It ain’t easy – trying to PMP

Okay, so I am obviously not so great about updates here.  One reason, honest injun, is that I read really fast and I don’t want to half ass it.  The other reason is that I am busy studying for a certification exam I’m taking at the end of June.  It seems like that’s a long ways away but I am totally freaking out.  Hooray for freaking out.

So, in the interest of giving you something to look at, I’m going to do another quick round up of books I don’t think really deserve their own posting.  This means that books like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” won’t be covered in this one, but I promise to get to them this week with a better write up than these others are going to get.

So, enough begging forgiveness (did that sound like begging?  no?  well, it kinda was) and on to what little content I am throwing up today.

Oh, did I mention I’m not going to put up pictures?  Well, now you know.  🙂


The Road To Omaha, Robert Ludlum.

Remember a bit ago when I did The Road to Gandolfo?  Same guys, back for more.  Same crazy General Hawk, same wussy lawyer Sam, different scam.  In the first one, they were kidnapping the Pope.  In this one, it seems that someone’s gotten their hands on some old agreements between the US Government and some little unknown Indian tribe and it just might be that that Indian tribe owns Nebraska.

Worth reading, a bit long at times.  It’d be a good beach/plane read where you leave it for the next person.  Strangely enough, the lady who read this before me did not agree.  In very nice cursive it says “Yuk! Waste of time.  Feb 93” on the inside cover.  Maybe, like a fine wine, it just needed some time to age.

The Road To Omaha by Robert Ludlum, 570 pages


Greywalker, Kat Richardson

You know how sometimes you buy a book because it’s cheap?  Yeah, well, that’s my excuse.  Harper gets attacked and comes out with this weird ability to be in both our world and some other one where nasty half dead things lie in wait.  Oh yeah, this also means she can see ghosts and feel evil and so she decides to play with the vampires and witches and stuff.  It’s also set in Seattle.

Is is a great book?  Nah.  It’s mildly entertaining.  If you’re looking for the while “normal world meets other” stuff, check out the Sookie Stackhouse books.  They’re way more fun.

Greywalker by Kat Richardson, 341 pages


The Broken Window, Jeffery Deaver

I almost feel bad throwing this in here because I really like Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  Have you seen that Bone Collector movie with Angelina Jolie and that other totally cute guy whose name I can’t remember now?  It’s also got Queen Latifa in it although in the book her character is actually a gay guy.

ANYWAY, this is that same series.  And this latest novel doesn’t really disappoint although they are semi formulaic crime mysteries.  In this one, people are being killed and other people are set up to take the fall.  As usual, it’s who done it.  The twist in THIS novel is that it’s obvious someone has access to all sorts of very detailed information about people and their lives, so it looks like it’s OMG COMPUTERS and BIG BROTHER all up in here.  Still, these are good characters and pretty good stories and I’d actually recommend any of the series.  Might want to read them in order though.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver, 596 pages


L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy

You’ve all seen the movie.  You know what it’s about.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a “corruption in LA in the 1950’s” novel.  See the movie, it’s good.

The book?  Eh.  It’s okay.  I actually didn’t get anything additional out of it, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the screen version.  There are a lot of characters, and I found myself getting a wee bit lost… but I kind of blame that on trying to memorize silly equations for this damn test and having no gray matter to dedicate to this one.  On the other hand, I now know and understand that the PERT equation is (P+4M+o)/6 and that it’s the only estimating method that’s a weighted average… and that’s going to be on the test, not who Mickey Cohen talked to, so that’s okay with me.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy, 496 pages.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters (Vols 1 and 2)

dreameaters Here begins an extraordinary alliance—and a brutal and tender, shocking, and electrifying adventure to end all adventures.

It starts with a simple note. Roger Bascombe regretfully wishes to inform Celeste Temple that their engagement is forthwith terminated. Determined to find out why, Miss Temple takes the first step in a journey that will propel her into a dizzyingly seductive, utterly shocking world beyond her imagining—and set her on a collision course with a killer and a spy—in a bodice-ripping, action-packed roller-coaster ride of suspense, betrayal, and richly fevered dreams.

