Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter Island should be an amusement park. Think about it, you take a ferry to a nice island. You meet new friends, such as the violent crazy people known as patients. After a tour of wards A, B, and C, you can take in the local scenery and wildlife (RATS!!!). If you happen to arrive during a hurricane (It happens), don't fret! Lots of fun can be had playing tag with escaped patients. Four days here and you may never leave...which isn't to say that you don't want to leave, just that you may. Never. Leave.
Shutter Island is the book upon which the new Martin Scorsese film is based. U.S. Marshall Edward "Teddy" Daniels and his newly assigned partner Chuck Aule are investigating Ashecliffe Hospital. The hospital is on secluded Shutter Island and houses only psychiatric patients with a history of violence. One of the patients, Rachel Solando, has escaped from the high security facility and is at large on the island.
Teddy also has a personal reason for taking the case on Shutter Island. He has heard that a man named Andrew Laeddis is being treated at Ashecliffe. Laeddis is the man who set the fire that killed his wife, Dolores. All Teddy wants is to find and kill Laeddis and get some justice for his wife.
Soon, both the search for Rachel Solando and the vendetta against Laeddis are thrown aside when Teddy and Chuck discover that the hospital has been experimenting on patients. Doctors have been using all kinds of newfangled drugs and performing exploratory surgeries, even lobotomies. Teddy has to choose which is more important, exposing the hospital or getting revenge. If that wasn't enough, Teddy encounters several people who tell him he is all alone and that he will never leave the island. Whose side is Chuck on? Will Teddy be allowed to leave? Most importantly, what exactly is going on at Ashecliife Hospital?
Shutter Island is definitely not the type of book I would ordinarily read. Truthfully, I am trying to get out of my comfort zone, if only in regards to literature. This book has lots of suspense and mystery, and it was also breathtakingly tragic. I don't know exactly how much I can say without spoiling the book and movie. There's a pretty good twist at the end, some of which I guessed and some of which took me by surprise.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

My experiences of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which is going to be a pain to type out every time, come from two sources: "The Office" and "Veronica Mars." Kevin's future step-daughter was reading it in the Take Your Daughter to Work Day episode. Mac's biological sister was reading it in the "Silence of the Lamb" episode. I never actually read this when I was a child, but I wish I had. It's really a good book.
Claudia Kincaid is tired of her life. She is tired of being the oldest child and only girl, of having the most responsibility, of getting all A's in school. So, for "...a reason that had to do with the sameness of each and every week," Claudia decides to plan to run away from home. She brings her second youngest brother Jamie in on the scheme, mostly because Jamie has a lot of money ($24.43). The kids make plans to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where they will stay until they feel their family appreciates them once more.
It turns out that running away isn't nearly as fun as it seems, and that with prices in New York, $24.43 isn't going to get them as much as they thought. Claudia becomes interested in an angel statue acquired from the collection of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and eventually decides she cannot return home until learning Angel's secret.
It's kind of sad how a book like this could really not be possible in the present day. Museums have all sorts of camera and sensors that would catch juvenile runaways. Claudia and Jamie have a few close calls with guards, but everything was practically done by the honors system back in 1967. It kind of reminds me of the stories my mom used to tell about growing up a block away from the city (Toledo, OH) zoo. There didn't used to be the tall fences around the perimeter, so her and her siblings could wander in and out as they pleased, kids rode a giant Galapogas tortoise...anyways, everything today is so focused on caution from those sissy plastic playgrounds to the not letting children ride on big endangered reptiles. A little old-fashioned fun is, well, fun.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Death's Daughter by Amber Benson

Chick lit has never been my thing. Don't get me wrong, I like boys and clothes like most heterosexual females (Though not enough to describe either man morsels or Prada anything as "yummy," "scrumptious," or, well, "man morsels."). I like the idea of girly books with lovey dovey content and shopping. It's just that most of what I have read (Lots of Meg Cabot, a couple pages of the abysmal Confessions of a Shopaholic) is just so incredibly shallow. Stupid girls with stupid problems act stupid and get stupid boyfriends. And...I just don't care.
Now, Death's Daughter, a novel by Amber Benson, A.K.A. Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," features Calliope Reaper-Jones. Callie is pretty much the typical chick lit protagonist. She's all about designer clothes, her job as a put-upon magazine assistant, and her failed overtures at a love life.
Where Callie differs is that she is the daughter of Death, hence the title of the book. She had been living a normal chick lit life under a Forgetting Charm and reluctantly reenters the strange realities of her actual life when her father- and the other top executives of Death, Inc.- is kidnapped.
In order to keep the world in order and allow her family to keep their immortality, Callie must complete three tasks to prove she is capable of taking control of the company. All this, and nobody has any idea who would have kidnapped Death. I can't say much more without giving something essential away.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the book. Callie could be infuriating a lot of the time, but she was okay. My slightly sadistic side enjoyed seeing the chick lit girl forced to endure hardship, blood, and gore. You know, beyond a sample sale (Zing! Drumbeat!). Maybe if more chick lit books featured dismemberment, hellhounds, and demon fighting, I'd like chick lit better. Nicholas Sparks, Sophie Kinsella, and Meg Cabot- take that as a hint.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

It's going to be difficult to review this book knowing that it's already been reviewed, the other review is probably better, all that self deprecating nonsense. Whatever, I signed up to read and review books, not get psychoanalyzed for my inadequacies, so let's get this party started, shall we?

We shall.

At the most basic, The Unnamed is about a man named Tim Farnsworth. He has some sort of disease that forces him to walk, and he keeps walking until he passes out asleep in the strangest of places. Despite countless doctor visits, clinical trials, and holistic healers, nobody has found a cure for Tim's wanderlust. There is no name for the disease, and no record of anybody else sharing the affliction.

Ferris' first novel, Then We Came to the End, focused on the employees of an advertising agency, their lives in the office and out of the office, interactions, secret crushes, diseases. It was like an incredibly morbid episode of "The Office." I didn't feel as though The Unnamed was quite as relatable, at first. The more I read, though, the more engrossed I got, and the more I realized that though it was difficult to relate to Tim's disease, it was easy to relate to Tim.

Tim has marital troubles. He has difficulties connecting with his teenage daughter. He is unappreciated at work. Those descriptions could apply to thousands of men. The walking makes him different. The walking gets him in trouble at work and leads to demotion. The walking makes his marriage difficult but also connects him with his wife. It makes him bond with his daughter.

At first, Tim just wants, has wanted, one doctor to explain his disease. It seems so unreal that he would like just one person to validate it and prove that he is not crazy. Later, he searches for a soul. The disease is a promordial urge to wander, to eat, to survive, and he wants to defeat the disease, defeat the body, find a higher plain.

The Unnamed is a beautifully written book. I knew as I was reading that it couldn't end well, there was no happy ending for Tim. But I wish it was happier.