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Friday, June 30, 2017

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

Like most of his work, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle contains a biting satirical view of modern society that revolves around science, technology, and religion.

The narrator, John or Jonah, talks about how he once set out to write a book and it appears that perhaps what the reader holds in his hand is the result. He tells the reader of his quest to speak with the creators of the atomic bomb and later his search for the newest and most devastating weapon ice-nine.

During his search he is led to the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, where the people use a nearly unintelligible language and follow a religion called Bokononism,
a strange mix of nihilism and cynical observations of God.

While previously I had enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five, I found this novel more difficult to navigate. There are many scenes and ideas I enjoyed listening to, but I feel like I didn't get the whole of this book my first time through. I'll have to read this again in the future.

More by the Author:
Slaughterhouse-Five
Catch-22


Recommended Reads:
A Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 - Rad Bradbury
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

Friday, June 23, 2017

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash - Jean Shephard

Before heading into town on his trip Ralphie stops by Flick's tavern for a drink, where they recollect their childtimes in the small town of Holden, Indiana. A quick dip turns into a day-long excursion as they walk down memory lane with both the good and bad.

Some of the most memorable scenes were chosen to be included in the movie adaption A Christmas Story, like the fight scene between Ralphie and his bully and Ralphie's many foiled attempts at convincing his parents to get him the Red Rider BB gun with a compass on the stock and this thing that tells time, but there are many other adventures that Ralphie and his friends embark on that would interest anybody who enjoyed the movie.

Ralphie remembers good things about money, like buying loose candy from the grocery store or eating his favorite foods at home. He also recalls troubling times when food
was scarce or when the auditors came by during tax season. He remembers the disaster of damaging his father's brand new-used card and of the promotional gravy boat disaster that ran the local theater owner out of town.

The musing narrative kept me hooked the entire time I was reading. Before I knew it I had finished this book with many chuckles and guffaws, where I not only enjoyed Ralphie's recollections but was also reminded of many goofy moments in my own childhood that took place at a much later date. I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys nostalgic humor.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory's Morte d'Arthur - Dorsey Armstrong

The legend of King Arthur and his Knights was written as multiple pieces by many authors spread across many lands. It was Sir Malory who finally pieced these stories together into a cohesive narrative for readers to enjoy. While Malory put this story into the hands of people who would not otherwise have access, as Armstrong will explain, he has a different idea of what chivalry is than those who wrote the original stories.

Armstrong explores the Rise of Arthur's Court in the first chapter and concludes in the final chapter with The Decline and Fall of Chivalric Community. The second chapter is devoted completely to Sir Lancelot, one of the primary characters in the saga,
including his adventures and his devotion to Guinevere and the chivalric duty. She also talk about Gareth and Tristan's adventures and how they represent chivalry. In the second to the last chapter, she explains how gender
and kinship factor into community and the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Anybody who wants to get a true understanding of chivalry and what it means to the many authors of the chronicles of King Arthur should read this piece.

This book is available for free by Creative Commons License and can be downloaded: http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/AA/00/01/16/82/00001/GenderandtheChivalricCommunity.pdf

More by the Author:
Great Courses - King Arthur: History and Legend
Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript
Mapping Malory

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Art of War: Baby Edition - Jesse Tamburino

Sun Tzu's treasured treatise Art of War has been translated into a multitude of languages and adapted for a number of occupations. In this edition, Tamburino brings the basic strategies from the text to a new audience: children.

Brought to life by Rey Lijesta's clear and colorful illustrations, children will follow Sun Tsu and young Sun Bin around town and across the countryside as they discuss strategies for battle and war. Through Sun Bin's curiosity and Sun Tsu's friendly voice, children will learn the simplified lessons found in this classic text, like when to push forward and when to retreat. How to assess the oppositions strength and how to count ones own.

Parents who wish to help their children learn basic strategies early in life will find this friendly book just what they are looking for.

Original Work:
The Art of War - Sun Tzu, translated by Lionel Giles

Friday, June 2, 2017

Shadowshaper - Daniel Jose Older

With the entire summer ahead of her, Sierra Santiago is looking forward to uninterrupted time to work on the mural she's been tasked to complete by her neighborhood. When her friends and family begin hassling her to complete the project, including her ailing grandfather, she knows something is amiss. Robbie, an old classmate, is willing to help her with the mural, but he seems to be in on the conspiracy to keep her in the dark, as well.

When Sierra starts hallucinating when looking at art around town, she thinks it's just stress playing tricks on her eyes. But when people around her start getting hurt and even dying, she decides it's time to get down to the bottom of what's going on. Sierra will need to dive deep into her family's past in order to find the answers she seeks and defeat the evil that is coming over the city.

Sierra is a loyal part of her family, helping with chores and caring for her ailing grandfather, but she's also a party girl. Her friends are mostly party-goers, but their own loyalty to their friendship to Sierra also shines through, especially near the end when the situation gets dire.

I enjoyed the slow reveal of Sierra's family history and the magic system that utilizes artistic talent, both of which she ultimately uses to win against the enemy.

While basic Spanish is used throughout the novel when Sierra speaks to her family, it is no hindrance to a non-Spanish-speaking reader. Older does a superb job of keeping the conversation flowing back into English so the reader understands what's going on. The inclusion of simple things, like food, brings Sierra's every day life into reality.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this piece is the themes of family history, loyalty, and truth. It also includes a moment where Sierra stands up against prejudice in her own family. I loved this book and I look forward to reading the next book coming out later this year.

Books in the Series:
Shadowhouse Fall
Ghost Girl in the Corner