Aug 17, 2014

Book 41: Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I just got done reading Never Let Me go and I still have all the feeling the book has stirred coursing through me.

This is a very quietly written book about a girl who is an organ donation clone.  However, this is not a book about organ donation, but instead about her experience of growing up.  It is not a sensational book, there is no big reveal, instead the reveal is disturbing in a introspective way.  It is not a book to question the legitimacy of cloning, although you could use this book to argue that. 

It is a book that is so much more than science fiction, it is a book of coming to terms with your purpose in life, navigating the world, and understanding that we are all just living and getting by.  There is much that this book delves into, and as I sit here what I want to do is cry and embrace the cocktail of feelings and emotions Kazuo Ishiguro has created in me.  It is a beautiful book.

Aug 16, 2014

Book 40: Eleanor by Jason Gurley

I truly enjoyed reading this strange little book.  I was a little scared at first, as I got it off of the Kindle lending library and I have not had the best luck with books from that source.

I am not even sure where to start on this one.  I immediately was drawn into the story and the characters, but I had no idea where the book was going and what it was about or where it was going, I just went along with it all. 

Let me see if I can describe  this....It is a story about a teenage girl named Eleanor, but we first start the story back with her Grandmother and namesake.  She has a young daughter and one day goes out for a swim and disappears.  Then we cut to the young daughter who is now a mother of her own, a mother of twins.  Then one day there is an accident and one of the twins is killed, Eleanor's sister.  From here there is another jump to when she is 13 and her family is in the aftermath of the death of her sister.  The whole treatment of a broken and dysfunctional family told from her point of view is heartbreaking and raw.

Then we get to the strange part.  The part that is nebulous, the part you just have to go along with.  There are other dimensions and connections and dreams.  And in the end there is redemption.  I am not able to express how engaging this part of the book was with out giving too much away. 

Random thoughts:
Eleanor:  How was she to explain what was happening to her?  Other people could see the effects, but how to explain the unexplainable?

Mea: I was completely there on all of it.  Living in the river of time, speaking with the darkness and pressing up against the membrane. 

The Keeper: This was where I was most confused, but by the end found it the most interesting.  All the anger and self-hatred.

All of the characters were well thought out, their actions and reactions felt real and that they came from a real place. 

I ate this book up.  I hope I am able to get others to read this one.  I have not been the best at expressing what is so awesome about this type of book where it is the unfolding of the story and the surprising places it takes you.  I want to see what their reactions to the process is.  I guess I will need to develop some better way to gush about this type of book.

Aug 13, 2014

Book 39: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

With all the YA dystopian books out there I realized that in my reading I do like this genre, but with out all the teenage angst.  I have always wanted to re-read Brave New World and thought this was the time to do so.

I read this book in my junior year in High School, but I had remembered it as a different book.  I still am not sure what book I am confusing it with.  I know we had a section with Utopia/Distopia and I must have blended books together.  I am not even sure I have not mixed in a Twilight Zone episode as well.  It took me about half way through to recognize that I had indeed read this one before.

Back to BNW- First I did not realize that this book was published in 1932.  That was earlier than I thought.  As I started reading I was struck by the use of mass production and how Huxley makes Henry Ford the the basis of this new society.  There is no family, as babies are all born and manipulated in test tubes and cloning.  The thought of family is obscene.  But there is a lot of sex in the book.  Even though sex for procreation is gone, the need for sex is still there and is thought of as a function of your everyday life, like housework.  Huxley also focuses on a consumer nation, where purchasing is a way of life.  Also there is no privacy in Huxley's world, but the drug soma is used when a break from life is needed. 

I enjoyed Brave New World.  It really is the type of book I like, one that I am able to chew on.  Is it a perfect book?  No of course not.  With any speculative fiction there are going to be holes and paradoxes, but a perfection is not the point.  For a book written 80 years ago, we are still able to see how this type of future could evolve and what it would mean.  We are still a nation that focuses on material goods and consumerism.  We are more and more living a social lives where we feel the need to share everything and always be connected.  We use drugs to make our everyday better.  I could go on and on.  There is much that is still relevant that is why this book is still a classic and one I hope is still being read.

