Sunday, March 04, 2012

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

"So, witches had to keep one another normal or at least what was normal for witches. It didn't take very much: a tea party, a singalong, a stroll in the woods, and somehow everything balanced up, and they could look at advertisements for gingerbread cottages in the builder's brochure without putting a deposit on one." (p. 53)

Tiffany Aching is a witch and a rather young one at that. She does all the dirty business witches are expected to do (births, salves, tending to the weak) and not much of the dirty business witches are thought to do (spells and general wickedness). But when the ghost of a witch hunter is unleashed into Tiffany's world and the "rough music" dances him out of darkness and into the hearts of those who "make room for the evil," Tiffany must find the courage and skill to destroy him and reunite her village in the face of unspeakable evils and the kind of fear and ignorance that tears people apart.

"I Shall Wear Midnight" confirms that I need to be reading more Terry Pratchett. Several years ago I enjoyed a book he co-authored with Neil Gaiman called "Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch." I don't know why I didn't immediately pick up another of his books right then and there. Oh yeah. It's because I started reading more Gaiman. Which wasn't a bad bet. But it's nice to know he wasn't the only one running the show with "Good Omens." Pratchett is insightful and funny and neither of those words do justice to the delight it is to read his work. Dad, start with "Good Omens" and see what you think, since this one is in the YA vein. But it's good stuff. A genuine pleasure.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs was an arrogant asshole. You still with me? Ok, now you should totally read this book. While I know members of this fine family have their personal feelings about Apple and Apple products, perhaps even about Steve Jobs himself, this is a book worth picking up. As an iPhone and iPad owner, I clearly drank the Kool-Aid. And boy is it tasty. Mmmm…sugar.

Focus, Becky. Ok, but seriously, you don’t need to own or have owned an Apple product or even like Apple products to have respect for just what Apple has done for our society. Good, bad, or in between, it’s changed us. And Steve Jobs, love him or hate him (and there are about 10 people, I think, who loved him), was a mad genius. And I don’t mean that in the Boston “wicked-smart” sense, either. He was mad, and he was a genius.

While this book is more than 600 pages long, I didn’t find anything slow or extraneous about it. Walter Isaacson, the author, has written a few biographies that I think mom and dad have read – Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. And as Isaacson states in his intro, he’s quite sure that Steve Jobs saw himself as a natural progression of that list.

This was a fascinating portrayal of a very complicated, mercurial, selfish, brilliant, eccentric, sensitive, strong, elusive man. He brought computers into the mainstream, made them cool, accessible, flashy, and functional. He brought animation into the 21st century before we were even in it, and he changed the way in which we buy and access music, movies, and information. Steve Jobs was an arrogant asshole. And this was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

I've always had an interest in Japan, especially Japan prior to its being forced open in the mid-1800's. This story centers around 50 years prior to that time, when a young Dutch clerk seeks his fortune by going to the only place where foreigners are allowed in Japan, an artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki. He becomes infatuated with a Japanese woman who is a midwife and a student of the European doctor who tends to the Dutch East India Company residents of this foreign enclave.

I almost gave up on Jacob in the first third of the book because I thought he was a rigid naif among a nest of snakes and was hoping for more. I kept going because of the writing and the characters.

Without giving too much away, Jacob's circumstances change, and then the book just takes off. The story pulls you along into a web of intrigue and Jacob rises to the occasion. If you enjoy being immersed in an exotic time and place by an imaginative plot using interesting characters, this book is for you. Becky, it has similar other worldly aspects that remind me of Murakami. Amanda, there is true evil magic. Everyone, it is subtle and beautifully written. Hope you like it.