Genre: Literary Fiction

Book Review – The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

September 13, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 0 Comments

Book Review – The Rum Diary by Hunter S. ThompsonThe Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Published by Simon & Schuster on November 2nd 1998
Pages: 204
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

Begun in 1959 by a twenty-two-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is a brilliantly tangled love story of jealousy, treachery, and violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. The narrator, freelance journalist Paul Kemp, irresistibly drawn to a sexy, mysterious woman, is soon thrust into a world where corruption and get-rich-quick schemes rule and anything (including murder) is permissible. Exuberant and mad, youthful and energetic, this dazzling comedic romp provides a fictional excursion as riveting and outrageous as Thompson's Fear and Loathing books.

‘Here I was, living in a luxury hotel, ,racing around a half-Latin city in a toy car that looked like a cockroach and sounded like a jet fighter, sneaking down alleys and humping on the beach, scavenging for food in shark-infested waters, hounded by mobs yelling in a foreign tongue – and the whole thing was taking place in quaint old Spanish Puerto Rico…’

I would guess that in the time that lapsed in this story, a couple tons of rum was consumed. I suppose that explains the title. But serious, these people had to be staggering around drunk all the time. It’s amazing they actually got anything done. Oh wait. That’s right. They didn’t. But considering this story is set in the late 1950’s I suppose that would explain their behavior as well.

“We’re all going to the same damn places, doing the same damn things people have been doing for fifty years, and we keep waiting for something to happen. You know – I’m a rebel, I took off – now where’s my reward?”
“You fool,” I said.” There is no reward and there never was.”

Gritty and raw with a tinge of desperation. Paul Kemp in addition to everyone else he’s become acquainted with since his arrival on the island of Puerto Rico have only ended up there in hopes of escaping to something better. After quickly realizing that Puerto Rico (at the time) is far from their original vision of paradise, the spiteful and bitter attitudes begin making an appearance. It doesn’t take Kemp long to become just as bitter after the realization that a person can work so hard to have a better life, have more money, and to accomplish your dreams and never actually get anything done except wasting time and getting older.

“We keep getting drunk and these terrible things keep happening and each one is worse than the last… Hell, it’s no fun anymore – our luck’s all running out at the same time.”

The Rum Diary is simply that, a diary. There isn’t even that much of a plot, really. It’s almost like a pilot episode, a small glimpse of what’s to come but unfortunately there isn’t any full episode to look forward to. Despite that, I find myself extremely fascinated and I now have an incredibly strong desire to read anything I can get my hands on of Hunter S. Thompson’s. The Rum Diary is his second novel which he wrote at the age of 22 is semi-autobiographical because Hunter himself flew down to Puerto Rico as a journalist to write for a newspaper. Despite writing The Rum Diary in the early 1960’s, it was never actually published until 1998 because no one was interested and he was constantly rejected. Fortunately, he revisited the idea of publishing it several decades later and he finally succeeding in releasing it to the world.

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Short & Sweet Review – The Secret History by Donna Tartt

July 14, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 5 Comments

Short & Sweet Review – The Secret History by Donna TarttThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
Published by Knopf on September 5th 1992
Pages: 522
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

 

Truly deserving of the accolade a modern classic, Donna Tartt’s novel is a remarkable achievement—both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful.

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

 

‘I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.’

I was pretty blown away at how much I enjoyed this. It took me almost an entire month to read (which is practically unheard of for me) but this is one that you definitely can’t zoom right through in my opinion. Incredibly detailed and enthralling, I’m really glad that I paced myself and took my time because this is one to be savored.

Truly compelling, you already know from the very first line what’s to come:

‘The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.’

All of the characters were vibrant and completely unforgettable. Despite knowing exactly what’s to come, the beauty of this story is the slow unraveling process that the author takes you through, detailing each and every step the friends took to get to that final moment. I can definitely see why this one is considered a modern classic.

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Short Story Review – The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind

March 1, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012, Short Stories 1 Comment

Short Story Review – The Pigeon by Patrick SüskindThe Pigeon by Patrick Süskind
Published by Penguin Books on May 12, 1988
Pages: 96
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

five-stars

Set in Paris and attracting comparisons with Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe, "The Pigeon" is Patrick Suskind's tense, disturbing follow-up to the bestselling "Perfume". The novella tells the story of a day in the meticulously ordered life of bank security guard, Jonathan Noel, who has been hiding from life since his wife left him for her Tunisian lover. When Jonathan opens his front door on a day he believes will be just like any other, he encounters not the desired empty hallway but an unwelcome, diabolical intruder...

‘At the time the pigeon affair overtook him, unhinging his life from one day to the next, Jonathan Noel, already past fifty, could look back over a good twenty-year period of total uneventfulness and would never have expected anything of importance could ever overtake him again – other than death some day.’

