Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book #19- Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

Title- Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores
Author- Jen Campbell
Series- none
Pages to date- 5,427

The Good:
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores is absolutely hilarious. Neil Gaiman says in his blurb on the cover "So funny. So Sad...Read it and sigh." That sums the emotions of the book up perfectly.

The Bad:
The collection is funny, but equally disappointing. I say this only because it diminishes so much of my hope for humanity. It proves how few people read for leisure, and it's just sad.

The Verdict:
This collection is short (less than an hour of reading time), but extremely funny. I recommend it highly to anyone who loves books.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book #1-The Forge of Darkness

Title-The Forge of Darkness
Author-Steven Erikson
Series-Kharkanas Trilogy
Pages to date-688

The Good:
"The Forge of Darkness" is the first installment in Steven Erikson's newest trilogy detailing the split between the Tiste Andii and the Tiste Liosan. As a hardcore Erikson fan the I was very excited to see how events that I could only guess at before. Longtime fans of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series will be pleased to see many of their favorite characters of the series make appearances. While there's something for readers of MBOF in "The Forge of Darkness" this is also a great book for people looking to get into the Malazan world because it requires no prior knowledge of the the world.

The Bad:
Some fans of Erikson may be dismayed by the switch in his writing style away from the epic to something much more poetic, although I did not find it that distracting. Another thing that may disappoint readers of MBOF is the lack of scenes from Anomander Rake's POV.

The Verdict:
This is an amazing book. Everybody should read it.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book #18- Year Zero

Title- Year Zero
Author- Rob Reid
Series- none
Genre- Sci-fi
Pages- 357
Pages to date- 5,239

The Good:
Year Zero is a breezy read, but it is incredibly fun. The humor perfectly interplays with the suspense.
The characters are well developed with the slight exception of one. The intermittent law jargon is just present enough to be helpful and not overbearing.

The Bad:
Manda is a character with tons of potential, but she doesn't do that much by the end. I wanted more purpose from her.
There are a few loose ends in the final chapters, but the epilogue hints at a sequel.

The Verdict: A fun, humorous, and easy read, Year Zero is a fast-paced page-turner. A little more content wouldn't hurt, though.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book #17- America Again

Title- America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't
Author- Stephen Colbert (and a staff of writers)
Series- Sequel to I Am America (And So Can You!)
Genre- Politics, humor
Pages- 240
Pages to date- 4,882

The Good:
This book is a funny, satirical look at America, particularly focusing on areas in which we struggle (food, healthcare, energy). The usual Colbert humor is present, poking fun at republicans by exaggerating their ideals (though not by much).

The Bad:
This installment lacks the taste of the original. The writers didn't quite capture Stephen Colbert's voice like they did in the first. Sure, the usual comedy is there, but it doesn't exactly feel like the show.

The Verdict:
America Again is good for a few laughs, but not as well-constructed as I Am America.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book #16- Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

Title- Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
Author- David Sedaris
Series- None
Genre- Humor, Fables
Pages- 159
Pages to date- 4,642

The Good:
Sedaris' pesudo-fables are funny and cast a satirical light on humanity, giving the whole book a certain charm. The illustrations (by Ian Falconer) give good visuals to complement the dry humor of the actual stories.

The Bad:
The humor doesn't always deliver. Many of the tales have a detached sort of humor as wholes, but none of them has a distinct punch line that makes the reader laugh out loud. The comedy presented is a lot heavier than one expects.

The Verdict:
The stories of this book are entertaining, but not gut-splitting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book #15- The NEW New Rules

Title- The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass
Author- Bill Maher
Series- Follow-up to The New Rules
Genre- Politics, Humor
Pages- 359
Pages to date- 4,483

The Good:
This book is downright hilarious. Maher's love for putting down his opponents had me cracking up at many points in the book.
Maher's writing is poignant and concise; his fans will be able to hear his voice in every sentence, only serving to make the book even more funny.

