The Pirate King by R.A. Salvatore

How did Drizzt get involved in this mess?

2/5 stars.
Hardcover, 347 pages.
Read from October 26 to November 13, 2016.

Well I am now 18 books into this now 30+ series. It is nice to be able to fall back on this series for a quick, easy and entertaining read that takes me away with its familiar characters. I have always been thankful the series has continued but with this book I was wondering if maybe Salvatore wasn’t sure where to take the story next. I believe Salvatore would have stopped the series long ago had he had his own say but as the story is owned by Forgotten Realms it sadly means that they can get anyone to write and continue the story if Salvatore doesn’t want to (even though he thought up the whole story and characters). I am glad Salvatore has stuck with it as it wouldn’t be the same without him.

Luskan has always been a city with a bad reputation. Pirates, gangs, thieves and more because it is a busy sea port of people coming and going with merchant goods. Currently the Arcane Brotherhood are in charge and have a death grip on the city. Drizzt and Regis are in search of Wulfgar after he had not been heard from since he left to rediscover himself and his homeland. However the become compelled to help Captain Deudermont  who is looking to over throw the nasty Arcane Brotherhood from their corrupt rule on the city. However, the leader of the Arcane Brotherhood is not who he appears to be and devastation could be awaiting the group. And what if Drizzr and Regis delay their search of Wulfgar too long and are too late to help their friend if he needs it?

My biggest problem with this book was that there were too many characters that were introduced too quickly. I found myself completely because I got confused in trying to keep up with everything that they were doing and how it related to the bigger plot.  I also find Captain Deudermont’s character just a bit too righteous for my liking. Having said all this, the big fight that takes place with the Arcane Brotherhood was pretty awesome. Not the devastation, but how it all went done, which I won’t spoil.  I did enjoy aspects of this novel, just not as much as others in this series.

Overall, I hope the next set of books in this series promises a bit more. I have faith that Salvatore will redeem himself.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

“When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and go to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom.”

Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?”

4/5 stars.
Read from October 01 to 18, 2016.
Paperback, 607 pages.

Murakami, this guy, he just gets me. His writing speaks to me and I can’t say that there are any other authors doing that for me right now. Love him or hate him, the man is just as much a philosopher as he is writer. Please also appreciate the fact that Murakami manages to talk about cats, food, and sex in practically all of his novels. No wonder I like this guy! Prophetic, imaginative and insightful, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a classic piece of Murakami philosophical fiction.

Toru Okada lives an unremarkable life.  However, shortly after he quits his job, with no other prospects lined up, things take a sad and strange turn. It begins after Toru is asked to look for his wife’s cat. Shortly thereafter, Toru’s wife goes missing too in which Toru is thrown into a netherworld in order to find her, the truth about himself, his marriage, and the complexities of human connection and identity. Toru encounters a facade of interesting people, including a psychic prostitute who is trying to help him find his wife, his wife’s rancorous brother with a political agenda, a WWII veteran who has stories of torture that will make your skin crawl, as well as a pleasant, yet strangely morbid teenage girl.

The book explores some deep themes on loneliness, loss, hitting rock bottom (in this case, figuratively and literally) as well as trauma. Toru spends extensive amounts of time alone after his wife is gone, especially at the bottom of a well. Every single character in this book battles with loneliness and their interactions with Toru help them come to terms with it. Each character also learns more about themselves and how it is that we connect with others in the process. This is a persistent theme across all the books I have read so far by Murakami.

Murakami is so descriptive. There were scenes in this book that absolutely shattered me. Especially the horrific scenes he laid out about WWII. Let’s just say a man gets his skin peeled off, slowly. It was horrific.  The story comes full circle as Toru investigates the whereabouts of his missing wife.

“When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and go to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom.”

The first half of this book had me on the edge of my seat and had the book remained that riveting, I would have happily have given this book a 5 star rating. Not that the last half was bad, it just slowed down a little bit. So the first half gets 5 stars and the second half gets 3 stars for an overall rating of 4 stars.

This books is a refreshing read for those that may be having a bit of a hard time, for those that know what it is like to hit rock bottom, or for those that know what it means to be lonely, so pretty much all of us.

 

Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

Want to be plagued with existential questions? Then this book is for you.

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 233 pages.
Read from September 18 to 25, 2016.

Coetzee truly is a remarkable writer. I don’t even like all of the books I have read by him but I have an intense respect for his talent. Coeztee seems to specialize in creating characters that are borderline unlikeable, yet some how relatable enough that as a reader you feel very invested in them. While I wasn’t enthralled with the story itself, I was intrigued by the content. I haven’t read a piece of philosophy that read so story-like since Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

“She is no longer sure that people are always improved by what they read. Furthermore, she is not sure that writers who venture into the darker territories of the soul always return unscathed.”

Elizabeth Costello is a world-renowned Australian author who after many years of success is growing tired of the routine. She is old and her life consists of dry lecture halls and stale award ceremonies. She has a son, whose wife cannot stand her stances on animals rights and the ways that she goes about sharing her views. She also has an estranged sister who has devoted herself to God, while she has devoted herself to academia. Known for being articulate and well spoken, Elizabeth begins to lose sense of her self and for the things that she stands for. During one particular speech, Elizabeth becomes the object of scrutiny and further she spirals into questioning and doubt. She questions her contributions and her very being as a writer as well as the other authors she has come to know over the years. How can she continue to keep herself relevant, for her the remainder of her life to make sense and having meaning and for her contributions to mean something to future generations?

If I am honest, this book as novel, does not read well. It comes across more like an essay or a piece of academia. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I imagine that if you have the wrong perception, this book may not be appealing to you. The novel consists of extensive inner monologues as well as the extents of Elizabeth’s speeches. The content is all very insightful but if you are looking for a book to escape in then this book is not for you.

With that, holy fuck. Coeztee sure knows how to pack a lot into such a short book. This man needs to win an award for being fantastically concise. Seriously. He could give a few other writer some much need tips. It’s much hard to write something short and poignant than it is to write a long one.

Overall I would recommend this book for the ponderous philosopher, lovers of fantasic writing, and for those who enjoy taking the time to get lost in thought.