Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Blogger Holiday Swap 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011
Come one, Come all!
It's Book Blogger Holiday Swap!

The holiday season is upon us and Book Blogger Holiday Swap is here. You can read about it and join the fun at the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. Hurry up, the sign up ends on Midnight, Friday November 11, 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan _ Book Review #136

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive.Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

A Visit from the Goon Squad was lying on my desk for a very long time, waiting to be read. I can’t intelligibly tell you why it took me so long to pick it up. I guess I was afraid that it wouldn’t be a book for me. I could’ve being afraid to read it during a wrong mood to spoil my impression. I might’ve being afraid it would be too sad. All of the above, none of the above? I really don’t have an answer. However, I do know that I’m glad I finally read it, this would be a tragedy to miss out on such a phenomenal book.

If I would be asked to summarize the book, I would use the quote directly from it:

They resumed walking. Alex felt an ache in his eyes and throat. "I don't know what happened to me," he said, shaking his head. "I honestly don't."
Bennie glanced at him, a middle-aged man with chaotic silver hair and thoughtful eyes. "You grew up, Alex," he said, "just like the rest of us.” 

This quote really nicely summed up a book for me – it is about growing up, not growing up from child to teenager, but growing up from a teenager into a middle-aged adult. I cannot fully judge (I didn’t yet reach my middle age, though I’m not a teenager anymore either), but somehow A Visit from the Goon Squad rang very true and honest, sometimes scary, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, hopeful and optimistic.

A Visit from the Goon Squad has a nonlinear narrative. If I would be asked before I read this book what I think about books with nonlinear plots, I would’ve answered that I generally don’t like them, that I mostly confused and feel a need to reread a book again now knowing what the author is talking about in each section. Now, after I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, my answer is I never before this book read any GOOD books with nonlinear plots. Jennifer Egan even went further, she also switching points of view during narration. And if it isn’t enough yet, this book is following at least dozen characters. Despite that, I wasn’t confused for a single line. I always knew what time we are in and whose point of view used here. Jennifer Egan is a genius. I’m very grateful to her for showing me how such a complicatedly constructed book can be written so masterfully that it reads so easily.

This book is mostly famous, besides its winning Pulitzer, for having an entire chapter created in Power Point. I wasn’t too impressed with this idea before started reading the chapter. I never really worked with Power Point myself, however any serious meeting in my company usually includes a Power Point presentation. I never was really impressed with Power Point presentations, because they never really aid me to understand the topic of the meeting, they were usually distracting me – I was reading boxes and arrows in wrong sequence then I had to stop and try to figure out what the right sequence is – like solving a puzzle, while missing what the presenter was saying. I’m working for a very big company, so even though I do not know people who are usually creating these Power Point presentations for meetings, I would guess that they should be pro in doing it. Jennifer Egan in A Visit from the Goon Squad, showed me that Power Point presentations can be created without becoming a puzzle, they can even tell, doing it very clearly, a story. She showed me that a good Power Point presentation doesn’t require an aid of speaker – it can be read by itself.

I’ll probably never stop praising this book, if I won’t stop myself deliberately. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a most definitely the greatest book I read this year so far that was published in last 5 years. I would still have to see what the rest of the year will bring, but A Visit from the Goon Squad could easily become my favorite book of 2011. If you still didn’t read it, go get it right now and start reading – satisfaction guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About - Top Ten Tuesday #7

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About (cry, laugh, hurl across the room, etc.)

I like books that generate strong emotions in me. I even like these books that I want to burn. (Don’t get me wrong I’m utterly against destroying or banning books. It is just sometimes I hate a book that much that I want to burn or drown my own copy. Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve never done it.) In my opinion there is nothing worse than a book that makes you *shrug* and forget about it in next five minutes. Unfortunately, most of the books written are in the shrug category, at least for me. So I have a respect for authors and books that made me feel something more, even if the feeling is negative. Here is Top Five Books that Made Me Laugh, Top Five Books that Made Me Cry and Top Five Books that Made Me Want to Start a Bonfire.
Top Five Books that Made Me Laugh:
  1. Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov. I was reading this book as an assignment in 10th grade. My mother was running into my room multiple times to check that I wasn’t choking, because I laughed so hard. This book isn’t a comedy. It is a satire on Russian Revolution.
  2. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. First I saw the play, when I was in middle school, then I saw the movie and only after that I read the play. And every time I laughed out loud and I still think that this is probably one of the funniest things that I’ve ever read.
  3. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. While I was reading this book, my husband was running into the room where I was reading to check on me, same as my mother did, when I was reading Heart of a Dog. I’m either sounding really scary when I laugh like that or I have a very caring family.
  4. Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella. I was waking up my husband with uncontrollable giggles, while reading first book in bed. I couldn’t shut up about this book afterwards, so in the morning I was retelling the funniest moments to my husband and either I was very convincing or Sophie Kinsella is so funny, but at the end my husband decided to read it too.
  5. Moscow to the End of the Line (aka Moscow-Petushki) by Venedikt Erofeev. This is another satire, this time on the USSR life during 1960th. I guess it is really depends on your point of view is this book going to read hysterically hilarious or depressively sad. It was both for me, maybe a bit more funny than tragic.
Top Five Books that Made Me Cry:
  1. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. This is a book about afterlife and about power of love. These two are very cheesy themes, however Richard Matheson managed to tell this story in a very touching manner, avoiding clichés and not ignoring a very solid research base.
  2. Poetry by Sergei Yesenin. I loved Yesenin very much. I’ve reread my copy of his poetry collection so many times that it started to fall apart. His farewell poem makes me cry every time (I don’t really like this translation, but this is the only one I was able to find):
  3. “Goodbye, my friend, goodbye
    My love, you are in my heart.
    It was preordained we should part
    And be reunited by and by.
    Goodbye: no handshake to endure.
    Let's have no sadness — furrowed brow.
    There's nothing new in dying now
    Though living is no newer. “

  4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I knew the story before I read it. Who doesn’t at least vaguely familiar with it? I wasn’t expecting much from the book when I finally decided to read it. However, the end hit me pretty good and yes, I actually cried, cried not as much for Frankenstein’s monster, but more for unjustness and unfairness of life.
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green. This book didn’t really make me cry, I just had a terrible lump in my throat almost the whole time I was reading it.
  6. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Tears after finishing this book weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of anger, tears of fury. Spoilers! I couldn’t believe that this book came to a such a corner where the only way of resolution was for a strong willing to live girl to sacrifice her life for a weak girl who didn’t value her life at all and was about to commit suicide. End of Spoilers!
Top Five Books that Made Me Want to Start a Bonfire:
  1. Fallen by Lauren Kate. I don’t even want to comment on this one, because I already wrote a review (the only thing that changed since my review – I understood that I cannot read either second or thirds book in this series). 
  2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I also wrote almost all I thought about this book in my review – a book with self-centered, chauvinistic pigs for characters. 
  3. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Another required reading for school – 11th grade. Believe me, I understand the tragedy described in the book, but I just simply couldn’t read this boring repetitions. Maybe I was too young for this, maybe I would view it different now or in 10 years, who knows? 
  4. Germinal by Émile Zola. And one more required reading for school – 9th grade. Mines, cold, diseases, hunger and rapes – mine 9th grade’s psyche wasn’t able to sustain it. 
  5.  By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters. Oh, the eternal whining of spineless character!