The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Posted by on Feb 2, 2018 in 2018, 3 stars, Book Review | 10 comments

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 127
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

The Old Man and the Sea is one of Hemingway’s most enduring works. Told in language of great simplicity and power, it is the story of an old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, and his supreme ordeal—a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Here Hemingway recasts, in strikingly contemporary style, the classic theme of courage in the face of defeat, of personal triumph won from loss. Written in 1952, this hugely successful novella confirmed his power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

My Thoughts:
This is another one of those classics I have never read until now. I liked it well enough but I certainly didn’t love it. It’s one of those books that the more I think about, the less I think I liked it.

It’s a short book and I took my time with it and was only reading a few pages at a time over the course of several days. I did get caught up in the old man’s battle with the marlin and there were actually moments that were rather exciting. On the other hand there were things that the old man did that seemed pretty stupid for a man who has been fishing all his life.

This was my first book by Hemingway and I have to say I wasn’t blown away. I doubt I’ll make an effort to seek out any of his other work.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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February Photo a Day Challenges

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Fun, photos | 2 comments

February 2018 Photo a Day Challenges

Hello February! Time for another month of daily photos!

I have found a way to make daily photo prompts work well for me.

No single photo a day prompt list fully works for me. I choose to save several lists and choose one prompt each day from among those lists. Every once in a while I just can’t find a prompt that works for me that say so I give myself permission to tag whatever I do want to photograph. I’m happy to say that I love this approach and it works great for me. I highly recommend it.

Here is a sample of the photo a day lists I’ll be using for February:
(click on the images to see larger versions)

If committing to a month at a time feels like too much, there are other weekly and daily options available on Instagram
There are several Instagram accounts that feature a new theme every day or every week. I follow these accounts and every once in a while they save me when I just don’t like any of the other prompts. These are all worth following on Instagram.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of using prompts for daily photos because it helps make a personal photo journal and also makes me look for inspiration throughout my daily life. It helps me to notice and appreciate the little moments and things every day.

I’ve been doing this since March of 2012 so I’m closing in on 6 years of daily photos.

Follow my Daily Photos on Instagram

These are the most liked of my January 2018 Photo a Day photos:

If you’re not doing a Photo a Day challenge I hope you’ll consider it because it’s a fun way to have a photo journal. If you are, great! Keep up with it. You won’t be sorry. I highly recommend the pick from many prompts each day approach.

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Going Clear by Lawrence Wright – Audio Edition

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in 2018, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright narrated by Morton Sellers

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 2013
Length: 17 hours, 27 minutes
Narrated by: Morton Sellers
Source: Purchased

The Book
From the publisher:

Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige — tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

My Thoughts
I’m oddly fascinated with Scientology and Scientologists. I think if Scientologists weren’t so secretive about things I probably wouldn’t care. I’ve been intrigued by the whole history, religion and organization for years. Last year I listened to Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman and found it fascinating.

This book is fairly similar to Inside Scientology (which I listened to last year) and covers a lot of the same ground so there wasn’t a lot of new information.

One thing I liked about this book is that interspersed throughout Wright’s examination of Scientology’s history is the story of one man and his experience with the church. The book opens with Paul Haggis meeting a scientologist in his hometown of London, Ontario. That meeting led to a 35 year active membership in the church.

However this is not just Paul Haggis’s story. Along with following Haggis’s life and eventual break with the church Wright also tells the story of the church and it’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. He explores the nature of religion and the question of whether Scientology is a religion or not.

Wright talked to many former members of the church in researching this book. What I find interesting is that many of them still use some of the techniques of Scientology while rejecting the official church organization. I think much of this is related to David Miscavige, who took over the church (in a bit of a coup) when Hubbard died.

In my opinion, L. Ron Hubbard may have been a complete whack job but his successor David Miscavige is disturbingly power hungry. Some of the stories of the way he has treated the people supposedly in is inner circle are downright strange.

