Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where have we been?

Hey Folks,

It's insane that we've been spending so much time doing other things like parenting and still have time to read. You might not see a lot of reviews lately, but we're still here compiling oodles of books to create reviews for. I have around 4 or 5 books that I need to comment on. Some fun ones like The Magicians by Grossman, and others that aren't so much..... The Naked Communist or Blacklisted By History.

In many ways, my latest grouping of books has been influenced by what we have going on in our world. The Occupy movement triggered that moderately dormant political desire that resides within me. I'm not a fan of what's happening out there b/c of the people behind the scenes via endorsements or monetarily. I don't like that the propaganda arm of OWS feels like Stalinist Russia(think Bolsheviks and 99%). I don't like the encouragement for even more entitlements from our government - free programs that aren't free. We live in an enviable place and time. I feel that we forget what we have and where we are b/c we haven't seen the dirty side of life and politics that our past generations have. That led me to read up on Communism... soon to cover Socialism, Progressivism, Capitalism, and perhaps a couple that span those.

On the happier side of things, the child is growing up quite nicely. It'll be 6 months in just a few days. It's amazing how time flies and how much they change. Leah is doing a Christmas special on her blog - Seldom Made - so while we're lagging behind on our reading, you can catch up on more exciting reads. Perhaps you'll see a political post over at my oft-ignored personal blog.

Take care, and have a Merry Christmas,

The Dark Tower - The End is Here...

If you've been reading from the beginning or just trolling the old posts, you'd know that I started my foray into Stephen King two years ago with The Dark Tower series( and reviewed Book 2 here). He wasn't ever on my radar due to books like It and Pet Cemetary that were turned into horrific(genrewise) movies. After reading the synopsis of the first book, I decided that it might be worth getting into this epic. Who doesn't like a multi-book story that's part fantasy, part science fiction, and part western? The series started well and bogged down close to the end, but I have a tough time putting down a series when the end is getting close.... think Robert Jordan around Book 8 or 9. So, that paltry perseverance brings us to Book 7 of Stephen King's epic.

I don't want to get too much into the story in case folks decide they want to read the series so I'll try to get into my praise or criticism for the book. This wasn't that impressive of a book for me. In Book 6 King introduces himself as one of the characters. I wasn't sure I really liked the idea, and by the end of this book, I definitely didn't care for it. It's very self-serving. When you also consider that he's tied a multitude of other books to the Dark Tower then it almost feels like he's trying to advertise his other novels, or forcing you to read others novels to get a more clear picture. I wasn't a fan of how this works, and he does talk about it in the afterward. Then again, I have the easy job of reading the story and critiquing as I see fit - that's a far cry from the difficult job an author can have when creating readable material.

Ultimately, I wasn't as impressed with this series as I wanted to be. Maybe the expectations were high since Stephen King is considered one of the greatest authors of our time. I'll leave this up to the individual, but I can't recommend the series b/c I can't recommend all the books. I really wanted to come away liking it in it's entirety. Perhaps the new mini-series will bring it down to a level of tedium that's manageable. Sorry, Mr. King.


Rating: 3 CBs.... I wanted more.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anniversay Book Hoarding

We celebrated our 7th anniversay this weekend (yes, we got married on 9/11 and are happy to celebrate something wonderful while recognizing a horrendous event also occurred on that day).  And on our way to our date night dinner, we strolled through the latest casualty of the economic downturn/fascination with reading words on a screen instead of on a page: Borders. 

Let me just say this:  we are supposed to be on a book buying ban, until we can get through some of the hundreds (literally hundreds) we need to read.  BUT, we struggle with book lust just like the rest of the book blogging community.  Thus, here are our latest purchases/future (although likely distant future) reads:

We got all these, plus The Book of Basketball for $30.00!  Not bad.

But we promise, really, we are on a book buying hiatus, really.  

Any good reads/buys for your ever growing pile?


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guide to Digital Photography

If you clicked on this from your blog reader thing (yes, that's what I call mine) because you thought it was a clever title and wondered what book I would be reviewing, well...I have some good news and some bad news. 

The good news is I have a very funny quote for you from the book. Wait for it...

