Extra Books – to May 28

(I didn’t read these all in the past week, they’re from the past who knows how long [as well as this week], but I’m finally noting them down now.)

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
    • Published: July 2008
    • Genre: Magical fantasy
    • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • Ehm. I read this a month or two ago and didn’t make any notes…not my favourite Potter book. I didn’t really care for the ‘romance’ bits, but as usual I liked the interaction between Hermione and Ron. That’s all I can say. ^^;
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
    • Published: June 2003
    • Genre: Magical fantasy
    • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
    • Rating: 3.5 stars
    • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • What I like most about this series is probably the cast of characters. So many! All diverse, with distinct personalities and names, even if some of them are stereotypical. I like the balance between children/kids/teens and adults. I love stories where each age group is engaged with one another and well matched.
      • It’s in this book that a lot of the characters mature; there is definitely a lot of teenage angst on Harry’s part (but who can blame him?). Another thing I enjoy about the series, following the cast of schoolmates and watching them grow and change and mature. 
      • I like the bit with Aunt Petunia near the beginning – what a great hook! I know she has a pretty important role later on, but I can’t recall it, so I am looking forward to that.
      • I remembered while reading this book that the HP series was where I learned the term ‘sacked.’ By the way. I also remember that this was the first HP that I waited for (as in, by the time I started paying attention to the series, the first four books were out). I can’t remember how I felt at Sirius’ death, though. Probably pissed off.  
      • I loved the scene where Harry is raging in Dumbledore’s office. I think that was brilliantly done.
  • A Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Published: 1890
    • Genre: Mystery
    • Why I picked it up: Reading through the Holmes stories

    Walter Mosley – The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

     Author: Walter Mosley

    Title: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
    Published: November 2010
    Publisher: Riverhead
    Length: 277pages
    Genre: Fiction
    Why I picked it up: Liked the title
    Rating: 3.5 stars
    Challenges: 100+  
    Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

    Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself appreciating novels such as this one more than I ever have before. I used to find these books dry and uncreative and dull, dull, dull but now I am enjoying them (oh, growing up. I never could have predicted what an impact maturity would have on my reading habits! ;P).  By ‘these books’, I am referring to stories centred on complex family dramas and problems of the common person (hah). I think I like reading about people nowadays because it helps me to observe and/or understand people in the real world; the kind of people who I would normally never interact with, such as the main characters of this novel: a 91 year old black man who has experiences I could never imagine and a tough teenage black girl who gets nervous around white people who form a unique relationship. I learn about other people, experience situations I will never encounter in real life and get to peak into stranger’s lives, getting some sort of understanding of why. Even though the characters aren’t real, I know that people like them do exist somewhere and that’s what draws me into the story. I also just like reading about old people, to be blunt. I think it’s interesting to peer so far ahead into the future, thinking that one day, hopefully, I will be an old person just like that, living out the last of my days.

    Now, onto the contents of the book! The story focuses on the very elderly Ptolemy Grey and his efforts to regain his failing memory in the last days of his life (hence the title…I really liked the title, it’s the sort of thing I fall for). This leads to, obviously, many snapshots of memories throughout the novel. These memories are what I liked most about this story. I love the idea of an old Ptolemy reflecting on his life and what events and people were important to him, what had an impact on him. I loved reading about this character experiencing these memories he had tried to recall for so long, and then finally be able to reflect and realize them. A lot of the memories are bittersweet, poignant, melancholic, stirring, thoughtful, all of those lonely words. I ate those up, those bits of memories. Short stories within a story.

    I preferred the character of Ptolemy over Robyn (sweet old man character over tough teenager any day, thanks, haha), but I did like what she added to the story (I mean, aside from her obvious main role as one of the characters who creates the story). I was interested to see how she acted in front of an old man vs. how she would act with her boyfriend vs. how she acts in the street (I just used three tenses there, huh). This sort of thing intrigues me because I generally act the same in front of all sorts of people. It still shocks me when I see how people behave when I working with them and how they behave outside of work. I’m trying to understand that better. Gangsta Robyn vs. sweet Robyn vs. hurt teenage girl Robyn…the layers, I’m trying to understand the layers, I suppose.

    Three more minor notes. There was lots and lots of slang and dialects. Every character pretty much spoke in one. Usually this sort of thing drives me crazy, but I barely noticed it in Mosley’s writing. Everything felt very natural. Another interesting style bit was that mostly every black character had a different skin tone description; they were never just ‘black’.  If it was white people being described differently each time (olive, peach, snow white, etc.) I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. I guess that says a lot more about me than the writing, though I’m not quite sure what…Final note: I had never heard of the author before, but since his name was bigger than the title I figured he must be somewhat well-known. I looked him up, and apparently he’s best known for his mystery series! Fun tidbit for you there. I never would’ve guessed it.

    I did like this book; I enjoyed it greatly while I was reading it (clearly it gave me lots to think about!) and I was planning on giving it four stars (plan to buy) but by the end of it…I’m not sure. The story seemed to lose whatever it was that I loved about it. It just didn’t grab me in a way that most books I plan to buy do. What a vague conclusion. Still, I recommend this book, I suppose, but don’t hold out for a fabulous ending! (I think it was the ending that killed it. I can’t stand a bad ending; they ruin all the good feelings I had about what came before.)

