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Scott

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About me

Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, now living in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Lived in three other places because of temporary work relocations (on-site supervision). Met my wife in 2000 through an internet fan club for the band Yes. We got married in August of 2001. Our son arrived in late November of 2005.

Other then music and reading, I continually root for the Red Wings and Tigers, as well as keeping an eye on the Phillies and Flyers, along with tennis and Australian Rules football.

Occupation: Mechanical Designer

Married

About my collections

Most every book in my collection is either a book that I really enjoyed or loved, or haven't read. If I don't like a book, I either sell it to a used book store, donate to a library, or offer them up on BookMooch.

I am usually a "complete-ist" when it comes to music. If I like an artist after a couple of releases, or even just one, I tend to buy all of their releases. Even if they aren't anything I listen to often, I hang on to them. I haven't bought much of anything lately. It's tough to keep up with what's being released.

The DVD's in the collection are those of mine and my wife's. In general, they are movies or TV shows that we wanted actual copies of.

Lists

Favorite Actors & Actresses (9 items)
Person list by Scott
Last updated 8 years, 10 months ago
Favorite Music Artists (6 items)
Person list by Scott
Last updated 8 years, 10 months ago
Favorite Authors (7 items)
Person list by Scott
Last updated 8 years, 10 months ago
Favorite Novels (31 items)
Book list by Scott
Last updated 9 years, 5 months ago
My Favorite Albums Part 6 (10 items)
Music list by Scott
Last updated 9 years, 6 months ago



Recent reviews

All reviews - Books (70) - Music (4)

"The Invention of Hugo Cabret"

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 26 March 2008 01:44 (A review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret)

I had interest in this book now for a while, though never took the plunge. I remember reading a brief description that didn’t go deep into the story, or the nature of the book, but it interested me. But it was in a recent trip to brother-in-law’s that it caught my attention. I saw he had a copy, and was shocked at the size of the novel (over 500 pages) knowing it was more geared to a young adult audience. I was also shocked to hear that he had read it in one sitting.

I then started thumbing through it and found an incredible amount of pictures. There was quite a bit of text, but at times those pages could be sparse. After he told me how much he liked it, I went out and bought it the following day.

Here is a plot description found on Amazon that is also sort of a review:

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Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks-like the gears of the clocks he keeps-with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery. With more than three hundred pages of original drawings, and combining elements of picture book, graphic novel, and film, Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience. Here is a stunning, cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist, and bookmaker.

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New reading experience, stunning, and cinematic tour de force? Oh yes! It is a beautifully put together book. To have so much of the imagery because of the incredible art work (done like very intricate sketches) it was a delight to get a better view of what was happening. Given the excellent story and the wonderful drawings, it isn’t hard to imagine this as a movie.

Even though the book is a quick read (myself having polished it off in one day), the story is gripping. Maybe the drawings help draw the reader in. But the story is the key. Even if this had been a traditional novel and the scenes that were played out in the wonderful drawings were actually written, it still would have been a great story. The presentation through drawings adds so much to it, but the story is what leads the experience. And what a wonderful experience it is. With a mixture of childhood fantasy, historical fiction, and just plain good old mystery, it’s a fantastic story for all ages.


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"The Crash of Hennington"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 21 March 2008 11:56 (A review of The Crash of Hennington)

The author of "Shelf Monkey", Corey Redekop, has a blog. One day I was looking at his profile where he listed some of his favorite books. "The Crash of Hennington" was one of them. Having never heard of it before I searched to find out what it was about. It intrigued me and I sought it out.

Here is a rundown on the plot from Amazon.CA:

