Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

The Last Bookaneer (2015) by Matthew Pearl is a very interesting book with a great concept that didn't quite live up to the thrilling precedent set by Pearl's previous books I've read -- but was an enjoyable read just the same.

I like books and pirates are pretty cool, so the idea of book pirates has a lot going for it, which is why I originally picked up this book (that, and I really loved The Technologists and The Dante Club). While there was certainly plenty of action in this book, I think it wasn't quite at the level of his previous books mostly because of the narrative structure -- as most of the story is told via a character reminiscing, there is less at stake. You of course know right away that the narrator lives through the story since he is telling it! And there was a little bit less overall character development than I would have liked.

But the setting was lovely (I liked the contrast between Europe and the tropics) and the combination of books, legal quagmires, adventure, sea travel, and famous authors made it a fun read. And I certainly appreciated the extent to which books themselves were honored by many of the characters in the story.

At the end, I was glad to have read the book -- it was a good story, it just maybe wasn't what I was expecting based on his other books. This was much more in the category of adventure fiction, rather than literary thriller. Overall, pretty good.

“Strangers talking over piles of books do not remain strangers for long.” (p. 22) 
“Authors do not create literature; they are consumed by it. As a bookseller, I am often asked if I didn’t dream of being an author, but I should rather think it is the author who learns to dream of becoming a bookseller. I do not seek the mantle of genius. I am an appreciator, an observer, a preposition, and content in that, and that is me in a nutshell.” (p. 90)

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad is Fat (2013) by Jim Gaffigan (of the Hot Pockets joke fame) is absolutely hilarious, as expected! Even for someone without kids, many of his observations still resonated with me and made me laugh out loud - a lot!

He writes in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, often directly addressing the reader, always in a very funny way. I loved this style, which really made reading the book feel very intimate, like I was having a conversation rather than passively reading (which was of course what I was actually doing, but still...). He really made me feel 'in' on his jokes, and I loved it.

I don't want to spoil too many of the punch lines, but here were two of my favorite jokes from the book:
“Every morning after I get up, I always gaze longingly at my bed and lament, ‘You were wonderful last night. I didn’t want it to end. I can’t wait to see you again…’” (192) 
“I guess you could say I’m allergic to camping. Jeannie loves camping because she says camping was a tradition in her family. I always point out that prior to the invention of the house, camping was a tradition in everyone’s family. I don’t get camping. ‘Hey, want to burn a couple of vacation days sleeping on the ground outside? Chances are you’ll wake up freezing and covered in a rash?” No, thanks. If camping was so great, why are the bugs always trying to get in your house?” (258-9)
I completely agree Jim!

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns (2008) is John Green's third solo book, and I think his best of the ones I've read so far. It was sweet, funny, exciting, compelling, interesting... it had it all. Mystery, 'romance,' suspense, fear, longing, heartache and heartbreak, dead bodies, final exams, and a road trip. What more could you want?

I really, really loved all these characters -- they were fun, funny, well-rounded, complete characters. It was a pleasure to live in their world for a little while. The road trip part was the best -- I was crying laughing at one point, and I really wished it had lasted longer.

The thing I loved the most about this book was that it was about a boy and a girl, and love, relationships, etc. but it wasn't REALLY about that -- it was about growing up and figuring out who you are and what you want, and accepting other people for who they truly are, and just figuring out people. So lovely!

The movie version was a pretty good adaptation -- of course not as complex and well-rounded as the book, and they left out some of my favorite parts of the book, but a nice movie in its own right. Good movie, great book!

"[E]ach of us starts out as a watertight vessel. And these things happen -- these people leave us, or don't love us, or don't get us, or we don't get them, and we lose and fail and hurt one another. And the vessel starts to crack open in places. And I mean, yeah, once the vessel starts to crack open, the end becomes inevitable... But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it's only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through the cracks and into others through theirs... [O]nce the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out."--Quentin (p.302)

See my review of John Green's first two books here.

Keep reading! Beth

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir (2015) by Stan Lee is hilarious, adorable, and illuminating -- a must-read for anyone into comics and/or super-heroes. Set in the form of a graphic novel, this memoir spans Lee's entire life, and therefore most of the 'life' of Marvel comics, from way before they were called Marvel comics.  

I thought it was interesting how he referred to people who ended up leaving the 'fold' as it were after being a big part of the comics productions. I liked that Lee acknowledged that some issues might have been his fault -- without really making himself look bad. A very tough balance! And he brought up some painful memories he didn't necessarily have to (like his wife's inability to have more children) in such an open and honest way that I was really impressed.

Overall, Stan Lee was humorously self-deprecating, clearly loves his wife and his work, and just seems like a wonderful person to be around. I hope he stays around for a good long time yet!

“Oh! Here’s one example of how we tried to have things at least vaguely grounded in science in the Marvel Universe. I wanted Thor to be able to fly. But I hated the idea of him just hurling through the air with no support. I figured, hey, he has a war hammer called Mjolnir, so how about he will have that hammer with him. And when he wants to fly he’ll whirl it around his head really fast, and then he’ll throw it, and since he’s attached to it by the thong around his wrist – when the hammer goes flying, it’ll take him with it! To this day I don’t know why NASA hasn’t invited me to join their science team.”

Keep reading! Beth