Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" falls well outside my usual tastes in reading. I only picked up the book because:
1. a friend recommended it to me,
2. I found the name intriguing, and
3. it was available used from our local bookstore.

I don't have my copy anymore - I sent it on to someone else to read, I liked the book so much.

This story follows a female reporter right after World War II who learns about the literary society quite by accident, and uncovers the history of the German occupation of the Channel Islands. I don't know how much the author researched the occupation, but I like the details she added - enough to help the reader feel the horror and sorrow of the island residents, but not so much as to overwhelm the story.

The first two-thirds of the book were written as letters between people, and they do a brilliant job of relaying the story. But then the author, Annie Barrows, died. Her niece took up the rest of the story, finishing the story as a traditional fashion. There is a clear delineation between the two authors, yet I found I had no trouble following the story.

Most of the characters feel rather stock and predictable, not quite three-dimensional. The scenery, again, gives the reader the feeling of being on one of the islands, but is not overly spectacular.

So why did I give the book four stars?

Because of the story itself. Annie Barrows takes the characters and scenery, and weaves a tale that brings the reader in enough to simply enjoy it.

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Review: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book on the recommendation of a local bookstore employee, and I am quite glad I listened.

"The Graveyard Book" follows the growing years of a young boy who wanders into a graveyard as a toddler. Someone just murdered his entire family, and wants to kill the boy as well. The ghosts in the graveyard must protect the boy, and teach him how to live.

Personally, I like the irony in learning to live from the dead.

Neil Gaiman provides more than entertainment here. He stretches his imagination (and the reader's) to envision a world just beneath our world. The shades of the living seem more alive than the living, though in the end the ghosts remain outside of time, unable to change and grow the way the living people do.

I found this book thought provoking, enticing, and almost addictive. I recommend this book to anyone over the age of 9 who likes a good story, and can suspend their disbelief.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

My Opinion on the Troy Davis Execution

On Wednesday, September 21, 2011, at 11:08pm, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis.

It was a mistake.

A heinous murder occurred in 1989 when Officer Mark MacPhail died. I am not arguing that fact. The family and our society want justice for that murder. So do I. But killing a man based on circumstantial evidence does not undo the crime, nor does it serve justice.  The jury did not have a murder weapon.  There was no DNA evidence to support anyone as the murderer.  There were no video footage, no fingerprints, no hair follicles, no blood - nothing that solidly identified Troy Davis as the murderer.

And yet, he died for this crime.

Nine people came forward to testify against Troy Davis. Seven of the nine recanted their statements, claiming the police coerced them into their testimony. So why did Troy Davis remain in prison?

In 2010, the Supreme Court asked the state of Georgia to review the case and see if there was enough evidence to reopen the case.  I think they asked the wrong question. Instead of asking if there was enough evidence to find him innocent, they should have asked, "Do we still have enough evidence to find this man guilty?" With so many witnesses coming forward to recant their testimony, would the state of Georgia win the case today?  

If Troy Davis did kill the Officer MacPhail, then justice was served.  If someone else killed Officer MacPhail, then the state of Georgia just killed an innocent man.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not convinced that Troy Davis killed Officer Mark MacPhail. I believe that the truth will never be revealed, and that justice will never be served.

Thomas Jefferson once said he’d rather see a hundred guilty men go free than an innocent man go to prison.  What do you think he would say now?

Review: "Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher

Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files (The Dresden Files anthology #1)Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a series, and wondered what happened to the main character between book? I have, especially when authors mention events that don't occur in the books.

Jim Butcher is clearly a reader as well as a writer, because he provides his readers with this information in "Side Jobs". This anthology starts with the very first Dresden short story (where Harry meets Karrin) and ends with an addendum to "Changes". In between, Butcher points out where each short story fits in the series, so if someone is starting out new to Dresden, they can read each story in "Side Jobs" in between the novels.

Butcher's writing style matures through this book. The choppy action of the first short story smooths out throughout "Side Jobs", as the characters grow into believable people. Butcher even manages to do two story from the point of view of someone not Harry - Thomas and Karrin - which I assume is not easy given they exist in the same universe as Harry.

The only caution I have would be not to read the last story until you read the novel, "Changes". As an addendum to the novel, you need to read the novel first.

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Review: "The Necromancer" by Michael Scott

The Necromancer  (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #4)The Necromancer by Michael Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Necromancer" continues the adventures of the twins, Josh and Sophie, as time runs out before the end of the world. I will limit my detailed comments about the story so as not to spoil it for anyone. But I am including my general comments.

