Tuesday, March 18, 2014

book review from Aditya Venkatesh

Around the World in 80 Days
By Aditya Venkatesh

Classics bore me. Flat out. Those are pretty much the only books we read in school, and analyzing symbolism more than reading the story doesn’t help matters. Then, one day, to my immense surprise, I found a classic that was, not only bearable, but also kind of interesting! Around the World in 80 Days, by Jules Verne, is actually a pretty exciting story about how Phileas Fogg places a huge bet (20,000 Euros, which is the equivalent to over 1 million Euros today) that he can travel around the world in just 80 days. And oh yeah, there are no planes… just trains and boats (we are in the 1800s). Not the express trains we have today, but the ones that go maybe 30 mph. As it turns out, having to bear the boredom of travelling thousands of miles at a snail’s pace is the least of Fogg’s problems. Fogg runs into foreign cops for false accusations, undertakes an unexpected rescue mission, fights through Native Indian attacks, and faces numerous other crises; can Fogg make it home in 80 days and win his bet, or is this bet merely a pointless, overambitious attempt to make some quick money? An intense thriller with so much at stake, this book is a classic because it is actually a book worth reading - not because it has a lot to analyze. Keep an open mind and be patient for the first few pages, and you could be surprised that a book written in the 1800s actually has you turning those pages.

3/14/14....and apologies for the long delay

Yeah, it's that time of year again....to apologize for forgetting to post stuff....and for missing complete titles....sigh.....so, consider it done and back to the reviews:

Master of Deceit is a balanced and informative look at Hoover and the FBI during his administration.  It is not, by nature or design, an exciting story...but is definitely informative and would be useful to someone doing research or looking at the history of the FBI.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a book to begin research with as it is well researched and has lots of source notes.

Wasdin doesn't talk down to teens, indeed I'm not sure he specifically was writing to teens; but it was a required reading book for me, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  Yes, there were those very typical macho things contained within it; a little bit of testosterone and a bit of swagger...but then, getting into the SEALs is a big deal and a challenge and SEAL Team Six even more selective...so he probably can be forgiven....I especially like that he equated some of his mental strength to his years of physical abuse; the ability to distance the mind from unpleasant and hurtful circumstances is real and made his story a lot more personal and human.  He even shares his regrets for how he is less demonstrative and more distant than he'd like to be given his job and his background.   I really enjoyed this, and think it would be very appealing to anyone wanting information on how the military works, or who just enjoys realistic contemporary reading.

By contrast, I also read The Warrior's Heart...which WAS a rewrite specifically done for teens from a title done for adults.   Evidently he did a good job, since it was a bestseller for him as an adult title....but as a teen book, it kind of falls flat.   The author decided to try his story in a sort of "choose your own adventure style"....using a lot of "what would you do" portions....but overall it comes off like he's talking to a little kid....and a bit patronizing.....I don't know if that was an editing decision, or if the person working with him to redo his story for a younger audience didn't know the age range they were trying for (everyone under 18 is a little kid mentality maybe?)...but I didn't enjoy it at all.....it definitely seemed more "I am awesome" with lots of swagger and less substance.

This title is really an overview of the Buried Life project; who are they, why did they start it, etc.  It is a really quick read with parts that seem a bit like Post books (pictures with slogans) and pages of more in-depth text on some that they have chosen to focus on.  This is a fascinating book and an interesting project.

Code Name Verity I read awhile ago, and just forgot to blog about it....and I really think it is one that lots of people should read.  It is in two parts; both set in WWII Europe....part one is a captured girl, who says she's a spy, telling her story while being tortured about her friend, and about her life.  Part two is the pilot's story .....she is the best friend of the spy and is also behind enemy lines, but not captured.   This book is not for young children as it contains graphic descriptions of terrible things done to the spy....but it is an amazing story using just enough facts to ground the reader in the correct history; but with a story that just grabs you and won't let go until the ending.

Discovering Black America is a wonderful resource.  It contains exactly what it says it does....the history of Africans brought to America, what happened to them, the various circumstances that brought them there; and travels through the ages to the present day. The book is in sections so one can see pre-colonial times, then Colonial times, and so on.   This is a handy resource for anyone looking for a quick overview of history...and leaves you with many interesting names and places that you can do further research on should you wish to.

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad

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