Sunday, November 20, 2022

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Are you ever just in the mood for some classic dystopian fiction? I read this book ages ago, and decided it was time for a reread. It did not disappoint. I remember liking the book but I didn't remember any details, aside from the main premise, so it was like experiencing the story for the first time. There were so many elements of this book that resonated - how books were devalued, how thinking was devalued, how using your mind or your imagination had been turned into something beneath contempt... I could go on, but you get the idea. What really struck me was how anyone who was different from the "average" or the "norm" was viewed with extreme suspicion at best. I'll avoid spoilers but this is a timeless book and one everyone should read. Recommended. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The Seed Keeper - Diane Wilson

This was a great book club selection for November. A story about loss and tragedy and how people (and cultures) process these things, seen through a Native American lens, this book is often sad, but at the same time, I think the title is an indication of hope. Seeds are potential, and symbolize so much - growth, new life, sustenance, livelihood, the beginning of things but also the continuation of things. A new start, a new crop, a new era. A new generation. Something living on. Potential. But also, something that can really only thrive under the right conditions, and won't sprout at all if not given what it really needs. 

Enough rambling, obviously this story had a lot to think about, not only about history but about the future. Recommended. 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

This is a classic that I have read before but it was so long ago I wanted a refresh. Is it a cautionary tale about the danger of only pursuing surface pleasures and worrying about appearances above substance? The title character is certainly selfish and narcissistic, but he definitely gets what is coming to him, even if he takes many people down with him. Much food for thought here. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Still Life - Sarah Winman

So I have to confess that on the first couple pages of this book, I thought I wouldn't get into it - but then it clicked for me and I ended up really liking it. The book takes place over a span of many years and we are along for the ups and downs in the lives of a group of people that share a connection across time and distance. One thing I will say is the lack of quote marks did become needlessly confusing from time to time. But overall I enjoyed this book. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Last White Man - Mohsin Hamid

Stumbled on to this book at the library and immediately grabbed it based on my love for Moth Smoke. This deceptively slim book was more like a fable than a "regular" novel and it seems incredibly timely considering the state of affairs in the world right now. Comparisons to Kafka seem inevitable and I would say in this book the protagonist's sense of alienation is more grounded in reality than in Metamorphosis.  

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Black Cake - Charmaine Wilkerson

Another good book club choice. I really liked how the story unfolded - just enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. Some of the characters are more sympathetic and likable than others but I think the motivations for some of the decisions in the book become clear by the end, even if we as readers might not agree or have made the same decision. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel - Elyssa Friedland

This was a very enjoyable book club choice. I'm a huge fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and although this book is set in the present, if you like that TV series you will probably enjoy this book. 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

A Game Maker's Life - Jeffrey Breslow with Cynthia Beebe

FTC Compliance Statement: I received a free electronic review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review, which is provided below. I have not been otherwise compensated for this review in any way and my opinion is my own. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to design toys and games for a living? Look no further than this fascinating book, in which "A Hall of Fame Game Inventor and Executive Tells the Inside Story of the Toy Industry." The author's career in toy and game design is the stuff of dreams, involving highs and lows, world travel, celebrity encounters, and even workplace tragedy. 

If you are of a certain age, like I am (cough cough), you have most likely played with many, if not all, of the toys and games the author worked on in his time in the toy industry. Or maybe you have kids that play with these games and toys now - Ants in the Pants, Mouse Trap, Simon, Guesstures, UNO Attack, and many more. Now you can read about how these games were invented straight from the source. The author's voice is very conversational, and the book reads like an enjoyable dinner with an old friend. I'm seriously sad that I will never be a member of the Brez Birthday Club! 

This was a fun, fast read and would make a great gift for any game and toy enthusiast!

The book will be available for purchase on August 30, 2022. 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Moon Is Down - John Steinbeck

This might be a meandering review, sorry in advance! 

This year I signed up for Dracula Daily, which is this super fun free service that emails you the pertinent chapter(s) from Bram Stoker's Dracula on the day in which they take place in the novel. While this is indeed a really awesome thing that I am really enjoying, I decided that I wanted to just skip ahead and read the whole book, so I went searching in the library. I didn't find any alleged vampires, but in STE I stumbled on this thin book, and since I hadn't heard of it before and like John Steinbeck, I picked it up. 

This book was written in the early 40s about a town that is occupied by an invading force, which we are meant to think of as Nazis, although they are not specifically identified as such. Since we have literal Nazis stomping through American streets these days, which is simultaneously mind-boggling, disgusting, and infuriating, and there are many Americans who seem to desperately want a fascist theocracy to destroy any kind of human rights or freedoms for 90% of Americans (women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people who aren't "Christians," etc.), I figured this was a timely read. 

And so it was. In my opinion the main takeaway was that resistance is paramount. The occupied people must keep some kind of hope and do what they can to resist, even if it's just rebuffing the invaders on a personal level. They will most likely outnumber the invaders, who are far from home and susceptible to human weakness. People can do small things, like consistently disrupting the enemy supply chain, that make a difference. This is a small book in size but I can see why it was printed in secret and smuggled widely during World War II. Highly recommended. 

And PLEASE, PLEASE, if you are American, vote this fall and in every election. People have fought and died so that all of us could vote. Many of us wouldn't have been able to vote in the (relatively recent) past, so we owe it to ourselves to exercise this hard-won right to do what we can to keep the forces of evil at bay. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Lyra's Oxford - Philip Pullman

This book is one of the oldest residents on my TBR pile. It was one of the many (many!) books I got during the Borders last day sales, but I felt strange reading it as I hadn't read the complete series this book is a companion to. Now that I have managed that, it was really nice to have more to read in this universe. 

This book is small so it's a fast read, and one of the most fun elements is the included map and other materials at the end of the book. I consulted the map frequently while reading the short story and it really enhanced the experience. Evidently there is another book like this, with another short story and etc., so I will have to seek that out. Recommended.