December 31, 2014

2015 here I come! OR This blogger gets a little introspective.

(I seriously spend more time on my blog titles than the actual body of my posts sometimes and the above is the result of my diligent labor. I'm not even sorry about it.)

Beware! Soppy blogger notes ahead!!
When I first started this blog, I had a couple of goals in mind. The biggest was that I wanted to encourage reluctant readers to give reading another try. I thought that if I blogged about a variety of genres and used books both contemporary and 'dated' that I would appeal to a larger audience. I wanted to share my passion and enthusiasm for the written word in the hopes that it might inspire others into nerding out over literature. I had no idea that I would find the practice so rewarding or that I would look at it as a profession rather than a hobby. Yet here I am 3 years later reviewing books and loving it. My hope is that I have somewhat attained that big goal. I hope that some of you found your way here on a whim and decided to stick it out and read right along with me. For all I know, you guys have been reading the same books as me all along. (If so, please comment and tell me about it because I love reading your comments!) At any rate, I just wanted to say thanks SO much for reading the blog and I can't wait to continue this journey with you guys in the years ahead!

Oh yeah and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

December 26, 2014

Divergent, Insurgent, & Allegiant (+ Four)

Divergent pulled me right in. It pulled me in so far that I had to go out and pick up the sequel, Insurgent. So I decided that I would focus on the trilogy for a bit and just keep updating this post. I hope that works for you guys. :-)

So who knew that a utopian society could turn dystopian so quickly? Turns out that separating society into neat little factions doesn't solve all the problems of the world. In fact, trying to put people into neat little boxes creates an oppressive regime that is bound to spin out of control when members try to assert their individuality. The main character, Beatrice (or Tris if you will), is compelling and instantly relatable to the reader (at least to me she was). I found myself turning the pages as quickly as possible to find out if Tris could persevere and overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path. The end of Divergent created a need in me to explore more of this world that Veronica Roth crafted. I hope you guys will travel on this journey with me...unless of course you're not interested in young adult dystopian fiction then I guess you'd better wait around until I've finished this series. Either way, I'll be seeing you on the other side. :-)

I have to admit that this one took me a little longer to get completely swept away. This does not mean that this book was in any way inferior to the first. Actually, I think the problem was that I had an idea of where I thought the characters were going and it didn't quite jibe with Veronica Roth. :-P That being said, by the midpoint in the book I was hooked again. This book was darker than the first (believe it or not) because the fight is not just about factions but about secrets. Those in the highest level of government know a secret and Abnegation was prepared to tell the entire population...until Erudite decided that it was too dangerous. That's what prompted the fighting (and Jeanine Matthews wanting to wield control over everyone). The Divergent, in particular, are impacted by this information but we won't know exactly to what extent until the next book in the series. Here we go again!

This book brought a major change in formatting as the author started to alternate the narrative voices (if you're a longtime reader of the blog you know how I feel about this narrative device) between Tris and Tobias. Because I had grown accustomed to reading things from Tris's perspective it was difficult for me to get into the rhythm of Tobias. For the majority of the book, I wasn't fully convinced that Roth had a good grasp on his 'voice'. The reason for this shift in formatting became clear as the action of the story was divided between the two characters and to stay with Tris would mean missing out on half of the picture (which would have made it impossible to flesh out the ending of the series). This series reminds me of Harry Potter in that as the books continue the story becomes gradually darker and the maturity of the characters is accelerated due to some (or many) struggle(s). That should give you a hint as to how this series ended. I don't want to give it away but I will say that I charged through the ending hoping that I had somehow misread what had happened or that some kind of sci-fi scenario to occur which would then fix everything. Did it? Well, I guess you'll have to read Allegiant to find out.

In my review of Allegiant, I mentioned that at first I didn't feel Roth had a grasp on Tobias's 'voice'. I didn't feel that way after reading Four. Would it surprise you to learn that Divergent originally started out from his point of view?  Four is a collection of stories which helps to explain just how Tobias Eaton transformed from a lanky teenager in Abnegation grays that no one noticed to a Dauntless front runner who couldn't be forgotten. I, for one, really enjoyed this quick read (clearly as I finished it in one day) and I felt like it delivered exactly what Roth promised: a glimpse into the mind of a character that kept all his cards close to his vest. I especially liked seeing the scenes from Divergent with Tris through his eyes. If you're a fan of the Divergent series, I think this is worth picking up and giving a whirl.

A/N: I'm going to start fresh with the next blog post as I want to keep this one strictly about this series. I'll be posting that within the next week. :-D

December 15, 2014

Umm so young adult romance...I'm into it I guess? Wait, that came out wrong!

If you race home, drop everything, and immediate dive back into a book it's a pretty safe bet that you're 'into it'. Girl Online is one of those young adult novels that sucks you right in and makes you fall in love with the characters right off the bat. Penny is a completely believable character. This is an important point to make because in a lot of novels it's like the characters are too much if you get what I mean and it makes it difficult to put yourself in their place. It's not like that with Sugg's protagonist. I found myself alternately smiling from ear-to-ear and blinking back tears. It's exactly what being a teenager was like for me...except more English. lol The format of narrative interspersed with blog posts wasn't disruptive to the flow either which I appreciated. I predict that a lot of teenagers are going to be talking about this one (if they're not already). If I were you, teen, grownup, geriatric, android, I'd give this one a read. Oh and did I mention that Zoe is already working on a second book? I sure hope it's a sequel!!

Girl Online really put me in the mood for reading more young adult fiction so I'm finally picking up a book that I've had lingering on my shelf for quite a while: Divergent by Veronica Roth. I know what you're thinking, "Holy cow! You're just now reading this?!" I had meant to read this before the film came out earlier this year but other books called my name louder and...well I'm getting to it now, okay! From what I've gathered, this is like The Hunger Games meet The Giver...or did I totally just make that comparison up? Well, if it turns out to be true I'm totally giving myself a gold star. I'll let you know some of the bare bones in my next post. Until then, HAPPY READING!!

December 10, 2014

It's time for a change

There's a very good reason that it took me several weeks to finish up Russell Brand's newest book. When you read a book that questions the very fabric of reality which you have been indoctrinated into...well it takes a bit to let it all sink in. What can I say about Revolution except that it was utterly brilliant? It's clear from the opening pages that Brand is passionate about the topic of change on a global level. The book focuses on environmental and economic change which can only occur if our current system is overthrown completely. He makes several valid points and backs it up with solid data. The only problem I really had with Revolution is that there was no index (which anyone who is a nonfiction guzzler will say is a big no-no). It won't be difficult to verify the facts but it does lend firing power to anyone who seeks to argue the credibility of the work. He doesn't pull any punches (when does he?) and I think for a work such as this you can't if you sincerely want people to rise up and unite. So basically I think you should all give this book a read. It will make you think about the current system we have in place and make you question why we accept it knowing that it's faulty.

For a complete change of pace, I'm next going to read Zoe Sugg's debut novel, Girl Online. This book is written in a blog style format as its protagonist is a blogger who shares her deepest fears, feelings, and future hopes with strangers online while maintaining a pretense with those she interacts with on a daily basis. I'd say the work is semi-autobiographical as Zoe herself started out as a blogger and like her character she suffers from panic attacks. I've been hearing a lot of mixed reviews on this one so I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible with my thoughts on it. :-)

November 20, 2014

Here we go again!

Ah the satisfaction of finishing up a book right on schedule! I'm flying out of NYC tomorrow and I had planned on a particular book for the flight and it's working out excellently. XD

Lily Dale: The Town that Talks to the Dead wasn't quite what I expected (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). As the author is a former journalist, I expected heaping loads of skepticism.There was a fair amount but there were also fleeting moments of unchecked belief. More questions were raised than actually answered which I believe is the point. Spiritualism (the main topic of this book besides the town itself) can not be definitively proven (what religion can beyond a shadow of a doubt? that's why faith exists...) and yet the people in this town have an unshakable belief. While immersing herself in their customs, Wicker observed and participated in events that she could not explain through rational means. Was this spirits communicating beyond the grave? Were these people really capable of reading a person's future? Is it all a big crock of bull? Or is there something else going on here? If you're intrigued by the supernatural and/or want to learn more about a religion that has been popular since the 1800s then this is probably the book for you.

And now to the book that I've been saving for my trip. I'm delving back into the genius mind of Russell Brand with his newest book, Revolution. If you're at all familiar with Russell then you'll know that he's very politically and socially minded. He stays abreast of current issues (anyone watch his YouTube series Trews?) and has an opinion on virtually everything. This book highlights his plan for a new kind of society in which the people are truly in control and The Man is just a distant memory from the past. I have no doubt this is going to be quite a ride.

