Lancaster, PA, United States | Member Since 2008
In a land called Ravka, two orphans, Mal and Alina, are called to battle in a war; however, they are called in very different ways. Mal becomes a soldier, and Alina becomes a cartographer. Then, Alina discovers that she has powers that are unique in their world--she is a sun summoner. Because of her new powers, she leaves her post to train as a Grisha, which is a type of natural sorceress. In the book, many believe that her power will help to end the war.
I wanted to love this book, but I only barely liked it. First, let me get my biggest complaint out of the way. From the illustration on the book cover to the language used by the characters, there is an obviously heavy Russian influence in the land of Ravka. Unfortunately, that influence was terribly executed. Although the author uses some terms correctly (e.g., samovar), she invents other words or completely misuses them. There was absolutely no other Russian influence in the entire book. There was no reference to Russian culture, no reference to Russian mythology, and no reference to Russian folklore. It could be argued that, because Ravka is not Russia, these missing references should be overlooked. I cannot overlook them. If the author is going to try for a Russian feel, she should have been a bit more focused with her research. One example that made me somewhat crazy was the name of the main character, Alina Starkov. Although I can see the Russian influence in the name, would it have been so terrible to make the name Alina Starkova, which would have sounded far, far more authentic?
By the way, my complaint about the lack of a true Russian influence negatively influenced my opinion of the performance. I liked Lauren Fortgang for the most part; however, she was woefully prepared to read a book that had Russian words in it. Her pronunciation was bad. Fortunately, her accent was not. I liked the pseudo-Russian accent that she used, but she fumbled with the Russian words and the invented-Russian words.
My second complaint is with the love story aspect of the book. Why, oh why, do we need another bizarre, love-triangle story in which the heroine is (for a part of the book) torn between the boy she has loved her whole life and the bad-boy she has just met? I really feel as if this is another story that is capitalizing on the Twilight/Hunger Games trend. Don't get me wrong, I liked all of these books, but enough is enough. I have serious doubts about the future of all women if these characters represent their ideal models of relationships.
OK, now that I provided you with the complaints, I will confess that I liked the story. I didn't love it, but I liked it. If the love story could have been removed (and the pseudo-Russian corrected), it would have been great. The general concept of the Grishas was fascinating. I like the idea that these people are not really sorcerers or sorceresses; instead, they manipulate what already exists in nature. In fact, they don't refer to it is magic, but as the "small science," which seems to be a combination of magic and science. In addition, the world of Ravka is troubled, yet interesting. I would love to know more about the other people of that world.
In the end, I can say that this was an OK book. If you enjoy the love-story aspect of Twilight or the Hunger Games, you will definitely enjoy this book. If you can tolerate a bit more of it, you will enjoy the fantasy. The ending of the book was rather weak; however, I believe that there are more books to come in this series. We will see where things go in the second book!
This is a story about a family that is much like any other family. The story spans the lives of numerous family members as they learn to cope with life. What makes this family different from others is that each of the members of the family develops a super power--just when he or she seems to need it most. The powers really do seem to reflect just what the family needed.
The book's chapters are each focused on one member of the family. While the focus is on that particular family member, each chapter includes other family members as their lives intersect. A daughter discovers the ability to turn invisible, and her brother can fly. Their mother can hear the thoughts of other people, and her sister becomes a super-powered swimmer. The mother's brother-in-law can make (most) of his wishes come true, and his and his wife's children each have their own powers: one son can cause people to fall in love with each other. The other son has a power that is quite special and is not revealed until the final chapter of the book.
Each chapter ended with a mini-cliffhanger, which certainly kept the story moving along. I was eager to learn what would happen next. Each character's story was well told and interesting. I greatly enjoyed witnessing this family grow over the course of 30ish years in such a short amount of time. My only complaint is the ending. Much like the other chapters, the book seemed to end on a bit of a cliff-hanger that was meant to wrap up the book. I thought it ended just a bit too abruptly, and I would have liked to learn just about what would happen next. Who knows? Maybe there will be a sequel!