The bad news is this is a review of The Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with the D40 Digital Camera. 

Here's the quote in case you don't want to get to the end:

When operating the viewfinder diopter control with your eye to the viewfinder, care should be taken not to put your finger in your eye accidentally. 

Thank you Nikon!  I don't know what I would do without your sage advice. 

The above quote appears not once, but twice in this dry read of a book.  And without that quote, I don't think I could have made it through the rest of the book.  "Why?" you ask did I read this.  Because we just had a beautiful (I can say that, right?) baby and I would like to be able to take better pictures of her.  In my quest for beautiful pictures I came across a blog series from October of last year about getting better photos.  I have not completed the series, but the first assignment was to read the owner's manual for my camera. 

The result?  I know very little more about shooting better pictures than I did when I started, but I do have a working knowledge of each tiny part of my machine.  Sadly, I did not understand half the stuff they talked about.  This left me with the feeling that I should take a professional photog course at the the local community college; but as a new mom, I think I will work my way through the blog series instead. 

Here's hoping I take some better shots in the future.   Oh, and although my fellow photog blogger recommends reading the owner's manual - I can't recommend it the way I would other books.  Maybe you could do a drinking game for every time the manual writer wrote a "this is common sense and you, reader would be an idiot to do what I just told you not to do but I am covering my butt for the legal department" sentence.  Yeah, that would make it more fun. 

Rating: 3 out of 7, but only because it is tabbed (I like a sense of order in my owner's manuals).


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Daughter's Walk

A walk to remember?  Hmm...oh wait, that is another book altogether (one I haven't read - missed out on the Sparks phenomenon).  No, this is a whole other genre: historical fiction. 

It may surprise many people who know although I love history (it was my major in college),  I do not like historical fiction.  I would rather spend my time reading a biography or book on events in history than reading someone's imaginings of a certain historical period or person.  Oh, and it may surprise others that although I am a Christian (did I mention my major in college was actually church history?), I don't like Christian fiction - again the same thing applies.  So, when I signed up to get The Daughter's Walk as an ARC, I really don't know what I was thinking. 

The Daughter's Walk is the story (based on actual people) of a mother-daughter team who decide to walk across the United States, sponsored by a group of investors to promote dresses (that ladies can walk in) and save the family farm at the turn of the 20th century (an actual time).  I think this is where actual history and fictional history part ways and the author takes over in the storytelling department.  The story becomes a basic prodigal story without the squandering of inherited fortune and without the loving father taking back the wayward daughter. 

So, what is missing? interest.  I did not really enjoy this book.  I got through it but I found it tedious and mundane.  Each of the story elements seemed to be attempts to be historical fiction.  Yes, I do know that should be an accomplishment, given it's intended genre.  But what I mean is the author seemed to be working to make it historical in nature.  She has entire paragraphs where she attempts to show the passing of time by almost listing the things she found out about the period when she was conducting research.  It is not woven into the story, it is an obvious "this is the time we are talking about" device. 

Which brings me to the question: What would it take for historical fiction to capture my interest? 

I think it should be the type of work where the reader feels like they are actually reading a work of history.  Where the author has done the research so well and so intertwined it with the story that it could feel as though it was written during the historical period or by the best historian EVER!  Have you ever watched the Ken Burns series for PBS on the American civil war?  The historians in there never met, nor walked this earth during the civil war (I know because I have done the math and they would have to be over 150 years old); yet they speak about the men and women of the day as though they grew up with them - they breathe life into the dead.  That doesn't mean they are right all the time.  There is no way they could know the emotional lives of these people; but they use inference and a little bit of imagination to bring the viewer right on the scene, experiencing the war right along with them. 

So, until authors can approach their subjects this way (or someone can recommend an author who does), I'll take my actual history the way it was intended to be digested - in fascinating non-fiction. 

Which brings me to the question: What would make you enjoy Christian fiction? 

