Month: April 2013

2013 Book #17: Panorama City

panoramacityThere are books that I review with the liberry’s website in mind, and there are those that I don’t. This is one of the latter because I don’t know how to say what I want to say without, quite possibly, offending someone. Oh wait…I forgot is my personal blog, so I don’t really care. So there.

I didn’t really know what I was getting into with Panorama City. What I did know was that I was about to spend about 8 hours driving to Houston and back over the course of the weekend, and I’d like an audiobook to fill the time. I don’t have much experience with audiobooks: besides a couple from my childhood (Sphere and one called something like The Emerald Tree), I’ve only successfully listened to all of To Kill a Mockingbird (narrated by Sissy Spacek, who did an excellent job). Panorama City was the perfect length, which was my primary reason for reading it.

From the blurb, which I admit I didn’t read very carefully, I thought I’d be listening to a book about a twenty-something hippie driving through California. That seemed perfect. Except that’s not what I got. At all. I mean, look at the cover, even. I was thinking long road and desert and such. But that’s not the main problem:

The narrator is…special.

I’m not sure if he’s autistic or what, but he’s a “special needs” type. That’s as politically correct as I can make myself be here. I just don’t like books narrated like that: I think that it’s because it makes me sad when someone’s taking advantage of them or making fun of them, and they don’t get it. I don’t want to know about this kid’s first pot-smoking experience when he didn’t even know what was happening to him. UGH.

So here’s the gist of the plot: A 27-year-old “special” guy lives with his father, who dies. His aunt takes over: he moves in, and she tries to give him structure and control every aspect of his life. Except she can’t watch him every minute, and he gets into trouble – but it’s just because he wants to live his own life. His aunt underestimates his abilities, treats him like he can’t do anything for himself, which he can. Again: UGH.

Once I figured out what was going on, which didn’t take long, I would have stopped reading – if I wasn’t in the car with nothing better to do. And I figured it’d get me ahead so I can read some more Game of Thrones soon. It’s not like Panorama City is a bad novel: I even enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It’s just that it’s not the type of book I like to read. I didn’t get through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for the same reason. Some types of novels just frustrate me. Something similar happened with Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s a sequel to The Bean Trees, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it involves the state taking away a child for no good reason. That kind of thing frustrates me as much as novels like Panorama City. I didn’t finish it.

Another thing: I haven’t looked up Antoine Wilson, but I bet he has an MFA. Panorama City follows a grad school kind of pattern and reeks of formal education, maybe even an assignment that just kind of grew. Meh.

So. What I’m saying is that Panorama City isn’t a bad novel, just that it’s not the kind of novel I like. You might. And if you’re offended, well, sorry?

2013 Book #16: Something Wicked This Way Comes

somethingwickedI’ve gone back and forth on whether to give Something Wicked This Way Comes four or five stars on Goodreads. Not that it’s a really important decision. What made me think so much about it is how corny it is, especially at the end, though that corniness is part of its charm, why it’s so good. Which is why I decided on five stars.

Anyway. I first read this book when I was 14, or so, the same age as the protagonists. I had just moved to New Orleans and just started high school, and I was right in the middle of that awkward teenager phase. I totally understood this book from the Will and Jim’s perspective. I’m so glad I read it then so I could come back as an adult to read it again. It’s told from a nostalgic point of view, by an adult. Now I understand that end, too, and I like it all the more.

It’s about two young teenagers, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, and Will’s dad, Charles. Will is content to let his life go on as it is, as it should, but Jim can’t wait to grow up and hit twenty. Charles, who is fifty, would like to be younger so he can relate better to his son. Everyone in town wants something he or she isn’t supposed to have. Then a carnival appears overnight, late in the year for one. And it’s not an ordinary carnival: something’s off. Jim and Will visit one night and stick around afterward. They get into trouble when they see a carousel that’s somehow magic. Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger, the carnival’s owners, seem to be after them, and strange things start happening all over town.

