February 9, 2009

The title barely relates to anything either.

So onward marches the semester, for better or worse, and so I’ve read another novel for my novel class. This one is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Now, after how much I enjoyed Motherless Brooklyn, I was looking forward to more. I really don’t read enough, and if the class keeps feeding me stuff like that, I was going to love it.
Water for Elephants did little but disappoint.

There are books in the world that are so much worse than this book. It has a really strong sense of setting, and the writing is not altogether horrible. But being alright doesn’t really a great book make, and this book is just kind of alright.
First off, the book has a wrapper. Meaning it’s a story within a story. This can be really awesome. See something like, I dunno, Big Fish. However, there is absolutely no real meaning to having the wrapper in this book. There’s absolutely no payoff to it (and I’ll get to the ending in more detail in a minute, I have complaints about that too) and it takes up a very large portion of the book. Every time the story would get back to the old man who was remembering all this, I would sigh, and have to slog through to get back to the stuff that was more interesting.
Even the main story, though, was not perfect. Above all, the story itself seemed determined to shock. There’s nothing wrong with this either, but it honestly just felt very out of place, because when you were in a moment that was supposed to “shock” the descriptions would get all super-intense, and the language of the book would change. It felt out of place, and it just didn’t work at all.

Finally, though, the last nail in the coffin for this book was the ending. First of all, it really tried to write up, with the wrapper, that the fact that Jacob married Marlena was some kind of twist, when you knew, you knew, the moment Marlena entered the story, he was going to get the girl. But that’s just annoying. What’s wrong is that the ending is such a complete happily ever after. They miraculously go from being completely broke and jobless to having enough money to support themselves and an elephant and a chimp and a whole bunch of horses. Hell, even the old Jacob gets to improbably relive his glory days recklessly. This just does not jive with the grittiness, the dirtiness, the reality the rest of the book is trying to sell you. The book attempts to make the ending seem less perfect than it is by killing off several characters you might like right at the end, and it might work… if the fact that those characters were around wouldn’t have made trouble for the couple. If they would have still been alive, then Jacob and Marlena would have to figure out how to help them, and they couldn’t ride away on the Rainbow Happy Ending Express unhindered. It just doesn’t work.

So yeah, I was very disappointed with Water for Elephants. It was not anything that I would call a great book. It might have come off a little better if it hadn’t been in such close proximity to Motherless Brooklyn, which was just… awesom. But only a little better. Only a little.

January 30, 2009


So I finished a novel. Holy shit, me? Reading? Holy crap, right?
Well, you know, I’m in this 21st Century Fiction class, so you’re going to be seeing a lot of talk of me finishing novels this semester, and, hopefully, talking about how much I enjoyed them. If they keep being as good as the first book we had to read, I’m going to be very happy with my decision to take the class.

The book I read was Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. It’s a story about a sorta detective sort of mobster with Tourette’s trying to figure out what happened to his mentor and father figure. And damn, it was really good, you know?
The book did many things correctly, and the main thing it did correctly, which is why I enjoyed it so much, was the main character and narrator. Lionel is such a likable person. He’s very intelligent and well-spoken in his internal narration, and the way he tries to view so much of the world through his, you know, condition is endearing and interesting. Seeing him work mentally, and then seeing how people see him while having to, you know, deal with his outbursts and tics just really make you side with the guy more. It also, for whatever reason, gives you an oddly quick but in-depth view of every other character. The way they react to Lionel really says a lot about who they are, so I think you get a really good view of those characters, too.
The plot itself is fairly solid too, a decent detective story with, you know, the things a detective story has. It kind of peters out in the end, but I think for a really good reason. That’s how these sorts of tales actually end, you know? When you’re dealing with organized crime and whatnot, things rarely work out perfectly. In the end, Lionel still hasn’t, you know, completely found his place in the world. He’s done what he’s set out to do, but it’s clear that things in his life aren’t fixed. It wasn’t an ending that left me with a smile, and it wasn’t an ending that was particularly strong, but I really have no ideas about how it could be better, so I can’t really complain about it.

As a quick aside, one thing this book did to me is make me feel very Ticcish. Lionel points out the tics of everyone he comes across because, you know, they kind of run his life, so he looks for them everywhere. Him doing them, and pointing them out… well, I do have little tics. The clearest one is that “ball of energy” finger thing I do when I get really excited, but damn, if I didn’t feel almost obsessive/compulsive observing my own behavior while I was reading the novel. I mean, I’m clearly not, but it was an odd feeling, I suppose, that the book instilled.