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The world of "The Crash of Hennington" is so strange that nobody pays much attention to the rhinoceros herd that occasionally rampages through town. Though ornery, the giant beasts - known collectively as The Crash - are more docile than the human citizens of Hennington, whose schemes ultimately cause much more wreckage than a few bent traffic signs. As a freewheeling mix of satire, social comedy, and science fiction, "The Crash of Hennington" recalls the wildest books of Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut. In the colourful near-future scenario imagined by first-time author Patrick Ness, society is freshly rebuilt after an unspecified catastrophe. Hennington's benevolent leaders - Cora the mayor and Archie the local multi-millionaire - are ready for retirement and have carefully prepared the way for their successors. Naturally, things don't work out so smoothly, thanks in part to two men who do not have the town's best interests in mind: Arthur's son Thomas, who has amassed great power as pimp and drug dealer to Hennington's elite; and Jon Noth, a Mephistophelean fellow who's out to settle an old score nearly four decades after being dumped by Cora. As he tells his lackey, "I am not an average man, Eugene, and I don't mean that in a boastful way. In fact, it has often worked to my detriment, but I do know a few things. I'm not prepared to share that destiny just yet but know this, I am not mistaken, misled or delusional." But even these villains will get swept up in the madness that surges through Hennington like an angry rhino.

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There are more characters involved. There is Luther, Arthur's adopted son that is heir apparent to his business empire. There is Max Latham, the deputy mayor who is on the fence about running for mayor himself. There is Cora's husband, Albert. There is also Jacki and Peter, both employees of Thomas' at the golf club, and employees of his "entertainment" business. Also, Father Jarvis, the pastor of a local church, and Theophilius Velingtham, a rather zealous opponent of the pastor. Then Maggerty "The Rhinoherd", a strange outcast that for many years has followed the crash where ever it goes. Then in minor roles, there is Eugene, who becomes Jon's assistant, and Talon, would is Max's daughter and great advocate of the crash.

As you can see, there is a huge cast of characters. They all play an important role at some point of the story. All the story lines come together or are effected by the events that unfold. For someone doing this with a debut novel, one would think the author was completely nuts. But Mr. Ness does a good job in keeping each character separate from all the others, deep enough to make them interesting and poignant to the story, and to make them more then just a vessel to play out parts of the plot. They aren't the strongest bunch you will me in literature, and Ness does show some clumsiness at times, which made it hard from me at the beginning of the book to keep track of everyone. But the eventual outcome is positive.

The title of the book serves two purposes. Not only to focus on the herd of rhinos and the oddity of their situation, but as a metaphor of where the city is headed. This second doesn't quite come into focus as quickly, but given the story and character, it shows Ness' clever deftness as a writer. (For those, like me prior to reading this, that don't know, the proper term for a herd of rhinoceros is crash.)

One other issue that was annoying at times was the lack of quotations. Like Charles Frazier, Ness uses a hyphen before someone says something. Fortunately if there was some explanation that followed, he started a new paragraph, unlike Frazier who would use a comma and leave you wondering what was being said by a character and what was narration. Ness also relied a lot on quick dialog in many chapters, and even when it was only two people conversing, it was hard to keep track of who was saying what. Sometimes though that worked to an advantage for art's sake, as it was more important for the message to be gleaned, and the rest was performance and build-up.

One aspect that I found myself liking, and it was a surprise to me, was the lack of background information. Hennington is part of some country or some government that as the description above states, has gone through some "unspecified catastrophe." There is talk of The Gentleman's War and a fear former enemy. There is talk of the "recent histories" and how the old histories were destroyed. Normally I would want more information. I enjoy the world building and history of these great universes that some authors create. But with this story, with the great scope of plot and huge cast of characters, along with the well placed writing style and prose, this vagueness and brief snippets of the past works very, very well.

This can be a rather challenging read with all the things that Ness has pulled into it: sex, drugs, politics, religion, big business, family drama, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and surrealism. But even with this boat load of possible tripping hazards, I found it rather rewarding in the end. Sure, it suffered a little bit from "debut novel blues" and for the author biting off just a bit more then he could chew. But he admirably put together a rather strange and inventive, and most importantly, entertaining novel.


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"Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 6 March 2008 02:58 (A review of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom)

There seems to be a cult status type feeling about the group of people that really like Cory Doctorow's writing, and especially his novel "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom". It seems to get grouped into the science fiction genre. Though it does have quite a few science fiction ideas to it, I would call it more speculative fiction. To me, science fiction gets more involved in the technology and explains it.

