High Rise by J.G. Ballard
Setting: London, England
In a city block sized high-rise, residents of 40 floors have access to everything they would need in this mini-city within walls. A bank, a grocery store, a junior school and a restaurant. Although the residents tolerate each other, tensions build as mechanical breakdowns start the eventual downfall of the hierarchical society and mass chaos ensues as tenants form packs and their primal instincts kick in for self-preservation.
This book is an eerie look at society falling apart & turning on each other, like packs of wild animals. Apart from being isolated in a high-rise building, it was never very clear why the society in the building decayed beyond technical malfunctions of the elevators. Of course, there was clear jealousy between the haves & have-nots with literal ties to the poor on the bottom & the rich on top. However, the actual cause was murky which bugged me for the entire duration of the book.
The women are passive and victimized in horrifying amounts and are portrayed as neglectful of their husbands and children. The men are aggressive, full of sexual frustration with urges to pee on everything to mark their territory
Did I like this book? No. Did I like how Ballard was able to dehumanize society? Yes, actually. The changes that take place over one character in particular, Wilder, were a fascinating character study to me. This transition from mild social climber to ferocious beast was gradual, frightening and seemed to mirror the entire mood of the high-rise. Most of the other lead characters (all men) where dull in compassion. Laing & Royal in particular offered very little to the book.
The book was recently adapted for the big screen. I’m curious to see what the movie will be like. There is quite a bit of violence (both physical & sexual) throughout the book as people attempt to assert their dominance & status.
© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2044, reality is ugly & the only place of refugee is the online world of Oasis, a virtual utopia (like the Sims games). When the creator dies and leaves behind a maze of puzzles and riddles based on 1980s trivia, Wade’s new mission is to crack the code and win before the evil corporate clones do.
Although the concept of this book is incredibly entertaining, I found the characters to be annoying and the love story to feel awkward and forced. I think what bothered me the most about this book is how easily things fell into place for Wade. He was always at the right place at the right time. He knew all the right moves, had all the answers, all the motivation, all the luck. As ironic as it is to say about a sci-fi book, the convenience of all the obstacles made the story unrealistic. It took away from the drama. It never really felt like there much of a challenge up against Wade throughout the book. It’s not the best written book, but the story is entertaining and most adults will appreciate the 80s references. There are so many 80s references in this book. That seems to be a new trend, especially with YA books. I’d recommend this for folks who like Ender’s Game and other titles of that nature. The audio book is narrated by Will Wheaton, which is worth the purchase price purely for that reason alone.
*Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was originally posted at thenovelworld.com on 7/14/2014*
Jocelyn lives in a small town in France, neither happy nor unhappy with her life. She lives a life half in the past and half in the present, afraid to think about the future until she one day wins the jackpot lottery of 18 million euros. Then, she faces the tough decisions of what to do with her life now that the possibilities are endless.
The book is very melancholy, but easy to relate to. Jocelyn is the every day woman, devoted to her family, maintained by small tokens of happiness from friends, a blog, and small gestures from family. What I really appreciate is the genuine dilemma she faces having won the lottery. Questioning the motives of those around her, trying to decide if she really needs it or not, her wish list expanding & becoming more intricate as time passes. It’s a well written short novel that will have the reader asking what they would do in her shoes, or maybe realizing that money doesn’t always equate to happiness.
Find this book at your local library
*This entry was originally posted on www.thenovelworld.com on Friday June 6th, 2014*
Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate by Stephanie Lucianovic
Publisher: Perigee Trade, 2012
Find this book at your local library
Former picky eater, and now foodie/chef Stephanie Lucianovic takes a humorous and in-depth look at why and how picky eaters are picky eaters. Part memoir, part science and part humor is how she makes her point that picky eaters aren’t just fussy, but have valid medical, psychological and physical reasons for their tastes and reactions to specific foods.
She examines taste buds, she goes to a genetics lab to examine her DNA, she speaks to food behavioral therapists, parents, friends, chefs, and children in the Bay Area and around the nation. Her work is lively, chatty and informative. I bet the audio cd would be a hoot to listen to if she narrates it. I’m also a little bit partial to this book because most of her research is done around the Bay Area. She lives in Menlo Park, and I couldn’t help but wonder if she ever brought her young son to the baby storytime I did there. Not that it has anything to do with the book, but that its a small world after all if she did. =p
This is a book that picky eaters and foodies can associate with. Although it is chock-full of research, and anecdotes, there isn’t much in the way of advice other than “try new food” and “don’t push foods onto kids, they’ll just hate them all the more.” She makes a good point that kids today are exposed to a wider variety of foods via farmer’s market not to mention the super yummy creations of Ella’s Kitchen for tiny tots.
We are all picky eaters in our way. As much as I love cinnamon buns, and crave them on a regular basis, I avoid eating them because I can’t stand the sticky sauce that is poured over it, same goes for most drenched finger foods (ie ribs). Too messy = not for me. My husband can’t stand anything pickled (cucumbers, pickles, etc). We love food, love to cook and consider ourselves foodie-wannabes, but we still have our hang-ups. Everyone does! As long as it doesn’t get in the way of your health, then its really no big deal is mine and the author’s stance.
So, what food have you avoided recently?
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2013
Find this book at your local library
Franny Banks is an aspiring actress in New York. By day, she’s a waitress, and at night, she’s taking acting classes and preparing for auditions. This novel is what most can assume to be a semi-autobiographical account of Lauren Graham’s experiences as a struggling actress before becoming a household name with her role on Gilmore Girls.
