Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beat the Reaper by Joshua Bazell

This was quite a curveball of a book, and while I'm a little confused and don't know what to think of it, I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it. I do advise against reading it before or after a big meal, however.

Okay, so this story is basically about how the past can come back to bite you if you aren't careful. Or, if you have a lot of baggage from your 'previous life'. In this story, Doctor Peter Brown (real name Pietro Brnwa) is forcefully reminded of his mafioso past after seeing an old acquaintance in the hospital he works in, Manhattan Catholic. The chapters flipflop between the past and the present, making for a great contrast between younger and older versions of Pietro. He is an immensely likable character, even in his prior life as a hitman. You just can't help but feel for the young man, trying to learn more about his grandparents, and just trying to be a part of the Locano family.

In my opinion, the biggest downfall of this book was the fact that it got very gory, especially toward the end (mostly with the medical stuff, but still gross). This book is not for the faint of heart, or the easily nauseated. I am giving you this warning because I was caught off guard by the sudden gore, and probably won't be eating tonight because of it.

This book was a vast difference from the classics and fantasy books that I've been reading lately, and I am very pleased with my choice. Like I said, however, be aware that this book is not meant for the squeamish and easily nauseated readers.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Entourage Season Finale: thank you producers, for completely giving up..

Yeah, I'm taking a break from book reviews to write about something I'm really not too pleased about: the season finale of the HBO series Entourage.

SPOILER ALERT! I will be talking about what ends up happening. If you don't want me to ruin it for you, STOP READING NOW!!! Come back to my blog when you've watched the episode. I warned you..

This season was not nearly the best season of Entourage. Aside from there being only 8 episodes, it was rather blah. Turtle failing at doing things on his own, Drama having no talent, and so on and so forth. What happened to the days of partying and getting movie deals? This season, and the prior one, were more about the personal lives of all the guys.. That's real life. I want to see Vince acting in movies, and throwing crazy parties. Not graduating rehab and helping Turtle start up a restaurant in LA.

The season finale of Entourage was very disappointing. I feel like this entire season was rushed, and the season finale was a prime example. How, after multiple episodes of Sophia looking down on Vince and being blatantly uninterested, does Vince come back after his first real date with her engaged? And how did he get into her pants that quickly? Very unrealistic, even by HBO series standards. Making a video of how your ex flings adore you would NOT get someone to change their opinions that quickly. I agree with Sloan, 'he was single last Wednesday.' You don't jump from single to married in less than 24 hours unless you're drunk and high in Vegas. Not even if you're a celebrity.

I am a huge fan of Ari Gold, and even more so of his wife Melissa. Their marriage, while a complete mess, is realistic. There's conflict and fighting, but there is so much passion and love between the two of them, you just can't help but root for them to work out. That being said, I'm not pleased that all it took was a special guest appearance by Il Volo for Ari to realize how much he cared about his family, and for him to quit his job and woo his wife back. (And again, having 3 teens who can sing opera will not automatically get you your wife back. Points for having an awesome guest appearance, but points deducted for such a quick and dirty resolution to one of the show's dilemmas, just to end the series).

I feel the same way about Eric and Sloane. Why on earth is it that all it takes is ONE person, and ONE speech by that person for any character to do a complete 180 on this show? Sloane hates E, but once Vince shows up and talks to her, she's hopping on a plane with E to go to Vince's random wedding in Paris. Oh, and she's preggers?! Of course, because having angry break-up sex with your ex one last time automatically results in pregnancy. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a show! Nevermind that they were together throughout most of the series, and never had that problem. NOW is the time for them to be unsafe and wind up with a baby. Really? I'm calling shenanigans.

If her baby bump started showing, the show would have lost a LOT of viewers --->

I am a huge fan of Entourage, and I am not happy that the producers rushed through the last season like they did. The loose ends were tied up very haphazardly, and I'm not pleased with that. If you know you're ending a show, you try to do it on a high note, and I don't think that's what happened here. There should definitely be an Entourage movie, just to delve further into all these things that they threw together and hoped nobody would scrutinize.

But seriously, Sophia? You don't go from cold hearted journalist to celebrity wife in 24 hours. You just don't. I don't care who's wooing you. That's just a very badly developed character.

So yeah, that's that. Unless the season premiere of 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' gives me something to really talk about, I'll probably stick with book reviews :P

- Justin

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

This posting is longgg overdue, and for that I apologize. I finished this book around a month and a half ago, or something like that, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, just never got around to writing a review for it. Or maybe I didn't want to. Who knows? Anyway, if you have to pick just one new series to start for the fall, I highly recommend George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series, which begins with Game of Thrones. I was recommended this book by several people, but it took the HBO series (based off the first book in the series) to give me the motivation to pick up this immense epic fantasy novel.

