Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Suitable Boy

A Suitable BoyA Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS =  out of 10
Content = (Adult Content, Violence, Language, Excessive Paper Cuts)

Why: The one thing we can say about A Suitable Boy with absolute certainty is that the novel contains a lot of words.  Weighing in at a generous 591,552 words this novel has only ever been surpassed by a handful of English language competitors.  Who hasn’t wanted to brag to their friends that they’ve read one of the longest English novels ever published in a signal volume?  As an added benefit, by reading the hardcover version you will experience a significant improvement in your bicep and forearm definition, although some lower back pain is expected (pregnant or nursing mothers should consult their family doctor before making a trip to the library).

Even though A Suitable Boy is primarily concerned with the events of four Indian families, we wouldn’t have survived without the family tree at the beginning of the novel.  Not surprisingly, one of the selling points of a long story is that there’s plenty of time to become intimate with the characters and their lives.  On the flip side, of course, it’s often difficult for the reader to feel like the plot is moving forward.  A Suitable Boy fits this model to a T, or at least a capital L.  While the character development is above average and very interesting, the plot does get bogged down by a few political affiliation bla-bla-bla side stories.

On the not so negative side, Vikram Seth has provided a compelling glimpse into post-independent India, which if you’re following along at home, happens to be a couple decades before the events described in A Fine Balance.  We found the story both emotional and real, as each family experiences hardships and victories.  Definitely make a point to read this novel, just make sure your calendar is blocked out for two or three months.

Editor’s Note: We are eagerly anticipating Seth’s follow-up novel, titled with skillful originality: A Suitable Girl. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 10 out of 10
Content = PG (Adult Concepts, Violence, Scary Neighbors, Childhood Mischief)

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”

Why:  One of the Two Bibliomaniacs wants a dog… the other not so much.  That “dream dog in the future” WILL be named Scout, after the main character in this book.  (Perfect name for a dog, right?)  That being said, a certain friend of ours who will remain nameless (for now) knows this, yet when getting her most recent dog, decided to name it Scout. Hhmmm.  Does she even really care about To Kill a Mockingbird?  No.  Are we a little bitter?  You bet!

Anyhooooo, let’s just get a few things off our chest.  We aren’t impressed that you had To Kill a Mockingbird on your required reading list back in high school.  We aren’t even that impressed if you think you remember the plot and moral lessons it was trying to teach.  You were pimply, hormonal, and only cared about the opposite sex – be honest!  Now that your forehead has cleared up, go ahead and read it as an adult.  Actually, go ahead and read it once every year for the rest of your life.  You personally have our Two Bibliomaniacs iron clad guarantee that you’ll get something new out of it each time.

To Kill a Mockingbird accounts life through the eyes of a young girl, Scout Finch.  Our heroine is able to capture the mood of a controversial rape trial through the observations of her friends, family, and neighbors with a profound raw innocence.  She’s able to strike to the core of morality while at the same time humorously detailing the childhood games and mischief of her brother, Jem and their summer pal, Dill.   We love the entire cast of characters as if they were real.  Actually, don’t tell us that Atticus Finch ISN’T real, because he’s one of the most amazing dads ever written to life.

To Kill a Mockingbird will stick with you and change you for the better.  That is, except maybe when it comes to holding grudges against puppy name stealers….  

Editor’s note:   If you are actually trying to figure out how to kill a mockingbird, we recommend placing a bowl of sugar water in the middle of your backyard and patiently waiting behind a row of shrubs with a giant net.  Patience and speed are key.

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Content = G (Name Calling, Talking and Singing Insects)

"My dear young fellow,' the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, 'there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven't started wondering about yet."
Why:  75% of the novel is spent inside an exceptionally large fruit.  Actually, the book was originally titled James and the Giant Cherry, but Roald Dahl, in his own words rationalized that a peach is: “prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry.”  Makes sense to us!  The book is great and even better if you have a copy illustrated by Quentin Blake. 

