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Book Trauma

Book Review Triage

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Pale Fire
Vladimir Nabokov
Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time, #4)
Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, D.J. Enright
Chronicle of the 20th Century: The Ultimate Record of Our Times
Clifton Daniel, John W. Kirshon
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen, Anna Quindlen Mark Twain can try to beat Ms. Austen about the head all he likes. I'll be there deflecting all the blows! I honestly never thought I'd be saying that but it's true. I had a huge aversion to Gothic and period piece romances and Jane Eyre only reinforced it. Northanger Abbey helped me dabble my toes back in the water and this one has me swimming happily. At least if it's by Jane Austen I'll just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.While her timing and delivery of some the scenes verge on comedic genius, she also knows when to lay the gorgeous prose in full. Which both work well with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and the bonus being Austen didn't develop a love at first sight but almost a loathe at first sight. This left lots of room for humour, misunderstandings and human error without any or very little hand wringing! Bravo!I don't think I will ever be a real romance fan but I am a fan of Ms. Austen.
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien, Ted Nasmith,  Christopher Tolkien This was a hard read even the second time through it. I think this may require a third time through and as I love to learn about my favourite world I'm willing. I'll admit the first part of the book reminds me of the bible's 'begats' but later as you hear more familiar names you begin to appreciate the detail. The first mention of Sauron gave me chills and learning his history and Galadriel's are well worth the read alone. I just wish there had been more detail about all the lost rings that go unmentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Did I really ask for more information? Yes I did because I'm kind of a junky that way.If you love the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created then please at least keep this as a reference.
Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter I'm surprised that I took no notes while reading this book. I have a feeling it was because I came so en-rapt in Sophie's tale I forgot all else. Isn't that the point of a good book? Did I say this book is good? Well I will now. This book is good!From the start you wonder if her story really is true when she claims to have been hatched but soon you realize there is something strange going on. Like the reporter, Jack Walser you could swear that you've been listening all night until the clock strikes twelve and you're glad that you have all night to hear more although you swear more time has passed.Once real time seems to catch up you're hooked and ready to go off and join the circus just like Jack and then the story begins in earnest. A lot of it seeming mundane till you really start falling for the star and seeing her as what she claims. A giant of a woman with real wings she uses on her trapeze act. You suddenly cant blame those that wanted to possess her as she is magnificent in body and in mind. Then the rest of the circus unfurls as a magical being in itself. I could go on but don't worry I won't. I leave you to listen to Ms Fevvers story for yourself. See if you don't lose track of time as well.
Labyrinths - Jorge Luis Borges Call them science fiction, fantasy or magical realism if you like but make sure you also call these stories wonderful! I'm already a fan of shorts stories but I'm not exactly a fan of reviewing them, mainly because there are stinkers among the gems but I found none in this collection.Considering each ones length I found each of them quite complex. The Library of Babel contains more than books it also seems to be housed in a labyrinth of hexagonal rooms with many corners. Who knows what's around the next one? There are many mazes in this set of stories and not all of them physical. Borges simplicity of words enhance the beautiful writing they create when strung together by his capable pen. He was a really nice and welcome change from some of the more name intense and flowery prose I've currently been reading.Yes, I'm a fan.
The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien This a much darker tale than Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Curses, deceit and never ending woe seem to make up this tome. This being a reread I found that I was having a much easier time of keeping the characters names straight. His world and history building really helped me understand the two more popular books which I already love. I'm just sorry I didn't reread The Silmarillion first as it has the history for this book. Call George R.R. Martin a world builder if you like but I'm pretty sure he borrowed a lot of pages from Tolkien.Not only do I see the influence of Norse Sagas I also feel there are a few influences from Shakespeare and foremost comes to mind Romeo and Juliet. Turin and Nienor may not have been star crossed lovers but they were star crossed none the less. Glarung is far more evil then his Kindred Smaug. To enslave an entire people shows the cunning of this most wicked dragon. The mention of Sauron was a nice foreshadowing.I think Christopher did a fine job of putting this together from all his Father's notes and writings. I will say that I don't recommend this for anyone but Tolkien fans.
The Guermantes Way (In Search of Lost Time, #3) - Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, D.J. Enright Now I know why I was having trouble with this book. Proust's words as per usual, drip off the page like an overflowing honey pot but that can't hide the subject matter which is social climbing and snobbery. I realize the last two books were based on this but in this volume our narrator is so obsessed with it that it often overshadows some of the beautiful writing. When I managed to push that into the background the words once again began to flow and ebb with Proust's moods and the subjects he was putting to pen. I am back to the writer I love! It also helped that I searched out and read a few articles about The Dreyfus Affair. This also led to me wanting to read more by Emile Zola, the second great writer I have been led to by reading Proust. Not including himself.I'm starting to feel like a tongue tied school girl when it comes to my praise of what I do love about Proust's books. I just can't seem to articulate things and I'm not good at pulling quotes as there are just too many. There are moments when the Narrator's comeuppance comes that are so painfully well written it made me wince but it was well deserved and I'm hoping to see more personal growth in the following volumes.Leave it to say I'm eager to finish this series but because I want to get it over with.
The Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie I remember I was working in a book store when this was first released to much controversy over death threats and due in part to that it became a best seller. I am pretty sure that is one of the main reasons I didn't read it then. The other being I didn't always want to read the newest releases. Even then I was reading books from older generations as much if not more so than the latest read. Now that both the book and I are older it was time to see what all the cartoons and threats were about.I can see where the threats came from but not for the reason I had suspected. This book doesn't treat the prophet well but it definitely parodies the well known Ayatollah Khomeini and Rushdie does a superb job of it. It's unfortunate that he didn't do as great job with the rest of the book. I really feel that all the subplots didn't jell with one another. Each on it's own was better than the whole. I know this can be done better. Just look at Cloud Atlas.On the other hand his characters were wonderful and some of the scenes had me chuckling. Poor Saladan, when he experiences his change and is confronted by the local police is hilarious. The glimpses into Indian culture were most welcome as well. I love learning especially if it's fun or done with beauty. This is well worth reading because the writing is wonderful even if the cohesion isn't. I look forward to Midnight's Children.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Seamus Deane, James Joyce It's been many years since I last read Joyce and I realized I had been remiss in not reading this one sooner. Now that I have read it I am trying to figure out why it's considered his best. This books seem to have polarized readers but I don't feel like I strongly love this book,yet .It begins with Joyce relating life at school in Ireland through his oddly named character Stephen Dedalus and continues with Dedalus' self discovery. The flow of the work was fine until he began to drone on about Catholicism like the type of Sunday sermon that puts you to sleep. Fortunately it veered back to the story and Joyce's more familiar style of writing. Despite the stream of consciousness form is it odd that I find this his most accessible work? I'll have to admit that I need to reread his others but I remember struggling with Ulysses. I think what I do love in this story are his sudden flashes of insight that quickly move him beyond his Catholic guilt and pubescent angst.I'm glad I read this now as it's forcing me to go back and reread his other books and maybe this go round I'll have an easier time of it.
A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin I'm a little more mollified after reading part two but only slightly. A cliffhanger for each of the most interesting characters left me a little heartsick. Yea I'm that invested now but I'm horrified as it's also with an author that loves to torture and I don't just mean his characters. I mean his readers. I'm a little tired of being a plaything.The thing is I was lucky enough to have been able to read all five books fairly close together and with the help of the TV series it helped keep it alive and somewhat fresh for me but I can be fickle too. If it takes an age for this series to wrap up I may well abandon it like I did the Wheel of Time series as I'm not fond of being led by the nose. I'll just watch the show! Bah, who am I kidding. I'll gobble it up like most of the others because the story is far more engrossing than I care to admit.One nitpick. It's a parliament of ravens not a murder.I'm giving this book a 4 but it's truly a 3.75. I think Martin really needs an editor.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman I am almost tempted to call this “Neil Gaiman Lite” and not just because of the length. The writing was up to Neil's great descriptive standards but the story was not in places. It really felt like it was lacking his usual depth and was aimed at a young adult audience and not the adult one that was touted.All that side I still devoured this book. I must admit Neil can make the horrific seem almost normal in his worlds and the sense of whimsy is just enough to offset the horror. The main character's love of books will probably reach out and touch almost everyone that reads this that felt the same as a child. The Hempstocks were both scary in their power and symbolic as the three ages but they were also tempered with love and compassion. I would have liked to see the mother and grandmother as more than just caricatures but he made up for that in Lettie.This is what Neil does best and is why his portrayal of the deepest fears and highest hopes of childhood always resonate with me. If it weren't for some of the things lacking this would get a solid five but I doubt I'll reread this as I already have done twice with American Gods.
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin /Rant OnIf I was the type of person that rages, this book could well push me into one. I hate two part books. It's bad enough to have to wait for more in a series let alone to learn that you may not find out about a character's fate in the next one because the second book as about other characters!I also found too much time spent on other characters that were both uninteresting and seemed like filler rather than being tangential to the series. It's kind of a shame because Martin's writing is finally gelling for me but I think he was given too much leeway on this.I resent having to go straight to the next book but it looks like I will to see if I get some satisfaction. I'll admit I've become invested with a few characters so that may be why I'm so disappointed.It would rate 3.5 but I'm giving it a 3 for annoyance value./Rant off
Thousand Cranes - Yasunari Kawabata, Edward G. Seidensticker Death and sadness are words that seem to go together in a lot of Japanese literature and nobody, it seems, is better at it than Kawabata. He draws his characters as deftly as the the porcelain and china that is used for the tea ceremony itself.His minimalistic style suits his subject and his characters. Which doesn't mean his characters aren't complicated. They show an amazing depth for such a short book. It's his lack of complex plots and numerous characters that can be refreshing especially after reading some European or North American literature. This is a great glimpse into both the Japanese culture and writing.

