Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Road

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Holy Cow.  Seriously.  This book blew my mind.  My mind is officially blown.  Whoo.  I don't really even have words.  I have been sitting on this review for a few days so that I could digest this book and think about everything that I had just finished reading and then I went back and reread quite a bit of the book again.  And after the second reading I had to redigest what I read again.  Now I am exhausted and I hope that the apocalypse doesn't happen tonight because I am emotionally spent after reading The Road.  On top of all the darkness that is The Road, Cormac McCarthy has written a beautiful piece of work, the imagery and depth of feeling in this book is remarkable.  Seriously y'all.  My mind is blown.  Thank you thank you Greg (over at The New Dork Review of Books) for putting this book on my radar.  I owe you a good book suggestion now!

The Road is a story of survival, dystopia, the love between a parent and their child, and also a little bit about hope.  It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where vegetation and animals are extinct, the sun doesn't shine through the fall out ash, and the few people that are left roaming the land are DANGEROUS.  You follow the story of father and son that are headed south on The Road hoping that when they get to their undetermined destination something will be at the other end.  All the while they are trying to survive and "carry the fire" (the phrase that symbolizes goodness through out the book) even though the odds aren't in their favor.  Food is scarce, roving gangs of cannibals are everywhere, and the climate is HARSH.  The end of this crazy story is AMAZING!!!!  I was freaking the heck out when I read the last few pages, and I think that is when I can pin point when my mind became blown.

Something that I though was so appropriate was the fact that McCarthy didn't name his characters.  They were simply referred to as the man and the boy.  In a time where identity isn't important anymore it just fit perfectly.  I don't know that another story could be told with out character names.  At least not as well as The Road was.  In most reviews on this book you will read about how the landscape was a character in this book and I have to agree.  McCarthy painted a pretty bleak picture of what a post-apocalyptic world would look like.  I don't really know if you could have anything BUT a bleak picture of a post-apocalyptic world but McCarthy executes it superbly.  I devour dystopic and post-apocalyptic survival stories but The Road is by far the cream of the crop when it comes to this genera.  It won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and it surely deserved it.

There is so much I would love to discuss about this book but I can't do that with out giving away some spoilers so I am letting you know if you are reading and don't want the book to be spoiled stop reading this next paragraph.  I am going to just run through my mind blowing thought and then I am going to stop.  So don't read further if you don't want to know about then end....

OK, so at the end when the man dies and the boy steps out on the road and sees the man in the yellow parka.  The yellow parka man mentions that his group had been watching the man and the boy for a while.  It killed me that the whole time the boy and the man had been headed south to find "the good guys" and "the good guys" were behind them the entire time.  I don't know why this blew my mind, the irony in that just killed me.  After all that happened why couldn't they have figured that out before.  Then I was thinking that when the man and the boy were in the town where the boy saw the other little boy and he wanted to go back and make sure that the other little boy wasn't lost and scared, could that have been the same group?  The yellow parka man mentions that he has a little boy and a little girl.  Also something else that intrigued me was the way the boy was somewhat religious though religion was all but gone by the time he was born.  "Carrying the Fire" to me was kind of an ichthys symbol of "the good" or of God.  There are so many other little questions I would like a second opinion on.  Geez.

BOOK vs. MOVIE:  There is a movie of The Road that has fairly new and I have't had the chance to see it yet.  Actually I can't find it anywhere.  But I can't wait to get my hands on it because I am sure it is more intense than the book.  The book was intense but if you could see the pictures unfold in front of your eyes I would believe that it would be an edge of your seat kinda movie.  I'll review the movie when I finally find a copy to watch.

