2016!!!

A new year is here!!!

And with it, comes a new opportunity to track my reading.

I am starting the year with a couple of books; Into The Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, and Voci (voices) by Dacia Maraini. This year, because of many other goals I want to accomplish, I will have a more modest goal.  One book a week. Surely I can do it!

Dead On Arrival

I started this blog those many months ago with the greatest of intentions. I wanted to read 1000 books a year using speed reading. See, I have become convinced that it is possible to speed read even when all the experts out there say it is not really possible. I’ve read articles in medical sites and journals explaining how speed reading is not physically possible because of the anatomy of the eye and the brain and this and that and blah blah blah.

Well, I haven’t researched this but I am willing to bet that the same kind of argument was being made against a human running a mile in less than 4 minutes. We know how that turned out. (In case you are not a runner, yes, a human can run a mile in less than four minutes although this was considered physically impossible back in the day)

Also, I saw a show about a guy in India who can wire himself up to the wall socket, throw the switch, and live to tell about it. Plus I have a personal experience or two about what the human body can do. Oh heck, I’ll tell you about this one because this one has actually been explained to me and it is a well known phenomenon. Back in my college days, I solved a complex Calculus reduction problem instantaneously. For many years I was mystified about this until recently when it was explained to me that some people can solve math problems with the part of their brain that processes vision and for some reason, this allows them to solve math problems at prodigious speeds. So I was able to do it once and I tell you, it was downright religious!

So, speed reading doesn’t seem all that impossible, or hard even, when one considers all these other cool things we can do with our bodies. Just watch So You Think You Can Dance and you’ll see what I mean!

I began this speed reading project by buying a number of software packages that basically force you to read fast. After using them however, I decided to start from the beginning and began to read books word by word. You may ask, were you NOT reading word by word already? Well, I don’t know about you but I wasn’t. Turns out that I was skipping a bunch of words because the context gave me all I needed. I don’t know if that makes sense but once I began, like a child, to look at every single word two things happened: First, my power of concentration went up a gazibillion times. It was amazing. I came to the conclusion that you can train concentration. Unfortunately, like speed reading itself, once you stop concentrating, your super power sort of goes away. This doesn’t make it any less real or any less useful though. Second, I noticed that once I was looking at every word, looking at groups of words became much easier, and, looking at groups of words is the holy grail of speed reading.

But I digress…

Sometime around February, I decided that I really wanted to get back to reading Japanese, or that is, learning how to read Japanese. After a couple of months and much progress, I decided to embark on the Romance Language project. This project will have me speaking Italian and Portuguese at an advanced level by New Year’s 2015 and speaking Catalan, French, and Romanian at at intermediate level by the same time.
Needless to say, my 1000 books a year sort of became neglected and forgotten.

I am not discarding it forever though. I WILL speed read and by golly, I will read 1000 books one year.

Over and out.

The Shack

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The Shack was written by William Paul Young and was published in 2007 by Windblown Media.

An unthinkable tragedy befalls Mackenzie and his family; Missy, his daughter has gone missing. Three years later, while his wife Nan and his two other children are visiting family, Mack gets a mysterious invitation to go to the place where the last clues to his daughter’s disappearance were recovered; a rundown shack by the side of a small lake deep in the forests of Oregon. Conflicted, angry, and hurt, Mack decides to go.

What happens at the shack is an exploration of what it means to have a relationship with God and an exploration about love and forgiveness. Via the interactions with Papa, Sarayu and of course, Jesus, Mack learns to forgive the man who killed his daughter and he learns to forgive God. At the end, the other person who heals as result of the strange happenings at the shack is Mack’s daughter, Kate.

This book was written by a Christian for Christians; OK, some Christians. Fundamentalists will more than likely disagree with everything the author says in this story but the message appealed to me. The book sat at the number one spot in the New York Times bestseller list, so I guess the message appealed to many others.

Thank you for stopping by!

Eat The Rich

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Eat The Rich was written by P.J. O’Rourke and was published by the Atlantic Monthly Press in 1998.

