Daily Top 4: The Top 4 Books of my Collection

I love books, and that goes without saying really. I’ve always got one around; most times I am surrounded by them, including now. Am I a collector? I wouldn’t say that, obsessive more likely. I own well over 500, not including graphic novels, but there are a few that stand out, crowning achievements of my obsessiveness. All are first editions, only one is signed, but all are dear to me in one way or another.

4. Jaws by Peter Benchley

Jaws is where my interest in sharks came from as a child. Not the book, but the movie always pushed me in that direction. I read a lot about them when I was a kid, and strangely enough, a lot of the books, about the mighty fish were tailored to children. I first read Jaws in high school as part of outside reading for English class. I stole the copy I had read from, well, I won’t say where, but let’s just say it was a major sin. It wasn’t Benchley’s characters that were an enjoyment for me, it was the tone. There is something about horror’s in daylight that are equally, if not more terrifying than one’s committed at night. I love sharks, and as a gruesome little tribute, this first edition of Jaws is a collection standout.

3. Lost Horizon by James Hilton

Interesting back story on this one, I first heard of Shangri-La from Talespin. In the episode entitled “Last Horizons” Baloo finds himself in the mysterious city of Panda-La, a peaceful city in the mountains that later tries to wreak havoc on Cape Suzette (I don’t remember that in the book, but nice twist anyway.). Before that we had Hilton’s novel, a book that was inspired by his travels through Tibetan lands. So much so, that one town in the area changed it’s name to Shangri-La after the novel was published. Hilton’s story is full of so much fun and adventure, but also a utopia that works, one that hopes to one day pick up the pieces of a war torn world and bring it peace and knowledge. The themes always spoke to me, and oddly enough it was the books sequel, penned by Eleanor Cooney and Daniel Altieri that first caught my attention. It couldn’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s significance in my life led me this far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Healer by F. Paul Wilson

The LaNague series isn’t one of Wilson’s most widely known, but it is his first, and surprisingly, this books is last in a trilogy. I have many autographed pieces from Wilson, but this being his first, first edition, and signed make it something I gush about to fans of Wilson and friends alike. I’ve never had a chance to read it, but next year, I’m declaring the “Year of Wilson!” where I will read and review every single book Wilson has published, and you better believe I have ‘em all in hardcover and paperback. KYFHO!

1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This book purchase I take as a bit of fate. I was looking for it, I searched Ebay, was the first result in that search, and surprisingly won it after a bidder just gave up trying to outbid me. I reviewed this book last month, being the first time I had ever read it; to say it changed my life is certain, but not yet fully realized. The plight of this girl in hiding is just as powerful as those who were in the camps themselves, made more so by the constant danger she was in. It was the first of such memoirs at the time, since, many have come forth to tell their gruesome and tear worthy stories . The effectiveness of this diary is how it doesn’t tell the reader to feel a certain way, instead, she chooses to relay her personal experiences, fears, and ambition, doing so with so much tension and hope that it’s hard at times to continue, given the plight of Anne and her family. The book’s compassion is where it truly shines brightest and is most tragic in the events that take place outside the manuscript. It’s haunting and beautiful with every read and remains, so far, one of my all time favorite books.

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Book Review: ‘MEG’ by Steve Alten

The shark, in popular culture, has been bastardized more than any living creature today. It seems like the Syfy channel has a new shark movie just about every weekend, and the ones that they have made are deplorable. They’re not made to be taken seriously, granted, Jersey Shore Shark Attack brings to mind a certain clientele of victim that you’d wish fell to the fish species, but lest we forget, or even know at all, that the real events that inspired  Jaws took place in New Jersey.

One then may find refuge in books, and in Steve Alten I had little hope. My mind had been bastardized by the overwhelming bounty of these films despite never having even seen them. Even ones that had been based on true stories were terrible; who honestly wanted to watch two people in the water surrounded by sharks for an entire movie! Then, I looked at the copyright page of  MEG, and was relieved; 1997. This book operated outside the scope of this past decade and the one before it’s mistakes.

Tearing into it’s pages, I wasn’t impressed at first. It seemed poorly researched, stating that Megalodons, the type of shark featured in the book, had existed until 100,000 years ago, which as I know it is so grossly wrong that it’s hard to fathom. I received some advice from Kevin Hellions that made much more sense; just go with it, accept the facts in the book and it will make for a more enjoyable read. He was right, and I loved the book for it.

In declaring this summer the Summer of Sharks I wanted to start out with something fun, to get me into the spirit. A majority of the books I have planned are based in truth more than myth like this novel, and after reading it I feel I’ve been put in that mood.

The story begins with a prelude containing that iconic scene on the cover to the right. It gives you a sense for how powerful this creature can be and the havoc that it can inflict. From there, millions of years in the future, we’re taken to Jonas Taylor, former diver for the United States Navy, now a hack professor studying a long dead shark.

Through a series of events, Taylor and a crew researching the Mariana Trench release a Meg from it’s once deep resting place and chaos is unleashed upon the world’s oceans.

From the start, Alten is very well researched as he weaves in elements of shark anatomy, behavior, and history throughout the story. It never trips up the reader at any point as it generally becomes vital to the sharks actions and the story in general. Alten does take liberty with the facts, but for someone who isn’t researched in the creature, it won’t really matter.

The story is grounded in great plots, subplots and action throughout; Ever wanted to know what a blind, giant shark could do to anything on or in the water? Weird question I know, but it’s subtle nature in the story has dire consequences for many people…you can damn well bet there is a body count by novels end.

What Alten does with MEG is create a better antagonist than Benchley did with  Jaws and an overall better book as well. It’s research, logic, and action is well beyond anything Benchley could have ever released. I don’t deny his contribution to the genre, but he’ll always be surpassed by the film version. Alten’s film adaptation may never see the light of day, bogged down since 1996, but with a novel like MEG it will make up for that exponentially. Alten’s greatest accomplishment with this book is getting the reader to wonder, what if these creatures existed side by side with man, all along, just out of reach, but always lurking in the deep.

Book Rating: ****1/4

Stray Observations (AKA Spoilers)

The last 50 pages of this book are intense! They’re paced really well, full of action and just fun.

How the shark dies gives new meaning to the term “inside job.”

Maggie’s is a B-I-T-C-H, but even her death is tragic to the reader.

Picturing a shark jumping through a rogue wave and eating a surfer whole is awesome!

The overuse of people dying while making it to the ladder get’s a bit much after a while.

Alten’s use of marine topography is great too.

The Top Ten Most Memorable Real Monsters!

Yes, that’s right, there are real monsters out there! Not to worry though folks, most are harmless, but they’re all unforgettable. Crytozoology, is the study of “hidden animals” and is still an avid science today, regardless of whether the scientific community takes it seriously or not. Now, on with the countdown. (sorry Casey Casem).

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