RATING: 5 Stars

3 More Reviews on The Road:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
ISBN 0307476316
Pages: 304

If you liked The Road you should try: The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Monstrumologist

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I didn't know what to expect with The Monstrumologist but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised!  Rick Yancy certainly told a fabulous action packed story from cover to cover with this one!  I was captivated with it from the first line and then I read greedily until the last line.  There are a few things that I found interesting about this book the first of witch was the fact that this is considered YA Fiction.  I have never experienced YA quite like this before and I want to point out that this is YA at it's finest in my opinion.  No vampire romances, no sorcery schools, no prom nights, no fighting with your best friend over a boy friend, actually no high school at all, and where I do enjoy an occasional trip down Twilight Lane I think sometimes YA Fiction gets pigeonholed when it comes to content.  The Monstrumologist is just so different from anything I have read in YA that it was certainly a nice surprise.    Another thing that I found very interesting was the amount of words I had to look up.  In the first few chapters I had already made a list of 20 or so words that I needed to look up.  I love a book that challenges the mind like that!  And being YA, this book would be great to read right before SAT's because it will stretch your vocabulary for sure!  

The Monstrumologist starts out in modern time, when a nursing home director stumbles across a big bundle of leather bound journals in a recently deceased patients room.  When the patient arrived at the nursing home a few years before he only identified himself as William Henry and told everyone that he was over 130 years old.  Because Will Henry had no living relatives there was no way to confirm or deny his identity but the coordinator was certain that he couldn't 130 year old.  When he starts to read the journals he thinks what he is reading is a work or fiction but is it?  Then the book flips over to a time in the late 1800s when Will Henry is only a boy of 12.  Will Henry's parents had passed away a year before in a fire and he went to live with his fathers employer Dr. Pellinore Warthrop.  Dr. Warthrop is a very strange man who's profession is Monstrumology (the study of Monsters).  And when a graver robber arrives at the Doctors door step one dark and stormy night with evidence that proves that the small New England town has an infestation of Anthropophagi, (a large beast with razor sharp teeth, deadly claws, and no heads) Will Henry is thrown into the horrible adventure!  The story gives some answers to not only what the beast is but also a clue to who Jack the Ripper might be, as well as an explanation to the longevity of Will Henry.

As I mentioned before I loved this book from cover to cover and I would recommend it to anyone that loves adventure, horror, and drama.  I would not recommend this to anyone that is easily scared or has a weak stomach as some of the book is a bit gory.  The story ends with a little bit of a cliff hanger, or at least an open ended invitation for another book to come, and when I was checking out Rick Yancy's website earlier I noticed that the saga continues in September 2010!  So I am excited to see what the next journal of Will Henry holds.  I sure hope it is as riveting of an adventure as the Anthropophagi brought! 

BOOK vs. MOVIE:  I think this is a rare case where the movie could outshine the book.  As far as I know there is no plans so far to turn this into a screen play but seriously people!  Snap to!!!!  Get it done!  I wanna see an Anthropophagus!!!!  

RATING: 5 Stars

3 More reviews of The Monstrumologist:

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy
ISBN 9781416984481
Pages: 448

If you liked The Monstrumologist then read: Monster by Frank Peretti

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Son of a Witch

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Oh Gregory Maguire how you make me want to put my house on the market and move to Oz.  I am SO intrigued by what goes on between Maguires ears when he writes about a place so real to me now, that I want to look for real estate.  I can not even fathom how he has created such a vivid world with a religious, political, and cultural structure so fictional yet so believable.  I marvel at how he has created a world that the reader is already familiar with and expound on it so drastically giving answers to questions such as: What the heck is the Yellow Brick Road?  Why are there flying monkeys?  Why do lions (or might I say Lions) talk?  In our childhood stories of Oz we have the Wizard, the Wicked Witch of the West, Glenda the good Witch, and the Wicked Witch of the East.  These characters were all part of a fairy tale, but in Maguires Oz they are politicians, and extremists. The citizens of Oz are all of different political minds (some like the Wizard, some like Glenda, some like the Emperor Apostle, some like Elphaba - the Wicked Witch of the West).  All are unhappy with the unrest of their world.  They belong to different religions (Tick-Tockism, The Pleasure Faith, Unionism, Lorleanists).  They belong to different cultures (The Scrow, Yunimata, and Arjikis, Quadlings, Munchkins, and Animals).  Maguire threads together a world so complex that it can only be compared to our own society.  There is nothing flat about Maguires tales of Oz, they are so 3 dimensional, the story lines and the society are so deep and intricate that you feel like you are reading a history book (albeit a very entertaining one). 

