May 07, 2007

Book Review: "The Road"

The RoadWritten by Cormac McCarthy

Amazon.com recommended me this novel long before it won the Pulitzer Prize - even before Oprah made it one of her famous book club selections. I added it to my wishlist, but it, as most do, languished somewhere in the middle of that list for a long time before I found myself browsing the aisles at Borders Books last Friday night, desperate for something to read over the weekend while my boyfriend, Erik, worked on his masters thesis.

I opened the book mid-day Saturday and didn't put it down until I was finished, early Saturday evening. McCarthy's tale of a father/son journey along the barren, dangerous roads in a post-apocalyptic America is definitely classic page-turner material. The entire story was intense, and it left me wrung out when I was done, but in a good way.

The story itself was pretty simple: it's some time after the U.S., and for all they know the entire world, was obliterated (probably by nukes), and a man and a boy are travelling towards the coast - the only place they can fathom to go - in the hopes of finding some of "the good people" they hope against hope are still alive somewhere. In their way lays danger in the form of soulless, murderous, and in too-many cases cannibalistic marauders. They're also desperately trying to avoid starvation and exposure by scavenging what little left the grey, ash-covered and barren landscape has to offer - which is nothing but befouled water and remnants of canned food, clothing, and supplies left by those who are no longer around.

I was especially taken with the way in which McCarthy wrote - he was able to evoke so much atmosphere with such brevity. His sentences were typically short, and were written like I often do when I take journal notes for myself, but the power packed into each one of his is awe-inspiring. It was poetic. And his pacing was brilliant in that I really just didn't want to put the book down. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


posted at 10:33 AM | comments (1)

January 16, 2007

"The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks"

Devil's TeethWritten by Susan Casey

Ugh, I have mixed feelings about this book. When I picked it up, I was lured in by the haunting, ragged imagery of the Farallon Islands (a dangerous and not-well-known out-cropping of rocks 30 miles west of San Francisco nicknamed "Devil's Teeth", a highly protected natural preserve that's home to a bazillion of various birds and a popular grazing area for super-huge white sharks) and the reddened seas of a fresh Great White Shark attack paraded on the glossy paperback cover. Surely this was bound to satisfy my current appetite for shark lore and my general fondness for places of desolation.

It's an account by journalist Susan Casey, who, in the obsessive pursuit of quenching her own thirst for shark knowledge and experience, is allowed to tag along with the White Shark Project on the Farallones to write about the breadth of animal and environmental research going on there.

Her account is full of colorful imagery, and her descriptions of the barren, unforgiving landscape of the islands and the characters (both human, animal, and, um, other-worldly) who inhabit them for a brief amount of time are quite vividly-detailed. You're given a decent review of the history surrounding the islands, most notably the pioneering folk who fashioned an industry out of collecting bird eggs (driving some of the birds to near extinction), and their plight with the highly-inhospitable weather and near-complete isolation.

The problem is that this author takes things a bit too far by getting too caught up in the need to witness the sharks at close range, and causing problems in the process. She encourages a researcher to allow her access to the islands when clearly the law is not on her side. Ultimately, her need to feed her child-like amazement for these ancient predators gets a well-respected research biologist fired, puts herself and others (not to mention other peoples' property) into danger, and puts the white shark research efforts in the area into an unhealthy limbo. Was this single book worth that? I don't think so.

The information gleaned during her dangerous and perhaps-unlawful time on the island wasn't any more revelatory than the information presented earlier on in the book, gathered during her sanctioned stay and through conversation with the experts. The second half of this book, very unfortunately, devolves into a selfish account of struggle which only served to ultimately cause calamity for all involved, which doesn't speak well of it's attempt at documentary.

Other than all that, you know, negative stuff, the information in the book about the sharks turned out to be pretty frackin' cool.


posted at 07:54 PM

October 05, 2006

Running with Scissors

book cover artRunning with Scissors
by Augusten Burroughs

This was a very quick read - I could not stop flipping the pages, mesmerized and tickled by Augusten's dramedy of youth, told with such a flair that putting it down always came with a sense of disappointment. While I conceived parallels in my own life to his mentally-unstable mother and distant, alcoholic father - any similarities ended there. I wouldn't wish upon anyone his teenage years, spent with the seriously-screwballed family (with its own multitude of disturbing ailments) of his mother's shrink. The book was hilariously shocking, in every respect.
posted at 09:15 AM | comments (2)

