I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm scoping deals for a professional services company, hanging out with friends, or seeing some live theater.

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Book 15: Freedom TM

Posted on 8 Mar 2010 In: Reading

A cautionary cyber-thriller rife with fodder for conspiracy theorists. That’s my one sentence description of Daniel Suarez’s Freedom TM.

But before you go out and pick this one up, be sure to read Daemon first (http://www.amazon.com/Daemon-Daniel-Suarez/dp/0451228731/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268083971&sr=8-1). That is critical, because Freedom TM picks up right where Daemon leaves off, and you’ll be lost and frustrated without the context of the previous story.

From amazon.com, This concluding volume crackles with electrifying action scenes and bristles with intriguing ideas about a frightening, near-future world. Sobol’s bots continue to roam the Internet, inciting mayhem and siphoning money from worldwide, interconnected megacorporations out to seize control of national governments and enslave the populace.

I don’t want to say any more than that about the plot right now because there’s such intrigue and tension in the stories, that I don’t want to give anything away. But I do have some thoughts.

Suarez creates some very compelling characters. Some you love to hate, some you hate to love, and some you really cheer. Suarez provides some unlikely heroes in nerds, geeks, and misfits, which is refreshing. At the same time, very unsavory characters are used to further the cause of the Daemon. He exploits the weaknesses of flawed characters, manipulating their dark tendencies to join forces with the Daemon and help launch the cyber war. And in the tradition of Machiavelli, the reader must come to their own conclusion on whether the ends justify the means.

Additionally, Suarez makes great use of setting and description. He’s not afraid of violence, and the picture he paints of destruction can be, at times, a bit much. I downloaded this book from www.audible.com. This is one that can be enjoyed just as much with a listen as a read. The narrator was great, employing accents and variations to identify the characters. It really painted a visual picture, and the emotion in the voice serves well here. I could read the book in less time than it takes to listen and in one scene of torture, I did wish I could listen faster to what was going on, but my commute did go by much faster listening to this.

This book made me think a lot about our corporate culture. In light of the financial debacle we’ve just experienced, Suarez’s tale of destructive and deceptive practices of global corporations seems especially timely. Are we, as world citizens, giving too much power over our government, and even our daily lives to greedy corporations? I think we tend to. This is a world of the rich, where money buys power, and we will one day pay a price if we don’t take some ownership for forcing these entities to take responsibility for their decisions.

It also made me think about the capabilities of technology. It is mind-boggling what might be possible. We are already seeing moral dilemmas based on what might be possible with technology. I think these instances will only grow in the future.

Finally, the book made me think about loyalty and community. Loyalty, because one of the biggest challenges in these books is misplaced loyalty to entities that should be watching out for their constituents but are not. And community, because so much can be accomplished when like-minded people come together to affect change.

There are no easy answers in Daemon and Freedom TM. But they are intense, exciting reads that challenge our technological imaginations and the boundaries in which we live. Highly recommend for anyone interested in a good thriller, and anyone with an interest in gaming.

Book 14: Firefly Lane

Posted on 7 Mar 2010 In: Reading

I saw a reference to author Kristin Hannah somewhere on Facebook. Maybe Emily Giffin’s page? I can’t really remember. But then I was browsing at Barnes and Noble and came across Firefly Lane, noticed the author’s name, and decided to pick it up. I read the back cover. It sounded interesting if not a bit predictable, but I bought it anyway.

I like it when a book surprises me. With Firefly Lane, I thought I knew what conflict would tear apart best friends of thirty years, and I was wrong. I was also surprised with what became the catalyst for reconciliation. I definitely didn’t expect to be tearing up at the end. But there I was, reading this well-written novel about two best friends, Kate and Tully, from the time they were high school students in the 1970’s through present day. Kristin Hannah draws her characters well. As the reader, you understand both Kate and Tully’s insecurities. You feel for Kate, always hiding a bit in Tully’s shadow. I cheered Kate on as she found the courage to go after the most important thing in her life. I respected Tully for believing she deserved success, and for working to get there. I felt for Tully realizing that her career can’t give her everything… and I’d say more about that, but then I’d be giving away too much of the story.

For the last third of the book, I thought mostly about my own best friend. We’ve been friends now for more than twenty years. I don’t feel old enough to make that statement, but here we are. From the first time we carpooled to some Key Club event in high school, through college, to her mother dying, and then my father; to her wedding, to the birth of her children; to the girls trips we still manage to take; to all the emails and phone calls, Facebook posts, text messages, cards, all the stuff that goes into making a lasting friendship, I’ve been lucky enough to have Vanessa as my best friend. We’ve lived in different states for most of our friendship now, but all that does is make things more interesting logistically. She’s still the person I want most to share gossip with, or talk to about the really important things. She’s the first person, outside of family, who I know will be there for me. And I say that not to discount my many other wonderful, close friends, but there’s a longevity and so many shared experiences with Vanessa that make our friendship what it is.

I think that is the point- and beauty- of Firefly Lane. It’s the celebration of that unique, unbreakable bond of real, true friendship. It stands the test of time, maybe even the test of betrayal.

I really enjoyed this one, and will be checking out more of Kristin Hannah’s work. Recommended for anyone who likes good chick lit, or a good story in general.