This I have less of a grip on.  As it goes right now, I am on a case-by-case basis for Christian fiction.  I absolutely loved The Great Divorce and Redeeming Love.  But other Christian fiction has not captured my heart the way these two did.  So, I am not scanning the shelves of the Christian fiction section of the local Barnes and Noble very often; but I have not closed my mind on the genre the way I have for historical fiction.  All that to say, I will take your recommendations for Christian fiction, just don't make it Christian historical fiction - I don't think I could take it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Waterbrook Multnomah through their Blogging for Books program.  If you enjoyed or hated this review, you have recourse: rate my review.  You just may get a free copy of this book. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Age of Misrule

Here's a hearty welcome back to the blogging scene! We've sort of caught folks up on what's been happening with our personal lives, and now we can get back to writing about what's been happening in our reading lives. Having a child has been exciting, and her weird sleep schedule (although that's pretty much normalized now) had led to some decent reading time in the wee hours. With that said, let's get back to it!

This first book since our hiatus was the first book sent out by Pyr after asking if they had any review copies. It took me a little longer than it should have to get to reviewing their books, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do so. Picked up a book by Mark Chadbourn by the name of World's End. It's the first book in his Age of Misrule trilogy. You start the story with a couple of English folk..... then it really gets weird! Something quite strange is happening in the natural world that appears to be connected to old mythology. After a short introductory period, you're taken on a whirlwind of destruction and oddities. 

World's End wasn't a bad book, but it's definitely a tedious book. Mark Chadbourn, the author, has quite the vocabulary and he isn't afraid to use it. I'm not one to shy away from a long word every now and then, but the usage is quite prolific(ding!) in this first novel. It's very proper and, perhaps, that's the way our English brethren prefer it. It was also a little difficult for me to get into just after delving into mythology with American Gods by Neil Gaiman (another English author). American Gods was a dichotomy of great storytelling and graphic situations. It was good, but dirty. World's End is exhausting in it's definition and sometimes feels lost when coming up to story progression. It makes you wonder upon finishing the book if it was really worth it.

All in all, if you are looking for perfect punctuation, grammar, and to expand your vocabulary then you will want to pick up this book. If you are looking for a book that touches on a bit of the ol' mythology you are more than welcome to pick this up, but I would recommend American Gods - especially the 10 year anniversary edition that can be found here.

Rating: 4 of 10 CBs


Friday, August 19, 2011

In the Hopper

Alrighty, we are trying to get back in the swing around here.  So, we thought we would get the blog juices flowing (that sounds inappropriate somehow) by joining the global book blog hop hosted by Crazy for Books.  It has been a while for us.  But, then again, it has been a while for almost everything around here. 
The question for the week is: what is the longest book you have ever read?
-D said (sleepily): "probably some Robert Jordan book, I guess."  Fear not, lovely readers of fantasy/sci-fi fiction, the reviews on this site are plenteous. 
-L says: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  This is THE book I recommend to almost anyone who will sit still long enough for me to tell them it is the best Lincoln biography out there.  It actually ends up being a four-for-one deal because it is also a biography of Lincoln's rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination for president. happy I told you about it...then pass it on!

Anyway, if you are new around here (or if it has been a while) feel free to browse around, leave a comment, start a conversation with other readers, whatever makes you feel at home.  Glad to have you here and glad to be back. 


One Day

Many days long, long ago I read One Day and never got around to telling you about it.  Now that the movie is making it's American debut, I was reminded of it and thought my first post-baby post would be about it.  Apparently it was some sort of phenomenon in the beach read world some time back; thus making it a candidate for the Hollywood treatment, complete with Anne Hathaway playing a British girl and Jim Sturgess playing a British toff (new word I remembered I had learned whilst watching Top Gear the other day on BBC very Anglophilian of me). 

Anyway, I don't usually read anything that could be considered beach reading, nor do I read romance novels; but I got a copy of this book as a prize in an Oscar trivia contest and pregnancy does crazy things to one's brain.  So, like I said, I read the book. 

How did I feel about it?

At first I didn't really have any connection with the characters.  They seemed to be hackneyed characters for a romance novel: the brainy, middle class girl secretly pining for the upper-crust, aloof guy stunted in the emotional maturation department.  The only thing I found interesting about the book was the structure of it.  Each chapter is set on the same day, each year for a number of years, begining with the day after college graduation for both characters.  I think the structure is what kept me coming back.  It was like some soap opera I couldn't turn my back on even though the characters do everything predictable soap opera characters do.  I guess I was hoping they would go all Passions on me and have a witch with a little person who creates lots of mischeif. 

