Friday, January 15, 2010

Angela's Ashes

My covert book group and I are supposed to read Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt, so I thought this was a great week to get my assignment done.  Here are my thoughts:
The critic who stated on the back of the book that this book was a joy to read was woefully mistaken.  This was in no way a joy to read.  The pain of losing sibling after sibling, sheer hunger to the point of starvation, hospitalization including almost complete isolation, and a descent into sin are not the things of joy.  At least to this critic.  Does this mean I did not like the book?  No not really.  Rather it means I was sobered and mostly saddened by McCourt's tale.  I think there are incidents from this book that will haunt me for many years. 
The only thing which provided much of the "comic relief" was the treatment the boy Frankie receives at the hands of the Catholic Church.  This was an interesting insight into the Irish Catholic Church...eye opening.  I found myself shocked at some of the things they believe and how sad it is that they have an entire series of generations who walked through life seeing only the greed and corruption of the one organization that should have been a source of help and hope for the needy.
I did find myself rooting for Frankie, who was different to the citizens of Limerick because he had an inate intelligence which would eventually carry him away from poverty.  He was different than so much of Limerick, but he was so much the same.  Making excuses for sin and seeking absolution from a sinful and greedy church.  You could tell early on from the book that he was not long for Limerick. 

Note to Drew:  Should we do a rating system for the books we read?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Robert Jordan: The Fires of Heaven

With the new Robert Jordan(written by Brian Sanderson) book just released late last year, I felt it was time to catch up with series. When I started reading Jordan's novels he had just released the fourth novel. I had gone book shopping with Mom and the cover of The Shadow Rising caught my eye and I asked about purchasing the book. Being the smart one in the family, Mom said that it might be smart to start with the first of the series rather than getting lost in the middle. Fast forward to today and about every two releases I go back and re-read the entire series to catch back up. My friend Daniel does the same thing.

Last year, I started the series again around November so I could get my mind back around Jordan's excellent epic. The Fires of Heaven is book five of an anticipated fourteen book series. Sanderson just co-wrote book twelve. It's good to know an end is in sight. Jordan is a master of leaving no detail to the imagination, yet allows the user to still use theirs. In book five, he hasn't gotten too tedious. Things are still happening full force while Jordan continues to add more and more depth. The characters are fleshed out more.... more characters are being added... more plot lines being introduced. If you've read Jordan you'll know that it's a common thing to add threads to what becomes an immensely large pattern. It's great at the beginning, tough near the middle, but becomes intense near the end of the series.

I would recommend the book to anyone that enjoyed J.R.R. Tolkien. Personally, Jordan weaves a more enjoyable, less tedious story in general than Tolkien did. You'll see a few of these throughout the year as I finish the series up to the point the next book comes out.

If you wish to read more about the author you can go to: - He passed away in 2007, but passed the mantle to a new author.


Sherlock Holmes

The first book for my year in books is, the Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vol. 1.  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I must admit falling into tedium through this reading.  The book begins with the first two novels of Sherlock Holmes, switches to two collections of short stories, and then concludes with another novel.  Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to read another detective story at this point.  The effort was valiant, however, as I have made it to the middle of the second collection of short stories.  Highlights included the "Adventure of the Speckled Band" and A Study in Scarlet.  In my opinion (not very scholarly), these are the most readable and interesting of the two.  The "Speckled Band" was absolutely horrifying and I do not recommend it for evening reading - I had to wake Drew up so he could comfort me enough to go to sleep.  A Study in Scarlet exibits very nicely why Doyle was such a success in his day.  It is like a bipolar detective story and I like it!  I also enjoy the references to the Mormons which, evidently, led to an apology to them when Doyle came to America on a speaking tour.
Tip for reading story after story of Sherlock Holmes: read it to yourself in an Irish accent - it really throws you off enough to pay attention. 

I also must address the current Robert Downey Jr. film about Sherlock.  Drew and I went to see this just as I was begining A Study in Scarlet and I found it to be mostly accurate and very enjoyable.  It definitely had the flavor of Doyle's Sherlock.  I was a little scared that I would only picture Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson.  This was not the case however.  I kept picturing Holmes as a cross between Hugh Laurie and Professor Layton...go figure.