Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer


Twilight

Since everyone is talking about the new movie Twilight that just came out, I decided I wanted to read the book. With minimal knowledge about the story, I borrowed the book.

The Summary: Twilight is about a high school girl named Bella who chooses to go live with her father in a place called Forks, Washington. It is here that she meets the Cullen family who has a very dark secret. She is immediately drawn to Edward Cullen. After a sudden whirlwind romance, Bella discovers that Edward is not just any high school boy. Instead he is a vampire. Basically the story weaves in the idea of an immortal and mortal having a relationship.

Author Background: The background of the author can sometimes give insight to the underlying themes within the author’s work. Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon who graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU). She does not believe in pre-marital sex, but does not oppose objectionable elements or themes.

Positive: Actually the story contains very little positives unless one would like to view the “good” vampires as a positive. And even in the story the “good” vampires struggle with human blood lust.

Negative: First of all, the concept of vampires is associated with the demonic world. The author hints at this early on in her work. Except she leaves the reader feeling that her vampires are not demonic so it is acceptable. With this aside, the story is all about teen romance, passion, and lust. The story portrays the vampire Edward’s lust as lust for Bella’s blood, but the reader can draw more from this by the actions depicted by the author. The story has multiple suggestive scenes and uses some language. In addition the main character lies throughout the entire book, but claims to despise lying. Bella continually refers to Edward as god-like. This philosophy is acceptable within the Mormon circle, but is doctrinally incorrect. And last but not least, the quality of writing is extremely poor. Many will overlook the writing, because of the storyline and characters.

Conclusion: I do not recommend this book or movie. It is certain to capture the interest of anyone who picks it up, including people lacking the ability to filter out the philosophies within the work.

Henry II, by W. L. Warren


Henry II

Note: This book is out of print, so find a good used copy. Most book websites told me I could get a new one, but what they meant was… special order a printing. Verrry expensive, and its already not a cheap book.

The life of one of England’s least-well known kings, by a college professor, at 636 pages; you’re already asleep, right? I picked this book up at the library on a school research project, and was so engrossed, I had to buy it. The details just kind of pop out the page and start create a courtly atmosphere right there on the page. Beware, if you buy it online, the picture is deciving: 636 pages of size ten single spaced typing. Its not a weekend read. But, as I will hopefully convince you below, its worth every minute.

PLOT: Henry II, successful invader at 14, married to the queen of France by 19, and king of a disorderly lawless kingdom that’d been in civil war for over 20 years by the age of 21. He held together an empire that spanned England, Wales, and half of modern France, gave birth to three kings in the Angevian line, and set many of the precedents of English law that we hold dear today. Henry was an enigma in his day: military genius, family failure, strong governmental control in an era when local barons had held sway for generations, staunch traditionalist, patron of the church, and reviled by prominent churchmen (namely Thomas Becket). The end of his life was ignomius, mainly because he didn’t discipline his children or fully destroy the villain of Europe at the time (the king of France). Overall, his influence led to many things including the flowering of chivalry and the development of the rule of law.

CON: Henry II is not the ideal role model. He was so indifferent to public opinion that he allowed scandalous rumors to go unquenched (creating the myth of Thomas Becket, who I never liked). His choice of wife was politically motivated (not uncommon), and his failure to have a strong relationship with her led to many problems. They didn’t have a picturesque marriage: the kids were divided between his and hers favorites, and eventually she led the lot of them into open rebellion against their father; not once but twice. The author is relatively discreet about all the killing that results, but even so, the bloody nature of the era can’t be entirely hidden.

PRO: W. L. Warren has an amazing prose style. His words ebb and flow in eloquent sentences that bring the era to life. Better still, its in words that the average person can understand (and if you don’t, just hang on: whole chapters are devoted to explaining unusal concepts and words from the era. Plus, there’s a glossary with page references). And the historical significance of this king cannot be minimized.

“Henry II’s consolidation and defense of his authority rested upon his mastery of the art of warfare, which in turn rested upon his ability to turn his capital resources into available wealth. Henry’s technique for enhancing his wealth was not conquest and plunder but efficient management. Of course, if this had been all, Henry II might have been remembered merely as an efficient exploiter; but it was not all, for it was Henry’s genius was to make efficient management synonymous with sound government.”

OVERALL: Highly recommended, especially to those interested in the era of knights in shining armor.

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt


Freakonomics

Freakonomics is just different, and the author, Steven Levitt, makes no apologies for it. Levitt states quite plainly that his book has no main thrust. Instead, his intent was to ask questions and answer those questions. Moreover, he wants his readers to start asking questions themselves about why something is certain way or, better yet, why we think something is certainly true.

He asks numerous questions such as what do these two groups—schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers or the Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents—have in common? He asks questions such as he asks “why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” or “where have all the criminals gone?” In essence, he focuses his book on oddities in our culture and then attempts to explain them, and if there are not enough obvious oddities for him, he uncovers a few of his own.

He generally answers his questions with numbers, statistics to be precise. His favorite technique, explained in no little detail, is called regression analysis. For him, his data are essentially an oracle, divine knowledge gathered by either an impersonal tool or by a fearless surveyor with a question-packed clipboard. Thus, his book argues by these empirically derived numbers because “numbers never lie” we have been told. Perhaps, they do not lie; however, it is possible that they may not tell the truth.

