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*