~From the back cover of Volume 1


Sounds pretty cool, huh?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Then I started reading this monster.  Wow.  Let’s talk about where I think it all went wrong.

The premise isn’t bad, but it’s horribly convoluted.  I read over 800 pages and I’m still not sure exactly what why it all happened.  Something political, I think.   I’m not sure.  It’s not like I didn’t read the damn thing, I did.  In some ways I wanted to know what happened.  But I should be able to tell you and I can’t.

Let’s talk about characters.  All 15million of them.  We have 3 main protagonists (give or take a few) and a Metro busload of antagonists and they are almost impossible to keep straight.  You’d think that the fact they keep dying would help you sort them out, but it just seems like one bites it and another one enters the picture.  If that weren’t enough, apparently everyone in these books is downing some serious “let’s do the dirty!” juice because everyone seems to be very randy (in a Austin Powers kinda way if you get my drift.)

Lest you think that I have something against sex in books, I don’t.  But, this book is over the top in terms of respect and appropriateness (is that a word?).  And although I’m rarely judging authors personally based on their writing, I can’t help but think of Gordon Dahlquist (the author, lest you be confused) as a semi-misogynistic creep.

So, confusing story, too many characters and insulting treatment of women.  It sounds like it’s this should be filed under “stupid reader problem” and not something inherent in the book and I guess that’s possible.  All I know is that I read a lot and I like and understand most of what I read, this just wasn’t one of those things.  If you ask me, don’t bother with this one.  Leave it in the bookstore.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters vol 1 by Gordon Dahlquist, 464 pages

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters vol 2 by Gordon Dahlquist, 413 pages

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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It’s time for Ketchup!

I need to come clean.  A while ago I was worried that I’d read too slow and I let myself accumulate a backlog of books in order to make sure that you didn’t have a big gap between posts.  Well, I think we all know that there was STILL a gap between posts and I gotta tell you, that backlog ain’t blogging itself.

So, I’d like to catch us up with some of the less memorable books in one large post.  I’d like to point out that less memorable doesn’t mean BAD, just means I can cover what I want to say in a smaller blip.  This means that we’re out of order but you should get better reviews of the newer stuff I’ve read.  And honestly, if I don’t catch us up, I’m going to start to get lost.

So, let’s get dippin!  (Ketchup, dip, get it?  ah.. nevermind)


soul_identity_small Most people believe that their souls live on past their bodies, but what if there were a way to identify and track your souls progress across several lifetimes?  You’d be able to pass along things to your future ‘soul self’, building a bridge across the ages passing along wisdom and valuables.  Scott Waverly is a security expert and has been hired to protect the company from a suspected insider attack, but along the way he’ll need to figure out what he believes.


Not a bad book.  Bought it for a penny on the Kindle and it was worth a bit more than that.  Amazon is selling it in dead tree form for $10 and I like my price better.  It’s not a bad book but not the best.  This is one you could easily take on a plane and leave in the airport bathroom for someone else when you’re done.   Not that I’ve ever done that, but if you found a mediocre book in the ladies in the Little Rock airport, you’re welcome.

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder, 268 pages (per Amazon’s product page)


little brother cover-small In the not too distant future, citizens are RFID’ed, computer networks are monitored and the illusion of privacy is just that – an illusion.  Marcus, aka “w1n5t0n”, is just a kid who likes to push the boundaries – putting pebbles in his shoes to fool the programs that identify you by gait and cracking the browser security on his school issued laptop.  When he and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus gets a deep and dirty look at the inner workings of Homeland Security and the Government that is supposed to protect us all from harm.

What follows is a perhaps too logical path to a 1984- like societal monitoring that Marcus and his friends begin to question and, in doing so, begin to recognise that the only way freedoms can be taken is to stand by and do nothing.