September 21, 2006

The Handmaid's Tale

book cover artThe Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

A chilling work of dystopian (or, from the author herself: "speculative") fiction, this novel is about a near-future where tyrannical "Christian" powers have seized total control of the US and enforced a society where women have been placed into overtly subjucated roles. They are the Wives, the Aunt enforcers, the servant Marthas, the enslaved and tortured Un-women... and, of course, the Handmaids - whose entire roles are to bear children for a number of powerful men, in as silent and "pure" and subservient fashion as possible. The book is told from the perspective of an unwilling Handmaid, and unravels through her recorded diaries to reveal glimpses from her life before as a woman (and wife) in love, mother, and library employee - to a life spent in a uniform of deep red, allowed no friendships, voice or heart.
posted at 09:59 PM

December 22, 2005

swimming to antarctica

book cover artswimming to antarctica
by lynne cox

Several years ago I watched a tv special about a woman who was swimming in the ocean around Antarctica. It was fascinating enough to keep me occupied; and, since stumbling onto her book of open-water swimming adventures, I'd have to say the same holds true of the book. A bit of an elementary writing style, at times, but overall, this book is a fun read about a woman who swam from Catalina Island to the California mainland when she was 14, the frickin' English Channel when she was 15, and in all sorts of other crazy places - including the Bering Strait!
posted at 11:57 AM

December 06, 2005

the rule of four

book cover artthe rule of four
by ian caldwell & dustin thomason

Last week I started reading this suspense novel revolving around some students at Princeton unlocking the secret of the 15-century manuscript, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Just finished it. Was the secret as big as I wanted it to be? Nah - but really, the story was more about this small group of college roommates - and is almost more of a coming-of-age book than a suspense novel.
posted at 09:54 PM

October 10, 2005

humans

book cover arthumans
by robert j. sawyer

Not nearly as good as its predecessor (Hominids), Humans is more a silly love story than interesting sci-fi novel - and a lame, twisted, cross-species love story at that. Hopefully the trilogy will right itself again with Hybrids.
posted at 12:54 PM

September 26, 2005

snow crash

book cover artsnow crash
by neal stephenson

Before really embarking on his famous Cryptonomicon, I had heard it would be wise to start with something a bit easier to digest, hence, Snow Crash. A fast read, much of what went on in the "Metaverse" is astonishingly similar to what I'm hearing about on gameplay in "World of Warcraft". Spooky!
posted at 12:42 PM

August 08, 2005

hominids

book cover arthominids
by robert j. sawyer

Ponter Boddit, a modern-day Neandertal physicist in a parallel universe, is zapped into ours during a quantum computing experiment gone awry. This quick, fun read is not too heavy on the weird over-my-head physics, and fun-enough for anyone who ever took a physical anthropology course. Can't wait to start the next in Sawyer's Neanderthal Parralax.
posted at 11:53 AM

May 06, 2005

cryptonomicon

book cover artcryptonomicon
by neal stephenson

Erik, I promise I will eventually return this book to you, but by the looks of things, it might be a few years! ... for reals... years... jesus!
posted at 12:59 PM

February 20, 2005

python programming for the absolute beginner

book cover artpython programming for the absolute beginner
by michael dawson

Go ahead, mock me. But I'm a wannabe-geek and have no qualms about that. You should check out my (erm, the author's) Trust-Fund Buddy program, yo, it's da BOMB! raw_input("\n\nLeave a comment, cuz I like comments!"), whatever
posted at 08:27 PM | comments (1)

November 27, 2004

collected stories of greg bear

collected stories of greg bearthe collected stories of greg bear
greg bear, duh!

I'm in heaven reading a collection of sci-fi short stories. I enjoyed Bear's Darwin's Radio/Darwin's Children series, and this collection is continuing the fun.

posted at 06:48 PM

October 20, 2004

the real inspector hound

real inspector hound book coverthe real inspector hound and other plays
by tom stoppard

I just began reading through the title play in this, so I haven't much to say just yet. But what I can say, with much certainty, is that Tom Stoppard makes me wanna read out-loud, and speak with a British accent.

posted at 11:12 PM

July 07, 2004

dress your family in corduroy and denim

dress yr family book coverdress your family in corduroy and denim
by david sedaris

(Sigh.) J'adore David Sedaris. Who couldn't? Who wouldn't? No, really - who wouldn't - cuz whoever doesn't needs to have his/her ass kicked. This book was my mostest favoritest birthday gift this year.

posted at 01:11 PM

April 03, 2004

the gunslinger

gunslinger book coverthe gunslinger
by stephen king

I've decided to read the Dark Tower series. I vaguely remember reading "The Drawing of the Three" as a young teenager. "The Gunslinger" was a quick read. That's all for now.

posted at 02:43 PM

March 23, 2004

lord of the flies

lord of the flies book coverlord of the flies
by william golding

I put this on my xmas wishlist so that I could read it with my 14-year-old brother. He's further along in it than I am. I really need to get on the stick.


