July 17th, 2010

books - love anim.

Books 45-47 for 2010

45. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, 1995, 371 pages.
Microserfs is the third novel by Coupland that I have read, and it is the best of the three, in fact it may be one of the finest novels I’ve had the pleasure to read. Coupland is fast becoming one of the novelists I most admire.
The plot centres on a group of employees at Microsoft in the Seattle area, who leave to find their fortunes in California’s Silicon Valley. Narrated by one of the group members, Daniel, the story follows their financial and romantic ups and downs, the details of the computer work that they perform, and the random and intricate details of their lives. Told with a sense of humour so rich that I laughed aloud while reading – a genuine rarity for me – and a poignancy that entirely captured me, the story ends beautifully, as I think that Coupland has more skill at writing satisfying conclusions than any author I have ever read. I recommend this marvellous novel for anyone looking for excellence.

46. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson, 2010, 576 pages.
It is probable that all of you know that this is the final book of the Swedish trilogy that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a decent book, and kept me turning pages at a time when I was having a great deal of difficulty concentrating on reading, as the plot was terse. However, the long conversations between police officers and their fellows, groups of mob men, SAPO officers [Swedish SIS], and newspaper editors were anything but terse, and it resulted in a book where the reader knew what the conclusion of the book would be half a book before the conclusion. This approach worked, but barely, as I far prefer the suspense of the surprise ending, or at least a decent plot twist, which this novel lacked.
Personally, I wish that the series had not been a series at all, but had stopped after the first book, which was a magnificent thriller. The two books since have been page-turners but not at all close to the tour de force that was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I read them because they existed, but overall, I really could have done without them.

47. The Green Mile by Stephen King, 1997, 440 pages.
As I was still having difficulty concentrating on anything that I picked up to read, once again I turned to Stephen King and his prodigious supply of thrillers and horror novels. As I had The Green Mile on my e-reader it was common sense to read that one, and I am entirely pleased with my choice. Christine is my favourite of Stephen King’s novels, but The Green Mile is an easy shoe-in for second place. Creepy, sad, and fascinating, the book grabbed my attention from the beginning and I read it with unalloyed delight. I am going to try the film version of this book, although I rarely do so. I don’t know if I can handle Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecombe – why does Tom Hanks have to be in everything?? – but I would like to see Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey: he seems made for the role.
did you know you could fly?

(no subject)

Book #39 -- Charles De Lint, The Painted Boy, 400 pages.

As a long term fan of Charles De Lint, I was a little disappointed as this one started. The Asian mythos is one he hasn't explored very extensively, and it showed. However, as soon as the scene shifted to the southwestern desert, he was back in his comfort zone and the story started feeling more like a De Lint novel. As always, his characters were vivid and very real, the magic blended seamlessly with the real world and was just as harsh, as it should be. In addition, there was a lovely cameo from a character we haven't seen in a very long time. So even if you don't like the beginning, give it a chance - it gets better :)

Progress toward goals: 196/365 = 53.7%

Books: 39/100 = 39.0%

Pages: 10655/25000 = 42.6%

2010 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
Bibliophile

Books 64 - 66 / 100

64. Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
              A pretty good kid's book that I read cause I was bored by the other book I was trying to read.  I couldn't remember having read it before.  Anyway, it's about racism and homelessness (in the basic sense of not having a home as well as having no place to belong ) and I think any outsider would enjoy this book.

65.  Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals - Saul D. Alinsky
                   Alinsky talks a lot about his experiences as a union organizer but he also writes about theory of activism and organizing for change.  One of his more interesting points was that the ends always justify the means, because moral justification of actions is only really used by the Haves to justify holding on to their power.  Therefore, the Have-Nots shouldn't waste their time with morality when no one else is really that worried about it. 
                  I kept wondering what Alinsky would make of what goes on now.  What would he think of suicide bombers?

