Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book 7 - From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry

This is Gilvarry's first novel and is told in the first person voice of Boyet Hernandez, a young man from the Philippines, who has arrived in New York City 2002 with the hopes of pursuing a career in fashion and design (he went to school for it in the Philippines). His dreams, we learn fairly quickly, have been dashed because he is writing his memoir from a prison cell in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, where he is sitting awaiting his military tribunal (and a visit from his lawyer that seemingly never arrives) for consorting with and aiding known terrorists. We are given insight into the world that is Gitmo - a place where there are barely tolerable conditions, no lawyer visits and only one two minute shower per week, which must be taken alongside another detainee. We also learned about and are swept up in the hustle-bustle that is the fashion world in New York City.

Gilvary takes a really nice, witty and yet, sharp, look at the American world, post 9/11 and the paranoia that has seeped into the consciousness, thereby obscuring practicality and reasonableness and clouding judgment. Because Gillivarry uses humor, the tension and emotions that surround such a political time bomb of a subject are diffused;however the message is not lost or diluted simply because of it. I think that it actually makes the message easier to accept into your brain and it assists the reader in processing the message that is being conveyed by this remarkable novel. His views on the horrendous treatment of people in Cuba is still clearly articulated. Some of the best moments were the chapters about Cuba, because they were often placed in positions in the book where you could easily note the stark contrasts between Boy's experiences there and his experiences in New York, pre-detainment.

This was a really good first book - the author will have a big task in living up to expectations because of how well-done this book was. Go out and purchase this book for your library immediately.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book 6 - the Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

This is a pretty short novel that follows the story of Henry Cage, an aging British businessman that has been pushed out of the company that bears his name, that has an ex-wife that is dying, whose children are alienated from him and who has seemingly acquired a stalker, an ex-con that seems out to destroy his life. But what sets the tone for the novel is the chapter in which we first meet henry - he is attending the funeral of his grandson, who died in a horrific accident. The narrative then jumps back five years, to the time when Henry is kicked out of the company and we must then bear witness to his complete and utter destruction - a destruction that actually culminates in the chapter that initially introduces us to Henry.

Surprisingly, to me at least, this is Abbott's first novel. It was surprising because Abbott writes with a maturity and a knowledge and a voice that is so wise beyond his seeming lack of experience. He writes with the voice of a man that has written many novels previously and who will continue to write for many years to come. I also really enjoyed how we were given insight into Henry's life, personality, his flaws and his destruction -- we are given the best pieces of insight and wisdom through other people that interact with Henry. It did take me a while to adjust to the constant jumps in time and between characters. However, once I did, the novel moved smoothly and seamlessly and I was very happy to be able to get to read this novel.

Rating: BUY!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Book 5 - Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire

I've always been a fan of the Wicked books, ever since I read Wicked way back when it first came out. And then I got to see the musical version of it, which was wonderful, so when I saw and heard that the newest and final version of this series was out, I set out to the library to get it and I didn't even have to put it on hold. So I give you my review of the following book, with the most minimal amount of spoiler age as possible:

When we first open the book, we meet again with Dorothy Gale, who is 16 years old and visiting San Francisco with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. For her, six years have gone by since she visited Oz and rocketed to fame with her killing of the Wicked Witch of the West, but she can't forget about it and her aunt and uncle hope that the trip will cause her to forget about it, make her less loony and therefore, make her more marriageable. While in SF, an earthquake hits and before we know what happens to Dorothy, we are transported to Oz and the social upheaval that is rearing its ugly head. The Emerald City ("EC") is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, which wants its independence and Glinda, the Good, is under house arrest. And Elphaba's granddaughter, the green baby Rain, has come of age and is living with Glinda, masked as her scullery maid. She has, however, an uncanny ability to make the Grimmerie, Elphaba's book of spells, do what she wants it to do even though she's scruffy and illiterate. And to top it all off, because of her gene lines, she can lay claim to the thrones of both Munchkinland and the Emerald City.

So she does what any girl would do: she becomes a fugitive and travels down the Yellow Brick Road with a motley crew of folk that includes Brr, the Cowardly Lion, a Dwarf named Mr. Boss, Little Daffy (a Munchkin that used to be a nun), Auntie Nor (her father's half sister), her father Liir (Elphaba's son) and Tip, a young man that becomes her lover eventually but who remains very mysterious. It also includes Dorothy, who has been transported back to Oz. I loved this novel. Maguire really tied things together and ended it poignantly and perfectly. There were moments where I laughed and moments where I cried. The writing style was wonderful - accessible, satirical and made tongue in cheek bites at the original books and the movie. Go out and grab it right away but not before getting the other books in the series - which I highly recommend that you read before you read this one in order to be able to appreciate the beauty that this book brings with it.

Here are links to the other books:

The Power by Naomi Alderman

If you liked The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, you will want to read this dystopian novel, which has won a number of awards in th...