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Image Credits: Amazon

I know I shouldn’t have expected much from this book and honestly being someone who is completely obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s classic, The Catcher and the Rye I shouldn’t have picked up this piece of trash (it does not deserve to be called a book) in the first place, but curiosity got the best of me. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The thing is I just really love Holden Caulfield and I’ve missed him and was excited about the possibility of seeing him brought back to life again, even if it was 60 years later, with a new story. However, this isn’t the aged version of Holden Caulfield that I thought it would be.

This piece of trash starts off with Holden Caulfield in a retirement home. He seems to be surprised by the fact that he’s old and I’m left wondering if he has dementia or Alzheimer’s or another degenerative disease. He is really confused which seems out of character for Holden. However, I tried to put that past me and give the book a chance. But the thing is California makes it hard to give this piece of trash a chance because the more you read, the worst it gets.

This piece of trash didn’t really have a plot or a point or a purpose or any kind of organized structure. I guess that explains why the book was self-published (I mean absolutely no offense to those who are actual credible writers that self-publish…I just mean for this guy clearly there were no other options – who would want to publish this garbage under than him?). Most of this piece of trash is just about Holden wandering around aimlessly. He escapes his retirement home and then just goes to New York and Boston and randomly comes across people from his childhood like Stradlater. Phoebe’s there too and Holden’s obsession with her is downright creepy and leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable. I can understand how Holden would still see his sister 60 years later, but Stradlater? Really? And I mean it’s 60 years later – there’s a chance he could’ve even been dead to be honest. The chances of Holden staying in touch are slim to none and the book even seems to acknowledge that in a way; Holden seems surprised to find Stradlater. It doesn’t make much sense; it just feels like the author’s lame attempt to re-write The Catcher in the Rye and you don’t mess with a classic.

There’s some new characters in this piece of trash, too and they come off as well, trashy. Charlie is one of the main characters and I’m totally confused on who she is and why she’s in this sad excuse of a book. I think she was one of Holden’s students? But when was he ever a teacher? Did he ever even go to or finish college? California never addresses those questions – he just randomly places her in the book and the next thing you know she’s having a threesome with her boyfriend and the elderly Holden Caulfield. It’s sick and there’s no reason why it needs to be in the story at all.

Another noteworthy character in this piece of trash is J.D. Salinger himself. Yes, because it’s totally normal to write a spinoff of a book and to throw the original author in their randomly. Sure. Salinger has no purpose in being in this book, but then again neither does anyone else. I have no idea what was even going on in this part of the book. I know Holden found a notebook and he went to return it to his son but his son was J.D. Salinger? Or did I misread it? Does California even know which is which? Sometimes I don’t think he even knows what he’s doing. It made no sense. If Salinger was his son then everything would be backwards. Salinger is older than Holden? I don’t even know…

But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of this trash. Have I told you about Holden’s bladder yet? Now I know it might sound weird for me to talk about Holden’s bladder and you might think it’s something you really don’t need to know about, but trust me when I say that John David California wants you to know about Holden Caulfield’s bladder. In fact, California went so far as to make sure he wrote about Holden’s bladder no less than every 2-3 pages throughout the entire novel. I don’t think this piece of trash has a point at all, but if it did I bet it would probably have something to do with Holden’s bladder.

What do I mean by “Holden’s bladder?” I mean just that. I know every single time Holden has a full bladder, when he think he might have a full bladder, when his bladder is so full it causes him pain, and when he doesn’t realize he has a full bladder until it’s too late. I already mentioned that most of the novel involves Holden aimlessly wandering around. I lied. He’s not “just” aimlessly walking around – he’s also urinating on everything in sight because his bladder is always overflowing and there’s never a bathroom around but if there is one Holden would rather not use it. Why does the reader need to know this? We really don’t, trust me, California. The only reason I can think of as to why the sad excuse of an author decided this was important was because it was a sad attempt to show that Holden is 60 years older and obviously developed urinary incontinence.

California’s portrayal of an elderly Holden is disgraceful at best. He seems to play on the stereotype that all elderly men live in retirement homes, can’t control their bladders, and are confused. This isn’t just stereotyping, it feels like blatant ageism. Holden deserves better than this.

After reading 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye I’m left feeling disgusted and ashamed to even admit I’ve read this. It also makes me want to go rushing back to the original classic The Catcher in the Rye. I bet I’ll love it and appreciate it now more than ever.