    Eric Schlosser – Fast Food Nation

    Author: Eric Schlosser

    Title: Fast Food Nation
    Published: January 2001
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    Length: 288 pages
    Genre: Non-fiction (investigative)
    Why I picked it up: I can’t remember…^^;
    Rating: 3.5 stars
    Challenges: 100+ | Foodie’s 
    Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

    This was my third book for Foodie’s Reading Challenge, which means that with my target of five books, I am over halfway there! 😛 This is the first food book I’ve read in a long time that wasn’t a memoir. It was told in first person, but not invasively so. Schlosser’s comments popped up occasionally, but he often used a more journalistic tone during the ‘expose’ segments of the book. While it is clear where Schlosser’s opinions lie (even before the epilogue where he explains what changes he would like to see in the industry), he doesn’t quite beat the reader over the head with them (until, again, the epilogue). The way he presents his discoveries make it clear as to what opinion the reader should form, so it’s not necessary for him to spout his own conclusions.

    I liked the range of topics that Schlosser covered. The first half of the book covers a history of the fast food industry itself and it’s developments over the years while the second half looks at the industries that support fast food, such as meat packing and potato growing (I particularly liked the bit about International Flavors and Fragrances). I would have liked to see him cover the environmental and health impacts, though. The focus was mainly on the impact of fast food nation on the American culture/society, hence the title, I realize upon reflection. 😛

    It’s important, however, to remember that this book is ten years old. It isn’t quite the big revelation that it might have been at the time. I wasn’t shocked by anything I read, although I was thoroughly disgusted. It’s embarrassing and awful and terrible what greed leads people to do. It’s also fascinating to see how much of an impact politics have, and how things can change so drastically when the power of the US government switches parties. I wonder how things have changed since this book was first published (and as a Canadian, I wonder how the situation in the US compares to the situation here). I recommend this book if you eat fast food often, or even just a little more than you should. Hopefully it will encourage you to change your habits for the better!

    Truman Capote – Breakfast at Tiffany’s

    Author: Truman Capote

    Title:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Published: 1958
    Publisher: Random House
    Length: 111 pages (plus three short stories)
    Genre: Literature
    Target age: Adult (suitable for teen and up)
    Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
    Rating: 3.5 stars
    Challenges: 2011 TBR Pile | 100+
    Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

    I am happy to report that this book exceeded my expectations! I must admit, I was expecting a duller read as I tend to do with books published before the sixties or so. I read older books generally for the prose and because I feel like it’s my duty to, so when I come across a book with a solidly good story or characters, such as this one, I always feel pleasantly surprised. 
    The vibe I got from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is very similar to the one I get when reading a John Green novel. I feel like Holly Golightly is the Margo Roth Spiegelman of the fifties. I love that, I love the idea that there were people writing about girls like these ages ago, that they’ve ‘always existed’. In this way, the story felt very modern and relatable for me and that was something I wasn’t expecting. The plot also felt very fresh and intriguing. I was actually invested in the story, I wanted to know what happened next and was often surprised by what did. Essentially, this story has a solid character that appeals to me and a solid plot that kept me interested.
    Similar again to John’s style, there were a few lines that instantly stood out to me. All were spoken by Holly, in that casual or not revelatory way characters like her speak occasionally. This made me laugh out loud, mainly because my thoughts immediately preceding this excerpt were ‘Is his story about lesbians?’:
     “Is that the end?” she asked, waking up. She floundered for something more to say. ‘Of course I like dykes themselves. They don’t scare me a bit. But stories about dykes bore the bejesus out of me. I just can’t put myself in their shoes. Well really, darling,” she said, because I was clearly puzzled, “if it’s not about a couple of old bull-dykes, what the hell is it about?”
    And another quote (I’m paraphrasing and condensing it a bit here) that made me pause and think.
     “…If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky… Believe me, dearest Doc – it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.”
    This next quote is from very near the end of the book and while it isn’t really a spoiler, it does sum up the ‘theme’ or purpose of the story you might want to skip reading it.
     “But what about me?” she said, whispered and shivered again. “I’m very scared, buster. Yes, at last. Because it could go on forever. Not knowing what’s yours until you’ve thrown it away. The mean reds, they’re nothing. The fat woman, she nothing. This, though: my mouth’s so dry, if my life depended on it I couldn’t spit.”
    I love that quote, it seems very fitting for my life at the morning…I love it when a story comes along and it turns out to be just the sort of thing you need.
    I may not be explaining why I like this book properly since I’m basically just comparing it to John Green. But John Green is what I love and know and so to make note of this story in that way makes sense to me. If you’re not a fan of books from this era, I’d recommend you give this a shot. After all, it’s technically a novella and not a too difficult read ;P

    Extra Books – March 21 to 27

    • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
      • Published: 1915
      • Genre: Philosophical literature
      • Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
      • Rating: 3 stars
      • Challenges: Global | 100+
      • My Thoughts: 
        •  I enjoyed this more than The Trial. Honestly, it was an easier read for me and wasn’t as dry and dull as The Trial (but remember, I’ve established that I missed the point of that book ^^;). 
        • It was completely different from what I anticipated (something more recognizably philosophical and dreamy, almost) but I knew that it would be like that after reading The Trial. 
    • It’s Up to You: The Practice of Self-Reflection on the Buddhist Path byDzigar Kongtrul
      • Published: 2005
      • Genre: Spiritual non-fiction
      • Why I picked it up: Pursuing an interest in [Zen] Buddhism
      • Rating: 3.5 stars
      • Challenges: 100+
      • My Thoughts:
        • This book contains a foreword, a preface, an author’s preface, acknowledgements, a supplication and an introduction. And then the book begins.
        • While this book didn’t say anything I didn’t really already know, it put certain ideas into new words and helped refresh these ideas and make me think of them in a different way. That’s why I like reading these books on Buddhism, they help me think and focus on spirituality. By reading about it in my daily life, I remember to experience it in my daily life because I think so much about what I read.