Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book 9: The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Whooooaaa look who's backkk.

Reading The Shadow of the Wind was an experience, and in my case, a process. It took me quite a bit of time to finish this, and this included a one month break in between the first and second half as well as some travel time. But, I finished it and I was more than satisfied.

I read this book after having read The Angel's Game also written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon when I instantly fell in love. That book was amazing and I honestly believe this one was even better (didn't think that could be possible). There are a few things that come up in Zafon's books.. Barcelona, books, appreciation for the written word, love, mystery, suspense, friendship, death, satan, a touch of unrequited love, and yea, if you need more than that to keep you interested, then I don't know how to please you. Most of all - there's a ton of suspense.

The book starts with Daniel, an innocent 10 year old boy who is introduced with his father, a used books shop owner. Daniel's father takes him to this mysterious place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books in search of a book for Daniel. In the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the book chooses you and you must guard it, protect it forever. In this maze of lost and forgotten books, Daniel finds The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.

It is this book and the mystery behind it that sets the book in motion. We immediately learn that someone has been burning all of Carax's novels except for Daniel's copy and a few others hidden in the cemetery of forgotten books. This intrigues Daniel and sets him on a quest to search for Carax's identity, figure out who he is, and dive head first into his history. We learn about the intricate, drama-filled story of Carax's life and see how this past parallels with Daniel's present. And, as Daniel's present experience moves forward and Carax's story unfolds... well, the suspense is incredible and the story is amazing.

I'm not giving you much. Either I have to give you everything or I have to give you nothing, and I give you nothing so you can read it yourself. The story is sooooo good! Read it.

If you want a better review check this out:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/25/books/in-the-cemetery-of-forgotten-books.html


Sooo I'm glad that I'm back. I had to get that review in, but hopefully the next ones will be much more thought out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm here

After a forever long hiatus, I'm back to reading. I promise!

Finishing up The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón:finished the 1st half over a month ago, working on the 2nd half now... yea...

Look forward to more posts by me - I have a feeling I'll be posting more frequently again. Here's to hoping. :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book 8: After Dark - Haruki Murakami

After Dark is a snapshot of one night in Tokyo spanning from 11:56PM to 6:43AM. It didn't feel like a full-length novel, though it was, but it acted like one because it took me long enough to get through it (if you pay close attention you'll see that there is a one month gap between my blog posts). It reminded me of a short movie I saw last week, Osvaldo's, in that you dive into a specific moment in someone's life, you experience one event, and then you leave. It's like you're visiting the novel, just like you visit a person. You get a taste of them and their experience for the brief time that you're with them, but you don't live with them, so you don't really know.

The action point that moves the story forward is: a Chinese prostitute gets beaten by a Japanese businessman in a love hotel. He takes all of her clothing and possessions leaving her bleeding naked on the floor. She can't speak a word of Japanese. Enter Mari a Japanese student who speaks Chinese reasonably well. She consoles her and with the help of the love hotel manager contacts the Chinese mob man to come pick her up. And that's the only action point in the entire novel really. Thereafter, Murakami switches scenes cycling between conversations with Mari and acquaintances, glimpses at the overworked Japanese businessman's work life that night post-'love hotel beatdown,' and Eri Asai, Mari's picture perfect sister who has been sleeping for 2 months straight.

To me, this novel can't be described by the events that happen. That's why I didn't do a good job at explaining them. This novel was about relationships, about people. I feel that Murakami uses certain circumstances to reveal personalities, to reveal the nature of existence. The events themselves don't have much depth. Not romantic relationships. Not strong relationships. Just people, every day people. How people affect each other. Sometimes these people know each other, sometimes they affect each other in passing. Regardless, people are pretty ordinary and all the same. If you're looking for a heroine or an extraordinary person, this book is not for you. This book is about regular people, and Mari who is the center of attention isn't all that special. She's a regular girl like any other. I like that.

The one thing I really appreciated about this book was the music. Murakami has been known for incorporating music into his novels and for his strong taste and love for Jazz. After reading blurbs about the book, taking advice from people I decided to play the songs Murakami mentioned as he mentioned them, as I was reading. He does have great taste in music. Playing the music as I read brought my experience more to life.

Should you read this book? I don't know what to tell you. I'm a Murakami junkie, so I should.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update

Shit... it's been a while. Time flies.

Posting After Dark soon. I don't know about that because I've BEEN half-way done with that for a good while now. I might've forgotten the first half by now? Oh well.

Black History Month... Valentine's Day soon. Holiday of looooooove. Looking forward to it. That, and time.. time to read. Read, and then write posts.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book 7: In Evil Hour - Gabriel García Márquez

I deserve an award for reading this crusty ass book. Literally, it was a crusty, stale book, yellow, and it smelled. I got this book from the library, and I honestly believe that they've had this copy since 1979 - not even kidding.

