April 26, 2018: Book Recommendation
“…if you expect people to try to do things your way, you’re going to have to give some hints as to what that way is.”
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication: April 9, 2007 (1st edition on May 26, 2006)
Page Number: 352
Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants which was adapted into a movie in 2011. This was her third novel. It was initially turned down by her original publisher so for all writers out there, keep writing and submitting your work. I remember this book being incredibly easy to read, making it a fast read. It’s a triad love story: between two different people, between entertainers and their animals, and among the various entertainers. It goes back and forth in time between the young and old Jacob Janowski with the primary focus on his life while in the circus. It is here where he connects with many people in the Benzini Brothers circus, most notably August and Marlena. Jacob’s connection and love for animals is obvious as his original career path was veterinarian work. There is brief touching on animal cruelty in circuses although not done in an overly graphic way. I won’t spoil the ending, but this was written to satisfy the reader first and a close second the writer. You can read between the lines. This was a book Gruen had fun writing.
March 27, 2018: Book Recommendation
“At the age of forty-one, l feel another birth coming on.”
Publication: June 5, 2007 (1st edition in 2002)
Page Number: 544 pages
Jeffrey Eugenides wrote Middlesex after The Virgin Suicides, which the latter was adapted into a movie in 1999. This is his second novel out of three novels and two short stories compilations written so far. Eugenides is currently a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton. Middlesex is about being born one way, but not wanting to be that person later, and making the changes necessary to be comfortable in your skin. The protagonist, Calliope Stephanides, exposes family secrets everyone else wants to keep hidden long after they had left their home country. The story traverses back and forth from a tiny village in Asia Minor to Detroit, Michigan, highlighting immigration ordeals, and the study of sexual norms and practices. It is also partly a coming of age story because where Calliope started is vastly different from where she was by book’s end, and partly neutral referencing of political events happening around her during this growth period in America. Despite it being a little thicker book, it is rich in content and well written.
March 27, 2018: Book Recommendation
“Information is a beacon, a cudgel, an olive branch, a deterrent–all depending on who wields it and how.”
-Steven D. Levitt-
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication: August 25, 2009 Original edition
Page Number: 315 pages
Contrary to the title of this book, Freakonomics is not so much a book about economics as it is about sociological phenomena discussed by an economist, Levitt, and Dubner, musician and writer who was story editor at The New York Times Magazine. There is an updated and revised version of this book published in 2006 due to the embellishment of one of their sources. Despite this flaw which they corrected, it’s a type of book where many leapt into bookstores or ordered online because it is written for the reader to understand. Freakonomics includes interesting topics from cheating in school, real-estate, KKK, drug dealing, abortion legalization, parenting, and naming children. The authors make comparisons throughout the booking, often incorporating how it relates to criminology data and trends. I read this quite a while ago, meaning I was one of those who ran to the bookstore, but now it is time for me to invest some of my time on SuperFreakonomics, and re-watch the documentary.
March 17, 2018: Book Recommendation: Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication: January 15, 1999 (Reprint edition)
Page Number: 288 pages
“Writing is my passion. Words are the way to know ecstasy. Without them life is barren. The poet insists, language is a body of suffering and when you take up language you take up the suffering too. All my life I have been suffering for words. Words have been the source of the pain and the way to heal.”
If you don’t know who bell hooks (pen name) is, hopefully you will soon find out. Her knowledge of class, race, gender, and culture is found in many of her earlier books. This book is different in that it is a memoir about her love for writing and how she manages other desires in her life around writing. There is discussion of childhood events that shaped what she wrote about as an adult, and how it influenced her personally. You often write what you know while allowing your inner spark to guide you when things become dark. Wounds of Passion served as a method to review her life when it was written in 1997, as well as take stock of the positive changes and stunted growth she saw between individuals and in society. She will not be the first or last person to have a critical eye. If you want to read honest words, this is the book for you, keeping in mind memoirs are subjective.
March 17, 2018: Two Children Book Recommendations
I’ve become acquainted with children’s books again. These are two books that caught my eye as I was browsing the shelves. There are about as many selections for children as there are for each kind of subject of adult books. I have read both of them. Eventually, I will be parting ways as they are intended for someone else.
You Are My Best Friend is the story of a Tyrannosaurus who likes to bring misery to other dinosaurs. His life changes when he meets an Elasmosaurus. Because I wasn’t paying complete attention, this is the second book in the series, but still highly recommended.
The Antlered Ship is beautifully illustrated by the Fan Brothers. This story is about a fox named Marco who is joined by other animals to find adventure. They meet other animals including some not so friendly along the way. This is also a book about friendship.
February 28: Book Recommendation
The Bell Jar
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Publication: 2005 First Edition
Page Number: 288
“She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist.”
Plath’s noteworthy book goes without saying, and she remains one of the best creative minds that could have gone much further. The Bell Jar is her only novel written, notably semi-autobiographical, and was first published in 1963 under a different name. It was first published in the United States in 1971. Her book explores the experiences, thoughts, frustrations, and dreams of Esther Greenwood. She views her life much from a place of darkness where she tries to stand under as much light as possible. It is sometimes forced by herself. You get the sense Esther does things she is not fully certain about, and when all is said and done, there is even more confusion and self-loathing at the end of her internship days. There is a naiveté about her as much as conviction. She wonders if she will ever feel good enough and be better than she is currently. Esther’s beginning is full of uncertainty, the middle has disappointment, and the end was nothing what she imagined. While this is often cited as a book about mental illness, as Plath suffered from bipolar, it should also be remembered for the way she wrote it: honestly and brutally. It was basically written from her bleeding and broken heart as tragic as that sounds.
February 12, 2018: Book Recommendation
Denis Leary: And Your Point is What???
