Friday, 27 July 2007

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I completed reading this book within 2-3 days. That's because I was rushing to finish it by Saturday so I could return it to the library and also I was home all day yesterday. It's a very good read - like many others who read this book, I had fun trying to figure out who the gods were before they were named in the stories. I'm having a hard time with one though - the one who's name Shadow always never seems to grasp. I didn't read this book very carefully. It was more like a fun quick read for me. I think if I have the mood, I'll try picking it up for a re-read some time in the future. Other than that, my next goal is to complete reading all the books I purchased in the past.

Monday, 23 July 2007

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

This coming-of-age journey of a boy, David, who lost his mother to death, was a very difficult book to read in public places. At numerous points in the story, I had stop reading because I was afraid I couldn't control myself from bursting into unstoppable tears.

Somehow, this simple but cleverly crafted tale struck many raw nerves for me. Maybe because it was about a boy, who might be the same age as my son is now. Maybe it was about the loss of childhood but the attainment of the wisdom and kindness that might come from suffering if one learnt to grow up by facing one's fears. Whatever it was, I came away feeling that John Connolly wrote a mighty fine book that was imaginative, emotional and enlightening.

This book had none of the hovering writer's presence that I felt in reading John Connolly's book of short stories, Nocturnes. Once I started on the first sentence, I was immediately transported into David's world, entering his experiences, his mind and emotions. Though it seems a typical story about a child who loses a much-loved parent, and having to come to terms with living with a new mother and half-brother when his father remarries, The Book of Lost Things does not fall into the trite or cliche. As a real war with the Germans rages about him, a battle on his mind begins. There is never any doubt that David is slowly losing hold of this world and will enter into the world where stories come alive. When he hears books whispering to him and he falls into fits where he loses consciousness with increasing frequency, David eventually and inevitably hears his mother calling to him to save her. He decisively follows the voice and enters another realm where he walks the path of the Hero's Journey, battling monsters and facing his inner demons.

Throughout the book, I felt myself understanding more and more the message that John Connolly wanted to send but I never felt he was didactic or overbearing in putting it across. Instead, the Hero's Journey that David experiences enriches Connolly's moral-of-the-story. As David grows in understanding and courage, so too the sorrowful yet comforting feeling that this is truly the best way. That if a child should lose his innocence, it would best be lost to be replaced with these best qualities that might be born from suffering: to become a loving person with a forgiving heart; to be protective to those who might be weaker and even fair to the wicked. David ends his journey becoming such a person and more! How wonderful it would be for a mother to see her child grow to be such a fine young man!

I truly enjoyed reading this book, even though I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, and ended up tearing or weeping many times over.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Books Not Read

This entry isn't about books I've read recently. It's about books I've borrowed from the library and NOT read. I'm in this rushed and stressed state of mind. I am unable to think straight and the books I picked up just demanded too much from me. So I didn't read them at all. Here are the reasons why:

1. The Book of Dave, Will Self

Promising premise and captivating blurb on the back cover, but the writer lost me from the start of the 9th line of the first page. Trying to be the next Anthony Burgess, I suppose, he wrote conversations and thoughts to reflect future vocabulary, speech patterns and pronunciations. One sentence of "Wot if Eye woz up vair, Carl thought, up vair lyke ve Flyin I?" is fine enough to grapple with. But when the frequency of such writing increased and I lost sense of what the characters were saying, I put down the book, never mustering anymore interest in picking it up again.

2. Nocturnes, by John Connolly

I wanted to read The Book of Lost Things which Chris reviewed beautifully, but my library reservation wasn't ready yet, so I picked up Connolly's anthology of scary stories to tide me over. I read a couple of the stories and they were interesting enough, but John Connolly's writing voice is very peculiar and its dryness seems to hover consistently over every story I read in the anthology, making it difficult for me to lose myself in any of the plots. I am ever conscious of John Connolly the writer, so it made me feel like I was going through an academic exercise, instead of enjoying myself reading stories. I read two and a half stories, then didn't continue with the rest of the collection.

3. Resonator, by Prentis Rollins

This was one book I borrowed without flipping through the contents first. I thought it would show me how writers wrote up the script for comics and graphic novels. I recall seeing something like a script in one of Neil Gaiman's books, so I thought this book might provide equally interesting enlightenment. Serves me right for not checking first. I found Rollins only wrote about the process of developing the story, and that took about 4-5 pages of the chapter. He did not show how he wrote up the script for the comic, except for one page which contained partial images from his original stories and just a bit of his comic script. I suppose it is because he is both the writer and the artist for the graphic novel, Resonator, he did not need to write much more than the dialogue for the script. In the end, I did not learn much from this book as a wanna-be-writer and I lost interest in reading the graphic novel itself. His artwork is very lush and detailed though and he does go into great lengths to describe his drawing process, with chapters on preproduction, pencilling, inking and lettering. I think it will be a better resource for an artist interested in drawing a comic or graphic novel.

4. Before Midnight, by Cameron Dokey.

I did not give this book a chance. I read the first page and then I felt I did not get a good enough hook right from the start - the pacing of the writing was not what I needed at this point - so I just stopped reading this. I think it might be a good story for light-reading but I just really want to sink into some "lose yourself into the story right from the start" type of story. This really didn't do it for me, right from the start.

5. Fantasy - The best of the Year, 2006 Edition

Read one and a half stories from this collection. Then no more interest. Too tired.

That's it. All the books I didn't read. I'm really out of it again at this point in time. Seems like life is bearing down on me again and I'm losing my mental capacity to sustain interest in reading. I didn't complete the Banned Books Challenge, which ended on 30 June. I seem to have energy only to knit while I watch TV/discs (Supernatural, Smallville, K-drama, that kind of thing) and do some sewing here and there when I can find the time. I really need to sink my teeth into some good escapist fiction. Just have to find the right one. I'm collecting The Book of Lost Things from the library reservation counter this weekend. I hope it will be the book.