I found "This Beautiful Life", by Helen Schulman, to be a riveting, edge of your seat, but only partially satisfying novel. The main plot line is grip...moreI found "This Beautiful Life", by Helen Schulman, to be a riveting, edge of your seat, but only partially satisfying novel. The main plot line is gripping, and the way it unfolds is truly a page-turner. A happy, seemingly perfect, rising middle class family, that moved from Ithaca, NY to New York City, unravels when Jake, the 15 year old son receives a lewd video from Daisy, a 13 year old girl who attends his school. Daisy hosted a party that Jake attended by chance, got drunk at and gave Daisy the impression he liked her but thought she was too young. She sends him the video in an attempt to impress him and get him to return her affection for him. Jake, shocked by the video, forwards it to his best friend, who forwards it to a couple of other friends and soon it goes viral.
I am divided as to whether to give this book 3 stars or 4 stars. I found the build up and the character development to be excellent, but I was underwhelmed by the end result. Not because it was insignificant, but because I was not convinced that it really would have happened. Although the main characters (Jake and his parents) have flaws that are subtly revealed early in the story, those flaws, in my view, led too quickly to a denouement that seemed to me to be a little too dramatic and a little too forced.
The book wins high marks for telling an important story about the lack of confidentiality with today's technology and the dangers of the internet. It was also a book that kept my interest all the way. My wife loved it and doesn't agree with my ultimate view of the ending, so, although I give it 3 stars, I would still recommend it to parents of teenagers and pre-teenagers. It has good, strong messages and you just might like the end more than I did.(less)
Goldfinger, Ian Fleming's 7th 007 book, is so far the best of them. The characters are fabulous -- Goldfinger, Oddjob, Jill Masterton and her sister T...moreGoldfinger, Ian Fleming's 7th 007 book, is so far the best of them. The characters are fabulous -- Goldfinger, Oddjob, Jill Masterton and her sister Tilly, Pussy Galore, and the collection of other gangsters assemble by Goldfinger to try to pull off one of the biggest crimes ever. Goldfinger is one of the few Bond films that I have seen. I like the movie, but I love the book. Even knowing how the characters were depicted in the film did not detract from my being able to construct my own image in my mind based on how Fleming portrays them in words. I could not put this book down from start to finish. (less)
The Tipping Point is my first Malcolm Gladwell book and I am looking forward to reading more. This book is filled with anecdotes and stories, all wove...moreThe Tipping Point is my first Malcolm Gladwell book and I am looking forward to reading more. This book is filled with anecdotes and stories, all woven together to make the point that the accumulation of little things, with the aiding and abetting of certain types of people, can have large effects on things that matter in the world. i had multiple moments of "wow, I never knew that", as well as "that is so obvious, but why hasn't anyone put it together before?" This book is well-written, fast paced and incredibly interesting. Even if you are not normally a reader of non-fiction, I highly recommend this book. it will open your eyes, and make you think.(less)
Doctor No, the 6th of Ian Fleming's 007 series, is a page turner all the way. It is a bit less violent than the books that preceded it, and, as with a...moreDoctor No, the 6th of Ian Fleming's 007 series, is a page turner all the way. It is a bit less violent than the books that preceded it, and, as with all the others, I have found them to be more tantalizing than the films and less reliant on futuristic gadgetry. Fleming's writing style is clearly getting smoother with each book. I give this one only 4 stars because the ending let me down slightly with the speed with which Bond managed to get out of the mess he found himself in. Nevertheless, Doctor No is a worthy member of a fine series that keeps you craving for more.(less)
In Defence of Dogs is a book that should definitely be read by anyone who owns or wants to own a dog, as well as by anyone who ares about dogs. It is...moreIn Defence of Dogs is a book that should definitely be read by anyone who owns or wants to own a dog, as well as by anyone who ares about dogs. It is an attempt to bring science to the forefront of the way people think about dogs -- from evolution through to domestication. The author's starting salvo against entrenched thinking about dogs is that although they are descended from wolves, they are not descended from the wolf that prior experts have used as the model for trying to interpret dogs' behaviors. Moreover, the habits of wolves that dominated dog theory for many years were based on wolves in captivity, not wolves in the wild. Animals in captivity behave quite differently. In the case of wolves, this is most evident in alpha dog.dominance behavior exhibited by wolves in captivity. Once we realize that wolves don't really behave that way, then it is obvious that our belief that dogs behave that way is wrong. This leads to a whole different approach to training and raising dogs as pets. The author also attacks the breeding industry for focusing on trying to breed dogs that look good rather than dogs that would make good pets. In fact, most of the purebred dogs that typical pet owner ends up with are dogs that were bred for show, but weren't good enough for one reason or another. Add to this that the inbreeding that is necessary to keep a pure-breed pure results in weak genetics, disease and harmful mutations and pretty soon the whole world of how humans think about dogs is turned on its head.
