Saturday, December 3, 2011

ZOMBIE SQUEE!!

  I just got The Walking Dead (TWD) 11-14 in Trade Paperback.  These graphic novels (GN) are so amazing.  They are well written and beautifully illustrated.  People think of GN's as, "Comic books, grow up!", but they don't realize they are  missing out on some of the best works of art in modern times.  Let first say this, I am a comic book junkie.  LOVE THEM!  But it's not all kiddie stuff.  Comics have been dealing with adult themes and world issues for their entire existence.  They've dealt with social issues from poverty, to domestic violence, to racism, sexism, AIDS, politics, homosexuality and so much more.  The Graphic Novels have given those comics a stronger voice.  Combining the comic book art with novel savvy has been pure genius.  Most GN's are a collection of series in one setting, creating a super comic book novel.  A lot of movies have been based on GN's that most people don't even know. 
  TWD is a series that deals with humanity and how humans are the real monsters and how survival and adaption are so Darwin we don't even know it at 1st.  In a new world where school teachers and pizza delivery boys become the ultimate survivalist and the strong become weak, weak become strong, people go crazy, chaos is the norm and death lurks everywhere.  Rules change, laws change, normal is subjective and humanity is pushed to the brink of its true nature: Animalistic & Survival.  These GN's entrance the reader from page 1 and don't let go even when you get to the final page.  You have to read the next one and the next one.  No one is safe in these novels, just like in the real world, anyone can die at any time.  And they do.  There were so many OMSJ moments in these I literally gasped out loud countless times.  I implore those that are fans of the show to pick them up and for anyone that enjoys damn good story telling.  Ignore they are GN's.  Get off your elitist book horse and read them.  You won't be sorry you did.  WTYZM!  (Word To Your Zombie Mom).  :)


















Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

"A genius is merely a man who sees nature, and has the boldness to follow it." ~Frank Lloyd Wright~

"Ogni mia fibra.  E'posseduta dall'amor.  My every fiber is possessed by love." ~Faust~






    I don't know what to say.  I didn't hate the book, but it wasn't a fave.  I think cause I'm such a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright that I wanted more of his designs, life story, etc., where this was more of a telling of his affair in a sweeping dramatic fashion.  It was a little bland at times, but not horrible.  Just a mediocre read IMO.  But the ending, holy sh*t!  I would tell people to read it just to get to the end.  I mean, speechless.  I had several friends say, "Wait till you get to the end".  I was like, yeah, OK.  I guessed what was coming when it got closer, but it was worse than what I imagined.  I have to admit I had no idea this happened and I think that's why the ending has hit me so hard.  To be a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and not know this fact is unsettling.  And the fact that it is a fact makes it that more disturbing and it doesn't resonate with the rest of the "blandness" of the novel. 
If you don't know what I'm talking about, please do not look it up if you intend on reading this book.  Let the ending shock you as I'm sure it did to 90% of those that read it.  I must read FLW's autobiography and sometime soon.  I'm still in shock over this.  Lol.  Crazy.  I don't think it's worth reading actually.  I mean the end does make it, but the in between just wasn't worth the wait.  But again wasn't horrible, just not a OMSJ (Oh My Sexxy Jason) must read.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Book Purchases October 2011

Last 2 days I've picked up a handful of cool books that I can't wait to delve into.  Here are the books I chose, or rather what books chose me:

                       1. The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us (#2)
                      
                    2. The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars (#3)
                                                      


                                            3. The Rum Diary

                                              4. Boneshaker
   

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

"Your most treasured depravity is child's play beside the experiences we offer."





From Goodreads: Clive Barker is widely acknowledged as the master of nerve-shattering horror. The Hellbound Heart is one of his best, one of the most dead-frightening stories you are likely to ever read, a story of the human heart and all the great terrors and ecstasies within. 

Book synopsis: Frank Cotton's appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand's box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent.  But his brother's love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back-though the price will be bloody and terrible...and there will certainly be hell to pay.

My synopsis: Bloody brilliant!

This is only my 2nd Barker book and my 1st adult book by him, the 1st being The Thief of Always, which was a YA book (see review on this very blog!).  As a hard-core fan of SK for my entire life, I can honestly say Barker has now found a place in my horror heart right next to King.  His character development is fantastic.  You feel for them, you despise them, you fear them, in short he does what every author should do and that is to get the read to feel empathy for the characters.  His story telling is taut, dark, sadistic and pure macabre fun.  I'm not one to get scared while reading and only SK and Poe have really gotten me spooked, after reading this, I swear I had to fight off images of the Cenobites coming for me. Lol.  It was awesome!  There are so few authors that can take this genre and make it unique, fascinating, tantalizing and scary all while weaving an intricate, thought provoking and satisfying plot.  If an author is sub-par the book becomes a farce, something to be laughed rather than taken seriously and certainly not going to frighten the reader.  I really hate to repeat myself but to me, only Poe and King have done it brilliantly and now I can add Barker to that list.  Now admittedly I haven't delved into too many authors of this genre.  But I have dabbled in Koontz and John Saul, and have come away with a bad taste in my brain.  Koontz has written some pretty good books, but overall he's not very good.  Saul I've only read a few books and found them to be trite and hard to read.  I actually hated his hero in one book and was rooting for him to die.  Actually it may have been a heroine, either way, blah! 
 

So The Hellbound Heart, which the fantastic movie, Hellraiser, was based on, is about Frank Cotton and his reckless, pleasure seeking, way of life.  He seeks the ultimate pleasures in everything, drugs, travel, sex, money, material things, etc.  He's made his living as a trader of items, people; drug dealer/smuggler and has been all over the world and especially to all the seedy parts of the world for new highs in both drugs and sex.  In his travels and dealings he hears rumours of Lemarchand's box.  A box that is to supposed to take an individual to a new world, new realm, never dreamed of, of unimaginable pleasures.  He finds the box in Germany from a cat named Kircher, who affirms the pleasures that await him if he should figure out how to solve the puzzle box.  Fast forward, Frank is in California in his grandparents house, who have passed away and left it to he and his brother Rory.  Frank is in the biggest room of the house where he has set up all his offerings for the Cenobites that will come if he should be able to solve the puzzle box.  What offerings?  The heads of doves, a jar of his urine, another jar of his essence, and several other oddities.  Frank has been obsessed with the box since before he obtained it.  Having the box for months and failing to figure it out but never being deterred.  Finally he gets the box to open...
   "The bare bulb in the middle of the room dimmed and brightened, brightened and ddimmed again..  It had taken on the rhythm of the bell, burning its hottest on each chime.  In the troughs between the chimes the darness in the room became utter' it was as if the world he had occupied for twenty-nine year had ceased to exist.  Then the bee wold sound again,k and the bulb burn so strongly it might never have faltered, and for a few precious seconds he was standing in a familiar place, with a door that led out and down and into the street, and a window through which-had he but the will (or strength) to tear the blinds back-he might glilmpse a rumor of morning.  
   The bulb flickered out.  This time it went without hope of rekindling.  He stood in the darkness, and said nothing.  even if could remember the worrds of welcom he'd prepared, his tongue would not have spoken them.  It was playing dead in his mouth.
   And then, light.
   It came from them: from the quartet of Cenobites who now, with the wall sealed behind them, occupied the room.  A fitful of phosphorescence, like the glow of deep-se fishes: blue, cold, charmless.  It struck Frank that he had never once wondered what ty would look like.  His imagination, though fertile whe it came to trickery and theft, was improversihed in other regards.  
Why then was he so distressed to set eyes upon them?  Was it the scars that covered every inch of their bodies, the flesh cosmetically pnctured and sliced and infibulated, then dusted down with ash? Was it the smell of vanilla they brought with them, the sweetness of which did little to disguise the stench beneath?  Or was it that as the light grew, and he scanned them more closely, he saw nothing of joy or even humnity, in their maimed faces: only desperation, and appetite taht made his bowel ace to be voided."