Like most people, I was first introduced to The Great Gatsby in high school. To be honest, I could barely even remember the story. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good time to re-read it as a new movie was about to come out in theaters. I can't say that the story was much better than what I barely remembered. It was good, but only good. I struggle a bit to think about why this book is considered a classic.
One of the other reasons that I wanted to read the book was because Jake Gyllenhaal was the narrator. I am usually very pleased with this skills as an actor, so I thought he might infuse these characters with a bit more life than what I barely remembered from high school. Unfortunately, his narration was a rather flat. It seemed very monotone for most of the story. There were a few times when he was able to up his game a bit by adding a rather convincing New York accent to his characters' voices, but I don't think this was enough to save the rest of his narration.
The story is told by a narrator, Nick Carraway, who happens to move in to a house that neighbors a gigantic mansion owned by Jay Gatsby. I can't say that Carraway has much in the way of a vital character--other than to introduce the reader to Gatsby. For much of the beginning of the book, Gatsby is shrouded in mystery. Everyone know about him, but not many people actually know him. That seems to be the setup of the story when Gatsby is finally introduced to the reader. Even then, he still seems to be a mystery.
Much of the story is about Gatsby's interested in Daisy. They were once, long ago before the war, lovers. Unfortunately, Daisy has since re-married. Undaunted, Gatsby uses his relationship with Carraway to become close to Daisy. The entire plot of this love affair frames the remainder of the story. Of course, it is no great spoiler to say that the love affair does not end well.
For me, it was very hard to become emotionally invested in any of the characters because none of them were all that well developed. Instead, the author seems to keep all of their characters rather superficial. This is perhaps by design to show the theme of American decadence in the 1920s. If that was the intention, I would say that the mission was accomplished. Other than this reflection of American superficiality, there isn't much else that I found worthwhile in the story.
I decided to read this book in preparation for Stephen King's upcoming sequel, Doctor Sleep. I had seen the Stanley Kubrick movie several times; however, I realized that I never actually read the book. I am so glad that I did. It was excellent--probably one of King's best stories. There are several significant differences between the book and the movie. While I have always loved the movie, I must say that the book is far, far better.
Let me make a quick comment about the narrator, Campbell Scott. He did an excellent job of infusing the characters with the right about of emotion. His narration made it easy to understand the terror that was going through each of the characters throughout the story.
There are numerous high points in the story. First, I enjoyed the utter creepiness of the of hedge animals. This is very different from the movie--and it worked much better. The hedge animals seem to add another malevolent life force to an already possessed hotel. The scenes of the hedge animals with Jack, Danny, and Dick were appropriately frightening.
Another high point in the story is the elevator. While I didn't give much thought to the elevator, I was completely unnerved when the elevator starting running--by itself--in the middle of the night. For a hotel that was supposed to be empty, I would have been exceptionally freaked out for the elevator to start running while I was in bed with my family. I truly doubt my own ability to stay in the hotel after that event.
The other high point that I would like to mention is the psychological development of the characters. Throughout the story, it was painful to experience Jack's psychological breakdown. At the same time, it was frustrating to deal with Wendy's torn feels for supporting her husband while trying to protect her son. Finally, Danny's psychological development showed great strength and maturity. Each character seemed fully developed throughout the story, which made me even more interested in learning their fates.
This was a great horror story, and I am eager to read its sequel. If you love horror stories, this one should be at the top of your list. If you've only ever seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read the book. You will not be disappointed.
After having read "Ender's Game," I was eager to read "Speaker for the Dead." I was definitely not disappointed. According to interviews with the author, Orson Scott Card, "Speaker for the Dead" was the original book that he wanted to write. He wrote "Ender's Game" as a kind of introduction to "Speaker for the Dead." Although "Ender's Game" has become far more well-known and more popular than "Speaker for the Dead," I can see why this was the story that the author really wanted to write. The story is much richer and deeper. I feel as if it's written for a more mature audience, and its themes reflect that maturity. Don't get me wrong. I loved "Ender's Game," yet I think I enjoyed "Speaker for the Dead" just as much--only for different reasons.
