Month: August 2012

Monthly Review – August 2012

Posted August 31, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As August comes to a close I would love to hear what people’s thoughts were of the monthly book; The Master and Margarita. It’s a classic novel but it was a really bizarre book to read, that stayed with me for a very long time before I could finally write my thoughts on the book. But I tend to enjoy books that stay with me like that; I like books that are thought provoking. Reminder that next month we well be reading another classic for our Southern Gothic theme. While some people argue this book isn’t technically Southern Gothic, I’m sure we will have some interesting discussions on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. If you’re not aware, this book will be discussed over on the Goodreads forums, so feel free to join in there.

My monthly reading for August has been really great, I went into the month thinking I’ll be busy trying to read all the books I wanted to read, but while I read most of them, I surprised myself by managing seventeen books this months. I’ve read some amazing books including The Dinner, The Angel’s Game and The Age of Miracles. But the highlights for me were Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a satirical look at the war of terror and how we support the troops and The Colour of Milk, an adorable little book about a strong minded girl in 1831 trying to learn to read and write.

August’s Books

  • Mystic River by Dennis Lehane 
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi 
  • This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel 
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell 
  • Thirst by L.A. Larkin 
  • Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen 
  • True Grit by Charles Portis 
  • Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood 
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon 
  • Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin 
  • A Life with Books by Julian Barnes 
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov 
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch 
  • The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker 
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 
  • The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Posted August 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovTitle: The Master and Margarita (Goodreads)
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Translator: Larissa Volokhonsky, Richard Pevear
Published: Vintage, 1967
Pages: 384
Genres: Classic, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

I’m going to be honest; I have no idea how to review a book like The Master and Margarita. I was looking forward to reading another Russian classic but I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for a book like this. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one very bizarre novel. I read this book about a week ago but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, there is a lot going on within the book to really be able to give this a review that would give it justice.

To simplify this book I’m going to break down the book into three different elements; the Professor’s talk with the Berlioz and Bezdomny, the section involving the Master and his lover Margarita and lastly the novel about Pontius Pilate. At first glance all these sections may seems like they don’t link together, but when the Professor or the devil challenges the two’s concepts of atheism the conversation leads to the book about Pilate which happens to be a novel written by the Master and the book comes together in a weird, philosophical novel with shades of slapstick comedy.

I tend to write short reviews because I don’t want to spoil novels and want to write easy, accessible reviews; so if I write anything more about the plot I would have to write  a lot, too much for a short review so I’m going to stop talking about the book and start talking about my opinions of it. While reading this novel I was completely absorbed in the writing, but this meant I continued reading without stopping to really think about the book. In the end my head was swimming with so many thoughts of this book I wasn’t sure how I felt. Now that I’ve sorted my thoughts all I really can say it’s one of those books you just have to read to fully understand the effect of it.

While it took me a while to fully sort my thoughts of this book, I really did enjoy it. It’s one of those books like Slaughterhouse-Five where you can’t really rate or review it until you have had a good long think about all the concepts this book is trying to get across. I highly recommend experiencing this novel; it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. The wacky nature of this book will keep you reading but the philosophical ideas will help you enjoy this novel. I don’t think any review will ever do justice to this classic; especially not mine so my only advice and the only thing you really need to know about this book is ‘Just read it.’


The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis

Posted August 22, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Informers by Bret Easton EllisTitle: The Informers (Goodreads)
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 1994
Pages: 272
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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

I don’t know why I keep coming back to Bret Easton Ellis; I never seem to overly enjoy his vacuous characters but something keeps drawing me back. The Informers is my forth Ellis book and this one is a collection of short stories that ultimately link together to make an overall story. Think Crash (the movie) but with shallow characters. The Informers follow the lives of several interconnected characters, they all eat at the same places, sleep with the same people and pretty much act like each other.

Each chapter is told from a different character in a first person perspective and in the end each point of view come together to make a very loosely connected story. The characters remind me a lot of Less than Zero but most of the characters in The Informers are supposed to be adults. There are a lot of conversations in this book between different characters and this is the part of the book that Bret Easton Ellis does best. He seems to be able to have a lot of conversations and still drive the plot without adding to much more and the interactions between the people seem to feel very natural.

The book feels shallow and cynical; it tries to spotlight a moral decline of Californian life. Most of Bret Easton Ellis novels feel the same, he is often called a moral satirist but I often feel like he is just a nihilist. But I still feel the need to read his books even if I don’t enjoy them (except for Imperial Bedrooms). Ellis has an interesting style and if I rate his books from worst to best, it looks like he is improving as a writer with age. This might be the fact that his books are more and more metafictional and that seems to help add depth into a book a shallow annoying characters.


