J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Author: J.K. Rowling

Title:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Published: July 1999
Publisher: Raincoast
Length: 317 pages
Genre: Magical fantasy
Target age: Children
Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
Rating: 4 stars
Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

This is still my favourite Harry Potter book and I think it will continue to be, but I suppose I will have to reserve that judgment until I finish rereading the series. I like that this book still retains the fun fantastical elements that children adore but also starts to provide more back story and hint at the depth and scope that Harry’s store is going to reach eventually. Sirius and Remus are two of my favourite characters (the other would probably be the Weasley twins, of course, and I think I’ll like Luna a lot more this time around). I could possibly have more to say on this volume, but it is exam studying time now and I actually have five exams to study for now so I need to go focus on that and then when I’m done studying, I’ll read to try and catch up to my ‘schedule’ and then I’ll try to cram in blog posts somehow….

Extra Books – March 14 to 20

  • Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
    • Published: April 2001 (English)
    • Genre: Surrealist mystery
    • Why I picked it up: Like the author
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • Challenges: Global | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • Oh, it’s so hard to give Murakami’s works a rating! I really love them all, but it’s hard to compare these novels to the masterpiece that is Kafka on the Shore 
      • I love the themes and the common elements and the prose. I feel like I could just sit around for the rest of my life reading novels by Murakami.
      • This felt a bit like a John Green novel for adults. The boy narrator pining after the girl main character who is an enigma unto herself. I hope that maybe when I ”grow up’ this book will help me to recall what Looking for Alaska  did for me as a teenager. (my brain, gah, cannot function right now).  
      • I really loved Sumire. I feel like she’s the Murakami character I can identify with best, mostly for her writing habits. I enjoyed reading ‘document 1’ and ‘document 2’ and spending some time inside this character’s mind.
  • After Dark by Haruki Murakami
    • Published: May 2007 (English)
    • Genre: Surrealist
    • Why I picked it up: Like the author
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • Challenges: Global | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • While I really liked this book, I didn’t feel it was quite as good as Sputnik Sweetheart or Kafka on the Shore. I do like how Murakami can leave things so open-ended and yet weave a satisfyingly complete story, but for some reason I just didn’t get that out of this one. I didn’t understand Eri’s story at all. That could be because I was always anticipating more information about her situation that never came and so I wasn’t paying enough attention to the chapters about her.
      • Interesting naration manner. This seems to be a thing I’m noticing more and more with books lately, or perhaps it’s just because the books I’m reading lately all have a different narration style that I had never encountered before this name. The ‘we look around the scene, we do not think that she would, we zoom out high above the ceiling,’ etc. sort of thing. errr. my brain is mushy right now. i can’t focus. -.-

Extra Books – March 7 to 13

  • Japanese Religious Traditions by Michiko Yusa
    • Published: March 2006
    • Genre: Non-fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Interest in Japanese religions
    • Rating: 3.5 stars
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • Highly informative! There seemed to be a lot more history, names and dates than actual beliefs but I think this is a very handy introductory book. 
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    • Published: 1969
    • Genre: Science fiction, historical fiction
    • Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts:
      • I knew this was a war book, but I had no idea it was also science fiction. That was a bit of a shock for me, not a bad one though. Just surprising. It added an whole different interesting level to the book. Not even a level, I suppose, the science fiction aspect was half the point.
      • I think it’s interesting how my ‘war reading’ has developed over the years. In grade four, grade fiveish, I was really into novels told from the perspective of Jewish Holocaust victims, novels that were more about how the horrors of the war played out. Now I’ve been reading novels that deal with all the ideologies fuelling war. Just goes to show you how I’ve grown up…
      • I liked the snapshot narration style. Also I was confused by the narrator in the same way I was confused for The Unbearable Lightness of Being.Character, or Vonnegut himself? I will have to Google that…

Franz Kafka – The Trial

*The following information applies to an English hardcover edition. (the novel was originally published in German in 1925).*

Author: Franz Kafka
Translator: Richard Stokes

Title:  The Trial
Published: 2005
Publisher: Hesperus Press
Length: 210 pages
Genre: Philosophical literature
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
Rating: —-
Challenges: Global | 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

