The Prey by Brett James

The PreyThe Prey by Brett James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading “The Prey” my first impression was that I was going to hate it. The characters seemed more like caricatures. The main character is an unlikable spoiled rich “kid”. After reading a few more pages all the characters became believable and fit perfectly into the story (but still not that likable). Brett James pulled it all together and managed to tell an interesting and entertaining story.

The book itself is small (fits into my shirt pocket) approximately 4×6 inches. My first thought on seeing it was “where’s my gum?”. My second thought was what a brilliant way to publish short stories. I can picture people (kids) collecting and trading short stories. They would also be great to have on hand for those times when we have a few minutes to kill (short trips, waiting rooms etc.).

The book actually got a solid 3.5 stars but since it left me wanting more I rounded up to 4 stars (sometimes I round down).

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FaceBook, Social Media or Government Agency?

I recently had my faceBook account deleted, it seems that I’m not allowed to use the name Felonious Monk because it is not my “real” name. When they (facebook) asked me to confirm my real name by uploading documentation (birth certificate, driver’s license, state ID or even a utility bill with my name on it) I declined and let them delete my account (even though I’m sure they already know my real name).

My first thought was “it’s a social media site and not a government agency”, then that small part of me that loves a good conspiracy theory started putting things together.

It occurred to me that like a good magician the government utilizes the art of misdirection, getting you to look at left hand when they don’t want you to see what the right hand is doing. With all the attention the N S A has been getting about collecting data, and the legality of wire taps and just about everything else that they do. How they denied to their own people that Area 51 existed even after they signed a treaty allowing the Soviet Union to fly satellites over it. For years we have been hearing about the government monitoring, calls emails and collecting data on us and we were outraged (some more than others). But, facebook has over a billion members, all willing joined, and clicked “accept” multiple times (and most have no idea what they agreed to), we seem happy as long as we get some little convenience or we are content to play that game. We even use facebook to sign into other sites, no need for a warrant or worry about international laws since we all agreed to share everything, truly a global network made for collecting personal data.

I’m not the only one that has noticed some strange things happening while on facebook. I’ve heard several stories that are similar to one of mine. I went to a local grocery store (Cub) and it has one of those cards (like many stores) where you can earn rewards or load coupons onto it, so when you swipe your card it uses the coupons or collects points towards some reward. Well I bought a jar of chicken flavored baby food (something I never buy, a one time purchase). I never did any kind of internet search but sure enough that evening when I got online and checked my facebook page and there it was an advertisement for…you guessed it…baby food.

Remembering the movie (The Social Network) about Mark Zuckerberg and how facebook got started and how those around him that helped start facebook were more or less “removed” one way or another, it all started looking like some “evil” government plot. Making Mark Zuckerberg the face of the largest, most intrusive spy agency the world has every known.

Guess I’ll have to live life without facebook, since Felonious Monk isn’t my “real” name, it’s just the name I use on this site, along with sites like goodreads, bubblesws, reverbnation and just about every other site I use including google+. So if you want to find me or friend me look me up on google+ or email me at my Gmail account Felonious.M (it’s not that I don’t think google isn’t a government agency, but at least it lets me use the name I want).

I’m not really a conspiracy theorist but it feels like there is enough evidence surrounding facebook (and other social media) to make even a skeptic like me think twice. But then again I could be spreading a little misdirection for some agency that, as far as you know, doesn’t even exist.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t believe that I have never read this before. “The Little Prince” was brought to my attention when I read “What if?”. When I mentioned “The Little Prince” to Deb she said she read it when she was young and remember loving it.

Well I’ve read it and she (Deb) has reread it and we both absolutely love it. The story is about a little prince that leaves his small planet and the people he meets on his journey. “The Little Prince” is a parable that teaches us what is truly important in life, to be attentive not only to the things we love but also to the problems in our lives.

I’m happy that I read this when I was older (and Deb is happy she reread it). Even though I think this is a good book for children I also think that like youth it is wasted on the young.

One of the few books I recommend reading over and over through the stages of ones life.

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What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of my favorite reads of the year. Humor was the fabric that his book was written on. Every question and answer was interesting and entertaining, I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

This book has the ability to make science (and math) interesting and fun. Randall Munroe does a great job of explaining the answers using the science and math in a way that anyone can understand.

I would recommend this book to anyone especially young teens.

As mush as I enjoyed this book there is one story I would like to hear. The story about a NASA Roboticist (Randall Munroe) telling his friends and family that he is going to become an internet cartoonist, you know drawing stick figures and stuff… (after reading the book and visiting his internet cartoons site, I think he did the right thing).

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The Quarry by Iain Banks

The QuarryThe Quarry by Iain Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With Iain Banks being my favorite writer, this being his last book, and the circumstances (Banks finding out he was dying of cancer after he wrote the book). “The Quarry” holds a little more meaning for me than most books I have read. On the Surface “The Quarry” is about a man dying of Cancer and one last weekend spent with his friends. For me the story is about more than dealing with dying it’s also about the living and life going on. All the character in “The Quarry” are complex and real. Most are not likable and all are flawed. Guy (the one dying) sort of blackmails his friends to visit him by mentioning an old video that would be embarrassing to all, he mentions they might want to look for it before he dies. The story is mainly told through Guy’s adult son/caregiver who is slightly autistic or has asperger’s syndrome. A point of view that allows you to see the situation from both the inside and the outside. The story from the inside is about his dad dying and what it’s like to deal with it up close and personal, the outside is watching how his dad’s friends (several are “A” holes) deal with it and with each other. I liked “The Quarry” a lot and really enjoy the depth of the characters and their flaws.

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Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver

Blue Horses: PoemsBlue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I won this book as a “first reads” from Goodreads. This is also the first book by Mary Oliver that I have read, but it won’t be the last. The poems in “Blue Horses” are short, sweet and have a Zen like feel of mindfulness. As a reader I was able to feel and experience her connection with nature, the beauty, and peace that surrounds her. After I read the last poem I did something that I had never done before, I didn’t close the book I just turned back to the beginning and began again. I shared the book with my wife and she loved it as much as I did, now we both are looking forward to reading more of Mary Oliver’s work.

If there is a negative to “Blue Horses” it is that it is too short (less than 100 pages). Recommend to anyone who likes poetry or would like to start reading poetry.

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All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An orphaned German boy and a blind French girl, whose lives are on a collision course during World War 2. “All The Light We Cannot See” is a lengthy (over 500 pages) but fast read. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. The writing is exceptional and the story is beautiful. A couple small fragments of the story were predictable but, it did not matter because the path of the story more than made up for the one or two things I had figured out before I got to it. There is so much about this book to love. I especially loved where the title came from and what it means (straight up and metaphorically) and I also loved how the ending of the book she was reading (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea) related to the end of “All The Light We Cannot See”. Well done from the beginning to the end.

There is some darkness to the story (violence, cruelty, and death) but it is a story that took place during World War 2. I would still recommend this book to everyone YA and older.

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