My thoughts and reviews on books, TV shows and whatever else may come up. I have a lot of hobbies and interests and they may come up from time to time, but this will mostly be book and TV reviews and discussions

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting Back into Music

If you usually read this blog for book or television reviews, you can pretty much skip this post. But if you are a musician you may like it.

I used to really be into music, and then other hobbies, life, and commitments took over. I have trying to get back into it slowly but surely. My wife has a piano in the living room that she never plays so I started teaching myself some tunes. I got the Office theme down pat. I bought a big book of Beatles songs and some Coldplay.

And I think that finally got me to pull out the old guitars, which are my true instruments. While I really like the piano, it will take me years to get where I am on the guitar. I took my acoustic and electric in this weekend for a tune up and string changing. I got new amp cords, a cheap little distortion pedal and some new picks. It felt great to play...

Until my fingers got soar. Oh how I have forgotten what it took to build up those callouses. I am trying to get myself to play a little bit each night, and so far so good. I need to find a new song to challenge me which really motivates me. It seems like old times, I just hope I can stay with it.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Dune by Frank Herbert came in 128 on the combined book reading list of the greatest 20th century novels. This is a tricky book for me to review because it falls into science fiction/fantasy. When I am not reading a book from the list, I am usually reading science fiction and fantasy.

Dune follows the story of Paul Atredies whose father Duke Leto was in charge of the planet Dune. An utterly desert and rocky planet, it is of extreme importance due to a spice trade. It is the only planet where this spice exists. Wars will be fought for this spice.

After a takeover that overthrows the Duke, Paul and his mother are left in the desert where they begin wandering with the fremen there. They are natives to the planet and have evolved so they can survive the intense desert heat. Paul eventually becomes a leader to these people. Only the stronger Paul and the fremen get, the less the Emperor and his people can ignore the threat.

This book begins very slowly, picks up to an exciting pace, and then slightly dies down at the end, although it is still a pretty exciting finish. I think part of the issue with the end is it is setting up the next book some and not finishing the current story. That is always the problems with books that have sequels. It is sometimes necessary to judge the series as a whole.

Overall this is an excellent book that seems about right with its ranking of 128 Strong writing and a strong message is delivered almost through the entire book. A slow beginning and a slight let down on the ending in no way spoil an otherwise solid read. 4 out 5 strong stars!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kane and Abel

Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer comes in at 125 on the combined reading list. Kane and Abel was published in 1980 making it one of the newer books on the list. Kane and Abel follows the lives of two different men that happened to share a birthday. William Kane was born to a life luxury. His father was a rich and successful banker and William would become a rich and successful banker. Abel Robowski was a poor Polish immigrant who had nothing, but would come to America and try to make a life for himself.

The structure of the book is very simple but works very well. Each chapter alternates between Kane and Abel. In a book that eventually shows the struggles and battles these two men will put each other through, they very rarely cross paths. There is an occasional meeting or phone call, but for the most part these two men never cross paths.

For reasons that I can not say without spoiling some of the book Abel develops a huge hatred for William Kane due to some business with his bank. It becomes so personal and his hatred builds so much that Abel does whatever he can to hurt William's life at his bank. Eventually William does a few well placed business moves to try and fight back and make Abel go away.

Between these business battles we watched each boy grow into a man, fall in love, have kids, lose close friends to illness, lose parents, divorce, and live a pretty normal life. And it is these normal, everyday lives that we all deal with where the book shines. The battles between Kane and Abel are solid as well, but the way the two lives unfold and how their family life unfolds is the real shining achievement.

This book is solid all around. There were a couple of minor lulls, but for the most part this book kept me reading. This book is a very interesting character study wrapped around a tightly woven plot that should keep you engaged until the end. I feel this book is a little low at 125 on the list. 5 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse 5 is another entry on my combined reading list and came in at 11. Could the book live up to such a high ranking? It is definitely an interesting read. I don't know of too many anti-war world war II books with a science fiction twist.

The author, Kurt Vonnegut is a World War II vet that survived the bombing of Dresden in Germany, and that is the rough setting of this novel. The main character Billy Pilgrim is at Dresden as well. Only something has caused Billy Pilgram to jump around all over his life. One minute he is about to be captured by Germans, the next he is back home at Optometry school.

Another interesting part of the book is that Billy Pilgrim thinks he has been abducted by an alien race and put in a zoo on their planet. They eventually add a beautiful porn star to be his mate. He occasionally jumps to a time when he is with these aliens.

The book never quite explains if these adventures are in his head because of the horrors he saw at Dresden, or are really happening. There are some subtle clues each way. The narrative while sometimes jarring is pretty light and this book is an easy read. It has that kind of humor that makes you smile, but isn't laugh out loud funny. The characters come off somewhat shallow, but in a shorter book like this it is really the events around them that is the star of the book.

Although you will know everything there is to know about Billy since you will see almost every point in his life as he jumps around. Luckily very little in his life ever seemed to be dull.

This is a real classic and deserves its high perch on the list. This is such an easy read I could see myself going back to this for several more readings. This is an easy 5 out of 5.


Castle is a new show on ABC, well it played in spring of 2009 and had about a 10 episode run. It was on the bubble to come back in the fall, but luckily it got renewed. The wife and I watched the first five episodes on Hulu on a recent trip and this is one fun show.

The premise is pretty simple. Richard Castle(Nathan Fillion from Firefly, Serenity, etc) is a famous mystery writer (think James Patterson, John Grisham type) who kills his main character in his last book. Now writers block has set in. He is a local celebrity in New York so the mayor allows him to follow around a female detective.

What makes this show great is Castle. He can come off as a slime ball (he gets excited at a crime scene, hits on a lot of ladies) but through scenes with his 15 year old daughter and live in mother he comes off as a pretty good guy. The banter between him and is partner is great.

