Friday, September 28, 2012

“Mr. Monk in Trouble” by Lee Goldberg – The Lost Treasure in Gold County

Mr. Monk in Trouble by Lee Goldberg - Book Cover
Release date: June 1, 2010
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 288
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

If you've seen the television show, then you are definitely familiar with Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective who would be the perfect man… if he did not suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, something which either hampers or helps him in every case he is in.

You could perhaps qualify Monk as someone who is knocking at the door of the World’s Greatest Detectives Club, and not without reason; he has the smarts, detective skills and personality to one day be held to the same standards as all-time greats such as Colombo, Poirot, Holmes, and a few others.

In any case, in Mr. Monk in Trouble by Lee Goldberg , we are once again taken on a mysterious journey, this time in the aptly-named town of Trouble, located in California. The town has become famous since 1962, when the participants of a supposedly botched train robbery allegedly dumped their loot off somewhere.

Needless to say, there are more than enough people interested in finding it, and on a tragic night, the museum’s watchman bites the dust, assassinated. Needless to say, this isn't some random murder and as the genre usually has it, it’s definitely related to the treasure from that 1962 heist. Without wasting a second, Monk and his assistant Natalie are put on the case, travelling to the town of Trouble to investigate just what the heck is going on. Considering the name the town bears, Mr. Monk would do well to be careful and on his best behavior; it wasn’t named Trouble for nothing.

Just like the other Monk books, this one is fairly light and simple, just trying to tell an interesting story without going into too much detail or adding complex layers of meaning. This isn't the kind of book that will cater to philosophical readers… those who read to relax will enjoy it much more. The story itself is actually quite interesting and manages to be fresh, despite seeming like a murder mystery cliché.

Lee Goldberg (1962)

Lee Goldberg (1962)

Personal site

Lee Goldberg is an author of American origin, also working as a screenwriter and producer for a number of different television crime series, including Hunter, Monk, The Glades, Martial Law, and others. He is also the author, amongst other works, of the Fox & O’Hare, Diagnosis Murder, Monk and The Dead Man series.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

From Zero to Hero in 3:43 – “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Release date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Ecco
Pages: 320
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

While there are many who either agree or disagree with the war led in Iraq, there is one thing which cannot be doubted, and it’s that for the soldiers down there doing the fighting, life is far from being all fun and games. The mental stress and grueling physical challenges they go through simply cannot be understood by those who haven’t gone through them.

In Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, we are taken into a fictional skirmish during the war called "The battle of Al-Ansakar Canal". Billy Lynn is a 19-year old native Texan on his first army tour, and as a result of winning that skirmish which lasted a grand total of three minutes and forty-three seconds, he earned a Silver Star. Seeing as how Fox News managed to capture the ordeal, the soldiers participating in it became stars and celebrities, sent on a nationwide victory tour in hopes of increasing the public’s support for the war.

The main story takes place as Billy and the others are invited to be guests of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys. As a matter of fact, they have been booked as part of the half-time show alongside Destiny’s Child (I’m guessing it happens way back when they were still popular). During this seemingly endless day, Billy gets to meet a cast of colorful characters, including a born-again cheerleader, a long-time Hollywood producer, a giant professional player who is eager to partake in the war overseas, and a few more.

The interesting part of the story comes when Billy examines the those around him and sees people from his past, including his depressed and broken father, sisters who were desperately worried about him, and Shroom, the sergeant whose philosophical approach to life opened Lynn’s eyes about the world around him. On this day on which the book takes place, Billy goes hrough a very personal and harrowing journey into the darkest corners of his mind in a desperate attempt to try and make sense of it all… to try and find the reason as to why the world works the way it does, and why he made certain decisions.

All in all, a very interesting perspective into the mind of someone who has seen and heard it all,becoming far wiser than his years would suggest. This is a book I plan to read at least twice, as there are many interpretations and double meanings to what is going on.

Ben Fountain (1958)

Ben Fountain (1958)

Ben Fountain is an American writer hailing from Dallas, Texas. He has earned his B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina and his law degree from Duke University School of Law. In 1988 he abandoned his careers to become a full-time fiction writer, having won, amongst others, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction for New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Step Into David Sedaris’ Mysterious Mind Once Again in "Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim"

Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris - book cover
I've already reviewed a couple of Sedaris' works (Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day), and if you’ve read those then chances are you know what kind of person Sedaris is already.

