Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Set in the not-so-distant future where the government runs everything, a group of 24 teenagers from 12 different "Districts" (some as young as 12) are picked to participate to the death in the annual "Hunger Games." Told from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a teen who volunteers to participate to save her sister, this is a brutal but compelling tale. Who will win and at what cost?
I know some people may think this book is a total rip off of the Japanese work Battle Royale, and while the two do share a lot of similarities, I'd say there are enough differences to merit reading Collins' work. What's nice too is that Hunger Games is Book 1 of the series, so it'll be interesting to see where it goes.
At any rate, if you liked reading this, you might want to also check out the old Stephen King (Richard Bachman) novel The Running Man, which is set in the future and shares the same kind of "survive while the government tries to kill you" vibe.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bombay Time by Thrity Umrigar

Bombay Time is Umrigar's debut novel and details the lives, loves and losses of a groupof people within a neighborhood/apartment complex in Bombay. All of the characters are middle aged and the book spends a lot of time in flashback mode (maybe a little too much, in my opinion). There's Rusi and his wife Coomi, who are dealing with a deteriorating marriage, Tehmi, a widow with a lifelong curse of bad breath (after breathing in the ashes of her dead husband), Soli, the joker with a broken heart, and a cast of others.
Overall, it was a quick book..depressing at times, but when you're talking about slums, depression and the near deplorable conditions of Bombay, it's kind of hard not to feel for these people. But still, a good read.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of mysteries (I'm not one for surprises). However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I really enjoyed this "literary mystery." Amy is a washed up ex-writer who's stuck teaching about writing at adult continuing education workshops. When a classmate is murdered, Amy and the rest of the class must work together and figure out which one of them is the killer. I think the thing that I liked the most about this book is that there's a lot of time spent on what makes good fiction writing, which is something rarely seen in a murder mystery. One of the ways that Amy uncovers the killer is through the class writing samples, which is a refreshing break from all that CSI and forensics stuff that we're so used to seeing on TV and in books. All in all, a good whodunnit.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

After working my way through Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle, I needed a break in the form of Kinney's charming and refreshing take on adolescence. Greg Heffley is a kid just trying to make his way in the world (and middle school). Joined by his trusty friend Rowley, Greg deals with bullies, annoying parents and school.

Told through cartoon and text, Wimpy Kid is as funny as it is honest. I mean, come on, how could you not laugh at this:

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Whoa, what a long and strange trip this book was. In a nutshell, the novel is about Toru Okada's (an "Everyman" kind of character) journey to find his wife who left him suddenly and mysteriously. But really, this book is way more than that - along the way, Okada encounters a bunch of very eccentric and weird characters. What results is an intensely surreal, bizarre and disturbing story. I like how Amazon puts it - Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment.
Murakami is very popular in Japan, but for some reason, never made it into the American mainstream, which is a shame.