Month: February 2017

“Paper Towns” by John Green Review

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Paper Towns
Author: John Green
Release Date: October 2008
A nice little page turner, taking the typical boy pining for girl story and turning it into a mystery. The method for solving the mystery seemed fairly realistic, but at times that caused it to drag as Q made progress so slowly. I thought the character of Radar was the most interesting, as the two leads suffered from typical romance genre levels of self aggrandizement. Not sure if this step will translate well to the screen as so much of it is based on the inner monologue of the protagonist.
4-star
 

“The Demolished Man” by Alfred Bester Review

demolished
The Demolished Man

Author: Alfred Bester

Release Date: 1952

** spoiler alert ** The first Hugo Award winner definitely earns points for originality. Although mainly a detective story, the scifi elements come into play with telepathy, space travel, and radically different views on reformation and rehabilitation.

I was really on board for most of the book, but the ending was a letdown in two regards. First, I’m always turned off by older books and movies where two characters meet and immediately profess their love for each other. This was compounded by the creepy father/daughter vibes of the relationship.

Second, the actual explanation of the title was a letdown as well; the creative way of destroying the bad guy was the climax of the novel, with Demolition seeming like an afterthought after so much buildup.

3-star

“The Saber Toothed Poodnoobie (Space Brat 5)” by Bruce Coville Review

space

The Saber Toothed Poodnoobie (Space Brat 5)

Author: Bruce Coville

Release Date: 1997

This was a fun end to a fun series. Overall I’d probably rank the books:

4 – My favorite
1
5
2
3 – Least favorite

The consistent art and growing cast of characters added to the pleasure of reading the books close together. My wife said she wishes Bruce Coville read more of these, so I think she enjoyed them too. Cliff didn’t fight us when we read them, but it’ll be fun to reread them when he’s older.

4-star

“Earth Afire” (The First Formic War #2) by Orson Scott Card Review

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Earth Afire
Author: Orson Scott Card
Release Date: June 2013
I’ve finally figured out this series (about 10 books in). Card writes great first novels (Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, Earth Unaware), but the sequels tend to drop in quality (the one exception being Speaker for the Dead). Most of the various sequels problems relate to Card’s over simplification of global politics, as well as making the child characters in each book act like Ender in terms of intelligence. I didn’t like this book ending on a Cliffhanger, and the solution employed in China seems laughable that the Chinese didn’t come up with it. Still I like the world it takes place in, so I’ll give it a three.
3-star
 

“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf Review

room

A Room of One’s Own

Author: Virgina Woolf

Release Date: October 1929

Looks like I’m in the minority in not enjoying this essay. Ms. Woolf does make several good points about women writing and appearing in fiction, but I didn’t exactly enjoy reading them with her many classist views mixed in (rightly called out by Mary Gordon in her introduction) as well as a writing style that preferred 3 pages to a paragraph with too many separate thoughts strung together.

That last complaint is something I’m guilty of in my own writing, but I’m also not considered a pillar of literature.

2-star

“Start Here, Vol 2: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors” by Jeff O’Neal Review

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Start Here, Volume 2: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors

Author: Jeff O’Neal

Release Date: 2014

Essentially this book is a few pages about 25 different authors with recommendations for the first through third thing you should read by each author. Well, I’ve been at this awhile and finally finished up. After Book Riot came out with the two volumes of this, I thought it would be fun to read the first recommendation for all fifty authors.

The best thing about these books was the diversity among the authors chosen; I didn’t realize how many of the authors I read were white males until I underwent this project. The worst thing is that none of the sections were terrible in depth, and some of the recommendations were a bit on the weird side (which I’ll get into separately). Also, a few of the authors haven’t really published much work. For example, I enjoyed the Flannery O’Connor book but I probably would have picked an author with more titles as being worthy of inclusion here.

Here’s how I’d break up the first twenty five:

Excellent recommendation, Can’t wait to read more by the Author:
Isaac Asimov – “The Caves of Steel”
Octavia Butler – “Speech Sounds”
Dave Eggers – Zeitoun
Ursula K. Leguin – “The Wizard of Earth Sea”
Alan Moore – “Supreme: Story of the Year” (This is cheating though; this is my favorite comic writer of all time and I’d already all of the recommendations. This is a great place to start though.)
George Orwell – “Animal Farm”
Charles Portis – “True Grit”
Philip Roth – “Goodbye, Columbus”
James Salter – “The Hunters” (My single favorite new book I found when doing this challenge.)
John Steinbeck – “Cannery Row” (Like Alan Moore, this is cheating too. I’d real all of Steinbeck’s books listed, and he’s never written a bad one. There is no wrong place to start with Steinbeck. Except for maybe ‘The Pearl.’)

Glad I read it, Not Sure if I’d Read More:
Douglas Coupland – “Hey Nostradamus”
Roald Dahl – “Someone Like You”
Jennifer Egan – “Look at Me”
John Green – “The Fault in Our Stars”
Collum McCann – “Dancer”
China Mieville – “Perdido Street Station”
David Mitchell – “Black Swan Green”
Toni Morrison – “The Bluest Eye”
Dorothy Parker – “Enough Rope”

Poor recommendation for first book:
Flannery O’Connor – “Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose” (I actually enjoyed this book, but even within it the author talks about just reading an authors work is the best way to get into an author, not to know anything about the person ahead of time. That said, I’ll check out more of her writing anyways.)
Salman Rushdie – “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” (This book felt like it was written for children to read, but then padded out so long that no kid would want to read it. I think something geared more towards adults would have been a better first recommendation.)
Virginia Woolf – “A Room of One’s Own” (Yet another not very entertaining essay instead of something that I hopefully would have enjoyed more.)

Didn’t like, probably wouldn’t read more
Anne Carson – “Eros the Bittersweet”
William Faulkner – “The Bear”
Daniel Woodrell – “Under the Bright Lights”

Overall, I had more fun with the idea of this book than actually reading it. That being said, I’m glad I got it for the book recommendations, and would buy more in the series if they made them. Many of these have more in depth reviews on my Goodreads page. This book had two of my favorite authors (Moore and Steinbeck) and introduced me to the best of all the new books I read in James Salter, so it gets one more star than the first volume.

4-star

“Goodbye Columbus and Five Short Stories” by Philip Roth Review

goodbye

Goodbye Columbus and Five Short Stories

Author: Philip Roth

Release Date: 1960

Philip Roth is often listed as one of the greatest American Authors. The only story I’d read by him previously was “The Humbling,” which was a melodramatic mess I didn’t care for. His first novella, “Goodbye, Columbus” was thankfully much better. It’s a simple story of a summer romance but it’s written in a very engaging style with two complex main characters. A drawn out wedding scene went on a bit for my taste, knocking a star off my final score.

4-star