The Bad:
The only minor issue I could find was that the book was deceptively short. Some of the pages only have one "rule" on them that doesn't even fill half of the allotted space. I didn't mind this one bit, but it could turn off readers looking for a deeper experience.
If you are easily offended by the truth, I wouldn't read this piece. Maher isn't afraid to poke fun at anyone: Christians, Republicans, Americans as a whole, terrorists, celebrities, politicians, etc. He embodies in his writing the saying "It's funny because it's true." Some of it, however funny, can also be disturbing or scary.

The Verdict: This book is hilarious. If you aren't afraid of an insult here or there, read it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book #14- The Fire Chronicle

Title- The Fire Chronicle
Author- John Stephens
Series- Book 2 of The Books of Beginning
Genre- Fantasy
Pages- 437
Pages to date- 4,124

The Good:
The Fire Chronicle is fast-paced and extremely entertaining. I couldn't put it down. The new depth in character of the Dire Magnus was phenomenal and will please readers. Michael's storyline was also noteworthy.

The Bad:
While the villain and Michael were newly characterized very well, the returning characters were a little more static. I would have liked more on Dr. Pym, Gabriel, Kate, and Emma. They are good, but not up to the standards of Rafe or Michael.

The Verdict:
The Fire Chronicle is a good, quick read that leaves readers wanting the next installment, but doesn't have enough balance in terms of characterization (I say this now, but it very well could be that this issue is mended in the next and final book of the series).

Book #13- SoulPancake

Title- SoulPancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions
Author- Rainn Wilson
Series- None
Genre- Creativity, Spirituality
Pages- 205
Pages to date- 3,687

The Good:
SoulPancake achieves its goal of making the reader think. The topics discussed are thought-provoking, the art is stimulating, and the questions are not easily answered. Overall, the book is just fun.

The Bad:
The only big problem I had with the book is that there isn't much wiggle room in the spirituality department. It tosses out a few quotes from famous nonreligious people, but many of the questions inherently require a belief in some higher being in order to be answered. This isn't horrible, but it is a bit disheartening.

The Verdict:
SoulPancake is fun and interesting, but not all of its questions are for everybody.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Book #12- The Casual Vacancy

Title- The Casual Vacancy
Author- J.K. Rowling
Series- None
Genre- Realistic Fiction
Pages- 503
Pages to date- 3,482

The Good:
The Casual Vacancy is a very interesting novel. The most compelling aspect of it for me was that it was so broad in scope. Even though the setting is a small town, it covers a wide cast of characters and controversial subjects.
The characters were phenomenally written, especially the younger ones. They were very real and so different from one another. I found myself caring so much for each one. Some, I wanted to succeed, and some I wanted to fail. Rowling threw in many surprises in the end that shattered my predictions.

The Bad:
The book gets off to quite a slow start. With so many characters, it is necessary to take some time to introduce them all. This happened for the first 70-100 pages. The next 100 or so was an introduction to the conflicts. After that, it really picked up, but it took a while to get into.

The Verdict:
The Casual Vacancy is an overall good read, but takes some dedication before satisfying the reader.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book #11- Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Promise

Title- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise Parts 1,2, and 3
Author- Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino
Series- Divided into 3 books of 80 pages each
Genre- Fantasy
Pages- 240
Pages to date- 2,979

The Good:
This series feeds the craving for more Avatar. The story is pretty interesting as well.

The Bad:
There just isn't enough. The books are mostly pictures and there is very little dialogue, even for a comic book.
Zuko kind of regresses as a character, and, while it makes for a good story catalyst, it isn't what fans want to see.
Cool aspects of the story are just glossed over, like Toph's metal-bending school.
While there are teasers for the story of Zuko's mother, it is pushed back until the next series (The Search), out March 2013.

The Verdict:
This series is good for a quick refresher on the Avatar world, but it won't satisfy loyal fans as much as it should.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book #10- Stuff Every American Should Know

Title- Stuff Every American Should Know
Author- Denise Kiernan & Joseph D'Agnese
Series- None
Genre- History
Pages- 144
Pages to date- 2,739

The Good:
This is a fun read with many interesting facts about the USA. The topics are compelling.

The Bad:
I knew most of the stuff already and it's not very in-depth (much like this post).

