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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

screenshot_02Life of Pi is a fiction novel that was written by Yann Martel. One of Martel’s most famous works, Life of Pi, which was published in 2001, is about an Indian boy, Pi, growing up and navigating his way through life first as a boy in India, second as a teenager drifting out to sea for 227 days and third as a survivor. Pi states in the beginning that his is a story that speaks on the existence of God. The novel shows how one might survive on a lifeboat with only himself, his beliefs in God and a Bengal Tiger to depend on.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this book and even more when the movie came out. Because of that, I was hesitant to give it a try. When Forrest Gump came out, my mom, brother and I went to see it and really liked it, so we told my dad that it was a great movie that he would really like. When he finally watched it at home on VHS, he was a bit let down because of all of the anticipation. But, everyone knows that Forrest Gump really is a good movie. When I finally got around to reading this book and then watching the movie, I was surprised to find that I was not all that disappointed. With the exception of one aspect of the novel, there was a lot that I liked about the book. The descriptions in the book were very intense so much so that some parts were difficult to get through. The emotions described by Pi were palpable to the point where I was almost in tears when the tiger walked into the jungle.

UnknownAn interesting part of the story, to me, was that, even though I didn’t know how Pi had survived, I knew that he had indeed survived. It was the same feeling I got from reading Unbroken. I knew that the Olympic runner had survived but kept reading because I couldn’t imagine how it was possible. Whereas the book Unbroken is non-fiction account of what happened to Louis Zamperini, this book is a work of fiction. It is a work of fiction made to seem like a non-fiction account of Pi surviving at sea for 227 days. There were a number of occasions in the book where the narrator assured us that the story was true and that the account given was accurate. This was not at all the case, of course. In college, we watched an Oliver North film about the “desparecidos” of El Salvador called Salvador. The movie came across as a non-fiction account of what had happened and even included script at the end of the movie explaining what happened in the country after the story ended. While many atrocities did occur in El Salvador during the period, the movie was actually fiction, which I felt cheated us from learning about really happened, and I felt tricked. I don’t like feeling tricked and that’s why I only really like this book and don’t love it.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Reposting this 2014 review because it is the Audible Book of the Day and on sale for $2.95
The Wind in the Willows | [Kenneth Grahame]Summary: A Classic children’s book about a water rat, a mole, a toad and a badger and their adventures.

As I have said before, I am trying an experiment of only allowing myself to buy one book a month right now so that I can force myself to read books that I already own.

I picked up a free audiobook copy of Wind in the Willows last year when Audible was giving away a number of classics (it is not currently a free audiobook, but there are several versions that are quite cheap.)

I am a bit hesitant to pick up a book that is so loved by so many (especially by Seth Simmons, one of’s regular contributors who has told me that he has read it at least 3 times in the last 5 years.)  I never want to dislike a book that others like, so I often have a hesitancy to even start books that others love.  Maybe others feel the same, or maybe I am just weird.

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by CS Lewis

I am reposting this 2014 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $2.99
Takeaway: The gift of friends that allow us to explore and try out and explore ideas in safety and love is truly a gift that we all need.

As I am continuing to try out KindleUnlimited I decided to pick up the kindle edition of Letters ot Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by CS Lewis.  I had purchased the audiobook and read and reviewed it several years ago.  But I have been wanting to read it again, and I like changing formats when I re-read a book.  So I mostly read this short book on kindle with a few audio chapters.  (As I keep saying, the ability to seamlessly move back and forth between audio and kindle with whispersync is a great feature.)

As I was reading it, I confirmed that Letters to Malcolm is probably my favorite of Lewis’ books.  I am not sure many others think so, several reviews on Goodreads think it is one of his weaker popular books.  But like Paul’s II Timothy, there are hints of real humanness here that give me great joy.

Letters to Malcolm is a fictionalized set of letters that Lewis writes as if to a close friend.  It was Lewis’ last book to be published while he was alive, about 6 months before his death.  And while it is fiction, it feels like real letters.  There are side notes and personal details.  You can feel his age and some loss of freedom because of his health.

At the same time this is not a book that is completely easy to read.  There is only one side of the letters.  Malcolm’s letters are not included so we only know the response through Lewis’ side. Some of the letters are light and simple, some are pretty dense and dealing with heavy problems.

Jesus: The Human Face of God by Jay Parini

Jesus the Human Face of God by Jay PariniSummary: A traditional liberal understanding of Jesus.

This is a short review because I did not completely finish the book. This is one of the books that borrowed from Kindle Unlimited. I was close to finished (72%) when my subscription ended. So I waffled back and forth a bit about writing up a review. In the end, I decided to write it mostly because I needed the reviews.

Parini is a literature professor. So in writing a biography of Jesus he is moving outside his primarily area of academic study. Although he is fluent in ancient Greek and has studied both New Testament and other literature from the era.

Parini’s desire for the book is to ‘re-mythologize’ Jesus. He is not a fan of the traditional Jesus Seminar methods of trying to strip away all of the supernatural from Jesus. Parini, as a literature professor, understands that in stripping away the supernatural, the Jesus Seminar methods are also stripping away a lot of the purpose behind telling those supernatural stories.

Patternmaster (Patternist #4) by Octavia Butler

Summary: The world has devolved into perpetual war between the clayarks and the patternists. A young patternist must find his way and try to avoid getting killed by either group.

