Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ender's Game

by Orson Scott Card

Long before Harry Potter saved the wizarding world, Ender Wiggin battled the buggers to save the universe. As one of the youngest students ever to enter soldier training, Ender's intelligence and compassion set him apart from his classmates in a number of ways. In each stage of his training, the instructors use isolation techniques to help mold Ender into a commander who they believe holds their only hope of victory against the invading armies of buggers. While Ender is in space making a name for himself, his siblings, left behind on Earth, begin plotting a take-over to gain their own recognition.

You will find Ender's Game on nearly every Top 10 Sci-fi books list, but don't write it off as a simple space story, it is much more than that. Card delivers a story of personal growth and relationships, of society and humanity.  His characters are interesting and believable (in relation to the scenario), the plot is engaging with a little surprise thrown in for good measure, and while this is the first in a series, the cliff hanger doesn't leave you unsettled.

This book is being made into a movie expected to come out Fall 2013. I'd recommend reading the book before then, it is fast and fun, and I think has lots of movie potential. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Shining

By Stephen King

I decided to do a re-read of The Shining since King is coming out with a new book in September featuring Danny Torrence. Many of you know my introduction to Stephen King in the early '80's with The Dead Zone (which hooked me for life- if you haven't read it, do), followed in quick succession by Carrie and The Shining then reading whatever else he wrote (almost). So it's been many years since reading this one. Anyway, I remembered the story pretty well. Jack and Danny and redrum and the Overlook Hotel are hard to forget (in part due to the movie, which I didn't see). A few things I picked up on in this re-read were some themes King brings out in later novels (he is a master of this! If you've read many of his books, you learn to look for connections from and to his other works). For example, when I read It, a few years later, I didn't recall how many times the bad spirit in the Overlook was referred to as "it", there's the swarm of wasps, which kinda reappear in The Green Mile and I was reminded how King loves a good explosion!

This book isn't overly scary, it's kind of a mix between a creepy psycho and a haunted house story. I never saw the movie because I'm a chicken, I don't do scary movies well and Jack Nicholson creeps me out! And I still don't think I could see it, mostly because of Jack (Nicholson) not the story line.

Even though this book isn't one of my favorites, I am biased when it comes to Stephen King, the man can pull you in and keep you going. Just read him!

If you need to know where to start just ask. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Professor and the Madman

by Simon Winchester

Subtitled: A tale of Murder, Insanity and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, which should instantly hook you and drag you right in! Ok, the murder and insanity part, but making the dictionary? As impossible as it may seem that a book about writing the dictionary could hold your attention, Winchester manages to pull off a very entertaining and engaging history of the demand for and the 70-year mission to create a dictionary of English words, their derivation and the development of their usage.

The project was led by James Murray, who sent out requests to the public interested in reading, identifying and quoting any and all words of the English language. Surprisingly, hundreds of volunteers sent thousands of "catch word" slips daily to the Professor. The requirements for each entry were specific: word spelling, pronunciation, etmyology, quotation(s) including source material, and definition; and Murray was an exacting master. One of his most dedicated and valuable contributors was Dr. William Chester Minor who furnished more than 10,000 definitions. It wasn't until years after Minor's involvement began that Murray discovered Minor was an involuntary resident in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

As I am such a fan of little known history, this book was right up my alley. If at times it is a bit melodramatic, it is well researched and a quick interesting read. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Mill River Recluse

by Darcie Chan

Just say NO! Do not be tempted by the $.99 kindle download, you will feel ripped off. Do not be misled by the rave reviews, Ms. Chan must have a very large family. And particularly if you're a lover of mysteries or psychological thrillers, do not read the book description and be duped. The Mill River Recluse is neither.

I almost didn't include the hyperlink because I don't want to be held accountable to anyone who reads this book. 

The Age of Innocence

by Edith Wharton

It seems like sociology was a major theme for writers in the late nineteenth century. If so, The Age of Innocence falls right in place, exposing much of the social structure in New York City during the late 1800's. Wharton details class attitudes, cultural mores and gender expectations through the relationship of  May Welland and Newland Archer. May is very conventional and is concerned about her place within her circle, her attire and the way her peers might judge her. While Archer also holds to these traditions, he struggles with the rigidity and desires change and freedom. 

While this was not my favorite book in this genre, it is very well written and adeptly expresses the atmosphere of that generation. My particular aversion to this novel was with the internal struggle faced by Newland Archer and the way in which May responded to his trial, despite the fact that I am certain those were both typical reactions. Personally, I'll say this book was okay.