“Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift…everyone has this most precious of all life’s endowments—the gift of free agency; man’s inherited and inalienable right.”

--David O. McKay

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The One with President Me

305. Title & Author: President Me: The America That’s in My Head by Adam Carolla (277 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction--Comedy & Politics
Completed: 7 September 2014

Summary & Review:
Comedian and media personality Adam Carolla lays out his presidential campaign platform filled with gripes, observations, and solutions to some of the problems facing America today. Carolla focuses in particular on the rampant narcissism in our culture and the plague of broken families. Mixed in with serious analysis, Carolla offers a heavy does of comedic cynicism and sarcasm.

This was a pretty quick read. While Carolla did offer some sincere observations, most of the book was his humorous take on some of the ridiculous parts of American culture right now. Carolla leans somewhere between conservative and libertarian so I agreed with a lot of what he found wrong with our government and culture. He harped on over and over how broken families are at the heart of almost all of our social ills. I absolutely agree. Until children are raised in homes with intact marriages, i.e. a mother and a father, composed of parents who care about and love their children, we will continue to have issues especially in educational drop out rates, gang affiliation, poverty, and crime.

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The One with Gone Girl

304. Title & Author: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (422 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Psychological Thriller
Completed: 31 August 2014

Summary & Review:
Despite starting out completely in love, Nick and his wife Amy drift apart. By their fifth anniversary, their marriage is a wreck and perhaps irreparable damage has been done. So when Amy goes missing, presumed dead, Nick is the police department’s prime suspect. As the story unfolds, the true nature of Nick, Amy, and the disappearance becomes hauntingly clear.

Paige read this book few weeks ago as part of a book club she started with a friend. She seemed to enjoy it so I decided to give it a try. Flynn did a good job doling out the suspense to keep the book interesting all the way through. I thought the plot was clever and the character development was interesting. Apparently this is going to be a movie soon, so I’m glad I read the book so that the plot twists aren’t ruined by the movie.

Rating: 8.0

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The One with Treason

303. Title & Author: Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter (292 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Politics
Completed: 20 August 2014

Summary & Review:
Columnist and pundit Ann Coulter examines the uncanny pattern of Liberals choosing dictators, terrorists, and despots over American interests time and time again. From the days of their support of Stalin and the Soviet Union through their lack of support for the war of terrorism, liberals always support barbarism over civilization and freedom.

While I’ve never read one of Ann Coulter’s books before, I am pretty familiar with her positions through columns and television appearances. She often says things in a manner that are purposefully outrageous to garner attention, but if you understand that is her schtick it’s no problem. What I’ve always appreciated about Coulter is that she is no wimp on immigration and realizes what a danger unchecked illegal and massive legal immigration is to our country. While she didn’t touch on that here, I still thought the book was very interesting. The pattern she points out—that of liberals always essentially rooting against America and her traditional values, culture, and the historic American nation—is obvious once you see it.

Also, nearly the entire first half of the book was examining “McCarthyism.” This section was particularly interesting to me since in school and in the current culture you are taught that McCarthy was hunting phantom Commies and was a paranoid, hate-filled bully. As Coulter ask, but was McCarthy right? Were there Soviet spies in the government? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Hundreds of Soviet spies filled all levels of the Federal government up to the highest levels as proved by recently de-classified Soviet cables. Liberals often say something “smacks of McCarthyism” when they are accusing someone of being paranoid about a threat that isn’t there, or that they claim isn’t there. However, McCarthy had every right to be paranoid.

Rating: 7.5

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The One with In Sunlight and in Shadow

302. Title & Author: In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin (705 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 1 August 2014

Summary & Review:
After returning from fighting with the 82nd Airborne in World War II, Harry Copeland takes over his father’s esteemed luxury leather goods company. Despite making a wonderful project, the company will soon be forced out of business due to increasing pressure from the mob. Yet, even during these trying times, Harry is able to find unheard of happiness as he meets and falls in love with Catherine. As the two fall deeper in love and marry, the battle for Harry’s business escalates. Soon, Harry realizes there is but one solution to save the company his father spent a lifetime building—he must return to the battlefield and fight the organized crime syndicate responsible.