Yes, this guy. You know the guy. Or, maybe someone like him. Denis Leary is passionate about the FDNY and COMEDY. This I know for sure. While the book I’m recommending didn’t win any awards for prose, you read this book for its humor. It didn’t come without criticism as it received backlash for his autism commentary. Not everyone likes a blunt person. He speaks from his jaded heart. He doesn’t apologize for it. He goes along his merry way or should I say his sarcastic way. Why We Suck has a successor called Why We Don’t Suck that focuses much on the political climate of today. The bottom line is he writes and you can’t fault a person for being truthful to his own life.
His show, Rescue Me, had accolades, but it too was not without criticism. It aired on FX from 2004 to 2011. Even though the show has ended, it’s one that continues to be relevant. It touches upon just about everything. It’s realistic in many respects. The show’s center is on Tommy Gavin, played by Denis Leary, and how he juggles his often crumbling personal with his professional life. The writing allows you to get invested in the characters, and each episode leaves you wanting more. It pushes beyond comfortable boundaries so if you can get past the swearing (easy for me to do) and the writing (controversial dialogue and experiences), this show is for you.
February 9, 2018: Book Recommendation
I haven’t read this type of book for a while. Readers either liked it because of its informative nature about narcissism and the focus of both narcissist and those looking at them. Others found it difficult to read because its subject matter includes psychological theories and concepts. Despite it being a small, compact book, don’t expect to speedily read through it. Sure, you can, but you’re going to miss important knowledge along the way. Remember this is an essay dealing with subject matter that is hard to quantify, but often easy to objectify by the layperson.
Narcissism has become a notion with characteristics of being a very bad thing, and while it has existed for a long time and before social media came onto the scene, the author posits those critical of the narcissist maybe as much to blame as the narcissist. Kristin Dombek takes us into her view of the impacts of narcissism, and how it’s seepage into humanity throughout the generations has led to a sort of panic of today. Everyone has something to say about it and everyone is on some level a narcissist.
Mental disorders have been written and removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). One day it might declassify narcissism as a mental disorder, but for now it is here to stay. Dombek includes past studies about narcissism, and how some psychological experts sought to fit it into neat pockets. She discusses millennial born individuals and the stereotypes of their laziness and materialism. There is also discussion about serial killers and how we put them onto an island by themselves. We have become great at dividing people: us versus them.
It doesn’t matter so much where you stand on the narcissism spectrum, but that you realize everyone has a place on it. We can overly embrace it under certain circumstances or totally ignore it when it’s undesirable. We operate and conduct ourselves with others often based on our upbringing, but it never hurts to explore further by opening your eyes to other viewpoints. If nothing else, this book offers insight into the struggle of viewing ourselves and others as objectively as possible.
January 13, 2018: Book Recommendation
I thought this would be a good time to recommend a book that also reminds me back to the days when I was in school. Trust me when I say it is a good read. I wouldn’t be recommending Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire otherwise. It is edited by Sonia Shah, prefaced by Yuri Kochiyama, and forewarded by Karin Aguilar-San Juan. This anthology speaks of Asian American women who have something to say and in a way that won’t make you uncomfortable if you keep an open mind. It’s good to go out of your comfort zone once in a while. It takes guts to come out of your shell, be unapologetic for your views that you strongly believe are right, and not waver under pressure. You need a thick ass skin to withstand the pressure and criticism in today’s world.
The feminist movement, particularly in the United States, is rather complicated and varied within the ranks back then and now. It was as varied as the two major political parties in the U.S. today and so on down the path to reach the blue or red body of water. I imagine the independents have a body of white water. Individual minority women were left on the wayside to fend for themselves in the United States, as many disenfranchised groups are, and the Asians were no exception. This book speaks of the importance of being aware that just because something isn’t around you doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While we all won’t find the massive amount of inspiration and passion needed to go out to protest or volunteer whenever there’s a major incident or situation that occurs, you will gain a better understanding of the lives of Asian American women, and some of the perils they face year after year.
Social, political, racial, economic, and personal questions are asked and topics are discussed with answers providing an Asian narrative that for all intents and purposes is always relevant. This book is an interest of mine for the fact I’m an Asian American that could very well have not left South Korea. I’m a bit of an enigma, and will touch upon this in a future post. It serves as as reminder for everyone including myself to stand up and speak from the heart, rooted in truth as we know it, but being mindful of how we might affect others with our words. We all deserve equality without sacrificing our integrity. I wonder how, as a collective whole, we ever got to be in this place of such ugliness where some people think it is okay to post ANYTHING on social media platforms. Yet, it has also exposed the ugliness from all pockets of society that we may not want to see. We all deserve to not live in fear. There’s always something wrong when certain individuals have to support themselves in such vile ways, and an equally uglier world where those similar in social stratification get caught up in this wheel of inequality demanding others to denigrate themselves.
In conclusion, this book is meant to give you a little push to exploring women who often have to navigate a world where people label and stereotype them on a consistent basis whether aware of it or not. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen to other women or men because it does, but what is necessary to state is this: the deeply rooted beliefs about Asian women just didn’t begin last year. Education is truly important for everyone including Asians themselves. The genesis of anything is equally important as exploring what is necessary to not repeat the same rhetoric over and over, and this book was and continues to be a good start. It’s much easier to praise something on a blog versus taking action about something on the streets, so in that respect, I thank those women and men who take the streets for worthy causes that support others instead of dividing people. Every little thing every person does that helps instead of harms is a part of what life is about so keep keeping on because we all need someone to lean on and a reminder at one point or another.
