Friday, October 29, 2010

An Aside

I am not completely satisfied with the review I wrote for Life and Life Only. It's because it's missing something...a lot of something. I think it is something to do with the human condition. I'm writing this aside to accomplish two things: Sing more praise for Life and Life Only and to express the thoughts that have built up from the very first book I read in these reviews.

There are differences in adversities from the time periods 1940-2000, especially for women. Just prior to reading Life and Life Only I read A Rose For My Mother, which is an autobiography of Nancy Canfield. I recognized the struggles she had gone through: helplessness, hopelessness, being beaten, forgotten, left to be alone as a child, uncared for, unloved just because she was a daughter and not a son. And then to read Life and Life Only and realize that my childhood (born 1984) most resembled Dan's childhood rather than Nancy's and my mother's childhood (born 1961) and my grandmother's childhood most resembled Nancy's is a fantastic example of how far the treatment of women in society has come.

I wrote in a college paper once that the literature of a time period is a direct reflection of the society from which the author came. Life and Life Only is an indirect documentation of how the times have changed, especially for women. Because my childhood resembled Dan's more than Nancy's, it is a true indication that men and women are on a more levelled playing field in our time period. I think the story that Life and Life Only tells is more than meets the eye. I think it's a reflection of today's society and a reminder that we are progressing.

To further support the claim of the progression of the human condition, I need to mention Stieg Larrson and his beautiful array of powerful, intelligent, strong and talented women. Because Larrson was Swedish and his female roles are more prominent than the females in the US books I've read recently, it makes me wonder if those on the other side of the pond are more progressive than the US in the area of the progression of the human condition.

At any rate, Larsson, Canfield & Moyer write stories that are good indicators of the societal changes over time. What are some other things that can be traced and documented by our literature?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Life and Life Only by Dave Moyer

Life and Life Only by Dave Moyer is a story about a young man and the trials and tribulations of life. If you enjoy books like Revolutionary Road then I would recommend this book. However, if you're looking for drama and the obscene then Life and Life Only wouldn't satisfy your need. The characters are wholesome, natural and good. All of Moyer's characters are full and complete, as is the story. Young men in college who need to feel everything is going to be OK should put this read on their book list because Moyer's story (and Dan's mother) reminds us all that no matter what happens, it IS going to be OK. Life and Life Only was introduced as being about "baseball and bob dylan." But Life and Life Only is so much more than that. It's a coming of age story filled with natural life events and transitions. By simply telling the story of thousands of young men (and women for that matter), Moyer pinpoints all the segments and transitions individuals make today and might could even act as a precautionary tale for us all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Rose For My Mother by Nancy Lee Canfield

A Rose For My Mother by Nancy Lee Canfield is a truly inspiration piece, not just for women either. Being a HUGE Charles Dickens fan, I was quickly taken with Nancy's autobiography of her childhood, which described a life of foster homes and being torn from her family. Her early adult life encapsulated the very essence of the unjust and helpless life most women lived in the 50s and 60s. Nancy Lee perfectly epitomizes the frustrations and discriminations of womanhood. Her later years, however, seem to rescue her and set her free into a world where her imagination and determination are the limit.

The story is that of a woman who grows into her paranormal sensitivities and flourishes in the world of parapsychology. Nancy Lee believes anyone can tap into these sensitivities. She writes that she was alone a lot as a child and this forced her to become inward. This inwardness provided the route to access her psychic abilities. At the end of the book there is an appendix that describes how to meditate, relax, and cleanse your mind to ready the body for these experiences.

I cannot begin to describe how much I really enjoyed A Rose For My Mother. Anyone who enjoys Charles Dickens will love this autobiography (and I'm NOT an autobiography fan).

Congratulations on your publication, Nancy Lee, and I hope to see more prose from your pen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

Larsson takes a realistic approach to his story-telling in his Millennium Series that continues on in the third installment, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Next." Larsson creates characters that are fully developed and unique.

Larsson loves strong women. And because he loves strong women he creates strong female leads in his story. You have Erika Berger, fearless Editor-in-Chief. She refuses to succumb to a tireless stalker, even when she is physically hurt. Next is Annika Giannini, Mikeal Blomkvist sister and attorney. Giannini never backs down from a case involving women's rights and abuse. And of course the infamous Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself, Lisbeth Salander. She's the strongest of them all and the tiniest. And in the third and final book, introducing the rock hard body of Monica Figuerola who makes a bold statement that a woman can be physically tough and maintain femininity and sex appeal. It is refreshing to see these vibrant, tough women that Larsson has birthed.

