The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Sometime in the future (I think), a father and son, who remain nameless throughout, travel by foot from 'somewhere' to the south, in the hopes of finding...something better than the devastated and ash-ridden region they use to live in. Peculiar and dangerous characters are met along the way.
The story certainly kept me turning the pages, as did my own hope that the two protagonists would indeed find a new home, or whatever it was they expected to find in the south. This being my first McCarthy novel, I can't say I was totally sold on his writing technique. It felt a bit bland. There were several sentences that went :' The father did b and c and d and e and f and...' I didn't like that very much. I can understand the usefulness for the almost bland and downbeat narration. The emotional and psychological sate of the two characters must have been equally downbeat. Their determination and hope are hanging on by a thread, they are tired, frustrated, afraid. Therefore, the narration can feel appropriate. I just couldn't help but find it a bit bland. Still, I enjoyed it for its story and characters.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Cuelho
A young Spanish shepherd is prompted by a gypsy future reader and then a king (!) to follow his destiny, which is a apparently to find a brilliant treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. The boy agrees to this and meets a host of colorful and helpful characters along the way.
This really was a joy to read. The narration is playful and entertaining, as are almost all the characters that appear at one point or another along the boy's quest. It's well known that the story itself is a thinly disguised metaphor for a theme that should ( I hope) resonate with most people in the world, regardless of nationality or background. It's an honest and positive message. The descriptions of the characters and places were very entertaining and lively. Put simply, it was one of the best books I had read in some time.