66. March - Geraldine Brooks
                 A Pulitzer Prize winning book about the father of the March family from Alcott's Little Women.  It is mostly from his point of view as he goes to help the Union soldiers in the Civil War. 
            My attention was immediately grabbed with the after-battle descriptions on the first page, but I stopped liking it so much somewhere around page 73, " ' You are not the beautiful, innocent vagabond walking towards me under the dogwood blossoms, with his trunks and his head full of worthless notions.  And I am not the beloved, cherished ladies' maid...'"  Really?  This is a Pulitzer winner? Cause for a minute there, I thought I'd picked up a Bodice-ripper instead.  For the rest of the book, the style bothered the hell out of me.  I love 19th century literature, but I definately do not like 21st century books that are supposed to mimic that style.  They always fail miserably. 
                   

Book 3: Secret Daughter

Title: Secret Daughter
Author: Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Genre: Novel

Plot: This story starts with two families, one in India and one in California. The California couple struggles with infertility, and the resulting strain this places on the marriage between Somer and Krishnan. The Indian mother has given birth to one daughter already - a daughter who was disposed of because of her gender. When Kavita gives birth to a second daughter she and her sister sneak the baby to an orphanage to give her a chance at life. When the California family travels to India to adopt baby Asha, she unknowingly becomes the thread that ties the two couples together. The novel changes perspective every few pages, moving between Somer and Krishnan and Kavita and her husband, Jasu, as the years pass. Eventually Asha's point of view also enters the story as she goes through normal teenage angst coupled with feelings of abandonment by her birth parents and a lack of acceptance from her adoptive parents.

Quote: "Somewhere in the extra giving, in the space created by generosity without score keeping, was the difference between marriages that thrived and those that didn't."

Review: Although this book had some very engaging parts, I did not enjoy it as much as other reviewers. The plot was good, but I thought the characters and the relationships between them were weak. From the first few dozen pages, episodes involving Krishnan showed him to be insensitive and self involved. This caused me to dislike Krishnan until a few more dozen pages revealed all the California players to be insensitive and self involved. Somer, why marry a guy from India and adopt and Indian daughter if you have zero interest in learning about the country, and actively resent their efforts to connect with it? Krishnan, why whine that your wife doesn't cook Indian food as well as a twelve year old could - talk to her about it or cook it your own darn self. You get the impression that the author wants you to root for the marriage between these two, but I found that difficult since no evidence that the two are actually right for each other, or that they make each other happy, is presented. It's like if you have a friend who always calls you to complain about his or her spouse - if you always just hear the negatives, you're going to hate the significant other. That being said, despite the portrayal of the characters, I was interested enough in the story to stay up late finishing to learn the outcome, which turned out to be a let down, in my opinion.

Book 4: The Long Song

Title: The Long Song
Author: Andrea Levy
Genre: Novel

Plot: The Long Song takes place on the island of Jamaica in the 1800s, primarily on a plantation called Amity where our main character, July, is a slave. Although July is born of a field slave, as a child she is brought into the big house by Caroline Mortimer, the sister of the plantation's owner. Caroline is a widow, nearly arrived from England, who renames July "Marguerite" and tries to teach her to be the perfect lady's maid. July and Caroline live through dangerous times in Jamaica, through slave rebellions, the Baptist war, and the turmoil and confusion surrounding emancipation. The book is written by July at the urging of her son, Thomas, who has grown up free and educated, allowing him to become an extremely successful printer on the island. Thomas believes that his mother's story is worth preserving for the future, and July frequently cites his editorial comments as she writes. While this could have had the impact of breaking up the flow of the story, instead it just encourages the reader to want more.

Quote: "My beloved son Thomas did caution, when first I set out to flow this tale upon the world, that although they may not be felt like a fist or a whip, words have a power that can nevertheless cower even the largest man to gibbering tears."

Review: Andrea Levy won me over with her book Small Island years ago. With this new novel, I was just as impressed, if not more so. It has the same attention to characters and historical details as Levy's previous work, but is even more fast paced. The narration is entertaining and the plot has twists and turns. I couldn't put it down once I started reading.