Sunday, June 28, 2015

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood



                A plague has destroyed mankind leaving Jimmy with the Children of Crake, Crakers as he calls them. Crake is dead. Oryx is dead. It’s just Jimmy, the Crakers, and the genetic experiments like, pigoons, wolvogs, snats and rakunks. People had been pushing the boundaries with playing God for decades. The pleeblands had become cesspools for disease. Those who lived on compounds or modules were relatively safe because of the air purifiers. The vaccines were being created almost as fast as the diseases were spreading. Crake had theories about why that was before he died. That was before he created the Crakes, a species immune to diseases that held none of the human weaknesses.
This is not a world I know. This is not a future I want. This is a world that envisions man at its breaking point because of the actions of man. We are to blame. This was highly interesting. From the beginning of this novel I was intrigued and invested. I spent most of the novel simply trying to figure how man got to this point. After reading this I almost feel like I really enjoy puzzles because Atwood made me work till the very end to find out how the world collapsed. She left breadcrumbs throughout the story, jumping from Jimmy’s current situation to the past, all leading up the outbreak of the ultimate outbreak. I had my suspicions throughout but finding out the truth made this whole story worthwhile.

I am a fan of Atwood but I wasn’t sure if this was a novel I wanted to start. Oryx and Crake is the first of a trilogy, that I will more than likely finish because I found this whole story line extremely fascinating. The main character of Jimmy was well developed and interesting. The whole concept of a complete separation of society between those that live on compounds versus those in the pleeblands just grabbed my intention. The extent to which humans began genetically modifying creatures all for the benefit of mankind was horrifying and yet well thought out. I loved that everything was a mystery that was slowly unfolding. The results were unexpected and disturbing. This was a weird fit to me but Atwood knows how to sow an alternate reality. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t know what to expect but I enjoyed this science fiction(ish), dystopia. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Beatles vs. Stones by John McMillian

Beatles vs. Stones by John McMillian


                The Beatles were considered to be the respectable, clean, lovable boys from the North of England. Their signature hair was mimicked by up and coming bands and their hometown of Liverpool started drawing countless talent scouts looking for the next big thing. But this image of the Beatles was one created over time, in an effort to get noticed and sign a record deal. The Beatles started off playing in a cavern to a crowd of loyal fans who liked their rough behavior. In Hamburg, Germany where they played for countless hours, they had already started to experiment with drugs and have a lot of sex with groupies in a rundown room. This was before they started wearing all black and had choreographed bows. Then there was Beatlemania. Then came the Rolling Stones, five young men from posh London with a completely different upbringing than that of the Beatles. In an effort to stand out, the Rolling Stones began to act out and became known as the anti-Beatles. Outspoken, sometimes rude, unkempt and lively the Stones would take the stage with their list of rhythm and blues songs to cover and command the stage. Both groups were extremely successful setting the stage for what the media would contend to be a great rivalry.
If you are a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones then let me start off by saying that is probably a book you are going to enjoy or at the very least find fascinating. McMillian in this double biography takes an even approach to why these two groups were considered to be rivals over the span of their careers. He starts at the beginning explaining where both groups began and how they attained success and very early on he stresses that the Beatles and Stones respected each other and by many accounts were friends. The public however saw the stark contrast between the two groups and the fans, with the help of the media, created the rivalry. Most people felt a very strong connection to one group or the other and many couldn’t or wouldn’t support both. Parents and the older generation held disdain for the Stones, while many of those in the younger generation who loved the Stones found the Beatles to be conformist. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones would both attract a lot of media attention and were always aware of the ongoing debate and the question of who the people preferred.