Dahl has a habit of creating horribly-nasty characters, which is why many of his books have found their way onto the ALA’s list of most challenged books.  True to form, James and the Giant Peach delivers its nastiness in the form of Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker.  For this reason, James escape is that much more gratifying (hopefully we didn’t give too much away here).  The entire crew aboard the SS Giant Peach is lovable and inventive, although like us, you might question the physics of the bird scene.  Then again you might question the entire concept of four foot tall, talking insects and rapidly growing fruit.  Don’t question, just read.  You’ll be glad you did.

Editor’s Note:  For anyone interested in Two Bibliomaniac trivia…and who isn’t?  Let’s be honest.  What movie did the two brains behind the blog choose on their first date back in high school?  Ding, ding, ding, ding!  James and the Giant Peach.

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath: 50th Anniversary EditionThe Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = R (Language, Adult Concepts, Language, Violence, Language, Did we Mention the Bad Language?)

“You’re bound to get idears if you go thinkin’ about stuff.”

Why:  Did someone say Pulitzer Prize?  Seriously, I swear I just heard something… nobody?  Ah well, let’s move on… 

Contrary to popular belief, The Grapes of Wrath is not an account of an evil mutated fruit that inflicts it’s fury on the city of San Francisco.  Instead, the novel features the tale of a simple family of Oklahoma sharecroppers who flea west for improved prospects.  The hardships that follow are almost unfathomable, and the unpleasant lower intestinal effects of consuming large quantities of fruit is a lesson everyone should take to heart.  The narrative is masterfully written although the sequence at the very end is just a tad on the creepy side.  You’ll find yourself wanting to grab a pitchfork and assemble a mob against the fruit farmers of California.  

Critics and advocates for The Grapes of Wrath have been all over the map.  Steinbeck’s work picked up both a Pulitzer (apparently we did hear something) and a Nobel Prize, yet, at times, has been banned in numerous US cities.  Even today it stands at the top of the ALA’s most challenged book list.  We, however, challenge you to read it.   

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

War and Peace

War and PeaceWar and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Violence, Adult Concepts, Multiple Character Overload)  

Why: This may be difficult a difficult pill to swallow, but at some time or another you need to embrace War and Peace. 

Uncomfortable Silence…..

Sooooooo? Are we still friends?

Tolstoy is considered one of the greatest writers of all time and certainly the most famous Russian novelist, though Dostoyevsky is nothing to sneeze at.  We’ll offer you a couple ways you can attack this, but whatever road you take this novel is long.  In fact, depending on the translation, War and Peace is well over 1,400 pages.  If you want to dive right in and experience the Napoleonic Wars in painstaking detail, we recommend the Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky translation, which is excellent. 

For those of you that don’t have the time or the patience we recommend the abridged “original” translation which is based on some of Tolstoy’s earliest drafts.  The purists will probably have our necks for saying this, but don’t feel guilty about reading the “original” version, which contains “less of the war, more of the peace”.  What this actually means for the reader is a more interesting storyline and less philosophical conjecture. 

Actually, we didn’t think that War and Peace was as difficult to navigate as some critics might have you believe.  Despite having 500 plus characters, (not an overstatement) the plot is connected and readable.  You will receive a profound glimpse into the Napoleonic invasion of Russia and learn a good deal more about Napoleon Bonaparte than you can from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Not that Bill and Ted didn’t have an excellent adventure.  Wyld Stallyons Rule!).  As an added bonus, you’ll have plenty of fun trying to pronouncing all the Russian surnames. 

It’s also important to note that Tolstoy later rejected War and Peace along with his other major work, Anna Karenina, as not being “realistic”.  Still, you’ve got to respect someone whose house, currently a museum, contains roughly 22,000 books - can anyone say Bibliomaniac!  Now that we’ve said our piece, please don’t declare war in the comment section.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
Evan’s ESS = 10 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 10 out of 10
Content = PG (Adult Concepts, Mild Language, Home Disrepair, Ghostly Spookiness)

"What better way to get to know someone than through her choice and treatment of books?"