There is a lot of action in this novel, which makes it fairly fast paced and easy to be immersed in the story. Even when there is a lengthy description about a particular setting or past event (as in, when Robb Stark is marching toward King's Landing and passing through towns and country alike), Martin makes the description relevant to the plot at hand. Nothing in this book is simply a description, it is a description in the midst of plot.

It is clear from the get go that Martin doesn't fool around. Most authors put their main characters on a pedestal, and they are seemingly infallible (Lee Child, I'm looking at you and your Jack Reacher novels). Martin is more than willing to throw people off towers, and kill off his main characters before the first book is even finished. No, I'm not giving away names, but I'm sure the spoilers were posted all over the internet because of the shock all the TV viewers received from the show. What's nice about the whole 'no character is safe' thing is that it makes the book that much more realistic. Let's face it, in the Middle Ages, and in any kind of historical account of medieval times, peasants died, knights died, kings died, pretty much anybody died. You weren't important unless people were trying to kill you (this pretty much holds true in modern society, too). What's realistic about the entire kingdom accepting one person's claim to the throne? Or, of people being safe from harm because of their socioeconomic status? It's not, and that's the point.

If you ask someone if a book or a movie version of the book is better, chances are that more likely than not they will say the book is better. Harry Potter fans are a prime example of this; there's just too much in the books to get across through the silver screen. While I truly believe that HBO did a fantastic job adapting Game of Thrones for television, I still hold true to my beliefs on the literary world. Characters should be as complex and multi-dimensional as real people are, and TV and film just can't do this as well as books. So many of the characters in Game of Thrones are going through intense internal struggles, and while they may appear calm and confident, they are feeling torn apart on the inside. Just look at Catelyn, having to watch her son grow up on the spot as he leads an army into battle. There's no way she's comfortable with that, and the show does not do her inner demons justice. The same can be said of Tyrion, the show's 'audience favorite character' for reasons I'll never know (I just don't like him, he just annoys me so much). The books can convey all of the inner workings of the characters, from the true motives of their behavior to their emotions and feelings toward everything around them. It's nice to see this complexity in nearly all of the characters, and makes you feel that much more involved in the book's story.

WHEW I hadn't planned on writing so much, but there's just so much to say about this book (and it's probably better to get a lot out now than throughout each of the book reviews for the subsequent books in the series). Anyhoo, I did have a couple of problems with a Game of Thrones, but they can be listed with one hand:
1. Stream of consciousness. I have never been a fan, ever since reading Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying", and this book is no exception. It is difficult enough to keep track of so many characters, and so many overlapping plotlines, that it detracts from my enjoyment of the book. If you can handle it, and even enjoy stream of consciousness, more power to you.
2. Danaerys and the Dothraki. Dany is one of my favorite characters, by far. Not only is she one of the stronger female characters in the books I've read recently, but she gets to hatch dragons. Bad. Ass. I hate that her role is relatively small in this book, and I sincerely anticipate seeing her grow into a more major role in the books, as I'm sure she will by the flow of her plotline.
3. Dany's plot line. Dany and her brother Viserys seem to have had a trouble life, and I don't think Martin has given this justice yet. Hopefully, there will be more 'Daenarys' chapters in the next few books, because I am very interested in Dany's past, present, and future, and the role she will play in the war in the Seven Kingdoms. Oh, and her dragons. I love them, and can't wait for them to grow up and destroy things. :)

Look at her, she's awesome! ---->>

Hopefully, I'll have posts up sometime before the end of September on the following books, that I finished reading within the past few months and just haven't gotten around to reviewing:
- a Clash of Kings (second book in this series)
- Three Seconds, a Swedish crime novel similar to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- the Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (I'm still amazed by this series by Stephen King)

By the time these are all up and posted, I hope to be finished with the books I'm currently reading as well: The Count of Monte Cristo, and Beat the Reaper. Wish me luck!!

- Justin

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Yet..

Yes, I am well aware that it's been about 2 months since I've last posted. Some people were kind enough to remind me (really, it was more that I was yelled at for trying to get followers, when I wasn't even posting). Regardless, I apologize. I have in fact finished a couple more books in the past 2 months, namely a Game of Thrones and a Clash of Kings, the first two books in George R. R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series, as well as Swedish crime novel Three Seconds, which was a great book, especially for fans of Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. I am preparing posts for each of these books, as well as for my two current reads, Stephen King's Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, and Dumas' classic The Count of Monte Cristo. If you know anything about any of the books referenced in this post, you'll know that the shortest one is Three Seconds, which was 500 pages. With a lot of Swedish words, phrases, and names. Needless to say, these books are all very long, and it took me a long time to get through them. I should have posts up soon, depending on my school workload, but if anyone's looking for a new book to read, I highly suggest any of these books. As with any series however, it's always best to start at the beginning.

Happy reading!