Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I finished The Art Of The Checkmate by Renaud and Kahn. I would grade this book an A+. It is definitely worth reading several times over. In fact, I'm going through the book a second time right now.
Essentially, the book is organized in this way:
1. Introduces, bare bones, a type of checkmate.
2. It shows some slight variations on that type of checkmate.
3. Then, this is the best part, it gives you the entire game from first move to checkmate for the type of checkmate described. There may only be one example of a game or just an end game position. But most have several games showing the checkmate described.
I absolutely enjoyed going through the games in the is book and I think this may be the single most helpful book on check that I've encoutered so far. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their game. I think this book is for intermediate players. You should know basic tactics and stategies. You should know algebraic notation.
I just finished the Shining by Stephen King this month. I enjoyed reading this book. I grade this book a B+, which is about the highest grade that I would give to a book that I don't plan on re-reading or studying.
I don't know why but I find myself reading a lot of Stephen King books. I think it is because he is both literary and accessible. When I read some books that academics would consider high literature, I feel exhausted after reading a few pages. When I read some books that I would call a supermarket novel or a beach read, I feel like I haven't read anything significant. Stephen King is a good mixture of both. His books are relatively easy to read, they keep my attention and I feel that they are literary. Anyhoo, moving on...
The Shining is about a man, Jack Torrance, who takes a job as the caretaker for a hotel over the winter. He stays at the hotel with his wife, Wendy Torrance, and son Danny Torrance (the 5-year old kid). Because of the severity of the winter snow, no cars can get to the hotel over the winter months. The hotel has had a sorted past full of violence and murders. Danny, the 5 year old son, has psychic abilities of unusual strength and his psychic abilities gives the hotel enough energy to enter the real world in some form. This is really the story of Danny and how the hotel wants Danny and will do whatever it take to get him.
This is the third novel that Stephen King has written. The first is Carrie, the second is Salem's Lot and The Shining is the third.
I like the rawness of King's earlier works. When something works in these early novels, they really work well! I think that King's later books are more even and consistent; I find King's earlier books full of raw energy.
The writing was very good. I like how King interjects the voices in the character's head or their thoughts with the actual dialogue heard by the characters. It is a mystery to me how King prevents his books from becoming campy. They are not campy. They are compelling and gripping and at times, scary. This book is especially scary for me because the violent ravings of a drunk man is something that I can picture happening in the real world.
The pacing was great. Slow and steady in the beginning and ending in a great climax. King is great at keeping a good pacing with appropriate highs and lows throughout most of his books.
I saw Kubricks's version of this story first. I was very confused by the movie. Nothing was really explained. I am glad that King spends time explaining the nuances of the hotel and what power the hotel actually has. I liked the book much better than the movie. But, throughout the entire book, I was looking forward to getting to the part where Wendy, the wife, finds the words, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But it is only in the movie; it is not found in the book. The creepy dead twins at the end of the hallway is only in the movie also.
Overall, I thought The Shining was a great read. I really enjoyed it. The writing was good. The pacing was good. And I thought the character development was really good. I last appearance of Jack Torrance's real face was especially poignant for me. I was moved. I grade this a B+. Great read but I don't think that I'll be re-reading this anytime soon...or then again, I may. Good times.