Yeah and it only gets better.  Rory, Frank's aforementioned brother, moves into the house with his new wife, Julia, whom we come to find out did the horizontal bump bump with Frank.  Rory is a bit of dullard, but lovable.  He is enamored with Julia but after diddling his brother, she finds Rory repulsive.  She hadn't stopped thinking about him since he disappeared, which the family just chalked up to his flighty, wishy-washy ways and assumed he left the country again.  Julia discovers Frank is "living" in a different realm just beyond the walls of the room the Cenobites took him from.  Now the "living" is in quotations because, well I'll just leave it here.  I don't want to ruin it for you all.  Let's just say evil dirty deeds transpire and the fun really begins!

I was seriously hooked, delicious pun intended, from page 1 and read the the entire book in a day.  It's not very long at 164 pages.  I devoured :)  every page ferociously as if I were a Cenobite with a new soul.  I highly rec this book and Barker.  Highest JaSexxy rating XXX.  Stay Booked!  Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye

Excellent read!  The show followed the book pretty tightly.  Though there are like 14 books in The Walking Dead series, so the show could veer off at some point, like TB did.  I need to get the rest of the books in this series.  It's an excellent and fresh take on the Zombie story.  My zombie reading is pretty minimal so I only have World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide (both excellent) to compare TWD too, but really well done and excellent art work.  I really like in the introduction by writer Robert Kirkman he says:
"I'm not trying to scare anybody.  If that somehow happens as a result of reading this comic, that's great, but really... that's not what this book is about.  What you now hold in your hands is the most serious piece of work I've done so far in my career.  I'm the guy that created Battle Pope; I hope you guys realize what a stretch this is for me.  It's really not that hard to beliece when you realize that I'm delving into subject matter that is so utterly serious and dramatic...
Zombies.
To me the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics.  Good zombies show us how messed up we are, they  make us question our station in society... and our society's station in the world.  They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too... but there's always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness."
  I couldn't agree more.  Night of the Living Dead just wasn't a great scary movie, but it's undercurrent of social commentary, in this case racism, was a also fantastic.  It dealt with an extremely important issue in the United States, at a time it was not only relevant but also volatile.  This is the beauty of Sci-Fi, horror, comics, they all take a stand and bring issues to light in ways that we don't at 1st realize and in ways that are far better than "legit" drama.  These genres take relevant, seriously important and at times volatile issues and present them in clever, unique and thought provoking material.  It's why I've always been a fan of these genres since I was a kid and continue to be a fan as an adult.  I can't wait to get the books in this series and devour them like a zombie on a slow fat kid!  Highest rating XXX.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

"So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation becasuse they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damagging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future." ~Chris McCandless~


    I consider myself a newbie when it comes to non-fiction.  I've really only been reading them for 6yrs steadily.  I've maybe read 1-2 every 2yrs in my 20's and that's a very generous estimation.  More like 1 every 4yrs.  It wasn't until my late 20's/early 30's I really started reading more non-fiction.  Why?  Well the way I look at non-fiction is this, we are getting a true story or rather a story that is supposed to be true.  My problem with non-fiction isn't that they aren't good reads, my problem is we get the author's biased view of the subject.  No matter how much a author is supposed to be objective and impartial one can't help but having their work influenced by their own beliefs.  When I read about a true event or individual, I want just that, the truth.  I don't want someone's version of the truth.  If an author likes the subject they will paint the subject/event favorably, if they don't like the subject/event then it will be given an unfair and unbalanced view.  So this is why I am very hesitant to read non-fiction novels.  Having said that, I have indeed read some amazing non-fiction books and Into the Wild is one of them.  In the very beginning Krakauer admits; "I won't claim to be an impartial biographer.  McCandless's strange tale struck a personal note that made a dispassionate rendering of the tragedy impossible.  Through most of the book, I have tried-and largely succeeded, I think-to minimize my authorial presence.  But let the reader be warned: I interrupt McCandless's story with fragments of a narrative drawn from my own youth.  I do so in the hope that my experiences will throw some oblique light on the enigma of Chris McCandless."
  Fair enough.  Krakauer not only voices my very concern with non-fiction novels, he confirms it.  I am more forgiving because Krakauer admits that it will be biased to influence the reader what he felt for McCandless and McCandless's story, but that it will be limited.  OK Krakauer I respect that and I'm intelligent enough to know when you're inflecting that "authorial presence".  So on I read....

   Books synopsis: "In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley.  His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless.  He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car nad most of his posssessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself.  Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter..."

My synopsis: I have to admit at first I thought, "Pfft some rich spoiled punk, who is given everything, wants to "find himself".  Big deal".  And I was right, but I was also wrong.  This book made me a bit frustrated because I went from, "This kid is a stubborn moron.  Spoiled and pissing away his life" to "I can totally relate to what this kid is thinking and feeling".  McCandless is truly an enigma.  He craves solitude but loves company.  He wants nothing to do with money and material things, even those material things he desperately needs to survive in the wilderness.  McCandless meets new folks across his travels and every one of them seem fully enamored with him.  He makes indelible impressions everywhere he goes.  So why if this extremely gifted, intelligent and well bred youngster is all these things and so well liked, is he willing to go into one of the most dangerous wilderness's in the world?  This is what Krakauer tries to find out and in the process  uncovers a very complicated, contradictory, heartbreaking and frustrating, yet inspiring story.  This is really as far as I'm going to review this book.  I think it is something everyone should read and determine their own pov.  I will say one thing and it is in regards to McCandless and it is this.

  McCandless is complicated yet simple.  He is hypocritical yet honorable.  What leads him to go off on this journey of life, of self are issues with his parents.  But this is also a bit schizo because he has friends that say he loved his parents and others that say he couldn't stand them.  We do learn what the issue is later on, but to me that issue is just a cop out.  I think the bottom line with McCandless is he was searching for something, I think we all are in some way or another, but he didn't know what that something was.  I don't think he was anti-social or suicidal yet he did show those attributes at times.  I just think he was a kid that said f**k it, I don't know what I want, where I want to be but I know right now none of this is it.  He read and was influenced by works of Tolstoy, London, Davies & Thoreau.  The romanticism of nature and wilderness of living a spartan life and the personal issues he was having led him to this journey of self discovery.  McCandless took those works and views to heart and decided it was how he was going to find, whatever it was he was missing inside.  There is really nothing about McCandless that makes him more special than any other confused youngster in this world.  There are kids all over the world that come from worse backgrounds, who struggle and fight and scrape to survive and make better lives for themselves and no one is writing stories about them.  McCandless was a wealthy kid, though his parents fought and scraped for everything they had and made a success of their lives by hard work and dedication, Chris McCandless did not.  This is not to take anything away from him.  Problems are problems and he had problems, no doubt.  If it weren't for Karkauer's stirring portrait of McCandless, he is just another lost youth trying to find himself and does so half-assed and that leads to his death.  I mean he hitchhiked across America and could've gotten picked up by the wrong person, murdered and that ends the story.  He was lucky.  I will now contradict myself, I admire McCandless for his tenacity and fortitude.  He may have not known what he was looking for, but he went out in search of it when so many of us settle and lead mediocre stagnant lives.  He was stubborn and wanted to do thing his way, I can relate, I'm the same way.  He wasn't a complete idiot as some think.  He studied plants and animals and wildlife and the areas he was going to be venturing through.  It is undetermined what killed him but more than likely it was due to ingestion of poisonous vegetation.

