Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Mitchell can write in any style. The book is substantive and enjoyable, but I can't give it 5 stars because ultimately it feels like a piece to show off his skill with different writing styles and feels a little hollow. It's the difference between reading an essay where you believe the person has conviction in their thesis, and one where the person has a thesis simply because an essay requires it. Also, and maybe this was the real problem for me, I only felt invested in the Somni character, the character that is supposed to be the least human.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Dad's Favorite Books

I recently found my dad's profile. I'm sure I asked him to join, and I'm not sure how much effort he put into writing his profile but he listed his favorite books:

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter (1979)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (1966) (review here)
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992) (review here)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973) (review here)
The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman (1985)

I've read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but it was many years ago. I do remember loving it. I've tried and failed to read Gravity's Rainbow, but I will try again. I'm afraid of whether or not I got rid of Gödel, Escher, Bach and The Shining Mountain even though I got rid of very very few books, but I will look for them. Maybe starting out with this smaller list will help since it's been two years now and I've made no progress in reading his books.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"How nice—to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive."

I love this book. I love the idea of getting unstuck in time- and it's definitely a thing that can happen to a person, psychologically speaking. (Though possibly there's some physics to suggest it could happen in reality as well.)

I love the protest of "So it goes." It's like a prayer after the death of each individual in the novel.

I love all the discontinuous moments of Billy Pilgrim's life.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Stuart Little by E.B. White

Stuart LittleStuart Little by E.B. White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I forgot that Stuart isn't actually a mouse. He's an extremely diminutive human born with a mouse-like appearance! The first half of the book is Stuart's young mouse-like adventures, but the second half of the book is about him venturing out into the world in a bit of a coming of age story. He's supposedly looking for a particular bird friend, but works as a substitute teacher, dates, drives a car, and generally talks and acts like an independent adult.

The book is a bit shorter than Charlotte's Web or The Trumpet of the Swan, but the vocabulary is difficult for a young kid and the ending is left unresolved.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

Chocolate FeverChocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Read this when I was a little kid and liked it a lot, but I think I'd be happy to have the fever and the spots if I could eat as much chocolate as I wanted without gaining weight like Henry.

Kind of takes a weird turn when Henry runs away from his medical team by hitchhiking with an adult! Luckily for Henry the adult happens to be awesome and coincidentally sells chocolate AND has an employer that can solve Henry's problem. Very deus ex machina.

Thought the book might discuss how delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables are, but that definitely never happens!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Island of the Blue Dolphins, #1)Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The beginning of the book is super tragic, and the rest of the book is meandering and pleasant. As a child, I didn't know that this was based on a true story. (Except the ending was significantly less happy on account of Native American's lack of immunity to western disease.) Though particularly beautiful in its exploration of the girl's relationship with animals, a lot of her probable feelings were left completely out of the story. It's as if all her grief and emotions were muted or completely extinguished by the author.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe

The Celery Stalks at Midnight (Bunnicula, #3)The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has one of the best titles in children's literature. The actual vampire bunny in back in this one which is refreshing, along with a new puppy character from book 2. Not quite as great as the first Bunnicula book but a decent sequel.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Howliday Inn by James Howe

Howliday Inn (Bunnicula, #2)Howliday Inn by James Howe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute story about the family pets Harold the dog and Chester the cat being boarded while the family is away. While they are being boarded they solve a murder/missing pet mystery. It's not quite as adorable as Bunnicula, and Bunnicula himself is not even in this book which is disappointing.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bunnicula by James Howe and Deborah Howe

Bunnicula (Bunnicula, #1)Bunnicula by James Howe and Deborah Howe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming story about a family with two boys, a very smart dog Harold who is the author of the book, an even smarter cat Chester, and a vampire bunny. Chester is my favorite. He's both a big reader and super paranoid. I can relate!

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Friday, February 8, 2013

The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal FreedomThe Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's fine. It gives some standard self-improvement advice. But I get really bored by the generalized examples. In general, fluffy examples is why I'm not a fan of self-help writing.

Chapters 2-5:
1. Be impeccable with your word- To Ruiz, it doesn't mean "be perfectly honest" like I thought it would, but rather, don't have sin in your speech. Don't say mean things to people or about them.

2. Don't take anything personally- Okay, the example where someone who doesn't know you calls you stupid is silly. Of course, that's not personal. But if you have a meaningful relationship with someone, say a parent or a partner, it would be extremely difficult not to take it personally. And perhaps you shouldn't just dismiss it without consideration. "You're making a lot of noise," says your roommate. Oh that's just about them, not about me you think, and keep making a racket. I'm being a little silly in my example, but I think Ruiz is exaggerating the relevance of Agreement #2. It's not terrible advice in certain situations, but definitely not in all.

3. Don't make assumptions - Okay wasn't Agreement #2 one huge assumption? This one is generally good advice.

4. Do your best. Okay, now I'm bored. We all know this one, right? Plus in this section is a quote I actively disagree with: "You don't need knowledge or great philosophical concepts." Really, why are we even reading this book then? Also, maybe this book would have been better if the author had valued philosophical study.

Chapter 6 was all over the place, but I did like the small section on controlling your emotions (p. 119). The only problem is that it runs counter to the previous section in the same chapter that talks about how completely free children are with their emotions. But whatever, it's still a decent little section. I also liked the section on preparing for death although there were contradictions in that part as well.

Chapter 7 and the Prayers section are inspirational and the part I'd be most likely to reread for a refocus.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex  (The Theban Plays, #1)Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone knows the general story of Oedipus, but wow, this play is intense and amazing. It's not a just a tragedy, it's a horror of sights and emotion. Sophocles really railed against the injustices of fate.

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