What I’ve Been Reading

Since I’ve been pretty much tied to my spot on the couch or chair for the past week as sitting has hurt my back marginally less than anything else has, I’ve been able to read a few books.  I figured I would share my impressions with you about these books in case you might wish to borrow and/or obtain them for yourself.

For those of you who do not know, my reading material is typically science fiction, especially Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke.  Hands down, that’s what I’ll pick up when I grab a book.  I have read a small handful of books in the Fantasy genre and some comedy and only those “literary fiction” types of books that I was forced to read in high school.

So for this past week, here is what I’ve read and what I thought of it:

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon

This book is quirky.  I suppose it would be considered “general fiction.”  It is sort of a murder mystery.  It is sort of a set of life lessons.  It is sort of a… wild ride where you don’t know where the next turn will take you but where you know it will not be anything like the place you were just a moment ago.

The book is told in the first person and from the point of view of the main character, Christopher, an autistic 15 year old with virtually no social skills, a hatred of all things yellow or brown and a severe distaste for being touched.  He is excellent at math and uses math (and a lot of groaning) to calm himself when he is upset.  All of the chapters are numbered with prime numbers (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, etc.) rather than a more traditional numbering  scheme because Christopher simply likes prime numbers.

During one of his night time walks alone in the neighborhood, Christopher happens upon his neighbor’s dog who has been murdered with a garden fork. The neighbor blames him and he spends time in jail, but he decides to go against his father’s wishes and investigate the murder.  To do this, of course, he has to overcome his fear of strangers and his inability to detect (or tell) a lie.  We, the readers, get to see him overcome many of his personal fears in order to solve the problems he faces and we watch him realize that he can do things if he chooses to do them.

It is a good book.  It is an enjoyable read.  It is a reasonably quick read.  The author does a good job of capturing the fears and problems he faces and the emotions come through very well.  I enjoyed seeing the quadratic equation used in what seemed to be a useful way (rather than all the silly things they made us do with it in high school algebra).  But when I finished reading, I was tired.  I felt drained, both physically and mentally, from reading and experiencing the book.  I did not feel satisfied… just worn out.  I suppose that may have been one of the author’s goals, to fully immerse the readers in the life of an autistic child and make us feel what it is like to be in their shoes and in those of the people who help them.  If so, I’d say it was a big success.

Bottom line: I recommend the book.

“Succubus Takes Manhattan” by Nina Harper

Oh, I don’t even know where to begin here.  This book was “recommended” by Amazon.com in the Fantasy genre and so I requested (and received) it for Christmas.  It was… not what I expected.

This is the story of Lily.  Lily is the Accessories editor at a high profile fashion magazine in Manhattan.  She is beautiful, successful, well dressed and always well accessorized.  She wears the latest and hottest fashions, she eats at the finest restaurants and she is always invited to the hottest parties.

Did I mention that she is beautiful?

Oh, and that she happens to be a 3000 year old priestess from Babylonia?

Oh and a succubus.  A damn good succubus.

But she is not just any well-dressed, well-accessorized, 3000 year old Babylonian priestess succubus… she is also one of Satan’s Chosen Ones.  That’s right; she is a handmaiden to Satan.

Her hot, hunky, dark-haired (and fully human and mortal) boyfriend, Nathan (only like her second boyfriend like ever), just dumped her because he found out what she was and just, like, couldn’t deal with it.  But that’s alright. Marten, the hotter, hunkier, blond-ier rebound Dutchman from Aruba is there and he’s like totally into her (and he knows what she is) and she’s like totally confused and not sure what to do or what to wear and like… how can she be in love with Marten and also maybe still in love with Nathan even though he dumped her when he found out she was a demon and maybe she could convince Nathan to take her back and then she could keep dating both of them and… Oh, the drama.

The entire time I was reading this book I was imagining it as a series on HBO or something, marketed to the “Sex and the City’ crowd or something like that.

So things go awry and there’s upheaval in Hell and there’s upheaval at her day job at the fashion magazine and she just can’t seem to get a grip on all of it.  Somehow she stays employed despite missing untold amounts of work because she’s trying to find a kidnapped demon and then another one or she’s playing hooky with her Aruban fling boy who just happens to have business in Manhattan and an invite to the same high-society party as she has (imagine that!).  A few magic enchantments, trips to Aruba, trips to (and around and under) Manhattan, a trip to Italy, a whole lot of food consumption, hotel rooms, incense, double-crossings, political upheaval, heavily (magically) covered embezzlement schemes, kidnapping, gossiping between girlfriends, hot baths (with bubbles and salts, of course) and showers (with gels and incense and candles, of course) seemingly every few hours and wild mentions of all kinds of designers and stores and makeup and….

