Bottom line: Definitely worth a read, as it explores timeless topics such as power, inequality, and control.
Rating: Strongly Recommended
1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1948 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “Negative Utopia” – a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny this novel’s power, its hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions – a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.
There are few things in life that make my little heart happier than a well-stocked and well organized bookcase. We moved months ago, but it was only last week that I unpacked the final book box. My husband had put most of the books on the shelf, but he’s not as neurotic organized as I am, and had just put books up there in no order at all. I went through and implemented my usual system as I unpacked the last books: books sorted by genre, then alphabetical by author. Ah, bliss! Anyways, as I was sorting, I came across 1984 and realized I was due for a reread.
I have fewer books than you might imagine, since I cull ruthlessly at least once a year. 1984 is one that I’ve had since high school, and it continues to survive my annual purges. I honestly don’t know what it is I like about the book so much. It’s not an easy read, nor a fun one, and it’s almost uniformly depressing. However, it is extremely interesting and compelling. The word used in the blurb on the back of my edition is “haunting” and I think that pretty much sums it up – it gets under my skin, and different scenes will randomly pop into my brain for days after I reread it.
1984 is about power: who gets it, how, and what they do when they get it. I did the math and was startled to realize that it was written 65 years ago – it is just as relevant today as it was then. The political and socioeconomic themes are explored through Winston and his struggle against Big Brother and the Party. It can be a bit dry in a few places, but Winston humanizes the more abstract themes and is a very relatable character. It is a very worthwhile read and rich with layered meanings. If you somehow managed to avoid this book during your years in school, do yourself a favor and read it today. If you read it in school and hated it, give it another try. In short – go read this book! If you don’t want to buy it, there is a very high likelihood that your neighborhood library will have it.
What did you think? Did you like the book?
To celebrate the launch of my new proofreading service, Last Look Proofreading, I’m giving away three novel-length proofreads. To enter, simply leave a comment below with your vote for the most cringe-worthy typo/writing error (mine is affect/effect) before 6:00 Mountain Time on Friday, May 10th. I will randomly select three comments and notify the winners by email (so you must leave a valid email address). I will proofread a manuscript of your choosing (it can be unpublished or published, if you want to release an updated edition). Check out this page to learn more about Last Look Proofreading.
Email me at LectorsBooks@Gmail.com with any questions, and good luck!
Update: I forgot to say that comments need to be moderated manually, so if your comment doesn’t show up immediately, don’t panic! It should be up by the end of the day, at least.
Update: Contest now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated! Winners are Allan, Agnes, and P. Creeden.
Book: The Westing Game (1978 – Newberry Medal) by Ellen Raskin
Series: Not part of a series.
Genre: Children’s Mystery
Ages: Barnes and Noble put it in their 10-14 year olds category, which seems about right.
This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. They could become millionaires, depending on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, which involves blizzards, burglaries, and bombings. Ellen Raskin has entangled a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense.
The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance.
The Westing Game is a fantastic mystery for this age group. The large cast is handled very well, with distinct voices for each character, and they aren’t just run of the mill personalities, either. The main character, Turtle, is someone that you really root for and come to admire. The blurb makes the book sound quite gruesome (bombings, murder mystery, etc.) but the tone is mostly lighthearted. I remember really, really enjoying this when I read it as a kid, and then I found it in a library a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised that I liked it almost as much as I did back in the good ol’ days.
Apparently there was a movie adaptation, but I haven’t seen it.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie? What did you think?
Bottom line: An interesting premise for a detective, and with a well thought out story to back it up.
Buying a gun to kill your wife: $3,000
Hiring Trauma Care to clean afterward: $1,500
Having that same cleaner uncover evidence that frames you: priceless
On her way to completing a degree in forensic science, Gabby St. Claire drops out of school and starts her own crime scene cleaning business. “Yeah, that’s me,” she says, “a crime scene cleaner. People waiting in line behind me who strike up conversations always regret it.”
When a routine cleaning job uncovers a murder weapon the police overlooked, she realizes that the wrong person is in jail. But the owner of the weapon is a powerful foe . . . and willing to do anything to keep Gabby quiet.
With the help of her new neighbor, Riley Thomas, a man whose life and faith fascinate her, Gabby plays the detective to make sure the right person is put behind bars. Can Riley help her before another murder occurs?
I knew I wanted to read a mystery today, and I started several before landing on this one. From the opening line of “Whistling a tune from Fiddler on the Roof, I used my tweezers to work a piece of Gloria Cunningham’s skull out of the sky blue wall.” I was intrigued. There were many things I enjoyed : the main character was three dimensional and interesting, it had a good murder/detecting plot, and the ending leaves you satisfied but with some unanswered questions about Gabby’s past and future. I thought having the amateur detective own a crime scene cleaning business and have gone to school for forensic science was a clever way to solve the age-old mystery writers’ dilemma: how and why would ordinary people investigate a crime?
A couple of quibbles I had with the book are as follows. For one, the supporting characters felt a little flat to me. For example, the supposed best friend is militantly vegan and she’s often described that way: “the animal lover did such and such”, or we see her forcing vegan brownies down her neighbours’ throats while ranting about animal cruelty. All of which is fine, but EVERY time she appears in the story it’s while doing some animal rights activism (not “animal right’s activism.” I shouldn’t have read “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”. It just made me more obsessive about punctuation – other people’s, not mine, of course!) or something like that. The father is a drunk and a sponge, therefore he’s only a drunk and a sponge.
