Tag Archive: Literature

Mar 10

Book a Week Challenge (Double Edition) – Book 8

WHAT’S PLAYING: Colbie Callait “I Never Told You”

My little bout with pneumonia has put me behind in my reading. So, for the next two weeks, I’ll be reviewing two books instead of the usual one.

The first book for this week is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

While rushing to a dinner engagement with his ambitious fiancée, Richard Mayhew stumbles over an injured girl on the sidewalk and decides to help. This act of kindness irrevocably changes his life. Through the mysterious Lady Door, Richard discovers London Below, a thriving world that lies beneath the mundane reality of our everyday lives. After his encounter with Lady Door, Richard discovers that he has become invisible to his friends, colleagues, even his erstwhile fiancée. His only hope of staying alive long enough to return home lies with the Lady Door in the fantastical land of London Below.

As usual, Gaiman proves himself a master at creating the weird and wondrous, with characters ranging from the benign to the stunningly evil. Each one is drawn with the same luxuriant attention to detail, while still leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination.

To my mind what really proves Gaiman’s effectiveness as an author in these pages is how easy he makes it to believe in the existence of this other world beneath our feet. Where do the people go who have slipped between the cracks in our society? Adding to the believability of the situation is Gaiman’s refusal to romanticize people or their circumstances. London Below is no paradise. There is starvation, famine, and crime down there just as much as there is above ground

My only issue with this novel has to do with Richard’s attitude. He follows Door around like a lost puppy, begging her to let him come with them – which makes a hell of a lot of sense, seeing as how it’s his best chance of survival – and then he turns into a bit of whiny jerk. For example, when she tells him that they’re going to see an angel, he insists that there’s no such thing as angels. I don’t know about you, but if my only chance of survival lay with a group of people who believed in angels, I’d sing Hosanna until the cows came home and keep any snarky comments to myself.

Favorite Line/Image: Mr. Croup was in a cold fury. He was walking twice as fast as Mr. Vandemar, circling him, and almost dancing in his anger. At times, as if unable to contain the rage inside, Mr. Croup would fling himself at the hospital wall, physically attack it with his fists and feet, as if it were a poor substitute for a real person. Mr. Vandemar, on the other hand, simply walked. It was too consistent, too steady and inexorable a walk to be described as a stroll: Death walked like Mr. Vandemar.

What I learned: The great thing about this book is that it speaks to something deep within human nature. We all crave identity. As Richard discovers, when you are no longer given recognitions status unless you are self-assured and aware, you can quickly become lost.

Bottom line: Neverwhere is a wonderful adventure story about a journey through a vast underground world full of wonders and horrors. It is also about the same journey we each can choose to make through our own world of wonder and horrors that lies within us. Enjoy it for the story, and think about it for yourself.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/book-a-week-challenge-double-edition-book-8/

Jan 28

Book a Week Challenge – Week 4

WHAT’S PLAYING: Lady GaGaYoü and I

Vacation is over, and now it’s time to get back to work. This week’s book is “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

A dystopian classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale” tells the story of Offred – not her real name, but a patronymic given to her by the new regime in an oppressive future America– and her life as a Handmaid. Forced to provide children by proxy for infertile women of higher social status, Handmaids undergo regular medical tests and a monthly Ceremony in which their Masters attempt to impregnate them. As the novel progresses, Offred learns that many people bend the rules of the theocracy, even the ones who helped to put them in place. People who fought the hardest for a return to “simple values” refuse to live by them, rendering the theocratic government even more intimidating for its hypocrisy.

Offred’s shadowy memories of her husband and daughter provide relief from the brutality of her new life. But these remembrances are tenuous, made all the more indistinct by Atwood’s lyrical prose. Facts appear to merge into one another. History becomes immaterial. Despite the horrific regime and unimaginable tortures she endures, Offred’s voice is reflective. Rather than bitterness and rage, there’s a sense of ennui about her. She’s not completely passive though. Throughout the narrative, she shows flashes of contempt, desire, slyness, and, of course, anger. The mosaic style composition works well, but can also make the story hard to follow. All the same, Atwood’s astonishing skill as a writer and brilliant characterization kept me turning the pages.

This book scared the hell out of me: the idea that women could be reduced to nothing more than invisible, powerless vessels. As my father is fond of saying, “There’s nothing more dangerous than a man with good intentions.”

Bottom Line: Fiercely political and bleak, yet witty and wise, this novel is a must read.

Favorite Line: “Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it….The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others….We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

What I learned: As much as you can, strive for relevance. The book is a classic because it speaks to something deep in the human psyche: fear of the loss of freedom, basic human rights and liberties. It’s powerful stuff, made even more powerful by Atwood’s skill.

Coming up next week: “Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/01/book-a-week-challenge-week-4/

Jan 02

The First Ten of Fifty-Two Books for 2012

WHAT’S PLAYING: Lil Wayne “How to Love”

So, last week I decided to read a book a week for an entire year. It’s not really about the number; it’s about reconnecting with one of the most important things in my life: reading.

That being said, I’m having a hard time getting started. The idea of reading fifty-two books is ambitious to say the least. At the same time, fifty-two is a paltry number compared to all the novels I want to read.

So to make things easier, I’ve narrowed the list down to the first ten. I’ll be posting reviews on each one, depending on when I finish them. Some of these I have read before and want to revisit. Others are new additions to my ever-expanding library. But they all have one thing in common: masters of the craft wrote them, people I hope to emulate in my own writing some day. (And please, remember that I’m reading these books as a consumer. Not a critic.)

1.Witches Abroadby Terry Pratchett

Bet you saw that one coming. This is one of my favorite Discworld novels, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the New Year.

2.The Enchantress of Florenceby Salman Rushdie

This is a new addition. I’ve heard great things about it, and I’m a huge fan of his writing. I can’t wait to read it.

3. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden

Lyrical prose, haunting imagery, and a strong protagonist. Toss in an epic love story set amidst World War II, and you have a book worth revisiting.

4.The Handmaid’s Taleby Margaret Atwood

No reading list would be complete without this unnervingly realistic portrayal of a dystopian future.

5.Poison Studyby Maria V. Snyder

A friend of mine recommended this one. I don’t usually go in for fantasy-romance novels, but she insisted I give it a try.

6. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

I grew up watching the movie. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the book was so much better.

7.Everything is Broken” by John Shirley

Another favorite author — not to mention a kick ass mentor – this is John Shirley’s latest. It’s scheduled for release on January 24. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.

8. “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman

I am ashamed to admit that – while I am a rabid Neil Gaiman fan – I have yet to read this one. An oversight I intend to remedy soon.

9. Luka and the Fire of Life” by Salman Rushdie

The first repeat on my list, but not the last. I picked this one because I wanted a kid’s book on the list, though from what I hear, this book is so much more than that.

10. “Butcher Bird” by Richard Kadrey

Tattoos and demons and witches, oh my! An excellent choice to round out the list. (Plus, I’m kind of digging the ink.)

And there you have it. The first ten of my fifty-two books. What about you? What’s on your must read list for 2012? (If you have any recommendations, I’m open to suggestions.)

I’ll be honest. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull this one off, but no matter how many books I read – fifty or five – the important thing is that I’ll be reading.

Best New Year’s ever!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/01/the-first-ten-of-fifty-two-books-for-2012/