I’m also left with two words to say:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry to Mr. Salinger who never wanted this book released and who went so far as to have it banned from the US (I had to order it online specially to obtain a copy). I’m sorry for not respecting his wishes. I’m sorry that the book was ever written. I’m sorry the book was published. I’m sorry the book is banned from all parts of the world and that more people are still reading this piece of trash.

Holden deserved better and so did Salinger.

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Image Credits: Amazon

Evan Bailyn’s Outsmarting Google is one of those books that have been on my “To Be Read” list for forever (which isn’t at all surprising if you look at that mile long list…). I actually got this book from a former co-worker when I worked for a digital marketing agency 2 or 3 years ago. After accepting an offer to work as an SEO Marketing Strategist for Becker’s School Supplies, I knew it was time to pick up the book and take it out of the “To Be Read” pile and move it along to the “Currently reading” pile.

I expected that much of this book would be things I already knew, and I was right. I worked for a digital marketing agency for nearly 3 years. I started as an inbound marketer working my way up to a social media marketer, assistant project manager, and later a digital marketing manager with an emphasis in social media. Since my main focus has always been social media, I’ve always just had working knowledge rather than expert level seo knowledge, but have always kept informed by reading blogs, news, and in the case of Outsmarting Google, books. I’d say I do have a lot of experience with SEO, but not as much as I do with writing or social media and I’m not sure I’d refer to myself as a “expert”, which is why I need more help from books like Bailyn’s.

I already knew that Title Tags and Meta Tags were important along with linkbuilding, so some of these chapter simply repeated what I already knew. There are some parts of the book I questioned and wasn’t sure how much of it I agreed with though. I felt like Bailyn’s really discredited the importance of having strong content on your website. He seems to operate more on the idea that on-site content doesn’t really matter at all for SEO. He does emphasize the importance of having a well-designed website which I agree with — but I don’t think that’s enough. If your website is beautiful but has little to no content or poorly written or outdated content, why would anyone want to go to it? Maybe you’ll see obtain website traffic and great rankings in Google, but your conversions may suffer and your bounce rate may be high, neither of which will do your website or business any justice.

In contrast, I feel like Bailyn over-emphasizes the importance of linkbuilding. Yes, it is important. I know that this is one of the most important ranking factors for Google. However, I question Bailyn’s methods. I wonder how strong his linkbuilding is and whether or not much of it is just spam. I also really don’t agree with the way he thinks and advises readers to simply ask webmasters, bloggers, etc. for a link. He makes it sound like the easiest thing in the world to do. Go ahead and try it, I guarantee you’ll receive one of these responses:

  1. Who are you and why should I link to you?
  2. That will be (insert price here, often more than $100)
  3. Google considers that spam and will issue my website a penalty if I do that, so no.
  4. No.

Or simply no response at all. Approaching bloggers and other quality website owners/media members for a link is definitely a much more difficult and more thought out process than simply shooting a completely transparent email asking for it. I learned that the hard way from my agency days, trust me.

Also, some of the links just didn’t seem that good. Bailyn seems to think if a website is anywhere somewhat (but not really) close to being in your industry, a link on that site is good enough. He also recommends linking all of your websites together. So, say you have a website about pizza, a website about leather, and a third website about pets. Bailyn thinks you could link them all together. I suppose it could work. Maybe you want to write on your pizza website an article on leather pizza fashions or a pizza shirt or a piece of pizza your pet is wearing/eating. It’s hard, but not impossible. But I don’t think this is always going to work and I’m not sure I would push for it as much as Bailyn seems to.

Another thing that bothers me with this book is the way the author, Evan Bailyn is constantly bragging about his success and referencing his business, First Page Sage, and yet when you try to look it up and even Google it, there’s nothing too spectacular about it. For example, on page 28 of this book, Bailyn uses First Page Sage as an example to show how his website is ranking #1 on Google for the term “expert Google optimization”. I just typed that in to Google and he’s not on page 1. He’s actually all the way on page 5…the very bottom of page 5, almost page 6.

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Looking at Bailyn’s website, it’s not hard to see why he isn’t ranking better. Some pages such as the homepage and the “About Us” page are great. But other pages, well it’s obvious Bailyn is putting into practice his belief that on-site content isn’t important. The pages for “Our Culture”, “Careers”, “Blog” and “Contact” pages are all without meta descriptions. The blog also isn’t updated as much as you’d expect. On average, it only gets updated around once a month. Maybe this is what’s hurting his rankings?