Here is a rundown on the plot using part of the review by Publishers Weekly:

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Jules, a relative youngster at more than a century old, is a contented citizen of the Bitchun Society that has filled Earth and near-space since shortage and death were overcome. People are free to do whatever they wish, since the only wealth is respect and since constant internal interface lets all monitor exactly how successful they are at being liked. What Jules wants to do is move to Disney World, join the ad-hoc crew that runs the park and fine-tune the Haunted Mansion ride to make it even more wonderful. When his prudently stored consciousness abruptly awakens in a cloned body, he learns that he was murdered; evidently he's in the way of somebody else's dreams. Jules first suspects, then becomes viciously obsessed by, the innovative group that has turned the Hall of Presidents into a virtual experience. In the conflict that follows, he loses his lover, his job, his respect-even his interface connection-but gains perspective that the other Bitchun citizens lack.

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This novel is a very fast read. Told from first person perspective, it's all about Jules and his story. As I said, it is light on complex explanations of the technology, so this helps it cruise along. Also, Jules' vocabulary is pretty much in the range of an "everyday Joe." The characters are too terribly deep either, though there is enough to make them more then just people to move along the plot. All of these factors play into the basic writing style.

One of the main concepts of the future in this books intrigues me, yet Doctorow used it in other manners. The fact that people gain respect for what they do, and that is how they are judged and treated, meaning that money means nothing (actually, there is no money in this society), it's the respect factor (called "Whuffie"), is a great concept. But the characters gain it from doing things that are underhanded, too. For instance, the leader of that innovative group that takes over the Hall of Presidents is oozing with Whuffie, but she's a backstabber and a mini-dictator. You can gain it from people that think you are doing the right thing or something amazing, even if it is something others would despise. It's a shame that a great concept was still skewed.

The idea of the story I thought was great. Even adults love Disney World! But the execution comes off a bit childish. Not to say that it isn't a good story. But there seemed to be so much more that Doctorow could have done with the story. Quite honestly, if it wasn't for the few sexual connotations between some of the characters, and the few bits of vulgar language, this could have been considered a "young adult" novel. I think it could have been better to go into greater depth with these issues, the politics between the groups playing the game of control, and the technology that was running the society.

Again though, it is an entertaining story. Since I got the book for free through BookMooch, and it only took me three days to read, I certainly didn't waste my time with it. Just expected a bit more then I got.


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"A Spot of Bother" by Mark Haddon

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 4 March 2008 05:26 (A review of A Spot of Bother)

Mark Haddon made a big splash with his debut novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" about an autistic boy in England that tries to solve the murder of his neighbor's dog. This time around Haddon goes for a more mainstream story, though the characters could hardly be considered normal.

Here is a description of the plot from a review at Publishers Weekly that I have chopped up to get rid of the more opinionated parts:

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Sixty-one year old recent retiree George Hall, convinced that his eczema is cancer, goes into a tailspin dealing with the everyday British domestic life. George, 61, is clearly channeling a host of other worries into the discoloration on his hip (the "spot of bother"): daughter Katie, who has a toddler, Jacob, from her disastrous first-marriage to the horrid Graham, is about to marry the equally unlikable Ray; inattentive wife Jean is having an affair - with George's former co-worker, David Symmonds; and son Jamie doesn't think George is OK with Jamie's being queer. Haddon gets into their heads ... from Jean's waffling about her affair to Katie's being overwhelmed (by Jacob, and by her impending marriage) and Jamie's takes on men (and boyfriend Tony in particular, who wants to come to the wedding). Mild-mannered George, meanwhile, despairing over his health, slinks into a depression; his major coping strategies involve hiding behind furniture on all fours and lowing like a cow.

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This book seems to be billed as a comedy mostly. "Laugh out loud" is a phrase used in a few of the write-ups about it. However, I think that is more in line with what the British call comedy. Not to say that the book doesn't have parts in it that someone not living in British society would find funny. But I saw it more as a declining family story, with injected humor to make the book whole, not just depressing. Though no less entertaining.

No matter how far-fetched some of the events seem to be, or the amount of things that are going wrong all at the same time, the characters came across as believable to me. What helped with the amount of depth each had, and the fact that they do things that make you not want to like them at times. Or at least the four main characters. Each chapter alternates from the four's (third person) perspective. It gives the reader plenty of time to get into each of their heads and see what they are thinking and wanting to do. And even with the vast amount of craziness going on, that character depth helped to make them more understandable and had me feeling that no one was doing anything too ridiculous or totally out of character, even though things did seem outrageous at times.