Talk about getting an introduction into the history of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. This book was done in broad strokes. If you want a detailed history of either group then this isn’t the book for you. This book examines the two groups in comparison to one another. How did one group influence the other? How did they handle the underline pressure and competition? Why did one group break up while the other continued to play together for decades? Which group was better? All these questions are up for debate and examined. It’s all complicated because it’s all subjective. McMillian provided information in context and discussed the rivalry. This biography is extremely fascinating but at times it felt disjointed. I am attributing that all to McMillian’s writing style. Topics would be introduced and glazed over and reintroduced in a way that I found distracting. But this double biography was worth reading because the culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s was so fascinating and the two groups were the focus of that. I give this novel 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites by Marie Lu



               Well that was interesting, easy to read and enjoyable. I like Lu. She is subtle and knows how to draw out a plot while still making things interesting. She is unpredictable and man, can she bring a story together and wow you. I was not disappointed. I am interested. I am invested. I am patiently waiting for the next novel in this series to come out.
                The Young Elites is a story about Adelina Amouteru, a victim of the blood fever that ravaged the nation, who was left scarred and known, like many other scarred survivors, as a malfetto. She is considered cursed. Her father’s business is suffering. She suffers her father’s fury. His fury eventually releases her powers and she unwittingly kills him. Adelina is captured and sentenced to death. She is rescued by the Dagger Society and brought to Estenzia, the capital of Kenetira. The Dagger Society is a group of malfettos known as Young Elites that were left with powers and have been fighting against the king and his Inquisition. Adelina realizes that she too is an Elite with the power to create illusions. This is a power she must learn to control if she wants to join the Dagger Society and fight against the royalty trying to rid the world of malfettos.
                That is the gist of it, but this story is far more complicated than it seems. That narrative is told in the voice of Adelina with smaller chapters in third person depicting other characters. This allowed for a well-rounded view of the situation and allowed the readers access to areas and information that Adelina wasn’t privy to. It helped the growing momentum of unease and the suspense held throughout the entire story. I was fascinated and intrigued. Adelina was an easy character to like and has her powers got stronger she became more complicated and her intensity increased. As the book came to the close I was genuinely afraid of what she would become.     

                The mystery of the powers is the vehicle for this series success in my opinion. Lu gave us some great characters with some unnatural and disturbing abilities. My ultimate question with each of the powers presented was the extent to which those powers could grow. Once I started to grasp that the possibilities were endless, I was terrified and captivated. What if someone can take your powers away and eventually give them to someone else? What if Adelina’s power of illusion was enough to fool an entire city or cause you to go mad? What if a character that can influence animals can one day control humans? I have no idea where the next book in this series is going to go but I will patiently wait for its arrival. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t perfect but I’m hooked. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

John by Cynthia Lennon

John by Cynthia Lennon


                When I first heard that John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, had written a biography about him I was extremely excited. I have always enjoyed The Beatles music and been fascinated by John. What reason would someone have to kill a musician outside of his home? It was all incredibly fascinating to me and this biography seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about the man that was John Lennon. I was not disappointed. John Lennon was a complicated man and his relationship with his first wife was very revealing of his true nature.
                John was well written, informative and most of all, an extremely intimate look at John Lennon. Cynthia didn’t bash him, drag his name through the mud or berate him. She was honest about the way she felt about him, how their relationship came to be, how that same relationship fell into shambles and detailed the relationship John had with his son Julian. She expressed her pain, her joy, her love, their love and their struggles. I was entranced by their story. Cynthia talked about his upbringing as well as hers and how those basic differences would come to harm them later. Where she was willing to hang on, he was willing to let go. Cynthia discussed The Beatles and the friendship she had with differing members of the band and their families. She discussed what it was like being in John’s life when fame was right around the corner. She discussed Yoko Ono and how her presence affected their relationship both before and after the divorce. Like I said it was intimate and it was detailed but it was well done and classy.

                There was only one thing that was lacking in this biography and that’s a look at John outside of his familial constraints. I was expecting to see quite a bit more of what was going on with John outside of his family and outside of the music. Cynthia’s biography doesn’t go into any detail about what was going on outside of the relationship John had with her and Julian. It would have been interesting to hear what her take on his political activities were. She only commented on those things she felt were attempts to grab the media spotlight. All in all though I really enjoyed this biography and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you like The Beatles and are fascinated by John Lennon then this will be an easy one to enjoy.