Of course, it might not have anything to do with Bailyn’s on site content. This book was published in 2011, maybe he just changed his keywords, or even his whole focus of his business, which seems to be exactly what he did. I did some keyword research and analzyzed his website and it looks like “thought leadership” and “thought leadership marketing” is more of what he’s focusing on now, so I googled that as well. He’s number 8 for “thought leadership”:

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And he’s #2 for “thought leadership marketing”:

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I’m not sure how I feel about this information. “Thought leadership” is a whole different concept and completely different keyword to target. Why the sudden change? Is it because he failed at SEO marketing so he decided to become a thought leader instead? #2 for thought leadership marketing is more reassuring, but it’s still not #1 and it’s for a whole new concept. I’m just not sure how much I trust his word as an “SEO expert”.

Bailyn’s social media presence was also disappointing to me. He has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, but he hasn’t updated his page since January — that I know is not good practice. He only has 243 followers on LinkedIn and I believe no posts. His Twitter also hasn’t been updated in over 2 months. It just make it hard to trust this guy and any of the advice he gives on digital marketing…

There are still some points that Bailyn made that I liked and learned from though. I especially enjoyed the sections on PPC and Google Adwords. I don’t have much hands-on experience with PPC advertising at all, so I’m always trying to learn more about it. I like how he explained what makes it different from SEO and the advantages/disadvantages of both. The information on display URL, negative match, and negative  keywords were all things I didn’t know about previously. Having this knowledge now I think will be very beneficial for me if I work with PPC advertising in the future.

The highlight of Bailyn’s book for me was the last part where he wrote about his predictions for Google in the future. This book was published back in 2011…5 years ago, but he was on the right track for most of these predictions. I thought it was interesting how much of a threat he thought Facebook was to Google. I have to say I do agree with this ideology. He’s right in saying that Facebook is much more of a threat than say Bing or Yahoo. The social search was an interesting concept because of how unexpected that prediction was for me. I don’t think it will ever actually happen though because I think that would make it like Facebook 2.0. It seems pointless. Facebook and Google may want to compete, but they should still exist as separate properties with their own unique features, not mere copies of each other.

Bailyn also predicted that Google would launch a social network and that it wouldn’t be well received. Spot on. Google tried with Google+, but it definitely isn’t a huge threat to Facebook by any means and many have predicted over the years that Google will kill it off. Bailyn’s book was published in March of 2011. Google+ was launched in June.

I think that he’s also right with how much he stressed how important localized search will become. Google has been releasing more and more options and features for local  businesses to help them with their SEO especially lately. There’s never been a better time to be a local business interested in SEO marketing. I think he’s also right on Google trying to encourage people to use their phone’s more and releasing features that lets people know where they are or when they visit a certain place. It sounds slightly creepy to read about it in Bailyn’s book, but we’re already pretty much there with apps like FourSquare and the ability to check in places on Facebook and Instagram. Will this really be any different from that? I can see that being a success. However, the reviews probably won’t be as big of a deal as Bailyn thinks. Let’s face it: people are lazy. Most people don’t want to take the time to leave a review unless their service is really bad and they need to vent. Overall,  think that Google reviews will pretty much stay the same over the next few years.

Evan Bailyn’s Outsmarting Google wasn’t a terrible book; I still learned a few things from it. However, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be; it was just okay. It’s worth just 3 our of 5 stars from me.


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Image Credits: Amazon

I just finished reading In Search of the Proverbs 31 Man by Michelle McKinney Hammond. This book caught my attention as soon as I spotted on the Used Books bookshelf at the Amazing Grace christian bookstore a week ago. I was really intrigued by the title, In Search of the Proverbs 21 MAN. Proverbs 31 has always been one of my all-time favorite bible passages. It told me everything I ever wanted to know about what kind of woman I should strive to be — a Proverbs 31 woman. But I completely forgot about the fact that behind that great woman, there was a great Proverbs 31 man, too. Also, being single, I am still in search of my Proverbs 31 man, so I decided to purchase the book and see what it said.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars because I do wish it could’ve went a little more in depth. A couple points were repetitive, redundant, and at times a little generic, but giving it only 3 stars seemed way too harsh because it was a good book that I did learn from. Here are 4 of the main points I learned after reading this book.

