Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: The Giver- Lois Lowry

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have never been shy about my opinion of dystopian novels, most of them stink because they all have the same problems and they all seem to end in the same, overly perfect way. I don't think that The Giver is much better. I thought I had started this book in seventh grade and given it a descent chance, but then gave up on it. I did that a lot back then because of my teacher's odd checkout and reward policy. Anyway, I wasn't a fan of the little bit I read back then, but it must have been a very little bit because I only remember chapter 1 and a few details about the Giver and the giving process that I must have been told by someone else. Had I realized back then that the book was by the same author, Lois Lowry, as Number the Stars, I maybe would have given it a bit more of a chance, but I have complained before about improper reading guidance when I was a kid.
When I heard that it was being turned into a movie I decided that I should maybe give it another chance, especially because my wife was shocked that I hadn't read it in full or enjoyed it. The book was a short read and the dystopian society was a little realistic, but at the same time the ending was too sudden and clean. The plan that the main character and the giver come up with is too simple to have taken him so long to come up with and execute. The ending isn't too perfect, but it is close. Maybe I would have enjoyed this as a kid, but I don't think I was missing a lot by having waited so long to read it. I'll watch the movie, but I'm not as excited about it as I had been. Lastly, I know there have been sequels, but I have no intent on subjecting myself to that kind of frustration or disappointment unless it for some reason were to become necessary.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni- Helene Wecker

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a cousin of mine. He told me that he had read it recently and gave me a dust jacket synopsis of it. The tale follows a Golem, clay person from Jewish mysticism, that was brought to New York City and a Jinni [genie in a lamp] who doesn't know how he ended up there.
The history of the city and the different religious influences were well researched and intricately woven into the story making it rich and vivid, bringing to life the city that never sleeps. The book had me hooked before the first chapter was over. I was a little surprised about how long it took the two main characters, Chava the Golem and Ahmad the Jinni, to meet. They also ended up having (view spoiler) in the middle of the book that changed their relationship. There were multiple story lines that in the end were wonderfully woven together. The ending was not too simple or complex, not to tragic or romantic, and although the book followed normal patterns its ending was not overly predictable.
The only complaint I have about the book is that because there are so many characters and the stories are only weakly tied together at the beginning, it became hard to follow narrative transitions and some of their names, since several had similar sounding names. Overall, I loved the book. George Guidall, one of my favorite readers, read the audiobook, which certainly helped. Normally new authors don't get audiobooks until they're proven successes, so I was surprised to find out that this book was Helene Wecker's first book. I eagerly await future novels by her.</["br"]></["br"]>

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Review: Robogenesis- Daniel H. Wilson

Robogenesis (Robopocalypse, #2)Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Robopocalypse a few months ago and had been wanting to listen to it for a while. When the book finished it left itself open for a sequel, but did not require it. When I finished reading the book I was surprised to find that there was consideration about it being turned into a movie and that a sequel Robogenesis had just come out within the last year.
When I read that there was a sequel I was concerned that it would not be as good because I thought it would be difficult to do a sequel since the original was done in past tense- post-apocalypse. This book surprisingly tried to do the same, but did not pull it off as well. Furthermore, because of the people that we would call cyborgs, the book had its own name for them, exist it actually gets kind of gruesome.
[Spoilers from the first book are given in what follows, and are not censored, but spoilers from this book are censored]. The first book is told primarily from the perspective of stories collected by the robots and retold by a soldier in a collection called the Hero Archive. This book is told as stories from the perspective of (view spoiler). There's also a bit of retconning [retroactive continuity] going on claiming that Archos R-14 had been trying to (view spoiler). Neither of those set very well with me and this lead to the sequel not being as good as the original. In the interview/author's at the end of the book Daniel H. Wilson claimed that he was open to potentially making it a trilogy, and that if the reader wanted it to voice their support, but the book did not conclude in a satisfactory way such that a sequel would be only optional, instead of necessary. I enjoyed this book too and will read the sequel when it comes out, but I am not as eager about it as I was about getting to this book.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Thoughts About a Book: Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is- Roberto Trotta

The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-IsThe Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is by Roberto Trotta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This writing of my thoughts will be written in the same way as the book, using only the ten hundred most used words. The idea for the book came from a funny on-line picture "book" that told how a space car called the Up Goer Five works. In this book the man tells about the All-There-Is in the same way, but does it for about twenty less than one hundred pieces of paper. The All-There-Is has all the stars and all the stuff and is what you see when you look up in the sky at night (like the stars and the small drops that make up all the things), but it also has what you do not see (things like dark matter and dark power).

The book is short and I thought it would be a quick read, but it took me a long time to read, because I had to be like a student-person and figure out what was really being said. Even though the words were easy the ideas and figuring were hard. Names were also allowed as were the ten hundred most used words. This made the person who made the book be very good and pick easy to figure out words. I did catch at least one lie, when the word "minute" was used for small instead of time, the last of which is probably not in the ten hundred most used words in our tongue, the second way to say it [as time] is.