November 15, 2014

Not every book is for every reader

It's important to remember that you're not going to absolutely love every single book that you decide to read. It's a mistake to force yourself to read a book that you're not totally invested in reading. Of course, if it's an assignment for school then it's unavoidable (which is a shame really because it discourages fledgling lifelong readers). However, if you're reading for pleasure then there's no reason whatsoever to read something that you're not finding thoroughly engaging. This is why I'm calling it quits on Jane Austen's England. Perhaps I'll try to revisit the book at another time but honestly it's been days since I picked it up and I don't see that changing anytime soon. That isn't to say that it was a horrible book just that it wasn't my cup of tea. :-)

So rather than dwelling on a book that I decided to abandon I've chosen a book on a completely different track. I'm going to be reading Lily Dale: The Town That Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker. This book discusses the history of a town called Lily Dale in New York which spiritualists believe is ripe with ghosts. This is a true story of people who believe so strongly in the presence of the dead among the living that they travel from miles away to consult mediums there to talk to these figures from the past. I like that the reviews on the back are from lesser-known news sources such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Fort Worth Star Telegram yet this is a national bestseller.

November 6, 2014

England: To infinity and beyond! OR I really like learning about England.

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook is a step-by-step instructional manual on how anyone can mold themselves into a consulting detective just like Arthur Conan Doyle's creation. More than that, Riggs provides the reader with trivia, factoids, and beautiful drawings of the detective in action. This book is excellent for anyone whether they're just being introduced to the famous detective or if they've been a diehard fan for many years. It's always fun to revisit old friends and bone up on the tricks of the trade. ;-)

Jane Austen lived during the Georgian era in England and her stories are a reflection of the time and the places she visited. She tended to focus on the areas she was most familiar with unlike many of her contemporaries who decided that far flung locations were much better suited for novels. Jane Austen's England: Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods by Roy & Lesley Adkins takes a look at this time period and focuses on all aspects of the country. From wedding practices to the stratification of the classes this is a comprehensive look at all the minutiae not covered by Austen herself.

November 3, 2014

I spend way too long creating the titles for these posts

So as I mentioned in the last post I really love Agatha Christie (particularly her Hercule Poirot mysteries) so predictably I zoomed through The Clocks. This was written very differently and the plot development was unique also. For starters, the narrative voice changed several times from third person to first person (and it wasn't Poirot as first person either). I thought at first this might create problems like with time jumping but after a few chapters the transitions felt familiar and smooth. Secondly, Poirot never set foot on the crime scenes and he never spoke to any of the suspects. From what I've read, this is the only time Christie employed this tactic and it was mostly to show that it was possible for the Belgian detective to accomplish such a feat. As per usual, I thought I had the whole thing figured out only to discover that it was all a pile-up of red herrings and I'd been duped again. Oh, Agatha!

And because I felt like I just needed more Poirot in my life I checked out a short story entitled Wasps' Nest which I thought might keep me occupied for a few days. However, when it said 'short story' it meant incredibly quick. I finished that bad boy in about 15 minutes on the train home this evening. It was so short I have no idea how to even review it. Basically, there's a man named John Harrison (Star Trek Into Darkness, anyone?) who Poirot visits out in the country. He tells him that he's on a murder case...a murder that hasn't been committed yet. Dun Dun DUUUUUN. Yeah go and read it. It's a quick, delightful read (and I was still surprised by the conclusion because apparently Christie is a wizard).

Then I decided that I wasn't done with mysteries, detectives, and crime because I resurrected a book I had started a zillion years ago but got too distracted to finish: The Sherlock Holmes Handbook by Ransom Riggs (see Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children & Hollow City for more by him). This book is the Holmesian-How-To-Manual (that sounded ultra cool in my head) which explores the methodology of the fictional detective as well as current forensic science practices. Basically, if you're a Sherlockian then this is the book for you. We shall soon see!

October 29, 2014

I'm concerned I might actually BE Bridget Jones

Not that there's anything wrong per se with being like Bridget Jones but you can't say that she really has her life together can you? If you've seen the film adaptation of Helen Fielding's The Bridget Jones's Diary then I have no clue why you wouldn't give the book a shot. They really stayed true to form with the film and it's even funnier on page. Bridget is a Singleton who really just wants to find a guy who is less of a f***wit and more of a Mr. Darcy a la Pride and Prejudice. (Sidenote: It amuses me more than I can say that the characters actually talked about the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and it was this same man playing Mark Darcy in the film adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary. Yes, I AM easily amused.) The book is written in true diary format and at the header of each day's entry Bridget obsessively calculates weight, alcohol units, cigarettes, calories, lottery tickets, etc. I enjoyed the bawdy humor and the writing style of Fielding very much. If you're looking for a quick read that's sure to make you laugh then I highly recommend this one.

I ordered a few Halloween-y books which I was hoping would arrive before I had finished Bridget Jones's Diary but unfortunately they haven't come in yet. No matter! I snapped up a Hercule Poirot mystery, The Clocks, written by the indomitable Agatha Christie (of which I'm a huge fan). This mystery revolves around a murdered man who is found surrounded by you'd never guess it clocks. Poirot is challenged to solve the murder without ever visiting the crime scene or talking with witnesses. Is it possible to solve a crime using the little grey cells and nothing else? Well, I guess we'll shortly find out!!

October 25, 2014

Writing a prequel for a book written years ago and NAILING IT

I think that blog title pretty much sums up how I felt about The Adventures of Ben Gunn. Firstly, the man wrote the book because he was a massive fan of Treasure Island and he had all of these unanswered questions (and also his kids kept asking him questions about their favorite bedtime story). So his solution was to write the prequel himself. GENIUS! Secondly, he was able to write it in the same style as Robert Louis Stevenson so it didn't have that awkward feel of an imposter trying to step into the author's shoes. It felt seamless and true. The characterization was spot on and getting the backstory on Gunn and his impressions of Long John, Hands, Bones, Flint, and the rest of the crew made Treasure Island even more special in my opinion. I think RLS would have been proud of this work and I think anyone who is a fan of the classic pirate story and always wondered about the events leading up to Gunn's marooning should read The Adventures of Ben Gunn.

I've had a book on my TRL for ages now and it's finally become available at my library so I snatched it up without hesitation. If I gave you a few bullet points about it could you figure it out?
  • It was made into a movie.
  • There's a character with the last name 'Darcy'.
  • It focuses on a year in a single woman's life.
Any guesses?

If you guessed Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding then you were absolutely correct! Here we go!!

October 21, 2014

The Mysteries of the Amazon Revealed

The title of this post makes it sound like I'm about to write an expose or an article for a major newspaper. :-P

The Lost City of Z focuses on the mystery of Colonel Percy Fawcett's disappearance in 1925 as well as the myth that there was an ancient civilization which he called 'Z' that was as yet undiscovered in the heart of the Amazon. I've talked before about the rhythm of a story that covers multiple time periods. This book handled the jumps extremely well. Grann covered Fawcett's explorations into the Amazon (prior to his last trip) which made him into a world renowned expert on the area and the Indians that inhabited it. He also discussed the various disastrous rescue attempts that were made. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the entire book (for me at least) was the author's journey researching the man and the myth. For anyone interested in the history of exploration and/or the Amazon this book is a must read. (A/N: I have to admit that the ending fell a bit flat for me after the buildup but this isn't enough for me to dissuade you guys from giving it a go.)

You might remember when I reviewed Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Well, my next read is a prequel to Treasure Island entitled The Adventures of Ben Gunn by R.F. Delderfield. Did I just blow your minds? Were you unaware that this even existed? I have a dear friend (and frequent reader of the blog) to thank for sending this my way (literally in this case). This is the story of the man named Ben Gunn in his own words (as written in narrative form by Jim Hawkins) as he explains how he came to become a pirate. I don't know about you guys but I bet this is going to be one doozy of a story. Ahoy, mateys! (You know I had to do it.)

October 10, 2014

Gotta love a good adventure story (especially when it's true)

Reading Operation Mincemeat has just convinced me that there are 1. Many more spy novels out there that I have yet to read (example: Ian Fleming) and 2. My obsession with World War II is completely justified because it was so convoluted, intriguing, and shrouded in secrecy (many of these secrets remain today). As the title suggests, this book focused on a singular operation which in itself was just a piece of a much bigger operation entitled Operation Husky (attached to another called Operation Barclay + others that were mere decoys). If nothing else, once you've finished reading this book you come away with an appreciation for the skills and ingenuity of those involved in fighting a war which for the majority of its duration seemed absolutely impossible to win. The taking of Sicily, however, proved to be a turning point in the war and Ewen Montagu and his team had a hand in the victory because they pulled off what many still believe to be the greatest feat of deception ever. If you've ever read The Man Who Never Was or seen the film version of it then you're aware of this story...except it's not the entire story because Montagu was censored by the British government (you'll see why when you read Operation Mincemeat). Sufficed to say, if you've ever fancied yourself a spy then you should read this to find out just exactly what that means. Hint: It's a lot more bureaucracy than James Bond has led you to believe.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann has been on my TRL for a while now. It's the story of a man's quest to figure out what really happened to Percy Fawcett and his expedition party. This question has haunted hundreds of people who have tried to discover the truth by following the clues left behind by the man into the very place that seems to have swallowed him alive. In 1925 Fawcett and his team (including his 21 year old son) set off on a quest to locate the lost city of El Dorado, aka Z. Now it's David Grann's turn to be enthralled by the mystery as he seeks to discover just what happened to Fawcett and his team and maybe find El Dorado himself...