Book 38: Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent Triology)

What can be said about this series.  Lets start with the facts.  It is a young Adult fiction that is recommended to readers who liked Hunger Games or any YA dystopian fiction.  Book one (and I would assume the whole series) has made into the motion picture world as well.

I probably would not have picked this series as something I would want to read, but as I am trying really hard to be more mainstream and read books that others are reading so I can join in on the discussion I decided that I should go ahead and read it.

I promise I will get to my thoughts on Allegiant, but first I feel I need to put out my thoughts on the series first, and some general thoughts on YA dystopian first.

I realize that YA books have a purpose.  They are written for young women to show that they have more power than they think they have.  They are the inner fantasy world and help put into words the crazieness that growing up is.  The transition from being a child to being an adult can be terrifying and having books like these help give voice and build confidence.  I get it, but I am also not 16, in fact I have not been 16 for a few decades, so I do not need this.  This is why I struggle with YA.  I am not trying to say that it is a bad thing for young girls to read, I am not saying that adults who read YA should not.  I am just saying that I find the tropes a bit unrelatable to me.  Now what I do find a bit harmful in YA is the love stories.  This is not restricted to YA, it happens in TV and movies as well.  I have trouble with the heightened expectation of true love at 16.  That the guy you like is your soulmate and that he only needs to know you to get it.  And once he gets it you will be happy for life.  It can be harmful, it is unrealistic and sets up girls for a whole lot of trouble.  I think the love triangle/true love trope in YA is just as dangerous as the super skinny and Photoshopped images are to our young girls self esteem and sets them up for failure.

Oh and then there are the names.  They bug me.  I am a bit of a name geek, and I just think some of them are silly.  In the Divergent series I get what she was going for.  I love the name Beatrice, but I hated the name Tris, just thought it was forced.  Also I didn't mind the nickname Four, but did not think the name Tobias fit the character at all.  Yes the name Tobias fit the Abnegation faction where he came from, but not the character.  Again just my opinion.

So getting to the thoughts on Allegiant itself.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I did not see where she was taking the series and liked that there was this whole other society that was basically playing around with them.  Watching and manipulating.  I wish she has gone further with this and foreshadowed more in the first 2 books.  And did I mention that Veronica kills off the main character?  That was a pleasant surprise.  I am sure to most readers it was shocking and not how they wanted the book to end, Tris and Four should ride off together, but for me it was a relief.  If she did not die and would have liked the book less.

For the series, I think book two could have been eliminated and absorbed into book 1&3, but then it would have broken the YA Trilogy mold and we couldn't have that.  Here comes grumpy old woman rant...
16 year olds do not take down the whole society by themselves.  They are not strong enough, savvy enough and it just does not happen.  Also can we stop with all the touching and kissing.  You are in mortal danger and you are taking down the fricking government and the whole structure of the world as you know it.  When you are done you will have time to make puppy dog eyes and kiss and all of that when you have accomplished your mission.  Or you will be dead and the other has something to pine over and struggle with for life.  To me that is infinitely  more interesting.
OK rant over.  So you can see I come a this type of book with a boat-load of baggage, so I need to rate the book with the screens through which I read it.  It is not a series I am banging the drum for and recommending, but if you are into this sort of story then I will recommend that you work your way through book 2 to get to book 3 which is better and takes the story into an interesting place.

Aug 1, 2014

Book 37: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I finished this book about a week ago, and I have been having a hard time writing about it, because I have a hard time explaining the book and why I enjoyed this one even if it is similar to other books I would bash.

First, it is a romp.  By that I mean it is not a serious book, I liken it to Dr Who.  It wears it corniness on its sleeve and hides nothing.  You take it on face value and run with it rubber monsters and all.  How can you not?  It has characters like Thursday Next, Jack Schitt and Acheron Hades and his brother Styx.  The plot of the story is far-fetched by having the ability to travel not just back in time but back into a book.  So you really can't get hung up on the feasibility and contradictions. 

I think I was able to get into this book, because I did not get hung up on the names and the writing style was OK.  I have definitely come across writing that I just find distracting and cannot move forward with it.

Jasper Fforde has a whole series with Thursday Next and this alternate world he has created.  I don't think I will be plowing through this series right away, but I do think I will keep it in mind for when I am looking for a lighter book and maybe for times when I am taking life just a bit too serious.