The Verdict:
Interesting, but superficial.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book #9- Thin Kimono

Title- Thin Kimono
Author- Michael Earl Craig
Series- None
Genre- Poetry
Pages- 105
Pages to date- 2,595

The Good:
Craig has a very distinct style of poetry. Each piece is imbued with a sort of "I know a ton but won't tell you anything" tone. It's very interesting. My personal favorites are "In the Road" and "The Sorensen Effect."

The Bad:
Some of Craig's longer poems didn't quite keep my attention as much as I would hope, but further readings dispelled this effect.

The Verdict:
There isn't much I can say about this collection; it's one of those you have to read for yourself. My best summary is that it is an interesting, eclectic set of poems.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book #8- A Wrinkle in Time

Title- A Wrinkle in Time
Author- Madeleine L'Engle
Series- Book 1 of The Time Quartet
Genre- Fantasy/Science Fiction
Pages to date-2,490

The Good:
A Wrinkle in Time is a quick read and has a lot to offer. A blurb describes it as such: "Fascinating...It makes unusual demands on the imagination and consequently gives great rewards." This is a very fair description of the book. The characters are interesting and the ideas presented are thought-provoking.

The Bad:
I left the book wanting more. Not necessarily a sequel (there are three companions, though not direct sequels), but more content. This story could have done well with 200 more pages. Everything is explained, but you are taken to such amazing worlds that you feel shortchanged once you've left. The concepts are so large that the time they are given seems unjust. Most of this is because it is meant for children. It would do even better if converted to an adult novel.
A few religious references interfered with my reading of the story, but not too much.

The Verdict:
A Wrinkle in Time is a swift and easy read that is satisfying, but a tad short of that amazing, vast story you've been craving.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book #7- Steal Like An Artist

Title- Steal Like An Artist
Author-Austin Kleon
Series- None
Genre- Creativity
Pages- 140
Pages to date- 2,279

The Good:
Steal Like An Artist is an easy but interesting read. It gives a fantastic perspective on creativity as a whole, allowing readers to apply the concepts presented to whichever form his or her work takes. This makes it feel specific, as if Kleon is just writing a letter to you.
The illustrations and occasional newspaper blackouts add to the piece as well. They are entertaining and inspiring.

The Bad:
I wish there was a bit more. Kleon obviously has many ideas to present, but some of them just seem to be scratching at the surface. While what he has to say is interesting, it's over all too quickly.

The Verdict:
Steal Like An Artist is perfect for anyone who likes to create. It is a short read that presents some thoughtful suggestions and enhances the desire to make something.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Book #6- A Universe From Nothing

Title- A Universe From Nothing: Why is there something rather than nothing?
Author- Lawrence M. Krauss (Afterword by Richard Dawkins)
Series- None
Genre- Cosmology, Science
Pages- 166
Pages to date- 2,139

The Good:
Krauss presents a comprehensive, mind-blowing look at the universe as it is today and how it came to be. His presentation is phenomenal.

The Bad:
Much of the scientific language was lost on me. While I could understand the broad concepts of what he was saying, as well as the implications of them, the specifics were hard to grasp. This is merely because it is targeted at a more educated audience.

The Verdict: A Universe From Nothing is a great choice for anyone interested in cosmology, but the uneducated reader (like myself) will have to push through until the final chapters to really be satisfied. A stellar work, just not the universal (pun intended) leisure read.

Book #5- Broetry

Title- Broetry
Author- Brian McGackin
Series- None
Genre- Poetry, Humor
Pages- 121
Pages to date- 1,973

The Good:
Broetry offers a nice sigh of relief for anyone (especially the college English student) who is constantly required to read poetry as if it has infinite depth. It is funny, straightforward, and easy to read. Additionally, McGackin frequently parodies very well known poems, which is good for a laugh.

The Bad:
The poetry all kind of melts together in one's head. While there are a few that abandon the typical subject matter, the rest just seem the same. This probably resulted from my one-sit reading of the piece, though.

The Verdict: Broetry is funny and an easy read as well as a nice conversation starter. I would recommend it to anyone who needs a break from the monotony of "real" poetry.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book #4- Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

Title- Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless
Author- Greta Christina
Series- None
Genre- Atheism
Pages- 366
Pages to date-1,852

The Good:
Greta Christina's writing is smooth and interesting. She presents many well-founded arguments and empowers like-minded people to speak up.
She is very careful to explain every single point in a civil manner, but remains emotional enough to make sure the message will hit home with every reader.