A couple of parts, dealing with doctors, I found a bit hard to digest. Certainly the health care business is different in Britain, but drugs seemed to be given very freely in this book, without testing or further examination. And the fact that the doctor didn't take the time to thoroughly stress to George that the eczema was indeed not cancer. It seemed to be done that way to perpetuate the whole situation. But again, things may be different over there. And besides, if someone believes they have cancer, and are having issues with mental instability, it doesn't matter what you tell them, they will believe what they want to believe.

One character that really caught my attention was Ray. At the beginning, his presence in the family is something that would seem is to be dreaded. Yet as the book goes on, I, the reader, found myself liking how he was handling things. At times he would do the wrong thing, but acknowledge his wrong doing and apologize for it. It eventually came round that he was the most centered character of the bunch, and eventually the family came around to seeing it that way, too.

No matter how the book was billed, or that it may appeal more to those living in a similar society, it turned out to be an entertaining read.


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"The Veracruz Blues"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 27 February 2008 04:55 (A review of The Veracruz Blues)

Thanks to Publishers Weekly and Amazon.Com, here is a brief synopsis of the novel first:

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Using real names and events, Winegardner playfully recounts how in 1946 one quixotic man nearly established a third, fully integrated major baseball league in Mexico. In 1994, the year without a World Series, aging baseball reporter Frank Bullinger Jr. sets out to write about “The Season of Gold” of 1946. Although Bullinger shapes the story, he frequently steps aside for chapters told by others: Theolic “Fireball” Smith, an acerbic black pitcher; Roberto Ortiz, a Cuban power hitter; and the Bronx’s own Danny Gardella, a first-baseman who claims to have “caught” manic depression from a neighborhood kid named Rocco. Together, this Babel of voices tells how wealthy Mexican industrialist Jorge Pasquel offered ridiculous sums of money to American ballplayers willing to jump to the Mexican league.

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I found this idea fascinating, because I had never heard about this. It truly based on real events. Danny Gardella was ahead of his time, trying to crack the dreaded “reverse clause” that all teams had on players. (Meaning that they held your rights no matter if you signed a contract with them or not, and you couldn’t play for anyone else unless they traded you to another team.) Obviously 25 years later free agency changed the game.

For me, this was more of a history lesson then reading fiction. But from what I have gone back and read about some of the events, and even the players, Winegardner did his research. However, about two-thirds through it started to bore me. Sure, it was interesting to read about the range of characters that played ball there, using the correct information. But there is only so much you can do with a baseball novel and this idea.

Now, that’s not to say it was a bad novel. For those that enjoy baseball fiction surely won’t be wasting their time reading it. But after reading “The Great American Novel” by Phillip Roth, it just pales a bit. Was it supposed to be serious, or humorous, following the events of this renegade league. At least with Roth’s book you knew it was going to be pure satire. This book had a bit of a hard time finding it’s identity. Though still, an interesting read for the baseball fan in me.


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"Elric: Song of the Black Sword"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 26 February 2008 03:01 (A review of Elric: Song of the Black Sword (The Tale of the Eternal Champion Series, Bk. 5))

This omnibus titled "Elric: Song of the Black Sword" includes the first three novels and three short stories, all published in order, following the life of Michael Moorcock’s most famous character, Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melnibone.

The novels and stories in order are:

“Elric of Melnibone”
“The Fortress of the Pearl”
“The Sailor on the Seas of Fate”
“The Dreaming City”
“While the Gods Laugh”
“The Singing Citadel”

More can be read about Elric on at Wikipedia. (Of course not everything on that site should be trusted, but it is a good source of some information.) One quote however sums up the character best:

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Elric presents an excellent example of a counterstereotype, because he was written specifically as the polar opposite of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and similar fantasy heroes. Instead of a mighty-thewed barbarian warrior who fights his way from obscurity to achieve fame and power, Elric is a frail, sickly albino, a highly-educated and cultured (often downright decadent) emperor who abandons his throne. Whereas the conventional fantasy hero rescues fair maidens from evil wizards and defends his country from invaders, Elric (inadvertently) slays his true love, is himself a powerful wizard, in league with the Chaos lord Arioch, and leads a successful invasion against his homeland of Melnibone.

