Book Review – American Nudist

TITLE: American Nudist: The lost journal
AUTHOR: Tony Young
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2013

American Nudist is a collection of essays and articles that have been written over the years about the nudist movement in Hawaii.

The back cover talks about how a filmmaker (Clinton J. Wallace) found a manuscript at a garage sale and bought it, later turning it into the movie American Nudist.  [Note: I’m unfamilliar with the movie, although I’ve heard of the title.]

The interior of the book, though, is just a collection of articles and stuff.  This nudist organization is now accepting dues, or fyi, we’re not allowed nude on a certain beach anymore.  But there’s not a lot of substance that would get the average reader.

I held off on this review because I don’t know what to do with it.  The way it’s written, it’s not going to appeal to anyone who isn’t seriously into the history of the Hawai’ian nudist movement, and it’s too bland to hook a casual reader.  In the end, I’ve chosen not to give it a rating.  The book itself was professionally done, but the limited demographic/appeal makes it difficult to rate the book fairly.

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Book Review – Dombey and Son By Charles Dickens

Title: Dombey and Son
Author: Charles Dickens
Format: 
Paperback
Written: 
Oct.1846- April 1848
Published: 
1995 (Wordsworth Classics)

One of Dickens’ lesser known novels, Dombey and Son is the tale of the proud and wealthy merchant Dombey who puts all his hopes into his son and neglects his daughter. As with most Dickens novels there’s a large cast of secondary characters, many of which are more memorable and charming that Dombey himself. As far as I’m concerned the indomitable maid, Susan Nipper, is the real hero of the story, though I can’t quite call her the protagonist.  There is no clear single “main” character.  In contrast with Dombey’s wealth and pride is the humble and poor but happy and loving, cobbled together family of young Walter Gay, his elderly uncle, and their colorful friend Captain Cuttle.

First, some notes on how to read Dickens, since I met many people who expressed intimidation at the dense 769 page tome in my hand. Most Dickens novels were originally released in serial form over the course of several months. They are not intended to be gulped down in a few sittings but savored over an extended period of time, like a television series. And I think the best way to appreciate Dickens is by reading a chapter a week or one per night (depending on your speed), and remember this was from an age before T.V. when the author must act as set dresser and costume designer. I pressed through Dombey and Son in less than three weeks, since I’m trying to read a high number of books this year. But I think high school ruins Dickens for most people by forcing them to quickly gulp down often abridged versions of the story, and abridging Dickens is crime, since most of the humor, wit, and insight if in the subtleties of the sentences (though less so with this particular novel).

For no reason other than the title, I got it into my head that Dombey and Son would be a comedy, but it turned out to be the least funny Dickens novel I’ve read yet, which I could also say is its main failing. The humor often falls flat, being more cringe worthy than humorous. But then I don’t think it was intended to be funny, so that may be a matter of taste rather than a failing of the writing. This is not Dickens tightest writing or plotting.   The story meanders (which is rather normal for Dickens but this meandered more than most of his books), and Dickens soapboxes to excess. It struck me as more redundant than his other stories, which disappointed me.  Florence, while a delightful character, is praised to dulling excess.

At the same time, it’s also one of Dickens more sophisticated and cutting social commentaries, poking mainly at the feigned moral superiority of the wealthy/middle-class, but also examining domestic life, abuse, negligence, and the nature of family in a variety of shapes as well as taking more than a few jabs at the school system. The “Hymen” toast (Hymen is the Greek god of marriage, btw) was pretty edgy, particularly for the time period. Even as a modern reader, I was glad not to be drinking when I read it.

Dombey and Son rips your heart out, steps on it, kicks it around for a bit, then restores it to it’s proper place and condition.

Ultimately, I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 for general quality, sophistication of theme, and wrapping up all the loose ends, but with the condition that while I would recommend this to many, it’s a terrible starter novel if you haven’t read Dickens before. If you love Dickens, don’t skip this one. You see the early development of themes and characters played out more tightly in later novels, but they are in some ways more satisfying here. If you haven’t read Dickens, I suggest cutting your teeth on Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, or A Christmas Carol, and then working up to Great Expectations and Bleak House before moving on to David Copperfield and then onto something like Dombey and Son.

Book Review – Invincible: The Ultimate Collection 2 by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley & Bill Crabtree

Title:  Invincible: The Ultimate Collection 2

Author: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Bill Crabtree

Format:  Hardback

Published:  2006

 

It took a few days before I could get my hands on the second book in the collection of the Invincible series but oh how glad I was that it was a quiet day so I could spend my time with my nose stuck in this book reading away at another 400ish page comic book.  Having loved the first one I was excited for this next one. Invincible is quickly becoming one of my favorite story arcs and super heroes.  He is fun he is real and the story deals with real life issues.

 

After the big reveal at the end of the first book we see Mark and those around him adjust to the changes in their life and the world around them.  The issue of alcohol abuse comes up, as well as drug use but it is done tastefully and realistically without it being an afternoon special either.  This book though phenomenal for the store it told was a big book of set up.  So many stories and so many issues are jammed into this one book, I am looking forward to the next book to see what problems Invincible will face first it was just a book full of delicious goodness as we met new villains and mixed them with a few old.  We saw a dynamic change in groups of friends and everything was just unbelievably fun!

 

I am sitting here just a day after reading it and am salivating for the next book which my comic book guru forgot to bring today so I shall be reminding him for it and demanding that the book be present by the weekend as I’m sure I’ll have the time to read then and will be salivating all the more for the next story to see what happens to these characters as what will become of the interesting plots that are developing not only for the main title character but the side characters as well!

 

Over all I would give this book a 4 out of 5 pages only because this is an in between book and did not have me reeling as much as the first one but don’t mistake this rating as this book not being a worthy read because it totally is!

Book Review – Hip Hop History

TITLE: Hip-Hop U.S. History
AUTHORS: Blake Harrison & Alex Rappaport
FORMAT: Paperback with CD
PUBLISHED: 2006

I don’t even know where to start with this book.
I guess I should go with the statement that I picked it up thinking it was either going to be awesome or total crap, but the library had it on display and I thought they might know what they were talking about.
Then again, my library being a branch of the Nashville Public Library, I should know better.

Yes, I just publicly dissed my library. But that’s a convo for another day.

So this book was on display and I thought that it had potential. The concept is that it’s giving a basic overview of US History “From Columbus to the Civil Rights Era” through specially written hip-hop songs. Each chapter gives the lyrics of one song, and alongside gives explanations of each section of the lyrics.

It’s possible that this book could be helpful if you had no idea about anything (I’m reminded of an episode of The Wild Thornberrys where the mother teaches the older daughter something using this method), but really, I fail to see how this book provides a good history lesson, especially considering how much it assumes you already know.

Here’s a sample of the book:
Back before buffalo wings at Domino’s,
America was where the Buffalo
roamed. What you don’t know?
Thirty thousand years ago some dudes
Came across the Bering Strait
wearing snowshoes.
Eskimos chasing woolly mammoth,
Ice Age white like dandruff.

But the book has assumed you understand Bering Strait and Ice Age, and if you know that stuff, you probably already know how people arrived in North America. And if you don’t already know that stuff, you’re probably going to have some weird image of eskimos sitting at a booth eating hot wings.

Which goes along with my other complaint that the amount of unimportant stuff shoved in just amazes me. At one point there’s a reference to Chubby Checker dressed up for Halloween in reference to the Boston Tea Party.

And the way they explain some of this stuff… Yes, the third amendment technically means you don’t have to let soldiers sleep on your couch and the eighth technically means that you can’t be ordered to drink turpentine for punishment, but is that really the best way to explain the Bill of Rights?

The worst part about this book is that on the cover it even touts this book as a prep for the US History AP and Sat II exams. Wait, what? Before I read that, I thought the target age for this book was somewhere around middle school.

Maybe (okay totally) I’m the wrong demographic for this book. But even being my most objective, I fail to see how this book would be helpful at a higher level. I’m not going to crack the CD, so I can’t vouch for the songs’ musical merit, but as far as a learning tool, it fails. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t know, it glosses over a lot of stuff for more common “history” (the book says Columbus found America, but fails to mention anyone else who arrived here before or around the same time unless you read the appendix), and in a couple instances, the ‘facts’ given are wrong. (The first one I saw said you can’t print something to intentionally defame somebody because it’s “Libel or slander” um… )

I see what they tried to do here, but they failed. Then again, what do I expect from a book announcing its “Flocabulary” and created by MTV? If this book actually helps, more power to it. But from my observation, it gets a 2/5.

Book Review – Invincible: The Ultimate Collection 1 by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker & Ryan Ottley

Title:  Invincible: The Ultimate Collection 1

Author: Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley

Format:  Hardback

Published:  2005

 

Being frustrated with my obsession and love of DC comics he was determined to get me into something less main stream an deposited a rather large black book that was about 400 long.  It sat on my desk for weeks looming at me as it would not quite fit in my desk drawer.  I was hesitant and I glanced at it and found it to be something that was passable and quite possibly not my cup of tea.  Yet knowing full well I couldn’t just shove it back to him I finally had a bit of time and decided to crack the book open.

 

This is one of those books that you just sort of slip into as you learn not only about the characters but the universe as a whole you start to come to grips with the world and begin to think that the story line ins so-so when about half way through everything gets turned on its ear and you are cursing every interruption and eagerly turning the next page looking for answers to questions that you are not finding until the climactic end of the book.  Before I go further though dear reader let me take you back and give you an introduction to the story line.

 

The story of Invincible starts with a young man named Mark who has a super hero dad and eventually discovers that he actually has super powers of his own.  You follow Mark as he tests out his new abilities, figures out what his super hero name will be (Invincible) and follow him as he faces off against a villain with the help of a few fellow teenage super heroes.  He also takes the time to team up with his super hero dad Omni Man as well.  The first couple of stories are decent and mildly entertaining.  Then the story takes a break from Mark and starts to show off various other super heroes that are part of the Guardians of the Globe.  We are given a brief idea of who they are before they are called away to an emergency meeting and you find hallmarks of classic well known heroes from other comic books.  We meet, the Red Rush, Warrior Woman, Green Ghost, Aquarius the King of Atlantis… I think you get the drift.  It was funny and amusing and at the same time almost over the top for me where I was thinking that the book was going to take a turn from good to bad but with the introduction of these new characters comes one of the largest plot twists I have experienced in a long time, launching the story from good to great.

 

One I hit this point I was sold and I kept reading and re-reading the section trying to come up with reasons I was thinking surly it is a classic trope for what has happened here right? WRONG!  The story took a twist and when it explained things I was left with my jaw dropped and wishing I had the second monster book sitting on my desk.  It was literally that good. I am in love with this series and wish more people knew about it!  I say get yourself a copy of this book and read it.  If you like comics you will like this, particularly super heroes.  So naturaly I will be giving this book a 5 out of 5 page review!

Book Review – Hollow City

TITLE: Hollow City
AUTHOR: Ransom Riggs
PUBLISHED: 2013
FORMAT: Hardcover

Hollow City is the second book in the series that started with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (which I reviewed a couple months ago.  You can also find a review of the companion non-fiction book on BitB).  I’ll warn you now that if you didn’t read the first one, you may want to skip this review because there might be some things that spoil that for you.

So, my mistake, but important to note, the book takes over where the first one left off pretty much, and since a little bit of time had passed, there were a couple things said that I didn’t remember.  It’s totally a pet peeve of mine that they don’t bother telling us anything that would tie one book in from the other, especially when quite a bit of time has passed and when the books are meant to stand alone.

Hollow City starts off with the kids escaping their bombed out island and Jacob and company with the injured Miss Peregrine, taking her to find a ymbryne while running from hollowgast and the like.  Don’t forget that its 1940, they’re trying to get to London (remember your history, that’s not going to go well), and they have all kinds of people after them and causing trouble including talking/peculiar animals and a band of gypsies.  Some of these creatures/people end up being friend not foe, but there’s trouble everywhere.

So, not a lot happens in this book, but the way that the story is told makes it a worthwhile payout.  And I did like how it ended.  There’s a lot going on for not a lot going on (if that makes sense) but like I said, it read quickly and I didn’t feel like I wasted time reading this book (unlike, say, Divergent #2 or HP #2, which were total wastes of time).  It sets up nicely for the third book, which Ransom is already working on.

There’s not a lot I can say without spoilers, unfortunately.  I will tell you that the book is still gorgeous and interesting and it amazes me how well he does at all of this.  In a cool twist, when I read this book, I also got a letter in the mail with a random found photograph in it, and I had just googled where the antique shops were to start a collection of my own.

So, I guess it won’t surprise you when I rate this highly.  Read the first one, but then get this one, too.  4/5 pages.

Book Review – The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

Title: The One Minute Manager

Author: Ken Blanchard & Spencer Johnson

Format:  Hardback

Written: 1981

Published:  2003

 

Along with QBQ!  My job gave me this book to read as well for my training seminar.  Though I reviewed QBQ first I’ll admit that I didn’t read it first but rather this book. I was anticipating a small instruction manual type of book but when I cracked open the spine I found myself surprised.  The book did not read like a text book or manual, this book read a bit like a story, which made for easy light reading.

 

Truth be told how this book presented its information was fantastic, I got through the 100-ish pages during my down time at work.  It took me less than half a day to read it between calls.  This little book presented a lot of great information in a quick and easy way to read.  It told the story of a young man who was looking for an effective manager and it showed his journey as he learned about the one minute manager.

 

I will admit the premise and story line of the book was a bit corny and I may not be fully sold on the concepts of the book but it was a nice refreshing breath to read versus some of the text books and manuals that I have had to slog my way through in the past.  So I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars for being so brief, concise and yet informative.  If one wants a quick read on management then this is a go to book as it does have some pretty good ideas.

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