REVIEW: Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury is an incredibly talented writer who touches on important life and cultural themes with empathy, poise, and unique style, which was ahead of his time. Knowing these aforementioned qualities to be true, I had an inkling Fahrenheit 451, a book I missed out on during my schooling, was going to leave a deep impression on me (especially in today’s political climate.) Unfortunately, my gut was a tad off on this one.

This is not to say I renege on the praise and appreciation I have for Bradbury; or that I don’t applaud his tackling a daring subject. Fahrenheit 451 simply didn’t leave as deep a mark on me as other dystopian novels of its kind (1984, Brave New World). I considered the possibility that this was a result of the order in which I happened to read these novels; perhaps had I read Bradbury’s  451 first, it would have left a more profound imprint. However, while the reading chronology may have been a contributing factor in my attitude, I don’t think it is the main issue. It is the execution of the ending that disappointed.

Though I don’t have a general preference as to whether novels have uplifting or bleak endings, I do have strong feelings on the manner in which conflicts are resolved. Bradbury nailed it for about 2/3s of Fahrenheit 451, but the last third is a smidge too contrived compared with all that came before.

I fully comprehend why this is a frequently read and beloved novel. I appreciate the themes and take aways from the work (man’s ability to learn from his mistakes is always one that gets me). Although I think Bradbury is a national treasure, Fahrenheit 451 simply wasn’t the hit to the heart I was searching for, so my rating is on a more personal level not a technical one.

Rating: 3.5 Taboos

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REVIEW: Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett

In my desire to continue exploring my newfound love, mysteries, I picked up Georges Simenon. Simenon was recommended by mother as an homage to my grandma and her love for his novels. In reading Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett, I fell for yet another author whose works I plan to delve into.

I put Simenon in the Le Carre school of writing because of the intriguing darkness of style and atmosphere in Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett. There is none of the campiness found in some mystery novels (not hating on camp, just pointing out Simenon’s style).

Maigret, our lead detective, offers up very little backstory or personal matters and gets down to business (much like Le Carre’s Smiley).The plot of Maigret and the Enigmatic Lett is fast-paced, clever, balances its darkness with enough light moments, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. As you go through the case with Maigret, you’re always hoping to be a step ahead with him.

The somberness and bluntness of Simenon’s world may not be for everyone, but I appreciate it for its realism and as a nice balance to other writers in the genre.

 

Rating: 4 Mysterious Identities

REVIEW: The Wind in the Willows

Well, I loved Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I’m 2 for 2 this year! 

A novel I somehow missed out on in my childhood (or possibly didn’t because my memory sucks…though I do distinctly remember watching the truncated cartoon version…); however, am thrilled to have read The Wind in the Willows as an adult.

Grahame does a superb job of introducing themes – intended to teach children, but just as significant for adults – without obnoxiously blasting them in the reader’s face (employing animals instead of humans as the vehicles). Grahame subtly, but successfully, informs the reader about consequences, manners, exploring one’s sense of adventure, mentoring, and, most important to me, how to be a true friend. Now, maybe most of us have grasped these concepts as we’ve aged and matured, but it never hurts to have a little reminder to refocus on those lessons learned in the nursery. 

With well-developed characters (Badger is my favorite), a beautiful setting, and an easy and calming style Grahame really hit the nail on the head with this one. 
Rating: 5 Wild Rides

Midweek Fun

Would you…

1. Rather read only a series or stand-alone books?
Stand-alone

2. Rather read a book whose main character is male or female?

Female. #girlpower

3. Rather shop only at Barnes & Noble (or other actual bookstore) or Amazon?

Actual bookstore. Ya know, so I can actually see all of the books I can’t afford to buy. 

4. Rather all books become movies or tv shows?

Does mini-series count as tv shows? Cause I pick that. 

5. Rather read 5 pages per day or read 5 books per week?

5 books per week!

6. Rather be a professional book reviewer or an author?

Reviewer. Go with my strengths. 

7. Rather only read the same 20 books over and over or get to read a new book every 6 months?

This is the hardest one. New book every 6 months. I could finally get Infinite Jest in!

8. Rather be a librarian or own a book store?

Own a book store! It’s been a secret dream of mine. 

9. Rather only read your favorite genre or your favorite author?

Genre. Even though I’m not sure what mine is. But, it’s one which combines Hemingway, Lewis, and Salinger 😊

10. Rather only read physical books or eBooks?

Of course I prefer holding a real book, but logistically I have to go with my kindle app sometimes. 

REVIEW: The Fall

Albert Camus, we can be friends again. I questioned our relationship last year after The Plague failed to impress as much as The Stranger, but you more than redeemed yourself with The Fall.

One of Camus’ strengths as a writer is creating flawed characters that are incredibly open and honest regarding their shortcomings. This strength is first explored in The Stranger, and even more finely executed in The Fall. (Side note and useless fact: I think this is the first time I have a read an author’s works in the order which they were written. And I didn’t even do so intentionally. I’m oddly proud of this.)

One would think a 150-page monologue would not an interesting story make, but, in this case, one would be wrong.  Our leading man, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, draws you in from page one with his odd charm – next thing you know you have taken part in a fast-paced, philosophical account of his fall from grace. Clamence leaves you hanging on his every word, and Camus creates a conversational dynamic, which allows you to be an active participant on the receiving end of Clamence’s confession – a technique also used beautifully in The Stranger.

Aspects of The Fall remind me of the overarching concept of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray – using one man’s narrative as a universal lesson. But, Camus better employs this mechanism by refraining from beating the reader over the head with the main idea; he creates a thorough build up to his objective through multiple themes and Clamance’s cogent story telling.

Interruption: I just fact-checked my useless point from earlier. The Happy Death, though published after The Fall, was written prior to The Stranger. Therefore I will always be one book off in my Camus timeline.

Moving on.

I am so thrilled my first review of the year is a rave, and that I can renew my love for Camus. I highly recommend this one to the philosophical thinkers out there.

 

Rating: 4 Mysterious Laughs

2016 Listacular Recap

TOP FIVE:

 

Books Which Became a Part of My Heart

  1. Furiously Happy
  2. The Tao of Pooh
  3. The Sun Also Rises
  4. If on a winter’s night a traveler
  5. The Little Prince

 

Books I’d Recommend to All Readers 

  1. All the Light We Cannot See
  2. Station Eleven
  3. Call for the Dead/A Murder of Quality
  4. The Redemption of Galen Pike
  5. Cat’s Cradle

 

Honorable Mentions

  1. American Psycho
  2. The Old Man and the Sea
  3. The Gods, the Little Guys, and the Police
  4. The Dwarf
  5. Shantytown

 

Books I’m Least Likely to Recommend

  1. Notes from Underground
  2. Frankenstein
  3. The Sound of Things Falling
  4. Another Roadside Attraction
  5. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window…