Question Tuesday – Liebster Award

Posted August 21, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

 If you want some intelligent and interesting answers on anything crime related you should turn to blahblahblahtoby; I’ve been friends with him on Goodreads and he always has been interesting person to have in a Goodreads group. But I’ve been slack and haven’t been following his blog, so I thought I would read through some of it today and found some interesting questions he asked on a recent post. Which I thought I would answer for this week’s Question Tuesday post.

1. If the events of Purple Rose of Cairo could really happen, which movie character would you want to walk off of the screen in to your miserable little life?
Jessica Rabbit (she’s real right?)…don’t tell my wife
2. If you were marooned on another planet with a limited space hard drive on your solar powered Macbook Pro (I’m sure Steve Jobs had them working on this before he died) what three movies would you like to have in your videos folder?
This really is touch one, I think I would have Brick staring Joseph Gordon Lovett, Miller’s Crossing by the Cohen Brothers and Hot Fuzz for some light entertainment.
3. Is reading 50 Shades of Grey on public transport a badge of pride, a cry for help, a statement of sexual dissatisfaction or a label that screams “easily led by media fads”?
If it’s a fad, I want it to stop already. I think some of them think that we have no idea what they are reading and think they are getting away with it; you’re not fooling anyone.
4. If you had to live in the world of crime fiction would you prefer to be in an Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler or Steig Larsson book?
I don’t speak Swedish so Larson is out, I don’t think I’m rich enough for Christie and I adore the 1940’s; so give me the dark, gritty world of Chandler.
5. You’re stranded for 227 days in a boat with one animal, do you think a Bengal Tiger would eat you?
Yes, on day 1
6. What superhero franchise would you give a dark and depressing Batman style reboot to on the big screen?
I’m a fan of The Punisher, I think it needs a darker, depressing film made of the franchise, the last one was too much of a blockbuster film.
7. Gotham Central is a series of comic books about the lives of the Gotham City Police Department and Death Comes To Pemberley is a detective novel set in the world of Pride & Prejudice, what fictional world would you like to see turned in to crime fiction and what type would it be?
I’ve not read any good Noir style comic books; I would like to see one set in gritty LA. Are there any out there?
8. Mint, Sage, Rosemary and Cinnamon, what flavour would you choose for your old fashioned tooth powder recipe?
Mint; only because I’m used to it with tooth paste.
9. You’re tasked with programming an independent film festival, what genre do you focus on? Documentary, Horror, Anime, Martial Arts or World Cinema?
It would have to be a film noir festival but I do like the idea of a bad film festival were people can watch terrible movies to make fun of them.
10. Witches, burn them at the stake or dunk them in the lake?
Build a bridge out of them
11. Which city in Europe would you most like to visit during the 2012 London Olympics?
I would like to go back to Spain for some food but I would have to say, I need to visit the Fatherland….for the food. I can’t help it I love German food.

 If you have a question you would like to ask me or maybe a list of questions, please let me know via the contact me form.


The Trial by Franz Kafka

Posted August 20, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

The Trial by Franz KafkaTitle: The Trial (Goodreads)
Author: Franz Kafka
Translator: Willa Muir
Published: Vintage, 1925
Pages: 224
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

I decided to read The Trial was because I saw that next week’s lecture made reference to this book as well as Orwell’s 1984. These books weren’t required reading but I’ve read 1984 and I thought it would be a good excuse to read The Trial, because I’m pretentious like that. I really enjoyed Kafka’s The Metamorphosis so I was excited to have an excuse to read his famous unfinished novel. The Trial tells the story of Josef; a chief financial officer for a bank who finds himself being arrested and prosecuted by the authorities. The twist in the book is that the nature of his crime is never revealed to the accused or the reader.

Kafka appears to like to write philosophical novels; in The Metamorphosis he explored the idea of human identity and social acceptance. With The Trial, I get the feeling maybe this is a look at religion and the idea that life is just a big trial. Or maybe this is just an existential novel. In any case there are a lot of different aspects this book offers for exploration and these books were you can pull out different interpretations are often books I tend to love.

This is a quick read and now that I’ve read my second Kafka novel, I now understand his appeal. I’m not sure what to read next but I can’t wait to explore some more of his works. Like many classics the descriptive prose’s takes you away and you just find yourself being immersed in the story. This helps with a book that really requires your full focus.

