27
Mar

Review: Dad Is Fat

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished reading this book for my book club (I am late). It was a bit difficult for me to get into.

It kind of read like a joke book where every sentence is a setup to a joke.

And, while I appreciate Mr. Gaffigan’s clean humor and focus on being a dad, it felt a bit disconnected because of all the jokes and the need to be funny all the time (because it is not).

I did enjoy much of the humor and his interesting take on fatherhood. I would have just liked something more autobiographical with humorous stories thrown in rather than what felt like a script for a show (with “beat” thrown in to make sure I caught the humor).



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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish the movie had been as emotionally charged as the book was. I am glad that I got to read the book as part of my book club group.

I learned things I didn’t know about about WWII (which is, admittedly, not all that much). Specifically about the air force and bombers. I also gained new understanding into the Japanese psyche as portrayed by Hillenbrand.

Some of my book group were surprised by the cruelty of The Bird and other guards and how they could go “back to being normal people” after the war. There have been studies done on the whole “I was just acting under orders” kind of attitude and how susceptible people are to it. I’m not trying to excuse what they did, but to point out that the “bad guy” isn’t always easy to identify. I also want to point out the this is one area where the movie failed. If it would have showed some guards being merciful and kind (as in the book), the film would have been taken to a whole new level. (Also, they should have cut out much more of the ocean time — just saying).

I asked the book club why they thought about the title. Because it seems that Louis was broken by the end and especially afterwards. I’m not sure, but to me it seems like the highlight was him turning all that around and becoming un-broken so he could forgive and let it go. This is also what I missed in the movie (the whole “after” part was cut down to just a couple sentences on a black screen), where the climax for the director seemed to be the whole holding up the log thing — while certainly impressive and showing his determination, it was just another example, not a big turning point.

I also enjoyed the little rebellions of the prisoners that were highlighted in the book (but only very briefly in the movie), because it showing the survival and resilience that are part of the book’s title.



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22
Feb

Review: Dracula

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Dracula
Dracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been slowly making my way through this book on my Nook. I have so many physical books on my shelf to read, that I often forgot about this one. Or, my Nook battery would die before I could get to it.

In any case, I wanted to read this classic because of all the hype and other takes on the vampire genre. It was nothing like I expected (the genre has come a long way from these origins, for good and ill) and yet exactly as it needed to be.

The use of letters and diaries as the method for exposition and even action was intriguing to me. It make the suspense that much keener and it also made it easier for the author to “hide” some of the actions and motivations of various characters, especially of Dracula.

I’ve always heard about the turning into bat thing that vampires do, but I had not heard about the wolf as well. Nor about the being able to control wolves and rats as well as bats.

This was definitely written a long time ago, and so it has some of the same literary devices and writing style that characterize the era. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is different than we expect in modern writing, so it takes some adjusting to.



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22
Feb

Review: Insurgent

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Insurgent
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since this is the second book in the series, I won’t review it as rigorously as I usually do.

However, I will say that I found this book to be even better written than the first and the plot and characters and tension were so much more real and dynamic to me. This makes sense because it is the middle book in a trilogy. But, I thought that Roth did exceptionally well with keeping the pace moving along briskly while still giving the reader time to enjoy the characters and to feel the danger and uncertainty.

I am excited to read the last book in the series — sooner rather than later.



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30
Jan

Review: Eleanor & Park

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection that I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. But I’m happy I got a chance to read it.

It was different from other teen romances I’ve read, which is a good thing. It wasn’t saccharine or predictable.

It was sweet and nerdy and lovely.

This is the story of how a misfit girl who is stuck in a bad home comes to know and fall in love with an eclectic music-loving boy. It is a wondrous journey for both of them.

Well worth the read.



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27
Dec

Review: Killing Ruby Rose

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Killing Ruby Rose
Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how to rate this book. First of all, I read it several months ago and never got around to writing up the review – so I don’t remember it as well as I would like. Second, this was a free e-Book and in some ways, I believe that I get what I “pay” for and shouldn’t expect Shakespeare. Third, there were lots of good things about this book that I still remember.

So, I won’t go into a full-on review. I do recommend this book and the author. I would imagine that the writing for the series will be even better over time and the main character is quite enjoyable. Her voice is snarky and teen-girl-like, but also mature and logical as would befit the daughter of a cop and a DA.