The story is a continuation of The Girl Who Played With Fire. It begins with Lisbeth Salander having surgery and surviving a gunshot wound to her head. And just two doors down from her hospital room is the man who ordered the bullet put there: her father Alexander Zalachenko. Only one gets out alive.

Also on her plate, Lisbeth has to fight against a number of convictions, including attempted murder and assault. Knowing Lisbeth's sensitive background, Mikael Blomkvist hires his sister to defend Lisbeth. Equipped with Giannini's intuitive and quick-witted style, and video evidence of explicit material, Lisbeth is acquitted of all charges.

In the meantime, Blomkvist has worked out yet another mass expose into the sex trade. And who would be heading it up but Alexander Zalachenko?

It is the strong female characters that keep a reader moving through the book. The whole series is commendable. Hats off to Mr. Stieg Larsson and, unfortunately, a good night. RIP Mr. Larsson.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Birth of An Assassin by Tony Bertot

The Birth of an Assasin by Tony Bertot is a story a young boy called Theo. Theo grows up in a world of Italian mobster crime families. Losing his father to a mob bomb in his own shop, he and his mother flee to their homeland of Palermo, Italy.

The time frame is WWII so Italy is itchy with Nazi German posts. It is there in the homeland where Theo learns to shoot and he becomes very skilled at it. It is also here that his mother is brutally raped and murdered and Theo decides no one will ever hurt anyone he cares about again. He avenges his mother's death and then sets out to avenge his father's death in the US.

Theo and his boyhood friend, Nick, have a few adventures in catching up with the people who were responsible for Theo's father's death. In the end, justice is served, but at a great loss.

The Birth of An Assassin is the prequel to The Heart of an Assasin. Both books can be ordered here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson is the second in a series of three books called the Millenium Series.

The Girl Who Played With Fire starts with Millenium Magazine pairing up with a freelance journalist (and his criminologist, doctorate-seeking girlfriend) to produce and publish a book that would expose individuals (including police officers, members of parliament, journalists, etc)in Sweden for sex-trafficking. At the same time Advokat Nils Bjurman has decided to seek revenge on Lisbeth Salander for what she did to him two years ago. When the journalist and criminologist turn up murdered, a Colt .45 Magnum, owned by Bjurman and has Lisbeth Salander's fingerprints on it, is found at the crime scene, making it appear that without a doubt Froken Salander is the murderer. Ultimately a mass manhunt for Salander ensues.

When the security firm Salander worked for decides to team up with the homocide investigators to solve the mystery and find the truth about what happened that night, they discover a traitor is among them who is leaking their information to the media and making sure Salander takes the wrap for the murders, whether she is innocent or not. Meanwhile Millenium Magazine has begun their own investigation headed up by Salander's former lover and friend, journalist Mikael Blomvkist.

What is discovered is the curious past of The Girl Who Played With Fire and the unearthing of a sex trafficking scandal. It is certain that everyone will be running to the stores to purchase the third in the series, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." Find a review of it here at the very soon.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hunter's Moon by Kate Evangelista

Every now and again I'd like to write about books that haven't even been published. While waiting to finish my next Book Review, which will be on The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stiegg Larsson, I'd like to introduce Kate Evangelista. Kate provided me with the first chapter of her story Hunter's Moon. Hunter's Moon is currently unpublished and up for review by agents.

The first chapter of Hunter's Moon reminded me slightly of the first of the Twilight Series books by Stephenie Meyer when the main character Bella meets the vampire Edward Cullen.

The setting in Hunter's Moon is a high school and the new boy, Dillan Sloan, has a curious interest in the female lead character who comes equipped with a slight premonition ability. Kate seems to have a knack for creating characters that are cute and lovable. She is also able to create an atmosphere that is light and fun-loving. Her first chapter set the scene for a story involving psychic abilities, the boy-girl friendship that every young girl wants, a bubbly best-friend, a new boy with a curious past and a world that yearns for love (and other interesting things) to happen.

