Llew's Reviews

Archive for the 'Foreign Fantasies' Category

Book #13 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006 by Miss Laura

I stayed home sick yesterday, and when I realized I was having a moment of not being nauseated I moved into action. I stockpiled everything I thought I might need on the coffee table in front of the couch, popped a movie in the dvd player and had it all set up so I’d just have to push a button on the remote control. Then, I got my ipod close, settled my laptop in, and then very quickly selected a handful of books in case I could read.

The funny thing about my book collection (and it is a rather healthy collection) is that I have more books that I haven’t read than I have. Not because I don’t read much that I want to, but because after I finish a book it is rare that I want to keep it. Don’t get me wrong. I will read a book, and then hunt it down in hardback to purchase while giving away the paperback. However, that’s only when I really love a title so most of the books I read get sent on. This unbalance might also have to do with the facts that I rarely reread books, and that my father always taught me that you should have books which you’ve never read around, and I took him very seriously.

“Never Let Me Go” happened to be at the top of the stack of my stockpile. I had tried to start it during Christmas, but to be honest I’m so busy and distracted during that time of the year that I usually can’t even finish the jokes on the inside a gum wrapper much less a novel. Thus, I didn’t give much weight to the fact I had already tried and failed. Plus, I figured this would be only a half-hearted try since the night before, when I started to get ill, I couldn’t stand to read anything because of feeling so poorly.

However, I picked it up again, and was immediately sucked in. That might have to do with the fact that it starts off taking place in a boarding school. I’m such a sucker for books with school as the setting, and I’m not sure why. I do know, however, that it is the reason for my slight obsession for teen books that weren’t meant to be read by teens. This one definitely has a much different angle than most school books, and is no where close to being a YA title. There’s this whole dsytopian situation abound. (Although, I won’t go into the plot. I rarely do on this site, and I’m not sure why. It could be likely because I think that would sound like a book report. However, it’s most likely because I don’t like knowing too much about the plot myself before reading a book. It always seems to ruin it for me. Even the incredibly short Booksense blurb I read about this novel before reading it, altered how I felt about it while taking it in.)

Suffice it to say, it’s the best book I’ve read so far this year, but that didn’t keep it from making me unbelievably sad at the end. Of course, that could have just been the fact that I had to go to work the next day. Either way, it’s definitely a thoughtful, well written, not entirely happy but worthwhile still experience. Plus, I’m always excited to discover a current author who I really like – even if everyone has read something by him except for me.

Book #44 A Year In The Merde by Stephen Clarke

Saturday, October 29th, 2005 by Miss Laura

Carrie bought this book while visiting me, and hearing her laughter while she read it convinced me to do the same. Any book where the names are changed in order to “avoid embarrassment, possible legal action-and to prevent the author’s legs being broken by someone in a Yves Saint Laurent suit” is right up my alley. Heaven knows that if I ever right a book that there are certain women who favor turquoise and purple velour jumpsuits who will have my head.

But at least now I know how to order a normal sized beer in Paris. Surely, that’s going to come in handy at some point.

Book #37 Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Friday, September 30th, 2005 by Miss Laura

This is the last time that I pick up a thousand page book to read without thinking of the consequences. Three fourths of the way through I started to feel as if I were in a bad relationship that I just couldn’t end. We had already been through so much I just couldn’t quit! And the endearing memories of our first days together. How I trembled when I read the lines of:

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”

I didn’t even have the intention of reading the book when I picked it up. I was merely just flipping through, but it grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. Even with that shakiness that I felt when the pacing change near the end, I still think this book is incredible. Really, it is. It went from a hilarious charming view of Indian culture from the view of an outsider who was slowly being made a part of it to a war in Afghanistan against the Russians which threw me for a loop. But it was an informative thrilling loop that caused the story to run a gamut of plot points that many people don’t see in their own lives throughout their lifetime. Or at lease, ones that this particular person hopes she doesn’t have to see in her lifetime. Case in point:

“In my case, it’s a long story, and a crowded one. I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosspher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum-security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun-towers, I became my country’s most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me across the world to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed, and starved. I went to war. I ran into enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died. They were better men than I am, most of them: better men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else’s hate, or love, or indifference. And I buried them, too many of those men, and grieved their stories and their lives into my own.”

Book #35 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Friday, September 2nd, 2005 by Miss Laura

Elsewhere, I related how this blog, and the project behind it had caused me to realize that there are definite patterns to my reading. Right now, I’ve just started my “Books I Have Been Meaning To Read But Have Put Off Due To Fear Of Violent Hand Cramps” phase. These are the books towering by my bed on my nightstand which threaten to crush me in the night if ever knocked over. The foundation of this pile was “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” (red cover edition) which I bought on my father’s account at the bookshop on christmas eve, wrapped, and then opened it on Christmas Day after gleefully saying, “Thanks Dad! It’s exactly what I wanted!” to my slightly bewildered father.

It was good… ish. If I had to read it all over again for the first time, I would. I just wouldn’t do it any time soon. I thought the editor was too light-handed but it wasn’t to a detrimental amount like Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, which I couldn’t even finish. And as far as causing my hands to cramp, that devil caused my hand to go numb and FALL ASLEEP while holding it. I guess it’s better my hand than me.

