Sunday, August 26, 2012

Images of Alaska

From my 2012 Alaska Cruise.
Music:  "Tango Apasionado" by Astor Piazzola, from the album Rough Dancer and the Cyclical Night by Pablo Zinger.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

In honor of Ray Bradbury and his death this year, I decided to read the famous Fahrenheit 451

The prose wasn't what I expected—often poetic, in almost a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.  Not my favorite style, and at times distracting.

The other thing that surprised me was the same thing I felt with Animal Farm, by George Orwell.  With that book, I'd expected a subtle allegory on communism.  There was absolutely nothing subtle about it.  Same with Fahrenheit and censorship.  It would have been more powerful if it was a little less preachy.

However, I found it absolutely fascinating the idea that censorship in Bradbury's world was not government-imposed, at least not initially.  It started with a dumbing-down of media, a sort of natural selection away from the literary and philosophical.  Only then did the oppressive government step in and start enforcing what the people had done to themselves.  The government burned the books, but it was the people who gave them the fuel. 

Rather chilling.

Bradbury's world-building had some other interesting bits, too, like the rather terrifying Hound.

I had a bit of a problem with the main character's abrupt change.  One day Guy Montag is a happy firefighter who loves to burn things—like books.  Then he meets a girl who likes to do crazy subversive things like sitting around and talking with her family.  She makes a few thought-provoking comments about the hollowness of modern life and suddenly Guy realizes how unhappy he is, how everything's gone to pot, and how mindless modern society—and its entertainment—has become.  Now he wants to burn everything, change the world, and risk his life to save the books.  I found the change too sudden to believe.   

What I loved was the ending.  I won't spoil it for any of you who haven't read the book, but the whole last bit was perfect:  disturbing, profound, insightful.     

I'm really enjoying this classic sci fi. 

My rating:  3+

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glaciers never fail to amaze me.  On my July 2012 Alaska cruise, one of the glacier days I spent about five hours outside in pretty chilly and rainy conditions, wet through and through, a red plaid blanket tied cape-like around my shoulders, fingers pruny and numb.  I loved every minute.

At Glacier Bay, however, the sun made an appearance.  Blue peeked out from between the clouds.  A glorious day in a glorious place.  And at the far end of our beautiful cruise?  Margerie Glacier.

Margerie Glacier, with a rare look at its source mountains behind

A dynamic, calving tidewater glacier

And just for a little perspective, observe the boat.
If you've never seen a glacier--or heard it calve, or seen a seal lounging on a baby iceberg birthed by a glacier--add it to your list.  You won't be sorry.

If you want to know more about how to see Alaskan glaciers for yourself, 
check out my new book on Amazon:   Cruising Alaska on a Budget,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Wrecked", by Elle Casey

Great premise—teenagers shipwrecked on a deserted island, learning to survive together.  To make it juicier, two are popular and attractive and the other two are rather geeky and unpopular.  The premise is great and the plot isn't bad.

Unfortunately, the writing needs polishing.  We see more details than we need to, especially about who is looking at whom with what expressions on their faces.  The sections are told from different points of view, but not distinctly enough for me to always remember whose point of view I'm supposed to be in.  I feel like I'm head-hopping a lot.  

The most trying thing, however, is how Casey over-explains so much of the dialogue and action.  In writing, we talk a lot about "showing" versus "telling."  This book suffers from a case of telling after showing.  Here's an example from the all-important first line:  "'I can't believe you roped us into this stupid cruise," Sarah said in a tone of voice that clearly carried her frustration…"  Uh…the words themselves tell us how frustrated Sarah is.  Telling us only weakens it.  From the second page:  "'Oh, please.  Like being stuck out in the middle of the ocean with you guys and those loser Buckley kids could ever possibly be fun.  Not in a million years, Mom.  I'm not in the damn chess club, you know.'  The thought of being on a cruise with the two Buckley nerds was too much."  Great dialogue.  It shows us Sarah's personality and her feelings about the whole situation.  Then Casey ruins it by explaining.  Taken separately, these aren't so bad, but when there's one after another after another, it gets tiring.

That said, I did enjoy the story.  There was some good action, especially in the life boat scene and the chase toward the end.  I also loved the interesting bits on the island about how they learned to survive and make different things.  I'm also a sucker for stories where people who don't initially like each other start learning to get along, work together, and even love each other. 

If you can ignore the corny bits, a couple plot holes, and the unpolished writing, you'll enjoy it.  Despite my annoyance with certain aspects, it kept me reading.  I even wished the island part would go on a little longer. 

My rating:  2

If you want to give it a try, download Wrecked here for your Kindle or other e-reader.