination. I am not sure if I will ever get to Book #20 (and if I do, how long it would take given the constant tug of my to-be-read list), but I certainly plan on continuing on with the series when I am looking for something light and easy to read.
I could really use half-stars here Goodreads! Let's say 4 stars for entertainment purposes and being a knock-it-out-quick read, 3 stars for not being a "great" book... so 3.5 stars.
I figured I had lost my window Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." I generally pride myself on finding an "it" book before it reaches cI figured I had lost my window Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." I generally pride myself on finding an "it" book before it reaches critical mass, because once they do I tend to question/lose faith in them (Twilight, Dan Brown, etc., I'm looking at you). But I had heard *so* many good things about it, that even having not read it, I went so far to recommend the book to the other half of the household. When he even liked it, I finally broke down and read it, and amazingly it lived up to all the hype and expectation.
I was a bit worried at first. It took a just a bit of time/pages to get into... but think of it as that clack, clack, clack, chugging up that first hill, because once the story breaks free, readers are in for one long and wild roller coaster ride. It was easy to see why this book (and series) are so popular and somewhat restored my faith that the general public could wrap themselves into something complex, smart, and well-written. I say "general public," as sadly I think us avid readers are a minority and not enough to create a publishing sensation of this magnitude.
Now that said, it does dip into some far-fetchedness and require suspension of belief/reality. I would not believe anyone who said they figured everything out. This is a perfect book for folks who just lets the book happen as I would imagine amateur/arm-chair detectives might get pretty frustrated by all the twists and turns.
I'd give this one 4.5 stars, knocking it ever so slightly for pulling things out of Sweden's thin (and cold!) air, but for sheer entertainment and the originality of the story, I'll give it the bump up to 5 stars on the GoodReads scale. I look forward to meeting up with some of these characters again. I really don't know how Larsson is going to pull it off, but I feel I am in good hands. ...more
Michael Pollan started infiltrating our house over the past year or so. I benefited mostly through osmosis as the other half our the household has reaMichael Pollan started infiltrating our house over the past year or so. I benefited mostly through osmosis as the other half our the household has read his other books, "Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food." I took a more active role in heading to the movie theater to see the documentary "Food, Inc." While it was my intention to read one of the Pollan books (you avid readers know how that to-be-read pile works!), I took the easy way out and bought this new book "Food Rules" which is the Cliff Notes/bullet point version of Pollan's food philosophy, which simply stated is: Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.
I can not imagine there are many people who would NOT benefit from reading this book as one will quickly learn that your local supermarket and pretty much any corporate-run restaurant is a landmine of edible food-like substances vs. "real" food. While one may of think many of these rules are pure common sense or no-brainers, until you start looking in your refrigerator and pantry.
While this book can easily read in one sitting, I purposely stretched it out for almost a week to allow the concepts to sink in. These aren't so much "rules" as guidelines and suggestions, though I'd be hard pressed to think anyone who could 100% commit to everything in the book. However, but awareness is step #1 in making incremental changes and informed choices when it comes to food.
We have been trying to pass along these "light bulb moments" to our friends and families (btw, our food lifestyle change -- not a diet -- has resulted in a combined household weight loss of nearly 50 lbs) and I think this is a perfect introductory book, particularly folks who are not "readers" or want to test out the Pollan waters. It has certainly inspired me to get other Pollan books higher up on that to-be-read list. Overall, I'd give it 4.5 stars, just knocking a 1/2 star off for it being a tad pricey for a pretty slim volume....more
If you've never read an Ian McEwan novel, I'll just warn you that things don't tend to go very well. This is my fourth McEwan and I have dubbed him thIf you've never read an Ian McEwan novel, I'll just warn you that things don't tend to go very well. This is my fourth McEwan and I have dubbed him the master of the downward spiral. Just when you think things can't get worse, they usual do.
At just over 200 pages, this is more of a novella than his last two books (most notably "Atonement," though I personally preferred "Saturday"), but it still packs a mighty punch as McEwan bores down on the first night of marriage of a Florence and Edward on the shores of the English Channel (spoiler alert) on Chesil Beach in the year 1962, with flashbacks to their pasts (both individual and shared).
This is one of the most uncomfortable books I have read in some time as the two virgins move to consummate their marriage, each unbeknown to the other bringing in some quite heavy baggage to this first time experience. It is extremely intimate (and sometimes explicit, tastefully) book as the reader is not only witness to the physical act, but more so each character's thoughts and it is in knowing things that other character does not where the true tragedy of their story lies.
I will say that that my mind drifted away just a bit during during the flashbacks, but only because McEwan created such tension in the honeymoon suite. In my eyes, McEwan can do little wrong, though I know some find his work to be too stodgy, British, pretentious, high-brow capital-L literature and this one is no different. For me, he creates these incredible wrecks that will have you (figuratively) rubbernecking until that last page is turned. It's probably a good thing he is not uber-prolific as one feels a bit roughed up when finished, but no doubt my masochistic literary tendencies will be ready and renewed for his next book....more
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two collections of Nick Hornby's columns from "The Believer," I was a bit sad to see that the third volumHaving read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two collections of Nick Hornby's columns from "The Believer," I was a bit sad to see that the third volume would be the last. Though to be totally honest, I wasn't even aware "Shakespeare Wrote For Money" even existed until I stumbled onto it while picking up Hornby's latest novel "Juliet, Naked."
Anyhow, there is really nothing new here. If you enjoyed the first two essay s , it is more of the same though I will agree with some of my fellow reviewers in that Hornby was running out of steam a bit on this one. But alas, I don't think there are many of us that could have sustained such an assignment for 5+ years (remember when people used to blog?). That said, I didn't find this any less enjoyable and any reading geek will be in nerd-vana with yet another opportunity to read about reading.
Hornby makes me feel sane-ish, when he scoffs at a friend who takes a day off between books to not suffocate the just-finished one, noting "Those of us who read neurotically read, however - to ward off boredom, and the fear of our own ignorance, and our impending deaths - can't afford the time."
The one good thing about this being the last of Hornby's reading recollections is that it will no longer add to my already mammoth to-be-read list! Though he did manage to add a few more (getting me slightly curious about YA lit) and did get me to take one of those purchased long ago but unread books off my shelf as my next read.
Alas, I read this so quickly it hardly justified the $14 spent in this tough economy, but for me Hornby always delivers and the hilariously nerdy intro by Sarah Vowell was almost worth cost alone! ...more
But as I will say over and over about this series, the books continue to be quite charming and, dare I say, there is not a more charming protagonist oBut as I will say over and over about this series, the books continue to be quite charming and, dare I say, there is not a more charming protagonist out there than detective Mma (Precious) Ramotswe. Though of any of the installments thus far, this was by far the lightest in the detective department... more focused on the personal progress of Mma Ramotswe and her fiance Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (if you've read these book, you must refer to the characters by their full title and name).
The relative absence of detective work is fine. It is the little life lessons and cast of characters that are the draw/appeal of these books, not the mystery aspect -- and me thinks fans of that genre would be disappointed by these books (well, at least when it came to the mystery part... I can't imagine too many folks not being won over by Mma Ramotswe). So, continuing my repetition (and okay, rationalization) about this series, while it kinda is... it really is not a Botswani version of Murder, She Wrote. ...more