Friday, June 30, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman


  • THE BOOK
    • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
    • Published February 7, 2017
    • Other works by author include: Stardust, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Coraline, and The Sandman.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author has taken two main sources of Norse mythology, the Prose Edda (written by the awesomely named Snorri Sturluson, who lived from 1179-1241 CE) and the Poetic Edda, and written the stories of Odin, Thor, Loki and the rest for a modern audience.
    • Each story is an individual part of the whole, from the early days of the gods to Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods.
    • The format is similar to that of a book of fairy tales. 
      • It would be similar to Homer's Iliad told in prose rather than its original (translated) poetic form which can seem a bit flowery for our modern eyes..

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • Despite the book's fairy tale format and style, this is not an appropriate book for children.
      • Even the compilation of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm aren't really for children. Nor are the Greek and Roman myths. Children get the expurgated versions to learn.
      • Same with the Norse myths: not all parts are appropriate for children. 
      • I would recommend this for junior high and up.
    • The book was a quick read, again due to the fairy tale structure of the stories. In other words, this is not a dense fantasy novel based on the Norse myths; it's the actual Norse myths in all their original glory.
    • I did not know most of these stories, having picked up bits and pieces of the mythology over the years. 
    • Some of the Norse gods are with us every week: Tiw (also known as Tyr) is what Tuesday is named after; Wednesday is named for Odin (Woden in Old English); Thor's Day is our current Thursday; and Friday is named for the goddess Frigg (sometimes called Freya).
    • The main characters are Odin, Loki and Thor. Too many years exposure to Marvel Comics and the related movies have made Thor the big hero but he's doesn't have the sharpest mind in these myths! Loki is the most fascinating character because he's always stirring up trouble at every opportunity.
    • Recommended for those interested in learning more about the Norse mythology in a quick, easily readable format.
    • ★ ★ ★

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This is Just My Face by Gabourey Sidibe

  • THE BOOK
    • This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
    • Published May 1, 2017
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author is an Oscar-nominated actress for playing "Precious" and has played roles in "The Big C", "American Horror Story" and "Empire" on TV.
    • This is a memoir about her early years and how she got into acting.
    • Her father is from Senegal and her mother is an American singer.
    • She worked for years as a phone sex operator and has several engaging stories about that.
    • For health reasons she recently had gastric bypass surgery and she discusses that with humor as well.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • She has a writing style that's engaging. She comes off as a down to earth person with whom you'd want to be friends.
    • I haven't seen "Precious" yet but I have seen some of her other work, including a few guest appearances on talk shows, and I am a fan. 
    • Definitely one of the better celeb memoirs I've read.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

  • THE BOOK
    • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
    • Published May 30, 2017
    • Other works by author include Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, The Truth with Jokes, Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair & Balanced Look at the Right and several others.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author currently serves as senator for the state of Minnesota as a Democrat (in Minnesota it is technically the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party).
    • The book documents his political life, including his contested first election when it took 8 months to wend through the courts before he was confirmed as senator by a mere 312 votes.
    • His interest in politics started far sooner than the run for Congress and he explains how even during his years as a comedian and satirist it was a topic which he was drawn.
    • Why Minnesota? That's where his family moved when he was a toddler so it is his home state.
    • He extols the value of hard work, showing up for every committee meeting, learning the ropes and dealing with the varied personalities of the political world.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was my first Franken book and I really enjoyed it. He uses humor to tell his stories but he also tells them with the humility of a born and bred Midwesterner. 
      • I laughed out loud while reading. I also got teary-eyed reading about his first piece of legislation. Well written and entertaining.
    • The author says he was advised (I forget by whom, sorry) to be a work horse, not a show horse. He seems to have taken this advice to heart.
    • In our politically divisive country this book will smack of a take-down of the conservative wing of government for many people on the right. (Sorry for all those prepositional phrases!) 
      • It will be read and liked much more by the liberal wing. That is how these things go. It does not mean the book is not well-written. The Senator is a Harvard graduate after all. And he apparently majored in government so his love of politics goes way back.
    • I was especially taken with the parts of the book that detail how things are done in the Senate:
      • Writing laws: senators don't actually do it themselves
      • Talking to journalists: a politician has to learn how to (almost) never answer the question but rather spin the topic back to the "message" 
        • Kind of like this: (NOT from the book) 
          • "Senator, do you believe in global warming?"
          • "What I believe in is more jobs for my constituents and the rest of the American people."
          • This explains so much about the interviews with members of Congress I see on TV or read about in the paper. The goal is to get their message out and they have staff members there to keep them on track. Apparently this is just the nature of the beast.
      • The travel involved: most senators spend the week in Washington D.C. and fly home each weekend to meet with constituents. There are also all the events in the home state for a senator to show up and mingle or give a speech.
    • Again, this book will probably be read and enjoyed more by liberals than conservatives. Is there an equivalent book on the conservative side? I'm trying to find a recent book that covers similar ground. Maybe Ben Sasse's? Recommendations are welcome in the comments.
    • Recommended for those interested in politics, in how a political career started and in smart and gentle humor scattered throughout. Recommended for liberals but conservatives might enjoy some of it too. Especially the Minnesotans he works for. 
    • ★ ★ ★ ★