Wednesday, July 9, 2014

World War Z - Book and Movie

Max Brooks presents you with a history of the great war against the zombies, one from which mankind nearly didn't survive. He took the time to travel the globe finding stories from individuals that were in the thick of things as the menace came down on the world, people who helped make a difference, some not such a good contribution, in how the war was fought. And he presented it to the public, giving them a chance to see the behind-the-scenes actions of those that worked so hard to give the people back their world.

Zombies are the new big thing, plenty of people writing or making books about how they take over the world, leaving the last vestiges of mankind to fend for themselves. Brooks takes it a step further, looking more in detail at how the people reacted, handled, and faced the zombie infestation from it's first cases until the near end of the clearing of them so that mankind could take back their world. With personal accounts from a number of different sources, Brooks tries to give the reader a variety of angles from which to take a look at the crisis. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that ever bit of it is presented as fact. From the reviews on the back to the jacket information presented, it is all given to the reader as though that reader was right there in the thick of the zombie war with everyone else. This happened and this is why we survived! Another part of the book that really enthralled me was that some of these people who are being presented as heroes started out their stories with how much of a nobody they were. A simple doctor not given all the facts but lucky enough to understand his friend's hidden warning. A teenager whose family thought they were safe until the walking dead invaded their suburb, convincing her father to take the family and trek north. A technologically engrossed young adult who only began to freak out when he lost internet connection. Yet when they were forced out of their comfort zones they made big differences that helped turn the tide of the war. 

I greatly enjoyed this take on the zombie culture, and look forward to picking up more of Max Brooks' work. If you are a fan of the genre, I encourage you to take a look at this one! And for those who think the zombie craze is overrated, here is your book! Presented as a history it is a great gateway into the world of zombies!

A comparison between the book and movie.

I saw the movie about 3 months before I got the chance to read the book. By itself, I liked the movie, the new take on zombies being rather frightening since they were infinitely more difficult to combat with their increased speed. I liked that they tried to find patient zero and therefore a cure for this new virus, but was a little disappointed by the results.

Upon reading the book I and once more watching the movie, I have new opinions on the subject. But first I must say that my one rule when seeing a movie adapted from a book is to take it as it's own. I try not to compare or expect the movie to be exactly like the book, too many times have I been disappointed.

That being said, I have found a way to mostly reconcile the two. The movie is focused simply on one man and his mission of trying to find patient zero and therefore a possible cure. The book however is the behind-the-scenes tale of what was going on in the world while he was doing that. This leaves only 2 problems that did not translate from book to film: 1) The zombies in the book are slow moving - as traditional zombies are, while in the film they are frighteningly fast. 2) The book was never about a cure that couldn't be found, it was simply about surviving the zombies.

By itself I still enjoyed the movie, although it was rather disappointing when it came to what was going on in the world around this man. And he never really found any of the answers he was looking for. But give it a chance if you haven't already seen it. I think it is worth the watch.  

Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of The Dragon is the story of a small kingdom led by a mostly wise king, Roland. King Roland has two sons, Peter, the eldest son destined to be a great king himself, and Thomas, the younger brother who is timid and sometimes jealous of his brother. Among those at court is also the King's Magician, Flagg, who has plans for the small kingdom of Delain, plans that he will carry out despite the royalty in his way.

My son is a big reader; with his own bookshelf in his room that now has two shelves bowing under the pressure of too many books! He is 7 years old! My mother found this book by Stephen King and was so excited that he had written a young adult book, since she is a big fan herself. So we stepped out on a limb and began reading this just before bed each night when my son started his 1st grade school year. It was slow going, sometimes he would pick another book to read, when the plot was a little slow for his taste, but as we reached the end and everything began to come to a point, I found myself reading for a half hour at a time because my son kept asking for more! He enjoyed the book!

I must say this is the first Stephen King book I have finished, growing much too frightened midway through Pet Cemetery many years back. But his writing is just as captivating as he speaks out to this younger audience! The characters are ones we can relate to, a not so perfect King, a first born Prince who learned some lessons the hard way, and a younger Prince who made many mistakes but was determined enough to right them. And of course there is the villain Flagg who has the potential to haunt the reader's nightmares for a long time, just as he did every other character in the story. And the pictures were beautiful and well times, exciting my son as he was given an image to go with scenes he could only imagine.

I am not sure that this book is wholly appropriate for children as young as mine, he has a mature taste, but I do recommend it to young and budding readers. This is a great first book to get a young adult hooked on the master of horror himself! I say pick up a copy now and put it on your child's bookshelf for the future! I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to hear it, too!

