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Posts tagged ‘book awards II’

Reads: Watchmen

Watchmen Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

rating: 4 out of 5

My coworkers have all been reading and raving about Watchmen lately. This graphic novel tells the story of several generations of masked heroes. I have read several graphic novels in the past but never a “super hero” one. I am not much of a comic book fan either, so Watchmen was new territory for me in many ways.

I also read Watchmen because one of my book clubs selected Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’ve been told that the lead character in that book is a fan of Watchmen. I figured I would read Watchmen to get better character insight for Diaz’s book.

I didn’t know much about the story of Watchmen before I started reading it. The “present day” in the novel is 1985 (which was around when the book was written) and superheros have been banned. America is also on the brink of a nuclear war with Russia. The story flashes between 1985 and stories of superheros from the 1940’s and 1970’s.  In 1985, several superheros are showing up dead. The story is dark and pessimistic. The characters know that the world is approaching disaster and seem to have little if any hope of saving it.

In Watchmen, only one of the “superheroes” has a true super power. The rest are regular people who decided to become a masked hero. Moore did a good job of showing us the psychology of superheros–why different people make the decision to don a mask and costume. Some do it for fame, some for power, some to fight, and some to try to make the world a better place. The book makes you ask questions like what is good and what is evil? do the ends always justify the means? and of course… what would my superhero costume look like? 😉

Watchmen is considered a classic of the genre and I am glad that I’ve read it. It won the 1988 Hugo Award. I probably won’t rush out to buy and read more superhero graphic novels, but if one happens to mysteriously land on my to-read pile, I would read it.

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Watchmen counts towards 2 reading challenges that I am currently participating in: 1% Well Read Challenge and the Book Awards II Challenge.

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Reads: The Accidental

The AccidentalThe Accidental by Ali Smith

  rating: 4 out of 5

 I found The Accidental to be a fun book to read. It lets the reader into the thoughts and minds of the 4 members of the Smart family. The Smarts have rented a summer house in Norfolk, England. A mysterious 30-ish woman calling herself Amber shows up and embeds herself in their lives. Each chapter alternates between the main characters. Astrid is an angsty 12 year old girl that is obsessed with her camera and spends most of her time filming the world and people around her. Her 17 year old brother, Magnus, mopes in his room and wallows in his own guilt over a classmate’s suicide. Their mother Eve is a writer who spends her days locked away in a shed with a typewriter trying to overcome writer’s block and write her new book. Eve’s husband Michael is a pretentious English professor who has regular flings with his female students. Each member of the Smart family is fairly isolated from the rest of the family. Not one of them knows what is truly going on in each other’s lives. Their family is very dysfunctional. Then the stranger, Amber, shows up at the summer cottage and shakes up each of their lives in different ways.

I really enjoyed Ali Smith’s writing style and how she switched that style around in each chapter to give different voices to each character. I can see how some people could get irked by the stream of conscious, the sentence fragments, the minimal punctuation and the lack of quotation marks. I rather enjoy offbeat narrative styles, so The Accidental was right up my alley.

Smith did a great job giving each of the Smarts a distinctive personality. My favorite were the chapters that focused on Astrid. Astrid spends most of the summer trying to capture “beginnings” and “ends” with her camcorder. At one point Astrid ponders what the end of the world will be like.

 She is not afraid to imagine the end. There will be burning chipmunks and skunks hurtling through the air, glowing red in the dark like chipmunk-sized live coals, there will be skunk-firebombs and burning bits of that bridge from San Francisco or bits of film studios and that castle and the fake rides in Disneyland and the Empire State Building, glowing like huge embers, burtling thousands of miles up into the air and down again for miles, gaining speed and then smashing into the clockface of Big Ben, smashing into the House of Parliament, and Waterloo Bridge, and the Eye toppling on its side and all the people in it being thrown about inside the falling capsules like they’re on the inside of snowglobes, and the buildings all on fire, Tate Modern on fire, the art burning, the restaurant buring, the shop burning.

My least favorite chapters were the chapters told from Amber’s point of view. These were the only chapters told in the first person and they didn’t pull me in at all.