1.  The connection between men and women. I honestly never really considered this point before. I love how the author, Michelle McKinney Hammond breaks down the connection of men and women. She explains that man is made from God (which I already knew) and that woman is made from the rib of man (which I also already knew). Then she goes a step further and explains that when woman was created, there was a piece taken out of man. That piece is missing. He still needs that piece to survive, which is why he needs woman. This just totally blew my mind. It makes perfect sense and it’s that complicated of an idea, but it was one I never thought of before. The need for a man and a woman to coexist alongside each other isn’t done on a spiritual or emotional level, but it is a physical need and one that goes far beyond just sex.

2. The orders of men and women and why women must submit to their husbands. I never realized there was an order before, I just heard repetitively that woman must submit to their husbands. Now I’ll be honest and say that this is a concept I often struggle with. I am by no means a feminist and I don’t typically support the feminist movement, but I do want general equality between men and women and I don’t want to feel like I’m just letting a man control me and push me around. But that’s not what submission is at all. See, as Hammond explains in her book, women must submit to men because of their order. The order goes like this God – > man -> woman. God always comes first. Because God created man, man must dedicate his life to serving God and striving to be as Christ-like as possible. Woman was created from man. Therefore, it is her order to submit to her husband. This is her priority. It is still her priority to worship and serve God, but the man rules over the woman. The man is closer to God than the woman is because the man is a direct creation from God whereas woman is a direct creation from man. This goes back to point one.

3. What to look for in terms of a future husband. If you’re single like me you should still be thinking in terms of what you should be looking for in a husband. I felt better reading what Hammond has to say about this because I think that’s what I was doing a lot in my last relationship which ultimately helped me to decide to leave my relationship because I didn’t see the future I wanted. If you’re single you should be looking for a Proverbs 31 man to be your husband. It should be a strong man that has a deep love, appreciation, and understanding of God. He should love and cherish you very deeply and passionately and not be afraid to show his love for you. He should offer you security through his job and financial wealth and have the ability to truly support you and care for you. That is his responsibility not just as a man, but as the head of the household which is precisely what a Proverbs 31 man should be according to the order of God.

4. How to prepare myself to become a Proverbs 31 woman. If you’re single like I am, then you shouldn’t just be focusing on searching for a Proverbs 31 man to be your husband, but you should also consider all of the ways you are a Proverbs 31 woman and what areas need more help. For me I could probably bear to be more patient, communicative with my partner (well in this case, future partner) especially during times of trouble, and above all else, I need to learn to submit more to men. I need to learn to let men approach me rather than be the one to approach them. That is not the right order. Men were built like hunters who hunt for their lovers. It is natural for a man to approach a woman. Woman should be waiting for men to approach them and then they should be willing to submit. That is the proper, biblical order. It is also something I tend to be pretty bad at — I tend to wear my feelings on the sleeve and jump at the chance to display love and affection even when it is not returned. I need to work on this and strive to be less like well, me, and more like the godly Proverbs 31 woman.

 

I really did enjoy reading Michelle McKinney Hammond’s novel, In Search of the Proverbs 31 Man. I think this book will definitely be helpful for me in understanding my responsibilities as a single woman and also what my future role as a wife and a Proverbs 31 woman will be.


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Image Credits: Amazon

Hey guys! I know you already know by now what I’m going to say; I SUCK at the 30 Day Writing Challenge. It’s May 14th and I’m only on Day 8. But in my defense, at least I’m writing on a regular basis, right? Also, some of my entries have been really long and detailed…one of them even had to be broken in 2 posts!

So anyway, Day 8 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge asks me to write about a book I love and one I don’t.

If you’ve been following my blog, it should come to no surprise that I LOVE The Catcher in the Rye. I mean, I did recently write about how I’m obsessed with J.D. Salinger and everything. If you’ve been following my blog for a longer time, you might even remember my rant on how awful I thought The Hunger Games to beit’s probably my #1 most hated book of all time.

These two novels are vastly different from one another. However, I can easily compare and contrast them to show why I loved one and hated the other. Here’s why I loved one and hated the other.

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Image Credits: Wikipedia

Expectations

I had very different expectations for these two novels. When I first read The Catcher in the Rye, I was a junior in high school. I never heard of the book before. I thought based on the title this book would be about baseball or something. I wasn’t really looking forward to reading it, but I had to for school. I never expected to love it as much as I did.