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4
Dec

Review: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection. I wouldn’t have chosen this on my own, but I definitely found value in the book and content. I’m glad that I read it.

This book tells the stories of various refugees from North Korea(they are considered traitors by their country). The book aims to give details about what life is like in North Korea for ordinary people.

I found it slow going at first – I think this has to do more with the distant, newspaper-writing style that the author uses (she is a journalist, after all). But about half-way through, I was definitely drawn in and read it much more quickly.

The stories are interesting and heart-breaking and it is easy to see why Kim Il-sung (and now his son, Kim Jong-il) was so successful at keeping the country from revolting against the horrible conditions and the greed and warmongering of their leaders. In a way, it is genius (albeit evil).

Towards the end, as it shared the stories of how people fled over the border and the treatment they got from their northern neighbors (China), it made me feel sad. At times, China just ignored them. Other times, they deported them back to North Korea in some sort of political face-saving move. And other times they exploited them.

It reminds me of the illegal immigration issue that the United States is trying to deal with. I hope that we can work on it with much more compassion and mercy than our Chinese counterparts have done and are doing.



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17
Nov

Review: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just finished reading this (a month late) book. It was a book club selection. The person who picked it apologized profusely at the book club meeting because Bryson’s “books are usually really good.”

I did find it tough to get through. I think the biggest problem is that the laughs were often forced. It just was not very funny to me. In fact, the humor came at the expense of the author for me. Instead of looking for the good in the places he visited, he usually only noticed the bad and made fun of it. Like a snobby tourist (ironically, he made fun of them too).

He had some interesting insights and I thought it would be amazing to travel the country like he did. It would have been even better if he would have visited all lower 48 states.

All in all, it was interesting and I might just read another of his books just to see if this one really was his worst one!



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4
Sep

Review: The Giver

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Giver
The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book club read. This one was a quick, easy read. I finished it in one night.

I hadn’t heard anything about this one either – except that it was going to be a movie.

Turns out that it is another dystopian novel. It is quite similar in story to Divergent, and even to the Maze Runner (although only tangentially there).

I did enjoy it (although not as much as Divergent), and I’m intrigued that it has received so many awards.

Setting: The story is set somewhere in the US. In a small town that has secluded itself from other towns and areas. Everyone has a job and is given a job when they turn 12. The job is supposed to fit them perfectly. In any case, there is not much information given about the area so it feels bland and unobtrusive. We do learn that the weather is always nice and has been so for a long time. The town keeps everyone in the dark about history and bad things.

Plot: The plot is that a 12 year old boy is asked to be the new “memory” for the town. He becomes the receiver of all good and bad memories (from the Giver) so that the rest of the town doesn’t have to have them because they want everything calm and controlled. But, as he learns the “truth” about his town and their way of life, his perceptions and morals change.

Characters: Jonas is the main character, although the title character is also prominent since he is giving the memories to Jonas. At first, all the characters seem likeable and pleasant, but as we get to know them, we see that they are all rather flat. This is not bad in this case, because that is what the author is going for. Jonas has some genetic or special gift that they don’t have that makes him able to receive the memories. We learn much about his thoughts and feelings throughout the book.

Conflict: The main conflict is with Jonas trying to figure out what it all means. This is more an “idea” story, so conflict and character are not really that prominent or important compared to the “message” being given. It seemed all a bit too heavy-handed to me, which is why I’m so surprised it earned a Newberry award.

Text: The writing is actually well-done for the effect that is being created – especially with word choice that makes everything seem calm and nice. There is an abundance of oxymorons and softening language to belie the depth of the darkness that lives in the story.



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m4s0n501
4
Sep

Review: Fahrenheit 451

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Somehow I made it through school without ever having had to read this book. But, I have been wanting to, so when my book club at work asked me for a recommendation – this one came to mind.

I really had no idea what to expect – except something about fire. I didn’t even know about the theme it had of book burning. SO, in some ways it was appropriate since the book club recently read The Book Thief.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting book. It was complex like most older literature, so it took me longer to get through than I’d like. However, I did also take the time to read all the Appendix content of reviews and analyses of the book and its impact on the culture of the time. All very interesting.

I don’t know that it is my favorite book ever. Nor did it have a major impact on me. But, I’ve read lots of dystopian lit and I already believe that reading is important.

I did think his “future” was eerily accurate with the large screen TVs, immersive programming, and people who have headphones in ALL THE TIME!



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