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Library Loot – We Meet Again!

March 9, 2012

Went to the library. Got three books. Here they are:

  • Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane – This is Lehane’s sixth book in his Kenzie and Gennaro series. It’s a sequel to the early novel, Gone Baby Gone. I’m a fan of the series so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.
  • Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley – I’ve never read a Walter Mosley novel and so pick this one up. It’s from the Easy Rawlins series.
  • Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie – Haven’t read any of his books, saw this and I’ve heard good things about it.




Library Loot (The Online Edition)

March 5, 2012

I didn’t get any new books from the library as I still have most of the books from last time to read. I did, however, reserve a couple from the online library portal.

  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo – I’ve had this one by tbr list since last year so I thought might as well reserve it. It one the Pulitzer in 2002 and I’m quite excited to read it.
  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro – I wrote a post on this book. I just thought it sounded interesting and got it on a whim. Hope it’s good!
  • Grendel by John Gardner – Another from my tbr list. This is a re-telling of Beowulf through the eyes of Grendel.
  • Night Passage & Trouble in Paradise by Robert B. Parker – I’ve read two of his books and enjoyed them so I got some more.

The Monthly Review: February

March 1, 2012

Reading Review

I’ve had a mixed reading experience this month, most of the books I’ve read haven’t stood out. A couple were disappointing, I expected to enjoy them more than I did. I would probably say that Dune was the most disappointing and perhaps the worst book I read in February. I abandoned one book which was Leviathan Wakes.

I’m hoping in March that I’ll have a better reading experience. There’s a couple of books that I’m looking forward to reading especially Libra by Don DeLillo. I’m enjoying Half Blood Blues although my reading has slowed down in the last couple of days, so I need to pick the pace up.

The best book I read this month was Darkness Visible by William Styron. I should have the review up either this week or the next (probably next week).

Blog Review

I’ve had a good month for blogging. I’ve got back into the swing of things and I’ve been able to post nearly everyday. I’ve reviewed ten books this month which is cool. I’m scheduling my reviews now so whenever I feel like writing a review I’ll write a couple of them because sometimes I don’t feel like writing anything but at least I’ve got something to post.

I reviewed the following:

Nine Princes of Amber

Young Hearts Crying

A Clash of Kings

The Act of Roger Murgatroyd


The Matisse Stories, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time & The Tales of Beedle the Bard

No Rest for the Dead

Screwtop Thompson

Review: Three Books

February 29, 2012

Just quick reviews here:

In The Matisse Stories, A.S. Byatt produces three short stories that have been inspired by a Matisse painting. The first story follows a middle-aged woman coming face-to-face with her own morality culminating in her wrecking a hair salon; the second follows an editor and her failed painter husband and their maid and the third follows a conversation between two academics, one of which has been accused of sexual assault by a student.

The connection to Matisse isn’t specific; apart from the last story, but each story is incredibly focused on every little detail. Byatt does — wait for it — paint with words, slowly moving over a scene as if she’s studying a painting, inch-by-inch. While she certainly isn’t lost for words, I found the writing to be overwrought — it’s description without any plot and it didn’t offer me anything. I found it very dry, she never varied her sentences so it was just this prevailing sense of plodding along reading description after description of every single thing.

It wasn’t really my cup of tea.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a two, unconnected, short stories. The first — which is the more famous of the two, being made as an anime and a couple of live-action films — follows Kazuko who is accidentally exposed to a scent that allows her to time travel. The second is about Masako who is determined to find out why she’s so petrified whenever she sees a mask.

These are extremely slight, almost threadbare tales that offer nothing. It’s written in a simplistic manner, offering no depth for the characters. It’s very much like reading a summary of events. You’d be able to read it in about 30 minutes but you’ll get no substance out of it. It isn’t even good for escapism. Meh.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of fairy tales from the Harry Potter universe. You’re not going to find anything groundbreaking here. They aren’t that great and not very taxing but as a quick read you could do a lot worse.

Review: Dune

February 27, 2012

Author: Frank Herbert

Title: Dune

Published: 1965

Pages: 608

Dune is pretty much seen as one of the, if not the, seminal pieces of science fiction literature. Unfortunately, this raises the expectations of the reader and ultimately, it failed to live up to mine. The plot follows House Atredies who are sent to govern Arrakis — a desert planet that produces the most valuable commodity: melange. They have taken over from House Harkonnen but the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has set up the Duke Atredies to be assassinated.

The first quarter, even the first half of the novel was fine; Herbert does a fine job of setting up an intriguing plot that gives you hope that it’ll lead to something. There’s not much tension — you’re pretty much told what we’ll happen — and the constant forays into characters’ thoughts come across as corny. They reminded me of those bad American soap operas where you can actually hear the character think. The novel is a strange sort of mixture of science fiction and fantasy and Herbert does a good job of describing this futuristic cum medieval court setting. And it is impressive world-building that he created even if it’s pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. For a stunningly better written novel that takes place in a quasi-medieval setting look no further than A Canticle for Leibowitz.

However, once the assassination of Duke Leo Atredies takes place and Paul and his mother have escaped into the desert the story delves into a myriad of slop. Herbert obviously did a lot of research; there’s things about mediation, psychology, religion, anthropology, but it all comes across as if he just threw it all in without much thought of what it’s doing there. I know people will probably say that it’s a highly intelligent novel and I’m sure Herbert was a clever guy but I just never got the impression that the novel was anything other than a run-of-the-mill hero narrative. The plot really isn’t very complex and often it seems the only reason it is perceived as being this labyrinth story is because Herbert does a poor job of explaining anything. I’m not a great fan of appendixes and glossary in fiction because it often seems like the author isn’t a good enough writer to weave the information into the main story.

None of the characters amounted to anything other than one-dimensional. You can’t identify with anyone because, even when we can read their thoughts, Herbert always keeps them at a distance. Paul and Jessica’s frame of reference is too wishy-washy to hold onto and the other characters never get a chance to do anything but move the plot along. Paul comes across as an obnoxious, whiny brat that you fail to see why anyway would want to follow him. Herbert said that one of the themes of Dune was humanity’s tendency to follow a charismatic leader. Yet, Herbert wrote Paul as so anti-charismatic that this idea becomes laughable.

Plus, it’s pretty much a simple case of good guys versus bad guys. The Harkonens are your typical “Hollywood” bad guys. They are gluttonous, murderous, deviants. The Baron Harkonen can’t be just a man who wants power (or something, his motivation is unclear) he has to be fat and a homosexual. The Attredies are essentially honourable and a decent lot. The Fremen who are supposed to be these mystical, “one with the desert” nomads are your typical kind of hocus-pocus foreign types. I always have my misgivings whenever an author appropriates a foreign language — in this case, Arabic — because it’s mostly used as a way to mysticise them. Herbert often sprinkles in Arabic or faux-Arabic to create some semblance of mystique about these people.

In the end, I’m really not sure why I actually finished this novel. I can understand why people would love the novel but it just didn’t do anything for me. Plus, it’s far too po-faced for me. There is no humour, no laughter just a endless sludge through a world of miserable poo-poo heads.

Oscars 2012: The Actual Winners

February 27, 2012


Meryl “the winner of countless over dramatic and unsubtle performances goes to” Streep. Watching it made me realise that Glenn Close really deserves to win an Oscar one day. Also, let’s hope that Michelle Williams gets one soon – great in Blue Valentine, great in My Week with Marilyn.

Apart from that the awards were pretty much run-of-the-mill Oscar stuff and pretty predictable. Hugo won Best Cinematography which, I’m sorry, was ridiculous. Yay for Midnight in Paris. Obviously Gary Oldman wasn’t going to win but bloody hell first nomination. Of course Man or Muppet was going to win, I mean Real in Rio? seriously?? Christopher Plummer…no surprises, same with Octavia Spencer.

And Best Picture went to the film that absolutely no one would have predicated would win. I doubt most people had even heard of it…something called The Artist. Yeah. No surprises there.

It was pretty decent, Crystal did a good enough job and you had the typical, cringeworthy scripted banter although I liked Emma Stone (how can you not) and Ben Stiller little skit. They really need to stop with the whole tributes for the Best Actor/Actress. Also, the montages explaining how great the movies are…yeah, we get it films are magical where dreams come true. Best moment? When Dean Pelton won an Oscar and struck that daft pose Angelina Jolie made…

Library Loot

February 24, 2012

Wahey, got me self a library booty! Me hearties!

  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – (This intrigued me ever since reading about it on Farm Lane Books.)
  • The Killer is Dying by James Sallis – (I read Drive last year, liked the style and wanted to try another of Sallis’ work.)
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter – (I wasn’t that impressed by The Magic Toyshop but I thought her short story collection, Fireworks, was impressive at times.)
  • Painted Ladies & Sixkill by Robert B. Parker – (I read Night & Day last month and found it an easy, enjoyable enough read. It was good enough for me to seek out some of his other books)
  • The Accident by Ismail Kadare – (Looked interesting.)
  • Libra by DeLillo – (I’ve liked what I’ve read from DeLillo)