"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Sunday, August 7, 2022

THE KITE RUNNER (audiobook) by Khaled Hosseni

 


Published by Simon and Schuster Audio in 2003.
Read by the author, Khaled Hosseni.
Duration: 12 hours, 1 minute.
Unabridged.


This book was published about 20 years ago and I just got around to reading it. This is not an uncommon thing for me - I did the same with the Harry Potter books and the Handmaid's Tale, also.

There are three parts to the story. The first part is a long description of the life of Amir, a boy who is growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Amir had his problems, but he had a pretty decent life. He and his father fled to the United States when the chaos think of as "Afghanistan" began - the Communist Revolution of 1978.

The author, Khaled Hosseni
The second part of the book is the story of how Amir and his father adapt to life in the United States, including the re-building of an Afghan community in California. 

The third part of the book is Amir dealing with a great offense that he committed against his best friend when he was a young man as he heads back to Afghanistan.

***********

For years and years, I have been hearing how amazing this book is. It is very hard to live up to almost 20 years of hype. This is a good book (I rate it 4 out of 5 stars), but not an amazing book. It was a first book for Hosseni and it shows first book problems like pacing issues. The first part is very slow and Amir's mental self-flagellation happens so often that it gets old. I wanted to scream at Amir to do something about it or just shut up about it.

Bottom line - it is a good book, but not an amazing one. It can be found on Amazon.com here: THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseni.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

INCENDIARY GIRLS: STORIES by Kodi Scheer

 



Published in 2014 by Little A.

Kodi Scheer was the writer-in-residence at a cancer center when she wrote this collection of short stories. They all have two things in common: 1) a focus on female characters and 2) a medical tie-in.

This picture goes with the first story.
Normally, I struggle with short story collections - they don't develop the characters enough or they tell too little for the reader to get any sort of handle on what is going on until the story is practically over. 

This collection has a couple of weird stories that fit those characterizations, but it is mostly a set of strong stories that actually gets better as it goes along. 

As I mentioned, there is a medical theme throughout the stories, but there is also a strong dose of the supernatural throughout these stories as well.  

I rate this short story collection 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: INCENDIARY GIRLS: STORIES by Kodi Scheer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

INDIANA by Darryl Jones and Jared Carter



Published in 1984 by Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company.

This coffee table book is primarily a showcase of pictures highlighting beauty from all over the state of Indiana. The photographer is Darryl Jones and he has a good eye. Some of his pictures are truly great, most are solid and none are bad. There is not a single picture that could be construed as a negative one.

The book is introduced by a rather lengthy essay by Jared Carter. The best part of the essay is his recollections of the days when he sat in the infield to watch the Indy 500. I am interested because I have gone to the Indy 500 for 35+ years.

Scaffolding in the infield at the Indy 500.
Note: this is NOT a picture from the book.
Carter discusses how people would bring trucks to sit on in the infield so they could see the race better. Soon enough, people started sitting on the roofs of box trucks to get a better view. Not long after that, people would bring scaffolding and attach it to the truck and build a platform above the box truck. One level became two and that became three and so on. Eventually, one of the platforms collapsed and killed two people and the platforms were banned. 

Usually, I am a sucker for books like these, but this one just didn't do much for me. I rate it 3 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: INDIANA by Darryl Jones and Jared Carter

V for VENDETTA (graphic novel) by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

 


Originally published in 1982.
Originally published in completed form in 1988 by DC Vertigo.


This iconic graphic novel has been on my to-be-read list for a long while. I tried watching the movie, but it had been a long week and I soon fell asleep. I assumed that the movie missed some of the pizazz of the graphic novel. I decided to go ahead and read the book when I noticed it was on the list of some 850 books that a Republican Texas state legislator wanted to ban from all Texas schools. 

V for VENDETTA is the story of a masked vigilante who decides to stand up against the fascist government of an alternative history version of the United Kingdom. The masked character has become the single most recognizable feature of the book and the face of the "anonymous" movement that swept over social media a few years ago.