Overall I’m satisfied with the ending of this unfinished novel, the last chapter does feel like it brings the story to an end but I can’t help but wonder where Kafka would have gone next. There was a bit of inconsistency throughout this book, with the timing and narrative but this never seemed to be a problem, it just added to the dark and gloominess of this novel. If you’ve not read Kafka, I highly recommend you give him a go, there is such a joy in reading a novel like this.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Posted August 18, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Young Adult / 0 Comments

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyTitle: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Published: MTV Books, 1999
Pages: 224
Genres: Young Adult
My Copy: Paperback

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

I’ve wanted to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the simple reason that the synopsis reminded me of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and let’s face it, John Green writes some great books. Stephen Chbosky’s debut novel is a real knock out; I’m not sure if he will write another one but judging by this book, I hope he does. Charlie is a wallflower, who is writing letters to an unknown friend as a therapeutical way to express his feelings about his life. His only friend is his High School English teacher who keeps giving Charlie great books to read. Charlie’s life changes when he becomes friends with some seniors; Patrick and Sam.

This book is third on the American Library Association’s list of the top ten most frequently challenged books as of 2009 for a few different reasons which I will look into one at a time.

Drugs: Alcohol and Drug experimentation is an issue teenagers have to deal with. While I don’t agree with the use of drugs, banning a book because of drug use is just avoiding the issue at hand.
Homosexuality: This should never be an issue, why do we want to hide the fact that some people have a same sex attraction? I kind of feel like avoiding this issue is a primary cause for the hurt and mistreatment of homosexuals. We should be accepting of everyone.
Sex: If a young adult book isn’t dealing with the issue of sex then you are just saying that teenagers shouldn’t have hormones.
Suicide: This book is not promoting suicide, it is exploring the hurt and the effect of a suicide has on the people closest to the victim.

It is true that I’m opposed to censor and banning books, if we don’t talk about the issues and just avoid them, who will teenagers turn to if they have an issue? We need to allow people to express their feelings and create a world where it is acceptable to have a dialogue about the issues they are facing. Banning a book like this would never have a positive effect except for maybe make teenagers want to read it more.

Now that I’ve had a vent about challenging a book like this, I want to talk about what I love about this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters and I felt like I was having a sneak peek into the life of a struggling teenager that reminds me a lot of myself when I was in High School. The novel covers so many interesting aspects involved with being a teenager from depression, loneliness, sexuality, friendships, relationships and even music and literature.

Charlie is such a great character and I loved peeking into his life. Sam is adorable but I never fell in love with her like I did with Alaska but she still really helped the story. But my favourite character was the English teacher. I like that he encouraged Charlie to read books like The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Stranger and even Naked Lunch!

When I think of YA novels, these are the types of novels I really enjoy. John Green is a master at this realistic contemporary young adult novels; The Perks of Being a Wallflower is definitely another highly recommended one. I’m yet to read a David Levithan novel, but I’m looking forward to experiencing more books that are similar to this style.

While the writing did feel very basic, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is driven by the quirky life of Charlie and his letters. I never wanted to stop reading, I felt myself always wanting to know what will happen next. I really enjoyed this book and I’m excited about the coming film adaptation. Author Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and is directing the adaptation so I think that it will be faithful to the novel, I just hope doesn’t lose the charm found in the book.


The Forrests by Emily Perkins

Posted August 16, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Forrests by Emily PerkinsTitle: The Forrests (Goodreads)
Author: Emily Perkins
Published: Bond Street Books, 2012
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

The Forrests by Emily Perkins was the book chosen for my local bookclub for June, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to this discussion so I decided to read this while in New Zealand as the author is a New Zealander. This book has already been talked about in regards to being listed for this year’s Man Booker prize (it never made the long list) so I was interested in seeing what the book was all about. The novel follows the story of the Forrests, a disenfranchised family that moves from New York City to Auckland. It follows the dramas of a family, dealing with normal every day issues; from love, marriage, motherhood and parenting to the financial issue, loneliness and a range of other issues that come with a dysfunctional family.

This book is a bit strange, you start off with all the dramas of this family and throughout the book the issues never end. While you are looking on, you never seem to be given enough information to fully understand what is happening and how the characters are feeling, like the author was always holding the full story from the reader and just expecting them to guess.  Each chapter is another scene which I’ve been thrust into without being armed with the relevant information to navigate through it properly. The family dramas never really ended in this book and I just couldn’t wait to get to the end of this book.