Let me get the bad news out of the way. The audio recording of this book was terrible. I don't want to say that the actual performance of the narrators was bad because it really wasn't. The problem was that there were just too many narrators, and they were used inconsistently throughout the book. At times, there were shifts from one narrator to another mid-paragraph, and it didn't seem to be done for any reason. I certainly don't want to say that this lessened the story in any way. After all, it's the same story whether listening to one narrator or 50. Even so, the shifting back and forth was distracting. As if that weren't bad enough, there was also periodic background music that was played during the performance. Again, this seemed to show up in random locations. There was one location in particular in which music just started playing mid-sentence and the ended in the middle of the following sentence. Usually, I expect some of that background music to signal a change in chapter, theme, or something else recognizable. That was surely not the case here. Again, it didn't lessen the story, but it was distracting. It wouldn't be such a bad thing for the story to be re-recorded without the performance issues.
Now, on to the good news. This book takes place 3000 years after "Ender's Game"; however, thanks to space travel at relativistic speeds, both Ender and Valentine are still alive--and in their 30s! In many ways, this book picks up not long after "Ender's Game" concludes. Ender has now become the Speaker for the Dead. After the events that occurred earlier in his life (in "Ender's Game"), he decides to dedicate himself to speaking the death of other people. Perhaps he sees this as atonement for his earlier life. In this book, humans have discovered a new, alien life form, the Pequeninos (also known as "piggies"), on the planet Lusitania. A death occurs on this planet, and Ender is called to speak the death.
This book is far more philosophical than "Ender's Game." The Speaker for the Dead does not deliver a traditional eulogy for those who have died. Instead, he speaks the truth. This concept resonated strongly with me because I think a lot of people don't get to have the truth spoken at their funerals. While this idea of speaking for the dead is a central theme of the book, there are many others. For example, the interactions between the humans and the piggies is extraordinary. It frames the way in which we, as humans, look at anything or anyone who is different from us, as something that needs to be either protected or changed. We seem to think that we are the most evolved species and, subsequently, the most intelligent. Although the book doesn't necessarily contradict this belief, it does make the reader question it. Finally, I want to also mention that the Catholic Church is alive and well in the far-off future. There were very interesting discussions of religious themes throughout the book. The Catholic Church has a prominent role on Lusitania, and it must somehow align its teachings with the new reality of an alien life form.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It still exists in the same general universe as "Ender's Game," yet it is its own story. The more mature philosophical themes make this a great book for older readers, but it's still science fiction. This seems to be a great combination, and I look forward to reading other books in the Ender series.
I can't say enough good things about this book. While I no longer remember why I purchased it in the first place, I am glad I did. It was great on so many levels. I was trying to describe the book to a friend the other day. For some reason, I kept relying on TV analogies. For example, if you were a fan of Lost or Fringe, this book would surely be for you.
The heart of the story revolves around Nate Tucker and a group of other tenants of a rather mysterious building in LA. Nate moves into the building because it has very, very low rent. The other tenants are there for a similar reason. The tenants seem to think that the rent is so low because the building has some quirks. As the tenants continue to talk with each other, they learn that there are more than just quirks throughout the building--there are absolute mysteries. The tenants decided to investigate.
Throughout the investigation, the tenants learn all kinds of strange things about the building. For example, there are unusual light bulbs, mutant cockroaches, locked doors, and a permanently broken elevator. And these just scratch the surface. What kept me reading at a break-neck speed was that, just when I thought there could be no more mysteries, there was something new. Each new mystery built on the others, yet none of them seemed to explain what was going on in the building.
The bulk of the book is about the mysteries and the tenants' exploration. The "answers" to the mysteries do not come until quite late in the book. I thought that there was a good conclusion to the book, and it wrapped up most (but not all!) of the loose ends of the story. If you like good sci-fi mysteries, you will enjoy this book very much.