However, for those who are just making their arrival, I’ll just point out that David Sedaris is without a doubt one of the most original and intellectually-advanced minds living on Earth today. His stories are always unique and set in a somewhat surrealist world which on one hand looks like ours, but on the other hand is completely different from it.

In any case, I’d like to review another great book of his titled Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim. As can be seen in my Me Talk Pretty One Day review, Sedaris enjoys communicating his own life with the world, and that’s what he does once again in this book through a collection of essays.

At the surface, this may seem like a boring book; he talks about how he played with his sisters in the snow, how he went on a family vacation, how he got a boring job as a drink server, how he cleans his sister’s floor, how he goes to his brother’s wedding, how he eats, how he goes to the doctor for a check-up.

However, in true Sedaris fashion, the intent behind communicating these stories is deep and complex.He keeps referencing his thoughts he shares with nobody, what really motivated him, what he was really trying to gain, and how he was judging others and what was happening around him. The more you read into the book, the more you realize just how absurd the situations he finds himself in are, with the most interesting part being that the absurdity comes and goes unnoticed by everyone except him. It got me thinking that my life may be as absurd and ridiculous as well, only that I’m not yet capable of seeing it. If you’d like to read a very different take on regular, everyday life, then I’d definitely recommend this book for you, especially seeing as how it comes from one of the greatest authors alive today.

David Sedaris (December 26, 1956)

David Sedaris

Personal site

David Sedaris is an American comedian, humorist and author who received national recognition back in 1992 when his essay, "SantaLand Diaries" was broadcast on National Public Radio. Since then he has been publishing essay collections, articles and audio recordings on a very regular basis, and they include Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

More of the David Sedaris's book reviews:
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - book cover
David Sedaris may be one of the most interesting (and perhaps influential for some) thinkers of this century. Thankfully, he decided to put his ideas on paper, and as a result we were treated to some of the most unique, thrilling, thought-provoking and funny novels of all time, such as Naked for example, one of his most famous works.

Deciding to provide a tad of insight into his own life, David Sedaris wrote Me Talk Pretty One Day, a collection of 27 essays, many of which originally appeared in newspapers such as The New Yorker.

The book itself is dedicated to his father, Lou, who tried with exasperation to manage all the details of his children’s lives. In traditional Sedaris style, he manages to draw humor even from depressing situations, such as his father’s desperate battle to try and put the kids into a jazz band together.

Also, he talks about how his father’s punishment for being overly involved was David’s brother Paul who became known as "The Rooster", somewhat because of his outrageously loud, half-literate and profane language. In addition to that, keeping with the theme of language, Sedaris recounts his own experiences in France, and how difficult it was for him to learn the language.

His look on things is a very interesting one and worth taking into consideration, as he seems to be able to interpret everything within context. For example, despite the fact that he was a grown man, he knew that he couldn't "feel superior to a toddler", mainly because he was a strange man in a strange land.

All in all, I could spend all day talking about all the different stories he recounts, but that would be better left for you to do on your own. Regardless of what you even think about books in general, there is no doubt that most find a way to like or relate to Sedaris’ mystifying writing. In the end, Sedaris always had a reputation from draining the life out of people and exhausting them, and that’s exactly what this man’s running thoughts will do to you.

You will be jumping from story to story (such as his recollection of a cat’s cremation, transitioning straight into his mother’s cremation) without ever feeling like what you are reading doesn’t have its place there.

David Sedaris (December 26, 1956)

David Sedaris

Personal site

David Sedaris is an American comedian, humorist and author who received national recognition back in 1992 when his essay, "SantaLand Diaries" was broadcast on National Public Radio. Since then he has been publishing essay collections, articles and audio recordings on a very regular basis, and they include Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

More of the David Sedaris's book reviews:
Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Drama, Ridicule and Surrealism in “Naked” by David Sedaris

Naked by David Sedaris - book cover
Why do we read books exactly? While some people only use books in order to research facts, there are still many who see them as a form of entertainment… they read books because they allow their readers to escape from the real world, at least for a few hours.

And so, we do not complain when books present far-fetched stories; we are content to completely suspend our disbelief in favor of hearing something interesting, which in most cases wouldn’t happen in this world.

Naked by David Sedaris is a surrealist and strange tale which actually originates from Sedaris’ own memory, and of course, his unique perspective on things which we have all grown to love (or hate, as some people do). He puts us into a world which resembles ours at first glance, but as the story goes on and on, it becomes apparent that its inhabitants are nothing like the average, normal people we meet day-to-day.