Content-wise the book draws some conclusions from these numbers. A conclusion that is startling but interesting addresses his question, where have all the criminals gone? An American crime rise started in the 1970s and continued throughout the 1980s. The crime rate was predicated to go even higher in the 1990s. However, the trend reversed course and set new lows instead.

On his way to his answer, he deals with how others have explained it. A booming economy is dismissed as negligible; increased reliance on prisons, important but not the main cause; increased use of capital punishment, unlikely. On and one, he goes debunking every popular view and, thereby, sets up the need to be satisfied according to the motivational sequence. His answer is simple: legalized abortion killed the criminals.

His basic reasons go in this manner: children from low income unmarried mothers who do not want their children are the most likely to commit crimes; these children were killed by abortions that the mothers had. Thus, the crime fell due to the mothers’ choice for an abortion.

He cites several evidences; his proof is convincing; and he has a lot of facts on his side. But nobody likes what he decided. A chapter prologue makes it abundantly clear that the conservative side dislikes this argument because it implies that abortion is a good crime fighting tool, and the liberal side also dislikes his argument because he singles out poor and black women. In other words, his tact on this sensitive subject is utterly lacking. His built ethos through logos is trashed by lousy pathos.

As insightful as his thoughts are, he manages to alienate everyone, who reads his book. He argues purely from the rational side of things as a good economist should, and honestly, I think he is right if all his facts are straight. But he should know better than to try to analyze social issues so ineptly. He obviously realized that his theory would provoke negative relations because he says so, “this theory is bound to provoke a variety of reactions from disbelief to revulsion” (p. 139). He goes on almost merrily with his discovery. He ends his discussion on this topic with this beautiful line: “the trade-off between higher abortion and lower crime is, by an economist’s reckoning, terribly inefficient” (p. 144). If I may say so, his approach is far worse.

Altogether, we have a book that comments on some interesting topics. His style is brisk, and his arguments, thorough. He approaches problems with a unique viewpoint and makes startling conclusions. Overall, a good read which I recommend to you, but don’t swallow everything he says without asking some questions yourself.

Jumper: Griffins Story by Steven Gould


Jumper: Griffin's Story

Plot: Our first introduction to our main character, Griffin, is when he is ten years old. We come to find that Griffin can jump, or teleport himself anyway in the world, assuming he has already seen it and remembers it clearly. As Griffin and his father fire paintball guns at each other in the desert, Griffin practices jumping. As they play, Griffins father reminds him of four rules: Never jump in front of anyone. Never jump to the same place twice. Never jump unless instructed to do so by his parents. Never jump near home.

Well, as you can probably imagine, Griffin breaks one of those rules, by accident. Late at night in the dojo he goes to, a bully attempts to punch him, frightened he jumps, leaving the bully completely confused. He thinks it will be all right not to tell his parents, because he does not want to get in trouble. Through the day, his conscious makes him feel guiltier, by the time he decides to tell his parents, it is too late. Several people come to their home and ask for Griffin, his parents deny them entrance, but the bad people shoot them for their efforts. Grief-stricken and frightened, Griffin shoots the people with paintballs before jumping away to the desert where he and his dad had been earlier.

Two Mexican people find him later in the day, and they care for him until he is better from the wounds he received. Deciding these people were trustworthy, Griffin tells them of his jumping abilities, they then resolve to protect Griffin and let him live with their niece away from them. He changes his name and gets a dark tan, and learns Spanish fluently enough to help the niece at her work.

Good times never last for Griffin, his enemies discover his presence, and this time, a few months following his escape, the bad people murder his two Mexican friends. Feeling guilty over the death of his friends, Griffin takes the niece and jumps her to his underground home, only accessible by jumping. He then gives her fifty-thousand dollars to help her start again in Paris. (All the money he gave her, he stole) Griffin then goes traveling, being more careful than ever to avoid the people attempting to kill him. With all this tragedy, being unable to stay at one place for long, and never ending attempts on your life, what would you do?

Positive: The author’s style of writing was very engaging, I had my nose in the book until the end, excited to learn more. The author did a great job at letting us into the main character’s mind and feeling for him when things went horribly wrong. The storyline is very catching and it never slows. We like our hero’s character, until the part where he sleeps with a girl, that I did not care for, but overall he was a likeable character.

Negative: There is lots of swearing, our main character and his friends enjoy using those four letter words whenever something goes wrong. Our main character steals money. That and several sex scenes do not help this book. (I ended up skipping over the paragraphs with that in it.) A little torture at the end, our main character wants something from one of the bad people and so zaps him with this electric thing, and kicks him in the groin. I will say this for our main character’s actions at the end; he has been through a lot, though that does not excuse him. Before his eyes, Griffin’s parents are murdered, he is hunted without relief, and two of his friends are killed because of him. The final straw comes when he is estranged from three other good friends because of the Paladins. (Paladins are the bad people; we find this out in the end)

Overall: I enjoyed the fast moving pace of the story, but as tragic as it was, and all the objectionable content, I could not read it again if I wanted to. I do not recommend this book unless you like the jumper books; there are three. I read the third because I won it at the library for reading many books. I do not plan to read the others.