I enjoyed reading the first chapter of Kate's Hunter Moon and hope the book is published soon so I can review the entire story. Good luck Kate and Happy Writing!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Serial killers, rapist, hackers, mafia, Swiss bank accounts, oh my. What doesn't Stieg Larsson include in his novel The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo? Larsson tells a number of timeless tales in this book. We've all heard the story of a serial rapist who connects his rapes by Bible verses and we've all heard the story of the serial killer who passes his 'gift' down to his son. But Larsson uses his real life experiences to tell a unique story unprecedented: one of blatant financial mafiaism. In the novel, you watch an ordinary journalist solve a 40-year-old crime while also avenging his own libel setup with Hans Wennestrom, a financial mafia kingpin.

But now we'll also throw in a peculiar girl, growing up in institutions and declared mentally incompetent and partially insane by her country. In actuality, Lisbeth Salander is anything but crazy. She's insanely intelligent and equipped with hacking abilities and a photographic memory. She's a girl who turns only to herself for the protection she requires from everyone and everything. She is "the girl with the dragon tattoo." Paired with the journalist through a security company she works for, they discover the serial kidnapper/rapist/murderer(s) and then take Wennestrom down for good. The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in the Millenium Series, is sure to be a tantalizing read.

Any and every journalist must be standing in line to to be assigned the biography of Stieg Larsson.

Friday, September 10, 2010

For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Last night I started a book that would unexpectedly thrust itself into my list of classics. The story For Freedom, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is one of the best stories I've read since my youth. I have placed it among my classics such as Great Expectations, Johnny Tremain, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, and Hamlet.

For Freedom is about a young girl of fifteen who finds herself not only a talented Opera singer, but also a French spy during WWII. Her tale includes passing notes to other spies (sometimes right under German solider's noses), witnessing the brutality of bombs and having nightmares after having seen a pregnant woman blown apart before her eyes. Her endless prayers for strength make you want to send up a few prayers yourself so that she might remain safe. I think it's a wonderful book for young readers, especially those who enjoy stories that empower women.

Perhaps the best thing about this story (and also the worst) is it is a fictional story based on nonfictional events.

There is only one bad thing about this book: the copy I got is a first-edition hardback but is lacking the sleeve. Now that's a sad tale!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Store Coupons

My next review will be on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I'm a little late to jump on board the Stieg Larsson ship, but I keep hearing great things about the trilogy so I must see what all the hype is about.

Since I've got to wait for it to be shipped and I took so long deciding on my next book I've compiled a list of great coupons from Barnes and Noble, Borders and other online and offline brick and mortal book stores. The most popular can also be seen at the right of this post.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers

Use code C7L7L8E at checkout for 10% off one item. Expiration 9/13/2010.
Use code M7Y4A3M at checkout for 15% off one item. Expiration 9/13/2010.
Printable coupon for 10% off one item at a Barnes and Noble Book Store. Expiration 9/12/2010. Click here
Printable coupon for 15% (members only) one item at a Barnes and Noble Book Store. Expiration 9/12/2010. Click here
Printable coupons for various books, up to 40% off, for a Barnes and Noble Book Store, members only. Click here by ebay

Use code HALF2010BTS10PERC at checkout to score $10 off a $100 or more order.
Use code TAKE5OFFBOOKS10 at checkout to get $5 off $50 or more order (for new customers only).

Borders Bookstores
Use code BMT8274Z at checkout to receive 33% off a single item, members only.
Use code BEG93010X at checkout to get 20% off a single item, exclusions apply.
Members get 33% off any one item at a Borders Bookstore with this printable coupon. Click here

Books-A-Million Bookstores
Use code RENEWMCC at checkout to get $10 off a $50 or more purchase.
Use code AFSVFTN at checkout to get $15 OFF a $75 or more purchase.
Get up to 46% off plus get a free tote with bestsellers order when you sign up for Books-A-Million Millionaire's Club. Click here for details.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates promises to answer the question, "is there anything more out there?" It engulfs you by promising to answer what would happen if you 'ran away' from the mediocrity and into a new life.

You get to watch married couple April and Frank make a spontaneous decision to up and move to France in order to escape the mundane day-to-day. Suspense builds when you find yourself giddy for the answer to finding happiness. Finally, at last, someone is going to write a book that gives us all the answers to escaping boredom. If it works for the characters in the book, then possibly it will work for all of us who wake up every day to go to a job that we hate. Thank you Richard Yates!

And then you discover that, in fact, Yates does not really have the answer; at least not the one you’re looking for. Because the ending of this book is shocking and horrid. She had the perfect house, a perfect husband and two perfect blonde children. You read this and you wonder what the hell else she could want.

