Had me a bit of a 16 hour drive. Needed something to "read." This one kind of fell off the audio-shelf at the library. Been on my TBR a while anyway.
T...moreHad me a bit of a 16 hour drive. Needed something to "read." This one kind of fell off the audio-shelf at the library. Been on my TBR a while anyway.
The Road is the only novel I've read by McCarthy, and I thought it tremendous. The Border Trilogy has long attracted me by its premise. All The Pretty Horses was a tight and concise novel, restrained though epic in scope. John Grady Cole and his cousin Lacy Rawlins set out on horseback on a trip from Texas into the heart of Mexico. They're running, the From and the To don't really matter. They encounter various situations along the way, and All the Pretty Horses tells of those. There is love. Betrayal. Murder. Violence. Horses. Spanish. (Lots and lots of Spanish, so make sure you know some.)
All in all, I found the characters fleshed out and real. The dialogue was wonderful. The plot was rich. The humor was great, too, even. An excellent book. I reckon I'll be diving into the rest o' the trilogy at some point.(less)
Will Eisner is a rather significant individual in the history of the graphic novel, as well as the comic world at large. He is, after all, sometimes r...moreWill Eisner is a rather significant individual in the history of the graphic novel, as well as the comic world at large. He is, after all, sometimes referred to as the Father of the Graphic Novel. In fact, the Eisner Awards (the comics' equivalent to the Oscars) are named after him. Of course, any serious fan of graphic novels has read some Will Eisner. Well, color me red and call me a strawberry, I can finally say I have.
The Contract with God trilogy is one large collection of three individual graphic novels: A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories, A Life Force, and Dropsie Avenue. Each volume tells a complete story, though the three are interwoven and related. The stories largely deal with racism, religious bigotry, and hard life through the Great Depression. The colors are all muted sepia toned, seemingly from pencil. This medium choice adds a bleakness throughout the book, certainly fitting to the setting. Eisner's lines are sometimes rushed and simple, befitting of a comic creator of Old, but I think anything fancier (i.e., more Realistic) would detract from the story.
A Contract with God is composed of four smaller stories: "A Contract With God", "The Super", "The Street Singer", and "Cookalein". In it we read the tale of a Jewish Russian man who comes to America and settles down on Dropsie Avenue, taking up residence in a Bronx tenement. Life is hard and goes awry, and the story is grim and tragic.
A Life Force pretty much deals with man's goals in life, to love and be happy, and compares them to a cockroach. This one at least has more characterization, and was easier to relate to than the first. It also seemed to have more of a plot, one that was more than halfway interesting. Still, the story was bleak.
Dropsie Avenue was probably my favorite of the three. Its main character is Dropsie Avenue itself. This story begins in the late 1800s and chronicles the development of the land and its Dutch settlers to where it is now. We see the land change, moving from farms to tenements and factories. We see the people change, phasing through Dutch, Irish, Jewish, Russian, Puerto Rican, African American, and many other races. We see how the society changes and how it affects Dropsie Avenue. I enjoyed this story quite a bit.
This review doesn't paint a pleasant picture of Eisner's acclaimed work, and that's probably because the story was so danged depressing. Eisner was born in 1917, so he lived through the Great Depression and through the changes he's created. In fact, he drew from his own experiences for many of these tales, and I suppose they're probably more autobiographical than we know. Reading tragedy is hard for me to "like," per se.
However, I can't really say that I enjoyed the read and thoroughly recommend you to all read it immediately, either. I can understand and appreciate the history of this book, how it is largely responsible for the creation of the graphic novel industry today, and I'm thankful for this. Still, the story is very complex and meticulous, weaving many threads through many characters and locations, and the book never rose above its potential.
So do I recommend Will Eisner's Contract with God trilogy? Yes, and no. Yes if you're a graphic novel fan and are interested in reading something by a legend. Yes if you enjoy stories told with a Great Depression setting, especially dealing with race, nationality, and religion. No if you're new to graphic novels and are curious about them (for that I'd recommend Craig Thompson's Blanketsfor something Real, or Alan Moore's Watchmenif you like super-heroes in your graphic novels). No if you're wanting something with color and something less depressing. In the end, I'm glad I've read it, but I don't plan to read any more by the man, either.(less)
Even though it’s been a few weeks since I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I see Offred’s story in my mind still, like a ripe tangerine...moreEven though it’s been a few weeks since I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I see Offred’s story in my mind still, like a ripe tangerine split open and glossy in the midsummer’s morning. I see her, in her red burka like outfit, white wings as blinders on her face. She’s tragic. Defeated. Her loss is gut-wrenching. How she once had a life—a Life—so normal, just like everybody else. Married. A daughter. A job. Happy. But all of that was in a time before the overthrow, before the government was decimated, before the regime took control and installed a patriarchal society. Women’s rights were gone.
