Thursday, January 26, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Let me break it down for you this way. I was on a hunt. The hunt for a good book. This was on a day when we needed to take the cat in for a haircut and the nearest place was a Petco in Bloomingdale. It was nearing the end of rush hour and I had just dropped my wife off at the place. I decided to walk to the nearby Barnes and Noble. It was one of those single-floor ones.

As I was browsing in the Literature and Fiction section, my phone buzzed. My wife was telling me it would take two hours for them to complete their work. So, she decided to join me. I thumbed through Pilgrim's Progress and a couple of Stephen Kings. They only had one Joseph Heller book. Then I stumbled upon Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathan Safran Foer.

We huddled into the Starbucks area and I began to dig in. I had a Brief Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald which I lost interest in and immediately moved to Incredibly Close. What a book! I had already covered six pages and I was completely engulfed.

I had seen the movie trailer and was interested in reading it.

As far as format goes, this book is unique. Books that stray away from the conventional format of a book are always a must for me. Ordinarily, a book is separated by numbered chapters and the paragraphs are justified left and right with all the proper indents for new paragraphs. Perfectly routine and traditional, wouldn't you say?
But, the books that do it differently (A Million Little Pieces, Blindness, House of Leaves), have just enough format chaos to grab your attention.

Quite often I was reminded of another book with a similar style. It was called The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. Don't bother Googling it. Just buy it. Thank me later. It's just that good, folks. No pre-Google search needed to know its a book you will spend hours enjoying.

The story for E.L&I.C. follows the thoughts of Oskar Schell, an eight year old boy, fresh from the incident that changed his life. His father died two years earlier in the 9/11 attacks. Now, in an effort to distract himself from his grief, young Oskar is on a mission to find what a key unlocks in New York City. He found the key while rummaging through his father's closet. His father is described as a smart, patient man who provided many puzzles, riddles and critical thinking games for his son. The son has autism which usually prevents him from venturing out into the world and its clear that the father created these "reconnaissance missions" for Oskar's benefit.

Right off the bat, I'm a sucker for Father/son stories. Along the way Oskar faces his fears, establishes friendships and, in my opinion, truly finds what he's looking for. This is a deep poignant story that people need to read, preferably it should be offered up in high school as required reading. The story's theme is about being connected. Often, when we're busy with our gadgets and personal problems, we lose sight of the people we're passing by. In the grim face of tragedy, people seek to be connected. I don't often use the word Heartwarming but this story has to be defined that way. The ending is bittersweet.

Because the book was so good, I'm not going to rush to the theatres to see the movie. Not to belittle the credit of actors Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock but, why would I go see a movie when the book offered such a unique experience and accomplished much more than I was expecting?

I give this one 5/5 stars.

Here's the trailer. You be the judge. Book or Movie?

Which will you experience?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give The Kids What They Want

When I was a kid, I was read to by my parents. We had all the Dr. Seus books, I swear they were worn down and weathered by the time we had the house fire.

After we moved, we were still given books but, as far as school went, I hum-de-da'd my way through their library and found a few good books. Then I discovered great books. Then came High School...where textbooks sounded like their writers were on Vicodin or something.

I only remember two books they made us read. Black Boy and Run, Baby, Run.

I never finished Black Boy. I couldn't connect with it.

Run, Baby, Run was a true account of a gang member. I already knew to stay away from gangs so the entire book to me goes without saying.

I had to discover great books on my own. Like Catcher in The Rye, The Invisible Man, Into The Wild, The War of The Worlds, The Most Dangerous Game, Jumper, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, Catch-22.

Luckily, I already had a passion for reading so I sought out books for myself to read, without anyone guiding me. I read classic young adult novels.

But some are not so lucky.

Lowest literacy rate is in the country of Mali - 26 percent.

The highest is Andorra - 100 percent.

United states has 99 percent.

But I heard that Rhode Island has the lowest literacy rate of all. Their literacy rate is 27.3 percent.

It's true that our country needs to bump up in areas like science and math but I believe that reading is the most important one of all. If a child does not get inducted into reading with some good books under his belt, then there is very little you can do.

But, there is one website I support.

James Patterson has made one. Even thought I don't particularly like his writing style, he has made a way for parents to find out exactly what books their kids need by making lists of young adult classics through ages 1 to 10.

If you really want your kids to be smarter, happier and critical thinkers then give the kids what they want.

Go here - Read Kiddo Read to find out more. Who knows, maybe you can brush up on a couple of childhood classics you missed during your youth.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mr. Dead Eyes, Revisited

A current blogger at Free Audio Review has recently reviewed my book. I don't do it often but sometimes I Google my name and the name of my books to see if there is any news buzz. I was delighted to find that someone heard the audio book and decided to write something about it.

One line I like in particular from his review was:

"In the end this mash-up worked for me. I like things a little unusual and this story has it in spades."

I'd like to publicly thank, here on the blog, the person who took time in reviewing my book. He's already reviewed 231 books and I think you should check him out.

You can read the rest of the review here: Full Mr. Dead Eyes Review

Also, you can hear the entire book, for free, here: Podiobooks

So far, Mr. Dead Eyes has been my top seller and has also gained over 180,000 downloads. With there being a high number and a couple of requests for the second installment, I've decided to work on an outline and really begin bridging the story together by 2013.

I may also put up an audio version of Wearing Donnie Torr soon for more promotion. It has been on my mind for a while now. Until then, you keep reading and I'll keep writing.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beat The Reaper

For fans of annotated books, (i.e. Publish This Book, Infinite Jest) I may have the book for you. So, okay, yes, I admit, I had an unrealistic goal set when it came to reading as many books as possible in 2011. I read 73 books. I originally wanted to read 500 for the whole year. That's more than a book a day. That's over 40 books a month! But, I stand by my motto, it's not unrealistic until you can prove it.

For my first book read in 2012, I present to you, Beat The Reaper.

What a ride!

I finished this book in three days. And its 300 pages!

Beat The Reaper came out in 2009 and since then I've been debating whether to pick it up or not. The cover intrigued me. I have even read the first chapter, on several different occasions, in both Borders and Barnes and noble. And, as luck would have it, when I knew I could get this book on the cheap (Sorry Josh Bazell!) I leapt at the chance right away. And, after reading the last page, I still have no idea as to why I waited 3 years to read it!

Set in a Manhattan hospital, the tale unravels as we meet Dr. Peter Brown, whose really in a witness protection program because he has ties to the mob. Originally he befriends the mob to avenge the death of his parents but, like all things, he gets in way too deep. The story is told through a kind of off-the-cuff stream of consciousness way, with footnotes that address medical issues and a bit of the main character's trademark black humor. I absolutely love this book and couldn't get enough of it. So, yeah, okay, its far fetched at times, but its a fiction book and with all fiction books, you have to suspend your disbelief.

I've read that the author read two great books, The Godfather and Jaws, and tried to find a way to mash them together. Well, if those two books had a lovechild, the perfect blend of mafia, hospitals and a healthy fear of sharks (Loan sharks or nurse sharks) this would have to be it. The follow up is called Wild Thing, set to release in February of this year. If it even has a dash of what this book brought the the table, it will be well worth the paper it was printed on. I give it five out of five stars.