Monday, March 12, 2012

An American Hornby

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
2012 - Dutton Juvenile

 Just for clarity's sake, I liken this book and it's author to Nick Hornby, not Bruce Hornsby. And as another aside, I didnt realize this was a juvenile book until I looked up the publisher for this review. Ha. The line blur, I swear!

Anyway, the more I think about this book, the more I like it. The subject matter and story line would automatically make me run in the other direction, but m glad I gave this a shot. Great book. A really great 8-star book.

Amazon descriptionDespite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

A Book on War

Dreaming War: Blood For Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta - Gore Vidal
2002 - Nation Books

 Although Vidal in general slakes his thirst quite often in the well of ridiculousness, this is a great (and early) primer on why we went to war in Iraq.

Amazon descriptionWhen Gore Vidal's recent New York Times bestseller Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace was published, the Los Angeles Times described Vidal as the last defender of the American republic. In Dreaming War, Vidal continues this defense by confronting the Cheney-Bush junta head on in a series of devastating essays that demolish the lies American Empire lives by, unveiling a counter-history that traces the origins of America's current imperial ambitions to the experience of World War Two and the post-war Truman doctrine. And now, with the Cheney-Bush leading us into permanent war, Vidal asks whose interests are served by this doctrine of pre-emptive war? Was Afghanistan turned to rubble to avenge the 3,000 slaughtered on September 11? Or was "the unlovely Osama chosen on aesthetic grounds to be the frightening logo for our long contemplated invasion and conquest of Afghanistan?" After all he was abruptly replaced with Saddam Hussein once the Taliban were overthrown. And while "evidence" is now being invented to connect Saddam with 9/11, the current administration are not helped by "stories in the U.S. press about the vast oil wealth of Iraq which must- for the sake of the free world- be reassigned to U.S. consortiums."

Great Children's Fantasy

The Field Guide - The Spiderwick Chronicles #1 - Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Originally published in hardcover in 2003 - Simon and Schuster

 A very charming little fantasy series interspersed with great illustrations in a very well packaged series. Highly recommend as a pre-teen fantasy series or for any who love the fantasy genre.

Amazon description - After their parents' divorce, the Grace kids - twins Jared and Simon and their older sister Mallory - move with their mom to the decaying old mansion belonging to their ancient great-aunt Lucinda, who has been sent off to an asylum. But before they can even unpack, Jared begins to notice that they're not alone in the house. There's something living there with them. His investigations eventually lead to an old book filled with pictures of fantastic creatures - Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You - and an even bigger mystery - the disappearance of his great-great-uncle and Lucinda's father, Arthur Spiderwick.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Book on Guns?

Glock: The Rise of America's Gun - Paul M. Barrett
2012 - Crown

 I don't own a gun. I've shot a gun once in a my life, a handgun, two years ago. And yet I find I'm fascinated with them. And what better story to read about with respect to guns, than the story of the glock. This is a truly engaging look at a reinvention of the gun industry and the social climate that gave rise to this particular gun's success. And then there is Glock himself. And what money can do to a person. Fascinating.

