We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk (4)

Guess who's back with a review? That's right. I was tired of Chassi calling me out . The problem is, right after I finished Chuck Palahniuk's Pygmy, I was engulfed in the tehno-thriller whirlwind that is Daemon (review coming soon!). Enough with the excuses, though.

Pygmy is classic Palahniuk. From the unnamed narrator to the repetition of key phrases, you'll find his numerous conventions in this book. So if you're a Chuck Palahniuk fan, you'll love this book. The end. If not...

Pygmy follows the exploits of a young "Agent Number 67," a teenage foreign exchange student from a nameless, communist, totalitarian regime (think North Korea meets Vietnam meets China meets Cuba). As a foreign agent, the narrator speaks in a very broken form of English, and it takes a few chapters to become acclimated to it. Honestly, it reminded me of the first time I read Huckleberry Finn. This was the cause of some early frustration, but by three or four chapters into it, I didn't even notice. After that, it was the source of some of the funniest moments in the book, as his descriptions of what he sees and interacts with in America are sometimes humorous and often hilarious.

Once you get past the language barrier, the story follows young Pygmy and his fellow operatives as they infiltrate a cookie-cutter copy of a Mid-Western American town and the families that occupy it. Perhaps the greatest thing about Pygmy is that the character development is flawless (again, classic Palahniuk), and the sprinkles of short chapters that explore the narrator's past training and brainwashing quickly became my favorite, as they brought to life a soulless communist state and revealed the drive behind Pygmy's actions.

Pygmy is a good book in the classic Palahniuk style, but the language barrier and the rushed ending kept it from being my favorite book by a great author.

3.5/5 Stars

Disclaimer: There is a gruesome rape scene at the beginning of the book that may bother some, and since it is pivotal to many of the plot elements, it is mentioned throughout the book.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book #8: Y: The Last Man

There is no way I will be able to do justice to this series, but I'll try. This is a graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughan that's about the only two males who survive a "gendercide" in which all male species on Earth die. The two males are Yorick Brown, an awkward amateur magician/escape artist with no real direction in his life, and his pet monkey, Ampersand. Literally every other being with a Y chromosome on Earth died in a sudden plague-like epidemic.

Yorick and Ampersand are almost immediately discovered by Agent 355, a member of the mysterious "Culper Ring," who has been given the task of keeping him safe. Yorick's first priority is finding his fiancee (who was traveling in Australia when the plague hit) to let her know that he somehow survived. The problem is that Agent 355 has been instructed to get Yorick to a laboratory so that perhaps they can discover why he is last man alive, and to explore the possibility of cloning his DNA. Yorick and Agent 355 get into several dangerous situations along the way, mostly because all of the women left on the planet are desperate and confused, some of them forming bizarre, violent mob mentality. Plus, Yorick's gender has to be disguised at all times, because obviously the last man on Earth would draw some serious attention.

This series is fabulous. Once you're in, it's very difficult to pull yourself out of the story. There are so many questions: What caused the plague? Why did Yorick survive? Why did Ampersand survive? What is the Culper Ring? Can they clone Yorick's DNA? How can they repopulate the Earth? What happens to the world when half the population dies? Will he ever find his fiancee? See, I could go on. You're curious right now, and you haven't even read it. Admit it. And the characters... They're all well-developed, and you find yourself actually caring about them and wanting to know more about their backgrounds (which, luckily, you do learn the backgrounds of almost all of the key characters). Really, I picked up the first book in this series in the local comic book store, House of Heroes, out of utter boredom while Derrick was looking around. A few pages in, and I knew immediately that I had to buy the series. I know it's a graphic novel (so... really, a comic book, then), but even if you're not a graphic novel kind of person... This will get you. It will get you good. Its original run was in 60 short comics, but they have been collected in 10 books for your reading pleasure. I counted it all as one book since it is a graphic, after all, but it's actually probably the length of your average book.

If you're a graphic novel reader and you haven't read this -- honestly, what's the matter with you? If you're not, this is a great place to start. Only Watchmen by Alan Moore is higher on my list of Graphic Novels That All Humans Should Read. We're not talking about super heroes and aliens, here. This is just a good friggin' story, period.

Completed April 14, 2010

5/5 stars


A Second Opinion

I can't say much about this series that Chassi hasn't already said, so I'll keep this short. This comic series is one for the masses. If you have never read a comic and have never had any desire to read a graphic story about men in tights with phenomenal cosmic powers, you could still enjoy this series. Y builds a wold of intrigue, captures and builds the characters, and creates a compelling story that anyone can appreciate. I can't say enough good things it, so let me just say this: READ IT!

5/5 Stars


Friday, April 16, 2010

Book #7: Eclipse

I'm so tempted to just type, "ugh" as the review for this book, leave it at that, and then move on with my life. That's not really fair, though. But once I get started, I'm going to let it all out, so be prepared.

Here's something positive: It's not as bad as Twilight.

Here's something not-so-positive: It's a little worse than New Moon (which was pretty bad). It's also worse than most books I've read in my lifetime.

Stephanie Meyer is so untalented. I'm sorry. But really. She's, like, that homely, annoying, awkward girl who never got the guy and then decided to write some books about a homely, annoying, awkward girl who has guys crawling all over her for no fathomable reason. The absolute worst thing about the entire Twlight series is Bella, the main character. She has zero redeeming qualities. Ze. Ro. Seriously. She's the main character, the narrator, the center of every sentence in these books, and she is completely useless. The other big drawback to the series is how terribly it's written, but whatever. Then there's the fact that none of the other characters are decent, either, and the fact that the plot is dumb and recycled. What does that leave to enjoy? Not much.

