Monday, February 18, 2013

A Graveyard For Lunatics

For a fan, this kind of novel is a true and overwhelming delight...for lunatics!  I have been so crazy for Bradbury for such a long time that when a novel comes along, it is almost an overdose of wonderful and I switch from being overwhelmed to awestuck to feeling nutsy-koo-koo chapter by chapter.  I feel so blessed to have so much of his work, and I treasure every word ( I give each book a hug on completion...my first red flag that I must be going nuts), I'm not ashamed.  After all, how lucky am I at such an age to have been touched by greatness that has enriched my life so much?  I cannot do this justice so I recommend that you just read it for yourself, because Ray put it better than anyone.

A Lazy Weekend

Usually weekends that involve travel out of town to grocery shop are an all day affair and I am absolutely exhausted by days end, and extra sore to boot from all of the driving (it's a two hour round trip).  Add to that a really crappy night's sleep and you have Zombie me for the rest of the weekend. 
To get me through the rest of the weekend (because even in zombie form I still must read) was Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger.  These are books two and three of the Parasol Protectorate series, and they were such an easy, casual read (not requiring too many brains or effort to read...perfect for vegan zombies who lived on lots of Earl Grey tea and pretzels all weekend as well as the last of the spaghetti) that by the end of the second (which ended in a cliffhanger so to speak) I had to hurry on to the next one instead of waiting for next month.  Hence the double entry.  They really are a nice clean, balanced mix of steampunk and urban fantasy.

The bookcovers are pretty cheesy, but if you can get past that, you are in for a pleasant surprise. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dead As A Doornail

With this fifth book the Sookieverse has become more complicated.  Harris has introduced some more background to her fictional world and it has just made things more exciting than before (though I like some of her characters even less).  But that's natural.  Some of them are just the biggest arsehats imaginable, though there is some new blood mixed in to make things more interesting. 
There were so many threads to this particular book it was kind of like a soap opera which is okay because it changes things up, we don't get the same old routine (this is what probably has kept Harris' story so fresh for so long).  Sookie gets hurt again, but not as bad as before.  I can't really go into it because I hate to drop spoilers.  I am particularly fond of the new character introduced, and, since I have already read everything up to date I am looking differently at the others (especially the one that was just stuck in oh so sneakily...I 'll be watching him carefully).  Ooops....well that was just a vague allusion, there are so many guys in the plot now.  A great rollicking read which was a pleasure from start to finish.
To date Sookie has been hurt five times in various horrible ways, I don't know how she continues to plug along as she does, it 's not like she earns this treatment! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Android Karenina

I love a good mash-up.   I didn't always feel that way, I resisted Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and it wasn't until DH had given me Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters for Christmas one year that I finally had a look and found it to be quite funny.  There was no stopping me then!  It isn't as I had feared, the original books were treated with respect, not contempt.  There is however one mash-up that did not turn out well... The Meowmorphosis.  I have too much love for the original (I always passionately defend the ones that make me cry), and this treatment was not meant to be, perhaps because the original already had a fantastic storyline and changing it from a cockroach to a kitten, didn't end up being very funny or even very cute.    
 Reading as I have recently The Elegance of the Hedgehog where scenes from the original Anna Karenin was mentioned quite often it was funny to see the Ben Winters version and appreciate the thought and humour that he had put into such a monumental book.  It was sweet because there was so much of Leo Tolstoy there, but with some humour as well thanks to Ben.  I want to go back now and re-read the original, but that won't be a good idea for a year or so yet.  Don't miss the questions at the end... they are hilarious!