No such luck.

The story remains predictable through most of the book.  What wasn't predictable was my reaction to the end of the book.  Either the characters had grown on me so much that I feel in love right along with them OR I was so overloaded with hormones whilst reading it, that I bawled for an entire afternoon as I finished the book.  I think it must have been the latter because when I look back on it now, there is no way it was the characters. 

So, the age old question: Should I read the book or see the movie first?  Well, I don't think I can answer that for you, because I haven't seen the movie.  But, having read the book and having seen other romantic movies from Hollywood, I can tell you: there's not much special to see or read here.  I think you might be better served saving your money on both the book and the movie.  How about Pride and Prejudice instead? 

Rating: 3 out of 7


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Busy Life... but busy reading as well....

Hey Folks,

We've been away for quite a while, but with good excuse. We had our first child and that's taken just a little bit of our time. But that also gives us some time when you think about being up a little late at night to feed, or when you're waiting for her to go to bed. All in all, I think I've read five books since the last one review I've put up. That's pretty bad, but we're going to get back into the swing of things. I'm still suckering everyone with Sci-Fi and Fantasy with a couple new authors(Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Chadbourn), a new book by an old author(Joe Abercrombie), and a couple oldie but goodies(Joe Abercrombie and Glen Cook). All new to the blog though... Oh, and a graphic novel to boot.

Thanks for staying on with us even though we've been quiet. We're both hoping to get back to it and even write something people enjoy reading about.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Song of Susannah

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6)
In my last post I noted that I was working on a couple other books prior to attempting to finish The Dark Tower series..... well, we can see how that worked out. I need to always bring the book I'm reading whenever we go out of town rather than just the Nook. We went out for my birthday last month and went out this weekend for a small family reunion. That just got the ball rolling for Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) and allowed me to finish it up. I'm now working on World's EndThe HeroesThe Dark Tower (The Dark Tower, Book 7), and some baby book to attempt to learn something about the labor. I'm hoping to help in some measure, but without seeing all other stuff. =|

The Song of Susannah was an interesting read of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. It definitely wasn't my favourite by any stretch. I have a problem with inserting the author into his own book. It might be a great way to push the story along, a way to advertise, or a little bit of an ego trip. We learn a little bit about the story, but progression was a little slow. It seems that it was more about telling a few bits to make sure the last story finally comes together. We'll see if it works.

If you've gotten this far in the series then you know that it's going to be worth it to finish....... it has to be worth it!!

Rating: 5 CBs - better in the series.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Wolves of the Calla - we meet again, Dr. King.

Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, Book 5)I know, I know... why do you read books from the same author one after another? It's so hard to read different authors when I haven't finished the entire series from another. Perhaps stepping away from Science Fiction or Fantasy would help with this problem, but I love these books too much. Might as well take me away from drinking Human Blood and having a healthy portion of Unicorn Meat.... don't judge me!!! Ahem, so, technically, The Stand is not part of The Dark Tower series, but Stephen King has created a tie-in throughout many of his other novels to his longest series. I'm sure that I don't have to read them to understand, but it's nice to know that characters that pop up here will never really be resolved when I reach book 7. I can't figure out if this is a great way to pursue your career in authoring, or if it's just a shrewd marketing ploy. *shrug* (must be the Kool-Aid talking).

So let's get on to Wolves of the Calla and the next chapter in The Dark Tower epic. We've seen Roland along his quest for the Tower for quite some time now. There was a point where Roland was alone in this crumbling world to the point where he's now running a new ka-tet(group of friends/comrades/helpers/etc) with varying dispositions. The journey has led them through multiple worlds while following the Path of the Beam(the way to the Tower). It's now taken them to a town in the Calla's where the children are 99% born as twins. This hasn't been a happy not for the town as the Wolves come every generation or so, take one of the twins, and return them later as Roont.... perhaps mentally challenged would explain well. Will Roland and crew help with the problem? Will they move on with their own quest? Will they even stay in this world or be transported to another? Only reading will tell....