Pros: I love how the characters develop. Both the twins, Dee, Machiavelli, and the Flamels grow in this book. Even characters who appear for a chapter or two are not two-dimensional. Michael Scott knows his characters. I also love the plot twists. Foreshadowing prepares the reader for some of the action, but even then I felt a bit surprised at the ending.

Cons: The biggest con would be that this is not a stand alone book. You need to read the first three books in this series, or you will be lost. Now, I love reading series so this is not a problem for me. But if someone finds this book first, she needs to find "The Alchemist" and begin reading there.

Overall, "The Necromancer" is another solid book from Michael Scott. Now, to next book!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: "Thank You for Arguing" by Jay Heinrichs

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of PersuasionThank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is perhaps the most interesting child-rearing book I've ever read. Why? Because you learn how to teach your children to debate with you.

The title, "Thank You for Arguing", is slightly misleading, because the author, Jay Heinrichs, is attempting to dissuade people from the common reaction of blind arguing. Instead, Heinrichs wants people to learn how to debate again, how to listen to each other's statements and respond accordingly.

Personally, I learned a lot about debate, and how to present your point. I found myself slightly surprised at the multitude of situations in which Heinrichs' advice works, from dealings with my kids' schools to business meetings to family events. Everywhere you can converse with someone else, you can use this book.

I even taught my children how to use some of the debating methods. I wondered if they really listened, when my daughter asked for dessert one night. I almost said, "no" when she stated (in a calm voice), "Mom, I ate all of my fruit and vegetables at dinner. I eat nutritiously every day, so a dessert every once in a while will not adversely affect my diet." I agreed, and she got dessert.

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Review: "Changes" By Jim Butcher

Changes (The Dresden Files, #12)Changes by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow - every time I think that Harry Dresden has done it all, I discover that I am oh, so wrong.

This book opens with Harry learning that he and Susan have a daughter, and his daughter was kidnapped by Arianna of the Red Court vampires. The level of intensity hits the reader from the beginning, and never wavers. Dresden will literally do anything to save his daughter, but you wonder how far he will need to go. The battle scenes leap off the pages, as Harry's anger and worry slither into the reader's mind. I found myself torn between wanting to help Harry, and being scared of the man.

If you previously read and like the Dresden books, you will find it hard to put this one down.

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Review: "The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore

The SherlockianThe Sherlockian by Graham Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began "The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore with no idea about the story, and I ended with a new author on my "To Read" list. The story follows two threads in time - one in 2010 and one around 1900. The main character in the present is Harold White, the newest member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a Sherlock Holmes fan club. The main character in the past is Arthur Conan Doyle (before his knighthood). The author connects the threads with a lost diary - Harold White and others want to find this diary, and Arthur Conan Doyle is living through the time period covered in the diary.

Normally, I am not a fan of multiple viewpoints in a story, but Moore pulls this one off with style and finesse. The reader feels both in the loop, since we are reading the events that Harold wants to learn about, and out of the loop, since we don't know where we are going. The style is similar to a Sherlock Holmes mystery, only Harold White plays both Holmes and Watson.

I strongly recommend this book both to Sherlock Holmes fans, mystery fans, and people who enjoy a well told story.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: "Dead Reckoning" by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, #11)Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Dead Reckoning" proves that Charlaine Harris still has it. The novel begins with some unknown person throwing a Molotov cocktail through a window into the dining area of Merlotte's. The story continues from there with two separate lines of action. The first involves finding out who threw the cocktail. The second involves how Eric and Sookie will deal with Victor, who once again is trying to provoke Eric into a fight. In between this, Sookie learns more about her own history, both the human and the fairy sides.

I love that Sookie and Eric's relationship grows and expands in this novel. Ms. Harris balances the fine line between everything being too nice and rosy, and everything being too chaotic and strife ridden between the lovers.

This novel also includes brief glimpses into the lives of Amanda, Bob, Alcide, Desmond Cataliades, and Claude. Dermot goes from a shadowy character to a man that the reader not only sympathizes with, but roots for. Pam also becomes more dimensional in this novel, though I'll not say more for now.

Ms. Harris introduces some new characters, including an elf and a new daytime man for Eric, as well as bringing back old villains.

Overall, this book answers as many questions/situations as it introduces, leaving the reader wanting more.

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Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...