Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Moby Dick

Moby-Dick; or, The WhaleMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moby Dick is both the best and the worst book I've ever read. When it comes to symbolism-which I love-characters, and just, gee gosh, poetic prose, there is no finer book in the English language. But when it comes to actual storytelling, good God. Who was your editor, Melville? Do you care about the size of a whale's head? No? Sorry, dude. the next seven pages are just about that. Do you want to know how to catch a whale? No? Sorry, dude. This next whole chapter is about that very topic. What about the laws involving actually catching a whale? Surely you want to learn about that. No? Well, I don't know what to tell you. This next section is focused solely on that concept. I mean, jeez, man. This is like two totally different books. One is a rich tale about gods (or the absence of God) and monsters, of homosexuality and nature. And the other book is How to tame your whale. Still and all, the good is so good that it still makes this an American classic. I just wish it had less to say about whales! All the same, read it. Or at least skim it. It's definitely worth your time.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: 'Tis

'Tis (Frank McCourt, #2)'Tis by Frank McCourt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have finally finished the trilogy, written by the great Frank McCourt. It's crazy that he made a whole career out of writing about his life. What's even crazier is that this book, unlike the first, Angela's Ashes, or the third, Teacher Man, doesn't actually tell much of a story at all, but may be my favorite of the three. I drum it up to the humor. There are times in this book when Frank McCourt is just being reminiscent of some of the livelier characters in his life, and he still makes it super compelling. Something like getting a degree in English is an adventure in Frank McCourt's world, and it was an adventure I enjoyed traveling on. A skilled writer and a phenomenal teacher-by how he tells it. A great book, overall.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Zahir

The ZahirThe Zahir by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a strange book. I've never read The Alchemist, even though I'm probably the only reader on the planet who hasn't, so this is my first book by Paulo Coelho. But I can understand why people like him. He's like a spiritual version of Ayn Rand, and by that, I mean he has a single message in mind that courses through his work. His message is one of finding the true meaning of life...whatever that is. I'm not sure I could read another book of his and take all that spiritual claptrap, but one book works for me, so I guess this will be that book.

Anywho, the story centers around an insufferable writer (at first) who loses his wife. But, he doesn't really "lose" her in the sense that we would typically think of. She hasn't died after all. At least not physically. But emotionally, she's dead to him. Their marriage has reached the point of ennui. She has lost her love for her husband (Or has she) and decided to leave him without giving a word of where she was going, and the author, who at first takes on a string of girlfriends, finally realizes that he misses her. In that way, his wife becomes his "Zahir," which is an object or thing that is in plain view that never goes away, but we still can't attain it, which ultimately drives us crazy.

Didn't I tell you this was a strange book? But that's not why it's so strange. It's the ending. What a downer. I really like the ending because it's not traditional. I won't spoil it here, but it really muddles the message for me, which I like. This is not the story of struggling and finally finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It's not some gritty, realistic ending either and it stays within the bounds of everything that is presented before it, so it doesn't just come out of left field. But I could understand why some might not appreciate it for what it is. Either way, by the halfway point of this book, I was really annoyed by the protagonist. But by the time the story reached the end, I found that I was engrossed and wanted to know how it would conclude. An interesting story, to be sure. I don't recommend it for everyone, but it has its merits and an interesting ending. I enjoyed it.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The Dead Zone

The Dead ZoneThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my co-workers caught me reading this book, and she was like, do you like Stephen King? I said I did, and she was like, really? As if liking Stephen King was beneath me or something. But I love Stephen King and I've read most of his books. The man said so himself. He's the McDonald's of storytelling. And like McDonald's, some items on the menu are better than others. When it comes to that analogy, Drawing of the Three (the second book in the Dark Tower series) is a McRib Sandwich with a Shamrock shake with fries. The Dead Zone is more like a twenty piece box of chicken McNuggets. It's good for awhile, but then it wears out its welcome, and you're like, maybe I should have ordered something else. Like some fries or something. The problem with this book is that it's lopsided. Some sections are the best I think I've ever read of Stephen King-like the hunt for a vicious serial killer-while other parts just fall flat. Especially the third act, which is a little hokey. In the end, it's an okay book that reads at a brisk pace, but it's not one of his stronger works. I'd rather just go to another fast food joint over this one. Read it if you want to see a happy ending to the Trump Presidency.

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Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never Let Me Go is a good book. It's sci-fi, but decidedly not sci-fi. It kind of feels like, in tone, anyway, an emo Handmaid's Tale. The story is very confusing until you realize just what's going on, and when you do, it all peels apart like a satisfyingly sweet onion. It does have its slow parts, but I like the author's restraint and patience. It could have been a disturbing story, but it turns out being heartfelt instead A fascinating book. Give it a read.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: The Sweet Forever

The Sweet ForeverThe Sweet Forever by George Pelecanos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy smokes! What a book! Do you like The Wire? If so, then you will love this novel. Cops are crooked (but not all bad), criminals are evil (but not one-dimensional) and the streets of DC are a Coke-fueled war zone. Len Bias is actually a uniting thread throughout the story, and if you know anything about Len Bias's tragic end, then you already know the overall arc of this story. I now NEED to read every book in this cycle, which is kind of like August Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle, but with far less stories and set in D.C. Just a masterful work of crime fiction. Great stuff! Pick it up if you can find it

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Review: Sons and Lovers

Sons and LoversSons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Now here is a book that could have easily been 200 less pages. I mainly wanted to read it because of another book I read called Dubin's Lives by Bernard Malamud. It was about a biographer who was struggling to write a bio on D.H. Lawrence. Have you ever wanted to read another book because it was mentioned in a book you liked? If so, then you have probably felt the sting of it not being nearly as good as you were hoping it would be, and that's the problem with Sons and Lovers. It's a mostly autobiographical look at the author's mommy issues and his love of a married woman. The only problem though is that D.H., or Paul as he's called here, is one of the most boring aspects of this book. The more interesting characters are his older brother and his father, who kind of fade into the background for part 2 of the story, which is a major slog. But that first part is pretty damn good, which is why I'm giving this book three stars instead of two. Or even one. Anyway, it may be a classic, but it doesn't deserve to be. Don't read it unless you have to.

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