Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fool by Christopher Moore

Wow! Fool by Christopher Moore is a hilarious romp through Shakespeare's universe. And not just the play King Lear, but others too, like Macbeth. Moore tells the story of Lear's fool, Pocket, and the events that surround King Lear's retirement. All the characters from King Lear make an appearance, but Moore adds so much more and tells the story so well, you can easily read Fool with no knowledge of King Lear or any of Shakepeare's other plays.

Be warned. While the novel is full of side splitting humor, Fool is also as bawdy as the book's blurbs promise. If you are easily offended by sexual humor, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a really funny book to read and you can stomach racy comedy, I highly recommend Fool. I, for one, will have to go to the library as soon as possible to get more books by Moore.


ABANDONED: Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin

I am an admitted liberal, but I try to be open minded and widely read. So, I tried to read conservative radio host Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny but I just could not stand it. I had hoped it would be a well reasoned defense of conservatism, but it struck me as simply a slipshod rant about those that disagree with Levin's conservative philosophy, people like me. For me, the last straw was when Levin was arguing about how government interference is the root of our financial problems. His example was the current housing problems that continue to be a drag on the economy. While making this argument he railed against the development of financial derivatives, blaming it on government intervention when this is clearly the work of the unfettered free market with which Levin is so enamored. Now, I happen to agree with many of his points on how the current economic crisis originated, but overall his ranting style and sloppy logic made this book unreadable.


Write These Laws On Your Children by Robert Kunzman

Write These Laws On Your Children is a glimpse of the world of conservative Christian homeschooling. I became fascinated by the topic of homeschooling when I used some homeschooling books to find resources for enriching my son's public school education. Robert Kunzman does a fantastic job of highlighting some of the strengths and weaknesses of homeschooling. However, he expresses his main reservations about homeschooling: the quality of education and how homeschooling affects the development of citizenship.

Kunzman, an educator himself, spends time with several homeschooling families. He visits each family more than once over a two year period. Kunzman describes his time with each of those families. It is important to note that, while some of the families were clearly doing a disservice to their children by homeschooling them, others were providing top notch education. I think one of the things I liked best about the book was Kunzman's apparent even-handedness when describing the homeschooling experiences he witnessed. In between the chapters on the homeschooling families, Kunzman profiles homeschooling organizations and what he perceives to be the perils of homeschooling. Overall, Kunzman provides a balanced view of homeschooling, for better and for worse.

If you have any interest in homeschooling you should definitely read this book, if only to learn about the perils of homeschooling. If you are an educator, reading this book would help counter any stereotypes you may have about homeschooling.


Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is about James Stark, a man who is betrayed and dragged into Hell while still alive. He spends eleven years in Hell, fighting in a gladiatorial arena where he becomes Hell's most formidable fighter, known to the demons as Sandman Slim. His skills catch the eye of Azazel. Lucifer's general gives Stark a key that allows him to enter a shadow and come out anywhere he wants and Stark becomes Azazel's hitman. But Stark soon turns on Azazel, kills the demon general and escapes Hell. Once on earth, Stark seeks revenge on those who sent him Downtown and, one could say, all Hell breaks loose.

Sandman Slim was a pretty enjoyable read, fast paced with a well constructed universe. If you enjoy the urban paranormal genre, I do not think you would go wrong to give Sandman Slim a read.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

King Lear by William Shakespeare

In this masterpiece by Shakepeare, King Lear decides to retire and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. Courting tragedy, the king decides to test his daughters by asking which loves him the most. The conniving Gonoril and Regan flatter their father, the king, with words of love, but Lear's youngest daughter, Cordelia, refuses to play along. For this she is disinherited and banished. When the Earl of Kent speaks up on Cordelia's behalf, King Lear banishes him too. Meanwhile, another plot is afoot. Edmund, the bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester schemes to have his legitimate brother, Edgar, disowned and thereby inherit his father's lands and title. These two different plot lines collide in an orgy of violence, death, and tragedy not to be missed by any serious reader.

Though Hamlet is still my favorite Shakespearean play, King Lear comes in a close second. I really enjoyed the two different plot lines that run through the play. The characters were all engaging. The only negative was the frequent lines of the play that I did not understand and apparently scholars are unable to explain But, those unintelligible lines are but a minor distraction in a great work of literature that everyone should read.


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Before this year, I would never have considered reading young-adult fiction. After all, I am entering my middle age and as an adult, I felt I should read adult fiction. Over the last year, however, my opinion has changed. It started with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. After that I read a few other young-adult fiction books that were pretty good, but nothing really spectacular. All that changed when I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. What can I say other than Wow! The Hunger Games is a great read. A roller coaster that keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. If you have not read this novel, do so as soon as possible. If you have, you might want to try Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. It had a similar feel to this book, although I enjoyed The Hunger Games more than Battle Royale.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is a sprawling "Sensation Novel" about familial intrigue in Victorian England. It is a story about marriage, inheritance, deceit, and secret societies. The novel is full of interesting characters: the tempestuous Sir Percival Glyde, the cunning Count Fosco and his submissive wife the Countess, the indomitable Marian Halcombe, and of course Walter Hartright and the love of his life, the Lady Laura Glyde.

I really enjoyed this book, despite the overwhelming complexity of its narrative. Just before finishing it, I picked up a copy of Collins' The Moonstone from Half Price Books and hope to read it next year. If you have not read this classic, give it a try. You won't be sorry.