Saturday, October 23, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here
The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (P.S.)

1 book I read: The Final Solution: A Story of Detection

2 words that describe the book: Detective fiction

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Setting: England

The 89-year-old Detective: It's never fully said, but it's very obvious that this once-famous detective-turned-beekeeper is the Sherlock Holmes of legend. He still retains much of his mental acuity and deductive reasoning, but loses a lot of the quirks that made him so interesting in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's canonical works.

Linus Steinman: A 9-year-old mute whose past includes seeing some hideous things. When his parrot pet disappears, it's up to the Detective to find out what happened and what's made Linus lose his speech.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked Chabon's writing. I've never read anything by this Pulitzer Prize-winner, but his prose is the stuff of legends. He's a master of the clever turns of phrase and immense vocabulary.

I liked that the mystery centers around a set of numbers that could be anything: A code, a math problem, a phone number. I don't know why this was so intriguing to me, but I think I enjoy it most when the mysteries in books are a little more brainy and a little less whodunit.

I didn't like the way Chabon basically ruined all that was good about Sherlock Holmes. This may sound harsh, but I have a HUGE fond spot in my heart for the eccentric detective (I'm also not a fan of Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of him, but that's another story for another day) and I don't like seeing the things that once made him so interesting just gone. Sure, he's older and retired, but he should not lose the ability for witty repartee that made him so intriguing in the past.

I liked that Chabon wrote an entire section of the book from the parrot's point of view. It was, in my opinion, the most charming part of the book. I wish there would have been more of it!

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 3 stars. I was just disappointed in this one. It would've rated higher if Sherlock Holmes hadn't been so lame.

The Whys and Wheres: Library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge (Challenge 11: All in the Family)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

Red Hook RoadTitle: Red Hook Road

Author: Ayelet Waldman

Pages: 335 (I have an ARC, so page numbers in the final version may differ)

Source: Publisher

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge (Challenge 11: All in the Family)

Summary (From back of book):

Set on the coast of Maine over the course of four summers, Red Hook Road tells the story of two families, the Tetherleys and the Copakens, and of the ways in which their lives are unraveled and stitched together by misfortune, by good intentions and failure, and by love and calamity.

My Two Cents:

I really didn't have many expectations going into this book, so I can't say I was as "disappointed" as a lot of the reviews I've read are saying. Overall, I liked this book and enjoyed Waldman's writing, but I can't say I loved this book.

Waldman is a fabulous writer. She has a gift for conveying the varied perspectives of different characters on one event. She's also great at describing her setting. In fact, the picture she painted of the area of the Maine coast in which this book is set was probably my favorite part; it made me want to go visit Maine in the summer.

She also has the ability to create some pretty vivid, memorable characters, whether you ultimately like them or not. My favorite character was Mr. Kimmelbrod, the virtuoso violinist and grandfather of the Copaken family. He was devoted to his students and their music, and at times standoffish with his family, but you could tell that deep down, he loved them. I think maybe it was his emotional detachment to the situations presented in the book that allowed me to like him so much, as every other character spent the entire novel so overwrought with emotion and the ghosts of the past.

As much as I enjoyed Waldman's writing and her characters, I felt as if a lot of the plot was just too contrived. There was just too much happenstance in everything going on surrounding the accident that it started to become unbelievable. Also, (nearly all) the characters' unwillingness to move on and dig themselves out of the pit of despair was maddening. I just wanted to scream, "Get on with your lives already!" sometimes.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) by Lemony Snicket

From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) 

1 book I read: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1)

2 words that describe the book: Juvenile suspense

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Violet Baudelaire - A 14-year-old who, along with her two younger siblings, is suddenly orphaned by a house fire. But, that's not the worst thing to happen to the Baudelaires in this book. Violet is smart and cares deeply for her siblings, something you don't often see in juvenile or young adult literature.

Count Olaf - The Baudelaires' mysterious distant relative, Count Olaf is an eccentric, mean man who wants only the children's money. He forces them to cook and clean his house, and even attempts to trick Violet into marrying him. He's one of the biggest creeps I've ever met in literature.

Justice Strauss - Count Olaf's next door neighbor, she has a gorgeous library to which she allows the children access. She cares for the Baudelaires, but she's just another oblivious adult who only does what the law says is right.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked that Snicket didn't talk down to the readers in this book. He didn't simplify the language, yet he offered up explanations and definitions when he used a larger word. I think it's important for children's literature to challenge the readers instead of just being a breezy good story.

I liked the Baudelaire children. They are great characters who I just wanted to spend the entire book rooting for.

I didn't like that nothing really good seems to happen to the Baudelaires. I know that's the premise of the book, as this is a "series of unfortunate events," but it was just one bad, depressing thing after another. I don't think I can read the rest of this series if it's just all going to be this way.

I didn't like how creepy Count Olaf was. I'm sorry, but in a book aimed at older juveniles (Ages 8-12), I don't think it's appropriate to have an old man try to trick a young girl into marrying him, no matter that it doesn't really happen. Just a little too disturbing for me.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 3 stars. It was well-written, but there were just too many things I didn't like about this book for me to rate it higher.

The Whys and Wheres: Library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge: Armchair Traveling

Marg over at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader asks us to write a post sharing some of the sites and places from the books we're reading. These can be books read for the read-a-thon, or they can be books we've read in the past.

Here's my answer:

My favorite books to read are books set in the United Kingdom. England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, I'll take it all. I'm such an Anglophile that I just love imagining the rolling hills and misty mornings right along with the characters' experiences.

My all-time favorite place to read about, though, is Oxford. I think this stems from my living there for a semester in college. It's such a beautiful city with so much amazing history that you could study the buildings and places until you're blue in the face and still not know everything about it!

My favorite Oxford books (And I've got more on my bookshelves to read!) that you should read, also, are:

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh - This book tells the story of two friends who meet at Oxford and, let me tell you, there are some pretty accurate depictions of the residential Oxford colleges (although fictionalized) and the Isis.

The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman - In this series, we get both a realistic and an alternate version of Oxford that is at once true-to-life and engaging. Pullman does a great job making the real Oxford recognizable in the alternate Oxford, and I can't tell you how much I wanted to run along the city walls right alongside Lyra.

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon

Well, I'm getting a horribly late start today, mostly because I COMPLETELY forgot that today was the Read-a-Thon!! I happened to look at Twitter yesterday and saw all sorts of people talking about the Read-a-Thon and thought, "Wait, it's October 9 already?!?!?!"

So, here I am, starting 4 hours into this shindig. And, sadly, I don't have a whole free day to devote to the fun. :(

Instead, I will be reading for 45 minutes, then participating in mini-challenges, then cleaning my house for 45 minutes (Whee!!), then doing some more mini-challenges, and starting the whole process over again. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my house cleaned in just a few of these time blocks so I'll have more time to devote to reading! Of course, I also have to be at work at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, so I can't stay up too late. Sad...

Anyway, here are a few of the books I plan to/might tackle this read-a-thon:

1. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
2. Ulysses by James Joyce
3. Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel
4. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

So far, I've read a bit of the Bloom book. Now, it's onto dishes. When I return, I'll crack open the next section of Ulysses.

See you all around!
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