Archive for : May, 2014

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Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley – A Review

There are several stories in the Bible (both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as well) that are known by almost everyone out there (and even more than that, they resemble stories from other cultures than the Judeo-Christian one as well). The story of Noah and the flood is one of them and everybody seems to take it as such: Noah is God’s most beloved human, so He lets him know of the flood that will kill everything on Earth. Therefore, God tells Noah to build an ark and to take his family and two animals out of each species with him on the ark.

Timothy Findley gives the reader with a different perspective on this story. Not Wanted on the Voyage is a postmodern interpretation of Noah’s story and it allows us to see things from a different point of view. In Findley’s novel, Dr. Noah Noyes is presented as a tyrannical religious zealot who takes God’s word as it is and who is ready to commit murder (or to order it, to be more precise) to make sure that God’s word is followed exactly. Even more, God (Yahweh) is presented as tired of humanity’s treatment of him and as ready to die. When Noah tries to entertain God with a trick that makes a coin disappear in a glass of water, Yahweh becomes obsessed with the idea that water can actually make everything disappear – so he decides to flood everything on Earth, but not before letting Noah know of his plan.

In a way similar to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude blends realism with fantastic elements, Not Wanted on the Voyage also mixes a lot of other elements that will seem odd to someone who has never read a book of this kind before. Noah’s wife can talk to animals, Mottyl is a cat with a very strong personality and Lucifer himself is taken on the ark in the form of Lucy (one of Noah’s sons’ wife). On top of everything, unicorns are just as big as a dog and they are present on the ark as if they are something completely normal every human being on Earth is familiar with.

This is a bizarre book indeed, but once you get past its oddities, you will discover that it is a book that makes you pose some serious questions on something that has been spoon-fed to everyone growing in a Judeo-Christian context. What if we have never realized that Noah was not a life-saver but a tyrant? What if we never realized how desperate God must have been when he wanted to flood the world and allow everything to die? What if God himself died in the flood? What if we never realized that Lucifer himself must have been on the ark, since evil has been present since the flood as well? What about all those who were left behind?

Do not read this book if you are on the side of the faint-hearted. Strange and even disturbing at times, this is not the kind of book you want to read before bed time, but the kind of book that will make you hungry for answers you may never find. This is a book for those open to the idea that the Bible may not always be as simple as it seems and for those open to the idea that there may be different points of view to explore when it comes to stories we have grown much too familiar with.

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Oyster Books Review

OysterBooks is quite an interesting little app for your mobile device. Until 2014, they actually didn’t have it available for my Android, which was disappointing, to say the least. But, once I finally was able to try it on my device, I could say that I’m pretty satisfied with most of what they have to offer.

I’ll start off with my biggest complaint, which is that it doesn’t have a huge variety of books. Yes, they have over 100,000 books in their library, but they only have their books from a limited number of authors and publishers at this point in time. That’s kind of a bummer, when you think about it – they’re missing a few of the most prominent publishers out there, including Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon and Schuster. That means there’s a whole chunk of books that you just don’t have access to at this point in time – hopefully, in time, they will add it to everything that they have on their repertoire, but they don’t have it on there quite yet.

Oyster on iPhone. Image sourced from www.dailycartoonist.com

Oyster on iPhone. Image sourced from www.dailycartoonist.com

Now that I’m done with what I don’t like, let me tell you what I like. I love Netflix, because there are a lot of different things on there that I can find, even if they aren’t things that I would normally go ahead and watch. I love the same exact thing about OysterBooks. I love going to the bookstore, but because there aren’t a lot of them left nowadays, I don’t get that experience too often. But, OysterBooks gives me that. I get to sit there and sift through all of the different eBooks on my device. So I don’t even have to get out of my PJ’s in order to browse through categories of books. That’s pretty sweet. I also love their social integration (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and I really enjoy how I can sit down and get suggestions from them about the books I may like.

So, as you can see, OysterBooks has its great things, and it has things that are not so great. I feel like it’s worth their subscription fee, but I feel like it would be more of a “steal” if they figured out ways to make it even better. There’s so much that they can do with the interface and the experience, and I want to see what they can do in the future. I’ll definitely be sticking around to see how they make it better.

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Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King – A Review

I’m not a huge fan of horror fiction, but when I heard that Stephen King had written a detective novel, I was definitely interested.

Stephen King breaks the typical mold of writing that he set for himself early in his career to bring readers Mr. Mercedes. Although Stephen King fans should be aware, this is not a typical Stephen King supernatural horror story. In fact, it feels a little more James Patterson than it does Stephen King. However, Mr. Mercedes is still a great story, and one of Stephen King’s better written novels. For those wondering, yes there is still a bit of gore, but it is not something that would typically be written by the Master of Horror himself. Mr. Mercedes is the first Stephen King book of its kind, but it surely will not be his last.

The story takes place in an average American Midwestern city, and revolves around a retired detective by the name of Bill Hodges. Bill learns of a local disaster, in which a man driving a Mercedes drives into a crowd of people attending a job fair. The man driving the Mercedes even takes his time, backing up and going forward over his victims again. Local police have no suspects, and that does not sit well with the retired detective. Suddenly, Hodges appears to receive some sort of threatening message in the mail from someone claiming to be the suspect in the Mercedes murders. In the letter, the perpetrator claims that something even more heinous is about to happen to even more people. Bill Hodges can’t just sit around and wait anymore. It is time for him to brush the dust of his detective skills, and assist the local police in getting a deranged killer put behind bars.

Mr. Mercedes is a great novel for Stephen King to break into the mystery scene with. Although it still has the feeling of being written by the horror maven, there are still parts of Mr. Mercedes that show King’s lack of experience writing a good detective novel. However, Mr. Mercedes is a good all around novel, with great detective novel aspects. Stephen King went above and beyond his norm, and that is always a positive thing. All in all, Mr. Mercedes is a very good book, and you can hardly tell that it is Stephen King’s first true hardboiled detective novel. Readers will not be disappointed with Mr. Mercedes, especially Stephen King fans.

Stephen King may not be the murder mystery writer that James Patterson is, but he is obviously very talented. With a bit of effort, he could easily reach the ranks of other mystery thriller writers. One thing is for certain, whether you are a fan of Stephen King or just a fan of the mystery novel, Mr. Mercedes is a novel that you are going to want to read.

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Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey – A Review

Happy May Day! I just finished reading Observatory Mansions, Edward Carey’s debut novel, and I absolutely loved it.

Observatory Mansions is the first of Edward Carey’s novels, but it comes very natural as a continuation to his career as a playwright and illustrator as well. Somewhere hanging in between Ionesco/Beckett and cartoonish characters, this book is very likely to haunt you for a long time from now on.

The novel’s action takes place in Observatory Mansions, an apartment complex that once belonged to Orme’s family but that is now left in decay and inhabited by the strangest characters you have ever encountered in a book. As a matter of fact, these characters will seem so strange that Twin Peaks are quite normal by comparison (and any of David Lynch’s work, for that matter).

Francis Orme is one of the central characters and he earns his living by being a statue. When he is not still (on the inside as well as on the outside, as he mentions), he steals rubbish from his neighbors on the sole account that those objects were loved by them – and by this he somehow finds an odd substitute for real love.

Observatory Mansions

As strange as it may seem, Francis is actually the most normal of all the characters that inhabit the Observatory Mansions. His mother and father have not spoken to each other in years, there is a woman who behaves as an dog, a character who would much rather live in the TV box than in real life and a man who sweats and cries. This is where Anna Tapp comes to change everyone in one way or another and this is where the entire action of the novel will take place.

Francis wears gloves at all times – which is extremely symbolic of the fact that he has isolated himself from the outer world and doesn’t want to touch or be touched by it. Even more, his odd museum of odd objects projects itself on the even odder human museum of strange people. Observatory Mansions is a true exposition of misfits in all the senses of the word: people who have somehow isolated themselves from actual life in a house where they are surrounded by the surreal at every single step and in an unnamed city that seems to be without an actual place or an actual time – as if the only space and time that existed were the ones in the book.

Marvelously built, the entire novel is dark and gloomy, but it will seduce you with its vivid and surreal characters. In the little world they have built around themselves, the inhabitants of the Observatory Mansions are secure with their life – probably because everyone there feels the same about life and because everyone there would be a complete lunatic in the “real world” that goes beyond the walls of the mansion. And yet, when Anna Tapp arrives, she challenges everything they have been living with for she is fierce, optimistic and feisty and she is herself a misfit among these misfits.

Who is this book suitable for? Well, it is suitable for everyone, as long as you don’t have anything against seeing the grotesque portrayed in marvelously beautiful ways. It is suitable for those who are constantly avid readers as well as for those who haven’t read in a while because the last book they read disappointed them. It is for those in love with strangeness, with the surreal and with the absurd of the human life. It is for the misfits as well as for those trying to understand misfits. It is for those who liked Amelie  and We Have Always Lived in a Castle. Great for those who enjoy a good, dark read!