Book Reviews 2017
January 14, 20202017The last of the Harry Potter books does not disappoint. As I was reading through this book, it brought me a sense of nostalgia as I remembered when it first came out. The big question in regards to the last Harry Potter book was not how the plot would end (Harry wins obviously) but who would die in the process. As I processed this anecdote, I was shocked to remember how many deaths there are (in comparison to the series as a whole) in this book in particular. But there is often a high price to pay for war, something that you understand more so in this book than any previous to it. I liked this book for several different reasons. 1) This is the first book to truly cast off the formula from the last six. For example, it has pretty much been: Pre-Hogwarts conflict, Hogwarts, Hogwarts conflict, etc. etc. Azkaban saw Harry blow up Aunt Marge (pre-Hogwarts conflict); Phoenix saw the arrival of Umbridge (Hogwarts conflict); and all the books detail the daily life of a wizard student. This book throws off all of that as Harry, Ron, and Hermione set off to defeat Voldemort on their own, with clues left by Dumbledore. 2) One of the most difficult parts of book writing, I think, must be taking into consideration the meta-narrative while at the same time, having an engaging plot within that meta-narrative. What I mean is that ultimately this book, and the entire series, is about Harry Potter and Voldemort, good v. evil. However, J.K. Rowling excels at creating stories around that narrative. In this book, the title gives away the inside narrative: Harry’s search for the Deathly Hallows is the mini-narrative inside the meta-narrative. Then the grand crescendo of this book is not about Harry and Voldemort (even though it is in the meta-narrative), it is about collecting the Hallows. This is not only brilliant but engaging and quite clever. 3) The symbolism in this book is the most powerful of all the series. I find it interesting that C.S. Lewis was so highly praised for “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” because of the Christian symbolism, but this book does not get the same attention. The overtly Christian symbolism is so obvious I think it achieves the same ends as Lewis. Lastly, I think I like this book because it ties up all the loose ends. I love this series because of the world Rowling creates and how magnificent it is and how many questions you have about it and Harry. By the end, all the questions that the series posed are sufficiently answered. For the epilogue, some people loved it, some people hated it. I was in probably the middle camp of indifference. I wish there were more stories to explain! But the canon is closed and I will revisit them again, probably next year. [...]
January 14, 20202017I love jazz. I will admit that unashamedly. I do not like the reputation that jazz has. Typically when any young person aspires to be a jazz musician, the conversation will most likely evolve into a warning about the dangers of drugs. The jazz of today is a far cry from the bop era where it spawned from. Today, jazz is a sophisticated art form that is performed in concert halls and fine dining establishments. It wasn’t always like that, however. It was in the 1960’s that jazz became intertwined with the indelible reputation of drugs. Martin Torgoff looks at this relationship between jazz, the beat generation, and how it helped the drug culture of the 1960s and beyond. What transpires is a plethora of anecdotes from all kinds of jazz musicians. Billy Holiday, Lester “Prez” Young, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and others. These pieces could be books all on their own. The unique strain that runs through all of them is tragedy. They are all minorities in a racist America trying to explore new forms of expression through music. Black musicians like Holiday suffered from poor management and, frankly, abuse from every level. She would trade drugs for gigs, pressured to have sex back stage by her manager, raped, beaten, and stoned. Others, like Parker and Davis, helped fuel the drug craze of the 1960s. Louis Armstrong smoked weed perhaps every day of his life after his career picked up. Jazz musicians, seeing the influence that Armstrong made in the music community, sought to emulate his example. What happened was a careening dive into harder substances. By the time Charlie Parker came onto the scene, drugs were synonymous with jazz. Torgoff, in perhaps the most poignant section of the book, explains that for many black musicians, drugs were a way to deal with an ungrateful nation. Many young black men went off to war to fight for this country and came back to a culture that despised them and saw them as second class citizens. The coping mechanism in the all-black bars and bistros where jazz was played was drugs. Torgoff explores the beat generation and their commitment to drugs as well. None of this was as interesting as learning about jazz musicians to me, however. This is a sometimes graphic book that delves into some of the lesser known connections of drug culture, and a good, if very sad, read. [...]
January 14, 20202017One of the departures from my usual reading this year is my dive into fiction. I saw this book had so many good reviews (almost perfect on Amazon) I had to check it out. Bob was a regular tech guy who agreed to have his body preserved after he died. The company would preserve his remains until they could utilize him decades later. Bob gets his wish when he accidentally dies and wakes up as a computer. Earth in this time is fractured by a religious group that controls much of North America. They are prepping Bob to become a replicating probe whose job is to make more Bobs and search for habitable planets for the rest of civilization. Overall, this is a fun book. It’s obvious that the author is a huge nerd. There are so many Star Trek, Star Wars, and other Sci-Fi references that only the geeks will really understand. Nonetheless, I thought it was a decent story. However, Dennis Taylor seems to go over board on some of the references and it seems a little awkward at times. For a first book, not a bad job. [...]

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”: A Biography

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2017)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2017)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2017)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, the Beats, and Drugs

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1)

Star Trek the Next Generation: Headlong Flight 

After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam (2017)


Star Trek: Prey: Hell’s Heart 

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)

Jonathan Edwards

Columbus Day (Expeditionary Force Book #1)

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2017)

SpecOps (Expeditionary Force Book #2)

A Confederacy of Dunces (2017)

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2)

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian

Star Wars: Thrawn: Thrawn

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: Heir to the Empire

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: Dark Forces Rising

Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy: The Last Command

Jezebel: The Untold Story Of The Bible’s Harlot Queen

Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto

The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad

Star Wars: Aftermath

Star Trek: Prey: The Jackal’s Trick

12 Way Your Phone Is Changing You

Star Trek: Hearts and Minds

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Steve Jobs

Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking

Huế 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Outliers: The Story of Success

iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us

Leonardo and the Last Supper

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

The Maltese Falcon

The Interdependency: The Collapsing Empire

The Fold

Paradox Bound

Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought


Leonardo Da Vinci

An Exorcist Tells His Story

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Einstein: His Life and Universe


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