Just like that.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic dystopia that is devastating for its simplicity. As often is the case in this genre, specifics aren’t exactly forthcoming, but there is enough worldbuilding put together to discern what’s happened. The book is a quasi-stream-of-consciousness novel chronicling the life of an unnamed Handmaid. The plot slowly reveals information about her life before she became a Handmaid, and much of this book is melancholic in recollection.
The way the sun would shine and cast a reflection on a man’s hair and send her spiraling backwards, remembering the way he looked in his mundane world. How he sounded. How he smelled. And pages and paragraphs disjointed but connected, a weird juxtaposition that works well, especially as the frame becomes more aware.
Interestingly enough, the Handmaid’s tale never grows stale, and that’s largely due to Atwood’s superior skills as a writer and storyteller. The language is powerful. The imagery is rich. (I really liked what she did with colors in this book.) The message is a touch heavy-handed (it’s satirical) and required some strong suspension of disbelief on my part (I’m a Realistic altruist to a certain degree), but her point was well made. I was affronted by the male portrayal throughout the book on many occasions, but her point is conceivably possible.
So what exactly is The Handmaid’s Tale? It’s a simple story about a woman’s struggle to survive in the world. She wrestles with past mistakes, with guilt, with a constant fear of death, with God, with many things most of us can relate to. It’s a bleak picture of what America could become if things went absolutely cat-whiskers crazy. It’s an absolutely makes-you-wanna-bawl kind of book if you have a two year old daughter (like I do). It’s a funny kind of novel that elicits the occasional chuckle.
Honestly, The Handmaid’s Tale is novel that’s both striking and entertaining. I believe Atwood was more concerned about the moral of the story than the actual plot, but both were well done. The Handmaid’s Tale is a modern classic that may seem uninspired in this modern world of dystopias, but it’s a book that deserves its accolades and, at least in my opinion, deserves a read. Boldly recommended.(less)
The Silmarillion may be the most difficult book I've ever read, and likewise the most difficult review I've ever written. It's incredibly dense and fi...moreThe Silmarillion may be the most difficult book I've ever read, and likewise the most difficult review I've ever written. It's incredibly dense and filled with so much information and so many stories that a proper review would be quite long. In essence, it would be like reviewing the Bible, to which The Silmarillion is often compared, and that would certainly be no easy task. Nevertheless, I have tried, and this is the result.
I imagine any reader of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit would be somewhat familiar with The Silmarillion. This book, written as a collection of myths and legends, is epic in its scope, spanning from the creation story to the end of the Third Age (i.e., after Frodo destroys the Ring). The Tengwar inscription inside gives the best description of the book that I've read.
"The tales of the First Age when Morgoth dwelt in Middle-earth and the Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils to which are appended the downfall of Númenor and the history of the Rings of Power and the Third Age in which these tales come to their end."
That sentence contains so much in its simplicity that it's almost deceiving. It demands questions. Who's Morgoth? What are the Silmarils? Ooh, what else can I learn about the Rings of Power? And what the heck is Tengwar? While The Lord of the Rings may hint at some of these things, the answers can only be found in The Silmarillion.
So what is The Silmarillion? It's essentially the bible of Middle-earth and all of Arda. It's Tolkien's legendarium, his masterpiece and life's work. It's a history book of things forgotten by many, and cherished by others.
After I read LOTR in 8th grade, and then The Hobbit, I got The Silmarillion. I tried to read it, but I've never been much of a fan of history, and this just lacked the beauty Tolkien's other works had, so I sat it aside, intending to give it another chance some time later. After a decade of waiting, the time finally arrived.
This time through it didn't seem as much as a history book as I remembered. Sure, it was dry from time to time, but for the most part I rather enjoyed the read. For one, it felt like reading a book on some other culture's myths, and I suppose this is actually what I was doing. Also, some of these stories are so breathtaking and tragic that it's hard not to get pulled into the tales. Yes, The Silmarillion may seem like a history book, and it is, in some ways, but it is also so much more.
The entire volume is essentially one long story arc, but it is broken up into several different parts. In the beginning, after Ilúvatar has created the Ainur, one of his creations rebels and seeks his own song. It is this, the rebellion of Melkor, also called Morgoth, that has led to the ills of the world (Arda) and the problems that follow the creation. Time and time again different heroes rise up to oppose Melkor and his followers, and this is what The Silmarillion consists of, hero stories. Stories with characters you want to root for, despite their long odds. Stories with villains so dastardly that you pray for justice.
These tales are fascinating. Tolkien's mythology is humongous, and each story has the epic feel associated with things like The Odyssey or The Iliad. Yet, as Tolkien writes in The Fellowship of the Ring, the tales are all fair, "though [they are] sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth..." Indeed, there are few silver linings throughout The Silmarillion, but mostly everything is heavy and tragic. This certainly does not limit the enjoyment of the book, however, as we already know how it ends 'ere we start (provided some simple deduction).
One distinct difference between this work and Tolkien's others is that The Silmarillion tends to lack the overly-wordy description that is famous throughout the LOTR. Here we get some description, but nothing like the adjective-heavy words commonly associated with Tolkien. There still seems to be some extraneous information, but this was no problem really.