I’m not giving this a rating because (and I cringe to say this) it totally went over my head. This is the first time I’ve ever read a book that I didn’t really understand at all! I know I didn’t not like it but I have no idea what to think. I believe I set expectations too high for this novel and for myself. After hearing so much about Kafka (and the term ‘kafkaesque’) and falling in love with Kafka on the Shore, I thought upon finally reading one of Kafka’s greatest works I would have some sort of philosophical epiphany. Didn’t happen, obviously; that’s an unreal expectation for any work of art, but that’s the kind of daydream I have: that after reading a great work of literature I will have some sort of revelation. Perhaps it’s because I was so focused on ‘getting something’ out of this text that I didn’t get anything out of it. There are so many ways you can interpret the metaphor of The Trial that I didn’t know what it could mean for me and instead of focusing on the book and thinking critically about all I was reading, interpreting the story for myself, I just kind of finished it and left myself in the dark. In a few years time I will tackle this again and hopefully I will have greater success. All that being said…I have inklings of ideas regarding what this novel is about, for me. But they’re just that, inklings, swirling bits of thoughts that don’t really amount to much. Hopefully those inklings will grow upon a reread in the future.
A comment not wholly related to the text itself…I have an issue with reading a work that the author clearly did not want being read. It makes me squirm and feel uncomfortable. As I writer myself, I cringe at the thought of my stories being widely published after my death. There were reasons why Kafka didn’t want his work out there, his unfinished and unpolished work. I can’t help but wonder what he would have done had he properly finished The Trial and I also wonder what he would think of its success and interpretations today. I feel sort of like a child sneaking a cookie from the sacred cookie jar. Morals, gah. I would feel a whole lot better upon completing this book if Kafka had actually intended for it to be set loose on the world.

Milan Kundera – The Unberable Lightness of Being

Author: Milan Kundera
Title:  The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Published: 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row
Length: 314 pages
Genre: Philosophical literature
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
Rating: 4.5 stars
Challenges: Global | 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

It appears I’m on a bit of a philosophical, deep-thinking, big picture, meaning of life kick in regards to the type of books I feel like reading lately. (I’m going to look for some Kafka at the library tomorrow). I started this book a few weeks ago, couldn’t really get into it, but I picked it up again a few days ago, thought of it in a different light and devoured it. I am enjoying exploring writing styles that are very different from what I had become accustomed to reading and content that really pushes the boundaries of how I think and perceive ideas. That summarizes my overall satisfied experience with this novel; I’ll delve more into something of the notes I made while reading this book.

This is a novel mostly about three things (in opinion, the most important themes for me, etc, etc.): types of love, what it means to be human and revolution. Which, of course, are subjects full of ideas that are very fascinating for me to explore. I liked how each topic was delved into, providing different perspectives from the views of four different characters. The setting and time period of the novel (Czechoslovakia around the time of Warsaw Pact invasion [a topic of which I now have some knowledge about due to reading this novel and then looking up the events on Wikipedia]) provided a good backdrop in/on which to explore these ideas.

It took me awhile to get a hold of the narration style. At first I was really confused, then I thought maybe I understood, but I didn’t want to assume, so I kept on being confused until I could clarify for sure that who I thought was narrating was narrating (wow, this must be the most convoluted sentence I’ve written since NaNo XP). ANYHOW. The narrator, I eventually grasped, is the author of the novel. However, I wasn’t sure if this was intended to be Kundera or if ‘the author of the novel’ is a character in him/herself. It’s an interesting thought/POV, one I haven’t encountered much (or probably ever) and one I will definitely think about when I reread this book. An excerpt (bits like this aren’t too common, but I absolutely love them, being a writerly type myself):

I have known all these situations, I have experienced them myself, yet none of them has given rise to the person my curriculum vitae and I represent. The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.

 My last little note is on chronology. Really, it just jumps all over the place but it in a very orderly and connected way. I wouldn’t even really be thinking about it if it weren’t for the one event that is mentioned every now and then throughout the story and that is Tomas and Tereza’s deaths (this isn’t really a spoiler, there’s a statement at one point that just throws this fact at the reader but I can’t remember where it was. It was in a chapter about Sabina and the fact that Tereza and Tomas die together in a car accident is just thrown in with some other facts. This is also mentioned in couple of other places long before the actual event takes place. If I was writing about this book for an English class, that would be something I would probably pick apart and analyze but honestly, I would have to read the book again and make note of the times that incident crops up to better understand it. It felt, not awkward, but not natural, and I feel like it was there for a reason. Another something to look for when I reread this book, I suppose!