Tag: Alex

Monthly Review – May 2013

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As May comes to a close, like all months, I want to have a quick look at what happened. First of all I managed to get fully up to date with my reviews; a few months ago I was about 20 reviews behind, waiting to be posted. Now when I finish a book the review will go up within a few days (sometimes more) and this frees me up to do other bookish posts. This is so exciting because I really like to write my thoughts about the world of literature without being confined to reviews. Also as you can see we are smack in the middle of being green with envy of everyone attending the Book Expo of America (BEA). I’m participating in Armchair BEA again and this will hopefully mean new blogs and new people to talk to. I’m also currently overseas so I’ve scheduled all these posts, I still have access to internet but I wanted to be free to comment and read instead of writing blog posts.

As for this month, the book club theme was Supernatural and we got to read the classic Victorian Gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. My review went up yesterday and there have been some interesting discussions about the book and its influences in modern pop culture over at Goodreads if you’ve missed it. Next month’s book is going to be a little obscure, something I’ve not heard of; I’m really looking forward to diving into The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

Last month I was in the middle of a reading slump so I was worried that May would be a terrible month for me but I’m pleased to say the slump didn’t last long. I was able to read heaps of great books including Invitation to a Beheading, Main Street and The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Interesting enough the highlight of the month was none of those books, but a reread of The Great Gatsby; I just enjoyed returning to that novel and then picking it apart trying to understand it. I would love to know what your highlights of the month were or even what you read this month.

My Monthly Reading

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Posted May 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 1 Comment

Alex by Pierre LemaitreTitle: Alex (Goodreads)
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Translator: Frank Wynne
Series: Verhoeven Trilogy #2
Published: MacLehose Press, 2011
Pages: 368
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

When someone is kidnapped, the first few hours are critical; the chances of finding the victim alive drastically decrease after that. The beautiful and tough Alex Prévost is no ordinary victim but can she escape? Her time is running out. Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on, no suspects, no leads and no hope. All they know is the girl was snatched off the streets of Paris and shoved into a van. The mystery of the fate of Alex will keep Verhoeven guessing until the bitter end.

This is the second book in the Verhoeven trilogy but the only one that has been translated into English so far. While it is very much a standalone novel, I got a feeling that some critical information about Commandant Camille Verhoeven was missing in the development of this character. This could be the simple fact that this is the standard and over done thriller formula. I picked up this book because I’ve heard it being compared to Gone Girl a few times and thought it was a good excuse to read some translated crime.

Alex does have an unreliable victim, like Gone Girl but comparing this book to that one is a big stretch. The whole style and feel to Alex was nothing like the psychological thriller that is Gone Girl. This novel does try to be psychological but comparing the two is pointless, this novel takes a whole different route and the only real similarities are the genre and the unreliable victim. I tend to think marketing people look for connections between books as a way to promote books and this can be destructive.

Alex is a thriller told from a third person narrative that follows both the victim, Alex and Commandant Camille Verhoeven as he tries to piece together this enigma of a case. While this tends to work well in exploring the two sides of this case as victim and investigator, I sometimes wished I could get into the mindset of both characters. Without spoiling any of this novel, there are parts of the book that could have been interesting to explore the psychology of the characters. I think Alex was a complex character that could have been used better within the book to improve both plot and the overall novel.

Now, there are so many plot holes within this novel that really got to me, from the very first few chapters I got that feeling everyone was attractive, despite their age. It seems like Pierre Lemaitre knew of no other way to describe someone. I don’t want to spoil anything for people that want to read this book so I won’t mention the biggest plot hole I found (if you have read this book I’d love to discuss it with you). There is also a lot of repetitiveness within this novel, I don’t know how many times Lamaitre can mention she wasn’t average and when she was a teen Alex blossomed into a bombshell with large breasts but it was too many. Then you mix the generic thriller formula to the mix and you are left with a novel that could have done great things but took the safe road.

I think the unreliable victim narrative could have been executed a whole lot better and we could have had a decent novel with twists and turns. I’m a little disappointed that the author decided to play it safe and go with the cliché plot that is known to sell books. Books like Gone Girl that take risks and surprise the reader are the ones that are remembered and respected by readers. Sure sometimes we want something that we know will be enjoyable and doesn’t require much effort for a cosy winter (or summer read) but when you set up a book like Pierre Lemaitre did in Alex and chose not to take full advantage of the situation I feel let down and disappointed.

The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein

Posted December 20, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi and Alex SteinTitle: The Artist as Mystic (Goodreads)
Author: Alex Stein, Yahia Lababidi
Published: Onesuch, 2012
Pages: 86
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Author

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

I’m going to have to borrow the blurb for this book, because I think it best summarises this book. The Artist as Mystic is a set of lyric conversations between aphorists Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein. These conversations constitute what Australians call a ‘Songline’ — a set of sacred songs that allow the reader/listener to navigate through an unknown terrain, in this case, populated by tortured and ecstatic souls: Kafka, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Rilke, Kierkegaard and Ekelund.

I’ve never really read something like this, blending biographical elements with literary criticism, but then it takes it a bit further by documenting conversations between Yahia Lababidi and Alex Stein and adding a reflective poem to each essay by Lababidi. It’s like being a fly on the wall and listening to two very intelligent people bounce thoughts and ideas off each other about literary ideas.

While it often felt more like an interview rather than a conversation, I never felt bothered by it; Yahia Lababidi has a lot of insight and knowledge and I think Alex Stein made a very strategic move by stepping back and letting Lababidi run free with his thoughts. While this may come across as very dense book, I found the book very accessible.

The Artist as Mystic is a thought provoking look at people I’ve had a real interest in understanding better; Kafka, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard as well as an insight into a few new ones I need to learn about. I’m not a very intellectual person, I do try but what I got out of this book was just how well it helped me understand the ideas it wanted to get across. Yahia Lababidi never talked down but rather mentored the reader along, making this the most impressive aspect of the whole book. I felt inspired by this book and plan to read this book with a highlighter and a notepad sometimes in the future.