You know, I don’t think I really know if I even got the point of this book.  I think the point of the entire book was that as long as you have friends, food, makeup and good taste in clothes, you’ll be alright.  I’m fairly certain that the problems were all pretty much left unresolved except for the boyfriend situation.  Oh, and well, the importance of good fashion sense was really clear, too.

So, it was a quick and reasonably easy read once I gave up on it being anything but shallow.  If you are into things like this, it might be an enjoyable read for you.  I get the impression that this might be a part of a series of books and that it might, in fact, not be the first book in the series.  But honestly, it isn’t worth my time to try to figure that out.

“Friday” by Robert Heinlein

OK, so I haven’t actually finished this one.  I’ve actually tried to read this one a number of times in the past twenty-five years and have simply given up each time.  It’s about a robot woman who is stronger, faster, smarter and generally better than most people.  She is, I think, something like a detective or a consultant or a courier (or something) and she has some “special talents”.  I think.  Society has collapsed, the United States has been broken into a bunch of smaller countries and pretty much everything is a mess.  She is the subject of much prejudice because she is a robot.

I really want to know what Friday’s “special talents” are, but I’ve never gotten that far into the book. My understanding is that there is civil disobedience and disturbance involved with the story and that she eventually goes off-world and is disobedient and then falls in with a crowd on some pioneer world.  Or something.

Like every Heinlein I’ve ever read, it starts out really, really, really slow.  I’m sure it gets better right about the middle; it’s just a matter of actually getting to the middle.  So far, this time has not been an exception and I’ve given up just a short few pages in.  One of these days I am going to make it through this book!

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

This is one of my favorite holiday stories.  You know the story, even if you don’t know that you know it.  Character 1 wants to buy the perfect gift for Character 2 and so is getting an accessory for Character 2’s most prized possession.  To do so, Character 1 sells his most prized possession to get money for this gift.  Meanwhile, Character 2 wants to get the best gift ever for Character 1 (an accessory for his most prized possession) and sells her most prized possession in order to by the gift.  You’ve seen this story a million times on TV or in the movies.  It’s heartwarming to the core and really, you should read this one as it is special.

Why aren’t you reading it yet?

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss

I love this book.  I’ve read it a million times and I’ll read it a few million more.  It is a story about overconsumption, greed and un-sustainability.  It is a story about climate change and wastefulness and corporate responsibility.  Did I mention greed and climate change?

And it was written in 1971, long before it was cool to acknowledge that there was anything on this planet except human beings and things that human beings either used or moved out of the way.  It has been controversial (the logging industry is not a fan of this book at all) because the book documents the complete destruction of the vast forests of Truffula Trees, which were the main source of food and shelter for various creatures.  The Truffula Trees were used by the Onceler (ahem, big business) to make Thneeds, which are things that everyone needs.  Since people would buy the Thneeds, demand was high and more were made.  The land was polluted, the air was polluted, the water was polluted and everything and everyone was driven away.

The Lorax, a funny little creature, tries to plead with the Onceler for some kind of sanity but the Onceler ignores him.  The Lorax pleads, claiming that he speaks for the trees because the trees have no tongues.  The Onceler ignores him because business is business and business must grow.

When the skies were dark and the land was barren and the water was unusable, the loud crack that signaled the cutting of the last of the Truffula Trees rang out… the customers left, the workers left… even the Lorax left and the Onceler was alone to oversee the decay.  But the Lorax left him with the last Truffula seed.  The Onceler, in telling the story to a boy, hopes that it is not too late and that people now care.

I love this story and think it should be on every reading list.  “The Butter Battle Book” (about the stupidity of war, essentially), also by Dr. Seuss, is another one that should be on the mandatory list.

“The Cat’s Quizzer” by Dr. Seuss, “Old, New, Red, Blue” (Cars movie tie-in) and “I Spy”

OK, so I didn’t read these, but my seven-year old son read them to me. There’s just something special about having a seven year old read to you, isn’t there?

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