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Archive for the category “Book Review”

J.K. Rowling’s New Book

I am going to read it as soon as it drops on Sept. 27th this year.  It will be 512 pages.  The book will be a thriller of sorts about a problem laden town involved in an unprecedented election.  Do you think this is going to make the kind of profits Harry Potter did?  The Harry Potter series sold over 450 million books.  That’s why Rowling is a billionaire.  What a legacy she has.


Meet Harry Potter

Who would have known a story about a little boy living under a cupboard named Harry Potter would become an international best-seller?  HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCER’S STONE is the first novel in a 7 book series that introduces the reader to an amazing world of magic.

The novel begins with Harry living with his aunt and uncle, the Dursleys.  Ever since Harry was dropped off at the Dursley’s front doorstep 10 years ago, the Dursleys along with their hefty son, Dudley, have made his life almost unbearable.  It is not until a letter arrives, written with emerald-green ink, addressed for Harry Potter—The Cupboard under the Stairs—does Harry’s life begin to radically change.

That’s when a giant named Hagrid visits Harry and reveals to him, against the wishes of the Dursley’s, that he is a wizard.  After Harry purchases all his school material from Diagon Alley, he leaves platform nine and three-quarters straight to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Harry also learns he is famous, world renown, in the magical universe because of his faceoff with You-Know-Who, Voldemort!  Woops, I didn’t say that!

The reader, for the first time, is teased in this novel with such unforgettable characters and stunning ideas that become much more prominent as the series plays out: Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Quidditch, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Draco Malfoy, the Invisibility Cloak, Gryffindor, etc.

J.K. Rowling’s writing ability, imagination, and intuitive grasp of human nature gives her characters a depth that resonates in the core of the reader.  Harry, along with his best friends, Hermione and Ron, are so in tune, emotionally intact with one another that it makes the story so much more alive.  Before Harry knows it, his first year at Hogwarts involves not only learning magic but figuring out how to keep the Sorcerer’s Stone from getting in the wrong hands.

This novel is a classic that will initiate the reader into a world of mystery.  The characters are so emotionally developed they become real in your heart.  It is a story so good and well thought out that it urges you to read on to the end.

The Non-Fiction Pioneer

In Cold Blood is the first of its kind in the non-fiction literary genre written in 1965 by Truman Capote.  In the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, where everybody knows one another and people rarely lock their doors, four members of the Clutter family were ruthlessly killed on November 15, 1959.  The murderers were unknown.  With few clues left in the wake of four bound and gagged bodies discovered with point-blank shotgun blasts to their heads, Capote in wild excitement dropped everything he was doing to make his way down to the murder scene in Holcomb.

For the next four years, Capote meticulously interviewed people in the town who knew the Clutters.  He also befriended the two murderers, Perry Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock, and remained in close contact with each up until their execution.  After 8,000 pages of notes and the ex-cons responsible for the slayings were hanged, Capote published his novel in 1966.

One aspect that makes this novel so great is its deadpan, often agonizing, description of the murder scene.  When Susan Kidwell discovers her close friend’s dead body, she said “Nancy Ewalt says I did—screamed and screamed.  I only remember Nancy’s Teddy bear staring at me.  And Nancy.  And running.”  Capote’s descriptive prowess takes the reader in the house.  You see the blood, you hear the silence, and you know the Clutters are gone forever.

Another thing about the novel that draws the reader in is its eerie analysis of the culprit’s psychology.  Capote provides a full narrative of what life on the run was like for the two convicts: we learn about the trail of bounced checks across America that led authorities to their whereabouts; we learn about Hickock’s pedophiliac tendencies, his ironic obsession to be perceived as “a normal,” and his envy of other successful men; we also learn about Perry’s promiscuous alcoholic mother, his years in a Catholic orphanage where he was beat for wetting the bed, and his addiction to aspirin as a way to manage the incessant pain in his bowed-legs.

In Cold Blood brings the reader inside the Clutter family before their fatal demise.  There’s the successful Herbert Clutter, a proud father, who never takes stimulants and wakes up early every morning to tend to his farm.  Then there is his fragile wife, Bonnie Clutter, who over the years of their marriage has become reclusive, a sort of invalid.  Kenyon, their son, is the typical well-mannered, all American young man.  And finally, but definitely not least, is Nancy Clutter.  An amazingly talented young woman who has everything going for her only makes these senseless murders that more tragic.

It is a novel that will disturb you, a novel that will have you biting your fingernails, and it is a novel that will have you shaking your head in anguish of how such a monstrous act could have befallen on such a beautiful family.

Love, Pain, and the Devil in You Too

The Master and Margarita kept yearning for my attention because one of my favorite characters, the devil, is a big player in the book.  Once I started reading this master piece, with its clever satire and elaborate allusions, I couldn’t stop until I got to the end!

“She looked at me with surprise, and I suddenly and completely unexpectedly realized that this was the woman I had loved my whole life!  Amazing, isn’t it?  Naturally, you’ll say I’m a madman, right?”

What an amazing, passionate quote that encapsulates so much of what this novel is about coming from the Master, while locked up in an insane asylum, professing his love at first sight with Margarita.  Love, passion, pain, and many other motifs run through this seminal classic that defies and remains impervious to any one type of genre classification.  In many ways this novel is an autobiography where Bulgakov vicariously uses the Master to express his anguish of rejection from the literary circle he once flourished in.

Bulgakov wrote the novel, on and off, subsequent to critics destroying his career because they viewed him as an anti-Soviet, between the years 1928 and 1940.  The incredible thing was he wrote the work with full awareness it would not be published in his lifetime.  Not only was this period marked by Stalin’s repressive regime, it also marked an era in the former Soviet Union where atheism was in and religion was out.

One of the many things that make this book great is Burgin/O’Connor’s enlightening, dense, and in depth commentary.  It distinguishes, for example, when Bulgakov’s allusions to Faust are inspired by Gounod’s opera or Goethe’s poem.  We also learn the numerous sources the author used in creating his disturbing Pontius Pilate scene.

With religion being attacked in the Soviet Union on all fronts, it is only satirically fitting that the novel begins with the devil, posing as professor Woland, meeting two literary elites and advocating the existence of Jesus Christ.   Shortly thereafter, the devil’s retinue including, among others, a chess loving, talking cat and a beautiful, naked woman wreak havoc in a faithless Moscow.

Before this, though, the devil reminisces with his new acquaintances the day Pontius Pilate authorized the crucifixion of Jesus.  The imagination and intricate detail the author provides in this historical event makes the reader feel like he’s there, like this is how it actually went down.  The novel alternates scenes between the Master and Margarita’s Moscow and the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate.

There’s a dramatic mood shift, some hope, when in part 2 of the novel the narrator claims, “Who ever told you there is no such thing in the world as real, true, everlasting love?  May the despicable liar have his despicable tongue cut out!”  Margarita wakes up in the morning with a premonition that something is going happen, no matter what, that day.  She is right and soon flies off naked on a broom to meet the devil at his midnight ball.  Eventually, the devil obliges to Margarita’s wish to be reunited with the Master, the latter is freed after he frees Pontius Pilate, and the two lovers walk off in the dawn to their eternal home.  The rebellious nature, unorthodox style, and unique circumstances Bulgakov was under while writing this work, makes this novel a one of a kind, must read love story.

Alcohol and Love

If you are looking for the pangs and angst of a lost love, then Malcom Lowry’s Under the Volcano has strong qualifications.  This inebriated filled book has the power to make Hemingway’s most emotionally disturbed characters look like saints.  It is a great read when you visit those resorts with all you can drink inclusive packages.

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