October 4, 2014

It always comes back to death and WWII with me

I practically sped through The Removers by Andrew Meredith. As I had suspected (and you probably did too based on the synopsis), this is a memoir fraught with melancholy. After his world was turned on its head at the age of 14, Andrew was adrift without purpose...that is until he found that he was quite good at the business of death. (I made that sound like he was an expert assassin but in reality he was ensconced in the world of corpse removal and cremation.)  For twenty years, this was his livelihood and it seemed that even when he moved clear across the country he couldn't escape it. Was this his destiny? Was the ability to remove himself emotionally from all that went on around him what made him the perfect fit for dealing day in and day out with mortality? Will he rise like the phoenix out of the ashes of cadavers to find himself formed into something utterly unrecognizable from his former self?  What exactly is his former self? To find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about what some might think to be a morbid profession, take a crack at this book.

Because apparently I'm obsessed with WWII and death, I've decided to read Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre. As I mentioned in a previous post regarding Alan Turing, Britain was a major player in the intelligence game during the war. This particular book focuses on a strategic plan to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Allies would be entering Italy through Greece when in fact they would be coming in through Sicily. The problem was that it was known to all parties that Sicily was the most logical choice for an entry point so the ruse had to be very, very good. It was a multifaceted plan but one of the key elements was Operation Mincemeat. The plan was cooked up by two intelligence offers who had very little in common: Ewan Montagu & Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley if you're wondering). The plan was to drop a dead body disguised as an officer with falsified documents that would hopefully be turned over to the Germans. Does this sound like a James Bond movie? Well, that's because it was originally thought up by Ian Fleming himself. Yeah, now you're getting why I had to read this book aren't you?

Author's Note: I've read another book by Ben Macintyre and if you're interested in reading about that one you can go here.

October 1, 2014

Pasta Prayer Passion Or Alternate Title Alliteration

In my last post, I was already enthusiastic about the prospects of Eat Pray Love and I have to say that my expectations were completely fulfilled. I found myself smiling while I was reading and nodding my head at the nuggets of wisdom she gleaned along her journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. This is a book which will lighten your heart and your spirit. It will also make you want to pick up and immediately begin traveling on your own spiritual pilgrimage. I've been telling anyone and everyone that they need to read this book (and now I'm telling you!).

I didn't even realize until just this moment that my next book is also a memoir (oops?). The Removers by Andrew Meredith is the story of how Andrew's life came completely undone when he was 14 years old. This is the year that his father lost his job due to a scandal and his life was totally altered. Not long after, he joins his father in a new business venture: corpse removal. O_O

I kept these brief for 2 reasons 1) I really want you to read Eat Pray Love and I don't want to spoil anything and 2) I feel like if I go any further with a preview of The Removers I'm likely to spoil this one too. :-D

Let me know if there's any books out there you'd like me to review!

September 28, 2014

Movie and book tie-ins: Embrace them!

Basically, I love a good tie-in whether it's a film based off of a book or a book that was written based off of a movie. Book tie-ins are a great way to delve further into the characters and learn more details about scenes that are blink-and-you-miss-them. In this post, I'll be looking at both variants.

For starters, let's take a look at Star Trek Into Darkness which was written after the movie of the same name was released. For die-hard Trekkie fans, this is definitely a book that you want to pick up. It was so good that I never wanted it to end. For those who haven't seen the film (or who aren't really into Star Trek at all), this is the story of how one man came into his own when pitted against a ruthless adversary who by all accounts was unbeatable. James Tiberius Kirk is the newly appointed Captain of the USS Enterprise but at this stage he's definitely still wet behind the ears and he makes mistakes which come with very big consequences. At the same time, the reader is introduced to a character with motivations that are not immediately apparent and it is uncertain exactly what type of a person he actually is (his identity is in question as well). There is conflict, intrigue, heroism, tragedy, and courage on every single page.  Go forth and read it!!

I was feeling a bit introspective after reading Star Trek Into Darkness so I picked up Eat Pray Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had watched the film a few years ago and thought it was deeply moving and therefore picked up the book on which it was based. However, at the time I was backlogged with books for school (remember those days, guys?) and it got relegated to my bookshelf. I am so glad that I'm reading it now. I can already tell that I'm going to have to pick up some more of Gilbert's works. Her writing really speaks to me. This is actually her story of how her life transformed through faith in God and in herself. She traveled for a year to immerse herself in three very different cultures in order to discover what it was that she really wanted from life and how she could be happy. This was after a lot of personal tragedy in her life had made her re-evaluate everything and she was basically starting over from scratch. It's not a depressing book though. No, it's actually uplifting in all the best kind of ways. She spent four months in each place where she focused on completely different things. In Italy, it was all about pleasure aka food. In India, she turned her attention to God. In Indonesia, I think you can guess what she focused on. ;-) I'll be updating you guys with my progress soon!

September 22, 2014

Doctor Who Haul Pt 2: The Review

I'm going to try to do this without giving any spoilers which means these will most likely be quite short. Let's get this party started! ::confetti floats through the air::

Doctor Who: Enemies of War by George Mann
The (Great) Time War rages on and entire planets are destroyed in the crossfire. The Time Lord who no longer believes he deserves the moniker 'The Doctor' crash lands on a planet ravaged by the Daleks. He meets a member of the resistance named Cinder and the two of them race against the clock, i.e. the Time Lords (see what I did there?) back on Gallifrey and the Daleks, to stop mass genocide. For those of you who wanted more background on the War Doctor that was introduced in Day of the Doctor then this one is definitely for you.

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
A quiet English village set in the present day is re-visited by the monsters of WWII. (Yet another book which mentions Alan Turing and his exemplary code-breaking skills by the way.) The Doctor and Clara land in Ringstone but they initially think that they've arrived at the wrong point in time...that is until they see the dead body caught in a giant spider's web. What exactly is going on in this little town that could create larger-than-life insects and arachnids? It might take more than just a bit of cleverness to work this one out (in fact it might take a little bit of time travel). If you're scared of bugs then I would recommend you stay far away from this one. :-D

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
I have to admit that I found this one rather chilling. I suppose that's because the entire story takes place in a prison that was built on an asteroid far out of reach of any neighboring civilizations. The Doctor is Prisoner 428 and he is definitely causing a ruckus amongst the Guardians and especially with the Governor himself (the Warden). He insists on escaping his cell and wandering wherever he pleases. Even when the Custodians (creepy faceless robots) are dispatched to dissuade him (I'm being delicate here) from breaking the rules, he persists in saying that there is something very wrong inside the prison. Actually there's something very sinister indeed occurring within the walls which keep everyone out...and everyone (and everything) inside.

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards
An adventure with Jenny, Madame Vastra, and Strax (plus The Doctor & Clara)!! I do have to say that these are absolutely brilliant characters that I'm happy to see in a book adaptation. They have so much versatility and they're so different from one another that it keeps the story moving along at a wonderfully brisk pace. In this book, there are mysterious murders being committed throughout Victorian London and at first they don't seem to be interconnected except for one thing: the victims all visited the Carnival of Curiosities. What does origami, rage, and a man with a silver topped cane have to do with one another? Ah but you'll have to read this one to find out!!

So there you go! I hope that this kind of formatting worked for you. I had a lot of fun immersing myself in the Doctor Who Universe for the last week to read all of these. :-) Next up is another sci-fi adaptation but of a film this time: Star Trek Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster. If you've ever read a book based off of a film (such as Star War) then you know that a lot of details are fleshed out in the novel which make the entire world seem more tangible and real. I'm hoping for that in this book. I read the adaptation for the first movie in the new universe franchise and it was really good so I have high expectations for this one. Stay tuned for that review!

September 16, 2014

Doctor Who Haul Part 1

I recently acquired 4 of the newest Doctor Who novels (one of which was mentioned in my last post). As per usual, when I get my hands on Doctor Who novels I tend to go on a bit of a binge and so...I'm just going to read all four of these really quickly and review them for you all in one big post.

A quick little blurb on each of them to whet your appetite.

Doctor Who: Enemies of War by George Mann
The War Doctor faces not only the Daleks and their newest weapons but also his own people in his quest to put an end to the Great Time War once and for all. However, he doesn't have to face them completely alone. He has a new companion named Cinder and she's determined to stay by his side no matter what dangers they face. She might change her mind when she sees exactly what the Daleks are creating...

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
The Doctor (#12) and Clara land in a sleepy little village town called Ringstone in Wiltshire. At first, The Doctor believes the TARDIS made a mistake and landed them at the wrong time in history. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the past has caught up to the present when giant insects and arachnids start terrorizing the villagers and all means of escape are cut off by massive spider webs...

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
When will people learn that there's really no point in trying to keep The Doctor locked in a cell? The most dangerous criminals are sent to a prison housed on an asteroid far removed from all colonized worlds. The Governor starts to suspect there is more than meets the eye regarding this 'Doctor' who keeps trying to escape and he might be right because after his arrival the murders begin...

Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards
When mysteries which seem to have no connection whatsoever (a locked room murder, a boxer killed by an undertaker, The Carnival of Curiosities, and a rich industrialist) end up being inextricably linked who could possibly put all of the pieces together? This is a case for The Doctor, Clara, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax! Is anything really what it seems?