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The funny thing is that two of the events described above both happen in “The Dreaming City”, a short story, and ends up being the best of the six stories in this collection. Elric needs drugs to keep up his strength, that is until he comes across one of the two famed black runeswords. The one that Elric takes possession of is Stormbringer. It gives him power through the souls that it steals by killing. Though Elric doesn’t want to be controlled by the sword, since it is sentient and takes action on it’s own by having a sort of bloodlust, he continues to give in since it gives him strength and helps him during his travels. Elric is continually looking for the truth in his life and to find out how he fits into the Multiverse.

Now I had already read the first book, but had a hankerin’ to read more. I decided that going back and re-reading the first book wouldn’t be a waste. And as I mentioned above, the short story “The Dreaming City” turned out to be the best. It really highlights what Elric goes through on an emotional level and his anti-heroism.

Though there were good things about all the stories, at times each had it’s moments of being too much, or being boring. The other two novels, “The Fortress of the Pearl” and “The Sailor on the Seas of Fate” each dragged at some point. I think though that the biggest reason for the things plaguing these stories are due to age. Most of this work was written in the 1970’s. What has become the norm in fantasy circles is very different when guys like Moorcock were developing it. One plus is Moorcock’s prose which helped keep my interest. He is a very good writer from that standpoint. And the character of Elric is very strongly written, as are the characters from the first novel (like Yyrkoon and Cymoril).

“The Fortress of the Pearl” is the real stand-out of all these stories for many reasons. I think it had the chances of being the strongest story of all those in this collection. Though Elric is back on his heals a bit here, it adds to the depth of his character. And the addition of other characters, especially Lady Oone the Dreamthief, make this a strong selection. However, I think the book was too long. At times the story brought you along and was so well told. And other times it seemed to be just about filling pages, given the seven planes that Elric and Oone had to travel through, just to make it a novel and not a short story. Though again, Moorcock’s writing style at least made it interesting to read.

Fantasy fans around the world know of Elric, whether they have read any of his stories or not. It is my suggestion that they read some of the stories surrounding this famed character.


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"Hidden Camera"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 25 February 2008 01:35 (A review of Hidden Camera)

I believe I found out about this book through Jeffrey Ford’s Live Journal (though I now can’t find the post). Here is a description from Amazon.Com and Publishers Weekly.

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Zivkovic surveys the shifting line between paranoid fantasy and legitimate threat in his mystifying novel. When the unnamed narrator, an undertaker, is invited to a private film screening, he’s surprised to see that the movie is one sustained shot of himself sitting on a park bench. With this episode, a complicated dance begins between the protagonist and his anonymous puppeteers, who manage to send him careening from one wild incident to the next. Directed to a used-book store, he discovers a novel supposedly written by him years in the future; obeying another mysterious invitation, he ventures to the zoo, where he has a close call in a bear cage, and things get worse from there. “Undertakers primarily favor gentle, sentimental films,” he says indignantly, but there’s nothing gentle about his adventures. Readers are propelled along as effectively as the narrator is, but they may be just as confused. As the story progresses, the undertaker’s increasing paranoia makes it impossible to say how much of the danger is real and how much is imagined.

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One thing that is left out of the description above is that there is a woman that keeps appearing with a very broad brimmed hat, hiding her face. She too is in the movie, sitting on the bench, and also sitting next to him in the theater during the viewing of the film. She continues to appear in other places.

There are a few good points that description/review mentions, those being paranoia that walks the line between fantasy and reality, and that the reader may be just as confused about what is going on. There is an interesting review by George T. Dodds on SFSite.Com that points out that Dodds himself and others have noticed that Zivkovic’s work has been compared to the likes of Kafka, Borges, and Calvino (I wouldn’t know, I have never read anything by those three, though plan to), and that there is some symbolism happening in the events being played out in his stories, yet we don’t know what it is.