As far as writing goes, Stephen King brings along another good continuation for his epic masterpiece. This is an easier read from some of the previous reads. He's not a sexually graphic as he can be and I've been pretty vocal about not being comfortable with that type of writing. The story itself does a decent job of being engaging through the entire 600 pages or so. There was a small part in the middle that seemed to drone on, but once you're past that it breezes right to the end. The book also feels somewhat like a filler novel. It doesn't feel like it ends up with you bring that much closer to the conclusion. The characters are definitely fleshed out more throughout this. Think M.Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable rather than The Village or Sixth Sense. This is about character development more than plot structure. Also, DON'T READ THE STAND, but pick up Salem's Lot. It helps tie-in one of the new characters. The Stand would be worth reading prior to picking up The Dark Tower series. =\ Should have paid more attention.

Rating: 6 CBs - I am now more excited to come to the Dark Tower conclusion... I'd like to know what's going to happen! It's worth the read and a little better paced than others.

Now, while I'd like to finish up the Dark Tower series, I'm going to have to put it down for a couple books. I have the opportunity to read some copies that were sent to me from PyrSF! Sometime last year I emailed them asking if I could review some of their novels (they happen to have published The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie - highly recommended and I will read again and review... can count on it). A couple months ago I received an email back asking for the blog and a couple other questions about reviewing. Fast forward to now and I've been sent three books to read and review. Very exciting news!!! I'm about 40 pages into the first novel - World's End (Age of Misrule, Book 1) - and hope to finish shortly. Between work and the baby on the way, I'm hoping that I get it out pretty quick. In the meantime, take a look at their catalogue and try out one of their books. At the moment, I highly recommend Abercrombie.


Monday, March 14, 2011

The Stand....

The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)
I've been attempting to read The Stand for the last few months. After starting up The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I found out that many of his books coincide or correlate with his other novels. It took me till Wolves of the Calla to notice this and I figured I might as well read about the characters that happen in one series from the other novels. I thought that The Stand was going to have a character named Callahan. Little did I know, I screwed up on what book correlates with another. Callahan happens to be from Salem's Lot and not The Stand. That's one fail for me. =\ BUT! Randall Flagg happens to make a cameo... well, maybe more than that... in The Dark Tower so all is not lost. 

If you haven't read The Stand and are not a complete Stephen King fan, I don't know if I can recommend this book to you. First, it's incredibly long! At a little over 1000 pages it'll keep you busy for a while unless you really get into it. It's also a little heavy on the detail side. In a novel like this, King could have cut down on some of the minutiae to cut to the chase. The book is about a super virus that takes out most of the American population, if not the world's. This might sound like I'm giving away a ton, but it happens early and they've made a TV series about it. It's also not that new of a concept after all these years. You'll have plenty of information about humanity getting back together. That's where it gets boring. There's only so much you can do to talk about people coming together and getting the power going. *sigh*

Just because the book is long doesn't mean that it was horrible. The underlying story is incredibly intriguing! The sub-plots are interesting as well. Most of the characters are fleshed out enough that you can enjoy them or want to know what happens to them. I do have some problems though. It almost seems that King wanted to get to the end too quickly after writing for page after page about development. A few of the characters that you expected to play a big part (b/c they had large roles at the beginning or middle) were marginalized by the end. Those were some of the more interesting characters as well. It also wrapped up a little neatly for me except for the Jurassic Park twist at the end. I'll save it for those that want to read it.

All in All, I would recommend the Dark Tower series first before going off to read this one. It also makes me want to read Salem's Lot. I'm again stuck in my ways with reading more novels from a specific author even if I don't seem to like him. A little strange. If you do like Stephen King then you can't wrong. Oh, if you don't like graphic sex scenes and cussing then don't grab this one. (I'm not surprised)

CBs - 5 of 10.... love the idea of almost anything post-apocalyptic but this one left me with concerns.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Journey through L.E. Modesitt Jr.