This was a hard to define novel. It was long, over seven hundred pages, and contained numerous elements and sub-plots. The main thread of the story, though, was the relationship between Harry and Catherine. But, other storylines, which I felt were a little less than critical to the main story, were dwelled upon at length. This also made the pacing strange. After hundreds of pages dissecting odd places or scenes, the author then rushed the climax and resolution. The quality of Helprin’s writing, however, allowed me to enjoy this book despite those shortcomings in plotting and pacing.

Rating: 7.0

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The One with A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity

301. Title & Author: A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity by Bill O’Reilly (256 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Memior
Completed: 21 July 2014

Summary & Review:
Fox News television host Bill O’Reilly recounts the events in his life that have led him to his current place as cable television’s top-rated news anchor. Raised in a blue color neighborhood on Long Island, O’Reilly was steeped in the values of America and Catholicism allowing him to see the problems with the “progressive” values that have been taking over the country since the 1960s.

Back in the States I used to watch O’Reilly quite a bit. Even though I disagree with a lot of his opinions—no, I’m not to the left of him, I have disagreements with him from the libertarian right—I still thought his show was entertaining. But, this book wasn’t so much. His life just hasn’t included really that many exciting events worth reading 250 pages about. That is not a bad thing, for a normal person to have a normal life, and I certainly respect his work ethic and achievements, but maybe he didn’t need to write a memoir.

Rating: 5.0

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The One with The Zombie Survival Guide

300. Title & Author: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks (270 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Other
Completed: 21 July 2014

Summary & Review:
Unprepared for the coming Zombie Apocalypse? Have no fear! This guide has everything you need to know to get ready for a battle to the death, well, your first death or their second one. This guide includes priceless information on weapons, escape, defense, and survival so that you can outlast your undead foe. At the end of the guide, all known zombie attacks from throughout history are recorded and analyzed so that you can recognize it when the next outbreak occurs.

I had no idea what this book would be like. When I purchased Max Brooks’ excellent novel World War Z  (#290) I saw it included in a box set with this book and figured, why not? I assumed this guide would be a spoof, full of satire and humor. That was not the case. It was presented as if it were a real guidebook to surviving a zombie outbreak. All the advice seemed thoroughly thought out and serious, so I’m not sure what this book is. Humor? Not really. Horror? Nope. Even the accounts of the attacks at the end were presented in a "scholarly" manner, rather than in a way to elicit fear. Finally, I just had to classify it as “other.”

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The One with Europe 101

299. Title & Author: Rick Steves’ Europe 101: History & Art for the Traveler by Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw (505 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History, Art History, & Travel
Completed: 30 June 2014

Summary & Review:
Television host and travel guide Rick Steves offers an overview of Europe’s history, art, and major sights all presented to help travelers in Europe understand what they are seeing, enjoy more of the sights, and not miss the highlights. Beginning with the roots of European culture in ancient Egypt, the history of European culture is traced through ancient Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and finally the wars of the 20th Century. Along the way, Steves introduces key figures in art, music, science, and religion.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book, at least the first 350 pages or so. Here, Steves does what he does best. He guides the reader through Europe ensuring the all the best sights, paintings, and experiences are covered and offers tips to experience those yourself on your travels. Near the end of the book, however, the authors included a chapter on Europe today which was obnoxiously preachy and progressively political. Even in the very last section of the book, an art appreciation chapter, they couldn’t let go of their ridiculous politics. While writing about color theory they were listing things associated with the color red, including “passion, action, intensity, states that hate gay marriage…” (emphasis added). This, and many other comments like it, were completely unnecessary, immature, and unprofessional. To so obviously not understand the viewpoint of those who disagree with gay marriage and to demonize those who disagree with it as “hating” it is pathetic. Personally, I don’t understand their need to so repeatedly assault the reader with their personal politics in a book about history, art, and culture. It took away immensely from what began as a quality, fun book.

While this likely will be the only book authored by Rick Steves on this list, that doesn’t reflect how many of his books I have been reading the past year. Since we moved to Bavaria last summer, a large chunk of my reading time has been taken up studying Rick Steves guidebooks to France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Croatia & Slovenia, Austria, Eastern Europe, etc.

Rating: 5.0