Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Einstein's Dreams

Einstein's Dreams
by Alan Lightman

Not a fan. The writing is stylish, but since there's no real plot to the book, the book kind of gets repetitive.

And I think I had the same problem with this book that I did with books such as The Giver by Lois Lowry or Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The problem is more evident in those previous books, but at times in Einstein's Dreams, it seems like Lightman is trying to push an opinion, such as it's not worth it to want to live forever or to want to slow down time. But since each chapter is so short and he doesn't expand on one particular idea for too long, the reasoning for those opinions comes across as both half-baked and clumsy.

(Saw a recommendation on Amazon)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase
by Haruki Murakami

Murakami's writing is excellent. His topics may be slightly odd and surrealist for some people's taste, but whenever I pick up any of his books, his writing hooks me and I polish them off in a couple of days.

Of the books of his that I've read, I've found that a striking similarity between them. The main character is usually an average guy who really likes reading, drinking in a regular bar, jazz, and keys in on rather mundane body parts of a woman like ears. The character usually has to go investigate something or find someone and relationships play a large role in the plot (and are well described). And the endings can be sometimes be frustratingly supernatural/surrealist (which could very well be some cultural difference that I'm missing out on).

A Wild Sheep Chase follows this pattern. The main character finds himself attracted to a woman with spectacularly sexy ears and ends up going out with her. Meanwhile while working as a graphic designer for a small company, he is tracked down by a powerful and mysterious boss because of a picture that he put in a client's advertisement. This picture contains a sheep with a star on its fur and this sheep is a special one, having something to do with the boss's rise to power and ability to control a great deal of companies and politics. As a result, the main character is coerced into a quest to find this sheep.

Bizarre plot, eh?

Well it's good reading as usual and had me hooked to the last page. If you've never read any Murakami, I'd suggest you pick up any of his books and give him a shot.

(Recommended by Shan)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

All Souls: A Family Story From Southie

All Souls: A Family Story From Southie
Michael Patrick MacDonald

Having lived in Massachusetts my whole life and now having lived in the Boston area for the past 6 years, it was interesting reading about a region of Boston that I had heard about, but knew little of: Southie.

Southie is located south of downtown Boston, and in the past, was home to a very poor and mostly Irish community. It's most well known for a great deal of violence (unreported murders, suicides, and drug and gangster activity) in the 60's and 70's.

The book is a memoir of Michael growing up in those violent and chaotic times. To be honest, I had trouble getting into the book for quite some time, but I am not sure if this was purposeful or not. The memoir follows Michael from when he is quite young and in the beginning, things are told as an observant child would, sticking to straight descriptions of actions and events. But as Michael grows up, the narration of the events becomes more reflective and relationships and reasons for events begin to clear up for him as well as for the reader. It's as if you found someone's diary, who had written in it for 30 some odd years and you read it through chronologically.

This method of narrating provides the reader the sense that he is growing along side of Michael and as a result, when he starts to describe the tragedies that befall his family, it's downright devastating. And this is the key to the book. Families all over Southie were dealing with their own suicides and murders and drug overdoses, yet kept the pain to themselves and would not acknowledge the violence as a wide spread problem.

I'm oversimplifying as always, but I found myself quite touched with the book. And in the end I really understood why Michael loved being in Southie so much and felt the need to return there to help out when he was older.

All in all, it was quite a worthwhile read.

(Laying around. Shan's)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Eragon

Eragon
by Christopher Paolini

Another book borrowed from a coworker, this one I had more trouble getting into initially and certain writing passages seemed a little too wordy and explicit. And as my coworker pointed out when he first handed it over, it heavily borrows from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But I think that once you realize that Christopher was 15 years old when he finished it, you give him some leeway.

This book involves dragons and dragon-riders, which puts it squarely in the fantasy genre. And it is another coming-of-age story. But what I found unique about this book were the things that the main character learnt as he grew up. Of course, he had to learn the cool magic spells and the sword-fighting and how to ride his dragon. But things like learning to purposely act independently of a respected leader's suggestion, or telling white lies to family members, or other relationship/communication details really gave this firmly fantasy book a realistic sheen to it.

Worth a read, but not a classic or a favorite.

(Recommended to me by Mark)

Abhorsen Trilogy


Sabriel

Lirael

Abhorsen

by Garth Nix

Borrowed from a coworker, I got caught up in these books big-time. It is very much fantasy reading, involving magic, spells, swords, talking animals, kings and queens. But it is set in modern time (or at least 1900's) where there are guns, soldiers, churches, etc, the link being that the fantasy magic is mainly restricted to one part of the land and the rest of the world is mainly non-magical.

I think the thing that draws you in about the books is the coming-of-age narrative. In both Sabriel and the Lirael/Abhorsen storylines, the female protagonists start off as clueless characters and you follow as they learn their trade, travel and fight progressively stronger bad guys. Yeah, I'm making it sound like a cheap fantasy video-game, but I can definitely see these books appealing to both boys and girls.

Maybe the best thing I can say about these books is that they got me wanting to read more after I was finished.

(Recommended to me by Mark)