Month: July 2012

Monthly Review – July 2012

Posted July 31, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

How did everyone enjoy Life of Pi? What were your final thoughts? As you can see by my review, I didn’t think much of this book but I was pleased to see so many others enjoying the book. If you go the Goodreads forum you can see some interesting discussions about the book, zoology, religion, philosophy. This book was a great pick for a group read because of all the elements in the book worth discussing. Next month we are reading a book I’m really excited about; have you got your copy of The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov yet?

July has been a great month for me, mainly because I was on vacation for most of it. Luckily I had plenty of scheduled posts to keep people entertained and I hope there were some enjoyable posts for you. Because of the vacation I feel like my reading dropped off a little, but realistically it does seem to be about the same. Highlights for me this month include The Passage; a book I’ve been putting off but a wonderful and refreshing look at a post-apocalyptic world and the people struggling for survival. My local book club were reading Gold by Chris Cleave and what a wonderful novel this one is; the book follows three Olympic racers through their life leading up to London 2012, the characters really made this book. Lastly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a YA novel that reminds me a lot of Looking for Alaska by John Green, it’s a brilliant and addictive read into the life of a high school wallflower.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Forrests by Emily Perkins
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
  • Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton 
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • Gold by Chris Cleave
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Posted July 30, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Life of Pi by Yann MartelTitle: Life of Pi (Goodreads)
Author: Yann Martel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2001
Pages: 356
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This month’s book club book was Life of Pi by Yann Martel and it seems to be one of those books that is hyped up so much that you don’t know whether to believe it or just groan at the thought of reading it. The book tells the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy growing up and exploring spirituality at a very young age. Pi finds himself in a shipwreck which leads him to be stranded on a boat with a Bengal tiger.

The book starts off with Pi’s early years; with his dad working at a zoo, Pi discovers a lot to do with zoology and animal psychology. This aspect of the book would really appeal to animal lovers and people interested in the animal behaviour in general. Then we see Pi exploring religion and deciding he was Hindu, Christian and Islamic, which really bugged me. I really never understood why he would embrace all religions apart from the fact that he “just wants to love god.” This took up the first half of the book and I personally wanted to get past this and really get into the core part of this book; the part involving the boat and the tiger.

When the shipwreck finally came, I was expecting the book to pick up but it decided to focus more on philosophy and while I’m interested in this aspect of the book, I felt the Life of Pi had already tried to do too much already and adding this to the book was the last straw for me. There were plenty of aspects in the book that were interesting but as a whole it tried to do so much and I never felt like it achieved anything.

This book reminds me so much of The Alchemist in the sense it was very basic and it tries to talk about religion and philosophy but turns out to be incredibly overrated. I know a lot of people like both books (Life of Pi and The Alchemist) but I never connected with either, I was expecting a lot more from this but I was left waiting. It’s interesting to see books like this that seem to be either well-loved or well hated but not much in the middle. Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002 and a string of other awards but for me, I felt the literary aspects were minimal, the religious and philosophical parts overdone and the book in its entirety, over hyped. I know many people love this book and if you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Posted July 28, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literary Fiction, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

1Q84 by Haruki MurakamiTitle: 1Q84 (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel
Narrator: Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2011
Pages: 925
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This book is a bit too excessive; like most other people I think it could have had at least 300 pages removed without affecting the story. At times it gets really repetitive; like the author has thought the reader has already forgetting information about Aomame or Tengo. 1Q84 is the story of two people who meet and fall in love in school and then, many years later spend the entirety of the book trying to find each other again. As the story obviously isn’t as simple as that; it is fair to say it is very weird and probably what you expect from Haruki Murakami. I’ve not read anything else from him and I don’t pretend to understand the genre Magical Realism but this book was indeed somewhat enjoyable to read.

I mentioned that this book was everything you’d expect from Murakami and that I’ve never read anything by him before. But I do know of his works and I’ve seen the movie adaptation of Norwegian Wood so I had a decent idea of what I was getting into. But I didn’t except what I got. As the story unfolds and you get a better understanding of Aomame and Tengo, you can’t help but love these two characters with all their flaws, quirks and of course their personalities.

While this book was way too long, I am very glad to have read this book and to dive into the parallel world of 1Q84. I do feel more of a book snob for reading this and I think I will have to read some more from this weird author. For people looking for a great but odd story about two people and have a lot of time to spare, then I would suggest this is the book for you.


The Passage by Justin Cronin

Posted July 26, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Horror / 0 Comments

The Passage by Justin CroninTitle: The Passage (Goodreads)
Author: Justin Cronin
Series: The Passage #1
Published: Ballantine Books, 2010
Pages: 766
Genres: Horror
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and considering The Twelve is only months away, I figure now was a good time to read it. The Passage is set in the not too distant future; a highly contagious virus has infected the greater masses turning them into vampire-like creatures. This is not your typical post-apocalyptic novel; The Passage follows the events for ninety years, starting with the outbreak and patient zero till the colonies of humans attempt to live in a world filled with these creatures.

