This first review is actually copied from my other blog. Why bother writing a new review when I have one sitting on that blog?
A few weeks ago I offered to write whatever anyone wants me to write (and the offer still stands – leave suggestions in the comments). My sister-in-law Jaime requested that I review the book The Throne, the Lamb & the Dragon. Since she even offered to buy the book and have it sent to me, how could I refuse? Free book.
So she sent me the book and I read it. And then I put off writing the review for a long time because it’s tricky. So here I go.
The sub-title of the book is “A Reader’s Guide to the Book of Revelation”. Therein lies the trickiness. The book of Revelation is the Marmite of the Bible. Most Christians either love it or hate it. They either are obsessed with interpreting every word and phrase and trying to apply the prophecies to everything around them, or they pretty much read it when they have to at church and otherwise ignore it, finding it incomprensible. I’m much more the latter group.
I’ve always had problems “getting into” Revelation because I was raised in Baptist churches that had some very definite ideas about what it all meant, and I was always a little skeptical of their interpretations. I never believed that whatever Democrat is popular this week must be the Anti-Christ. I never believed that credit cards were the number of the beast. I just wasn’t buying the paranoid theories. I mean, this book is 2000 years old, and it only started making sense now? I don’t think so.
I get the feeling that the Paul Spilsbury was plagued by the same doubts, but unlike me, he decided to go digging deeper to find out what it all meant. He analyses Revelation in light of the type of literary form used, and in light of similar documents of the time and what he comes up with is quite interesting. If I had to sum up his findings in one sentence, I’d say, “Don’t be so darned literal.”
One of the points that he makes that is likely causing the most havoc among churches is that he doesn’t necessarily believe in the Rapture. The Rapture is the belief among (mostly American) evangelicals that at some point Jesus will return and steal away all of his followers to heaven so that they don’t have to go through some really nasty hard times on earth known as The Tribulation. The way Spilsbury interprets things, there is no Great Tribulation coming because we are already living in it. And he kind of makes sense here. The Tribulation in Revelation is the period of time between the opening of the First Seal and the triumphant return of Christ. The opening of the First Seal in earth time would have been when Jesus ascended to heaven, so that makes the Tribulation now and for the last two thousand years.
I’m not going to try to make any claims about whether Spilsbury is completely right or wrong. But for me, he has made Revelation a lot more useful. It isn’t as much a puzzle about how to survive the end of the world as it is a guide to living in the world now, not much different from the other letters in the New Testament.
I think that this book is worth reading, if only for making you think. The one part that stood out to me was the section on the Mark of the Beast. That’s the whole thing where you’ll be marked with a number and without it you won’t be able to participate in any commerce. What if we stop viewing it as a literal number and a literal mark and look at it as an attitude? The true Mark of the Beast is an attitude of acceptance of evil. In order to participate in commerce in the world today, you have to be okay with accepting a certain amount of cruelty, corruption and greed. And that is far more insidious than credit cards or social security numbers. Who made your shoes? Who grew your sugar? Were they paid for their work? How much does that Wal-Mart price cut cost your soul? Who do you work for? What is their agenda? Are they really making people’s lives better or just making their wallets lighter?
I have to agree with Paul Spilsbury that a less literal interpretation of Revelation is necessary to really understand why it was written and for whom. I haven’t decided if I agree with every interpretation he makes, but I certainly didn’t see anything in this book that conflicts with what I know about who God is.
You’ll soon realize that there is little rhyme or reason to the books that I choose and that I read. I read what looks interesting to me. Most of what I read comes from the charity shop in town that sells all books for 75p. This is one of those.
Life Support is about an emergency room doctor who is fighting internal hospital politics at the same time that she is trying to care for her mother who has Alzheimer’s and trying to solve the mystery of exactly what killed two of her patients.
A patient is brought into the ER naked and suffering from confusion and he disappears before a diagnosis can be found, but not before Dr. Toby Harper had a chance to examine him enough to realize that he wasn’t a typical confused old man. In fact, he had been fine mere weeks earlier at his last medical exam in the retirement community where he lived. The fact that she “allowed” this patient to disappear is not making her popular with her superiors at the hospital.