  His death is sad and it broke my heart when I read the scene when his sister, the one relative he was closest too, finds out of his death.  Utterly heartbreaking.  I can honestly say this was an emotional roller coaster of a read that at times had me wanting to sell everything I own and go out on my own adventure in search of who I am.  And if I were younger and did not have a daughter I just would, but it would be foolish and selfish.  So I pick my adventures in other ways and like McCandless I do  everything my way, I never settle.  But unlike McCandless I face my problems head on.  Life isn't perfect and the easiest thing in the world is to pack up and walk away from it all, it's a lot harder to stay and face it head on.  And that is what this book does, makes the reader examine their own life.  The reader knowingly takes a journey in McCandless's life, but by doing so unknowingly begins to examine their own life.  The emotions we feel aren't just directed at McCandless and what he believes and stands for, but at ourselves for the things we don't stand for.  And maybe we aren't mad at McCandless for his journey, but at ourselves for the lack of one.  Excellent read.  Highest rating XXX

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

I've been meaning to read Barker for a long time now, but have never gotten around to it.  On my last trip to B&N, as I walked around debating which books I was going to choose or rather what books would choose me, I had 4 books in my arm and trying to whittle it down to 2-3 (was trying to be good) while I was wandering and thinking which books to take home, I happened down the B aisle and right in front of Barker.  Well damn there goes me being good.  I have Imajica pt.1 & 2 but the lure of a new book...  I saw The Thief of Always and picked it up and it just felt right, like it was meant to be in my hand.  Who am I to fight fate?  So I decided on this and 2 other books and went home extremely happy.  My happiness would only increase when I decide to read this a few days later.
The books synopsis: "Mr. Hood's Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace.  It is a place of miracles where every childhood whim may be satisfied.  There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr. Hood's wonders, does not stop to consider the consequences.  It is only when the house shows its darker face-when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadows-that he comes to doubt Mr. Hood's philanthropy.  But the house and its mysterious architect are not about to to release their captive without a battle.  Mr. Hood has ambitions for his new guest, for Harvey's soul burns brighter than any he has encountered in ten centuries..."
"Menacing demons, wondrous miracles, sinister magic and vivid characters... A compulsive, lightning paced tale that slmost begs to be read aloud." ~The Miami Herald~
My synopsis: Frickin awesome!  "Frickin awesome!" ~JaSexxy~ :) 
I will fully admit I am not fast reader, my mind tends to wander (within the context of the book, not randomly lol) and I stop to write quotes I like plus I am usually reading 2-3 books at once, so rarely do I get through a book in 1 day.  I started Thief Wednesday morning and finished it that night.  Yeah it was that good.  Harvey Swick, 10yr old boy, bored and annoyed on a dreary and grey rainy February day is playing make believe in his room.  As he was getting bored with his make believe his mother walks in and forces him to clean his room, much to his despair.  He is utterly unhappy at this turn of unfair events.  He says aloud, "I am ten.  I don't have to tidy up just because she says so.  It's boring.  I want to... I want to..."  He walks over to his mirror and ask it. "What do I want?  I don't know what I want.  I just know I'll die if I don't have some fun.  I will! I'll die!"  And with that the rain picked up and his window blows open.  He finds this weird as he was positive he latched his window.  He goes to close the window and "Cold rain spattered his face.  Half-closing his eyes, he crossed to the window and fumbled to slam it, making sure that the latch was in place this time.  The wind had started his lamp moving, and when he turned back the whole room seemed to be swinging around.  One moment the light was blazing in his eyes, the next it was flooding the opposite wall.  But in between the blaze and the flood it lit the middle of his room, and standing there-shaking the rain off his hat-was a stranger.  He looked harmless enough.  He was no more than six inches taller than Harvey, his frame scrawny, his skin distincly yellowish i color.  He was wearing a fancy suit, a pair of spectacles and a lavish smile."
We learn that this stranger's name is Rictus.  Rictus seems harmless but when you read further the description of this stranger you get the sense something evil and shark-like in his smile.  He 1st tells Harvey he can ask him any question he wants, but when Harvey starts asking questions that Rictus doesn't expect, he then changes his mind and tell hims no more questions!  He Tells him there is a magical place to go if he is truly bored and that there are no rules, no chores, nothing but fun.  Mr. Hood's Holiday House a place where a kid can live vicarious and free.  Well needless to say Harvey desires to go and so off they go the next day. 
They get to the house and have to cross some invisible barrier to get to the house.  The house itself is grand and beautiful and the climate within the barrier is warm and sunny with clear skies, which is complete contrast to the dreary weather outside the barrier.  This alone already makes Harvey happy.  Though one does get the ominous sense of dread despite the sunny happy facade.  Inside he meets 2 other children, Wendell and Lulu who are seemingly the same age as he and Mrs. Griffin an elderly lady that takes care of the children.  Lulu doesn't seem all that happy, but Wendell is as happy a kid in candy land.   The 2 boys have loads of fun, reading comics, playing in the tree house, eating whatever they want and as much as they want.  The seasons change throughout the day.  During the day it's summer, at dusk, fall and Halloween kicks in and at night winter & Christmas where the morning brings spring.  Christmas the kids can wish for whatever they want and they will get it.  They want a tiger, they get a tiger, they want a motorcycle, they get it.  Harvey wishes for a toy his father gave him when he was 6 but lost convinced the wish would not come true he noticed a present under the xmas tree.  Sure enough when he opened it, it was the the very toy down to the exact last detail.  Harvey when 1st reaching the house says that he only intends to stay for a short time, but ends up staying overnight.  At breakfast he tells Mrs. Griffin that he will stay a little longer but he should call his parents.  She doesn't scuff at this, but tells him to go right ahead.  Wendell tells Harvey that his parents already know he's here and that he doesn't need to bother calling.  Wendell says when he called his parents that already knew.  Harvey, doubtful, calls his parents and upon hearing their voice says "I just wanted call and say where I am and I'm all right."  To his surprise they tell him they already knew that and to stay as long as he desires and not to worry about school for he has earned a break from it.  He is surprised but never-the-less happy.  He interacts with Lulu occasionally but you can tell there is a budding romance.  But she reveals some things about the house and what is really happening that starts to make him suspicious of the seemingly innocuous house.  His suspicions fade and realization begins to form and he ends up in a battle for not just his life, but his very soul.  I could go on and I almost did, but to do so would give too much away.  And really it is a book all of you SHOULD read.
I never feel like my reviews do these great books any justice.  So I apologize for that.  But take my word for it this is a fantastic book, or rather don't take my word for it and read it!  It is extremely well written, characters are incredibly fleshed out and you feel their emotions.  There's several bitter-sweet moments with Harvey and Lulu that just melt the heart.  Even though it is written for YA there is plenty of fantastic creep factor and OMG moments.  I highly recommend it.  Give it my highest rating XXX.  And I will leave you with this parting quote:
"Time would be precious from now on.  It would tick by, of course, as it always had, but Harvey was determined he wouldn't waste it with sighs and complaints.  He'd fill every moment with the seasons he'd found in his heart: hopes like birds on a spring branch; happiness like a warm summer sun; magic like the rising mists of autumn.  And the best of all, love; love enough for a thousand Christmases."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
I was just perusing the book section at Sam's Club and as I passed this book I only glanced at it.  I had to double back because I wasn't sure I read the title right.  'The Man Who Loved Books Too Much'.  I was entranced.  This book sought me out not the other way around.  I had to have it.  I hoped, as I was picking it up, that it was non-fiction.  I mean how cool would it be if there really was a master book thief!  But to be honest it didn't matter if it was non-fiction or fiction because something in me knew this was going to be a great read.  And to my extreme delight, it was non-fiction.  As I read the synopsis, my inner & outer book nerd was gigging out big time.  I was a giddy kid about to open an xmas present.  Here's the publisher's synopsis: "Rare-book theft is even more widespread than fine-art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit. John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. In an attempt to understand him better, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged herself into the world of book lust and discovered just how dangerous it can be."
You can see why my berdy (book nerd) senses were all tingly!  I couldn't wait to delve into it.  I finished Bossypants and immediately began this book.  At the very 1st page I knew... Love.  Love is what I was going to feel for this book.  But I'd started books before and thought I was going to love them, only to be disappointed, Water for Elephants anyone?  So I subdued my enthusiasm and Love and just read.  Every page was great.  It was like taking bite for bite of mom's home cooked meal.  Savory and better with each forkful of delicious food, so to was reading each page.  The reader is welcomed with a prologue of Bartlett's telling of the discovery of an old, rare book that a friend happened upon.  She is lent the book and you get the sense that she, will somehow not be returning it.  
She takes us through a book fair on her way to meet a rare book dealer to get the scoop on the story of a book thief.  We are introduced to the "protagonist" and "antagonist", Ken Sanders being the former & John Charles Gilkey being the latter respectively.  But these were not ordinary hero & villain characters you'd expect.  Obviously this is non-fiction so the flare and elaborate persona is tempered by the actual real life persona's.  Ken Sanders is a rare book store owner and "is the self-appointed "bibliodick" (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch Gilkey".  He "has an ample paunch, a thinning ponytail, and a long black-and-white beard".  Sound like your normal "hero" of lore?  The thief, Gilkey is equally unimpressive in appearance and stature.  These "ordinary" men, we find out, are far from ordinary.  We are introduced to extraordinary situations, people, obsessions and a world we are completely unaware exists, at least I didn't know. The story itself doesn't play out like fiction like The Devil in the White City (my fave non-fiction book) but it is engrossing.  There is no deep dark lurid and seedy book scene.  We're not taken to a world of bookophile (google it. eww) or any such perversion.  But we are taken into a world of true obsession of love, love for books and rare objects.  It's an addiction for some as serious as gambling.  The problem with some of these addicts, Gilkey especially, is they don't have or want to spend the money for these rare treasures.  And who can blame them?  A rare book can go anywhere from $50-$500,000.  Gilkey claims that unfair.  How can real book lovers ever be able to hope for a decent collection?  He stole because he believed the system was wrong and he deserved to own those books.  And I have to tell you the more I read the more he was convincing me.  I mean one of my dreams, and one I've had since I was kid, was to have a house with one room filled with nothing but books, from floor to ceiling, wall to wall books and a comfy chair in the middle for me to read till my hearts content.  How could I, a mere ordinary individual obtain such a dream?  Well if I were Gilkey I would steal that dream.  Yes his reasoning made sense to me.  Almost convinced me we all had that right to not only have the dream but do whatever it took to fulfill it.  Yes he almost convinced me.  Almost.  But of course there are 2 sides to every story and that is def the case here.  Damn it!  Lol.  Gilkey's righteousness was dubious.  The book stores he stole from were privately owned, like majority of rare book stores are, and these owners had to take the loss, because their insurance wouldn't pay up.  But put that aside, these book store owners are fiercely dedicated to their books.  These books become their treasures, their children.  They scour yard sales, white elephants, book fairs for that elusive rare book that an unknowing seller is selling for far below it's worth.  The obsession is like an unquenchable fire burning in these true bookies, bibliophiles.  They truly hurt when their books, their babies, were taken from them.  So I found myself not only seeing Gilkey's pov, but also the pov of these book sellers.  My view would change from chapter to chapter.  I'd be like, "Yeah good for you Gilkey!" to "Oh Gilkey you are a bad man!".  I couldn't believe the depths to which he sank to scam and thieve books.  And not just books!  He stole credit card slips from working at Saks 5th Ave and would go on trips to New York, Europe and all over California (where he is from).  He spent majority of his life in and out of jail.  He amassed somewhere between $100,000-$200,000 worth of stolen books!  I was appalled and envious at the same time. 
What I also loved that Bartlett did with her storytelling, was to not only go into the main story of Gilkey & Sanders, but she delved into the history of bibliophilia.  There was a Spanish Monk, "Don Vincente in the the 19th century who stole from libraries and ancient monasteries.  He disappeared only to resurface as the owner of a well-stocked antiquarian book shop in Barcelona, where he had a reputation for buying more books than selling them.  He kept the rarest books for himself.  He got into a bidding war at an auction for a book he was obsessed to own, Furs e ordel regne de Valencia (Edicts and Ordinances for Valenica).  He was outbid by Augustino Patxot, a dealer that owned a shop near Vincente's. Vincente appeared to have lost his senses, mumbling threats in the street, and did not even take the reales de consolacion, a small payment the highest bidder had to give to the next highest bidder according to custom at Spanish auctions.  Three nights later, Patxot's house went up in flames, and the next day his charred body was found.  Soon, the bodies of nine learned men were also found, all of whom had been stabbed to death.  Outbursts at the auction had made Don Vincente an obvious suspect.  When his house was searched, the Furs e Ordinacions was found hidden on a top shelf, along with books that had belonged to the other victims.  He confessed to strangling Patxot and stabbing the others only after the magistrate assured him that his library would be well cared for once he was incarcerated.  In court, when the judge asked the accused why he hadn't ever stolen money from his victims, he replied, 'I am not a thief!' Of having taken their lives, he said, 'Every man must die, sooner or later, but good books must be conserved.'"  This is a common way of thinking with book thieves.  They believe that their "acquisitions", of rare books, was not theft.   And who knew, as stated above, that book theft is more widespread than fine art theft.  At first I was like, "Really?".  Then a sense a pride overtook me and I was like, "Sweet!".  Weird right?  Not if you're a bibliophile.  I laughed when I read this because I never leave any items in my car visible.  Just don't want to tempt a thief to break in and take said object.  One thing I never worried about leaving in the open though, books.  I was like, "Who the hell is going to steal a book?!".  I fancied myself the last real bookie of the world, because we are as rare as the books these dealers seek. 
Long review short, too late! Lol.  I'm a dork.  I loved this book.  Not only for its fantastic and unique story and quirky characters and surrealistic situations, but because it is a book for book lovers.  There is absolutely no way you don't like this book if you are a true bookie.  I always said I was going to get every Stephen King book in hardcover.  After reading this book, I not only want every SK book in hardcover, but want every book I love in hardcover AND as 1st editions.  I can feel the spark of obsession being ignited in my boul (book soul).  I foolishly believe I can quell the flame before it consumes me, but deep down I know better...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We the Living by Ayn Rand...

