Review: One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply

Review: One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply

One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply
One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of a Simple Office Supply by Kyle Macdonald

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What’s your paperclip?
What will you “trade” to make it happen?
This was a book I’d been looking forward to reading for a while. I heard of Kyle Macdonald’s blog through a magazine article years ago and I looked it up and read some of it. Sounded like an exciting idea and it’s always been on my mind. So let me say right off the bat how cool it is to be able to do this.

But as a book it kind of fell flat. Kyle Macdonald isn’t a writer, that’s obvious, he isn’t claiming to be, but he also isn’t a motivational speaker. Every chapter ends with little faux motivational messages which kind of fall short of the mark. You find yourself reading things like:
Now was two words ago.
Yep, this is just a blatantly inane comment to make you think way-too-deep thoughts. But it’s not. Unless you think it is. Then it is. If you want to analyze it, and give it meaning, that’s fine by me. But analysis and thinking won’t change the simple new fact: Now was actually more like five words ago.

Sounds like great dry humor but it gets old FAST. And not all statements are worded that well. There is a section where he describes how he was breathing and we find ourselves reading “Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.” That’s groundbreaking.
The book isn’t written in a blog-style, which is good, it’s told like a story. It starts off a lot of fun and I found myself flying through the pages, but then it gets dull and tedious and I was skimming a lot through to the end. I think this would have made a great book if it was shorter and less unnecessarily descriptive.
It was a fun read for a while, but through it all it’s hard to shake the fact that this is a story of luck. There is no skill involved here.

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Review: The Bastard of Istanbul

Review: The Bastard of Istanbul

The Bastard of Istanbul
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: Whatever falls from the sky above, thou shalt not curse it

I shouldn’t put off writing reviews for so long because I lose all my carefully arranged thoughts and observations accumulated while reading the book. But what I do remember clearly is that this was such a colorful book. I felt nostalgic for a place I’ve never been. It is a wonderful tale of women from different parts of the world and different beliefs and cultures and how their lives are interwoven together.
First let me talk about the writing. It was so poetic and beautiful that it was almost as if I was reading verses. A certain term used in the telling of tales which I really took to, was the term “Once there was, once there wasn’t,…” I am unaware if this term is culturally used or coined by the author herself but I found it very endearing and perfect for the beginning of tales.
The whole story flowed at a very natural pace and each different individual person’s perspective was represented, in my opinion, credibly and realistically.The story is about women of very different perspectives and experiences and feelings, and how this influences their personalities and choices in life. There was a lot of truth to the judgmental view women are prone to take of one another while disregarding that there are multiple sides to every story. The concept that there was no attempt made to change this trait and it was accepted as the norm also rang highly true. The descriptions of Istanbul were bright and tasteful. Tasteful in more ways than one because the book has a great deal of food in it which I more than love reading about.
Secondly, the format of the story. I took a liking to how each chapter was named after a food item that would essentially be integral to the chapter in some way. Food was an important aspect of this book which of course I highly appreciated. It added to the experience of reading a book about Istanbul because food is one of the major representations of any land and culture. There is even an entire recipe, complete with ingredient and garnish list, for a desert named ashure in a chapter named ‘Golden Raisins’. What better way to throw a person into a cultural experience?
This sentiment is in fact voiced by one of the characters when she think to herself:
This city was a jumble of aromas, some of them strong and rancid, others sweet and stimulating. Almost every smell made Armanoush recall some sort of food, so much so that she had started to perceive Istanbul as something edible”
I couldn’t agree more. Even through the pages of a book, Shafak made me feel the same.

Thirdly I want to mention interesting aspects of the book that really struck my fancy. One of which was that story telling was clearly a big part of the novel, yet I found it interesting that none of the stories were ever finished or fully told. It leaves me wondering.
Another interesting thing that was represented was the inner monologue of Zeliha and her daughter Asya, both of which are philosophical in their own way, and how their thoughts arrange themselves into Rules and Manifesto Articles.
In the beginning when we’re introduced to the character of Zeliha we find her listing Rules of Prudence for Instanbulite Women which is not the same and yet similar to the Personal Manifesto of Nihilism we find being dictated inside the head of her daughter Asya later on in the book. An example of which is:
Article One: If you cannot find a reason to love the life you are living, do not pretend to love the life you are living.
All in all the proposed names of articles make an intriguing enough outline for me to actually wish she’d write one that I could read.