My only criticism of the book is that a number of the points are repetitive and the author's writing style could be improved. However, given that this is really a science book at its core, these criticisms are not harsh and the book is a very worthwhile read.(less)
The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. But it was ver difficult to follow...moreThe Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. But it was ver difficult to follow once you get past the first half of the book. It is described as an accessible and relatively easy to understand book on a very difficult topic, but I felt that it was still too difficult for even the above average reader. I guess it is impossible to understand quantum physics without an intense math background. And although I was very good in math in school, and was very open to trying to follow all the formulas, I ultimately ended up skipping over a lot of them and felt that I was missing out on much of what this book had to offer.
The authors are humorous, down to earth and excellent writers. I think they took on an impossible task -- making quantum physics understandable for the non-scientist.(less)
After reading two biographies (Shakespeare and Churchill), I decided to dip back into lighter fare and picked up the 5th book in the 007 series, From...moreAfter reading two biographies (Shakespeare and Churchill), I decided to dip back into lighter fare and picked up the 5th book in the 007 series, From Russia With Love. The best ob the Bond books so far, I found myself unable to put the book down, despite nothing really happening in the first 100 or so pages. The rich character background, particularly of the villains, Donovan Grant and Rosa Klebb of Smersh, is excellent. Bond's budding friendship with Darko Kerim, the head of station in Istanbul, is another high point. And the whole train ride on the Orient Express was taut with just tension and suspense. Another example for me of the book being better than the film. Bond is just so much more real as a person as his heroics are less gadget-dependent and (almost) entirely plausible. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.(less)
The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure is an excellent story that makes some complicated math topics understandable and fun. The main characters a...moreThe Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure is an excellent story that makes some complicated math topics understandable and fun. The main characters are a little boy named Robert, who doesn't like math or his math teacher, and the number devil, who visits Robert at night in dreams. The number devil, through clever stories and visuals shows Robert how math can be used in a variety of situations, and how numbers can be magical. The book covers concepts such as infinity, exponents, fractions, square roots, prime numbers and pi. I think this would be a great gift to give to a child between the ages of 11 and 16, to show them some of the more fascinating aspects of math that they might not learn in school, but might help get them interested in looking at math in a new light.(less)
If you ever would have asked me "Joel, when are you going to read a novel about a fictional city in Ireland that takes place in the future that tells...moreIf you ever would have asked me "Joel, when are you going to read a novel about a fictional city in Ireland that takes place in the future that tells the story of a fading gangland family's control of the city and their battles with fallen rivals who have returned and new rivals from the other side of town and from within their own organization," my answer would have been a swift "Never!" Yet I was fascinated by a book review of City of Bohane, so I put it on my To Read list and I am glad I did.