**THIS WILL BE A LONG REVIEW AND WILL HAVE SPOILERS WHERE INDICATED**
  For those of you that love dystopian stories, well here is one that is based on reality and not in the future but in the past.  The precursor for all those YA dystopian novels that are so popular of late.  But this is not a futuristic, prophecy, one person saves the world novel.  It is the struggle of several people in a country that successfully choked off it's citizens with propaganda and fear.  There is a growing extremism in the right wing in America that eerily mimics the underlying theme in this book...
   We the Living is both a story of the atrocities the human race is capable of and the human spirit to defy it, overcome it.  A quick bio of Ayn Rand for those not familiar with her...
"Alisa Rosenbaum was born in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg to a prosperous Jewish family. At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision which sustained her throughout her life.  During her high school years, she was eyewitness to both the Kerensky Revolution, which she supported, and—in 1917—the Bolshevik Revolution, which she denounced from the outset. In order to escape the fighting, her family went to the Crimea, where she finished high school. The final Communist victory brought the confiscation of her father's pharmacy and periods of near-starvation. When introduced to American history in her last year of high school, she immediately took America as her model of what a nation of free men could be.  Alisa returned to the city (renamed Leningrad) to attend the university, but in 1926 relatives who had already settled in America offered her the chance of joining them there. With money from the sale of her mother's jewellery, Alisa bought a ticket to New York. On arrival at Ellis Island, she changed into Ayn (the name of a Finnish writer) Rand (taken from the brand name of her Remington-Rand typewriter). She moved swiftly to Hollywood, where she learnt English"  OK maybe not so brief a bio, lol, but her life is amazing and can't, shouldn't be summed up in a slipshod manner, to do so is a huge disservice to her.  OK now onto the book it is set per-Russian Revolution and progresses into the revolution and partly to the post-revolution.  In Rand's own words, "It is as near to an autobiography as I will edver write.  The plot is invented, the background is not.... The specific events of Kira's life were not mine; her ideas, her convictions, her values, were and are."
  Kira Argounova and her family left Petrograd for the Crimea to await the capital's liberation from the "Red Yoke".  After years of the Crimea changing hands they decide to head back to Petrograd.  They board a train, which has no set schedules nor stops, they get on with scores of other refugees packed like sardines.  Most people with lice, dirty & starving.  Women get raped, people get thrown from the moving train and thieves steal what little people have.  We are introduced to the Arounovs on this train of desperate souls.  Kira Arounova is our heroine.  I have to copy the description of Kira from the book, because it is done in such a unique way and shows how the perception of an uncaring individual blindly perceives another with indifference to the true being of the individual.