Toby doesn’t get any more popular when another patient comes in with the same symptoms, and she won’t let it go. She is convinced that there is something going on at the retirement community that is causing this, and she’s terrified that it might turn out to be contagious.
The mystery and suspense parts of this book are excellent. I got through all 470 pages in only a few days. It’s hard not to be sympathetic to a character who seems to be attacked unfairly from all sides. The author is a former doctor herself, so the medical parts are very accurate, with the exception of one line in which she refers to a cystic teratoma of the ovary as “cancer”, when those are almost always benign (I’ve had two of them, so I’d know). But aside from that, the other diseases represented are accurate. That doesn’t mean that I think that the events of this book are likely or even necessarily possible, but they are realistic enough to make a good read.
If you like suspense and icky medical things, like I do, you’ll probably love this book. It was worth reading, and I’ll be keeping an eye open for more Tess Gerritsen books at the charity shop. I will probably not keep this book forever and ever or re-read it, but I’m glad I read it. It was not deep or meaningful, but it was entertaining.
Yes, Dancing Barefoot is written by that Wil Wheaton. The one from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and more recently, The Big Bang Theory. I was a big fan of Wil Wheaton when I was 12. I had a huge crush on him and had pictures of him covering my walls (along with The Monkees). That’s not why I read this book. In fact, that’s why it took me so long to get around to reading this book. After idolizing him when I was a kid, I thought, “What common ground could I possibly have with Wil Wheaton, when I don’t even have that much in common with the version of me that loved him so much in 1989?” But after checking out his blog and his Twitter feed, I realized that he is a lot more human than I gave him credit for, and he is also an incredible geek like me.
Dancing Barefoot is a tiny little book. It is a series of short stories about events in Wil Wheaton’s early life ranging from getting a cute girl’s phone number as a teenager to playing with his stepchildren. They’re touching and sweet and funny. About half of the book is concerned with a story called “The Saga of SpongeBob VegasPants,” which is the only story in this book about his time in Star Trek. I think it is worth buying the book for that story alone, and you can view the others as mere appetizers to that main course.
Because of the short story format, I dare not talk about the contents too much because almost anything could be a spoiler, and I’m having enough trouble coming up with the words to convince you that this book is great, without accidentally giving away all of the best parts. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is that I wish it had been longer. To that end, I’m going to have to save up and see if I can afford to buy the rest of his books. This one is staying in my permanent collection. Not because I’m a Wheaton fangirl, but because he is genuinely funny and sweet.
My husband and I frequently read quiz questions to each other at night before bed because we are huge nerds. The current book we are working through isThe Most Enormous Pub Quiz Book 2, which I got at a charity shop.
My dream job would be to write or edit quiz books. Or to write the questions for a quiz show on tv. I love trivia. My brain is full of all kinds of random crap. The problem is, I don’t think that the people who wrote and edited this book had a love for trivia as much as they had a love for making money selling trivia books.
Nearly every page has at least one question that is awkwardly-worded or spelled wrong. There is no consistency in the vocabulary. On the same page it will refer to the same sport as “soccer” and “football”. Some of the questions are so vague as to be impossible to answer with any certainty. A lot of them are worded with no regard to the fact that the answer might change over time. It’ll ask, “What is the third largest airport in Britain?” when what they should really ask is, “What was the third largest airport in Britain in 2001?” But the worst part about this book is the amount of facts that are simply wrong.
On page 247 they ask, “Which city’s American football team is known as the Vikings?” The answer given is “Minnesota”. It’s true that they are the Minnesota Vikings. But Minnesota is not a city. Never has been.
How about “Who was the first British monarch to abdicate in this century?” in a book published in 2001. As far as I know, no British monarchs abdicated between 2000 and 2001. There have been several questions so far in the form of “What is the zip code for Arizona?” because the authors apparently have no conception of the fact that a state abbreviation and a zip code are two different things.