Among the eccentric characters is a mother who does impressions of her son’s nervous ticks, a family which arranges a marriage with death looming all too clearly above them, and to tell you more would be spoiling the story for you. It is truly a fascinating world which were presented here, with every single event brining something new and unexpected to it.

Who would I recommend this book to? Well, for starters, I think it would be best to describe it as a dark, surreal and often satirical comedy about human nature, how deep inside we are capable of undertaking the most surprising of actions and brush it off as either amusing or common. Also, the story is based on Sedaris’ life, allowing readers to get closer to the author and more familiar with the types of things he had to go through. All in all, I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes stories that are light-hearted on one side yet deep and thoughtful on the other.

David Sedaris (December 26, 1956)

David Sedaris

Personal site

David Sedaris is an American comedian, humorist and author who received national recognition back in 1992 when his essay, "SantaLand Diaries" was broadcast on National Public Radio. Since then he has been publishing essay collections, articles and audio recordings on a very regular basis, and they include Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

More of the David Sedaris's book reviews:
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Friday, September 14, 2012

"The Poet" by Michael Connelly

The Poet by Michael Connelly - book cover
We've already touched upon some of Michael Connelly’s fantastic novels (The Drop and The Last Coyote), and we've already met detective Harry Bosch, Michael’s ever-lasting protagonist. Despite all the troubles which have taken hold of Bosch’s life throughout time, he is back for yet another murderous adventure in The Poet.

Jack McEvoy is a reporter who has a slightly unsettling obsession: murder. He sought it everywhere he went, being completely fascinated by what it does to man, and where it takes us. However, his latest encounter with death led him to write a story he would prefer to never touch… it also gave him a mystery that needed to be solved.

Well, death isn’t always quiet and peaceful… there are some who in the spirit of Jack the Ripper turn it into the most savage and gruesome thing to exist on this planet.Such is the case here, as some kind of terribly deranged serial killer is lurking in the streets, waiting and stalking his (or is it her?) next victim.

What is truly fascinating about the killer though, are the targets he chooses: homicide cops who are haunted by unsolved cases… which is why McEvoy needs to solve the case from his past as soon as possible, for the last victim was his brother, and he may be the next one.

So where does Harry Bosch come in? Well, I really don’t want to spoil some fantastic scenes and plot twists, but I’ll simply mention that he has somewhat of a different role than usual. As a matter of fact, it seems like Connelly chose to break all the rules and traditions he set up in the past with his previous stories.

However, regardless of conventions and traditions, the story remains quite an amusing thriller with some very interesting and vivid descriptions, not to mention a few insightful looks into death. All in all, it’s definitely something I would recommend to thriller and murder mystery fans.

Michael Connelly (July 21, 1956)

Michael Connelly

Personal site

Michael Connelly is perhaps one of the most popular modern writers, starting has career when he discovered Raymond Chandler’s writings at his university. To support himself, he worked at the local newspaper while specializing in crime, which shows in virtually all of his works touching on criminal subjects, such as The Black Box and The Lincoln Lawyer.

More of Michael Connelly's book reviews:
The Crossing
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Gods of Guilt
The Brass Verdict
The Black Box
The Drop
The Last Coyote
A Darkness More than Night

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"The Five People you Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom

The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom - book cover
We have all wondered at some point as to what happens beyond the realms of death… what happens to us once the body ceases to live. There are countless different theories, yet no undisputable facts which can give you an answer beyond all doubt.

In his book titled The Five People you Meet in Heaven Mitch Albom depicts a very interesting concept of the afterlife through the life of an old and grizzled war veteran, Eddie.

Living a lonely life filled with regret, Eddie does nothing with his days but fixing rides at the seaside amusement park. When his 83rd birthday comes around, fates takes a strange turn as he loses his life in a tragic accident, attempting to save a girl from a falling cart. Once he died, he wakes up in heaven. However, there are no gardens or angels singing; heaven is far from what it is thought to be (although it isn’t too bad).

As it happens, heaven is actually a place where you meet five people which explain to you your life on Earth. These five people could be anyone, as long as they have changed your path in one way or another.

As each person takes their turn to speak to Eddie, he realizes the kind of life he has been truly living, and how his actions impacted the people around him. His story keeps on unfolding until his tragic finale on Earth where he tried to save a little girl, his last act of desperate redemption. However, he doesn’t know whether it was a great success or an utter failure; the answer to that question changes Eddie’s perception of the world… changes his life (or is it his afterlife?).

The way I saw the story, apart from trying to communicate his idea (not necessarily belief) of what happens after death, Mitch was also trying to teach us the value of our lives on Earth… regardless of what comes after.