The book is about Economics. The writer is a conservative humorist and although I disagree with his conclusions he did make me laugh. I don’t know if I was supposed to learn anything about Economics by reading it (I didn’t) but I chuckled plenty at things such as (while in Albania after the economy collapsed there):

Elmaz said the looting had pretty much stopped, at least in the thirty or forty kilometers around Tirana. I asked him whether the OSCE force had imposed law and order. He didn’t think so.(…)I asked him if the government had managed to quiet things down (…) but Elmaz didn’t think the police had done much except pester Sali Berisha’s political opponents. “Then what stopped the looting?” I said.
“They were finished,” said Elmaz.

At the end, Mr. O’Rourke concludes that Capitalism should be selfish and that rich people are heroes.

I don’t know why I own this book. I’ve had it for so long I forgot why I bought it. I am glad I read it but I don’t think it was written for the likes of me.

On to my next book.

Sins Of The Assassin

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Written by Robert Ferrigno, Sins Of The Assassin was published by Scribner in 2008.

The story is set in the future. In this future, the United States has fallen apart. The country is divided; the Islamic Republic to the north and the Bible Belt to the south, with Mormon Territories and The Nevada Free State; and with Canada and the Empire of Aztlan (Previously known as Mexico)
vying for territories once ruled by the Old United States. Things are as messy as they can be while on the sidelines, a despotic character plots to take over the whole thing and establish a true caliphate on the land.

Heroes abound; Rakkim, a retired fedayeen warrior, Moseby, a rogue warrior who now earns his living as a finder, Leo, a soft, young Jew who surprises everyone, Sarah, Rakkim’s wife and no one to be trifled with, and Deputy Chief of Detectives Anthony Colarusso, an old Catholic detective. The list goes on. The bad guys are fierce and capable.

In this, the second book of a trilogy, Rakkim is tasked with retrieving a devastating weapon left over from the days when the U.S. was still a powerful nation. The weapon is soon to be in the possession of a Colonel in the Bible Belt. The action is continuous. Sins Of The Assassin is a great guy read.

Reading this book had me chuckling because I am sure that the author finished the book long before President Obama was elected. I am sure he would have played with that in the book. There is no mention of the fact that the U.S. elected its first black president ever. Instead, we have plenty of references to Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and the terrible events in Waco Texas.

Also, keeping in mind the theory about multiple universes, I thought that this story could be in fact unfolding at a parallel universe. He he he… maybe I don’t understand the multiverse theory at all.

All in all I enjoyed the book and I will now search for the next in the series.

Coldheart Canyon

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Coldheart Canyon, written by Clive Barker, was published in 2001 by HarpersCollins Publishers. The book is 686 pages long.

Todd Pickett is big movie star who after over a decade of being at top, is beginning to feel that Hollywood is leaving him behind. A movie producer suggests plastic surgery and things go downhill for Todd after that. Todd eventually ends up hiding in Coldheart Canyon in the Hollywood Hills at the mansion owned by an actress from the 20’s by the name of Katya Lupescu (aka Katya Lupi). In this house there is a room covered with an intricate tile mural brought from Romania which has a powerful effect on all who enter it. Ghosts and other creatures wrack havoc in Todd’s life. To his rescue comes an unlikely hero in the form of the president of the Todd Pickett Appreciation Society, who aided by Todd’s ex-manager and other characters rescues Todd from a life of eternal suffering.

This book is supposed to be a horror book but I found it more like macabre fantasy. It was not scary at all. Be aware that the book contains graphic descriptions of perverted sexual acts. The story is ok but a horror book it isn’t. All in all, the story managed to entertain me however, although I don’t know that I will be picking another book by Mr. Barker anytime soon.

Red The Fiend

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Red The Fiend was written by Gilbert Sorrentino and it was published in 1995 by Fromm. The book is 213 pages long.