In this short tale, Peter Rabbit learns a valuable lesson about listening to his elders and staying out of mischief. While this tale is written as a cautionary lesson for children, I believe that there are many adults who could still benefit from this lesson. Too often, people are going to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. Even if other people have more experience or wisdom than they, we still want to find out for ourselves. Peter Rabbit is a good example of someone who wants to do his own thing--and he nearly pays dearly for it! I think this is a great tale for children of all ages. Even as adults, we still need to be reminded of its simple lesson--stay out of mischief!
A friend of mind recommend that my son read this book. That was about two years ago, and my son (who dislikes reading) never read it. Having heard a lot about the book, and learning that a movie was soon to be released, I thought that I would give it a read. I am so glad that I did because I loved it.
Set in a not-too-distant future, the story revolves around a boy named Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. Ender is recruited into the International Fleet (a kind of space-based military organization) at the age of six and is trained to become a commander of the International Fleet to help in their fight against an alien species that look a lot like insects (or bugs) and are called "buggers." As part of Ender's training, he is required to play a series of increasingly difficult games that will require him to make command decisions and work with teams of other kids.
I completely loved the story that was told about how Ender was trained and how he progressed through the training. In reading other reviews of the book (and in hearing about the ant-gay comments of the author), I was hesitant about reading it because I was unsure if there would be too much violence or too much anti-gay rhetoric. I am happy to report that this was not the case. Yes, there is a lot of violence. I am unsure if I would want a six-year-old to read this book; however, the violence seemed perfectly in context of the story.
If I had any complaint about the book it would be about the storyline involving Ender's siblings back on Earth. At first, I thought that I could have done without that part of the story entirely. Even so, as I progressed through the book, I could see why it was valuable to show what was transpiring back on Earth while Ender was being trained in space.
I don't want to give anything else away about the story; however, I can tell you that there were enough twists and shocks to keep me very interested. I enjoyed the book very much, and I am considering reading some of the other books in the series.
It has been several years since I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I remember how much I enjoyed the book then, and I was thrilled to learn that the book was being made into a movie (which I have not yet seen). Before I watch the movie, I wanted to re-read the book, and I think I enjoyed it even more this time than I did the first time. Personally, I believe that this book will become a classic, and it will be read in high schools across the country one day if it isn't already.
Before I review the book, I just want to state how much I enjoyed the narrator's performance. Noah Galvin was the perfect person to read this book. He could so easily be the main character, Charlie. His voice was exactly what you would expect a 15-16 year old boy to sound like. Moreover, he was able to change his voice enough to sound like the other characters in the book--and it was very believable.
The story is written as a series of letters from a boy whose alias is "Charlie" to a "Dear Friend," who remains anonymous throughout the book. Following the suicide of close friend, Charlie is learning how to participate in life. He is incredibly smart, and he eventually finds two people, Sam and Patrick, who quickly become his best friends.
The letters that Charlie writes detail the adventures and misadventures that he and his friends have. Many of these descriptions reflect the challenges of being a teenager and growing up--which is something that I believe every reader can relate to. Just of a few of the themes that show up in these letters include violence, sex, smoking, alcohol, and drugs. These are all common themes that teenagers struggle with, and Charlie is no different.
Fortunately, there are also a lot of positive themes throughout the books: friendship, family, positive role models, education, and many positive messages. In many ways, these themes seem to offset some of the challenges faced by the teen characters in the book. In addition, music and its role in teen culture is heavily referenced.
The book presents a bit of a twist toward its end. It's not exactly shocking; however, it provides a very interesting way to tie some of the book's themes together. Even with this twist toward the end, the books concludes on a very positive note. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a teen--or has ever been one.
I had been wanting to read this book since it was released, and I finally had the chance. I wasn't disappointed with it. In this book, the author takes a non-mathematical approach to understanding how statistics enable predictions to be made. Instead of talking about actual formulas or complex theories, he tells stories that give examples of predictions that have failed and those that have been successful. Personally, I would have liked to have been exposed to more of the math; however, I recognize that it would not be for everyone.