The book makes you ask: what in life is accidental and how well do we know the people in our lives?

 The Accidental won the 2005 Whitbread Prize for Best Novel. It was also a 2005 Booker Prize Nominee and on the 2006 Shortlist for the Orange Prize.

I read The Accidental for book club AND for the 1% Well-Read Challenge and the Book Awards II Challenge.

September: A month in books

Time to summarize my reading for the month of September…

I finished the following books:

  1. Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
  2. Women Who Eat: A New Generation on the Glory of Food edited by Leslie Miller
  3. The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
  4. Junky by William S. Burroughs
  5. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
  6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  7. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
  8. Run by Ann Patchett
  9. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 Reading Challenge Progress:

1% Well-Read Challenge
GOAL: read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
DEADLINE: February 28, 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. Junky by William S. Burroughs — September ’08
  2.  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — September ’08

REMAINING: 8 more books to read in 5 months ( I can do it..now stop distracting me!!)

Book Awards II Challenge
GOAL: read 10 award winning books in 10 months
DEADLINE: June 2009
COMPLETED SO FAR:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman– September ’08 —WON: Hugo Award, Nebula Award and Bram Stoker Award

REMAINING: 9 more books to read in 9 months

Reads: American Gods

American Gods American Gods by Neil Gaiman
rating: 4 of 5 stars

American Gods is another one of those books that has been sitting on my TBR shelf for years. Someone at work recommended it and when I saw it at a used bookstore I picked it up.  One of my book clubs selected it as their October book so it was finally time for me to read it.

Shadow had done three years in prison. he was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife

The novel follows Shadow, a large imposing guy who was just let out of prison only to find out that his wife Laura just died in a car accident with his best friend… in a rather compromising position. Shadow is soon recruited by an older man who calls himself “Mr. Wednesday” to be his assistant and bodyguard. Mr. Wednesday soon reveals himself to be more than a mere mortal. He is in fact Odin, a god from Norse mythology.

The central concept behind American Gods is that when the immigrants came to America they brought their gods and supernatural creatures with them through the simple power of believing in them. As time went on, the Americans started to forget about these old gods and the gods faded into the background…but… they are still here living amongst us. Their powers are much diminished and their lives are rather lackluster due to the lack of belief in them.  The old gods fear that the rise of new gods in America (gods of computers, cars, credit cards) are going to totally obliterate the existence of the old gods. Mr Wednesday with Shadow’s help is trying to get the old gods to unite together against the new gods.

I really enjoyed reading American Gods. Gaiman did a fantastic job executing the concept– he has great characterization and the story had a good mix of humor, adventure, and mythology. The story kept me hooked. I had previously read Gaiman’s short story collection Smoke & Mirrors and Good Omens which he wrote with Pratchett. American Gods had quite a few similarities with Good Omens, which was also about religion and God. I will definitely pick up more of Gaiman’s books in the future, if I ever finish most of the other unread books sitting on my shelf. 😉

American Gods is the first book that I’ve read for the Book Awards II Challenge. For this challenge I need to read 10 award winning books with in a 10 month period.  American Gods won the 2002 Hugo Award, the 2002 Nebula Award, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award.

View all my reviews.

Challenge: Book Awards II Challenge

 I may not have been around for the first Book Awards Challenge, but I am here now for the Book Awards II Challenge (hosted by 3M) .

The basic rules: read 10 award winning books in10 months (deadline (June 2009). The list must include winners from at least 5 different awards.

My tentative starter list at this point (again in no particular order and some of these overlap with the 1% challenge list):

1:  How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman (Booker Prize 1994)

2: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Bram Stoker Award 2001)

3: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov (Hugo Award 1973)

4: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Nebula Award 1992)

5: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (Pulitzer Prize 1993)

6: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (Pulitzer Prize 1972)

7: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Spur Award 1985)

8: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami  (World Fantasy Award 2006)

9: The Master by Colm Tóibín (IMPAC Dublin 2006)

These are all books that I already have on my shelf. The rest of the list ist yet to be decided.