Book #29 Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Thursday, June 30th, 2005 by Miss Laura

This is one of my rare forays into non-fiction, but it came highly recommended by a friend so I decided to venture boldly into it. It’s the heartwrenching story of 26 Mexican men who walked into the US illegally, and became lost on their way causing the death of over half of them. More than just their story, and the plight of many hardworking people who are taken advantage of by the coyotes who exploit their desire to have a better life, it is also about how the men who work in the sothern counties of the border states work to keep these wanderers alive. Their job is focused more on the people’s survival than on the legalities.

I guess it was a subject that I had not thought much on but the book caused me to have two new resolves:
1. I’m never ever ever going out into the desert again. I don’t care how many indie rock bands you throw into Indio. IT’S NOT HAPPENING.
2. I have a lot more respect for certain people now, and a lot more loathing for others.

Book #26 Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Sunday, June 19th, 2005 by Miss Laura

This was my beach read on my trip to Edisto Island with my boyfriend’s family. Of course, I can’t read while actually on a beach so I missed going outside and being roasted in the hot sun to read this book. That kind of dedication deserves a reward – something along the lines of an aloe kiss on the nose.

What this book did the most was make me realize that I missed reading russian literature. About seven years ago I went on a kick of sorts and fell in love. However, I never touched Gogol which is a theme of sorts in this book, and now I feel lacking. So, now I shall set out and get my hands on some Gogol to rectify that flaw in my literacy. Of course, it also makes me want to get my hands on Lahiri’s first work as well.

Book #18 Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Saturday, May 7th, 2005 by Miss Laura

What is it with these Japanese authors killing themselves? If they commit suicide right after writing a book what’s to keep me from thinking of doing the same after reading it – especially when they compare a woman’s lips to a row of leaches?

By the time I got into Snow Country it was halfway finished. Not to say that it wasn’t good. It’s just that at first I wasn’t smitten by the writing style as I’ve never been a fan of short choppy sentences. I believe this is what the book blurbs on the back call, “Beautifully economical”. Oh Times Literary supplement – how you make everything so poetic!

Book #17 These Demented Lands by Alan Warner

Thursday, May 5th, 2005 by Miss Laura

For whatever reason, I can never remember the title of this book so I keep referring to it as “The dismemberment Plan.” Couple that with my “Cesspool, Ca” mishaps and I’m just one of those senile old ladies who smears on the lipstick not realizing that her lips disappeared a decade ago.

This was Alan Warner’s second book and the third of his I’ve read. It was also my least favorite. Not that it was bad per se. It’s just the others were SO good. Of course, what novel will ever be able to hold a light to one about naughty Scottish school girls?

This one has really great weird characters, including Morvern Callar who you can’t help be smitten with and scared of all at once. The story is also told by a man who claims to work for the department of transportation as an aircrash investigator. He’s always looking for and piecing together the remnants of a decade old plane crash. He and Morvern befriend each other. I’d tell you more of the plot except for that was definitely the weak point of this novel. Like it had the fun characters with dry humor conversations, but it didn’t seem to be really going anywhere. Or at least no where that I particularly wanted to join them.

Book #14 Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Sunday, March 27th, 2005 by Miss Laura

Me: I have a problem with hari-kari Haruki Murakami.
Friend: Which is?
Me: Well, it’s the males in his stories. Like the main character in Norwegian Wood basically gets it on with every girl in the book, even the ones who are just minor characters.
Friend: Well, he is Japanese. We should just be thankful he’s not involved with cartoons.

Seeing as the main character’s father prophesies that his son will sleep with his mother and sister, I knew that Kafka On The Shore wasn’t going to be much different from the other Murakami’s novels I’ve read. There’s something about his stories that always keep me compelled to keep reading. Yet, I’m never very positive about the book once I’m finished. His characters are very real, but they’re not easy to relate to. So while I’m incredibly curious as to what they’re going to do next and what is going to happen, it never goes to the next level of actually caring about them personally. I was about to give an example from this work when I realized that the plot is so convoluted that there is no way that I could make my point without typing a chapter myself.

A couple of years ago I was out with a boy for the first time, and he was telling me about a short story written by Murakami that he had recently read. I responded with, “Oh, that reminds me of an episode of South Park!” Yes, aren’t I knocking them dead with my literary repotire? To add to the horror, it wasn’t just any episode of South Park, it was the one featuring the UNDERWEAR GNOMES!

At the time I thought, “Way to impress the fellows, Laura!” However, the more of Murakami’s work I read the more that mentioning underwear gnomes seems like a much better thing for me to bring up to his more loving readers than any of my real opinions. I’m much safer that way.

Book #11 The Decay Of The Angel By Yukio Mishima

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005 by Miss Laura

The Decay Of The Angel has left me speechless. Or rather spluttering. I can’t even think of how to describe how brilliant it was, but it was a more perfect capstone to the series than I could ever imagine. Up until this book (and even through the first half of it), I thought the series was good but nothing as remarkable as others had said. However this book has to be one of the best I’ve ever read, but it wouldn’t stand as such without the rest of the books as a background. Absolutely enthralling.

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