Category Archives: Books

Why Harry Potter Is Important (aka Piers Morgan Is a Jerk)

Recently, J. K. Rowling celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Piers Morgan responded by calling it hogwartswash. Basically, he insulted it. But Piers Morgan is well-known for being a jerk. I made a video addressing this, and I stated why Harry Potter is important. Check it out.

A lot of people started reading because of Harry Potter. It created a whole generation of readers. Some of you reading this right now may have started reading because of it.

How important is Harry Potter to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Top 5 Must Read Fantasy and Sci-Fi Series

There are so many fantasy and science fiction series out there, I don’t know how I can read all of the ones I want to read. So, I just make a list of the top ones, and make sure I focus on them.

Here is my top 5 must read fantasy series list, in video form:

And my top 5 must read sci-fi series, also in video form:

What do you think of my lists? Any surprises?

What I’d like to know is what are your top 5 series, not just for fantasy and sci-fi. Let me know in the comments section.

Uncomfortable, but I Can’t Look Away

I went to work for the third time this year. I’ve been working every day so far. It’s January. And it’s cold. Not only that, it was humid last night, so everything got frosty. This is what I saw near work.

Looks like some nice scenery, doesn’t it? But it was -19 degrees Celsius at the time. Cold! It can simultaneously be beautiful and very uncomfortable.

That had me thinking, have I ever been unable to stop reading, yet uncomfortable about what I was reading? Yes, I have.

When I was reading Wizard’s First Rule, some scenes with Darken Rahl were incredibly uncomfortable, as he was a completely asshole. He was a monster. Some of the things he did were so bad, I really hated the character. Yet, I couldn’t stop reading.

Have you ever been in this situation? Let me know in the comments below without revealing any spoilers.

Books in Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a reality now. You can get Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, use it on your computer, and enjoy immersing yourself in another world.

But this had me thinking. What if we could enter the world that exists in a book? You can fully interact with everything in that world, including places, characters, and more. Which book would you choose to enter?

I think I would love to be in the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I want to become a dragon rider and ride a dragon. That would be incredible.

Or maybe join Ender in Ender’s Game, training in that zero gravity training chamber. That would be a lot of fun.

Or how about exploring Mars in Red Mars? See Olympus Mons, the polar ice caps, or Valles Marineris.

The possibilities are endless. Which book would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.

Read the World – Angola Literature

We return to Africa with the next country in The Read the World Project, and it’s our first sub-Saharan country. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Angola

flag_of_angola-svgAngola is located in the southern part of Africa, north of Namibia and south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s interesting taking a look at African literature because we don’t really hear much about it. When researching Angola, I found that several authors are of European descent, though they were born and raised in Angola. There are several books available in English. Let’s watch the video.


The Book of Chameleons, by José Eduardo Agualusa

Goodreads Rating: 3.77

Goodreads Description: This unusual novel about the landscape of memory and its inconsistencies follows Felix Ventura as he trades in a curious commodity–he sells people different pasts. He can create entirely new pasts full of better memories and complete with new lineage or augment existing pasts as needed. Narrated by an exceptionally articulate and rather friendly lizard that lives on Felix’s living-room wall, this richly detailed story explores how people can remember things that never happened–and with extraordinary vividness–even as they forget things that did in fact occur.

A General Theory of Oblivion, by José Eduardo Agualusa

Goodreads Rating: 3.93

Goodreads Description: On the eve of Angolan independence an agoraphobic woman named Ludo bricks herself into her apartment for 30 years, living off vegetables and the pigeons she lures in with diamonds, burning her furniture and books to stay alive and writing her story on the apartment’s walls.

Almost as if we’re eavesdropping, the history of Angola unfolds through the stories of those she sees from her window. As the country goes through various political upheavals from colony to socialist republic to civil war to peace and capitalism, the world outside seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of someone peeing on a balcony, or a man fleeing his pursuers.