Revolutionary Road shows us life is not about achieving happiness, it is about making it through life. The stresses and the obstacles are what make up life. The dramas and the upsets and downfalls and uplifts are what keep us going on and on and keep us from getting bored. If we didn't have these tribulations, there wouldn’t be a point in living because there would be nothing to strive for and nothing to overcome. If there were no "bad," we couldn't recognize the "good" as being good. Life itself is the adventure and to achieve happiness is to relish in the fact that you have simply lived through it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Naked by David Sedaris

Are you kidding me? How is this a New York Times Bestseller? David, you're a good-looking man and I'm certain a great and awesome person, but this book...what the crap? There's no point to it...unless you're obsessed with David Sedaris and want to know some juicy and fun details about his life. I guess it makes sense for the title of the book to be Naked. But I didn't even know who he was before I read this book.

I did enjoy the humor, but wondered if other readers found it hard to keep up with the book seeing as how in one chapter he's seven years old, in the next he's 17 and then in the next he's nine. Regardless, you do find yourself wanting to road trip across the US and live spontaneaously for a few years. And it does provide educational insight into nudist colonies. Perhaps that's the kicker with this book: the one chapter on living in a nudist colony.

Why should you read it? *silence* I can't quite put my finger on it, but David is still a fun personality and even though there's no purpose to this prose...yeah I can't do it. I can't find a reason. Sorry. I don't know you, David, but hearts from me (just not for Naked).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Idlewild by Nick Sagan

Idlewild by Nick Sagan was chosen as my next book because (and I'm not kidding) the cover is so cool. I decided to run against the old phrase, "never judge a book by its cover" and to my delight I discovered the intellectual humor I've longed for. Score!

Any story that begins, "I'm not dead," has you intrigued. At the start Nick has you a little confused as to what is going on, which is why you don't put the damn thing down (I read it through in just under eight hours). It's a unique twist on the 'repopulate the human race because something has killed off all the humans' concept. And by the time you realize that's what this book is all about you've already been dizzied by the changing backdrops and swirling fun of the characters' godlike powers that allow them to change their atmosphere like one would change their iPod skin. Though not a unique concept, it's a unique way in telling the story and the characters are even more fun. Plus, Nick grabs my heart strings when his boyish character quotes Shakespeare with humor.

What I didn't like? The seemingly downplay of emotion when the going got tough; the lack of grief descriptions and the underplaying of the wondrous world of schizophrenic delusions. It skipped over all the pieces that had great entertainment value and in turn made the story feel rushed. What I did like? The seemingly downplay of emotions and the underplaying of the wondrous world of schizophrenic delusions. Why? Beefing up and dramatizing schizophrenia makes it even more difficult for those who have schizophrenia to live our society. You can't imagine the time and dollars spent by organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness trying to diffuse the Hollywood and media image of individuals with schizophrenia. You can't imagine the pain families, friends and individuals go through in their communities because of these images. So while I favor entertainment value I can't choose it over increasing the suffering of my fellow humans. The main character, Halloween, must have felt same with Fantasia, the hebephrenic schizophrenic in the story, because he was always helping to anchor her to realities when her illness made it impossible.

My recommendation is that if you enjoy quick read-through books and fantasy lands (like I do), and new spins on old concepts, then have at it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is divided into three separate and different themes taking place in three separate and different locations that have three separate and different cultures.

Gilbert writes about the pleasure of Italian food and good friends while in Rome. She triumphs over her own mind and rids her soul of the poisons of love while meditating in India. Elizabeth's journey to Indonesia is the last stop. Here she becomes friends with a Balinese Medicine Woman who gives her the cure for a broken heart: "Vitamin E, get much sleep, drink much water, travel to a place far away from the person you loved, meditate and teach your heart that this is destiny." And even after that bad divorce and a soul-rotting rendezvous, she finds love in Indonesia. Indonesia illustrates and reminds us that we are all the same in concept. This book has been such a success because her story is every woman's story. The loss of love, the search for an inner peace and the finding of a new love. Her next book, Committed, is inevitably about overcoming the fears of turning her heart over to someone else and starting the cycle over again.

Even our modern literature reflects our ravenous desire for reality television. The insatiable appetite would undoubtedly spill over, but perhaps this mimic is vice-versa, as John Berendt did the same thing in Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil in 1994. Both books, by the way, have been made into films.