Tin Drum

The Tin Drum - Günter Grass I swear I could hear that drum playing in my head at odd moments. Especially every time I tried to write this review. I think it was my own warning to pay proper homage to a brilliant book. It always amazes me how some authors can take some dark passages of a characters life and treat it with a humour that doesn't detract from the seriousness of the subject.I wanted to kick Oskar in the rump almost as often as I wanted to hug him. What an exasperating protagonist but I suspect he is very much a product of his time and environment. Did I mention he dictates this from a mental ward? I would definitely rank him with some of the best anti-heroes.Unique, weird, annoying and sometimes heartbreaking this is a work that's worth the effort to read. The allegory runs thick but never seems too obvious. I think Mitchell's translation and afterword also helped in the version I read because I don't know if I would have understood enough of the slang and turns of phrase used otherwise.
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente This really is a remarkable author and I am sincerely wondering why she doesn't have more readers and fans. Deathless has firmly put me in the fan camp. This interpretation of Russian folklore dared me not to put it down as I read but I had to in order to savour it. Ms. Valente's writing is like no other I have read. While she manages to portray Kolschei in all his wicked and selfish glory she also makes you note that he has human feelings and failings. Her ability to balance dark and light with most of characters held me entranced. Even Baba Yaga cannot be said to be completely heartless.All the while changing the backdrop from a family home to a Dali like fantasy world and then back to a bitter reality yet never jarring the reader with these changes.Some of the scenes in war torn Russia where horrific while still holding some of the beauty of of the more fantastical areas. The thought of boiling wall paper for it's flour paste so as not to starve may well haunt me for a long time.I said it before and I did meant it. I really want to read more by Ms. Valente.

The Gods Themselves

The Gods Themselves - Isaac Asimov I know I have said this before about other good books but I really do wonder how I missed this one. I've read a good majority of Asimov's works and considering the esteem this is held in I'm slightly lessened by not having read this earlier. I've always loved Asimov best out of the science fiction giants because of just how much science he puts into his fiction. The book doesn't disappoint in that area. The other thing I love is that even most laymen can understand the science he puts into his books. I will admit that it's a little harder to here but that's what makes this book. Once you conquer it you are able to enjoy the story as it unfolds a little more.You need a firm grounding in something when it not only switches to the “Para” universe but even more so when he begins to also explain how these aliens mate and relate. That's a pretty hard thing to do without making this book seamy ala Heinlein. Asimov not only manages but he makes you see their plight in a sympathetic light even though it's also a threat to humanity.I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to science fiction but it's a must read for those that love the genre.

After the Quake

After the Quake - Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin I'm not a rabid Murakami fan but I do like a good portion of his writing. So I opened this with some high hopes. Most short story collections will usually contain a few good stories and this author is really good when he nails it. I guess this outing he hit his thumbs a few times. Let's start with the title after the quake. We're informed in the intro that these are thoughts set during the time of the Kobe earthquake. So why isn't it mentioned more in all of the stories? I realize that it's supposed to be a catalyst but except for two Honey Pie and Super Frog Saves Tokyo it's a tenuous one at best. While the latter sounds like it might be silly it's the better of the two. It shows the helplessness of the average mundane human in the face of something as catastrophic as an earthquake and how our deepest wishes are that someone might save us. While Honey Pie is sweet it really didn't strike me as something Murakami would even write.The other four stories are more his style with Landscape with Flatiron being the only one that stood out. Again Murakami explores one of his favourite subjects, death, which he doesn't need the excuse of an earthquake to write about. The rest were more or less forgettable to me.Unfortunately I have to average this out so I'll give it 3 stars but Super frog really deserves a 5 on it's own.