Friday, March 30, 2012

Before I Go To Sleep

by S.J. Watson

Let me begin by saying that the premise of this book is rather intriguing. A woman suffers from both long term and short term memory loss after a terrible accident resulting in each day being new to her. Every morning, Christine wakes up in a home she does not recognize, to a man she doesn't know as her husband, not really knowing who she is and having no recollection of a past beyond her youth. Her husband has gone to extreme lengths to make accommodations for her memory loss and patiently retells her stories any time she has a fleeting glimpse of some past event. As the story progresses, Christine begins keeping a journal and discovers that her husband's stories are full of holes, and thus begins the mystery.

While I liked the idea of Before I Go To Sleep, midway through I found it dragging a bit and even somewhat predictable. Long before the end I knew what was going to happen, which I won't divulge for those who will choose to read it. I also found several problems that made it tough to swallow what happened. Without giving too much away I'll mention that both the relationship with her doctor and the deal with her son just didn't work. In particular, if the doctor had a file on her, which the story indicates he did, then he would have known much earlier about some of the discrepancies.

Overall, it was a decent read and would be great made into movie.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Back of the Napkin

by Dan Roam

My husband picked up this book after a sparked interest in sketchnotes. After hearing him talk about it, along with several blog posts on the subject, I thought this method might be of some use to me. I will admit, I did not read the entire book, but only part one; part two consists of using the method in specific work situations and examples, which didn't apply to my needs. As I went through The Back of the Napkin I was reminded of my mom. From my recollection, she incorporated sketching into many of her notes and always when writing things for us kids. I always thought she was such a great artist! I can remember her drawing faces into every little swirly doodle :)

My main reason for thinking to apply sketchnotes was for my daily Bible reading. I have started a daily schedule to read through Acts and the epistles in 90 days. In the beginning, the program has me reading one chapter from Acts and one from Romans each day. After day 3, I felt a little bewildered in keeping track of the flow of events in each book, so I thought I'd jot down the highlights of each chapter and glance over those before the daily readings. Here is what I came up with for the first chapters:

Acts 1: Jesus ascends up to heaven and the apostles replace Judas with Matthias by casting lots.

Romans 1: Paul desires to go to Rome and God hands people over to their sinful desires.

What I have discovered so far (I'm only at chapter 6 in each book) is that sketching Acts is much easier than sketching Romans! The Acts is an historical account of people, places and things while Romans speaks of ideas, convictions and beliefs. I'm challenged in visualizing these concepts. Despite that, I think taking the time to visualize and sketch these chapters is helping me order and remember them.
I'm not sure how well I'd do taking sketchnotes in real time, like during a lecture, but I'm going to try it on Sunday morning's sermon. The book gives very practical steps in visualizing and sketching using six x six rules of what we see and what we show. I believe with practice this would be a great note-taking method.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes

This book won the 2011 Man Booker Award after the author having several titles on that list in the past few years. The Sense of an Ending is an analytical novella of memories and remembering, time, history, death and life, self-examination, forgiving and forgiveness, and guilt.

Tony is an aging man reflecting on his rather average life, from young adulthood through middle-age. When he is reunited with a friend of his youth, through an unfortunate event, he must come to terms with his incomplete memory and the history he has created for himself. He realizes "history is that certainty produced at the point where imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

Through the narration, readers can't help but contemplate their own lives and memories and actions they look back on with regret. This story is not overly wordy, but is full of the right words. I read several reviewer comments regarding the somewhat confusing conflict between Tony and his ex-lover, Veronica and their frustration at "not getting it" but am convinced this is an intentional act by the author to put the reader in the shoes of the main character. I liked the philosophical nature of this book.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

This book has received much publicity and praise since its release and is now the basis of a major motion picture to be released this spring, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy aimed at young adults. My feelings are mixed on this one; the story did keep your attention, but the premise was hard to take. Here we have a twelve district country suffering under a cruel totalitarian regime, that as part of its control mechanism forces each district to offer two of their children (12-18 year olds) as competitors in an annual gladiator-type event.

In this story,  24 teens are chosen by lottery and then spend several days preparing themselves to enter an arena where they hunt each other down and savagely murder one another, the victor is the sole survivor. The entire event is aired on live tv throughout the districts, where viewing is required, and passed off as entertainment (think Roman Empire). These hunger games have been in effect for 74 years to remind the citizens of the futility of rebellion. There is only a hint of objection from the main characters to this brutality, who are helpless to rebel and can only fulfill their obligation in the arena. I know many futuristic novels have similar themes, but I find it a bit disturbing that this is such a wildly popular novel for teens.

I will give the author credit for writing a very readable book that kept the story moving forward at a fast pace. However, much of the story and dialogue seem forced and I found Katniss (the main character) a little shallow. Despite that, readers will cheer for her success. I realize my opinion is a great minority, maybe I was expecting too much after all of the promotion. Since this is only book one, I will at least read the next in this series hoping for a better future.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Twisted Perception

by Bob Avey

Naturally, since I decided to take the Criminal Plots challenge, I selected a book that would meet one of the requirements. Twisted Perception is written by an Oklahoma author and is Avey's debut novel. The premise of the story is that Detective Elliot, who is investigating a murder that may be connected to a serial killer, also happens to be the main suspect. Oddly enough, Elliot himself isn't sure whether or not he's guilty. Most chapters are told from the third person with some narrations from the killer's perspective interspersed throughout the story. To reinforce the confusion, many of the killers thoughts and experiences coincide with Elliot's. I found these interjected accounts a bit creepy and because the author wanted to disguise the killer, his narrations were elusive to the point of distraction.

A lot of characters had similar names that played into the outcome, but I found some of the relationships far-fetched. Since I don't like giving spoilers, I'll say there was a twist, which made the ending somewhat unexpected but not entirely. The book was a quick, easy read, overall okay.