"Every citizen over sixteen had to have a labor book and was ordered to carry it at all times.  It had to be presented and stamped when he found employment or left it; when he moved into an apartment or out of one; when he enrolled at a school, got a bread card or was maried.  The new Soviet passport was more than a passport: it was a citizen's permit to live.  It was called 'Labor Book,' for labor and life were considered synonymous.
The Russian Socialist Federation Soviet Republic was about to acquire a new citizen.  The official held the little book bound in gray burlap, whose many pages he was going to fill.  He had trouble with his pen; it was old and rusty, and dragged strings from the botom of the inkstand.  On the clean open page he wrote:
Name: Argounova, Kira Alexandrovna - Height: Medium.

Kira is 18, - Her body was slender, it seemed the words she said were ruled by the will of her body and that her sharp movements were the unconscious reflection of a dancing, laughing soul.  So that her spirit seemed physical and her body spiritual.
The official wrote: Eyes: Gray
Kira's eyes were dark gray, the gray of storm clouds from behind which the sun can be expected at any moment.  They looked at people quietly, directly, with something that people called arrogance, but which was only a deep, confident calm that seemed to tell men her sight was too clear and none of their favourite binocluars were needed to help her look at life.
Mouth: Ordinary
Kira's mouth was thin, long.  When silent, it was cold, indomitable, and men thought of a Valkyrie with lance and winged helmet in the seep of battle.  But a slight movement made a wrinkle in the corners of her lips-and men thought of an imp perched on top of a toadstoool, laughing in the faces of daisies.
Hair: Brown
Kira's hair was short, thrown black off her forehead, light rays lost in its tangled mass, the hair of a primitive jungle woman over a face that had escaped from the easel of a modern artist who had been in a hurry: a face of straight, sharp lines sketched furiously to suggest an unfinished promise."
  I give this description because it truly best  describes Kira.  She is indifferent to the societal expectations of every citizen.  She is indifferent to the starvation of not only her people, but her family and herself as well.  She is indifferent to the men that attempt to court her.  She sees beauty not in sunsets nor flowers; "She saw no difference between weeds and flowers.  But she stood for an hour looking at the black silhouette of a tall soldier against the roaring flame of a blazing oil well he had been posted to guard."  She is indifferent to the collective.  Which may be her greatest crime.  In a society where the individual does not exist but to serve the whole, the Proletariat.  She doesn't dream but believes she will be an architect.  A designer of great steel buildings.
  Kira meets a mysterious man who is on the run from the communist government.  For the 1st time she falls for a man, but not in love in the traditional starry eyed love.  More of a raw emotional feeling and desire.  Leo Kovalensky is tall, defiant, strong and as indifferent to love and the collective as she is.  They're meeting is brief and they plan to meet in one month in the same spot they met, for he has to flee the country or be caught and persecuted.  For what?  He doesn't say and Kira doesn't ask.
  In the interim month Kira begins classes at the Technological Institute where she meets Andrei Taganov, a former soldier that is a card carrying party member.  But to Kira he isn't like the rest of the communist party.  He's gentler, more intelligent.  They become quick friends and yet the reader can already tell that he is enamoured with her.  Yet she still thinks of Leo.  We are also introduced to a weasel of a human named Pavel Syerov.  Pavel and Andrei were soldiers together, but the differences stop there.  Andrei emerged from the war a hero and Pavel a parasite leaching of Andrei's success.  She and Taganov spend many days together in and out of the University.  Kira thinking of him as a friend, but Taganov's feelings are very clear for her.  One day they go to the country and picnic and laugh and talk and agree to meet the next day, but when she reaches the meet point on the specified day and time he does not show.  She is left to wonder what happened.
  After 1 month Kira & Leo meet again and he admits he had no intention of coming back, that he could've left 3 days before, if it was not for the draw of her.  He tells her of his plans to leave Russia, being smuggled out by boat.  He does not ask her to go, she does not ask to go rather she tells him she's going, not for the sentimentality of love at least only in part of that reason, but because she has never met an individual like he before and is compelled by his very being.  He tells her they must leave at that  moment and she will not be able to she can't telephone any farewells, to which she replies, "I don't have to".  She is willing to leave her country with a man she met once, knows nothing about except he is wanted for counter-revolutionary activities and not say a word to her family.  This should seem ludacrist but in truth it feels right.  The way Rand writes it, it not only makes sense but you find yourself rooting for them to get the hell out.  They board the boat in the dead of the night.  In the dark of the cramped cabin they are intimate for the first time. It isn't a romantic, "he touched me and I quivered" making love scene, but a subtle rawness that is prevalent of the character of the Russian people.  Leo orders her to take off her clothes and, "She said nothing, and did not move her glance away from his, and obeyed.  She unfastened the strap of her slip and let it fall under her breast.  She was about to unfasten the other strap, but he tore her off the ground, and then she was arched limply in space, her hair hanging limply over his arm, her breast at  his mouth.  Then she felt his legs like warm liquid against hers.  Her hair fell over the edge of the bed.  Her lips parted as in a snarl."
  I need to make this review shorter, b/c I am going to end up telling the entire story.  I can't help it, it is such a good book I'm afraid my review will not impress  upon you the greatness of Rand's work.  The struggle of these characters, their spirit, their love, their deaths.  "This is not a story of politics, but of the men and women who have to struggle for existence behind the Red banners and slogans.  It is a picture of what those slogans do to the human beings.  What happens to the defiant ones.  What happens to those who succumb..."
  Well the love triangle that forms between Kira, Leo and Andrei Taganov, a former soldier in the Red army and high level party member, is not your normal love triangle.  Kira only becomes Andrei's lover to save Leo but in time she does begin to see Andrei is not the villain she 1st thought.  He in time starts questioning the Proletariat and their intentions.  The war he fought for the Red Army was based on the idea to free his people from enslavement and starvation only to deliver them into just that.  It comes down to 3 people trying to stay alive in a society that is trying to crush them.  Leo becomes a criminal, and it is Andrei who leads the investigation to take him down, but he had no idea Leo and Kira were together, let alone living together.  When Andrei goes to open the investigation he finds that a comrade, but not a friend of his, is involved.  An officer in the party no less, Pavel Syerov, who is a weasel of a character. Andrei's intention is to bring them all down but his superiors tell him no.  They cannot afford a black eye against the party and having an officer of the party involved in illegal activities would certainly do that.  Andrei must set his net for one and one only, Leo.  Andrei knows Leo and knows he is friends with Kira, but he does not know they are lovers nor that they are living together.  Andrei goes to Leo's home with soldiers to search the place for evidence, even though they don't need evidence to arrest him, they have the investigation report and that is enough.  As Andrei is searching the apartment, he comes across women's clothes, perfume, items that he gave as gifts to only one woman, Kira Argounova.  His heart breaks and his world spins.  At that moment she comes home and is not completely astounded to find Andrei there.  Leo still has no idea they are lovers, but he suspected.  It must be said that Leo had turned into an alcoholic and was out every night with his partner's girlfriend, he didn't care that he was flashing money he shouldn't have from an illegal venture.  He was taunting the Proletariat because he had given up on life and wanted it to all end.  Only Kira kept him from succumbing to the death of the Proletariat, not a physical death but the death of the mind, the individual, the spirit.
  There is a heart wrenching scene where Kira's cousin is in love with a counter revolutionist and is harbouring him to get him out of the country.  Kira's cousin, Irina is engaged to this "criminal", Sasha, but has to hide him her room for fear her brother, Victor, might discover him.  Victor is the only member of the family deeply immersed in the Proletariat party.  Though he can't get far due to his father's lack of support for the Communist party and is considered an aristocrat and a threat to the collective.  Victor discovers Ivan is hiding out in his house but does not let on to anyone in the family that he knows.  He heads to the GPU and turns his sister and Sasha in.  Soldiers come to take the Sasha  and Irina away.  Irina's father, Vasili, tries to appeal to the authorities to send them to the same prison in Siberia.  He doesn't beg for them to be released or pardoned, but simply to be sent to the same prison.  He is turned down at every attempt.  Kira tries to get Andrei to help, but he is turned down as well and told to watch where his loyalties stood.  The time comes when Irina and Sasha are on the same train to a station where they will be separated and sent to different prisons in Siberia, where apparently no prisoner ever leaves alive.  They either die of startvation or malnutrition or illness or all 3.  At the junction where they are to separate the reader can't help but get emotionally caught up in their separation. 
***SPOILER***
  After Leo is arrested later that night Kira goes to Andrei's and verbally lashes out at him, telling him she used him, that she loved Leo and would always love Leo that every time they made love it was Leo she thought of.  Andrei stands silently, unemotionally letting her vicious words whip him.   It's at this point Kira notices something that makes her hold her tongue and an understanding comes over her.  She becomes apologetic and suddenly drained of all emotions she collapses.  Andrei gently revives and sees her home.  Andrei goes to see Pavel Syerov, the dog that should be punished but escapes retribution from the party.  Andrei tells him he has evidence that he will send to higher authorities in Moscow if he does not release Leo Kovalensky.  Andrei risks his life and standing in the party to save him.  He did this for Kira but he did because he did not believe in his party any longer.  Andrei comes to their home and Leo is angry saying he wished he would have been left to die in prison.  Andrei tells him he has everything to live for as he looks at Kira.  Andrei leaves and Kira follows him out to say one last good-bye.  Kira is not torn by whom to be with, it is Leo, always Leo, but she does love Andrei for everything he has given her.
  Andrei loses his status in the party and is relegated to a libririan's position at the Lenin Library Nook.  He goes day to day with a lack of emotion uncommon to him until finally one day he goes home and sets fire to everything that had to do with Kira, he destroys any papers or items that he does not want to be discovered by the party.  He calmly puts a bullet through his head.  They throw a grand parade in his honour, a soldier of the party! A true hero, but not as an individual but for his work towards the collective.  Pavel Syerov and other swine speak at his funeral.  "He was a soldier in the Red Army, fought for freedom, but his individual acts aren't to be praised it was all for the Proletariat!"
  Kira silently attended the procession and stayed after all were gone to watch his grave be covered.  When she returns to her their room Leo tells her that Pavel Syerov came to see him before she got home and told him that she & Andrei were lovers.  Kira doesn't deny it.  Leo hates Kira for making him not give up when all he wanted to do was give up, succumb to Russia.   He never fully succumbed because of her.  But Leo is far from innocent.  He tells her, he is leaving with his ex-partners girlfriend.  She has money and he will be her gigolo.  He made this decision before he knew about Kira and Andrei being lovers.  Kira is distraught at first but then true to her defiant spirit she accepts it and says good-bye.  She moves back in with her family and schemes to leave the country on her own.  She tells her family that she has filed an application for a foreign passport.  She is denied.  She schemes to find a way out of the country and after much bribing and talking she finds a way.  She has heard of others that have dressed all in white (to camoflague themselves with the snow) and trek across the border.  Such a trip is dangerous and ill advised because it must be done at night and the snow and cold in that region is unbearable.  She leaves her family without a word and hops a train that will take her to a point where she will have to trek to the Latvian border.  She comes upon a house that has harboured those on their way to the border.  She gives them some rubles and they in turn give her food and advice.  Once she is done she is off in the dead of night to the border.  She finds the journey arduous and slow going.  She is not properly outfitted for such temperatures and her legs sink in the snow making it harder to walk.  She sees a soldier in the distance and falls on her stomach.  She crawls, then stops, then crawls a little  more as to not give away her presence.  The soldier thinks he sees something move in the distance, but can't tell due to poor visibility caused by the swirling snow.  He is too lazy to venture to the spot where he sees the movement, so he aims his gun and fires.  When nothing screams out he determines that is was probably just a rabbit and he moves on.  Kira gets back up and notices a growing red circle under her breast.  She simply thinks, so this is what is like to be shot.  It is not so bad.  She trudges forward despite the wound and the burning in her chest and legs.  She never relents but keeps moving forward.  Until finally she can move no more.  She collapses to her knees screaming for Leo. "Leo!... Leo!...  Leo!"  "She lay on the edge of a hill looked down at the sky.  One hand white and still, hung over the edge, and little red drops rolled slowly in the snow, down the slope.  She smiled.  She knew she was dying.  But it did matter any longer.  Life, undefeated, existed and could exist.
  She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible."
 As tragic as the end is, it is the only acceptable end for this story.  I have not done this book justice in my review.  The book is far more layered, characters far more fleshed out, emotions far more felt then I could ever truly equal in this or any review.  Excellent 1st novel by a woman I have come to admire and respect.  Thank you Ms. Rand.  Rating: XXXs out of three.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Hunger Game Series: Catching Fire (Book 2) & Mockingjay (Book 3)