Dreamsnake

Not the most alluring title...I have been off fantasy ( I am just so tired of the ginormous line of sequels that follow these days) for a while now favoring science fiction over everything, but this one surprised me.  It's another Nebula winner which is why I cracked it open, and mercifully, I was drawn into the story on the first page.  What seems a very fantasy-ish book is just that but even more.   It is about civilization after a nuclear war.  So we are talking way-way-way-post-apocalyptic fiction, with just a few hints of ancient civilization thrown in to make me curious (I just love when it  can or might be traced back to good old Earth!). 
It had a kind of Planet of the Apes feel to it, you know the one where Charlton Heston discovers what is left over of the human race (not the mute Adam and Eve types), the creepy pale mutants who's heads are so far up their own butts they cant see anything but their own tummies?  Yeah... like that.
It was a good story, a pleasant sidetrack from what I have been reading recently, Vonda really knows how to pack it all in to one engaging and satisfying package.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Flowers For Algernon

This is a wonderful book!  I gobbled it up in one day and was crying by the end (a good indicator of how it affected me).
It won the Nebula Award in 1966 which is how it got onto my reading radar (I am working on reading the Nebula winners this year), and it truly did merit the award.  Being more realistic fiction than science fiction because even though science is the catalyst for the story, it is told in progress reports written by the protagonist and they were riveting reads.  I can't really say more than that as I would hate to give away the plot, so just go and get it and read it ok?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Scanner Darkly

This is my third book by Philip K. Dick.  Right off I will say that his future/alternative universes really kind of suck!  They aren't light reads, however well written.  I will plug on and read the rest of his work (seeking for something...I know not what, I'm pretty sure that it won't be sunshine and happiness), but perhaps I will limit it to once a year so that I can choose how often I want to be bummed out. 
A Scanner Darkly was just awful.  Awful in it's subject content.  I am pretty rigid in my stance on drugs and alcohol (hate, hate, hate it!), so reading a whole fictionary book about users was a real chore for me.  And it was predictable too, though some of the conversations between the characters that were high was interesting (in print!  If I had to actually listen to this kind of talk, say like in the movie with Keanu Reeves, I would be shutting that off in a very rapid manner).   
Just imagine what Dick would have been capable of if he hadn't been a user himself?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dead to the World

Beginning this book I had a sense of visiting with a girlfriend.  I know Sookie pretty well by now and she really feels like my friend.  I once wrote to another author that whenever one of her books was due to come in the mail it felt like a visit from an old friend who was anxiously waited for,  excited over and very welcome.  Its' the same thing with Sookie.  We're all friends here now, it's just us girls, we love to hang out, have some coffee and stick together through thick and thin.
Sookie's had her fair share of both in this book (thick and thin), but for once, she did not get beaten up (yay).  Some serious life changing things have happened, and she handled them with the usual courage and strength.  Eric Northman was the focus in this book and it was actually kind of sweet.  I liked Sookie's attitude of enjoying the affair while she could, she's being kind to herself as well as just plain sensible.  Her life is just so different to everyone elses so I'm glad she found some happiness while she could (and it helped put Bill into the background).  Of course, her life is still hard, and I dont' see when it will get better, I think she will probably have to struggle the rest of her life, but it would be so much better if she had someone (Sam...please make it Sam!).

Wiseassery Times Ten

Fourteen books into this series and it does not get old!
Amazing right?  Admittedly there is repetition, for instance the protagonist always gets his butt kicked, he is always faced with impossible odds, and powerful foes. But I am relieved to say that he has wonderful friends to help patch him up.  It wasn't always that way, there were a few books in the beginning when he was miserable, alone and terribly misunderstood.   His sheer determination to do the right thing no matter the cost, topped off with the most satirical, wickedly hilarious, smartarsiest sense of humour, makes him the most awe inspiring and sexiest fictional wizard I know.  I spend so much time holding my sides in laughter. 
In Cold Days it's getting exciting, which is amazing because Jim Butcher just seems to pile on the suspense and tension with each book ( so you can imagine fourteen books in that the stress kind of feels like an elephant sitting on you).    I mean, just how much more can a person take, wizard or not, but there is still some more story to go.  I haven't heard anything yet but it looks like Butcher is beginning to sum up this series.  I will be sorry to see it go, but you know the saying, "all good things...".  Just go read them already, you won't regret it I promise!

