Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Cool Head by Ian Rankin

Maybe I should read Ian Rankin's short novella, A Cool Head, five times for good luck. One should know that's not entirely impossible either - a book spanning only 107 pages of large print shouldn't take more than an hour, depending on distractions and your speed. 

The story starts off with Gravy, a thirty-something OCD guy, working at the graveyard when a BMW drives awkwardly up to him. From out of the car steps out a friend of Gravy's, a man called Benjy. Benjy's got a  bag in one hand and a hole in his chest. Unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation, Gravy thinks this is just another visit from his friend. However, when Benjy's fate is finally met, Gravy feels the need to tell someone. Not to mention deliver the money he's found in the car.

Meanwhile, gangster Gorgeous George is having a little predicament of his own. Someone's taken his money. His right hand man, Don, has a little problem of his own. A deal that should've have been flawless has one man killed and another taking his BMW. 

On the ride are a few detectives making an attempt to put two and two together and a woman who's running for her life. 

How can such a short book deliver such a powerful storyline in only a few short pages? I don't know but I'm convince - this being the first time I've ever read one of his books - that Ian Rankin is a genius. I'm glad I decided to buy a book after he was mentioned in Yes Man.

A Cool Head is one part detective novel and one part humor, creating a read that's worth the time and money - this book only cost me $2.93, as it is a part of Quick Reads series - "bite-sized books by bestselling writers and well-known personalities for people who want a short, fast-paced read," and "are designed to be read and enjoyed by avid readers and by people who never had or who have lost the reading habit." This is a series and a writer I can get behind. Trust me, there will be more books from both purchased by me in the future. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Written on the Body

Jeanette Winterson, just another name dropped on the blog turned social network site simply know as Tumblr. I promised myself I wouldn't do this again, didn't I? Said I wouldn't pick up another book Tumblr ever suggested, ignore the authors they're in love with because it only leaves me feeling disappointed. You can imagine the anxiety I had as I turned each page of Winterson's Written on the Body. With every page, I expected some lame plot device, some obvious revelation before its time. I expected to read the kind of books teenagers treat as biblicial. 

Tumblr finally got something right. 

Now Winterson may not have a unique voice - time to time, I kept thinking I was reading something by Philip Roth - but I'm going to make the assumption that, while this is a good book, it isn't one that allows her own voice to shine - though it does dazzle at the corners of every paragraph. With that in mind, I've decided to give Gut Symmetries a go.

Written on the Body is a book of love, but it's not a love story. Tragic at times, realistic all together. This isn't something you'll find in the romance section - though I did find it in the erotic section at Mike's Shop, so I don't know what to think of that. It isn't erotic, per se. It has its moments of tense scenes of carnal pleasures, but the focus isn't on the erotic. Rather, it's placed on the narrator - whose identity or sex is never stated - and the beloved, a married woman by the name of Louise. 

At times, I guessed the narrator had to be a woman - this is my prejudice, however, when it comes to female writers (and one I'm sure Jyg would punch me for). Second guessing myself when the erotic passages crossed my eye and third guessing when boyfriends of past were introduced. Still, it's easier on my imagination to create a woman out of Winterson's words. 

Easily to relate to no matter your sex or gender, it's a book that should be found on your shelf, or at least cracked open once in you life. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Yes Man

Yes Man, the film, isn't an adaptation of the memoir by Danny Wallace. It was merely inspired by it. Of course, I mentioned earlier, how I didn't know that when I put off the movie to read the book instead. I didn't learn the truth until after I picked up a copy of the book and read "The Book That Inspired The Movie" on its cover. I asked a friend who watched it whether or not Jim Carry's character was British and was named Danny. My friend said, "No, he's American." Great. 

Still, I put off watching the film until I finished reading Wallace's memoir - who, by the way, has a tiny bit (according to IMDB) part in the movie, playing a guy with no lines at a bar - if you squint carefully, you can just make him out as Danny Masterson is whisked away by an elderly lady. 

So how do I treat the film? This blog is about books and films that were adapted from books. Clearly, Jim Carrey's Carl Allen is nothing like Danny Wallace - well, in the sense that he isn't British or works in television; Carl's a banker who works with a guy named Norm who is possibly the closest thing to a Brit the film has (excluding the guest, wordless cameo of Wallace, of course). And Zooey Deschanel isn't a Lizzie character, either - her name in the film is Allison who is a band called Munchausen by Proxy

The film isn't as inspiring as the memoir, but I wasn't expecting it to be. Nor is as realistic - sure there were times in the memoir where I scratched my head and wondered if Wallace was pulling me along for a ride, but at least I could believe the things that happened. Had he written how he saved a man from jumping off a building by singing Third Eye Blind's Jumper, I may not have been so receptive of his tale. 

Nevertheless, Yes Man is still a great film, one that should definitely be watched (even though a review for it is a tad late, so sue me). But do do yourself a favor and read the book, as well. You won't regret it. 

Happy Birthday, Book Hunter's Journal

It just occurred to me that the blog celebrated it's first birthday sometime this month. And while I'd love to review every book I've read from the start to now, I don't want to waste anyone's time.* While I don't know how many devoted readers I have - possibly one - I do know that this blog gets a few hits from local writers - well, Google searches and what not of local writers - on this blog and it makes me smile that you guys care. Or that you're looking for some information of said local writers, but instead find me and are greatly disappointed. Either way, thanks for the great year and here's to another one. 