Through a strange and very original story he is trying to reach out to us, pleading for us to lead our lives with meaning; after all, this world is the only one we know, so we should just try to make the best of it and not linger on regrets. All in all, I’d definitely recommend this book to anybody.

Mitchell David "Mitch" Albom (May 23, 1958)

Mitchell David "Mitch" Albom

Personal site

Most know Mitch Albom through his most famous books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie, but the man born all the way back in 1958 has had a long and diverse career as a journalist, screenwriter, broadcaster, musician, dramatist, and radio show host.

More of the Mitch Albom's book reviews:
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The First Phone Call from Heaven
The Time Keeper
Tuesdays with Morrie
For One More Day

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Book cover)
You may not exactly be familiar with Aldous Huxley, but he was not only a man to be revered for his ideas, but also the descendant of Thomas Huxley, the man who helped Darwin put his famous theory together.

In any case, Aldous, who lived from 1894 to 1963, took great pleasure in criticizing his society, and in 1932 he published Brave New World, marking a certain change in Aldous’ orientation.

In this novel, he took greater care to examine spiritual, philosophical and political matters… the ideas he used in this book were later used by him as the basis for future novels, such as Eyeless in Gaza. Regardless, back to Brave New World.

In this novel, Aldous looks at what he believes to be the future of capitalist civilization which has been put together thanks to the advances in psychology and various kinds of engineering. In this world, the majority of the population is by design passive and submissive to those who call themselves rulers.

As you can guess, this isn’t set in the past, or today… it’s set somewhere around 600 years in the future… a future in which Henry Ford is revered as a deity. As If that fact alone wasn’t disturbing enough, the procreation in that society is actually controlled by genetic engineering, and people are born into roles and social classes from which they may never leave.

As the people grow older, they are taught to be happy with what society has done for them, with how they are classified. And so what do such people spend their time doing? Well, seeing as how the pursuit of purpose has been rendered obsolete, people focus their time on pursuing happiness and distracting themselves with recreational activities, such as sports, sex, games, collecting material possessions, without forgetting Soma, a mind-altering drug.

Apart from being an eerily pre-emptive criticism of how obsolete the War on Drugs is, this world serves as the background for the story of John the Savage, a man who has been captured in the New Mexican desert and brought to London. At first, he sees this great and idyllic civilization as being the greatest there is, a world where real justice, truth and peace reign supreme.

However, as time goes by, John starts to realize that his beliefs don’t sit very well with what how this society works, and so he decides to commit an act which puts the society’s ideology to the test, practically threatening it. Meanwhile, the people look on with a wide-eyed gaze, fascinated by what may come.

One of the most complete and revered dystopian novels, Brave New World was written by Aldous to warn people about scientific and technological progress. It is pretty obvious that he feared humans would be robbed of the qualities which make them free, unique, and human in the first place. In addition, he was far from pleased by the direction in which mankind was headed, noting that we are becoming simpler and simpler, with the implication being that relatively soon, we won’t be able to think for ourselves, we will get taken advantage of, and we won’t care. All in all, it sounds like a cry for help more than anything to me.

Aldous Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963)

Aldous Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963)

Aldous Leonard Huxley was a writer of English origin and a rather renowned member of the Huxley family. His novels were always seen as somewhat out of the ordinary, with Brave New World depicting a dystopian London future and The Doors of Perception exploring the effects of a powerful hallucinogenic drug (amongst other things). He was awarded in 1939 the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

More of the Aldous Huxley's book reviews:
The Doors of Perception

Saturday, September 08, 2012

"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey - book cover
Release date: November 9, 2004
Publisher: Free Press; Revised edition
Pages: 384
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

We've all seen these kinds of people, whether in real life or on television; the kind of people who are smart, powerful, secure… basically capable of making things happen in this world… effective people. While of course it is true that each and every one of us follows his or her own path in this life, there are certain things from which we could all benefit.

I know this may sound a bit confusing, but consider for a minute Stephen R. Covey’s book titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The books is basically a collection of stories, insights and anecdotes which serve to point out the seven habits which those highly effective people have developed. The approach taken here is very neutral, as Covey simply builds stone by stone a path for you to follow… not necessarily to become one of those highly effective people, but at least to live as a fair and honest human with dignity.

He seeks to share the principles which he believes can give us the courage to adapt to change, deal with it, and even take advantage of the opportunities created by that change.