The cases aren't that spectacular with one crazy twist after another. The shows this most reminds me of are Bones and Monk. Bones has the best and more realistic cases but is weaker on the humor. Monk probably has the weakest cases with the most humor, and this kind of sets in between.

I have found I really don't like a lot of the procedural shows (CSI, NCIS, etc) but if you make it more about great characters with the episode structured around a particular case, they can be a lot of fun. The characters are what sell these. Castle hasn't become a must watch for me yet, but seems well on its way to being a fun and enjoyable show

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The World According to Garp

I am still working out how to do these reviews. Lets start with my ranking. It will be a cliche stars system but let me give it a little more description. 1 star means I thought this book was terrible. I am not even sure why I read it or finished it. If it is one of the books from my list of 20th century greatest novels, I have to question why it even made it. Two stars means I see the literary value in it, it might have had a strong beginning and a weak end or vice versa. It might have been overly long or difficult to finish. It has something in it that will make me never want to read it again. Three stars means it will probably remain in my collection. I might not get around to reading it again, but I would like to have it so others can read it. It might some of the issues of a two star book, but not as glaring. These are great books to check out from the library if you are not a collector. Four stars, well it is hard to be perfect but this is getting close to the mark. I read a lot of different books, so it may be awhile before I get to this again, but I will. Five stars is a must have or must read recommendation. In my opinion (which this all is anyway) this would be a great book that almost anyone would enjoy. This is a book that I will try to read again and again.

Hopefully I will only need to do that once and this system will work. The first book up is the World According to Garp by John Irving. This book came out in 1978. On the combined list of greatest 20th century novels this one ranked 34. So a quick recap on the ratings basically 3 lists of the 100 greatest 20th century novels were combined into a ranked list of 223 books.

This is a bizarre and interesting book and is one of the tougher ones to review. Any kind of description or detail takes away some of the magic of reading this book the first time through. The book though follows the life of T.S. Garp. He is a writer, but for much of the book he is suffering from writers block or there is something else in his life is keeping him from writing.

Mixed in to the book narrative are pieces of Garp's novels or short stories. Honestly, I thought these were the weaker sections of the book, but there are not too many. Basically this becomes a character study of the Garp family, and they are an interesting lot. Garp is a writer of course. his mother Jenny Fields is a former nurse who is now a feminist leader. He marries his old wrestling coach's daughter Helen and starts a life with her. Eventually children come and we follow the interesting ups and downs as this slightly dysfunctional family.

For a book like this one of the shocking pieces may be the sex and violence. There is plenty of both in both Garp's writings and the story itself. It sometimes becomes so over the top to take away from the rest of the story. This book was a page turner though, and I never became to bogged down in it except for a few of the chapters dealing with Garp's writing. That is saying something because this book comes in just over 600 pages.

Like I said at the beginning this is one hard book to review, but it is also hard to rate. I am not sure if I would want to slog through some of the sex, but especially the violence so I am going with 3 out 5 stars. This is very, very close to 4.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I love about the Simpsons

This site is really going to be about the book reviews and summaries, but maybe in a 70 - 30 ratio. Who knows. I will also delve into reviewing all kinds of things and talking about other things I like.

And one thing I like, well love is the Simpsons. I love how an episode starts and you think it is going to be about one thing, and after about a 10 minute intro, the real episode starts.

For example, did you ever see the one with Michael Jackson? Pretty awesome. Do you remember how he met Michael Jackson? If you haven't seen it lately you probably don't. Bart left his red shorts in with Homer's white shirt when they were washed. Homer's shirt turned pink. He stood out like such a sore thumb when he came to work he his given a mental test. Which he fails. Which leads him to a mental institution. Where of course he meets Michael and the real episode plot kicks off.

Another example. Did you see the one where Homer bought a gun? Do you remember why? Well for protection of course. If you haven't seen it lately though you might not remember the riot that caused him to think he needed it. It was a soccer game. They rioted just like Europe. Only they were rioting to get out of the stadium because they were bored, not the results of the game. Another great throwaway line is when they do the background check, Homer is said to have been in a mental institution...Which he was with Michael. I hope all my posts come full circle like that...but they won't.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to the Blog

A few years I stumbled across a list, the 100 best English language novels of the 20th Century. And I thought that was kind of interesting so I did some research on the list that was created. It turns out that 2 other entities created competing lists. So there were now 3 major lists each claiming to have the 100 greatest books from the 20th century. A brave soul then took all 3 lists, threw out a few choices (some were written before 1900, some were not originally written in English, etc.) and came up with the 213 unique books that were on the list. I was a little appalled about how few of them I had read. So I decided to try and read all 213.

That was almost 5 years ago. I have taken some small breaks and snuck in some modern fiction, non fiction, and my favorite genres of fantasy and Sci Fi, but for the most part I have been tackling this list. I am about 40 in now.

Then one day, I was looking at the list, and I realized several of the books I could hardly remember what they were about. So that gave me the idea of this blog, to review what I have read, and what I am reading.

The majority of the reviews will be catching up on what I have read so far. I will occasionally drop in some fantasy/sci fi reviews, non fiction books, and technical books. I have a wide array of hobbies and like to buy a lot of books on these. I also am a recovering comics reader, so you will probably see the occasional graphic novel/trade review. And of course I will also be reviewing/recommending some TV shows I like. So the main focus will be the book reviews and discussions, but with a hopefully nice mix of other reviews and topics.

And if I keep this going long enough and get a few readers, I may post some of my own short stories I have been toiling away on.

So if you like to read literature, but are not sure what to get or try, this might be a place to try from time to time. If you just like reading in general, there may be some books that you have missed that I can point out. Thanks for stopping by.