Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Reviews

I want to do something different today. I have discovered the wonderfulness of the audiobook in recent months, and they add something special to my commutes to Atlanta and Athens. I never realized how much time I spent in my car! Over the past few months, I have listened to a few books and I'd like to share them with you.

The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr
This was the longest audiobook ever. The story was interesting, but awful. It focused on an 18th century chess machine, which housed a dwarf inside. This Austrian man tricked the entire country and toured with the "machine". It had some themes of religion, the Dwarf was Catholic and his friend was Jewish (which they all made fun of, much to my dismay). It felt like the author wasn't confident about his work, and to make it more appropriate to a 21st century audience, there were some uncomfortable adult scenes included. The sexism of the era was evident within the first disc. The story itself got good within the last hour of the book, but other than that it moved very slowly. It was interesting to find out at the end that this machine did exist, and that it was housed in Chicago until a fire destroyed the museum that kept it.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordian
This book was recommended to me by my former English professor. I was skeptical at first because the first chapter of the book made it sound like it was written for really young audiences. I think the imagination in this book made it more appealing than the characters. I want to see the movie now, but I don't think it would live up to my ideas from the book. The encounters with the characters from Greek mythology are the low light, but at the same time, I finished this audiobook in my room because I was so excited about the ending. I can't wait to start book 2!

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
This book is about the Chicago's World Fair in 1893, and how a man murdered an insane number of people for no apparent reason. Seriously, he built a freaky hotel with gas pipes going into hotel rooms, a kiln to burn bodies in, a vault to dispense acid into... it's really scary to imagine that somebody would actually do that. I have just one disc left, and I was actually biting my nails in the car when I was listening about the people from the Pinkerton Agency trying to catch up with him... This book is intense, and it is a really well documented, well researched account of the world back then. It gives good insights into aesthetics of the era, as well as values, and ideas of what people were like. My mom told me about this book a long, long time ago. I don't think I would've stuck with it if I had physically read it, because at times there are just so many facts it can be overwhelming. Apparently, they are going to make a movie about it soon.

Half Empty by David Rakoff
The reason I gravitated towards this book was because of a review on it on NPR last year. I recognized it instantly. It was okay, but one of those books that you wouldn't read again. The most interesting part to me was his cynical commentary on Tomorrowland at Disney World, mostly because I hadn't been there in so long that it sparked some interesting imaginative scenes in my mind about what it was like. It seemed like a lot of this book was Rakoff's name dropping, but it didn't bother me too much. Some of it was really funny.

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
A friend gave me this audiobook for my birthday, which is what started my love of audiobooks. It gives the account of a man who teaches high school English back in the 50s, with a lot of funny results. Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes, which is on my list of audiobooks to listen to.

See you tomorrow! :)
-Katie B

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