3/18/2018

Review: A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't care for this book; however, I cannot deny that it has merit. The language in the book takes some getting used to, as it is written in a very strange slang. I almost gave up after the first few chapters as I wasn't sure I was going to be able to even understand it, but once I got used to the narrator's language, I was able to get the gist and finish the book.

Alex, the main character and narrator, is an awful person who revels in violence. The book, itself, is full of long descriptions of violent acts perpetrated by Alex and his friends. As a dystopian novel, it seems to me to be a commentary on the government and the idea of free will. Alex, who's free will seems to be bent towards destruction, routinely seeks out acts of violence which he finds exciting. He continues to engage in these acts until he is finally caught after murdering an old woman and sent to prison. The government then attempts to cure Alex of his violence by brainwashing him and essentially removing his free will by causing him to become sick whenever he thinks about committing an act of violence. This eventually leads Alex to attempt to kill himself, presumably because a life without free will isn't a life worth living. Alex doesn't die but the injuries from his suicide attempt reverse the effects of the government's brainwashing and Alex once again returns to a life of crime and violence. Until one day, when Alex wakes up and realizes that the violence no longer causes the excitement it once did. He has in essence, gotten too old to act that way.

Alex is not a redeemable character. He doesn't stop his violent ways out of remorse, but rather because he feels like he is too old to engage in these violent acts and they no longer bring him the sense of excitement that they once did. While I fully believe that the government needs to set rules for society, I do not agree that the government should be brainwashing people and taking away their free will, even if it means preventing violence. Our free will is what makes us human and separates us from other animals who are ruled by instinct. However, I will never understand the need to be violent just to be violent. I was not excited like Alex was when reading about his heinous crimes, I was horrified, even more so when he expressed no hesitation or remorse.

I think Burgess is an intriguing writer and the book has literary merit, but it's not a book that I want to read over and over. I'm glad I read it and I found it interesting but twisted, but it won't go down on my lists of must-reads or favorite titles.

2016 Reading Challenge: A satirical book

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Review: Vulgar Favours: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Vulgar Favours: The Assassination of Gianni Versace Vulgar Favours: The Assassination of Gianni Versace by Maureen Orth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for a good crime drama and if it's a true story, then I'm even more intrigued, which probably makes me sound crazy, right? I just find people like Andrew Cunanan fascinating. How is it that someone who is intelligent and charismatic can also be so evil? Why do some people choose to act on their baser instincts and seemingly feel no remorse? Are people like Andrew Cunanan born or created? It's endlessly fascinating how the human mind works. I, of course, have been watching the mini-series based on the book and wanted to read the inspiration behind it.

The title of this book is a little misleading. The book really isn't about the assassination of Gianni Versace, although this is the murder that eventually leads to Andrew's demise. It's really about Andrew's life and all of the events leading up to his decision to kill one of the world's most famous designers. It was clearly written at a different time in history, as many of the views expressed and references made to gay culture and homosexuality are outdated. However, it does reflect the time in which these murders happened.

Overall, I found the book to be interesting and sensational. It was written to keep the reader's attention, like a crime drama, rather than a documentary laying out just the facts. I am amazed that Andrew was able to evade the police and FBI for as long as he did and it is clear that he was a very dynamic and multifaceted person. It was an interesting read.

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Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Simon was endearing and the narrative was funny, smart, and relevant. It was a great escape and at the end, I was left with a huge smile. It's a sweet story and I'm excited to see the film adaptation.

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2/18/2018

Review: One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported

One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported by E.J. Dionne Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have found myself reading a lot about the 2016 election and trying to understand the direction our country has taken over the last decade. I believe in democracy and anyone who has studied history knows that this is not the first time that nativism and popularism have taken hold. Fortunately, the system at large always seems to self-correct. Nevertheless, I fear that self-correction and a move back towards moderation will be a slow process in today's political climate.

Overall, it's a short but thought-provoking read. I think the authors do a good job analyzing the results of the 2016 election and in explaining why pockets of the population voted the way they did, as well as spell out the challenges facing our democracy moving into the next election. The second part of the book focused on areas where there is potential for compromise and collaboration and discusses how to move forward from here. It does not necessarily spell out solutions but rather starts the conversation on a number of topics, including the economy, immigration, and racial tensions, where compromise is possible. The authors argue that through these compromises, we can start to bridge the gap between our two polarized parties and get back to a place where we are living up to our country's ideals.

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Review: The Witches: Salem, 1692

The Witches: Salem, 1692 The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh, boy! This was a hard one to get through, which was surprising to me because I find the Salem Witch Trials so fascinating. I appreciated that the book appeared well researched and included many primary sources. However, I found it to be long-winded, meandering, and full of tangents that needed to be edited out. I think that's what took me so long to get through it. I could only take it in small doses and it hurt my enjoyment of the book.

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2/04/2018

Review: The Deal of a Lifetime

The Deal of a Lifetime The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a sweet story about love and death, which has a George Bailey-like feel. At its heart, it asks the question: Who would you be willing to sacrifice your life for? Or really, would you be willing to sacrifice your life for someone else if it meant that you would never exit? As humans, we are concerned about our legacy or what we are leaving behind. We want to be remembered, to have others know that we existed, that we mattered. It was a thought-provoking little story, which I enjoyed.

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Review: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't think the book states anything that people don't already know about Mr. Trump. To be fair, some of the information in the book has been debunked, but even lies have some basis in the truth. His supports won't read this book and the people who do, namely people who are not supporters, won't be surprised by anything in the book. It's not really a bombshell. I read this book for the sheer entertainment value.

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