Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book 52: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

I had to read this book in a Theology class last year and I expected to hate it.  Fortunately my professor had excellent taste in books, and this proved to be a highlight of an otherwise pointless class.  I wasn’t sure that it would be able to hold my interest through a second reading but I was happily surprised again.

The story is set in Lahore, Pakistan where a young professor named Changez speaks to an uncomfortable American about his time living in New York.  Changez graduated from Princeton with top honors and quickly secured a job at Underwood Samson, a valuation firm, where he excels.  Before leaving school he went on a trip to Greece where he meets Erica, who he falls in love with.  Unfortunately Erica is not really ready for a relationship as she is still recovering from the death of her previous boyfriend.  This, compounded with the embarrassment that Changez has towards his changing attitude, creates an internal conflict that is heightened by the September 11th attacks and subsequent tensions in the US and Pakistan. 

I really don’t want to say anymore than that because the story moves quickly and I hate it when reviews give away too much.  The novel is short and tense; it’s almost impossible to put down.  Changez is the sole narrator; we don’t even get to really hear the questions that the American asks, they are just answered by Changez.  The other man is suggested to be part of a special ops mission and we never know which way the situation will resolve itself.  Altogether it’s a fascinating book, one that I can’t recommend enough.  

Book 51: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

As I said before I was a big fan of Bridget Jones I high school, so naturally I own the sequel as well.  I never enjoyed it as much as the first book but since I bought it I was determined to keep it, I don’t like to waste money.  Now that I have a severe lack of shelf space, this book no longer makes the cut.

The story starts off at the end of January with Bridget obsessively staring at Mark Darcy in bed.  The two have been together for a month at this point and all is going well.  Soon though Bridget is feeling nervous about her happiness and guilty for abandoning single life.  She neurotically finds ways to destroy her relationship with Mark, aided by her jealous friends, and is single before March.  The rest of the novel involves repeats of the first book: attempts to quit smoking and drinking, trouble at work, problems with family and friends. 

The repetition doesn’t bother me too much; my problem is that Fielding made Bridget completely stupid, as opposed to flighty.  Bridget constantly screws up and acts like a total idiot and takes advice from total idiots.  There were so many frustrating parts to this story that it ruined any intended humor.  So I don’t feel bad anymore about chucking it in favor of more deserving books.

Book 50: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

I was a huge fan of this book in high school but I haven’t read it in years, so I figured while I was purging books I should see if this one is worth keeping.  Honestly, it’s not a great book, but I still enjoy it, so I guess it’s not going anywhere yet. 

Bridget Jones is a 30-something single Brit, with a job she isn’t satisfied with and a mother that drives her nuts.  The book begins on New Year’s Day at the annual turkey curry buffet.  Bridget’s mom is trying to fix her up with Mark Darcy, a family friend who seems to find Bridget unappealing.  After that early embarrassment, Bridget returns home with every effort to better herself.  This includes losing weight, quitting smoking and drinking, and establishing a healthy relationship with a non-fuckwit.  Soon though, she is sleeping with her boss, the biggest fuckwit of them all, and not keeping any of her new year’s resolutions. 

This is a fun book.  Bridget, her family, and friends are ridiculous and funny.  While I’m pretty far from being like Bridget, I relate more to her than I ever thought I would, which is a little scary.  Anyways, this is an entertaining and quick read.  If you enjoyed the movie, you will enjoy this, it’s that simple.

Book 49: The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Another Poirot mystery, narrated by Captain Hastings, that tells the story of the ABC Murderer.  This particular killer chooses victims alphabetically based on location and name, using the ABC railway guides.  Poirot is called out of retirement yet again when he receives taunting messages from the killer announcing his intentions.  Together with the haughty Inspector Crome, his old friends Hastings and Japp, and a group of the victims’ family and friends, Poirot sets about finding the murderer before he gets further along the alphabet. 

Pretty interesting overall, I didn’t figure out everything beforehand, so that was more fun.  Poirot is always entertaining and the book provides a nice short diversion from my rather boring life.  It’s a nice addition to the mystery kick that I’ve been on.  

Book 48: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This is probably the most famous of the Poirot mysteries and deservedly so.  Poirot is on the Orient Express returning from Syria after solving an important case, when a suspicious man, Ratchett, asks for his help.  Ratchett has been receiving threatening letters, but Poirot refuses to take the case because he doesn’t trust him.  The next morning though, Ratchett is found murdered in his cabin and as they are stuck on the tracks due to snow, it must be one of the other passengers who committed the crime.  Poirot is tasked to find the killer before they reach the next station, to avoid political difficulties. 

Again, I already knew the end for this one, but it was still fun to read.  Poirot is not hampered this time by the idiot Hastings, which makes the book more enjoyable for me.  This is well worth a read if you enjoy mysteries and really, why wouldn’t you?

Book 47: Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie novels; they are short, fun, and good distractions.  So in an effort to finish Cannonball Read, I picked up a few of her mysteries to move me further along. 

This novel really begins when the actress Jane Wilkinson asks Hercule Poirot into her suite for a favor.  She has been separated from her husband, Lord Edgeware, for a while but he won’t agree to a divorce no matter what she does, so she asks Poirot to intervene on her behalf.  Poirot is charmed by the young lady and agrees to help her, only to find upon meeting with Edgeware that he will not cause any more trouble for her in this matter.  Imagine everyone’s surprise then when Lord Edgeware is murdered the next day and Jane is accused of the crime, even though she has a solid alibi.  Poirot is called on as usual to assist the police, where he will have to deal with their incompetence and a variety of untrustworthy actors.

There really isn’t much to say about this book, I was already familiar with the story so the identity of the murderer came as no surprise.  I do enjoy Poirot, his fussiness is amusing and he focuses on psychology instead of physical evidence.  I just wish he didn’t surround himself with that idiot Hastings.  I suppose that Captain Hastings is meant to be Poirot’s Watson, but Watson was smart, whereas Hastings has only enough brains to understand how to breathe.