Finally at the end of the series I figure out why each of the four books of this series have been so radically different. When Octavia Butler was 10, she saw a really bad science fiction movie and thought she could do better. So she started writing a story. That story become the book Pattermaster. It was the first book she finished and published.

The second book on the series Mind of My Mind was published a year later. The first book in the series, Wild Seed was not written and published until 1980. And the third book in the series (at least chronologically within the story) was Clay’s Ark published in 1984. There is a fifth book in the series, Survivor, published in 1978, but it has been out of print for a long time because Butler did not like the book and refused to let it come back into print.

Each of the books in the series fill in the gaps of the story introduced in Patternmaster. Wild Seed give the origin of the rise of a genetically different group of humans. Mind of My Mind is about the creation of the telepathic’s Pattern. Clay’s Ark tells of how the disease started (which is the origin of the war between the Patternists and Clayarks.

Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler (Patternist #3)

Summary: A human starship has returned from its first visit to another star system, but it did not come back alone.

As I am writing this I have finished the fourth book of the series and finally understood why the books of this series are so different. I will leave that to the review of the fourth book. But yet again, this is a very different book in style and content from the first two books in the series.

This is a story of alien contact, almost horror, but not quite. The story is told in parallel, with the current time line and a historical timeline. Neither one is completely chronological so some of the jumping around slows down the suspsense and confuses the story.

The historical timeline tells the story of Asa Elias Doyle, an astronaut and the only member of a 14 person crew to make it back from visiting another star system. The spaceship crashlanded onto earth and he is presumed dead by everyone. The problem is that he was infected by an alien microbe that is slowly changing him. He is trying to protect humanity by staying away from other humans.

Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler (Patternist #2)

Summary: The subject of Doro’s breeding program, after several thousand years, comes of age.

The first book in this series, Wild Seed, was more of a prequel than the first book in the series.

Doro is some type of mutant person that was born about 4000 years ago. He accidentally discovered that he could leave one body and take over another, giving him a type of immortality. Eventually he started a breeding program to create a people for himself. And he took on a type of God role for them. This breeding program both gives him some type of purpose (this book really discloses the purpose of the program) and a ready source of bodies to take over.

This book opens in the 1970s (roughly current time period because it was written in 1977), jumping more than 100 years from the end of Wild Seed (which moved about 300 years during the book.)  Doro finds Mary, a young abused girl, and gives her to Anyanwu (now called Emma) to care for and raise.

As Mary gets older and ’transitions’ to her full powers, she is more like Doro than any other of his previous ‘children’. Mary creates ‘patterns’ (the source of the series name) and draws people under her power.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

The financial crash of 2008 surprised almost everybody–the investment banks, the government, and the Federal Reserve, not to mention millions of American homeowners. In The Big Short, Michael Lewis tells the story of a handful of investors who saw it coming, who read the tea leaves in the mortgage market, recognized that it was unsustainable, and decided to bet against the system. They earned hundreds of millions of dollars off one of the worst economic collapses in history.

Lewis dives into the underworld of mortgage backed securities (MBS), collateralized debt obligations (CDO), and credit default swaps (CDS), explaining them all in incredible detail. Despite the technical discussion, if you stick with it Lewis rewards you: he manages to weave a story so fascinating that it reads like a thriller novel. I devoured it in just a few days.

The Man Who Knew Too Much by GK Chesterton

Summary: A collection of 8 short stories (mysteries) centered around the character Horne Fisher, someone that knows everyone and know why the system usually frames the wrong person.

I have been getting a bit bored with my standard fare lately so I keep switching books in rapid succession trying to find the right book to hit my mood.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was not it.  But the stories are relatively interesting.  I am not a fan of short stories.  I like more character development and a longer story arc.  But I enjoyed Chesterton’s Father Brown Mysteries so I gave this a try.

Horne Fisher is an intelligent, upper crust Englishman.  He ‘knows too much’ about how things work and who is behind them.  So these are a fairly cynical bunch of stories mostly centered around how those with money and power can get away with things that other cannot.

But Horne is there to explain and figure out the solution that sometimes puts the real person back in the spot light, although in the cases that I listened to it wasn’t about putting them in jail or punishing them, but simply identifying them, often because the guilty party is either already dead or in some other method has already received their ‘reward’.  These stories are more about the why something was done than the how of Sherlock Holmes stories (so still a similar different as the Father Brown stories.)

Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Summary: Did you read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett? Well this is basically the same plot.

I am trying to give KindleUnlimited a good shot.  As I am posting this, I have finished nine KindleUnlimited books since it was released a bit over three weeks ago.

What is good about a program like KindleUnlimited is that it have a very low threshold to try something new.  There is no cost for the individual book, just the monthly subscription.

Mercury Falls is one of the better reviewed fantasy books on KindleUnlimited and it has free audiobook narration included.

The bad part of subscription book programs is that there is a lot of junk you need to sort through in order to get to the good stuff.

Mercury Falls is not a bad book. I actually enjoyed it, but if you have read Good Omens, it really is basically the same book.  (My review of Good Omens.)

In both Armageddon is about to happen. In Good Omens, an angel and a demon work together to stop it from happening.  In Mercury Falls, an Angel (Mercury, he also was mistaken for a god by the Greeks and Romans) and a human reporter (Christine) decide to try and stop Armageddon.