A General Theory of Oblivion is a perfectly crafted, wild patchwork of a novel, playing on a love of storytelling and fable.

Good Morning Comrades, by Ondjaki

Goodreads Rating: 3.73

Goodreads Description: Luanda, Angola, 1990. Ndalu is a normal twelve-year old boy in an extraordinary time and place. Like his friends, he enjoys laughing at his teachers, avoiding homework and telling tall tales. But Ndalu’s teachers are Cuban, his homework assignments include writing essays on the role of the workers and peasants, and the tall tales he and his friends tell are about a criminal gang called Empty Crate which specializes in attacking schools. Ndalu is mystified by the family servant, Comrade Antonio, who thinks that Angola worked better when it was a colony of Portugal, and by his Aunt Dada, who lives in Portugal and doesn’t know what a ration card is. In a charming voice that is completely original, Good Morning Comrades tells the story of a group of friends who create a perfect childhood in a revolutionary socialist country fighting a bitter war. But the world is changing around these children, and like all childhood’s Ndalu’s cannot last. An internationally acclaimed novel, already published in half a dozen countries, Good Morning Comrades is an unforgettable work of fiction by one of Africa’s most exciting young writers.

Mayombe, by Pepetela

Goodreads Rating: 4.11

Goodreads Description: Pepetela’s novel is a fascinating study of the tensions produced by racism, tribalism, and sexual morals.

The Return of the Water Spirit, by Pepetela

Goodreads Rating: 3.57

Goodreads Description: Set in Angola in the late 1980’s, a time of war, and when the Marxist-orientated ruling elite became engulfed by corruption, nepotism and rampant capitalism.

Three centuries earlier, a hideous crime occurred, the beheading of a slave who had had inappropriate relations with his Master’s daughter. Now, in the very same Kinaxixi Square in the city of Luanda buildings are falling down one by one baffling the country’s engineers. Many describe this mysterious process as ‘Luanda Syndrome, God’s punishment on a degenerate society.

Drawing on the essence of African mythology which had all but been obliterated by history, could this be explained by the return of a Water Spirit (the ‘kianda’)?

The novel focuses on the interplay between these two forces-the forces of old and new. Just like faith can move mountains, the spirit of the water can move cities.

This book is a scathing critique of Angola’s ruling elite, for abandoning their socialist principles in favour of rampant capitalism.


So, that’s about it for Angola. There are more books, but I limit it to five. If you’ve read any of these books, please let me know what you thought. If you know of any other Angolan books, let me know in the comments below.

Next up is Antigua and Barbuda!

Read the World – Andorra Literature

We return to Europe with the next country in The Read the World Project, but it’s a small one. In Read the World, I am researching literature from each country in the world alphabetically, and will ultimately decide which book to read as part of the Read the World Challenge. I am doing this both on this blog and on YouTube. So, let’s check out the next country!

Andorra

flag_of_andorra-svgAndorra is the tiny country stuck between France and Spain, surrounded by the Pyrenees, and official speaking Catalan. With its population of 85,000, you wouldn’t expect to find many authors, especially those with books translated to English. And that’s exactly the way it is. I found only one author with books in English. Let’s watch the video first.

The Teacher of Cheops, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.12

Cover excerpt: This is the history of the time of Pharaoh Snefru and Queen Hetepheres, the parents of Cheops, who built the largest and most impressive pyramid of all. It is also the story of the high priest Ramosi, Sedum, a slave who became Cheops’ teacher, and how the first pyramid came to be built.

Sebekhotep, the great wise man of that time, said, “Everything is written in the stars. Most of us live our lives unaware of it. Some can read the stars and see their destiny. But very few people learn to write in the stars and change their destiny.”

Ramosi and Sedum learned to write in the stars and tried to change their destinies, but fortune treated them very differently. This is a tale of the confrontation between two men’s intelligence: one fighting for power, the other struggling for freedom.

The Shadow of Ali Bey Part One: The Mysterious Balloon Man, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Cover excerpt: As the 18th century ends and the 19th century begins, changes abound all over Europe. Absolute monarchy is coming to an end, England and Spain struggle for supremacy in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and France is in conflict with all its neighbours. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, a new power is starting to emerge: the United States of America.
In the midst of all these changes, Alfred Gordon, a civil servant employed by the British secret service, makes a discovery that will totally revolutionise global espionage. He realises that the nobility, the traditional spies, are in decline. He turns to the burgeoning middle class instead.

Gordon suggests to the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, that they should employ Thomas Headking, a young Englishman living in Spain who is on the run after killing Lord Brookshield’s son in a duel. They plan to use his business acumen to spy for them in exchange for a royal pardon.

Tom Headking’s ability is such that he gains access to the office of Godoy, the Spanish Prime Minister, where he finds a mysterious treatise on hot air balloons written by Polindo Remigio. Headking investigates and finds out that there is no such person. It is a pseudonym used by a Catalan man named Domingo Badia, a capable fellow with daring ideas who was to become the most intrepid traveller of the 19th century, a spy who has gone down in history with the name Ali Bey.

The Shadow of Ali Bey Part Two: The Prince of Spies, by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 4.00

Cover excerpt: Lord Grenville asks Alfred Gordon to come out of retirement and return to active service because an old acquaintance of the British secret services has turned up in London. He is meeting scientists, geographers and explorers and has even had himself circumcised. And it is all being financed by the Spanish government. Gordon wonders what he could be after.

Domingo Badia leaves London disguised as Ali Bey. He crosses the Strait of Gibraltar and carries out the plan he proposed to Godoy, the Spanish Prime Minister: conquering Morocco for the Kingdom of Spain because Sultan Slimane refuses to sell the country cereal. All of North Africa would come under Spanish control.

In the midst of all the changes taking place, with the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the British Crown loses one of its largest colonies and the United States of America comes into existence, looking set to be a great power. Meanwhile war in Europe brings a major defeat for the Spanish Empire by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar. An incredible adventure begins and the world witnesses the birth of one of history’s greatest legends: Prince Ali Bey.

The Phaeton Report (Noah’s Secret Diary), by Albert Salvadó

Goodreads Rating: 3.70

Cover excerpt: A famous writer knows in a party a man who tells her about USC (Universal Scientific Community), secret society created in times of Galileo Galilei that is dedicated to preserving the knowledge and the scientific truth against the attacks of the religions and official departments. In the middle of the feast the man mysteriously disappears and the writer discovers that nobody knows or has seen him. Surprised, the writer researches and locates a member of USC that gives him access to true and remote history of humanity and the lies that have come to us to the present. Even he allows him to get into USC and meet other members. The real surprise comes when they reveal him (and show him!) the existence and destruction in times of Pangea, the only continent, and that the Great Flood was not work of the wrath of God, but the result of a human error made by an ancient civilization that almost kills all humanity. However, even he is going to discover the largest of all the surprises… if we do not, we can commit another mistake and again endanger humanity.

That’s about it. Andorra doesn’t have much to offer in the way of books in English. Which one do you think I should read? Or do you know of any others from Andorra that are available in English? Let me know in the comments!

Next is Angola!

Getting Immersed in a Book

There’s something I absolutely love, and that’s getting immersed in a book. It doesn’t matter where I am, as long as my mind is in the book, and everything around me is shut out, I feel like I can get lost in a book. If the book is especially good, I want to stay there a long time.

There have been some books I can’t get enough of, and I don’t want to stop reading. Usually, the ones that I want to keep reading are longer series. I think the two that I feel comfortable in are the Pern series and Shannara series. I love the worlds they’re set in.

But books aren’t the only thing I can get immersed in. There are certain TV series and movies that pull me, as well. In particular, the Star Trek movies and the later Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Deep Space Nine does it to me, too.

How about you? Which books draw you in so much that you don’t want to leave? Let me know in the comments below.