January 7, 2018: Book Recommendations
My mom gave me The Four Agreements, then I bought The Mastery of Love, and still need to read The Fifth Agreement. I can, obviously, only comment on the first two books. They are a fast read in the sense they are short and font is fairly big, but it takes longer to really digest the information. I should make the time to read them again because it allows you to slow down your mind in a fast moving world. You have to be aware of your surroundings for survival, but not everything is a competition in life. It will help you reset, refocus, if you will.
The Four Agreements offers a way to get outside of your head, gain insight about yourself and others, and find the things that make you happy in life so you are living a sustainable, positive life. With all the doing and going, this book isn’t going to solve all your problems. I saw it a stepping stone to make your life a little easier, at least mentally. While you might not agree with all of his philosophy, I do recommend it.
The Mastery of Love focuses on the inner workings of relationships, including your relationship with yourself. They are complex for most of us and sometimes bitterly so and not just romantically. You will not find easy fixes in this book either, but you will gain knowledge and perspective if you read it. This is all I have to say about this author and his books. Check out the links below to learn more or buy them on Amazon. I know I look forward to reading The Fifth Agreement this year.
December 3, 2017: Book Recommendation
I’m finally done with this book to give it a proper recommendation and review. This book has gotten mixed reviews, as do most things, but I’d say it is worthy enough. The content isn’t so much about Patton’s military accomplishments or failures, but about how Patton himself viewed himself during them. It’s about the psychological make up of Patton. It’s not surprising he was a proponent of bathing in as many turbulent waters as possible. The short time he lived on this planet might have been a blessing, as he wasn’t very in tune to the inner working of himself, in particular his emotions. His abrasive personality and tough bravado was partly due to his belief system: you must be ready for war at any time.
He took pride in training his men as much as when he led them into battle. He found his courage and reason for living in war. Where many ran away from it, he jumped feet first into the dangerous areas, and only retreated when he felt that he was still not afraid of dying. One might say he lived his life recklessly. He believed he was born great and was the reincarnation of many past men involved in battle. He kept a journal religiously or as the writer, Alan Axelrod, a diary. In it you see the other side of him, someone who was fragile and sensitive to criticism.
The author does some jumping with Patton’s timeline. It might be seen as jarring. For example, at one point he is talking about him alive, and then soon after he’s talking about him dead. He believes Patton to be the greatest general ever to have lived, which some might argue. I don’t have that much knowledge with comparing generals to say if he was or wasn’t, but the fact he had such a hard time controlling his temper, it would be logical to think others would come before him. This doesn’t diminish his natural ability to see fresh solutions and make difficult decisions during stressful times.
This book basically focuses on his Army path to stardom, ultimately landing at Lieutenant General, and then ultimately dying in a freak accident in 1945 although some speculate it was deliberate. He was 60 years old and buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Luxembourg City.
A Soldier’s Burial
by George S. Patton
Not midst the chanting of the Requiem Hymn,
Nor with the solemn ritual of prayer,
Neath misty shadows from the oriel glass,
And dreamy perfume of the incensed air,
Was he interred;
But the subtle stillness after fight,
And the half light between the night and the day,
We dragged his body all besmeared with mud,
And dropped if, clod-like back into the clay.
Yet who shall say that he was not content,
Or missed the prayers, or drone of chanting choir,
He who had heard all day the Battle Hymn
Sung on all sides by a thousand throats of fire.
What painted glass can lovelier shadows cost
Than those the evening skies shall ever shed,
While mingled with their light, Red Battle’s Sun
Completes in magic colors o’er our dead
The flag for which they died.
December 3, 2017: Book Recommendation
If you want to read what happens to roughly the other 50% of an animal after it dies, then this is the book for you. It’s a short book of only 99 pages, but there’s a lot of information in it. I’m not going to go on an environmental rant about how you should not eat meat and get up in your space for not recycling. It’s up to you to decide what your contributions will or will not be in your lifetime. We’re not built to think the same way for a reason.
It includes a comprehensive list of animal ingredients and possibly derived animal ingredients. These are the words you can’t pronounce and spell by heart. It discusses vegan nutrients and alternatives, as well highlights basic nutrition and origins of vegetarianism. It goes into moderate depth of alcoholic beverages. German beers seem to take the top prize as most are vegan. It offers animal organization contact information, cruelty free products, and recommended literature.
Bottom line, this book is a reference manual. It goes beyond the act of killing an animal. It isn’t even a book about animal rights, not outright, and don’t think it’s preachy. I definitely don’t abide by completely vegan standards in what I eat or use. Some of the information can be mind boggling. Vegan jewelry? Labeled non-dairy when it is? Animal blood found in items you wouldn’t think? If you want to a book to browse when you have a little bit of free time here and there, this is the one for you. It jogs your brain and educating yourself is half the battle. Do what you can with what you have, and enjoy if you get a copy of it.
November 11, 2017: Book Recommendation
We all have emotions running up and down our bodies thanks to our brain. I would say emotions are the most powerful part of any human being. There may be many physical substances, whether good or bad, that are just as powerful (tobacco or sugar to name a few). Yes, the addiction process people go through life is daunting. We are all addicted to something whether it be certain foods, activities, or whatever else that hijacks your life. Some behavior you put up with and some you don’t. Some you ignore in yourself or others during certain phases of your life while on the flip side, you do everything in your power to let others know how you feel about said behavior. The same goes with addiction. Sometimes you do it to drown out the stress you’re encountering. Other times you just don’t give a damn and will stuff a whole box of chocolates into your body, basically swallowing them. Sometimes you have to face the ghost in the closet holding the spoon with the remaining ice cream dripping off it.
