August 25, 2013

Review: American Gods

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 9:51 pm

American Gods
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a thoroughly enjoyable book. Gaiman has sparked the desire in me to travel about the United States but to also bone up on my Herodotus and learn more about the pantheons of other cultures. The concept of immigrants bringing their gods and folklore with them and those beings becoming flesh over millenia was so vividly captured in his telling. How he wove the journeys of the first people to cross the Bering straight into the modern day Gods and the turmoil between them was outstanding.

I strongly recommend this book for a good hearted but thought provoking adventure.

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August 10, 2013

Review: Mockingjay

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 3:47 pm

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. The ending brought a tear to my eyes and not many books choke me up that they do not. As I approached the last third of the book I was concerned that we were going into the Hunger Games for a third time but that was not the case. The arena this time was the Capitol and it was played excellently.

I have heard many complaints about Peeta being the weak point of the series, how he is always getting injured and seems almost useless to his team mates but I thought he was superbly written. The turmoil he goes through to fulfill his mission of keeping Katnis alive resulted in his injury time an again.

Katnis, as a character, is very flawed and that is what makes her a great protagonist. Her motivations are thoroughly explored and even when far from noble are hers to bear and believable. To paint her as anything less than fallible would be doing the reader a disservice.

Through all this I did feel a tinge of remorse for how things worked out for Gale but again, he remained true to his character. His ruthlessness against the Capitol was genuine and in line with his initial paintings. To have the rosier ending he would have like with Katnis would have lessened the work.

Overall, I was torn the most by the loss of Fennick. I really like this character and his demise, while noble, was wrenching. How I so wished his ending was not cut short.

I eagerly await how these last two books are translated to the movie screen. I could not see how a single movie could contain this book and expect they may break it into two. I for one would not be disappointed if they did to remain true to the story.

Probably one of the most poignant features of the work was the use of propaganda in warfare. How the value of human lives gets lost in the machinations of the orchestratores whose consuming goal is to achieve victory.

Bravo to a work well done!

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August 8, 2013

Review: Catching Fire

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 8:01 pm

Catching Fire
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I figured I needed to get this in prior to the movie this fall and also having very much enjoyed the first book. I was curious to see where Collins was taking the trilogy and was not disappointed. Although I will say, I thought a second round of the hunger games would be over played yet I so enjoyed the arena that I accepted another go without much reserve.

I read this book over two days at the shore and found the pace not slacking. The character development remained interesting showing different sides of not only the victors but new characters brought on board. I an eager to see how well this book translates to the big screen.

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July 27, 2013

Review: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 7:57 pm

Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was nice to kick back with an old friend after so many years. I read this book way back when I was in my early teens and loved it. In fact I loved everything Dragonlance back in the day. I got all the AD&D modules as they came out and was part of the Dragon of the Month Club acquiring all the lead figures.

This book captures the Dungeons and Dragons atmosphere perfectly and remains readable to those not fans of the role playing games. The action is fierce and told from many different sides while maintaining a perfect pace. The characters are well written and adored. I eagerly look forward to revisting the other two books in the trilogy along with the other offerring both new and old.

Reading this makes me want to break out my modules and start playing again!

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July 17, 2013

Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 11:14 am

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am quite surprised I never got around to commenting on this book. I read this right after Sucker’s Portfolio. For being one of his groundbreaking novels I am equally surprised I did not read this much earlier in life.

This book was amazing. The picture it paints of an American GI in the European Theater of WW2 is breath taking and enlightening. This mixture of horror and humanity is one that is difficult to put in words without one reading it for him or herself. At many points it brought a tear to my eyes.

Fantastic work!

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Review: The Constitution of the United States of America

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 11:11 am

The Constitution of the United States of America
The Constitution of the United States of America by James Madison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well it was about high time I read the US Contsitution in its entirity. The electronic version I read also had the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederacy. This is some great stuff of course. Perhaps I am biased because I am a United States citizen. What I found most interesting was the clarification of important points between the Articles and the Constitution. The refinement that went on was a telling path to what the founders of the United States of America felt strongly about.

I read this in one afternoon and plan to re-read it on a regular basis.