 I know it's been a long time since I've written a book review and I apologize. Most of the authors that I enjoy reading have extensive book series. I often find myself reading a few in a row, but it's hard to continue writing about one book after another based on the same characters. They are incredibly fun to read, but maybe not to read reviews of. Modesitt has been the last author that I've been reading new novels based off of one world. Instead of reading them based on their release date, I've been reading them in chronological order. I still have a few more to go in the series, but after these four I'll be switching it up a little bit - maybe The Stand or perhaps something totally different (True Grit).

Scion of Cyador: The New Novel in the Saga of RecluceMagi'i of Cyador (The Saga of Recluce)Magi'i of Cyador and Scion of Cyador follow the story of a young student learning the ways of Chaos ( one half of the worlds magic system). Lorn happens to excel at what he does, but is not necessarily cut out for the Magi. He's ultimately shipped off to become a Mirror Lancer - think Army, but a different world. This world is changing, and Lorn happens to be at the center of it all. The technology is failing, and with that failure, every person is going to have to face a harder world. 

Fall of Angels (Saga of Recluce)Fall of Angels (Saga of Recluce) happens 500 years after the story of Lorn and the nation of Cyador. Modesitt takes the Saga of Recluce into a realm filled not only with Fantasy but also Science Fiction. The Angels happen to be the crew and soldiers of a space ship that gets transported to a different realm or a different universe. They aren't too clear, and I guess that allows for some speculation. They have to land on this new world and are immediately attacked by the locals. You follow the story of Ryba, Nylan, and Arlyn as they look to survive in a foreign world with unique powers. Now, if you read my other Modesitt reviews you'd notice that the protagonist from The Towers of the Sunset is an ancestor from the nation the Angel survivors create.

The Chaos Balance (Saga of Recluce)Lastly, The Chaos Balance follows Nylan, Arlyn, and Welyn ( Nylan's son, and also the father of the Towers of the Sunset hero) as they leave Westwind and find somewhere they might belong. This doesn't sound as easy as you might think since most of the world still fears and mistrusts these new people. It also doesn't take long till they're pulled into a new struggle with old Cyador ( yup, still around) and Lornth ( they don't tell you why it's named after the old leader). My only beef with this book is how transformed Cyador is from what you first read about without telling how it got there. It was a half-decent nation that turned into a cesspit, IMHO.

L.E. Modesitt Jr. continues to provide an entertaining series. It's the first book series that I've read that has dialogue from an infant. In some ways, it helps to see the progression of a character that you will hear about later, but I'm not sure that it's necessary. Reading chronologically will also help get better clarification of the magic system throughout Recluce prior to getting to the point where it just IS. You also won't find a lot of inappropriate content. There might be a little innuendo but not to the point that you can't let someone younger read the novels (unlike Abercrombie... though I really enjoy him!)

Magi'i of Cyador - 6 CBs - some slow progression, but engaging characters
Scion of Cyador - 5 CBs - still slow in parts; could use a little less tedium
Fall of Angels - 6.5 CBs - good story with new Sci-Fi elements
The Chaos Balance - 5 CBs - some slow parts; thank you for being a shorter novel.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Citizen Vince

Citizen Vince (P.S.)Don't ask me what intrigued me about this book when I first saw it, because I can't tell you. Maybe the Edgar award notification on the cover helped (I had not read anything with this award to my memory). Awards aside, Citizen Vince is utterly worth the read (even if you have to read some passages with your fingers over you eyes, like peeking at a horror movie)!

The story involves the main character, Vince, a reformed mafia guy relocated and given a new identity via the Witness Protection Program. The characters inhabiting Vince's new-found world including: prostitutes, card sharks, a pot-head teeanage baker, and his new criminal buddies are well-formed and interesting. And the situations Vince finds himself in are unexpected. What makes the story worthwhile though is the thought-provoking meditations on choice. What will Men do when faced with something they never thought they would? What is worth dying for and what is worth killing for? Also, if you got the chance to forever change your life in one moment, would you do it, or would you choose what you already know?

I loved the background to this novel, set in the week leading up to the election of 1980 - Carter vs. Reagan. Since I am a lover all things 80's, I found the historical background matched very nicely what the characters were going through - the end of an era, the hope for the future despite the struggles of the present.