Are you guys ready?

September 14, 2014

True freedom is felt in the heart

I discovered from reading The Orphan Master's Son that I know precious little about North Korea. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I know a whole lot more after having read this book. (Yes, I know it's fictional but a good majority of it is based on the realities of that country and its people.) I have to admit that it was slow going at the beginning. I didn't feel the push to keep going that I usually do when reading something that is really interesting to me. However, this wasn't because the characters lacked depth. I think it stems from what I mentioned at the top of this post: I was completely in the dark about North Korea and found it hard to connect. I have since done some research into the topic on my own and I am blown away by the mastery of Adam Johnson. This is a story of a man without identity. His true self is stripped away again and again by those in power. He is not the master of his own life...and yet...His spirit will not fully submit. For the entirety of this novel, I was waiting for this man's redemption because his suffering was so great and so complete that I felt that it was unfair that he not get his happy ending. I can't say if I was rewarded at the end or not because to do so would rob you of the experience yourself. If you enjoy contemporary historical fiction and/or have an interest in a part of the world that to me has always seemed shrouded in mystery (and really it still is) then this book is for you.

The only thing better than a Star Trek novel is a Doctor Who novel and the next book up for review is one of the latter! I'm going to be reading Doctor Who: Engines of War by George Mann and its main protagonist is THE WAR DOCTOR. (As you may be able to tell from the CAPS, I'm slightly excited.) The story centers around The Great Time War and The Doctor's interactions with the people of the planet, Moldox, who are being rounded up by the Daleks (hiss boo his). I don't want to say anymore because I fear I'll give away something truly important to the story line but I can't wait to review this one for you guys!!

August 31, 2014

Anthropomorphic Bees

Flora 717 is a worker bee and the protagonist of Laline Paull's The Bees. It may sound completely far-fetched to write a story from the perspective of a bee but insanely it worked amazingly well. This author clearly did her entomological research. The story revolves around a sanitation bee born to a hive where she is at the lowest rung of society (in fact, others in her kin have not developed speech and she is marked as an oddity). At every turn, she defies convention and strikes out on her own course. Fraught with class division, religious fanaticism, and sexism The Bees gave me an entirely new insight into bee behavior...and made me crave honey. If you're looking for a book unlike any other then I encourage you to give this one a shot...unless you're terrified of bees in which case you'd best steer clear.

My next book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last year: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. Pak Jun Do is a loyal Korean citizen fighting to stay alive in an ever-changing and violent society. He is a professional kidnapper and eventually the rival of Kim Jong Il. The book purports to be a tale of corruption, violence, and also love. Well, I'm certainly intrigued!

August 27, 2014

Humanity: Tender, raw, and always a surprise

Have you ever been enjoying a book so much that you feel like racing through it just so you can find out what happened to the characters at the end? Conversely, have you ever wanted to linger for an indeterminate amount of time over a narrative because you just didn't want their story to come to its inevitable conclusion? Well, I experienced both of these emotions simultaneously while reading Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists. Each chapter revolved around a different individual with ties to the newspaper and each chapter heading was a different headline from the paper. At the conclusion of each chapter, a snippet of history regarding the evolution of the paper was inserted which coincided with the information the reader had just learned about an individual from the present day. It's a mystery to me how he wove everything together so effortlessly but I fully appreciated that the pieces of the story were all interconnected to create a cohesive tale about a newspaper with more drama behind the scenes than on its pages. A brilliant read which I highly encourage you to pick up and give a shot.

As I've mentioned before, I have quite a long TRL (To-Read List if you're new here) and I've been steadily trying to knock books off of it. This next one has been on it ever since I heard about its release earlier this year. The Bees, by Laline Paull, is the story of a bee (nope the title wasn't misleading) who defies the conventions of the hive when she challenges the Queen. It is a story of a female heroine of the bee persuasion (I might be chuckling as I write this) who chooses her own path even in the light of fierce opposition. Considering my fascination with insects (and arachnids), it was really a no-brainer that I would read this but I do have to say that I'm incredulous as to how Paull is going to pull this off. We shall soon see!

August 25, 2014

What just happened?

Have you ever been so invested in a story that you were pretty much oblivious to anything else while in its grip? Well, that's exactly what happened to me when I was reading The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. Tom Rachman put some kind of spell on me and when I reached the end I was completely set adrift. In fact, I can't seem to summarize exactly how I feel about the book now that I've finished it. Clearly, I felt it to be a compelling read as I immersed myself in it utterly and totally. However, I can't seem to articulate my feelings now that it's concluded. I guess that makes sense as a large part of this book is the importance of time and how it's all relative (reminds me of a line from Doctor Who but I won't get into that here). I hesitate to put this book into any kind of niche because I think it stands alone and separate unto itself. I can't help a feeling a bit melancholy now that it's done but the knowledge that a) I can return to it anytime I want and b) I have another book by this author waiting to be read keeps me going. :-) If you want a book that will transport you, intrigue you, and baffle you then this is the one for you. READ IT.

As I mentioned in my last post, I picked up both of Rachman's books when I was at the library. His first book, The Imperfectionists, was an international bestseller (not hard seeing why as his second book was mind-blowingly amazing). This book centers on an English-language newspaper that's on its last legs. However, the story seems to be about the individuals working at the news agency who are all living distinct and complicated lives. I AM ALREADY ITCHING TO GET STARTED.

I hope you guys are having a fantastic Monday and I look forward to meeting you back here shortly for more reviews!

August 22, 2014

Spoiler alert: It wasn't mannequins

Horrorstor was an incredibly quick, fast-paced read. I have to say that the story veered off in a direction that I was completely unprepared for (despite reading the blurb). It's somewhere between horror, thriller, and paranormal. I don't want to give anything away because I think you'd enjoy the journey a lot more with the mystery intact. I will say, however, that I enjoyed the visual aspect of the book which incorporated furniture ads like those you might see in an Ikea catalog. It was a unique approach to horror and I think you guys would get a kick out of it.

There's an author that's been on my radar for a while now (thanks to the many literary newsletters I subscribe to) and I'm happy to say that I've picked up both of his novels to review. The first one is his newest, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. The author is Tom Rachman and he's being hailed as "one of the most exciting young writers we have". The story revolves around a woman with the odd sounding name of Tooly who is herself an odd sort of person. She owns a bookstore in a small town in Wales where she spends the majority of her days reading. However, it's her past that takes up a good chunk of the book and its mysteries are unraveled in pieces as the story progresses. At about a quarter through, I can already feel my excitement building for the astonishing conclusion (which I'm sure is going to be astonishing based on the nuggets already revealed). Review to be posted shortly!!

I hope you guys are enjoying your last few weeks of summer (or maybe you're like me and in denial that it's concluding at all) and you're reading HEAPS AND HEAPS of books. :-D

EDIT: I was just sent the link for Horrorstor's book trailer so I thought I'd share! :-D

August 19, 2014

The endurance of the human spirit or The Halifax Disaster

It's a little unsettling to me that prior to reading Curse of the Narrows I had never heard of the explosion that caused so much devastation in Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917. When the munitions ship, Mont Blanc, collided with the Belgian Relief vessel, Imo, on that fateful day none of the inhabitants in Richmond could have predicted the loss that their town would incur. I have to admit that at the outset of this book I was struggling to comprehend what was occurring as much of the language was 'nautical' in nature which I've always found confusing. However, once Mac Donald began discussing the 'human element' I was hooked. Basically, the entire town was decimated in a matter of moments and thousands were killed, injured, orphaned, and made homeless. Oppenheimer used the statistics from the blast to calculate the effects of an atomic bomb (and used these calculations to create the bombs used in Nagasaki and Hiroshima). One of the unique factors in this event was that there was an historian on the ground that immediately began rounding up accounts and taking interviews in order to preserve the details of the day and the days and months preceding it. I highly encourage any fans of history (in particular WWI-era) to give this book a try. Additionally, the Appendix and Notes at the end of the book were absolutely phenomenal which is always one of my favorite parts in any nonfiction work and if you aren't reading these I highly encourage you to do so. :-D

Next up is Horrorstor (imagine the last 'o' has those little dots over it) by Grady Hendrix. I'm already impressed with the book based on its packaging (yeah, yeah don't judge a book blah blah blah) because it looks like a retail catalog. The reason for this is that the setting for the book is a furniture superstore called Orsk. When five employees agree to spend the night in the store to discover who is causing havoc each night they discover more than they had bargained for. O_O It's a horror story in a furniture store! (I am genuinely wary of mannequins so I really hope they don't turn out to be the baddies in this.) I can't wait to report back to you guys with my review!!

August 15, 2014

Now did John Murray say that or was it John Murray? Wait, maybe it was John Murray.