The hardest thing about reading The Silmarillion is the gigantic cast of characters. Not only are there numerous people named, but so are the lands and rings and swords and whatever else Tolkien fancied Proper Nouning. (Can I do that? Use "noun" as a verb?) Add the fact that there are many different languages in Arda, and you may get one character with three different names, if not more. For that reason, I occasionally got lost trying to recall who was who and who's son someone came from and the proper lineage and blah blah. If I read this again, I think I may keep a notebook handy for side notes.
The Silmarillion is a beautiful book that I regret took me so long to finally crack open. I think I had some preconceptions about how the historical writing would pan out--that I would be bored and not enjoy the read--but I was wrong. J.R.R. Tolkien is a master at what he does, and it's evident that the time and love he put into this book took many years. It's sad that the man didn't live long enough to see his life's work published, but at least the book hit publication.
Overall, for anyone that read and enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, it's a no brainer. The Silmarillion is a must read if you're interested in any of the background of Middle-earth, especially Elven history. On the other hand, I would also recommend this book to anyone with a strong interest in mythology. Tolkien borrowed from Norse and German mythology, and lovers of these legends may enjoy The Silmarillion as well. In the end, The Silmarillion is not a light book, and perusing would be difficult, but the reader will find excitement and tragedy within its pages.(less)
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is one of those books that I found out about in college. It was a humanities class with an emphasis on cultur...moreThe Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is one of those books that I found out about in college. It was a humanities class with an emphasis on cultural diversity and whatnot. We had to read several excerpts from all sorts of literature, and the excerpt (and idea) from The Things They Carried made enough of an impact with me that I decided that I’d like to read the entire book. The excerpt talked about the things that Vietnam soldiers carried with them, like drugs, letters, photographs, ammunition, lucky charms, and sundries. The exact weights and how this bore on the soldiers as they made their way across foreign lands.
Now, five years later, I’ve finally read it.
It was a whim. I was in the midst of five other books, kind of a lull, honestly, and I found myself in my den looking over my bookshelf. So many things on that shelf that I need to get to. Not sure why, but I pulled out the 250-page paperback and flipped through it. Why not?
That night, as I was rocking Callum to tentative sleep, I started reading O’Brien’s novel/memoir. I was immediately pulled in, and a day or two later I was finished with the thing. I kept telling Keisha that I needed to look up some stuff afterwards, to see what was Real and what wasn’t. I kept re-reading the Title Page: The Things They Carried, a work of fiction by Tim O’Brien.
That’s part of the beauty of The Things They Carried. O’Brien is writing this as a memoir, but it’s much more than that, too. The book is essentially a collection of war stories (lies? narrative essays?) about Vietnam. The lines between fiction and truth are blurry. This is intentional. O’Brien is blatant about this, giving the Reader an odd sort of feeling as to just how reliable the narrator is.
O’Brien is concerned with Story. The book offers several asides on what defines a story, seamless and meta and over-the-top but perfect.
“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” (Page 38)
Anyone concerned with telling a story, let alone putting fingertips to keyboards and translating it, would do to read O’Brien’s book.
Overall, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried was a wonderful, unexpected book. Out of my normal distribution of genre/non-fic, I could barely put the thing down. I still find myself thinking about some of the stories O’Brien told. If you’ve never read this book, I definitely can recommend it to anyone. The topic is war, which may be offputting, but then again it’s not really about the war, either. Highly recommended.(less)
That's all I can handle for now. Just too much. At 150+ pages into the book, I had no interest in any of the characters other than the patriarch himse...moreThat's all I can handle for now. Just too much. At 150+ pages into the book, I had no interest in any of the characters other than the patriarch himself. Maybe I'll look at this again some day when I'm in my 50s...(less)
This book has been in my TBR pile for a very long time, and finally I can remove it. I'm sad to say, but I did not really care much for Something Wick...moreThis book has been in my TBR pile for a very long time, and finally I can remove it. I'm sad to say, but I did not really care much for Something Wicked This Way Comes. I found Bradbury's writing tedious and odd and often unable to relate to. The main characters, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, were not well defined or developed, and I didn't really care much about their lives. Will's father, Charles Halloway, an older man who is dissatisfied with his life, was equally pathetic and cliche. In fact, the characters I liked were of the Carnival.
Yes, Mr. Dark was fascinating, and it was his story I wanted to know more of. The scene featuring the electric chair is the only memorable scene and the only time in the book I was actually captivated.
Overall, I was disappointed in this book. Perhaps I expected too much, or maybe I just waited too long to read it. Whatever the case, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. There were a few times when I thought Bradbury's word usage was perfect and fitting, but mostly I felt that he was trying too hard for unnatural choices. Perhaps my problem was that I read this book as an audio book, I'm not sure. Or maybe one day, when I'm older, I'll give it another try and appreciate it more.(less)