This isn’t a book I would have searched out myself. I have little interest in the subject matter and, frankly, I’m just not a reader. The more and more time passes, and I get older, the more and more I find that if it isn’t a podcast or a vidjeo (I don’t know why I’m working that spelling into my vocabulary, but I am) game, I just don’t have time for it. Still, if you are someone that reads a lot of novels, and you like detectiveish tales, this is probably a great book to pick up next time you’re bored. I wouldn’t say you should drop everything to read it? But it certainly gets my recommendation.

December 31, 2008


So one of the things I got for Christmas was this Anotherholic book. It’s actually kind of shockingly lame, since it amounts to xXxholic licensed fiction, and we all know how amazing licensed fiction is. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it, though, if it’s a series you like. Knock yourself out! And I mean, there is good stuff out there that’s licensed. But in general? Plenty of crap.)
Still, it’s fun stuff to me, who is such a rabid fan of the series. It makes some weird decisions, though, like strongly pretending it’s three anime episodes and having, like, an opening credits sequence in each one just printed in the book? It’s also extremely wordy. I mean, I guess xXxholic can get wordy, but I don’t know. It just feels dense, where most of the time the manga doesn’t, besides a few of Yuuko’s speeches and whatnot. Then again, I suppose Yuuko has more speeches in this book, too… heh… anyway, I am totally enjoying it.

However, like actually xXxholic, it’s just making me very introspective and forcing me to think about myself. Last night, in what I was reading, Yuuko said something along the lines of “There is nothing more self-centered than thinking everything is your fault.” That sort of hit me right to the core, I suppose.
I don’t think about myself as a self-centered person. I mean, I guess I think of myself as a “small world” person, where I have this sphere of influence and everything in it is extremely important and everything outside of it can fuck off because I just don’t care. Then again, I suppose in the middle of that world is me, you know? Maybe it is self-centered… maybe I am self-centered, because that certainly is something I have a huge problem with. I always feel like everything is my fault, that I fucked up, and that it’s all on my shoulders. I’ve been trying to break that habit, but it still happens often.
I mean, hell, I write a blog where I talk about me, me, me, constantly, all the time, and I have been for years. Maybe I am self-centered…

I guess the question then becomes whether or not that’s a bad thing… I was always told by nice people that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Goodness knows I still have problems with myself that need to be addressed, so maybe it’s alright. And hell, isn’t everyone self-centered to some extent?

But dammit, I don’t want to make excuses…

I want, most of all, to be a positive force on people around me… I don’t think being self-centered is the way to be that positive force… you know? It’s all something, a bad habit, I should probably break, I guess…
It’s weird, though, because one of the things I’ve been working on so hard in myself recently is just to be honest with shit. I want x, or y, and I should just say it and be done with it. I shouldn’t beat around the bush, or hope quietly and stew on it and generally be unhappy. I should just say it, admit it, and go for it. I’ve been working so hard to make that happen in my life, and now just to look at it and notice how selfish and self-centered that is… I don’t know.

I don’t know.

March 26, 2008

Rapid Fire Ramblings: Zak and Wiki, Classes, Dunwich Horror, FFCCRoF, Yesterday, El-ahrairah, Zak Gramarye

So Zero Punctuation just reviewed Zack and Wiki, and it makes me sad. Because he gives it a good review. And the game was pretty good. But thanks to the Wii controls that supposedly make it neat, I can’t play it, because it requires too big of a commitment. Now, this is going to sound lame, and it probably is, but I want to enjoy my games from this computer chair if at all possible. I very much enjoy having access to the internet constantly while playing, able to casually play for a few minutes, respond to a few messages, and then play some more. Because Zak and Wiki makes me point at the screen to move Zak around, I can’t play this game from this chair. If I could move him around with the Nunchuk, I could play from here, still point at the screen for the occasional puzzle, and be much, much happier. As I type this, though, I realize I just assumed you couldn’t. Yahtzee has a nunchuk drawn in most of the pictures of him playing, so maybe I can… testing… Yep, I’m right. You can’t. So if that changed, maybe I would love it. It would also be an awesome game to play, say, curled up on the couch with a significant other, talking out the puzzles together. It even lets you use additional Wiimotes as pointers to help out this sort of thing. But it just doesn’t fit into my current sort of gaming lifestyle at the moment, unfortunately.

So I got back on the horse today and have gotten to all my classes thus far and gotten all my homework done. I’m doing great! I have to format a paper for MLA when I get home from my poetry class tonight, but otherwise I’ve got all the high-stress stuff done for the week… I’ll probably try to write that other paper tomorrow, though, or at least some of it. A starting point.

So here’s the plan for Friday. At 8:!5 pm, when Jonathan gets home from work, we shall be fighting the elder gods in a game of Arkham Horror, now with Dunwich Horror expansion. I’m not clear on whether we shall be playing a very Dunwich game, in which we only use the new adventure cards for this first time to see the new stuff, or if we’ll go ahead and mix them all in, but it’s going to be quite an exciting time. Show up early and get in some Rock Band or Smash Brothers Brawl, if you’d like! All are invited until I feel like there is going to be more than 8 people. Then you can fuck off and not come. But it should be a good time. After the game, though, I shall have to quickly retire because I got a stupid writing aptitude test in the morning, which will suck. Whee!

So Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates may have the worst story ever in a video game. And I say this having followed the exploits of Ethan Waber in Phantasy Star Universe. At least you could laugh at the horrible, horrible voice acting in that. This story is just so kiddy, and the main character such an idiot… I just hate him. This game is a dungeon-crawling game in the vein of PSO or Diablo 2. This sort of shit shouldn’t be stopping me from running through dungeons, killing monsters, and getting new patterns and supplies to make phat loot. It’s so frustrating. The bit of multiplayer I’ve played so far, though, is exactly what I wanted. Totally awesome. Jonathan still claims he’s going to buy it, so then me and Spaeth will have another person to adventure with.

I also just want to say, on the record, that yesterday, March 25 of 2008, was a really, really damn good day. I don’t know, everything just went right. I got everything I need to get done done, and then some. I had fun. I spent time with my friends. I had a REAL awesome time with Brer… it was a damn good day. I wish I had more days like that.

Wikipedia, source of all human knowledge, tells me that everyone hates Tales From Watership Down. Apparently I am supposed to be “poorly receiving it” because I “want a true sequel.” Well, fuck that. I mean, I’d like a real sequel, but at the same time, the book is really self-contained, and a sequel could very easily muck it up. It is just so good how it is. Now, I could see how someone would get pissed if they just looked at the front cover and started reading. I mean, my copy says, on the front in a fairly large font “The long-awaited sequel to the beloved classic!” That’s completely not what this book is, and I can see if someone actually believed that about it, they would be mad. But I, you know, looked inside, read the preface, saw what the book was before I bought it. (for cheap, I might add, although it was also in that teeny tiny paperback format that I hate so much, so I guess it was a tradeoff) I saw what it was, said to myself “More tales of El-ahrairah? I’m all over it.” and walked up to the counter to buy it. The book has some problems, thus far. Adams has tried to make these stories seem more… connected by having them start with the characters talking about this or that, and then asking for a story, and the character telling the story, like in the main book. I really don’t think it needs that. Then again, I suppose it barely detracts, either. It just seems like a sort of desperate attempt to make legit what is already legit, in my opinion. Apparently the last third of the book is actual stories of things that happen to the Watership Down warren after the novel ends, so that might be bad, I dunno, but for the time being, it’s an enjoyable sort of… side experience to enhance the novel and make me continue to wish I could play Bunnies and Burrows with someone. But definitely not a sequel. Oh no.

Finally, these comics are hilarious, but completely stuffed with Apollo Justice spoilers. Just wanted to link them so I don’t forget about them.

March 17, 2008

I just wanted to put emphasis on the fact that Watership Down is great.

Through marathon reading sessions the last few nights, I have finished Watership Down. Damn, what a great book. I don’t really read often anymore, now that I have internets and can afford most if not all the games I want (both a blessing and a curse) but when I do, it’s nice to get the pleasure of reading such a cute but strong and fun piece of literature. If you’re the reading type, and you haven’t read it, you really should. I’ll loan you my copy or whatnot. Just be prepared for hardcore bunny action.
It does make me wish there was something like it to follow it up with, though… I had a bit of a discussion with Brer about it the other day, I think, and he couldn’t think of anything sort of… directly like it. Certainly not Adams’ other novels. I’m sure he’d know, too, since he does reading often… like… too often perhaps. Well, okay, not too often. At least he finishes all the books he gets, I suppose. Heh.
Anyway, happy St. Sneaky Pete’s Day, everyone… hope you have a lot of fun drinking or whatever. Me, my whole plan consists of putting on a green shirt in a few minutes and then it’s the day as per usual.