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Mini-Reviews: School Edition #2

books x 4
 So here's the follow-up to last week's mini-reviews that I dedicated to books read for school. :)  I originally had four more reviews to put up, but I decided to cut one out because it was play, and I'm really not sure how to go about reviewing that.
Without further ado, here are the remaining three books I read for school this semester! (Actually, there are two more, but their getting full reviews.) 

Title: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Genre: Non-Genre Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 208 pages (trade paperback)
Series: Stand-Alone

Summary (from )
This was another book that, like with Little Bee, I have a hard time reviewing because of the subject matter. It's heavy stuff, and stuff that I'm glad to see an author write about, but at times it feels like the novel's only strength. The narration, while different and a little off-putting (you sort of feel like Hamid is putting YOU in the American's shoes, which can be a little jarring and almost offensive at times) is still very well-done. Using the second-person is tricky business, and Hamid managed to pull it off. The story itself is compelling enough, as Changez is a morally upright character who you want to see succeed. Of course, his morality becomes a little more ambiguous as the stories goes on, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The tension between Changez and the American is also riddled with ambiguities, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to the end of the novel. The one thing that really bugged me about the whole thing was how... urr.. descriptive, Changez was with his story when it came to his and Erica's relationship. I mean, he's telling it to a stranger, and he even notes when he's getting into the TMI bits that he realizes he's maybe being a little too giving with the details. Which just made me wonder: "Then why are you telling him all this in the first place?" 

This novel has also been described as a thriller, but I think that's using the term a little liberally to be honest. I can see WHERE people are pulling that from, but I didn't read this story that way at all. 

All in all, an okay read. It's very quick (I read it in about 2.5 hours) and it's well-crafted, just not something I feel in love with.

Title: The Dark is Rising (1974)
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy,
Pages: 272
Series: Book 2 in The Dark is Rising Sequence

Summary (from )

I don't know what it was, but I did not like this book. At all. 

The writing was strange; everything happens very fast and there's very little explanation given for a lot of the things that go on. Will, the protagonist, seems to obtain knowledge from seemingly nowhere. Everything moves at a very brisk pace (almost alarmingly so) and while I wouldn't say I was lost, it was definitely difficult finding even ground. The time-travel aspect of it all felt out of place, and Will seemed to do so with very little transition (once in awhile he walked through a door, which was the only indication, and this only happened maybe once or twice.) I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters. They all felt rather flat, or just didn't have any distinguishing features for me to differentiate them from the rest of the cast. The theme of the novel is a very typical good vs. evil type deal, with Evil being a disembodied force (made me think of the Big Baddy in the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but less cool) that also kind of bored me.

To be fair though, there is a lot of myth and background throughout the story, if you can be bothered to dig for it. I do give props to Cooper for that. Other than that though, I wouldn't recommend this book. It bored me to tears. :( 

Title: Henderson the Rain King (1959)
Author: Saul Bellow
Genre: Non-Genre Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 352 pages (trade paperback)
Series: Stand-Alone

Summary (from )

In my Contemporary Novel's class, almost all the books we read dealt with Africa in some way (this was the same with my Modern Novel class, which was taught by the same prof as this class -- dude really likes Africa I guess) but this book did so in a different and refreshing way. Instead of writing about the sufferings of Africa (which I don't want to demean in any way) he writes about like a very normal place, inhabited by very normal people that have (semi -- by our standards) normal problems. In that sense, this novel was probably the less "preachy" of all the others I've read of this class. Instead, we have a crazy character (Henderson) who can't seem to fit into normal society. Yeah, he's a huge jerk and really crazy, but he recognizes that he is so, and his observations, about himself and those around him, are hilarious. He still manages to be a likable kind of guy, despite the fact that he's raving mad. 

The only quip I had with this book was the heavy-handed philosophical babble. Henderson is a little lost in life, and he likes to talk and wonder about this A LOT. Those bits I found myself skimming, or reading and then letting my mind wander so that I wasn't really absorbing what I was reading. Some people really like this sort of thing, but I honestly don't have the attention span for it, so it's really not really the fault of Bellows, though I think he could've lightened on it just a little bit.

All in all, a recommend from me, though it's definitely not a book for everybody. It's one that can be very boring and very tedious if you don't like stream-of-consciousness narration or endless musings on philosophy.


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