Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel - amazing book! It has taken me forever to review this book; I read it on Boxing Day last year. The protagonist Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel is an Indian boy who's father owns a zoo.

The first half of the book explores his world in this zoo & at school. I really enjoyed this part. When I was little I wanted to work at zoo. Imagine working with animals all day! Watching them grow & develop. Reading this book brought back all of those ambitions; I even looked up the qualifications needed. Unfortunately I don't think I could handle the pressure of finding a placement when there is so few. Anyway, back to the book. Born a Hindu, Pi begins to investigate religions through Christianity & Islam. He tries to understand the God that is portrayed in each religion & his place in the world. Pi's father then sells the zoo to move to Canada. Pi's family travels by boat with the animals with the plan to drop them at their new home then continue onto Canada. This is where it all goes wrong. The boat sinks & Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a orangutan & a zebra. Pi is stuck at sea for 227 days & must learn to survive without food or water while sharing a boat with a ferocious tiger.

This is a very well written book. Wonderful imagery and extremely engaging; I finished it all in one night.
The twist at the end is surprising & fantastic. Very enjoyable book & I definitely recommend it.

"Tokyo Cancelled" by Rana Dasgupta - I really didn't enjoy this book. The premise started quite well; a group of people are stranded overnight in a small airport in rural Japan. To stave away boredom they tell each other stories. This could have worked out well; interesting stories that tie the people together. However, Tokyo Cancelled isn't like this. The occasional scenes in the airport seem very disjointed from the stories & are only there to introduce the "speaker" of the next story. The stories themselves are disturbing & strange. I am usually a fan of "different" stories but these left me feeling depressed & a little disturbed. If that's your thing then fine. But it wasn't for me.

"A Hitch hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" - the "5 Book Trilogy" by Douglas Adams - loved, loved, loved, loved these books! Did I say that I loved them? I know I'm late to the bandwagon but these books are amazing. So imaginative, so funny. I spent the whole 5 books chuckling and wondering how on earth he can think of all of these things. The world lost an amazing mind when Adams passed away. There's not much more to say. Just go & read these books NOW!

"Casino Royale" by Ian Fleming - I've never been a huge fan of the Bond movies but thought I'd read the books to see of they were any better. I really enjoyed this. The action is as good as the movies and he's actually not as much of a w*nker as he is in the films. It's great to be able to see in his mind & find out how it works & how he learnt all he knows. I'm looking forward to reading the others to see if they are just as good.

"Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote - I'm a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn but can't actually remember seeing this movie. So thought I read the book before seeing the movie again. Of course, knowing that Hepburn plays the role in the movie I could only read this with Hepburn in the character. Either way, it was a very enjoyable book. The characters are well written & the story is engaging. It's a very short story but definitely a classic.

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" by John Boyne - I actually gave this book to my dad for Christmas & borrowed it off him after he had read it. It's technically a Young Adult book but I enjoyed it anyway. Some of the best books are classed as YA - Tomorrow When the War Began series anyone?

The book is extraordinary; it tells the story of Bruno, the son of a Nazi Commandant, who moves with his family to "Out-With" (Auschwitz). 8 year old Bruno is very naive & is unaware of who the people are that live in the buildings next to his house, who are lucky enough to wear striped pajamas everywhere. Feeling lonely & homesick for his friends in Berlin, Bruno begins to investigate along the fence that separates the two worlds. Here he meets Shmuel, a sad boy on striped pajamas. Bruno still doesn't know who these people are & is completely unaware of the tragedy surrounding him. All he knows is that these people seem unhappy, his friend is always hungry & he has to behave when the "Fury" (Fuhrer) comes to visit.

The book caused a lot of controversy with Semitic groups who said that is was inconceivable that people surrounding the death camps couldn't know what was going on. Also, it has apparently been recorded that there was no children Schumel's age still alive in the camps.
I think it's Bruno's naive ignorance that adds further depth to the suffering of the Jews. He doesn't know who they are or why they are there be still seems to know that it is wrong. It also forces the reader to look at the situation differently; how would you feel about it if you didn't know the whole story behind the holocaust? A well-written & thought provoking book.

"A Series of Unfortunate Events" (The 1st 3 books) by Lemony Snicket - I had seen the movie but hadn't read the books. I was at my parents' house with nothing to read so borrowed my sister's book. Loved it! Such dark, sarcastic humor. Most of it would be likely to go over the heads of the children it is marketed towards but I thought it was fantastic.

"A Catcher in the Rye" by J.D Salinger - this was another classic that I had been meaning to read for ages. It's been awhile since I read it now so I'm having a bit of trouble remembering it, but I liked it. I'm not sure it I quite understand why it is seen as such a great American novel but I did think it was very well written. Not much to the story but what there was, was good.

"The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle - OK, yes. I did buy this book after I saw the new movie with Robert Downey Jr. However, it was mostly because I realised then that I had never read any Holmes stories. I had been missing out. Of course, Downey Jr was Holmes for me as I was reading but I was fine with that. I will confess that I couldn't work out the mysteries until they were solved & I loved the fact that it was true that they never actually fought anyone, instead only "apprehend the suspect". Great read.

"Saving Francesca" & "The Piper's Son" by Melina Marchetta - Marchetta's other novel "Looking for Alibrandi" is one of my all time favourites. It's a common year 12 text, but I read it in about year 9 for fun. A classic Australian novel of teenage angst, the characters are real & moving.
"Saving Francesca" & "The Piper's Son" rate right up there with it. Francesca is in her final years at school & has been moved to an all boys school; she is one of the first intake of 40 girls in a school of over 200 boys. Not only does she have to deal with annoying & misogynistic teenage boys but all of a sudden her bright & vivacious mum won't get out of bed. She's lonely at school, her home life has gone to hell. The school prefect annoys her, especially in the way that he is just so perfect, and the way that he speaks, and speaks directly to her. Then sanity is suddenly found in her bunch of misfit friends, an unlikely group of people as ever.

"The Piper's Son" follows one of these friends, Tom, in the years after school as he struggles to find himself again after going off the tracks with drugs. He moves in with his single, pregnant aunt & starts to work at the same pub as Francesca & some of their other friends. His relationships struggle: Frankie & their friends no longer talk to him, his mother & sister moved to QLD & no one knows where his drunkard father is.

I have to say, I may even think these books are better than Alibrandi. Once again I read them both in one sitting - staying up until 3am to finish them even though I knew Lily would be up at 5am. I read Francesca first & then had to buy the Piper's Son. Like Alibrandi the characters are engaging & "real" & the plot is moving.

The strangest thing I found is that the books are set in Sydney & actually in the area in which I live. It would sometimes draw me out of the book when I'd read that they were visiting a cafe just up the road from me or walking down a road that I quite often walk down.

But that's just a minor complaint. These are great books & I've already lent them out for someone else to read.

"The Princess Bride" by William Goldman - this is a book that I'd been told for ages to read. Also, I'd always heard many people say that the movie was one of their favourites.

Now, I haven't seen the movie but I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the book. It was enjoyable but wasn't as fun as I expected. The whole (fake) premise that the book is an edited version of one that was read to the author when he was a child just ended up being ... annoying in the end. The little interjections from the author about what was cut etc just seemed too fake & distracted from the story, in my opinion.

Without these aspects & with a more complex plot it would have been an extremely enjoyable book; the humor was great & the story telling wasn't too bad.

"Rabbit, Run" by John Updike - it's not often that I read a book that I dislike. It is even less often that I read a book where I dislike the protagonist.

Rabbit, Run tells the story of Rabbit, a middle aged man who was a big shot basketball player in high school but lost it all through injury. One night he decides to leave his pregnant wife & 2yo son & drive across the country. Halfway there he changes his mind & drives back. Instead of going home he visits his old coach. Through him Rabbit meets another girl, who used to be a prostitute & shacks up with her. He eventually goes back to his wife after she has the baby as he thinks it's the right thing to do. They fight because she won't have sex with him only weeks after having the baby & he leaves again. When he is still not back the next day the wife starts to drink while looking after the kids. Going to give the baby a bath she accidentally drowns her & at the funeral Rabbit tells her that it's all her fault before running away again.

The book is set in the early 60's and much of the values of the day can be seen - Rabbit leaves his wife because he doesn't like her anymore & immediately starts living with this other lady because she is a "loose woman" & will therefore have sex with him. He only goes back to his wife because she has the baby & feels like a saint because this was the "right thing to do".

I spent the whole book angry at him & only finished it out of a strange sense of obligation. The drowning of the baby was horrific, especially as my baby is only 3 months old & just added to the overall depressing feel of the book.

I also wasn't a big fan of the author's writing style; I ended up skipping large sections as he had a tendency to waffle on describing everything in a overly poetic & verbose way.

I read the epilogue to discover that there is another 3 or so books with the same character but I definitely won't be rushing out to read them.

STILL TO READ

"The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche
"Einstein" by Walter Isaacson
"The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
"War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy (if I ever find it again. How on earth could you lose this book in a tiny house?!)
"A Confession" by Leo Tolstoy
"Monet & The Impressionists" by George T M Shackelford & Terence Maloon
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins
"The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain De Botton
"The Beatles and Philosophy"
"Derrida: writing and difference"
"Twitterature"
"Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D. H. Lawrence
"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain
"Tofu Landing" by Evan Maloney
"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams
"The Stars' Tennis Balls" by Stephen Fry
"Paperweight" by Stephen Fry
"Making History" by Stephen Fry
"Moab is My Washpot" by Stephen Fry
"The Salmon of Doubt" by Douglas Adams
"The Hippopotamus" by Stephen Fry
"Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams

STILL TO BUY

"Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffengger
"The Slap" by Christos Tsiolkas
"Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson
"Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss
"Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
"The Wild Things" by David Eggers
"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
"Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hossein
"And Another Thing" by Eoin Colfer
The Bonds Series by Ian Fleming
"Finnikin of the Rock" by Melina Marchetta

1 comment:

Kylie said...

Great reviews! I love love love The Life of Pi. It's one of my all time favourite books.
Regardless of whether there were children of Shmuels age in the camps, or if you could or couldn't live near the camps without knowing what was going on, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas provides a great jumping off point for discussing this sensitive subject with children.
I loved the first couple of Series of Unfortunate Events as well, but found some of the later books lacking something. It will be interesting to see what you think of the rest.
I love Melina Marchetta as well although I haven't read The Pipers son. Will need to add it to my list!
I've never been able to read the Princess Bride either. For me, one of the few examples where the movie is so much better than the book.