Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Casino Royale (A James Bond Novel)

Casino Royale is the first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming. Instead of boring and tedious background stories, readers get to learn about the mysterious spy the way one would when making new acquaintances: We judge him by his actions and beliefs. The outcome was not bad. Even with a negative view, James Bond's emotions were easy to connect with. One can almost feel sentimental about his situations. To conclude, the book is believable and invites the reader to experience the thrill without the danger.

Gathering from the discussions and glimpses of the movies, the double 0 agent has always seemed, to me, to be a the cold-blooded machine that never make mistakes on a mission and his seductive qualities merely material supplied for the purpose of spicing up the plot to suit the taste of audiences. For years, I have refused to read the story believing in, and disgusted by, the amount of male chauvinism involved. But I was surprised to find that, the book is actually action packed with a storyline filled with glorious peaks as well as bitter pitfalls. James Bond is a believable character with many talents. He may misjudge a dire situation, and expresses fear in the face of danger. He is not a superhuman hero but a man good at his job. Although he does hold somewhat offensive views of women, his line of thinking is understandable. Mercifully, the romance never got in the way of the plot, as I had previously assumed it would. Instead, it gives much insight to the making of the man living a dangerous and lonely life. He is far from heartless, although he has a touch too much of manly pride (from my prideful point of view of a lady).

This is the first Bond novel I've read. As popular as the various movie adaptations are, I have watched few and understood less. Spy stories used to be too political and complicated for me. I am thankful that, without plot spoilers from the movies, my experience with this book is completely fresh and exciting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: Endymion

Endymion is a poem by John Keats. It is based on the Greek mythology of Endymion, the shepherd beloved by the moon goddess Selene. The poem is divided into four books. It starts with beautiful descriptions of the woods and the merry gathering of shepherds in honor of Pen. However, readers will soon learn that Endymion heeded nothing, being terribly lovesick after his encounter with the moon goddess. He set out in search of his loved one. The journey and adventures he undertook was described in colorful details. The hero's dreams and his fantastical encounters were hard to distinguish, one as wondrous as the other. As readers follow Endymion's footsteps, they will be kept curious of what the next page brings. Be it sorrow, joy, wonder, or pain?
Sidenote: As one unfamiliar with poetry, reading Endymion has been quite a challenge. Reading out loud helped me stay focus on the meaning of each sentence (which usually takes several lines). It was a tremendous joy to listen to the words rolling off the tongue. I strongly recommend readers to try.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

There is profound clarity when serious issues are viewed from a child's innocent eye. Without prejudiced ideas about rank and race in a society they make judgements solely on the happenings of an event. Although Scout often asked her father, Atticus Finch, about the happenings around her, she was far from an ignorant child. She was most often puzzled by the folly of the ways of the grownups. Children understands much more than grownups often assumes, as was pointed out constantly throughout the story.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a book ahead of its time. Even when viewed in the 21st century, where humankind has advanced so much since the 1930s, the story can still call its readers to reflect upon the issues of bully, racism, and government. Interestingly, to readers of different ages, the effect it have would be as different as the land and the sea. It preaches about morality, how to face assaults, and how to stand in other people's shoes;
"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
It captured the horror of racism and yet does not despair in the state of events; It is a story about how there are people that uses what power they can to change the things that were wrong;
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win."
It tells of successful parenting (Even though Atticus Finch had been continuously accused of letting his children "run wild," readers will not object to his being a real moral model); It allows us a peek of the life in a Southern town in the 30s; It is a story of how normal people are heroes many different ways.

As a first time reader, and knowing nothing in advance about the plot, the story line caught me by surprise. What started out as an innocent looking, child narrated, summertime events in a quiet little Southern town, turned into a thought provoking roller coaster ride. I regret not having read it in my teens. Because of the many layers contained, this book is worth rereading every ten years. With every new built experience one will view the story at a new level, yet be constantly reminded of how to be a human being.