In Son of a Witch you return to Oz a few minutes after Elphaba has melted into a big green puddle.  Elphaba's son Liir, Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow head out of Kiamo Ko and start the long trek to the Emerald City.  When Liir gets to the Emerald City he starts off on his quest to find his lost childhood friend Nor, find out his origins (he doesn't know for sure if he is Elphaba's Son), and just generally trying to find his place in life.  Along the way he gets mixed up in the politics of Oz, falls in love with a girl and falls in love with a guy.  Tries to live up to Elphaba's legend, rids Oz of dragons, joins the Oz military, and maybe fathers a child (not necessarily all in that order).

Something I LOVE about Gregory Maguire's Oz stories is the language.  He has created such great words for the places and people in his stories.  Kiamo Ko, the Vinkas, Liir, Elphaba, Princess Nastoya, Yackle, Iskinarry.  The list can go on and on.  The names of places and people joined with Maguires fantastic word choices make all his writing poetic.  Can you tell that I heart Gregory Maguire's Oz?

Something that I have to say negative about my experience with Son of a Witch was that I didn't enjoy the audio book version.  The story was read by the author himself and I have to stay that he should stick with writing.  I just didn't love his voices and every few minutes he would take a HUGE intake of breath and it was rather distracting because I would wait for it. 

MOVIE vs. BOOK: I would love to see a movie of Wicked and Son of a Witch.  Not a musical like the play but a dramatic version of both Wicked and Son of a Witch.  I think they would be extremely interesting and entertaining.

RATING: 5 Stars

3 More reviews of Son of a Witch: (none very positive)

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire {Audio Book}
ISBN 9781419362743
12 Discs {14 hours 15 minutes}
Narrated by Gregory Maguire

If you like this book you would enjoy: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shanghai Girls

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Lisa See just knows how to bring it when she writes a book about the culture of Chinese women.  She caught my interest with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, then I fell in love with her writing when I read Peony in Love and now I want to go steady after reading Shanghai Girls.  I have never experienced books like the ones I just mentioned.  As the reader you can tell that she did the research and wrote each book with so much love.  The subject of each book has love just pouring out of them and you can tell that each one meant a lot for her to write about being a Chinese American Woman (that's right y'all even though she looks 100% causation she is part Chinese, she says that she has hundreds of relatives but only about 12 people in her family that look like her)!  As always this book was beautifully written and the story was a page turner!

When you first meet Pearl and her younger sister May they are high class, fashionable, modern, socialites in Shanghai in the 1930s.  They go to parties, night clubs, shop, and pose for "beautiful-girl" paintings.  Their father has a successful rickshaw business and life is just grand... So they think.  When they find out that their father has gambled away all the families money and had to sell his rickshaw business and his daughters to a Chinese American man in California the girls worlds are turned upside down.  Now they have to come to terms with their arranged marriages, and their fall from high society.  Before they leave China for their new home the Japanese invade Shanghai and the girls must escape the city and find their way to the boat that will take them to Los Angeles.  Then a lot of bad things happen (gotta read to find out) and finally they end up in America!  But when they get here they are imprisoned on Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West), where they are questioned and detained until the authorities figure out if they are coming here legally.  After months of torment and a wonderful and beautiful thing happens (I'm being vague on purpose) they are finally released and sent to their new family in Hollywood.  Again the girls must adjust to life as daughters-in-law in a very traditional Chinese American Family.  Through out the entire story the even though there are so many things that happen the one thing that is constant is Pearl and Mays love for each other.  They are sisters through and through and even though there is rivalry and harsh words that pass between them they have each other and that is the most important theme throughout the whole story.  