Free.  This book is free.  I’ve linked you all to a place where Cory has released this on a creative commons license for everyone to read.  So if you feel like it, go grab it and read it.  My personal take?  Honestly, I think it’s overdone.  I get it, we live in a world where fear has caused the general populace to put up with borderline personal rights intrusions.  And it’s a slippery slope.  Most people don’t complain about taking our shoes off at the airport (really.. are you safer, really?) but now there are x-ray scanners that can see beneath your clothes.  I believe that things like wiretapping under the guise of “safety” isn’t right, and so does Cory Doctorow, but this book practically beats you to death with it.

And I’m probably tired of him shilling it all over the place.  Anyway, I suppose it’s worth reading, but I can’t say that I’m buying it for everyone I know.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  384 pages (per Amazon’s product page)


Scarface’s Burden – Joseph Devon. No fancy artwork.  No page count (honestly it’s short.  Like… oh.. short).  But if you like Jonathan Coulton and you like the song “Skullcrusher Mountain” you will like this little story written by an oh-so-put-upon personal assistant to a mad scientist.


beautiful_red Meet Jack.  Office cube dweller working corporate security by day, technological tinkerer by night, Jack lives in a ever growing connected world.  People are constantly plugged into the web and one of her best friends she’s never actually even met.  But when she notices that someone has broken into her company’s computer system, she starts down an investigatory path that will lead her to the Reds – a group of people who don’t share her worldview.  As she investigates, she discovers a whole new perspective and is forced to examine her own beliefs.


Good one.  Another creative commons license (which means free, folks), I first tried to get into this one when it was on  Side note – is really cool.  Free serial audiobooks delivered to you weekly (or as the author writes the next chapter) and it’s a great way to find some new authors.  That’s how I found Scott Sigler (horror author) and a couple of others who are starting to hit mainstream.  Check them out, it’s pretty cool if you like audiobooks.

ANYWAY, Wehm has created a world that I think is (unfortunately) a pretty logical evolution of our own.  Personal interaction is much less important than the online world – in fact people have implants that let them be constantly on network.  But you know if that’s that case, there’s always going to be a faction that thinks that’s not night (get offa my lawn, you smoochers!!) and this book paints that resistance pretty well.  Plus, it’s got some nice little twists.

You can download it free on the link in the picture, it’s short so it’s worth reading if you have time.

Beautiful Red by M.Darusha Whem, 164 pages (per the download website)


black dahlia Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in 1947 in an abandoned field.  After her death, she was known as the Black Dahlia.  Her killer was never found.   This novelization imagines the people who found her, the police who worked her case and what a strange and tangled web the Dahlia wove around the people she knew.

The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, an ex-boxer and current policeman, he finds himself drawn into the investigation.  His obsession with the Dahlia and her story threaten all the important things in his life, and in the end he learns something about himself – and perhaps more than he wanted about some people that he cares about.


Ellroy is the master of this sort of writing.  A mix of truth and fiction, he’s woven a mesh of logic and almost unbelievable fantasy (not in that whole fairies and wizards way) into a story that feels like it could have happened that way.  Ellroy also wrote “LA Confidential” (which is somewhere in the “read me” stack) and both The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential have been made into really good movies.  I don’t know what that really says other than you can have a themed movie night if you read both of his books.  Or maybe it means that he writes compelling stories… and that I’d agree with.

(If you get the book with the afterward by the author, read it.  It’s worth it for an interesting insight into Ellroys relationship with the Dahlia… and it’s not what you think!)

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, 337 pages

The Road to Gandolfo

gandolfo1 Say you’re a decorated war hero whose time has come – you’ve become a liability and embarrassment to the red, white and blue.  And say you’re looking for a way to… oh, pay them back.  So, maybe you’d hook up this this lawyer dude you know who is also in the Army and is almost at his tour of duty.  And you might include your 4 former ex-wives.

Then maybe you’d decide to kidnap the Pope for the ransom of $1 per Catholic in the world.

Well, then maybe you’d be General MacKenzie Hawkins, lawyer Sam Devereaux, Hawkins Harem and Pope Francesco 1.  And you’d be in for a hell of a ride.


