I’ve got an account on Goodreads, and as you may know, every year you can set yourself a goal of how many books you want to read. I fell well short of mine (4 out of 12) but the ones I did complete I’ll briefly talk about:
Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett
I actually finished Pillars of the Earth at the very end of 2015. Both it and World Without End are about a minor fictional English town called Kingsbridge during the middle ages. Pillars follows a cast of characters of varying backgrounds whose lives become connected in different ways. The story has at its core the struggle of building a cathedral in Kingsbridge, but there’s a lot more meat on this bone. It’s an epic story of love, hate, intrigue, politics and spans a lifetime.
World Without End takes place some 200 years after Pillars, has an entirely new cast of characters who have a loose connection to the original cast (some are descendants of some key characters from the original). (more…)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Little Prince is a special novel and I would have loved to read it when I was a child, but alas, I did not. My sister bugged me to read it recently, because it’s one of her all-time favorites. It’s a really short, quick read, so I thought “sure, whatever” since I wouldn’t lose much time in any case.
The first few pages went by so quickly, because the style of writing is clearly aimed at children. I felt like I was reading a 5th grade literature textbook or something like that. (more…)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed the first Hunger Games book. It was relatively light fare and Suzanne Collins’ prose was clean and to-the-point (which is always a plus in my book). Of course, these days everything has to be a trilogy of epic proportions, so it would’ve been weird not to read the second book. (more…)
The iconic city scape of Blade Runner. It’s clear what this world is like. People are stacked in huge buildings, bombarded with larger than life advertisements and everything is engulfed in darkness. A singular police car indicates that crime is normality.
Genres are a fun concept to think about. What makes a fantasy story different from a science fiction one? What makes steampunk so special? What’s so interesting about cyberpunk? It’s fair to say that the best works of fiction don’t follow a common recipe of their assumed genre, but play with and twist accepted the conventions of their genre, unless the work itself is introducing such a crassly new form of setting that can be seen as the quasi origin of a new genre, like Tolkien’s works. (more…)
When I was in my early teens and getting into serious reading, there were a few books that really got to me. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Harry Potter books are some of those. There was also Dune and The Hitchhiker’s Guide. And then there was Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. At that time, I had a major weakness for escapist fiction. If it could transport me into a completely new world, I was into it. That’s true today as well of course, but the mind is more impressionable when you’re younger. You have less stuff to be worried about (basically school and very limited responsibilities at home) and your brain starts to come into its own. It’s a magical time to be a geek. (more…)
I’ve been away for a few weeks, which was nice. Time to take a step back and do something else from the usual grind. Well, not that much different, as I managed to see some films and read a book. There’s a ton of stuff I’m queuing up to write about, so here’s an outline.
Usagi Drop stole my heart
I might have mentioned it before, but I’ve been on a frustrating search for a good slice of life type anime or manga. I did not expect however to find an anime that would break into my favorites when I checked out Usagi Drop. Let me give it to you straight: Usagi Drop is an 11 episode long series adapted from a manga. It’s about Daikichi, a 30 year old guy without his own family. Upon his grandfather’s death, he learns at the wake that grandpa had a child with a mystery woman. The kid is a ~6 year old girl named Rin. The whole family is embarrassed by the situation, and when they started discussing where to send Rin to live, Daikichi steps up to become her guardian. Usagi Drop’s story revolves around the struggles and joys of raising a child in modern Japan. It’s got great characters, and mostly lives by just how likable Daikichi and Rin are. The storylines in the episodes are really light, low-key fare, so it’s really easy to watch. It’s all very happy and heartwarming and that’s something I really liked. It makes for a great contrast to all the heavy stuff I usually enjoy (Game of Thrones, etc.). There’s a sincerity in Usagi Drop that seems to have become really rare these days. A big, big recommendation from me. (more…)
Reminiscing about Persona, the japano-bug bit me hard again and I promptly started looking for something new to read. I’ve become more picky though, and stuff that I’d have devoured in the past just won’t go anymore with me. I’m afraid I’ve become an overly critical reader. (more…)
Animal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The following review has rough spoilers
I remember my high school teacher recommending Animal Farm as a sophisticated read, something that was thought-provoking and yet relatively short. It took me more than ten years to heed his advice, but I’m sure that I got more out of it now than I would have as a teenager.
Animal Farm is a novel written by George Orwell, best known for 1984 (this one I actually DID read as a teenager), and widely interpreted as an allegory for the Russian revolution as well as a critique on the Soviet Union. (more…)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Hunger Games was my follow up after I had finished A Dance With Dragons. I needed something to fill the void and get me over my depression at having to wait several years for more G.R.R.Martin goodness. I mention this to put my state of mind into some context and what I’d wanted from this book.
It’s a good book to read. Suzanne Collins’ writing style is very easy to get into, she doesn’t dwell too much on describing places or other non-essential details. It keeps the reading light and the action focused.
The first third of the story is a bit slow none-the-less. We’re in a dystopian future somewhere in what used to be North America. Not much is revealed about what happened to result in the founding of this oppressive country of Panem. There is mention of wars against the Capitol, the city with all the power, and the defeat of the districts, which now are forced to participate in the Hunger Games to further humiliate them. This works well for the story, because it gives us enough to work our imagination with without going into so much detail as to distract from the here and now. (more…)