Here are my humble peeves with the book, first is that the political conflict between Turks and Armenians which was a huge theme of the story and yet not completely elaborated or explained well enough to reach a resolution for my taste.
Secondly the Islamic concepts in the book were distorted and not always accurate. In some parts of the story the concept of religion is non-existent or free thinking and in the more religious aspects it was frustratingly inaccurate and morphed to the point of almost being blasphemous. The concept of a religious person easily being able to capture a djinn and then hold it prisoner to do their bidding is represented so casually as if it’s within any person’s reach to do so if they’re just religious enough. When in fact, in true Islamic terms, the very act of communicating with one would in fact be a sin. One of the many examples of misrepresentations that bases it’s beliefs of Islam not on fact but folklore and religious myths. Perhaps more research into the matter of religion, which is in fact a sensitive issue, would have served the story better. But if you take it all with a grain of salt and take not a lot of it seriously, the book is quite the gem. It surprised me and delighted me enough to tell myself to make more chances on writers I am not familiar with and genres I don’t usually pick up. Elif Shafak is one writer who I will look forward to reading more from.

Favorite Lines:
1. That was one thing about the rain that likened it to sorrow: You did your best to remain untouched, safe and dry, but if and when you failed, there came a point in which you started seeing the problem less in terms of drops than as an incessant gush, and thereby you decide you might as well get drenched. (pg. 2)
2. The path of fiction could easily mislead you into the cosmos of stories where everything was fluid, quixotic, and as open to surprises as a moonless night in the desert. (pg. 96)
3. Imagination was dangerously captivating magic for those compelled to be realistic in real life, and words could be poisonous for those destined to always be silenced. (pg. 97)
4. Man is born free but everywhere is in chains. in reality, the difference is that the savage lives within himself while social man lives outside himself and can only live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the feeling of his own existence only from the judgement of others concerning him. (pg. 235)

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Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: I’m pretty much fucked

This was the perfect book to start the year with. This book is one of a kind and clearly so is it’s author. There have been moments in the book when I told myself that I would stop at a certain page or chapter, and then completely failed to notice when the said part came and left. The technical details along with the comedic tone and gripping story gives it a unique voice. If textbooks were written like this, I can guarantee students would pay a lot more attention to science.

To start off, the character had no choice but to build and develop, it’s a story based almost entirely on the point of view of one man who is stranded on an entire planet all by himself, and quite a lovable character at that. It wasn’t just that there is only one POV, but that there is absolutely no one else involved in the majority of the happenings that makes what has been accomplished here such a thing of absolute beauty. Mark Watney is showcased as a man who, in all his brilliance, is smart, resourceful and a one in a billion kinda guy who can be on a planet all by himself and not go insane. His sense of humor plays just as much a role in his survival as his intelligence and quick-thinking.

Speaking of humor, there were many parts where I found myself literally laughing out loud thanks to Mark Watney’s frank and often inappropriate comedic narrative.
Like this one:
Tomorrow night I’ll sink to an all new low!
Lemme rephrase that….
Tomorrow night, I’ll be at rock bottom!
No, that doesn’t sound good either….
Tomorrow night, I’ll be in Giovanni Schiaparelli’s favorite hole!
Okay, I admit I’m just playing around now.

And of course this:
…Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over theworld.
[12:15] WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)

This could have been the most bleak and tedious reads and yet Weir found a way to keep readers gripped and entertained throughout, silently rooting, groaning and cheering for Mark.

Having seen the movie long before having read the book I did notice deviations from the story in the film, and yet not enough to annoy me. Usually I am the first one to hate on a movie that all out ruins the beauty of a book and yet in this case I was glad that the integrity of the writing was kept intact. A lot of dialogue was taken right from the novel, especially in Mark Watney’s case which was integral to holding the character together. Some scenario changes were there obviously, the movie barely mentions most of the science that the book does, and plenty of hassles that Watney overcomes are removed altogether. But I can see why those creative changes were made. SO I can say as a person generally very critical of any movies made from books, that The Martian will not only remain one of my all time favorite books, but in this case, the movie is always going to have a special standing as well.

Not surprising this book inspired me twice

the-martian-artthe-martian-art-2

Favorite Lines:
1. Hell yeah I’m a botanist! Fear my botany powers! (pg. 18)
2. But with all due respect to Carl, I can call it whatever the hell I want.I’m the King of Mars. (pg. 114)
3. They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially “colonized” it. So technically, I colonized Mars.
In your face, Neil Armstrong! (pg. 172)
4. I’ll spend the rest of the evening enjoying a potato. And by “enjoying” I mean “hating so much I want to kill people. (pg. 375)
5. If I could have anything, it would be a radio to ask NASA the safe path down the Ramp. Well if I could have anything, it would be for the green-skinned yet beautiful Queen of Mars to rescue me so she can learn more about this Earth thing called “lovemaking”. (pg. 377)

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Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: On the second day of December in a year when a Georgia peanut farmer was doing business in the White House, one of Colorado’s greatest resort hotels burned to the ground.

Stephen King once again proves he is the master of this game. This is a sequel to The Shining that is drastically different from it’s predecessor in terms of location, style and execution but in no way at all is it any less of a classic King novel.
Any lover of King will know that King has variations in his style of writing. He can execute bone chilling horror just as well as he tugs at heart strings, and this book is nothing if not an example of the latter.

Daniel Torrance, survivor of the horrors at the Overlook, is dealing with a past that haunts him. The Overlook and everything that happened since has brought him to a point in life where he wants to silence his mind and numb his Shining away by drinking. It wasn’t until hitting rock bottom on a night that will haunt him for years that he decides it’s time to fight his own demons and maybe other people’s as well. This brings him to a town where in time he will meet Abra Stone. A little girl so powerful that she could be dangerous, but blissfully unaware of her capabilities, which makes her a target for a cannibalistic group of soul eaters who prey on children with such powers.

Stephen King said there was some trepidation in writing a sequel to The Shining. His fear being that any classic as good as The Shining is very hard to live up to and chances are a sequel ruins things. He had nothing to fear because years later, even when the world has changed, King’s ability to push boundaries between supernatural and psychological horror has not. I also found myself inwardly squealing at the little nods to NOs4A2 by Joe Hill. When Charlie Manx and Christmasland were mentioned, I felt proud of knowing exactly what King was talking about.

What I wasn’t expecting, especially while reading a King book, was to fall in love. Daniel Torrance is such a beautiful man, and while I’m sure Mr. King won’t appreciate me gushing over his main character, I can’t seem to be able to help myself. The relationship of Dan and Abra is so pure that I was touched. Very few writers, and I mean VERY few writers, could have pulled it off with the beauty that Stephen King did. I’ve never read anything like it. There was so much substance to the story that I felt a deep emotional connection to it. My first instinct after finishing this book was to write a huge fan letter to Mr. King but it turns out I can’t. But needless to say Doctor Sleep is going to be one of my all time favorite Stephen King books and my unrivaled favorite read of 2016.

Have some Doctor Sleep fanart on your way out 🙂

doctor-sleep-art

Favorite Lines:
1. When you couldn’t sleep, when you were afraid to look around because of what you might see, time elongated and grew sharp teeth. (pg. 97)
2. There was something he hadn’t told Emil Kemmer; he was afraid that eventually he would get lost in a maze of phantom nightlife and never be able to find his way out again. (pg. 99)
3. That in turn made him think of some poem or other, one about how you could spend years running, but in the end you always wound up facing yourself in a hotel room, with a naked bulb hanging overhead and a revolver on the table. (pg. 569)

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Review: Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Review: Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Stranded
Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: The void churned and swelled, reaching up to pull them down into frigid darkness, clamoring to embrace them, every one.

First off let me just say that I am very disappointed in myself. It not only took me five days to finish an interesting book of 300 pages, but also another lazy week before I got down to writing it’s review. This book deserves better than that so I apologize.

Stranded is a story about a crew who wake up to find themselves having frozen in place overnight with no credible explanation for it and no idea of their location or means of communication to find out. The protagonist, Noah Cabot, finds himself stuck on board a ship with a small crew,most of whom dislike him, under the command of his father-in-law who openly loathes him. A lot of the story revolves around how the relationships of the crew affect each other in a critical and often life threatening situation.
This was a strange story, to say the least, I was all weirded out. It was sometimes philosophical and sometimes took little forays into the psychological, not all of which I understood. But considering how the story played out in a way that left me with more questions than it answered, I’m guessing that’s exactly what the writer intended to happen. I did appreciate that despite all of that, there were absolutely no unnecessary ramblings in the book as fillers to prolong the story.
There were certain things I didn’t appreciate in the book. One of which was that it left me with more questions than it answered. The other thing was that the characters were sometimes frustrating and sometimes downright unreasonable in a way that made them seem childish. It often felt like reading about an episode of schoolyard bullying rather than a case of adults caught in a seriously hazardous situation where one would think dealing with a problem is more important than letting your personal differences and opinions get the best of you. Then again it were those disputes that ultimately led to the climax. Which, by the way, I found to be kind of abrupt.
I did like that the writer was bold enough to venture into the genre of science fiction without letting the answer for a way to explain it all get in the way of telling a good story.
Overall it was an interesting read. Since it’s not something that will take days and days of reading to get through, I would recommend picking this up if you’re looking for a quick thrill read.

