I don't remember reading a lot over the past couple weeks, but I guess I did, because when I thought about it I'd read all those books you see pictured above. I tend to do things in cycles and I guess I've been on a reading cycle lately, there hasn't been much else going on creatively speaking. So here are my one (or two) paragraph reviews:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I quite enjoyed this book, and will probably read his others. This is the story of Oskar, a young boy who lost his father on September 11th, and finds a key amongst his belongings that doesn't open any locks in his home. He decides to find the lock that belongs to the key. He also invents things, my favorite invention was a duct system flowing from everyone's pillows in New York to a pond in Central Park that would fill with everyone's tears. He proposes that there could then be regular reports of the water levels so people would know if there was a particularly sad day ahead. The passage was much more eloquent then that, so you'll just have to read it for yourself.
There are some interesting illustrations and typographic techniques throughout, which I am not sure I like, such as a passage in which the type becomes progressively tighter and tighter until it overlaps itself completely and becomes illegible. Is it now necessary for authors to throw in little tricks like that to make their books different and therefore better than the competition? Is good writing no longer enough to sell books? I suppose if it's carefully done, it can enhance the story, but if it's becoming the trendy thing to do, I don't like it. For the most part, such typographical tricks were well used here, but if there had been any more it would have become tiresome. The diagrams and such in Mark Haddon's The Mysterious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime were definitely well done as well, as they illustrated the way the narrator, a boy with profound autism, saw the world with his damaged brain.
Speaking of, I also read Mark Haddon's latest book, A Spot of Bother. Again he tackles the subject of a damaged brain, although this time it's a recently retired man who finds himself slowly, quietly going crazy while his family members all deal with their own problems. There were some quite funny bits, which because of the subject matter are sort of bittersweet. I do like his very straightforward narration style, and while the characters are not really lovable at first, I eventually developed a real affection for them individually and for the family as a whole. It was a quick read, and very entertaining.
After finishing Cloud Atlas, I decided to read David Mitchell's first book, Ghostwritten. He uses the same technique he used in Cloud Atlas, in that the book is actually a series of short stories, each linked to the previous. The structure isn't as complex in Ghostwritten, but still interesting. It reminded my of a chain the way one story was linked to the next. What I like about his writing, which I mentioned when talking about Cloud Atlas, is his ability to write in many different voices so effectively.
River Secrets is the third Bayern book by Shannon Hale. I guess her books are technically considered Young Adult Literature, but I don't care, I've loved them all. She can tell a story that will keep you completely enthralled and her characters are wonderfully human, flawed and yet still immensely likeable, like your best friend. I would recommend reading The Goose Girl and Enna Burning before reading River Secrets, as everything will make much more sense.
I've also been listening to some new music lately. With a brother who's a musician and another brother who has a talent for finding the newest, coolest indy artists, I'm always finding good stuff to listen to. Cary introduced me to the music of Vienna Teng. I think he opened for her last year some time. Vienna is a piannist, singer, songwriter, musician extraordinnaire, and her music doesn't fit easily into any particular genre. There's a little jazz, a little folk, a little pop and a little something different in her sound. I love her smooth as silk voice, which is high and sweet but never cloyingly so. If you're looking for something soothing but not sappy, interesting and energizing, then I'd suggest giving her a listen. I've got all three of her albums, but I haven't decided if there's one I like better than the others, although Harbor on Warm Strangers is one of those songs I just loved the very first minute I heard it.
I'm not a very good reviewer, sometimes I just like what I like because, well, I like it, but maybe someone will find these little reviews interesting :o)