I have been exceptionally negligent about my blog posts for several weeks now and I’m sorry! I just had more fun, interesting, and compelling things to do with my time. OK. Maybe I’m not that sorry. But I’m sorry you missed me, so I got up this morning and decided that I needed to get caught up on my book reviews.
Unfortunately, I am way, way, WAY behind, so I can’t spend a lot of time on each one, but I will try to write enough so that the image of the cover doesn’t overlap with the review after it. That will be a challenge because I don’t have a lot to say about many of these.
The following list is in order from the most recent to the oldest in terms of when I read them. The author/editor names are written last name first because that’s how it copied from Good Reads.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Bashardoust, Melissa (2 of 5 stars)
It’s an adequately written re-make of Snow White. The world-building is a bit flat and uninspired, and the magic system is simplistic and unexplored, but the characters are somewhat interesting. Not my cup of tea, but I did like how it broke away from a number of fantasy tropes in giving women more agency and portraying a same-sex relationship as more or less normal. I think this would be more fun for, say, a high school-age reader who wants to read a fantasy novel that has a different take on characters.
Cloud Atlas by Mitchell, David (2 of 5 stars)
Ugh. What a tiresome book! The unconventional structure was somewhat interesting and I do like the way it all comes together in the end. It’s basically six separate but interconnected stories and I was really only interested in one of the stories. I wanted to watch the movie but people said the book was so much better. Now I’m not sure I want to watch the movie.
Anyway, this is a very cerebral book in many ways. The author’s ability to write in such distinct voices is truly astonishing and impressive. I just feel like the book is more like a doctoral thesis in writing than an inspired work of fiction.
Woken Furies (Takeshi Kovacs, #3) by Morgan, Richard K. (3 of 5 stars)
I read this book for a book group. I probably would not have read it after my experience with Book 2 in the series. (See below) Both books are disappointing in the wake of the first book, which was so lush and exciting. This book meanders. The character motivations were confusing to me and I spent the whole book expecting a big twist that never came. Further disappointing for me was the fact that this book really didn’t develop the universe of Takeshi Kovacs much beyond what we saw in Book 2. I found the book gritty, dark, and disappointingly sad.
Spectrum 13: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (4 of 5 stars)
It’s hard to write reviews of these books because it’s mostly just a lot of art. The introductions are fun to read because they’re little snapshots of a point in time from the perspective of speculative art and fiction. Similarly, you could say that the art in these books also represent a point in time of this type of art, but I find that without the broader context of the books that come before and after it’s hard to identify particular trends.
I’d say this book seems to have a lot of fantasy (rather than sci-fi) and there’s a lot of very painterly work. Digital artists have achieved the ability to create work that looks like it was produced in traditional media and perhaps that’s why so much of it looks like oil paints even though it isn’t really.
Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children by Gordon, Thomas (4 of 5 stars)
A great introduction to non-punitive/non-reward parenting and communication. It gives a lot of great advice on how to listen to kids, how to discuss issues, and how to get them to open up and talk more.
But it is just an introduction. It doesn’t explore nearly enough in terms of special circumstances and scenarios in my opinion, but it is a remarkably short book. It’s so short that I believe this will be a book I end up reading a couple more times to really take in what it’s saying.
I look forward to exploring more of the Positive Discipline literature in order to learn more about particular techniques and situations.
Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2) by Morgan, Richard K. (3 of 5 stars)
The best part of this book is the fact that you actually get to see and understand the “Martians” a bit better than in the first book or even the third book. So, you get a taste of the great world-building that Morgan did in the first book. But I really wanted more than a taste. And, unfortunately, I felt like the plot languished a bit throughout this book with lots of ruminating on the past and philosophies and politics and whatnot. It’s fine, but I wouldn’t have read the third book after reading this one if I didn’t have to read the third book for a book club.
Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People by Navarro, Joe (4 of 5 stars)
I’m fascinated by abnormal psychology and that’s why I picked up this book, but be warned that this is NOT a science book. It does not get into the clinical aspects of these personalities and it does not discuss any of the underlying physiological aspects of people who demonstrate these traits. Rather this is a sort of practical guide for recognizing destructive personality traits and what to do when you encounter them.
It’s very interesting because it does focus heavily on the day-to-day manifestations of these personality types and I think if you believe you’ve been in contact with them you’ll find this book interesting. It’s a quick read and very straightforward.
The Quantum Spy by Ignatius, David (4 of 5 stars)
This book was recommended to me by some algorithm somewhere and that reassures me that the robots are not going to rise up against us any time soon.
This is not a bad book, but it’s not the kind of book I typically enjoy. I wanted it to have more sci-fi and really this is just a spy “thriller.” I didn’t find it very thrilling, though. I figured out who the mole was almost as soon as they were introduced and so I spent a lot of the book thinking, “Why are they acting like that obvious red herring isn’t obviously a red herring right now?” But maybe that wasn’t supposed to be a mystery? I dunno.
BUT! I loved the spy part of the book even if it wasn’t thrilling. I also liked many of the characters. So, overall, I enjoyed this even if it’s not the kind of book I seek out.
