Friday, September 22, 2006

#15 - The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson

The Butlerian Jihad is the first book in a prequel trilogy to the Dune series. Brian Herbert is the son of Frank Herbert who wrote the original Dune novels.

After hearing good and bad reviews of the Dune novels written by Brian Herbert, I decided to start at the beginning of the Dune series and read through the entire series again to see what I thought about the additions that have been made since Frank Herbert's death.

Many die-hard fans of Dune have complained that Brian Herbert's writing style and story lines are fundamentally different than his father's. But then again, die-hard Sci-Fi fans sometimes get too hung up on over-analyzing everything. Look at the uproar caused by the Star Wars prequel movies....oh my....they are just MOVIES (albeit bad the long run, it really doesn't matter. Same here.

I'm not reading Brian Herbert's books looking for differences between him and his father. I'm reading the books with the mind-set that I'm interested in the story line, and glad to see the Dune series continuing.

I really enjoyed this book! Some Dune readers touted it as too simplistic and not nearly as complex as the original Dune series. So far I disagree. I enjoyed the first book -- and have just started the 2nd of the prequel trilogy. The story line was excellent, and the book well-written. Brian Herbert has thousands of pages of his father's notes and story-line ideas, and I am sure that he has written his books with his father's vision in mind.

Anytime someone continues or adds to a well-known book series there are going to be people who say "But it's not the same....''

Where is it written in stone that it has to be the same???

The prequel series is dated 10,000 years before the events that occur in Dune. I'm enjoying being able to read about events that are only hinted at in the original series. The human race has been enslaved by sentient robots, including cymeks that have robotic bodies and human brains. The prequel tells the story of the rebellion and the human fight to regain freedom and destroy the Evermind, the central controlling force of the robot domination.

Sometimes you just have to give new ideas a chance.

1 book down.....12 to go. LOL. This is one project that's going to take me awhile.... :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

#14 - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This book is the fictionalized story of Dinah (pronounced Dee-nah), daughter of Biblical Jacob and the sister of Joseph. The book recounts the story of Dinah from Genesis Chapter 34. In the Bible, the story is told from the perspective of Dinah's brothers. The Red Tent gives Dinah a voice, and tells the story from her perspective and also fleshes out the stories of Jacob's wives and Dinah's life.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the story. The first part of the book seemed mainly about Jacob having sex. Almost to the point of being funny. As in the Bible, Jacob marries 2 sisters and takes 2 others as concubines.....and the discussions of who Jacob was sleeping with and when got a little bit old. But, once the story got past that, and Dinah was telling her life story, the book became very interesting.

This is a fictional account, but it really made me think about what women in that time-period went through on a daily basis. The hardship of life, the dangers of bearing children, and culture that they lived in.

The book has received both praise and censure. Some reviewers touted it as a masterful book giving a voice to the silent female characters in the book of Genesis. But several Orthodox Jewish historians commented that the book gives a false, negative view of the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Anita Diamant has written several other books including:

The Last Days of Dogtown

Pitching My Tent

Good Harbor

The New Jewish Wedding

The New Jewish Baby Book

Living a Jewish Life

Choosing a Jewish Life

Saying Kaddish

Jewish Parent

Bible Baby Names

#13 - Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I enjoyed this book. It was a lot different than I expected. I enjoyed a look into the history and background of Geisha. I had some pre-conceived notions that Geisha were merely high-paid Japanese prostitutes, but this book shows that they are much different than that.

Arthur Golden holds a Harvard degree in Japanese Art, and an MA in Japanese history. He also worked in Tokyo for a number of years, and speaks both fluent Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. He did extensive research for this novel, including interviewing several Geisha. After publication of the Japanese version of the book, one of these Geisha, Mineko Iwasaki, sued Golden for breach of contract and defamation of character. Geisha have a code of silence about their clients, and Iwasaki felt that Golden did not do enough to protect her identity. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

The book is a work of fiction and not based on anyone's actual life. Golden says that he created a fictional world as close to the true life of a Geisha as he could.