So, I think I’ve seen half of The Bourne Identity.  I don’t know if I liked it, really, and I tried to read those books a long time ago and wasn’t thrilled with them.   So when the online book club that I pretend to be part of if I like the sound of the book chose this Ludlum book I wasn’t overly excited but thought I’d check it out.

This book is HILARIOUS.  It’s not what I think of as typical Ludlum.  It’s sort of a smart 3 Stooges debacle led by a mastermind of hysterical proportions.  It’s clever.  So clever.  Ludlum has really created these larger than life characters and put them in a pretty preposterous position.  I mean, who decides that they want to kidnap the Pope?!  And not only wants to kidnap the Pope but actually goes through all the planning and fund raising to do it?

Mac and Sam are a strange pairing – sort of a Gibson and Glover Lethal Weapon type of partnership.  I’d love to see a movie made from this book but I can’t see much of a way this would happen.  Which is too bad, because this is a really funny story and I’m planning on picking up the sequel “The Road to Omaha”.

I know this is a quickie review, but you really just need to read it to get the feel.  It would be a great beach read and since summer is coming up it might be worth grabbing if you have a trip planned.  It’s short, so plan accordingly there.  🙂

This one is hard to classify, but I’m going to label this one as “spy” although maybe it’s not exactly.

The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum, 291 pages

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Pillars of the Earth – and the Kindle

pillars In 12th century England, society is built around the Church and the King.  The working class build their towns and homesteads around the monasteries and lease the local Noble’s land to make their way through their lives.  It’s a violent, difficult and somehow simple time.

This is the story of one man, Tom Builder who dreams of building a cathedral.  It’s also the story of Prior Phillip, a man of the cloth trying to hold his own against the larger corrupt and vengeful religious order he’s part of.   It’s a story of conquest and greed, of splendor and destitution, of dreams realized and hopes dashed.  Across generations and landscapes, it’s a wide reaching story of the passions- ambition, faith, beauty- that drive the human spirit.


So, this book was okay.  It’s a pretty ambitious story and it’s a fairly good one, but eventually Follett’s writing style annoyed me.  Have you ever read a story that seemed almost padded?  Like the author felt it was necessary to remind you of who was who when you were pretty sure you could remember them from that major thing that happened before?  Yeah, that’s the feeling I got.  It was too bad, because the story itself – which is really wrapped around the Cathedral and the lives that it impacts – was a good one.

Follett created a lavish world with good characters even if they are painted with a pretty heavy brush.  There are very few “sort of good, sort of bad” people in this book – they are either good or bad and you know it right from the start.  Personally, I prefer characters who are written a bit more realistically – no person is all good or all bad and to portray them as such pulls me out of the story.  There’s no potential for redemption or surprises with reactions.  I realize that’s not the purpose of this book, but I personally think that you end up caring more about complex characters than one dimensional cut outs.

This book is worth picking up in a used book store somewhere, I’m not sure I’d pay full price for it.  It would be good for a plane though, it’s long!

So, what was different about this book?  I read it on this:

kindle1 Yep, I bought a Kindle.  Okay, how many of you are really surprised?  I mean, I’m a techie dork and I like to read and it was only a matter of time, right?

So, I got this on April 1 and have been using it off and on since.  Let’s start with some specs from Amazon (the only place you can buy the Kindle)

Display: 6″ diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″.

Weight: 10.2 ounces.

System requirements: None, because it doesn’t require a computer.

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours and supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s 3G high-speed data network.

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery. Book cover sold separately.

That’s the techie part.  Here are my thoughts and impressions after using it about a month:

1)  This thing is COOL!  e-paper is cool.  technology is cool.  cool

2)  This thing is thin, I’m scared to read it in bed (since I have a tendency to fall asleep with books in my hand) and I’m seriously thinking about getting the replacement insurance although I’m pretty cheap and probably won’t.

3)  This changes reading.  First, it lets me carry a bunch of books around with me at all times.  Second, it remembers where I am with all of them and I can sync that to an iPhone application that lets me read the same books and then sync back to the Kindle.  It lets me buy a book immediately.  And I can preview them to see if I think I’ll like it.