It teaches you how to keep up with the world when it doesn’t want to stay in place… and that in my opinion is the one ability which the afore-mentioned “highly effective” people have that others don’t. They are capable of adapting to any kind of scenario and take advantage of it to its fullest extent. However, we don’t need to portray these people as super-human or anything… I believe everyone can learn to live that way, if taught how. And this book may just give a push in the right direction.

Stephen Richards Covey (October 24, 1932 – July 16, 2012)

Stephen Richards Covey
(October 24, 1932 – July 16, 2012)

Personal site

Stephen Richards Covey was a revered author, educator and keynote speaker, hailing from America. He spent much of his time dwelling on social and human issues, writing bestsellers such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me.

Friday, September 07, 2012

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Release date: October 25, 2011
Pablisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 512
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

Before looking into the title itself, a little word about the author, Daniel Kahneman. Besides being a writer he also did some extensive work in the field of psychology, even earning a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his theory which challenged the rational model of judgment and decision-making.

He is one of the world’s greatest thinkers, constantly trying to think of innovations that would make humankind progress, and Thinking, Fast and Slow is basically the culmination of years upon years of diligent research.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow Kahneman discusses the two main systems of thought we follow. The first one is that of fast reactions, intuitions and emotions, while the second one is slower, clearer and more logical.

In addition to looking into the full potential behind our thinking capabilities, he also looks into the various flaws they have, even looking into the kind of impact impressions have on the way we think and act. He looks into how corporations tailor their strategies around the psychological concepts of loss aversion, and another one I’m sure you are familiar with, overconfidence. He even exposes the way in which cognitive biases affect everything we think, say and do, from stock market bidding all the way to birthday planning.

Going beyond psychological theories, Kahneman also discusses how impossible it is to know exactly what will make us happy in the future, how we have difficulty evaluating the true risks and consequences of our actions, and how the future is basically a big grey blob that gets shaped and colored by the actions we make (that’s my interpretation though). In order to understand what gives those actions a reason to be, it is necessary to understand the two primary systems of thought.

Of course, Kahneman doesn’t just talk about what is wrong with our psyche… he also provides practical advice and insights on how we can make the most of both of our thinking processes, how we can get a better insight into the choices we make, and even how we can guard ourselves against mental “malfunctioning” that so often puts us in an uncomfortable position.

Daniel Kahneman (March 5th, 1934)

Daniel Kahneman (March 5th, 1934)

Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist and author, who in 2002 shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Vernon L. Smith. At the moment he is professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, and in 2011 saw his book published, Thinking, Fast and Slow, summarizing his research globally.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

"The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller - Book cover
Peter Heller has always been known for his ability to create strangely unique, bizarre and attractive universes where opposites seem to meet and blend seamlessly together. Take for example The Dog Stars, where we follow the story of Hig who makes his way through a post-apocalyptic world… a post-apocalyptic world unlike most of us are capable of imagining.

As Hig travels through what’s left of the Colorado in his 1956 Cessna along with his dog, he spends his time seeking the exact same things humans sought before the apocalypse.With his wife, friends and family all gone, Hig set up shop in a small hangar in an abandoned airport, with only his dog and a gun-loving misanthropic for company. He breaks the bleakness of his routine by retiring to the mountains and fishing… until one day he hears a radio transmission that breathes life into something long-forgotten: hope that somehow, somewhere, things have gone back to the way they used to be.

And so, Hig decided to take the risk and went past the point of no return, following the trail left by the voice on the radio. When he finally makes it to his destination however, he makes a discovery that shatters his beliefs and thoughts about human nature… he discovers something truly beautiful yet horrifying at the same time.

While the story may sound incredibly bleak and depressing, rest assured that the loneliness of the deserted wasteland is compensated for by the beauty of small details, whether it’s a nostalgic smell brought on by a gust of wind or a flower growing on the side of the road. As was mentioned at the beginning of this post, Heller has a good knack for creating worlds where opposites blend seamlessly together, and that’s precisely the case here. Ultimately, beyond all the jokes, tragedies and dreams, the story seeks to answer the question as to what it really means to be a human in itself.

Peter Heller

Personal site

Peter Heller is known by many as being a contributing editor to numerous magazines, including Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal. He won multiple awards for his works of fiction, with some of his more renowned works including The Dog Stars and Kook.

More of the Peter Heller's book reviews:
The Painter

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Cat’s Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - book cover
Release date: September 8, 1998
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Pages: 304
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

I've already reviewed a couple of his books, Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, but in case you have forgotten about who Kurt Vonnegut was, it suffices to say that he is considered to be one of the world’s greatest literature titans. His works go beyond mundane stories as he seeks to explore concepts, philosophies and ideas through his unique and imaginative scenarios. If you haven’t checked out any of his works, I suggest you do so as fast as possible because you are really missing out on something incredible.