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July 14, 2013

Review: Religious Right: The Greatest Threat to Democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 3:30 pm

Religious Right: The Greatest Threat to Democracy
Religious Right: The Greatest Threat to Democracy by A.F. Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, a bit about the writing itself and the Kindle version. This book is long, very long, and at some points I think a bit more editing could have pared it down somewhat and removed redundancy. On the otherhand, the writing style is very approachable to a wide audience. Whle rife with from primary sources, the book is not weighed down to the point of being disjointed. The layout translated well to the Kindle but there are some typos and curious grammatical quarks that I believe are more attributed to the conversion than overall editing. I have seen similar issues with other electronic books.

A.F. Alexander makes no bones about his concerns with the religious right and what I think is very important is that he does so not at the expense of Christianity. He is very respectful of Christianity and does not at all attach the religion. This is not an “athiest attach on the tenants of Christianity” but a thoroughly researched warning of a very strict, very dangerous, fundamental segment of the religion that is on a crusade to turn the United States into a Theocracy. Aside from the primary resources cited, A.F. Alexander was himself brought up in the movement.

The text focuses on the Dominionist movement accounting the 7 Mountains Mandate that targets 7 levels of society: Business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. The Seven Mountains were coined by Bill Bright the founder of the Campus Crusade, Loren Cunningham founder of Youth with a Mission, and Francis Schaeffer. An account of the rise of Evangelical Fundamentalism is provided and how their mission to influcence politics from grass roots level up to coroporate sponsered superfunds has been attained.

At the heart of this book is the first ammendment to the Constitution of the United States:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

What is important to understand is that the founders of the United States did not form a Christian Nation; that is revisionist history. Many of the founders were Deists. The first ammendment clearly builds a wall between religion and the government. A wall that provides no preferential treatment to any one religion nor interferes with one’s religous choice. What Dominionist are doing is erroding that wall and entagling their religion with politics attacking the very tenants of this country and infriging on the rights of those who do not adhere to their world views. They are taking Christianity into a dark place where many historic accounts abound when a theocracy holds a nations and the atrocities committed there in. We have only to look at other nations like Iran and Egypt where a religious minority have usurped government and created a fundamentalist state with aborrant results. We as a nations must protect the first ammendment and disentangle religion from politics or risk spiraling into a similar society of oppression and violence.

Pick up any newspaper today or visit most any website on current events and you can see this battle being played out from Womans rights to immigration issues, environmental issues, birth control and marriage equality. We as a society need to stand up for the tenants of the constitution and disentangle religion from politics and being to make better progress. Otherwise we ruin both our nation and sully Christianity.

A very thought provoking book.

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May 13, 2013

Review: Sucker’s Portfolio

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 9:45 am

Sucker's Portfolio
Sucker’s Portfolio by Kurt Vonnegut

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really love Vonnegut and this collection of short stories and one non-fiction essay did not disappoint. The first story – Between Timid and Timbuktu really caught me from the start. While the ending elicited an initial let down response, upon further reflection it worked very well. I don’t think I want the answer to what was proposed.

The non-fiction essay was great, very entertaining and informative. Including this in the book was not a disappointment at all. What was a bummer, though, was that the last story was incomplete. Just as one is getting into it, it’s over. The story reminded me a lot of The Sirens of Titan.

Great collection and if you are a Vonnegut fan, a must read!

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April 29, 2013

Review: Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 9:25 am

Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street by Neil Barofsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bailout as very frustrating to read. Not because it was poorly written, quite the opposite; I though the book was a smooth read. No it was frustrating to catch a glimpse of the turmoils one has to weed through to navigate the bureaucracy in Washington to get some meaningful change implemented. This hint of the troubles involved opens the window to see how inefficient and troubling it is for any kind of effective reform.

What concerns me the most, though, is that the given the challenges and the mess going in, and the walls imposed along Barofsky’s trek, coming out the other end, there was little reform to stave off a repeat necessitating another bail out. Of course, this frustration was palpable throughout the summary of the book.

My one complaint is that I am unclear as to why Barofsky stepped down from his position. Was it this red tape and frustration prompting him? Did he feel his work was complete and it was time to move on? Did he feel ineffectual? I was not clear on his reasonings. He seemed to have a short lived career as a SIG.

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April 9, 2013

Review: Real Mermaids Don’t Need High Heels

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 8:55 am

Real Mermaids Don't Need High Heels
Real Mermaids Don’t Need High Heels by Helene Boudreau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book three of the Real Mermaids series read. This one had a good deal of action and mystery that it did and a coming together of friends at the end. What more could an adolescent girl ask for? There is even some headier romance. I will say, Boudreau has done another great job and the book kept me interested too. I look forward to reading the fourth novel in the very near future!

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