The novel is interesting because it takes place between 1937 - 1957.  The girls not only have to face the Japanese in their home land of China but also in their new home when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.  You also get to see what life was like in Chinatown during this time when the Chinese people had to deal with a large amount of prejudice from the American people.  It was a part of history that I was unfamiliar with so it was interesting to read and research how the Chinese endured these prejudices.  Also, I love how Lisa See always paints such a vivid and realistic picture of her characters surroundings.  When she is describing Shanghai she does a good job of showing the reader that it is glamorous, and glittering, but also that there is poverty, crime, and ugliness.  There is a page in the book that describes the girls riding a rickshaw through the streets of Shanghai and they are describing the city with beautiful boulevards, dirty children begging, expensive cars, and crime, smells of rich food and French perfume, and also the smells of death and decay.  She even goes so far as describing the sisters walking down the street and stepping over a dead baby on the sidewalk just like it was nothing at all.  Though disturbing you get the full picture of Shanghai during this time in history and I appreciate See capturing this picture for us.

BOOK vs. MOVIE: I really really enjoyed this book but I don't think a movie would be very interesting.  I feel like it is a story best told with words.  There is no movie in the works right now and I hope they don't try it.  I feel like it they would ruin it like they did to Memoirs of a Geisha.  

RATING: 4 Stars

3 More reviews of Shanghai Girls:

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
ISBN 9780812980530
Pages: 309

If you liked this then read: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great Gatsby

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Oh I have been a bad bad blogger.  I am so sorry that I have been MIA for a while but it is a busy time of year at my shop so I have been working long hours and I have no weekends so my blogging (and reading - oh the shame!) has suffered tremendously.  But have no fear I am back and ready to blog!!!!  Woohoo!!

I don't know what in the heck I did in high school but I never got around to reading the books that were on everyone's mandatory summer reading lists.  I have been a reader all my life so if I had been assigned to read any of the classic high school lit I would have happily obliged.  So I guess what I am trying to say is that for 27 years The Great Gatsby has escaped me for some unknown reason (the same goes for Jane Eyre but that is a whole other story).  I do have to say though that I can't picture a high school student actually putting up with The Great Gatsby.  The writing was superb (as is F. Scott Fitzgerald style) and the story was amusing but I don't see my 17 year old self chomping at the bit to finished the assigned chapters each night for homework.  But I did enjoy it now some what, being 10 years older and a little more of a literature aficionado.

Here's the plot (like I really need to tell you all, you probably did your homework), Nick Carraway moves to New York as a young man after fighting in WWI.  He rents a little cottage in Long Island between two HUGE mansion.  One of his neighbors is Jay Gatsby, a young mysterious bachelor that throws large elaborate parties every weekend; after a while Nick and Gatsby become chummy.  Across the bay from Nicks home is another community that houses his very rich cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan.  This is where the drama subtly ensues.  Gatsby and Daisy have a secret saucy past ,in Louisville Kentucky, and they are still in love, Tom is cheating on Daisy and she know it, and Nick is thrown in the middle of the whole mess with his new gal Jordan.  Drama drama drama, until someone gets killed accidentally, the truth about Gatsby and his riches are reviled, and then some one gets murdered.

I LOVED all the references to Louisville Kentucky (my home sweet home - which makes it even stranger that I wasn't required to read this in high school).  I could picture the streets and the Seelbach hotel and the Ohio River.  It made the story a little more personal to me.  And then New York is my secret lover (ssshhh don't tell Louisville), so geographically I have a fondness for this book.  However, I didn't much like any of the characters except for Nick, and there was just too much nasty high society shallow drama for me.  If I were a literary scholar I would probably be able to argue symbolism, themes, and hidden morals (this just seems like a story that is chalked full of them), but I have never been good at deciphering those things out of a story, so I can't tell you if Fitzgerald mastered them successfully (except for the obvious one Money can't by happiness Old Sport) . But I can tell you that I enjoyed (but really didn't love) the quick read, and that I feel much more accomplished for having checked this classic off my To Be Read List.        

BOOK vs. MOVIE: I haven't seen The Great Gatsby on film but it has been done in 1974 starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow (I must get my hands on a copy of that movie)!  And then again in 2000 staring some people I haven't heard of  (except Nick is played by Paul Rudd which I just can't picture him being serious enough to pull that off).

RATING: 3 Stars

3 More Reviews on The Great Gatsby:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald {Audio Book}
ISBN 9781402523076
4 Discs {4 hours 8 minutes}
Narrated by Frank Muller

If you liked this book that check out: Water for Elephants  by Sara Gruen