"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, 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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The One with Fahrenheit 451

364. Title & Author: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (164 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Science Fiction
Completed: 21 August 2016
Summary & Review:
In a dystopian future, Guy Montag works as a fireman. But in this world, firemen don’t exist to put out fires, they start them. They hunt out printed books hidden and sequestered by brave souls and burn them. After one particularly gruesome job where the book owner burned herself along with her volumes, Guy starts to question why the books have to be burned at all. What’s in them that is so dangerous?

This was a decently entertaining book. I thought the future presented by Bradbury was an interesting world and Montag was a reasonably likable protagonist. My only complaint was that Bradbury was at times a little too heavy handed with his message. He was almost sermonizing at times and he didn’t need to be quite so “hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer-again-and-again" with the message.

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The One with Fight Club

363. Title & Author: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (222 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Novel
Completed: 15 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Trapped in a dead-end job with no prospects, no family, and no happiness, the unnamed narrator suffers from severe insomnia. The only way he can sleep is by visiting cancer support groups and crying his eyes out. That is the only way he can sleep, that is, until he meets Tyler Durden. After a night of drinking, Tyler asks him to punch him as hard as he can and the first Fight Club is born. As the club grows, it soon becomes about more than just letting out anger and aggression and morphs into Project Mayhem, a movement dedicated to the destruction of modern civilization. Can Tyler be stopped before it is too late?

Believe it or not, at its heart, Fight Club is a love story between the narrator and Marla, a girl he meets at one of his support groups. But, this is definitely not a Nicholas Sparks love story. Mixed in with the growing relationship between the two is anarchy, violence, schizophrenia, terrorism, and more.

The 1999 movie adaptation of this book was awesome and for a long time I was interested in reading the novel. Seeing the movie first kind of ruined the major revelation or surprise in the book, but oh well.

Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The One with Me Talk Pretty One Day

362. Title & Author: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (292 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Humor
Completed: 9 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Humorist David Sedaris tackles topics from learning a foreign language to growing up in North Carolina with his trademark wit and incisive observations in this collection of short stories and essays.

I've previously read Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames and while I enjoyed some of that book, many of the chapters weren't really to my liking. Overall, this was a more enjoyable book. While not every story was laugh out loud funny, some were, which is an impressive feat for a book. Especially hilarious were his accounts of attempting to learn French.

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The One with In the Garden of Beasts

361. Title & Author: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (365 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History
Completed: 3 August 2016

Summary & Review:
Historian and college professor William Dodd was chosen as ambassador to Germany in 1933 just as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were rising to power. An unlikely pick for an ambassador, the bookish Dodd stepped on many toes, both at home in the United States and in interwar Germany. Accompanying him was his wife and two twenty-something children, and together they witnessed as Hitler and the Nazis consolidated power and terrorized the German people.

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I was eager to read it. The subject matter is definitely something that interests me, but Larson took a rather strange approach to it. Rather than really delving into the details behind the Nazis rise and what it was truly like to live there during those early years of Hitler’s rule, he spent almost a third of the book discussing Dodd’s daughter Martha and her extensive love life. Not only did Martha have numerous affairs with married men including the head of the Gestapo, but she ended up spying for the Soviets against the United States and died in exile in Prague behind the Iron Curtain. Larson quoted Martha as saying how horrible the Nazis were but she completely embraced Soviet Communism which was responsible for millions more deaths than Nazism. Larson even had the gall to write, regarding Martha, “She died in 1990 at the age of eighty-two, not precisely a hero…”. Not precisely a hero?!? Not even close. In what world would she ever be considered a hero?

Anyway, I thought Larson’s pace was slow and his choice of emphasis puzzling so I doubt I’ll read any of his other works, despite them being best sellers.

Rating: 3.5