If you take this book from the point of view of reading about someone having a possible misadventure that borders on the surreal, then this is an interesting and entertaining read. That is what I expected, so I don’t look upon my time in reading this as wasted. I don’t expect every book to have a nice, neat finish where all the questions are answered, so that wasn’t a disappointment either. But I was still a bit confused by the end.

The book covers roughly 7 to 8 hours of the unnamed narrator’s life, and there is very little dialog between characters. Out of 217 pages, I would say that there is maybe 10 pages of dialog at the most. You really get into the head of the narrator and see what each moment of waiting and traveling to the next “scene” does with his mind. You see the building paranoia, his back and forth thought process of what is fact and what he doesn’t know, what scares him, and his obvious realization that he is in no real danger, but that everything still makes him tingle with the idea that he may still be in danger.

Each “scene”, which he thinks of them, being parts shot for a hidden camera movie or show, become bizarre and leave both him and me guessing. He eventually hitches a ride with an obstetrician, and given the narrator’s profession of being an undertaker, it made me think that it had something to do with life and death (as other reviewers have pointed out). The woman with the brimmed hat’s bust eventually shows up on top of a tombstone in a cemetery. The narrator then heads for the hospital that the doctor works and comes across a newborn. The baby’s face is that of the woman’s bust on the tombstone after it aged backwards, melting back the years, and there ends the books.

Again, not sure exactly what is was all meant to symbolize. But being a short book, with an entertaining journey to get to the unknown ending, it was a nice diversion.


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"The Shadow of the Wind"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 25 February 2008 01:33 (A review of The Shadow of the Wind)

“The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which was translated by Lucia Graves.

First, a quick description of the book, thanks to Amazon.Com and Publishers Weekly.

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The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, “The Shadow of the Wind”, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax’s novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert - the name of the devil in one of Carax’s novels. As he grows up, Daniel’s fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a “porcelain gaze,” Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend’s sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. Officially, Carax’s dead body was dumped in an alley in 1936. But discrepancies in this story surface. Meanwhile, Daniel and Fermín are being harried by a sadistic policeman, Carax’s childhood friend. As Daniel’s quest continues, frightening parallels between his own life and Carax’s begin to emerge.

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From what I gather, this is the first book of Ruiz Zafón’s that was translated into English. It is hard to find any information on him in English (even though he now lives in Los Angeles). As for the translator Lucia Graves, she’s a veteran when it comes to book translations. And from what I have found of her work, she usually translates from English to Spanish. So she must have a good hold on Spanish. She also would seem to have a good pedigree, being the daughter of author Robert Graves.

All of that leads me to wonder just how much is truly the author and how much is the translation. Maybe it is too much to wonder for such a book. It is not a translation of a classic piece of literature after all. But I found myself enjoying the prose. From a quick review I read, it appears that Graves did well by the author, capturing the style of his writing. Of course that is just one person’s opinion.

The biggest thing for me though was the story. I really enjoyed it. I was hooked after 26 pages, though it did slow down a bit in the middle. I was engaged by the mystery of what was going on and the main characters. The relationship between Daniel, his father, and Fermín were well explored. There was a lot of background into Carax, his friends, and his enemies from his early days, too. Both that, and Daniel’s story tracking this all down really captured my interest.

I have read a discussion thread at a book forum and from what I gather, I was about the only that didn’t see what was coming. Or at least not as soon as everyone else did. Though we all agree that it was a very entertaining read, which is probably more important. The “what was coming” was the revealing of who Laín Coubert was. What struck me as interesting was that at one point Daniel mentions who he thinks he is, and from other parts being revealed made me believe that his deduction was true. Turned out that he was wrong.

Two things that bothered me are tied to a trick that Ruiz Zafón pulled. The last two sentences of chapter 35 are a good bit of foreshadowing and totally shocked me. With so many pages left to read, I wanted to feverishly continue to find out how it happens, this outcome he mentions in those two lines. But first you have to read through about 60 pages (if not more) of a letter one character writes to Daniel. Though it prolongs the agony to find out what happens, it is all very, very interesting and ties up a lot of points. Lets you into other secrets. Then when you get to that moment, it happens, and then it doesn’t. It was disappointing in a small way, but couldn’t really ruin the book as a whole. I was already taken in at that point.