In any case, Cat’s Cradle, written in 1963, is considered by many to Kurt’s most ambitious novel as he went way beyond thinking outside the box. He invented new terms (which sadly, aren’t really used today) such as "granfalloon" and "wampeter". However, the impressive part is that he created an entirely new structured religion he dubbed Boskonism, which he then actually submitted as part of his papers for a Master’s Degree in anthropology.

In any case, rest assured that there is a story to this novel, and it revolves around Felix Hoenikker, a simple chemical student who is about to experience Kurt’s delightful madness. For starters, Felix doesn’t really have a conscience; he is more than happy with his job, which consist of coming up with new and dangerous chemicals, most, if not all of which are going to be used for warfare. Felix’s capabilities knew no bounds, which became apparent when he invented "Ice 9", a substance which can turn any liquid into ice, effectively destroying humanity. Fortunately, with there being some sane people around Felix, he was exiled to a remote island where the inhabitants follow the ways of Boskonism, putting their faith both in religion and technology.

Of course, Felix hasn’t forgotten what the received for his "exploits", and so he sets out on a journey to get the help of the island’s inhabitants. Help to do what? Get back to where he came from? Of course not. That would make too much sense. Instead, he enlists the help of a number of colorful characters to end the world, or at least destroy civilization.

While the book can very well be read for the story alone, I’m sure you realize that it goes far beyond that. Kurt not only tries to expose what he believes to be the capabilities of human stupidity, but he also communicates his despair about the "civilized world". Even Boskonism, the religion he created, is upheld by the inhabitants of the island for one main reason: it absolves the of personal responsibility. To say more about it would be spoiling this masterpiece for you. Needless to say, there are many more themes and subjects explored here, but it would probably take a tome to explore them all.

Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007)

Kurt Vonnegut
(November 11, 1922 - April 11, 2007)

Personal site

Kurt Vonnegut was an American writer, a great pioneer and titan of literature who managed to profoundly move people from all corners of the world. His satirical humor is something sacred uniqueness in the world of literature. His most famous works include (but are not limited to) Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, and it should be mentioned that he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Prisoner of War Medal.

More of the Kurt Vonnegut's book reviews:
Slaughter-House Five
Breakfast of Champions

Saturday, September 01, 2012

"The Invisible Ones" by Stef Penney

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney - book cover
Release date: January 5, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Pages: 416
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Barnes & Noble

In The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, Rose Janko has lived his life as a gypsy, travelling around with his family without having any precise goals to attain.

Seven years ago, Rose Janko went missing without a trace, and private investigator Ray Lovell was hired on the case. Unfortunately, today the investigator, is stuck to a hospital bed, being struck by paralysis with delirium dangerously looming over him.

The interesting part of his life, however, is the one which led up to the accident that put him in a hospital bed. What exactly led the gypsies to choose Ray as an investigator? Well, it had pretty much nothing to do with his investigative skills and more with the fact that Ray is actually half-Romany himself.

However, as it usually happens, things take a turn for the strange with the Jankos as Ray, the investigator the family hired, starts poking around… and receives nothing but hostility from the family. Naturally, Ray finds it suspicious that the family who hired him to find their son is stopping him from accomplishing his mission, and being a private investigator in a detective novel, he has nothing to do but dig deeper and deeper.

He finds that the Jankos have been victims of some great tragedies which have shaped their hostile minds… Ray believes that the family is either touched by some kind of Romany curse from the beyond, or, more likely, that the family is hiding some kind of terrible secret (is there any other kind of secret?)… and as you can surely guess, it’s related to the disappearance of Rose.

The Invisible Ones is quite an entertaining novel which simply seeks to provide you with a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, all while having you relax at the same time. The Romany, I find, are a very under-explored culture in books and movies, albeit being quite interesting as they are practically the only ones still living a true nomadic lifestyle. They have their own societies and systems of belief and behaviour, all of which are well-depicted in this novel as Ray tries to unravel a web of mystery and deceit.

Stef Penney (1969)

Stef Penney (1969)

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Stef Penney is a Scottish writer and filmmaker who grew up in the country's capital and has earned a degree in Philosphy and Theology from Bristol University. In 2006 she was awarded the Costa Book Awards as well as The Book-of-the-Month Club First Fiction Award for her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves.