29 March 2016

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir  5 Stars

I broke the cardinal rule! I watched the movie first!! I know, I know... how could I?! A semi-respected blogger of no note watch a film before I read the book that it was based on must be against some unwritten rule. I'm so sorry!

Now that I have fully apologized for my indiscretion, I can get to the point of how awesome this book was, brilliant! If I only had one word to describe, it would be 'brilliant'. For the science geeks out there (yes, I'm raising my hand), the facts are solid. Even the people that are supposed to know this stuff agree that its based on good science. For the botanists out there (not raising my hand, but I love to garden), the things the amazing Mark Watney does will leave you dazed. In a good way.

Throughout the tale, Watney has become a walking NASA version of "Murphy's Law", if it could wrong, it did... in every way possible. I love the humour in the story, even when things are getting incredibly bad for the Martian. The jokes he makes about himself, about NASA, about the situations in general will leave you in stitches.

Andy Weir did a fantastic job of telling a tragic story in a new and interesting way. I look forward to another novel from him.

Updates: The Blacke Dahlia Files

Good grief... I was hoping to do better on my blog last year, but as you can clearly see, that didn't really happen. It was a roller coaster of a year. I felt it best to read, enjoy the book, and take care of myself as I was going down that deep, dark hole we call depression.

So let's try this again. My goal for last year was to read 25 books, I managed 19. This year my goal is read 20. I'm so busy that if I can manage those 20, I'll be doing great. So far I have finished two.


The Black Dahlia Files by Donald H. Wolfe ---4 Stars

I've always been fascinated by her, Elizabeth Short, the "Black Dahlia". Like many people, I got wrapped in the unsolved crime because, while living, she was a stunning woman, but the questions of who would want her dead and why always come to mind. Many people have had theories, most crack-pot at best and accusing their own fathers at worst.

Wolfe gives us an interesting view into the echelons of 1940's Hollywood. His step-father was in the world, giving the author a first hand look into the shadowy side of fame and fortune. While many are aware that Hollywood was (and likely still is) mobbed to the hilt (and today we call them 'gang-bangers'), I wasn't aware of how many pies the mob had their fingers in.

Wolfe offers a viable theory using recently released files from the LA County District Attorney's office. He gives a rich view into the dark side of the Golden Age of the Silver Screen. Is he right? Maybe, maybe not, since many of the files on the famous Black Dahlia are still sealed, we may never know. The point is that, even if Wolfe is completely off base, the book was written is such a way that keeps the attention of the reader through the very end. And by "very end", I mean the appendices at the end of the book. 


                                                 

16 January 2015

Fancy Pants Poetry by Agostino Scafidi

Fancy Pants Poetry   by Agostino Scafidi - 4Stars

Mr Scafidi sent me a request to review his latest poetry collection. I must say this is a first. Usually, I have authors give me a bit of run around and request my purchasing the book in question. (I think we can all say 'scam'.) So I was sent the collection and was pleasantly surprised.

Often poetry can be rather flowery and lacking in actual substance. Not so with Fancy Pants! The poem "Passing Time" is short and simple in wording, but gives a valuable piece of wisdom-- one doesn't have to travel the world to find the peace that they seek. Another entitled "Roger, Yankee, Foxtrot" struck me rather to the core of my being. We each carry a weight and a burden that sometimes we need not carry, but for the safety of those we love, we gladly bear the burden. I could go on and review each poem, but there are far too many, and I've not enough space.

Scafidi's poetry is light, beautiful, and honest... even if our author does bemoan the pain of honesty. All in all, Fancy Pants Poetry really doesn't live up to its name. Its not fancy, not in the slightest, but its raw in its beauty and simplicity. A wonderful collection that I feel many would enjoy immensely.

01 January 2015

Apologies

Wow... all right the end of 2014 has been one heck of a trip. I did read, but couldn't be bothered to track them. Busy little bee... any way I will strive to do better in 2015.

See you in the funny papers.

16 November 2014

Sharp by David Fitzpatrick

Sharp -- 4 Stars

This is the memoir of a man who fought his demons for years, half of his life really, and managed to survive it all. David Fitzpatrick is a self harmer, he started in his early twenties, he's obviously a man, and he's an anomaly. The statistics used to lean more towards women self-injuring, but that number has evened out to nearly 50-50 in recent years. In the 1990's, mental patients that injured were mostly female and patients in general were kept in hospital for many months to many years.

David tells us his life of pain and fear, surviving an abusive brother, then abusive room mates in college. He fell fast and deep into the world of self harm and stayed there for some time. With each minor triumph, I felt the need to shout out in joy for him. With each set back, I felt the pain and disappointment.

He writes in a very open way, no frills, and comments on his own faults. "I'm a dramatic person... if you haven't figured that out by now." He tells us about his therapists and the other patients, and how each one helped him in their own way.

Truly an inspiring story of strength in the face of great odds, even if he didn't feel strong at the time. I have depression and PTSD, Mr Fitzpatrick's life and success at beating his illness gives me hope in managing mine. 

28 July 2014

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Darkly Dreaming Dexter-- 4Stars

I've been wanting to read this for some time and finally managed to get a copy from the library. I've seen bits and pieces (no pun intended), but wanted to read the books first. It was amazing!

We follow Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter annalist with the Miami-Dade police. Not a terrible job, really, sure the reason you're employed is a bit gruesome, but its for the greater good. Dexter does many things for the greater good... including getting rid of those people that the planet really doesn't need.

Did I forget to mention he's a serial killer? Since his foster father knew that eventually his son would become a killer, he taught him how to channel that energy into ridding the world of those monsters that, say, prey on children. Sure, Dexter is a heartless bastard, but he'd never hurt a child! He's as clever as it gets, witty too. There's never a dull moment.

I'm docking points for his sister, Deborah. She swears worse than a drunken sailor at Fleet Week! Other than that, its a great read and I'm looking forward to starting the next one.

02 July 2014

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez  4Stars

I picked this up some time ago, its been saving a place on my shelves. It sounded interesting and I was not disappointed.

Steve Lopez is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. As a columnist, he has many interests and short attention span. He's always hunting for the next story. He finds it in the Second Street Tunnel, next to the statue of Beethoven. A man is standing there, perfectly calm, playing a violin with only two strings. There had to be a story there! Turns out Mr Nathaniel Anthony Ayers isn't just some old bum down and out, he's a former student of Julliard, and has schizophrenia.

We follow Lopez over two years as he strives to help Ayers off the streets and into a home. This is no mean feat as Ayers tends to fight this all the way. Along the way, Lopez is learning more about himself as he tries to help a man that was once just a column pice, but has become much more than that.

Lopez quickly discovers that the music Ayers plays creates a peace in his head and silences the noise in his head. Lopez, traditionally a rock and roll type guy, starts listening to the classical music that Ayers plays to understand him better and only discovers the calm that Ayers feels as his plays.

This is an amazing story that shows that each of us have the capability to change a life... even if those efforts change ourselves. Perhaps especially so.
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