Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Hobbit

As I was reading, the book, The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien I started to sweat over how I was going to offer an opinion of it. How could I review a legendary author? Who am I to offer an opinion of a classic like this. Then it dawned on me. Don't review the book but offer an opinion to people that haven't read the fantasy genre and let them know what to expect.

This I can do because this is my first fantasy novel that I have finished. I tried reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower and could not get into it. I couldn't grasp why people enjoyed fantasy novels. I admit that I am more of a murder mystery novel fan or a horror fan. Getting through The Hobbit would truly be different for me and a minor accomplishment.

I struggled in the beginning of the book. It is a descriptive, fantasy novel about Bilbo Baggins a Hobbit and a group of dwarves out to recover gold and family heirlooms of Thorin Oakenshield in a mountain guarded by the dragon Smaug. The novel is filled with adventures for this group as they are approached by goblins, elves, rival dwarves, and they have to battle the natural elements. The path to the gold is filled with pages of descriptive scenery. Today's novels move faster than this classic. It is a slower moving novel. The style of writing in the 1930's was to paint a portrait for readers. Tolkien does this successfully.

Around page 100 I discovered the beauty of The Hobbit. The fantasy genre provides an escape for readers. The adventures of Bilbo Baggins and friends provides an escape from life. Reality is filled with war, economic recessions, layoffs, professional competition, and stress. The Hobbit is an adequate place for your mind to break away from every day responsibilities. It relaxes you and if allowed will let you become absorbed with the story of Bilbo Baggins.

Along the way there were characters that I couldn't get enough of;

1)  Gollum-A creepy, sneaky, cold, self centered character that tries to trick Bilbo Baggins in becoming his dinner. Gollum's riddles are laced with bad intentions. Gollum gave me the chills when he spoke. He provided Bilbo with an important piece of jewelry that helped him get out of some tough situations.

2) Gandalf-Is a wizard that chooses Bilbo to accompany the dwarves to the mountain as the group thief. Gandalf shows up in critical times to help the group by providing allies, magic, and is their guide.

3) Smaug-I love how Tolkien writes the dragon into the story. He truly is a menacing figure that guards a hill of gold and heirlooms. There is a scene between Bilbo and Smaug that is simply a classic confrontation.

I recommend The Hobbit if you are new to the fantasy novel genre. Be patient with its description and slower movements. It is truly rewarding once you finish it. I will try the next book in the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, because I know it will be as enriching as The Hobbit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Under the Dome

Under the Dome is a book written by Stephen King that I read a couple of summers ago. This was a book that grew on me as I got further into the story. It is a dark themed story about a town that gets put under an invisible dome. The whole town is isolated from the rest of the world.

Some of the problems arising from this dome is there is much blood shed because the citizens aren't aware of the dome's existence. As people run into it with cars, trucks, planes, and even themselves lives are lost. At first I had a hard time getting through the first part of the novel because I was beginning to feel as if Stephen King just wanted to write about many people losing their lives or at the very least destroying their spirits one by one. Any time I lose sight of a story's point my mind wanders. I was close to reaching this and then Stephen King shifted the story completely adding superb character development, a lesson to learn from the story, and how people will act to each other once in complete isolation.

The development of how the town reacts to this invisible dome is amazing. Unexpected heroes step up. Villains arise and where thoughts of greed, violence, and corruption may be in the back of one’s mind suddenly become reality. The evil-doers even try and prevent the dome from being lifted from the town because that would mean an end to their personal fiefdom. The power they can display under the dome would no longer be necessary. I thought about how true to life this can be in our world. It made me realize that there are people able to benefit from another's grief, tragedy, depression and despair. King brings this to light as this town suffers under the dome.

The best thing about this book is when the citizens discover the origins of the dome. It is an incredible battle of persistence and perseverance to get it removed. Once the dome's creators come to light it made me think about our own circle of life. It made me think about how some creature's lives are viewed as insignificant. The truth I feel is that no life is insignificant and that it is such a precious thing. An unexpected event can change an individual, a town, a city, a state, a country, maybe even a whole planet forever. After reading this these thoughts should never leave our conscious minds.

The last thing that I loved from this novel was the quote worth writing down. The quote was "Wish for sunshine but build dikes." This quote more or less tells us to always keep a positive perspective, and wish for the best. We need to be aware that pitfalls occur and life constantly challenges us. We have to prepare ourselves for the unexpected and tragic to try and overcome them so we can maintain wonderful existences. Stephen King's Under the Dome was an awesome story. Hang in there because through its 800 + pages you discover why he is called the master story teller.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review of Too Close To Home-Linwood Barclay

Every now and again I become ambitious when it comes to the books I read. Whether I try reading more often, reading classics, or devoting my time to a particular genre, or even reading new authors. I do try to organize what I read.

One summer in my past I tried reading authors I've never experienced before, and Linwood Barclay's Too Close To Home was introduced to my library. This actually was a book that I took with me on a camping trip. I figure I could pay close attention to the story, characters, plot, subplots, and still provide a play by play for my wife. Something that always thrills her. That last statement was dripping with sarcasm.

I'm glad that this author and book came into my life because it was a tremendous one. Linwood Barclay was able to take an ordinary family, get you to relate to them, make their lives realistic, and then turn their world upside down. The family he writes about are the Cutters. The seemingly happy family made up of Jim, Ellen, and Derek have a life-altering experience. One that places their own lives in danger.