This book is definitely worth the time. It is original and often funny, filled with great characters. I look forward to checking out the other books by Jess Walter.

Rating: 6 out of 7


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Great Divorce

I am not one to exaggerate on books very often.  The list of earth shattering, life changing books for me is very short (i.e. one).  Similarly, I am not one of those to be challenged by books so often that they shape my world view or resonate with me beyond the closing of the book (my apologies to all authors who thought that is what they were doing).  But the list of challenging books for me just got lengthened by one.

The Great DivorceThe Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis engaged me in a way that "fantasy" fiction never has (most of the time I don't give it a shot).  This may be because the book is really just a thinly veiled allegory for the things we hold onto so we don't have to step out in faith.  For the uninitiated (as I was), the story is that of a man who takes a bus ride to heaven.  The unfolding scenes are the backdrop for discussions that cut to the heart of faith, unbelief, rebellion, and selfishness.

I realize that all our readers would not generally be interested in anything by C.S. Lewis (other than the Narnia series) based on his religious beliefs, but I truly think this story deserves a hearing.  By way of encouragement, I offer these tips for reading this book:

1. Read it out loud, as you would to a child.  Throw the voices in, as well, you will have fun trying on a Scotch accent for size, at the very least.
2. Read only one chapter a day.  This should take no longer than 10 minutes for the longest of the chapters.

I don't know if it was just these strange choices for reading this novel that led me to such a rich enjoyment of the book, but I know it really added to the experience.  I even found myself weeping at the end of the book (haven't done that in a while), a strange and beautiful crescendo of an ending whose denoument is all to brief.

Have any of you read this book and if so are you as enraptured with it as I am?

Rating: 6.9 out of 7


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blind Assassin

Ok, so I will freely admit it...I have been in a reading rut.  Well not so much a reading rut, but a writing rut.  Blind Assassin marks the 5th (maybe 6th) book I have read in the last few months for which I have not written a review.  I know some of our readers must be sad.  Wait, do we still have readers?  Oh well....

I do have a credible (in my estimation) excuse.  That being the baby we are expecting in the early part of summer sucks all my brain cells normally dedicated to writing and uses them for more useful things, like fashioning itself out of small bits of DNA.  So baby excuse aside, I will attempt to write more reviews over the next couple of weeks of books I need to let the world know I have read, if for no other reason than to try to jog my memory of their various subject matters. 

The Blind Assassin: A NovelThe Blind Assasin by Margaret Atwood....what do I think of this book?  Interesting.  It is the second of her books I have read.  The first, A Handmaid's Tale was so incredibly odd and engrossing and obfuscated that I STILL don't know what I think about that one.  This must be the modus operandi for Ms. Atwood's writings.  She, like no other modern author I am aware of (keep in mind that limits the scope quite a bit), approaches storytelling in shocking and very dissimilar ways.  I get the feeling by reading just two of her books that upon opening one of her novels, the reader will never quite be sure of what to expect. 
Case in point, the story of The Blind Assasin is equal parts: novel within a novel, flashback sequences to tell a story, fictional newspaper clippings, and modern day musings.  Atwood weaves the tale (let's call it a mystery) in so many different ways, it can be offputting to the reader.  Often I found myself trying to remember what I should have already known about the characters, while attempting to guess at what was coming next.   The story that spans the period between the World Wars appeals to the senses of the reader and includes many images that blur the lines between the author's created fiction and her created reality.  In a way, Atwood gives almost everything to the reader but then removes just one or two things, thus blinding (get it?) the reader to the real truth.  When you get to the end, you feel almost let down, like you didn't really get the mystery solved, but you are left with more questions.  Again, I think this must be a hallmark of Atwood's work. 

Bottom line: I don't think I get it as much as I should, although it wasn't bad.  This would be an excellent book club selection, as it would generate much discussion. 

Rating: 5 out ot 7


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Towers of Sunset

I figure I'll start out the new year with one old book and one new. The Passage was the first book this year and the review can be found over here. The old book is one that I read a few years back.... probably high school actually. The Towers of the Sunset is L. E. Modesitt Jr's second book in the Saga of Recluce series. If you've been reading the blog over the last year you probably saw my review on the first book The Magic of Recluce. Just a note: It really bugs me that he doesn't spell it Recluse, but Recluce! Is that an acceptable spelling alternate? Guess it doesn't matter - still bugs me.

The Towers of the Sunset (Recluce series, Book 2)
The Towers of the Sunset is not a sequel to the first book in the series. It happens to be a prequel. You follow a young wizard by the name of Creslin as he leaves his homeland and starts a new story. It's essentially the story of how Recluce came to be and how Order changed the world. Again, don't really want to give anything away, but it's enjoyable. I always felt that Modesitt should have followed Lerris from The Magic of Recluce a little more, but I hear that happens a little later in the whole Saga. In fact, I've actually started reading the books in the order of their history in the world rather than in order of their release. That's probably a better idea for anyone that's getting into these stories.

Rating: 6 CBs - Modesitt is a good writer that gives you an engaging story without 900 pages. Not that I don't want 900 pages, I just like that you can sit down and read it in a week if you aren't doing other stuff.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Passage

The PassageMy wife purchased this book through a book club a few months back and I finally got around to reading it. The Passage also happens to be on the top 100 books to read by Amazon found here. She thought it would be right up my alley, but since I started The Stand and this was said to be similar to that book I thought I'd give it a little time before attempting it. But here I am, finished with a new book and still working on buttoning up the other huge novel. It was probably worth jumping ship though.

The Passage is part story and part fictitious history lesson. You follow a few groups of people throughout the novel that's locale varies from Colorado to California. In fact, some of the story happens right around where we're presently residing. It was nice to hear about Thousand Palms, Banning, and the wind farms. Back to it, the story is about a potential cure-all turned weapon by the American government. That weapon is released, accidentally, and ends up bringing the eventual end of the human civilization. It really is a cross of I Am Legend and The Stand. It's still it's own story even with the similarities. The 700-page book spans about 100 years and rarely feels like it. ;-)

It's a well written book. Cronin does a good job describing the scene and the emotions of the players. You don't need a huge imagination for his writing. I did have a little problem seeing the characters as little more than teenagers even though I believe they were mostly in their mid to late twenties. Maybe I just glossed that over.  LOL, that just made me think that this is almost a vampire Red Dawn! Doesn't that make you want to leave the book alone... and that's not my intent. If anything the book is worth the read, but I wasn't happy with the ending. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but it was left a little more open ended than I would have preferred. Perhaps Cronin is looking at doing a sequel, but I would like to know how it all went on. *sigh*

Rating: 7 CB's - good book; couldn't put it down; want real ending.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music (Brad and Michele Moore Roots Music Series)Most people, whether they are into music or not, have heard the catchy tunes of Buddy Holly at some point in their lives.  They remain an influence on many artists of varied genres even today.  His untimely death (with other promising musicians) is often referred to as the Day the Music Died.  But for the musicians, songwritters, and artists of his hometown, the music never stopped.  This is the topic of my latest read: Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music.  The book is a compilation of interviews with twenty-five artists who came from or drifted into and were influenced by Lubbock, Texas - the home of Buddy Holly. 
My interest in this book is based on my lifelong love of some of these very artists: Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Terry Allen.  But it is amazing just how many artists are from the flatland that makes up Lubbock's landscape.  Although I have never spent any time in Lubbock, I feel I know the story: small town hoping to be something bigger, but never qutie making it.  All the trappings of the Bible belt: a church on every corner and bars on the outskirts of town.  The struggle to find something to pass the time, to make a way out of town, and the sense of home that draws you back when you leave. 
The legacy of Buddy Holly went almost completely unnoticed by the citizens of Lubbock (until the Chamber found out it was a moneymaking venture) and many of the artists of Lubbock have gone mostly unnoticed by mainstream anything.  Nonetheless, that is just how most of them would want it.  They do it for the love of music, not to make money.  I am so happy that Chris Oglesby took the time to record some of these stories. 
If you are uninitiated in the music of West Texas (or Texas in general), this book is a great starting point.
Rating: 6 of 7