I went into this novel expecting a post-apocalyptic vampire novel but I was presently surprised with this book. It was pure joy reading something so literary spanning from the apocalypse to the fight for human survival. I’m finding it really difficult to review this book, because I was impressed with it but I need to try and be a little critical because over all I don’t think I could rate the book more than 4 stars.

To begin with this book has so many characters, I was often lost with what was happening with all the characters, I had to keep a note pad and write down little things to remember just to keep my head straight. Simple things like ‘Amy; main protagonist, infected with a form of the virus which has made her immune.’ This has distracted me from fully enjoying this book, but when I had my head straight with all the vital characters, I was able to relax and enjoy the ride this novel took me on.

I also felt this book may have been far too long, but on reflection I can’t really think of anything that I would take out. It wasn’t repetitive and all the plot points just helped flesh out and make the characters interesting and three dimensional. I love how Justin Cronin gives you a story for each character but never really influences the reader to whether or not you like the character. In the end this just makes different people like different characters and the writer’s influence never seems to be a part to the decision making progress.

This is a beautifully written character driven story of survival and humanity. I find myself remembering what it was like reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy; another post-apocalyptic novel that I would also consider literary. The joys of reading something so wonderful and still feel like you are reading genre fiction; it’s a great feeling. Please, don’t be put off but the size of this book, it’s a wonderful read. Having finished the book, my biggest problem is that book two; The Twelve doesn’t come out to October and the final book in the trilogy; The City of Mirrors isn’t set for release till 2014.


2012 Man Booker Long List Announced

Posted July 26, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literary News / 0 Comments

The 2012 Man Booker long list was announced today. Here is what the judges thought were the best books of the past year;

  • The Yips by Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)
  • The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)
  • Philida by André Brink (Harvill Secker)
  • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
  • Skios by Michael Frayn (Faber & Faber)
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)
  • Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)
  • Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
  • The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Salt)
  • Umbrella by Will Self  (Bloomsbury)
  • Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (Faber & Faber)
  • Communion Town by Sam Thompson (Fourth Estate)

How many of the books have you read so far? I haven’t read any of them.


Question Tuesday: What made you start studying again?

Posted July 24, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

When I was in school I wasn’t interested in studying and I didn’t do well in school. I didn’t really have much interest in anything, except computers and music. It wasn’t until 2009 when I discovered my mind crush Craig Schuftan did I really start reading and wanting to learn. I started Knowledge Lost because I found my passion and I wanted to write what I’d learned while learning. I know I don’t write on that blog as much as I should but I still love it and want to keep it there to write anything that I learn. When I started Literary Exploration (the blog) it was because in my love for learning I found a love of literature and I wanted a place to document my literary journey without overcrowding Knowledge Lost with book rants. The idea was to have Knowledge Lost to be educational and Literary Exploration to be about literature.

I decided at the beginning of the year that while I was having fun being an autodidact, I wanted to learn more and enrolled in university. I’ve never been to a higher learning facility to learn something I was passionate about but I wanted to explore my passion and hopefully one day land a job in a field relevant to it. I decided a Bachelor of Arts would be a good place to start. It will give me a good overview of the topics I’m interested in and also I can get a degree in English Literature.

I’ve discovered that my love for learning and the arts has been growing and I (not so) secretly want to get so many degrees it’s not funny. While I will focus on the English Literature degree, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take some classes in other discipline to get an idea about what they are like. Now I’m only doing this part time while working full time which is a shame because at my rate the first degree will take me about ten to twelve years. But if I had the time I would want to dive into some of these disciplines as well (not for a full degree but to have some more information about them);

  • Art History
  • Criminology
  • Journalism
  • New Media Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Screen Studies
  • Sociology

And the list will probably expand. I know my love for literature will increase with my studies but I wanted to also share my passion of learning and the humanities with you as well. I hope to experience a taste in all these subjects and who knows, maybe one day I might get a chance to share about them over at Knowledge Lost.

I would love people to share about their passions and experiences with studying their passion in the comments below.


2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Announced

Posted July 23, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literary News / 0 Comments

The Winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced today in a ceremony in Canberra.  A big congratulation to the following winners;

  • Luke Davies won the award for Poetry
  • Robert Newton’s When We Were Two won the award for YA Fiction
  • Mark McKenna’s An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark won the Non-Fiction award
  • Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth won the Australian History award

And the winner of the award we are all interested in; best work of Fiction for 2012 goes to Gillian Mears for Foal’s Bread. Gillian was up against some great books including; All That I Am by Anna Funder, Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville, Autumn Laing by Alex Miller and Forecast: Turbulence by Janette Turner Hospital.

