Fan Expo 2014

This was the crowd in the MTCC North building. nuts.

This was the crowd in the MTCC North building. nuts.

This was one of the booths in the MTCC South building.

This was one of the booths in the MTCC South building.

Adam West would be proud.

Adam West would be proud.

This lady is a wonderful person. Her artwork (the art of Laurie B!) is the reason I get to enjoy the Fan Expo. And she pigged out on chinese food with me.

This lady is a wonderful person. Her artwork (the art of Laurie B!) is the reason I get to enjoy the Fan Expo. And she pigged out on chinese food with me.

Book Review: The Kite Runner

The front cover of my copy of The Kite Runner.

The front cover of my copy of The Kite Runner.

The Kite Runner was written by Khaled Hosseini. It is widely well known due to its adaptation into a feature film. I was getting ready to fly to Calgary, Alberta to visit my friends and attend the Calgary Stampede (Yahoo!), and therefore was looking for something to keep my mind busy for the 4 hr flight there (and 3.5 hour flight back… yay jet stream!). I ended up perusing my Mom’s book shelf, and she recommended, among other things, The Kite Runner. Taking a quick flip through it looked like something I could read before the trip was over so I nabbed it and off I went to Calgary.
This book tells the story of an Afghani named Amir, who grew up in Afghanistan before the Monarch was dethroned, and then Amir fled to the United States with his father when things became really bad with the Soviet Invasion of 1979. While that is the geographical and political backdrop of the book, the story is about friendship, family, guilt, and atonement. During his younger days, Amir witnesses a brutal act of violence against a dear friend of his, but he was too frightened to intervene. For most of the rest of his life, Amir carries around the guilt associated with that. It weighs on him. It shapes him. In fact, I felt it had a lot of similar undertones to Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky, as well as the more modern treatment of the theme in The Machinist with Christian Bale.
Aside from the wonderfully woven plot, Hosseini also gives an intimate view of how international war and internal struggle has ravaged a once peaceful nation. I enjoyed seeing a little more of the other side of the story of Afghanistan, and hope that it has done much in the way of educating North Americans.
It was a heart wrenching book that I couldn’t put down. I quite easily finished it on my flights to/from Calgary.
Highly recommended. Happy Reading!

Book Review: Good Omens

The cover of Good Omens.

The cover of Good Omens.

I picked this up on my trip to Kitt Peak in May 2014. I was travelling with my supervisor for the trip, who went to University of Arizona for grad school. Since we were down there, he picked up some books he had left behind years ago; he also decided to purge some of the books because he either had other copies, or didn’t want them anymore. As a result, I got a free book!
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, is a cheeky/sarcastic take on the tale of the end of the world. I suppose the two main characters are Crowley (the Snake from the Adam/Eve story) and Aziraphale (an angel) who live on Earth and attempt to sway humans into their respective camps. The Armageddon is started by the coming of the Devil’s son, named Adam in this story, who Crowley had inserted into a human family in Britain. The rest of the story follows Adam and his realization of his abilities.
If you like british humour, it’s a great book. It’s full of witty banter, sarcasm, and has a great message regarding the philosophy of living your life to ‘code.’
While I liked it, this wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read. I kinda feel like something was missing. Or perhaps, a better way to put it, I felt like it didn’t focus hard enough on one story. There were a lot of parallel stories that you get bits and pieces of. It also felt a bit anti-climactic, but perhaps I’m missing the British style humour.
Either way, if you like Neil Gaiman (and you should) give it a read and enjoy a different take on Armageddon.
Happy Reading!

Book Review: Coraline

The cover of Coraline.

The cover of Coraline.