Overall, I liked Someday, Someday, Maybe. Although I can’t really call it a great piece of literature. Everything about this book is cliche and predictable. But I connected to Franny (the only likeable character in this book) and I was cheering for her. Her character is flawed, insecure and very impressionable. At times it was annoying and I wished for some character development, with any of the characters really. Everyone is so two-dimensional and fit exactly into the stereotypes that we non-actors cast onto people in the media industry.
But I swear, I liked the book! Its a good quick summer read. Its a beach read. Light and fluffy with a decent sense of humor for some good chuckles. I particularly liked the doodles and small bits of comedy in Franny’s planner, used to signify the start of each chapter. Its definitely something fans of Gilmore Girls will appreciate. Its no coincidence that Franny shares a very, very similar sense of humor as Lorelei Gilmore. Amy Sherman-Palladino would be proud to see the character re-emerge as a struggling actress in New York.
For librarians, teachers and parents, the new year doesn’t necessarily start in January. It starts in September when summer draws to a close and the new school year is on the horizon.
As a new mom & librarian, I am getting more and more excited for the days when I can take my little guy shopping for back to school supplies (my favorite part as a kid…dorkily enough), as well as taking him to school in general and watching him learn and grow with the world around him.
Lori at Reading Confetti has put together a wonderful collection of books with which to ring in each month. I can see many uses for this for library story times, for themed activities after school and on the weekends to reinforce the concepts in a fun way. This is a very thorough list and a great resource for parents and librarians in search of books to recommend or read to children.
A Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light by Bryce Corbett
Find this book at your local library
Stuck in a rut in London, Australian native Bryce Corbett applies on a whim to a position he is highly unqualified for in Paris. For reasons he can’t figure out, he is given the position and is soon on his way to the City of Light, the city where he has dreamt of living for years. Once in Paris, his adventures are nothing short of hilarious. The type that makes you shake your head in wonder.
I wonder if Bryce Corbett and Stephen Clarke ever met for a cafe while in Paris? Fans of Clarke will enjoy Corbett’s wry wit, his male perspective on the most romantic city in Europe, as well as his lack of aspirations towards work, and his overdrive commitment to drinking, partying and falling in love with the Lido showgirl, Shay.
Sometimes, I think a male perspective on Paris is just the right book. Girls tend to sugarcoat, or go into purple prose when it comes to Paris’ charms, but guys are more direct and like to focus on the negatives of the city. I do have to say, that I am insanely jealous of his situation. Being paid to live in a city, albeit he didn’t care for his work at all, but the means to an end, provided him with up to 6 years of Parisian life.
His stories are funny, and well chronicled. From the escapades of dating, to the foibles of dealing with the French bureaucracy, to starting a mildly popular band that plays in the bars of the city, Corbett’s prose seems genuine. Although at times I wondered if he fluffed up the story just to heighten the hilarity. His descriptions of the people, the places and events that took place in Paris had me laughing out loud or shaking my head in wonder. The chapters are short, but there are quite a few of them. A few felt repetitive, and some just dragged on, but for the most part, this is a highly entertaining read.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow, 2013
Find this book at your local library
When a middle-aged-man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he takes an unexpected stroll down memory lane, remembering parts of his childhood from when he was 7-years-old and met Lettie Hempstock. Soon, history comes flooding back to him as he recollects sitting by the duck pond, or what she called her ocean.
Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.
Neil Gaiman doesn’t write sequels, but the Ocean At the End of the Lane is like a distant cousin of The Graveyard Book and Coraline. Its a short novel, and I’m not quite sure if its meant for adults, kids or teens. It is written from the perspective of a 7-year-old, with innocent thoughts and fears, but much of the content is adult; frightening and surreal. This book, like the Graveyard Book, starts with a death. Like Coraline, the other mother, Ursula Monkton, is much more creepy and cruel.
This incredibly short book is more like a dream than a novel. Everything happens so quickly, so smoothly, but all the events and people seem incongruous somehow. As much as I loved and devoured this book, it is so easy to get lost in Neil Gaiman’s prose, hearing his voice narrate the book… I digress, fangirl that I am. As much as I enjoyed this book, I felt that one of the biggest faults was Lettie Hempstock’s nonchalance confidence with ridding the world of Ursula Monkton. It halted the suspense of the novel at times. Although Gaiman’s descriptions and eerie setting more than made up for that. Its not my favorite of his books, I think it could have been and should have been expanded, but it is a good read for a solitary, quiet evening.
Awesome People Reading
This has been a fairly active week on the blog. One of my favorite book blogging events is going to be starting in a couple short weeks, Paris in July. I don’t have anything planned as of yet, but I do still have a number of books that take place in France waiting to be read on my bookshelf. As for events, we shall see. I might not get farther than baking a batch of madeleine cookies.
Reading is going well, I’m making progress in all of my books. It helps to have books stashed all over the house, so that no matter where I sit down to breastfeed the little bookworm, I can just pick up the closest book and start reading.
I received an incredibly amount of books in the mail this week as well. Its nice to be back on the publishing radar after a brief hiatus.
Books I received in the mail
- The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Score *does the Snoopy dance*)
- The Wet & The Dry by Lawrence Osborne
- The Big Disconnect by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Edd
- Along with 6 picture books from Reading Rockets as part of their Start With A Book giveaway.
I also started a new page on the blog to discreetly track the picture books we have been reading to the little one. I won’t backtrack to what we read in the past. It will start fresh as of this weekend. Don’t expect to see too many of those reviews on the main page though. This will stay mostly a blog for adult works.
Books I reviewed:
- All My Friends by Marie N’Diaye
- Start with a book (or 6)
- Its Coming…My Favorite Time of the Year
- The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
- The Log on the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck
What I’m currently reading:
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- The Fountain of St. James Court or The Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman – Sena Jeter Naslund