Hopefully, there is no retreating back with a new tub of ice cream after reading this book, but if you do, oh well. Life goes on. There is ebb and flow. There’s always tomorrow, right? Life is never easy. If it is for you, please tell me what you are doing with yours. I don’t want you to think of this as being preachy because I’m the last one to give advice out of desperation and/or narcissism. I’m on a narcissism kick because one of the books I’m currently reading is about selfishness and narcissism. So far a great read as it is informative and educational. Everyone is selfish and narcissistic, on some level. You have to be in order to survive. I feel Anger Antidotes is the same kind of book. It was recommended to me. It’s not what you think. Okay, maybe a little bit. Another topic to talk about later might be nature versus nurture, but in all seriousness this book is for everyone who has emotions and wants to understand them better. I’m all about understanding things better. I’ve done it my whole life.
Trust me when I say I’ve read enough self-help books to know this one is beneficial. I’ve read some books that have been good and not so good. I’ve read some that are 300+ pages long and by the time I was done reading it, I wondered what the hell I’ve read and how to use that in my own life. It isn’t that I have a short attention span. Sometimes, I want to read a shorter book. I’ve heard enough people say in direct conversations or nearby conversations talk about mental illness, mainly depression or anxiety, with kid gloves. I’m glad there isn’t such a stigma on it as there once was back in the day. Sometimes, you need to get down and dirty. Sometimes, you need to open a book and really read it, not just once but twice. I’ve read this book twice, so far. It does more than give you the solution of “don’t do this” or “just try this” although any author and/or professional that does this is quite laughable. I wish life were that simplistic. Truly, I really do. I’m the first person to stand up and say life is beyond complex. Some of it is due to my very early formative years and some to my personality for the things I take part of and the questions I ask about myself and the world. I own that I’ve done a lot of hard work to get where I am: physically, socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Bottom line, this book does more than talk about anger. It delves into other emotions that can ruin or help you in the modern world you live. I had to read it in increments because one sitting would’ve been information overload. Some of the subject matter was new to me so I had to take my time to digest it. I’m a person who loves to learn new things, and you will find new things in this book. Even if you have a good grasp on the psychology of emotions, it will be a nice refresher. My favorite part of the book was the appendix. There you will find practical information beneficial for everyone. The same person who recommended it asked me if it helped. My response was yes. Enough said.
October 13, 2017: Book Recommendation
It’s amazing what you find when you go to a bookstore. I picked up a book and thought this looks familiar. I wasn’t 100% sure if I had read it. I had to give it a few seconds to digest and come up with the answer. I came to an understanding of two things. One, I did read this book. Two, I should have remembered it.
Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal focuses on Edward Arnold Chapman, a British double agent, whose troubled personal life was about as convoluted as his professional life. He was a career criminal and was not a stranger to prison before he became a spy. He was eventually able to gain freedom by offering his services to the Nazis. He began working as a German spy during World War II. His German handler code named him Fritz, and once making connection with the MI5, he also became a British spy with the code name Zigzag.
It is here where the author, Ben Macintyre, continues shedding light on Chapman’s days and nights as a double agent. He zigzags his way between his two radically different lives, always keeping his stories straight even with his two wives, but he would later be forced out. The medal earning German spy had become a liability for the British, and were not willing to take anymore risks. He delved back into crime, and died in the latter half of the 1990’s.
Macintyre was able to write about Zigzag as MI5 declassified Chapman’s files ten years after his death in 1997. So in the vein of Mission Impossible, the book is available to read, should you choose to accept it.
September 10, 2017: First Novel Recommendations
I’m recommending authors where the book was their first novel. Are there signs pointing to a newly minted author versus one in the middle or end of their career? Who knows? They are now published authors and that is all that matters (sort of). I will say if you are looking for something where you have to take notes on who is what and what is not, these books are NOT for you. They are predictable in some sense, but yet I wanted to keep reading both.
In a dark, dark wood is written by Ruth Ware and the 354 pages went by fairly quickly once I devoted time to it. Once I got past the setting of England, Nora’s invitation to the hen party, and her eventual acceptance to the party, the wheels started to move faster. The book did an adequate job switching between the past and present, meaning it did not overly focus on one or the other, and served its purpose. The characters had enough depth to them that they felt three-dimensional and by the end of the story it was satisfactorily wrapped up with a few loose strings, but that was intentional (I believe). I consider this an easy read book like Water for Elephants.
Reese Witherspoon is adapting this into a movie and feel it could definitely come alive on the screen although it must be done in the right way. The author faltered with some of her scenes especially near the end. Ware should have extended the last scene of Nora and Clare because that was the reason the story was written in the first place. What transpired prematurely ended between them, and if she dug a little deeper into her creativity well, I believe it could have been stronger. I will say the scariest part for me was the psychological make up of the characters Clare and Flo, which I’m not sure what was intended, compared to what actions any of them took. I will say enough information was given for why certain things happened, and that is why I’m recommending this book.
This Burns My Heart is written by Samuel Park and the 322 pages contains a love story set in South Korea. The story weaves between the 1960s when there was rapid change after Postwar Korea to the more current time of today. It focuses on the role of women, often having to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of their husbands and children, and how they navigate in this culture with strict rules. The characters of Soo Ja, her husband Min, and an acquaintance from her youth, Yul, were equally developed to satisfaction.
Soo Ja, the main character, is married to a man who loved her in his own way, and yet that was not enough. She bore a child named Hana. Her story continues and the ridicule she is forced to endure. How do you find your strength when you are married to someone who treats you poorly, where his family treats you even worse, and you are the one ultimately holding everyone together? The interactions and dialogue between Soo Ja and Min were the best parts of this book and the interactions and dialogue with her in-laws came a close second.
I would have preferred Hana to be a little less helpless during some scenes, but now looking back if she had acted in a different way it might have not seemed as realistic. There was too much usage of Hana’s name when Soo Ja spoke to her daughter and detracted away from certain scenes in my opinion. I enjoyed the ending because there was proper closure to the main characters and most everything came full circle. This book edged out the other one by a few hairs, but again I recommend them both as first novels because let us face it, it takes quite a bit effort and time to write any novel.