Why:  Before we delve into the actual review of The Thirteenth Tale, please allow us some leniency to address an important issue blackening the world of literature.  We’ve found that while you can’t judge a book by the cover, a picture IS worth a thousand words.  Enter one Diane Setterfield….      

We truly hate to make an example of Ms. Setterfield when she has written such a gem, but was it absolutely necessary to press your face and hair against the wall for your back of the book portrait? And what’s with the ring, and the crazy transparent brown getup?  Far too many authors loose all good judgment when it comes time for the photo op.  This must stop!  Whether it’s an expression of deep thought or unnecessary seriousness, you’re hurting more than just yourself.      

Okay, back to the review….  The Thirteenth Tale is another shining example of a story written specifically for those marvelous and enlightened people who love books.  It’s beautifully written and wildly suspenseful.  Even we didn’t foresee the end turning out like it did – so much so that one of us had to read it all over again.  (This may not say a whole lot though, as we’re still left open mouthed every time Darth Vader reveals that he is, in fact, Luke’s father).

The Thirteenth Tale is the debut novel for Diane Setterfield and took only one week to reach number 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.  It certainly has a Goth feel as it slowly exposes the deep, dark family secrets of a famous novelist.  You won’t be able to connect all the dots until the very last chapter and when you do you’ll be rewarded with one of those rare “good” endings.  Not good in the sense that everything turns out all rosy (not that we’re not saying that things turn out all rosy), but good in the sense that all the pieces come together and fit nicely.  This novel is written so well, that we believe it takes the award for “instant classic”.  If only we could get our hands on tales 1 through 12.       

Editor’s Note:  Please publish a second novel, Diane… please.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Concepts, Violence, Really Scary Carnival Workers)

Why: Although a novel about a crazy messed up society where books are burned remains Ray Bradbury’s most popular novel, Something Wicked this Way Comes is our favorite.  Additionally, the novel owns the distinction for having the two best names of any evil carnival villain:  Monsieur Guillotine and Mr. Electro.  If nothing else, this novel will make you think twice before sending your children off to the carnival (not sure if state or county fairs would be included too?).

Teetering between a career as a magician or a writer, Bradbury himself had a harrowing experience at a carnival that inspired him to choose the latter career.  The air inside Something Wicked This Way Comes is filled with something much more sinister than cotton candy when the traveling carnival comes to town.  There’s a cast of menacing characters in this dark fantasy, including a witch who navigates an ominous hot air balloon.  In a slightly less than epic battle between good and evil a father and his son are left to unmask the carnival and rescue the town from unspeakable acts of dread (Not to be confused with the plot of every Scooby Doo episode ever created).

Admittedly, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a little out there.  But who isn’t a little out there?  Plus, how will you not know that you won’t like it in less you actually read the story (how’s that for some sound logic)?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Atlantis Found

Atlantis Found (Dirk Pitt, #15)Atlantis Found – Clive Cussler
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Concepts, Violence, Mild Language, Cookie Cutter Characters)

Why: We won’t make a habit of reviewing Clive Cussler novels, but on the outside chance you’re really into James Bond or Indiana Jones we’ll throw this one out there.  Atlantis Found is probably our favorite Cussler novel although as he’s written close to 100,000,000 Dirk Pitt adventures it’s hard to decide.

Action adventure novels are often riddled with a cast of confident and infallible characters, after all, how else would the lost relic get found, the bad guy get thwarted, or the helpless female get saved.  As it happens, Dirk Pitt, the main character, is an expert at everything as well as an all around good guy.  Actually, there are 2 or 3 things of which he hasn’t achieved expert level (yet), but thankfully he’s surrounded by a crack team that’s able to pick up those pieces.  However, with frequent narrow escapes and awesome one-liners, the reader doesn’t have a chance to get annoyed.  If we ever get into a fix, we hope Dirk Pitt is on the case.

