Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon

At once, Chabon’s prose transports you over a thousand years into the past to a world of swordsmen and swindlers. If the text seems verbose, that’s because it is and the prolific use of virtually unknown and archaic words may get you down (especially we younger folk). My advice, just go with it and stop reaching for the dictionary. By page forty, many of the terms became self-explanatory and I enjoyed the story without worrying about them. And as far as the story goes, it’s great – a true adventure tale that reminds me of The Hobbit without the fantastic dragon. Don’t get me wrong, Gentlemen is historical fiction and not fantasy. But two unlikely friends, on the road in search of glory and fortune, do remind me of hobbits and dwarfs in Tolkien’s story. I’ve read Chabon’s short story collection, Werewolves in Their Youth (which I didn’t care for), but Gentlemen is completely different. It’s got plenty of humor, fight scenes, elephants and a twist I didn’t see coming. Chabon’s style is elegant and his recreation of a lost era masterful.
Rating: 3 stars                          Pages: with afterword, 204
Publisher: Del Rey Books Trade Paperback Edition, copyright 2007
Source: Barnes and Noble     More on this author at:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

This is the second science fiction text I've read by Crichton and, as much as I like science, the technical, scientific explanations slow down the plot. For this reason, I often became bored even though dino DNA is all very interesting. However, at about page 180 (of 399 in my copy) the action picked up. So, if you can last that long, you'll be sucked in and want to finish. Watching the movie before reading the book no doubt skewed my perception of the characters. Hammond, the island owner, was certainly not what I expected and his textual character seemed unbelievable. On the other hand, Malcolm, the mathematician, was magnified in the text and his chaos theory ramblings were entertaining. The book has decent closure considering there is a sequel. The movie is a very good compact and compressed version of the book. Generally, if I don’t like a book by page 80 I quit. But my husband is an avid Crichton fan… Nonetheless, with such a slow beginning, my rating is low.
Rating: 2 stars

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

What I liked about Uglies, book one of a trilogy, is that it features a girl as the protagonist which is hard to come by in survival, adventure, and sci-fi genres. The appeal is all for young teens. What group of people frets more about their looks than young adults? The story was a little silly for me at times although I did enjoy this quick read overall. It was a unique plot that explored ways the trend toward equality might be taken to the extreme and at the cost of our humanity. In other words, it encourges young people to appreciate differences in each other instead of all trying to be the same. If I was ten years younger I would have greatly enjoyed it. As an adult, it was a little fluffy. Most disatisfying was the lack of conclusion at the end of the 425 page book. I like a good teaser ending but Uglies didn't offer any wrap-up to book one. Westerfeld wrote a female character very well. Tally is believable and easy to identify with. Despite the length this is a quick read. If you have time and want to read something strickly for fun Uglies may be your choice.
Rating: 2.5 stars

My Life as Fiction

I have begun writing. I'm calling it fiction even though I draw alot from memory. It's a short story about a young couple who take a road trip to California much like the one my husband and I took - so much so that instead of calling the characgters Jon and Michelle their names are Ron and Elle. Jon likes that. In his book "On Writing" Stephen King reports that real writers don't watch TV. They read and write then read some more. Much of what King says about teaching writing is bogus - all that about good writers never become great writers because either you have it or you don't. Whatever. But I figure, I hate TV anyways (I want to punch the Bachelor in the face) so I'll begin writing a story. I've started with memories, something I know - traveling to the west coast. It's easier for me. This is, after all, the first bit of fiction I've attempted since the 3rd grade. I'm always looking for story suggestions so if you have an idea let me know.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

A collection of short stories and poems, War Dances regards serious subjects (like death, race, sex and marriage) in a humorous light. This is the second Alexie book I’ve read and I appreciate his clairvoyance and directness. He is not afraid to offend in jest or for real and I actually enjoy authors who don’t beat around the bush but lay things out in the open, even if I don’t agree with (what I think is) “the message.” In War Dances, Alexie captures the multifaceted culture of the U.S. like no author I've read so far. Alexie fans will like War Dances and if you’re new to Alexie jump in and read this. He's one of today's authors you need to try out.

Favorites: “The Limited,” Breaking and Entering, War Dances, “Roman Catholic Haiku.”
Disliked: The Senator’s Son and The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless

Publisher: Grove Press, 2009    Pages: 209
Rating: 4 stars     Source: Personal Copy
Other Alexie Reads: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian: 5 stars, YA Novel

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This young adult novel caught my interest early and held it for the entire read. Every chapter ended in suspense. I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery with the characters as events unfolded. The character development is a little slim but how could there be much when the characters don't know who they are, only their names. So, really the characters developed as they learned more about who they are. I'm sure book two will offer more development about the Gladers. Thomas and the Gladers are up against an unusual force of evil and it takes all their abilities to solve the maze. The Maze Runner is a fun read that explores how friendship and trust complicate the survival of the fittest. I can't wait for book two!
Rating: 4 stars

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Gunslinger is a Slow Draw

After reaching page 120 I have given up on King's The Gunslinger. What a lousy book. The first page was deceptively awesome. It had a good story idea but became increasingly boring. The book takes itself too seriously. Perhaps with more humor it could have pulled some of the scenes off. Maybe in the future I'll give King's fiction another try. But The Gunslinger is a big pass for me.