In contrast, my expectations for The Hunger Games were extremely high. I first read this book my senior year of college, when it was exploding with popularity and the first film was released. I was required to read this book for my Writing Children’s Stories class, but had every intention to read it on my own even if it wasn’t part of my required college reading. I heard so much buzz about this book that I had to see what the big deal was. I also loved the concept/idea around it. I knew it had to do with a dystopian society and it sounded fascinating. However, the book never came close to meeting my expectations. It was incredibly disappointing.

 

Dialogue

These two books vary greatly on their use of dialogue. Catcher in the Rye has a fair amount of dialogue. The reader gets to see how Holden interacts with several characters including his teachers, Phoebe, Sally, Jane, etc. The dialogue helps to keep the story moving and brings it to life. While the novel is told in first person by Holden and we primarily are exposed to Holden’s thoughts and views, we can still get up close to other characters from the dialogue.

On the other hand, The Hunger Games uses very little dialogue. Katniss tells us what is happening. We also get long chunks of text that describe the setting and scenery. After reading this book I still didn’t feel like I knew Peeta, even though he was one of the main characters. All of the characters were easy to forget and I didn’t connect or relate to any of them. It was a really boring, long-winded story.

 

Character Driven Vs. Plot Driven

The Catcher in the Rye is definitely a character driven story. There is no doubt about it. Without Holden Caulfield, you have no story. The story is about Holden’s state of mental health, his thoughts, his feelings, and his actions. It makes him easy to remember and connect with. I really love the character driven style.

In contrast, The Hunger Games was definitely plot driven. The story is about a society where food is scarce and there are too many people to feed. The characters really don’t matter that much in this story. You can get rid of Katniss (please do, she is so annoying) and/or Peeta, and still have your story. I felt that with the plot driven story, I could never really get to know the characters all that well. They weren’t memorable or easy to connect or relate to. They were just kind of there taking up space on the page.

 

Writing Style

I think that the writer’s histories and their own personalities and maybe even the time periods they grew up in had a lot to do with their writing style. It was very very different.

J. D. Salinger is a classic writer, and I have always loved classic novels. Classic writers took their writing VERY seriously, and it shows. Salinger was fanatical about his writing, even if he didn’t publish it all and often said he regretted ever writing Catcher in the Rye. He would lock himself up for hours on hours every single day to write. He didn’t want a life outside of his writing at all. He’d write, revise, edit, rewrite, rinse and repeat. The result? A well-planned, well researched, well-written novel.

Salinger also had one sole purpose for his writing: for his own personal use and enjoyment. I don’t think Salinger’s intention was ever to make a lot of money off of it. I know it probably influenced him (why else would he submit to The New Yorker?), but he hated the fame that came with it. Also, much of his writing is based on personal experience, especially in The Catcher in the Rye. I think his writing was in many ways his way to collect his thoughts and ideas for his own peace of mind/mental health.

Suzanne Collins is a very different kind of writer. She is much less experienced and was likely just writing for fame and money. I don’t see her novel as leaving a lasting impact on people the way Catcher in the Rye did. I also don’t think much of her life was influenced by this novel. The Hunger Games didn’t give me the impression that Collins spent a lot of time doing research or revising her work. Actually, it was just the opposite. The Hunger Games read like a first draft to me. It was very messy and sloppy and as a writer, I was very disappointed in the sloppy writing from this “famous” author.

 

These are just a few of the differences between The Catcher in the Rye and The Hunger Games that explain why I loved one and hated the other. Have you ever read either (or both) of these novels? What was your opinion of them?


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Image Credits: Yahoo

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free through GoodReads in exchange for my honest review.

Despite the old (often true) saying, “Never judge a book by its cover”, I am still a firm believer that there are some books you look at once and the moment you see the cover, you immediately fall in love. That’s exactly how I felt with Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank With Me. Everything about it was so beautiful. I love the Robin’s Egg Blue color used on the background, the perfect choice in typography, and most of all, the mysterious looking top hat and eye glass on the cover. It was simple, but complex enough to capture my interest.

I also knew I was going to love this book because after reading the back cover and the description on GoodReads, I saw that this was a book about a writer in the process of writing a novel. Being a writer in the process of writing a novel myself I can relate to this story all too well.

However, what I didn’t realize at first was that this book is less about a writer writing a novel and more about Frank, a 10 year old child with autism.

I read a lot of books and I meet a lot of characters in those books, but it’s been a long time since I met a character I loved as much as I loved Frank.

