28 March 2012

32. The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

This was a great book. I loved it. I thought it got a little soap-operaish at times, but other than that it was fantastic. BIG, and fantastic. All the French words made me mad.

22 March 2012

31. The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse - Robert Rankin

Very different. Very fun. Made me laugh a lot and was still interested enough to keep wondering what would happen next.

I am not sure how to categorize this book. Science Fiction using nursery rhymes and toys? It is odd. Then again, why does it need a category at all. Let it be outside the main stream.

The story is about a guy named Jack who sets out to the big city to seek his fortune. When he gets to the city he finds that it is a Toy City...yes, actually populated by living breathing toys. He also finds that there is a serial killer on the loose who is killing all the old rich and famous nursery rhyme characters (Humpty Dumpty, Mother Goose, Little Boy Blue, etc.)

Jack falls in with Eddie Bear, who is a private detective who works with the recently "disappeared" Bill Winkie. Jack and Eddie embark on an adventure to solve the crimes and catch the killer. Along the way there is much debauchery, car chases, gratuitous sex and violence, heavy drinking, bad behavior and much more.

There is also some really interesting use of language and "linguistic trickery" used by the author that makes it even more fun to read. This is a crime novel in a fantasy world and written in a nursery rhymey happy-happy joy-joy way at times. I really enjoyed it.

As I was reading I tagged a bunch of areas with post-it-notes to use in this blog. That is the only way I can explain what I mean by the author's writing style was fun. Robert Rankin is a strange fellow.

FYI...that stupid Read Like a Professor book did make me see things differently. That bastard! Like Jack falling into a hole, and then falling some more...and then things got weird. Much like Alice.

I found one of the most interesting character flaws in all of fiction to be an idiosyncrasy of Eddie. Eddie was unable to use corroborative nouns. It was hilarious at times and was used over and over in the book. So much in fact that Jack even picked up on speaking that way toward the end of the book. It became "normal". "But I can't do corroborative nouns. None of us are perfect, are we? I can get started. As big as, as foul as, as obscene as. But I can't get any further. But that's life for you again. As unfair as.... Listen, wouldn't you rather go to a bar and have a drink?"

I read the following paragraphs many times. There is a lot of truth to it and much more than just from the perspective of a silly novel. I loved this... "We really can only truly know what we personally experience. And when we experience something entirely new, something that we have never experienced before, it can come as something of a shock. And it can be hard at first to fully comprehend.
    Jack, for instance, had never before heard a really big, expensive silkwood apartment door being smashed from its hinges. And so the sounds of its smashing were alien to his ears.
    The frabious grametting of the lock against its keep was positively malagrous in its percundity. The greebing and snattering was starkly blark.
    And as for the spondabulous carapany that the broken door made as it struck the vestibule floor...
    ....the word phnargacious is hardly sufficient.
    Rapantaderely phnargacious would be more accurate.
    And as for what happened after this, it is probably all for the best that Jack neither heard nor saw any of it."

Rankin even used a form of somnambulist..."For those who are unacquainted with the career of Little boy Blue subsequent to his period of employment as a somnambulant shepherd...."

Beautiful quote..."And, as every successful dictator knows, it's far easier to convince a thousand people en masse of a bad idea, than it is to convince a single individual. It's a herd thing."

Rankin would use this little ditty repeatedly when he wanted the reader to understand something. "Now it is a fact, well known to those who know it well...." followed by what he wanted the reader to know. That cracked me up every time.

Every once in a while the writing would just go off on a wild ride for no apparent reason. Like this..."It was a suspicious affair, with man sized chairs and tables. These were all of pink plastic and pale pitch-pine. The walls were pleasantly painted with pastel portraits or portly personages, pigging out on prodigious portions of pie - which, considering the alliterative nature of the breakfast served by the toymaker, may or may not have been some kind of culinary running gag."

Humor abounds..."You're not supposed to be drunk when you get involved with matters such as this: Big Matters, Matters of an Apocalyptic Nature. You're supposed to be coldly sober. And you just can't be coldly sober when you're drunk. But then, if you really did find yourself involved in Matters of an Apocalyptic Nature, you'd need a few stiff ones under your belt before you got going with saving the world."

More humor..."'Some other pretext then. We'll engage him in casual conversation and subtly draw him into a theoretical discussion. Then you could put your theory to him in a hypothetical manner, which will not imply any implicit knowledge on our part as to his potential status as a deity.'
    "Say all that again", said Eddie
    "Don't be absurd,' said Jack, 'I don't know how I managed it the first time. Somebody help me."

One last example... "We all know who is doing this to us. We dare not wait for the inevitable to occur. We have to take steps. Do something about it.'
    'I don't agree.' said Mary Mary.
    'Well, you wouldn't, would you dear? You being so contrary and everything."

30. The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

Henry James was definitely a guy who liked words. He uses a lot of them. A thought that could be conveyed with ten words takes James thirty. That being said, it is my only "complaint" with this book.

It was suspenseful and interesting....and old.