4)  It’s not like “tree book” reading, it’s a different experience.  The Kindle is light, but weighted differently than a book is.  You push a button to turn the page.  BUT, that being said, there were times when I found myself reaching my hand up to physically flip paper

5)  There is no eyestrain like reading on a computer.  Of course you can’t read in the dark – no light, no reading, just like real paper

6)  There are TONS of free books.  Between books that are out of copyright (like all of the OZ books and classics like Don Quixote and The Divine Comedy) and newer ones that are being released either as promos (via Amazon) or via Creative Commons licences on other sites, you could read for a long time and not pay a cent.  That’s cool, yo.

7)  The battery life on a “wireless on” Kindle is about 4-5 days but I leave my wireless off and I’m going on week 3 on the same charge.  Granted, I’m not reading this all the time, but the battery life kicks butt.

So, I’m still getting used to it, and you’ll start to see books listed here that I’ve read on the Kindle.  I’ll tag them for you, just so we can see if my reading habits change over time.  One note about “number of pages” on a Kindle – because you can change the font sizes, there aren’t page numbers – there are location numbers.  I’ll have to figure out how to convert them to pages.  If there is a print version available, I’ll use that number for my page count.  If I’ve had to derive it otherwise, I’ll tell you that, too.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, 973 pages (as listed by Amazon print edition spec page)

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 10:21 am  Comments (1)  
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The King Must Die

kingmustdie If all you remember about the Greek myth of Theseus is that he killed the minotaur, this book will remind you of his more evolved story.  Born of a princess, Theseus was told all his life that his father was a god and when he finds that his father is actually the king of a distant land, he journeys to find him.

Along the way, he not only encounters the thieves and ruffians but (in the true Greek legend way) overcomes the obstacles to make his way to his father in distant Athens.  After narrowly escaping Medea in his father’s court, he find himself  part of the yearly tribute to King Minos as part of the sacrifice to the city’s Minotaur, a half man/half bull.  As legend has it, Theseus befriends the daughter of the king who gives him a ball of string enabling him to find the best within his lair and kill it while still escaping with his life and his lady.

He make his way back to Athens where, when failing to display the appropriate colored sails, he causes his father to believe Theseus killed, leading to his own suicide.  Thus, Theseus returns to Athens as the proven heir apparent and hero but loses his father in the undertaking and becomes the new King… where he goes on to have other adventures.


Now, I know it seems like I just totally spoiled the whole plot.. but I didn’t.  First, you should already have a working familiarity with the basic story if you are going to get much out of this book because Mary Renault tells the story in a very different way.  And I’m really trying to spare you any of the “wait, what?” moments that I had while I was reading this.

What she’s done is take the basic myth and make Theseus flesh and blood with his own insecurities and strengths and real world problems.  She’s used the legend as an outline to the book, but transforms it into a story that has the main elements while making the story realistic for the time.  Since I don’t want to give away too much of it, I will just say that you have to trust me that it works, although it’s a bit strange at times.  I guess it’s sort of like how the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou? tells the story of Odysseus, although this time she didn’t bother to change the names and it’s in the same time period and I’ve searched and searched and there is no George Clooney anywhere in this book.

If you like Greek mythology, you should consider picking this one up. In fact, if I were a High School English teacher, which thankfully I’m not, I’d make my students read this as a great example of the reworking of an established plot line into something literately more.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault, 338 pages  (and if you get this particular copy, there is a short write up of the Theseus legend in the back)

Published in: on April 17, 2009 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Okay, not really.  That would be a good story though, huh?

This time, we’re going foodie in a double update!

nastybitsus_150dpi200x300pxl Anthony Bourdain.  The name conjures images of a lanky, chain smoking swearing man enjoying a dish of something that you and I would probably not eat on a bet.  And yet it’s cuisine and he loves it and hey, how can you argue anyway?  Well, he’s back with another book – this time a collection of short stories and essays about everything ranging from how his show is shot to why we should all be nicer to the waiters.   And sometimes, why we should just cook at home.