As you'd expect from a book which has the word 'dynasty' in the title The Seven Lives of John Murray: The Story of a Publishing Dynasty was chock full of DATA. SO MUCH DATA. As you'd expect, there's a lot of history wrapped up in a publishing agency which was opened in 1768 and lasted until 2002. Full disclosure: I had never heard of John Murray Publishing (or so I thought until I unearthed this blog entry I had written in 2010). You might not have either but you've definitely heard of some of the authors they've published throughout the years. For instance, John Murray II (you're maybe getting the meaning behind the book title right about now) published Lord Byron, Jane Austen, and Sir Walter Scott. John Murray III brought Charles Darwin on board for his work On the Origin of Species which you may have heard about... Throughout its many years, the agency was well-known for its educational material such as medical textbooks, history books, and general science books. When the company was taken over this was what was deemed most viable although the Murray Archive which contained scores of correspondence and manuscripts from a variety of authors and other personages (what?) was valued at £45 million. O_O If you're interested in publishing or simply like to know historical facts about a company that lasted more than 200 years then you can't go wrong with this book.

This next book was recommended to me by a dear friend/adopted Grandpa who told me it was right up my street. (He's probably right.) The book is called Curse of the Narrows by Laura M. Mac Donald and it chronicles the horrifying disaster that occurred in Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917 and the days that followed. When a munitions ship collided with another ship at harbor the results were absolutely catastrophic. Not only was there a massive explosion but a tsunami and snow storm were also triggered. Mac Donald utilized resources left from the explosions's official historian as well as other primary documents from the period to craft this nonfiction work. I can't wait!

August 10, 2014

An American Ambassador in Berlin during the rise of the Third Reich

I knew going into this that it wasn't going to be a book that I could immediately walk away from once it was finished. About a quarter of the way through, I was already making notes about what other books about the period I was going to add to the TRL (To Read List if you're new here). Erik Larson continues to be a master at narrative nonfiction and In the Garden of Beasts is an engrossing story that you can't help but feel you're experiencing right alongside the protagonists. William Dodd was placed in Berlin as Ambassador by Roosevelt himself and most of those back in the State Department felt he was a poor choice. He didn't fit the mold by any means and I think that is why he was a good choice. He was a man of few means but of many (eloquent) words. He said what was on his mind and only afterward wondered if he should have been more "diplomatic" in his dealings with those in power in Germany. Years later, the Nazis taunted that he had no real impact while he was there and that he was much disliked by the German people.  If he was so unimportant and insignificant why did they feel the need to publicly deride him as he was on his deathbed? Also, there was Dodd's daughter Martha who changed beaus about as often as most people change their clothes. A lot of the material used in the book came from her memoir and letters (as well as a variety of other sources such as Dodd's diary).  Larson portrays the view that most Americans had of Germany pre-WWII which in hindsight makes us look idiotic, naive, and callous. We were too engrossed in our domestic affairs to truly see the atrocities that were already occurring and the power that was being amassed under Hitler to put a stop to one of the most horrendous wars of all time. If you're curious about this time in history or if you simply want to learn more about a simple man trying to accomplish big things with little to no support from his government then you should definitely check this one out.

Have you ever been looking over the books on your shelves and seen one that you had no recollection of obtaining? Well, that happened to me but I've finally recalled why/when I got this one. The book is The Seven Lives of John Murray: The Story of a Publishing Dynasty by Humphrey Carpenter and I picked it up in 2010 when I was going to London to study Library Sciences. Apparently I didn't get around to reading this one but found it interesting enough to keep. This is the biographical tale of one of the biggest publishing houses in the world from 1768 - 2002. It was begun by Carpenter but unfortunately he passed away before its completion and therefore it was edited and finished by Candida Brazil and James Hamilton. According to the back cover, there were many controversies and sagas surrounding this most esteemed publishing house which involved Jane Austin, Byron, etc. Ummm yes please!

August 3, 2014

Spiritual Discovery

Anyone who has read Paulo Coelho knows that his stories are often fantastical tales that center on the mysteries of the spirit. Brida is the story of a woman on a journey of self-discovery who finds spirituality through magic. There were some definite surprises in this book. For example, sex is used as a means of obtaining spiritual power. After having read his explanation in the afterword I guess I can understand where he was going with that but it was a bit of a shock to the system when I actually read it in the context of the story. Without giving too much away I can say that there are two different sides to the 'magical coin': The Tradition of the Moon and the Tradition of the Sun. By studying either of these the individual is opening themselves up to God and all that He created. I liked it but in my opinion The Alchemist was far and away more powerful. If you're interested in his take on magic vs spirituality vs religion then I encourage you to give this book a try but if you're only reading it because you liked The Alchemist (oops) then you might be in for a shock.

The next book up for review is one that I was so excited about that I actually pre-ordered it as soon as I heard that it was coming out...and then it languished on my living room end table doomed to dust and sadness. :'-( And then today I decided that it was time to read it!! XD The book in question is Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. Besides being an absolute mouthful this book has all the earmarks of being one that completely knocks my socks off. Longtime readers of the blog might remember when I first found out about the awesomeness that is Erik Larson and his gift of writing the narrative nonfiction. (If you haven't read The Devil in the White City you are seriously missing out.) This book is about an American ambassador sent to Berlin with his family. At first, they're all caught up in the glitz and glam of the Third Reich until the horror unfolds before their very eyes. I'm already filled with suspense. O_O

I hope you guys are having an absolutely amazing weekend and that your week will be even better. KEEP READING!!

July 31, 2014

The Romanovs: Uncovered

I can say without any reservations whatsoever that John Boyne is now on my shortlist of favorite authors. The House of Special Purpose is an exemplary work of historical fiction that had me hooked from the very first page. The main character, Georgy Jachmenev, is a man that you have no difficulty relating to and that makes the story that much more powerful. The narrative begins in 1981 London and leaps around through time from World War I in Russia. (I've discussed before how this narrative format can be jarring unless done correctly and this is a perfect example of a story smoothly transitioning so that the reader remains in the story.) A nobody from a small Russian village, Georgy, is elevated to personal bodyguard to the future Tsar of Russia, Alexei (the youngest son). I don't want to give too much of the story away because its unfolding majesty, tragedy, and revelation should be experienced without being spoiled. I will only say that if you're looking for a story that has romance, bravery, suspense, and heart then this is the book for you. Also, if you have any interest in the history of Russia and the Romanovs then this is a must read for you.

Next up is Brida by Paulo Coelho. I'm sure many of you have heard of this author and some of you may even have read some of his work such as The Alchemist (which is fantastic by the way). This story is about a woman exploring the depths of magic and her place in the magical realms. Fans of Coelho know that he is a master at beautifully weaving tales full of awe and spirituality. I'm sure this will be an effortlessly executed novel which will touch the innermost regions of my heart and soul. I'll be sure to let you know in my next blog post!!

For those of you just visiting me for the first time, WELCOME!! For those who have been around from the beginning, HEY THERE BUDDY!! I hope that you'll do me the great honor of officially 'following' my blog so that you'll be updated whenever I make a new post. Also, I'd really appreciate it. :-) Until next time, HAPPY READING!!

July 26, 2014

Conclusion: I wouldn't last long in the desert

If you have never read an immersive piece of fiction wherein the author creates an entire new vocabulary then Dune might be a bit of a struggle (at least at the beginning). Herbert has created a vast new universe which includes new religions, cultural mores, languages, and science. From the very start of the narrative, the reader is treated as if they are already aware of the world that the characters inhabit. Once you've gotten the hang of things you are in for a real ride. Herbert does not shy away from controversy or taboo. There's talk of rape, pedophilia, prostitution, addiction, and murder to name a few. Religion, politics, and ecology are the main threads interwoven throughout and are the driving force for the action of the story. It is easy to fall into this world and to become invested in the characters (especially the main character, Paul, who is basically the coolest guy ever (understatement of the century)). There is a saying used to quell fear and I kinda want to make it my mantra:
"Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear's path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
And luckily for us, this is just the beginning of the series. >_<

I can't remember if I've ever mentioned it here (or anywhere) but I have a keen interest in the Romanovs, specifically Anastasia (that sounded less creepy in my head). The next book to be reviewed is The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne (remember The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?) and it just so happens to center around a man who is bodyguard to the Tsar Romanov's son. Georgy Jachmenev has been living in England for many years with the weight of heartbreak and scandal pressing down on him. Now in his old age, he makes a trip back to Russia and memories from his past are brought into sharp relief. I'm already keen to get started!!

July 20, 2014

A brilliant, complicated mind diminished by over-the-top tomfoolery

A lot of people have mixed feelings about Russell Brand. I, myself, think that it would probably be difficult to contain an energy such as his in a 'real life' setting but I do find his book amusing and insightful. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"Life is not a postcard of life, life is essential and about detail, minutia and trivia."
"If I should die think only this of me, 'I thought it would be funny.'"
Brand displays a strange dichotomy of reverence toward women to an unattainable perfection and a misogynistic viewing of them as simply a means to a (happy) end(ing). This sequel, Booky Wook 2: This time it's personal, was everything I thought it would be and more. Its main focus is his continuing rise to fame and his sex addiction. He continues to astound me with his insight and irreverence. The ending is bittersweet but I'll leave that a mystery so as to whet your appetite. ;-)  I look forward to hopefully reading more from him in the future.

