I just put this book down and ran over to the computer to write the review before I lost the sense of joy it left me with. I know that this review is...more I just put this book down and ran over to the computer to write the review before I lost the sense of joy it left me with. I know that this review is going to be a challenge for me though, because so much happened in this book and there were so many characters that if I focus on one thing, I’ll be leaving out multitudes of equally wonderful things that happened in a different part. This book took me longer to read than I had hoped, but that was only because life kept getting between me and this glorious piece of writing. The best way I can describe this book is that the writing style is similar to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It takes place in a made up South American country that has the political strife of many real South American countries. The story follows the characters of one particular city, the army and the guerilla fighters. Each chapter is a sort of vignette that focuses on the activities of one (or a few) characters interacting and slowly moves the plot forward. This allowed De Bernieres to create rich and wonderful characters. The plot is hard to describe, the synopsis on the back of the book only covers about the first fourth of the novel. Which is the rich, shallow Dona Constanza deciding to divert the Mula River in order to fill up her swimming pool and the citizens of the city trying to stop her by sabotaging the canal in any way possible. However, by the end of the book Dona Constanza has grown so much as a character that even she realizes how ridiculous she was being at the beginning. Since I feel like I’m failing to do this book justice, I’ll mention a few of my favorite things in hopes that they’ll illustrate the magical qualities of this book. -General Fuerte: He is actually one of the lesser mentioned characters in the story, but he is definitely my favorite. He is one of the few uncorrupt army officers in the book and tries to make sure his branch of the army performs honorably. However, his real passion is the taxonomy of animals, and he eventually deserts in order to follow his dream of recording the different species of hummingbirds found in the jungle. He is eventually captured by the guerillas who originally want to kill him for being in the army, but realize how naïve he is and instead keep him as a prisoner for the majority of the book. He has quite a climactic get away, from the guerillas, the army, and life in general at the end of the novel. But you’ll have to read it to find out what he does. -Aurelio’s story: Aurelio is a Mountain Indian who finds his way into the tribes in the jungle. His story is perhaps the most heartbreaking. He and his wife cannot have children so they raise dogs in attempt to breed a dog that does not bark. While they were out in the jungle one day with their dogs they stumble upon a 4-year-old feral girl. They decide to adopt her and raise her as their own. I don’t want to give away the heartbreaking bit, but tragedy strikes Parlanchina (his daughter) and Aurelio swears revenge upon the army. What I love about his story is that he sets up his traps for the army in the middle of the book, but nothing happens with them until the end, when the reader and Aurelio has forgotten about his plan. And by the end he regrets his revenge because more people died needlessly after the war was over. -The Plague of Cats: This part of the novel is never really explained, but is probably my favorite magical realism aspect of the book. There is also a plague of laughter that hits, but it’s not as enjoyable as the kitties. OH and De Bernieres definitely alludes to One Hundred Years of Solitude (and possible another magical realism book I have yet to read?) in one paragraph, “Around here no one seems to think such extraordinary events as plagues of cats and plagues of laughter have any significance. I have been told that before I came, there were on various places a plague of falling leaves, a plague of sleeplessness, one of invisible hailstones, a plague of amnesia, and another time there was a rainstorm for several years that reduced everything to rust and mold.” Which made me squee like a little fan girl for 5 minutes. Anyway back to the cats: One day the people of the city wake up and find that it has been invaded by hundreds of cats. And they have no desire to go anywhere and just like to be mischievous little things. They are also apparently are immortal, one of the characters got fed up with one while he was trying to pack, shot it, and it shrugged it off and kept batting at a drawstring. Eventually the cats begin to grow to the size of ocelots, then pumas, and by the end of the book they are the size of jaguars and they are intensely loyal to their people. They are just a good addition to the story. So. There are my 3 favorite parts of the story (and it was hard to limit myself). I highly recommend you go out and find it and read it and love it. I will be tracking down the second and third part of the story (did I forget to mention it’s a trilogy yesssss) and all the other books by this author. (less)
From the moment I saw this book I knew I wanted to read it. I never actually read the synopsis, I just loved the title and hoped that whatever it offe...moreFrom the moment I saw this book I knew I wanted to read it. I never actually read the synopsis, I just loved the title and hoped that whatever it offered would be wonderful. I expected a fun science fiction adventure novel that would be an easy read, what I got was a super meta-fiction mindwarp but it was awesome. It took effort to read, but it was still a very fun read.
The protagonist of the story is Charles Yu (note: also the author) who lives in his time machine (which is approximately the size of a phone booth, and unlike Doctor Who’s TARDIS, it is not bigger than it looks). He is in love with the computer in his ship and his boss is a computer program who doesn’t realize he’s not actually alive. His job is to go fix other time machines, which people have bought and broke in their attempt to change their past, which he states over and over is impossible to do.
The first half of the story consists of Charles’ stories and thoughts. He shares stories about his father and thoughts about things like “The Girl He Will Not Marry”, who is also the Girl He Has Never Met. He tells how he and the girl he never met would never have a wonder life together. He muses on how when he brushes his teeth, his reflection looks disappointed in himself. The first half of is full of amusing “such is life” kind of thoughts and is quite enjoyable. But it’s the second half of the story that really gets meta and mind boggling (but no less enjoyable). I wont tell you how, but Charles ends up getting himself stuck in a time loop. He is given the book “How to Live Safely In a Science Fiction Universe” by Charles Yu – but the problem is, he hasn’t written it yet. So he ends up reading it before he’s written it. Ugh just typing this is making my brain go “Huh?” I wont give too much more away. But I highly suggest you go read this book before you get stuck in a time loop. (less)
So I've been sick these past few days, and the only good thing about being bedridden was getting to plow through some books and catch up on my 2011 go...moreSo I've been sick these past few days, and the only good thing about being bedridden was getting to plow through some books and catch up on my 2011 goal (I'm so close - I might be able to make it!) One of the books I had the pleasure of reading was I Am the Messenger. Many of you may recognize the Zusak's name from his highly popular book The Book Thief from a few years ago. (If for some reason you haven't read that beautiful book go read it now). Well this book was written before The Book Thief and is just as well written/thought out/ Gorgey McGorgeouson as his most popular novel.
Synopsis! Ed is an underage cab-driver who lives in the suburbs of Sydney. His life isn't going anywhere special. The girl he loves refuses to fall in love with anyone and has put him in the "Best Friend" position. His mom hates him. He wants more. One day he becomes a hero when he finds himself in a bank-robbery and has had enough and he chases the robber down. After that an Ace of Diamonds shows up in his mailbox with 3 addresses on it. And Ed has to figure out what to do.
Why I really loved this book: Ed is a really nice guy and he doesn't realize it. The entire book is about him realizing it. The Aces he's sent are cryptic and kind of creepy, but he goes along with the plan because he knows that they are the key to helping him figure out his life. Before they were in his life he was content with doing nothing. After they started showing up he started noticing the people around him and started helping them. I think that's what I really enjoyed about this book, is that Ed helped the people in his community and asked for nothing back.
Honestly, even though this is not a Christmas story - it was a perfect book to read around Christmas. It filled me with joy and hope and all those things that Christmas is supposed to be about. It is an incredibly enjoyable book and a quick read (even if you aren't bed-bound it would probably only take a day to read). I highly recommend it to everybody. And The Book Thief. Stop reading this review. Go read these books instead.
The only thing that kept me from giving it a 5: It kept mentioning meat pies and I started craving them really badly. Seriously, I wish they were available in the States. sigh. But actually - I don't know what kept me from giving it a 5, maybe the fact that I'm really stingy with my ratings and I only give out 5s to a very select few books.(less)