Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reading Log, December 2010 through May 2011

My reading has been chaotic the last few months. I've read everything from sci-fi, non-fiction, mystery, to detective and literary fiction. I've read old and new. I've read long and short.

The Multiplex Man, James P. Hogan
This sci-fi novel has an Orwellian 1984 feel to it. Government, in the name of environmental control, has gone off the deep end. Personal freedoms have vanished, and scientific technology has made possible the impossible. The main character, Richard Jarrow, wakes one day to find he has lost all memory of the past six months and is living in someone else’s body. Through an amazing number of twists and turns, culminating in a surprise ending, the mystery is solved.

Admittedly, I’m not a sci-fi fan, and this is the only Hogan book I’ve read. I can say is that the story did keep me turning pages and curious to the very end. I would probably give Hogan another try in one of those rare moments when I decide to read another sci-fi book.

These Things Hidden, Heather Gudenkauf
I chose this book because I so enjoyed The Weight of Silence, by the same author. I was disappointed in this one, however. The book was dark and lacked the redeeming themes of hope and love found in The Weight of Silence.

The book revolves around the lives of four women, all connected in unique ways to a small child named Joshua. Although I usually enjoy a story revealed from various voices and perspectives, I found this particular novel to be disjointed and lacking flow. The surprising revelation found near the end of the novel, which depended upon the coming-together of the four women felt, to me, contrived rather than simply coincidental.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, Conor Grennan
It’s nice to read a biographical book where both the author and those he touched had such life-changing experiences. Conor Grennan set off on a round-the-world journey of fun and adventure. Along the way, he planned a brief volunteer stop at The Little Princes Children’s Home, in Nepal. Admittedly, this mission was more to impress others than it was altruistic. But his time at Little Princes changed his heart and the course of his life. This book and the author, himself, deserve a “thumbs up.”

Rex: A Mother, Her Autistic Child, and the Music that Transformed Their Lives, Cathleen Lewis
This is the story of Rex, an autistic musical savant, as told by his mother. Rex is truly a remarkable individual, and the story is interesting. I would, however, have preferred more details about Rex and his journey and less about his mother’s personal emotions and thoughts. None the less, the reader has to give credit to the amazing perseverance demonstrated by his mother, the author, Cathleen Lewis. I do think that this would be an especially encouraging read for any parent dealing with a child with special needs.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Jacob Jankoski, the main character of this novel, leaves school before sitting for the exam to become a certified veterinarian, when his parents are tragically killed in an accident. He is left homeless and penniless, and is grateful to be hired on by a traveling circus as their vet (even without his papers). I loved how the author took the reader back and forth between Jacob’s circus days and his senior years, living in an assisted care facility.

This book is a life story, a love story, a story of overcoming, and a story of insight into the frustrations of aging. I won’t spoil the ending, but I can tell you that it left me with a big smile on my face.

I understand Water for Elephants has been made into a movie, but I’m not sure I want to see it. I can’t imagine how the movie could do a better job than the book of telling the story. Why risk being disappointed?

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel, Michael Connelly
If you like lawyer novels, this one is worth your time. Don’t let the title fool you, though; it has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln in the title refers to the Lincoln town car the main character, Mick Haller, uses as his transportation and traveling office.

In this story, Haller, a defense attorney, finds himself in an almost impossibly complex set of circumstances that test his ethics and put his life, and the lives of friends and family, on the line.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I know. This short story is a classic. They even made a movie out of it. But I found it disappointing. Firtgerald’s character, Benjamin Button, is born a doddering old man and begins growing younger from that day forward, until, decades later, he becomes a helpless infant. Although the plot has potential, I felt that the characters, most notably Benjamin, himself, were flat. They didn’t inspire any emotional connection with me, as the reader, and I have to admit to being a bit bored as I read through the story.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The story opens in 1952, when Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are students, and have been since their earliest years, at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic country boarding school. Their relationship as young adults, after leaving Hailsham, remains entwined, but fraught with emotional drama. Throughout the book, the Hailsham students make references to their destiny and speak using obscure terms, leaving the reader unsure and searching for clues to their fate.

As the story progresses, the reader gradually comes to a chilling realization. This novel is both depressing and thought-provoking. I still don't know how I feel about this book. It's still very fresh in my mind. Maybe after some time, I'll be able to make a determination. For now -- it gets neither a thumbs-up nor a thumbs-down from me.

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