February Reads

Better late than never, right?  Here goes:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest By Stieg Larrson

After reading the first two books in the series late last year, I recently finished the final installment.  As one can guess from the attention that these books (and the movies) have received, they are a lot of fun.  They are like the Jason Bourne novels as written by Gloria Steinem.  In case there is anyone out there who has not yet read the series, I will refrain from summarizing any of the plot.  What I will say is, if you are looking for an action packed-adventure that will give you an escape from your day to day life, pick up a copy.  That being said, don’t expect much out of the writing; all three books read like a grocery list.  Larrson buries his readers with unnecessary details (there is one point in the second book where he spends multiple pages listing off everything that Lisbeth buys at Ikea.  Seriously).  He is obviously fascinated by gadgets and, whenever an electronic device is mentioned, its description usually contains more specs than the packaging at Best Buy.  He is also prone to listing out every action that a character makes during their portion of the story from using the toilet to taking a nap (regardless of the character, these descriptions usually include plenty of “and then he/she had coffee and sandwiches”).  If you can get past the writing, the Millennium Trilogy is definitely worth a read.

 

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

 By Michael J Fox

I am an eternal cynic.  However, I have always fantasized about a life in which I could see a silver lining in every cloud.  I work with a guy who is always cheery, being able to find a positive spin to any bit of adversity. My wife is the same way.  Her unflinching belief in striving for and achieving dreams is the most enjoyable thing in my life.   I am extremely jealous of people who can live this way.  So, in an attempt to make myself a better person, I picked up a copy of Fox’s second memoir.  In this book, he focuses on how Parkinson’s Disease effects various elements of his life, such as politics, career and spirituality.  As always, Fox is extremely charming, and his positive outlook is inspiring.  I would definitely recommend giving this a read as a quick, heart-warming book you can finish in a couple of days.  However, I’m still 100% cynic.  Thank God I have Katie to balance me out!

 

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

As I mentioned in my January blog, I was not a huge fan of this series, so I’m not going to comment too much further.  As its reputation claims, this book is much slower than the first two.  It actually never really seems to take off.  It appears to be building to a big explosion, but then just kind of sputters.  Overall, they’re definitely not the worst books I have read, but they weren’t great.  However, due to a creepy crush that I have on Jennifer Lawrence, I’m almost positive that I will still make it to the theater to see the movie in April.

 

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Speaking of Jennifer Lawrence….Last year, I was on a quest to see all of the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.  Winter’s Bone was a longshot nominee that most people had never even heard of (including me).  Katie and I watched it, having absolutely no idea what to expect.  I loved this movie!  Well, actually, right after I watched it, I was pretty sure I liked it, but I also thought I might hate it (this is actually a common reaction with movies that I love).  Weeks later, when I was still thinking about the movie, I realized that I did in fact love it.  As is almost always the case (with one major exception: The Shining), the book was even better than the movie.  Winter’s Bone tells the story of 17 year-old Ree’s quest to save her family by hunting down her missing father in time for his parole date.  Her journey thrusts her into the hellish, backwoods Ozark are of Missouri, where laws are few and crystal meth is plentiful.  It is fascinating to learn the history and culture of such a place that still tries so hard to cling to the old ways and ancient ideals of America.  It is a haunting story that will stay with you for a long time.  It definitely made me appreciative for the environment in which I grew up.

 

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

As with most modern literature, it is pretty difficult to summarize the plot of this one without just telling you everything that happens.  I guess the best way that I know to describe it is to say that it is about several flawed individuals and the various obstacles that stop them from ever being what the aspire to be (trust me, it’s not as depressing as that makes it sound).  In many ways, it reminded me of most Bret Easton Ellis novels, which almost always center on several rather despicable individuals.  However, where Ellis’s characters always seem to purposefully do terrible things with a zombie-like numbness, Egan’s characters seem engaged in life, have hopes for doing good, and yet have horrible results thrust upon them.  They never seem to have bad intentions, but they get swept up in the tide of momentum.  The novel itself is comprised of several smaller stories that unfold slowly and wrap around each other as the book goes on.  The narrative meanders through various characters and time periods with a smoke like quality.  It takes a few chapters to really get into the swing of how the book reads but, personally, I think it is worth it.  If you like books written in a very unconventional format, and make you step a bit outside of your comfort zone, you will definitely enjoy this book. I’m just now finishing up another Jennifer Egan book, so I’ll let you know what I think of that next month.

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