Monday, September 29, 2014

CBR6 #9: Deep Down by Lee Child

This is my first Lee Child book, and I've heard quite a lot of buzz about him, especially right around the time that Tom Cruise movie came out. You know the one, where he steps out of a movie car into a crowd of people waiting for the bus and doffs a cap given to him by a helpful bystander. Anyway, Deep Down came in a series of e-books gifted to me by my friend (This Is How You Lose Her was another one) and I figured this was a quick way to get into the character of Jack Reacher, investigator extraordinaire and very tall man.

Anyway, Jack is summoned to Washington DC to investigate who might be slipping information about a committee hearing on sniper rifles via fax from Capitol Hill. His task is to go undercover as an expert from the Army to help the committee members with selecting the sniper rifle, and to figure out who is the spy leaking the minutes of the meeting and why. His target are four women, all of whom are on the "fast track" to getting higher on the political ladder.

It's a pretty straightforward plot and a fairly enjoyable, quick read, so I recommend this as a good introduction to Jack Reacher's character. Lee Child is also good at building suspense and pulling a bait and switch on plot developments. I will definitely check out more Jack Reacher novels when I want a good suspense-filled read about brainy spy work.

I'm reading and reviewing for Pajiba's Cannonball Read 6, so this review also appears on their website.  

CBR6 #8: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This Is How You Lose Her is a series of short stories that deal mostly with men's infidelity in relationships, with the exception of one of the stories being from a women's point of view. Readers of Diaz's first book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, will recognize Yunior, who appears repeatedly in the stories in relationships with different women.

A running theme throughout these stories is how men don't often see women as a real person. Like Yunior's dog brother, Rafa, who sees and discards women with no concern for their feelings, even as he is dying from cancer; or how Yunior -- a chronic cheater, it appears -- believes that profusely apologizing, or flat-out lying, about past transgressions can mend things with his lovers. The behavior portrayed in these stories by the male species is appalling, and at times, wholly humanizing. In the Miss Lora chapter, a teenage Yunior wonders whether if he will be able to escape how his brother and father acts, and be a faithful boyfriend to a girl who won't let him get to second base. There is also a sense that being a Dominican man means that there is a cultural acceptance/exasperation to how shitty behavior from men can be expected, and even forgiven.

In a way, I thought that what Diaz did was to pinpoint the excuses that men give themselves for their terrible behaviors, like how Yunior looks at his brother and father and his Dominican heritage as a way to "explain" his own crappy behavior. Yunior, who is quite possibly Diaz's alter ego since he appears so consistently throughout his work and his life follows the same narrative as the Dominican author's life, is often at odds with himself about his actions toward women.

At a certain point of a man's life (or a person's life, even), one needs to have their perspective completely inverted, almost like how a baby discovers as it grows older that it is no longer the center of the universe. People need to figure out that their actions -- whether if they are intentional or not -- affect not just themselves, but the people they are most intimate with. This may all seem common-sense, but as is clear by Yunior's mistakes over and over again, he is still a work in progress. At the end of the final story, which chronicles a five-year fall-out after a devastating breakup, Yunior realizes that his ex-girlfriend was right. "You are surprised at what a fucking chickenshit coward you are. You are astounded by the depths of your mendacity. When you finish the Book a second time you say the truth: You did the right thing, negra. You did the right thing." That would perhaps be the first time he ever saw his girlfriend as a real person. 

I'm reading and reviewing for Pajiba's Cannonball Read 6, so part of this review also appears on their website. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

CBR6 #7: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Here are ten things you need to know about The Silver Linings Playbook:

1)   It’s not exactly like the movie, but it’s not far off either.
2)   You will see the faces of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence super-imposed on the main characters of Pat and Tiffany if you’ve seen the movie first. It just can’t be stopped.
3)   The mental illness portrayed in the book is far more expressive and understandable than how the film related it – at times to a frustrating degree.
4)   Pat and Tiffany are not the only people who ought to be on meds. Pat’s Dad and Mom are a real mind-bender too.
5)   Chris Tucker’s character doesn’t appear until almost the end – and I think that is a loss.
6)   If you love football, then maybe you’ll follow all the game speak in this book better than I did.
7)   The character of Tiffany in the book is more fully realized, through the eyes of Pat, than in the movie. I’d say the same goes for Pat’s character as well.
8)   Yet somehow, I found the movie much more enjoyable. It is a difficult feeling to explain -- one I don’t encounter often considering my near-religious “the book was better” stance.
9)   I disliked Pat’s child-like way of writing “apart time” to signify his time away from his wife. It made me twitch every time.
10) If you are a fan of a team that constantly loses, you are a masochist. Stop it.

The read was quite a breeze, but I think because I’ve seen the movie, it was difficult for me to think of the book as a separate entity in my mind, and I found myself trying to find specific moments from the film. It can be a bit disorienting. 

I'm reading and reviewing for Pajiba's Cannonball Read 6, so this review also appears on their website.