Monday, November 30, 2009

Radiant as the sun

I have loved distopian fiction ever since my dad stuck 1984 in my hands when I was twelve. I've heard things about the Hunger Games for a long time, but for whatever reason did not feel compelled to pick it up. However, after hearing for numerous people how great the sequel, Catching Fire, was, I check this one out from B&N.

The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic country that was once America, where the land is divided into districts. These districts work for the Capital and are pretty destitute. Katniss is our main character and narrator, a young girl who breaks the law hunting to feed herself and her mother and sister. Every year two children (between the ages of 12-18) are chosen to compete in the Hunger Games, where they fight all of the other kids to the death. The winner is the only one to live and gets extra food for their district. Katniss takes her sister's place in the hunger games along with a boy named Peeta from district 12.

We follow Katniss from her district to the Capital where she is pampered and prepped before the games. The tributes are paraded in front of everyone in order to secure support from people donating. The tributes also have to sit through interviews and events that make the whole situation comparable to our current reality tv show "stars."

This book is amazing. I have been talking it up at work and all but shoved it into my brother's hands. I think that this book and The Book Thief are two of the best young adult fiction books I have read in a very, very long time. The book is smart, funny at times and heartbreaking at others. It seems like I'm one of the last people to jump on this book, but if you haven't read it then I would highly suggest it. This is a chilling look at what we currently think of entertainment and how easily that could progress, or regress, to a entertainment system that resembles Rome's hay-day.

Two quotes:

"I realize, for the first time, how very lonely I've been in the arena. How comforting the presence of another human being can be."

"You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope."

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Book Monday

Just wanted to recap my recent book finds.

I picked up Y: The Last Man the other day and blogged about it here. While I was there I picked up No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I'm digging short stories and this book cover demands to be picked up. Peter & Max by Bill Willingham I got as an advanced copy from work. Willingham is the guy behind Fables, the great graphic novel series. I usually never get advanced copies and was super excited to get one that I was planning on buying anyway.

Today I went and picked up number 2 of Y: The Last Man since I had a coupon at Borders. While I was there I picked up two more books, The Book of Lost Things for myself and a secret Christmas gift. Then my brother and I went over to Barnes and Nobles where I picked up American Nerd and Bright Star. I'm really excited to read all of them.

I'm dealing with a bit of family drama right now so I've been spending a lot of time reading to escape. Hopefully that will equate to lots of blogging to come! Right now I'm about halfway through of The Great Hunt, the second Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan and I've gotten back into The Complete Sherlock Holmes part I.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the key to Paradise

Alamut, by Vladimir Bartol, is a book that I doubt I would have read had someone not put it in my hands. But I'm pretty glad someone did. This is a work of fiction, although it is bases on actual events and people.

Alamut is about a man named Hasan, who runs a fortress in Iran named Alamut. He is claimed to be a prophet who has been giving a key to Paradise by Allah. He trains young men as fedayeen to become religious martyrs to support his vendetta against the sultan.

I really enjoyed how the book begins by switching between a young man and young woman who both come to Alamut around the same time. The boy has a very strict and structured time, while the girl pretty much romps around in gardens. Both youngsters face very serious harsh realities soon though.

Hasan is a man trying to deal with some very deep spiritual issues. He does some horrible things to those in his care and when no god strikes him down he sees this as proof that either there is no god or that god does not care about what happens here on Earth. Even thought Hasan seems to be the bad guy in the story, one can't help but relate to his crisis of faith.

This book is very different from most of the books I've been reading lately. I haven't read a lot about the middle east and it was very enticing. The characters and descriptions were compelling. I would suggest this book to anyone, especially those interested in books that tackle spirituality.

"It's true, some wishes have miraculous power. They function as though they had substance, as though they were a hammer made of actual steel." - 371

Friday, November 13, 2009

Graphic Novel Goodness

I've been checking out the graphic novel section of the bookstores more and more lately. I picked this one up the other day after reading some good reviews on amazon.

What would happen if all the males in the world died, all in an instant? All except for Yorrick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. That is the basic premise of this series.

Yorrick's mother is a congresswomen and his girlfriend is currently in Australia. Though he desperately wants to go find his gf, what's left of the American government wants to keep him on US soil. Yorrick and a guard woman, known only as 355, hit the trail to find a certain scientist that has been doing work with cloning to try and figure out what happened and why Yorrick is the only man left.

Typically when I think of comic books I think of superheroes, but the only thing out of the ordinary here is the fact that all the men are dead.

I really, really enjoyed this graphic novel. I can't wait to pick up the second one today. Highly recommend.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

All women are Aes Sedai

As I'm sure many of you are aware, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series just released a new book, the first after Jordan's death. One of my brothers is very into this series and would not stop talking about how great it was and how I should read them. I am not a huge fantasy reader. I like fantasy stories though; I grew up listening to my dad read The Lord of the Rings books to me before falling asleep.

Ryan finally got me to read the first one of Jordan's, The Eye of the World. This is an adventure story, full of magic and beasts, and the battle between the Light and the Dark. Magic in this world is used by tapping into the One Power, something that only women are able to do. Men who do so go crazy and have to be destroyed. A group of three boys from the backwoods, along with two young women from their town are caught up in the fate of the world when an Aes Sedai woman and her Warder rescue them from Trollocs (nasty critters half-human/half-whatever animal seemd handy).

I liked this book, although I did find myself comparing the whole thing to the Lord of the Rings. Some times it seemed like Jordan picked what he liked from Tolkien and just tweaked it a little bit and threw it in his books. My brother did not feel the same way and said I was being unfair.

Aes Sedai is a group of women who can wield the One Power and they are the most interesting part of the story to me. I would be inclined to read the rest of the series just to learn more about them.

The story starts off a little slow, but to be fair Jordan is setting up an epic story here. The whole thing is going to be something like thirteen books long. At the end of the book I was interested in the characters and the various plots. Luckily, Ryan left book two waiting for me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Doctor Zhivago

I'm a big lover of Russian Literature. Right now I'm trying to work my way through a bunch of Russian books that I've been collection over the years. Doctor Zhivago is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for awhile and I keep meaning to read.

I really enjoyed the writing style. I wrote down a lot of favorite quotes and was generally impressed with Pasternak's ability to turn what seems a filler paragraph into something very special with just a few words. The love between Yurii and Laura was beautifully written.

However I did have some problems with this book. I feel like a history lesson on the Russian Revolution would have made things a lot clearer. Or perhaps if I had an edition with better footnotes. My other big problem was that there were just too many coincidences. There are just so many ways that Laura and Yurii's lives dovetail that instead of coming across as "fate" it just seems like I'm being bashed over the head with the whole idea that the two of them were meant to be together. And maybe this is a generational or cultural thing, I'm not sure.

I'm also not sure if this novel stood up to all the hype I've heard about it. I have never seen the movie and I think that I always just thought this was a sad love story. I didn't really know that it had so much to do with the aftermath of the revolution. My expectations were just a little off.

That aside, I was glad to read a Russian novel that is post-revolution. Most of what I have read is set prior to the revolution and I want to branch out more. Despite my problems, I did enjoy this book, but I don't think it's in the same class as Anna Karenina.

"Freedom! Real freedom, not just talk about it, freedom, dropped out of the sky, freedom beyond our expectations, freedom by accident, through a misunderstanding." 146

"How well she does everything! She reads not as if reading were the highest activity, but as if it were the simplest possible thing, a thing that even animals could do. As if she were carrying water from a well, or peeling potatoes." 291