The most Interesting part of the award ceremony for me was when Luke Davies used his time to criticise Campbell Newman for scrapping the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, by saying “The clear message from Campbell Newman’s wrong-headed decision to eliminate the Queensland Premier’s awards is that reading is simply not important, not valuable to the greater culture and that celebrating excellence even less so”.

Well done to all the winners, each of them was also awarded $80,000 as part of the award.


Driven by James Sallis

Posted July 22, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Pulp / 0 Comments

Driven by James SallisTitle: Driven (Goodreads)
Author: James Sallis
Series: Drive #2
Published: Poisoned Pen Press, 2012
Pages: 158
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I really enjoyed Drive, the writing, style and non-linear story, so I was interested to see where this story would go with the sequel. The first major issue with Driven is that it tries to continue a story that really didn’t need to be continued. Now, Driver seems different. Driver’s campaign against those who double-crossed him has ended; now seven years have passed and Driver has a new life and a successful business. One day, he and his fiancée were attacked by two men and while Driver can defend himself, his fiancée is killed. Driver finds that his past is catching up him. Will he face it?

I feel let down by this book, like this was more of a gimmick to follow the success of the movie adaptation of Drive rather than a continuation of Driver’s story. The noir voice is still there but the non-linear story has disappeared and the book ends in an unsatisfying way. Even though Driver has undertaken a transformation, his personality doesn’t seem to suit the character I got to know in the first book. The plot never lived up to its predecessor and this just made this book a weak attempt of a sequel.

I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy this book but having recently read Drive, this book just can’t live up to it. Personally I think there is no real reason to continue the story of Driver; he is a great character but trying to tell the readers what happened to him after he got his revenge seems redundant and unnecessary. The new characters weren’t that great and the shady Felix had so much potential. I wanted to enjoy this book so much more but I continually compared it to Drive and in the end that was this book’s downfall.

 


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Posted July 20, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran FoerTitle: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005
Pages: 326
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I read this book because in preparation for the movie and thought that was a good excuse to read it. I’ve been interested in reading a Jonathan Safran Foer for a while (yet another step in becoming a book snob) and now I had no excuse. While the movie looks really good, I’ve struggled with how it would work now that I’ve read the book. There is a lot of key elements of this book that would not translate well in a movie, for example Oskar’s inner thoughts, the letters he writes to random people that interest him and then there is the renter (Oskar’s grandfather) who doesn’t speak at all and writes everything on paper for others to read.

This book was such a pleasure to read, while it’s not a particularly exciting plot; the characters and the writing were just so great that it was nothing but a joy to read. I’ve heard people call Jonathan Safran Foer’s writing manipulative and even overly sweet and I can see what they are saying, in this book everyone seemed to be nice and have very little flaws but for me I think this is just simply because this particular story was told by a 9 year old boy. There are a lot of elements of trauma and mourning as the family struggle to come to terms with the events of 9/11 and losing someone so close to them. Even Oskar himself struggles between self-destruction and self-preservation throughout this book but overall the book comes across as very light and sweet.

I really did enjoy this book, while I might have some issues with the book and the upcoming movie adaptation I highly recommend this book. Not often do I get such pleasure in the writing style of a book but Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those books I liked simply because it was beautifully written.


Partials by Dan Wells

Posted July 18, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Dystopia, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Partials by Dan WellsTitle: Partials (Goodreads)
Author: Dan Wells
Series: Partials Sequence #1
Published: Balzer + Bray, 2012
Pages: 468
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The future looks really bleak, and it’s up to one girl; Kira to save it. Mankind is going extinct as a result of the Judgement Day Partials war; an airborne virus is killing all new born babies. The government’s solution; every woman over 18 16 must keep getting pregnant (naturally or artificially) in order for further testing to find the solution. 16 year old researcher Kira is determined to find the answer to the virus and save mankind; her quest leads her to turn to the Partials (genetically modified humans and mankinds greatest enemy) in the hopes to find the solution. This leaves Kira in a tricky situation; will she side with the government, the rebellion or the Partials?

This novel is pretty interesting; I like the story and I’m interested to see where it will lead in the future. While this is typically a YA novel as opposed to a post-apocalyptic thriller, it means the writing, violence and complexity of this book feels like it has been dumbed down; to an extent that sometimes is not very enjoyable. I really enjoy Dan Wells as a writer but I would like to see him move away from young adult fiction and do something darker, disturbing and more complex. I feel like he has it in him but due to the limitations of YA he holds back a lot. I would love to give this a 4 out of 5 but I can’t, it’s a 3 and a half star novel.