Monday, July 7, 2014

American Gods

American Gods is mostly the story of Shadow, a recently released convict who finds himself at a loose end when he discovers his wife has died in a car accident. Having nothing to go home to and no job, Shadow agrees to take up employment with a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. As the story unfolds and Shadow tries to understand the events taking place around him, he soon realizes that they people he is dealing with are bigger than he was prepared for; gods kind of bigger. Meanwhile Gaiman also presents us with the stories of the people who brought those gods to this country they find themselves trapped in. With a war between old and new on the horizon, Shadow finds himself enmeshed in things he had not even known were an issue.

Once more Gaiman has presented me with a story that fascinated me until the very end. I have always been fascinated by the old gods, ones that have become obsolete as people forget them and the rituals that were dedicated to them. Gaiman not only gives us an explanation on how those gods made it to our country before fading into the background, but he presents us with how these gods would react and handle the weakening of power as people forget them completely. Meanwhile Shadow is caught up in events that he can hardly believe as gods he could not believe in move around him. Trying to understand everything and simply do as he is told, he is confused by the fact that so many seem to think he is important for no other reason than he is. As that story unfolds, Gaiman did a wonderful job of giving the reader only enough information to be on pace with Shadow as he struggles to figure things out, allowing them to be just as surprised as the main character by the truths hidden behind all the mystery that is the gods.

I love Gaiman's writing style, something I really came into contact with as I moved from his graphic novels to actual novels with Stardust. The fact that he is not originally from America did nothing to stop him from telling an amazing story about the beliefs that led to our mixed culture. He weaves a wonderful tale with his writing skills! I look forward to reading more of his work! I highly recommend this book to everyone looking for a tale outside the norm about beings not only forgotten in the literature, but also among the readers. I hope you are just as impressed as I was by this master of writing. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Last Christian

What should be a bright future turns bleak in this look at the life of a young Christian who steps into a world ruled by rationalizations that claim God is a myth no longer needed by humanity. As Abigail Caldwell steps from the jungles of Papua New Guinea to find help for the tribe her family came to preach to before she was born, a tribe that had become her family, she finds herself immersed in a culture she is not prepared for. The USA she travels to in hopes of connecting with her cousin, the only family she has left now, is one fueled by technology and looking for greater leaps in science. Such as the ability for artificial brains that one can has transplanted in replacement of their own, limited biological ones. Abby has come tot he country with the hope of finding other Christians or leading more to God, but instead she finds a country that has turned it back on religion altogether.

I really enjoyed this unique twist on a Christian and futuristic book. Gregory took what most would view as an amazingly bright, hopeful, future, one that we can look forward to with anticipation, and turned it into a frighting look at how things could turn upside down for Christians. And I do not believe the threat ends with Christians. Anyone of any religion should be afraid of this kind of future. One in which humanity decides that their connection to technology and rationalization is better than one with spirituality and a higher power. I found this to be a scary look into how mankind seems to be going, and pray that Gregory gets it wrong.

I liked Gregory's writing, as his characters uncover a vast conspiracy along with the reality of God's gift of eternal life. I must say that non-Christians should be aware that throughout the novel the Christian gospel is preached, as it should in a Christian novel. And I believe if the reader can tolerate these revelations of spirituality, they will uncover a great story. As someone from a different faith, i found myself enthralled with this story. I look forward to finding more of Gregory's works, and hope that some of you will take a chance on his writing as well!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a fireman, Guy Montag, who makes a living going into homes, discovering books, and burning it all the ground. His whole world is thrown upside down when he meets a teenager who questions everything, making him slow down and take a second look at his line of work and society in general.

I am a bit ashamed to admit that at the age of 27 I am only just now getting the chance to read this book that may be considered a must read for any avid reader. I simply never had the opportunity! (Plus, if you have read any of my other reviews of classics, you know that I detour around them on my To-Read list as I am not always a big fan.) I expected to like this book about book burning, but I was a little afraid that I would not, becoming a disappointment to readers and writers everywhere. However, I did enjoy it.

I won't go so far as to say that I loved this book, that it changed my life, how did I go all those years without reading it! No, it wasn't that grand. It was however a fascinating, if slightly terrifying, look into how things could be. Imagine a world where people choose to stop reading books! Because that is how it started! Fire Chief Beatty tells Montag that it all started when people began burning the bits of books they didn't like or agree with. People closed down the libraries. The government simply took it to a wider scale and made it more efficient with the redirecting of the firemen. People did this to themselves!  This could effectively be the best horror story a reader could come across! Imagine this as our future! Forget 1984, at least they could read under the watchful eye of Big Brother! But to have no books at all!