Up next is Dune by Frank Herbert which according to the cover is 'Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpiece'. Well, that's a bit presumptive isn't it? I've seen the film and I bought this book several years ago where it's languished on my sci-fi/fantasy shelf ever since. I figured it was time to see what all the hype was about. The story centers around a boy named Paul Atreides who seeks to stop a villainous plot against his family. I should mention this is set on a planet that is not earth that is beset with all number of monstrous creatures and alien lifeforms (YES). I'm going to get cracking on it immediately!

July 14, 2014

Turing: The Unsung Hero

The message that I got from Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age is that he never got any of the credit that he rightfully deserved. The main reason for this is that a lot of the groundbreaking work that he did was at Bletchley Park and it had to be kept secret. Therefore, a vast majority of the credit for the development of the modern computer, stored programming, and artificial intelligence was given to others (both American and English). In fact, history books and textbooks on computer science up until fairly recently made no mention of the two men that were behind the development of modern computers: Alan Turing and Thomas Flowers. Turing was truly ahead of the times with his theories that computers could be 'taught' and that artificial intelligence was an inevitable part of our future (the fear is real within me, guys). Unfortunately, much of his findings on this went either unpublished or unseen and once again other scientists got the jump on him. (At this point, I have to say that this is just the opinion of one man but the overwhelming evidence backs him up.) I learned what the 'imitation game' is and also discovered I had read about it before in Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat. The author only briefly touched on the tragic end to Turing's life and suggested that the case may not have been a cut and dry suicide after all. You'll have to read the book to get the full details! ;-)

You might remember when I reviewed Russell Brand's My Booky Wook. If you don't I encourage you to click on the title of the book which will take you to that entry so you can catch up. Basically, it was a fantastic read and I somehow managed to finish it while on Thanksgiving holiday at all of the theme parks in Florida. *inspirational music playing* Therefore, I have high hopes for Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal. According to the book jacket the follow-up is going to focus on the sexual mayhem that only a sex addict can get up to and how the power of love (awkward now isn't it?) can cure all. I have a feeling this one will be anything but boring.

Update coming your way soon but until then happy reading!!

July 9, 2014

Technological progress from the modern computer to robots that have ethics

Well, it probably comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed I, Robot. This was my introduction into the genius mind of Isaac Asimov and I'm not going to stop here. I didn't realize until about midway through this book when I started looking at other books by him that this is the first in The Robot Series. The other three novels follow the detective exploits of a human and humanoid robot team so you know that's going on the TRL. As I said in the last entry, this book covers various scenarios in which robots acted outside of their prescribed programming. I liked that the stories were separate yet they had recurring characters and an overarching narrative theme. This kept things moving along and makes the reader invested (only if the author makes the characters likable or interesting which Asimov definitely did). By the end, you get the gist of what he is trying to say and most likely what the remainder of the series will explore: machines making decisions for humanity as a whole. For most, this fills them with a sense of horror that their lives are no longer their own to control. However, for one character in I, Robot this was almost comforting as robots had 'perfect logic and reason' and since one of the fundamental laws of robotics is to keep humans safe they will always make decisions in our favor. I highly recommend that you read this one to get the entire picture because I know I'm not doing it near enough justice.

Further in the vein of technological advances, my next read is Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age by B. Jack Copeland. I became aware of the name Alan Turing when I saw the trailer for The Imitation Game which is all about how he and his team at Bletchley Park cracked the Enigma code during WWII. It's a shame but I don't think many people are aware of this man despite his many accomplishments. Computers are based off of his invention the Universal Turing Machine. He was a leader in the field of mathematics, artificial intelligence, and biology. However, his genius was overshadowed for several years because he was convicted of homosexuality, chemically castrated (his choice instead of imprisonment), and then committed suicide by cyanide poisoning. More recently, there has been talk regarding the reversal of charges against him -- years too late. I have a feeling this one's gonna be a tearjerker, guys, so get those tissues ready!

July 6, 2014

Global warming and...robots?

Eaarth is at once hopeful and devastating. Bill McKibben doesn't pull any punches about the effects of global warming on our planet. The consequences of our pursuit for fossil fuel (and its burning) have made a lasting impact which is already effecting day-to-day living. The 'natural' disasters that we've been plagued with in ever-increasing frequency are a direct result of the imbalance which is a direct result of global warming. I say 'natural' because these freak weather events would most likely not have occurred if we hadn't pumped so much poison into the air and bumped up the global temperature (and it's only been pushed up one degree at this point). However, McKibben doesn't just harp on the horrors we've inflicted on the planet and its many inhabitants. He has solid ideas for ways we can adapt to our new environment on this completely new planet we created. His advice is to rely on communities and strive for living greener lives. (I've oversimplified of course because to give away more would defeat the purpose of you reading his excellent book.) If you're interested in environmental sciences and/or you're interested in the fate of our planet and our very way of life then I recommend you read this book ASAP.

Next up is a book I've had my eye on for quite some time: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Originally published in 1950, I, Robot, was the first book to give the three fundamental laws of robotics which almost all subsequent authors have taken as gospel. The book is almost a warning to humans that robots are more than just mechanical tools to be used without forethought. Each chapter discusses when robots weren't the 'norm' whether this be through exaggerated humanity or a kind of mania. Five chapters in and I feel chills rolling up my spine (it should be noted that I have a kind of terror of robots that can talk and have a super intelligence) as the tales of robots circumventing their programming are described so realistically I would swear I'm reading true accounts. I can't wait to deliver the review on this one, guys.

Until then, keep reading and have a great week!!

June 27, 2014

Mary Poppins was not a particularly nice lady

I hate to spoil your image of Mary Poppins but...well, I'm going to spoil your image of Mary Poppins. The version that P.L. Travers created was very different from the one Disney dreamed up. She was a vain woman who seemed to be more concerned with her own appearance than with how she spoke to the children under her care. I found it almost unsettling how biting and cruel she was toward Jane and Michael (the twins John and Barbara featured in one chapter and were incidental to the rest of the story). However, just as in the movie version the children were in awe of her and loved her very much (her feelings about them were not quite as clear). I do think this is worth a read for anyone who grew up watching the Disney classic especially because it gives new dimensions to Mary Poppins AND details new adventures.

Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet by Bill McKibben details the consequences of dragging our feet on the issue of global warming. Changes are already occurring and as a result our once familiar planet has evolved into something entirely different: Eaarth. Now that this is our new reality, McKibben says that the only course of action is to alter our society to confront it head-on. Environmental studies and sustainability are both topics I find fascinating so I'm sure this is going to be a page turner.

June 24, 2014

It ends with a BANG!

So it's finally finished. The saga of Detective Henry "Hank" Palace has reached its conclusion and it definitely didn't go out with a whimper. If you've been following this series then you know that the last book, World of Trouble, sees our protagonist in the final days before the asteroid hits the planet. There are still unanswered questions: Where is Nico? Where did Nico get that helicopter? Were she and her friends able to find the astronaut who could supposedly stop the asteroid? All of these questions are answered and MORE in the exciting culmination of The Last Policeman series. I can guarantee that if you liked the first two then you will really love this one and there are some crazy surprises that you don't want to miss!

For a while now, I've been wanting to delve into the world that P.L. Travers created with Mary Poppins at its center. Apparently I wasn't the only one with that same idea because I had to wait for months to get the first book in her series on my tablet: Mary Poppins. The story focuses on the children of Mr. & Mrs. Banks and their eccentric (but delightful) new nanny, Mary Poppins. I know already that it's going to be a bit different from the movie because 1. There are 4 children not two. and 2. Mr. Banks is not portrayed any kind of way like the movie version (he's imminently more likely than the mother at least at this point). I expect that I'll find it just as enjoyable (or more likely more so) than the film and I'll update you all just as soon as I've finished it. :-)

June 16, 2014

Hank Palace returns!

Let me start off by saying that I like the fact that P.D. James chose to create this story as if all of Jane Austen's novels existed in the same universe. There were mentions of characters from both Emma and Northanger Abbey which was MIND-BLOWING. Okay, well it was to me at any rate. Also, her writing style was appropriate for the time period which helped win me over with authenticity. However, I don't think I agreed with her interpretation of the characters in this story. The narrative 'voices' just felt off to me. I think the only one she had spot on was Mr. Darcy. (By the way, has anyone else found it humorous that his first name is Fitzwilliam and his cousin is Colonel Fitzwilliam? Do you think they found that confusing if someone called out "Hey Fitzwilliam, check this out!"?) Also, I was expecting the murder mystery aspect to really knock my socks off and it kind of fell flat in my opinion. Maybe I'm too accustomed to Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. :-P If you're a fan of Jane's then this might be an interesting choice for you but if you're not a fan of that genre of literature you'd most likely find this one a little stale.

And now onto the main event: World of Trouble, the final installment in The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters. If you've been following along on this blog, you'll know that I read the first two of this trilogy The Last Policeman and Countdown City and really enjoyed them. The books follow a detective by the name of Hank Palace whose world is literally crumbling around him because an asteroid is on a collision course with earth. In this last installment the asteroid is just days away from impact and society has degenerated into fear and paranoia. Most people are in underground bunkers with their stores of food and water. And then there's Hank. Hank is determined to keep doing his duty despite the fact that he no longer has the title of Detective. There's one more crime to solve and he's going to solve it even with death nipping at his heels.

