Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Review

"A Year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke
My grade: A-

This book is very funny, at (many) moments laugh-out-loud hilarious. It is about a British guy, living and working in Paris for a year. He has an excellent sense of humor! Clarke seems to capture a lot of the essence of the French culture, among others. Needless to say, he makes A LOT of exaggerations, but there are many truths in the book, as well. If nothing else, it's a fun fast-read.

I do have to mention, though, that I liked the book at the beginning much more than I did as I kept reading it. I was asking myself why. I think my problem with it, is that as I got to know the main character, Paul (not sure why he goes by Paul, if the author's name is Stephen), I liked him less and less. I'm afraid his sense of humor doesn't even come close to compensating for many other negative qualities, but that shouldn't necessarily take away from the enjoyment of reading the book. We don't have to live with the guy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
My grade: B

When I bought this book, I didn't exactly know (or perhaps I have forgotten in the meantime) that this was another Holocaust novel. As probably the majority of us out there, I have read way too many of these, especially lately, and wasn't too keen on divulging into another one. And rightfully so: this book (as ALL Holocaust books) is not for the light of heart.

Aside from the story line, which I'm sure you at least have an idea of, stylistic twists are likewise present. In my opinion, though, they do not live up to their full potential. This novel is narrated by death itself - I love the concept - but Zusak doesn't take advantage of this fully. Most of the time, the reader forgets that death has anything to do with this, and the narrator could be absolutely anybody - fly on the wall, third-person omniscient, my grandmother. Likewise, Zusak tries to give death a kind of personality, and in my opinion fails. He doesn't stay true to character (death, I mean) and in the end, is by and large a flop.

Additionally, what I think Zusak tries to do is poke fun at, essentially, thrillers and working up the tension in novels, in general. I had a huge problem with this: a novel such as this, a Holocaust novel, is no place to poke fun at anything, really. One can definitely sense Zusak's attempt at lightheartedness, especially in the beginning, and his sense of humor, but I wish he had chosen a different subject, then, to display all of his talents.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let the blog tour begin!

I am honored to have the opportunity to host a blog tour for the very smart and unique novel, "Resolution 786", written by Mohamed Mughal. Mohamed will be 'joining' us for the next three days, where he will answer up to three questions posted by you, the readers, about the novel and his writing approaches. As promised, the first person to post a question receives a free autographed copy of the book.

I'm very excited to have some thought-provoking discussions, and see what new light Mohamed can shed on his literary works and ways!

I hereby declare the blog tour open.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review

"The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls
My grade: A-

This is quite a memoir, of a life that is definitely not common. It's amazing what kind of circumstances Jeannette and her siblings grew up in, and still turned out decent. The parents are also quite extraordinary people. On the one hand, they are criminals for what they put their children through and the criminal activity they occasionally engaged in. On the other hand, though, they also have some redeeming qualities to them, especially the father, making it impossible to completely hate them.

I was at first really put off by the lack of emotion that seems to be Walls' style. Throughout the novel, though, I found that it was in fact quite emotional and powerful, in her own way. Walls is who she is, after the life that she has lived.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review

"American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis
My grade: F

First off, let me say that I did not, and could not, finish this book. I struggled through the first 200 pages, wanting to give up on it almost everyday. This book is ridiculously vulgar, disgusting, violent, cruel and sadistic. I kept waiting for a reason for all of this to be revealed - and perhaps it is at some point - but not in the first 200 pages. I could not bring myself to read the remaining 200.

In general, I found no trace of this being 'an excellent novel' or addressing 'Dostoevskian themes'. In fact, I resent the fact that Dostoevsky's name is mentioned on the back cover of this book. Ellis describes a world I have never seen a trace of, and am not sure I can believe in. His characters are pointless, and if the message was that people are superficial and crazy, I would have preferred both better writing and a better plot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Resolution 786" Blog Tour

Dear fans and readers,

Want a free book signed by the author?

I’m excited about hosting an international blog book tour for Resolution 786. American author, Mohamed Mughal, will be joining our blog from 21-23 March 2010 to answer questions about his novel and about his approach to writing. Mohamed will answer up to three questions from blog visitors during the dates noted above. The first visitor to ask a question receives a free signed copy of Resolution 786!

You can read more about the novel and the author in the interview posted at http://www.harfordneighbors.net/index.php?section=1&subtype=136&id=2732 .

Remember, this is an international book tour so if you miss Mohamed on my blog, you can still catch him in the U.K. or the U.S. at:

22-24 March 2010, “Not-quite-a-blog” by Imran Ahmad, United Kingdom, http://unimagined.typepad.com/unimagined/ 

23-25 March 2010, “Another Writer’s Life” by Austin Camacho, United States, http://ascamacho.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Review

"The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" by Max Weber
My grade: didn't finish

This is a book that was recommended to me by a professor in my MBA program. Contrary to what the back cover claims, though, I do not think every informed citizen would want to read this book. I found it to be too much of a textbook to be accessible to the masses. The language is very dry and boring, and I had a tough time focusing on the ideas being presented.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book Review

"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold
My grade: A-

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, due to the hype of this book and it being made into a movie currently out in theaters, this is a novel narrated by a dead 14-year-old girl. For those who know me well, this type of creativity alone ranks high in my book. Putting that aside, though, this is a well-written, interesting and thoughtful novel, which slowly becomes less of a thriller and more about life.

I do have a couple of criticisms of this book, nonetheless. Firstly, it is a bit romantic for my taste, and I don't mean in the traditional sense, although there are a couple of love stories. But I am referring mostly to the all-too-philosophical wrap-up of the novel. I wish Sebold made an even greater statement with it; is it conviction that is missing?

Also, Sebold touches on a very sensitive subject, which has become quite popular in literature nowadays (joining Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard, to name a couple): women deserting their families in their struggle with traditional feminine roles. While this is potentially a subject of interest to me, and something that I, as a woman, think about all the time (role of women in society - not leaving my family), I have yet to find a compelling argument in fiction. Feel free to recommend a book in that department, if you know of one.