I was also intrigued by the story of Montag. Not just with his fight against the government he once worked for so devoutly, but also with his inter struggle of being fascinated with the books. He truly tries to be just like everyone else. But he couldn't keep out the curiosity for ever!

All in all this book was fascinating. It was well written, even up to the end that is a bit teasing. And frankly it gave me pause as I sat reading it, listening to the large screen TV in the next room. Are we closer to the future that Bradbury hinted at? *Shiver* I hope not. I will pick up another book in my hope of delaying this horrific future.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Major Pettigrew is a retired military man living in a quiet village in England. He plays golf at the local club, tends to his garden, keeps up appearances, and covets the Churchill rifle his brother inherited from their father, one gun of a pair that the Major felt should never have been split up. But when his brother passes away, the Major is not only faced with the dilemma of how to get the gun back from his sister-in-law and niece, but also with the changing world around him. Suddenly the Major is trying to find reasons to see the local shop owner, a Pakistani widow facing her own family drama, and realizing the village is full of delicately balanced loyalties.

I have to admit that I loved the Major for so many reasons! Not only because he is the main character, but I also think he and I would get along so well. His old English manners are wonderful! So many times during the book I found myself feeling exactly what he was as people spoke or acted. I felt for him as he tried in vain to understand and relate to his own son who seemed completely clueless as to how badly he was behaving! And the other members of the golf club! Oh my goodness, this book was filled with some of the worst personalities a person could be stuck among, and yet there was the Major, trying to figure things out!

I loved following him as his own flaws began to change as, even though he was an elderly man, he began to learn and mature. Watching him navigate all the relationships that he was in with such a delicate touch was fascinating! And it was amazing to see all the outcomes.

Have you figured it out that I really enjoyed this book? It was very well written by an author who did a wonderful job at making all the characters believable and fitting. The story was not rushed, taking its time to show the reader exactly how everything should fold out in its own time. All in all it was a great book through and through! I highly encourage everyone to pick up this book and read it! It was amazing on so many levels, that I am sure everyone will love it!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Almost Moon

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold is the story of Helen Knightly who has just reached the end of her rope. Years spent taking care of her elderly, agoraphobic, and slightly senile mother have pushed her to the end of the line and slightly over it. The entire book takes place over the course of twenty-four hours as Helen comes to terms with her past, her horrible present, and her elusive future. Sebold once more makes an astonishing story come to life for readers who may or may not be ready for the harsh realities this family has faced.

When I first picked up this book I was not entirely sure what its plot would contain, only that it was written by a spectacular writer who had captured the world with her previous book The Lovely Bones. I was not disappointed by her amazing writing style that kept me entranced in the book even as I was slightly appalled at the subject matter. Once more Sebold takes a close look at a situation not many of us think about, a family disturbed just enough by mental illness to ruin the lives of those immediately touched by it. For those looking for a book unlike any other, this would be an excellent choice, but I warn that it is not for the faint of heart.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Braintree Mission

While it took me a fair amount of time to get through this book, 11 days actually, it was only because the subject matter was not something I am used to. It is a very well written account of a proposal to the Boston Colony to make one of their own an Earl in the House of Lords in England just after the bloody Boston "massacre" in 1770, the hope being that it would give the colonies representation in England and improve relations. While this proposal never in fact took place, the author tells the events of how it may have gone down and to what affect it would have on the relationship, which I took to understand as none.
As I said, this is not my usual read, even though it can be technically classified as "alternate history" the outcome was no different from true history. That being said I still found myself enjoying the tale. The characters of John and Abigail Adams, whom the author himself titles the hero and heroine of the tale, were wonderful people indeed! And I was also attracted by the writing style, which I found to be beautiful.
That being said, I am sure this book is not for everyone. But I say history lovers should try and give it a read!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Birth of the Chess Queen

Marilyn Yalom was giving a lecture on the history of the breast when she was presented with a very unusual statue of Mary suckling the baby Jesus. She was told it was a chess piece, and this one event sparked her curiosity forcing her to take a close look not only at past chess queens but also the history behind the queen from when she first took up her place on the board to the changes in her movements on it.