1. One followed another in a black parade of bad choices and disappointments, sides taken and moments you can never get back, or take back, lost in time, every day adding another regret to a sore and bent conscience. (pg. 97)
2. He never gave much thought to what was real and what wasn’t, because reality was solid and constant, and the difference between a dream and waking was a bright line, easily seen. (pg. 200)
3. Someone moves and promises they’ll keep in touch but eventually the best you can do is occasionally click a thumbs-up or an emoji on some social media page and keep scrolling. (pg. 218)
4. If you’ve been shot, what good does it do to ask who sold the bullet? Find a doctor. (pg. 219)

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Here is the little painting I made inspired from the book.

stranded-art

Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Doomed
Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Opening Sentence: Good and evil have always existed

The story of 13 year old, Madison Spencer stuck in purgatory, otherwise known as earth, after violating her curfew on Halloween, who realizes that a post-alive joke has now resulted in an entire religion in her name.
What can I say about Chuck Palahniuk? If any of you have read him, you’ll know that this man is capable of being intensely profound while absolutely bizarre at the same time. It’s the opposite of sugar-coated bullshit. His true to life narratives are wrapped inside some of the weirdest and hilarious stories I’ve ever read.
I’ve heard criticism based on the novel’s narration. I liked that the book was narrated through the eyes of a dead 13 year old writing a blog to all the good people of hell. A girl that was too cynical and smart-mouthed for her age and yet apparently more sensible than any adult in the story gave it the sense of irony I’ve come to love in Palahniuk’s writing. Keeping in mind that this 13 year old is in fact dead and has been through hell, literally, I’m willing to overlook any perspective that may have felt too mature for her and write it off as experience.
This novel has a great condescending perspective of atheism and religion, while making the entire thing seem like a joke.
To make room for a new world religion, Leonard had stated that all religions had to be discredited. Everything held to be sacred and holy had to be reduced to a joke. No one could be allowed to discuss good or evil without sounding like a fool, and the mention of God or the Devil must be met with universal eye rolling. Most important, Leonard had insisted, intelligent people must be made to feel ashamed of their need for a higher power. They must be starved for a spiritual life until they would greedily accept any that would be offered to them.
He called it. Long before I did. Which is why I was dubious of criticism that said there wasn’t much substance in the story. There were passages that often gave me food for thought and had me smiling in agreement. The following is another example:
The avant-garde in every field consists of the lonely, the friendless, the uninvited. All progress in the product of the unpopular.
People in love – with nurturing, attentive, non-movie-star parents, they would never invent gravity. Nothing except deep misery leads to real success.

In the face of things today, I have to solemnly agree with Mr. Palahniuk

I don’t know what it says about me that a Palahniuk book like this gives me more cause for discussion and debate than most classics do. Maybe it’s my love for the bizarre and macabre that draws me to his style. I know he’s not for everybody. The cover of the book proudly proclaims “Palahniuk doesn’t write for tourists” – The New York Times and I would strongly agree. If you’re looking for a Young-Adult style bed time fairytale, don’t bother trying to read this.

Here is my attempt at cover art for the book:

doomed-cover-art

Favorite Lines:
1. One of the chief torments of Hell is that we all know, secretly, why we deserve to be there. (pg. 10)
2. The dead have better things to do than respond to your dumb-ass Ouija board queries concerning lottery numbers and who’s going to marry you. (pg. 10)
3. Religions exist because people would rather have a wrong answer than no answer at all. (pg. 16)
4. It’s exhausting, the energy it takes to unknow a truth. (pg. 141)
5. You never know the complicated deals two people negotiate in order to stay married beyond the first ten minutes. (pg. 149)
6. When you’re feeling depressed about being dead, duly remember that being alive wasn’t always a picnic. (pg. 173)
7. The buzzwords of her life were tolerance and respect , and she was trapped between them as if crushed in an ideological vise. (pg. 200)
8. Leonard preached that mankind would always long for an organized system of religious beliefs, but, like a scared insecure child, people would hide their need behind a mask of sarcasm and ironic detachment. (pg 253)

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Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

Review: The Terror by Dan Simmons

The Terror
The Terror by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening sentence: Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts.