You're obviously wondering why I bother reading them. Yeah, I wonder that myself. I just had to read Twilight to see what the big deal was about, even though I knew it wouldn't be good. Once I read that, I kind of had to commit to read the rest of it. But there's another reason that I read them, too. I'm the kind of person who watches completely horrible TV shows (like, say, Rock of Love) or listens to political commentary from people who believe the opposite of what I do. I do this because I like to make fun of things. Twilight fits right in. I do enjoy reading them, but not because I find anything impressive about the actual content.

So, enough about the series as a whole -- let's focus on Eclipse. If you haven't read any of the series and plan on doing so, now is the part where you should stop reading if you don't want spoilers. Eclipse is the third book in the series, and we've already seen Bella fall in love with Edward Cullen (a vampire whose "vegetarian" family "feeds" only on animals, not humans). He totally loves her, too, and so they start a torrid romance, but then these other vampires show up who are not vegetarians. They do "feed" on people, and they'd especially like to "feed" on Bella, but Edward saves her. (Too bad.) Edward realizes it's dangerous for Bella to be around him, because, hello, he's a vampire. So, he runs away, and Bella, like, wants to kill herself and everything. She finds a little comfort in Jacob, a kid who lives on the nearby Native American reservation, but then he starts acting all weird and GUESS WHAT, turns out the people in his tribe are werewolves. Oh, and he's also in love with Bella. For no reason I can figure out. Because she sucks. Meanwhile, Edward is super depressed without Bella, so he tries to anger the big, scary Volturi -- who are Italian vampire extraordinaires or something -- so they'll just end his sad, miserable life already. Bella and Edward's "sister" Alice run off to Italy to stop Edward from ticking off the Volturi, and then they all return to Washington where everything is hunky dory and there's a prom and all that trite high school romantic comedy crap.

Eclipse is more about Bella's relationship with Jacob the werewolf, as well as how werewolf and vampires apparently hate each other. There's a problem when some "newborn" vampires start to threaten the area, and apparently they're all about some Bella, because honestly, who isn't? Since Jacob is in love with Bella, the werewolves want to help, and the vampires obviously do, too. So, this book is all about Bella reconciling her relationships with arch enemies and enemies working together and... whatever, I don't care. It's predictable and stupid. The end.

My favorite part of the entire book involves Edward and Bella discussing Bella's favorite book, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which, just in case you aren't familiar, is about some useless girl (Cathy) who has more than one man (most importantly, Heathcliff) pining after her for no apparent reason. (Sound familiar?) Edward isn't much of a fan, and he says that he feels like it would be a much better book if either Cathy or Heathcliff had any redeeming qualities. Seriously? Couldn't agree with you more, Edward. I can think of a few books -- perhaps an entire series -- that would be a bit better if the main characters were likable at all. Bella responds to Edwards comment by saying that she thinks the point of Wuthering Heights is that they don't have any redeeming qualities.


......... Is that supposed to make me feel better for reading this garbage, or was that Stephanie Meyer's way of making herself feel better? Not sure, but I don't actually feel any better about having wasted so many hours on reading this trash.

Read April 9, 2010 to April 13, 2010

1/5 stars

-- C

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book #6: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Geez, I love David Sedaris. This is the third of his books that I have read, and although it isn't my favorite, it was thoroughly enjoyable. For those of you not familiar with David's work, he is a humorist and author who is often heard as a contributor on National Public Radio. His books are collections of autobiographical essays which, according to the author himself, are "true enough." He is originally from North Carolina, but currently lives in France with his partner, artist Hugh Hamrick. A lot of his essays are about growing up in the South and the challenges of international travel. Me Talk Pretty One Day, my favorite of David's books, documents his attempts to learn French. Hilarious.

The bulk of When You Are Engulfed in Flames deals with David's decision to stop smoking after decades of smoking more than a pack a day. Of course, there are a lot of other subjects that come up, such as my personal favorite excerpt from any David Sedaris work that I have read so far -- his account of using a horrible contraption known as the Stadium Pal, a external catheter marketed to sports fans who are too caught up in the game to go to the restroom. As luck would have it, David happened to do a reading of this particular story on an episode of David Letterman.

I love hearing David read his material, which is actually what he's become known for, whether on Letterman or NPR or in person on his book tours. He also records the audio versions of all of his books himself. I would like to go back and buy all his books in audio version, because hearing David read the ridiculous activities of his life adds a lot to the humor.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is classic Sedaris -- funny, honest, and quirky. I laughed out loud more times than I can count. It was a quick read -- only took about a week, which is exactly what I needed after it took ten forevers to read my last book. It's definitely worth the read, though, especially if you're looking for something to pick up for a few minutes at a time. The problem is that you won't want to put it down after a few minutes. I found myself saying, "just one more essay" every time I thought I reached a good stopping point. I recommend this or any other David Sedaris book, but more than that, I recommend picking up/downloading the audio version and listening to an essay or two on your way to the grocery store. You'll look at life a little more sarcastically... Not that I needed any help with that.

Read March 29, 2010 to April 6, 2010

4/5 stars

-- C

P.S. Still no review of Pygmy, Derrick? Slacker.