Book 13: The Politician

Posted on 27 Feb 2010 In: Reading

When the 2008 Presidential campaign was looming, John Edwards was the first Democratic candidate I really considered following. I liked his stance on Poverty eradication. I wanted to give him a shot at the candidacy. I don’t know precisely what it was that triggered me to start looking at the other contenders, and ultimately wholeheartedly supporting someone else, but early in the race something just didn’t seem right with Edwards.

Soon enough, the news broke about his (at the time) alleged affair with Rielle Hunter. I figured that was between Edwards and his wife. Elizabeth appeared to react with dignity. I was disappointed in Edwards, after his very public declarations about Elizabeth being the love of his life.

As more and more of the story broke, the more disgusted I became. John Edwards let a staffer take the fall for him? He was actually this baby’s father and denied it for nearly two years?! I was incredulous. And I felt compassion for Elizabeth and their children.

I was also fascinated by Andrew Young, the staffer and long time friend of the Edwards family. What motivated this man to claim paternity for a child that was not his? That is what intrigued me about this book. I wanted to hear what Young had to say.

Now, I have no idea how much of this book is true. It could be written off as sour grapes from a man hoping to ride Edwards’ coattails into the White House. After reading the book, I feel like Andrew Young had a case of hero worship, and believed his friend and boss when Edwards told Young that Young and his family would always be taken of if they supported Edwards’ efforts to get into the White House.

After reading this book and hearing various other accounts of this saga, I truly believe John Edwards thought he was entitled to whatever he wanted. I honestly think he thought he was above getting caught. I think Elizabeth Edwards was equally as ambitious. After seeing transcripts of some of the emails and voice mails Elizabeth sent Young and his wife, I’ve lost a lot of respect for her. I have to presume they are true, as I believe it would open Young to libel suits if he made them up.

I suppose politics is just a smarmy game, and a lot of time you have to take the good with the bad. But I also wonder just how far I would go to support someone… I consider myself a very loyal person, but I can’t imagine doing everything that Young did. I hope I would see through the manipulation that Young experienced. I hope that I would have the foresight to stick to my ideals and maintain my integrity. But who knows? What really happens when you are so subtly pulled into this kind of web?

A very quick non-fiction read. Just Young telling his side of the story, showing how, in his hindsight view, John and Elizabeth Edwards very nearly hoodwinked us all.

Book 12: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Posted on 25 Feb 2010 In: Reading

Ah, travel weeks. Those times when I am guaranteed solid time to read while sitting on a plane or in the airport, when I’m having a solo dinner with all the other road warriors in some random hotel restaurant. This was one of those weeks with 16 hours of travel logged, so plenty of time to make headway.

My friend Ashby told me this is one of her new favorite books. My friend Amanda liked it, too. So with recommendations from two such smart people who equally appreciate pop culture trash magazines as well as a good read, I figured I was in for a good time.

I’ll be honest. I don’t recommend this book for an e-Reader. This is one that should be held and thumbed through, where the stark white pages “Left intentionally blank” will have more of an impact than the quick skim of an electronic screen. There are photographs and illustrations throughout the book to enhance the story, and had I known that when I started, I would have carried the hard copy with me, or put off reading it until I wasn’t traveling. As it is, I’ll probably re-read this in hard copy at some point, just to get the full experience with it, as it was truly intended.

The writing style is somewhat jarring, stream of consciousness, almost. It takes a bit of getting used to. But from Oskar Schell’s perspective, given his age, the randomness makes sense. And since most of the other instances where things seem to be almost spilling off the page are either characters’ memories, or letters they are writing, it works. But it did take me off guard the first few pages.

This is the first book in a while where I’ve stopped to write down a line I love. On page 114 of the hard copy, it is “…literature is the only religion her father practiced….” And I nearly embarrassed myself on the flight home last night by tearing up when Oskar recounts part of documentary recalling the stories of survivors of Hiroshima.

Extremely Loud is set in the aftermath of September 11. The story intertwines past and present lives of the surviving family of a victim who lost his life in the World Trade Center bombings. Young Oskar Schell’s last real tie to his father is a key he found in some of his father’s belongings. His quest to find out what the key opens is the catalyst for linking together the other characters and their stories.

Really quite a touching book, parts of it took me back to that place I don’t like to be when I think about 9/11. So don’t read this one if you are looking for a complete barrel of laughs. But if you are looking for a poignant, touching story about surviving, loving and letting people know you love them, then definitely add this one to your must read list.

Random Posting

Posted on 24 Feb 2010 In: Reading

There is no book associated with this post. Instead, some general observations.

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. I’m a fast reader. A really good book can suck me in and I will neglect all else in the world to read a little more.

Although I’m ahead of the book-a-week pace I need to keep to finish this goal of 52 books in 52 weeks, I’m already seeing a few ill effects.

Sometimes, I feel like I should be reading only to keep myself on track. I hate feeling like reading might ever be a chore. After I finished books 9 and 10, I deliberately took a day off from reading. I needed to do other things. I needed to not feel as if I HAD to read.

Of course, I missed it within a few hours, but I still found other things to do. I’ve realized I can’t let reading become a substitute for other things. It has to be something I can always enjoy. At the same time, reading is almost a compulsion for me, but it has to be things I’m enthralled with.

So, I’m trying to balance this goal with real life and work and all else that comes with it. And I’m enjoying Book 12,.. so stay tuned….