June 12, 2014

Modern views from a time gone by

Below Stairs is a memoir of a woman who entered into domestic service as a kitchen maid at 13 and who saw the injustice of her situation (and indeed of all those in servitude) at a time when conditions were on the peak of changing. At the beginning of the tale, Margaret Powell is at home with her family which is large (typical of the time) and poor (also typical of many families). She must leave home, school, and everything she is familiar with because there is not enough money to keep her. What she discovers at her first place of work in service is that the dichotomy between Them upstairs and the servants below stairs is extremely pronounced despite the whisper of changes on the horizon. As the lowest rung on the service ladder, the kitchen maid (in Margaret's opinion) is treated with the least amount of respect or common decency. The story goes on to describe not only the differences between the classes but also the differences between the sexes. Powell's views are modern and revolutionary for the time period and her wit is absolutely biting. I thought this was a very interesting and entertaining read and I can definitely see how Downton Abbey used this as a reference point (you'll recognize some plot points if you're a fan of the show). I recommend it for anyone who'd like a quick, fun read that's also chock full of history (and cooking!).

Because I have absolutely no restraint when it comes to entering any 'book place' I came back from a visit to the library with Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. I feel like I heard about this book when it originally came out but for whatever reason I'm just now getting around to it after a recommendation showed up in my email. The main characters of this murder mystery are those beloved individuals from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Really that's all you had to say to me and I would have been intrigued. Frankly, any fan of Jane Austen and/or mysteries would be hard pressed to pass up a book with such a titillating blurb.

June 8, 2014

Claustrophobia and paranoia OR why I'm now reading a memoir about a kitchen maid

Room is one of those books that will change the way you view the world. What if you had grown up only knowing one room and believing that all you saw on TV was from another planet? What if you were a five year old boy who believe that you and your mother were the only "real" people? I think the author's choice of using the five year old as a narrator was particularly brilliant as the reader got to see Outside in an entirely different light. Donoghue used real cases to build a fictionalized tale about a woman and her son in an impossibly agonizing situation. At times, I had to stop reading just so that I could catch my breath from the intensity and the descriptive power of her words made me feel like I was trapped (probably didn't help that I read a lot of it on the train). I don't want any of this to put you off reading this book though because I thought it was fantastic (even though it ended rather abruptly for my tastes). In fact, I'll be adding some more of this author's books onto my TRL for the future. :-)

I have to admit that this next one caught my eye when one of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson, who you might remember from my review of her book Let's Pretend This Never Happened. She mentioned that she was going to give Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" by Margaret Powell and it piqued my interest. I find this topic very interesting because I can't imagine living on either side of this divided line. I most certainly wouldn't have been a mistress of a household and I would be a horrendous maid of any kind. What did the "help" really think of their lords and masters? Were they as keen to be of service as they were meant to be by their employers? I suppose that's exactly what I'll be finding out!

June 4, 2014

Take a chance / Don't be shy / Read a book / Please just try!

Today's title was of course inspired by the lovely book I just finished reading entitled The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss. The author, James W. Kemp, is a retired pastor who often used the stories of Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel, in his sermons because he felt (and I have to agree now) that you can equate many of them to biblical principles. For example, in the story On Beyond Zebra!, the narrator insists that there are more than just 26 letters in the alphabet. In fact, there's quite a bit more after one reaches Z (or Zebra). Kemp compares this to characters in the bible such as Abraham that went well beyond Zebra when they were called to do so by God. Abraham was called many times to go the distance but in one instance in particular he showed his true faith in the Lord when he was willing to sacrifice his only son as an offering simply because he was told to do so. Each chapter of Kemp's book begins with a section of the Bible along with a reference from a Seuss book and following this is the reasoning for the comparison. Not only was it very interesting to see how these tied together but I realized that I am unfamiliar with a lot of Seussian (yes, I've made that up but I'm allowed because it's Seuss) literature. I must remedy this ASAP!

Following this delightful romp, Room by Emma Donoghue is a story narrated by a 5 year old who grows up trapped in a room with his mother who has been held there by a man for seven years. The story was apparently inspired by a real life case of a woman who was help captive by her father in their home's basement for 24 years. The book received multiple honors and a film adaptation of the novel is in the works. I have high expectations for this one but something tells me that I won't be disappointed. Review up soon!

And don't forget that summer time is all about BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS!!

May 31, 2014

Everybody's reading on the weekend! (I hope you sang that like I did)

When I began to read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I really had no clue what sort of impact it might have on me (if any). As I said in my previous post, this book has been lauded for its insight into a culture which has been overshadowed and marginalized by "American society". It has been awarded literary honors such as the National Book Award. It has also been atop the banned books list since its release. People have an inherent fear of what is different from themselves. The "otherness" which is so often a theme in young adult literature because that is the time when we as a species notice the differences in one another. It is not something we are born with but it is something that we learn. Arnold Spirit, the main character in this book, is the very definition of "other". He is an outsider in his tribe and he is most definitely an outsider in the white community that he voluntarily joins. However, he does not let this stop him from pursuing his dreams for something more. This is a book fraught with struggle, oppression, depression, and jocularity. There are many dark themes discussed in this book which is why it has been so contentious among parents. Do these parents think that these things do not or could not happen to their own children? Do they truly believe that every child grows up in a home filled with laughter and rainbows? Do they want to shield their children from the ugliness of this world for as long as they possibly can? Yes, I believe that's the issue right there. Alexie does not shy away from the hard topics but he doesn't eradicate the good either. There is a thread of hope running through this book which I think everyone could benefit from. So if you want a book that will have you alternately laughing and crying then this is the one for you.

The next book was recommended to me by my best friend and once you hear the title I'm almost sure that you'll agree it's right up my alley: The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss by James W. Kemp. On the surface this might appear to be a lighthearted takeaway from a beloved children's author but it's actually quite a bit more. This book discusses the illustrations in his stories as reflections of biblical principles. That's as much as the book jacket reveals to me so I'll have to give you more information in my review of it. Oh the anticipation!!

May 28, 2014

Double the fun! Also, VICTORY IS MINE!

Doctor Who: Nightshade by Mark Gatiss was an incredibly dark adventure with a most beloved character (in a version I'm entirely unfamiliar with) and his companion (again I have no history with Ace). Centered around a small village, The Doctor and Ace are up against a foe that is ruthless in its carnage and hunger. An entity that reveals itself in the form of loved ones long since dead and buried, it seems nigh on impossible that there is a way to stop its growing into a creature that can devour the planet in its entirety. However, lifelong lovers of the Time Lord with a made up name know that he's nothing if not persistent. I warn you that this book is firmly in the horror genre rather than specifically sci-fi so keep that in mind if you're looking to read it.

I felt that I needed a bit of a break from the macabre so I moved on to Roald Dahl's delightful story entitled Danny, the Champion of the World. As I said in my review of D is for Dahl there are no official biographies of the illustrious author himself but a few of his children's stories are odes to his past and this is one of them. The story centers on Danny and his father, William, who it must be said is one of the greatest fathers known to man. It is a thank you note to all of the fathers who take the time to really get to know their kids and who share parts of themselves in return. A lighthearted tale of a boy who came into his own and at the same time learned to love his father even more (which was quite the feat since he loved him quite a lot). As you'd expect with Dahl it's full to bursting with whimsy and imagination and I dare you to read it and not feel buoyed up with joy.

Finally after I've waited for over 2 years for it to be available in the public library I am proud to say that I'm reviewing The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. A book both lauded with acclaim for its wit and tenacity as well as decried for it's controversial topic, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian naturally rose to the top of my TRL (To Read List). Unfortunately, (fortunately for everyone else) everyone else seemed to have the same idea and it's been checked out and unavailable every single time I've checked for it...until today! I nabbed the one copy available! Okay so let me give you a little peek into the subject matter. Alexie's book chronicles the story of a boy named Arnold who was born with fluid on the brain which left him with a host of issues ranging from an oversized cranium to a stutter. Added to these difficulties, he makes the choice to transfer off of the reservation and into an all-white school where he hopes he can get a top notch education. It is a story of struggle, persistence, and acceptance of one's culture and self. I cannot wait to review this one for you!!

May 21, 2014


D is for Dahl is one of those fantastically quick and fun reads that I think every parent should read with their child (or in my case the adult with the heart of a child). This book is especially fun for those fans of the writer who may not know much about the man himself. He was such a unique, kind individual and that spirit shone through in his writings for both children and adults. To learn about the eccentricities of his private life is to have your estimation of the character of Dahl increase exponentially. For something delightfully funny with a fast pace, this is the perfect book to pick up.

For those fans of either Doctor Who or Sherlock, you'll be familiar with the name Mark Gatiss. He's known as both a writer (and actor) in each of these series but he's also written books...many of them quite naughty. This one isn't (I don't think). The title is Doctor Who: Nightshade and it's set during the time of the Seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace. The Doctor in his companion arrive in a small village which seems to be plagued by something sinister. A large number of deaths have occurred there throughout history and many people are starting to have visions/hallucinations. Is there something supernatural occurring here or is it more extraterrestrial in nature?

May 20, 2014

Science!! Mystery!! Tuberculosis?