The best way to provide you with a quick glimpse of Dirk is through the description posted on Wikipedia (yep, we are that lazy).  Dirk Eric Pitt is a renowned adventurer. He's described as tall, 6 ft 3 inches with craggy looks, dark wavy hair, and possessing a rangy build. His most striking feature is his opaline green eyes, which can be both alluring or intimidating, as need be. Pitt has a commanding presence which, combined with a quick, sly wit, often infuriates those opposed to him.  

On a completely unrelated note, the above description was also effectively used in Evan’s personal profile to triumph over Erin’s better judgment 14 years ago.  Thank you Mr. Cussler, we owe you so much!

Editor’s Note:  For an actual account of the Two Bibliomaniac’s romantic history please direct all inquires through e-mail.  In truth, was not the catalyst for our relationship. 

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby – Scott F. Fitzgerald
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Content = PG-12 (Adult Content, Mild, Mild Violence, Presupposing Nicknames)

Why:  The below exchange could possibly be the funniest ever recorded in a fiction novel set in the roaring 20’s. 

“At first I din’ notice we’d stopped.”
A pause.  Then, taking a long breath and straightening his shoulders, he remarked in a determined voice:
“Wonder’ff tell me where there’s a gas’line station?”
At least a dozen men, some of them a little better off than he was, explained to him that wheel and car were no longer joined by any physical bond.
“Back out,” he suggested after a moment. “Put her in reverse.”
“But the wheel’s off!”
He hesitated.
“No harm in trying,” he said.

Okay, we realize that taken out of context this passage might not be the comedic gold that we originally thought.  Trust us though, it is.  Knowing that one of the characters suffered a night of heavy drinking prior to making these absentminded suggestions is even funnier.  Unfortunately, this dialogue is the high point of the novel.  

The Great Gatsby is oft praised by critics and is required reading in many high school English classrooms.  We, however, question Gatsby’s greatness.  We found the story uninspiring and other than providing a glimpse into upper-class indulgence during the jazz age, mildly uninteresting.  Personal dislikes aside, Fitzgerald’s work wouldn’t have made it past the arduous filtering process here at Two Bibliomaniacs if the novel wasn’t well written and plenty worth your time.  How’s that for inspiration!         

Editor’s Note: The F stands for Francis.  Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.  Something about that name sounds vaguely familiar…… 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Animal Adult Content, Animal Violence, Animal Strife, Animal Hardships)

Why: What could be more innocent than a book about talking farm animals with larger than life personalities?  You’ll find out what happens when a group of animals decide to rise up and rebel against their farmer.  If we didn’t know any better we’d say this entire story was a metaphor for some greater social issue. 

Not to be confused with Animal Factory, which is a movie starring that kid from the second Terminator movie, Animal Farm has several important life lessons regarding pigs.  We have highlighted them in order of significance:

-          Never give a paintbrush to a pig.
-          Under no circumstances should you let a pig negotiate an important business transaction.
-          Remain suspicious if a pig ever recommends a trip to the “veterinarian”.
-          Never give power to a group of pigs, especially if they can walk on two hoofs and play cards.

George Orwell’s novella remains controversial and has experienced its fair share of challenges since its publication in 1945.  Nonetheless, its commercial success is indisputable as well as its familiar spot on multiple “best of” reading lists.  Is it possible we completely missed the point Orwell was trying to get across?  Nah.

Editor’s Note: George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair.  Ha-ha, Mr. Orwell, you can’t hide from us!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 8.5 out of 10
Content = G (Overdramatic Girls, Accidental Drunkenness, Spooky Woods)

"Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."
"All I want is a dress with puffy sleeves"
Why: You will almost certainly find a charming bosom friend in Ann Shirley.  Anne of Green Gables has sold so many copies; you probably have an extra copy lying under your bed somewhere.  Dust it off and read it, you’ll thank us later (we do accept gift cards).

