Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Aimless Love - New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

This is a review I recently posted on LibraryThing, Amazon, and GoodReads:

This is a "recent best of..." collection that has both funny and serious poems, each with that unique narrative Billy Collins voice ("that isn't the author's voice").

There are a lot of contemporary poets out there today who don't like Billy Collins because he is accessible to "non-elites." The average person can pick up a book of his poetry and enjoy it. His poems speak on many levels, so it is quite simple to read a work of his and enjoy it at face value. But a person can also look deeper and find those little abstractions, bits of symbolism, and other aspects present in literature and poetry. It is this ability that makes Collins a good poet, and makes him exceptionally talented to continue to pursue one of his passions -- to bring the joy of poetry to the widest audience possible. Poetry shouldn't be restricted to the academics, it shouldn't be restricted to an elite few, it should be shared with all.

This book does that.

How else could a book of poetry be discussed on The Colbert Report and include an entertaining interview with Collins (and a co-reading with Stephen Colbert of "To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl")?

If you're looking for a good entrance into the world of poetry, you won't go wrong with this. If you've enjoyed Billy Collins in the past, then this book absolutely must become a part of your collection. And if you don't like Collins because you're a (jealous) elitist, then go away.

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

This is a review I recently posted on various book-lover websites:

It's rare that I give a fictional narrative five stars, and this one in particular had many little things I didn't like or sometimes found irritating, but the author did two things important things to earn five stars. First, I couldn't put the book down; Second, once I finished it, I immediately wanted to reread it.

Essentially, isn't that what reading is about?

Oh sure, like other pieces of "literature" it leaves an impression on you, it asks important questions both timeless and relevant to today's issues, but when it boils down to the basics, it was a compelling read worthy of the time devoted to it.

Although at times it seemed as though it was a social commentary condemning the "old" ways of acquiring information (via books), it eventually circled around and brought both the "old" generation and the "e" generation together, requiring both their resources to crack the puzzle of the plot. I have to admit, I got tired of reading all the techy references and the digs at those born prior to those inventions, and I especially got tired of seeing the word "Google" on every page, but on retrospect I can see where some of it was necessary. An another enjoyable aspect of the novel was how the author used character roles of the modern genre fantasy novels and translated that into modern terms and roles as a team forms to solve the puzzle of the plot - the wizard, warrior, thief, etc.

I highly recommend this novel to any book lover or anyone seeking a fun, lighted-hearted novel (there's no fighting, violence, etc).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dune - My Favorite Science Fiction novel?

Occasionally, I'm asked what my favorite science fiction novel is. I think that's a silly question since there are so many great ones out there, and honestly, it all depends on my mood at the time I'm asked the question.

The closest I can get to answering that question is by answering which novel I've reread the most - "Dune" by Frank Herbert.

When I first encountered the novel in my early teens I wasn't the least bit interested in reading it. Afterall, a bunch of people running around on a sandy planet wasn't my idea of a fun science fiction read. But a few years later, I finally read it. I can remember that summer well, and look back with fond memories now of my first reading. I can even remember my second reading of it during one of the worst droughts southern Illinois had experienced in decades (how ironic, eh?)

TimeLife Books was offered leather-bound editions of classical works of science fiction, including Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's "2001" through a really terrible television commercial (this was years before the internet). At one point during the commercial, it showed an older man reading a copy of Dune to his grandson - as if a child that young would be able to comprehend this novel. I so wanted a copy, but my parents wouldn't buy it for me - they couldn't understand why I'd want a second copy of a book I already owned.

I've lost track of how many times I've read it, but I would guess at least five times. And I've read Dune Messiah and Children of Dune probably the same number of times. But after that, each novel removed from the original, I've read less. In fact, some of the newer ones by his son, Brian Herbert, co-authored with sci-fi veteran Kevin J. Anderson, I've never read at all. I own then, just never read them. The reason? Probably because when I'm in the mood for the Dune universe, I return to that original novel I fell in love with.

Inexplicably, my family seems to think that Tolkien's work is my favorite. And while I love Tolkien just as much as the next science fiction and fantasy fan, I can't say he is my favorite.

When it comes to favorite authors, I still can't say that Herbert is one. He makes mistakes that authors aren't supposed to make, but for whatever reason, I forgive him. I have friends and author friends who can't stand Herbert, who think he is over-rated, and I can't necessarily argue that point with them. I always reply to their criticism, "You may be right, but I keep reading his books anyway."

So Until Next Time...
Sandily Yours,