Friday, July 27, 2007

Long Time Coming: The Book(s) Review: Part One

Here are a few reviews from books I've read the past few months. It's taken me weeks to get this written, but there are still a few more I want to recommend. Summer reading! Get to it!

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
We saw the movie shortly after it came out on DVD and I find that I often want to read the book version of a good movie. I expected these stories (for there are actually five full novels and one short story in this collection) to be more childish and turned for a younger audience, yet I found that the humor quite often wasn't necessarily appropriate for kids.

That said, it was well-written, extremely creative and laugh-out-loud funny. I couldn't stop with just one of the stories, but had to keep reading until I had finished the whole collection. The characters were easy to relate to, even when they were aliens. These stories were utterly ridiculous and unendingly inventive. I'd very likely read through this again.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

One of my favorite non-fiction authors is Lauren Winner. I've read every book she's ever written and many of those more than once. She has admitted that the Mitford series was one of the steps that brought her to Christianity and she herself finds this funny. It's not intellectual or deep and fraught with hidden meaning. It's just a lovely story of an Episcopal minister and the flock he shepherds. The life and love of a small community.

The book reads easily and quickly. You can see yourself friends with many of the characters and interested in their daily pursuits. I found myself wanting to plant some of the flowers that the main character was putting into his garden. Plus, I liked that it wasn't too short. I enjoy a book I can read through in an afternoon, but those can also be more forgetful as I haven't spent much time with them.

Poland by James A. Michener

Speaking of a long book...A Michener novel never fails to take me several weeks to finish. The first book of his that I ever picked up was The Source and ever since I have been happily hooked. He follows a few families through decades (and sometimes centuries or more) and traces history through monumental events that you may never have realized were so pivotal.

Every time I finish one of his stories, I search for more information. I want to know more about the histories I just read and I find myself almost wanting to go back to school to study. He finds a way to weave a tale through so many events, so many years and so many people that you could easily be overwhelmed, but you're not. You're just trapped inside the context and folklore and passions and tragedy. And you're very happy to stay there.

Poland did not disappoint. I learned more about Eastern Europe and the lives of the nobility and peasants in a manner that didn't feel like a lecture, but like an epic journey through the past. If this part of history doesn't interest you, there's always Hawaii, one of my other favorites by Mr. M. Next on my list from him: The Covenant, Caribbean and Mexico.

Blindness by Jose Saramago

I loved this book--it was so interesting, fresh and different. The premise is that a man driving down the road is suddenly and inexplicably stricken with blindness. And then it becomes contagious. An uncontrollable epidemic. You can imagine the fear and terror that spread and the resulting governmental insanity. The story progresses in a horrid downward spiral as all those infected are rounded up and kept together in an abandoned asylum. No one to help them, food drops thrown in once a day, riots breaking out amongst the blind.

This was one of those books so well-written that you find yourself thinking it's really happening. When you put it down, you wonder if you'll catch the disease. It's intellectual and thought-provoking, not letting you just absorb the story, but forcing you to think it through. The sequel is Seeing and I'm anxious to pick it up.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is one that I believe I should have read back in high school sometime, but didn't. It's a classic and well-known by many. While I'm not given for conspiracy theories, I did enjoy the writing style and flow of this book. Plus, I always like a futuristic sci-fi story and this delivers such an interesting view of a possible future without books I was engrossed. A world without literature seems so highly unlikely to me. Especially with the advent of blogs and the new type of author that is being developed through this genre, readers are open to more and embracing the written word like never before.

Hubby and I discussed the novel after I read it as he was a fan of Bradbury years ago. It seems that our generation (and a few around us) is prone to questioning everything. To not be content with the information we are given and to want a better explanation for why. A few generations before us, one didn't discuss unpleasant or embarrassing situations, whereas now pretty much everything is open for debate and dissection. What will future generations bring? With texting the main form of communication for today's teen, does real discussion also happen face to face? I have found a couple excellent teen blogs, both well-written and thoughtful. It's just so interesting to wonder what the future will truly look like. I'm still holding out for my flying car.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I'm not even going to attempt to write a review of this book. Heather Anne did it better than I ever could. It arrived in my mailbox (presumably by Owl) Saturday morning and I finished it by Saturday evening. I can't wait to read it again.


Jean said...

All of these sound really interesting. Especially the Blindness book. Though I need to get through my stack you gave me FIRST before I start up another stack.. :)

And for some reason, I thought Fahrenheit 451 was a movie too, and sure enough, there is one. Made in 1966 (though I thought there was a more recent one made too...).

kerrianne said...

I love the last two on your list. "Deathly Hallows" was my all-time favorite Potter book. Hands down. And I was all set to hate it. I love that woman. (Heather Anne, yes, and J.K. Rowling, too.)

; )

sarah cool said...

I loved Harry Potter!!!!!!!!

I was so excited to read it. I loved the end, it was such a satisfying ending for me.


Cheeky said...

I never read F451 in high school either, and I'm glad I didn't. I wouldn't have "gotten it" back then, but it really resonated a lot with me, and that is some brilliant writing worthy to be given the title of a classic.

I shudder at the seeming sickly-sweetness of Mitford series, but I think I'll push myself out of my comfort zone and try one.

I cannot agree with that HP7 was the crowning glory of Rowling's series. I think she bowed to consumerism rather than staying true to her art, and being bound by books marketed for children she couldn't do what really needed to be done. But I'm glad the other 97% of the muggle world loved HP7. Around page 714 I finally conceded that she was gonna do what I was afraid she was gonna do, and all I could think was "booooo" the entire time I was forcing myself to finish the book and face the reality of how disappointingly she ended it. AND, leaving the door open for a next series is just confirmation that my "boooooo" is not without merit.

Anne said...

See, Cheekers, that was the thing with Mitford--it wasn't nearly as sickly-sweet as you expected it to be.

And I have to completely disagree with your HP analysis. As I'm sure you know I will. It's funny how very emotional your comment made me. The claws came flying right out.

I would be shocked if she ever writes another series with the same characters. I don't think she felt she HAD to write this book for consumerism purposes as she was already richer than the queen and she gives so much of her money to charities.

And then there's Iva's take on it all. I don't know if you have ever had any HP conversations with her (who has read every book at least three times) but she finds so much interesting symbolism in the text that I always walk away with a deeper thinking of the writing.

So therefore, (since we all get our opinions!) I boooo your boooo. Heh.

Andy said...

"bowed to consumerism rather than staying true to her art"

isn't literature meant to be read? generall by consumers? so why is pleasing them bad?

i know, happy endings just plain SUCK!

especially in a fantasy series... why can't she understand that in real life things never work out the way we want them!

i would argue that J.K. (yeah, we're on a first name basis!) catering to her audience is a good move. most artists are overly concerned with proving something or being unique and forget they have an audience.

and another HP series would just suck. i did hate reading the first 7 books oooh sooo much.