posted at 10:55 PM

February 09, 2004

digital fortress

digital fortress book coverdigital fortress
by dan brown

A previous book by the author of The DaVinci Code. This being the third of his I've read, I'm noticing that this guy certainly doesn't stray too far from his formula - but heck, it works.

posted at 11:01 PM

January 30, 2004

howard dean on rollingstone

deanonrscover.jpghoward dean
rolling stone magazine

I haven't purchased a Rolling Stone mag in years, although I was shamelessly tempted back when they had a shirtless Justin Timberlake. RS would've never put Senator Kerry on their cover. It's not over yet.

posted at 10:51 PM

December 30, 2003

the misfits

the misfits book coverthe misfits
by serge toubiana
I dusted off this photo book not only to view the fantastic black & white photography (courtesy of Magnum) chronicling the filming of the movie The Misfits, but also to remind myself of a trip to Death Valley and the surrounding area that I took a little while back.

Among my favorite shots in the book is one captioned "Marilyn prepares by herself for the important sequences athe the end of the film" on page 161, shot by Eve Arnold. It features a lone, thoughtful Marilyn on a desert plain with hills in the far distance, and a boom mic at left. I had the pleasure of viewing this photo on display at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood during an exhibition of Arnold's work, and fell in love with the photo (which can be seen by clicking here).
posted at 11:45 PM

September 16, 2003

the great unraveling

the great unraveling book coverthe great unraveling
by paul krugman
I first noticed NY Times op-ed columnist Krugman only last week, when he appeared on some cable news chat show - dammit, I cannot remember which one. He was very depressing, but shed some light and an interesting perspective on current political affairs that I had not heard. So I immediately went out and bought the book.
posted at 03:05 AM

June 04, 2003

the golden ratio

0767908155.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpgthe golden ratio
by mario livio
This is a fascinating (to me, at least) read about the history and speculation about phi, or the irrational number of 1.61803... This number has "obsessed mathematicians, philosophers, scientists and artists since Ancient Greece..." - I have also begun to obsess a bit.


posted at 02:24 AM

May 05, 2003

darwin's radio

life of pi coverdarwin's radio
by greg bear

from the back cover: "Ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans wait like sleeping dragons to wake and infect again-or so molecular biologist Kaye Lang believes. And now it looks as if her controversial theory is in fact chilling reality..." I was strolling through the local Barnes & Noble booksellers, wanting to find new reading material. The book I was looking for, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, was not available. After about an hour and a half of perusing the fiction section to no avail, I wandered into the sci-fi section. There on the Sci-Fi bestsellers shelf was the novel Darwin's Children by Greg Bear. I opened grabbed it off the shelf, the word "Darwin" always piquing my interest - and found it to be the "sequel" of sorts to Bear's earlier novel, Darwin's Radio.

So of course I had to purchase both!
posted at 10:17 AM

May 04, 2003

the life of pi

life of pi coverthe life of pi
by yann martel


finished.

I'd been eyeing this book for awhile, what with the word "Pi" in its title and all (I have sort of an obsession with ?). I read it over the course of two days. The story boasts that it will make you believe in God. Well, I wasn't looking for any revelations, but the story of an Indian teen being castaway on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra and a Bengal tiger sort of piqued my interest.

I haven't a real opinion on it yet, although during the read I found myself on that boat as well, caught up in the swells, feeling the rain, feeling the heat of the sun - I even felt the thirst and hunger (I had not eaten or drank since the lunchtime the day before, and I read most of it during the evening). I think I'll need to give it a second read before I come to any conclusions. Perhaps I missed the grander metaphor the first time through.
posted at 10:33 AM

April 30, 2003

the little prince

0385504209.01.TZZZZZZZ.jpgthe little prince
by antoine de saint-exupéry
In the middle of reading this classic.

finished.

This book has been on my list of "books to be read" for a long time now. A few years back, it was one of the books I was to read in a Lit/Humanities course I had signed up for at the local community college. The class seemed fascinating (in the first session the professor went off on the symbology of the number "3" and gothic churches and all kinds of other cool stuff) and the professor appeared phenomenal, but I unfortunately had to drop the course due to "real world" concerns, mainly work schedule. In any case, there have been numerous references to this book in both books and online reads over the last few weeks, so I decided to finally pick up a copy.
posted at 08:52 PM

the da vinci code

0385504209.01.TZZZZZZZ.jpgthe da vinci code
by dan brown
Okay, this book rocks! It's a fast-paced thriller revolving around religious symbology, code-breaking and the works of da Vinci. I got through this book in one night, but it was a long night!
posted at 08:18 PM

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