A Bit of World Culture | A River in Darkness

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa

A World Book Day purchased for free on Amazon in order to read books from authors that are outside of the US. I was excited to read this book from an author born outside of the US and written about a country I will probably never visit. As you might imagine from the title the book was very sad. It made me even more thankful for all the things I have and fortune to be able to provide for my family. It would be interesting to see what else has happened to Mr. Ishikawa since the book was published.

The 172 page book was originally published in 2000, but I think the fact that it was a featured book on World Book Day and the fact that it was free, really helped the sales. It currently has 25,500 ratings at a 4.26 rating on goodreads.

The author tells of his impossibly difficult life in North Korea and his eventual escape from the oppressive country. I gave this book 4 stars.

Grumpy Old Men | Waiting for Godot Book Review

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Remember Grumpy Old Men?

Grumpier Old Men Trailer

This book was written in 1952 well before the movie and its basically the same thing. What I originally wrote in my goodreads review was:

Strange play. Two guys that are waiting for someone who never comes. They are mean to each other and at least one seems to be a vagrant. The run into an old mean guy that has memory issues. This play is short only 100 pages, but I just summed it up 4 sentences. You’re welcome.

And that really does sum up Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. I thought it was funny and short. It gets three stars from me.

Book Review | In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It

In Conclusion, Don't Worry About It
In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham

I really like Lauren Graham. She was wonderful Gilmore Girls, which is where I first saw her. I thought she was a very talented actress. Later I learned that she had also authored some books. I’m a fan of her book, Someday, Someday, Maybe and also enjoyed Talking as Fast as I Can.

Both of these were good books. This book left me dissatisfied. It’s not that the advice in this very short, 52 page book is not good, it just that I don’t think it needed to be a book and I don’t know what the reasoning for publishing it was other than maybe that Graham was getting a lot of press at the time since Gilmore Girls had come back on Netflix for four episodes.

Below is the book blurb…

In this expansion of the 2017 commencement speech she gave at her hometown Langley High, Lauren Graham, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, reflects on growing up, pursuing your dreams, and living in the here and now. “Whatever path you choose, whatever career you decide to go after, the important thing is that you keep finding joy in what you’re doing, especially when the joy isn’t finding you.” In her hilarious, relatable voice, Graham reminds us to be curious and compassionate, no matter where life takes us or what we’ve yet to achieve. Grounded and inspiring—and illustrated throughout with drawings by Graham herself—here is a comforting road map to a happy life.

Thats just it, they could have just done a blog post or youtube the speech, it didn’t need to be expanded. Anyway, I still like Graham her writing and acting, I just don’t see a need for this book to exist. Save your time and read her other better works, or binge on the Gilmore Girls. I graciously gave this book 3 stars.

Book Review | The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault of Our Stars by John Green is an insanely popular book, with just shy of 3 million ratings on Goodreads. The book came first but soon became a major motion picture.

The Fault of Our Stars Movie Trailer

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

After I read the book and really enjoyed it, I decided to watch the film. I would say if you are a reader, you don’t need to watch the movie, it in no way adds to the book you have already read. The acting was okay, but the story in the book is so much more, as usually is the case with books.

Initially I didn’t really want to read this book. Mostly because it was so popular and all the reviews say that the book made them cry. I’m not super emotional, but I don’t want to read books that are sad just because they are sad.

I want to read books that give me something to take away. I want to read books that make me better in some way. We don’t have a lot of time why read or do anything for the matter that doesn’t benefit us in some way.

I did learn to value the things and the people in my life much more than I was currently doing. We all know this is important but sometimes we need a reminder. This is a very good book and a great reminder that what we have in life, whether it is a lot or a little is more than some and we should celebrate and be thankful for that instead of being depressed and always wanting more.

Because of this lesson and really great writing I would recommend this book to most everyone. The story and lesson earned 4 stars out of 5 from me.

Book Review |The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System

The End of Animal Farming
The End of Animal Farming

I’m reading more and more vegan or animal-free books. When walking through my local library this bright red book cover caught my attention. I wondered if they would discuss Impossible Foods, a food brand that has created meat, that taste very near the real thing. So much like the real thing many people can’t tell the difference. Not only does Jacy dive into this he does a very deep dive in, The End of Animal Farming. There is a lot of work put into this book and polished. Jacy has included many ways that we as individuals can help beyond just changing our diet.