September 10, 2017: Book Recommendation
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is 295 page book reinforcing that certain people follow their pursuits even when they don’t adhere to the standards of family. James McBride, the product of interracial marriage, is the “half White” and “half Black” author of this book who grappled with his identity as a child living in the 1960s. He tells the story of his mother’s plight growing up in the South, Virginia, in a Jewish family, and the hardships of not following Judaism set by her father who was abusive and racist. She was eventually disowned by her father. She moved to Harlem and married James’ father, Dennis McBride, and had more children than you can count on both fingers. Her religion was most important to her as she converted to Christianity, but she fiercely protected and guided her children with firm hands. This book is not only a tribute, but a statement of who James McBride is today. Although his plight growing up in Harlem, New York and Wilmington, Delaware, he had the intelligence to ask the right questions of his multiracial and multicultural roots. It led to him being who is today, realistic of the social world around him, but cognizant of his ancestors’ contributions on both sides.
August 22, 2017: When Stephen King Came Knocking
What might it be like to walk in Stephen King’s shoes? It would be nice to feel a sense of accomplishment for everything he has accomplished. His array of work shows he was and is and always will be seriously dedicated to his profession as a writer. While he hasn’t churned out the novels as he did in the past, let’s admit he is entitled to this. There are some critics who regard his writing style and story endings as less than academic writing, but his strength remains in his story ideas when compared to his writing execution. No matter what else is spoken about him, King is not only a commercial writer, but a successful writer. Some may view him as great while others only see mediocre. I give him more credence than not. If given a chance to walk in his shoes for one day, I would in a heartbeat.
There are minor plot descriptions, but not enough to ruin these books.
My three recommendations might not be the proper choices out of all his works, but I chose books because I remember them being fast reads. The first book, NEEDFUL THINGS, was published in 1991. You learn about the major characters living a small town of Castle Rock, Maine. These residents frequent a newly opened store called Needful Things. It is owned and operated by Leland Grant, played by Max von Sydow in the movie adaptation. His store has an eclectic array of items ready to be bought and used, but little do the townspeople realize there is a price to be paid for having them in your possession. The themes of temptation and greed as well as good and evil are woven into the character’s stories. The movie was nothing out of the ordinary and was released in 1993. The movie has a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score, 43 Metascore, and 6.2 IMDb score.
The second book published in 1986, IT, was made into a television miniseries of two parts with Tim Curry as Pennywise in 1990. I feel the same way about Tim Curry as I did with Robert England as Freddy Krueger. Let’s say I still have to watch the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street from start to finish as I’ve only seen bits and parts of it. Maybe, I’ll finally take the time to watch it when October rolls around. I was looking forward to seeing Will Poulter step in the clown shoes after Curry, but now I will have to see how Bill Skarsgård portrays him on the screen. IT is projected to have solid earnings in box office when it is released in September 2017. It is venturing to be a movie I will see alone, and will be a nice trip down memory lane.
This book despite the subject matter is what I call another “fun” book in that I read it quickly and was more of an escape book for me. The main characters in IT involve a group of children in Derry, Maine. When a tragic accident happens, it sends the whole group, known as the Losers’ Club, into survival mode against a dark force. The second part of the remake will be released in 2018, long after the Losers’ Club has dissolved, and are now adults full of dysfunction, secrets, and longings. They come back to Derry after learning the killings of neighborhood children has started again, prompting them to face the dark force once and for all. This miniseries has a 62% Rotten Tomatoes Score, 6.9 IMDb score. The scores of the remakes will probably garner high scores.
The third book, GERALD’S GAME, was published in 1992. The adaptation will be released in September 2017 on Netflix with Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. This is the story of a married couple who tries to spice up their love life while staying at their Maine cabin. It begins with an accident that moves the story forward where you wonder how the main character going to get out of her handcuffs? Will she get out of them at all? If she does, at what cost? This story does its job getting inside this character’s head so to speak. King also gets inside reader’s head because it left me thinking what would I do in this situation.
If humans only use a small portion of the brain and if we hold all our memories in our bodies including our brains, why do we access some and not others? Why do some things repeatedly come to the surface of one’s mind without even probing? Why is there struggle in order to keep certain memories contained, but other times we try to yank them out of their hiding spots and fail miserably? In relation to the story, the questions to ask are how much of this is in her mind? How much of this was real in the first place? How much did she make up to cope with her current situation? What was the purpose of this suffering and its meaning? GERALD’S GAME is the book I would recommend first out of the three given how I am today versus who I was in high school. I’m curious to see how the movie plays out on Netflix. I have a feeling it will go to the top of the list come September in my queue.
July 8, 2017: Book Recommendation
Some believe you don’t write about yourself until you’ve established yourself as a writer. These same people say to be cautious using yourself as a character because it’s easy to get too involved and not be as objective as possible. Some people dare not to follow this advice and do their own thing. Jeannette Winterson is one of them.
Her first book is basically an autobiographical story, relating to her childhood and exploration of her sexuality and religious influences. It won the Whitbread Award for a First Novel in 1985 and commend her for viewing this book as all inclusive, as she said, “I’ve never understood why straight fiction is supposed to be for everyone, but anything with a gay character or that includes gay experience is only for queers.”
She continues to do her own thing, and not apologize for it. In 2014 Winterson was chastised for killing a rabbit who ate her herbs. She posted the cut up meat on Twitter and later the rabbit meat in a pot of stew, as well as the rabbit innards that her cat ate sitting on a plate. She received backlash from her followers, strangers, and animal rights activists. Some vowed never to read her books again. Would I rather have had her not kill the rabbit that ate her herbs? Yes. Did this stop me from recommending one of her books? No. I will probably buy more of her books. Yes. The choice is always ours.