Anne of Green Gables is a story about an orphan, which means it’s time for another Nacho Libre quote: “… my life is good!  Really good! I get to wake up every morning, at 5am, and make some soup! It’s the best.  I love it.  I get to lay in a bed, all by myself, all of my life!  That’s fantastic! Go. Go away!  Read some books.  We assume the last statement was referring to a book recommended on Two Bibliomaniacs! 

Anyway, back to the review….  Despite a barrage of negativity towards her red hair, Anne is a wonderfully imaginative character who makes her mark on her new household immediately.   The Cuthbert’s, who originally requested to adopt a boy, are quite surprised by what is waiting for them at the train station.  Follow Anne as she makes new friends, starts a reading club, and competes against her arch rival, Gilbert Blythe.  The entire story is filled with love, laughter, and… On second thought we’ll just stop there so as to protect the integrity of the conclusion.    

Lucy Maud Montgomery first published Anne of Green Gables in 1907 to immediate success.  She followed her first novel about Anne Shirley with 8 more which have spawned numerous movies and has inspired an entire tourism industry on Prince Edward Island.  Anne of Green Gables - Catch the fever!

Editor's Note:  Some time ago, there was a quiz that one could take on Facebook that asked, "which literary heroine are you?"  One of us Two Bibliomaniacs may or may not have taken said quiz, and was delighted to discover that, as much as she liked to think of herself as an Elizabeth Bennett, was, in fact, decidedly an Anne Shirley!  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-14 (Adult Content, Mild Language, Violence, Completion…)

Why: Probably our favorite dystopian novel of all time (please note the utilization of the noncommittal “probably”).  Definitely, Never Let Me Go is our favorite of its kind to take place in a fictional boarding school in Britain.  Kazuo Ishiguro does a masterful job holding back critical information as he takes the reader deep within the plot before exposing the horrors of the world he’s created.  For that reason we will unceremoniously reveal the hook.  The students at Hailsham are in fact…. just kidding.

Never Let Me Go was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker prize and made it onto TIME’s 100 best list.  It’s been translated into over 20 languages and just recently hit the big screen, where the screenplay was written by Alex Garland (The Beach).  As a final precaution, make sure you’re in the right mood.  Like most dystopian fiction, don’t expect a plot filled with rainbows, cotton candy, and circus clowns.  Instead, if you’re looking for something thought provoking and a little creepy, Ishiguro’s novel will deliver.  

The Secret Garden

The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 8.5 out of 10
Content = PG (Name Calling, Spoiled Children, Garden Disregard)

"There's naught as nice as th' smell o' good clean earth, except th' smell o' fresh growin' things when th' rain falls on 'em."
Why:  There’s a reason this book is a classic and it isn’t because everyone secretly wants an awesome hidden garden in their back yard.  At the time of its release in 1910, The Secret Garden was not even close to one of Burnett’s most popular novels.  In fact, it wasn’t until many decades after her lifetime that the novel started to gain momentum and establish itself as one heck of a children’s book. 

While the prose is a little difficult to manage, you don’t want to miss the scene where two snobby, entitled kids argue over who is the most miserable.  Can someone say temper tantrum?    There’s also a boy named Dickon who is the coolest fictional child character to grow up on a moor in northern England, ever.  You can almost imagine the elaborate garden landscape as you watch the characters and plant-life transform before your eyes.  Just thinking back almost makes us want to pull the weeds in our flower garden… almost.

Editor’s Note:  Once you finish this book be sure to check out one of the bazillion Hollywood interpretations of this novel.  We highly recommend the 1949 version filmed partially in Technicolor.   Also, if you are thinking about reading this book, we recommend waiting until springtime.  Reading during the winter months could result in prolonged depression and even sudden evacuation and relocation to a warmer climate. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights (with linked TOC)
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Adult Concepts, Domestic Violence, Adult Name Calling, Excessive Anger)

Why: Well, it can’t be helped - time to pull out the soap box again.   Surprisingly there’s very little dust.

2007 headline in major UK newspaper: Emily Brontë hits the heights in poll to find greatest love story.