This is a beautiful piece of writing and Emily Perkins did a decent job at capturing a family in their flaws but I didn’t enjoy The Forrests so the writing was let down by the characters. It was a bit of a dreamlike book that did grow on you a little but for me it wasn’t enough to pull me to enjoying this novel. I think some people will really enjoy this book, it starts off by putting you in the deep end and I suspect it grows on some readers, just not on me.

 


Question Tuesday: Is Your Preferred Crime Style Gritty, Hardboiled And Realistic; Or Genteel And Cosy, A Puzzle To Examine With Cruelty And Realism Downplayed?

Posted August 14, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

If you are a regular reader or know me at all you’ll know the answer to this question is Dark, Gritty and Hardboiled. I’m a big fan of the hardboiled and Noir genres that have become famous in the 1940’s and you can see book reviews for these types of books under Pulp (if you are curious to know the difference between Hardboiled and Noir check out this post).

I’ve always been a fan of the dark and realistic, and while I do like that occasional cosy read, I often feel that the downplaying can often be overdone and in the end, I tend to not enjoy them. Those major bestselling crime novels tend to annoy me because they all feel formulaic and predictable. I want the laconic and dispassionate styles of a good pulp novel.

I know pulp novels don’t seem to be very popular anymore, there are some novelists that still write them like James Ellroy, James Sallis and Lawrence Block but I would love to know what others think of this genre and what they look for in a crime novel.


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Posted August 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Western / 0 Comments

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthyTitle: Blood Meridian (Goodreads)
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 337
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

I’ve wanted to read another Cormac McCarthy book after enjoying The Road so after a long time of sitting on my To-Read shelf; I decided it was about time to give Blood Meridian a go. This is probably McCarthy’s most known book; other than the Pulitzer winning The Road. Narrated by a runaway known as the “the kid”, Blood Meridian follows the Glanton gang scalp hunters as they massacred North American tribes. Judge Holden is the main antagonist and is an intelligent man but terrifying with his constant need for conflict and violence.

I often enjoy books’ aspects from history to make a compelling story; James Ellroy and Hilary Mantel come to mind when thinking of authors that do this well and now Cormac McCarthy. As an author McCarthy is rather brilliant, he knows how to spin an entertaining and intelligent story with wonderful prose for a book of intense violence and bleak environments. I’ve not read many Westerns but if this is anything to go on then I might have to read some more.

Blood Meridian has very environmental and character driven and it was a real pleasure to read. But then there is an aspect of this book that I really didn’t like. The violence and horror aspects of this book is not for the faint hearted, and I tend to enjoy these elements but even for me I feel like maybe Cormac McCarthy took it a little too far; to a sickening level. This is like reading a nightmare; the acts of violence are so intense and evil that even I was disturbed.

This book is not for everyone, it’s a hellish read and Cormac McCarthy brilliance does seem to be drowned out by the blood of Judge Holden’s victims. I couldn’t recommend this book to anyone as it is really intense, but if you think you can handle it, it’s worth reading. The book is fairly dense when comparing it to The Road, but it was still an interesting look at the disturbing nature of Judge Holden and the Glanton gang.

 


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Posted August 10, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Horror / 0 Comments

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-SmithTitle: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Goodreads)
Author: Seth Grahame-Smith
Published: Grand Central Publishing, 2010
Pages: 353
Genres: Horror
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s top leaders and also a vampire hunter (according to this book). Lincoln’s secret journal has been found and it tells the story different from what you learn in history. Seth Grahame-Smith is known for mashing Pride and Prejudice with zombies but this book feels like a mash up of Vampire hunting and a Wikipedia entry of Abraham Lincoln’s life.

One of the main problems I had with this book was the narrative; was it supposed to be written in a biography or diary format? Because it really didn’t work at all in this book.   Also I felt like there was a shift from a first to third person perspective which never really sat easy with me. But my biggest issue was the attempts in making the narrative sound historical; Grahame-Smith just adds phrases and words into the writing that sound old fashion but the rest of the book continues as if it was written in 2010.

I wanted to read this book because of the upcoming movie adaptation. The movie might be entertaining but this book really had too many flaws and holes in it to make this a decent read. I know it isn’t supposed to be high literature and this is written as pure entertainment but seriously; can’t you research better than opening up Wikipedia? I’m not huge into dark fantasy either but I felt the attempts this book made never really worked. There are some graphic and dark scenes but nothing really came together as an overall book. I expected so much more from this book and I felt let down. I don’t think I’ll be reading another Seth Grahame-Smith anytime soon.