Derek Cutter, who is Jim and Ellen's son, is the catalyst in changing his family's life, perhaps forever. The story focuses on Derek hearing and witnessing the murder of his boyhood friend and family while secretly hiding in their basement. Derek sneaks into his friend’s basement to be able to spend some private time with his girlfriend. The unexpected murders takes place and nothing is the same for the Cutter family.

I know as a guy I was able to relate to both Jim and Derek. I could see any teenage boy concocting a scenario like Derek to be alone with his girlfriend. I then tried to imagine how Derek felt hearing and seeing the murders and corpses of people he liked. The imminent danger he felt, knowing that life would never be the same because friends lives have ended, the emotions sweeping through his mind, and then wanting to hide what he knows because he was never supposed to be at his friend’s house to begin with.

Add mistaken identity, a plagiarized novel, a possible suicide, and a diverse, deep variety of characters to the story and you have a fast paced, action packed, suspense story that should be experienced. If Linwood Barclay is a new name to you like he was for me you won't be disappointed by giving him a try.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Opening Moves by Steven James was a great prequel to all of the Patrick Bowers books. Steven James adequately explained how Patrick Bowers becomes the investigator we know and love. Detailed information is given about the people important to Patrick Bowers enters his life and establishes a relationship with him. The novel starts off with a look at Patrick Bowers in his mid twenties as a street cop. Bowers as usual is very observant to his surroundings which opens up drama for him as the story evolves. He starts to develop his investigative skills as he is introduced to Calvin his mentor.

The book has a dark, morbid theme as the author includes information about real life serial killers. The information is interesting and fits into the story just fine. The dark themes made me pause and reflect about what I just read, sweat nervously, question my own human race, and make me feel vulnerable. I had to stop reading the book for a while because it described pure evil, but I couldn't stay away to long because Patrick Bowers is just too interesting to stay away from.

Words learned: 
Sonorous-Producing sound when struck

Contrariwise-On the contrary. Vice versa

Pastiche-A literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work

Gloaming-Twilight, dusk

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Non Fiction Read-ESPN

One of the more recent non-fiction books I have read was a book called Creating An Empire ESPN.  I have to admit that I had to try reading it twice because I couldn't get through the first chapter on my first attempt. The reason I struggled was because the author, Stuart Evey, wrote more about his time spent at Getty Oil Company and his bosses there. I couldn't see the point to spending so much time writing about this and so I quit reading.

I am very glad I picked the book up a second time because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was my impatience not allowing me to finish the book the first time around. Not only is the chapter about working at Getty Oil Company relevant to later chapters, it is necessary to set up and be able to explain later chapters about ESPN and its fledgling years as a company.

The book was enjoyable because it was a nostalgic review about how ESPN got started as a company, how it almost didn't survive, all of its struggles to become relevant, and its evolution. Stuart Evey spends a great deal of time letting readers know what kind of programming was on the channel in the 1980's. I assure you it is completely different that we we're used to seeing today. It got me to thinking about my own childhood being a product of the 80's. Stuart Evey's book does a wonderful job in allowing your mind to think back thirty years ago.

The book does a wonderful job of describing how much money, and egos were involved in creating, establishing, and evolving the company. Advertisement is involved which means plenty of money and revenue or a lack of caused plenty of stress for all involved.

I highly recommend this read to reminisce back to the 1980's, get a feel for how cut throat starting this company was, and to read about how a sports channel so deep rooted in today's culture almost didn't survive. Hard to imagine cable television without ESPN. KQ9533565FJF

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Power of Words

I had an instructor at Walsh College explain to the class that he liked reading so much because of the power that words evokes. He loved to see the different combinations that words could be used in and the types of responses those combinations would bring. As I have increased my reading rate this year I too now see the beauty of words.

For me I like reading the descriptions used for each individual character. Words can create an image of nationality, age, and gender. It can paint a picture of whether the person is responsible or irresponsible. Words can dictate which decade you're reading about. I appreciate authors ability to paint me a picture with the words they use.

Over my life I have come across some cool words that have stayed with me. Here are a few that I'd like to share;

Quotidian-Occurring every day. A belonging to each day.

Laudanum-Any of various formerly used preparations of opium.

Ubiquitous-Existing or being everywhere at the same time. Widespread.

Quash-To suppress or extinguish summarily and completely.

Stygian-Extremely dark, gloomy or forbidding.

As I come across more words I'll share them. Let me know some powerful, creative, colorful words you've read or used in your writing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Reviewing Secrets to the Grave

More reading time on the bus definitely gives me an opportunity to peruse more books. The most recent story that I finished is Secrets To The Grave by Tami Hoag. This is the sequel to her novel See No Evil. Both a must read. The story in Secrets To The Grave moves smoothly with plenty of twists and turns to the story. Hoag's book kept me compelled from beginning to end. Some of the specific things I liked about this novel was;

Characters-I love the Vince Leone character. He is a perfect example of a charismatic, smart, hard-nosed Detective that is vulnerable. Surviving a gunshot to the head, introduced in the book See No Evil, is just one reason Vince Leone is vulnerable, and has some frailties.

Hoag does a wonderful job of introducing new characters, as well as, fitting characters from the first book back into the story

Quote-Hoag gave me a couple of quotes that I'll remember. The first one and first part of the quote comes from Ernest Hemingway in the book A Farewell To Arms which is "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. May you grow strong at the broken places."

The last one comes from Vince Leone when he tells his partner "We can look at anything and make it simple. Even murder. Every one of them can be boiled down to this: Either somebody didn't get what they wanted, or someone wanted exactly what they got. Disappointment or desire."

Excellent read!