josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Annual Reading Challenge

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josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby josta59 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 11:28 am

I'll shoot for eight books, which will be good for me, especially this year when I now have two four-year-olds and a baby. But I'm actually stimulated to read more lately, for some reason. I've already finished one:

1. The Last Thing He Wanted, by Joan Didion (1996)
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This is a novel that bridges literary fiction with spy-type thriller, which is just what I wanted. I'd heard Ms. Didion is a literary genius, writing fiction and non-fiction with equal talent. I found this book while searching for novels set in the 1980s wars in Central America, and this was the only one I found. But it sounded perfect, exactly what I was looking for. My mother-in-law bought it as a Christmas present, and I started on it right away. I've never read a book so fast.

The book is about the daughter of an arms dealer living in the U.S. who finds herself becoming part of a deal herself, even flying to the Caribbean to make a deal that's connected to the Contras in Nicaragua...or maybe the Sandinistas; that part was a little confusing, and that's ok because it had no bearing on the plot, and I kind of liked that it was a little unclear. The politics of it all were not discussed; this was a book about a woman who needed to get something done and protect her family in the process.

There was a moment when I sat on a jetway waiting for a plane to take off, and a surprise in this book took my breath away, about halfway through. It does have some moments.

For the first two-thirds I felt this book was written for me, like this could be my favorite book forever. But somehow, in the final third, I lost that feeling. I'm not sure why. At the end I felt like it was just another thriller, after all. My thoughts on it are still a bit jumbled, and maybe they always will be. But I've moved on and am deep in a classic Kafka novel now--that's for the next post, of course.
"...military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood—that serpent's eye that charms to destroy..." --Abraham Lincoln, 1848

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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Lucky Luke » Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:57 pm

josta59 wrote:For the first two-thirds I felt this book was written for me, like this could be my favorite book forever. But somehow, in the final third, I lost that feeling. I'm not sure why. At the end I felt like it was just another thriller, after all. My thoughts on it are still a bit jumbled, and maybe they always will be.


I know that feeling...for me it came out every time I read a book who walk down the same way I imagine the flow of events should take. Then something broke like a plastic fork, you know, a second before it is useful and it work very well, then it's a bunch of plastic splinters and all the charme is gone.

My most "oh, what a pity" kind of book is the sci-fi one: I'm wandering into some (for me) unknown books and I find them unsatisfying; after a good incipit and a quite interesting action building-up they lose quickly any appeal. I think I was too much anticipating in my mind the story evolution and when the author took another direction I lose interest.

But, to call in a GIANT in sci-fi literature, when I read for the first time an Asimov's book I never felt "lost". The Good Doctor's works were always a joy to read from cover to cover (or up to the 100% as Kindle says...).
V6!

Luca



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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby josta59 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:04 pm

Thanks for chiming in, Luca. That feeling reminds me of every comic book film I've seen. I oo and ah for the first two acts, and then the big fight comes along, and it's just never satisfying. I should just never watch the last 1/3 of any comic book movie. Spider-Man 2002 was the first time I noticed it. Such a great origin story, such cool ideas, such awesome visuals, and then he fights the Green Goblin and it all goes to hell.
"...military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood—that serpent's eye that charms to destroy..." --Abraham Lincoln, 1848

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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Whiterook » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:49 pm

Thanks for joining the Challenge!!! :D

I've experienced the same disappointing end-game situation, most notably on two sci-fi books I read going into last holidays 2014, in which after a thrilling start, it was a struggle to finish. That's an interesting point you both posit on, it didn't go the way your envisioned...and that may have played a role in it going south for you. That happens more on movies for me than books.

On the book, that sounds like excellent fodder for a Hollywood Movie! I don't read a lot of thrillers but, that's an intriguing plot!!!
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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Frizzenspark » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:48 pm

I'm still pretty much reading historical books; though I've read a few H.P. Lovecraft stories recently.... Currently reading about the French and Indian War....
"Why piddle about making porridge with artillery and then send men to drown themselves in it for a hundred yards of No Man's land? Tanks mean advances of miles at a time, not yards.".
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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Whiterook » Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:33 pm

Frizzenspark wrote:I'm still pretty much reading historical books; though I've read a few H.P. Lovecraft stories recently.... Currently reading about the French and Indian War....


