Friday, January 22, 2010

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

I am not much of a reader of Westerns, but Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic. On the Utah frontier, Mormons and Gentiles are in constant struggle. Jane Withersteen, the wealthy owner of a prosperous ranch finds herself at odds with her fellow Mormons, squarely in the middle of the struggle. What follows is a moving tale of intrigue and secrets, of sorrow and love.

I enjoyed reading Riders of the Purple Sage. However, I found that language a little archaic and the pacing somewhat slow. Still, as I said Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic and deserves to be read by any bibliophile.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love's Labour Lost by William Shakespeare

Often called one of Shakespeare's most intellectual plays, Love's Labour Lost is a witty comedy full of wordplay. The King of Navarre and his three companions swear an oath to live an austere life of academic study for three years, most notably swearing to give up the company of women. No sooner is the oath sworn than the Princess of France visits Navarre's court as an emissary from her father. She has with her three ladies in waiting. Unsurprisingly, the King and his three companions fall in love with the French women and high jinks ensue.

I did not originally intend to read this play for the Much Ado About Shakespeare Challenge but I happened to record Kenneth Branagh's 2000 film of it. So, before attempting to watch the film, I read the play, which is a good read, but not as spectacular as Hamlet or King Lear. The film, on the other hand, is atrocious. Branagh adapted the play into a musical. Now, I have nothing against musicals per se, but Branagh's adaptation reminded me of Cop Rock, a very short lived television show which could have been called Law & Order: The Musical. Both the television show and Branagh's film had singing in all the wrong places. I didn't watch more than the first ten minutes.

If you really dig Shakespeare, give Love's Labour Lost a read. It is one of eminent critic Harold Bloom's favorites. But, if you are just looking for a taste of Shakespeare, you would be better served sticking to some of his more acclaimed plays.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Deadly Viper Character Assassins by Mike Foster & Jud White

I grabbed Deadly Viper Character Assassins from the New Books shelf at my public library. A well designed book with funky graphics, I checked it out. The book is about maintaining an upright character. The authors list six character assassins that you must beware:

  • The Assassin of Character Creep: Do not cut corners when it comes to your character. That is how most people begin their fall.

  • The Assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren: Zi Qi Qi Ren is the Chinese term for deceiving yourself while deceiving others. The authors caution you not to drink your own kool-aid, better yet, don't serve any kool-aid. Be straight with everyone including yourself.

  • The Assassin of Amped Emotions: It is easy to lose your head and make a rash, harmful decision when your emotions are running wild. Think before you speak or act.

  • The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken: Beware burnout. But, also beware the seductive illusion of balance. You cannot be everything to everyone at the same time. Sometimes you work hard, sometimes you play hard, just don't do both at the same time.

  • The Assassin of Boom Chicka Wah Wah: This one is just what it sounds like. Sex is a very powerful force in human lives. Engage in it responsibly.

  • The Bling Bling Assassin: It is OK to enjoy your stuff, just do not let your stuff take over your life.

  • The High and Mighty Assassin: Remember, no matter what your title or position, you are human just like everyone else, whether you are the CEO or the janitor.

Overall, Deadly Viper Character Assassins is a short, fun read. I did not find anything earth shatteringly enlightening about it, but reading it gave me some things to think about. I was surprised to find that the book is classified as Christian non-fiction. I did not find any overt Christian content in the book and Christianity does not have a monopoly on upright character, so I would call this a self-help book instead. Also, I felt the authors tried a little to hard to be funky and fresh, which distracted from the actual content of the book. Reviews on the internet indicate that many Asian readers were offended by the author's stereotypical portrayal of Asians. Personally, I found their facile treatment of the martial arts a negative as well.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is a fantastic play. This is my third reading of the play, my first using the Arden series. In the introduction, the editors of the play discuss King Lear beginning to eclipse Hamlet in popularity. Having just read King Lear, I would have to agree somewhat. Before reading King Lear, Hamlet was my favorite Shakespearean play. However, I did enjoy King Lear more than I did this reading of Hamlet. Hamlet is about a young man and King Lear about an old man. Perhaps as I age, I have more sympathy for Lear than for Hamlet.

This is not to take away from Hamlet. It remains a superb play; one that every reader of the English language should read. So, if you haven't, go out and get a good copy, the Arden or Oxford would be my recommendation, and read it as soon as possible.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Challenge Extravaganza

A new year means a new set of Reading Challenges. I toyed with the idea of foregoing challenges this year, but I just can't help myself. So, without further ado, here are the challenges I am going to do this year:

Now, I know what you are thinking. That is a lot of challenges for a guy who was thinking about foregoing challenges this year. But, like I said, I can't help myself. The challenges last year pushed me to read books I might never have read before. I am hoping that will be true this year too, especially the GLBT Challenge.

I am happy to have several repeat challenges: The What's In A Name, Colorful Reading, Book Awards, Decades, and Chunkster Challenges are all ones that I completed last year. The rest are new to me.

The challenge I am most excited about is the RYOB challenge. I have so many books on my shelves that I have yet to read, so this is a great challenge. I am committing to read 36 of my own books this year, that is 3 per month. I hope that fulfilling the other challenges using my own books this year will make it easy to complete the RYOB Challenge.