Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Boal...

  2012 was by no means going to be the year of the book for me.  No, indeed, it was not.  2011 I read 50 books and was quite happy with myself.  But I knew coming into 2012 I would not be able to pull that off again, I knew it was going to be far too hectic a year, so I made a modest boal (book-goal) of 34.  However, I did not anticipate it to be this hectic!  I started my 2012 boal pretty strong getting 17 books in the 1st 7mths leaving me plenty of time to reach the remaining 17 books on my boal, plenty of time.  But then, I hit the dreaded blump (book-slump).  Le sigh...  From August to November I read one book a month, not very good.  Good books, but not a particularly solid reading performance.  Didn't help that I started a brick of a book, Fall of Giants, (which I will be reviewing at some point.  But I highly rec it, like highly highly).  Though it was a brick of a book it was unbelievably fantastic, everything a great book should be, a work of bart (book-art). The blump had nothing to with FoG, it was just one of those things.  But I can tell you once I started getting to the end of FoG, b/c of its amazing storytelling, I got my mobo back.  I ended FoG on Nov.27 and have read as of now, Dec.7, 3 more books.  I have 10 more books to go in 23 days, to make my boal.  Not going to be easy.  Averages to about 3 books a week.  Yikey!  I have my bork cut out for me, so I should probably get off of here and get to booking!  I can book it, I can book it, I can book it...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916

   "We're not just afraid of predators, we're transfixed by them, prone to weave stories and fables and chatter endlessly about them, because fascination creates preparedness, and preparedness, survival.  In a deeply tribal sense, we love our monsters." ~E.O. Wilson~

   So begins "Close to Shore"...

   When I first saw this book I was like, O-M-S-J, a non-fiction book on sharks!  I love sharks, love the ocean, and this is the true story of one of the worst shark attacks (and first recorded) in the America.  This horrific event was the basis for Peter Benchley's "Jaws", which of course led to Speilberg's movie adaptation of that book.  I've read and seen "Jaws", the book was fantastic, the movie was fantastic, but no fiction can ever compare nor compete with true events.  I enjoyed Capuzzo's style of writing, it was clear, concise, focused on the facts and not the sensationalism that most writers would have focused on.  This story didn't need sensationalism, the events were sensationalist enough.  Now that's not to say Capuzzo didn't squeeze out a bit of overactive drama, he did, but it wasn't over-the-top annoying and only sparingly.  He stuck to the facts and turned out an amazing and heart wrenching story.  He did a very clever few chapters from the shark's perspective, what it was feeling and thinking while it prowled the ocean and river of the East Coast.
  Capuzzo paints a detailed portrait of life and the people, and people's mentality, of the early 1900's.  The age of industry and automobile.  Beaches were a privileged past time, not the sun bathing, beach volleyball, girl/guy watching, water sports entity as we know it today.  Men and women wore "bathing costumes"; men shirt & shorts, women full bodied bathing costumes that covered all, and I mean all.  The latest fashion sweeping 1916 was a women's bathing costume that revealed ankles.  It was scandalous and some women were being arrested for it.  No, that's not a joke.  There were beach patrols that roamed the beaches measuring bathing costumes and making sure no tantalizing ankles were being scantily and seductively shown.  We laugh and scoff at such nonsense, because now women are practically naked on the beach, some are actually naked, which makes very happy I live in this era and not 1916. :)
   Capuzzo did a great job of not just giving us facts from this event, but also weaved an America that was on the threshold of a World War.  I had just finished Fall of Giants, which again I must rec every single person to read, and it was so cool to be reading 2 books based in the same era.  Capuzzo did painstakingly thorough research and you can tell from all the delicious details.
   Though in fact Capuzzo did do his due diligence and consulted with top ichthyologists both past & present, it is still undetermined what species of shark it was that savagely killed 4 people, including one 11yr old, and wounded one child.  The general consensus is it was a bull shark, as bull sharks are the only (large) shark that can survive in both salt and fresh water.  Bull sharks are extremely aggressive and have attacked people in rivers as much as the ocean.  So it would stand to reason it was a bull shark.  But there is also solid argument that it was a great white, and Capuzzo does an amazing job of explaining why it is very possible to have been a great white.  The high tide, the unusual shift in currents, full moon, all contributing factors for this "rogue" shark.  The attack scenes were setup with a tense suspense.  The reader, sitting engrossed in this lead up to the inevitable, tensing from the suspense and build up, only to be rocked into terror and shock at the brutality in which Capuzzo describes each attack.  I physically shuddered at one such scene.
  Though I am a lover (and bit obsessed) of the ocean and all that inhabits it, this book made me reticent to ever enter the ocean again.  Of course I will, if I ever perish in the ocean I will consider my soul's return to whence it came.  This quote from the book is touches on my emotional awe, respect and love for the ocean and its denizens: "It was said that the ocean flowed in the veins, that blood was nearly the consistency of seawater.  In the ocean a man escaped the Industrial Revolution and rediscovered his eternal self, was fully human again."  But this book def makes you think twice about swimming in the open ocean, or in its shallows.  It does not paint sharks as mindless killing machines, it does not preach stay out of the ocean.  No, it tells a story of a horrific and tragic event, human's ignorance (of that time) of the wilderness of the ocean and its inhabitants.  It's an intellectual read, a wonderful work of non-fiction that reads like fiction at times.  I can't rec this book enough.  Read it, but do it in the winter time so by the time summer rolls around it won't be lingering in your head and make you trepiditious to enter the ocean. Let me conclude this review with a quote from the book, a quote (one of many) I love:
     "We've forgotten what the ocean is.  The ocean is a wilderness.  We would never enter the wilderness without being aware of the dangers, its predators.  Yet we think of the ocean as our giant backyard swimming pool." ~George Burgess-Ichthyologist~
XXX rating.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Fermín..."

   "I have always known that one day I would return to these streets to tell the story of the man who lost his should and his name among the shadows of a Barcelona trapped in a time of ashes and silence.  These are pages written in the flames of the city of the damned, words etched in the fire on the memory of the one who returned from among the dead with a promise nailed to his heart and a curse upon his head.  The curtain rises, the audience falls silent and before the shadow lingering over their destiny descends upon the set, a chorus of pure souls takes the stage with a comedy in their hands and the blessed innocence of those who, believing the third act to be the last, wish to spin a Christmas story - unaware that once the last page is turned, the poison of its words will drag them slowly but inexorably towards the heart of darkness." ~Julián Carax~

   So begins "The Prisoner of Heaven"...

   I loved this book.  I read some reviews on GoodReads before reading it and was disappointed to see several, (buy not majority), of the reviews to be of the negative.  'The Shadow of the Wind' was my first book by Zafón, and quickly became one of my all-time fave books.  When I found out he he had written a sequel/prequel, 'The Angel's Game', I devoured it immediately.  I loved 'Angel', but not nearly as much as 'Shadow'.  I can't even begin to describe the excitement I felt at the learning of 'Heaven's' release.  I bought it immediately, but due to being in the middle of a rather thick book already, 'Fall of Giants', 'Heaven' sat, laying in wait.  Once I finished FoG, which I highly rec every living human being to read, I was childlike in my excitement to return to Zafón's Barcelona and the lives of the Sempere's and Fermín Romero de Torres  Zafón has a poetic prose and incredibly strong character development, and it's those affecting characters and entrancing prose that make his books special.  The intrigue, history, scenery, are all fantastic, but are nothing compared to the endearing prose and strong characters Zafón creates. And there is no true bookie in this world that can dislike the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, one of the best fictional places ever created.  My only issue with this book is this, it was too short.  Zafón seemed to be cramming too much information in a rushed and confined area.  I wish he had taken his time and let the story develop more.  'Heaven' created a more defined background of Fermín (one of my all-time fave characters ever written) and answered quite a few questions in his regard, but I feel the book created far more questions than answers overall.  'Heaven' felt more of the author's attempt to bridge 'Angel' and 'Shadow' while at the same time creating a new dimension of intrigue I can only assume, and hope, is the setup for a 4th book.  Also, as much as I love Zafón's prose, I did not feel it had the same sharp wit and romanticism, that was in 'Shadow' and even 'Angel'.  That's not to say it wasn't there, just not as prevalent as in his other works of bart (book-art). I repeat myself in saying this, but this book just felt more of the author's need to bridge gaps, and quickly setup scenarios for another book.
Having said that, I enjoyed it immensely and def rec it.  I can say this with utter confidence, read this series, you will not regret it.  Stay Booked! Happy Reading!