May 28, 2017: Book Recommendation
I had recommended this book before in a previous blog before I even finished it, but I don’t think I had shared it on my Facebook or LinkedIn page at the time so here it goes again. This is one of those books where you don’t judge a book by its cover or subject matter. I find espionage a highly interesting phenomenon, but computer espionage? Come on? How interesting could it really be? It sounds rather boring. I’m sure it is in most cases, but it is quite interesting when you have the right person writing about it.
Cliff Stoll infuses the right amount of factual information with his own personal quirks and hesitancy. You will see this when he is dealing with the FBI, CIA, and NSA. His lifestyle of sewing quilts and making homemade milkshakes when he was not being a systems administrator was in direct contradiction to the later relationships he formed with the “spooks.” You couldn’t have picked a more unique person to unravel this story piece by piece even if you tried. It is a page turner, and I mean this sincerely. You will doubly enjoy it if you are into non-fiction thriller/mystery.
Stoll doesn’t mince his words, but still you know he has a kind heart within him. He comments on certain things that seem unrelated to the hacker, but it does serve a purpose in the long run. This book is as relevant as ever given our current political times. I won’t spoil the ending, but I wasn’t too surprised that certain things happened the way they did. This was as much a cat and mouse game as it was a catalyst for things to come in the computer world and in his own personal life. I will conclude with the message of fixing the smaller problems is usually adequate, but sometimes it isn’t, and when it isn’t enough, watch out because who knows what will appear.
May 27, 2017: Book Recommendation
Falling Leaves is an autobiographical story about Adeline Yen Mah. It explores the hardship she endured while living with her father and stepmother. She was born into privilege, but like many girls born into Asian countries, there were cultural forces that sent her reeling backward. She didn’t have the same luxuries as her brothers, and when compared to her half siblings, she hardly existed at all. With the help of her aunt, Adeline is able to survive at school and beyond. The last chapter I found the most interesting. It dealt with the reunion of the family after a long absence. You can feel the tension slice through the air at times, but also the realization that some things need to be forgiven, but never forgotten.
May 26, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is a little departure from my normal book recommendation. It might be because I’m getting to the age where my perspective on life is changing. I’m also doing some good old fashion reminiscing of the days past. The books in this series were my favorite way back when, and definitely read them more than once. I made sure they remained in my arsenal even though they are miles away. I recommend these books to anyone with children. The main characters are animals, realistic and imaginary, but all have universal themes weaved into the stories. The stories end where you can take away a moral code. The author, Stephen Cosgrove, created this series because he could not find inexpensive books to read for his daughter when she was young. I encourage anyone to read them because I believe they are something that special.
May 14, 2017: 3 Book Recommendations
These are three radically different books as you can probably tell because of the authors. Palahniuk has been listed as a “nihilistic writer” although he rejects this title. He is most famous for his books Fight Club and Choke, which were both made into movies. Pears focuses on historical novels where he weaves historical events and culture with fictional mystery. His books are longer, but he does his job keeping your attention when you might want to stray. Thompson was a journalist who inserted himself into his assignments where he became part of the story, which he coined “gonzo” journalism. He is best known for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was made into a movie.
Snuff: Cassie Wright is a porn star trying to revive her career with a big bang. The story incorporates the major male players, given numbers, because that is what they are to Cassie. The chapters are divided where the different character’s tell the story from his or her view. I’m obviously not going to spoil the ending, but it was one I wasn’t expecting. It made sense once I was finished with the book. I will say don’t count out this book just because its subject matter is porn. It’s a pretty honest exploration into the insidiousness of the sex industry, but in a fiction book format.
An Instance of the Fingerpost: There are four major different characters, each having an own stake for why they are narrating their story about the murder of Robert Grove. It is set in Oxford, England (primarily) during the 17th Century, highlighting the conflicts during this time within the church, monarchy, and among the different fields of study. You will receive pieces of insight along the way, truthful or deceiving, that will bring you to closer to finding the truth, and who is actually telling the whole truth by the end.
Hell’s Angels: It’s pretty cut and dry what this book is about from the title: the inner workings of the motorcycle gang and the bonds of brotherhood. It focuses on the San Francisco and Oakland chapters. It has a lot of insight it you’re willing to grasp it such as the interaction with Sonny Barger. The most memorial part was the raging party: marijuana, women, booze, and fights. I’m not sure how he survived. It was a page turner, but again I like this kind of material.
April 30, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is probably the most whacked-out book I have ever read. It is satirical in nature and focuses on WWII, Reptilian Creatures, and Hollywood. The main character, Syms Thorley, is thrust out of his B Hollywood movie and into a rubber suit meant to put the F in fear. If he succeeds in being ultra realistic and thus spreading Fear among the Japanese, then he will have fulfilled his role in the Knickerbocker Project. Read for yourself to see how he navigates his way with the U.S. Navy and the outcome of not using the atomic bomb.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
Dare I say this recommendation might be reserved for bathroom reading? I say this because it is written in such a way that it could be read in short spans of time since much of this book is structured in easy compartmentalized sections throughout the chapters. Joe Eszterhas has written some non-Oscar nominated films that he is very proud of and should be because 1) he made it in Hollywood and 2) he’s managed to stay relevant in Hollywood for a considerable amount of time although on IMDB his last written work was in 2011. You probably recognize his work of Basic Instinct, Flashdance, Jade, Sliver, and Showgirls which he won a Razzie (Golden Raspberry) Award for Worst Screenplay. Nonetheless, he carved his niche in Tinseltown and this book has some good advice for novices wanting to dive head first into film. It’s a good read for those who just want to know more about Hollywood from a person who does have experience and the realities of all it has to offer.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
It’s been a long time since I was awed at a writer’s technique and word usage. The sentences seemed to jump off the page for me when I read The Dress Lodger. They got a lot of distance and hit my face each time as if they were saying, “read me, read me!” Sheri Holman weaves the characters of this story tightly onto the streets of Sunderland, England as if they were alive. You realize they belong there, all of them, even Gustine to claim their due. I’m not even sure if I could emulate her writing style even as a writing exercise. She is that superb in her description, dialogue, and humor. I want to read it again just to absorb her talent for crafting a great story about doctors, cadavers, pottery workers, babies, and drunken men. Holman writes in such a way where she transports you back to the 1800’s with all the characters; and when the story ends, you reluctantly leave with time well spent.
