Friday, March 27, 2015

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Axl and his wife Beatrice are elderly Britons leaving their home to journey to visit their son.  They aren’t quite sure why their son is no longer living near them, that part is hazy, as are all memories for all people and it has been that way for some time.  Regardless of the fog overlying their recollections they head off to be reunited with their boy while they can still travel.

That is the crux of the book: the journey of Axl and Beatrice physically and mentally as the fog of their minds is broken down and eventually lifted.  Along the way they meet a knight, a soldier, and a curious boy all of whom journey with them for they all have similar goals relating to the memory issues everyone in the land suffers.

This book has received some harsh reviews and while I understand why that is so, I personally liked the book.  I majored in Medieval and Renaissance Literature in college and had to read the Canterbury Tales and L’Morte d’Arthur (in Middle English no less) and this reminded me of those old works.  It was repetitious and the cadence was of an oral tradition being set to paper.  What I found familiar and nostalgic I can see others seeing as repetitious and weird. The overlying problem of the novel, the fog, is magical in nature, another element that may frustrate readers. 

So if you like the REALLY old classics you may enjoy this.  If not, you may want to read something else…

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Fever by Megan Abbott

Deenie is a typical teenager enjoying high school with her two best friends when her world is turned upside down.  During class one afternoon Deenie’s best friend for years has what appears to be a seizure and is rushed to the hospital.  Deenie tries to get answers, but no one knows what is wrong with Lise.  Then days later her other best friend, Gabby, looks like she’s suffering from a similar attack during an orchestral concert.  From there things dissolve into chaos as more and more girls fall victim to this strange ailment.  Is it a horrible side effect from the HPV vaccine?  Or is something else more insidious at work?

I recommend the audiobook because the story is told from the perspective of the three members of the Nash family: Deenie, the friend of the first two that show symptoms of illness; Eli, her older brother and handsome hockey star; and her father, also a school teacher where all the afflicted girls attend.  All three storytellers are voiced by a different reader which really brings the story to life.

I read somewhere that the book was compared to the Salem Witch Trials and you can see the parallels, but not until you’re really into the book.  If you keep that notion in the back of your mind you’ll get a glimpse of what’s really going on with the sicknesses.  Mystery, horror and psychological study rolled into one this book captures the emotional turmoil at the core of being an adolescent girl.  I’ve enjoyed Abbott’s past two books and am eagerly waiting for whatever she does next. 

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Thora is getting bored with life as a lawyer in Reykjavik.  When a paid opportunity to help her boyfriend investigate one of his bank’s clients, a mining operation in Greenland that has come upon difficulties, she leaps at the offer.  After arriving there, she has her doubts.  If she ever thought the winters in Iceland were hard she will never think so again.  Eastern Greenland is desolate and the weather is brutal.  Even worse the two miners her group is supposed to meet are missing.  Did they succumb to the elements or did they meet with foul play?

Like all of her books there is a lot going on and it slowly builds.  I can’t really say much about the plot without giving some of the carefully reveled clues away so I’ll just say you get a taste of Eastern Greenland and most of us can cross that off our list of places to visit.  It’s interesting how the author blends past and present, folklore and science, the expected and unexpected into this entertaining mystery.  It’s slow paced, but the style matches the story and setting. 

If you’re sick and tired of the cold, this will make you feel a little better about our weather.  Not much, but a little.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Terms and Conditions May Apply (Documentary)

I know, I know.  Another movie?!  Not just another movie, another documentary!  I’m not a documentary viewer typically but this one seemed interesting when I read the blurb.  Glad I decided to give it a watch.

The whole movie centers around all those AGREE buttons that we click when we get an iTunes, Facebook, Google or whatever account agreeing to their terms and conditions.  These corporations stand behind these terms and conditions knowing full well that no one actually ever reads the whole thing.  What exactly are you agreeing to when you click?  This film goes through the ins and outs of these agreements and also talks about privacy (actually the lack of privacy) in the modern age.  A real eye-opening documentary that is extremely well crafted; entertaining and informative and frightening.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Don’t Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman

Buck Schatz has lost his house and is living under the watchful eye of a torturer.  At least that’s how he would see it.  Buck, retired Memphis detective, is 88 years old, living in an assisted living facility and going to physical therapy on a daily basis to recover from injuries he received while bringing down a former Nazi.  Truly.  Now Buck’s past is back once again in the form of Elijah, a cunning thief that has just pulled off some very lucrative robberies and is looking for protection in exchange for turning himself in.  Buck arranges the deal and that’s when everything goes horribly wrong.

This is the sequel to Don’t Ever Get Old.  You don’t need to read the first book in the series to appreciate the second, but it is a lot of fun so you should.  A great choice on audio since the author does “grumpy old man” oh so well.  The author doesn’t shy away from the problems of being very old and having to cope with the breakdown of your body and mind, Buck experiences it all and explains his opinion on the matter quite colorfully.  He is spunky and has great street smarts, but the author does a great job reminding the reader that his main character has obstacles to overcome that a man half his age could simply jump over.

Not a happy cozy mystery, this is dark and gritty, just the way I like my mysteries best.  

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

Today Jane is thirty-five and working as an archivist at a private museum created over a hundred years ago and about to shut its doors forever.  She becomes obsessed with old records after finding an entry about a girl who disappeared on the lands adjacent to an old asylum’s grounds.  Only one entry is made about N--- going missing.  Nothing else is ever written and Jane is determined to solve the mystery because she is still trying to understand an event from twenty years ago.  Jane, fifteen years old, was to watch over Lily, aged five, as her father searched out plants from gardens created a hundred years ago.  Lily was running along the path seeking out numbered markers and rounded a curve in the path to find the next in the series.When Jane made the turn shortly after the little girl was gone, never to be seen again.  N--- disappeared from the same location, could the two be related somehow?

The author does a really interesting thing with the narrative.  In the beginning of the book “we” is talking about their feelings and experiences and over the course of the next few sections it becomes clear that “we” is an entity made up of a number of ghosts all trying to piece together who they were in life. As the book goes on “we” becomes identifiable individuals. It’s a cool concept and the author does it really well.  However, I had a problem with the ending.  Maybe I missed something huge, but I don’t think I did.  One of the storylines is never resolved and it drove me nuts.  The whole point of Jane’s research into the past is to try to piece together how two disappearances may be related yet we never have a resolution for one of them.  I am a huge fan of the open ending, but this was a little too wide open for me.

This book is released on March 31, 2015.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dinosaur 13 (Documentary)

Yes, I’m blogging a movie.  I’ve been told that I watch some odd movies that no one has ever heard of so I’ve decided to add them here when I watch something out of the norm and enjoy it.

When I walked in the Field Museum of Chicago with some friends over a decade ago I immediately screamed “Sue!” and went running towards her.  My friends didn’t know what I was talking about.  “It’s Sue,” I screamed jumping around and pointing up at the huge dinosaur, “everybody knows Sue!”  They shook their heads at me incredulously with what looked disturbingly like pity for my affinity for quirky things.  Thankfully I was saved by an eavesdropping seven year old, who almost snarled, “She’s right, EVERYBODY knows Sue.”  I was vindicated.

If you are as enthralled with Sue as I am you must watch this movie.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Sue is the thirteenth Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found and to this day she’s the most complete T. Rex fossil ever discovered.  She was also the center of an ENORMOUS amount of litigation that, in my opinion, was ludicrous.  I’m thankful that I got to see Sue in Chicago, but I think she belongs in South Dakota.  Watch the movie and come to your own conclusion.