***THERE WILL BE SPOILERS***

Catching Fire was an excellent follow up to The Hunger Games, may even surpass it in quality, but not by much.  Even though I predicted what would happen at the end (I was only off by a small margin) I still enjoyed the book very much.  Collins puts Katniss & Peeta (still dislike this name) back in the Hunger Games Arena and the new traps and dangers are just as compelling as in the 1st book. Acid Death Rain, Crazed Killer Monkey's, Psychotic Mimic Birds designed to drive one crazy, just very creative scenes. Collins has a wonderful, furtive imagination and again I am very happy with the direction she took. I know this is a YA novel and the love triangle has to be in it for all the star cross loved teenage girls, but it is, in my opinion, what keeps this book from being  great.  Though I think Collins does a nice job of keeping it from being utterly annoying and ridiculous, it is still there and prominent.  This book signals the beginning of the rebellion and of course Katniss is unwittingly drawn into it.  The set up for book 3, Mockingjay, is a bit predictable as I stated but none-the-less one
the reader cannot help but be giddy with anticipation.
Mockingjay is what I expected it to be.  Katniss saved from the Games and brought to District 13 where survivors have been living underground since the 1st uprising.  I knew District 13 was going to have some intricate part in this series.  They way it was mentioned in book 1 you could tell there was foreshadowing of its importance.  And of course there was.  What I like is Collins does a great job of proving that even the good guys can be bad.  A controlled state is still a controlled state no matter the intentions.  In District 13 they have to follow stringent orders, schedules, step out of line and you pay for it.  It isn't as harsh as the Capitol but the president, Coin, is a tyrant just the same as Snow.  Katniss escapes the Arena with the help of Plutarch (gamekeeper), Finnick, Beetee and Johanna.  All unknown to her and Peeta is this master plan.  Peeta gets left behind to be captured by the Capitol while Katniss is brought to District 13's underground city.  She learns that District 12 is completely destroyed the same way 13 was during the 1st rebellion.  Her mother and sister are safe as well as Gale (of course he is, can't have a love triangle with only 2).  Book 3 feels rushed and untidy, (kind of like my review), like Collins used up all her creativity and talent in the 1st 2 books and just wanted to get through this last one.  There were some really great parts, but I think the 'eh' factor overpowered those great, but sparse moments.  I feel Collins sold out and the ending was so bland, it really pissed me off.  Had she killed Katniss off instead of her sister, I think that would've made for a more emotionally charged, and more fitting, ending.  Prim becoming a strong leader in honour of her sister's sacrifice, inspiring the districts to form as one country again.  Reaping Day could've become Katniss Everdeen Day, etc.  But we got the sell-out version with an ending not worthy of the series.
Overall I will say the series was a great read.  Entertaining and compelling for the most part.  It isn't fluff, but it isn't great literature either.  I won't lump it in with fast food lit either, it's more casual dining lit.  Let me explain, if I can, lol.  Fast food lit is BK, McD's, Wendy's, etc.  It's quick, fills a need but not quite satisfying (step above fluff).  Casual dining lit is more your Chili's, Outback's, Flannigan's and the like.  You can get a decent meal at a good price but it will never be fine dining, but will always be better than fast food.  Make sense?  It does in my crazy head. LOL.  At any rate, this series is, in my opinion, Casual Dining Lit and I do recommend it b/c overall it is a really good read.  I give the whole series XX1/2 out of XXX.  As for individual book ratings I give books 1 & 2 XX and book 3 - X.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everbody."