The other issue I had was with the effort to introduce matters of faith into the book. I respect writers who try to imbue their works with topics that are close to their hearts, like faith and doubt (or environmentalism or healthy living or whatever it is they hold dear), and as a Christian myself, the content certainly doesn’t offend me. However, it felt forced. Several characters brought up God seemingly out of nowhere, and Gabby sure spends a lot of time thinking about how she doesn’t believe in God.
These two issues aside, it was an enjoyable read. I had gotten the book for free quite a while ago and just today got around to reading it, but I was glad I had it on my Kindle. I haven’t decided yet whether or not to pursue the series – it looks like there are several books already out.
Available: As an e-book for $2.99 and a print book, around $10.
More Info: http://www.christybarritt.com/
What did you think? Did you like the book?
I’m starting a new feature here on Lector’s Books: Family Fridays. This will showcase books appropriate for young readers or young to-be-read-to-ers. I’ll try to include a general age range for content/interest. It’s very hard to set a general guideline for what age will be interested in or able to handle the content of any given book (reading abilities and maturity levels vary so drastically between different kids), so I’ll give it a shot and you can use your best judgement.
For my first Family Friday, I’d like to not “feature” so much as “implore you to go out and buy immediately if you don’t have it”.
Book: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S.Lewis
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Ages: Online I saw an age range of “12-14 years” on one site, and “8 and up” on another. I would definitely lean more towards the younger end on this – it is a good, clean, fun read.
Review: Four children are sent to live in the country to escape the bombings of London during WWII. While there, they find a wardrobe that is a path to a different country, Narnia, where they must defeat the White Witch with the help of the talking animals and Aslan.
“Magical” is really the only word for this book. Lewis did an amazing job creating this fun world, and his children are very believable characters. Themes of forgiveness, redemption, bravery, and good vs. evil are woven deftly throughout.
There is an audiobook version read by Michael York, which is very well done, and a movie adaptation (the 2005 one) that is also quite good. Anyway you want to experience this, you will not regret it.
Other books in the series: The series is ordered as follows: 1. The Magician’s Nephew, 2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 3. The Horse and His Boy, 4. Prince Caspian, 5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 6. The Silver Chair, and 7. The Last Battle.
Bottom line: A very fun read with a good mystery, an interesting main character (despite describing every single hat she puts on), and a clever roasting of the indie scene.
A writer’s retreat seemed the perfect chance for Dee Whittaker to take her mind off her marital difficulties.
However, she meets five of the most hideous writers ever to have mastered a qwerty keyboard, and her problems quickly multiply. Things escalate further when the handyman winds up dead.
After fleeing from the island, Dee attempts to get her life back on track but begins to notice that something strange is going on. The stories written on the island are coming true and hers is next – complete with a murder.
Her estranged husband makes an unlikely sidekick as the two of them try to stop the literary copycat killing an innocent woman.
Packed with topical references, Pompomberry House provides a satirical look at the emerging world of indie publishing.
As an avid reader, I’ve been watching the changing dynamics of writing and publishing – both through the introduction of e-books and greater prevalence of independently published authors. You could have one without the other, but e-books have made it possible for anyone to take ANY piece of written work, hit “publish”, and it’s available to the masses. Pompomberry House takes a look at a group of characters who probably should have thought twice before hitting the publish button on their books.
It takes a look at some of the challenges of being an indie author, as well as some behind the scenes action of what authors have to do to get their books noticed. (There’s a huge difference between being able to e-publish a book, and being able to e-sell it.) Most of the characters felt a little TOO over the top for me, but it is satire, so that might have been a stylistic decision. Although the murder/mystery/discovery aspects of the book were handled quite cleverly, I felt that the author was at her best when portraying the complicated relationship and emotions between the main character and her soon-to-be ex-husband.
As it says in the blurb, this is a book “packed with topical references…” I don’t know how well Pompomberry House will stand the test of time with all the contemporary mentions, but in the here and now, it’s definitely worth checking out – especially if you have any interest in indie authors.
Side note: This book is firmly in the PG-13 camp, so be warned.
Available: As an e-book ($2.99) or paperback ($14.95)
What did you think? Did you like the book?
Bottom line: A fun, fast paced story that is well worth reading, especially if you can get it for free.
Michael Collins burned his suits and ties in a beautiful bonfire before leaving New York and taking up residence at Hut No. 7 in a run-down Mexican resort. He dropped-out, giving up a future of billable hours and big law firm paychecks. But, there are millions of dollars missing from a client’s account and a lot of people who want Michael Collins to come back. When his girlfriend is accused of murder, he knows that there really isn’t much choice.
This was one of my “go through Amazon’s free bestsellers and dump a bunch onto my Kindle” finds. I’ve recently read a string of very disappointing murder mysteries that I had found the same way, so my expectations were pretty low. To my surprise, I found myself drawn in from the first couple of pages.
This is the same genre and style as a John Grisham novel, and well executed. There were a few typos, but not so many that it distracted me from the story. The plot was interesting and complex (but not overly so), the characters were well drawn, and the action keeps moving. It is definitely escapism reading, and will take you out of your world for a couple of hours. I enjoyed the depictions of both New York and Mexico, I thought he did a good job of portraying the ambience of each location.
Side Note: There is a second book in the series, which I will probably read at some point. I found this book to be more action/plot driven than anything else, and I don’t feel so invested in the characters that I need to rush to find out what happens to them next.
Available: Seems to be only available as an Amazon Kindle Book, but it is free!
More Info: http://jdtrafford.blogspot.com/
What did you think? Did you like the book?