Reading this book was torture. I hated it. It was awful. It might be because I just read 100 Years of Solitude, and these two novels are too similar. Happenings in a Latin American town. Fantastic versus Reality. Politics. Evil. Corruption. It was the same thing. And the translation was obviously very poor.

This book revolves around a Latin American village in which someone is posting gossip and rumors about respected members of the neighborhood. The translation refers to them as 'lampoons,' but lampoons means satires, and these were just writings of sheer gossip/nasty rumors. The book tracks the effect of this gossip on the village. I'm not sure what was happening because I wanted it all to end. I remember that this woman named Trinidad is obsessed with killing all of the mice in the church - that comes up a lot. There is a controlling mayor/lieutenant, the priest, the dentist, religious folk, village folk, etc. This gossip has a tremendous effect on the village; it has everyone preoccupied and leads to murder, chaos, and evil. It even leads one of the most respected men in the neighborhood to murder another esteemed man over frivolous gossip. Don't mess with the man's honor.

I forgot to mention the humor in it all-
"It was said of him that in that same bedroom he'd murdered a man he found sleeping with his wife, that he'd buried him secretly in the courtyard. The truth was different: Adalberto Asís had, with a shotgun blast, killed a monkey he'd caught masturbating on the bedroom beam with his eyes fixed on his wife while she was changing her clothes. He'd died forty years later without having been able to rectify the legend."

What is interesting about this book is that it is based on a true story. This same, very exact, identical thing happened in Márquez's village in Columbia. Embarrassing gossip was being posted all over the village, and they never found out who the culprit was. It's kind of funny. It sounds like something a bored person would do. A simple act that has extreme consequences. I can see why villagers create a big commotion over seemingly unreliable gossip. The gossip is playing with everyone's honor and reputation, and people can't deal with that.

My shortest review yet. I usually have so much to say, but I just want this to go away.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book 6: The Reader - Bernhard Schlink


I broke a new personal record - 2 books in 2 weeks! Sure, that's what I was supposed to be doing this whole time and was failing to accomplish, but you gotta start somewhere, right?

I saw The Reader before I read the book. It was a good year for Kate Winslet with The Reader and Revolutionary Road. Actually, Revolutionary Road was based on a book by Yates, so maybe I'll read that also.

So, anyway...

I saw The Reader on DVD, and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to read the book. It definitely was not what I expected. The content was all the same, but the style of writing was definitely surprising. The movie was so powerful, it was filled with emotion and seemed complicated. I expected a very long, lofty novel filled with windy, complicated language, images, examples, everything. This book was short and to the point. The language was terse and the tone was matter-of-fact.

Despite it's simplicity in language, it is a very deep and I'd say heavy novel as it brings forth a number of moral dilemmas. In the process it makes you think, it makes you wonder, it makes you question, and it leaves you unsure. In short, it is a very thought provoking novel. On sinning, for example, the protagonist recognizes that if the thought is just as bad as the act itself, then he might as well act on the sin. Or, on happiness, the narrator recognizes that in a happy marriage of let's say 20 years the spouse will revoke the 20 years as happy upon finding out that the partner had a lover throughout the entire 20 years, but you really were happy that whole time, weren't you?

The Reader tells the story of a 15-year-old German boy named Michael Berg who meets a woman, Hanna, who is twice his age and his lover. Michael grows deeply in love with Hanna spending every moment possible with her in her apartment making love. One day, Hanna asks Michael to read aloud to her, and that immediately becomes their ritual: Michael reads aloud to her and then they have sex. We soon realize that Hanna is illiterate, hence the beauty of the ritual, but Michael doesn't put two and two together. One day Hanna vanishes without a word leaving the naive boy depressed and destroyed. They meet again eight years later. This time Michael is a law student and Hanna is on trial for war crimes. We discover Hanna's brutal past in Nazi Germany and are faced with a moral dilemma. Really, Michael is faced with the dilemma, but it makes you wonder. Michael has information that could at the very least reduce Hanna's sentence. Is Hanna not-guilty with this information, or is she still guilty, but just not as guilty? She's brutal, yes, but maybe not as brutal as the rest. Was she just following orders? Could she have done something? Was she acting on her own free will? All of this ties in with the German war guilt in post-war Germany - I love you dad, but you were a mass murderer. I love you mom, but you exterminated Jews on a regular basis - that sort of thing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book 5: Cockroach - Rawi Hage



This book captured me at the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter, and it captivated me until the very end. I wish I could recommend this book by telling you that "this is the fastest I've read any book for the Cannonball Read," "it was so good I couldn't put it down," and it was going that way for a while; I read the majority of the book, about two-thirds, within 24 hours. But then, somehow a week passed without reading a single word until last night when I finished it, and here we are. woops. It was really good though. Really good. Read the first four pages and I think you'll know if this book is for you.