April 18, 2017: Book Recommendation
Most of us know about the passing of STP frontman, Scott Weiland. It was plastered everywhere and anywhere especially in The United States. Groupies and fans mourned the loss of a great singer and song writer, but in the midst of it all let’s not forget all the havoc he wrecked on the band. It broke apart, actually he was kicked out, and he sought vengeance in the courts. He had become impossible to work with due to his addiction and ego. So why pick a memoir about a person who died of a drug overdose who was not a great role model for kids when you think about it and became not such a great dad to his own kids? Because everyone is fallible and more often than not, s/he bounces back, but some do not. This is the story of one who didn’t make it. When I read this book, he was still alive. Now that he is gone, I still feel the same way. I ended the book asking myself the following. How does a gifted athlete, and at baseball nonetheless, go from being offered a scholarship to becoming an out of personal touch, drug addict? I have my suspicions for his demise, but I will let you come to your own conclusions after reading this book. I realize it wasn’t that easy of a line from point A to N for him because if it had been, he would’ve made it to Z. I hate to call his life tragic, but in many ways it was basically TRAGIC. You will get deeper insight into his life story, how it created the person he was to become, and what he ultimately became until his end in 2015.
April 9: Book Recommendation
This book contains pictures and stories of inhumane slaughter practices and comments on poor working conditions for slaughter workers. Please do not read if you are squeamish about this subject, but I encourage everyone to read this book for educational reasons.
The author Gail A. Eisnitz provides an excellent case for why everyone should care about better treatment for all involved concerning slaughterhouses. This includes the USDA’s unresponsiveness to the neglect and greed taking place daily that puts animals, workers, and consumers in jeopardy. This book is not a call to readers to be vegan or vegetarian, but more illustrates the major problems facing the meat industry in the United States, and in particular beef and pork. On the other hand, I always advocate Meatless Monday or Meatless for Life never hurt anybody except plants, but let’s not go there at this moment.
I gained more sympathy for these workers after reading this book as they are just trying to make a living to support themselves and their families. These workers suffer as much as the animals, although in a thoroughly different manner of exploitation. The appalling conditions could very well be prevented, but greed is what drives working conditions to be dangerous without much avenue for change and punishment for dissenters. The mental and physical effects are many when you work in a slaughterhouse and endure long after you are fired or quit or retire.
Slaughterhouse delves into the illegal practices of slaughterhouses often supported by those instructed to enforce rules. I look at USDA stickers placed on meat differently, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years. Awareness and exploring what happens behind closed doors is important to righting its wrongs. If there is ever a need for undercover agents to expose the corruption within the slaughterhouse walls, it’s this current moment.
Readers will nod their heads in agreement of state and federal laws meaning nothing if the people and tools aren’t in place to enforce them. If the laws were effective, animals wouldn’t be mistreated at such a high frequency from start to finish on the slaughter line. The causes are plain, and the effects are even simpler. This further impacts the quality of the meat where intermingling of contaminated with wholesome meat is commonplace. The USDA has been sued for their inability to effectively carry out their jobs, and will continue until repercussions are severe enough to incite change within this business. I’m waiting for the day when whistle-blowers are not condemned for wanting to help the greater good.
As with any complex issues, it takes more than one book to change anything. It also takes more than one person to blog about it to promote any significant change. Yet, this shouldn’t deter anyone from learning more about it, which is the purpose of this book. It obviously is an “easy” read for those already interested about animal rights and humane farming practices, but my philosophy is to read about those things that are hard to swallow. Certain topics should be bitter as you turn the page. It makes the world go round. Maybe, one day I will read a book about football because to me this is my bitter pill.
April 5, 2017: Book/Movie Recommendations
The first book is Sleepers. It tells the story of four boys from semi different backgrounds from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. They were forced to rely on each other during a dark time in their childhoods, and as they grew into adults, they found themselves unwilling and unable to let the events of the past float into oblivion. The movie ending, of course, is more times than not the Hollywood ending some wish it would be. Reality includes tragedy and consequences. The movie doesn’t sugarcoat the issues within certain institutions as Kevin Bacon and Ron Eldard provided great performances.
The second book is Lone Survivor. I really enjoyed reading this book. I’m not a gung ho military person. Yet, I can understand the appeal for those who enlist and do support them. It was written by Marcus Luttrell who was as you can figure it out by the book title, the lone survivor, of a team of Navy SEALS whose mission went “south” in Afghanistan. It begins with Marcus’s physical training during high school and the “hell” he went through during SEALS training, which prepared him for what he would encounter on the Afghanistan mountains during his mission. It is more than anything a salute to his fallen brothers: Michael Murphy played by Taylor Kitsch, Danny Dietz played by Emile Hirsch, and Matthew Axelson played by Ben Foster. It is directed by Peter Berg and the ending credits is enough to make anyone realize the people who sign up for the military are some of the bravest out there, but so are their families who they leave behind when tragedy strikes as it does in any war.
