Sunday, May 31, 2015

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara


That's what I have to say to you about The People in the Trees. I don't want to talk about too much because I think the reader needs to form their own opinions. But I will say a few non-pertinent things:

As a first novel, I'm amazed at the spot-on writing about, but actually by, such a disagreeable main character. His dialogue is condescending and detestable throughout the book, but always in character. And the overarching frame and footnotes by, what I pictured as a brainwashed Watson, were icing on the cake. Side note: I listened to this as an audiobook, which fantastically used two different narrators for the parts. I'm guilty of often skipping footnotes, and this format forced the issue. Also an audiobook bonus, I didn't have to try and guess how to say any of the hard to guess names of people, islands, rituals, etc.

The worlds created--from the lab, to Ivu’ivu, to Norton's home, felt real and tangible with the right amount of details.

But things escalated quickly from a book I couldn't stop recommending to one I definitely won't be comfortable recommending. And I'm going to leave it at that.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Ever since there was a big flood in our area, I've had a couple Margaret Atwood books on my shelves. (Naturally, we couldn't let my aunt's library flood. SAVE THE BOOKS!) I'd never even heard of her until I got to graduate school and this girl in my cohort name-dropped her like she name-dropped fashion bloggers. Thankfully her name stayed stored in the dark, reverberating recesses of my brain, and when we sorting in piles of donate--keep--Kristina, I made sure her hardcovers ended up in my stack. Since then, there was an Out of Print Book Madness on science fiction/fantasy books, and The Handmaid's Tale seemed to have great plays. That pretty much solidified that I needed to read this book. Oh, and did I mention that I studied utopias and dystopias in one of my first undergraduate English courses? Seriously. This book, like, totally had to happen.

So my personal agenda was utterly gratified when my sorority book club picked The Handmaid's Tale. Almost the whole group had the book on their nightstand, so to speak, for any number of years.

The conversation was intense. We were mad at the ending. We were disgusted at the complacency of women. We were alarmed at the similarities in that world and ours. We talked symbolism (red). We talked character (who was likeable?). We talked autonomy (did anyone have any?).

I'm glad I read the book, as I was very intrigued by it and it's classic status. She created a complex narrative that warrants far more discussion than what I'm giving it here. It deserves the reverence, but I don't know that it's on my list of books I'm going to tell people to read in the future.

Friday, May 8, 2015

L&L: Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

This was a terrible audiobook. Not only is it written in a way that's hard to understand by listening, it was not well read with the different character voices. Woof. This was a tough one.

-Who was really the main character? Did it have to be so long that I honestly couldn't tell what/who the point was?

-Why do I care about anyone in the story?

-What actually happened in the end?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

I read Telegraph Avenue for one of the first books in a local book club I joined, affectionally referring it to Al's Basement Book Club. I'd never read a Chabon book, although I'd heard of plenty without knowing it. I admit to not remembering a whole lot, but bits and pieces of the conflicts and relationships in the book. It was good, sad, and funny. I liked it especially because of the random references to things I love, like Star Wars, James Bond, and cheese. Plus there's the way he said things, like the quotes on pages 8 and 267. It's so conversational, it was fun to read.
Baby Rolando had a nice, solid feel to him, a bunch of rolled socks stuffed inside one big sock, dense and sleepy, not one of those scrawny flapping-chicken babies one ran across from time to time. 8

Ninety-seven percent was more of less the degree to which Gwen disbelieved in everything that people represented, attested to, or tried to put over on you. 47

He reached up and out with both arms to shoot his cuffs, and for an instant he might have served to illustrate the crucial step in a manual on the seizing of days. He had already seized this particular day once, but he was prepared, if need be, to go ahead and seize the motherfucker all over again. 69

…there being, of course, as Archy often explained to Nat, a profound spiritual analogy, hole and all, between donuts and vinyl records. 116

…adopted the surprising identity of a soul-jazz Zorro, fingertips fencing with the drawbars and keys. 129

she fell into his lap, panicking the chair. 157

When, to the contrary, Luther Stallings at one time had stood in full possession of a definite article, not to mention two capital letters. Was most definitely The Shit. 267

With Blofeldian alacrity, a steel door rolled down behind him. 304

I’m going to start stocking up on files for the cakes. 311

They had the charm of cement and the elegance of cinderblocks, but they held her feet without pain or structural failure, and it seemed to her that the librarian-nun vibe they exuded was also not incompatible with the kicking of ass. 320

Fuck you, music! Music is Satan. We serve its hidden agenda. It’s like a virus from space, the Andromeda strain, propagating itself. We’re just vectors for the contagion. Music is the secret puppet master. 363

Music actually has us to the point, we’re walking around with fucking pods, with buds in our ears. Nah, I’m out. I think I’m going to get into, like, I don’t know, cheesemongering. I’m going to monger cheese. You can help me. Forget birthing babies. Christ, we already have enough babies in the world. What we need more of is really good cheese. … Wait no, fuck cheese. Cheese is all about spores and, and, molds and all that shit. Maybe cheese is trying to colonize our brains, too. Cheese and music duking it out for control of the human nervous system. 363

They were like the kids in that newspaper comic, white nerd, black nerd, pretending at the bus stop on this fine Sunday morning that they were Jedi knights, samurais. Lost so deep in the dream, they didn’t have the sense to be embarrassed. 385

Not even God could hold onto the love of Israel in the desert without the jewelry getting melted down, now and then, to make a calf. 409

Finish Reading Before Recommending

Generally speaking, I'm not prone to recommending books, unless the person I'm talking with has similar tastes/interests as me. I don't read super popular books when they come out, in fact I don't usually even know what's coming out, what's getting buzz, etc. (I just read Water for Elephants and we all know that was the talk of the town back when I was an English major.) And most people aren't interested in Dickens, Austen, Hardy, and the other stuffy Brit Lit I enjoy.

But, there's been a definite shift in my consumption, as audiobooks have helped me experience so many more genres than I previously made time for. The near-daily Goodreads updates that my friends receive launch a lot of conversations, and I now find myself frequently giving my two cents on what I've read.

Well, I need to be more careful. This has actually prompted me to recommend books out of the blue, to groups of people, without prompting. Which would be okay, except the two books that I felt so passionately about recommending (where's the restraint of past Kristina?) turned out to be something I would never flippantly recommend to anyone. ANYONE. Not even me-like readers. I'd been singing their praises before finishing the books, and then had to actually email people and retract my recommendations! Or, at very least, lead with a stern warning of, "This shit is crazy." I'm not even kidding. I emailed people to take back my suggestion.

For most people, my crisis of faith was enough to turn them off said books. To the reader-friend who is most similar to me, my blatant revocation prompted her to drop everything and read the book immediately. To each their own, and that's why I love books. But I'm going to finish reading before I recommend anything ever again.