In 2005, the book was made into a movie. I haven't seen the movie. But I do know the book was an enjoyable read. :)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

#12 - Night by Elie Wiesel

"Night'' is the first book in a trilogy by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Weisel, at 15, was sent to a concentration camp with his parents and sister. Wiesel was the only one to survive.

"Night'' is his story of being deported to Auschwitz and his later transfer to Buchenwald. Wiesel was 17 when Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945.

His memoir was originally written in Yiddish in 1955, and later translated to English and several other languages to reach a wider audience.

Due to its nature and subject, "Night'' is a dark novel, befitting its title. But it drives home the absolute horror and evil behind the Nazi concentration camps.

The other 2 parts of the trilogy, "Dawn'' and "Day'', present Wiesel's memories of trying to deal with the experience.

"In Night," Wiesel said, "I wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end — man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night."

Reading this book was difficult, but the story is compelling. I can't imagine how those people felt being taken from their families, watching their children, parents, and friends die, and not being able to escape. I can't fathom the mind set of the Nazis who spent years murdering millions of innocent and helpless men, women and children. And I wonder how, in the years after the war, former German concentration camp soldiers were able to live with themselves, given the horrific things that they did, or that they allowed to happen.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. It's an open and in-your-face account of what Wiesel lived through. I think it's an important account to read, just to remind us of the events that happened. In today's world where religious prejudice between Muslims, Christians and Jews is still happening, it's important that we remind ourselves that it can go too far.

Christ teaches love, not hatred. Hatred can become so violent, and all encompassing. And it leads good people to do horrific things.

When I finished this book, the first thing I did was hug my 2-year old. Children and family are so precious, but we tend to take them for granted every day as we feel "safe.'' And the second thing I did was to say a prayer for all who died in the Holocaust, all who survived and had to live with their memories, and I prayed for the souls of those who participated in the atrocities that were inflicted on the Jews and other victims in Europe.

It's a very dark book.....but it definitely provokes deep and powerful thoughts.

# 11 - Heavens to Betsy and Other Curious Sayings by Charles Earle Funk

If you've ever been interested in how certain sayings ended up in the American English language, then this is the book for you! Originally published in the 1950's by Charles Earle Funk, this book lists the origins for all sorts of sayings like "raining cats and dogs'' and "by the skin of my teeth.''

I found the information in this book very entertaining and educational. I was amazed at how long some sayings have been used (some date back to the 1300's or earlier), and how some got started.

The sayings aren't listed in any particular order, but there is an index included in the back of the book.

Funk also wrote several other books:

Thereby Hangs a Tale: Stories of Curious Word Origins
Horsefeathers and Other Curious Words
A Hog on Ice and other Curious Expressions
2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions
What's the Name Please? A guide to correct pronunciation of prominent names

Plus he collaborated on several editions of the Funk and Wagnall's English Dictionary

Monday, September 04, 2006

#10 - The Night Lives On by Walter Lord

Since April 1912 there have been many mysteries, myths and legends surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. While some of the mysteries can never be solved, Walter Lord researched survivor accounts, hearing testimony, and news accounts of the sinking to write this book.

Lord successfully disproves several popular beliefs about the sinking, and gives interesting insights into the ship itself and the crew. Plus, he discusses the reasons why certain safety precautions were not taken, and why shipping regulations of the day did not require more life boats on such a large ocean liner.

This factual account of the accident was very interesting. It wasn't over-dramatized, and Lord presented facts to back up his theories about the sinking. And, he disproved several myths that I believed to be true. I think the most poignant fact in the book for me was that Captain Smith may not have been qualified to head the crew of the Titanic. Titanic was easily twice the size of any ship he had captained before, and Smith was involved in 2 near collisions with Titanic before setting out to sea. Lord surmizes that easily proves that Smith wasn't that familiar with the stopping and turning capabilities of the ship. With ice warnings out on the night of the accident, perhaps a reduction in speed to reduce the ship's stopping and turning time might have prevented the collision, or made it less damaging.

In the end, it is all assumption.....but Lord does present some very interesting facts.