Amazon descriptionBased on fifteen years of research, Glock is the riveting story of the weapon that has become known as American’s gun.  Today the Glock pistol has been embraced by two-thirds of all U.S. police departments, glamorized in countless Hollywood movies, and featured as a ubiquitous presence on prime-time TV. It has been rhapsodized by hip-hop artists, and coveted by cops and crooks alike.  
Created in 1982 by Gaston Glock, an obscure Austrian curtain-rod manufacturer, and swiftly adopted by the Austrian army, the Glock pistol, with its lightweight plastic frame and large-capacity spring-action magazine, arrived in America at a fortuitous time.  Law enforcement agencies had concluded that their agents and officers, armed with standard six-round revolvers, were getting "outgunned" by drug dealers with semi-automatic pistols. They needed a new gun.
When Karl Water, a firearm salesman based in the U.S. first saw a Glock in 1984, his reaction was, “Jeez, that’s ugly.” But the advantages of the pistol soon became apparent. The standard semi-automatic Glock could fire as many as 17 bullets from its magazine without reloading (one equipped with an extended thirty-three cartridge magazine was used in Tucson to shoot Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others). It was built with only 36 parts that were interchangeable with those of other models. You could drop it underwater, toss it from a helicopter, or leave it out in the snow, and it would still fire. It was reliable, accurate, lightweight, and cheaper to produce than Smith and Wesson’s revolver. Made in part of hardened plastic, it was even rumored (incorrectly) to be invisible to airport security screening.
Filled with corporate intrigue, political maneuvering, Hollywood glitz, bloody shoot-outs—and an attempt on Gaston Glock’s life by a former lieutenant—Glock is at once the inside account of how Glock the company went about marketing its pistol to police agencies and later the public, as well as a compelling chronicle of the evolution of gun culture in America.

A Very Cool Inferno

Dante's Inferno - Sandow Birk
2004 - Chronicle Books

 What a great way to read this classic! Amazing art. Rivals the Gustave Dore illustrations. 

Amazon descriptionA faithful yet totally original contemporary spin on a classic, Dante's Inferno as interpreted by acclaimed artist Sandow Birk and writer Marcus Sanders is a journey through a Hell that bears an eerie semblance to our own world. Birk, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as one of "realism's edgier, more visionary painters," offers extraordinarily nuanced and vivid illustrations inspired by Gustave Dore's famous engravings. This modern interpretation depicts an infernal landscape infested with mini-malls, fast food restaurants, ATMs, and other urban fixtures, and a text that cleverly incorporates urban slang and references to modern events and people (as Dante did in his own time). Previously published in a deluxe, fine-press edition to wide praise, and accompanied by national exhibitions, this striking paperback edition of Dante's Inferno is a genuinely provocative and insightful adaptation for a new generation of readers.

We Are All Crazy

Confederates in the Attic - Tony Horwitz
Originally published in hardcover in 1998 - Pantheon

 A fascinating look into a near-frightening passion. This was my first Horwitz book - had passed it by on bookshelves for years. I have been a big fan ever since.

Amazon descriptionWhen prize-winning war correspondent Tony Horwitz leaves the battlefields of Bosnia and the Middle East for a peaceful corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he thinks he's put war zones behind him. But awakened one morning by the crackle of musket fire, Horwitz starts filing front-line dispatches again this time from a war close to home, and to his own heart.

Propelled by his boyhood passion for the Civil War, Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance.

In Virginia, Horwitz joins a band of 'hardcore' reenactors who crash-diet to achieve the hollow-eyed look of starved Confederates; in Kentucky, he witnesses Klan rallies and calls for race war sparked by the killing of a white man who brandishes a rebel flag; at Andersonville, he finds that the prison's commander, executed as a war criminal, is now exalted as a martyr and hero; and in the book's climax, Horwitz takes a marathon trek from Antietam to Gettysburg to Appomattox in the company of Robert Lee Hodge, an eccentric pilgrim who dubs their odyssey the 'Civil Wargasm.'

Written with Horwitz's signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism, Confederates in the Attic brings alive old battlefields and new ones 'classrooms, courts, country bars' where the past and the present collide, often in explosive ways. Poignant and picaresque, haunting and hilarious, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt drawn to the mythic South and to the dark romance of the Civil War.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Fantasy Novel of Manners

Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner
Originally published in hardcover in 1987 - Arbor House

 I feel a bit guilty for giving this book only 7 stars - I'm sure it is a great book were I in a different mood. One of my big dislikes about fantasy novels that deal more in court intrigue is that the finery and frippery detracts from a sense of verisimilitude - And in Swordspoint I found this to the extreme. Perhaps I should give this book another read.

Amazon descriptionOn the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless--until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.