07 March 2012

29. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

A friend wrote this synopsis and little review a while ago.
"Twenty-four children: twelve boys, twelve girls, tributes selected by random lottery every year and sent to the capitol city of Panem to compete in a brutal, bloodthirsty fight for survival, with the last participant standing declared champion.
Welcome to the Hunger Games, a grim reminder to those living in the twelve districts comprising what was once the United States of their place as virtual slaves to the gleaming Capitol at their center.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is this year's female representative for District 12, having volunteered to take her younger sister Prim's place. Sent to the arena with the baker's son and classmate, Peeta Mellark -- a boy who, several years prior, saved Kat and her family from the ravages of starvation after her father's death in a coal mining accident -- neither competitor from the final district seem to be contenders.But Peeta's good nature and Kat's small stature belie the former's cunning intelligence and the latter's experience as a hunter; while a revelation from Peeta during the introductory ceremonies sends Katniss into the first day of competition more than a little off-kilter.
The stage is set, the tributes have arrived, and the cameras are watching...let the games begin.
It is no exaggeration to call THE HUNGER GAMES a pulse-pounding page-turner. Collins grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. While Katniss isn't always the most likable character (in fact, there were plenty of times I much preferred the affable Peeta, or even sweet, birdlike little Ruth), she is always compelling, thanks to her rational approach to every challenge and her dogged determination.While THE HUNGER GAMES is a plot-driven novel, the characters and their relationships are the heart of the story. Ms. Collins has created a dystopian tale of Orwellian caliber for young adults."
I agree with that assessment. It is a great read and is exciting. It is definitely not difficult. It is Young Adult fiction. How difficult can it be?
I saw reviews for the movie coming out soon. I will go see it and hope they stick to the book. Will I read the rest of the trilogy? Probably not. There are so many other books to read. I did pass this one off to my teens. Two of them are "already reading something", one has no interest in the book but will watch the movie, and one grabbed it hoping it didn't suck. She will probably be happy with the read.
The ruthlessness of some of the children really threw me, but it is supposed to be a different time and their society has changed a lot.
The character of Rue fascinated me and I felt genuinely sad when she died. Poor kid.

05 March 2012

28. How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Hot to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines - Thomas C. Foster

I was really hoping to enjoy this book more and to learn a lot more than I did. I picked up a few tips and hints, but nothing like I had envisioned before picking up this book. The biggest thing I learned was that even at a professorial level you are still limited by your own experiences and your own memory as to how you are going to translate or interpret literature. Everyone will see things differently. The same person at different times will see different things.

What is the point then? Mostly it is to get past the emotional reader level as the only reaction to a book. That will always be a prime reason for me to read. I like how a book can repulse me or make me smile. Those are emotional reactions. But this book tries to explain why I get those reactions on more than just a feel good or bad level.

It was interesting to read about the different topics the author wanted to discuss. There were chapters called: Every Trip Is a Quest (Except When It's Not), If It's Square, It's a Sonnet, When in Doubt, It's from Shakespeare..., ...Or the Bible, It's Greek to Me, It's More Than Just Rain or Snow, Is That a Symbol, It's All About Sex..., ...Except Sex, and so on. Each one of them showed how an author uses little tricks of the trade to relate his story back to something you have seen before in order to elicit a given response.

There were some highlighted one line tidbits throughout the book that explained a lot:
"The real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge."
"Ghosts and vampires are never only about ghosts and vampires."
"There is no such thing a wholly original work of literature."
"It's never just rain."
"Flight is freedom."
"Irony trumps everything."
"When writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok."

You know what really pissed me off about this book though? I was hoping to learn from it. I was hoping to garner some kind of secrets from the inner sanctum. I was hoping to get a peak into the workers of a secret society, if only for a second. I went in with high expectations and even higher hopes...until page three. Yep, page THREE!

The first example the author used to explain something he wanted his reader to understand...the one he found to be the perfect example to go first...was this...
"I always begin with the greatest quest novel of the last century: Thomas Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 (1965)."
As you may remember from my review about two weeks ago concerning The Crying of Lot 49...I didn't like that book. So, this man told me on page three that he was one of those pretentious asses that is going to turn crap into something significant because it is so beyond anything of it's kind...blah blah. From that moment I knew I was not going to get what I was looking for and hoped to pick up a little thing here or there that I could use. I did that. But, overall the book ended up solving nothing and leaving a ton of stuff open to whatever the reader wanted it to be.

Is that a symbol for something? It can be if it symbolizes something to you. It is whatever it is for whomever wants it to be whatever they want it to be. Yackity yack yack yack. I think I will just stick to enjoying a book and not analyzing it through the eyes of Plato or Shakespeare. I am perfectly happy being one of the ignorant masses that will never be a snobbish member of the elite academia. Whatever.

I am glad I didn't pay for this one.

27. Pastor Dad

Pastor Dad: Scriptural Insights on Fatherhood - Mark Driscoll
This is a free e-book that began life as a sermon given by Pastor Mark Driscoll in Seattle.

You can read it on line or download a pdf file here.

I downloaded it and read it on my kindle.

The description of the book says:
"Every dad is a pastor. The important thing is that he is caring for his flock well. This book by Pastor Mark Driscoll looks at the ways that a father can raise his children well."

The things this little book covered as far as what a father should be and what his biblical duties are are quite correct. I agree with him and think that biblically defined fatherhood has declined and it has had serious repercussions in our society. So, I utterly agree with the premise of this book.

That being said, I didn't like some of the "all or nothing" extreme examples left me turned off. An example of what I mean? At the end of a long explanation of what the church can do to change the way men look at fatherhood. What is the result they are looking for? "We can point them to Proverbs, by which they will become wise men who think about the joy of playing with their grandkids one day rather than being yet another dirty old man sitting in the corner of some dingy strip club by himself on Christmas Day."

What is my problem with that? It assumes you will either be a wonderful biblical dad, or you will be a sleazy lonely pervert. I ran into those kind of extremes a few different times in the writing. I disagree with that. I don't think those kinds of statements help make a point. It just leaves room for people to discount the good points made because it used bad examples.

The little book was great and full of good biblical advice for fathers.

(FYI...I am not advocating for nor do I know enough to form an opinion on; Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, The Resurgence or The Acts 29 Network. That stuff might be wonderful. It could also be the next big flop due to the normal failures of churches and movements in our society. I have no idea.)

03 March 2012