This book by Kevin Barry won an award for great debut novels. Although I am sure a fair bit of the book went over my head because I am not Irish and missed a lot of the humor and satire that a native would surely have not missed (hence my 4-star rating instead of 5-stars), the story is fascinating, the characters are rich and writing style is superb. This book entertained me from start to finish and brought me into a world I never would have come close to encountering. I highly recommend it.(less)
London Under is an informative and sometimes engaging book about the varied things below the street level in London. At its best, the book is hard to...moreLondon Under is an informative and sometimes engaging book about the varied things below the street level in London. At its best, the book is hard to put down, particularly the sections describing the system of tunnels that make up the Tube system and the history of the Tube's early days. In other parts, however, the book is slow going and will only appeal to people who really have a passion for the subject.(less)
"Shakespeare: The World as Stage" is a wonderful nugget of a book. It is probably best to know at least a little bit about the subject, but I suspect...more"Shakespeare: The World as Stage" is a wonderful nugget of a book. It is probably best to know at least a little bit about the subject, but I suspect that even if you don't you would enjoy this book immensely. Bill Bryson's writing style makes it easy to read and he takes a refreshingly honest approach to the task of writing a biography about a person for whom there is preciously little hard evidence covering most of the man's life. This results in a biography that is as much about the time period and the surrounding events and places as it is about the man, William Shakespeare. We discover that what we don't know about him is almost as fascinating as what we do know about him. I particularly enjoyed reading about the different versions of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets that were preserved, reflecting the idiosyncrasies and editing style of the publishers or scriveners. But my favorite chapter was the last one in which Bryson debunks the many claims that William Shakespeare didn't write his plays after all; rather it was someone else writing under a pseudonym. But is not just the debunking itself that is so interesting. The real gem is the way in which Bryson presents the material, with just the right level of skepticism and humor. I highly recommend this book to everyone who has any interest at all in William Shakespeare.(less)
"Churchill", by Paul Johnson< is a fabulous, short biography of Winston Churchill. So much has been written about Winston Churchill that it is alwa...more"Churchill", by Paul Johnson< is a fabulous, short biography of Winston Churchill. So much has been written about Winston Churchill that it is always hard to imagine why anyone needs to write another book about him. I have often been hesitant to start one of the lengthy, in depth biographies about him because it seems as if I'd need months to complete it. And I know I would want to complete it, because Churchill is one of my favorite people. I find him truly astonishing in so many ways -- especially in the wide variety of pursuits he managed to tackle with a high level of quality and commitment (as a politician, soldier, writer and historian, painter, husband and father). Paul Johnson has written a lively, entertaining and accessible portrait of Churchill. One reviewer described it by saying that Johnson has written a book that allows us to spend some time in the company of Churchill, and it is really true. It would be hard to find a better biography with which to spend a few afternoons or evenings and it will leave you inspired and awed.(less)
Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is a story of love, parenting and survival. It is interesting, unusual, haunting, inspiring, sad and a page turner. I had...moreCormac McCarthy's "The Road" is a story of love, parenting and survival. It is interesting, unusual, haunting, inspiring, sad and a page turner. I had no idea what to expect when I decided to read this book, but I found so much. Did I love it or just like it? While I was reading it, I liked it. Now that I have finished it and I can reflect on it, there is no doubt that I absolutely loved it. This book is described as a post-apocalypse tour-de-force. I can't add much to that description. The greatest strength of The Road is that so much is left to your own imagination. We are not told exactly what apocalyptic event has occurred and we are not told exactly who the bad guys are (every good story has bad guys, doesn't it?!?) or why. So, left to your own devices, your own demons and dreams fill in the details. This is my first experience with a book whose meaning and essence will be as varied as the number of readers who devour it. I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come. It will not take long for you to read The Road. But I have two bits of advice: (1) do not read it casually and (2) read it only if you are ready to confront your own thoughts about life on earth as we know it and what could happen if it were suddenly gone but you were still here. (less)
I took a break after tearing through the first three James Bond books, and happily picked up number 4, "Diamonds Are Forever". I found this one to be...moreI took a break after tearing through the first three James Bond books, and happily picked up number 4, "Diamonds Are Forever". I found this one to be interesting throughout, but it lacked some of the excitement of the previous books. Once again, Ian Fleming did a great job of capturing the scene at whatever game Bond was engaged in (in this case, the racetrack, the blackjack tables and the roulette tables). One of my favorite characters was Tiffany Case, and I especially got a kick out of how her mother named her. Although the bad guys were typically bad, I felt that their characters were not as well developed and they didn't seem as realistically threatening as were the villains in the first three books. Nevertheless, this was a quick and pleasant read and if you're a Bond fan it is definitely worth reading.(less)