The Bad:
At times, the writing can be a bit choppy, but in nearly every case this is forgivable because it is done so for the sake of humor.

The Verdict:
This book is an excellent resource for nonbelievers, giving their thoughts a voice, as well as for believers, providing a well-rounded, thoughtful argument against religion.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book #3- Storm Front

Title- Storm Front
Author- Jim Butcher
Series- Book 1 of The Dresden Files
Genre- Fantasy/Mystery
Pages- 355
Pages to date- 1,486

The Good:
There are many things to love about Storm Front. First and foremost is Jim Butcher's choice of setting and situation. Placing an openly practicing wizard into the city of Chicago is a bold move, but it works. It is also a fresh release from fantasies set in other worlds or in hiding.
Harry Dresden is a great character. He has many interesting flaws and knows himself very well. This opens up the book to deep mysteries and plot twists, both of which were thrilling and suspenseful.

The Bad:
There isn't much to say in this area. I found the book compelling and well-written. I found a few comma errors, but they don't at all detract from the story. I suppose the one thing I would change is Harry's use of magic. I wanted more. A little more backstory might be cool too, but there are many more books, so I am assuming more of that comes together further on.

The Verdict:
Storm Front is a great read for any fantasy fan. The blend of the supernatural and detective genres is superb.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book #2- Frank: The Voice

Title- Frank: The Voice
Author- James Kaplan
Series- None
Genre- Biography
Pages- 718
Pages to date- 1,231

The Good:
The most alluring and entertaining aspect of this book is the detail. Kaplan manages to include every last odd and end of Sinatra's life. Also particularly noteworthy are his descriptions of music and Sinatra's way of singing. It is hard to encapsulate such a complex thing as music in few words, but Kaplan does so in a captivating manner.
An important goal in biography is to accurately capture the essence of the subject. It can be difficult, especially in the research stage, to find unbiased sources. Kaplan has obviously avoided this mishap, as he doesn't levitate Sinatra to a godlike status. He paints a very human picture of the legendary artist, and I appreciated this as a reader.

The Bad:
There were two issues I had with the piece.
First was the coverage. The book, as expected of course, was a chronicle of Sinatra's life. However, the piece ended in 1954, when he won the academy award for best supporting actor in From Here To Eternity. Anyone who knows of "The Voice" knows that he was active for many years after (he even had another wife after the end of the book) his Oscar. This bio left out the entire Rat Pack era. This was disappointing especially because the Rat Pack and his relationships with its members are very compelling. I wished immediately after finishing that Kaplan had continued on. Regardless of the omission of 44 years of Sinatra's life, this is still a great book. The areas that it does cover are very well-written and interesting.
My second issue was voice. At times, Kaplan writes in his own voice. At others, it seems as if he is channeling Sinatra. If there was a little more balance between the two the book would read a little more easily.

The Verdict:
Frank: The Voice is a captivating account of Sinatra's life and a must for any fans of the singer, but readers who are looking for an account of the Rat Pack years should look elsewhere.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book #1- The Enchantress

Title- The Enchantress
Author- Michael Scott
Series- Book 6 in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
Genre- Fantasy
Pages- 513
Pages to date- 513

The Good:
The first five books of the series opened up many questions, and this one succeeded in answering every single one. What I enjoyed most what that the ending, unlike so many children's books, was not predictable at all. In retrospect I realized the author did drop some hints, but they were subtle enough to keep the conclusion a surprise.

The Bad (spoiler alert):
The book revealed that Aoife was rescued, but didn't catalog the actual event, which was a bit disappointing.
Much of this series took place in big U.S. cities, but most of this book takes place in the fallen city of Danu Talis. This makes it lose a bit of reader connectivity, but fans of the series won't be too jarred by it.
I am still wondering who the titular enchantress is. In all the previous books, the title character was easily identifiable. I wish this one was similar in that vein.

The Verdict:
The Enchantress is a great ending to a great series that will please any fan of the previous books and leave no question unanswered.