"One's time for reading is so limited that it seems one might best spend it upon what one knows is good rather than take chances on what one is not sure of."

-Albert Jay Nock

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The One with Eligible

371. Title & Author: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (492 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Humor & Romance
Completed: 17 October 2016

Summary & Review:
This modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice finds “Liz” Bennet in a relationship with a married man before having “hate sex” with Darcy until she finally falls in love with him. Romantic. Sprinkled throughout are plenty of examples of nausea-inducing PCisms as Sittenfeld shows off her social justice bonafides by making the older white characters racist, homophobic, and of course, transphobic.

Here’s a list of things I want from a novel: entertainment. Here’s a list of things I don’t want from a novel: paragraphs long lectures about transsexualism. Who wants to be talked down to, lectured to, and patronized while reading a novel? Not me. Sittenfeld is a talented writer and there were aspects to this book that were funny and readable, which makes the finished product so frustrating. It could have been a fun book, but instead Sittenfeld felt compelled to stuff it full of all the latest leftist fads from feminism (she literally whined about how the father “giving away” the daughter at a wedding was, paraphrasing here, “creepily patriarchal”), to racism (of course Mrs. Bennet, the WASP matriarch of the family can’t stand having a black realtor), to the afore mentioned transsexualism (or as Sittenfeld insists on teaching the reader, what is now called “transgenderism”).

Rating: 1.0

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The One with Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists

370. Title & Author: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists by J.K. Rowling (63 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Fantasy
Completed: 11 October 2016

Summary & Review:
Over the years, J.K. Rowling has published numerous shorts on her website Pottermore. A selection of these is presented here that explore a few characters more in-depth including Professor Quirrell, Professor Slughorn, Dolores Umbridge, and Peeves the Poltergeist.

The format of most of these stories was almost like an encyclopedia rather than a narrative which I wish wasn't the case. Everything I've read from Rowling in the Harry Potter universe that's been published since the end of the series has been like that. This makes for slightly more dry reading and doesn't let Rowling's storytelling ability really shine through. But, despite that, there were still some interesting bits of trivia.

Rating: 5.0

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The One with Dubliners

369. Title & Author: Dubliners by James Joyce (264 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Literature 
Completed: 4 October 2016

Summary & Review: 
This volume is a collection of fifteen short stories depicting Irish middle class life around the turn of the twentieth century. The stories are divided into three categories, beginning with those centering on childhood, followed by adolescence, and then adulthood. 

I was originally interested in reading some of Joyce’s other works, but the Army library only had this volume available for my new Kindle so I gave it a shot. Joyce is clearly a talented writer and the style he used here was one I liked. While some of the stories didn’t quite hold my interest, others were entertaining or insightful or in some other way appealing. All in all, I look forward to reading more of Joyce’s work.

Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The One with Bigger Leaner Stronger

368. Title & Author: Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body by Michael Matthews (286 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Health & Fitness
Completed: 1 October 2016

Summary & Review:
Fitness instructor Michael Matthews presents his guide to building muscle and strength and maintaining a natural, lean physique. Included in the book are motivation and nutrition tips, a guide to supplements, workout plans, and descriptions of how to the do the recommended exercise safely and correctly.

Matthews spent a lot of time in this book covering things like basic physiology and anatomy. While this could be helpful to readers who don’t have much a background in human biology, for me it was a slog through information I already was familiar with. But, once I got into the meat of the book, i.e. the sections on proper dietary regimens for cutting, bulking, or maintaining, and the exercise plans, it became much more interesting. I think I am pretty well sold on the plan—I like how he focuses on a few core exercises rather than a bunch of silly fads. We’ll see how it goes.

Rating: 7.0 (TBD on my rating as far as how it all works out)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The One with The Son

367. Title & Author: The Son by Philipp Meyer (561 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 18 September 2016

Summary & Review:
Eli McCullough and his family—father, mother, sister, and brother—live on the American frontier in Texas during the early nineteenth century. One night, while his father is away, a band of Comanche Indians come and rape and kill his mother and sister and kidnap him and his brother. After his brother dies in captivity, Eli learns to make a life with his captors and eventually is even accepted by them as a member of their tribe. After small pox wipes out the band, Eli returns to life with the White Texans and son builds a wealth that lasts for generations. The stories of three of his descendants are intertwined in the novel with Eli’s story.

My wife’s paternal grandfather recommended this book to me and I can see why. It is an epic novel covering almost 200 years of Texas history. It explores the changes and eventual disappearance of the frontier and how the land was won through battles between Mexicans, Indians, Americans, Spaniards, and more. But, I gotta give this book a fairly low rating because of the three main story lines, the only one I was excited to read when a new chapter came was The Colonel’s. The tale of him being abducted and then basically adopted by the Comanches was pretty fascinating. The stories of his son and great-granddaughter weren’t quite so compelling. Also, Meyer included way too much sex. Granted, the descriptions weren’t very graphic, but it was included an unnecessarily high amount of times.

Rating: 5.5

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The One with Red Planet

366. Title & Author: Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein (234 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Science Fiction
Completed: 5 September 2016

Summary & Review:
After discovering a plot to prevent the colonists on Mars to migrate and avoid the harsh Martian winter, James Marlowe and his alien pet Willis must warn his family and the other members of their small community. The two, along with James friend Frank, escape from their school and make their way back home with the help of a group of Martians who quickly become their friends and allies. After the colonists learn of the plot from the boys, they decide to take matters into their own hands.

Heinlein has quickly become one of my favorite Science Fiction authors. I've heard good things about his young adult novels and decided to give this one a try. While the plot was a little thin, Heinlein was still able to write a readable story. I'll definitely recommend this book to my kids when they get a little older because I loved the morals and principles that Heinlein lionized. He promoted self-reliance, personal liberty, honor, honesty, personal protection, etc.--good 'ole American principles and values. The sad thing is, it felt to strange to be reading a book that treated these things as something to be admired and emulated. It's crazy how much the popular mores have changed in the last 60+ years.

Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The One with A Clockwork Orange

365. Title & Author: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (148 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Novel
Completed: 29 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Alex and his crew spend their evenings terrorizing everyone they encounter. Robbery, rape, murder, vandalism...it’s all on the table and all committed with no thought about right and wrong. When a robbery goes wrong, Alex is betrayed by his crew and ends up in prison. He spends two long years there before he is granted an opportunity for early release is he consents to be the first test subject in a new program designed to “cure” the impulse for violence and other anti-social behaviors. Alex jumps at the chance but soon regrets it.

This was a crazy book. First of all, Burgress wrote the whole thing in a fictional street slang which is laced with a lot of Russian influence and the story is told as if Alex were narrating it to you face to face. Second, there are some incredibly terrible things that happen but Alex describes them so matter of factly (ho, hum) that at first you don’t realize what you just read. But, within all this violence and slang is a discussion on free will and choice which I thought was pretty interesting. As Burgess writes, “A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man.” (115)

Rating: 7.0