So I’ve already said that I like this book, and I think I’m lucky to have read it twice like I did. It really is good: just keep in mind that it’s supposed to be a little corny. Isn’t most nostalgia somehow corny? If you’ve read it before and it’s been a few years, pick it up again. If you know a teenager, suggest this one, as it’s really worth reading. And it’s a nice, fast read, which I needed after A Game of Thrones and before the inevitable A Clash of Kings. Next, I think I’ll relive another chunk of my childhood with The Catcher in the Rye.

2013 Book #15: A Game of Thrones

gameofthronesWell, that took forever. Three weeks, give or take a couple days. I could have done it faster (my friends who’ve read it say they sped right through it), but I just couldn’t read more than 25 or 30 pages of A Game of Thrones at a time. That’s not to say it’s bad – I really enjoyed it – it’s just long. Really, really long. I know, I know. Some of my favorite books are long. It’s just that when I’m trying to make it to 50 in a year, something that takes three weeks to finish messes with my schedule.

ANYWAY. You probably know all about A Game of Thrones whether from the books or the HBO series. Everyone else seems to, which is why I broke down and took it off of my tl;dr list, where it had sat comfortably for a year, or so.

The plot is so convoluted that I’m not really going to try to summarize this one. In general, it’s about warring lords wanting to claim a kingdom. They even say “game of thrones” several times in the book. It’s like a big chess game. What’s fun, though, is that it’s not always predictable. You become comfortable with a character, and zing! he or she is dead. Also: there are about ten thousand characters, and I don’t think that’s much of an overstatement. I’m really surprised I didn’t spend half my time confused about what was going on. I have to give George R.R. Martin credit for that because it’s a feat. Oh. And don’t expect this book to do anything but make you want to read the rest of them. The end is not really an end – it’s a cliffhanger almost to the scale of the cliffhanger of cliffhangers. But not quite: I’m not as angry as I was about the other one. I just want to read the next book, and I know that I don’t have time right now, and that’s frustrating. I’m tempted to read a bunch of graphic novels to catch up, then dive back into the series, but I’m holding off.

So here’s the point: It’s good and epic, but don’t get sucked into it if you don’t want to finish it.

I haven’t seen the TV series, but someone told me that if I’m going to watch and read it, I should watch it first because I’ll be mad if I read it first. Okay, I have seen the first hour, or so, of the series, but I didn’t have the patience for it, and I’m not planning on watching the rest anytime soon. The books, though, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from because I just can’t help myself.

2013 Book #14: Eric

ericEric was exactly what I needed after the torture that was Kafka‘s Amerika. A Terry Pratchett novel is always funny and enjoyable – and in this case, a relief. I had no idea where to go after Amerika. I wanted to take a break from books. I knew that if I did that, though, my goal of reading 50 this year would crumble. And there was the next Discworld novel waiting patiently on my Kindle. Eric is the 9th of 40 (so far), and it’s (also so far) my favorite. I loved Eric. I even had a Neverending Story-style lunch in my office to finish it. PB&J and the works! Oh, it was so good.

It’s the third Rincewind novel, meaning that it stars a mischievous wizard of that name. After the last one, he ended up in the realm of the demons, and he wanted to get back to the (more) real world of Ankh-Morpork. Turns out, though, that his ticket in is a demon circle opened by a 13-year-old kid named Eric, who has Faustian dreams. He is convinced that Rincewind is a demon and, if Eric signs his soul over, that supposed demon will grant him three wishes: live forever, meet the most beautiful woman in the world, rule the world. Except when Rincewind snaps his fingers, it works, and they visit the Mayans, the Trojan War, and Dante’s version of Hell. And it’s so much fun!

I can always rely on Discworld novel for a chuckle or twelve, and Eric certainly didn’t disappoint. This is an especially short one, too, so I finished it within 24 hours, which is an exception for me. One good thing about the Discworld novels is that you don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way through: though they’re all interconnected, you can pick any one of them up and enjoy it. If you haven’t read any of them yet, I’d say Eric is a good starting place.

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