Written by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is a wonderfully imaginative tale of a girl named Coraline who is becomes twisted up in a race to save her parents from her dreaded Other Mother. It’s a short (163pgs) novella that you could classify as horror/fantasy. Perhaps the best way to describe it is it feels like a child’s imagination gone wild. When we’re young, the line between reality and imagination is very blurred. We can dream up so many amazing things (both wonderful and scary) and live inside that world as if it’s real. This inevitably leads to nightmares that make us rush into our parents room, avoiding going downstairs without an adult, or simply afraid to look in the closet at night. Just pondering the idea that children live in such a mix of imagination and intellect makes me jealous.
Coraline, our protagonist, has just moved into a new house with her parents; well, just moved into PART of the house, there are two other flats in the house occupied by very interesting characters. On a random rainy day a couple of days before the new school year begins, Coraline discovers a door that is supposed to lead to the empty flat on the same floor as theirs. Upon stealing the key from her parents, she opens the door, but it leads to a freaky parallel dimension wherein her Other Parents will do anything she wants: play the games, make her yummy meals, and all around support her in her desires to explore and create. However, her Other Mother has a (not so) hidden agenda to keep Coraline as her own for all eternity. The Other Mother has stolen Coraline’s parents, and won’t tell her how to get them back. Coraline draws on all her wit, courage, and physical strength to save her parents (and other children trapped in the alternate dimension), and eventually destroys the Other Mother.
I very much enjoyed the pace of the book, finding myself on the edge of my seat as I was reading. I was rooting so hard for Coraline! Gaiman’s style came through as a cheeky and interesting, and with a mature childhood tone to it. It was if the writer was a child with a wealth of adult vocabulary and experience to draw on. It was refreshing to see such an exact portrayal of what it’s like to be a child with an active imagination.
Of course, the movie was very well done, and you should absolutely see it. My philosophy is to always read the book first; but honestly, this is one of the few times where the movie does the book justice. No matter which you read/watch first, you’re in for a treat. Highly recommend either.

 

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Sailing Alone Around the World

The cover of Sailing Alone Around the World.

The cover of Sailing Alone Around the World.

 

I found this book while I was travelling, so naturally I had to read it. The week of 12-18 May 2014, I was atop Kitt Peak Mountain in southern Arizona. I had travelled there to use one of the (many) telescopes at the summit. I’ve written about this place many times, no need to go into again here. In the cafeteria on the mountain there’s a small collection of books, left there over the years to (most likely) provide some sort of entertainment on long cloudy nights. My supervisor and I perused the used book collection (as I so love to do) and nothing really stood out to me, except for Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum. One glance at the cover and I knew I was going to read it. It’s funny how that works.

I’ve been travelling my whole life. Thanks to my parents, I’ve seen a large chunk of Canada and the United States (from the back seat of a minivan). I turned these experiences as a child into a passion as an adult. Now I try to travel as much as possible (though not nearly enough for my liking). In recent years, I’ve done two motorcycle trips alone (one Toronto > Halifax, the other San Diego > Flagstaff > Tucson). Further, I took sailing lessons as a kid! This book sounded perfect.

The premise: in 1895, Captain Joshua Slocum (having already had many years sailing experience) took up the challenge that ‘no one could sail around the world with a crew of one.’ At the time, this seemed impossible to many. Slocum, however, was surprised people thought it impossible and took the challenge to show that it certainly was possible (but also likely for his love of the ocean). The book, Sailing Alone Around the World, is his memoirs of the events which lasted from the building of his sloop the Spray, to his departure from Fairhaven, Massachusetts on April 25, 1895, to his arrival in Fairhaven again, on June 27, 1898. It took him 3 years, but Slocum circumnavigated the globe on his own. His tale is filled with pirates, outrageous storms, battling natives of South America, and even his meeting of the late Robert Louis Stevenson‘s wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne in Samoa. Here is an image from the book that plots his route around the world.

The route.

The route Slocum took from Massachusetts East around the world.

Also, since this book was published in 1900, it is now FREE as part of Project Gutenberg. You can get it here. I also found a youtube video wherein a gentlemen has plotted Slocum’s course on Google Earth, and provided markers/waypoints along the way. I embedded the video:

The book is a sailor’s view of the world, full of sailor talk, adventure, introspection, and pragmatism. His attitude throughout the whole is of a humble appreciation for his abilities and the Earth. Highly recommend.

Happy Reading!