Writing like this is hard but a fun thing to try. The person who wrote the book was helped by the student-people picking boring names for important things like dark matter and dark power. Still he had to come up with new ways to say things and make it possible for the person who reads the book to figure it out. I have wondered and asked myself the question could this be done for other areas of thought. Maybe I will try my hand at it some-time, but for now this short writing has been hard enough. I liked the book a lot and I hope others will try to read it and I hope Mr. Munroe learns about it and reads it too. I hope you might read it after reading this thing I wrote about reading it, because it was good, it made me laugh, and it made me think.

This was written with the help of the up-goer five typing thing that made sure I only used the ten hundred most used words as I wrote about it.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review: Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West- Blaine Harden

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the WestEscape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by John Green in one of his vlogbrothers videos and is the first book that they have recommended to me that I have liked, other than some of John's own books, excepting maybe some of the classics recommended on both their channel and on CrashCourse Literature.
I had misunderstood or at least been lead to believe that this story was an autobiography, rather than simply a biographical tale, but here Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong, the only man known to have escaped from a political camp in North Korea. Harden was very clear that much of the story was unconfirmable as North Korea is so closed. Even so he did the best he could to verify the tales including: interviewing released prisoners from other camps, prisoner guards, multiple interviews and background follow-ups with Shin. He was clear to point out when Shin changed his story and how worried that made him until the story painted Shin in a worse light than before and the overall arc remained unchanged. As the author pointed out, the easiest way for North Korea to disprove such allegations would be to open up to the West or the outside world in general and let what is hidden come to light. As it is, technology like Google Earth and miniaturized electronics that are easily smuggled make it possible to get some information out of the otherwise silent North Korea.
This book has stuck with me for the short while since I have finished reading it, because as the author pointed out the North Korean prison camps have been open multiple times longer than Nazi Concentration Camps and the Soviet Gulag combined were. Furthermore, unlike so many Holocaust books I cannot simply think of it as something horrible that happened in the past that we can learn from, but beyond that there is nothing to do, but remember. No, this book is about an atrocity that is currently on-going, and yet the international community is somehow not stepping up to do much about it. Not that I think that America, or NATO, or even the UN should be the world-police and just swoop in and take over another nation, but we will all be chagrined if we turn a blind eye to the injustice and the inhumane treatment of people again. This going on now and I cannot, should not be comfortable with it, even though I am a world away. This story was hard to hear and I admittedly skipped over it many times in part because I preferred to remain blinded to it, but now I know and I can't get it out of my head. Even if, in the end, the story has been exaggerated, if there is any basis of truth [which it seems there must be] then this is a humanitarian crisis that needs more light shined upon it. It should be obvious from the title that (view spoiler). It is a shame when China, with its abuses and humanitarian problems, is viewed as the refuge, when China is the save and civilized place to go to escape oppression.</["br"]></["br"]>

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: The Five Love Languages- Men's Edition: How to Express Heartfelt Committment to Your Mate- Gary Chapman

The Five Love Languages: Men's Edition: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your MateThe Five Love Languages: Men's Edition: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First I want to point out that I mostly listened to the Men's Edition of this book, but there was a glitch in the Overdrive download, so I ended up listening to parts of the original version.
Second, the question I, and a lot of others seemed to have, is this a variation/modification of the original or is it an extension/spin-off upon the original. It is a variation, the points specifically for men seem to be an after-thought and the cover is a different color, that's about it. At the end of the chapter there were application ideas that were specifically focused towards men. They seemed like an after though, and I do not know whether the original included these application ideas at the end of the chapter, but either way the men-specific points were not significant. The audiobook did conclude with an interview/afterward with Gary Chapman [who was also the reader of the audiobook and was good at it] and he said that this was his attempt to make the book more accessible to men and not to re-write the book. He was very honest and candid about it and I think any misleading in the marketing of the book has come from the publisher instead.
Overall the book was good to read and there were some ways my eyes were opened, but I had heard much of it before so it wasn't really life-altering. The five love languages are: gift giving [my wife's], acts of service [mine], quality time, encouraging words, and physical touch. The book focused on identifying and then using positively your spouses love language. That is, getting used to using a love language that is not your natural one, so that when you express love it is in the natural language your spouse speaks in. The idea makes great sense and in the limited ways I've tried it I believe that it works.
The biggest complaint I have about the book is that he spends no time talking about, how as a spouse we should recognize when our spouse uses their own love language. For example, right as and after I read the book I was getting ready to go away to a conference for two days and I spent the weekend making sure everything in the house was in order, even going as far as to do service tasks, like laying out clothes for our girls for Monday morning, that my wife normally does. I cleaned like crazy and did everything else I could to make sure that she was well served before I left. My wife did appreciate it, but the author doesn't talk about this at all in the book. The other minor complaint is that I think I naturally am strongly one, but understand and appreciate all five and there are times where he seems to waffle as to whether or not you can have more than one love language, though he puts great emphasis throughout on your/their primary love language.

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