‘The Pigeon’ is an incredibly short story detailing a day (albeit a rather momentous day) in the life of Jonathan Noel. Jonathan leads a secluded and private life as a bank security guard in Paris. He enjoys the life he has made for himself and is perfectly content with it continuing as such for his remaining years; however, on his way to work one morning this all comes collapsing down around him as he discovers a pigeon on his front porch. As soon as the pigeon entered his life, his life literally came crumbling apart in his mind. All of his carefully made plans became as fragile as a snowflake.

‘…but he suddenly no longer saw himself – that is, he no longer saw himself as a part of the world surrounding him. It was rather, as if for a few seconds he were standing far away, outside it, and were regarding this world through the wrong end of a telescope.’

I became an instant fan of Patrick Süskind after stumbling upon his novel ‘Pefume’. It left such a permanent imprint on me and is still one of my favorite books to date. I’m not sure why I never looked into whether or not he had any additional works, but after embarking on my ‘1001 Books to Read Before I Die’ reading challenge I discovered ‘The Pigeon’ as one of those 1001. Overjoyed, I knew I had to have it.

Patrick Süskind’s writing is so thoroughly impressionable that earlier this afternoon I saw a pigeon on the side of the road and had to suppress a shiver as Jonathan’s fears flooded my mind. Mildly amusing, but, I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at a pigeon the same again. His descriptions of the pigeon and Jonathan’s instant anxiety over the pigeon were immediately understandable even though, looking at the bigger picture, it seemed as if he made a fuss over nothing. I’ll admit, I laughed at first because it seemed quite absurd, but as the story progressed you can see now it’s not just the pigeon that affected poor Jonathan in that manner; it was just the catalyst to a series of events that disrupted his painstakingly normal existence.

I’m giving ‘The Pigeon’ 5 stars for one reason and one reason only (and it’s not because it’s as great a story as Perfume because it isn’t): because he’s a truly amazing writer. I will read anything written by Patrick Süskind. It’s just such a shame that there aren’t more novels of his in existence to read.

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Short Story Review – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

December 28, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories 1 Comment

Short Story Review – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman CapoteBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Published by Vintage on May 15th 2012 (first published 1958)
Pages: 160
Genres: Classics, Literary Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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three-stars

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Having watched the movie, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ I never really had any desire to read the book. Finally deciding to do so, I was quite surprised that the movie created a superb rendition of the book and that the role of Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, was an absolutely perfect portrayal.

Holly Golightly has to be one of the strangest fictional characters I have read to date. She’s eccentric and odd in a completely entrancing way and yet shows no attempts at actually trying to be this way; she just simply is.

“So,” he said, “what do you think: is she or ain’t she?”
“Ain’t she what?”
“A phony.”
“I wouldn’t have thought so.”
“You’re wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you’re right. She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes. You can’t talk her out of it.”

I quite enjoyed Truman Capote’s writing and look forward to his next book on my list: In Cold Blood.

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Book Review – The Collector by John Fowles

November 23, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 9 Comments

Book Review – The Collector by John FowlesThe Collector by John Fowles
Published by Vintage on October 21st 1998 (first published 1963)
Pages: 305
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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five-stars

Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.

’I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants. He wants me living-but-dead.’

The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, an extremely odd and lonely man who also collects butterflies. He’s obsessed with a middle-class art student named Miranda Grey and as he continues admiring her from a distance a plan slowly starts developing in his mind that he would like to have her; like one of his butterflies. He makes preparations by buying a house out in the country, purchasing assorted objects and things he knows she will need, convinced that if he can only capture her and keep her that she will slowly grow to love him.

The first part of the novel was told from Frederick’s point of view and it was rather alarming at his thought process. In his mind, there is nothing morally wrong with what he intends to do (and what he actually ends up doing). He recognizes that Miranda is a human being as he takes care of her and provides her everything a human would possibly need, but she’s inevitably nothing more than an object or a collectible item to him. He doesn’t mean to harm her at first; however, it’s evident that as time progresses, he enjoys having power over her and almost finds humor in her attempts to escape.

The second part of the novel was told from Miranda’s point of view through diary entries that she hides underneath her mattress. She writes about G.P. often, a man she met and who ended up having a huge impact on her thoughts and ideals. To Miranda, G.P. was everything she wanted to be and his opinions and thoughts became a set of ‘rules’ for her. At first I had a hard time determining the relevancy of these recollections, but it essentially just became another disturbing piece of the story to see how influential G.P. and his ‘rules’ really were to Miranda.

’He’s made me believe them; it’s the thought of him that makes me feel guilty when I break the rules.’

It was almost expected, however still just as shocking when it becomes glaringly obvious that Miranda slowly begins to take pity on her captor. She starts feeling bad for the harsh things she says to him and she also unconsciously prevents herself from doing him excessive harm during an escape attempt as she feels that if she does she’s descending to his level…It was as if she had simply accepted her situation, and that was the most heartbreaking part.

’And yes, he had more dignity than I did then and I felt small, mean. Always sneering at him, jabbing him, hating him and showing it. It was funny, we sat in silence facing each other and I had a feeling I’ve had once or twice before, of the most peculiar closeness to him—not love or attraction or sympathy in any way. But linked destiny. Like being shipwrecked on an island—a raft—together. In every way not wanting to be together. But together.’