It is a really good story and entertaining read. Good for mystery type readers, as well as those that just enjoy a good story.


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"The Mysterium"

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 23 February 2008 06:47 (A review of The Mysterium)

I had never heard of the author before until reading “Shelf Monkey” by Corey Redekop. He used him as an outlet of sorts. “Shelf Monkey” is told through emails that the main character writes to McCormack after having met him at a signing. Here is a rundown of what the book is about thanks to Publishers Weekly and Amazon.Com:

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Carrick is a fog-shrouded, former mining town-a place of coal smoke, dead bracken and heather-in the Uplands of a country identified only as the Island. Recent acts of vandalism - the mutilation of a war memorial, desecration of a cemetery, acid thrown on books at the library - are followed by the death of a shepherd, whose body is found with his lips cut off. Then a plague strikes, killing first the animals, then children and adults. Most of the victims become garrulous, in effect talking themselves to death. Could a mad poisoner be avenging the loss of 19 Carrick soldiers in the collapse of a bridge during what is referred to as “the War?” Or are the events related to the apparent accident in which enemy POWs working the Carrick Mine were drowned? James Maxwell, a cub reporter from the Capital, assists Reeve Blair (a reeve is a police official) in his investigation. Maxwell finds patterns that lead him to utterly false but intriguing conclusions.

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There seems to be different shades of this story. The first part is a letter that is narrated by one of the citizens of Carrick, written specifically to Maxwell. I gives off the vibe of a spooky type story. When Maxwell get to Carrick himself to interview people, then dark comedy seems to start creeping in. All aspects are good.

The mysteries surrounding the town's past play a huge part in the current events, too. Carrick has seen a few tragedies leading up to this most recent. Along with the pasts of it's citizens, especially their parents, there is much to be made from them. All these threads are pulled together very well as the story unfolds. It is easy to see the effects of these events and choices have had on the characters, how they have developed views and opinions, and how it effects their initial thoughts as the vandalism starts.

McCormack’s writing style is very accessible, yet still peppered with unique prose. The way he gives just enough to make the story interesting, then revealing more later, worked very well, an obvious talent at telling stories. One thing though was how the book finished. There is good and bad in it. The reasons for the most recent happenings in Carrick seem rather unexpected yet dull. But there is enough mystery left with why the citizens reacted and believed what they did. They are still unanswered at the end of the book.

It’s not a very long book, and the story telling, plus writing style make it move even faster. Even where there seems to be a lack of overall “bang” out of the story, it still gives a richly detailed look at life in a small town, what prejudices can do to it’s citizens, and how a mystery can seemed to be solved when actually it isn’t.


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"The Great American Novel" by Philip Rot

Posted : 9 years, 6 months ago on 22 February 2008 04:31 (A review of The Great American Novel)

So what is the “great American novel” about? It’s about conspiracies. It’s about Communism. It’s about capitalism. It’s about watching America and it’s citizens getting the wool pulled over their eyes, and even when they see it happening, it looks like it’s for the best. But mostly the “great American novel” is about baseball. That’s correct again. It’s about our National Pastime. By the way, did I mention it’s a satirical novel?

From the back cover of the book comes one of the best ways to describe it.

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Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, “The Babe Ruth of the Big House,” who never hit a home run sober. If you’ve never heard of them - or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history - it’s because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

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The book takes place over the 1944 season, but chronicles events over the span of about 10 years. From ‘34 to ‘44. It follows what has become known (in the book) as the fall of America’s third major league, the Patriot League. The Ruppert Mundys play in Port Ruppert, New Jersey, and because the owners have sold off their stadium to the military, they must play every game on the road! Given their past, and the past of many players and owners, everything comes crashing together for a very funny story, even though it is strangely laid out. At times it goes down hard, needing something to smooth the flow. But the humor side of it helps make it worth it. And it helps being a fan of the great sport of baseball, too.

I have always been one to get ruffled when watching sports movies, because sometimes they can be so unrealistic it’s ridiculous. I can handle comedic movies better, because the whole idea is that what is happening is unrealistic. This book presented one of those situations. For the pure satirical and humorous story, the events made the story. And the fact that there was so much more then just baseball, made it much deeper then I expected.


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