Ru

Talking about my travels, I next went to Vietnam.  I have been there several times before and have a better understanding of this country than I did of the Japanese... though not as much as I should.  I studied Asian Social Studies for three years when I was in highschool, and I don't seem to remember too well the cultural aspects of Vietnam (though the poilitical stuck rather well).
Ru was one of the books up for the Giller prize last year so I was fortunate to get this in my Christmas stocking (DH likes to buy one or two for me every year).  I basically read it in one sitting, I didn't want to put it down.  They were short stories, memories of life in Vietnam, escaping by boat and a few experiences in Canada.  I love to be able to look through someone elses eyes, especially an immigrants
( I have some empathy there) and this was something new.  If I ever got the chance to meet the author I would tell her how grateful I am that she shared such stories with us.  True life can, at times, be very rewarding and enlightening, so the sharing of personal history is a gift. 

Travelling....

I have made a point of adding Japanese authors to my reading challenge this year (as well as Scandinavian and European), because I like to travel.  Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted to go somewhere else, particularly to England and Europe, but in my forties I have become interested in the more exotic and strange (to me) countries of Asia.  While the first book I ever read by Ishiguro was based in England (Remains of the Day), I was extremely touched by his talent for involving me in his story and for taking me somewhere and somewhen. 
This book brought me to post-war Japan and it was a real treat.  Japanese life is so different to what I know, and I find it fascinating.  Have you ever had the thought "I wonder what they must have been thinking, did they know what they were doing...did they care?"  Not so much with the Japanese have I thought about it but I have still wondered.  I have read most of what my school library contains on Japan, and there are few mentions of those particular indcidents, but I did want to cry when I read about the Peace Lantern.
While Artist of the Floating World  doesn't go too deeply into the past it is broached in remembrances of the protagonist, so I can see a little the climate of Japan pre World War II.  I can commiserate with him because I see how he must have felt watching his generation receding into history and the new generation is something unfamiliar to him.  Naturally, at that period of time in Japan the changes were almost abrupt because the new generation wanted to distance themselves from the shame of a nation and it was not so organic as the cultural changes of the few generations that I have had the privilege to see in the western world.
There is this quiet flavor to this book, which I have noticed with other books I have read by Japanese authors.  It takes a little getting used to, but I find it restful, even calming.  It feels like a reflection of the culture as a whole, everything is simple, subtle and always beautiful.  I look forward to reading whatever else Ishiguro has written because two books in, he is still taking my breath away.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Macbeth

I'm not ashamed to admit that I haven't read them all.  While I think that Will is magic he can also be really bloody gruesome, so I have managed to avoid this particular play all this time.
I could not put it down!  So gruesome and bloody, but fascinating and exciting all at the same time.  I knew so much of it already just because Shakespeare is already so firmly and inextricably entwined into our popular culture.  Almost every page was a recognition,  lines and people who are everywhere all of the time!  Lead on Macduff!  It was a rush.  I have found myself already applying what I have read to my own life situations (the one-liners not the bloody gruesome stuff!). 

Partnering my reading of Macbeth was this brilliant book written by a teacher from Stratford Ontario, who described her methods for teaching Shakespeare to kids in elementary school.  The poem she wrote describing the play and which she had her kids enact was amazing.  It looked like the kids just loved it!   That's right... a pack of bloodthirsty second and third graders, imagine that!

The Golden Apples of the Sun

Since I don't feel that I should ramble on and on all of the time about how wonderful and marvellous and amazing Ray Bradbury's stories are I thought I would tell you instead about where he took me and who I encountered while I was reading this collection of short stories.
Starting with a lighthouse, I was scared silly by a dinosaur in love, chilled to the heart for a lone pedestrian (Fahrenheit 451 coming up!), cheered two gals on to a rocket, got creeped out in that Hitchcock kind of way, flew in  Chinese skies, became awestruck with Bradbury's genius as yet again he predicted someting not far from the truth (I cannot imagine what he must have felt!).  I read of two towns which battled by way of architecture, about embroidery as a means of prayer, seen the ugliness of black and white, heard the sound of thunder, been shown how limiting illiteracy really is, flowed around the world through an electrical wire, seduced peace and quiet, seen indecent exposure as a way of protest, all of the world in one filming lot, the worst garbage pick-up ever, the bewildering hormones of a girl, the boy who never grows up, and at the very last where no man has gone before for a handful of sunshine.  What a trip!