Since there’s really no “story” here, it’s sort of hard to review this book.  I like Bourdain’s ramblings – he seems like an interesting guy with a lot of insight.  I like how he’s gritty and blunt and seemingly honest with his opinions… but he sort of seems like someone that might knife you if you make him mad.  He probably wouldn’t kill you, but you’d have a really cool scar.  Which might be kind of sweet in itself.  There’s probably a Facebook group for people who have been knifed by Anthony Bourdain.

Anyway, this is another fun one to read if you’re looking for something that you can pick up and put down without losing the narrative (one reason I like these short story/essay compilations).   He never fails to make me want to cook and stay far far away from a professional kitchen.


downandout Part autobiographical, part fiction, Down and Out in Paris and London is George Orwell’s first novel.  It’s a gritty account of poverty and trying to get by in two of the largest cities in the world.  Along the way, he finds himself working in the kitchens of Hotel X, slogging his way through in order to just keep afloat.   Later in London, he finds himself maneuvering through the homeless and the “charitable” shelter systems in an attempt to find his way out from poverty.


I don’t think I want to be poor. I mean, not in the “what can I hock today for some bread” kind of poor, and that’s the kind of poor that this talks about.  It’s the kind of poor where you have to sneak your clothes out of the building you’re living in so that your landlord doesn’t notice and want the rent.  It’s the kind of poor where you sleep in barracks or in shelters that make you listen to a sermon before giving you some bread.  That’s a kind of poor that nobody should have to live.

While this book is technically fiction, it’s commonly known that it’s very autobiographical and from the way it’s written you can tell that these things HAPPENED to Orwell.  There’s a sense of absurd realism that rings true as you read along and you can almost start to see where his ideas about the class system and society (which are so pointedly lampooned in Animal Farm) come from.

I picked this up (and am including it in this post) because it was a book that Anthony Bourdain recommended.  I wouldn’t say that this is REALLY a book about the restaurant industry although it’s a focus of the Paris portion of the story, so if you’re reading it for that you will probably be sort of disappointed.  Those portions are written with the same grittiness as Bourdain’s writing, so you know they are probably fairly accurate, but this book is more than that.  It’s about struggle and despondency and just being part of a marginalized population.  Worth the read – it’s not a long book – and it’s now public domain so you can go to Google books or other sites and read it online for free.  And we like free.

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones by Anthony Bourdain, 288 pages

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, 213 pages

Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 9:02 am  Comments (7)  
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The Year Of Living Biblically

yolb_paperback Sure, we all live by some biblical rules – we shalt not kill, we shalt not covet other people’s cool stuff (well, we try this one), we shalt not take the last shrimp puff from the buffet – but what if you tried to follow ALL the rules in the Bible?  The one that says you can’t wear mixed fibers or you should stone adulterers?  And welcome to crazy beard land!

A.J. Jacobs does just that, and finds out that it ain’t easy being holy but if you fake it ’til you make it you might learn something about yourself that you didn’t know before.


I bought this book on a whim one day when I was with my friend Brea (she puts me in these types of silly moods) and I couldn’t put it down once I finally picked it up.  This book is funny.  It’s meant to be, so I don’t have to feel bad about laughing (thank goodness!).

Jacobs breaks out his year into 2 parts, the first 9 months working through the Old Testament and the last 3 working through the New Testament.  Apparently there are a lot more rules in the Old Testament and that’s where you get your real Orthodox Jewish population.  Those guys with the curly sideburns?  That’s not fashion, that’s a God rule.

Part of Jacobs’ challenge is not only trying to find a modern-traditional way to follow an ancient governance, it’s also his internal conflict with the study (and close adherence to) religious practices that he doesn’t subscribe to.  It’s interesting to see what happens when he “walks the walk” and you could probably go on and on about the power of belief but this book isn’t preachy and I’m not going there.  Let’s just say while that he didn’t transform from agnostic to Rabbi, it’s probably impossible to not be changed in some way by an experience like this.