The book is a little dry in places and sometimes rambles a bit but it’s quite interesting, a little disturbing and worth reading. There is a video documentary available based on this book which is both good and disturbing.

Morton Sellers does an adequate job of narrating the book. He was a little too slow for me though but speeding up the playback made it too fast.

Both this book and Inside Scientology are interesting explorations of the church and it’s history. They do cover a lot of the same ground however so I’d recommend reading one or the other but not necessarily both.

4 stars Rating 4/5 for the book

3.5 stars 3.5/5 for the narration

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A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Posted by on Jan 29, 2018 in 2018, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Wiley Cash | 6 comments

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley CashA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Genre: Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback and ebook
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 306
Source: Purchased (paperback), Library(ebook)

The Book:
From the back cover:

For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when you get caught spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can’t help sneaking a look at something he’s not supposed to-an act that will have repercussions. It’s a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he’s not prepared. He now knows that a new understanding can bring not only danger and evil-but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance. Told by resonant and evocative characters, A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all.

My Thoughts:
Every single one of my friends who recommended this book was right. I loved it.

The book is told by three people in alternating chapters.
Jess is 9 years old and his voice as both observer and protagonist is the one that will stick with me.

Adelaide Lyle is an older woman who took it upon herself to keep the children outside of the local church during services.

Clem Barfield is the local sheriff who has his own sad past and a history with Jess’s grandfather.

It’s the preacher in the local church who is the embodiment of evil dressed as a messenger of God.

This is a heartbreakingly sad story but it is beautifully told and I won’t soon forget these characters. The story itself grabbed me right away and was eager to find out what happened. Along the way Cash created a place and atmosphere that I could almost tactically sense as I was reading. The more the story continued the more I started to dread the outcome.

I’ve seen many reviews that stress how Cash was able to accurately capture the regional dialect and area of western North Carolina. I know I could both see and hear what was happening in my mind as I read it.

The lyrical writing is a stark contrast to the violence of the story but it all works so beautifully. I am definitely looking forward to reading Wiley Cash’s new book.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland by Bill Willingham

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in 2018, 4.5 stars, Bill Willingham, Comics | 0 comments

Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland by Bill WillinghamFables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland by Bill Willingham with art by Mark Buckingham, Lee Loughridge, et al.

Genre: Fantasy, Comics
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #18 in the Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 192Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 18 is a compilation of issues 114-123 of the comic series
From the back cover:

Little Girl Lost

Her sister Winter was crowned the new North Wind, but all Therese Wolf got was a lousy toy boat.

She doesn’t much like the thing – and that’s before it starts whispering to her in the middle of the night, encouraging her to run away from home. But with her father preparing [sibling] for [their] new responsibilities and her mother busy with the rest of the brood, a magical journey might not be such a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Therese’s voyage takes her to the desolate shoreline of Toyland, where dwell the broken-down playthings of the Discardia. Wooden, metal, plastic or stuffed, they’re all looking for a queen to fix their bodies and their realm.

But these toys are broken in more ways than one.

As her family – led by her wild brother Dare – frantically searches for her, what will become of Therese when she discovers the terrible truth about Toyland? And what price must be paid to save her life – and her soul?

My Thoughts:
This was so good. It was both wonderful and horrible and probably one of the more complex and interesting books in the series. The prophecy about Snow White and Bigby Wolf’s seven cubs is starting to come true.

The first child will be a king.
The second child a pauper.
The third will do an evil thing.
The fourth will die to stop her.
The fifth will be a hero bold.
The sixth will judge the rest.
The seventh lives to ages old, and is by heaven blessed.

This is a grim and disturbing tale. These are not comics for children. This is not the pretty Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

The final two issues in this volume are about Bigby Wolf’s early days. It filled in some very interesting history about him.

As usual the artwork by Mark Buckingham and others is wonderful. Part of the story is only told in images. The way the images coordinate with and expand on this story works incredibly well.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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