Basically, the lack of quality in this book annoys me. I could have done a much better job editing this than the person who did. And they have a job and I do not. That’s annoying. So if anyone out there works for Carlton Books, you should hire me to edit your next quiz book. Then you’re guaranteed at least one less bad review.
I’ll only be keeping this book as editing practice. When I’m done with it, it’ll be covered in red ink. It’s crappy.
The Distant Echo is one of my favorite recent reads. Four college students are walking home through the snow in the middle of the night in the late 70’s. They stumble upon a woman bleeding and dying in the snow. One of them runs for help while one of the others, a medical student, tries to help. Despite their help, she dies. Evidence points toward murder and rape.
The case remains unsolved for twenty-five years, and for all that time these four boys, now men, have remained the main suspects. They maintain their innocence, and when the police announce that they are mounting a cold case review, they breathe a sigh of relief, believing that DNA will finally prove their innocence and remove the cloud of doubt that has hung over them for so long. But then they find that all the evidence with DNA is missing. And then someone starts murdering the four boys, one by one.
It’s a fast-paced thriller with great characters and a compelling plot. My only complaint is that I figured out who the real murderer was much earlier in the book than I expected. I’m not the kind of person who tries to solve it as I go. I like the surprise reveal at the end, so I’m always a little disappointed when I solve it before the characters do. Even with that little drawback, the characters and the pace of the book kept me interested. I probably won’t ever re-read this one, but I will certainly be looking for more by Val McDermid in the future.
Bill Carter is the guy who wrote The Late Shift back in the early 90’s when Leno was given The Tonight Show over Letterman. Unless you’re living under a rock, you are aware that there has been a similar shake-up in NBC’s late night schedule again. I’m not going to pretend to be neutral on this. I am 100% Team Coco. Knowing that Bill Carter was the expert on the late night situation, back in January when Conan was deposed, I went on a hunt for his books. I really wanted to read The Late Shift, but that proved to be really difficult. It was never published in the UK, so it is prohibitively expensive to find here. But I did find a copy of Desperate Networks.
Desperate Networks is the story of what happened in the upper management of the four major American networks between 2001 and 2006 to shift NBC from the number one network, to dead last number four. It examines the personalities involved, like Les Moonves, Jeff Zucker and Rupert Murdoch. Carter explains where these top execs came from and how their management styles differ.
This book is obviously most interesting to anyone who is interested in network tv politics. It is also interesting to anyone who is confused about what happened between Leno and Conan. The book spells out the deficiencies of Jeff Zucker, and how relatively unqualified he is for the position he holds.
If you want to work in tv, or if you’re just hardcore Team Coco like me, or even if you’re Team Leno and want to see why he was replaced by Conan in the first place, Desperate Networks is definitely worth a read, at least to fill the gap until Bill Carter’s new book The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy is released in a few months.
Patricia Cornwell is most well known for her books about death and murder and forensic pathologists. Isle of Dogs is not one of those books. It is more of a political satire. I think that is why it has a very low star rating on Amazon. People who are fans of Cornwell bought it expecting a serious murder mystery, and that is not what they got.
There is a group of road pirates randomly attacking and killing people along the roads and highways in Virginia. The police haven’t caught the killers, and the governor is starting to get a lot of heat from the press about it. His plan to deal with the issue is to ignore it completely and come up with a ridiculous program involving helicopter speed traps on Tangier Island, an island that doesn’t have more than a handful of cars.
The people of Tangier hear about the plan and become confused, thinking it has something to do with Nascar and their dentist, so they hold the dentist hostage as a protest. Meanwhile, one of the state troopers is writing a blog called “Trooper Truth” that has the governor’s office and all the other troopers suspicious of each other.
I thought this book was hilarious. If I had gone into it expecting a forensic thriller, I would have been confused and disappointed. But before I bought this book, I looked in the front flap and saw the reviews stating that it was a dark comedy. With that expectation in mind, I liked it. It’s completely unrealistic and silly, but that’s what comedy is. It’s absurd.
I’m glad I read Isle of Dogs. There’s even a slight chance I’d consider re-reading it. I’ll be hanging onto my copy for at least a while.
Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks is not a book for everyone. The basic story is that there is a University, and they have made a psychic ghosthunter named Lafayette a figurehead leader in the school, much to the annoyance of just about anyone else who was actually qualified for the position.
Lafayette does demonstrations of his psychic power while a student named Michael Loftus and a journalist named Jack Parlabane try to debunk and disprove him as a charlatan.
While I liked the non-linear style of the book, and the way that the story was told, which compelled you to keep reading by teasing you with assertions that the narrator might be dead, the part that annoyed me was the heavy-handed completely unsubtle atheist agenda behind it. Don’t get me wrong: if you don’t believe in God that’s your business. But don’t expect me to jump on your bandwagon just because you smugly treat anyone with different beliefs as if they are idiots.
The story was good and the characters were well-drawn. But I can’t wholeheartedly recommend a book that seems to have as its main theme the idea that anyone who isn’t an atheist is a moron, and probably a con artist or murderer. I’m not offended by atheism half as much as I’m offended by the smug know-it-all attitude. Yes, Christopher Brookmyre, I get it. You worship Richard Dawkins and pity anyone who doesn’t. I appreciate the quality of the writing, but I have to disagree with your foregone conclusions.
Having said that, it wouldn’t stop me from reading more of Brookmyre’s work in the future. There is true clever writing talent in there. I’d like to see what he could write without the giant chip on his shoulder.
I have always been of the opinion that a good book can be one that makes you think or one that entertains, and some of the best books manage to do both. The Well of Lost Plots is one of those books that does both.
From one angle, I regret reading this book, but only in that I hadn’t read the preceeding two books in the series. There are parts of the plot and backstory of the main character Thursday Next that I still don’t think I entirely understand. It wasn’t enough to make me abandon the book, but I think this may be the kind of series where it really is better to read them all in order.
Having said all that, The Well of Lost Plots can stand alone as a story. Thursday Next has decided to spend a year in the Book World (the place where all stories are created), as a character in one of the unpublished books that is waiting to be written in the Well of Lost Plots.
People around Thursday keep getting murdered, and eventually she thinks it may be connected to the new book upgrade, UltraBook, that is being pushed through. The characters are quirky and well-drawn. The story moves at a good pace and kept me engaged throughout. But my favorite part was the end, which I don’t want to spoil for you.
Let’s just say that at the end of the book I kept looking at the publishing page and saying to myself, “Really? This was written back in 2003?” Jasper Fforde makes some very interesting points about the future of the publishing world, and some of the new technologies in reading that didn’t even exist yet when this book was written. Fforde is clearly thinking and writing on the cutting edge of literature.
This is a book written by someone who loves books and loves to read, and it is clearly written for people who love books and reading. If you are in that category, you will probably enjoy The Well of Lost Plots, but you might want to read the first two books in the series first. I’m going to be hunting them down and reading them soon myself.
This one will probably stay in my permanent collection.
I live in Scotland, so I’m surrounded by Ian Rankin’s books all the time. I finally picked up Fleshmarket Close (published as Fleshmarket Alley in the US) because I had just finished showing my cousins around Edinburgh and I recognized Fleshmarket Close as one of the places we had been. This is the 15th Inspector Rebus novel.
Maybe I made a mistake in choosing a Rebus novel so far into the series. The story was good. It’s a murder mystery involving illegal immigrants and skeletons found in a basement and a missing teenaged girl. It’s a well-coordinated story interweaving three separate mysteries. But it felt a bit flat to me.
The character of Inspector Rebus seemed like a British detective cliche. He had little definable personality beyond his alcoholism. I think that the interweaving of three seemingly unconnected mysteries felt a bit contrived. From the beginning you know that these things are going to end up being all connected to the same criminal somehow.
I read the whole book, but I can’t say that I was enthralled. Rebus is in no way likable or engaging. The other characters weren’t memorable in any way. Maybe the problem was that the characters were drawn and developed in earlier books, and Rankin assumes that the reader already knows them. But for me, it made me a little less inclined to search out more of the same. This one is getting sent back to the charity shop.
(I actually have read a few more Ian Rankin books since this one. I’ll get to them eventually.)