Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Reviews

So I didn't read anything for a while. I was busy with homework and tests and getting ready for my gallery show. And then I read three books in three days because I couldn't stand it anymore...

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

I know that most of you have heard of Fight Club the film, but did you know that it was based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk? Well, probably most of you did. I did. But I hadn't read it. Then Geary found it at the library book sale and it was only 50¢, so it's now part of my collection. Mostly because Fight Club is on my favorite movies list. Also because it's Palahniuk's debut novel and I find debut novels fascinating. 

So, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. We all know Palahniuk's works are subversive and mostly transgressive and often really yucky, but Fight Club isn't... as much. I guess he wrote it before he hit his really transgressive and yucky stride. Palahniuk's technique is remarkable. He writes a great deal of his text in sentence fragments. He goes back and forth between past and present tense, slips in and out of second-person narrative. But it still works. Palahniuk breaks all sorts of rules, but it all still works. His prose is efficient, spare, acidic. I adore the narrator and the fascinating relationship the narrator has with gleeful anarchist Tyler Durden. Fight Club is social satire, and as such, functions very effectively. Palahniuk explores themes of consumerism, emasculation, disconnection and fragmentation.

Fight Club was based on a short-story. The piece of short fiction became Chapter Six of the novel. Considering that I am working on a novel inspired by a piece of short fiction... I like that. I adore this book.  BUT I don't recommend it, unless you have read Palahniuk or similar works.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I can't say this book was particularly well-written, but it was a page turner. Formatted in diary entries, Life As We Knew It tells the story of the end of the world. At least, the end of the world as we know it. When an asteroid knocks the moon a little closer to the earth, the change in gravity wreaks havoc on the tides, weather systems and magma levels in active and dormant volcanoes.

Sixteen-year old Miranda survives the cataclysm, only to face starvation and illness boarded up in the family home with her mother and two brothers. Through her faithfully kept diary, we witness the horrific changes to the environment and subsequent changes in society. What happens when all you have left is family? Miranda learns to value what is most valuable in this riveting read.

Life As We Knew It is an intense book. I would recommend it to teens and adults not prone to anxiety or nightmares. While the science on which the dilemma is based seems shaky, the dangers in this post-cataclysmic environment seem very real. People change in these situations, and not always for the better. Interesting survival tale. I look forward to reading the sequels.

Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams

I don't even know what to say about this book. I read The Chosen One, and I thought, "How could she get better than this?" Then I read, Glimpse, and I thought, "This has got to be it." Now we have Miles From Ordinary. I read this book in less than three hours because I couldn't bear not to know what would happen to main character Lacey and her troubled mother.

The summer Lacey is thirteen years old, she hopes things will be different. Both her and Momma have landed summer jobs. And on the first day of work for both of them, Lacey starts to think maybe things can be ordinary. But as the day goes on, she realizes ordinary just isn't in the cards for her little family.

This book is heart-breaking, dark and towards the end, quite scary. While the heroine is thirteen, I would read a bit through it before giving it to a child of that age, to determine if it is appropriate for that particular child. While my Cyndal is precocious and well-read, I wouldn't recommend this book to her for at least another two years.

Well done, Carol. You have crafted a haunting and beautiful novel. I literally couldn't put it down. :)

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