Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you - Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters."

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy - and humor.

I'm not quite sure why this is considered one of the best books ever written. It was good. I enjoyed reading it. But I can't say that it blew me away and my life is forever changed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Limu: The Blue Turtle, by Kimo Armitage

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Limu was different than all the other Hawaiian sea turtles - he was blue! But while other turtles made fun of him, Limu still had fun growing up in the sea, bodysurfing the big waves, laughing with seals and making friends big and small. Follow Limu’s adventures, as he discovers that no matter what he looks like on the outside, others like him because of the good turtle he is on the inside.


The moral of the story is one that parents teach their kids: beauty is on the inside. Yadda yadda yadda.

What I disliked about the book was the clear lack of editing. Three sentences in a row end with the word "water." Within a span of four pages, Limu has "never seen so many different types of seaweed before."

My son loves this book, so we read it over and over and over, and I cringe every time I get to these two sections.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1984, by George Orwell

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Thought Police. Big Brother. Orwellian. These words have entered our vocabulary because of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel, 1984. The story of one man's nightmare odyssey as he pursues a forbidden love affair through a world ruled by warring states and a power structure that controls not only information but also individual thought and memory, 1984 is a prophetic, haunting tale.

More relevant than ever before,
1984 exposes the worst crimes imaginable--the destruction of truth, freedom, and individuality.  

 I can't believe it's taken me this long to read 1984, when most people I know read this in High School. Though -- considering how depressed I feel after reading this novel -- perhaps it's best that I haven't read it until now.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

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It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

If I could give this book more than five stars, I would. Zusak's writing is a work of art and the way he describes the world during WWII is a complex mixture of beauty and ugliness. He plays with the senses. Can you imagine "tasting a sound with your ears?"

The characters are real. They laugh, they cry, they make mistakes.

This book is not for the faint of heart. Set during the reign of Adolph Hilter, this book deals with the cruel reality of war. You learn right off the bat that the narrator is Death -- I really, truly love the way he is written -- so you know that this is not a book full of rainbows and puppies.

It's not quick or light, but totally worth it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1), by Charlaine Harris

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Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome - and Sookie can't 'hear' a word he's thinking. He's exactly the kind of guy she's been waiting for all her life.

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire. Worse than that, hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, with a reputation for trouble - of the murderous kind.

And when one of Sookie's colleagues is killed, she begins to fear she'll be next ...

I have never been so happy to finish a book.

I wanted to read the series before watching True Blood on HBO. I should have just watched the show.

There were too many plot holes and I found myself wondering if I had missed something. So I re-read several parts, and it still seemed like things popped up out of nowhere. There was not enough motivation behind her characters' actions to make sense.

I also find it completely unacceptable that a book from a Big Name Publishing Company is sent to press with so many grammatical errors.

The sex scenes? Awful. Horrendous. It seriously made me wonder if Harris had ever had sex, or watched porn, or read anything about sex before. It felt like I was reading a thirteen-year-old virgin's expectation of what sex is like. As written by said thirteen year old. I much preferred Stephenie Meyer's fade-to-black scenes in Breaking Dawn, lame as they were.

Hopefully the show is better.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brother Odd (Odd Thomas #3), by Dean Koontz

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Loop me in, odd one. The words, spoken in the deep of night by a sleeping child, chill the young man watching over her. For this was a favorite phrase of Stormy Llewellyn, his lost love, and Stormy is dead, gone forever from this world. In the haunted halls of the isolated monastery where he had sought peace, Odd Thomas is stalking spirits of an infinitely darker nature

Through two New York Times bestselling novels Odd Thomas has established himself as one of the most beloved and unique fictional heroes of our time. Now, wielding all the power and magic of a master storyteller at the pinnacle of his craft, Dean Koontz follows Odd into a singular new world where he hopes to make a fresh beginning—but where he will meet an adversary as old and inexorable as time itself.

St. Bartholomew’s Abbey sits in majestic solitude amid the wild peaks of California’s high Sierra, a haven for children otherwise abandoned, and a sanctuary for those seeking insight. Odd Thomas has come here to learn to live fully again, and among the eccentric monks, their other guests, and the nuns and young students of the attached convent school, he has begun to find his way. The silent spirits of the dead who visited him in his earlier life are mercifully absent, save for the bell-ringing Brother Constantine and Odd’s steady companion, the King of Rock 'n' Roll.

But trouble has a way of finding Odd Thomas, and it slinks back onto his path in the form of the sinister bodachs he has met previously, the black shades who herald death and disaster, and who come late one December night to hover above the abbey’s most precious charges. For Odd is about to face an enemy who eclipses any he has yet encountered, as he embarks on a journey of mystery, wonder, and sheer suspense that surpasses all that has come before.

I finally got around to reading book #3 in the Odd Thomas series. 

I loved the first two and I expected this to be just as wonderful. And it was. Up to a point. Then I wondered what all the fuss was about. The end was anti-climactic, which is unusual for a Dean Koontz novel. 

I'm hoping that the fourth book is better.