“…technology therorist Tom Chatfield listed “eating mean and factory farming” first in his predictions of what our descendants in centuries to come will deplore about today’s society.”

For those that believe in saving animals, whether you are vegan, vegetarian or not, it doesn’t matter. You can make a difference.

“…the average American consumes far more that the Recommednded Daily Allowance of protien, around 145 percent the RDA for women and 176 percent for men.”

“…vegetarian diet can spare 371 to 582 animals each year.”

“I’d guess it’ll take another ten to twenty years–around 2038 to 2068–for animal-free foods to make up the majority of meat, dairy, and eggs in high0income countries”

As you might be able to tell this is an important topic to me. I hope you take the time to watch the video above and if you want to learn more please give Jacy’s book a try. You will learn a lot. This book earned 4 stars from me.

Book Review |Salt: A World History

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

I got what I asked for in, Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. This book is exactly what it says it is. A World History. Much of it bland and boring, but it had its moments.

I downloaded this audio book from my local library. My wife fractured her wrist and she is my usual carpool buddy. We have an hour commute each way. This book was downloaded to fill some of that time. It was on my list of books to read.

I added this book to my to read list, because salt is such an everyday mundane object/food for us, that it is often overlooked. This book embodies the difficulties of being a modern reader of history. If it is not written in an exciting way, then the book is kinda boring. Salt, has some pieces of it’s history that is fascinating, but it is not enough to make the book a page turner.

If I had been reading a paperback of this book, I would not have finished. The fact that I listened to this book on my commutes is the only thing that saved it. However, it did take me a month to listen to this 3.5 hour book.

GoodReads Ratings

My GoodReads peers disagreed with me on this book. On the whole they really liked it. 4 stars is what most people gave this book. It just wasn’t from me. I only gave this book 2 stars.

Book Review|The Spy

The Spy by Paulo Coelho
The Spy by Paulo Coelho

The Spy by Paulo Coelho is of course about the famous Mata Hari who was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was convicted of being a spy for Germany during World War I and executed by firing squad in France.

I picked this up because it is history, with a great twist. An exotic dancer who may have also been a spy. I’m convinced she was a spy, but I don’t know if she ever really understood that she was. She seems to have been very caught up in herself.

The book was difficult for me to follow because of those. The author, Coelho, seems to weave a somewhat confusing story about her. She knows what she is doing, she doesn’t. At times she wants to get away from the man she is with, at other times, she wants to meet another.

As you can see from the below graph, other reviews on goodreads were torn too. It wasn’t amazing and it wasn’t terrible, its somwhere in between, a solid 3 star book.

It is very unlike me to not write a GoodReads review, but on this book I did just that. I finished this back in April of 2017 and I think I was baffled by what I just read, with no way of knowing what to write for this book. Like many of my GoodReads peers I also gave the book 3 stars.

Book Review | Grain Brain

Grain Brain
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter is my second audiobook of the year.  As you can imagine this was somewhat similar to the last audiobook I listened to.  Both books are focusing on wheat and what repercussions it has for those of us who love it and continue to consume it.

Dr. Perlmutter focuses on the impact of wheat on the brain.  Listening to these books at the gym is very purposeful and really makes me push that much harder.  It focuses me on getting healthier.  And the next time I am presented with an option to eat bread it makes me reflect before taking that choice.  Joe Cross, of Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead fame, is famous for saying:

You control the last few inches to your mouth

I’m paraphrasing, but you get it.  We are completely in control of what we are putting in our mouth.  No one is holding a gun to our head and telling us we have to eat eggplant or Doritos.  That choice is ours.  We may be tempted with certain foods, but the ‘last mile’ is all up to us.  We control that and there are no excuses for what we are choosing to put in our mouths.

The other side of the story.  While doing some research for this post I ran across an article by Alex Ruani reviewing the book and warning people not to take everything in the book as literal truth.

Instead, Perlmutter suggests that a low-carb diet is the only way to manage your blood sugar and insulin levels. But, as we know, a high-carbohydrate, low-glycaemic diet can too…
Source: © The Health Sciences Academy ®. All Rights Reserved.
Read more: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org

I agree that Dr. Perlmutter left some things out of the book.  He encourages drinking red wine, but also says that it is easier to get your Restoril from a supplement.  He doesn’t warn the reader that too much alcohol consumption can be bad for your brain and body.

While I agree with Alex, that you need to practice some common sense and not take everything from any non-fiction book as the truth.  Do some research and use some good common sense.

As a whole, the book is entertaining and educational.  There is much you can take away from this book and I would recommend it without reservation. 3 stars for this education non-fiction best-seller.

Book Review | Ready Player One

Ready Player One Movie Poster
Ready Player One Movie Poster

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is the best book I have read in many years.  It may be my new favorite book of all time.  After reading the book I feel like Wade Watts the main character.  I feel like I too have achieved what he did in the book.  Like many 30 somethings, this book really spoke to me.  I grew up in the 80’s.  It was my decade.  The characters in the book study that era to be better able to player Oasis an immersive world that they access via fancy virtual reality (VR) rigs.

Earnest Cline
Ernest Cline

This book reminded me of so many things all at once.  How much I loved growing up watching TV shows like Silver Spoons and Family Ties.  Playing the same video games that the characters mastered in the game: Adventure, Joust, Defender, Zaxxon, etc.

Of course, right now there is a ton of buzz about this book because it has been made into a movie.  A movie with a trailer that is pretty spectacular.  the movie will be released later this month (3/29/18) and the director is none other than Steven Spielberg.  Who better to direct a movie about the 80s than the man who helped make the 80s with his amazing movies.  The amazingly brilliant mind behind E.T. and Raiders of the Ark, both came out in the 80s.

This book also reminded me of Second Life a lot.  That’s the immersive computer simulation where people can make the avatar anyway they want and you can actually make money in the game.  Or Lindens, that can be traded in for real cash.  Or at least that’s how it was years ago when Second Life was a big deal.  I tried Second Life a long time ago, but even after reading this book I have no desire to log back into that virtual world.

Before reading this book I didn’t know anything about Ernest Cline.  Now that I have read one of his books, I can’t wait to read more.  “I love it when a plan comes together!”  5 Stars!!!

Book Review | The Good That Men Do

The Good That Men Do
The Good That Men Do

My first reaction to The Good that Men Do, is that there is very little I can say about this controversial book without it being spoiler-ridden.  So with that in mind, this post will be a spoiler.

Alrightly then last chance to turn back we are going to dive into a spoiler post her.  I don’t do these often so I have given you plenty of warning.  On the show:

In the last episode, when Shran’s former associates track down Enterprise and board the ship, they demand that Archer take them to Shran, but the captain refuses. The aliens are about to kill Archer, so Trip, thinking fast, tells them that he will take them to Shran. When Archer protests, the aliens knock him out. Trip leads the aliens into what appears to be a harmless utility closet — he tells them it is simply a com station and he is going to get Shran to come to them. Trip tells them he just needs to connect a couple of things, but when he brings a pair of conduits together, a massive explosion erupts, taking out both Trip and the aliens. Trip is fatally wounded.

All that is from this Wikipedia entry.  I just didn’t want to write all that out.  So, yeah Trip is dead or at least we all assume he is.  That is where The Good That Men Do is different from that last episode.  It continues to tell the story.  Instead of dying, Trip goes off on a top secret mission to save the galaxy from the Romulans.

Being a fan of the show I think the last episode was all wrong.  And I’m not alone in that.  So, while this was better than the last episode because Trip doesn’t die and I don’t remember it having Johanthan Frakes in it, in that whole strange looking back in time thing they did.  I think Frakes is awesome, but the whole holodeck reliving stuff was lame.

These are the Voyages, Star Trek: Enterprise
These are the Voyages, Star Trek: Enterprise

The book moved slow, too slow.  It was really long for what it was trying to do, 464 pages, maybe the author was trying to give Trip the ending he deserved and felt pressured to do that and he gets carried away with all the verboseness.  The story just dragged.  There was some action in it which was a breath of fresh air during a lot of internal dialogs the characters were having.

I gave this Star Trek novel 4 out of 5 stars because I liked the interactions between T’Pol and Trip mostly.  I also like that the story continued to be told instead of ending.  This was the 11th book in the Enterprise series and the last one that the show actually covered, so I’m very excited to see where things go next in the 12th book Kobayashi Maru.