Until next time, keep on huntin'.

*a true book hunter, bibliophile, etc., would know that there is no such thing as time wasted when talking about books.   

Believing in the Power of Yes

I don't think would have ever heard of Danny Wallace, let alone his book, if it hadn't been for the movie Yes Man. And I probably wouldn't have even bothered with being intrigued with the film if it weren't for Zooey Deschanel - who am constantly being teased about by Jyg and I know if she should read this blog, the teasing would ensue on a greater leaver. But after learning that the movie was inspired by a nonfiction book, I decided to read it first - later, I learned that the movie wasn't an adaptation, but my decision had already been made and there was no way I was going to put off my book hunt just because of one technicality. On a related note, I happened to find the book at a closing sale at the local Hollywood Video for a couple of bucks so I bought it and it sat on my shelf for about a month, gathering dust and waiting patiently for me to find, buy and read the book. 

What was my point again? Oh yeah, after a long grueling couple of months of book hunting, I decided the cheapest way to obtain the book wasn't also the quickest. So I swallowed my book hunter pride and bought it off I received in the mail a couple of weeks later and put on my queue (I don't really have a queue, it's just a pile of books sitting on my desk waiting for me to pick one up) and finished whatever it was I was reading last

I'm not a fan of the nonfiction genre because the truth can be stranger than fiction - it's not just a cliche, you know - and I'm always left wondering whether or not the author has taken some poetic liberties with his own life. But after reading some YA horror, a translation and a collection of short stories left me feeling I'd been cheated of great literature (thank you for that, Tumblr, by the way), I decided it might be time that I read a memoir of a Yes Man. And I'm glad I did. 

This book is full of your feel good moments - falling in love, growing up, having adventures, larger than life characters (hypnodog!), letting go - to spiritual aspects and a few moments of depression. It's real. It's a real book - and no, I'm not accusing anyone of saying it doesn't exist - but it's a book that you can read to feel better about the world, feel better about yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes and take risks even when you normally wouldn't. 

That being said, it's probably the only memoir I've ever read. Don't get me wrong, I've read several biographies and autobiographies, but never a book about a certain time the author's life. I've tried in the past - Cherry by Mary Karr comes to mind, Smashed is another one and then there's Prozac Nation - but I never got pasted the first few pages, or chapters. But Yes Man was different. How could I possibly say no to a book about saying yes? 

I couldn't, and there was never a time  I wanted to put it down - even when I should have been working, I was reading Danny Wallace's words, laughing with him and feeling sad when things were going differently than expected. In many ways, the book inspired me to say yes a little bit more. Even to things that I would normally find tedious or annoying - let me give it a try again. While reading, I even took down a couple of notes about references he'd make - I went as far as buying an Ian Rankin book just because he mentioned the author's name. 

Maybe this book can change my life around. Or maybe my cynicism is just too strong to be pushed under the mat. Either way, I've never thought about it until I read the book. And that says something, doesn't it? 

Now it's a matter of watching the film that the book inspired. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

William Todd Rose is All for Free Zombie Sex (an e-book)

William Todd Rose, author of (soon to be released) The Dead and Dying, Cry Havoc and Shadow of the Woodpile, brings to us yet another work, Sex in the Time of Zombies. Okay, I know what you're thinking and I was thinking the same thing. Zombie and sex - this should bode well. No one, save the small minority who find reanimated necrophilia hot, would possibly want to give this book a try, right? Well, you're wrong. Any true book hunter will tell you it's hard to pass up a free book, even if said book is an e-book. 

That's right, William Todd Rose is giving away his collection of seven short stories dealing with sex during a zombie apocalypse for free! I already downloaded my copy of the book, and I hope several of you are on your way to doing the same thing. Of course, when I'm finished you can expect a review (of the book hunter sort) to grace this blog. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book Hunt :The Catching Up With A Good Friend Edition

Nothing like a book hunt to bring to people together again, I say. Monica and I caught up after not hanging out for several months now, hitting Georgia's Thrift Shop, The Book Stop and Books 'n' Things - all of which are located in McAllen in about the same area.

Monica didn't find anything over at Mike's book shop (still inside Georgia's Thrift Shop), but I found a copy of St. Augustine's City of God, something I've been wanting to own since I read the excerpt in the Utopian Literature book I purchased. Along with that, I purchased The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna by Dagoberto Gilb (The Magic of Blood) and A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The total price for all three was $3.50 before tax.

After that, we headed over to The Book Stop, a store I'd seen many times in passing but never really ventured into it. There Monica found a copy of Heavier Than Heaven while I purchased a Buck Owens record ($3), a copy of The House on Mango Street ($2.50) for my mother, and Helter Skelter ($2).

Our adventure took us back to the original used book store we once haunted - though it's moved since our last visit - where I purchased four books by Arthur C. Clarke - The Songs of Distant Earth, The Wind From the Sun, The Sands of Mars and The Sentinel. Monica picked up some Shatner books - one of which, later, she realized she already owned. 

We exhausted our book hunting places by lunch, so we ate and then called it a day. It was good being in her company again. I hope we make a habit of it.