Despite having autism, Frank is such a lovable and charming little boy with a level of intelligence well beyond his years. His special trait that really makes him stand out isn’t necessarily his autism, but rather, his exquisite fashion sense. Whereas other 10 year boys are sporting t-shirts and grass-stained jeans,Frank is dressed  better than Jay Gatsby and Charlie Chaplin combined with his top hats, suits, ties, and even cuff links. Naturally, the other kids at school make fun of him for this and even his new principal goes against him, but I found myself rooting for him the entire time. I wanted more kids to dress like Frank — he was adorable and smarter than the other kids!

Be Frank With Me doesn’t just glorify autism, either. It shows you the realities of it, good and bad. While Frank is absolutely adorable, he is also an unintentional trouble maker. He accidentally injuries his mother. He burns down the guest house. He is impulsive and quick-thinking. Sometimes, his intelligence and his quick-thinking mind gets the best of him. But you can’t even be mad at him when he gets himself in trouble.

Frank takes everything literally. He doesn’t understand emotions or sarcasm or double meanings. He understands facts, statistics, and a black and white view of the world which is precisely why Johnson chose to call her book Be Frank With Me. Despite all of the challenges Frank causes the people in his life like Mimi and Alice, he is still perfect just the way he is. Nobody wants Frank to change. They love him just the way he is, suits and all.

Be Frank With Me forces the reader to reconsider everything that they ever assumed about autism in the past. Anyone with basic knowledge about autism will pick up on the fact that Frank is autistic fairly easily, yet the novel never actually uses the word “autism” or  any variation of it. I believe that Johnson did this intentionally. Frank cannot be defined by his autism. He is so much more than autistic. He is sweet, caring, loving,very intelligent, charming, and incredibly dapper. Above all else? Frank is completely unforgettable.


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Image Credits: GoodReads

I decided to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after hearing my friend talk about it and spotting it at the library. A book about a bookstore? Well, I love books, so this must be something I’d love, right?

I was not disappointed.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore is more than just a bookstore. It’s a bookstore filled with magic and secrets just waiting to be decoded. The bookstore simply needs the right person at the right time to decode the messages. Clay Jannon is that person.

Clay begins working as a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore after losing his job in marketing at a bagel shop, NewBagel. However, it turns out to be more than just a job and more than just a bookstore. Clay becomes friends with the bookstore owner, Mr. Penumbra rather quickly and soon learns that the bookstore is far from ordinary. He is given some rather unusual instructions such as the importance of keeping a logbook and not to read the books from a specific corner of the store — books that are placed on the Waybacklist.

It doesn’t take Clay long to realize that these books aren’t the same as regular books and that the “customers” that come to Mr. Penunmbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore aren’t really customers at all. Rather than buying books, Mr. Penumbra’s most frequent visitors all borrow books from the Waybacklist, and the books are filled with strange codes that they spend years trying to comprehend or decode.

Clay soon learns from Mr. Penumbra that these codes are written and read by members of a society known as the The Society of the Unbroken Spine, the leaders to be exact. They are known as their Codex Vitae, which are like memoirs of their lives and they possess wisdom and knowledge on key elements of life, one of the biggest of which is the secret for longevity or perhaps even immortality. How will you live on even after you are long gone?

Clay may not be an expert at cracking codes, but if there’s one thing he is good at it’s marketing and technology. After running a semi-successful Google Adwords campaign, Kat Potente, a member of Clay’s target audience, wanders into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clay soon learns that Kat is an employee of Google, and the possible key to decoding the books from the Waybacklist.

The two of them launch a campaign with Mr. Penumbra himself, believing that if they simply use Google’s technology such as their book scanners and computers, they should easily be able to decode the books and find out what the secret to immortality is.

However, much to their dismay, they soon learn that there are some things technology is not, nor will ever be capable of doing. Decoding Aldus Manutius’ Codex Vitae is one of those things. This is because while Google’s machines are capable of reading codes and analyzing them, they fail to really LOOK at the code.

The code was written entirely in a special font known as Gerritszoon. This is a popular font that is frequently in stores, on computers, and everywhere else imaginable. It is even used in Mr. Penunmbra’s shop sign. It turns out, Manutius was really good friends with the founder of this font, and the font is the real key to decoding the message.

After doing his own research that includes completing a mission from an outsider to track down the original punches for the Gerritszoon font, Clay discovers the font is very unique in that each letter contains different shapes and indentations that represent a message. Once Clay figures this out he is able to decode the message in his Codex Vitae, which is simply:

Thank you, Teobaldo

You are my greatest friend

This has been the key to everything.

