Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Blood Harvest (Extra book)

I think this one was suggested by Lisa Hall… she is such a great reader.  Well, LOOOVVVEEEDD it!  A fast-paced mystery thriller by S.J. Bolton called Blood Harvest.  I am not sure I want to disclose much so as not to ruin the story.  The plot is set in the fictional location of Heptonclough on the Yorkish Penniines, with the moors, the mist, and the people who have never left this place.  Enter a new family to the neighborhood, the Fletcher’s, with three young children living right in front of an old graveyard and guess what you have?  Stephen King, you have nothing on this one!  I could not put this one down as I was reading it during morning workouts at the gym, I would actually add another 10 minutes on the bike to get through the next chapter.  The characters are believable, intriguing, and the story doesn’t stop for a moment.  From the first page to the last, it moves.  I was somewhat surprised by the ending, (not the strongest part of the book), but it works.  This one will have you at the edge of your seat.  The author wasn’t afraid to offer real-life language and response to a book I thought would turn more into a 1950s response, it didn’t!  If you have the chance, pick this one up.  Sorry I’m not revealing more than this… want to whet your appetite.  Go and get this one!

The Angel’s Game (Extra book)

This may be an extra read today but at some point an RA will be listing this as a favorite book, for sure.  The author penned one of MY favorite all time books (Shadow of the Wind), and this is book, The Angel’s Game, is much in the same vain as Shadow of the Wind.  The Angel’s Game occurs before Shadow of the Wind and a few cross-over characters are in the book, as are a few of the locations, namely Barcelona, the place the book is set.  A young boy (David Martin), who becomes fatherless (his mother left the family year’s prior), is now being financially supported by one of the lead writers (Pedro Vidal) at a local newspaper.  As he comes of age, David is forced out of the paper, after demonstrating his keen ability to write stories and becomes a “ghost writer” for an unscrupulous publisher.  While slaving to make’s end meet through his ghost writing, he is approached by a mystery man, Andreas Corelli, who offers him solace through working on a new book on religion – that seems to be David’s “deal with the devil” as he immediately improves from a “deadly disease” instantaneously after agreeing to write the book.  Like Shadow of the Wind, there is great intrigue, murder, and love stories, especially David’s love for the future wife (Christina Sagnier) and of his “mentor” whom he rewrites Vidal’s book without his knowledge.  The bulk of the story is David being torn apart by his love for Christina, now that she is married to Pedro and his fear of the mysterious Corelli whom no one seems to think is alive.  We have the same mystery’s as Shadow of the Wind, great minor characters, and the ability of the author to paint the relationships between people as we live in our world today.  The only minor fault in the book is the convoluted mystery of who Corelli really is and how David gets involved in a series of murders (way too many in the last 50 pages!).  Zafon rips your heart out in this one with a not so “picture-perfect” fairy-tale ending.  Overall a great read, just think the author went a bit too far in not really answering the plot twist at the end.  Well maybe a sequel for this book?  I’d read it if it came out.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Under the Banner of Heaven (Extra book)

I was excited to pick up another recommended favorite book of a friend when I saw that Jon Krakauer was the author.  I had read a few of his other books (see reviews) and was ready for this one.  Upon seeing the topical area, the history of the Mormon church and how one of its’ ultra-conservative members murders his brother’s wife and child, I thought ok… we’ll see.  The book’s title is Under the Banner of Heaven, a story of violent faith.  Krakauer is a solid writer and tells a good story, all non-fiction.  The story begins with the murder of a woman and her infant daughter by the brother of the woman’s husband and intertwines the history of the Mormon Church in the United States.  The “back and forth” of the history and the murder confused me a bit, not always sure why Krakauer felt compelled to  share how the murders were connected to the violence and “specific literal read” of the Bible.  While I learned a great deal about the faith traditions’ humble beginnings and the on-going fascination with polygamy, which helps create the demise of the woman and her child, I just never got that interested.  I felt I had heard this story on Dateline NBC a number of years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t in the least bit interested.  Rarely have I really gotten close to putting a book down because I had absolutely no interest in the book in the least, I finished it.  Sometimes I will dislike a book because the characters are not connecting to me, or the story is slow, this one, just didn’t get pulled into the horrific bloody murder (which Krakauer is not afraid to provide the goriest details…. And then comes the details of polygamy – from the really young to the elder sisters and everyone in between, ugh!  For those interested in historical religious faith tradition stories, you may find this one compelling, otherwise if you haven’t read Krakauer’s other books, take this as a chance to get excited with Into the Wild or Into Thin Air.  I could have skipped this one and been happy to do so.  Sorry….

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If A then B (Extra book)

How could I not read one of my favorite NYU faculty friend’s new book!  Well for those who want a pretty straight forward learning opportunity with a glimpse into the history of logic, this book is for you!  Professor, and Faculty in Residence at NYU, Heidi White and her colleague teaching in Liberal Studies, Michael Shenefelt, offer a really fun look into the history and context of logic in their book If A then B, How the World Discovered Logic (and yes, the author signed my copy at her book reading during the fall semester!!)!  It has been many years since my Logic 101 course while attending Fordham University, about oh…28 years ago (eeks, I am getting old).  The authors provide a brief introduction into “what is logic” with some easy to read language and how logic was framed by the geography on the flow of ideas.  The reader then gets some overview on Aristotle, “the greatest of the greek logicians” as claimed by the authors.  Other chapters include: the stoics; logic vs. anti-logic; inductive logic; the “ten classic tricks”; symbolic logic and the digital future; and faith and the limits of logic.  My favorite aspect of the book is how the authors provide a simplistic overview of the “deceptive forms for reasoning” with clear examples to help the reader who may not have a great understanding to concepts of logic.  For example, “begging the question,” “the big lie,” “cause and effect,” and “loaded question.”  I learned a great deal that I should have learned from that Fordham course…  Thanks Professor White and congratulations to you and your colleague on making logic fun to read with basic ideas and detailed explanations.  Well written!  This is a great gift for any high school senior venturing off to the hallowed halls of higher education.     

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Short History of a Prince

Happy New Year!  The University was closed today so I was able to read another recommendation of a colleague, The Short History of a Prince by Jane Hamilton.  A coming of age book that chronicled the life of Walter McCloud and his family, friends, and neighbors during pivotal times of his life, especially focusing on two major events: the death of his brother (Daniel) in 1972 and then 1996 when Walter moves back to Wisconsin, becoming a high school teacher.  What I liked about the book was the journey of Walter and how he was changed during the dying process.  Some really great characters in the book, aunt Sue, friend Susan, the noisy next door neighbor (Mrs. Gamble), his parents, and of course his extended relatives.  The story is riveting and includes Walter’s “coming out process” by falling in love with his dance student friend though he gets humiliated at the end of the process.  This is an extremely realistic story and could be told by lots of young men who have struggled with feeling comfortable enough with their sexuality at such a young age.  It is sad that a “friend” would take advantage of another for the sake of pure “physical sex”…  Walter begins his story in high school while his brother is dying of cancer.  Walter, who is heavily influenced by his aunt, turns to ballet as his escape.  The problem is that he isn’t very good and no one tells him this honest truth.  Walter has the “turning point” when his parents share the news about his brother and his “male friend” is hiding under the bed after having sex with Walter.  What a turning point… things go downhill for him, quickly.   Within the story there is also the importance of “place” and in this case, it is the family summer home, which as the story unfolds we learn it is going to be lost.  Hamilton does a good job of moving between the past and the present adding more information and leaving us with a nice climax at the end.  Nice to see Walter come full circle and begin to feel comfortable in his own skin, and with his family.  Thanks for suggesting John…