Cockroach follows the escapades of an Arab immigrant in Montreal who lives on the fringes of society, relatively unnoticed, and reveals him in the context of Montreal's Middle Eastern immigrant community filled with refugees, exiles, and immigrants - yes, there is a difference. These people aren't 'mainstream' by any means. They all have issues and are psychologically effected by their pasts.

We find out right in the beginning that this Arab man - I don't like referring to people as 'narrator,' let's call him Jihad... Immediately we discover that Jihad is in love with an Iranian exile named Shohreh, he's sitting in his therapist Genevive's office due to a court order because last week he tried to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree in a public park. He failed obviously because a runner passing by came to his rescue. Oh, and he also thinks he's a cockroach (sometimes).

Jihad is an interesting character because even though he's not completely 'good,' he is also very charming and likable. He suffers from delirium which is usually triggered by drugs, so at times he believes that he's a cockroach. He hides from the sun, blaming it for his suicide attempt. He's a self-proclaimed thief, and he sometimes breaks into peoples' houses including that of his therapist just to snoop around or eat some food. And, he'll sometimes pick fights for absolutely no reason.

What I liked about this book was that as I was reading, Jihad seemed completely normal - just a normal guy doing his thing, living his life, but then he would do something not so normal like break into his therapist's apartment for no apparent reason. Or at other times he'd be hanging out with people, but then he would start giving physical descriptions of his cockroach self. That sounds a little crazy, fine. But the book wasn't too crazy because Jihad still had a firm grasp of society and the true nature of people including their hypocrisy. He saw through everyone and everything. He was just a little off mentally. Ultimately, if you take away the cockroach talk, this book describes a man living the struggle. He's hungry, and he's trying to eat.

The most captivating part of the book revolves around Jihad's therapy sessions. As you read, through Jihad's present actions you get a feel for what his current issues are, you see that he's a little disturbed and suicidal and that he's at the margins of society, but you don't know why. The therapy sessions are exciting because every week Jihad reveals his personal narrative; he gives the story of what led up to his current psychological condition. Jihad takes us back to the violence of his childhood in a chaotic, war-torn Arab country - I'll assume that it's based on the Lebanese Civil War because that's where the author is from. His past is chilling and at times shocking. You get a taste of Shohreh's dreadful experience in Iran as well: as a political prisoner she was the victim of torture and rape.

I recommend this book in any context. I think this might be my favorite book so far. It's pretty exciting to read regardless of your taste and background. Me, I liked it because I like stories about immigrants, and I especially liked it because the Middle East was represented, so there were certain culture specific elements that spoke to me.


I like quotes, but I didn't want to ruin the flow of my review, so if you're interested in examples of the things I mentioned keep reading -

Middle Eastern context-
For days after the party, I begged that asshole Reza to give me Shohreh's number. He refused. That selfish, shady exile would only say, in his drooling accent, You are not serious about her. You only want to sleep with her. She is not that kind of girl, she is Iranian. She is like a sister, and I have to protect her from dirty Arabs like you.

But, Reza, maestro, sisters also fuck, sisters also have needs, too.

This upset him and he cursed, Wa Allah alaazim. I will prevent you from meeting her again!


Bourgeois Hypocrisy-
I need a bus ticket, I said, and I am short a dollar and twenty cents. I will pay you right back, when I get a cheque in the mail. And without waiting for an answer, I picked dimes and quarters out of his palm. I wanted something from him. It angered me that the socialist does not want to be identified as poor, a marginal impoverished welfare recipient like me. At least I am not a hypocrite about it. Yes, i am poor, I am vermin, a bug, I am at the bottom of the scale. But I still exist. I look society in the face and say: I am here, I exist. There is existence and there is the void; you are either a one or a zero.


Cockroach's suicide attempt-
It was not deceit, depression, or a large tragedy that pushed me to go shopping for a rope that suited my neck. And it wasn't voices. I've never heard any voices in my head - unless you consider the occasional jam sessions of Mary, the neighbour above me. No, the thing that pushed me over the edge was the bright light that came in my window and landed on my bed and my face. Nothing made any sense to me anymore. It was not that I was looking for a purpose and had been deceived, it was more that i had never started looking for one. I saw the ray of light entering my window and realized how insignificant I was in its presence, how oblivious it was to my existence. My problem was not that I was negligent towards life, but that somehow I always felt neglected by it.