Daddy 3.0: A Comedy of Errors by Armstrong, Rob (1 of 5 stars)
UGH. I quit this book. It was so dull and tedious. Cannot recommend. 1 star is the least I can give it.
This book is about a stay-at-home dad who is struggling both to remain connected to his wife, be what he sees as an adequate father to his children, and get along with the other stay-at-home parents in the neighborhood.
I picked this up because of the word “comedy” in the title. I didn’t get very far in the book, but what I read was not funny. It was depressing. And predictable. This story has been told a million times and this book isn’t telling it in a way that I could discern as interesting or creative.
Spectrum 1: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (5 of 5 stars)
Blast from the past! A friend of mine gave me the soft-cover version of this book in high school and some of the imagery has stuck with me for years. Since then, I’ve even sought out some of the books whose illustrations appear in these pages, so this was a real blast from the past.
If you pick this up, just take a look at the progress that has been made in the area of digital art.
Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Wilde, Fran (4 of 5 stars)
I really enjoyed this book quite a lot because the world-building is so interesting. I couldn’t help but speculate about what was really going on in the world beyond the story. I also heard an interview with the author on one of my podcasts and that’s what made me add it to my reading list.
It is pretty full of standard SFF tropes, so many readers will find it predictable. It could be argued that the characters are also cookie-cutter shapes of characters we’ve seen a million times before. For me, this is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Familiarity allowed me to really enjoy the world they were in a bit more.
Bottom line: I enjoyed this book as a light, fun read. I’m not in a huge rush to read the next book in the series, but will keep it in mind the next time I plan to spend some time on the beach or by the pool and want something easy, but entertaining.
Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Roth, Veronica (5 of 5 stars)
These movies were so dumb to me, but a friend of mine has raved about the books, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up. I have to admit: the book is FAR more entertaining than the movies are. The story makes more sense and hangs together in a way that is far more engaging.
This is another one where I’m not exactly in a rush to pick up the books from the rest of the series, but I will probably do so at some point in the future.
Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1) by Rice, Anne (3 of 5 stars)
I am not a fan of Anne Rice’s work. The other three books of hers that I’ve read were so lavish in the descriptions of sex, childbirth, gore, and other bodily functions that I just wasn’t interested in reading anything more. But this is the fourth book of hers I’ve read because I am convinced there has to be some redeeming quality to her work to explain its popularity.
I chose this particular book because of Book Riot’s 2018 reading challenge and they suggested it as a book with a terrible cover design. (At this point, there are several designs for this book and they aren’t all as ugly as the original.)
I am happy to report that this book is not as gross as the other books of hers that I’ve read. It’s also not as exciting, in my opinion. Maybe it’s because the reader knows that the story is being told as an interview that some of the tension is gone. I’m not sure, but it didn’t ever really get all that interesting to me.
Having seen the movie and read another book in the series, though, I was really surprised by some of the characterization. I didn’t know that Lestat was such an awful person! I know that seems strange, but the other book I read in the series was told from his perspective, so he was more sympathetic in my mind than he was in this book. In this book he’s petulant, possessive, psychotic, and just generally unpleasant to pretty much everyone.
I may read another book of hers in the future. I don’t know. I’ve read The Witching Hour, The Tale of the Body Thief, Interview with the Vampire, and The Wolf Gift so far and none of them have really grabbed me, so there may not be much point to it.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by Sedaris, David (4 of 5 stars)
I know most people think David Sedaris is funny, but I do not believe he is primarily a humorist. His incorporation of the bizarre into his essays is probably what makes people laugh, but his explanations of his thoughts and behaviors always leave me feeling melancholy. Also, I can’t tell if his stories are true or not. I often find myself thinking that the person of his stories is merely a persona because if they’re real then I worry for him.
There’s no denying his craft, though, and that’s why I’ve read so many of his books. His ability to take an interesting or poignant emotional thread and trace it through the weave of his stories without belaboring it with too much self-conscious psychologizing is impressive to me. This is strange because his stories are very self-conscious, but I believe the way he remains focused on the experience rather than analyzing it as if he’s a third party is what makes it work.
Six Heirs (The Secret of Ji, #1) by Grimbert, Pierre (3 of 5 stars)
I can barely remember reading this book, but it was another reading challenge book. I do recall being annoyed that more questions around the central mystery were not answered. I basically felt like the book ended in almost the same place that it began.
I believe this book was originally written in French and I remember thinking about how a translation might change my appreciation of the book. Is it just that the style doesn’t work well in English or is it that the book is poorly written? I’m not sure. I’ve read books translated to English from several languages and I always wonder the same thing when the descriptions, dialogue, or plot clunk.
Anyway, the book is so forgettable that I won’t read any of the other books.
Spectrum 24: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (5 of 5 stars)
Spectrum 23: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (5 of 5 stars)
Spectrum 11: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art (5 of 5 stars)
Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Carroll, Henry (3 of 5 stars)
This is a great coffee table book. I don’t think the author really intended for people to sit down and read it cover-to-cover like I did. But it’s full of solid tips not only on photography — lighting, focal length, etc — but on image composition in general. I’d recommend this book to anyone who either hasn’t had any formal art training or just wants a refresher on concepts as they apply to photography.
Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Christie, Agatha (5 of 5 stars)
I really enjoyed this book a lot. It felt a lot more like a modern detective novel where the solution to the crime isn’t a total cop-out like in The Moonstone. Also I found the Miss Marple character very fun and entertaining. Unfortunately, she is more of a side character than a main character in this book. Fortunately, however, the other characters are also interesting, quirky, and fun to read. So, I liked it. I think I’ll read more Agatha Christie when I’m in the mood for a detective novel!
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, James (2 of 5 stars)
I hate James Joyce and I hate this book. I read it for a reading challenge and I hate hate hated it.
Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress, #1) by Liu, Marjorie (4 of 5 stars)
I don’t read a lot of graphic novels these days, so when I’m thinking about my expectations for this sort of format, I’m really running on memories from when I actively collected superhero comics (Marvel, primarily) back in middle school and high school.
This is not that.
First, the art in this book is really nice. The variation between finely rendered areas of focus and impressionistic backgrounds and action is really delightful. Overall, it’s lush and creative. It’s beautiful unlike so many graphic novels and comics I’ve tried to read over the years.
The story is really different. It’s a blend between eastern mythology, anime forms, and western epic fantasy tropes. Creative and intriguing.
But I did find it a little on the slow side. This is where it may be that my own expectations ruined the experience. It’s hard for me to remember that when you’re reading comics issue by issue, the pacing is perceived to be very, very different. Same with watching an anime series like, say, DragonballZ. If you binge — or read the comic as an omnibus like I did with this one, it sort of staggers along and the pacing is strange.
But overall, a really great read. I may pick up subsequent volumes later.
The War of Art by Pressfield, Steven (1 of 5 stars)
I am really trying not to judge other people’s work hastily or over harshly, but this book really challenges my self-control. My review on GoodReads reads “The artist as mystic rehashed. A few good lines. Mostly trash. Terrible formatting. Why is everything bold and centered? Ugh. Hated it. Waste of my time.” And I hate that I gave it that review because a FB friend of mine whom I respect a lot really enjoyed this book.
It’s really not for everyone.
OK. I am SO far behind and I keep falling farther behind. Since I start writing this, I have accumulated seven more that I’ll just add to the bottom. So, just like how I didn’t include all the covers in the ones above, I’m not going to give you my full review of each book below. You’ll just have to find me on GoodReads to see what I wrote there for the rest. I’m not even going to put my affiliate links on the last seven because I want to be done with this post so badly.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Robinson, Phoebe (3 of 5 stars)
Make Good Art by Gaiman, Neil (5 of 5 stars)
Get the print version. This isn’t great on Kindle. It’s meant to be more of a coffee table book.
The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de (5 of 5 stars)
Beautiful. Highly recommended.
Darkship Renegades (Darkship, #2) by Hoyt, Sarah A. (3 of 5 stars)
Love in the Time of Cholera by García Márquez, Gabriel (4 of 5 stars)
Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson Omnibus (3 of 5 stars)
Meh. I don’t understand the appeal of Frank Miller. There. I said it.
Wishful Drinking by Fisher, Carrie (5 of 5 stars)
Things Fall Apart by Achebe, Chinua (3 of 5 stars)
Down by Contact (The Barons, #2) by Hassell, Santino (3 of 5 stars)
Gay erotica. You’ve been warned.
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by August, John (5 of 5 stars)
A great new middle-grade series. I am really excited for the next book!
River of Teeth (River of Teeth, #1) by Gailey, Sarah (3 of 5 stars)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Skloot, Rebecca (4 of 5 stars)
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) by Le Guin, Ursula K. (3 of 5 stars)
The Woman Next Door by Omotoso, Yewande (3 of 5 stars)
More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Veaux, Franklin (5 of 5 stars)
The Scattering by Munn, Scott (not rated)
Iron Gold (Red Rising, #4) by Brown, Pierce (3 of 5 stars)
I so do not care about this series any more.
The Emperor’s Soul by Sanderson, Brandon (4 of 5 stars)
Sleepy Hollow: General of the Dead (Jason Crane #3) by Gleaves, Richard (2 of 5 stars)
JFC on a pogo-stick.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (4 of 5 stars)
Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter (3 of 5 stars)
When will I learn that I don’t like generation novels?
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (4 of 5 stars)
Very much a product of its time. I love the concept, though.
Gatefather (Mither Mages #3) by Orson Scott Card (1 of 5 stars)
If you told me someone else wrote this, I would believe you. It’s AWFUL. It’s rushed and boring. All the tension is completely removed from the story and large passages are spent exploring a weird and preachy cosmology. Yuck
The Gate Thief (Mither Mages, #2) by Orson Scott Card (4 of 5 stars)
Not as good as the first, but going strong.
The Lost Gate (Mither Mages, #1) by Orson Scott Card (5 of 5 stars)
Amazing start to a series. Loved this book!
Black Hole by Charles Burns (1 of 5 stars)
Ugly and boring.