Club Dead

I just love the cover art of this book!  The eight-pack I bought featured stills of the actors from True Blood on the covers of the first two, so I missed out.
In Club Dead Sookie has come up against the worse possible scenario yet in her relationship with Bill, and as a consequence she has suffered more than she thought possible, but yet again perservered through all of it to do what she believes is right, despite how she feels.  I really admire her for what she did, how she behaved,  and the good part is that in the end she did come out on top.  Somehow Sookie manages to survive again.
In this book we are provided with two new contenders in the Who-Will-Sookie-Happy-Ever-After-With?  Sweepstakes.  I don't like either of them very much, though I prefer Alcide to Eric (though I thought it cute when Eric couldn't bear Sookie's tears in Living Dead in Dallas).  Alcide can at least give Sookie more, like a good home, children etc.,  Eric is just another selfish vampire, though perhaps not as selfish  as others.
To tally up, Sookie got hurt badly twice, though one was not technically getting beaten up but I'll count it anyway.  So that's four in total.  Ten more books to go!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Soothing Balm of Elegance

It was with infinite pleasure that I read this.  It was the soothing balm of elegance.  The nasty taste left in my brain was purged (after reading Lolita) and filled my heart to bursting with the joys of Russian and French literature.  Every chapter was a joy to read and contemplate. 
I haven't read a lot of French authors, they have mostly been limited to Dumas, Voltaire and Hugo... I haven't built up the courage yet to give Proust a try but after reading this I really wanted to (even the Moliere and the Rabelais that has been living at the bottom of my book basket for a few years). 
There are two protagonists in this story one of which loves her literature, in particular Tolstoy (a love which we share), so I feel like I really 'got' her (you don't know how lonely it can be when no-one you  know likes the books that you like).  I have been a huge fan of Tolstoy since I read War and Peace when I was fifteen, and Anna Karenin when I was twenty.  The book quotes from Karenin  quite a bit, and I was just tickled pink with each reference.  It made me just want to stop what I was doing and grab my own copy and read it again... right now!
Enter protagonist number two who was surprisingly astute and relevant.    Add in another new character , with a different culture, and the magic that happens with this third person, the pleasure in seeing everything evolve the way it did was precious (but I can't say anything more without giving away spoilers and we don't want that!)  It was more than just a fusion of culture, but of like-minded people, making an important connection that transcends, race, age and sex.  This combination of French, Russian and Japanese culture was exciting and refreshing, and I feel truly lucky to have this book.  I look forward to re-reading it again at some point, perhaps after I have read some of the literature mentioned to see how it would alter my experience.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Slimyest Slime Some Slime Can Be

Wow!  Did you guess by the title of this blog entry that this is what I was talking about?  I'm sorry if you did, because that would mean that you have read this awful book.  To be clear, the way this book was written is brilliant.  The narrative just flows and actually reminds me of one of my favorite writers George Orwell, who was also quite good in sweeping you along into the story, no matter how awful the subject, so Nabokov was quite successful in doing this.  Despite the nausea and disgust evoked I had to read on to see how it would all end.  That being said, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.  I hated this story, I hated the protagonist, and I hated Lolita (and her mother too!).  What a bunch of awful, selfish, spiteful people.
Maybe that is what is looked at as good essential reading (Lolita is on the 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die list), the author who can get inside a character's head and illustrate in successful fashion the humanity (weak as it is in this instance) of that person, show all of their warts in as ugly a way as possible.  The perverseness of the mother-daughter relationship hit a bit too close to home for me, which disturbed me all the more because Nabokov was so dang accurate, which means he had met or experienced or heard of people like this.
I want to read something else of Nabokov's sometime this year because I like his writing,  so lets hope with a less repulsive subject he is as brilliant as I suspect he is.