Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls Series #3)

This is the third in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy about humans who shapeshift into wolves. I suppose most would place this series in the paranormal/werewolf category.  Including it in the werefolf category doesn't seem quite right, however.  There are no human-wolf monsters anywhere in these books.  The shapeshifter turn into full blown wolves, indistinguishable (for the most part) from natural born wolves.  And the full moon has nothing to do with it.  Instead temperature is the catalyst.  During the cold winters of Minnesota the shapeshifters become wolves, and in the summer sun they once again resume their human forms.  During the fluctuating temperatures of spring and fall, shapeshifters shift between their human and wolf forms involuntarily.

Although the wolf story is important, at heart this is a teenage love story, with Sam and Grace at its center.  It is difficult to discuss this installment in the trilogy without giving away too much.  It cannot be read alone; it really is necessary to read the first two books in the series, Shiver and Linger.  One needs to know the history of Sam and Grace, how their roles have flipped, and about their parents and friends in order for Forever to make any sense.  I will say Ms. Stiefvater has delivered a satisfactory ending to the trilogy, giving the characters and reads a happy, but not perfect ending.

Before I read any of the books I was attracted to the look of the books.  Each book  has a theme color, soft blue for Shiver, green for Linger and red for Forever.  On the inside the fonts are in the same corresponding color.  I was worried that the red font of Forever would be difficult to read, but it was a soft red and I forgot about the color pretty quickly.  Someone spent a lot of time thinking about the presentation of this book, to good effect.

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls Series #1) Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls Series #2)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Savages by Don Winslow


Savages is the story of two friends, Ben and Chon, and their (shared) girl, O.  Ben studied botany and business in college, while Chon went into the military and became a Navy Seal.  After college and tours in the Middle East, the two friends started a successful marijuana business and enjoyed life with O.  All was good until one of the Mexican cartels decided Ben and Chon should work for the cartel.  Ben and Chon declined the offer of employment, so the cartel added an incentive to the job offer by kidnapping O.  We (the readers) then get to see how far the boys are willing to go to get their girl back.

I cannot say this book is for everyone.  It's violent and vulgar at times.  On the other hand, it is a page turner, largely because of the voice and language.  Overall I would say this book is about how no matter how much we try, in the end we are all savages, willing to go to great lengths to protect our own or get what we want. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords

Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords

First off, this is not directly related to the Song of Ice and Fire book series or the television series.  That being said, the various authors use the book and television series to explore issues of philosophy.  With the disclaimer that I do not have an extensive background in philosophy, I found this to be an entertaining (re)introduction to the subject.  Over the course of twenty chapters, the various authors tackle topics like the search for happiness, whether one should be good or moral even if one has absolute (or nearly absolute) power, feminism, living an authentic life, idealism, fatalism and more.  For those who are fans of the books and television series, this is a really fun read as the authors interpret and explore the characters and their actions.  For those who are not familiar with the series, this might be less fun but it is still a worthwhile exploration of philosophy and life.

This is not a book that one must read from beginning to end.  It is made for jumping around from chapter to chapter.  I, however, was hooked from page one.  Some of my favorite chapters were Maester Hobbes Goes to King's Landing, Playing the Game of Thrones: Some Lessons from Machiavelli, "You Know Nothing, Jon Snow": Epistemic Humility Beyond the Wall, No One Dances the Water Dance, The Death of Lord Stark: The Perils of Idealism and It Would be a Mercy: Choosing Life or Death in Westeros and Beyond the Narrow Sea.

This is part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.  Other entries in this series I've enjoyed are True Blood and Philosophy and Batman and Philosophy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

In Quiet Susan Cain explores the different ways introverts and extroverts relate to the world. She distinguishes shyness from introversion and demonstrates how both introverts and extroverts can be leaders. Most importantly, she de-stigmatizes and legitimizes introversion. In a time when children are criticized for not being outgoing enough and we are all told that we must continually sell ourselves, Ms. Cain reminds us that wanting a bit of time to one’s self is not a pathology that needs treatment. She explains that introverts are not necessarily shy. Shyness, according to Ms. Cain is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, and both introverts and extroverts can be shy.  Introversion and extroversion is more about how one draws energy. Extroverts are energized by and crave stimulation from others. They thrive in environments where there are lots of other people to talk to, even if it is just small talk. Introverts can be social to, but too many people for too long can be overwhelming. Introverts tend to have rich inner lives and recharge their batteries by taking some quiet time to themselves when they can let their thoughts and imaginations flow.  They tend to think, really think, before they speak.  It is not that one or the other is better; both types of people are needed in the world.  And introversion does not mean one is destined to be always be a follower instead of a leader. Ms. Cain gives several examples of introverted leaders, like Gandhi and Rosa Parks, whose understated style inspired the masses. She notes that a bold and aggressive stances can come across as reasonable when presented by a mild mannered, understated personality.  Closer to (my) home, she tells the story of an attorney, who contrary to the stereotypes was not prone to making grandiose speeches and yelling.  In negotiations over a loan, this attorney sat across a table facing bankers and their more stereotypical aggressive lawyers across the table.  Instead of responding their speech making in kind, she took the time to listen and respond thoughtfully to the points posed by the opposing attorney and their clients. In the end, she not only successfully renegotiated a loan for her client, but received praise for keeping her cool throughout the negotiations and received  job offers from both opposing counsel and their client!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are an introvert, read this book and you’ll realize, if you haven’t already, that there is nothing wrong about wanting and needing quiet time. If you are an extrovert, read this book and you’ll understand that quiet people are not being rude or standoffish, they simply relate to the world in a different way. If you’re a parent, particularly a parent of a quieter child, please read this book. One of the most touching stories Ms. Cain tells is about an outgoing mother and her introverted daughter. The mother was worried when she saw her daughter playing alone at the end of the school day, but it turned out that the daughter was just fine. She had friends and generally enjoyed school, but at the end of day was a bit tired of the constant social stimulation and that alone time at the end of school was her way of de-stressing. The daughter did not perceive being alone at the end of the school day as a problem but looked forward to that time. As an introvert myself, I can totally relate.