Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Eight by Katherine Neville

I finished this book yesterday. This book was given to me years ago as a birthday gift from a good friend of mine who does not enjoy reading but wanted me to read this because it is his Dad's favorite book. I mostly enjoyed it. Who knew chess was so intense?

It was a tougher read than I was expecting. The author frequently weaves in historical figures and events into the story which made her story seem more realistic. The parts I enjoyed most were when she would use the aforementioned historical figures and events in a way to show that these real-life historical characters' motives were driven by pursuit of an ancient, magical chess set and historical events were caused by those involved in pursuing this chess set. Nine times out of ten it worked and made her unbelievable story about a magical chess set seem more believable. One times out of ten another introduction of a famous figure's involvement with the magical chess set came across as a bit too absurd and over the top. But most of the time it flowed within the story and felt natural. Also, I think I would have enjoyed the book even more if I knew more about the French Revolution, Napoleon, and some of the other historical figures and events referenced because I would have been more aware of the creative ways in which she played with history.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I finished this a few nights ago. I had been reading it all summer to my 6-year old Mallory and my 5-year old Trevor would sit in for parts of it as well. I haven't had too much success with getting Mallory interested in some adult chapter books. Probably because she is 6. And I thought this one was not going to go very well but she was the one insisting on reading this. And much to my surprise she loved this book like crazy. It was a bit slow and had boring parts for sure but she was never phased. Her enjoyment and excitement for the book made me like it more than I otherwise likely would have if I read this book myself. My kids also enjoyed that I tried doing a lot of different English accents for the characters throughout but they always came off sounding like U.S. Southerner accents.

It was a nice book. I enjoyed seeing the two crabby, misbehaved youngsters change their attitudes and improve themselves. They sure do worship pulling weeds. I must say that the last chapter is really quite beautiful. It's a happy book and I was glad to enjoy reading it with my young 'uns.

There's good quotes to share I am sure but this book is currently in Mallory's room and she is sound asleep for the night.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Promised Messiah by Bruce R. McConkie

I finished reading this last night. It was pretty good. It was loaded with scripture quotations and references as Bruce R. is wont to do. And boy is he thorough. This often reads a lot like an encyclopedia or dictionary since it is so heavily loaded with scripture quotes one after another. It makes it feel like the book is better served as a reference book more so than a book to read from cover to cover.

He is at his best when he ties different scriptures together to make his point. He did an excellent job demonstrating dozens of ways in which the scriptures prove that Jehovah of the Old Testament is Christ. The book did seem to go a little long and go beyond the scope of the book by discussing quite a bit about Christ's mortal ministry rather than just focusing on his premortal ministry and prophecies about his eventual birth and mission. But it was a good book and I am glad that I read it.

I could probably find some good quotes but it's late and nothing immediately jumps to my recollection as a quote that I must share. So my whims dictate that there shall be no quotes shared.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

I finished reading this yesterday. It is the second book in the series. I had read the first one only a few months prior and liked it enough to get to this second book more quickly than I thought I would.

I liked this one, probably a little bit more than the first one. The mystery plot in the first one was better and more interesting, but the first one also had a pretty boring sub-plot and the girl on which the books are titled ended up being more unlikable in the first one than she is in the second one. The plot in this second book makes her a much more sympathetic character.

The story methodically develops and progresses (sometimes a little too slowly or with too much repetition) up until the exciting conclusion. Some of the stuff that happens seems a little too far-fetched, especially at the end, almost as though Larsson realized that the book was dragging on too long and he had to hurry up and get to the conclusion, but it's certainly entertaining and I enjoyed reading this novel (even though Larsson periodically goes into way too much detail about mundane things, like listing off every single item that the girl purchases during her day long shopping trip).

Hopefully I'll finish off the series by reading the third book soon, but I will probably mix in a few books before I eventually get to it. And then, true to form, never actually get to it and fail to finish the series like I do with all series' that I attempt.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

I finished reading this tonight. It sucked a big one. The book was so-so for the majority of the time, but it easily has one of the worst endings of all time. Just laughably stupid. So dumb and ridiculous. The characters are unlikable and their stories are uninteresting for the most part. At least McEwan took pity on his readers and limited this to only 193 pages, thank goodness.

This is my third McEwan. Here are my rankings of his books:

1. Atonement (really good)
2. Saturday (average)
3. Amsterdam (below average)

I wonder if I'll ever read a McEwan book again. Probably not anytime soon. Maybe once it has been long enough that I have forgotten how terrible the ending was in this book.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Bostonians by Henry James

"As for the Bostonians, I would rather be damned to John Bunyan's heaven than read that." - Mark Twain.

I finished reading this book tonight. It is my first Henry James book. I don't think I disliked it as much as Mark Twain appears to dislike it, but I certainly didn't like it. I think I made the mistake of picking Henry James' worst book as my introduction to him. I'm not sure how this one received the "Classic" distinction from Barnes & Noble.

The book started out good and really set the stage for a fine novel. All the pieces were there. A staunch feminist and her staunch anti-feminist, male cousin have an interesting and humorous first encounter. He invites himself to a feminist gathering where they both become mesmerized by a feminist speaker. This setup, along with James' detailed writing, seemed like the perfect recipe for an enjoyable book. Unfortunately, he really dropped the ball and wasted the opportunity. He abandons the male cousin character for far too long and does not really capitalize on the relationship between the cousins that could have led to many great scenes of awkwardness, tension and humor. Also, the anti-feminist guy very easily woos the feminist speaker and does so by brashly and unapologetically voicing his offensive and mocking opinions directly to her. Somehow this isn't a huge turn-off for her despite her own personal convictions. I don't know, just seemed super unrealistic.

The two other things that I really didn't like about the book: (1) Longest paragraphs ever. Seriously. Paragraphs often went longer than two full pages without a break. It's exhausting to read a giant two-page paragraph of a story that is increasingly losing your interest only to turn over the next page and see another giant un-ending paragraph; (2) James would have comments in parentheses in the middle of tons of his sentences. It was awkward how often he did it and it seemed to really interfere with the flow.

I'll still give Henry James a chance by reading some of his other stuff. Hopefully I won't allow this book to prejudice me against him for too long.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I just finished reading this to Mallory and Trevor last night. I liked it. It was "cute." My kids liked it ok. On most nights I could get a page or two in before they would lose total interest. I think if I read it to Mallory by herself then it would have been better because she would have been able to stay focused longer. But I liked the uplifting story of Charlotte's creative efforts to save an ordinary farm pig. And E.B. White had a fun writing style with this story. I was familiar with the story, obviously, but it was nice to finally read the whole tale.