Jacobs is an entertaining writer and does a good job of mixing the crazy parts of his experiment (his wife’s reaction to certain rules that men must follow regarding menstruating woman is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time) while keeping a personal tone to his story.  Mixed in with the surreal and fantastical is a real down to earth reality of a year in the life of someone who only sort of realizes that he’s on a spiritual journey as well.

If you want a feel for this book and his writing, check out his website or, if you just want to read something quick and funny, here are a few rules that he followed.  And I have already broken one… you’re only getting one update today so I’ll say ‘sorry’ now for being a liar.

The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, 416 pages

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Company

company What do the Berlin Base of the ’50s, the Soviet invasion of Hungary, the Bay of Pigs, Afghanistan, and the Gorbachev putsch all have in common?  The involvement of the CIA.  And what involvement it is!  From masterminding complex plots to looking for the traitors in their midst, the Company doesn’t only look out for the best interests of the US internally but also judges global events to make sure that the upheaval in the rest of the world doesn’t endanger our way of life.  The Company follows the innermost workings of the, arguably, most powerful agency in the world and brings us into a grand tale of intrigue, betrayal, love and hope.


I wish I’d seen this miniseries when it was on TV!  I bought this book a couple of years ago when I saw it as a movie tie in and didn’t quite know what to think.  It’s sat on the bookshelf for all that time and I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up earlier!  This isn’t a light read, it’s part military/American history and part fiction, but 100% compelling.  The characters are really well written and over the course of the book you follow them as they literally grow up from college recruits to grandparents.  It’s a great journey and by the end I felt for these guys every twist and turn and close call they went through.

The disclaimer to all of this is that I really am not into American history (sorry to my high school teachers – it’s not your fault) so I saw this book from a strictly story telling sense.  I can’t claim to know how much is true and how much is fiction (other than I know the EVENTS are true) so if you’re a history or government buff you might get more (or maybe less?) out of this book than I did.  I’d be interesting to know how much of this is really real and how much is made up but, like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

If you like spy and espionage books, then try this one.  Oh, and it’s got a hell of a twist that I half guessed and then thought I was wrong and then it kinda turned out I was right although I was really doubting that I’d figured it out and WHEW let’s just say it was a good one.

The Company: A Novel of the CIA, bye Robert Littell, 894 pages

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 2:19 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Road

the-road There is the road.  And a father and a son.  And a barren wasteland and danger all around them.  But there is no food.  No civilization.  And most of all, no hope.

But there is a journey to somewhere.  And there is the man and the boy and their love for each other and maybe that’s enough.


First, the cover of my book isn’t nearly as cool as this one.  This one is much better actually giving you a feel for the story.  It’s dark and grim and horribly popular with people.  The book, not the cover.  Second, it looks like this was once an Oprah book club selection which surprised me and if I’d known it I probably would have stayed away on general principle.  Of course, now I want to see the episode where she pimps it to see if she gave away dirty clothes or maybe human skulls to her audience in celebration.

On the surface, this is a book of survival in a horribly caustic world.  I’ve never read any other McCarthy novels (he also wrote No Country For Old Men) and haven’t ever seen a movie based on any of his works so I’m not overly familiar with his style but I found it almost distracting.  He’s very minimalist and doesn’t use quotes for conversation or even name his characters.  Strangely enough, once I got used to it, it might have kind of worked for this novel.

This book takes place after a major unnamed catastrophe and, in a way, the writing style supports the barrenness and desolation that results.  You can almost project yourself into the story, although you sure as hell don’t want to.

I have mixed feelings on this one.  On one hand, it’s a good overall book with a pretty powerful story.  On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the ‘end all be all’ story that some people make it out to be.  Maybe I needed to know more about these people to feel like their survival was important, I dunno.  So, I think you should read it, but maybe not run right out and grab it?

I suppose I vote “meh”.  Or maybe I just don’t know good literature when I read it.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 287 pages

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment