March 23rd, 2012

Dead Dog Cat

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Over the last couple of days, I read a couple more ebooks.

First was Osprey Elite #181: World War II Battlefield Communications which goes into the various means of signalling that were used in that war by nearly all sides.

Second was Osprey Fortress #97: Colditz: OFLAG-IV-C which talks at first about the original castle, and then the use of the site as a WWII POW camp by the Germans. Interesting.

Book #16: The Final Problem and Other Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This was another book that I got in a free giveaway, and features seven more Sherlock Holmes mysteries, many of which are very complex and need to be read carefully to understand. I liked the fact that there seemed to be a recurring theme of karma in some of the stories, with a few villains apparently getting away, only to later on get their comeuppance, plus it was good to see appearances from Mycroft Holmes and Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ arch-nemesis.

Most people probably know the story of “The Final Problem”, but for anyone who doesn’t for any reason, then the next bit is a spoiler.

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Overall, an enjoyable read, but one where you often need to pay attention to what is happening.

Next book: Skippy Dies by Paul Murray


The movie version of The Hunger Games has opened to great popular acclaim.  (In my more cynical moments, I view the concept's popularity as the unspoken naughty wish that a real-world Survivor would have real-world non-survivors.)  I had occasion to read the first book, and skimmed through the next two over coffee at Borders (before Borders went away), but read neither of those carefully enough to include them in the Fifty Book Challenge.  Now comes Lois Gresh with The Hunger Games Companion.  It's explicitly written for younger readers, and Book Review No. 8 will accordingly cut the author a great deal of slack for not attempting a rigorous treatment of the social dynamic by which a rise in the oceans and unspecified other fractures of the social order lead to the emergence of a tyranny with the most primitive division of labor and the most degenerate of ruling classes.  (It's unlikely that even the most imaginative Marxist could visualize the accumulation and repression that would lead to such contradictions, without perpetual crises of the existing order.)  Companion is more successful in explaining to readers that many of the nasty features of the Hunger Games world existed -- in the case of tributes, in mythology; gladiatorial combat, in Rome; instruments of torture, ubiquitous; explosives disguised as toys, Soviet Union in Afghanistan (oops, missed opportunity, not the only one!)  The author notes a number of other oddities in the post-apocalyptic world, including the absence of religion or prayer, and the probably shrunken population.  All the children of the coal mining district can be assembled in one town square for the lottery: perhaps the coal mining district is modelled on a Soviet corrective labor camp?  The book might have some value in the middle school classroom as supplementary reading in social studies.  The political economy of the Hunger Games world remains a topic for research.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

New Member! Finished book number 1!

So I recently joined the "50 book challenge" and I have finished my first book!
I have an extremely large thesis paper in my honors English class this year about an "American author". My author is John Steinbeck and we were required to read two books by our authors. First I read Of Mice and Men because it was short and I had already read it once before, but for my second book for the project (which I started around January) I chose the classic epic story, The Grapes of Wrath because I had only heard good things and I knew that it would benefit not only my thesis paper, but my future education as a whole. 
  My thoughts are somewhat mixed. I think the story stands for a great meaning about Steinbeck's views on society and his transcendentalist beliefs that all of mankind is part of one large soul (as Jim Casy demonstrates), but I also feel that as a 10th grade girl reading the book, it wasn't exactly something that I would recommend to one of my friends. I appreciate the novel and everything that it stands for and for the fact that it is a important piece of American literature, but it wouldn't be my first choice for some light reading.
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