Red The Fiend is a story about Red, a 12 year old boy who lives with his grandparents and his mother. Red is abused both physically and psychologically by his grandmother while all the other adults in his life idly stand by.

To me the story chronicles how an abuser is made. It is obvious from the story that the grandmother learned her abusive ways from her mother. Eventually, Red’s mother breaks and joins in the abuse, thus ensuring that the disease from which the grandmother suffers is passed down one generation. We see how Red develops a masochistic personality step by step.

The writing style of this novel is a bit odd. It seemed to me that whenever Red was not himself narrating the story, the story was told to us as a blow by blow commentary from a sport news show. If you can stand the writing style and the non-ending description of abuse this story is not bad. Can I say it was enjoyable? I may and then you will think I am a sick bastard. I will just say that it wasn’t a story that bored me. Mr. Sorrentino has written a number of other novels. I may pick another one up just to see if this is the style he writes in all the time or if the writing style was unique to this story.

The Interpreter of Maladies

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The Interpreter of Maladies was written by Jhumpa Lahiri and was published in 1999 by Mariner Books. The book is 198 pages long.

The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories. I really like this writer. The stories all have Indian protagonists.

The first story is called A Temporary Matter and it’s about a couple struggling with the loss of their baby.

The second story, When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine, deals with the split between Pakistan and India, and how it affected a Pakistani man living in the U.S.

The Interpreter of Maladies is the third story and it is about a tour guide in India and his encounter with a woman in one of his tours. The tour guide is an interpreter for a doctor who doesn’t speak Gujarati while most of his patients do.

A Real Durwan is the fourth story and it is about a refuge in India who finds a place in an apartment building where she is a porter of sorts. As the building changes so does her situation.

Sexy deals with an American woman in an affair with a married Indian man.

Mrs. Sen’s is a story about an Indian woman who feels misplaced in the U.S. She cannot drive and she baby sits an 11 year old American boy.

This Blessed House is the story of a young couple who have just moved into a house full of Christian iconography that has inexplicably been hidden all around the house. Twinkle, the young wife thinks it is all very charming and interesting but the husband cannot stand it.

The Treatment of Bibi Haldar is about a woman destined to become an old spinster because of a mysterious malady. Eventually she is cured by very odd circumstances.

The Third and Final Continent deals with a new Indian immigrant to the U.S. He rents an apartment from a woman who is 103 years old. His wife from an arranged marriage eventually joins him and he begins to fall in love with his wife the moment he introduces his new bride to the centenarian.

I really, really like Ms. Lahiri’s writing style. It is clean and expressive at the same time. I was sucked in into every story. I am very happy to find out that she has written a couple of novels since this collection of short stories.

The Secret Supper

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The Secret Supper was written by Spanish writer Javier Sierra and translated to English by Alberto Manguel. The English version of The Secret Supper was published by Washington Square Press in 2007. The original version in Spanish was published in 2004. The book is 329 pages long including a cast of characters.

The story is set in the 1490’s in Italy during the papacy of the Borgia pope. Inquisitor Father Agostino Leyre is sent to Milan by his superior to investigate a crime against the Catholic church. Letters have been arriving at Father Agostino’s office from a mysterious informant in Milan who goes by the name of The Soothsayer. This informant tells of a conspiracy to take down the Roman church.

When Father Agostino arrives in Milan, he meets none other than Leonardo Da Vinci as Leonardo completes his masterpiece The Last Supper. Mr. Sierra then continues to tell the story of how a group of Cathars is trying to bring forth the true Christian church by advancing knowledge of the Gospel of John, an apocryphal gospel.

The story is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code only in that both books allude to secrets hidden in the painting by Da Vinci. Mr. Sierra takes us on a completely different ride than Mr. Brown did. I really enjoyed the book. I would have preferred to read it in Spanish but since I bought this book several years ago, it felt in the category of “I have to read it as it is”. Someday I will give myself the pleasure of reading more of Mr. Sierra’s books in the original Spanish. I understand that by now he has written another book; The Woman In Blue.

Thank you for stopping by.