The book is divided into 13 chapters, and each chapter aligns with a different example of predictions that are successful and those that are not (more or less). Admittedly, some of the chapters were less interesting to me than others. Nevertheless, I feel as though I was able to learn some very important concepts in each chapter. For example, the author's background is in statistics, and he made a name for himself with baseball statistics. I never thought much about baseball statistics, yet I learned something incredibly valuable from this chapter. The author made a comparison between baseball predictions and presidential election predictions. I would have thought that presidential elections would be far richer in data (because of the magnitude of important); however, that is far, far from the truth. Presidential elections happen only once every four years--and there have been only 57 presidential elections in the entire history of the United States. In contrast, there are more than 57 games of baseball played every single year. The dataset in baseball is insanely rich, and what we learn about predictions in baseball can carry over into other data-rich fields.
Another field that is rich in data is weather prediction. I have never wanted to become a meteorologist in my life. I struggle with getting predictions wrong so often. Even so, this chapter was fascinating because the author describes why it's far easier to predict good weather than it is to predict bad weather. It is those bad weather predictions that seem to go wrong so often that make people question the skills of meteorologists, yet it is statistically less inaccurate than we might think. Another thing that I learned in this chapter is that there is a very, very big difference between meteorology and climatology. Climatology attempts to predict weather patterns over many, many years (e.g. 60 to 100); however, meteorology attempts to predict daily weather patterns. Over the longer duration, it is less challenging to predict weather patterns. It is far more difficult to predict daily fluctuations than it is to predict long-term trends. Incidentally, this heuristic holds true in other fields that the author described in other chapters. The stock market is a perfect example of this. The long-term trends in the stock market are much easier to predict than the daily fluctuations.
Far and beyond, my favorite chapter was the one that covered the game of chess. Chess is my favorite game by far. I am fascinated by the game because, unlike poker (described in a separate chapter of the book), you know everything that your opponent knows. All of the pieces are on the board in front of both players. There are no cards that are being held in your opponent’s hand that you have to guess about. Moreover, you know every possible move that is allowed by both you and your opponent. Even so, with all of that knowledge, people still lose at chess. It seems inconceivable that there were ever be anything other than a draw, yet it happens all the time. Good players win. The author talks a lot about how difficult it is to make predictions about the best play in chess because humans are only able to think about two or three moves at a time. Those players who can think out longer moves seem to do better. Enter the computer. Computers have the ability to calculate more moves in less time than humans. This provides computers with far better predictive power than humans. After Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997, the face of computer chess changed significantly. The author predicts that a human will never again be able to defeat a computer at chess (at that level of competition).
In the end, this last example is what seems to be the framework on which the entire book is built. Technology has changed the way in which we make predictions. Computers have the ability to process more data than ever before. And more data exist than ever before! New fields, like data analytics and big data, are pushing the boundaries of what computers can do with large datasets and their utility in prediction. Of course, some systems (like the weather) are less predictable than others (like chess); however, technology is enabling us to get closer and closer to more precise predictions. The author feels as though this ongoing advance in data and technology will ultimately be helpful in more and more fields include homeland security and the war on terror. I, for one, can't wait to see where it leads us.
I think that Stephen King should become president of the NRA. This essay provides personal insight into King's beliefs about guns and violence. He wrote the essay shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting in response to some of the craziness that is coming out of the mouths of people on both sides of the gun-control argument. I believe that King has been able to find some good middle ground--and I agree with the majority of his beliefs.
To those who know me, it is surely no surprise that I am a strong supporter of the second amendment. I regularly carry a concealed weapon, and I am completely opposed to having the second amendment repealed--or even tampered with. I am even a life member in the NRA. Even so, I am not one of those extremists who believes that there is no room for rational discussion. Even King himself is a gun owner and doesn't want his rights taken away; however, he understands the need for both sides of the argument to come together to find a solution to the problem of gun violence.
Let me be clear, I do not agree with everything that King wrote. He has some strong opinions that I think are a bit of stretch. Even so, this essay is one of the most reasonable views that I have recently heard. If you are on either extreme of the gun-control argument, you might struggle with the ideas in this essay. Nevertheless, you should think about some of King's suggestions. If you're not really on either side of the argument, this essay might help you form your own opinion.
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