Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar

Okay, so I've got some explaning to do on this one. I don't read much non-fiction, let alone celebrity autobiographies. And I'm not a huge Van Halen fan. I've never paid to see them in concert, but I have all of their albums, even the one with Gary Cherone (I know, sorry). So the bottom line is this, under normal circumstances, I never would have read this book, let alone paid for it. But, when I walked past a Barnes & Noble in southern California and saw a sign in the window that Sammy was going to be there signing his book the following night, an internal debate began in my head that lasted until the following evening. 

I had no desire to read the book, but I kind of wanted to own a signed copy of it. I thought it would be a waste of money to buy a book I was never going to read, but then here was a chance to meet a bona fide rock star and one from a band that I listened to for several years of my my life. So I decided to go to the signing.

While waiting in the hour-long line for the three-second experience of meeting him and getting the signature, I started reading the book. It's not Pulitzer material obviously. In fact, I have a sneeking suspicion that he didn't type one word of it himself. It reads as if he sat down with Joel Selvin - who gets a much smaller billing as coauthor, and is taped as he describes different periods of his life. Nevertheless, by midway through the book when he comes to the Van Halen years of his life, I was pretty interested and was enjoying the book.  

Sammy has some out-there ideas about things like numerology and exta-terrestrial mind-hijackers. He also describes numerous experiences where he was visited in his dreams by people from his life who he learns the next day had died during the night. But the bottom line for me is here's the guy who wrote Summer Nights, Finish What Ya Started, and Right Now. That's the person I waited an hour to shake his hand and get his autograph . . . and it was worth it.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Death is a Lonely Business

Death is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury

It's been a long time since I read anything by Ray Bradbury. Which is kind of unfortunate because he's one of my all-time favorite authors. I think I was in the 6th grade when we studied short stories and as a class we read All Summer in a Day. That was the first thing by Bradbury I ever read and there have been very few things by him that I haven't enjoyed. And considering the number of short stories and novels he's published in his lifetime, that says a lot.

Death is a Lonely Business is a mystery. The narrator is a man in his early twenties who is a struggling science fiction writer. His identity is never revealed, nor is his name used at any time in the story, but it's pretty apparent that Bradbury uses himself as the main character and leaves it up to the reader to determine whether the story is wholly or partially autobiographical or whether he made the whole thing up.

It begins with the narrator riding a late-night commuter train on his way home. As he's sitting there in what he believes is an otherwise empty railroad car, he becomes aware that he's not alone. There's another man standing behind him in the aisle, drunk and swaying on his feet. In an effort to discourage any interaction with his traveling companion, the narrator keeps his eyes shut, and his head turned away. For the most part, his efforts are successful, but the man does say something to him before exiting the car, "Death is a lonely business." Shortly after that encounter, people in the narrator's life begin to die and the narrator believes it's the man who rode the train with him who's behind their deaths.

If you've never read anything by Bradbury, his writing style can take some getting used to. He relies heavily on the dialogue between his characters to tell his stories. And that can seem rather short and terse a lot of the times. But for me, his writing style is half of the enjoyment of reading the book.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rumo: & His Miraculous Adventures

Rumo: & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers

Reading a book by Walter Moers is kind of like taking a cross-country trip to the Grand Canyon - via every scenic byway, world's largest whatever, and every other point of interest along the way. In Rumo, Moers returns to the land of Zamonia, which he first introduced in The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear.

Rumo is a wolperting, an animal that closely resembles a dog, but with small horns and a tremendous aptitude for fighting using swords, crossbows, and pretty much every other means of warfare. Rumo's adventures begin as a small abandoned puppy who is raised by dwarfs, kidnapped by giant demons, and later escapes with the help of a 14-handed shark grub.

Throughout his life, Rumo is constantly following a thread that only he can see above him. It's a silver thread and it ultimately leads him to a female wolperting named Rala. Rumo decides that the best way to get noticed by Rala is to give her a gift, a gift that requires a tremendous act of bravery to acquire. When he returns from his quest, he finds a giant hole where the city of Wolperting had previously stood. The city, along with all of its inhabitants are gone.

The book is an account of his adventures to save Rala and the entire city he now calls home. Each character Rumo meets during his journey has its own story which Moers tells. And just like the side trips to see the various sights en route to the Grand Canyon, the side stories in Rumo are half the fun of the book as a whole.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fall of Giants

by Ken Follett
985 pgs  (The Century trilogy #1)

This is the first of Ken Follett's books that I've read, so I don't know how it compares to his earlier ones. But if they're anything like his latest, I've got a lot of catching up to do. This is the first of three books that Follett will write to complete his trilogy and based on this first one, I'm anxiously awaiting the next volume.

With Fall of Giants Follett provides a fascinating perspective of world events that took place during roughly the first 25 years of the 20th Century. The book's main characters, (and there are many) are spread out accross the globe - America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, and Russia. These characters' lives intersect with each other in compelling ways as the world events transpire that bring about World War I.

In addition to the fictional characters, real life characters from the time period are included - Woodrow Wilson, Vladimir Lenin, and Winston Churchill to name just a few. Follett does a fantastic job of providing an insight into their lives by frequently using things that they said in real life.

If I didn't make it clear already, I really enjoyed this book. It has the same feel and depth as books that I've read by Dickens and Dostoevsky. It reads like classic literature. It was both entertaining as well as educational. It made me want to read non-fictional accounts of the time period along with the biographies of its pivotal players.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Wolf's Hour

The Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon

Vampires have received a lot of attention in popular media over the last few years. Zombies aren't doing too bad for themselves either. Werewolves, on the other hand, haven't been getting nearly as much time in the limelight.With The Wolf's Hour, Robert McCammon gives them some much deserved attention.

Michael Gallitin is particularly well suited for his work for the British government as a spy during World War II. He's a lycanthrop, a man who has the ability to transform into a wolf. When he was a young boy he was bitten by another lycanthrop and he survived the transformation process his body was subjected to. Now his unique set of skills is put to good use for the Allied forces as they prepare for D-Day.

This was a great book. Many people might dismiss it as simply a horror book about werewolves, but it's much more than that. McCammon has done a great job of taking the idea of a werewolf and building on it. These  lycanthrops are not beholden to the cycles of the moon. They are able to change into a wolf at will and do so completely as opposed to the versions seen in movies. The best features of McCammon's creations are the human-like cognitive abilities that are maintained when they're wolves, as well as the wolf-like instincts and sensory abilities maintained when they're human.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