Well....out your bookmark in the Challenge, mate! ;)

I've been meaning to read some H.P. Lovecraft...alternate history stuff, right?
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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Frizzenspark » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:13 pm

I'm also trying to digest the fluff from the Infinity game...... The new set has one book for the rules and one book for the fluff......
"Why piddle about making porridge with artillery and then send men to drown themselves in it for a hundred yards of No Man's land? Tanks mean advances of miles at a time, not yards.".
Maj-Gen Percy Hobart (1885-1957)79th Armoured Division

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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Frank » Mon Mar 02, 2015 10:11 am

Whiterook wrote:
I've been meaning to read some H.P. Lovecraft...alternate history stuff, right?


Not really, its more gothic horror, written in the 30`s I think, possibly 40`s as well, you have a bunch of Gods from another dimension trying to breakthrough into our dimension. If you do read any you will find a lot of stuff you were probably familiar with even if you did not know it was Lovecraft.
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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby Lucky Luke » Mon Mar 02, 2015 1:32 pm

Frank wrote:
Whiterook wrote:
I've been meaning to read some H.P. Lovecraft...alternate history stuff, right?


Not really, its more gothic horror, written in the 30`s I think, possibly 40`s as well, you have a bunch of Gods from another dimension trying to breakthrough into our dimension. If you do read any you will find a lot of stuff you were probably familiar with even if you did not know it was Lovecraft.


Lovecraft's universe (maybe the right way to call it is Pantheon...) is very fun to (role) play. Once in a while it's a cool thing to have heroes that can snatch only temporary victories because their enemies are immortal and eternal. All you can do, as a mortal human being, is to block some dimensional portal, push some pan-dimensional horror back for a while... Even if you should block the entrance until the next time the stars will be aligned again...it will be 100 years? Also 70 years are a lot of time for a human...only a moral victory because in the face of the eternity it will be only the blink of an eye... But not all the creatures on the Other Side have eyes...
V6!

Luca



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Re: josta59's 2015 Reading Challenge Log

Postby josta59 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 11:17 am

2. The Castle: A New Translation by Anthea Bell, by Franz Kafka (2009, originally published 1926)
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I read Kafka's The Trial, a similar novel, several years ago and loved it. My favorite rock band at the time was named after its protagonist, which is what drew me to Kafka. The protagonist of The Castle is similarly named, so it seemed certain that this would be a hit with me too. I was sadly mistaken.

The Castle was Kafka's final work, and it was far from completed. I did know this going in, but I was still enthused to take it on. The problem is that I couldn't tell if he ever had a clear direction for it, or if he was just writing for his own amusement, or to clear some writer's block. It reads like a weird, directionless dream that never ends. The last sentence wasn't even finished. After four hundred and some pages, I still feel like I don't understand the main character, let alone any of the strange characters he meets in his first week in a village dominated by a mysterious castle.

Although this book has a cult following and is considered great literature by many, I feel like I wasted weeks of my time reading this nonsense. I'm sure I would've been much better rewarded by one of his earlier novels. I wish I'd had better warning, though one problem with getting into a book you're excited about is that you don't want to find out too much about it beforehand--it ruins the fun.

I've already written far more than I thought I would about this dreadful book that I finished nearly a week ago, so I'll end it there. I started right away on a free, poorly written novel about corporate espionage, so we'll see how that goes.

After that I definitely need to read something good. Can anyone suggest a crazy, over-the-top action/adventure novel, preferably written in the last few decades? I'm tempted to write one myself since I can never find one that truly thrills me, but writing hasn't been such a joyful experience for me lately.
"...military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood—that serpent's eye that charms to destroy..." --Abraham Lincoln, 1848


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