The third and fourth parts of the novel were the most disturbing parts of the entire book. Suffice it to say, it gave me goosebumps. It was not the ending I had anticipated, but I still felt that the author was successful in creating the everlasting effect I believe he intended. Obviously, you understand the severity of Ferdinand’s actions; however, not until the end do you fully understand just how abnormal he really is. This was certainly not a happy book, but one that I’m glad to have read and one that I will likely not forget.

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Audiobook Review – Animal Farm by George Orwell

October 7, 2011 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Audiobook Review – Animal Farm by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Narrator: Ralph Cosham
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on December 15th 1999 (first published 1945)
Length: 3 hours, 11 minutes
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

 

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

 

Another on my list of Banned/Challenged books.

Having missed this in my childhood education it’s always been one that I’ve heard so many things about but have never been able to experience. I have to say that I’m quite glad I didn’t read this until later in life because I don’t believe I’d be able to appreciate it or understand it half as much as I would have in my early teens. I remember hearing about this book when I was younger and thinking that it was literally about animals.

I was amazed at how easy a read it was (although I stopped about halfway and started listening to it on audiobook) yet how complex the topic really was. At the start of the book their rebellion against their owners was a beautiful thing and their strength was remarkable.

“The animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be. Every mouthful of food was an acute positive pleasure, now that it was truly their own food, produced by themselves and for themselves, not doled out to them by a grudging master.”

Unfortunately, as time progressed, social classes were established. I found myself so wrapped up in this book that when the pigs that ruled and had all the privileges would change rules at random to suit their needs I was groaning and pitying these other animals who suffered because of it. The ending was inevitable and despite the fact that I saw it coming it still left me gasping. An incredible that was well worth the read; a novel I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

“ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS”

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Book Review – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

August 9, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 1 Comment

Book Review – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick SüskindPerfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
Published by Penguin Books on September 12, 1986
Pages: 272
Genres: Classics, Horror, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
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Also by this author: The Pigeon

five-stars

The year is 1738; the place, Paris. A baby is born under a fish-monger’s bloody table in a marketplace, and abandoned. Orphaned, passed over to the monks as a charity case, already there is something in the aura of the tiny infant that is unsettling. No one will look after him; he is somehow too demanding, and, even more disturbing, something is missing: as his wet nurse tries to explain, he doesn’t smell the way a baby should smell; indeed, he has no scent at all.

Slowly, as we watch Jean-Baptiste Grenouille cling stubbornly to life, we begin to realize that a monster is growing before our eyes. With mounting unease, yet hypnotized, we see him explore his powers and their effect on the world around him. For this dark and sinister boy who has no smell himself possesses an absolute sense of smell, and with it he can read the world to discover the hidden truths that elude ordinary men. He can smell the very composition of objects, and their history, and where they have been, he has no need of the light, and darkness is not dark to him, because nothing can mask the odors of the universe.

As he leaves childhood behind and comes to understand his terrible uniqueness, his obsession becomes the quest to identify, and then to isolate, the most perfect scent of all, the scent of life itself.

At first, he hones his powers, learning the ancient arts of perfume-making until the exquisite fragrances he creates are the rage of Paris, and indeed Europe. Then, secure in his mastery of these means to an end, he withdraws into a strange and agonized solitude, waiting, dreaming, until the morning when he wakes, ready to embark on his monstrous quest: to find and extract from the most perfect living creatures—the most beautiful young virgins in the land— that ultimate perfume which alone can make him, too, fully human. As his trail leads him, at an ever-quickening pace, from his savage exile to the heart of the country and then back to Paris, we are caught up in a rising storm of terror and mortal sensual conquest until the frenzy of his final triumph explodes in all its horrifying consequences.

Told with dazzling narrative brilliance and the haunting power of a grown-up fairy tale, Perfume is one of the most remarkable novels of the last fifty years.

‘Perfume’ tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille a boy who grew up on the streets of Paris. Jean-Baptiste was no ordinary boy, he had a gift… a sense of smell that could not be rivaled. Naturally he found his niche by becoming an apprentice to a master perfumer who teaches him the art of making perfume. He excelled at this and people were scrambling to buy his product. As he branched out and started searching for new scents to include in his perfumes, his fascination with trying to find the “ultimate perfume” takes a morbid turn when he finds that ultimate scent is coming from a beautiful woman, and he has to capture it by any means necessary.

I picked this book up on a whim at a used bookstore one day simply thinking that I’d like to read something different for a change. ‘Perfume’ managed to root itself so deep in my mind that I still remember this novel in vivid detail to this day; I must have read it at least ten years ago. The story is disturbing in so many ways yet so unbelievably brilliant and fascinating that you can’t help but be enthralled.

The novel is extremely graphic at times but that’s what really makes the story. Highly recommended, I love this novel it’s one of my absolute favorites.

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