The third book is A Mighty Heart written by Mariane Pearl. It’s about the kidnapping of the journalist, Danny Pearl. I will say despite everything that happened in this book there was still a message to be sought. A part of it speaks of the special relationship Mariane found in Danny during the beginning of their relationship and how a woman of her strength and resolve will go to any length to reunite with the love of her life. She goes to painful lengths to understand what transpired in a land far away. Through this process she finds some answers and relative closure. This story has obvious political undercurrents, but the relationships among family and friends serves as its basis. I would have chosen a different actress to portray Mariane, but Angelina Jolie is not distracting where it breaks a viewer’s concentration from the movie. I was not one of the producers as that went to Brad Pitt. It is still a gripping story when you strip away the makings of a movie and remember the events really did happen.
The fourth book is The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven written by Sherman Alexie. It is a collection of stories and seamlessly wrapped neatly with a satisfying ending. Alexie has such a gift of conveying the experiences of two young Native American men living in the United States. I didn’t want to put the book down. The reader gets the sense that Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire never loses sight of what it means to live, which is simply living whether it be through their relationships with family, intended reflections of the self, and the ties with the Reservation on which they live. The movie, Smoke Signals, lends to the viewer a refreshing dose of reality with injections of humor spread throughout. I laughed more than I should have given such a serious topic, but this only makes me want to watch this movie again.
April 1, 2017: Book Recommendation
This is a simple and easy read. It is very fast paced. I read this book a while ago, but remember it being thought provoking. Humans all love to blame others especially when shit hits the fan. The bigger the problem, the harder one falls when they fail. This begs the question of what exactly does failure mean, but I’m not in the mood to go into a philosophical rant about the meaning of the word. It also means more likely the person will place blame on others whether actively or passively in their heads. There are inherent common traits among everyone, okay most everyone, and not taking responsibility for one’s life all the time is one of them. Anyone who says different, in my opinion, is not being completely truthful. A person needs to dig deep to get to the core of one’s complex faults, and currently there is not much time to spare after work, families, eating, and sleeping are factored into the equation; but it still can be done. Whether you do it is the real question.
March 23, 2017: Book Recommendation
We are born into the society our parents live and it becomes familiar to us. We put our trust in those who raise us whether blood related or not despite what they do to us, good or bad. Circumstances can change slowly over time or all of a sudden, but it still throws us into a tailspin. Our foundation on which we, as children, stand on becomes unstable; and it takes often a lifetime as adults to heal from what occurred within our families as children.
The author of this book, Shoko Tendo, speaks of the tenacity it takes to survive once the pieces have crumbled and no one is there to help you build again except yourself. While the past influences much of how you act and do later in life, it does not have to completely control your future. It takes strength to recognize what one must do to break free and more to not retreat back to the comforts of the days long gone. Read this book if you enjoy personal journeys; and in this particular case highlights assumed privileges, eventual downfalls, and sole ownership of one’s life.
March 22, 2017: Book Recommendation
This book will captivate the reader in terms of the family history of the Gucci family and all the drama that happens within generations. The main reason behind murder is more often than not for explainable reasons whether it be to cash out a life insurance policy, compulsion to kill someone, or going outside the boundaries of one’s self-control. Given the right situation which is usually the most dire of circumstances, everyone has the capability to kill someone. The House of Gucci is what many people love to do and don’t apologize for it: the peeking into family secrets and watching the house they live in fall brick by brick.
March 14, 2017: Book Recommendation
Read this book if you have an interest about oil. I’m not talking about the various kinds of cooking oil. Instead, it’s the oil where countries have fought over it. This kind of oil has inserted itself on almost every surface and in every corner of the world. It is the dark, thick liquid that means huge profit for some and destruction of others. It is the oil that ends up in the oceans and kills wildlife.
The author, Sonia Shah, incorporates the major players of how oil originated to be the commodity that it is today. The back of the book has excellent statistics and references about, you guessed it, oil. I was sad when my fingers turned to the last page. Yes, it was just that good at discussing oil consumption and its effects.
March 14, 2017: Book Recommendation
Does anyone remember The Blair Witch Project? The hit movie that grossed about 140 million dollars. The author of this memoir, The Soup Has Many Eyes, is the mother of the character named Josh Leonard. I breezed through this book not only because the story was engrossing, but at the time I was reading books like a human being needs water to survive. Joann Rose Leonard focuses on her own identity as a mother and how it connects to her Jewish heritage in Russia. It is a dedication to her sons by way of owning her own struggles and her ancestors before her. It highlights the premise that the past is equally important as the present.
March 13, 2017: Book Recommendation
I have an affinity for English Royalty. I’m not sure where it came from since I’m the farthest thing from having English roots. I’ve found Queen Elizabeth’s life interesting among the modern royal families. Thrust into the spotlight after her uncle abdicated his crown to marry a commoner, her father was thrust into the spotlight; then she was as well after her father died. Her family line was never supposed to hold such power in England, but some things are meant to happen. There is no doubt after reading this book that she was meant to be “The Queen.”
March 13, 2017: Book Recommendation
Hands up, down, sideways, backwards, downwards, or broken (maybe, not broken because that would hurt), I like Rachel Maddow. I like her on MSNBC. I like her clothing style. I like her quirkiness. She is one smart cookie. This is why I gobbled up her book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. She has a knack for inserting humor at the right moments in her book, despite the seriousness of the topic. When structure to a large organization such as the American Military become unbalanced through lack of communication and inability to effectively direct and lead from the top levels, the unforeseen consequences inevitability trickle down and embed itself into the bottom levels. This book is a wake up call for accountability within the American Military, and a close second for American citizens to educate themselves in whatever way possible.