 

I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore because it is the perfect blend of old and new technology. I related to both Clay and Kat because I work in the field of digital marketing. Google and technology like Google plays a large role in my career, and I do much of the same marketing that Clay has done for NewBagel and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore. I also love books (physical books, to be specific) and bookstores. I always believed that no matter how advanced we as a society become with our technology, it will never fully be able to replace books.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore successfully demonstrates the importance of books. It shows us how there are some things books can do that technology cannot. It shows us how to be better researchers and listeners. We can’t simply rely on technology for everything and we can merely look at the surface of things like text, we need to go deeper to really understand what one another is saying.

The final message, or what Manutius hid in his Codex Vitae was disappointing to many members of the Unbroken Spine, but it was actually far more significant than they realize. Manutius is saying that friendship and fellowship is one of the secrets to success or immorality. We cannot succeed in life alone, we need to depend on one another to understand life, to progress, and to make contributions to the world that help to make our short time on life worthwhile or memorable so that we will be remembered long after we die.

Technology may continue to advance in time, but there is one thing that is certain: it will never be able to fully replace traditional books and the unique magic and stories they contain.


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Image Credits: Amazon

Before I start this review I must admit that I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am 25 years old and had just finished reading Judy Blume’s famous novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

But I’m not embarrassed for the same reasons most other 25 year old women may be.

It’s not because of the content of the novel or the fact that it’s young adult written for pre-pubescent pre-teens.

No.

It’s because it’s written by Judy Blume, my all-time favorite writer who is 90% of the reason I decided to become a writer, and I’m 25 years old and just now getting around to reading it.

I always wanted to read this novel. I know that this is a very controversial book that was widely banned especially when it was first released back in the 1970’s. I have read every single one of Judy Blume’s other books, some as many as three or more times. Somehow this book always ended up on the back burner and I never ended up getting to it as a child.

But when I saw it on display at the Margaret Heggan Library two weeks ago, I know I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I had to check it out and see just what this book was about.

I was a little nervous to read this novel. I had such high opinions of Judy Blume. The only novel of hers I read and didn’t like was “Wifey”. Wifey read like an old-school version of 50 Shades of Grey — it was just trashy. I expected more from my favorite writer. But I forgave her for that. If Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret ended up being trashy, would I be able to forgive her again, or would it permanently change my opinion of my favorite writer?

I have heard many different stories over the years about the content of this novel and why it was banned. The most common story I heard is that it was very sexual and focused heavily on female masturbation for young girls going through puberty. In reality, this novel contained not a single sentence about masturbation.

It was a coming of age novel that discussed changes that 12 year old girls go through regarding their bodies and puberty in general, of course, but there was nothing “explicit”  about it. It really didn’t even mention sex at all. For the young adult audience that Blume was writing for, it was perfect. It was insightful, informative, easy for her target audience to relate to, and not over the top or trashy. I don’t have kids, let alone a 12 year old daughter, but if I did I would be more than okay with having her read this novel. In fact, I’d encourage it.

As I read through this novel, I remembered and reflected a great deal on my own pre-pubescent late elementary/early middle school days. There were the constant rumors, the cattiness, the gossip about boys, the general curiosity about the world and the changing of bodies and life in general. And for some, even the bigger issue that Blume so openly and boldly chose to discuss: the declaration or even outright questioning of religion.

I had a very hard time understanding why this book was banned. Have things really changed that much since it was first published in the 1970s? It doesn’t seem that way. I mean sure things are much more sexualized now with 50 Shades of Grey (don’t think for an instant 12 year olds aren’t reading that, I can pretty much guarantee you that they are, whether their parents know about it or not).

But was it really horrific in the 1970s to mention about female bodies changing, girls liking boys and the comments that boys made about their female classmates bodies, choosing a religion, and all of these topics that come in to play as a general part of growing up? It seems strange to me. This was life and Blume did a great job demonstrating a very realistic view of it that any normal woman (or Blume’s target audience — 12 year old girls) can connect and relate to.

Sure, the book is a little awkward to read, but that’s the point. Being a 12 year old girl is an awkward event.

Maybe people criticized this book because they didn’t want to accept the truth and reality of what their preteen daughters were really thinking, experiencing, and going through at the time.

What can we say? Truth hurts sometimes.

Or at the very least, the truth can be awkward.

Regardless, Blume captured it all exceptionally well and earned 5 out of 5 stars from me.



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