This book was a fascinating read for me. I not only enjoy the game of chess but am also fascinated by the outside appearances that changed as women grew in power in the world. This book was an insightful look into the women who were powerful enough to change this game piece that people the world over played with, at a time when women seemed to have little to no power in the real world. As Yalom goes back to the beginning of chess to describe the original piece, the vsir, who stood in the place we now associate with the queen, the carefully picks her way through the history of several countries looking for the first appearances of the queen in each. She then looks at the women in power as the piece appears, trying to figure out who may have had a hand in bringing forth this now-powerful figure.

Not only does Yalom seem to cover all her bases, answer most of the questions she began with and then some, she makes it all clear to the reader in such a way that I was not once bored by what I was reading. Instead, like any work of fiction, I was drawn into the book wanting to know what detail she would present next, what historical Queen she would give me to consider next, and what other pieces have survived from the time that so differ from the one I have in my home. She is a skilled lecturer that is able to convey all she wants to onto the page with a beautiful outcome.

Finally Yalom presents in the last chapter a look at women players today. She shows that chess has once more become a men's game with women still being spoken down on when showing interest in it. While the chess queen remains supreme on the board, the players are still very misogynistic about the playing. A sad fact indeed.

I picked this book up off a whim at a discount store because of my enjoyment of the game, and I was pleased to discover something more. I look forward to picking up more of Yalom's books in an effort to get a look into her perspective of women. Consider it furthering my Women's Studies class from college! I recommend that lovers of the game take a chance and read this one. You could be surprised at what you learn!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Jane Yolen has pulled together 12 short stories and put them into this random little book to give the reader 12 new things to think about! Most of them are retellings of stories we have grown to love (i.e. "Lost Girls" is Peter Pan and "The Bridge's Complaint" is The Billy Goats Gruff) alongside some new stories (i.e. "The Babysitter" and "Wilding") all of them unique and incredible reads.

Yolen is one of those writers that I see in a store and pick it up without even looking at the description, knowing that she will tell an amazing tale. This book did not let me down! My only regret is taking so long to finally read it.

Each of these stories is unique, never thought before tales told by a master writer who loves making the readers look at things differently. And she does such a wonderful job making the stories come to life, making me a little afraid after reading one of the horror stories just before bed one late night!

I encourage everyone to give Yolen a chance, and this is a good place to start! I look forward to reading these shorts stories to my kids very soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Mutant Message Down Under

Marlo Morgan claims to have gone on a walkabout (a journey with no set destination or duration) with a small tribe of Aboriginals of Australia. This book is a retelling of her journey into knowledge given to her by these people that ave chosen to die out rather than remain on a planet that is being killed by the inhabitants, what the tribe calls Mutants.

I must say that by taking this book as a work of fiction it seems that I have a better view of it than most of the other readers. I don't know much about the Aboriginal culture or peoples, but I have always been fascinated with older, native tribes of any continent, hence why I picked this book up in the first place. I was a little hesitant to read it once I had discovered others' views of it, but I wanted to form my own opinion.

This book was not horrible, in my opinion. No, it was not a classic work of art, but it was not the trash many claimed. Yes, some of the notions, such as the selecting of the author to pass on the ancient ideas of this race, seemed far-fetched, but some of it made sense. Many of the views and ideas are not new ones, simply pure ones that I believe any culture would hold if they had been around long enough to truly gain wisdom.

My only big issue with this book was the writer's poor writing. As a memoir, maybe this book is done as best as it can be. But taken as a novel, she is clearly not a writer, or should have considered editing it once more before publication.

All in all the book was an interesting read, if not an entirely pleasant one.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Challenge

A new year, a new reading challenge to help me tackle the growing list of To Read! Mostly my goal is simply to read as many books as I can, since in the past few years my numbers have been dwindling, leaving me with a huge pile of books in my possession that I have yet to even open! Suddenly I find myself with a lot more free time and I have decided to tackle all of those books on my book shelf, Nook, and Goodreads ToRead list!

Helping me on this project is the calender I got for Christmas from Half Price Books. This year they have a new list on each month with the first ten books from a select list. January is books you simply can't put down, February is classic love stories, and so on and so forth. I went through and highlighted books on each list that I had already read in the past, and found a lot of titles NOT highlighted! So I have decided to read at least two new books on each list during that selected month.

Then of course I have my Book Club that is always throwing new and interesting books my way that I may never have picked up on my own!

With these two main sources, plus my own supply, I have decided to really try and over take my challenge number! I am going for just 64 to begin with, but maybe if I see myself overtaking that number I can raise it higher, something I have not been able to do in past years.

Join me in the challenge! And let me know how many books you have committed to reading this year, as well as any select theme!