What this means is that amongst 2,000 British readers, Wuthering Heights, earned the top spot as the greatest love story of all time.  How is this even possible?  At first we thought this was a hoax, but with Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet coming in at 2nd and 3rd, clearly, our neighbors across the pond are unhinged.  The only distinction Wuthering Heights should win is most selfish, vengeful, and violent love story of all time.  In an effort to keep the plot veiled, we can’t say much more at this time, but Heathcliff is a JERK!  Sorry, but it’s the truth.  Yes, he was mistreated as a youth, but the way he treats his relations is despicable.  Sadly, his one true love, Catherine, isn’t much better.  The pair is nothing more than two selfish people whose relationship stands as a model of dysfunction and anger.  Once you’ve read the novel we’re sure that you’ll agree (If not, we recommend some soul searching because you’re probably wrong).  Great, now we’ve woken up the kids.  If we can just step down…. Ouch… not again.  Why does this keep happening?

Now that our blood pressure is back down in an acceptable range, we need to say that Wuthering Heights is actually a very solid read.  Charlotte Brontë does a magnificent job evoking powerful emotion at every end of the spectrum.  The plot is interesting and the characters are complex.   Furthermore, its impact on popular culture is significant; including countless (we could have counted them, but really, what would that prove) references in music, television and theatre.  And if you didn’t know, both Heath Ledger and his sister, Catherine, were named after the main characters.  Definitely read this one, all we’re saying is that it might be a good idea to practice some deep breathing exercises beforehand.

Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold

Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold (Magic Kingdom of Landover, #1)
Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold – Terry Brooks
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 3 out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Mild Language, Some Violence, Adult Concepts, Overpriced Medieval Castles)

Why:  So maybe this one IS a little obscure and we promise we won’t waste anyone’s time endorsing Terry Brooks, “Shannara” series, but this novel holds a special place for us (okay, only one of us).  Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold was the first book we (Evan) read to balance the real world with a magical kingdom lurking in the shadows.  I know that CS Lewis did this exceptionally well with his Narnia series, but it was not the first of its kind that we read, so it doesn’t receive the same distinction. 

When an advertisement boasting the sale of a magical kingdom comes across the desk of Ben Holiday, the offer is too tempting to refuse.  Not surprisingly, the once depressed trial lawyer quickly finds that he got more than he bargained for.  Will Ben be able to restore the kingdom of Landover to its former glory?  Don’t ask us, go read it!

Actually, if you don’t already enjoy fantasy, we’ll give you permission to skip this one.  It probably won’t appear on any “best of” list and hasn’t produced any noteworthy derivatives.  If you do enjoy fairy folk, wizards with questionable magic skills, and indifferent cats, then add Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold to your list.  The even better news is that five additional books await in the Landover series!
Finally, if all else fails, Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold proves that with enough money you can buy anything and with enough perseverance anyone can come to trust a talking dog!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Watership Down

Watership DownWatership Down – Richard Adams
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Bunny Violence, Bunny Language, Bunny Content)

Why: We dare you – Nah, we double dog dare you not to fall in love with little Hazel and his cast of fluffy companions.  Watership Down begs the question: Is there anything more adorable than a story about a group of bunny rabbits searching for a new home?  If there is then we for two don’t want to know about it.

Richard Adams actually conceptualized the idea while telling the story to his two daughters on a long road trip.  What followed is one of the most cherished and award winning British novels of all time.  Watership Down is a much needed unveiling of the secret lives of bunnies.  The reader will explore everything you ever wanted to know about our garden wrecking neighbors to the south (You know, the immediate south).  Bunny religion, bunny morality and bunny mythology are all exposed as Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Silver, and Buckthorn all set out on their epic adventure to find safety and a better life.  The world is rich with detail (from the perspective of a bunny) and by the end you may find yourself craving a nice juicy carrot or radish.  Our original dare still stands.       