"Don't ever tell anybody anything.  If you do, you start missing everybody."  One of the best, possibly the best last line of novel ever.  Sums up Holden Caulfield's character and stance on everything prior.  A book where your reviews almost have to start with its ending rather than its beginning.  OK now that I've covered that let's start at the beginning.
This is one of those classic novels that everyone has read or has been told to read.  It's one of those classic novels that you're made to feel like you have to read, but not only read it, you are required to like it.  One of those novels that if you don't say you like it, you are immediately ostracized by people.  Some of those people who couldn't tell you why they even liked it, just that they are supposed to like it.  I myself have hesitated even posting a review of it for fear I'll say the wrong thing and be judged by it (like that's ever stopped me b4).  I thought maybe I should read other reviews first, real critics reviews and everything ever mentioned about it so I get my review right, but then it wouldn't be my review.  I would just be mimicking other people's opinions, thoughts and feelings.  I would be in short, guilty of being a "phony" as Holden would say.  So here is my review... I liked it, a lot.  I don't think it's the greatest novel ever written, in fact if it were written today it would just be a bestseller not a legendary classic.  This is not to take away from the novel itself.  I think it was brilliantly written.  For a 32yr old Salinger to write so accurately, not just in lingo, but in every detail to sound like a sarcastic, self-absorbed, at times disgruntled, whiny 16yr old to perfection, is just nothing short of amazing.  It's like John Hughes nailing the angst of the 80's teen.  While you're reading you completely feel as if you are reading a 16yr old's diary.  I mean there is no slip up at all that alludes to this story being written by anyone other than a 16yr old.  This 16yr old being misguided, misunderstood, Holden Caulfield.  Everyone is a phony, no one understands him.  His ramblings are inane and random though affecting and at times spot on.  In short he is your basic teen.  If he were a teen in today's world he'd be diagnosed with ADD and put on Xanax or similar.  I understand that at the time it was written it was taboo, controversial and deemed corrupting and therefore banned.  But by today's standards pretty tame.  I kept thinking how innocent it all was.  When he has a hooker come to his hotel room, he doesn't do anything with her, but still pays her ($5, which is what was agreed on by the pimp, elevator operator Maurice).  I thought when she sent him to get her coat she was going to pick his wallet clean.  Nope.  She does come back with her pimp to get more money ($5 more) and still only takes the $5 she came back for.  He approaches a little kid in the park and I'm thinking oh he's gonna get called a perv or something, nope.  He even asks the little girl to get a snack with him!  I guess there was no stranger danger back in the day cause he takes two little boys that he just meets in a museum to a dark Egyptian exhibit.  I know, I know this written back in the 50's, but still...
Some mentioned or maybe I read it somewhere about the sexual depravity in the novel, so I thought oh maybe he's going to get it on with his classmates mom on the train, when he leaves Pencey, but no.  What was the sexual depravity then?  The guy he sees in the window of a hotel prancing around in ladies garments?  The couple he spies in same hotel, spitting water at each other?  Caulfield waking up to a former teacher stroking his hair?  Oh and the hooker that he doesn't have sex with.  Perhaps I'm over thinking all this or maybe I'm not intelligent enough to get it.  But basically it's a couple of nights in the life of a wealthy, spoiled, inept, insecure, opinionated, self-alienated 16yr old.  What makes this novel a classic, in my opinion, is its prose.  It was so beautifully well written.  Caulfield's random rantings are so absurd their humourous.  It's not the story that I love, it's the way it was written.  I highly recommend it for anyone that loves a truly well written work of art.  And yes I understand the individualism Caulfield represents, the snub of conventionality and f**k it all attitude to "normal" society.  It was not lost on me and I love that about Caulfield.
I'm not sure why it's so popular with assassins except maybe they're misguided nutters (obviously) and feel Caulfield is saying everyone is phony and that if he weren't yellow he'd do something about it, so they are doing something about it.  All I know is I killed a fly while I was reading it so it must have some effect on people to make them want to kill. :)
Overall is it worth reading or just an over-hyped "classic"?  Yes, it's worth reading.  I think it's one of those pieces of art that got more of a boost from "controversy" than anything else, but seriously extremely well written so it deserves that credit.  I give it **** out of 4.  As always I encourage everyone to read it and form their own opinion and please share it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