I’m absolutely exhausted. The part of me that was on the H.M.S Terror, the part of me that walked the ice to Erebus, the part of me that felt the hunger and the cold and the pain and the horror through every leg of the journey with Captain Crozier and his men is beyond relieved that this journey is over leaving me with no more damage than chilly feet.

This book came with my November subscription to the Nocturnal Reader’s Box, otherwise it might well have gone unread by me and I have to say I’m glad it didn’t because it’s a great piece of historic fiction.

terror-book-art

There are a few words that come to mind that describe this novel, Heavy is probably the most important among them. Heavy doesn’t have to do with the fact that the book is 766 pages, although that does take it’s toll. It’s about how much true grit it holds.
To anyone not familiar with nautical and naval terminology, the story can be a little confusing at first but you get well acquainted with the ship and it’s people soon enough. The number of people on board the two ships, Terror and Erebus, were so large that at first I started writing them down along with their ranks to keep track of them:

terror-log-book

but found that the writer makes it a point to mention the ranks of men again and again to help the reader. I was however, lost sometimes when it came to the layout of the ship which is, not surprisingly, mentioned again and again throughout the book. The story and it’s details are very well researched. From the geography of the areas, to the protocols of a ship right down to the cause and effects of disease and illnesses.
Another important word that describes this book is ‘cold’. Not in the most obvious way, which of course applies since just the description of f-70 degree temperatures were enough to make me want to bundle up and also to make icy landscapes in my artwork:

terror-cold-art

but also because it takes no prisoners. There is a brutality in the writing that compliments the bleakness of the characters’ situations.

An interesting example of that would be when the predicament of being trapped in a frozen sea on board a weakening ship fast running out of supplies brings to mind the question “would you eat human flesh for survival?” When the story continues to bring desperate hunger to realization time and time again, I found that my own answer to this would be a disquieting yes. How many can really say without a doubt that they would be able to resist that temptation once you feel your body eating you from the inside to stay alive?
An interesting thing to note in the tumult of emotions this book brings to you is that the fear and true horror is very rarely from the supernatural element in the story. More than anything it makes you realize how cruel nature and the world can be. Under these circumstances the human creature is capable of evil just as terrifying as anything supernatural the mind has dreamed up.
I have two issues with this novel. One is obviously the size of it. 700+ pages that sometimes felt unnecessary and stretched out can sometimes make even the most well studied elements begin to resemble ramblings. The second is the ending. Without trying to give anything away, I have to say that if I do make my way through a book this size I expect the result to be more…decisive. It was unusual to say the least and left me feeling a little hollow inside. The book suddenly seemed to take a turn into a genre which it had not been a huge part of throughout the whole story and that, in my opinion, took a lot away from it.
This is clearly not a book for lightweight readers. Do not think of this as a pleasure read or a simple adventure. This is a serious voyage that requires some level of commitment to it if you plan on going the whole way. If you liked “The Revenant” then you might understand what I mean, but keep in mind this is a book so it has all the sordid details that a simple movie would lack.

terror-ending

Favorite Lines :
1. Rats, as Crozier knows from the sad experience of thirteen winters in the ice, tend to eat one’s friends quietly and efficiently, except for their frequent screeching and the blood-maddened and ravenous vermin turn on one another. (pg. 13)
2. At times, especially late at night with the ice moaning, Francis Rawdon, Moira Crozier realizes that HMS Terror is his wife, mother, bride and whore. (pg. 34)
3. I had heard the phrase “not enough room to swing a cat in” since I was a boy, but never had I understood it until this moment. (pg. 337)
4. “All this natural misery,” Dr. Goodsir said suddenly. “Why do you men have to add to it? Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse? Can you answer me that, Mr. Hickey?” (pg. 639)
5. If there is a Hell- in which I no longer believe, since this earth and some of the people in it are hell enough for any universe- I would be and should be cast down to the worst bolgia of the lowest circle. (pg. 673)
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