Editor’s Note: Just in case you’re interested, there is an old role-playing game called Bunnies & Burrows, in which an individual takes on the characteristics of rabbits.  Pretty cool, huh!  We didn’t think so either…


TimelineTimeline – Michael Crichton
Evan’s ESS = 10 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = 5 out of 10
Content = PG-13 (Language, Violence, Adult Concepts, Overuse of the Word “Core”)

Why:  Here’s another novel with an awesome shiver scene.  We don’t want to give anything away so all we’ll say is: the professor’s glasses. 

It’s hard to screw up a plot set in the middle ages because there are so many cool things: jousting, sword fighting, and meat on a stick.  Michael Crichton also introduces one of the best time travel related health concerns: transcription errors.  Plus, the use of a countdown before each new chapter only adds to the already thickly applied suspense.  Once the band of historical researchers head back to the year 1357 to rescue one of their own, you’ll have a hard time finding a stopping point before the conclusion.    

This is easily our favorite Michael Crichton book, which is saying something (we’re not sure exactly what it says, but there you have it).  Crichton does a marvelous job taking an insanely complex time-travel concept and explaining it easily for anyone who doesn’t have a doctorate in Multiverse theory.  Timeline also gets a few extra bonus points for one of the most satisfying endings without going all Kingsbury-ish.  What we mean by this is that the end is tied up quite nicely, yet not in a “we all made grave after school special mistakes but we learned from them and now we’re living happily-ever-after” kind of ending. (We apologize most humbly and profusely to those that LOVE Karen Kingsbury).      

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Slaughterhouse 5: Or, the Children's Crusade, A Duty-Dance with DeathSlaughterhouse–Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Matt’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = R (Language, Violence, Nudity, Melancholy Optometrists)
Every once and awhile, we here at Two Bibliomaniacs come across a novel that would be better reviewed by someone else.  We welcome the considerable talents of our good friend, The 200lbs Man (Matt Beers); world renowned author and leading balloon art champion, to tell you more about one of his favorite all time books…
"Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

Why: When I first heard of Slaughterhouse-Five I thought it was a video game. I assumed that Slaughterhouses One through Four were pretty successful and I made a mental note to play through them all from the beginning. That was back when the Super Nintendo was the height of video game technology. I have since done some research and in doing so discovered that Slaughterhouse-Five is a book, and a very fine one at that.

Now, I don't have the luxury of arguing various points with a book-loving significant other, but rest-assured that my wife, who lives in a world of teenage vampires and country ballads, would hate this book if she could ever be bothered to read it. It starts out with Billy Pilgrim, meek, quiet, and painfully lacking in confidence, running through the snow from German soldiers in World War II. He's pushed and prodded and insulted and cussed-at and threatened and kicked by fellow soldiers when what he really wants to do is lay down and die. He's not unlike Frodo Baggins in this way, but as The Two Bibliomaniacs have yet to review the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I won't expect you to understand that reference.

Lying there in the snow, perfectly apathetic and uninterested in survival, Billy Pilgrim inexplicably time-travels. So, THAT'S weird. But Billy takes it all in stride and before the end of the book he is captured by the Germans, sent to a POW camp, survives the fire-bombing of Dresden, gets married, has children, is abducted by aliens, is widowed, and survives a plane crash.

This book is partially autobiographical. Kurt Vonnegut was a POW during WWII and he lived in slaughterhouse #5 in Dresden. When the allied forces swept through with their incendiaries, Kurt and his fellow soldiers huddled underground for safety. They were among the few survivors.

Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those books that is impossible to describe properly. Well, I'm sure that someone with more skill and patience than I have at the moment could do a very passable job of it, but at the moment I'm trying to get this review finished so I can play video games. Anyway, Slaughterhouse-Five is a wonderfully funny and insightful book. It was written by a man who had nothing but respect for all kinds of life and who saw some very shocking things from both sides of the conflict. His appreciation for what was lost is heartfelt and sincere and his bewilderment that humans could be so atrocious to one another is very clear. Considering the current world climate, I think Slaughterhouse-Five is a very poignant book.