***THERE WILL BE SPOILERS***
"The song that comes to me is a simple lullaby, one we sing fretful, hungry babies to sleep with.  It's old, very old I think.  Made up long ago.  But the words are easy and soothing, promising tomorrow will be more hopeful than this awful piece of time we call today..."
I am going to be honest, I truly thought this book was going to be terrible.  I did not give it any chance what-so-ever.  In fact the only reason I read it, was because I let my book club members vote on my next book to read.  And to be perfectly honest, I had already started Catcher on the Rye before the voting was finalized because I just "knew" this book was going to awful.  I am not elitist when it comes to books, but all these "series" novels of late I would say 90% of them are shyte.  This is not to belittle anyone that loves those kind of books, this is, as always, my opinion.  I read the Fever series and thought it was horrendous.  The character development was terrible, the storyline basic and the writing at times ridiculous and I found myself rooting for the heroine to be killed so I wouldn't have to listen to her incessant whining.  I'm 1 book away from finishing that series and to be perfectly honest, I have no desire to ever finish it.  My point?  I looked at The Hunger Games as the same piece of literature as the Fever series before even reading it.  I am happy to say, I was wrong.  Completely and utterly wrong.  This was an excellent book.  I loved it.  In a literary world that has whiny, annoying, cheesy love-struck, ridiculously weak female characters (that are made to seem tough), such as Sookie, "Mac" and Bella it is refreshing to read of true strong female characters like Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander (from the Millennium series).  Women who have suffered and been wronged, but are tough enough to fight for themselves and not be remanded to a "man's" world as a sex object and plaything.  Are Katniss & Lisbeth desirable women?  Yes.  Because of character not b/c of the clothes they wear or because they are buxom blonds.  They have depth.  They aren't the pity me, I'm always in trouble, someone come save me, then when you save me, ravish me and then I will find some petty reason to be upset.  They are warriors, fighters.  OK enough about that.  Let's get to the story, which is well written and fleshed out nicely.  It it was an entertaining, suspenseful, & captivating with great character development.  I know there are many that said this book moved slow.  I, personally, did not think that at all.  I enjoyed it thoroughly from page 1 to page 374.  
So let me get to the synopsis **from the book: "In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts.  Capitol is harsh, cruel forcing them all to sen 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to death on live TV."
My synopsis:  The reader is introduced to a futuristic dystopian America called, Panem, where 13 districts make up the country.  District 13 is annihilated in the wars (kind of like Atlanta was in the Civil War) and leaves only 12 Districts.  Each district has it's own purpose to serve.  No citizen is allowed to travel between districts.  You're born in your district, you live in your district, you die in your district.  Unless you are chosen for the annual Hunger Games.  The Hunger Games was set-up by the Capitol to remind its citizens of the wars of past and keep them in place.  At the age of 12 every child must register for the Hunger Games and every year 1 boy & 1 girl from each district is chosen to participate.  It is a gruesome fight to the death as there can be only 1 winner, 1 survivor, all televised live.  Which I find ironic and maybe a bit ominous of our "reality" shows of today.  But this show is not done just for ratings it's done to keep people in tow.  What better way to subdue a people then by showing their children kill each other (brutally) on live TV.  The premise itself is not entirely original.  To me it is a hybrid of Ayn Rand and Stephen King.  The difference being (and not solely) is in a SK or Ayn Rand novel, you get the sense the hero/heroine are going to die, need to die because the story dictates it, but at the same time you hope they survive and you hungrily read page after page to find out whether they survive in the end.  With Hunger Games (HG), you know the heroine isn't going to die so in that aspect it lessens the suspense factor, but just a smidge.  HG is suspenseful and I had a hard time putting it down because Collins is a crafty writer.  I kept saying late at night, just one more chapter, just one more then I'll go to sleep.  
We are introduced to Katniss Everdeen.  A scrappy young woman who is supporting her mother and younger sister, Prim, who is 12 and entered into the Hunger Games lottery for the 1st time. (I think we all know little Prim is going to get picked at the reaping).  KatnissKatniss, remembers her fathers hunting training and soon goes off in the forbidden forest to hunt.  She meets Gale, who becomes her bff
The Reaping:  So the reaping is the part where 1 boy and 1 girl (Tributes) are chosen from each district to participate in the Hunger Games.  All citizens must report to their town centres for the "joyous festivities".  Long story short, too late, I know... Prim is chosen, Kat volunteers to take her place, you think Gale is going to be chosen but no, Peeta is.  Who the hell is Peeta?  Well Peeta is a baker's son who we find out is to be given credit for an act of kindness when he and Kat were only children and indirectly setting her on a path of finding herself and saving her.  She attributes his kindness to her deciding to fight for survival where her mother was unable to.  As they travel to the Capitol they learn more about the Games and a little about each other.  When they reach the Capitol they learn even more about the Games and even more about each other, but Kat can't figure out if Peeta is being genuine in his adulation for her or if it's part of his plan to gain her trust and make it easier to kill her later.  Herein lies the setup for the Games.  As we are all informed from the beginning there can be only one survivor and Kat is smart enough to realize this and she is skeptical of everything.  Her hunting skills are a huge asset to her in the Games where most of the other "tributes" are more polished, trained for the Games because they come from wealthier districts.  The bigger stronger, more polished kids form an alliance to hunt down the rest.  I won't get further into the Games because there's too much.  But it's some good shizz and reminiscent of the Running Man.
Another point I know some people have an issue with is the love factor in the book.  And normally I would agree 100%, but I did not have a problem with it in this book.  Had Collins try and force a romantic relationship between Katniss and Peeta this story would have failed immensely (which is why it was better it was Peeta not Gale chosen).  But she did it right.  It was obvious that Peeta was in love with Kat and that Kat was only playing it up to the audience for survival and what I like best is that she struggled even to fake it at times.  This kept it from being schmaltzy and ridiculous.  In a twist by the Game Keepers they change the rules and allow 2 winners this year, but they have to be from the same district.  So Kat & Peeta team up and of course win.  Twist from the Game Keepers, they change the rule back to only 1 winner.  As you can imagine both Peeta & Katniss were not too chiper about that.  But what I love is this, Peeta throws his knife away while Katniss has her bow & arrow all aimed at his heart.  She is a bad ass!  She is willing to do what needed to be done to survive.  Now I know some of us will say "I could never kill a human being" and I'm one of them, but put me in a life or death situation and I'm the only sole provider for my family, um I might get jungle on your ass.  But Kat is clever and in a f**k you to the Game Keepers and the Capitol she suggests to Peeta they pull a Romeo & Juliet/Blue Lagoon and eat some poison berries, this way the Game Keepers and the Capitol will be subjected to humiliation and have to deal with 12 angry districts full of people that are 1 upstart away from leading them into a revolt.  At the last minute the Game Keepers decide to let them both win.  They are the champions and out of danger, or are they...  Apparently the Capitol was none to pleased with the defiant stand against their evil whims and now Katniss is in real danger and to top it all off, she and Peeta are to maintain their "relationship" even when they get back to District 12, only Peeta doesn't know Katniss was just playing the Games.  But in fairness she believed he was too.  So it ends with Katniss in some serious shizz not just with the big bad Capitol but she has also unwittingly torn out the heart of a new friend and did the lambada on it, not purposefully, but heartbreak is heartbreak.  It ends with them on the train back to District 12 and Peeta learning that she doesn't love him the same as he does and he retreats to his own quarters and she doesn't see him until they get to District 12 where they have to continue the love/relationship charade.  You get the sense that Peeta ain't gonna be able to pull it off and put both their lives in jeopardy, but it ends with them holding hands and them about to greet the wave of reporters and Capitol media and we're left to hang until book 2.  So needless to say, I'm hungry (pun intended) for book 2, Catching Fire!  Def worth a read and I give it *** out of ****.  Stay Booked!  Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith



****THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW****
 "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal... Except for vampires..."
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not only a cool title, but also a cool concept.  I have not read Grahame-Smith's 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies', which also sounds cool, but after reading this book, I will def pick it up. I know this book may seem ridiculous to most, I will admit when I 1st saw it, I was like; "Yeah I'm not reading that".  I'm glad I changed my mind.  It absolutely blew my expectations away.  It was well written and fun to read.  Grahame-Smith does a fantastic job of intertwining historical facts with fantastical fiction.  He could have taken the story and made it silly, but he didn't.  He wrote it so straight-faced that I found myself at times thinking the non-fiction parts were true!  The historical part was just fantastic.  I never realized how little I knew of our 16th president and the dramatic life he lived.  As Grahame-Smith said himself on the Acknowledgement page; "And finally, to Abe--for living a life that hardly needed vampires to make it incredible...".  Grahame-Smith wasn't joking.  Abe experienced the death of his mother at an early age; he realizes his father wasn't the great man he had once believed; Abe lost 3 sons to early deaths, his betrothed (Ann Rutledge) died before they married; his wife (Mary Todd) fell to mental instability due to the loss of their 3 sons; he started a business and it failed.  He ran for congress and lost, he battled deep depression (from his journal he wrote of suicide more than once), and so much more.  Despite all these tragedies, setbacks, trials, Lincoln forged ahead with a strength of character and tenacity not seen in these times.  He lead a country through a war that would pit countrymen vs countrymen, brother vs brother all to do the right thing, to free people from tyranny and enslavement.  He went against the majority and never wavered, never compromised his values.  Now throw in the fiction to sweeten the pot.  Abe loses his mother to a cruel creature, vampire.  Vampires have fled Europe, for they were being hunted by Europeans for centuries, to come to America and take over the "New World".  They loved America for its cruelty toward man, black slaves.  The Union is really a group of good vampires out to rid America of the bad vampires.  Grahame-Smith goes on to "document" how if the North lost the civil war, not only would blacks remain in servitude, but ALL men/women/children would be enslaved by their new masters, vampires.  I love the connections of other iconic Americans.  Abe meets Edgar Allen Poe in Louisiana, Jefferson Davis is an evil human, helping the vampire race to enslave his own race, Henry Sturges is one of the good vampires and becomes Abe's closest and most trusted friend despite Abe's overwhelming hate for vampires and of course John Wilkes Booth, famous actor, ladies man, assassin, vampire.  I found myself hoping for something to intervene with Booth's cowardly deed, that somehow the assassination doesn't take place, but of course as we all know our history and it does indeed happen.  The only thing I will say didn't ring true, was the end.  I knew what the end was going to be, or rather I suspected what the end would be.  Throughout the book every time Abe lost a loved one, Henry Sturges offered to bring them back by turning them vampire, to which Lincoln always declined, so from that foreshadowing one could infer that Abe is coming back as a vampire.  What doesn't ring true is that throughout this entire book the reader is privy to Abe's extreme hate for the vampire race, so would he really come back as one?  I'm nitpicking of course, but I would be remiss not to mention it.  Overall an excellent read and I encourage everyone to read it.  It won't disappoint you, unless you are a vampire sympathizer, then you may not like it. :)   I rate it **** out of 4.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!