Many people assume that it was put on the censorship list because it features a character that fights back against a repressive government. They assume that Texas is afraid of people that fight back, but they forget that this is a state that loves its own history of fighting back. The story of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution is revered in Texas. Texas was also a member of the Confederacy in the Civil War and some people in the Texas Republican Party have openly discussed another attempt at secession.

Based on the other books on this list, I am going to say that the book is on the list because there are 4 or 5 little panels in the comic that show a naked woman. They are not particularly lurid drawings, but most of the books are on this list for some sort of sexual reason. Certainly not worth the fuss of banning the book, but if you are making a list of 850 books you don't care about not making a fuss.

On to my review:

I was very much looking forward to this book. I like dystopian novels and I am very sympathetic to the themes of this book. However, I must admit that my reaction to the movie pretty much matched my reaction to the graphic novel. It is stylish but very slow and boring. I had a hard time finishing it and probably wouldn't have if not for occasional bursts of interesting plot showing up from time to time. 

I rate this graphic novel 2 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: V for VENDETTA by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

CHINESE CIVIL WAR: A HISTORY from BEGINNING to END (Chinese History) (kindle) by Hourly History

 



Published in 2022 by Hourly History.

Hourly History is a series of histories and biographies that a reader can read in about an hour. Sometimes, that works out quite well. Sometimes, the topic is just too big to cover in an hour.

The first half of the twentieth century was a time of great turmoil for China. There were multiple wars, political chaos, multiple governments. There was also 15 years of civil war in two distinct phases, interrupted by the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

From 1927-1937, Chaing Kai-shek's Nationalist government and Mao Zedong's Communist government fought a civil war. When Japan invaded China, the civil war was suspended (sort of) and a united front was formed. Soon after the end of the war, the civil war resumed and the communist faction won, with the exception of the island of Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and
Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
This short history suffers from a couple of problems. There is simply too much to cover. The book attempts to describe Mao's politics, but never even tries to explain the Nationalist program, such as it was. 

The book also suffers from an abundance of clunky writing. For example, this is from a paragraph about 2/3 of the way through the book: "...the next stages of the Chinese Civil War would commence. This state of civil war would last for more than three years, sending China into a state of warfare once more."

In two sentences there are three references to the civil war starting up again that state nothing more than the fact that the civil war was starting up again. Space is tight in a book that is only supposed to last an hour and also tell the story of almost 20 years of warfare. Cleaning up this sort of writing would make more room for other important items, like an explanation of Chiang Kai-shek's policies. 

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5. It can be found at Amazon.com here: CHINESE CIVIL WAR: A HISTORY from BEGINNING to END by Hourly History.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

FRANCIS of ASSISI (The Great Courses)(audiobook) by William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman

 


Published in 2013 by The Great Courses.
Lectures by William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman.
Duration: 6 hours, 10 minutes.
Unabridged.

The idea behind The Great Courses is a simple one - take a college lecture course given by an expert that knows how to give an interesting lecture and package it up as an audiobook that anyone can listen to.


In the case of this audiobook, there are two college professors that have a great chemistry together and really enjoy a discussion of St. Francis.

Before this audiobook, I knew only the barest of details of St. Francis so I found the entire discussion interesting and informative.

I do have a rather big complaint about the way the information was presented, however. They start with a biography of St. Francis up until the moment when he becomes recognized by the Pope and his movement is up and going. From that moment, they move to a thematic presentation and the listener hears about moments in his life that are not tied to any sort of biography. 

For example, they mention more than once that he participated in a crusade as a bystander and as a person that wanted to reach out to the Muslims that were defending but there is coherent narrative to that story that makes it more than just a few random snatches of extremely interesting information and teachings. I do not like the fact that I listened to a six hour audiobook about the life of a person and I do not have a grasp of many of the basics about the life of that person. As a fellow teacher of history, I cannot imagine the thought process that went into that decision.

Fortunately, they provided an interesting list of books or presentations written by other, well-known authors such as W.E.B DuBois and G.K. Chesterton.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5. It can be found here: FRANCIS of ASSISI (The Great Courses)(audiobook) by William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman.