Book Review: The Rook

by on Oct.05, 2012, under Readings

The RookThe Rook by Daniel O’Malley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A clever novel that left me wishing there was more to read. I thought it was a nice stand-alone break from some of the many volume series I’ve been reading lately. I think this would make a great movie adaptation. Definitely recommended for sci-fi and conspiracy theory genre fans.

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Rule Breaking in the Best of Ways

by on Oct.01, 2012, under Readings

This week is the 30th anniversary of the National literary community’s Banned Books Week. During this week, a concerted effort is made by libraries and bookstores to draw attention to censorship issues and the books that have drawn the most intense debate for their content, be it for sexually explicit situations, offensive language, religious viewpoints or a myriad of other taboo topics.

I was just talking to a teacher friend of mine at dinner last night about the close-mindedness some of her young high school students already exhibit in reading about ideas that don’t match their own. It saddened us both that these young minds had already been indoctrinated into the “if it doesn’t fall in line with my belief system then it must have little or no value and thus shouldn’t warrant any examination” system of thinking. As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of reading. I am not specific about what I encourage people to read, just that there is always value and new knowledge to be gained by this simple act. Expanding one’s mind is a wonderful side-effect of being entertained by the written word.

My mom is a huge bookworm, thus it is from her I come by my love of reading naturally. I still remember the first real novel I read all by myself which opened a door in my imagination that I ran through and have never looked back at. The BFG by Ronald Dahl changed me forever and I can’t thank Ronald Dahl enough.

I am proud that, through schooling, personal curiosity and rebellion, I can say I have read a number of the books on the current Banned and Challenged Book List. New ideas, even some that are hard to face, can open your mind to a greater understanding of our fellow man and why they sometimes do the seemingly crazy things they do. The world can be a gritty, cruel, and disillusioning place.  Hiding these books and their portrayals is not going to change these fundamentals. Facing them head on and getting your mind in the mix can however, better arm you to deal with the unpleasant side of life. If you are a parent and think your precious snowflake is too young to understand or be exposed to the sexually charged and seedy underbelly of society, turn on an episode of the Jersey Shore or just about any PG-13 movie, and they will be assaulted with enough exposed flesh, profanity, violence and sexual situations to deem these arguments against merely reading about such topics as hypocritical and invalid.

For the TL;DR crowd: Pick up a book from the Banned and Challenged Book List and open your mind! Just don’t blame me if you happen to select Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence and start feeling a little randy.

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Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by on Apr.25, 2010, under Readings

Apparently I was a few years behind in discovering this book. This, the first novel in the Millennium series, was initially published in 2005 after the authors untimely death the prior year. According to the Wiki, three finished yet unpublished manuscripts where found amongst his belonging while his estate was being dispositioned. They made the author, Stieg Larsson, a posthumous best-seller and garnered several awards.

I found this to be an excellent read. The Crime/Mystery genre is not one I tend to gravitate to, so a novel must be fairly captivating and not overly intricate to hold my attention (lets face it, I can only keep track of so many sub-plots and double-crosses). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a wonderfully dramatic mystery that really ramped up my desire to read more the deeper I got into the story. For the main mystery being explored, the disappearance of Harriet Vanger some 40 years ago, I was certain I had figured out the villain at least half a dozen times, and I was still surprised when the final reveal came. The other 2 sub-plots, the Wennerström affair and the personal life conundrum of Lisbeth Salander, were also both compelling, but I found only one to be really satisfying. I love when the good-guy gets his revenge, it just warms the cockles of my heart.

The character for whom the book is titled, Lisbeth Salander, is a strangely compelling girl, who’s life the author only gives teasing glimpses of. Finding more out about her dark past and how it shaped her into her present self will definitely spur me on into reading the next book in the series. The other main protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, was very well developed and gave an interesting impression of a European man. He has a very nonchalant attitude about sex and keeps the company of several women throughout the book, but at the same time he holds a very defined sense of moral and ethical responsibility, as exemplified by his continual reference to his ‘Trust Capital’.

I also very much enjoyed reading a novel what was not written by an American author. It had an interesting European slant with names, places, and references that were not the commonplace cliches often written about in American fiction. It made me use my imagination more then usual, which I found fun and engaging. Trying to envision the small community of Hedeby Island, with it’s old WWII bunker, the inlet by Gottfried’s cabin, and the bridge that was it’s the only access other then by boat (which plays a significant role in the mystery) gave my mind lots to ponder. Hearing descriptions of Stockholm and the other suburban communities of Sweden piqued my curiosity about the county (mind you, it’s still much too cold for me to contemplate visiting at any time other the the peak of summer).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo does contain some fairly graphic descriptions of misogynistic violence, as hinted at by the original Swedish title, which translates to “Men who Hate Women”. But if you are not squeamish, this is defiantly worth wading through the marginal amount of grisly brutality for a great who-done-it story with a few surprising twists at the end.

Side Note: There was a film adaptation made of this story, and the other books of the series, by a Swedish production company a few years ago. The rights were apparently sold to a US company and it had a limited release in US theaters in March of 2010. I am hoping to find a US DVD release of this, as I think this is a story that would translate well to the big screen. If anyone happens across it, please let me know.

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Another Book List

by on Apr.23, 2010, under Readings

Since I decided that I needed to up my level of knowledge of classic literature, I have been keeping a look out for lists of recommendations that will help me achieve my goal. Strangely enough, I am not really sure exactly what my goal is. One day I just woke up an realized, the joy I had previous felt about having dodged all those tedious reading and essay assignments in school left a large whole in my education. Not that I have a great memory for these types of things, but it would be cool to once in a while whip out a high-brow reference to some famous work, or actually get a literary quip rather then just smiling and nodding as if I totally understand (then later having to secretly wiki on my phone). To this end, I have already finished a few classics; A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol and am in the midst of Memiors of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland. I also have a personal to-read list that is growing a bit intimidating as I find more to add.

This is an interesting list as it is not just some random person’s opinions of books they consider famous or worthy of reading, but books that other authors have recommended as good reads. I have to admit, I don’t recognize many names on this list, but I few I have heard of, and even one I have read. A so a few more titles go on my list.

50 Famous Authors and Their All-Time Favorite Books

Quick Note: If you haven’t heard of it already and like me, are interested in reading some classic literature, there is a wonderful site where you can download full versions of books where the copyrights have expired and they are now able to be distributed for free, Project Gutenberg. I use this in conjunction with a free e-reader I have for my iPhone, but they also provide PDF versions of books that can be read on just about any electronic device these days. They have loads of great titles, all for no cost to you!

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Book Review: Priceless Memories

by on Apr.07, 2010, under Readings

If you grew up anytime between the early 70’s and and the late 90’s, you know who Bob Barker is. The Price is Right together with Bob Barker was a firm fixture of American television for 35 years. While TPIS continues on without Bob, it just doesn’t seem to hold the same endearment as it once did with Bob at the mic. Bob Barker’s memoir, Priceless Memories, was a wonderful recollection of not just Bob’s time on TPIS, but also of his entire life leading up to and beyond his most famous hosting gig. (continue reading…)

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