Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review Catch-Up

I've read a few books since my last review posting, so I thought I'd catch up a bit today.  The first book I'll share is Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species.  This book was my idea of killing two birds with one stone...it's non-fiction and a classic.  But, I'm afraid the excitement ends there, as you can probably guess.  This book is terribly dry with a few snippets of fascinating facts spread out here and there.  It's quite easy to get in a bit of a trance while reading (or listening as I did) to this book.  Most of the facts listed within are taught in your high school biology class, but I will admit that it was interesting to hear how Darwin came to separate conclusions.  He really did a ton of experiments and observed different species throughout his life, making this book a lifelong work.  I like being able to say that I've actually sat down and read this book, rather than having just learning the gist in high school, but I won't be picking it up for a reread any time soon.  Unless I'm in a mood to fall asleep...fast.

My next book was Daniel Silva's The Rembrandt Affair.  This book was the last book I had yet to read from my library book sale purchase a few years ago.  Can you tell how bad my reading queue is if I'm reading books I bought years ago?  Hence, one of my resolutions this year...

I suppose you could say that I toyed with the idea of reading mysteries when I made that bulk purchase, considering almost all of them were mysteries.  Each of the previous I didn't particularly care for, but this one was actually quite good.  I liked Daniel Silva's writing style and it kept me guessing.  There were even a few Daniel Silva books in the clearance section at Barnes & Noble the other day that I considered picking up because of my experience with this book.  But, the last thing I need right now is another book in my queue...so, alas I left them for another consumer to grab.

If you're into mysteries, I would recommend this book.  The story surrounds a newly discovered Rembrandt painting that has a dark past involving it in WWII atrocities.  This book is actually part of a series where Gabriel Allon is always the protagonist.  I really liked Allon, he has a little bit of the Bond flavor only with more realism.  Overall, this book was a solid three out of five stars for me.  I liked it, didn't love it, but I enjoyed the experience and felt fully entertained.  And like I inferred earlier, I'd read more Silva in the future.

Next up is a book I purchased a while ago because one of David's aunts said that her daughter was encouraging her to read it.  It comes from the author of Water for Elephants, one of my favorite books of all time, Sara Gruen.  That book is Ape House.

This fictional story follows two main characters, scientist Isabel Duncan and journalist John Thigpen.  In the opening scene John is visiting Isabel's language lab to interview her and the bonobo apes who have learned American Sign Language.  John is writing a story on the groundbreaking research this lab is preforming and leaves the premises eager to write his article (with an irritating partner that you soon learn to loathe). 

Shortly after John and his crew leave the lab is broken into with an explosion, severely injuring Isabel and freeing the bonobo apes.  While Isabel is in the hospital recovering from a concussion and numerous plastic surgery operations, including dental implants, the bonobo apes disappear.  To Isabel's horror, the university has sold them in an attempt to prevent any further threats of violence from the would-be attackers.  No one really knows who set the bomb off, but one group has threateningly claimed it.

The rest of this novel surrounds Isabel trying to come to grips with her injuries, find out who she is, whether or not she wants to continue a weak romantic relationship and, above all, find the apes.  John also struggles with a hard time in his marriage, job problems and his desire to finish up this ape story that he feels emotionally attached to. 

In a weird twist, the bonobo apes show up on a reality television show entitled, Ape House.  Hence, the title of the book.  The show is owned by a Hugh Hefner-type that is eager to exploit the sexual habits of the bonobos as well as their everyday activities (which are very human-like, truly).

I really enjoyed this book.  Was it as good as Water for Elephants...um, not quite.  But, I still highly, highly recommend it because it was wonderful, especially if you're an animal lover like me.  One thing I found absolutely fascinating was that in her acknowledgments, Gruen explains her research and experience in writing this book.  The first encounter she had with the apes she met in real life is mirrored in John's first encounter with the bonobos in the book.  And Gruen said she can't wait to go back and spend more time with them.  How wonderful is that?

My reading lately has leaned more towards fiction, simply because of the vast amount of my to-read pile.  But, hopefully within the next year I can still keep my regular rotation going while also making progress with my resolution!  Which, by the way, I have added a tab for.  I'll strike through each book as I read it and you can follow me in my progress throughout the year.  Fingers crossed!



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