It's no mystery (see what I did there?) to you, dear reader, that I'm a science nerd. I've reviewed enough scientific nonfiction to lend credence to that statement. That being said, I have to give props where props are due. The Remedy was superb. Goetz brings to light the achievements of 19th century scientists that were instrumental in modernizing medicine which at the time was seen as imprecise and oftentimes dangerous. Robert Koch, a man known to science mostly for his methodology postulates, was also one of the fathers of bacteriology alongside his nemesis, Louis Pasteur. Koch's triumphs and downfalls in relation to TB are brought to light right alongside the magnificent story of Arthur Conan Doyle and his journey from dissatisfied doctor to acclaimed author. While these stories seem to have no relation to one another, Goetz illustrates that these two scientifically minded men have more in common than meets the eye. For anyone looking to learn more about ACD's creation of that illustrious detective Sherlock Holmes or for those yearning to learn more about the deadly disease of Tuberculosis, this is the book for you!

PS TB is still a major threat to humanity and kills large numbers of people every year.

To give you all a glimpse into my mind, the next book on the list is just as up my alley as The Remedy. I'm reading D is for Dahl: A gloriumptious A-Z guide to the world of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl, compiled by Wendy Cooling, and illustrated by Quentin Blake. Roald Dahl is, simply put, one of the greatest children's authors of all time. If you haven't read any of his books then you are truly missing out on an extraordinarily delightful reading experience. Who can think of a more beguiling adventure than a tour through a chocolate factory such as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Who could possibly be nastier than the Grand High Witch from The Witches? The man was a genius and when his books were joined by the illustrations of Quentin Blake the characters fairly leaped off of the page and into the imaginations of children and adults the world over. Therefore, why wouldn't I want to read random facts and trivia about the man himself (with the bonus of QB illustrations littering the pages)?!

May 14, 2014

Gaiman is a master of fantasy

How do I even sum up how I felt after reading Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane? Firstly, I wouldn't read this one in the dead of the night with all of the lights out (I mean it's bad for your eyes for one thing) if I were you. Gaiman has a particular gift for rooting out those fears that seem to coalesce in our childhoods and which we bury deep within ourselves as we get older. We never learn the main character's name in this story and I think this was done so that as a reader you feel you are the main character. His world is turned upside down and inside out and for a 7 year old the world is already a scary place. The intensity is high from the very beginning and never lets up. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is ingenious, poignant, and captivating.

It's no secret to those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis that I'm a science nerd. What you might not have picked up on is that I'm also a huge fan of the works of Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes for those uninitiated to the skills of the deductive genius). So it probably won't come as a surprise that the next book on my reading list is The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz  which satisfies both of these interests. At the height of the tuberculosis epidemic, there was rumor that a cure had been created in Berlin. A part-time writer and full-time doctor went to discover if the cure was fact or fiction. This man was named Arthur Conan Doyle and he was extremely sceptical that Koch had indeed found a way to combat the disease that had already decimated millions of people. This book is their story.

Incidentally, this is my 100th post. I want to thank all of you who read this, comment, pass it on, and generally give me encouragement. I love this blog and it means so much to me that you're reading it. :-D Here's to a 100 more!!

May 7, 2014


Sometimes it's best not to start a book with a high sense of anticipation because you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. This isn't the case 100% of the time (thank goodness!) but the few times it happens it is SUCH a bummer. This is precisely what happened with I Am Scout. I've been curious about Harper Lee for a while now as her name (and novel) are such a big deal for my home state of Alabama (and the world if I'm being honest). Therefore, when I heard praise for a young adult biography on this esteemed author I knew it had to be added to my wish list right away (it's been on my Amazon wish list since the fall of 2011). I expected to get an in-depth story about an author that seemed to be synonymous with civil liberty and the South. What I got instead were anecdotes from former classmates who admitted they weren't even close to Lee. I have to give Shields credit where credit is due because he certainly did his research as best as he could with the resources that he had available to him. It is a well known fact that Harper Lee is not in the habit of giving interviews and even when she does they are short and impersonal affairs. She wrote one of the most influential novels of the 20th century and then seemed to adopt the life of a recluse. If you're picking up this book in the hopes that you'll find out more about the woman who penned To Kill a Mockingbird then I'm afraid you'll be dissatisfied with the outcome.

Well, here's another one that I've had on my wish list for quite a while: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. You guys already know my love of this author and when I got wind that he had written an adult fantasy novel I had to jump on it. As you may or may not be aware, Gaiman generally sticks to the young adult audience and hasn't written for adults in 8 years so this was a HUGE deal among the reading community. The story centers around a narrator who travels back to his hometown only to discover that the women he had met as a child were still living there...unchanged. I started it this morning and even though I'm only through the first chapter I already know this is going to make it to my list of favorites. :-D

May 1, 2014

The Space Trilogy III

It may have taken a bazillion years, but I finally finished That Hideous Strength. Ransom was back again (yay!) leading a rag tag bunch of Brits in a crusade against the evil forces seeking to destroy humanity as we know it. The two main characters introduced in this installment weren't especially likable but I think that was one of the points Lewis was trying to make. And there's a special guest that had me wriggling (wriggling!) with delight. There were definitely dark themes in this one such as violence and gore but if you've been following the series this was to be expected at the pinnacle of the drama. Instead of being set on a distant planet the action takes place on Earth, specifically England. I was happy with the conclusion but sad at the same time because I had grown to love Ransom and because the action wasn't immediately centered on him I felt a bit jipped. :-( However, if you've been following along with me then I'm sure you're just itching to reach the conclusion of this epic saga.

Next up to bat is I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields. Most people have read the classic To Kill a Mockingbird but almost no one knows anything about the novel's author, Harper Lee. This novel seeks to rectify that and the best part is that it was adapted for young adults. Harper Lee is one of those authors that slips into obscurity after writing a piece of literature that just refuses to do the same. Lee seeks to illuminate the rather extraordinary life of a woman who wrote a book that continues to capture the imagination of millions and which will more than likely continue to do so for many years to come. This one has been on my reading list for longer than I'd care to admit so I really hope it lives up to my high expectations. *fingers crossed*

April 23, 2014

World Book Night!!

This is my first year participating in World Book Night and I couldn't be more excited. World Book Night promotes reading to those populations who are nonreaders and/or do not have access to reading materials. 29,000 volunteers around the world will be giving out a total of 500,000 books (FOR FREE!) to people and encouraging them to become lifelong readers (and learners!). Each giver has a box of 20 books to pass out. My book is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children which you'll remember I reviewed last year.  I am so excited and nervous (this is New York so you never know what might go down) to be participating in a cause which I firmly believe can be life changing for all of those involved. If you want more information on this momentous event (in celebration of Will Shakespeare's 450th birthday!) please go here.


April 20, 2014

Mission Aborted

I am forced to admit defeat. First, I believed that I was reading the same poetry I had previously read excerpts from and that is definitely not the case. Second, it turns out that Duo Duo specializes in abstract poetry which I do not have the capabilities to decrypt. In short, I can make neither head nor tail of these poems and despite almost finishing one of the books I just don't want to read any further. Now I certainly don't want to discourage any of you from continuing your poetry journey but I just couldn't do it.

On a happier note, I got a copy of That Hideous Strength from my library (yay renewed library card!) so I'll finally be able to finish The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis! This one is set on Earth and follows two people involved with the N.I.C.E Institute which is actually a front for an evil supernatural force. So they ask for help from our favorite hero, Ransom. I AM SO READY!

April 15, 2014

Russian History least Russian architecture...ecclesiastical anyway

It only took me a millennium but I finally finished up Devil's Acre: A Russian Novel. I blame it on the fact that I read the majority of it on my phone and the font was horrendously tiny (a fix to this is on its way). Now onto the review! The historical details of this story are grounded in fact but the characters and their storyline are distinctly fictitious. If you don't like novels that switch between time periods then you're not going to be a big fan of this book. I don't mind a bit of time jumping but I like the time periods to be easily distinguishable which wasn't always the case with this novel. I think it would have flowed better if the chapters flip flopped back and forth rather than within the chapters themselves. Also, the author utilized a writing technique that further confused things: he injected himself into the novel as a type of narrator about a quarter of the way through. Again, I don't mind this technique if it's unmistakable to the rest of the narrative. There was so much jumping around that I didn't really feel comfortable until about halfway through. Now as to the story itself, I found the plot interesting (I'm always interested in a bit of history/mystery) but I finished somewhat dissatisfied with the state of affairs. I was hoping for a bit more character resolution and it just never materialized. If you want to delve into the history of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour then this book is for you. If you want a story that sweeps you away on a cloud that you never want to emerge from well...I don't make any guarantees.

Because it's National Poetry Month I've decided to read two books of poetry. Both were originally written by Duo Duo and translated from Chinese to English by Gregory B. Lee. The first is titled The Boy Who Catches Wasps which is a collection of Duo Duo's poetry from across his career beginning after the massacre in Tiananmen Square. The second is Looking Out From Death which was the first collaboration between Lee and the poet and is the first collection of his poetry in English. I first became aware of Duo Duo when reading The Spy where selected passages were used at the beginning of several chapters. IT'S POETRY TIME!