Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


Seriously though, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was fantastic and I actually can't wait to reread it, which I know I will eventually. Definitely earns 5 out of 5 stars and a spot on my shelf along with the other novels that I think everyone should read in their lifetime.

PS- This is probably the only time I'll use a movie tie-in cover instead of the original. But Emma Watson is on it, so it's an exception I'm glad to make. She's purdy.

From the publisher:
Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion has become a modern classic.

     The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives or to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and music—when all one requires to feel infinite is that perfect song on that perfect drive.

     Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.


My thoughts:
This pretty much sums up high school life in a nutshell, and in such a way as to be funny, poignant, and moving all at the same time. Nobody would have enjoyed reading about high school as much as from Chbosky's modern classic. Charlie is an emotional, sensitive character that borders on being obnoxious and robotic, but because we the reader can see the inner workings of his mind, have a deeper understanding and more sympathy for him than the other characters who only see how he behaves. Patrick and Sam introduce Charlie to a world beyond his books and his mind; they bring him into the real world of school, and friends, and love.

Told through a series of letters written by Charlie to an anonymous reader, you feel more drawn in than if you simply read through a standard first/third person perspective. How can't you feel more for these characters than by reading about them as if you were a close friend? Then the ending comes along, and basically just tears you apart to read about. Charlie is quite odd, but he is yet another of my favorite protagonists to date.

I just finished reading this book this morning on my way into New York, and I spent the rest of the commute thinking about what my high school days were like. Definitely less drugs, pregnancy scares, and tragic deaths and unfortunate events, but Chbosky captured the confusion and isolation that I for one felt when I first started high school (of course, I was a bit less challenged in social situations than Charlie, so I worked it out a bit faster). I remember my first crush, and heartbreak, and awkward dances and parties, and it was much more entertaining to read about them in a book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is easy to read, easy to quote, and easy to identify with, and I hope everyone who reads this blog gives the book a chance if they haven't done so already.

Justin :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Now here was a book that was odd, confusing, and at the same time fun and interesting. Murakami throws in a ton of different characters, story lines, and elements of science fiction and fantasy that aren't exactly necessary, but at the same time tie everything together seamlessly. Even if you need to read passages multiple times to understand what's going on.

From the publisher:

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.

My thoughts:

Murakami does a fantastic job creating characters that are immensely likable and fun to read about and root for. Kafka is one of my favorite protagonists, and reminds me a little bit of Holden Caulfield albeit younger and less angsty. I feel like Murakami used a bit too much science fiction and fantasy in Nakata's story line though; it clashed rather than meshed with Kafka's running away from home.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this story is the difficulty in keeping track of plot events. Each chapter revolves around different characters, similar to the Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin. This was a much smaller book than those, so it was a bit easier to remember what was going on, but at the same time there was so much odd plot thrown in that it was still difficult sometimes (talking cats, flashbacks to WWII days, leeches falling from the sky).

No matter how difficult it got to understand what was happening, or why, I couldn't help but be pulled into the story, and hope for every character in this story to just be happy. Murakami is quite the storyteller, and it's no surprise that I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and plan on reading more of his work in the future.

- Justin :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

No Easy Day by Mark Owen

This is the one and only success of my attempt at 'Nonfiction November', so needless to say I most likely won't be trying a challenge like that again. At this point, my challenge is writing a blog post when I finish a book :P

So, I picked up this book mostly because of all the hype about it being a front line story of the raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death. I was very pleased with this memoir and I give it 4 out of 5 stars for managing to entertain and inform me at the same time.

From the publisher:
For the first time anywhere, the first-person account of the planning and execution of the Bin Laden raid from a Navy Seal who confronted the terrorist mastermind and witnessed his final moment

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen's life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.

In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers onto the field of battle in America's ongoing War on Terror and details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. Owen's story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs' quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes numerous previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.

My thoughts:
I grew up a military brat, thanks to my father. At times, I was interested and tried learning as much as I could about warfare and the military, but for the most part it was just something my father did for a living and I was proud of him for it. After reading No Easy Day, my interest in the military has certainly been renewed. Owen does a great job keeping the reader on the edge of his seat through his Navy training, right up to bin Laden's final moments in the Middle East. He takes military jargon and makes it so easy for any reader to understand what is going on, and what different terms and equipment are. Not many authors can do that, and it was refreshing to read what could have been a difficult piece of nonfiction, and know what was going on and feel just a little bit smarter. Anyone who remembers or has learned about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 should pick up this book and learn more about the military/government operations that went into effect afterward. It's not often I say pick up a nonfiction, but this is a very important part of America's history and it's good to see an author pay homage to the troops' sacrifices and the work they've done to keep this country safe in such a fascinating informative way.

(See, I'm getting just a little better at catching up on my blog. Next up, Lois Lowry's The Giver trilogy. Haven't read the fourth one, Son, yet so that'll be reviewed later.)

- Justin :)